Bruno, Chief of Police

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Dear Bruno,

Your life as a village policeman has me hooked. The descriptions of the colorful residents, the countryside and the details of life in a small French village sound wonderful. Of course it can’t be a mystery without turmoil and your fictional village of St. Denis is no exception. A man is found dead with a swastika carved into his chest. What does it mean? The memories of German atrocities still live in the quiet village. How will this mysterious death impact the people and their quiet lives?

How you navigate the world of French bureaucracy is beyond me. All the phone calls to different offices, each in charge of something different so there are too many hands in the pot or cooks in the kitchen. It makes for a crazy way to solve a crime. And all the new European Union laws which have infringed on the lives of the villagers causing time-tested ways of life to be illegal creates an additional layer of stress.

There is Isabelle and the memory of a long-lost love in Kosovo where you served on a peace keeping mission. But we all know, it was a war. Will Isabelle take away the sting of the lost love? Can you make it work having two careers or will she leave you for Paris? And then there is the mad Englishwoman. What about her is so captivating? Why is she living in France?

And finally there is your cooking and love of wine Bruno. You are a master in the kitchen and reminded me of the importance food plays in our lives. You teach us it’s key to pair the right wine with the food to enhance the flavors of both. You teach us memories are made and shared around the table. Good food, good wine and good friends make for a rich life. You are an orphan no more. Your roots are planted in St. Denis and these people are your family. As my own life has shifted greatly in the past three years because divorce uprooted my life. I am now searching for my own St. Denis, a place where I can plant myself and grow. And if you have an empty chair at the table, can I come to dinner?

Bisous, Daphne

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Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear

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This is a new detective series I discovered. Maisie Dobbs is a bright young woman facing challenges in the early 20th century. Her father is facing financial challenges after the death of Maisie’s mother. Frankie Dobbs believes a place in “service” is the best place for his daughter. So Maisie sadly leaves her father and joins the staff of Lady Rowan Compton. It doesn’t take long for Lady Rowan to discover Maisie isn’t an ordinary girl, but a young woman of superior intelligence, curiosity and work ethic. She becomes Maisie’s patron and forever changes the course of Maisie’s life.

Her scholar mentor, Maurice Blanche, she learns and grasps concepts far beyond one of her age. She earns a place at Cambridge University and Lady Rowan becomes her patron. With the world of learning waiting to be discovered, England becomes involved in World War I. Her friend, Enid, from her days in service compels her to do something more for the war effort. So Maisie takes a deferment and joins up as a Voluntary Aid Nurse. Thus beginning another new path.

The store begins post WW I and Maisie is now working as an independent private investigator, an unusual profession for a woman in 1929. She is hired to investigate where a worried husband’s wife is spending some her afternoons. Thus Maisie is lead to The Retreat, a place for injured soldiers. It isn’t as rosy as it seems. Danger lies in her path and also the realization she must face her own past.

War is never pretty or good, not now and not then. Souls are damaged everyday by violence and war. The question is why do some people pull through and go on to live productive lives while others struggle to get through the day. Would I be brave enough if faced with the choice of school or going to the front line as volunteer during war? I don’t know. I have been brave in the past but never in the face of violence and war. My life has been protected from such choices.

Maisie inspires me to face up to my own past, to the stories left unfinished. How will Maisie deal with her unfinished war story? Will she be able to forgive herself? Will she be able to go forward? I face the same questions.

Porch Lights by Dorthea Benton Frank

  
Dorothea Benton Frank makes me want to pack my bags and move to Charleston, SC or one of the islands just of the coast. Her story is woven with the timelessness of loss, love, mother-daughter issues, growing up, and sadly dealing with an untimely death. 

I do take issue though to her portrayal of Annie Britt, the 58 year old mother and grandmother in the book. She seems totally disconnected with technology. Now I can’t write computer programs but I do use technology on a daily basis and her portrayal of Annie as technologically inept aged her tremendously. Now I do worry about aging just like Annie. I never want to ask anyone how old I look for fear they will say something older than my 56 years.

Her daughter, Jackie and son Charlie come for a visit after the death of her fireman husband in a tragic fire related accident. Having made a life for herself in Brooklyn and in thand Army as a nurse, she has seen the worst the world has to offer. Charlie is ten and as expected has withdrawn since his father’s death.

Add in to th the mix, a beach front home with a porch, separated grandparents, a wise best friend, two rambunctious dogs and an attractive widowed doctor and with time, love and a hurricane a lot of healing happens.

I think I will put on my to do list, a trip to Charleston and the outer islands. My soul feels it’s pull.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

img_0087.jpgSecrets, everyone has them. The question is what do we do with them and what do we do when we learn other people’s secret. This is a tale which I can relate. Cecilia has what she believes is a perfect life, a handsome husband, three wonderful daughters, a successful career and an active volunteer life. While that isn’t exactly a description of my life, it comes close. The there is Tess married with a son and extremely close to her cousin Felicity. Close as sisters they share all aspects of their lives. Rachel, a still grieving mom whose only daughter was murdered, now grieving the departure of her son, daughter-in-law and only grandson to New York City. This new grief catapults her into an obsessive belief the school PE teacher killed her daughter.

It all comes crashing down when each woman learns a secret. Each reacts differently but all causing more chaos in their

already damaged lives. Cecelia must decide if she should keep her husband’s secret. In making the choice to keep the ugly truth secret many lives are affected and changed forever. All three women’s lives are intertwined through St. Angela’s Catholic school. As each woman faces choices concerning a secret they struggle. What is the right thing to do versus the best thing for their families.

I understand how difficult it can be when you learn an ugly secret truth about your husband. Hindsight is 20/20. I can see how my choice to keep the ugly truth to myself, I caused damage to myself and my daughters. As difficult as it would have been to face it whe it happened, I would have been able to reach out for help. I could have avoided the deep sadness and depression during my marriage and post divorce. Secrets destroy a soul. That’s is what Cecilia learned. That is what Tess learned. It is what Rachel learned. It’s a lesson I took a long time to learn.

Liane Moriarty has an ease in her writing that captures what most of are honking. Whe. Cecilia thinks to herself, I can hear myself rambling and chattering but I can’t stop. I talk when I’m nervous, I thought that’s me”! When Tess wondered what she was lacking that caused her husband to look elsewhere, that was me. And when Rachel becomes obsessed with “justice” and “vengeance” that was me too. Life in Melbourne, Australia isn’t very different than life here in Texas.

The Fortune Hunter by Daisy Goodwin

  

I didn’t realize when I purchased this book it was based on a true story. Interestingly it had a decidedly modern problem. Empress Elizabeth of Austria was considered at the time, late 19th century, the most beautiful woman in the world. She had been empress since she was 16, had hair that hung below her knees and was a consummate horsewoman. However she also was under constant public scrutiny. Like royalty and stars of today, she was unable to move about freel. She always felt like she was on display.

Elizabeth, known to intimates as Sisi, spends hunting season in England. There she meets Bay Middleton through Earl of Spencer (yes Princess Diana’s great great grandfather). He was her pilot, a guide for the hunt. Charlotte Baird, a young heiress has fallen in love with Bay who has become a favorite of the Empress.

The story is a fictional account based on historical facts. Money, power, love, politics all come into play. Just like today private lives aren’t so private and the insecurity women feel over aging and beauty is as prevalent today as it was then. I enjoyed this book especially knowing it was based on facts.

There’s cake in my future

There’s cake in my future by Kim Gruenenfelder

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Melissa, Seema and Nicole are three friends who share their life joys and struggles with each other. Nicole is engaged, ready to marry the man of her dreams when his ex-wife decides Nicole and Jason they must care for their two young daughters making Nicole not just a newlywed but a full-time mom. Seema is secretly in love with her best friend, Scott, but can’t bring herself to make a move on him. Melissa just learned her boyfriend of six years has been cheating on her and ends the relationship. Different struggles but all centered around love.

While I am a generation older than the women in this book, I can relate to struggles concerning love. In fact there is a passage by Melissa that speaks directly to me.  “I’m not only mourning the old relationship, I’m mourning the future I thought I was going to have. The future I’d been planning for. (for me personally-it was the future I was promised). Fighting for. Counting on. I counted on something, and I lost. I fought hard for something  and I lost. I don’t understand why the universe is allowing Fred (Doug) to be rewarded for his betrayal. For his lies. Why should he be loved when I am alone? While he gets off scot-free, I suffer the heartbreak. He smokes-I get lung cancer.”

This obviously chick-lit but I often wonder how much men could learn about women if they read one chick-lit book a year. They are like windows into the minds of most women. While they aren’t 100% accurate and all women don’t think exactly like women do in chick-lit books, there are enough similarities, it seems to me if you want to understand your girlfriend or wife, read a chick-lit book.

I’ve read a Keep Calm and Carry a big Drink first and it is a sequel to this book. If you can read them in order do so. It was a fun read but it also invoked deep emotions for me because of what the character Melissa had to go through. Sadly I haven’t had the happy ending she found but then again I am 24 years older than she is.

Style Isn’t Easy by Olivia Goldsmith

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I read this book years ago and recently found it in a box. I decided it was time for a reread. Olivia Goldsmith is better known for First Wives Club. However this little book has proven its value over and over. And if I were smart, I would carry it around with me at all times or at least keep a list of the most important points. I would have saved a lot of money.

How many times have I stood in my closet, filled with clothing and thought to myself I have nothing to wear? More times than it is possible to count. Why is that? Why would a woman with a closet full of clothes have nothing to wear?

  1. The clothes don’t fit well.
  2. Buttons are missing.
  3. Belts are missing.
  4. Is it still in style?
  5. Are the clothes appropriate to the occasion?
  6. Are they too young for me?
  7. Are they too old for me?
  8. How do I accessorize what I have so I don’t look boring?

The list could go on and on. Olivia tackles the question of why the American woman is always agonizing over why she has nothing to wear. The answer is simple. We have too many choices. We don’t plan. We don’t care for our clothing appropriately because we leave things like missing buttons unfixed. We buy on whims. We buy on sale. We buy to make ourselves feel better. We buy for all the wrong reasons.

The biggest takeaways for me from the book are the following:

  • Try everything on. If it doesn’t fit give it away
  • Examine the remaining pieces and take care of any repairs needed
  • Separate items by color and piece (pants with pants)
  • Then either alone or with a friend put together outfits and hang your outfits in your closet. So you might have 5-7 days of outfits already put together and ready to go.
  • Once you have your outfits together, decide if something is needed like a scarf, a belt etc.
  • Determine if you are missing a staple piece i.e. a good white shirt
  • Write down what you specifically need, NOT WANT, and DO NOT BUY anything that is NOT on this list. A bargain that is worn only once is not truly a bargain.
  • Buy only clothing that fits well. Take it to a tailor if necessary.

One last comment. I read an article by a professor from the University of North Texas. It was eye opening concerning sizes. In the end if you don’t like what the tag says, but it fits well, buy it and cut out the tag. You can read her article here. Just a small spoiler – there can be as must as a 13 inch difference between two pairs of pants marked the same size. The deception of sizing