Sunday, August 16, 2020

A Mid-August Catch Up: 5 Book Briefs


Hello from the Connecticut coast! After driving up from Florida and negative COVID testing, we spent a couple of weeks with my parents and siblings in central NY. But then, in a year  that's already been completely crazy, our move to CT was delayed when the house we're renting lost power following Hurricane Isaias. We are finally here and settled, Twin A has joined us as she continues to work from home, and Daughter #1 and her boyfriend are visiting for the weekend. Spending all this time with family is one positive result of these crazy times.

I have found the Covid response in the northeast to be very different from what we left in Florida or encountered in North Carolina during our 36-hour stop. With very rare exception, everyone in central NY and CT is wearing a mask and social distancing...  in stores, waiting for outdoor seating or service at restaurants, pumping gas, and even walking along downtown city/village streets. Most people do not wear masks, but maintain social distance, outdoors while walking, running, or biking on neighborhood streets. It's such a relief.

Our plan is to remain in CT until later in September, then visit family in NY again before returning to FL at the beginning of October.

Now let's move on to the books. Here's what I've read lately:



The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

I loved this book! The novel begins in 1950s Ohio when Ellie and Brick are teenagers in love, then goes on to chronicle their lives together and the lives of their children. It tells a story of working-class America, issues faced by their communities, and changing roles for women.  I couldn't turn the 400 pages fast enough, yet didn't want it to end either.

Schultz, the wife of Ohio senator Sherrod Brown, is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and has published collections of her syndicated columns. This is her first novel.  I borrowed the ebook from the library, then realized the audio version was narrated by Cassandra Campbell (a favorite), so I borrowed that, too. Read or listen, just don't miss this one. It'll be on my list of favorites at the end of the year!





by Mary Trump, narrated by the author

As sick as I am of everything Trump, I could not resist using an audible credit to download this book the day it was released. Why? Because I craved a deeper understanding of the man sitting in the Oval Office... how in the world did he get to be the way he is? Mary Trump, as a family member (daughter of Donald's eldest brother) and a clinical psychologist, is uniquely qualified to tell the story. 

The story is both fascinating and deeply disturbing. Mary Trump is a good writer and a good narrator, but my one complaint is that the book is probably longer than it needed to be. It could have been an excellent extended article or essay, but 'tis the season for Trump books... and this one might just be the best!






Beach Read by Emily Henry

This was a cute, fun novel. A romance writer, who learns of her father's infidelity after his death, has become disillusioned with love. She inherits his beach house and discovers a handsome literary author currently suffering from writers block is her next door neighbor. They create a writerly competition of sorts to help them both out of their respective ruts and, naturally, a relationship blooms. 

I appreciated the bookish angle, but this was a bit "romance-y" for my taste. Still, it was an enjoyable summer read overall.





by Erica Bauermeister, narrated by Tavia Gilbert

I first heard about this book on From the Front Porch Podcast, one of my regular listens, hosted by Annie Jones, owner of The Bookshelf in Thomasville, Georgia. It's a recently released memoir-in-essays by Erica Bauermeister, author of The School of Essential Ingredients  and other novels, written as she and her husband fall in love with, purchase, and renovate an old house in Port Townsend, Washington.

As most of you know, we also purchased and began renovating a house last fall, so this book sounded irresistible to me. Of course our project was nowhere near as extensive (or expensive!) as Bauermeister's, but I still adored these essays. The publisher's description says it perfectly: 
A personal, accessible, and literary exploration of the psychology of architecture, this book is designed for homeowners, remodelers, and those who are simply curious about how our built environments shape who we become.




by Linda Holmes 

This was another light read, but I didn't enjoy it as much as Beach Read. Evvie Drake is a thirty-something widow who was in the process of leaving her husband as her phone rings to inform her that he's been in a serious automobile accident. He dies while she is en route to the hospital. She is left with conflicted feelings about widowhood. Enter a young, handsome, NY Yankees pitcher (a friend of a friend) who has mysteriously lost his ability to pitch and wants to flee the city temporarily. Naturally Evvie has an available apartment in her Maine home. The rest goes exactly as you might expect.

Bottom line... entertaining, enjoyable, and predictable but ultimately forgettable. Maybe it's time for me to get back to more serious fiction.



What's happening with you these days? Have you read any great books?


The Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz.
It's Monday... What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date.

59 comments:

  1. I am very glad that you are in CT and in Florida. They do seem to be doing a good job, which is a relief for me because my mother is there and we're not restricted from going down to see her, though we've been limiting the visits. There's been talk about Boston being a hot spot again soon because although most people are obeying the rules, there have been a number of large and stupid gatherings that have been leading to an uptick in cases. We've just been told that we won't be returning to the office before the end of the year, but I just hope we don't have another crisis here and keep some semblance of normality in the fall.

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    1. I meant in CT and NOT in Florida!

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    2. Audrey - I've seen the reports that Boston might be heading in the hot spot direction... worrisome with students returning to universities. Glad you'll be working remotely for the time being. My daughter was just saying that there are no plans for her to return to the Manhattan office this year. Life is strange right now...

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  2. It is amazing how different states handle this pandemic. Some, not at all.

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    1. Ti - This has been a real eye-opener for me... feel like we've seen it all this year!

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  3. I enjoyed Evvie Drake Starts Over, and may end up reading The Daughters of Erietown. Yesterday I finished Miss Cecily's Recipes For Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman and this morning I started Floating Twigs by Charles Tabb.

    Glad you're getting to spend time with family!

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    1. Vicki - If there has been one upside to this entire situation, it has been (at least for us) spending time with a core family unit. My daughter just read Evvie Drake and liked it quite a bit more than I did... think I may have overdosed on lighter romance this month ;-)

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  4. Beach Read is on my TBR, and it seems like in general everyone really likes it!

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    1. Angela - Beach read was a lot of fun! The literary themes added so much for me.

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  5. The northeast response to COVID sounds much like the Oregon coast. 99% of the people I see in the grocery store, at takeout lines, and walking along the seawall in our little town are wearing masks. I did see a few in the store the other day who had them on, but below their mouths. I really wanted to say something snarky, but bit my tongue. Funny, when you said you were planning to return to FL in early October, I thought that sounded like a long way off, but it really isn't! This has been such a weird year, with regard to the passage of time.

    I have Connie Schultz's book in my audio queue and will start listening once I finish my current book (Red at the Bone). I think I'll pass on Mary Trump's book since I've already read several reviews, which included passages. My husband read Bolton's book, which he said was good in spite of not liking the man. I'll also pass on Beach Read since I've had my fill of "romance-y" books this year. I'm a huge fan of Erica Bauermeister and Rod and I love Port Townsend (we have camped there a couple of times in our RV), so her new memoir is high on my must-read list. I think I'll get it in paper rather than audio, though. I have a feeling I'll want to mark passages. Ditto what you said about Evvie Drake. I posted my review the other day. I, too, am ready for more serious reads. Having said that, I just picked up Summer at the Garden Cafe, which is pretty light, but enjoyable. Felicity Hayes-McCoy reminds me a little bit of Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy.

    Have a good week and enjoy your family time!

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    1. Les - It ended up being rainy, cool, and almost fall-like here today. I'm afraid October is not as far away as we think!

      The Daughters of Erietown and Claire Lombardo's The Most Fun We Ever Had are clearly my favorite novels this year. House Lessons is right up there on the nonfiction side. If you google Bauermeister, you'll find a link to articles and photos of the house... certainly makes me want to visit Port Townsend! I'll need to buy or borrow a print copy, too, as there were quite a few passages I need to reread. I'll be curious to hear what you think of Red at the Bone... the audio production added to my enjoyment.

      If you've read the excerpts and seen some of Mary Trump's interviews, them you've got the gist of her book. It really does explain a lot, but doesn't make you feel better about any of it! My husband thought John Bolton's book was okay, but picked up self-justifying vibes. I didn't get past the first chapter.

      Speaking of Rosamunde Pilcher, I recently picked up The Shell Seekers as a daily deal. May need a comfort reread soon. Loved it so many years ago.

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    2. You would love Port Townsend, JoAnn! I hope we get back there in 2021. Just finished Red at the Bone and thought it was very good (on audio). I also finished Brown Girl Dreaming (in print) and plan to reread it via audio. What a talented writer! Ah, The Shell Seekers continues to be at the top of my reread list, but I never take the plunge. Maybe this winter! It was one of my favorites back in the late 80s.

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    3. Les - The audio definitely contributed to my enjoyment of Red at the Bone... same with Brown Girl Dreaming. Think you'll love the audio version of that one! I've been thinking about a reread of The Shell Seekers for years. No excuses now that it's on my kindle ;-)

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  6. I'm so glad that the people in Connecticut are following good and safe protocols. I don't feel secure in going to shop in a store or returning to church, sadly, here in Texas. It's terribly frustrating. Glad you are in a better place.

    Thank you for reading and reporting on the Mary Trump book. I can't bear to read any more about certain people; it's not good for my mental health, I think. I appreciate you sharing a little about the book for the rest of us.

    I'm on the lookout for books like Beach Read. I think I'd like something light to add to my steady menu of serious reads.

    Have a great week.

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    1. Deb - I'm not ready for church either, but feel much more comfortable grocery shopping here... and even ran into a local indie to buy a specific book! Still no browsing though. Beach Read was a fun light read with a bookish twist, so it might be just the thing to break up a string of heavy reads. Have a good week!

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  7. Beautiful picture of the coast and so glad you guys are settling in. I am glad to finally see people in masks here in Texas but still just so crazy to hear stories about people upset about having to use them. You've read a good variety of books. I really want to read Beach Read. Sounds like a fun story!

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    1. Iliana - I can't tell you what a relief it was to us to see people being careful and taking things seriously... easy to see why NY's positivity rate has been just below 1% for over a week!

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  8. I also had to read Mary Trump's book, even though I wish I could totally forget about that guy and never see his face again...or hear his name. But...it is good to make sense of some things.

    I love the look of The Daughters of Erietown.

    Enjoy your time in the northeast; I am impressed by how things have been handled in those parts.

    Thanks for visiting my blog.

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    1. Laurel-Rain Snow - Yes, things seem to make more sense after listening to Mary Trump's book... even his obsession with water pressure! I think Daughters of Erietown is a book you would love, too. At the moment it's in the running for my favorite of the year. It's good to be back in CT again. We lived here in the 80s after we got married. Have a good week!

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  9. I’m glad people in the northeast are trying to stop the virus! People here don’t take the virus very seriously, but a lot of stores have mandatory mask rules, so at least businesses are doing their part. Have a good week!

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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    1. Aj - That's how it was in Florida, too. The actual enforcement or rule-making was left up to individual businesses and many stepped up. Feels safer here with the statewide mandates. Take care.

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  10. It's getting better here in northcentral PA with more people wearing masks than not so we have that going for us.

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    1. Bryan - I'm glad to hear that! My brother is in the Philly suburbs and my niece is in med school in Philly. I worry about her.

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  11. I still do not understand people who flout safety measures and I don't certainly get it how that Sheriff (?) of some state has prohibited people from wearing masks from entering his office building. How anyone could be so irresponsible, murderous intent definitely I would say. There is a certain amount of good in not being politically correct - the law is the law and it is enforced hang what anyone personally thinks. It is for the greater good. We have almost 2900 active cases in our country 28 million people and strict measures in place. Jail time and fines for disregarding the rules.
    Going for walks, beaches etc would be a laughable act here.

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    1. Mystica - That sheriff is in Florida... so crazy! I keep saying this is public health and not politics.

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  12. Yeah I wasn't a big Evie Drake fan either ... 3 stars at most. But I'll check out the Erietown book, thx for the tip. Glad you're having fun in Conn. Must be fun to be up North again. And it's great that everyone is wearing masks / what a relief. I'll be on the airplane tomorrow, gulp ... I've got all my equipment ... ready.

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    1. Susan - If you're a fan of Cassandra Campbell, make sure you consider at lest an audio component with the Erietown book. Hope your plane travels are uneventful tomorrow... such crazy times. Take care.

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  13. I’m glad you are feeling comfortable in CT, hopefully when you return to Florida the situation will be improved.
    I hope to ch3ck out Beach Read and Evie Drake eventually
    Wishing you a great reading week

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    1. Shelleyrae - I'm keeping my fingers crossed Florida will be in a better place in October. Not sure things are turning around yet. I'd give Beach Read a higher priority than Evvie Drake. Have a good week!

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  14. Great pic of CT shoreline. Glad u are finally settled in CT. My niece in Long Island was without power for over a week.

    Just placed Daughters of Erietown on hold (sounds awesome). I listened to Evie Drake when it first came out and thought it was sweet.

    Have a great week/month.

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    1. Diane - This is the most time we've spent in CT since we lived here over 30 years ago... such a beautiful area! I hope you love Erietown. At this point it's a contender for my favorite book of the year.

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  15. Fingers crossed that when you return to Florida things are different. Michigan is doing an ok job - still a lot of people not wanting to do the right things, but more people are doing them than not.

    The Daughters of Erietown sounds really interesting!

    Enjoy your visit, stay safe. :)

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    1. Erin - Glad more people are taking it seriously... that's the only way things will get better. Take care.

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  16. I think I'm going to need that Connie Shultz novel. I know I need the new Bauermeister book - LOVED the School of Essential Ingredients.

    As for the Trump book, I am aboout to vomit with the amount of news I read now so I'm not sure I want him in my head! I loved Hillary Clinton's response to him on Twitter - she only wrote Rent Free. Ha! She lives in his mind rent free, love it.

    We seldom see anyone here in North Florida not wearing a mask. WE don't go out too much but people here seem to be abiding. My son said they are making masks mandatory in Nebraska, at least in Omaha. His exwife has the Covid virus and it's baaaad,

    I will post my Santa Fe Chicken this week, we can compare notes.

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    1. Tina - I loved The School of Essential Ingredients, too, but haven't read any of her other novels. This memoir/essay collection sure hit the mark though. Completely understand your feeling about Mary Trump's book. If you read the reviews or watch a few interviews, you'll get the gist of it. Sounds like things are better (as far as mask wearing) up there... not great in SWFL when we left. Think I'll add Santa Fe Chicken to our meal plan next week. It's been a while since I last made it.

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  17. Oops, hit enter accidentally on my earlier comment, I guess. For serious fiction, I don't know if you read Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, but A God in Ruins is Teddy's story and it's great! A WWII English setting -- a war novel and a family novel in one -- but totally unpredictable.
    My It's Monday post is at: http://baystatera.com/souls-short-stories-by-terri-bruce-imwayr/

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    1. Laurie - I've still got Life After Life on my list, but A God in Ruins sounds greta, too! Have tried to comment on your post a couple times, not sure any went through :(

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  18. JoAnn, good to hear an update from you. Beautiful picture. Enjoy your time in CT. Glad you're getting to see family. Take care and hope your time there is wonderful.

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    1. Kay - We used to live here in the mid/late 80s and have returned from time to time... never for this long. I'm really enjoying it even if we can't do much besides soak up the atmosphere.

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  19. Nice looking assortment of books. I'm glad you are getting a chance to spend time with family. This has been such a difficult year and it doesn't look like improving any time soon. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

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    1. Kathy - We had such a good time visiting family in NY. CT seems to be more about visiting old places...driving by our old house, hospitals where we worked, favorite restaurants, parks, etc. It's been fun. Happy reading (and walking) this week!

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  20. I need to do this. I have so many books I need/want to review but can't bring myself to write a long review for them. I think I'll take your lead and just highlight a few of them in short reviews. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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    1. Anne - These book briefs seem to be the best approach to reviews for me these days. I used to write longer, more detailed posts but can't summon the enthusiasm for it now. Especially helpful when you have a backlog. I'll look forward to your post!

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  21. Glad to hear you and your family have been keeping safe, happy and healthy, and spending time together. I am fortunate that social distancing and good hygiene seems to have been followed well where I live too and I feel happy to be out and about more. Also pleased to see you have continued to enjoy your reading and audiobooks. Take care! 😃

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    1. Jessica - I'm glad that you, too, are in a relatively safe place. Strange how public attitude toward the pandemic varies from place to place. Hope you enjoy the rest of the summer.. happy reading!

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  22. I'm reading Mary Trump's book right now. Fascinating, for sure. Glad you are getting some vacationing in and no positive tests! Keep safe and healthy!

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    1. Heather - Mary Trump's book really did help to make sense of a few things. I'm sure you saw the news this week that Trump's younger brother passed away. We're keeping a very low profile here in CT, as we did in FL. Still not eating in restaurants or shopping for anything other than groceries, but we're enjoying the change of scenery... and climate! ;-)

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  23. Houston has finally caught on to the idea that masking is our best chance to stop the spread of the virus. I don't at all understand why some people see wearing a mask in public as some kind of infringement on their personal freedom. There is simply no connection.

    I have friends who wear the mask, but complain loudly about it when they get home or post anything to social media. And they make so little sense, that I don't even try to reason with them. I'm afraid it's become intertwined with politics now, and that's bad.

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    1. Sam - I'm glad masks are finally catching on in Houston... sure hope that is the case in Florida now, too. It is sad (not to mention dangerous!) that they have become a political statement rather than a matter of public health. I'm happy to have so many books to read and new recipes/techniques to try in the kitchen... it's keeping me occupied during these crazy time.

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  24. Beautiful pictures. Masks are required here in Memphis and our apartment is in this old building with restaurants on the first floor and I've seen the security guards turn away people who weren't wearing masks multiple times. We get tested for COVID at least once a week but that's just because we are on hospital grounds most days. Hope you're having a good week.

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    1. Katherine - Glad to hear people are bring safe in Memphis. I think of you and your family often... hope things continue to go smoothly.

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  25. I had not heard of The Daughters of Erietown, but I would like to read it.

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  26. I love your header photograph! It was interesting to learn about your experiences with COVID. Here in Southern New Mexico, I see most people with masks and social distancing, but, since March, I'm in quarantine about 90% of the time. I make an occasional trip to the fabric shop and once enjoyed a trip to the nearby cooler mountain community.

    I added Daughters of Erietown to my want to read list - thank you for your reviews!

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    1. Miaismine - Thanks for your comment! I have family in New Mexico (Santa Fe and Las Cruces) so am glad to hear people are being good about masks and distancing. We saw them just before Christmas last year but, unfortunately, all plans are on hold this year. I hope you enjoy The Daughters of Erietown as much as I did... definitely a favorite this year!

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  27. Hi JoAnn! Glad to hear that your family is doing well. I still have relatives in FL and it's not a good scene there, due to the Gov. opening everything up too early, though I'm sure that's only in pockets here and there.

    Our son finally moved to NY after waiting for the state to go from one of the hotspots to one of the less affected. Where he lives now just north of the city everyone wears a mask. The numbers are low. I love your picture up top, beautiful!

    By the way I read and loved Erietown myself. Not sure why I picked it up but I got hooked on it. I'm interested in knowing more about the Bauermeister book, as I've read 2 or 3 of her earlier works.

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    1. Rita - Florida was still pretty bad when we left in late July... sure hope things are getting better now. Glad your son is finally settled in the NYC area. Our two daughters there came to FL as soon as the pandemic started and stayed with us until mid-June. One is still working remotely, but the other has been furloughed and is now looking for a new job.

      I'm glad to know you loved Erietown, too! Once I got started, I raced right through it... so, so good. Yesterday I finished The Guest List by Lucy Foley and really enjoyed it. I'm going to make my way through her backlist.

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  28. Oh, JoAnn, however did I miss this post? You are so right about the mostly universal mask-wearing in the Northeast. I think it's making a huge difference. I was so worried in July, when I saw tourists with plates from NC, SC, Texas, Georgia, Minnesota, etc., but weeks and weeks later we have not, I'm glad to say, had an uptick in cases. We're having next to zero, in fact. Interesting, indeed! If only the dimwits in the rest of the country would get over themselves, Covid numbers might be a whole lot lower.
    I have a copy of Beach Read in the house--I must get to it. It sounds as though I'd get a kick out of it.
    Enjoy your stay in the North! And best wishes when you return to Florida.

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    1. Judith - I was worried people would look warily upon us when we arrived with FL plates on the car, but that hasn't happened. Happy to hear there hasn't been an uptick from tourists. In central NY, the rate was down to 0.4% positivity rate. My sister is nervous about going back to school (she teaches 2nd grade) but I suppose if it can't be done safely in NY, it's not going to happen anywhere. We are enjoying our time her on the CT coast. Will stay for a few more weeks, then visit family again in NY before going back to FL. I'll bet you're enjoying some wonderfully crisp mornings now. I miss fall!

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  29. Again...every time you mention Connecticut...my heart grows fonder. Soon the Fall colors will be magnificent and pumpkins galore decorating homes and porches! I too am Trump-exhausted ("...is it over yet?") I found M. Trump's book average. 70% was about her father and her family...30% really about Donald. I must give Mary credit, the last chapter was a great analysis of Trump. At the moment I'm reading a GREAT Trump book by NY Times journalist M. Schmidt: Donald J. Trum v. The United States. Writing is excellent…it describes the first months of DJ’s administration and how the Muller Investigation started. The book reads like a political thriller ….as did “All The President’s Men” (Woodward/Bernstien) did in the 1970s. I’d recommend Schmidt’s book just to get a real feel for the erratic DJ and those inside the White House who were trying to stop him from ‘blowing up the country” (…not literally, but you get the message!) Another reading tip: WHITE TOO LONG by R.J. Jones (see blog or my review)....eye-opener about white Christianity and it being connected at the hip with white supremacy!!

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