Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Taking a break

Prospect House in London

Hello Friends!  At the beginning of the year my husband retired from his career as a mail carrier.  It was an early retirement and one that we weren't actually planning for quite yet.  For several years, we have been maintaining a small online resale business and have been growing that business in the last several months as well.  These two things combined have led to quite a bit of change in our home and in my schedule.  All that to say, I am struggling to find time to write book reviews.  When I do have some time, I would much rather read a book or visit one of your blogs 😊.  So, I will be taking a blogging break for a while to get settled in to this new routine.  I'm sure you will see me around as I love visiting your blogs.  

~ Gretchen


Thursday, March 9, 2023

Book Review: The Story of Love by Beth Wiseman


The Story of Love (The Amish Bookstore #2). Beth Wiseman. Zondervan (2022). 336 pages. Genre: Women's Fiction, Amish Fiction, Christian Fiction.

First Line of Prologue: "Yvonne locked the door of her house in Houston for the final time, then slipped the key under the mat like she had promised the new owners - a young family with two small children."

Summary (Goodreads): When Yvonne Wilson’s Amish friends, Jake and Eva Lantz, offer her an opportunity to run their bookstore in Montgomery, Indiana, Yvonne jumps on the opportunity for a change of scenery. She leaves her home in Texas to take on her new job as manager of the bookstore. A spark is rekindled unexpectedly when the move brings her back into contact with Abraham Byler. But Abraham is now dating a woman named Brianna, and the last thing Yvonne wants is to interfere in their relationship.

Abraham grew up Amish, but he chose not to be baptized, eventually entering a career as a sheriff in the hopes of bringing justice to his community. But when a high-stakes situation on the job arises, he begins to question his decisions and contemplate a return to his Amish roots. Meanwhile, he finds himself drawn to Yvonne—casting doubt on his current relationship with Brianna. Brianna herself is keeping secrets . . . and some of those secrets might be dangerous.

As tensions rise, both Yvonne and Abraham will have to choose the best path for themselves—even if it puts their romance at risk.

My thoughts:  This second book in the Amish Bookstore series picks up several months after the first book ended.  We met Yvonne in the first book and I was glad to pick up with her again. 

Yvonne and Abraham met in the first book, but Yvonne wasn't ready to begin a relationship so soon after her fiance died.  As she is starting a new life in Indiana, she would be happy for Abraham's friendship, but feels a little funny about it considering he is dating someone.  Yvonne doesn't have to wait long to meet Brianna, Abraham's girlfriend.  She presents herself at the bookstore and introduces herself as Abraham's girlfriend.  Yvonne is gracious even though she is a bit surprised.  Brianna stands out with her expensive clothes and well-coifed hair-do. 

Abraham Byler was raised Amish, but chose not to be baptized into the faith.  He became a police officer and is serving the community he grew up in. Because he chose not to be baptized, he is still able to see his family and does so often.  This is why it is surprising to Yvonne that Abraham would be dating Brianna.  She is certainly attractive, but she seems to be the opposite of the Amish.  

This is a unique storyline in that the main characters aren't Amish.  There are some really difficult topics presented in the story - mental health, anger, revenge, abuse, use of firearms, deception.  Fortunately, the author does a great job of keeping the story from becoming too heavy.  Some of the positive themes are friendship, love, serving others, honesty and family.  

There is a mystery to solve, just like there was in the first book, which led to some suspense. I was surprised by the way things worked out.  

This was an interesting story that held my attention.  It could work as a stand-alone, but reading the first book introduces you to the bookstore, Yvonne and Abraham, and the Amish community.  Yvonne has grown quite a bit since the first book, which I loved.  And I loved the ending.  Now, I am eagerly anticipating the third book in the series which comes out in April.


"As she pulled out of the driveway, she took a deep breath, determined to keep at bay her anxiety over this big change and instead embrace the new adventure."

"The dog didn't get up.  She tried to coax him inside a couple more times, but he didn't move.  'Okay, well, I tried.' She was opening the door to go back inside when the dog stood and slowly walked to her side.  The animal looked at her but quickly cowered and lowered his head."

Other books in the series:

Monday, March 6, 2023

Book Review: All That is Secret by Patricia Raybon


All That is Secret (Annalee Spain #1).  Patricia Raybon. Tyndale House (2021). 400 pages. Genre:  Mystery, Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction.

First Lines of the Prologue: "November 1922.  The little baby was four hours old.  Still unwashed.  Barely crying."

Summary (Goodreads): In the winter of 1923, Professor Annalee Spain--a daring but overworked theologian at a small Chicago Bible college--receives a cryptic telegram calling her home to Denver to solve the mystery of the murder of her beloved but estranged father.

For a young Black woman, searching for answers in a city ruled by the KKK could mean real danger. Still, with her literary hero Sherlock Holmes as inspiration, Annalee launches her hunt for clues, attracting two surprising allies: Eddie, a relentless young white boy searching for his missing father, and Jack, a handsome Black pastor who loves nightclub dancing and rides in his sporty car, awakening Annalee's heart to the surprising highs and lows of romantic love.

With their help, Annalee follows clues that land her among Denver's powerful elite. But when their sleuthing unravels sinister motives and deep secrets, Annalee confronts the dangerous truths and beliefs that could make her a victim too.

My thoughts:  This is a great start to a mystery series.  Annalee Spain grew up in Colorado, mostly raised by her alcoholic father.  She never knew her mother.  When her father wasn't around or incapacitated, the ladies in the neighborhood looked out for her.  Annalee was determined to rise above a life of poverty.  When she went to college and became a professor, her father was so proud of her.  In fact, they were mending their relationship.  Joe Spain was planning a trip to Chicago to visit Annalee.  But he never showed up.  They say he fell from a train.  Annalee suspects he was pushed and is determined to find out the truth.

There is lots of action and suspense intermixed with quieter times.  Unraveling the mystery isn't easy, but there are threads to pull.  Everybody knows something, but most aren't talking.  Unfortunately, the city of Denver is run by the KKK.  Everybody is under their thumb including the police.  Annalee does put herself in some dangerous situations in order to learn things, but they are not unrealistic.  Mostly she learns things by listening.  She is a fan of Sherlock Holmes and each chapter starts with a quote from one of his stories.  

The collection of secondary characters is great.  Mrs. Stallworth, her landlady, is the closest thing to a mother she has.  Eddie, an orphan with no home, is completely loyal to Annalee after she gives him some dinner when he would have gone without.  Reverend Jack Robert Blake, current pastor at Mount Moriah AME does all he can to help and protect Annalee.  And then there is Sidney Castle who seems to be helping Annalee, but she is not sure why.  

I really got a feel for Denver of the 1920's.  The atmosphere was tense.  The neighborhoods segregated and favor given to whoever had the most money.  The KKK members had their hands in everything, even the churches.  The author includes a note at the back of the book indicating that she grew up in Colorado along with some of the history she incorporated in the book. 

She says, "The Ku Klux Klan's 1920s revival, meantime, was legendary in Colorado, where membership was the second largest per capita in the United States (after Indiana) - claiming between 55,000 and 75,000 members, including women.  The Grand Dragon of Colorado's Klan was not Eddie Brown Sr. (my fictional name), but a homeopathic physician named Dr. John Galen Locke, who engineered a hate campaign against Jews, Blacks, Catholics, and immigrants, declaring that only native-born, English-speaking, white Protestants were 100 percent American."

There is a strong faith-thread in the story about trusting God and not trying to do things on your own.  

Overall this was an absorbing read that kept me turning pages.  I am so glad this is a series and look forward to reading the newly released second book, Double the Lies.


"Of the arrogance it took to believe she could study God or comprehend who God is in a world that rarely makes a lick of sense, because it's so God-forsaken and desperate and crazy."

"She'd been walking in circles.  Moving and going. Aimless.  Distracted. Letting life happen to her.  Never planning it.  Or deciding clearly where she was going.  That's how she ended up at the Bible college.  It was only one of seven, after learning she was colored, that would take her.  But what did she learn there that mattered now?  Finally this: God is visionary.  Tactical.  A planner.  A builder.  Laboring with detailed plans."

Thursday, March 2, 2023

February Reading Wrap-Up


While this is the February Reading Wrap-Up, I didn't get around to doing a Wrap-Up in January because my husband and I did some traveling.  Part of our trip included a seven-day cruise to the Western Caribbean and Mexico.  The picture above is me standing on the beach in Roaton, Honduras.  That is our cruise ship you can see docked there.  

Back at home, the month of February has been an icy, snowy one.  Many days I have either had to skip my daily walk or drive to the mall and walk there because of the ice.  

February was a great reading month for me though.  I read 10 books, with three five-star reads.  

Here's the breakdown:

Historical Fiction: 2
Romantic Suspense: 1
Cozy Mystery: 2
Classic: 1
Non-fiction: 2
Contemporary Romance: 1
Mystery: 1

The link will take you to my review.

Historical Fiction: 

Romantic Suspense:

Cozy Mystery:

Murder in Moscow (Murder, She Wrote #10) by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain



The Silhouette Solution by Brenda Cooper

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Bennan Manning

Contemporary Romance:


All That is Secret (Annalee Spain #1) by Patricia Raybon - 5 stars (review coming soon)

Hope you all have had a great February! 
~ Gretchen

I am linking up with The Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

Book Review: Dear Henry, Love Edith by Becca Kinzer


Dear Henry, Love Edith. Becca Kinzer. Tyndale House (2023). 373 pages. Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction.

First Line: "Henry grimaced, not sure which irritated him more - the persistent ache in his knee or the relentless voice in his ear."

Summary (Goodreads): After a short and difficult marriage, recently widowed Edith Sherman has learned her lesson. Forget love. Forget marriage. She plans to fill her thirties with adventure. As she awaits the final paperwork for a humanitarian trip to South Africa, she accepts a short-term nursing position in a small Midwestern town. The last thing she needs is a handsome local catching her eye. How inconvenient is that?

Henry Hobbes isn't exactly thrilled to have Edith, who he assumes is an elderly widow, dumped on him as a houseguest for the summer. But he'd do almost anything for his niece, who is practically like a sister to him given how close they are in age. Especially since Edith will be working nights and Henry works most days. When he and Edith keep missing each other in person, they begin exchanging notes--short messages at first, then longer letters, sharing increasingly personal parts of their lives.

By the time Henry realizes his mistake--that Edith is actually the brown-eyed beauty he keeps bumping into around town--their hearts are so intertwined he hopes they never unravel. But with her departure date rapidly approaching, and Henry's roots firmly planted at home, Edith must ultimately decide if the adventure of her dreams is the one right in front of her.

My thoughts: This is a fun romantic comedy that could easily be a movie. The author writes in such a way as to allow the reader to "play the movie" in their head.  She could take a simple sentence uttered by one of the characters and turn it into a hilarious mess.  I will admit it did feel a tad over-the-top at times.  

But, the story is not all fluff and light-heartedness.  There is some depth.  Edith and Henry have both had some difficult times in the past that are informing how they are living now.  They both have to do some soul searching.  Fortunately, each of them has a friend to give them a nudge in the right direction.  But, these things take time which is realistic, but also really frustrating for the reader!  Just when you think things are going the right direction, suddenly they are going the opposite way.  Yes, there was quite a bit of tension which kept me turning pages. 

The scenario is a funny one - two people live in the same house, but have not met.  As the story progressed and Henry discovered who Edith was, but chose to keep deceiving her, I was disappointed.  However, that didn't last long as Henry finally set out to right the wrongs and tell the truth.  And of course that didn't go smoothly either. 

Some of the themes are home, serving God, love, being good enough and self-doubt.  If you are looking for a light-hearted read with some depth, give this book a try.


"The light of the full moon guided her.  The muted brassy sound of big band music, competing with the tune of cicadas, followed her.  She folded her arms over her stomach, a sense of peace battling with a restless desire to run."

"'Let me get this straight,' Lance said, raising his voice to be heard above Frank Sinatra's croons.  'You're baring your soul to an old lady who's living in your house but you've never actually met.  You've got the hots for a lady you've met but don't know anything about.  And you're still going out with a lady who drives you crazy every time she talks, which is all the time.'"

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild


Ballet Shoes: A Story of Three Children on the Stage. Noel Streatfeild. First Published 1936. 191 pages. Genre: Classic, Children's Literature.

First Line: "The Fossil sisters lived in the Cromwell Road."

Summary:  Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil are orphans who have been added to the household of Great Uncle Matthew.  While Great Uncle Matthew is traveling the world in search of artifacts, Nana and Sylvia run the household and care for the orphans.  Their lives get exciting when the three girls are accepted into the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training.  The girls make a vow to make a name for themselves.  Through hard work and sacrifice, they each learn that there is more than one way to make a name for yourself.  

My thoughts: This is a book I didn't know about until I was grown up.  But it is one I would have liked when I was young.  

Sylvia is the great-niece of Great Uncle Matthew, G.U.M. for short.  She was the first child to live in the house full of fossils.  She lived there with her mother and her nurse, Nana.  After her mother died, Sylvia became the caretaker of the house.  When G.U.M. is injured on one of his expeditions and can no longer search the land for fossils, he decides to take to the sea.  The first treasure he finds is Pauline, who was the only survivor besides himself when the ship they are sailing on hits an iceberg.  Naturally, he brings her home for Sylvia and Nana to take care of.  Petrova and Posy are collected along the way as well.

Soon the girls are old enough to be educated and some decisions need to be made.  Through a series of happy events, all three are accepted into the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training.  

Each of the girls is unique in her own way.  Pauline really acts like an oldest child, she follows the rules and looks out for her siblings.  Petrova tolerates dancing, but she would rather be working on a car or flying in an airplane.  And Posy is naturally gifted at dancing and thinks she is loved by everyone.  I appreciated how each of the girls were allowed to suffer the consequences of their behavior.  But my favorite character was Nana.  She keeps everyone in line and keeps the household running on a daily basis.  At times she seemed like a drill sergeant, but she had a tender heart for the girls. 

There is a lot of specific detail about the classes at the school and the plays that were performed.  I could see how some readers might find this boring.  I like that kind of detail and enjoyed being able to form a clear picture in my mind of what was happening.  

This was a fun, quick read that I would recommend. 


"Both doctors had lovely ideas about the sort of things to have in the middle of lessons - a meal they called a beaver.  They took turns to get it ready . Sometimes it was chocolate with cream on it, and sometimes Doctor Jakes' ginger drink, and once it was ice-cream soda; and the things to eat were never the same: queer biscuits, little ones from Japan with delicate flowers painted on them in sugar, cakes from Vienna, and specialties of different kinds from all over England."

"Pride has to come before a fall, and that's the law of nature; you've got your fall, and now you've got to be brave and get up again."

Monday, February 20, 2023

Book Review: The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas


The Right Kind of Fool.  Sarah Loudin Thomas.  Bethany House (2020). 384 pages. Genre: Historical Fiction. 

First Line: "Beverly, West Virginia.  July 1934. The day's heat lay close to Loyal like a quilt he couldn't push back."

Summary (Goodreads): Thirteen-year-old Loyal Raines is supposed to stay close to home on a hot summer day in 1934. When he slips away for a quick swim in the river and finds a dead body, he wishes he'd obeyed his mother. The ripples caused by his discovery will impact the town of Beverly, West Virginia, in ways no one could have imagined.

The first person those ripples disturb is Loyal's absentee father. When Creed Raines realized his infant son was deaf, he headed for the hills, returning only to help meet his family's basic needs. But when Loyal, now a young teen, stumbles upon a murder it's his father he runs to tell--shaping the words with his hands. As Creed is pulled into the investigation he discovers that what sets his son apart isn't his inability to hear but rather his courage. Longing to reclaim the life he abandoned, Creed will have to do more than help solve a murder if he wants to win his family's hearts again.

My thoughts:  It has been too long since I read a book by Sarah Loudin Thomas.  When I sit down to read one of her books I know I will be immersed in the West Virginia hills and hollers.  And I definitely was in this story.  

Loyal Raines, who is almost fourteen, has been deaf since an illness took his hearing when he was four.  His father, Creed Raines, has been spending most of his time in the mountains for nearly as long.  He hasn't abandoned his family, but provides for their needs while mostly living apart from them.  If you were to ask him why he spends most of his time in the mountains, he would tell you it is better for his family that way.  Creed blames himself for his son's loss of hearing.  And if his wife, Delphy, was honest, she blames him too.  At the same time, Delphy longs for Creed to return to their home and so does Loyal.  The Raines family has a lot to work through and they do so realistically.  

After Loyal discovers a man's body near the river, it is his dad he goes to.  It means a lot to Creed that his son trusts him enough to come to him.  This is the first step in healing some of the wounds between father and son, husband and wife. 

While this book isn't listed as a mystery, it contains one of the best mysteries I have read in a while.  The dead man worked for the government and was trespassing where he didn't belong.  But, the property owner has an alibi.  Complicating matters, Loyal saw some things before he discovered the body that he is not sure he wants to tell.  Things that could cause trouble for his friends.  Also, because he is deaf, it is often hard for him to make others understand what he is saying. Creed works with the sheriff to uncover what happened.

This is also a coming-of-age story with Loyal feeling like he is almost a man and should be allowed to do certain things.  There is tension between Loyal and his parents as they try to protect him.  I loved how the author portrayed the struggle his parents were going through wanting to protect him, but also realizing that he was growing up and could handle things better than they thought.  

This story has it all - history, atmosphere, family drama, great characters and a mystery.  I only wish it were part of a series so I could spend more time with these characters.  


"It was early afternoon.  As he stepped into the front room, he could smell beans simmering on the stove, as well as the furniture polish Delphy used to keep the end tables gleaming.  The windows were open, and gauzy white curtains tugged at their rods as a breeze followed them inside."

"He'd been so afraid of doing more damage to the boy for so long.  Finally seeing how he could hold his own was liberating.  Maybe it wasn't about pushing like his own father had done, but simply encouraging the boy's natural abilities.  He thought maybe that was what a father ought to do and he was eager to try it out."