Catching Katy

Reads, Eats, & Everything Else


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The Spy with the Red Balloon

This is the second book in the Balloonmakers series by Katherine Locke. I don’t think I mentioned this in my Girl with the Red Balloon post but it ended with no resolution. But I didn’t mention it because I knew there was a second book. Well, just so you are prepared – The Spy with the Red Balloon is a completely different storyline. Ok, it’s not completely different. It obviously relates in the timeline of balloonmakers and magic. But it does not have the main characters from the first book.

It was good though. It takes place during WWII, both in Europe and America. A brother and sister are, on their own, trying to make sense of their magical abilities when the Army recruits them to help with a mission related to bombs. The girl, Isle, stays in America, while her brother, Wolf, is sent to Europe. In Oak Ridge, TN, Isle meets other girls like her and they are given the task of figuring out how to move a heavy and deadly object across the world. Wolf is trained on a secret team and sent to infiltrate and destroy weapons factories in Germany.

They both develop their magic and things are going well until they discover someone else with magic at the Oak Ridge facility who is using it for evil. The book moves along and the character development is good. It also has nice closure at the end with an epilogue 2 years after the story ends.

I don’t mean to say that every book has to have a happy ending, necessarily, but at the end of the first book the reader has no idea what happens to any of the characters. It was just a little disappointing. I’m not sure if Locke is planning on writing more in this series but I would continue to read them if she does!


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The Weekenders

A friend recommended books by author Mary Kay Andrews as good, easy reads (what I call “beach reads”) all set in the south. As I searched through the library database I found that Andrews has MANY books. I picked The Weekenders first because it sounded good and it was available.

The story was good. Riley is kicking off the summer at the family’s vacation home on an island off the coast of South Carolina but not in a very happy way. She has been estranged from her husband and they had planned on telling their daughter of their plan to divorce. He doesn’t show up for the ferry but later is found dead at the island marina. As the investigation deepens, it becomes increasingly clear that Riley’s husband has created some shady business dealings with Riley’s family’s business, including forging Riley’s name on fake businesses and money dealings. She is homeless and money-less and in the dark as far as how her husband was killed or who did it. At the same time, Riley connects with a fling from college who she had not spoken to in years and she is dealing with a moody teenager who just lost her dad.

There is a lot going on in this book but it keeps it entertaining for sure. It was a little unbelievable how little the police seemed to be doing with all this information and really not believable that most of the important information was dug up by Riley herself then shared with the police. But I’m not sure the goal was complete reality for every little story line.

It was definitely a good “beach read” and I will be looking for some more of Andrews’ books for this summer!


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The Girl with the Red Balloon

Katherine Locke wrote an excellent fantasy book with some history sprinkled in. I wouldn’t exactly call it historical fiction – and that may be because I am not super familiar with East Germany in the late ’80s – but I feel like it’s more fiction that history. The Girl with the Red Balloon was a quick and engaging read, mainly since it was written for young adults/high schoolers, but I really enjoyed it.

The main character, Ellie, unknowingly travels back in time to 1988 East Berlin when she grabs a red balloon while on a school trip. The Berlin wall is up and she finds herself with a crowd of magicians and runners helping people escape. But they now have a new mission – to figure out how the magic made the balloon, and Ellie, travel across time. And this is made even more complicated when others are found dead after being pulled from another time by balloons. Ellie’s relationships in 1988 grow and she is torn between a desire to maintain these relationships but also return home to her present time. Everything culminates when she and her friends figure out who is responsible for tampering with the balloons and then try to make things right.

The book is an interesting mix of fantasy with some historical base in East Berlin when people could not leave and could not really live freely. I like books like this, although I do think there can be a fine line of making light of historical events by twisting fiction into them. I definitely recommend this book, especially if you enjoy magic and fantasy. There’s a bit of a love story as well and who doesn’t love that?! Enjoy!


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A Spark of Light

Many years ago I went on a Jodi Picoult reading binge. I didn’t dislike any of them I just needed a change of pace eventually. Her books would still always come up as recommended so I decided to give one her new a shot. I honestly had no idea what A Spark of Light was about when I started reading it. I don’t always read synopses of books, especially if I know friends have read it or it’s been on certain lists. That’s not to say I would not have read it, but everyone should be prepared for a heavy story line.

A group of women sit one morning at a women’s clinic in Mississippi when a man comes in and starts shooting. You find this out early so I’m really not spoiling anything. What’s also unique about this book is that the timeline goes backwards by the hour and during each hour you learn about what’s happening from each character’s perspective. There’s the doctor, a nurse, a girl and her aunt, the shooter, the hostage negotiator, the shooter’s daughter, a pro-life protester, and a patient who just had an abortion. There it is. The heavy topic of the book is abortion. The clinic is the only one in the state that does abortions – along with general women’s health.

I’m not going to get into a political debate or talk about my views but the book was very interesting. Each character has a very different opinion about abortion. Many see it as a black or white issue while others have varying degrees of agreement or opposition. Picoult obviously did her research and I think it took a lot of guts to write a story like this, especially with social media and public access to writers, celebrities, etc.

It’s a good read but don’t start it looking for a lighthearted beach read. You have been warned!


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Give Me Your Hand

I love a good audio book when I’m on a road trip. It literally makes the drive fly by. I haven’t done a good audio book in a while because most of road trips now include my husband and then you have to try to find something that everyone will like and then what do you do if you don’t get to the end and you have to find time to finish it together and it’s just way to complicated.

But I recently took a solo trip to my brother’s for my nephew’s birthday, so I audio booked it up. If you are not familiar, your library probably does audio book loans and I play it through an app on my phone. Brilliant!

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott was a mysterious thriller. It is the story of two girls who become close friends in high school but abruptly end the friendship when one girl shares a very personal secret. They end up reuniting many years later, after college, and dredge up all kinds of pent up feelings and memories and then add to the trouble to make the relationship even more complicated.

I jumps back and forth in time, which can sometimes be hard to follow in audio form, but the chapters were clearly labels ‘then’ and ‘now’ so it was super easy to follow! I definitely recommend it and it’s not very long. My round trip in the car was about 10 hours and I maybe had an hour left to finish, which was perfect for the train ride to/from work the next day!


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You and Me Forever

We are part of a married small group through Buckhead Church. We really enjoy being able to spend time with other married couples who are in a similar stage in life – and we all are because we’ve all been married less than a year – and have great leaders who are a little further along in their experience. We’ve done various studies and recently finished You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity by Francis and Lisa Chan.

If you’re not familiar with Francis Chan, he is a very “real” writer and speaker. He will tell you how it is and doesn’t sugarcoat things. The main premise of this book is that by making things right with God and striving for a life Jesus would be proud of, you will also have the benefit of a meaningful and fulfilling marriage. Now we all know no one can actually accomplish a life anywhere near to that of Jesus. But that is the goal. It was hard to read and think about the fact that in heaven, you won’t have a husband or wife. That we should be anxiously awaiting the day that Jesus returns and have no problem with that happening tomorrow regardless of what you still want to do or accomplish here on Earth. But that should be the ultimate desire of Christians.

There were videos to go with each chapter which I always like and each chapter had parts written by both Francis and Lisa. It did feel repetitive at times, which made it drag on a little bit. But it triggered some great discussion in our group as well as at home. And it’s good for newlyweds and for couples who have been married a while. It even has a chapter on parenting!


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Little Fires Everywhere

I have finished a few books recently so am behind on my reviews. I read Celeste Ng’s other book, Everything I Never Told You, a few years ago. After starting Little Fires Everywhere, I remembered more about that book, or really Ng’s writing style.

Little Fires Everywhere was an interesting book about suburban America, set in a real Ohio town where Ng grew up. It covers a lot of issues – adoption, parental rights, parenting, race, social class, family dynamics. Possibly too many issues. Overall I thought the book was slow, which is how her other book was for me as well. I also was not thrilled with the ending.

A single mother, Mia, and her daughter Pearl find their way to Shaker Heights, an suburb touted as the best in America. They never stay long in any place, but Pearl quickly makes friends with the children of a typical, wealthier Shaker Heights family, the Richardsons. Throughout the story, glimpses of Mia’s secretive past creep in but eventually, a local scandal pushes Mrs. Richardson, a local journalist, to dive deep into Mia’s past. The local scandal is a family attempting to adopt a Chinese baby who was left at a fire station, but the mother resurfaces and wants her daughter back. I cannot imagine how hard this would be from either side. The Richardson children end up with various relationships and debts to Mia which Mrs. Richardson will not accept.

Little Fires Everywhere is an interesting outsiders look at a Stepford-like town, both from the reader’s perspective and Mia’s outsider perspective. Again, it’s a little slow so I wouldn’t expect to fly through it. And it covers more serious topics, so don’t expect to laugh. But it was interesting and a great commentary on social relations in a small town.