"The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it." (James Bryce)

Saturday, March 10, 2018

BETTER OFF WED (Laura Durham)

Currently reading on my Kindle....


Currently reading...

Monday, March 5, 2018


Joanne Fluke's books are pure fun.  They are clean, interesting, and, of course, delicious!  I picked up this one because I happened to be reading a review of one of the later books in the Hannah Swenson series and I noticed that she was MARRIED, but not to Norman or Mike, both of whom have been pursuing her since very early in the series, so I had to find out how this new relationship developed.

As this story begins, Hannah is preparing to travel to Las Vegas to celebrate the surprise elopement of her mother, Delores, and her fiance, Doc Knight.  Hannah is also dealing with her imminent trial for vehicular manslaughter and the terror of possibility ending up in prison for what she knows was an accident, pure and simple.  On arrival in Las Vegas the Swensons discover that Doc's mysterious best man is Ross Barton, a friend and old flame of Hannah's. When she discovers that Ross is interviewing for a job in their hometown of Lake Eden, MN, Hannah is hopeful that her life might be taking an exciting new turn, aside from possible imprisonment.

When Hannah and her lawyer arrive at court for jury selection they are summoned to see the judge, who, of course, is murdered in his chambers and discovered by Hannah!  At least he had arranged to dismiss the charges against her before he was knocked off!

I read some of the reviews of this novel on Amazon and was a bit surprised by some of the critical comments.  Of course, 69% of readers gave it 4 or 5 stars, a rating with which I agree, but there were some pretty nasty (but vague) comments on the one-star reviews.  Fluke's readers love her characters and their personalities.  They also love the fact that her mysteries are cozy and comfortable (plus the recipes are great!).  They are not looking for the world's next Agatha Christie or Robert B. Parker.  They want home and family and the smell of cookies baking, and that's what Fluke offers, along with intriguing mysteries.  I enjoyed this one thoroughly!


This series continues to be terrific!  Quaker midwife Rose Carroll attends a fireworks display where Hannah Breed, a young unmarried Quaker who has confided in Hannah about her pregnancy, is found shot to death.  Rose's quest to discover the killer, and possibly the father of Hannah's child, takes on new urgency when a fellow Quaker and freed slave Akwasi Ayensu is accused of the murder based on the evidence of unsavory factory manager Lester Colby.  Can Rose help to bring Hannah's killer to justice before she herself becomes a victim?

I just love Edith Maxwell's writing!  This series is wonderful historical fiction.

SURPRISE ME! (Sophie Kinsella)

Sylvie and Dan Winter have been together for 10 wonderful years and look forward to many more years of happiness, but when their doctor mentions that they could realistically live for 68 more years, they start to question how they could possibly keep love and interest alive for such a lonnnnnnnnggg time.  Sylvie decides that frequent surprises are the answer to keeping the excitement alive in their marriage.  It seems like a good idea to keep thinking of ways to delight each other - a cashmere sweater, tickets to a favorite comedy show, etc, except that the surprises don't turn out as surprising or delightful as expected.  Thrown into the mix is Sylvie's mother, widowed two years ago by a tragic accident that took the life of her husband, Sylvie's father, a golden, perfect philanthropist cut down in the prime of his life.  Sylvie starts to notice Dan and her mother engaged in furtive conversations about money and then starts to wonder if Dan is having an affair.  In other words, her plan is backfiring big-time and future bliss seems to be slipping away at warp speed.

Kinsella has another winner here.  I love her free-standing novels.  Despite their humorous themes, she always manages to take a look at serious issues with a new perspective.  This is evolved chick-lit at its best!

Monday, February 26, 2018


I was lucky enough to receive an Advanced Reader's Copy of this wonderful novel, Laura's first venture away from mystery and romance and into women's fiction.  It will be published on June 26 and my advice to you is to reserve your copy now! 

I am not a reader of the many Amish romances (just Laura's Amish mysteries) on the market right now, so I cannot authoritatively compare this novel to that very popular genre.  I can, however tell you not to confuse Portrait of a Sister, which is most definitely women's fictionwith that genre.  This is the story of two sisters raised in the Amish culture, one who left before baptism for a new life in New York City and the other who chose baptism and the Amish way of life.  Katie Beiler, not as brave and outgoing as her twin sister Hannah, chose family and tradition after her rumspringa and, when her mother passes away, assumes responsibility for taking care of the family.  Her happiness is marred by a secret that, when discovered by her sister Hannah, becomes a terrible dilemma for Katie.  Amish who leave before baptism are able to enjoy a relationship with their family, while those who leave after baptism are shunned and can no longer associate with beloved family members.  Is Katie's secret standing in the way of her happiness and fulfillment in life?  Did she make the wrong decision when she chose baptism?

Ms. Bradford, who has meticulously researched the Amish culture for several of her mysteries, has taken her love of the culture to a new level in this novel.  The reader feels as if they are immersed in the Amish way of life, dealing, along with Katie, with the psychological and emotional consequences and rewards of the choice to remain "plain" or to embrace the larger more exciting world of the "English."  Using twin sisters, raised together but having chosen different paths, is brilliant and not at all cliche, as it might have been in the hands of another writer.  I can honestly say that this novel, aside from being very entertaining, has given me new insights into the Amish mind and heart.  I would highly recommend it!

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Would you be surprised if I told you that while on a short family vacation led by Dogger, the de Luce's faithful family retainer, Flavia accidentally discovers a body?  Six months after the sudden death of their father, Flavia, Daffy, and Feely have accompanied Dogger on a river boating trip. When they reach the site of the church of the infamous murderer, Canon Whitehead, Flavia discovers a body in the water.  The body, dressed in theatrical costume, turns out to be that of Canon Whitehead's troubled son, Orlando.  Was it suicide, or could it be murder?  Of course, Flavia manages to get on the wrong side of the local constable during her investigation.

This latest book in the series is just as delightful as its predecessors, especially the developing insights into Dogger's mysterious past.  If you are a Flavia de Luce fan, you won't be disappointed!

Monday, January 22, 2018

ROBOTS OF DAWN (Isaac Asimov)

I am not usually a fan of Science Fiction, but Asimov's futuristic mystery was a pleasant surprise.  Featuring Earthman Elijah Baley and robot R. Daneel Olivaw as sleuths, the story revolves around the roboticide of R. Jander Panell, a humaniform robot on the planet Aurora.  Jander's creator, Dr. Fastolfe, is the main suspect in this unusual case, and he calls upon Baley to help track down the identity of whomever managed to short circuit the robot, believing that his political rivals will use Jander's "death" against him since presumably only he has the technological knowledge to have done away with the robot.

The most interesting aspect of this novel is, by far, the future cultural developments imagined by Asimov.  Baley lives on Earth, a planet scorned and considered germ-ridden by Aurorans, who have managed to eradicate illness.  Because most people on earth live in cities protected by domes, Baley is severely agorophobic and faints when confronted with too much "outside."  He is happy to be reunited with Daneel, a humaniform robot with who he had previously collaborated on a case that was sensationalized as a "hyperwave" drama.  His other robot protector is R. Giskard Reventlowe, owned by Fastolfe and once close to fastolfe's daughter, Vasilia.

Sexual and family relationships are viewed very differently on Aurora than in our current culture and it is not unusual to "offer" one's self to another as an expression of gratitude or to pay bag a favor.  Parent -child relationships are merely biological, with little in the way of emotional bonding.  As for the mystery of Jander's death, Asimov offers numerous possibilities, all of which Baley follows up on while struggling with his fears on Aurora.  I found the ending logical, but unexpected.  This is a long novel, over 400 pages, and it takes a while to get into the story.  Take the time and you won't regret it!


There is nothing better on a winter weekend, when you have all sorts of family and work issues swirling around in your head, to relax and escape with a cute English village novel.  This one features romance, home renovation, an interesting look at the deaf culture, and domestic abuse.  Of course there are numerous instances of people jumping to conclusions and second guessing and the requisite half-crazy locals, but there is nothing as relaxing in my book.  I actually chose this because Katie Fforde, my favorite relaxing author, was quoted on the cover!

Beth is a successful London business woman, a young widow with a 6-year-old son running away from an increasingly abusive relationship with Nick.  She purchases a cottage, sight unseen, in the village of Dumbleford and moves there with the intention of starting a new life with her son, Leo, letting only her best friend Carly her whereabouts.  When she finally sees the cottage and realizes that she has been misled about its livability she resolves to renovate and flip the house, possibly developing a new career in the process.  Of course she didn't count on the close friendship and acceptance she would encounter in Dumbleford as she tries to build a temporary life there.  A fun sub-plot is that of Carly, deeply in love and desperately wanting a proposal from her deaf Irish boyfriend, Fergus.

Osborne takes a simple plot and a charming setting and manages to weave in quite a few timely topics while still maintaining the charm and humor of the story.  This sweet novel will probably not change your life, but it will definitely make you smile as you root for Beth, Carly, Jack (the handsome neighbor), and Petra (the single mother with a secret) to find happiness.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS (Jennifer Chiaverini)

Maybe I loved this novel, a fictionalized version of the life of Ada Byron King, Countess of Lovelace and only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron, because I majored in math in college.  I don't think that's the only reason, though.  There is nothing like well-researched historical fiction, and this certainly falls into that category. Set in the 1830's and beyond. It is also, in some respects, a kind of "Mommy Dearest" story.

Ada's mother, Annabelle, falls madly in love with George Gordon, Lord Byron, and resolves to marry him despite all that she knows about his character and personality.  She was, quite frankly, obsessed with the man.  When they finally become engaged she has high hopes of changing him.  Her obsession is so great that even the fact that he seems reluctant to marry do not deter her.  Soon after Ada (actually christened August Ada) is born, Annabelle leaves Byron and returns home to raise her daughter on her own.  Determined to help Ada to avoid the Byron madness, she restricts he daughter's education and human contact to tutors, governesses, and her own adult friends, emphasizing math, science, and strict morality over friends and imagination.  In fact, imagination is strictly forbidden since it might cause Ada to develop an interest in poetry or the arts and turn out like her now despised father.

This is a fascinating character study of a girl and her mother.  Both are highly intelligent, brilliant women, but Annabelle's coldness and strict treatment of Ada, along with her bitterness at Lord Byron, would make the reader wonder how Ada ever grew up to be a normal person.  I guess that normal is not exactly the correct word.  She formed a close relationship with Charles Babbage, inventor of the difference engine and contributed greatly to his work, ultimately being considered the first woman to work with the concept of computers.  In all, this was a fascinating fictional account of the lives of 2 women who left their marks on the intellectual world.

Monday, January 1, 2018


Tobi Tobias is the main character in this new series created by the talented Laura Bradford.  Tobi is desperate to get her advertising agency off the ground, hopefully by landing an important client that will make her a household name.  She does just that when she creates a slogan for a local closet company who has broken ties with Tobi's former employer, a rival advertising agency.  The future is looking bright for Tori until the body of a local businessman is discovered in a closet system during a photo shoot, potentially making her a pariah in the industry, especially since the slogan she created refers to "skeltons in the closet."

To salvage her reputation and save her business, Tobi sets out to figure out who committed murder.  Was it one of her clients, a pair of polar opposite brothers?  Was it the grieving widow, who favors sequins over widows weeds?  Was it an intruder or business rival?  Tobi has her work cut out for her in investigating the crime, and readers will enjoy being along for the ride!

Saturday, December 30, 2017


I was lucky enough to win this book from the author for finding a minor mistake on her website calendar!  And when I say "lucky," I mean lucky!  Author Maxwell is very versatile, writing historical mysteries, 2 food-based series (one under the name Maddie Day), and the Tace Baker mysteries (under the pseudonym Lauren Rousseau).  She also has a new series under contract called the Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries, which I hope was inspired just a bit by our library's Christie Capers mystery book group! 

The Quaker Midwife series, set in the late 1880's, feature midwife Rose Carroll, a woman of great intelligence and common sense who consults frequently with New England Poet John Greenleaf Whittier.  Maxwell brings to life the devastation of the 1888 Amesbury, MA carriage factory fires and expertly weaves her historical research into a very satisfying historical mystery.  Her characters are believable and appealing.  I can't wait to read the next in this series!


This another fun story that's perfect for the holidays, or for any other time when you just need to zone out from real life.

Rachel Smithson is a primary school teacher who loves what she does, but something has been missing in her life since the death of her mother several years ago at Christmas time.  Rachel's mother was the village baker and her bakery was a gathering place for the village.  Rachel worked along side her as a child, helping to bake cookies and bread, but when her mother died she stopped baking completely and her father emotionally withdrew from life.  When Rachel's friends arrange for her to compete in a bake-off contest in Paris with a famous chef, she is alternately horrified, resistant, and intrigued, but ultimately her relationship with baking changes.

Oliver presents us with a little romance, friendship, back-stabbing competition, and inspiration.  Is it the next big best-seller?  Certainly not.  But it is a good way to recharge, especially if baking is one of your passions.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

THE THIN MAN (Dasiell Hammett)

I would like to say that I enjoyed The Thin Man, but I really didn'tThis was the December selection for the Christie Capers Mystery Book Club and I was looking forward to it.  When I began reading I found the banter and numerous characters (not to mention the constant imbibing of alcohol) confusing, so I went to YouTube and watched about 10 minutes worth of clips from The Thin Man movies series.  I had never seen them before, so it was helpful to get a better idea of the characters and how they function.  Truth be told, though, this turned out not to be particularly helpful in the long run.

Nick and Norah Charles are a wealthy, hard-drinking husband and wife.  Nick is a former private detective who retired to run his wife's family business.  Norah is much younger.  They are visiting New York City in 1932 when Nick is asked to investigate a murder. 

I retrospect, the story itself is interesting, full of surprising twists and turns and devious characters.  I liked this about it.  I also like the unexpected twists at the end.  However, I didn't meet any characters that I actually liked.  All of them, even Nick and Norah, seemed ethically questionable and unappealing.  I think they were probably more likable in the movies!  For me, there has to be at least one sympathetic character who you root for as the story progresses.  I didn't find that here.  I know this is a classic, but I just couldn't get into it.

CHRISTMAS BLISS (Mary Kay Andrews)

As always, Mary Kay Andrews comes through with a fun novel filled with humor, human drama, excitement, and romance.  Those of you who have read Andrews's previous Savannah novels will be familiar with antiques dealer Eloise (Weezie) Foley and her best friend, the dramatic Bebe Loudermilk.

With Christmas fast approaching. Weezie attends to the final details of her planned wedding to Daniel Stipanek while Daniel works in New York as guest chef at a prestigious restaurant.  In the meantime, Bebe is due to give birth in a month but adamantly refuses to marry her lover and the baby's father, Harry.  Little does Bebe know that there might be impediments to their marriage and, of course, other problems ensue as well.  Christmas fun all around!


I think that I actually started reading the first book in this series, but I'm not sure.  It may have been one of those thing where I glanced at the first few pages and then was distracted by something else!

Anyway, this was a great little book to read over the holidays (I read it on my Kindle) or at any other time that you feel the need to escape into a charming.  Ellie Hall and her husband, Joe, live at Claverham Castle, where Ellie has established a teashop and Joe oversees the running of the estate for the bad-tempered Lord Henry, who was also recently revealed to be Joe's father.  Now expanding into wedding planning, Ellie is in great demand by both lovely brides and bridezillas alike, but her secret hope is to become a mother.

During the pre-Christmas season Ellie is inundated, trying to meet the demands of an over-the-top bride planning a reception at the castle, cope with a personal loss, and plan a dream wedding for a couple who have recently seen their own share of tragedy.  These characters are wonderful, hard-working, creative people and you will enjoy getting to know them better.

Monday, December 4, 2017

POLDARK: DEMELZA (Winston Graham)

I loved reading the continuing saga of the Poldark family.  Demelza focuses on Ross Poldark's young wife and her development from a kitchen maid to the wife of an upper-class man well-regarded in the community.  Those of you who have watched Poldark, the old or new version, will be familiar with the joys and sadness of Demelza's life.  I highly recommend the novel!

THE PROMISE GIRLS (Marie Bostwick)

Family dysfunction is rampant in The Promise Girls!  Sisters Joanie, Meg, and Avery were conceived and raised to be prodigies.  According to Minerva, their mother, the girls are the children of carefully chosen sperm donors who were geniuses in their respective fields.  Joanie was designated to be a talented pianist, Meg a gifted artist, and Avery a superb writer.  The 2 older girls showed early signs of promise and Minerva became a minor celebrity after publishing a book detailing the experience of raising 3 prodigies.  It all fell apart the day Joanie won a bronze medal (instead of gold) in a prestigious piano competition.

This novel raises some interesting questions regarding parental responsibility and the ethics of child-rearing.  In today's society there is an obsession with raising "gifted" children, winning at all costs, and public achievement.  It seems as if schools and sports focus on self-esteem rather than excellence so no one will "feel bad" about not being the best.  At the same time, many parents focus on their child's superiority rather than on developing their strengths and their happiness.  Minerva Promise took this obsession to a whole new level, taking on a sort of Dr. Frankenstein role in manipulating her daughters' lives and future careers.  Of course, it all blows up in her face eventually.

As adults all 3 daughters have abandoned their "talents" and have little contact with their mother, but they are very close to one another after having been separated and in foster care after being removed from their mother's care.  When a life-changing accident occurs each of them rethinks their lives and choices.

Although this is a work of fiction, it is a thought-provoking novel that should give all of us pause.  When a child is born, whose life should they live and whose dreams should they strive to fulfill?  I would highly recommend this novel.

ADAM BEDE (George Eliot)

George Eliot is both tough and brilliant.  There are SO many words and so much local dialect and expression.  Set around 1800, it is the story of Adam Bede, a man of intelligence and character, a hard-working carpenter who is obsessed with a beautiful but characterless woman.  The novel is rich in historical atmosphere.  It is a tale of morality, focused on human choices and decisions.

Eliot presents the reader with characters that might be considered stereotypical if not for the depth of her portrayals.  Adam, the poor but highly moral, responsible man, contrasts with Arthur, the good-natured but spoiled heir who possesses a conscience but no restraint when it comes to his own personal needs.  Seth, Adam's brother, is a weaker, paler version of the dynamic Adam.  Dinah, the plain, devout Methodist preacher, contrasts with the beautiful Hetty, the undeserving object of Adam's affections.

I could spend hours analyzing Adam Bede, but I think it's more important to tell other readers to persist.  It's slow-going at the beginning.  I read this book for the first time in my 20's and I remember loving it.  After all these years I found it very difficult to read.  The first 3rd of the novel is description - of the village, the characters, the customs of the time, and life in 1799 - and seems to drag in places.  Persistence is the key to enjoying this novel, and you won't be sorry!  Get a footnoted version if you can.  It not only references the many biblical illusions and quotes that appear in the novel, but it also provides definitions for many of the archaic words and expressions that are part and parcel of the story.  It is well worth reading.

Just a note:  If you enjoy reading or watching Poldark, this novel is set at about the same time in English history, so many of the social customs and historical situations are the same.  It's interesting to compare the perspectives of the 2 stories, written 100 years apart, by two excellent authors.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


The subtitle of this hilarious (and scary) book is "Perfecting the ancient art of delivering half=truths, fake news, and obfuscation - with a smile!"

Anyone who was alive during the last presidential will recognize the name Kellyanne Conway, currently serving as Counselor to president Donald J. Trump.  During the campaign her unofficial title was spin doctor and her ability to deny and distract is legendary.  Bernstein divides his book into 2 sections called, aptly, Deny and Distract.  He analyzes Kellyanne's legendary success in invoking alternative facts, pivoting, creating false equivalencies, discrediting, invoking doubt, distracting, and generally gaslighting interviewers by making them feel as if THEY are in the wrong.

One of the things that I really like about this book is that the author actually includes footnotes referring to the various conversations and interviews that he uses to illustrate Conway's techniques.  That's good.  Being rather conservative, I didn't especially enjoy the earthy language that he employed to make his point, but I'll forgive him because he's so darn clever. 

Anyone who has ever witnessed Kellyanne Conway in action and been bewildered and flummoxed, wondering how she managed to get away with changing the subject, turning the tables, and generally making stuff up, will enjoy reading this short but timely book.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017


If you are a fan of Poldark, either the original 1970's series or the one being shown currently (Ah, Aida Turner!), and you enjoy historical fiction, I can guarantee that you will love Ross Poldark.  If you haven't seen either series but like historical fiction, you will also love it!  I decided to read it because of the TV series, especially since I had also heard excerpts, read by Graham's son on PBS.

Set in the 1780's, Poldark (for those of you who are not familiar with it) is the story of a young British man who went to America to fight the rebels after getting into trouble at home one too many times.  He returns in 1783 to find his late father's house and land in a shambles and his true love, Elizabeth Chynoweth, engaged to his cousin.  Ross Poldark, despite his past, is a man of honor and integrity, a hard worker, and sympathetic to the plight of the poor.  He despairs over the starving masses and does his best to alleviate suffering.  He's a great, if troubled guy, the perfect flawed hero.

I have to admit that I was surprised at how this novel captured my interest.  I plan to read the whole series and look forward to it.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

BEACH HOUSE FOR RENT (Mary Alice Monroe)

I have mixed feeling about Monroe's latest, perhaps because I've read too many similar books lately, or maybe it's because the characters seemed just a tiny bit off. That being said, I would recommend giving it a look.  It's not a bad novel; in fact, I quite enjoyed it most of the time.

Fifty-year-old Cara Rutledge has been happily married for 10 years to Brett, the love of her life.  Together they run a struggling tour boat business in Isle of Palms, South Carolina and rent out her beach house to help augment their income.  This year Cara has rented the house, inherited from her beloved mother, for the whole summer to Heather Wyatt, a 26-year-old artist suffering from anxiety disorder.  Heather has been commissioned to paint seabirds for the USPS and will be living alone for the first time in her life in Cara's beach house.

When unexpected tragedy strikes Cara's life she is forced to re-evaluate everything, including her finances and her living arrangements, but Heather refuses to move out of the beach house so Cara can move in.  Eventually, the 2 women come to share a close friendship, discovering along the way the strength that they need to move forward with their lives.

Please don't judge this novel based on my initial comments.  While I would not award it 5 stars, many people have.  We all evaluate what we read based on our own experiences and emotions and I may love it next year!  Check it out!


Tommy and Tuppence are old friends, perpetually short of cash in post-World-War-I England.  They decide to post an ad offering their services as adventurers, willing to take on any (legal) job, and end up working for some branch of British Intelligence, helping to track down the mysterious Jane Finn.  Jane was handed a treaty vital to British national security and asked to deliver it to the American Embassy in London just as the Lusitania, on which she was a passenger, was sinking.  Unfortunately, Jane hasn't been heard from since.

The Secret Adversary is a wonderful, imaginative story involving Russian spies, kidnapping, murder, a mysterious American millionaire who claims to be Jane Finn's cousin, and, best of all, two characters who are incredibly endearing.  I enjoyed the non-stop action so much that I watched the TV version starring Francesca Annis and James Warwick as Tuppence and Tommy.  The TV version was very good, but disappointing in some ways because both characters were about 15 years too old and physically very unlike the Tommy and Tuppence created by Christie.  My advice:  read it!


It has been years since I read Salinger's oft-maligned novel, the frequent target of challenges and book banning attempts.  I have to say that I still love it!  I think that while many of us read it as teens with a particular interest in the bad language and references to sex, it turns out that as adults we have a whole new perspective. 

Holden Caulfield is a very troubled young man but driven primarily by a system of ethics that override everything else in his life and make him extremely judgmental of almost everyone and everything he encounters.  He is intensely critical, unable to focus, and frustrated by the great gap between his physical and emotional maturity, yet he is also often immensely sympathetic and thoughtful.  His dream is to "catch" (save) children like the ones he imagines running through a rye field towards inevitable death over a cliff.  His vision is a bit twisted since it is based on a stranger's mistake in singing the song "Comin' through the Rye" as

Like Salinger, the author, Holden has attended several schools.  In Holden's case, he flunks every subject but English.  After being told that he will not be allowed to return to his current school after the Christmas break, he decides to board a train and return to New York City early and without his parents' knowledge, thus beginning his adventures.  What strikes me most about Holden, aside from his obviously untreated mental problems and confusion over impending adulthood, is his empathy for some of the people he encounters.

Take some time to reread this short novel.  You'll be pleasantly surprised by what a difference 20 or 30 years of life experience make in how you view Holden Caulfield and his story.


Agatha has actually matured over the course of this series.  Her softer, more vulnerable side is becoming more prevalent, although she often continues to ignore the long-developing love that is right under her nose.  I really hope that when MC Beaton ends this series it is with a wedding between Agatha and Sir Charles!

Agatha gets involved in a series of murders after the new vicar of the village of Sumpton Harcourt and his wife discover the body of local spinster Margaret Darby hanging from the witch's tree near their home.  As the police investigate, Agatha is hired by Sir Edward, a bored local aristocrat, to work on the case.  Beaton uses her usual crew of quirky associates and locals to create a satisfying little mystery.  Reading this is a great way to spend a rainy weekend or just to relax and get away from reality for a while!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

PORCH LIGHTS (Dorothea Benton Frank)

I usually try to avoid reading two of a particular author's novels in a row, but sometimes you just get in the mood to binge!

I adore the title of this book.  Porch lights to me represent welcoming, safety, and sanctuary from the outside world and that is exactly what they represent here for many of the characters.  When recent widow Jackie McMullen travels home to Sullivan's Island with her 10-year-old son, Charlie, the porch lights are blazing for her, literally and figuratively.  Her mother, Annie Britt, long separated from Buster, Annie's father, longs for her daughter and grandson to move back home from New York to start a new life.

Jackie, an army nurse and veteran of several deployments in Afghanistan, is grieving the loss of Jimmy, her firefighter husband, and can't imagine leaving the home where they lived and raised their son, nor can she bear to leave his grave behind. As her summer visit to Sullivan's Island goes on she begins to learn that grief can be bearable with the love of family and friends and that life can actually go on after a devastating loss.  You'll love this one!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

BULL'S ISLAND (Dorothea Benton Frank)

I have to admit that I may be reading too many books set in South Carolina's Low Country, but I can't seem to stay away from them!  The story on paper sounds a bit trite:  Upper class boy (J.D. Langley) and middle class girl (Betts McGee) fall in love and plan to marry, but his mother opposes the match because she doesn't feel that the girl is good enough.  When Betts's mother dies, she flees to Manhattan and secretly gives birth to J.D.'s son, forging a successful career and a new life.  Twenty years later she is back in South Carolina to work on an important building project on Bull's Island, a project being headed by none other than J,D. Langley, unhappily married to a woman chosen by his mother and childless.

Dorothea Benton Frank has the ability to take a story that, in another writer's hands, would be a pleasant soap opera of a romance, and turn it into a story that touches your core emotions.  I think the key is that she creates characters that seem very real in their feelings and reactions.  Every one of the has redeeming human qualities, flaws, and uncertainties.  I'm glad that I haven't read all of Frank's books yet.  More to look forward to!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

BONES & SILENCE (Reginald Hill)

Dalziel (pronounced De-ELL) and Pascoe are not the types of detectives that inhabit the mysteries I usually read.  Dalziel is rather obnoxious, earthy, a bit immoral, and fat.  Pascoe is married with a child, educated, logical, and back at work after a debilitating injury.

Dalziel and Pascoe are nothing like Holmes and Watson because Pascoe, although of an inferior rank, is not a"sidekick" or supporting player, but Dalziel's equal partner in detection.  I had a hard time getting into this story, though.  Author Hill, who won a Golden Dagger Award for this novel, has a complicated writing style that leaves the reader wondering at times how everything could possibly fit together, plus the book is full of literary allusions.  One thing that helped me was persistence.  I found that the longer I read, the more I enjoyed the book.  Another thing that helped was checking out Youtube and watching a bit of the British TV series based on these characters.  Somehow seeing what they looked like and how they interacted made the reading go a little more smoothly.

If you're looking for a challenging reading experience you might want to try Bones & Silence.  Hill cleverly unrolls the plot in a way that leaves you feeling as if the killer is just one step ahead of you (and Dalziel and Pascoe) throughout.  I was glad when I finished, but also glad that I had made it through.  It grows on you as you read, so don't get discouraged at the outset.

A SECRET GARDEN (Katie Fforde)

I would describe this as a homage to Jane Austen with a modern twist.  Philly, a plant grower and gardener, escaped from her family in Ireland to live in England with her beloved grandfather, a baker.  Together they look out for each other, run a stall at the market every Sunday, and generally try to make ends meet.  Lorna, a former art student and single mother, is a landscape gardener for a Cotswold estate and secretly in love with her employer, so she is sad when he meets a younger woman who quickly established herself as a permanent fixture in his life.

Lorna enlists Philly's help with the estate landscaping when an outdoor sculpture exhibit is planned for the estate grounds.  The result is much like the plot of your favorite Jane Austen novel, with unexpected romance blooming in every corner and everyone living happily ever after.  This is a great, relaxing way to spend a weekend.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

THE SUMMER GIRLS (Mary Alice Monroe)

I'm not sure what it is about the Low Country that makes for such a plethora of family saga / romance novels, but they are all good!  The "Summer Girls" are half-sisters invited to spend the summer at their grandmother's home on Sullivan Island, South Carolina.  Marietta Muir will be selling Sea Breeze, her ancestral home, soon in order to move to a senior community and she wants one last summer there with her granddaughters, all the children of her late son Parker.  Dora, the oldest and daughter of Parker's first wife, is watching her life and marriage collapse while she tries to care for her autistic son, Nathan.  Carson, daughter of the beautiful nanny, the second wife who died when Carson was just 4 years old, was raised for most of her childhood at Sea Breeze under Marietta's care.  Harper, the product of Parker's last marriage to a woman who mistakenly thought he was a promising author, is the youngest and lives primarily to do her mother's bidding.

It was Carson who took care of his father and watched him slowly drink himself to death at age 47.  After several years of moderate success as a photographer in California, her job has ended and her drinking has made it difficult for her to find a new one, so the summons from her grandmother comes at a perfect time in her life.

Through the course of the summer, the girls discover family secrets and come to terms with their own relationships.  One thing that makes this novel stand out is the inclusion of Delphine, a dolphin that figures prominently in the story.  I always enjoy a novel that leaves me feeling like I've gained some interesting knowledge about the world, and this one did.  It was a perfect summer read.

Monday, September 4, 2017

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE (Virginia Woolf)

This is both a difficult and fascinating novel to read.  It has been described as one of the best novels of the 20th century.  I'm not sure if I would describe it as such (being neither a writer or critic myself), but it definitely leaves an impression.

The Ramsay family plan to sail the next day to a nearby lighthouse from their summer home on the coast of Scotland, somewhere around 1910. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay have 8 children and several guests staying at the house with them, each of them engaged in their own interests and pursuits.  The novel is written from multiple points of view, meaning that the reader is privy to the inner thoughts, opinions, and observations of each and every character.  To be frank, it's confusing until you get into the rhythm of the story.  Most of the "action,"  more accurately described as "thoughts," takes place in one day, where young James hopes to be able to sail to the lighthouse, his beautiful mother tends to her children and guests, and volatile Mr. Ramsay predicts rain, making the trip unlikely, and suffers mood swings.

I know that I am vastly simplifying this novel.  It is the kind of thing where you really need to go back and read it again, and perhaps again before you can absorb the complexity of the psychological and emotional relationships flowing throughout.  I'm not sure if I want to do that, but if you are looking for an interesting literary challenge, here it is!

By the way, we read this book for our Vintage Book Club and only 1 person showed up for the discussion!

Friday, August 25, 2017


Dorothy Martin and her husband, retired Chief Inspector Alan Nesbitt, never fail to charm.  Their relationship is tender, respectful, and playful (not to mention realistic), their intelligence and curiosity appealing, and their travels always seem to lead them to murder and intrigue.  I just realized that I should have included a Dorothy Martin mystery in this year's upcoming lineup of Detecting Duos mysteries for Christie Capers!

This time Dorothy and Alan have plans to travel to France to attend an exhibit of art by a good friend.  When Alan breaks his ankle, Dorothy travels alone with the intention that the almost-recovered Alan will follow as soon as he gets to go-ahead from his doctor.  Most of the action takes place at Mont Saint-Michel, a wondrous former monastery in Normandy.
A young man supposedly searching for lost manuscripts, a mysterious American who claims to be researching a novel, a near drowning, and several unexplained accidents all blend together under Dams's deft hand into an entertaining and appealing mystery.  Try the whole series.  You'll love this gentle series and never be bored!


Back in 1917 two girls in Cottingley, Yorkshire, England allegedly took a photograph of local fairies that eventually caught the attention of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose great interest in magic and mysticism led him to write an article about the event.  Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright inadvertently convince the world of the existence of fairies despite the fact that most of their "authentic" photographs are faked.

When Olivia Kavanagh inherits her Grandfather's bookshop in Ireland 100 year later, she discovers a manuscript detailing the incident and it's aftermath and realizes that there is a family connection between the girls and her grandmother, now suffering from Alzheimer's.  In the midst of planning a wedding to man whom she is not sure she loves, Olivia embarks on a new life, cleaning and renovating the shop, talking to her grandmother about the manuscript, and trying to figure out where she herself belongs.

Based on a true story, Gaynor's novel is unique in its narrative and compelling in its possibilities.  You will leave it wondering if fairies actually do exist and, perhaps, hoping that they do.  This is a novel about human relationships, grief, and hope, with the extra added suggestion of magic.  Enjoy it!

CAFE BY THE SEA (Jenny Colgan)

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again...I love Jenny Colgan's novels!  This one is set on the fictional island of Muir, off the northern coast of Scotland.  Flora left the island after her mother's death, feeling that there was nothing left there for her.  In London, where she works as a paralegal, she "enjoys" a life of cramped quarters, noise, near poverty, and grime.  She also has a hopeless crush on her womanizing boss.  When she is assigned to travel back to Muir to convince the natives that the giant resort being planned by a multi-millionaire at the tip of the island is actually a GOOD thing, she reluctantly revisits her past and gets reacquainted with her father and brothers, whom she hasn't seen for 3 years.

Being back on the island brings back memories, bitter and good, and also reawakens Flora's passion for baking.  When she is asked to refurbish and open a cafe in the center of town, she is drawn even more deeply into the life and culture she thought she had escaped, but is this really a bad thing?

In true Colgan style, the reader is treated to whimsical, quirky characters, a heroine who manages to find herself, and a setting so breath-taking that you will want to catch the next plane to Scotland to check out its real-life counterparts.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017


Most of you know the story of Dorian Gray, an absolutely beautiful young man whose portrait becomes the means by which he is able to live a life of sin and debauchery while maintaining an eternally youthful countenance.  The novel does differ from the movie, as is usual.

If you are familiar with Wilde, you know that he was famously homosexual, extremely erudite, and scathingly clever.  He was an aesthete, believing that art and beauty were of greater importance than practicality.  His works remain popular to this day, especially in film, but I don't know how many people actually read them.

Today's literary gothic and horror offerings owe much to Wilde and his talent.


Amateur sleuth Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter to the Duke of Atholt and Rannoch, is known to her friends as Georgiana.  She is 34th in line to the British throne and broke.  This very humorous and entertaining historical series (this is the first of eleven) is set in the 1930's and features many real royal personages, slapstick comedy reminiscent of Lucille Ball, and a pretty good mystery.  Bowen writes 3 separate historical mystery series and they're all excellent.  I'm looking forward to reading more of this one though.  It was truly enjoyable from cover to cover!

Monday, July 31, 2017


Today I vow to keep up on writing this blog in a timely manner!  I've been so busy with family weddings and illnesses, an upcoming grandchild, and work obligations that I have simply forgotten that the purpose of a blog is to be written on!

As for this novel, I had to look it up to remind myself of what it is about because all I remember is that I enjoyed it very much.  It is the story of two sisters, Nora and Theresa Flynn, who travel from Ireland to the US to start new lives, Nora with her betrothed and Theresa with a teaching career.  Nora begins to question her commitment to and love for Will, her fiance, while Theresa falls madly in love with a mysterious man and "gets into trouble."  Nora puts aside her doubts and marries Will so they can adopt Theresa's child and Theresa eventually realizes that she has a vocation and joins a cloistered convent while Nora and Will raise her son, Patrick.  As the novel begins, Patrick has died at age 50.  Despite his aimlessness, he has always been Nora's favorite and she grieves at his loss.  She calls Theresa to let her know, despite that fact that they have not seen each other for many years, bringing to the forefront issues that have been buried for years.

Every family has secrets.  Every family has resentments.  Sullivan is a master at pulling together all of the threads of human relationships into a compelling and readable story.  I still have a couple of her novels that I haven't read.  I'll have to read them!


Lorna Landvick is a wonderful author with an outlook and imagination that is slightly off-kilter.  This sequel to Patty Jane's House of Curl is, I think, just as wonderful a the original.  Patty Jane is packing up shop, closing the House of Curl and moving on with her life with both her brain-damaged husband and her lover in tow.  When her daughter, Nora, becomes pregnant (with twins) just before meeting the man of her dreams, life presents new challenges.  After a chance encounter with a free-spirited old woman, Nora decides to buy and renovate the Once in a Blue Moon Lodge, which becomes the new gathering place for family and new and old friends.  Landvik takes us on a years-long journey through the adventures of Patty Jane and Nora's family, including births, marriages, and tragic losses.  If you love Landvik (or even if you've never read her imaginative novels, this is a must read.  You'll be swept away into the Minnesota countryside and find yourself very reluctant to return to reality at the end!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

REBECCA (Daphne Du Maurier)

Nearly everyone is familiar with Mrs. Danvers.  She's the obsessed housekeeper at Manderley, the de Winter estate on the Cornish coast, and was creepily played by Dame Judith Anderson in the Hitchcock adaptation of this novel.  When widower Maxim de Winter returns to Manderley with his young bride (nameless throughout the novel), Mrs. Danvers sets out to destroy her already shaky confidence.  The young Mrs. de Winter is surrounded by memories of Maxim's first wife Rebecca - her stationary, her clothing, the memories cherished by everyone, even, apparently, her husband.  Rebecca was the perfect wife, the perfect lady, a woman of such charm and taste that everyone still mourns her loss in a boating accident the year before.  The new wife could never hope to live up to the memory of Rebecca.

This is, perhaps, the finest gothic novel of the 20th century.  Du Maurier is a master of atmosphere, peeling away layer after layer of secrets while interspersing dramatic incidents and menacing situations throughout.  It is, when you boil it all down, a novel about the importance of communication and honesty within a marriage.  There are several quite twisted personalities here.  Maxim is tortured, but not, as his new wife and the readers assume, by regrets about lost love.  Mrs. Danvers is the one tortured by lost love for Rebecca, whom she worshipped and revered.

Many of you have probably seen the movie, but the book is so much better and the events leading up to the ending may surprise you.  Revisit a vintage novel that will never grow old or boring.  It has stood the test of time and will, I think, always be in demand.


An old crumbling castle, 3 elderly sisters, a mysterious letter, a lost love, and a mother who refuses to talk about her past all help to lead Edie Birchell to Milderhurst Castle, the country estate to which her mother was evacuated during World War II.  The Distant Hours is a story of madness, murder, and family secrets.  It is long, but it will hold your interest.  Kate Morton tends to be a little bit long-winded in some of her novels, but this one will be worth the extra time it takes to read!  If you're looking for a good gothic novel, look no further.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I have been waiting for a new Wendy Webb novel for a few years now, so I was thrilled to see this one.  In a word, it's scary!  A young woman, Norrie Harper, after being let go from her job as a reporter due to PTSD, is hired as the director of Cliffside Manor, a former TB sanatorium that is now an acclaimed artist's retreat.  She had visited the manor as a reporter twenty years before, investigating the death of 2 of the dare family members.  On the day of her arrival, her predecessor, the former director and last living member of the Dare family, is discovered dead, an apparent suicide, and things just get scarier and more mysterious from there.

This novel has a wonderful haunting atmosphere that will keep you feeling slightly uneasy.  One of my friends, another Webb fan, stopped me and told me that she was SCARED reading this book.  I would advise against picking it up on a dark night when you are home alone, but definitely read it!

Thursday, June 15, 2017


This is my first Lady Julia Grey mystery, and I have to say that it would make a great movie!  Lady Jane's husband, detective Nicholas Brisbane, are still honeymooning in the Mediterranean when they are summoned, along with  Julia's sister Portia, to the Cavendish tea plantation by Portia's former lover, Jane, whose husband Freddy has recently been murdered.  Jane fears for her life and that of her unborn child and hopes that Julia and Brisbane will discover the killer before she herself becomes a victim.

This novel has a strong sense of place and is filled with local color and descriptions of the Himalayas and India that make the reader feel as if they are traveling along with this eccentric group. As for the mystery?  Intriguing!  If you are looking for mostly likable and varied characters, a great plot, and a lot of authentic-seeming atmosphere, try this series.

Monday, June 12, 2017


As the story opens, we are introduced to Ronni Sunshine, an aging actress on a mission to end her own life.  She is obviously ill, done with all of the drama and angst, ready for peace, but concerned about her 3 daughters, the Sunshine sisters, Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy.  Nell, a single mother, lives on a farm near Ronni but seldom sees her.  Nell is confused by her inability to fall in love with a man who seems perfect but is lacking something unidentified but important.  Meredith, bearing the brunt of her mother's criticism growing up, fled to the UK, became an accountant, and is engaged to a man who is "good enough" because she doesn't believe that she is thin or pretty enough to deserve someone who thinks she is wonderful.  Lizzy, the youngest, is most like Ronni in looks and temperament.  She is a celebrity chef with a young son and a husband who feels marginalized by her career.  Lizzie has also been unfaithful to her husband.

Ronni's summons gives each of her daughters the opportunity to reconnect with her and each other and to explore sides of themselves that they have been denying for years.  Does the novel end happily?  I suppose it depends on how you look at it.  Ronni is unable to convince her daughters to do her bidding, but achieves her own goal in the end.  Each of the girls finds a better perspective on life and happiness.  Best of all, though, they form a loving family again.  This is a wonderful summer read, light enough for the beach but involved enough to keep a discriminating reader interested.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


Years ago I enjoyed Tarkington's Penrod books and this is my second reading of The Magnificent Ambersons.  Tarkington gives the reader stunning insight into the mindset of a young man who refuses to let go of his privileged roots as the industrial revolution begins to break down the rigid class structure of the American midwest in the early 20th century.  This novel has everything you could ask for: a fawning mother blind to her son's faults, a quiet father whose death barely makes a ripple in the family dynamics, the dashing, successful man that was the mother's second choice and is now back in town, the beautiful love interest who realizes that she will always be second choice to pride, and, most importantly, the misguided young man who believes that family and entitlement are the most important things in life, even if it means that he contributes nothing of import to his world.

There's a reason that Orson Welles chose to film this important novel.  It's a great social commentary and demonstrates how people need to embrace change in order to survive and thrive.  Well worth reading!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


I thought I owned this novel, but couldn't find it, so I borrowed it from the library.  The other day I noticed it in my 92-year-old mother's bookcase among the books I had brought for her (she reads 5-6 books a week!).

Anyway, be prepared for a truly great and intriguing story.  It is interesting to me that the same techniques (multiple narrators, jumping back and forth in time) that really annoyed me in Morton's The House at Riverton somehow delighted me here.  The story is basically a woman's search for her own identity, continued for her after her death by her granddaughter.

When "Nell" was 3 or 4 years old she was discovered sitting alone on a dock in 1913 Australia with a small white suitcase and no clue who she was or how she came to travel from England all alone except for the memory of "the authoress" who boarded the great ship with her and then disappeared.  The Dockmaster, Hugh, takes her home and he and his wife raise her as their own after failing to discover her identity.  On her 21st birthday her father reveals that she is actually not their daughter, but a foundling of sorts, well-loved but not of their blood.  This throws Nell's world into chaos, prompting her to break her engagement and rethink her whole life and identity.

Morton does a wonderful job creating doubts and revealing the details of Nell's past bit by bit, moving back and forth between 1900, 1913, 1975, and 2005.  The novel begins with Nell's death in 2005, with many questions about her origins still unanswered.  When her granddaughter, Cassandra, learns that she has inherited a mysterious cottage in Cornwall, purchased in 1975 by Nell, she travels to England to investigate this possible clue to Nell's past.

I need to warn you that the transitions from one era to another can be confusing and I found myself several times thinking, "Who is Linus?" and "Who was Hugh again?"  The novel was well-worth a little confusion, though.  It is rich is fairy tales, historical details, mystery, adventure, and characters ranging from diabolical to romantic to delightfully eccentric.  I would recommend it highly.

HURRICANE SISTERS (Dorothea Benton Frank)

Families are complicated.  I think we can all agree on that!  The Hurricane Sisters are actually 3 generations of women:  Maisie Pringle, the controlling matriarch with a much younger man in her life, Liz Waters, the frustrated wife trying to juggle career, marriage, and motherhood, and headstrong daughter Ashley, the ambitious artist who envisions herself as the next Jackie Kennedy.  Liz's husband Clayton is a focused businessman who has difficulty accepting that their son, Ivy, is gay, in a committed relationship, and a success in his own right. He is also involved in an affair with a man-eater, a former rival of Liz's in New York.

Liz is committed to her work for a nonprofit that is dedicated to helping victims of abuse to recover and start new lives, but she fails to see that her own daughter is on the brink of a dangerous and inappropriate relationship with an up-and-coming politician with control issues.  Ashley and her friend Mary Beth, who live in Liz and Clayton's summer property, launch a secret (from her parents) money-making scheme that is not quite legal, but very lucrative.  When things start to unravel and relationships seem on the brink of imploding, what will happen to the Waters family?  If you read Dorothea Benton Frank, you know that you can expect drama, warm hearts, and a satisfying resolution.  This is definitely a great few hours of reading!

THE BEST OF FRIENDS (Joanna Trollope)

Joanna Trollope is different.  What I mean by that is that her novels don't whisk you away to another world like those of many contemporary women's authors do.  She creates "everyday," but with different people.  I can't think of another writer who is able to so expertly capture life and human foibles the way she does, without much hoopla and definitely no car chases!

Gina and Laurrence have always loved each other, but never been "in love."  Gina is married to antiques dealer Fergus and has a daughter, Sophy, and a mother, VI, who lives nearby.  Laurence and Hilary run the Bee House, a historic estate inherited by Laurence, which they have turned into a successful hotel and restaurant where they also live with their 3 sons.  When Fergus decides to leave Gina and Sophy and move to London, Gina initially turns to Laurence and Hilary for comfort, but Sophy is somehow left to work out her own life with the help of Vi, who has finally found her own true love.

I know this doesn't sound to exciting, but, then, Joanna Trollope never does.  She is, however, insightful and sympathetic to the predicaments in which ordinary people tend to find themselves.  I always enjoy her books, but I;m never completely sure why, or at least I can't articulate it!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

SAME BEACH, NEXT YEAR (Dorothea Benton Frank)

Same Time Next Year (Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn) is one of my favorite movies.  Well, maybe it's the song that runs through, but I defnitely liked it a lot.  It's the story of a couple who meet for a weekend (she's on retreat and he's on business), have a brief affair, and then continue to meet every year on the same weekend for years and years.  I wonder if that movie inspired this title?

Actually there is some similarity here, but this story involves 2 couples, Adam and Eliza Stanley and Carl and Eve Landers, who meet at one summer during their vacations with their children at a South Carolina condo community.  It turns out that Adam and Eve were serious sweethearts back in the day, which ignites some jealousy in Eliza and Carl (although he appearing to be the type that believes every woman is fair game).  Despite this, the families form a strong friendship and continue to vacation together for twenty years until relationship issues finally come to head, threatening both marriages.

In typical DBF fashion, this novel draws you into the life of the Lowcountry.  You can almost feel the humidity!  This is a just-can't-put-it-down novel, perfect for summer or, really, anytime.  You will enjoy it!

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Maybe it's just me, but Nancy Thayer seems to be getting a lot more "romancey" than she used to be and I'm not a big fan of novels that focus too much on lust.  That's NOT to say that it wasn't a good book.  Thayer always comes through with her wonderful descriptions of the Nantucket weather and lifestyle.  She makes you feel the sea breezes and smell the salt air.

Darcy Cotterill, the main character, is a divorced librarian living in her Grandmother's old house on Nantucket.  She has friends, a man in her life, and a job she loves.  During the summer the population of Nantucket swells and Darcy meets and develops some unlikely friendships with her summer neighbors, a harried mother and her philandering husband, an elderly woman and her devastating handsome (and single) grandson, and Darcy's own ex-husband, staying with his new wife (the one he left Darcy for) and adopted daughter, Willow, a 14-year-old who turns to Darcy for the guidance her parents are not providing.

This is not my favorite Nancy Thayer novel.  Darcy spends a little bit too much time considering potential romantic partners (who assumes that when one is in an intimate 3-month relationship, but no one has mentioned that it is "exclusive," that it might be OK to consider sleeping with someone else?), but the relationship that develops between Darcy, Willow, her elderly neighbor, and the harried mother of 3 during the summer is one that is worth reading about.  I give this 3 1/2 stars, but I'd go higher if I was more interested in the romance part!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


What a great way to spend a weekend, especially if you are counting the days until Poldark shows up again on Public Television!  I admit that I was initially oblivious to the plotline of this novel.  I thought it was billed as being for fans of Poldark because it was set in Cornwall!

Demi (short for Demelza), self-sufficient and resourceful, is estranged from her family and living rough aside from her job at a local cafe.  Cal Penwith has been long away from and out-of-touch with his Cornwall family.  In fact, he left to do humanitarian work in the Middle East after his father's death instead of tending to the family estate, a campground that his father nearly mismanaged into bankruptcy.  Sitting in the cafe, he witnesses the unfair firing of waitress Demi by Mawgan Cade, the ruthless owner of the building that houses the cafe, after an accidental spill.  As Cal makes his way home, he decides to first stop in at his Uncle Rory's home where he discovers a party in progress.  The occasion?  The engagement of his cousin Luke to Isla, the love of Cal's life.  Is this all starting to sound a little familiar?  It certainly will to fans of Poldark.

This is a fun little book.  We all know from the start that Demi and Cal will end up together despite that fact that he still harbors feelings for Isla.  There are several references to Winston Groome, the author of the Poldark series, and it's obvious to anyone who has watched the current version of the series that Cal looks suspiciously like Aidan Turner.  Someone even remarks on it later in the book and his response is that he has never heard of the guy!

You will find this light, interesting, and entertaining.  For fans of Jenny Colgan and Katie Fforde, it will feel like coming home.  I'm planning to read the sequel, Christmas at the Cornish Cafe.  I already have it downloaded to my Kindle!

AGE OF INNOCENCE (Edith Wharton)

We read this for our Vintage Book Club.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 and Wharton's was the first female to win achieve this honor.  Set in the 1870's, The Age of Innocence is an attempt by Wharton to reconcile new and old, male and female, rich and poor.

Newland Archer, a young man from a distinguished upper-class family, is madly in love with May Welland, a beautiful young woman who represents Newland's ideal female.  They are betrothed and he believes that she will be the perfect wife, supporting his career and running a household of which he will be proud.  When May's cousin Countess Ellen Olenska returns from Poland in disgrace, having left her abusive husband, Newland becomes obsessed with her, but since she is still married and unsuitable as a wife, he follows through with his marriage to May.  All of Ellen's relatives encourage her to return to her terrible marriage, to not seek a divorce because appearances are so much more important than personal happiness or even safety.  Throughout the novel Newland pines away for Ellen, alternately denying his feelings and deciding to leave May for his true love.  May is not stupid, though, and continually manipulates circumstances to ensure that Newland remains where he belongs, with his family.  When May dies after years of marriage, Newland considers finally reuniting with Ellen in Paris, but discovers that the woman he has been longing for throughout the years may not really be the one for him.

I found this novel to be an interesting commentary on life and social values in the gilded age.  Thank God things have changed since then, especially for women!


Annie and Max Darling are hosting a week-long conference in honor of Agatha Christie's 100th birthday.  Attendees include authors, agents, publishers, Christie fans, and at least one murderer.  Hart weaves together an intriguing group of characters immersed in secrets, vendettas, and hero-worship.  One thing I will say about The Christie Caper is that it is designed primarily for readers who LOVE Agatha Christie.  Anyone who has read Christie extensively will revel in the huge number of clues and references that Hart includes.  My advice is to definitely read this.  It's a great mystery with many twists and turns and a lot of those instances when you think, "Of course!" and 5 pages later you realize, "Oh, no, I guess not!"  And if you're a Christie expert, you'll be in Heaven!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

FAT CHANCE (Rhonda Pollero)

Do you love Janet Evanovich's Stepanie Plum?  Then chances are you'll also love Finley Anderson Tanner!  Pollero's series is delightful and you will enjoy this novel from start to finish.  Finley (named for the 2 men that her mother was keeping company with when she was conceived) is a paralegal who can't seem to avoid stumbling over dead bodies.  This time the murder scene is the cottage that Finley's mother has just sold to her, a legacy from her beloved step-father.  Finley and her friends meet at the Palm beach cottage, formerly occupied by her step-father's personal assistant turned foster mother, to celebrate Finley's good fortune.  While there they stumble upon a long-dead body clutching a medallion given by Finley to her step-father many years ago.  Who is it and how did they end up in the closet? Is there a connection to Nancy, the previous tenant?  Will Finley and the irresistibly handsome Liam ever get together?

I loved every page of this fun novel.  The characters are likable, the plot is intriguing, and you'll find yourself fully invested in Finley's life before you're done.  Highly recommended!

CITY OF FRIENDS (Joanna Trollope)

Stacey, Beth, Melissa and Gaby have been friends since university.  All of them focused on finance and through the years they have remained friends as they climbed the ladder of success.  When Stacey Grant, married and childless by choice, asks for flexible time on her demanding job to better care for her mother, who suffers from dementia, she is made redundant from her London equity firm.
This unexpected event throws Stacey into the depths of depression.  Without her work to help take her mind off of her mother's declining health she questions her choices and her friendships.  One friend, Melissa, a single mother, runs her own business and is content to raise her son Tom alone until Tom's father is suddenly back in the picture, complete with a new family for Tom to share in.  Gaby, very successful and happily married with 3 children, is lucky to have a supportive husband but has no room in her organization for Stacey because she has hired the woman in Tom's father's life, keeping that fact a secret from the rest of the group.  Beth is busy remolding her dream home with Claire, the love of her life, until Claire decides that there may be something better out there for her.

Joanna Trollope is an expert at examining the everyday lives of real people.  There are no terrifying car chases, no dramatic murders, no wild sex scenes.  These could be people who live next door.  I think you have to have a particular mindset to enjoy Trollope's work because it's not so much escapism as ultra-reality.  I like it so much that I just picked up another of her novels that I've never read.  If you haven't read Trollope you might want to give her a try!

Monday, May 1, 2017

NOT WORKING (Lisa Owens)

I picked this book up because it looked easy and we were counting down to my daughter's wedding so I didn't want to be bogged down by anything too involved.  In retrospect, though, I think I would have preferred to be MORE involved.  Instead of wondering what happened to the characters AFTER I finished to book, I realize that I'm still wondering what happened DURING the book.  I feel like it wasn't quite finished.

The novel was fairly well-written and the premise was interesting.  Presented in short vignettes from the point of view of Claire, the title character, it is about a young woman who resigns from her job in hopes of finding a new career that inspires passion.  As weeks stretch into months, Claire drives a wedge into her relationship with her critical mother by inadvertently suggesting that her late grandfather (her mother's father) was a pervert.  She tests the patience of her longtime and devoted boyfriend, Luke, a brain surgeon.  She drinks too much.  She makes wry observations about people on the tube and in coffee shops.  In fact, she does quite a few things, but little in the way of finding here true calling.  I like her boyfriend, Luke, who is faithful, loving, patient, and supportive.  Claire?  I'm not so sure. She never quite works her way into my imagination and her family is not especially likable.  I think it was a good idea, but I need a bit more.

Friday, April 14, 2017


What a great book!  OK, in retrospect I DID suspect the outcome, but it isn't supposed to be a mystery. What made this a great book is that I kept thinking about it and wanting to get back to reading it AND I actually remember the names of all of the main characters even though I've already started reading another novel. To me, this means that it was good!

I haven't read all of Karen White's novels, but this one seems like a bit of a departure from the ones I have read.  There is no history (although there are flashbacks to the earlier years of one of the characters) and no paranormal element, just good old-fashioned Lifetime Movie thrills.  Who doesn't enjoy a good story about a sad divorcee who moves to a new home with her children, meets an intriguing man, a wise old woman with secrets, and a too-good-to-be-true new friend?

Recent divorcee Merilee Dunlap and her two children, Lily and Colin, rent a cottage on the property of 93-year-old Sugar Bates, a widowed Sweet Apple native with some deep, dark secrets.  Since Merilee herself has a past that she has been trying to run from for years, she and Sugar discover a surprising sense of kinship.  Heather Blackford, a wealthy and attractive local woman who chairs numerous events at the children's school, recruits Merilee to help, taking her under her wing and making her a part of the school's social in-crowd.  Heather and Merilee become fast friends, but Sugar distrusts Heather's motives, especially since seemingly happily married Heather was once engaged to Wade, the grandson of Sugar's best friend, who has exhibited an interest in getting to know Heather better.  A series of mix-ups with meetings, weekend getaways, and supposedly misunderstood directions eventually lead to tragedy.  I can't say anymore with giving away the whole plot, but I will say that I loved every twist and turn.  In terms of thrillers, this isn't on par with some of the big names.  There are a few things that could have been resolved but weren't, and a few spots in the story where you might find yourself saying, "Is she really that stupid?".  However, White does such a great job of making us care about and empathize with Merilee and Sugar that you just won't care about the little flaws.  I still want to find out what happens next, but the book ended.  Darn!


This is an earlier novel by the author of The Things We Keep and The Mother's Promise.  I will admit that a couple of my friends and I seem to have formed a Sally Hepworth cult.  We can't get enough of her excellent novels!

This one was published in 2015 and alternates between 3 generations of midwives - a grandmother, mother, and granddaughter, all of whom are harboring personal secrets.  Floss, 83, is retired and in a relationship with another woman.  She fled from England years ago with her newborn daughter, Grace, then finished her midwifery training and settled into life as a single mother in Rhode Island, presenting only vague details of her late husband to her family.  Grace, Floss's daughter, is going through a difficult time, personally and professionally.  He husband, Robert, an accountant, is on the verge of being downsized and spends most of his time worrying about finances, while Grace's dedication to home births and hatred of doctors may create problems with her career.  Neva, Grace's single daughter, works in a hospital birthing center as a certified nurse-midwife and has been hiding important news from everyone: she is 30 weeks pregnant.  When her condition is discovered she refuses to name the father.

While there is a bit of melodrama here, it is a wonderful book.  The details about midwifery are fascinating, the characters are actually believable and appealing, and the ending will leave you with warm feeling about human nature and acceptance.  I would not rate it quite as highly as The Things We Keep, but I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys women's fiction.  I loved it!


First of all, I don't like Jean Brodie.  She is manipulative, immoral, narcissistic, and callous.  She uses people, especially her students, to satisfy some unidentifiable lack in her own life.  Perhaps she is unable to love, or perhaps she feels that she needs to justify her own sense of superiority by minimizing the abilities of others. She is a rebel dedicated to her own cause, a standard of behavior and accomplishment that fails to take into account the talents and aspirations of others.  Instead of nurturing her students, she manipulates them.

Miss Brodie teaches at a Scottish girl's school.  Her students are 10-year-old girls, the perfect age at which to prey on their insecurities and influence their values.  The "Brodie Set" is a disparate group, including the beautiful, the brilliant, the awkward, and the clueless.  They worship Miss Brodie, each in their own way, and aspire to meet her unbendable standards of behavior and intellectual accomplishment.  She is, by her own admission, in her prime, and in her narcissistic mind this meas that she is superior (apparently no one else in her life has ever or will ever enjoy a "prime").  She also admires Mussolini and Hitler. I have to admit that I am not sure what author Spark meant to convey in this novel other than to present a character study of the ultimate narcissist.  I do know that Miss Brodie is based in part on a teacher that encouraged Spark to write, but I can't imagine that she would have been a favorite teacher!  The novel includes a great deal of flash forwards, so the reader knows what will eventually happen to each of the girls and to Miss Brodie.

Would I recommend it?  On the basis of the long-time literary merit it has enjoyed, I would.  It will keep you thinking long after you finish reading.  If you are looking for a novel to relax with and enjoy, however, I would not.  It's hard to love a novel where you thoroughly dislike the main character!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

QUIET NEIGHBORS (Catriona McPherson)

This is very different from the novels that I usually read. Jude flees London for obscure reasons (a broken marriage? a crime?  grief?) and ends up returning to a messy bookstore in Scotland that she and her then-husband had visited on an earlier holiday.  She ends up taking a job at the bookstore and forming a sort of family with the shop's owner, Lowland (Lowell) Glen, and his newly discovered daughter.

This is a novel about identity.  Who is Jude and why is she so fearful about her past being discovered?  Is Lowell's daughter really his daughter with one-night-stand Miranda, now deceased, and is she really pregnant with Lowell's grandchild?  Who are the quiet neighbors and what is the long-deceased neighbor whose books are buried in Lowell's shop trying to communicate with the obscure notes/reviews he left in so many of the volumes he owned?  What the heck is going on with Mrs. Hewitt, old Dr. Glen's nurse, who lives in a cottage on Lowell's property?

I found the story to be somewhat confusing, to tell you the truth.  I would have liked a bit more revelation about Jude's past earlier on because it was difficult to even like her when you had no idea if she was a criminal, a grief-stricken daughter, or just irresponsible.  I DID, however, enjoy the atmosphere tremendously.  You could almost smell the dusty books and feel the grottiness of the bookshop.  I loved the cottage in the cemetery, though, and wish I could visit it or live there myself!  I noticed that some people on Amazon described this as a cozy, which it certainly is not.  It is atmospheric, mysterious, annoying, and sometimes downright scary, but it is definitely not cozy.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

DON'T BELIEVE A WORD (Patricia MacDonald)

Wow!  I don't know why Patricia MacDonald isn't up there on the best-seller lists with James Patterson and Janet Evanovich.  I don't think I've ever read one of her thrillers and not liked it, and this one is certainly intriguing.  Eden Radley, a New York book editor, is shocked to hear on the news that her mother, who left Eden and her father years ago to marry a much younger man, has committed murder-suicide.  Tara Darby, the mother, apparently taped up windows and doors in her Cincinnati home while her husband, Flynn, was at a writers' conference, then left the car running in order to kill herself and her severely disabled son.  Eden is guilt-ridden about ignoring a message from her mother on the night she died, wondering if she could have prevented the tragedy.  Eden travels to Cincinnati and is appalled at the attitude and appearance of her step-father, Flynn Darby, and eventually becomes convinced that he was instrumental in the deaths of his wife and child.

MacDonald creates layers and layers of doubts, intrigue, and motives, never allowing the reader to feel that a comfortable and logical solution has been found.  She constantly surprises us, along with Eden, as new information comes to light in each chapter.  When Eden is put in the impossible position of editing Flynn's new book about his life, she has to return to Cleveland, a trip that opens up more doubts about what happened to her mother.

There are a few typical minor plotlines in this novel, including a budding love interest, and there is a woman-in-jeopardy scene that you can see coming from a mile away.  They belong in the book, though, and just add to the excitement of the story.  This novel actually touches on a wide range of issues, including mental illness, genetic disorders, infidelity, family relationships, Muslim culture, and the devastation of dealing with hopeless diagnoses.  You'll be as shocked as Eden was at the outcome, and you'll be sorry that it had to end.

Monday, March 27, 2017


Whew!  Dorothy Sayers uses a lot of words and a writing technique that makes it difficult to follow the story if your mind wanders for just a second.  I know that I enjoyed Peter Wimsey novels when I was young and my mind was sharp, but apparently the old brain has slowed down a bit!

That being said, Sayers certainly does know how to put together a story.  Murder Must Advertize is a wonderful depiction of life in 1930's England, from the social and  financial lives of the average working class to the antics of the idle, non-working rich.  Wimsey belongs to the latter, but his intelligence, wit, and ability to see beyond the trappings of money (or lack thereof) endow him with universal appeal.  Yes, he goes about his business with a sort of daredevil attitude and his connection with the aristocracy is apparent in his attitudes and appearance, but his ability to blend in is uncanny.

After a worker at Pym's advertising agency is killed in a freak fall down a spiral staircase, Mr. Pym hires Lord Peter Winsey, posing as Death Bredon (who is surprisingly inexperienced in the field), to pose as a copywriter and investigate the incident.  Mr. Bredon is inquistive and a quick learner, soon insinuating himself into the lives of people who work for a living.  He manages to convince people that the monocled dandy they they spotted one evening is his look-alike cousin, Wimsey, and that they despise each other.  At Pym's Wimsey quickly begins to suspect that there was more to Victor Dean's death than meets the eye and he is soon embroiled in the world of cocaine smuggling and possible blackmail.  When suspects begin dying under mysterious circumstances, solving the puzzle and connecting the evidence becomes more urgent.

Sayers's depictions of Wimsey as the harlequin are priceless and, to the modern reader, the underground cocaine trade and dissolute behavior of the rich of 1930's (remember, the USA was in the great depression at this time) are a fascinating contrast to how we see the drug world today.  This is a great, complicated mystery with an intricate plot and a fascinating sleuth.  Don't expect it to be a quick read, though, or a novel that you can absorb without focus.  It takes some work, but it's worth it.


Books about cancer are scary, especially when they involve single mothers with children who have issues, and this one is no exception.  Alice Stanhope and her teen daughter Zoe have always been a team of two.  Zoe's father has never been in the picture, so when Alice is diagnosed with ovarian cancer she has few people to depend on.  Zoe suffers from crippling anxiety, and as a result has few friends.  She has been the victim of bullying all of her life and depends on Alice for support and advocacy.  What would happen to her if Alice were no linger here to guide and protect her?

During the course of her cancer treatments Alice reaches out to Sonya, a social worker, and Kate, a nurse, to help her deal with Zoe and the possibility that Alice may die.  Kate and Sonya both have issues of their own.  Kate is unable to have the child that she longs for, which has created tremendous tension in her marriage, while Sonja secretly deals with a sexually abusive husband.  After a shaky start, the four women form a bond that enables each of them to confront their fears and to build a a solid bond of trust among themselves.  Beautifully written and infused with the power of love, Hepworths' novel is a must read.  There was only one sour note, the revelation of Zoe's paternity.  It just seemed a bit too trite and convenient.  I wouldn't let that stop you from reading it, though!


I had a very funny experience with this novel.  After I posted it to Goodreads I discovered that apparently the paperback version has a rather lurid picture on the cover of a shirtless and very attractive man being caressed by a beautiful woman, definitely bodice-ripper oriented and definitely posted on my Facebook page for all my friends to see.  It was embarrassing, to say the least, especially because, although romance drove some of the plot-line, this was primarily a time-travel / historical fiction story.  Yes, it definitely included romance, because why on earth would someone be compelled to settle, even temporarily, in to a completely different historical era (1863, to be exact) unless there was love involved?  There was also a child who had mysteriously disappeared 5 years before, driving protagonist Laura Truitt's need to investigate the family who lived in her current home 150 years before she did.

What I found especially compelling about this novel is the incredible sense of place.  I have grown very fond of time travel (but only into the past), especially when the author researches well and seems to be presenting a true picture of life in the past.  Here White brings in concerns about childhood immunizations, personal hygiene, costume, and communications and how they differ from 1863 to modern times.  She also endows Laura with a strong sense of responsibility to preserving the past, not changing history if that is even possible.  One of the delightful things about the story is Laura's recognition of several civil war officers from her own modern history books and her discovery that sometimes the stories that have been handed down are not quite accurate.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Shadows of the Moon.  In fact,  it has taken some time for the sensation that I had actually visited the past to wear off!  This novel has a bit of everything: romance, tragedy, historical context, intrigue, and family drama.  I would highly recommend it for a great weekend read, vacation book, or escape experience.

Monday, March 6, 2017


Naturally I was attracted to this book because I love cookbooks (not to be mistaken with actually BEING a good cook) and assumed that they would be an integral part of the story. Plus, the cover was very pretty!

Jessamine and Emily Bach seem as different as sisters can be.  Jessamine is a dreamer, a doctoral student in philosophy who moves from romance to romance and hasn't quite figured out what she wants to do with her life.  Older sister Emily graduated from MIT and is the CEO of Veritech, a very successful California-based Internet data storage company about to go public.  Emily is in a long-distance relationship with Jonathan, who has his own Internet start-up on the east coast.

Jessamine works part-time for George Friedman in his bookstore, a business that Jess suggests is more of a personal collection than a business.  George, 39, is a retired Microsoft millionaire who is still seeking the perfect woman to cook for and nurture.  Of course, you can seewhere this is all going.  Will Emily and Jonathan work out how to combine their lives and businesses and live happily ever after?  Will jessamine and george ultimate come to the realiztion that they were made for each other?

The Cookbook Collector includes many literary references juxtaposed against the culture and ambition of the dot com boom.  It is, interestingly, set just before (and after) 9/11.  Family heritage, values, and business figure prominently into the novel, as does its historic context and a bit of Jewish culture.  While beautifully written, this is a novel that seems even better in retrospect.  My only criticism is that I had a hard time figuring out all of the connections among the stories (a little distracting), but maybe that was just me.  I would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


I am officially in love with Fran Stewart's ScotShop mysteries!  I will admit that I have a great love for all things Scottish (except for the food, especially haggis) because it's literally in my blood, but it's more than that.  These would be ordinary, charming cozy mysteries were it not for Dirk, a 700-year-old ghost that attached himself to Peggy Winn when she purchased an antique shawl that belonged to his long lost love.  We learn a little more about Dirk and Peggy's connection in each novel (it won't hurt for me to reveal that it seems like Dirk is Peggy's many-times-great-grandfather) as their relationship develops.

This one, the third in the series, focuses on Hamlin, Vermont's annual highland games, where one of the leading competitors is found murdered in his hotel room before he has a chance to compete.  There is also the mystery of the missing necklace, apparently shoplifted from Peggy's shop by a mysterious couple. Is there s connection? The details of the shop and its business, the customs of the town, the complicated relationships among the characters, and, most importantly, the interplay between Peggy and her ghost, Dirk (he constantly asks her questions about modern day developments and figures of speech and reads books when she turns the pages for him) are wonderful.  I can't wait for the next one!


Comstable Hamish MacBeth never changes.  He longs for true love, but always ends up with a controlling woman who wants to change him and encourage his ambition.  His keen mind and intuition allow him to excel at crime solving, but his inherent laziness cause him to give away the credit nearly every time, except when it serves his purpose to be acknowledged as the hero.

Hamish and his current assistant, Charlie, decide to spend the night in a "haunted" castle near Drim to help dispel rumors of a haunting.  When Charlie falls through some rotted floor boards they discover a dead body, identity unknown, in the cellar, a body which promptly disappears when they take a break to enjoy their favorite bacon baps for breakfast.  Obviously, something is amiss at the castle, and suspects abound.  The lovesick minister and his wife, the older man with the trophy wife, the castle's owner, smugglers...all are soon under investigation.  When more murders turn up, Hamish moves into high gear, albeit at his usual leisurely pace.

All of Beaton's usual characters from this series are here:  Priscilla, the love of Hamish's life, reporter Elspeth, the colonel, Nessie and Essie, the wimpy Daviot and the insufferable Blair.  If you have some weekend time and just want to relax in the Scottish Highlands, this is the book for you!

MY NOT SO PERFECT LIFE (Sophie Kinsella)

I feel like Sophie Kinsella is growing and maturing and her writing just keeps getting better.  Although "chick-lit" has seen its day, she continues to delight her readers with fresh and enjoyable stories and characters.

How many people have a dream that just won't seem to pan out no matter how hard they work?  Sometimes talent, hard work, sacrifice, and ambition are just not enough despite what all of the inspirational posters and self-help webinars tell us.  Katie (Cat) Brenner's dream is to live in London, far away from her Somerset roots, and to have a successful career in advertising.  She is in on the ground floor at a prestigious agency, but living in near poverty and commuting for hours a day because she can't afford to live near her inadequately-paying job.  She records all of the elements of her perfect life (except that it's not actually the life she LIVES) on Instagram and has managed to convince her father and stepmother that she is living the dream.  Katie's boss, Demeter, is both a nightmare and a dream, a successful, talented phenomenon who focuses solely on getting things done, no matter who she has to trample in the process.  Unfortunately, Katie, or Cat, as she is known in London, is one of the people on whose life Demeter tramples, but somehow the table end up turning and everything will turn out as it should.

As is usual with Kinsella's heroines, Katie is intelligent, resourceful, and extremely capable, just needing someone to recognize the talent behind the disorganization and give her a chance.  I like these heroines who can create incredible things out of impossible situations, whose vulnerability and generosity make them irresistibly appealing.  Katie Fforde and Jenny Colgan come to mind as creating similar characters in their novels.  Hmm.  I wonder why these authors are all favorites of mine?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A LANTERN IN HER HAND (Bess Streeter Aldrich)

Bess Streeter Aldrich, one of Nebraska' most beloved authors, wrote about her mother in this novel, the classic and well-loved story of pioneer woman Abbie Deal.  Abbie is based on Aldrich's own mother, a strong pioneer woman who traveled by covered wagon to the midwest as child and then, after marrying, goes with her husband and a small group of settlers in 1865 to the Nebraska territory to settle a new frontier.

One of the loveliest things about Abbie, in my opinion, is that she allowed her children to live out their dreams while continuously postponing her own.  Living in a sod house and raising a family there for years, never seeing her own mother again after her marriage, losing her husband at a relatively young age...all these hardships made Abby Deal strong and resilient.  Her love for her children and joy in their accomplishments is inspiring.  She is all that we would expect a pioneer woman to be.  Beginning in 1854, the reader sees Abby transition from child to woman to wife and pioneer, then to mother, widow, and grandmother.  All the while the world is changing around her: wooden houses replace sod, the railroad comes through, cities are growing, schools are built, and automobiles appear.  Culture and industry take over the country, WWI changes lives, and the radio becomes essential to every home.  A Lantern in her Hand is like a quick snapshot of how the industrial revolution changed America and how one woman saw it through with grace, patience, and the strength to move with the times.

I can see why A Lantern in her Hand has stood the test of time.   Although it's not read as much now as it was years ago, it has endured for almost 90 years for good reason.