Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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The Silver Star

This was a great, quick read and a welcome hiatus from the historical fiction I seem to keep picking up! The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls takes place in the early ’70s, following a family made up of Charlotte, the mom, and her two daughters, Liz and Bean (nickname for Jean). Charlotte disappears occasionally and this time the girls make their way from California back to Virginia to Charlotte’s small hometown of Rye. They find their uncle in the large family house and ultimately end of staying there a while.

The story hits on a lot of issues and is a little heavy at times, but keeps moving along and seems to be fairly accurate of small town life at that time. There are major class issues between the higher ups of the cotton mill, the main employer of the town. Race issues abound as the high schools desegregate. Pride issues flare as the the girls break tradition of their family being at the top of the totem pole, at least for appearances sake. And a major justice issue of one man taking advantage of anything and everything because of his race, gender, and position of power. But does he get what’s coming to him? You’ll have to read to find out!

Again, this was a great quick read – I think I sat down 3 times from start to finish. Great for small reading breaks to break up the monotony of working/living/being at home 24/7. Enjoy!


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The Summer Before the War

I have definitely been on a historical fiction kick lately. Not completely by choice, though, and I’m itching to switch it up a little bit. But they’ve been books I was either reading with friends or became available from my holds list. My last book, Lost Roses, was I think the first WWI historical fiction I had read and it just so turned out that this one was too – just from a very different perspective.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson begins in England 1914, the summer before the country joins WWI. A young woman, Beatrice, has just been hired to be the new latin teacher at the school in the coastal town of Rye, which is unusual at best. She is a single woman whose money is wrapped up in a trust left by her late father and controlled by her vicious aunt. But she is determined to make a life for herself. She arrives in the summer to get settled and tutor some students. She is quickly taken under the wing of Agatha, who went out on a limb to get her hired as the first female in such a desired teaching position, and her two nephews who are staying for the summer.

The summer turns exciting when the town begins taking in Belgian refugees to do their part in the pre-war effort. This of course comes with plenty of drama as the wealthier class shuffles for recognition, not realizing what is coming for England. As the summer rolls on, Beatrice becomes close with Agatha’s two nephews, Hugh and Daniel, who are polar opposites and stir up some drama of their own. Hugh thinks he is in love with his mentor’s daughter and Daniel is a poet and everything is dramatic.

The war eventually comes to England, and Rye, and the end of the book is a whirlwind of battles, both local and abroad. But I won’t give anything away. The book was a little slow at the beginning but redeemed itself. And fair warning, I did cry a little at the end. I’m just glad I wasn’t riding the train when reading it – thanks corona virus! Can’t wait to discuss with my friends!


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Picture Perfect

Surprisingly, this whole staying at home thing is putting a hitch in my reading challenge. I usually spend 2-2.5 hours reading per day riding the train and before bed, the bulk of that being on the train. So without the train time, I’m quickly falling behind schedule to reach my 50 books for the year. When I’m at home, I gravitate towards tv or doing a puzzle. So I’ll have to come up with some self-motivation to get more home reading time in!

I recently finished Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult. I generally like Picoult’s book – some I love – but this one just fell into the ‘like’ category. The book begins with a woman, waking up in a church cemetery, with amnesia. She doesn’t even remember her name. A cop, who was starting his new job with the LAPD the next day found her. It’s definitely unexpected when she turns out to be an anthropologist, Cassie, who is married to a big shot movie star. That alone is pretty far-fetched. I like my fictional love stories to at least have a bit of plausibility! 🙂 And this movie star, Alex, also has some dark secrets that I guess she slowly remembers.

At the beginning of the book, Cassie has small, momentary flashbacks, which were plausible to me. But then the whole middle of the book is her entire past leading up to the current day – I think it was maybe a week after she woke up in the cemetery. I am not neurology expert, but it seems a little unlikely that a women has amnesia to the point of not remembering her name or any of the decades that happened before she woke up, then miraculously within a week remembers everything from her childhood to how she ended up in the cemetery.

It didn’t help either that there weren’t any characters that I really loved. Cassie was the most likeable, but she also had her moments. Ultimately, the story is a fairy tale gone wrong, which is more realistic, and of a woman who takes back control of her life. Good overall message but the details didn’t do it for me. Let me know what you think if you read it!


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Lost Roses

I really enjoyed reading Lilac Girls so I went quickly to Martha Hall Kelly’s second book, Lost Roses. It is a prequel to the first book, so some of the characters are the same. I wasn’t sure it would be as intriguing as the first, which is set during WWII, but I was pleasantly surprised.

In Lilac Girls, Caroline is one of the main characters, so in Lost Roses she is a young girl. This story line focuses on Caroline’s mother, Eliza. It is set in 1914, during the fall of the tsar and aristocratic class in Russia and World War I. Eliza’s friend Sofya, cousin to the tsar, and her family end up entrapped and held hostage in their own home. Sofya’s son is taken from her and members of the family attempt escape at different times, causing the family to split up. Meanwhile, Eliza is in the US trying to help Russian women and children who have fled to the US.

The story follows each of their paths and struggles to the end of the war. I won’t spoil who survives and who doesn’t, but it’s not all happy endings. It is written in a similar style to the first book and I enjoyed reading the parallel paths of the women in their respective countries trying to survive and make a difference. And you definitely don’t have to read them in the order they were written. Enjoy!


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The Nanny

I’m well into books for 2020 and this one may be my favorite so far. The Nanny by Gilly Macmillan kept me on my toes the entire time. Jocelyn Holt’s nanny, Hannah, up and disappears when she is 7 and 30 years later, she still seems devastated and holds this against her mother. This seems a little ridiculous and Jocelyn wasn’t my favorite character, but that was really the only downside to the book.

She and her daughter are forced now to return and live with her mother and while there, her entire world turns upside down. Her relationships with both her mother and daughter are challenged and she discovers secrets about her and her family’s past that are hard to come to grips with. Every time I thought I had it figured out there would be another surprise. I definitely recommend this one. Enjoy!


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Long Bright River

I was surprised I got this book quickly off the hold list as it is newer but maybe people haven’t heard yet how good it is. After a historical fiction and an easy romance, a good suspenseful read was appreciated, and Long Bright River by Liz Moore did not disappoint.

Kacey and Mickey, sisters, grew up with their grandmother and under pretty tough circumstances in Philly. As adults, they ended up on different sides of the system – one a cop, the other a drug user and prostitute. But their worlds collide when a string of murders begins in the district they both work in. They each have their own personal issues which melt into trying to catch a murderer, who may be hiding in plain daylight. A couple of times I thought I knew who it was, but the curve balls kept the story interesting and moving along. Enjoy!


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Still Me

Jojo Moyes is a great go-to author. I don’t want to read all her books in a row, but they’re a nice break from the historical fiction and thriller/suspense that I usually gravitate toward.

It’s been over 3 years since I read Me Before You and After You, but I still had the third book of the series saved to my wish list through the library. And it was available when I finished my last book. Still Me continues the story of Louisa Clark as she takes a job in New York City and adjusts to life away from everything she’s ever known. I still loved every minute of this book, even though I hesitated to read it because I don’t always love series past two or three books. But Louisa Clark’s character still made me smile and feel for her. If you’ve read the first two, I definitely recommend this one, even if it’s been a while. I was a little spotty on some of the details from book two (like her boyfriend and how they came to be together) but it wasn’t essential to the current story. Enjoy!