Friday, October 30, 2020

October Reading Wrap-Up


In the month of October we saw a wide range of weather.  On the 9th we had a high of 80 degrees and on the 26th our high was 32 degrees.  We had some sunshine, lots of clouds, rain, sleet and snow.  We set a new record for the most snow in one day in October at 6.9".  I hope that November is sunnier and drier, but that it not likely.

However, the weather did supply some opportunity to read.  I read 8 books this month, from the following genres:

Cozy mystery: 4

Historical Fiction: 1

Poetry: 1

Christian Fiction: 2

Cozy Mystery:

Pulp Friction (Cider Shop Mystery #2) by Julie Anne Lindsey - Lovely setting of barn turned into cider shop.  Winnie hosts a wedding reception at the cider shop where the groom is murdered.  

Murder with Clotted Cream (Daisy's Tea Garden #5) by Karen Rose Smith - Daisy and her crew are giving a tea for a wealthy former actress and the cast of an upcoming play.  The host is found murdered.

Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor #1) by G. M. Malliet - Wanda Batton-Smythe, the leader of the Women's Institute and bane to many in town, is found murder in the village hall during the Harvest Fayre.  Max assists in the investigation.

Tide and Punishment (Seaside Mystery Cafe #3) by Bree Baker - Christmastime in Charm, NC.  Mayor is murdered and Aunt Fran is the main suspect.  (Review coming next week.)

Historical Fiction:

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson - Letters from a preacher father to his son.  Takes place in 1950's Iowa.


Songs of Innocence & of Experience by William Blake - A book of poetry originally published as an illuminated book in 1789.  

Christian Fiction:

On a Coastal Breeze (Three Sisters Island #2) by Suzanne Woods Fisher - Maddie Grayson, the middle sister, is establishing her counseling.  When a new pastor comes to the island, she has to face some things from her past.

Back Home Again (Tales From Grace Chapel Inn #1) by Melody Carlson - After losing their father, three sisters work together to restore their childhood home.


I had one book that I decided not to finish and that was The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey.  I read about 65 pages and just wasn't connecting with the characters.


A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte M. Mason.  - This is a re-read for me and I am reading it slowly.

Other things:

This month I shared my Commonplace Journal with a look inside and some thoughts on the practice of keeping this type of a journal.

Overall, a great reading month.  The cozy mysteries that I read were some of my favorites this year.

How was your reading in October?

This month I'm linking up with the Monthly Wrap-Up Round-Up hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Book Review: Back Home Again by Melody Carlson

Back Home Again (Tales from Grace Chapel Inn #1)Back Home Again (Tales From Grace Chapel Inn #1). Melody Carlson.  Guideposts (2003). 231 pages.  Genre:  Christian Fiction.

First Lines:  "Thin rays of afternoon sunlight filtered through the leaves of the old maple tree that dominated the front yard of the Howard family home.  Unshed tears blurred Alice Howard's vision as she squinted up at the tree's majestic canopy."

Summary:  Alice Howard thought her father would live forever.  She realized he was an old man, of course, and his health was failing, but she hadn't prepared herself for the reality of losing him. That's why it came as such a shock when she received a phone call at work telling her that her father had passed away.  

Alice's sisters would be coming to town to help her deal with all that needed to be dealt with.  It had been quite a while since either of them had been home.  Alice was saddened that it took their father's death to bring them back.  Her older sister, Louise, is a pianist who keeps busy teaching lessons and accompanying for concerts at church and in the community.  Jane, the youngest, runs a restaurant and just went through a difficult divorce.  Alice is looking forward to them all being together again.

Once the funeral is over, the sisters begin thinking about what to do with the beautiful Victorian home that they grew up in.  Their father left it to the three of them.  On a whim, Alice suggests that they renovate the house and turn it into a Bed and Breakfast.  She never imaged that her sisters would actually consider it.  

As they begin working toward making the Bed and Breakfast a reality, they encounter many difficulties.  As estimates come in, they discover this project is going to require quite a bit of money.  And then there are people of the town to contend with.  Many of them are against making any changes to the house that has been next to the church for decades.  Added to this is the unreliability of the contractor they hired. Will the sisters be able to overcome these obstacles and make their dream a reality?

My thoughts:  This is the first book in the Grace Chapel Inn series and it was an enjoyable, quick read.  The three sisters are unique and had some trouble working together, but each one brings something important to the project.  I look forward to seeing their roles played out in future books.  I especially enjoyed the character of Aunt Ethel.  She is their father's sister and lives in the carriage house on the property.  She is a bit younger than their father was and has some strong opinions on the way things should be done.  She makes it her business to keep up on what is happening in the town.  She comes on strong, but is actually quite tenderhearted.  

I especially enjoyed following along with the renovations being done.  The sisters end up doing most of them and so must go through the process of deciding on paint colors, themes and furniture for the many rooms.  They begin with their own bedrooms, decorating them according to their individual tastes.  The difficulty comes when they begin trying to decide on decor for the dining room, parlor and living room.  

This series is unique in that it is written by various authors.  I have read other series done in this way and the authors do an amazing job of maintaining continuity.  I look forward to reading more about Grace Chapel Inn.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Book Review: Wicked Autumn by G. M. Malliet

Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor #1)Wicked Autumn (Max Tudor #1).  G.M. Malliet.  St. Martin's Press (2011).  297 pages.  Genre:  Mystery.

First Lines:  "Wanda Batton-Smythe, head of the Women's Institute of Nether Monkslip, liked to say she was not one to mince words.  She might add that she was always one to call a spade a spade, and that what more people needed was simply to pull their socks up and get on with it."

Summary:  Max Tudor, former MI-5 agent,  just could not abide living lies any longer.  He left MI-5 and began the process of becoming an Anglican priest.  He is settling in to his role in Nether Monkslip, a small village about two hours from London.  Aside from the fact that most of the women in the village have tried to remedy the problem of the handsome, single vicar, things have gone well.  Max has been accepted by the village and has enjoyed getting to know the residents of Nether Monkslip.  He has especially enjoyed the isolation of the village that allows one to lead a quiet, simple life.

That is, until Wanda Batton-Smythe crosses your path.  Wanda is head of the Women's Institute and is married to the Major.  She conducts her affairs with no nonsense and expects the same from others.  Most are a bit intimidated by Wanda.  Many just don't like her.  Others are thankful she takes on the roles she does so that they don't have to.  The Women's Institute plays an important role in Nether Monkslip.  It is really the only social outlet available for women.  So most of the women in the village are involved.  The Institute is in the throes of preparing for the upcoming Harvest Fayre, an annual event that is attended by everyone in the village and many from other villages.

The day of the Fayre finally arrives.  Wanda is in good form, marching around giving orders.  Anyone who can avoid her path considers themselves fortunate.  Max is milling around greeting people when he is sent to the Village Hall in search of some more tea.  On his way he crosses paths with Guy Nicholls, a chef who operates a trendy restaurant in the next village.  Guy has donated his skills as a chef to help out at the Fayre.  He asks Max if he can accompany him on his errand.  The two men fall into pleasant conversation.  Finally they arrive at the Village Hall and find the door unlocked.  They enter and begin looking for the tea wondering whether they should choose loose-leaf or bagged.  As they enter the kitchen they find Wanda prostrate on the floor.  Max can tell immediately that she is dead.  Guy begins giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and Max figures it is worth a try and begins compression.  Alas, they are too late.  Max's training kicks in and he begins to take in everything in the room looking for anything unusual.  He can't quite put his finger on it, but something isn't right.  Did Wanda die of natural causes or was she murdered?

My thoughts:  On most trips to the library, I look for books contained on the many lists of recommended books that I keep in the notes app on my phone.  This particular time, I was in a more serendipitous mood and was browsing the shelves.  I came across this book and was immediately taken in by the cover.  We all know you can't judge a book by its cover, so I began to read the summary and the praise for the book on the back cover, many written by authors I know.  I noticed the village maps inside the front cover, the contents page containing chapters with interesting titles and the cast of characters page, which are all things I love in a book. I decided to give it a try and I am so glad I did!  It was a delight to read.

I found myself laughing out loud several times.  The author's descriptions were hilarious.  The characters are interesting and well fleshed out.  Of course we get to know Max the most and it was fascinating to learn a little about his time in MI-5 and why he left.  We also get a glimpse into why he chose to become an Anglican priest.  When the story opens, he is preparing his sermon for Sunday from the book of James.  Specifically the two kinds of wisdom.  This gave an interesting depth to the story.

"The topic, James and the two kinds of wisdom, was more than normally appropriate, had he but known it: the one kind of wisdom - pure, peaceable, and gentle - came from above, but the other was earthly, unspiritual, and devilish.  'You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder.'"

The village of Nether-Monkslip is a character as well.  It contains a lot of history and there is an entire chapter devoted to it.  The author's descriptions are wonderful and combined with the map of the village in the front cover, give the reader a real sense of the place.  

"The village of Nether-Monkslip nestled with its narrow river beneath a high ridge called Hawk Crest.  A steep and winding path led to the brow of this promontory, which was the site of the gap-toothed remains of an ancient stone circle.  A visitor on first reaching the top of the Crest, as villagers called it, and seeing the village below, might catch his or her breath in wonder that anything so pristine could have survived into the twenty-first century."

The murder was interesting and the suspects many.  Almost everyone who knew Wanda disliked her or had been wronged by her in some way.  But even so, not one of them seems capable of committing murder.  As is often the case, there were many secrets to uncover.  

The only negative for me was the use of profanity.  However, there were only three or four instances which was not enough for it to be an issue for me.  It was jarring to me because it seemed out of place, but if you know this going in you won't be as jarred as I was.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read and I will definitely be reading more in the series.


"The cold descended like a sheer curtain that Harvest Fayre night.  The autumn sun had quickly dimmed, and the smell of burning firewood now floated over the village in a pine-scented cloud."

"In direct contrast with Cotton, Musteile instantly had provoked Max's instinctive dislike.  Not because he was dishonest - well, not precisely dishonest.  He was probably incorruptible, in fact: a Mr. Law-and-Order of the type frequently drawn to the armed forces or law enforcement.  He was ramrod straight, unyielding, unimaginative.  Profoundly stupid, in fact.   A man who followed the rules, and asked no questions as to whether each rule really applied in every situation.  Respectable, moral - indeed, holier-than-thou.  A bit of a bully, especially when cornered.  A dangerous man in every way."

Friday, October 23, 2020

Commonplace Book or Journal


I first heard the term "commonplace book" when I was reading the works of Charlotte M. Mason in preparation for homeschooling my children.  In Charlotte Mason's schools, her students kept commonplace books in high school.  Before that age, children did copywork.  That is, they copied passages from the books they were reading.  This began as a way to practice handwriting.  But it accomplished so much more.  The children internalized great writing, learned sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and grammar without even trying.  I used this method with my own children through all of their years of homeschooling.  I was amazed at the results.  They are both excellent writers.  Somewhere along the way I began to keep my own journal of quotes that I liked from books I was reading.  Sometimes I write notes about what I am reading.  I have also written quotes and notes from podcasts or videos or lectures.  My journals are not strictly commonplace books, but for this post I will concentrate on that aspect.  

From:  Formation of Character by Charlotte M. Mason

"It is very helpful to read with a commonplace book or reading-diary, in which to put down any striking thought in your author, or your own impression of the work, or any part of it; but not summaries of facts.  Such a diary, carefully kept through life, should be exceedingly interesting as containing the intellectual history of the writer; besides we never forget the book that we have made extracts from, and of which we have taken the trouble to write a short review."

Here is an example of what a page in my journal looks like.  While I am reading I use Post-it flags to mark passages that I like.  I usually wait until I have finished the book to copy the passages into my journal.  I don't like to disrupt the flow of my reading to stop and copy a passage.  Also, sometimes after I have finished the book and reread the marked passages, I decide not to copy something I had marked. 

Here are some more examples:

You can see in some of the pictures that there are other things in my journal as well.  I will cover that in another post.  

Susan Wise Bauer in The Well-Educated Mind includes some information on commonplace books:

"Occasionally, though, commonplace books took on a more personalized form.  The authors carried them around and jotted in them at odd moments during the day.  The commonplace books gathered reflections, scraps of original verse and other creative writing, summaries of books read, as well as the de rigeur bits of copied information.  They became artificial memories."

She calls the journals "self-education journals".

"The journal used for self-education should model itself after this expanded type of commonplace book."

"Rather, the journal is the place where the reader takes external information and records it (through the use of quotes, as in the commonplace book); appropriates it through a summary, written in the reader's own words; then evaluates it through reflection and personal thought."

Also from The Well-Educated Mind:

Things included in E.M. Forster's commonplace book:

    *Quotes from his readings

    *Evaluations of his readings

    *Happenings from his day

    *Personal reflections on a phrase or idea from his reading

    *His thoughts on readings

I do not copy passages from everything I read.  Sometimes I am just not in the mood.  Over the years I have found that this has developed my composition skills and punctuation comes easier.  The act of copying along with reading has helped me become a better writer.  I enjoy looking back at my journals and reading passages that I copied.  It helps me remember what I read.

Do you keep a commonplace journal?

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Book Review: Murder with Clotted Cream by Karen Rose Smith

Murder with Clotted Cream (Daisy's Tea Garden Mystery, #5)Murder with Clotted Cream (Daisy's Tea Garden  #5). Karen Rose Smith. Kensington Books (2020). 320 pages.  Genre:  Cozy Mystery.

First Line: "'But what if Margaret doesn't like the apple gingerbread with clotted cream?' Aunt Iris asked Daisy as they stood t the sales counter of Daisy's Tea Garden."

Summary:  Former actress Margaret Vaughn has hired Daisy to host a tea at her home for cast members of an upcoming play.  Margaret is particular and has insisted on genuine clotted cream to be served at her tea.  Genuine clotted cream is a lot of work, but business is slow at the tea garden in early November, so Daisy was willing to take the job.  

Margaret and her husband live in a beautiful, historic house surrounded by two acres of land.  There has been some discord between the actors so Daisy is not sure how the day will go.  As she and her helpers serve the first course, guests seem to relax and enjoy themselves.  When it is time to serve dessert, Daisy finds that several of the guests have left the table.  One to stretch her back, one to get fresh air, one to smoke, one to explore the library.  Margaret insists that Daisy should go ahead and serve the dessert.  As she is doing so Margaret gets a phone call and excuses herself.  Daisy soon returns to the kitchen to get the clotted cream and finds the door to the butler's pantry closed.  She knocks and gets no answer, so she opens the door.  She is shocked to find Margaret laying dead on the floor with blood and clotted cream on her chest.  The sight is so shocking that Daisy realizes, "she could never use clotted cream again..."

My thoughts:  Daisy's Tea Garden series is one of my favorites.  A really good cozy mystery combines an interesting mystery with continuing story lines of characters you love.  This book did that perfectly.

One of the things I appreciate about Karen Rose Smith's writing is her ability to make the reader feel as though they are seeing what the character is seeing.  For example:

"After Daisy parked in the detached garage that housed two vehicles under Vi's and Foster's apartment, she walked up the path to the house.  She stared up at the multi-paned window that had once been a hay hatch, and her gaze rose higher to a smaller window that let light into the attic space."

The mystery is interesting and there are lots of secrets to uncover.  No one in town knew Margaret that well, even her sister.  Daisy is not planning to get involved in the investigation of this murder, but Margaret's husband approaches her and asks her to just "skirt around the edges" and see what she can find out.  He is the top suspect and doesn't want to end up in jail.

Some of the other story lines that are occupying much of Daisy's time and thoughts include her daughter Jazzi's desire to get to know her birth mother and husband, the birth of her first grandchild, and trying to figure out how to handle her mother's strange behavior.  Added to all this, Daisy has begun dating Jonas Groft and spends as much time with him as possible.  

I also appreciate the depth in these books.  This time one of the characters is dealing with a mental health issue.  As the characters walk through this situation, the reader learns quite a bit about this particular issue.  It is handled honestly, but never gets too heavy.  

This installment takes place in November and early December.  So we get to celebrate Thanksgiving with Daisy and her family which is a treat.  There are some recipes included at the end of the book as well.

I thoroughly enjoyed this installment of Daisy's Tea Garden and can't wait to spend more time with Daisy, her family and friends.  

Monday, October 19, 2020

Book Review: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Gilead (Gilead, #1)Gilead.  Marilynne Robinson.  Picador (2004). 247 pages.  Genre:  Historical Fiction.

First Line:  "I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I'm old, and you said, I don't think you're old."

Summary:  John Ames married later in life for the second time after having lost his first wife and child.  He never thought he would marry again and he certainly never thought he would have a child.  But he did.  And now he is old and has heart problems.  His son is only 7 years old.  There are so many things he wants to tell his son and he fears he may never get a chance.  So he begins writing him a letter.  

The letter is meant to tell him about those who have gone before him.  It is also meant to tell him those things a father should tell his son.  Sometimes the letter describes what is happening while John is writing the letter.  The letter keeps coming back to the son of his good friend Reverend Boughton.  John Ames Boughton was named after John.  He is the Boughton's prodigal son.  But he has come back home for a visit after being away for many years.  John finds that he doesn't trust him and this comes across in what he says to him.  In the letter he wrestles with this.

My thoughts:  The style of Gilead is unique.  There are no chapters, just space between entries.  The book is one long letter written in stream of consciousness style.  As John Ames thinks of things he wants to tell his son he adds them to the letter.  There is something of a structure in that he will tell about what is going on in their lives on the particular day that he is writing.  He describes what he sees, what his son and wife are doing and who visited them or where they went.  There is also progress in the storyline with Reverend Boughton's son.   

John Ames is a pastor.  His father and grandfather were also pastors.  He wants to tell his son about them and also about what it is like be a pastor.  He wants to pass on his beliefs.  But he also lets his son see the struggles he goes through in his mind.  Struggles with thinking and doing the right things.  John Ames is very relatable and many of us can identify with what he is going through.  

The book is beautifully written.  It gives the reader a glimpse of Iowa in the 1950's, as well as earlier through John's telling of things that happened in the past.  I expected the story to be sad, but I really didn't find that to be the case.  It was beautiful and warm and full of humanity. 


"My parents told me stories about how he read everything he could put his hands on, memorized a whole book of Longfellow, copied maps of Europe and Asia and learned all the cities and rivers."

"But I've developed a great reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from, except, of course, that some very tedious gentlemen have written books."

"People don't talk much now about the Spanish influenza, but that was a terrible thing, and it struck just at the time of the Great War, just when we were getting involved in it.  It killed soldiers by the thousands, healthy men in the prime of life, and then it spread into the rest of the population.  It was like a war, it really was.  One funeral after another, right here in Iowa.  We lost so many of the young people.  And we got off pretty lightly.  People came to church wearing masks, if they came at all.  They'd sit as far from each other as they could."

"But in fact one lapse of judgment can quickly create a situation in which only foolish choices are possible."

"Well, but you two are dancing around in your iridescent little downpour, whooping and stomping as sane people ought to do when they encounter a thing so miraculous as water."

"We know nothing about heaven, or very little, and I think Calvin is right to discourage curious speculations on things the Lord has not seen fit to reveal to us."

Friday, October 16, 2020

Book Review: On a Coastal Breeze by Suzanne Woods Fisher

On a Coastal Breeze (Three Sisters Island, #2)On a Coastal Breeze (Three Sisters Island #2).  Suzanne Woods Fisher.  Fleming H. Revell (2020).  306 pages.  Genre:  Christian Contemporary Romance.

First Line:  "Just before Maddie unlocked the door to her office, she straightened the name plaque on the wall:  Madison Grayson, Marriage and Family Therapist."

Summary:  This is the second book in the Three Sisters Island series.  Maddie Grayson, middle sister in the Grayson family, is feeling good about where life has taken her.  She has made the move to live on Three Sisters Island along with her dad and her two sisters.  Her career is finally taking off.  She now has an office of her own.  But just when she thinks things are going well, the new pastor drops in.  Literally.  

Richard O'Shea makes his entrance to the island by parachuting out of an airplane.  Maddie has been so focused on getting her office up and running that she hasn't paid much attention to who the town has hired to be their new pastor.  When she hears his name, she wonders if he is related to the Ricky O'Shea that she went to school with.  It turns out he is not related, he IS Ricky O'Shea.  She wonders when Ricky became a pastor.  How did that even happen.  He spent most of their childhood making things miserable for Maddie.  She is not ready to accept him as a pastor.  But everyone else on the island seems impressed by him, even her dad.  She will try to give him a chance.  But will she ever be able to see past the anxiety he caused her?

My thoughts:  The setting is an island off the coast of Maine.  It is beautiful and interesting with a small town feel.  There is a lighthouse, a beautiful church and a cafe.  The Never Late Ferry runs from the mainland to the island regularly.  Maddie's dad purchased Camp Kicking Moose and has been remodeling the cabins to get it ready for the summer.  

This story focuses on Maddie, the middle sister as she starts her counseling practice and deals with Ricky O'Shea turning up on the island as pastor.  But, there are other storylines that are progressing as well.  

Cam, the oldest sister, is working on writing a proposal to get a grant for renewable energy on the island.  She is engaged to Seth, the school teacher, but they have not yet set a date for their wedding.

Blaine, the youngest sister, is coming over for the summer break.  She has been attending culinary school.  But, she is not herself.  She feels like she needs to take a break from school and travel to attempt to "find herself".  

Paul, the father of the Grayson girls, is gearing up for the second summer of campers at Camp Kicking Moose.  

One of the themes in the book is fear.  Several of the characters are dealing with fear in one form or another.  This is something that Pastor Rick has dealt with in a big way in his life and is able to counsel others and help them identify their fears and attempt to work through them.  I appreciated this aspect and how it was dealt with Biblically.

I liked the story well enough, but I didn't love it.  I am not sure exactly why.  Perhaps my reading tastes are changing?  I felt the same way after reading the first book in the series and was undecided whether I would continue with the series.  When I saw the book on the shelf at the library I decided to give it a try.  

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Songs of Innocence and of Experience by William Blake

Songs of Innocence and of ExperienceSongs of Innocence and of Experience.  William Blake (1789). Oxford University Press (1970).  156 pages.  Genre:  Poetry, Classic.

William Blake was as much an artist as a poet.  This book contains full color copies of the illuminated plates created by Blake on which he etched both a design and a poem.  

"He knew that poetry and design are the same thing in different forms, and he possessed the originality and craftsmanship needed for the practice of both, separately or simultaneously.  He was not content, therefore, to see his poems only in a written form or in ordinary print as they were in his earlier Poetical Sketches."

This was my first introduction to William Blake's poetry.  Overall, I think I liked more of the poetry in Songs of Innocence.  The illuminated plates are beautiful and do add to the poetry.  I was thankful they included the text of the poem on a separate page because it is sometimes hard to read it on the plate.

Here's one of my favorites from Songs of Innocence:


Sound the Flute!
Now it's mute.
Birds delight.
Day and Night.
In the dale
Lark in Sky
Merrily Merrily to welcome in the Year

Little Boy
Full of joy.
Little Girl
Sweet and small.
Cock does crow
So do you.
Merry voice
Infant noise
Merrily Merrily to welcome in the Year

Little Lamb
Here I am, 
Come and lick
My white neck. 
Let me pull
Your soft Wool.
Let me kiss
Your soft face.
Merrily Merrily we welcome in the Year

I read this book to fulfill the "Complete volume of poetry by a single author" category in The Literary Life Podcast 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Book Review: Pulp Friction (Cider Shop Mysteries #2) by Julie Anne Lindsey

Pulp Friction (A Cider Shop Mystery #2)Pulp Friction (Cider Shop Mysteries #2). Julie Anne Lindsey. Kensington (2020). 248 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Lines: "'Well, it's official.'  Mrs. Sawyer beamed at me across the service counter of my newly opened cider shop while half the down danced the funky chicken behind her.  'You've impressed me, Winona Mae Montgomery, exactly as everyone promised you would.'"

Summary:  Winnie has finally opened her cider shop after remodeling the old mail pouch barn on her grandparents' property.  Mrs. Sawyer and her daughter, Elsie, came to see Winnie a few weeks ago. They were looking for a beautiful place to hold Elsie's wedding and reception.  The orchard and cider shop were just what they were looking for.  The wedding was small and lovely, but Mrs. Sawyer invited the entire town to come for the reception and many did come. As the reception wore on, Winnie and her best friend, Dot, noticed the groom looking like he was not feeling well or had too much to drink.  If the latter was the case, he must have brought his own alcohol because only a few bottles of champagne were available for Winnie to make her champagne cider.  Soon they see the bride angrily approach the groom.  Winnie leaves the barn to go get something out of storage where she hears angry voices coming from above.  The voices belong to the groom and Winnie's ex-boyfriend, Hank.  Soon the groom shoves Hank and storms off followed by the groom, the bride and her bridesmaids.  Winnie returns to the barn with her box.  Dot also heard the yelling and asks Winnie if she did.  Winnie says that she did and now she wants to investigate.  On her way to find out what was going on she witnesses Hank's truck tear out of the driveway.  When she locates the bride she finds her sobbing beside the groom's lifeless body lying under the old farm truck that had been designated as the wedding getaway vehicle.  Did Hank have something to do with this?  

My thoughts:  I fell in love with the characters and setting of this series in the first book, Apple Cider Slaying, and couldn't wait to revisit them.  I was not disappointed.

Winnie is a caring, hardworking young woman who has helped her grandmother save their family orchard and has built a business of her own selling cider made from the orchard's apples.  Winnie is determined to let the police handle this case and does a pretty good job of it.  But, sometimes her curiosity becomes too much and she begins asking questions.  Not to mention that others approach her looking for help and answers.  Winnie has a close relationship with her grandmother and they are always helping one another out.  Dot makes an interesting sidekick.  She is a park ranger who loves animals and is usually willing to help Winnie investigate.  We learn some new information about Sheriff Colton Wise's background and he and Winnie's relationship progresses. The characters are all very strong and interesting.

The mystery was full of twists and turns.  Just when you thought Winnie was getting close to figuring things out another factor would come into play.  There were some intense moments as well.  I realized who the killer was before Winnie did, but up until that point I did not suspect the person at all.

The setting is lovely and gives you a fall feeling no matter what time of year the book takes place.  This time it was in July, but Winnie is still making cider and Granny is still caring for the orchard and giving tours.

This was a great mystery, full of interesting characters and a lovely setting.  I look forward to visiting these characters again.


"Granny had grown up stitching Bible verses and proverbs, but times had changed, much to her dismay.  People had different preferences and a collectively darker sense of humor these days.  Meaning her perfectly executed floral borders no longer circled scripture."

"Several cups of liquid enthusiasm later, I was wide awake and anything seemed possible.  I dressed in my softest pair of jean shorts and the red V-neck T-shirt I loved, then wondered what to do with myself."

"Her simple black dress and flats were paired with black stockings, a matching handbag, and a tiny veiled hat.  The ensemble looked like something out of another era or a Hitchcock movie."

"I waited while he moved around to open my door.  Most men didn't make the simple chivalrous gesture anymore, but I liked it.  Grampy had been a door opener too."

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Book Review: Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (Miss Julia, #1)Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (Miss Julia #1). Ann B. Ross. William Morrow (1990). 288 pages. Genre:  Cozy Mystery.

First Line:  "I'd just caught my breath after the shock of my husband's sudden passing when his last legacy showed up on my front porch."

Summary:  Her husband's last legacy is an illegitimate child, a boy of about 9, being dropped off by his mother. Hazel Marie Puckett claims she needs to go to Raleigh to get some training and she just doesn't know what to do so she is going to depend on Miss Julia's Christian charity to take care of her son while she is gone.  And before Miss Julia can object, she gets back into the passenger seat of the car she came in and takes off.

Miss Julia is so shocked, she doesn't know what to do.  She doesn't know what to do with children since she never had any of her own.  Thankfully, her housekeeper, Lillian, knows just what to do.  

After the shock of discovering that her husband of 44 years had not been faithful, Miss Julia needs some time to think.  So she goes for a drive.  After a while she notices a large truck bearing down on her.  She slows down, he slows down.  She changes lanes, he changes lanes.  He follows her all the way home, but keeps going past her house.  Miss Julia wonders if she is making something out of nothing.  But, a few days later her house is ransacked.  She can't imagine who would do such a thing and why?  

My thoughts: This series has been on my virtual TBR for quite a while so I thought I would finally give it a try.  There were things I liked about this book and there were things I didn't like about this book.  I'll start with what I liked.

First of all, the story is funny.  I laughed out loud at times.  Miss Julia seems like a proper southern lady, and she is, but sometimes she says things that shock you.  Secondly, I liked the writing style.  It flowed well and I liked the way the author described things.  For example, 

"It looked like someone had just swept his arm along the shelves, knocking everything to the floor.  Soap, bath crystals, talcum powders, cologne, towels, washclothes - everything had been flung to the floor and walked on."

And third, I liked how the characters came together and supported one another just like a family.

On to what I didn't like.  I was slow to warm up to the story.  I was at least 1/3 of the way into the book before I really started to care about the characters.  Also, the mystery aspect was a little different.  I am not opposed to a mystery story that doesn't involve a murder, but I wasn't sure that there even was a mystery for much of the book.  After I was done reading the book I had to think back and figure out how I would describe the mystery.  The thing I disliked most of all was that about 2/3 of the way through the book Miss Julia does something that is completely out of character.  I kept waiting for her to let the reader know that she was just doing this to see what the other person would do, but she never did.  And then how she handled the incident after the fact was completely out of character as well.  I found that confusing and frustrating.

So I am glad I finally picked this one up so I can get it off my TBR, but I don't think I will pursue reading any further in the series.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Book Review: Code of Valor (Blue Justice #3) by Lynette Eason

Code of Valor (Blue Justice, #3)Code of Valor (Blue Justice #3).  Lynette Eason.  Revell (2019). 336 pages. Genre: Christian Fiction, Suspense.

First Lines: "The broker rose from his chair and glared at the imbecile standing on the other side of the desk.  'We paid you well to steal the boat.  Where is it?'"

Summary:  Brady St. John, detective with the Columbia, SC Police Department, needed a break.  His siblings were concerned.  So he rented a cabin for two weeks.  By himself.  So he could just be.  But the problem was, he was bored.  Or maybe he had too much time to think.  Just when he had made up his mind that he had had enough time alone, he heard a scream come from the lake.  Brady ran toward the water and spotted a boat way out in the middle of the lake.  He could see two people in the boat, one with her hands tied to the rail of the boat.  Brady shouted.  The other person in the boat shot at Brady.  The distraction was enough for the woman to break free and jump into the water.  The boat sped away and Brady jumped into the water and swam toward the struggling woman.

Emily Chastain, a financial crimes investigator for a bank, is not really sure why she was kidnapped.  She assumes it has something to do with one of the cases she is investigating.  Someone grabbed her as she was leaving work, threw her in a trunk and brought her out on the lake to kill her.  She didn't recognize her captor and he wouldn't speak to her when she asked him what he wanted from her.  Emily fears that whoever wants her dead will now target Brady as well.  

The St. John family is a law enforcement family, so Brady soon has several of his siblings involved trying to help them figure out who these people are and what they want with Emily.  But, the difficulty will be keeping Emily alive long enough to catch the criminals.

My thoughts:  I always enjoy the St. John family.  They are such a close-knit family who are always watching out for one another.  Mr. and Mrs. St. John don't make an appearance in this story, but several of the siblings do.

Brady has been through some difficult things lately, both personally and professionally.  He recently ended a relationship with a woman who became addicted to painkillers and betrayed him.  So, he has no intention of getting into another relationship.  But he finds himself attracted to Emily.  He keeps telling himself it probably has something to do with the fact that he rescued her.  I appreciated that the romance between Brady and Emily was very subtle and played a very minor part in the story.

Emily is an interesting character.  She had a difficult upbringing and because of some things that happened ended up living on the streets for a year.  She also became addicted to painkillers.  She had an aunt that finally located her and helped her get the help she needed to get back on her feet.  The difficulties she went through seemed to make her a very stable, down to earth person.  I appreciated that she was able to calm herself down in scary situations.  For the most part she did what someone asked her to do.  When Brady asked her to stay in the car, she usually did.  That was a nice change from many heroines in suspense fiction.

The story was fast-paced.  Once it started, it didn't slow down until the end.  There were several twists and turns and deaths before the culprit was apprehended. This could be read as a stand alone, but you would miss out on getting to know the other members of the St. John family.  I would recommend starting with book one in the series, Oath of Honor.  I look forward to reading the final book in the series.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Library Book Sale

 My local library is hosting their first book sale since COVID this weekend!  They were able to hold it in the ballroom of a local hotel.  It was beautiful!  The lights were low and soft classical music played.   All of the books were located in one room and spread out on tables for easy viewing and social distancing.  

Normally the sale is held in the basement of the library and the books are separated into three different rooms.  The rooms are lit by florescent lights and there is only the sound of quiet talking or books shuffling.

When I was checking out I told the volunteer that it was really nice having the sale in the ballroom.  She agreed and said she wished they could always have it there.  However, it was a little difficult hauling the books from the library to the hotel.  

On to the books.  Here's what I bought:

The pile on the left:
*Murder, She Wrote Murder in Moscow by Donald Bain
*Murder, She Wrote Murder on the QE2 by Donald Bain
*Murder, She Wrote A Deadly Judgment by Donald Bain
*Murder, She Wrote Martinis & Mayhem by Donald Bain
*Leave it to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse
*Village School by Miss Read

The pile on the right:
*Postern of Fate by Agatha Christie
*Nemesis by Agatha Christie
*Hickory Dickory Death by Agatha Christie
*Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
*The Clocks by Agatha Christie
*Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie
*Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie
*Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie
*Third Girl by Agatha Christie
*And then There Were None by Agatha Christie
*Her Forbidden Knight by Rex Stout

I have not seen an Agatha Christie book at a library sale in quite some time.  Someone must have cleared out their collection.  It was wonderful to be able to browse through books again!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

September Reading Wrap-Up


This is the view I have when I look out my front living room window.  We had some strong winds yesterday day so I think many of those leaves have fallen to the ground.  Some years the entire tree is bright orange before any leaves fall.  

During the month of September I read 10 books.  Here are the genres I read from:

Mystery/Cozy Mystery:  4
Romance: 1
Contemporary Christian Fiction: 1
Non-fiction: 2
Classic: 1
Suspense: 1

Mystery/Cozy Mystery:

Missing Pages (Secrets of Mary's Bookshop #8) by Vera Dodge - A young girl goes missing during a Fourth of July parade.  

The Pomeranian Always Barks Twice (Furever Pets Mystery #1) by Alex Erickson - This was a new to me author.  The owner of a Pomeranian is found murdered.  The main suspect is the son of our heroine.  
The Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie - Hercule Poirot receives a letter urging him to come quickly.  He and Hastings make their way to France, but arrive too late.  The author of the letter has been murdered.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind by Ann B. Ross - This has been on my virtual TBR for quite a while.  Miss Julia has recently lost her husband when trouble arrives on her door step.  This was a fun, fast-paced read. Review coming soon.


Wishes by Jude Deveraux - This is not normally a genre I read from, but when my sister told me this was her favorite book I decided to give it a try.  I enjoyed it more than I expected to.

Contemporary Christian Fiction:

Cape Light by Thomas Kinkade - This is the first book in a series that Kinkade wrote to answer the question, "Who lives in the houses you paint?".  A story of the people who live in the town of Cape Light. Also on my TBR for a while.


The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan - A biography about the author's mother who helped support her family by entering and winning jingle contests.

The Children of Henry VIII by John Guy - Tells the story of Henry VIII's quest for a male heir.


The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - A story of the destruction of a soul.


Code of Valor by Lynette Eason - Brady St. John is spending some time alone at a friend's cabin when he hears a scream from the lake.  He is soon in the water rescuing a woman who jumped from a boat.  Now the question is who took her and why? Review coming soon.

September sure flew by.  Now we have just three months left of the year!  I will be reading some things to finish up my challenges in the coming months, but I really don't have many categories left to fill.  

What did you read in September?