Saturday, January 30, 2021

January Reading Wrap-Up


dunham newport beach libraryPhoto: David Tsay

The weather for the month of January has been unusual.  Normally in January we have some of the coldest days of the year which can mean highs below zero, but most often in the single digits.  This year we have had very few single digit high days with most days in January being at least 20 degrees or above.  The down side has been that we had a stretch of close to 15 days of clouds with no sun peeking through.  January is often one of our sunniest months.  We do have snow on the ground, but it is minimal. The cloudy days were a little tough, but overall this has been a very nice winter.

As far as reading goes, I read 10 books in the month of January.  

Here's the breakdown:

Fiction:  3
Juvenile Fiction: 1
Cozy Mystery: 3
Mystery: 1
Suspense: 2


The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay -  Lawyer, Madeline Cullen inherits a bookshop from her aunt.  She has no desire to be a bookshop owner.  However, as she spends time at the shop getting to know the people who loved her aunt, she begins to realize being a bookshop owner is exactly what she wants to do.

My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich - Mrs. Brown has worked hard and lived a simple life.  When she is asked to help inventory the donations from the estate of a wealthy woman, she comes upon a dress hanging in the closet.  She remembers the woman wearing the dress on important occasions.  She is overwhelmed by the poise and correctness of the dress.  Never has she had a dress that is so regal and grown-up and she determines to get one for herself.  

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi - There is a small cafe in Tokyo that serves delicious coffee along with a side of time travel.  If all of the rules are followed, a person can travel in time.  However, even if something is changed in the past, the present will not change.

Juvenile Fiction:

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner - This series was a favorite of mine when I was a child.  Four siblings have lost their parents, but have heard bad things about their grandfather.  So, they run away and find shelter in an abandoned boxcar. 

Cozy Mystery:

 A Call for Kelp (Seaside Cafe #4) by Bree Baker - Everly Swan's aunts are filming a documentary about honeybees.  Actress Mitzi Calgon is coming to town to promote the film.  However, just before Mitzi is to go on stage, she is found dead in a box of bees.

Muzzled (Kate Turner, DVM #1) by Eileen Brady - Kate Turner is filling in at a veterinary office in upstate New York.  While on a house call she discovers the pet owners dead.  The couple were breeders of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and had twenty-seven of them.  Was it a murder-suicide as it appears or was something else going on?

Wed, Read & Dead (Mystery Bookshop #4) by V. M. Burns - Samantha Washington's mother is getting married to the wealthy Harold Robertson.  His sister-in-law insists they must have a wedding planner and hires one for them.  She is a tyrant, forcing things on the bride that she doesn't want.  When she turns up murdered just two weeks before the wedding, Sam and her grandmother, Nana Jo start the investigation.


The Right Sort of Man (Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery #1) by Allison Montclair - Iris and Gwen run the Right Sort Marriage Bureau in London.  When one of their clients is murdered, they put themselves in risky situations in order to discover who wanted their client dead.


The Price of Valor (Global Search & Rescue #3) by Susan May Warren - Russians, spies, and a volcanic eruption in Italy make for an edge-of-your-seat story.  Add a little romance and you have an enjoyable read.

Don't Keep Silent (Uncommon Justice #3) by Elizabeth Goddard - Investigative journalist, Rae Burke, has been asked to help her brother find his missing wife.  When she joins forces with former DEA agent, Liam McKade in the Wyoming wilderness, things get interesting.

I have also been working my way through One Hundred and One Famous Poems.  My plan is to read one poem a day.  In reality, I sometimes read one poem, sometimes more than one and other times I don't read any poems.  

I hope your January was full of great reads!

~ 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. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Book Review: Don't Keep Silent by Elizabeth Goddard

Don't Keep Silent (Uncommon Justice, #3)Don't Keep Silent (Uncommon Justice #3). Elizabeth Goddard.  Fleming H. Revell Co. (2020). 368 pages.  Genre:  Suspense.

First Line: "Dread warred with hope as Rae Burke shivered in the cold outside on the porch."

Summary:  Rae Burke's sister-in-law is missing.  Her brother has asked for her help in locating his wife.  Rae is an investigative reporter who has used her skills to find people and information.  Her brother is hoping those same skills will help her find Zoey.  Rae and Zoey were roommates in college and during that time Zoey went missing for several days.  That was five years ago.  Could the two be related?

Liam McKade has returned to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to help his brother at his ranch.  Previously, Liam was was an undercover agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.  Several months ago he took a bullet in order to save a woman's life.  That woman was Rae Burke.  As far as he's concerned, Rae used him to get what she wanted.  He is still kicking himself for being taken in so easily, not to mention risking his life for her.  So, when she approaches him asking for his help, he wants nothing to do with her.  But, frankly, he is surprised that she would even approach him.  So, he listens to what she has to say.  Liam realizes that Rae is putting herself in a dangerous situation as she looks for her sister-in-law and he knows he can help her and protect her in the process.  But, the clock is ticking, will they be able to find Zoey before it's too late?

My thoughts:  From the beginning I felt like I was missing something in this book.  It is the third book in the Uncommon Justice series, and it has been a while since I read the second book.  But, the books don't include the same characters each time, rather the focus is on a woman who becomes involved with one of the McKade men.  I kept thinking that part of this story had been told in another book.  I don't think it had, there were just some things that happened between Rae and Liam in their past and it wasn't all revealed at once.  Unfortunately, that caused the characters to feel a bit shallow.  

However, the mystery was a good one.  The whole idea of Zoey having disappeared previously in her life and wondering how and if they were connected was interesting.  Rae was truly the best person to investigate this because of the connection she had to Zoey in the past and what she knew about her.  She did work with the police, but because the clues or information she had weren't real solid, they often couldn't follow up on the leads she gave them.  This is where it was helpful to have Liam involved.  There were plenty of suspicious characters involved.  Several who were good at hiding the truth.  Then there were some who were telling the truth, but seemed suspicious.  

Much of the action took place in Jackson Hole, Wyoming during the height of skiing season.  The author brought the wilderness areas and ski slopes to life.  

Rae was being targeted and harassed, but she had no idea who would even know what she was investigating, so that made it really suspenseful.  There were a few treacherous situations on the ski slopes and snowy mountains.  

As Rae and Liam worked together, they attempted to work through their past.  In the process they found that they truly cared for one another.  

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, but given that the characters felt a bit shallow, it was my least favorite of the three in the series.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Book Review: The Price of Valor by Susan May Warren

Price of ValorThe Price of Valor (Global Search and Rescue #3). Susan May Warren.  Fleming H. Revell Co. (2020). 386 pages. Genre: Suspense, Christian Fiction.

First Line: "As long as Hamilton Jones had breath in his body, nothing, not even tooth decay, would hurt his little girl."

Summary:  Hamilton Jones, Ham for short, is still getting used to the idea that he is a father.  His ten-year-old daughter, Aggie, came into his life just a few months ago.  His wife, Signe, who he thought died ten years ago, sent word to Ham letting him know that Aggie was his daughter and would he please take care of her.  After a yacht they were on near Italy exploded, Signe was able to get Aggie safely to shore and then disappeared.  Ham was shocked.  Not only was his wife alive, he had a daughter.  He is determined to find Signe and bring her home.

Senator White has invited Ham and his search and rescue team to a fundraiser in Washington D.C. White knows about Signe and Ham has high hopes that the real reason for asking them to the fundraiser is that he has information about her.  When Signe disappeared ten years ago, she had been captured by a terrorist.  She convinced the man that she was on his side.  While there, she discovered that he had stolen the NOC list.  The list of nonofficial covers of CIA operatives around the world.  She is afraid that her name is on that list.  So she stole it and planned a way to escape.  Now she is on the run.  She can't open the list because it is encrypted.  She needs to get it into the hands of someone who can open it and keep it safe.  

Senator White sends Ham and his team to Italy to find Signe and get the NOC list.  Unfortunately, the very first day they are in Italy, Mount Etna, a volcano about 40 kilometers from the town, erupts.  The town becomes engulfed in lava and noxious gas.  The team is separated and as night falls they are trying to find one another.  Will they all survive?  Will the team be able to get back together and find Signe before the terrorists find her?

My thoughts:  Susan May Warren knows how to put her characters right in the middle of a natural disaster and keep the reader right on the edge of her seat.  This story definitely does that!

This time the natural disaster is the aftermath of a volcanic eruption.  Warren has a way with words that makes the reader feel as if she is right next to the hero.  These characters, both men and women, are heroes.  They are trained in various areas of helping others in trouble.  They are brave and willing to sacrifice their lives to help others.  If the other is someone they care about, they will go to extreme lengths to help.  Now, even though these characters often take risks and do dangerous things, they don't do them needlessly or without thought.  That is one of the things I really appreciate about these characters.  They don't needlessly takes risks, but regularly do things I can never imagine doing.  Such as climbing mountains or the sides of buildings.  Diving under water to escape gunshots or get out of a building filling with water.  Jumping from one high place to another.  Or simply knocking a bad guy senseless.  The adventure and bravery is what keeps me coming back to these stories.

The main focus this time is on Ham and Signe.  They have a lot to overcome.  First of all, Ham needs to convince Signe to stop running away from him.  He also needs to find out where she has been for the past ten years and why she never told him he was a father.  Some very difficult things are revealed which will take time to work through.  I love Ham's character.  He is loyal to a fault, honorable and brave.  He is a great leader and encouragement to his team and others. He and Signe have known one another since they were young.  Signe has a lot of shame and doesn't feel worthy of love.  She needs to feel safe and take time to heal. 

Warren has written several series telling the stories of most of the other characters that show up here.    It is fun to catch up with what is going on in their lives.  The secondary story line this time is between Orion and Jenny who were the focus of The Way of the Brave, the first book in this series.  

While I enjoyed this story, it didn't quite have the same "wow" factor that the other two books in the series do.  I think there was just so much that had to be sorted out that not as much time was spent in the aftermath of the volcano.  Overall, this was an enjoyable read that took me far away from my daily life.


"It looked like it had been a former apartment building, with an antique, gated elevator next to a stairway that circled up four stories.  The stairs ended at a terrace with rattan tables and chairs, gardenias in pots, and a view of the snow-covered Mount Etna in the background.  The volcano rose maybe forty kilometers away.  A tuft of smoke gusted from the mountain as if it might be breathing hard in the autumn wind."

"'I was hoping for chocolate.'  'Weren't we all.  But they're still good.  It is Italy.  Everything here is good.  It's just a matter of letting go of your expectations, letting your taste buds take you where they will.  You might be surprised.'"

"'I don't know if you believe in God, Orion, but you are never helpless when you are in God's hands.  God does not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.  Which means we do not despair.  We do not let the enemy take control of our hope.  Hope is the weapon of the Lord, and right now we are going to wield it, in Jesus' name.'"

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Book Review: The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

The Right Sort of Man (Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery #1)The Right Sort of Man (Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery #1). Allison Montclair.  Minotaur Books (2019). 320 pages. Genre:  Historical Mystery.

First Line:  "Tillie climbed the stairs from the Bond Street Station out to Davies Street, blinking in the afternoon light."

Summary:  Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge met at a wedding. Each was there alone, so they spent the evening chatting.  Iris noticed that Gwen was excellent at reading people.  Gwen noticed that Iris "knew people".  They decided they would make a good team and came up with the idea to start The Right Sort Marriage Bureau.  

The war has ended and Iris and Gwen have been running The Right Sort for a few months when a new client visits them.  Tillie LaSalle is looking for a husband.  Iris and Gwen put her through the questioning process and send her on her way with the promise of hearing from them in a few days with a possible candidate.  After checking their files, they come up with just the right man for Tillie and make arrangements for the two of them to meet.  However, when they report to the office the next morning they learn that Tillie has been murdered and the candidate has been arrested.  How can this be?  Neither of them believes Dickie Trower is capable of murder.  There did seem to be something off about Tillie.  She seemed like a nice girl, but she may have been hiding something.  Was Tillie involved in something that got her killed?

My thoughts:  It took me a while to warm up to this one.  It wasn't until I was more than half way through that I connected with the main characters.  I'm not sure why.  But, once I got in the groove, I didn't want it to end.

Iris Sparks has a past, most of which she can not tell Gwen about.  She served in the military in some capacity and hints that it was in some sort of special operations.  She lives on the edge, takes chances.  She knows people in high places and low places.  Both come in handy.  She has had two fiancees and is now in a relationship with a married man.  

On the other hand, Gwen, also known as Mrs. Bainbridge, is a widow with a child.  Her husband died in the war.  She grieved deeply.  In fact, so deeply that her in-laws had her committed to a sanitorium and took custody of her child.  She now resides in their stately home with servants and calls her mother-in-law Lady Carolyne.  The ability to hold a job would put her in good stead with her in-laws, she imagines.  More than anything, she wants to regain custody of her child.  

At a turning point in the story, Iris and Gwen are having a conversation about a man they have met in the course of their investigation that has taken a liking to Gwen.  This conversation points out their differences.

    "'I like him,' admitted Gwen.  'But it could never work.  I've already lied to him about who I am and         what I do.  It would be a cruelty for me to lead him on any further.'  

    'So have yourself a fling and be done with it,' urged Iris.  'We're entitled to a little fun every now and     then.'

    'Even if it's at the expense of someone else?'

    'It'd be fun for him, too, don't you think?'

    'What I think is that I am not like you in this respect,' said Gwen.  'I am not being disapproving, mind     you, but I've never been - '

    She paused, not wanting to complete the sentence.

    'Promiscuous?' said Iris.  'Is that the word that you hesitate to apply?'

    'You're not promiscuous,' said Gwen. 'You're adventurous.'"

The mystery was full of twists and turns.  The police arrested their suspect, but both Iris and Gwen doubted he was the culprit.  They began looking into Tillie's life to discover who might have had motive to kill her.  This leads them to some interesting people and places.  Most of which Iris is comfortable in and Gwen is not.  In most of the situations they need to pretend to be ladies of a different place and class than they are which leads to them needing to speak, dress and act differently.  I was completely surprised when the culprit was revealed.

The best part of the story is the back and forth banter between characters.  The author is gifted in this and it is often hilarious.  

Not only was this a great mystery, but it was full of historical information of time and place.  It takes place just a few months after the end of WWII in London.  I felt immersed in that world.  The main characters are interesting and deep.  They both grow in the course of the story which was enjoyable to watch.  Best of all, the story ends on a positive note and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.


"A park lay beyond it, much of it taken up by allotments for community gardens.  It will be nice when it goes back to its original purpose, thought Gwen.  When there's food enough again that we can all start enjoying life like we used to."

"'I'm glad you reminded me about that fish,' said Mrs. Dowd.  'It will give me something to do.  Someone to take care of.  That's all we need when all is said and done, isn't it?'"

"What would she require if she succeeded? She would at the very lead need a governess to take care of Ronnie while she went off to the Right Sort every day.  And a maid and a cook.  Or a maid who could cook.  Or a cook/maid/governess, if there was such a thing.  Oh, wait, she thought.  There are such things.  They're called wives."

    "'Iris, there are so many differences between our lives.' 

    'Because he's a carpenter?  May I remind you that Jesus was a carpenter?' 

    'Jesus didn't date.'

    'Yes, bad example, I see that, now.  But why not pursue Des some more?'"

Calendar of Crime: February - couple/romance/love triangle major role

Monday, January 18, 2021

Book Review: Muzzled by Eileen Brady

Muzzled (Kate Turner, DVM #1)Muzzled (Kate Turner, DVM #1). Eileen Brady.  Poisoned Pen Press (2014). 250 pages.  Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Lines:  "'Where's the patient?' The teenage boy with the buzz cut waved me toward the living room.  A vacuum cleaner stood in the middle of the wall-to-wall beige carpet."

Summary:  Dr. Kate Turner is filling in at a veterinary clinic that makes house calls in upstate New York.  Doc Anderson is taking a year long cruise with his sister.  In the few months Kate has been working at Oak Falls Veterinary Hospital, she has become familiar with several of the clients. One in particular she has visited several times.  Vivian and Thomas Langthorne raise and show Cavalier King Charles spaniels.  With twenty-seven dogs, there is usually one who needs attention.  Kate is scheduled for a recheck of one of the animals.  However, when she shows up at the appointed time, no one answers the door.  She can hear the dogs barking inside, but figures her clients can't hear the doorbell over the din.  As she tries the door handle, she is surprised to find the door unlocked.  Upon entering the home, the first thing she notices is an overpowering odor.  She calls out as the dogs begin running circles around her.  When she reaches the living room, she is horrified by what she sees.  It appears as though Mr. and Mrs, Langthorne were having a tea party, however there is blood everywhere.  Something is wrong with this picture.  It appears to be a murder-suicide, but things don't add up.  Why were the dogs in the house?  The Langthornes loved those dogs, but usually kept them in kennels.  They would never let all of them in the house at the same time.  That would not allow for controlled breeding.  Kate had witnessed arguments between the couple that ten minutes later had been forgotten.  Did Thomas Langthorne kill his wife and then take his own life?  Or did someone want it to look that way?

My thoughts:  Author Eileen Brady has been a veterinarian for over twenty years.  Her experience added so much depth to the story.  It was fascinating to travel with Kate on her house calls and peek over her shoulder while she performed examinations or surgeries at the hospital. 

Kate Turner is a likeable woman.  She is recovering from several months of  "mooning" over her former boss, who was going through a divorce.  He told Kate he needed her.  So she would go out to dinner with him and listen while he complained about his problems.  She thought the relationship was going somewhere until Tiffany showed up with her Pomeranian.  Now he is engaged to Tiffany.  Kate feels like a fool, but taking this job helped remove her from the situation.  She obviously loves animals.  You can actually see the vet in her take over when she meets with clients.  She is calm, collected and kind.   I feel like we have only scratched the surface of who she is though.  

There are several supporting characters who have potential to become interesting.  Her assistant, Mari, for example.  She keeps Kate on track and never asks questions.  Then there is Mama G, the Italian grandmother who runs a local diner and makes the best pie.  Also, her grandson, Luke, the handsome man who works for the police department.  My favorite was Henry James.  A giant man with shaved head, Harley belt buckle and tattoos who also has a giant Siamese cat named Dante.  He is very tough on the outside, but gentle on the inside.

The mystery was complicated with plenty of suspects and red herrings.  I thought something was off about the culprit, but didn't suspect that person of the crime.  

My favorite part of the story was all the interesting animals Kate met on her appointments and the descriptions of what was wrong with them and the treatment.  

This was a good start to the series.  I am looking forward to spending time with Dr. Kate again.

Calendar of Crime = March, Book title has a word starting with "M", Money/Fortune/Inheritance has major role

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Book Review: Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

Before the Coffee Gets Cold
Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Toshikazu Kawaguchi. Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot. Picador (2019). 273 pages. Genre:  Fiction. 

First Lines: "'Oh gosh, is that the time?  Sorry, I have to go,' the man mumbled evasively, as he stood up and reached for his bag."

Summary:  Funiculi Funicula is a small, basement cafe in the city of Tokyo.  The cafe serves delicious coffee, but it is also becoming known for its ability to allow people to travel in time.  The cafe is over 100 years old and its interior hasn't changed much since it opened.  While the summers are hot, the cafe has no air conditioning, but is always cool.  

In order to travel in time, there are several rules that must be followed.  Most notably, "no matter how hard one tries while back in the past, one cannot change the present".  Most people are deterred from attempting time travel by these rules.  However, one summer, four people decide to take a chance and travel back in time.  Each of them has some unfinished business in a relationship that causes them to think that if they set things right in the past, they can more easily accept what has happened in the present.  Is it pointless to go back in time if you can't change the present?  Or is there something else to be gained?

My thoughts:  This was a unique, moving story that unfolds page by page.  

The cafe is run by a manager and his wife.  They have one other employee, who has appointed herself as the one who instructs those desiring to time-travel on the rules.  She also pours the coffee.  The other characters make up the atmosphere of the cafe.  They are regulars who interact with one another and several of them decide to travel back in time this particular summer.  

There are four chapters in the book which correspond with the four characters that time-travel.  These are relationships that are common to all of us, which makes it easy to identify with these characters and the unfinished business they have.  The chapter titles are:  The Lovers; Husband and Wife; The Sisters; Mother and Child.

I enjoyed the writing style of this author.  He interspersed present day conversation with stories of the character's past.  It was easy to switch back and forth because there would be a symbol (a coffee cup) on the page separating one from the other.  The author also included some factual information about Tokyo or the cafe's history or a medical condition experienced by one of the characters.  I found this interesting and it added depth to the story.  

I don't often read stories involving magical realism or time travel, but I'm glad I read this one.  It was an enjoyable read that I won't soon forget.


"Water flows from high places to low places.  That is the nature of gravity.  Emotions also seem to act according to gravity.  When in the presence of someone with whom you have a bond, and to whom you have entrusted your feelings, it is hard to lie and get away with it.  The truth just wants to come flowing out."

Monday, January 11, 2021

Book Review: My Mrs. Brown by William Norwich

My Mrs. BrownMy Mrs. Brown.  William Norwich.  Simon Schuster (2016). 288 pages. Genre: Fiction.

First Line:  "Early one September not long ago, a rural woman with a secret grief traveled to New York City in pursuit of a dream, to buy the most beautiful and correct dress she'd ever seen."

Summary:  Mrs. Brown has spent her life in the small town of Ashville, Rhode Island.  She has lived a quiet life, working hard, loving others and enjoying the simple things in life. She works at the local beauty parlor doing odd jobs and running errands.  Mrs. Brown has been a widow for several years, but enjoys the company of her best friend and next door neighbor, Mrs. Fox.  

When Mrs. Fox is called out of town to help her daughter, her granddaughter, Alice, comes to live in her home.  Alice is twenty-three and feels worlds away from Mrs. Brown.  However, she promised her grandmother that she would look in on Mrs. Brown daily.  The two develop a habit of sitting at Mrs. Brown's kitchen table, drinking tea and discussing their days.  Alice finds that she looks forward to this.  

Mrs. Brown has been asked by the owner of the local thrift shop to help inventory the donations from Millicent Groton's house.  For generations the Groton family had lived in a beautiful mansion on the outskirts of Ashville.   Mrs. Groton recently passed away and many of the belongings will be auctioned off by a posh international auction house.  Whatever is not deemed worthy of the auction house will be donated to the local thrift shop.  Mrs. Brown is so excited she can hardly sleep.  

The day finally arrives.  She is awed by the interior of this home that she has only ever seen from the outside.  While helping in the bedroom, she notices a dress in Mrs. Groton's closet.  

"This was a sleeveless black dress and a single-button jacket made of the finest quality wool crepe.  Its correctness was its allure.  Suggesting endless possibilities and the certainty of positive outcomes if one wore this dress.  The richness of the affect of this suit, its elegance and poise, was the work of a master."

Mrs. Brown is immediately drawn to the dress.  Never in her life has she had a dress that was so regal, so "grown-up".  She remembers Mrs. Groton wearing it on several occasions.  They were always important occasions such as lunch with the Queen or with the President and First Lady at the White House or when she gave a speech.  She always looked graceful, elegant and strong. Mrs. Brown determined that she needed a dress like this.  But how will she ever afford it?  

My thoughts:  I absolutely loved Mrs. Brown.  I filled several pages in my commonplace book with quotes about her.  She was the kind of person who lived quietly, did her duty and was content.  Some people looked down at her and made fun of her, usually behind her back, but she often overheard or just picked up their attitude.  Her feelings were hurt by this, but she never complained and continued to treat those people with kindness.  Other people's lives were made better by knowing her.  If anyone told her this she was surprised to learn it and often felt that it was the others who made her life better.

So, it maybe seemed out of character for her to desire such an expensive dress.  But, learning what it was that this dress signified to her and why was part of the mystery of the story.  It was wonderful to meet the people that came into her life and helped her on her journey to the dress.  It was wonderful to see what they added to her life and she to theirs.  It was just a really good story.  There are not many books that I finish and immediately want to start over at the beginning, but this was one of those.  

Other reviews said it reminded them of Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico.  I have not read that, but Mrs. Brown reads the book in the course of this story.  

One minor thing to note, there is some language in the story, but it is very minor.  It is always used by certain people and fits the character.


"Mrs. Brown was genteel.  That's not a word used much anymore, except maybe when people talk about some of the characters on PBS shows.  As it relates to Mrs. Brown, is signifies a graceful way, someone free from vulgarity and rudeness.  Aristocratic in a manner having nothing to do with money, fame, and celebrity."

"Mrs. Brown, has a noble spirit - the honorable loneliness of the American grown-up.  A life sustained by quietude and the energies of tolerance, kindness, courtesy, and acceptance.  In a blustery world, it's courageous to move quietly, claiming few, if any, treasures except one's solitary dignity."

"Mrs. Brown wasn't going to mention Delphine Staunton's nastiness.  She never thought it wise for anyone to look too long at the negative things in her life.  Where you look, there you go."

"Leaving some things unsaid is an underestimated virtue."

"It's a great fault of the current fashion system that rather than innovating on the functionality of what we wear, the industry mostly only addresses the fear of not looking young, trendy, or rich."

"Mrs. Brown remembered what her mother always told her.  If you are offered a glass of water in someone's home, always accept it, whether you are thirsty or not.  This shows that you visit with pleasure, not resistance."

Friday, January 8, 2021

Japanese Literature Challenge 14

Japanese Literature Challenge 14

Hosted by Dolce Bellezza

January 1, 2021 - March 31, 2021


Here is what I am hoping to read for this challenge:

Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Salvation of a Saint (Detective Galileo, #2)

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Book Review: A Call for Kelp by Bree Baker

A Call for Kelp (Seaside CafĂ© Mystery, #4)A Call for Kelp (Seaside Cafe #4). Bree Baker.  Poisoned Pen Press (2020). 352 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Lines: "'Hey, y'all!'  I greeted the selfie mode on the cell phone poised in my outstretched arm."

Summary:  Everly Swan is the owner of Sun, Sand & Tea iced tea shop in the beachside town of Charm, North Carolina.  Everly's great-aunts also live in Charm and are in the process of making a documentary about the American honeybee.  Iconic actress, Mitzi Calgon, has come to town to show her support for the documentary.  There will be a celebration luncheon held at the nature center.  Fans of Mitzi Calgon have turned out in droves.  

Everly's grandmother was a good friend of Mitzi's.  As a gift to Everly, Mitzi has brought all the letters she received from Everly's grandmother.  After the luncheon, they are going to get together and reminisce about the beloved woman.

Mitzi is going to give the opening statements at the luncheon.  Unfortunately, when it is time to begin, Mitzi is missing.  When the curtains on the stage open, many in the crowd gasp.  Mitzi has been found.  Her swollen face is pressed against the side of the plexiglass box of bees.  Mitzi was allergic to bees.  How she ended up in that box is a mystery.

My thoughts:  I love the characters in this series, so it is always enjoyable to return to Charm.  Everly's friendship with Denise grows in this book.  Denise is the au pair of Detective Grady Hays' son.  She was hired by his former mother-in-law after the death of his wife.  She is working part-time at the cafe while Denver is in school which gives them time to get to know one another. Everly has always thought there was more to her story than meets the eye.  We learn a little about that in this book.  

Grady and Everly's relationship grows every so slowly as well.  The pace is just right and doesn't overpower the story.  Grady is a complicated man with a complicated past.  Everly would love to know more about that but is mostly patient in waiting for him to open up.  

Everly's great-aunts have a smaller role in this story, but are still present.  We see a lot of Wyatt and Ryan, which was fun.  Her best friend, Amelia, has a smaller role as well.  Her dad is one of the prime suspects in the murder.  

There were several suspects in the murder that had strong motives. Before Everly can even begin to ask questions, she is threatened.  She really doesn't want to get involved, but when she is encouraged by Ryan and Denise, and when her curiosity kicks in, she can't seem to help getting involved.  This puts her in danger and gives Grady indigestion.  There were plenty of red herrings and I never suspected the killer.

I appreciated Everly's willingness to involve Grady when opportunities came her way to get involved in the investigation.  It seems she has learned from past mistakes.

I also appreciated the humor in the story.  Everly's comments or thoughts had me laughing out loud more than once.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable addition to this highly recommended series.


"Riding in Grady's truck was one of my favorite things. The cab was always warm and it smelled of his cologne, soap, and shampoo.  There was sand on the floorboards and country music on the radio.  The space was familiar and comfortable when I needed both, and today there were bubblegum wrappers and plastic horses in the cupholders - signs Denver had been there earlier.  I especially loved that.  The only thing more attractive on earth than Grady in a cowboy hat arresting bad guys was Grady holding Denver's hand."

"Our town was a different place at this hour.  Closed shops. Empty sidewalks. All put on hold for sunrise.  Charmers were a morning people.  A 'greet the day with a smile' people.  The sort who walked the beach or boardwalk before breakfast and accomplished more by lunch than most could before dinner."

Calendar of Crime: August - month related item on cover, beach

Monday, January 4, 2021

Book Review: The Printed Letter Bookshop by Katherine Reay

The Printed Letter BookshopThe Printed Letter Bookshop. Katherine Reay. Thomas Nelson (2019). 324 pages.  Genre: Contemporary, Christian Fiction, Women's Fiction.

First Lines:  "People parted around us in the courtyard.  No one stopped to say anything - why would they? No one had ever seen us before."

Summary:  Madeline Cullen is a rising lawyer in the Chicago area.  She anticipates being made a partner very soon.  However, the firm has different ideas.  When the partner position is given to a man at the firm, Madeline hands in her resignation.  She immediately has doubts, but realizes you only get one shot at becoming partner.  She has no plans for what to do next.

Her aunt recently passed away.  She attended the funeral with her parents.  Madeline has wonderful memories of spending time with her aunt and uncle when she was young.  However, there was a disagreement between her dad and aunt which led to the families not spending time together.  Madeline was loyal to her dad, but her own memories of her aunt are different than the aunt her dad seems to be portraying.  When Madeline receives a phone call from her aunt's lawyer letting her know that her aunt's house and bookshop have been left to her, she is stunned.  She doesn't want it.  She is a lawyer who lives in the city, not a bookshop owner.  

Madeline has no choice but to go visit the bookshop and the house to figure out what needs to be done to get them ready to sell.  However, she immediately feels at home in her aunt's house and is drawn to the bookshop.  The more time she spends there, the more she wants to stay.  

There are two women who work at the bookshop and loved Aunt Maddie, Claire and Janet.  At first they are polite, but cold toward Madeline.  She realizes how much they loved her aunt and feels remorse that she didn't spend more time with her.  But how could she without betraying her dad?  The bookshop is very important to both Claire and Janet.  Madeline begins to catch their vision.  Can the women work together to keep the bookshop afloat, or are they too late?

My thoughts:  There are so many things to like about this story.  First, much of the book takes place in a bookshop and the characters are surrounded by books.  The characters are likeable and the relationships between them are rich and deep.  While this is a feel good story in many ways, the characters deal with some significant difficulties.

The bookshop is an amazing place that people enjoy.  There is so much of Aunt Maddie in the shop.  She loved people and always made them feel welcome.  Along with her will, Maddie left an envelope for Claire, Janet and Madeline.  In each envelope was a list of books to read.  The lists were personalized based on what Maddie knew of each one and what she thought they needed.  How I would love to see those lists!  The author tells us that each list was a love letter that must be kept private.  However, some of the books each character is reading are mentioned as well as many other books.  The author has included a list of all the books mentioned.

Madeline, Claire and Janet all grow in significant ways throughout the story.  Each of them becomes a better person and deals with some things that were keeping them from being the best person they could be.  They also become great friends.  One of the major themes in the book is forgiveness and along with that, apology.  

Madeline's relationship with her parents is really good, but it also grows in the course of the story.  She is able to see her mom as a person and not just "mom".  She respects her dad and is still loyal to him even as she begins to understand what happened between her aunt and dad.

Claire is married and has two children who are teenagers.  She struggles with finding her place in life now that her kids don't need her as much.  Claire loves working at the Printed Letter Bookshop, but her daughter seems to resent it.  Claire struggles with the way her daughter seems to be pulling away and is not sure what to do about it.  She and her husband love one another, but so much of their focus is on their kids these days.

Janet was recently divorced and is still struggling with guilt from that.  Her children seem distant as well and she blames herself for ruining their family.  

This was a deep, moving story full of books, friendship, forgiveness and a touch of romance.  I highly recommend it.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Book Review: The 39 Steps by John Buchan

The 39 Steps (Richard Hannay, #1)The 39 Steps. John Buchan.  William Blackwood & Sons (2004) (First published 1915). 100 pages. Genre: Mystery, Classic.

First Line:  "I returned from the City about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life."

Summary:  Richard Hannay is thoroughly bored with his life in London.  He has been back for three months after having been in South Africa.  He has decided he will give it one more day and if nothing exciting happens, nothing to give him purpose or interest, he will head back to South Africa.  

As he is returning to his apartment after dinner, a neighbor approaches him and asks if he can come inside.  The man seems very agitated, which makes Hannay reluctant at first.  However, he invites him in.  He has quite a story to tell about an assassination plot he discovered accidentally against someone high up in politics.  Hannay lets the man stay.  

Hannay finds the man murdered in his apartment one day when returning home.  He now realizes the man wasn't making the story up.  He also realizes that he is the next target.  

My thoughts:  I enjoyed John Buchan's writing style.  It was straight-forward and easy to understand.  Although, at times, I was a little lost as to what was happening when he was on the run.  

Richard Hannay was always just a few steps ahead of those pursuing him and was never sure exactly who they were.  This makes for a suspenseful story.  He meets several people along the way.  Some he can trust, others he can't.  It was always a relief when he would trust someone and tell them his story.

Each of the characters he meets is well-drawn and often humorous in some way.  The chapter titles help summarize the characters.  For example:  The Adventures of The Literary Innkeeper; The Adventure of the Spectacled Roadman; or The Dry-Fly Fisherman.  

The author called this type of story a "shocker".  We know it as a thriller.  Whatever you call it, I recommend this classic to anyone looking for a quick, entertaining read.

Friday, January 1, 2021

December Reading Wrap-Up


Here we are at the last Reading Wrap-Up of 2020.  In December I read 11 books and chose not to finish one.

Here's the breakdown:

Christmas: 6
Cozy Mystery: 1
Mystery/Suspense: 3
Non-fiction: 1


The Christmas Angel by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer - This is the 6th book in the Cape Light series.  Mayor Emily Warwick discovers a baby that has been abandoned in the church's nativity set.  She finds herself drawn to the baby and hopes to have the opportunity to adopt her.  However, her husband doesn't feel the same way.

A Christmas to Remember by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer - This is the 7th book in the Cape Light series.  This one is about Lillian Warwick, Emily's mother.  She is such a curmudgeonly character that it was nice to learn about her past and see her in a different light.

12 Days at Bleakly Manor by Michelle Griep - Several people are invited to an English manor for the 12 days of Christmas.  Each is promised something if they remain for the entire twelve days.  No one knows who the host is.  Clara and Ben are both invited and have not seen one another for nine months.  It was nine months ago that they were to be married.  Ben left Clara standing at the altar.  

Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost - Holly White returns to her parents home after her fiancee breaks off their engagement.  Her parents own Reindeer Games Tree Farm and she is just in time to help with the festivities.  Unfortunately, on the first day of "Twelve Days of Reindeer Games", a woman is found murdered on the tree farm property.  

A Christmas Wish by Betty Neels - Olivia Harding has lost her job and needs to find another way to support herself and her mother.  Mr. van der Eisler is a surgeon at the hospital where Olivia worked.  Without her knowledge, he arranges work for her at a boarding school attended by his goddaughter. This was a lovely story with great characters and wonderful descriptions of home.

A Winter Love Story by Betty Neels - Claudia and her mother live with her uncle.  When he becomes ill, Thomas is called on for his medical opinion.  Claudia and Thomas see quite a bit of one another and find they like spending time together.  When Thomas proposes, Claudia is surprised and excited.  However, it takes some time before Claudia and Thomas realize they truly love one another.  Another good story filled with great characters and descriptions.

Cozy Mystery:

Secrets of the Amish Diary by Rachel Phillips - After her mother's death, Liz Eckardt learns that her mother was raised Amish.  Liz wants to find out more about her mother's family, so she buys an Inn in the area she was raised hoping to become part of the community.  However, when a guest at her Inn is found dead, things get complicated.


Collision of Lies by Tom Threadgill - Amara Alvarez is a detective with the San Antonio Police Department.  When she is given information that one of the children supposedly killed in a school bus crash is still alive, she wants to approach it logically.  Most likely it is a mistake, there is proof that all of the children were killed.  Or is there?  She can't stop thinking about it.  The more she investigates, she realizes there are many unanswered questions.

The Watch on the Fencepost by Kay DiBianca - Kathryn Fraiser's parents were recently killed in a car accident.  She discovers a watch that had been left on a fencepost at a park she regularly runs through.  When she comes across a person wearing the watch near where she found it, she has many questions.  Some of the answers lead her to believe her parents were murdered.  Kathryn uses the puzzle-solving skills she learned from her father to help solve the mystery.

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan - Richard Hannay is bored with his life.  He has decided that if something doesn't happen soon, he will return to his home.  Just in time, a neighbor shows up looking for a place to hide.  Richard gives him a place to stay, making him a target for the men chasing his neighbor.  Review coming soon.


The Way of Ignorance by Wendell Berry - This is a book of essays written in 2004 on various subjects.  Most relate to agriculture in some way.


Second Life by S. J. Watson - This is the book I received from Used Books Monthly.  Unfortunately, I did not finish it.  I read about half of the book.  The main reason I chose not to finish it was because of the sexual content.  I prefer a cleaner read.  But, also, I didn't like any of the characters in the book.  Had I cared about them I maybe could have skipped some pages and got the general idea.  The majority of the story takes place inside the main character's head and since I didn't like her, that wasn't a good place to be.  Also, I didn't feel like there was any progress in the mystery.  


I completed all my challenges!  I am looking forward to some new ones in 2021. 

Well, that wraps it up for 2020.  Thank you all for reading my blog!  

~ Gretchen

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.