Saturday, July 25, 2020

Review of The Banty House

The Banty House by [Carolyn Brown]


About the Book:

In the fading town of Rooster, Texas, all that’s really left is a service station, a church…and the Banty House, a long-ago Depression-era brothel. For more than seventy-five years, Betsy, Connie, and Kate Carson have called their mama’s house a home. The three eccentric sisters get by just fine with their homemade jams and jellies, a little moonshine on the side, and big hearts always open to strangers. Like Ginger Andrews.

An abandoned teen with a baby on the way and nowhere to go, she’s given a room to call her own for as long as she wants. The kind invitation is made all the sweeter when Ginger meets the sisters’ young handyman, Sloan Baker. But with a past as broken as Ginger’s, he’s vowed never to get close to anyone again. As a season of change unfolds, Ginger and Sloan might discover a warm haven to heal in the Banty House, a place to finally belong, where hope and dreams never fade.

My Comments:

What is family?  Is it people who are related by blood?  People who care for each other?  Both?  These three old ladies are related by blood.  None have ever had another family, except their mother.  However, they have hearts full of love for those who need it, and in this case the two who need it are a war vet with PTSD and a young pregnant girl.  

Through the book we learn the story of the little old ladies and their lives.  We learn about their mother--a mixed race woman who had to survive the depression. While her method might raise moral eyebrows, she met a commercial desire, did it while protecting (in her own way) young women and raising her own family.  We learn how even today, young women end up used for their bodies.  

Carolyn Brown has many books, including this one, available on Kindle Unlimited, so if  you are a member, it won't cost you anything to have a look.  I got my copy via NetGalley.  Grade:  B. 

RaeAnne Thayne's The Sea Glass Cottage

The Sea Glass Cottage: A Novel by [RaeAnne Thayne]


About the Book:

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.

My Comments:

Most of RaeAnn Thayne's books focus on the romance, the building relationship between the male and female lead, but this book is much more about the relationship between Olivia and her family, and isn't that the way is should be?  Isn't it when we enter into relationships that exclude our loved ones (assuming our loved ones are healthy themselves) that we get into trouble?  

As these family members deal with each other they learn to love themselves, and then others and I enjoyed cheering for them as they learned this lesson.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade: B. 

Reunion at the Shore: My Review

Reunion at the Shore (The Off Season Book 2) by [Lee Tobin McClain]


About the Book:

Ria and Drew Martin’s chemistry had always kept their marriage together—until suddenly it didn’t. Now a single mom, hotel manager Ria is at a loss when one of her teen daughters starts spiraling. Panicked, she calls on her estranged ex-husband for backup, but she’s not prepared for the man he’s become—or the unresolved emotions that still linger between them.

After his divorce, Drew pulled away from everyone when he lost his eyesight and his job on the police force. Now that he’s realized how much his daughters need their dad, Drew is determined to make things up to them. He’s less sure where he stands with Ria. They had real reasons for ending their marriage, but they’ve both changed during their time apart. And being with her again in the place where they first fell in love brings back memories of all that they once had. Can they overcome their past to reunite their family, this time forever?

My Comments:

What Ria learns when she reaches out to Drew is that he was blinded in a work accident.  This man who has always defined himself by his job as a police officer now not only doesn't have his sight, he doesn't have his job and he doesn't have his family.   

This is the second book in a series of books about disabled police officers who come to a cabin on the shore to recover not only physically but emotionally.  Overall I think the book dealt with the inner emotions of the characters more deeply than the average romance novel does.  

I really enjoyed watching Ria and Drew navigate not only their relationship with each other but their relationship with their girls.  I also liked the scene where they were considering going to bed with each other and Drew said no, that he wanted to do it right this time.

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade: B. 

Summer at Lake Haven: My Review

Summer at Lake Haven: A Novel (Haven Point Book 11) by [RaeAnne Thayne]


About the Book:

Samantha Fremont has been struggling with the weight of her mother’s expectations for years. But now that her mother has passed away, it’s time for Sam to be bold and finally establish the fashion design business she’s always dreamed of. And the perfect opportunity has fallen into her lap. Her friend’s getting married and has asked Sam to create her wedding dress…if only she can avoid the bride’s infuriating brother, who’s temporarily the boy next door.

Ian Summerhill knows a sabbatical in Haven Point is exactly what he and his children need to recover from their mother’s death. His romantic relationship with his ex-wife may have ended years ago, but caring for her throughout her illness broke his heart. All he wants is to watch his little sister walk down the aisle and to see his kids smile again. And somehow his lovely new neighbor is instrumental in both. But as their uneasy truce blossoms into a genuine friendship and more, Ian has obligations in England he can’t ignore—and a secret that threatens the fragile trust he and Sam have built.

My Comments:

Returning to Lake Haven with RaeAnn Thayne is like returning to any small town where you know the people.  It is a chance to catch up on old friends and a time to make new ones, because everybody is just so nice.  Ok, I know that is only one side of small towns--that the other is that if you don't fit, there is no place for you, but of course, the characters here do fit.

Ian's two kids become the stars of the story, the reason he and Samantha end up together and of course everyone lives happily ever after.  

This is a great beach read or book for some time when you want to smile and not work too hard. 

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.  Grade: B. 

My Review: What the Heart Wants

What the Heart Wants: A Novel (The Wish Series Book 1) by [Audrey Carlan]


About the Book:

“Fly free.”

For ten years those words, written on pink parchment paper in her mother’s beautiful handwriting, have been Suda Kaye Ross’s guiding star. Every year on her birthday, Suda Kaye opens another of the letters her mother penned before she passed, heeding the advice inside as she fills her life with experiences. From Italy to Australia, from Rio to Russia, she’s slaked her wanderlust. And then, on her twenty-eighth birthday, she opens the letter that sends her home.

Returning to Colorado means confronting everything—and everyone—she left behind, including her cherished sister, Evie, and her first love, Camden Bryant. Suda Kaye and Cam spent four years and one unforgettable night together. Given the way she ran out on him, it’s no surprise that he’s wary, resentful…and engaged to someone else. Evie, hardworking and ├╝berresponsible, just wants her sister to put down roots at last.

For Evie’s sake, and her own, Suda Kaye is trying to build a new life, all the while wondering whether it’s too late to come back home—or if the most important part of her never really left.

My Comments:

Once upon a time it was my dream to "fly free", to go from place to place leaving no roots behind, to see the world and experience adventure.  I went off to college rather than staying within a couple of hours of home  After college I moved from Mississippi where my family lived to New Orleans--not a huge distance, but definitely a new existence.  I saw it as a temporary step--someplace I'd get a couple of years of teaching experience before landing a job in an overseas school.  Well, turns out that teaching was not my vocation, so I headed to Atlanta to go back to school.  After three months there, I chose to return to New Orleans.  I was tired of starting over.  Then I married a native New Orleanian and I knew that meant I wasn't going anywhere, except on vacation.  

Suda Kaye had itchy feet, and encouraged by the letters written by her mother during her mother's final illness, Suda Kaye has been around the world, and has been with a variety of men, none of whom could hold a candle to her first love.  Her mom's most recent note, as stated above, sent her home, home to where those who had loved her before still love  her but were hurt by her long absence.  

With well-drawn characters, Audrey Carlan shows that you can go home again.  She also shows how living your dream isn't necessarily the best idea.  While you could say that it is a good thing Suda Kaye's mother lived her dream while she was young, she did so at the expense of two little girls who needed her to be there, and I have to wonder whether, while laying on her premature deathbed that mother felt her life was well-lived.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade: B+

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Another Covid Update

Well, my stats indicate that these are not popular posts.  Oh well, I'm writing them for me, not you--but I do hope I'm not the only stat geek out there.

School was supposed to start here August 6 or thereabout.  My daughter has check-in day still set for then.  She's in Catholic school and the plan now is for in-person instruction.  They are cutting the day from 6 periods to four and are limiting movement and interaction at lunch.  Not sure what they will do with assemblies and Masses--I know one school was talking about live-streaming them.  Still August 6 is two weeks away, and who knows what the stats will look like then.  The public schools have already pushed the start of school back a week and they are offering a choice of virtual learning or in-person.  Basically the virtual group is signing up for 100% home instruction for at least nine weeks.  The in-person groups will get a combination of in-home and at-school, with the ratio depending on the infection numbers.  I suspect if the numbers don't calm down before August 6, my daughter's school will go virtual.  I just don't think that liability-wise they can do anything else.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Curve Is Up, Not Flat

Today is July 12.  It is a week after the Fourth of July Weekend.  It is about seven weeks since Louisiana entered phase II on June 1. About two weeks after we entered Phase 2, the number of diagnosed cases started rising.   Our hospitalization numbers hit a low of 542 on June 13.  Today they are back up to 1182, which is where they were on May 14.

In the last week, there have been 12,896 cases diagnosed.  128 people have died.  Overall, Louisiana has had 78,122 cases and 3308 deaths, for an overall death rate of 4.2%.  However, a local medical center did a study and concluded that about 7.8% of the population of my parish has been infected with the virus and that it has a fatality rate of about 1.4%. 

The statistics on who is testing positive have changed a lot in the last month.  Originally the numbers skewed old; now they are skewing young.  The numbers below are interesting

The first time I looked at the numbers I found:

Children make up 25% of the population but only 1.3% of those who have tested positive. They make up less than 1% of the dead. Of those 18 and under who tested positive, 0.2% died.

The comparable numbers today:  Children make up 6.6% of those who have tested positive.  They make up 0.09% of the dead.  Of those diagnosed, 0.05% have died.

This week only:  Children are 10.92% of those diagnosed, and 0% of those who died. 

Then:  People age  20-29 make up 14% of the population but only 11.6% of those who have tested positive.  Only 0.3% of the dead were in their 20's.  Of those who tested positive, 0.2% died.

Today:  21.8% of those who have tested positive are in their 20's.  0.33% of the dead are in their 20's and of those who tested positive, 0.06% have died.

This week only:  27.83% of those who tested positive are in their 20's. 0% of the dead are.

Then:  13.3% of the population is in their 30's, but they comprise 15.8% of those who have tested positive.  Only 1.8% of the dead were in their 30's.  Of those who tested positive,  0.7% died.

Today: 16.42% of positive cases were people in their 30's.  1.78% of the dead are in their 30's.  Of those who tested positive, 0.45% have died. 

17.33% of those who tested positive are in their 30's.  2.3% of the dead are.

Then:  Though people in their 40's make up  12.38% of the population, they comprise 17% of those who tested positive and 3.8 % of the dead. Of 40-somethings who tested positive, 1.5% died.

Today:  15.29% of positive cases are people in their 40's.  They are 3.56% of the dead.  Of those diagnosed,   .98% have died.

This week:  14.57% of positive cases are people in their 40's.  They are 5.51% of the dead.  

Then:  Those in their 50's are 13.1% of population but 19% of those who tested positive.  They make  up 8.6% of the dead and of those who tested positive, 3% died.

Today:  Those in their 50's are 14.96% of the diagnosed.  They make up 8.76% of the dead, and of the diagnosed, 2.49% have died. 

This week:  12.96% of the diagnosed were in their 50's, and 13.38% of the dead. 

Then:  While those age 60-69 make up  11.3% of population they make up 16.6 % of those who tested positive and  18.2% of the dead.  Of those who tested positive, 7.4% died.

Today:  Those in their 60's are 11.2% of the diagnosed. They are 17.68% of the dead, and of those diagnosed, 6.33 % have died. 

This week only:  Those in their 60's were 8.85% of the diagnosed, and 16.53% of the dead.  

Those aged 70+  are 11% of the population but  25% of those who tested positive. and 68 % of the dead have been elderly and of those in this age group who tested positive, 25% died.

Today:  The elderly are 12.84% of those who tested positive and 67.77 % of the dead.  Of the elderly who tested positive, 22.33% have died.  

This week only:  The elderly are 8.29% of those diagnosed, and 62.2% of the dead. 



Wednesday, July 08, 2020

What Does the Difference in the Covid-19 Stats Mean?

For the record, I am not a statistician.  I am not a medical professional.  To say that my science background is limited would be an understatement.  I'm doing basic math; whether the suppositions behind that math have any merit is for you to decide. 

I've been tracking the numbers on Covid-19 via NOLA.com, and then I've been crunching the numbers to give them more perspective.  I started doing this in May, and without far more work than I'm willing to do (and maybe even if I tried) I can't go back and find some of the numbers before then.  I've recently started saving daily charts and numbers so maybe I can dig up more information in the future, but I digress.

In the middle of June I started noticing that the proportion of cases in each age group were changing.  You can read my other posts to follow them, but for context, here are the cumulative numbers for June 7:

Kids now make up 3% of the diagnosed cases and 0.07% of the deaths.  Of the diagnosed kids, 0.15% have died.

14.5% of diagnosed cases are in 20-somethings, but only 0.35%  of the deaths.  Of those diagnosed, 0.16% have died.

16.07% of diagnosed cases have been to those in their 30's.  1.73% of the dead were in their 30's and of those who tested positive, 0.71% have died.

16.48% of people testing positive were in their 40's, but only 3.68% of the dead. Of those who tested positive, 1.47%  have died.

17.6% of positive tests were to those in their 50's; but 8.74% of  the deaths. 3.08% of  the diagnosed have died.

14.85% of cases were people in their 60's, and 18.08% of the dead.  8.03% of those who tested positive died.

17.08 % of positive tests were to the elderly, and they comprise 67.39% of the dead. 26.03% of those who tested positive have died.

Compare those numbers to the numbers for today only.  Today we had 1936 new cases and 23 deaths, distributed as follows:

Under 18:  157 cases or 8.1% of cases.  No deaths. 

20's:  531 cases or 27.4% of cases.  No deaths. 

30's:  300 cases or 15.49% of cases.  1 death, or 4.34% of deaths

40's:  264 cases or 13.63% of cases.  1 death or 4.43% of deaths

50's:  283 cases or 14.61% of cases.  5 deaths, or 21.73% of deaths

60's:  140 cases or 7.23% of cases.  5 deaths or 21.73% of deaths. 

70's:  261 cases or 13.48% of cases. 11 deaths or 47.82% of deaths.

I don't know enough about statistics to know if the different proportions of the dead between today and the whole time through June 7 is significant.  I realize that one day can be an outlier. 

Let's take a look at the total numbers since this started, as of today.  If nothing had changed, these numbers should be close to what is above:

Under 18:  4095 cases or 5.99% of positive tests.  3 deaths or 0.09% of deaths.  Of those diagnosed, 0.07% died. 

20's:  14383 cases or 21.06% of positive tests.  11 deaths or 0.34% of deaths.  Of those diagnosed, 0.07% died. 

30's 11,098 cases or 16.25% of positive tests.  57 deaths or 1.77% of deaths.  Of those diagnosed, 0.51% died. 

40's:  10,490 cases or 15.36% of positive tests.  111 deaths or 3.45% of deaths.  Of those diagnosed, 1.05% died. 

50's:  10,417 cases or 15.26% of positive tests.  280 deaths or 8.72% of deaths. Of those diagnosed, 2.69% died. 

60's:  8331 cases or 12.20% of positive tests.  571 deaths or 17.78% of deaths.  Of those diagnosed, 6.85% have died.

70's and older:  9295 cases or 13.62% of positive tests.  2178 deaths or 67.82% of deaths. Of those diagnosed, 23.43% have died.

When I looked at these numbers on June 28, I remarked that I was surprised that the last number on each row, the percent of the diagnosed who die, had not really moved  in the six weeks I had been tracking the numbers.  Well, it has started to move.  If you compare The June 7 numbers to the cumulative numbers I computed today, you can see that a lower percent of people in each age group who are diagnosed are dying.  I don't know to what extent this is attributable to better treatment and to what extent it is attributable to people who are less sick (or maybe not even sick at all) being tested and found positive, as compared to those in March and April.  

We have gone, in the space of a month, from a disease that mostly attacked old people to one that is getting the young.  As of June 7, 17.5% of the diagnosed people were under 30.  Today 35.5% of those added were under 30, and the cumulative total is now 27% under 30.  As of June 7, 17.08% of the cases were in the elderly.  Today only 13.48% of positives were elderly and cumulatively, only 13.62%. The age group with the big difference is the 50's. On June 7, they were 17.6% of positives, today 14.6 and cumulatively, they are down to 15.26%.  

Our hospitalization numbers are now back where they were on May 18.  There was about a week between peak hospitalization in April and peak death in April. It will be interesting to see if the number of deaths starts increasing again or if it stays low.  Also we have been under a mask edict since July 1.  It seems that if masks are effective we should start seeing a downward trend in diagnoses starting about now.  On the other hand, it is possible that masks make people feel safer such that they take bigger risks than they had been taking.  Who knows?  

Monday, July 06, 2020

More on Covid--the Times Have Changed

I'm starting this post on July 2, 2020, which is a Thursday.  This week the Caronavirus stats have shown that the disease is spreading again.  For reference, our lockdown began March 16, and the first restrictions were lifted at the beginning of May, with more lifted by the middle of May.   Our paper daily updates charts that show the number of diagnosed cases, the number of deaths and the number of cases/deaths by age group.

I've never considered the gross number of cases to be anywhere near accurate, and I don't think you can compare a 1000 case day this week to a 1000 case day in April, as in April you had to meet all sorts of qualifications in order to even test; whereas today they test anyone who requests it--the worried well, the exposed, and those sick with whatever.  However, I've found the proportions of people in each age group to be interesting and I consider the death statistics to be reasonably accurate, as the definition of death hasn't changed. I also consider the hospitalization numbers to be reasonably accurate. While I've heard that there are people who have gone to the hospital for elective procedures who are given a Covid test and found to be in the hospital with Covid but not because of it, who are counted in the daily hospitalization stats, I question how many people like that there are.

From a high in April, our hospitalization numbers decreased steadily through June 13, when they reach 532.  Since then they have trended upward, and are now at 840, a number not seen since May 23.

If you read my other posts, you'll see that I've been tracking the overall percent of people by each age group who have been diagnosed and who have died.  Here is another one.  Today I took just today's numbers and looked at them. Today, 1383 new cases were diagnosed, and 17 people died.  Broken down by age group:

Under 18:  147 cases, or 10.6% of those diagnosed.  No deaths.
20's:  411 cases, or 29.7% of those diagnosed.  No deaths.
30's:  239 cases, or 29.7% of those diagnosed.  No deaths.
40's:  198 cases, or 14.3% of those diagnosed.  No deaths.
50's:  172 cases, or 12.4 %  of those diagnosed.  1 death (7.6% of deaths)
60's:  113 cases, or 8.1% of those diagnosed.  5 deaths (38.4% of deaths)
70 and up:  103 cases or 7.4% of those diagnosed. 7 deaths (53.84% of deaths).

I did the same analysis of cases from July 2 to July 6: (I didn't finish writing the post the day I started it)
Under 18:  523 cases or 10.97% of those diagnosed. No deaths.
20's:  1557 cases, or 32.66% of those diagnosed. No deaths.
30's:  837 cases or 17.56% of those diagnosed.  No deaths.
40's:  679 cases or 14.2% of those diagnosed.  No deaths.
50's:  570 cases or 11.95% of those diagnosed.  3 deaths (7.3% of deaths)
60's:  398 cases or 8.3% of those diagnosed.  9 deaths (21.95% of deaths)
70's and up:  272 case or 5.7% of those diagnosed.  29 deaths ( 70.73% of deaths)

When you compare that to the numbers when I started tracking them, the difference is remarkable. My guess is that the more at-risk people believe themselves to be, the more they are trying to avoid catching the disease.  Kids right now are out and about more than they were prior to the beginning of June. Some are in camp.  The other thing is that kids have parents in the age group that is showing the most cases.  Chances are, if one person in the house gets it, so do the others. 

I'm not a healthcare professional and my last science class was freshman biology for non-science majors 35 years ago, so my expertise in interpreting this data is limited to say the least. 

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Book Review: The Sky Beneath My Feet

The Sky Beneath My Feet by [Lisa Samson]


About the Book

Beth's husband won't be joining the family on vacation at the beach this year. He's not even joining them in the house. Instead, Rick has holed up alone in the backyard shed. Nobody knows exactly what he's up to. Maybe he's immersing himself in prayer. Maybe he's lost his mind. Maybe he's even the modern-day prophet or the saint the neighborhood artist imagines him to be. But while "St. Rick" waits for an epiphany, Beth will have to figure out what to do with herself and their teenage sons, possibly for the rest of her life.

What happens next is both uproarious and bittersweet: a peace march turns violent, her son is caught with drugs, and she embarks on an ambitious road trip that turns into something nearly surreal. Will Beth rediscover the idealistic woman she used to be, once upon a time? Can her marriage survive Rick's backyard vigil? Will anything ever be the same? And should it be?

Truthful, comic, heartbreaking, and magical in the very best sense of the word, The Sky Beneath My Feet gently tears the veil off our egos and expectations to reveal the throbbing, redemptive, and achingly beautiful life beyond and within us.

My Comments

Lisa Samson is one of my favorite writers. She is one of the rare ones who can touch me with her language and use of words as much as with her story.  

I've heard it said that a measure of a good story is that if it can speak to you about today even if the author had no idea about today when it was written.  Well, if you are reading this at some time other than July, 2020, let me tell you, today--this time in history--is anything but ordinary.  The country has been shut down (at least to some degree) for three months to contain Covid-19.  Lots of people, including my son, my daughter and her boyfriend, have been laid off from what were considered stable jobs.  Everyone is being encouraged to stay home, or, if they have to go out, to wear a mask.  If that wasn't bad enough, there have been several seemingly unprovoked killings of African-American men by police officers so "Black Lives Matter" is the mantra of the day and demonstrations and riots have been happening for weeks now. No, things aren't normal.

Beth is a minister's wife.  Her husband works as the "men's pastor" at a mega church.  It seems that his job is to go out with the guys--to go bowling, to ball games and to other places that men in the church gather, and to talk to them and minister to them and call them to a deeper relationship with God.  He wonders if that is what God wants of him.  Then an old friend who has moved to another town tries to hire him as pastor of their church.  To discern God's will for him, her husband, Rick, decides to do a 30 day silent retreat--in their garage, where he will not interact with family and friends. 

Beth is left holding the bag to raise their two sons--and she is trying to figure out what she wants for her life--she had plans to be an attorney before she dropped out of school after getting pregnant with their oldest son.  She's been a pastor's wife and a  mother but who is she? 

During the course of the book Beth meets a group of people who seem to demonstrate for the sake of demonstrating--some truly care about the cause of the day, others just like the process.  She also meets a woman who runs a skid row shelter and, in this book written before the phrase was cool, realized she was looking at it through the eyes of white privilege.  

The book is very much about Beth and Rick's spiritual journeys as they approach a crossroad of life, so if you don't like religion in books, this probably isn't the one for you.  However, the spirituality about which Samson writes is not a feel good sacchrine sweet version. 

This was a library book, I reviewed it because I wanted to and I'll give it a B+.

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