Wednesday, June 30, 2021

June Reading Wrap-Up

 Home library with storage

Photo: Camille Styles

The month of June has brought very hot, humid weather for us.  Because of that, there has not been a lot of animal activity.  However, the dragonflies are out and so are the wasps!  We had a birthday celebration for our oldest son and have also been spending time preparing a rental property for a new tenant.  I have enjoyed a couple of trips to the library.  It feels so good to wander the aisles again!

This month I read 9 books.  Here's the breakdown:

Fiction: 1

Cozy Mystery: 3

Mystery: 2

Non-fiction: 1

Classic: 1

Children's Literature: 1


Trial and Error

Trial and Error by Robert Whitlow - Buddy Smith has been searching for his daughter for 17 years.  After giving birth to their daughter, his girlfriend left town taking the baby with her. Since that time Buddy has become a lawyer with a soft spot for cases involving missing children. When a member of the local girls softball team goes missing, Buddy is asked to help locate her.

Cozy Mystery:

Peach Clobbered (Georgia B&B, #1)

Peach Clobbered (Georgie B&B #1) by Anna Gerard - Nina Fleet has purchased a charming house in the quaint town of Cymbeline.  She intends to use it as a Bed & Breakfast.  However, she has been harassed by a man claiming the home belongs to him and was left to him by a relative.  To further complicate matters, a man has been stabbed in an alley close by.  

Pint of No Return (Ice Cream Shop Mystery #1)

Pint of No Return (Shake Shop #1) by Dana Mentink - When Trinidad Jones' husband divorced her, he left her his Hot Dog Shop.  Trinidad decides to remodel it and open it as a Shake Shop.  The problem is, Trinidad's ex-husband had other wives and he also left them businesses in the same town.  While this is awkward, Trinidad does her best to get to know other people in town.  One of the people she meets is the man who owns the popcorn shop next door.  Unfortunately, just days before her shop opens, she finds the man dead in his shop.  Now she must figure out who would want him dead. 

A Deadly Judgment (Murder, She Wrote, #6)

A Deadly Judgment (Murder, She Wrote #6) by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain - Jessica travels to Boston to serve as a Jury Consultant.  The man on trial has been accused of killing his brother.  He claims to be innocent and his lawyer believes him.  He has an alibi for the time of the murder, however, before they can select the jury, the alibi is killed.  As the case becomes more complicated, Jessica feels she is in over her head. 


A Peculiar Combination (Electra McDonnell #1)

A Peculiar Combination (Electra McDonnell #1) by Ashley Weaver - Ellie and her Uncle Mick make their living by cracking safes.  They are good at what they do, but one night they get caught.  They fear they will be sent to jail.  Instead, they are asked to help the government in the war effort.  The government needs someone very skilled at cracking safes to help them recover sensitive weapons plans.  Ellie doesn't like the idea of working for the government, but it sounds more appealing than going to jail.

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot, #4)

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie - Hercule Poirot has retired to a quiet town.  However, when a local man is murdered, a family member convinces him to investigate.  The man was stabbed in his study while several people were in the house.  Everybody is hiding something and Poirot has to use his little gray cells to sort it out.


The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of Clutter

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta MagnusonMargareta Magnusson has death cleaned more than once.  Not for herself, but after a loved one has passed away.  She describes it like this, "For me it means going through all my belongings and deciding how to get rid of the things I do not want anymore. "  This can be done at any point in your life, but the older you get, the harder it becomes.  


The Iliad of Homer: Translated by Samuel Butler

The Iliad by HomerThe epic story of war between the Trojans and the Achaeans, involving gods and men. 

Children's Literature:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia, #1)

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis - Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent to the country to live with the professor during the London air raids.  While there, Lucy discovers a door to the land of Narnia through a wardrobe. I have read this many times and it never fails to be a good story.

That's it for this month.  I hope you have had a June full of wonderful 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. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Book Review: A Deadly Judgment by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain

A Deadly Judgment (Murder, She Wrote, #6)A Deadly Judgment (Murder, She Wrote #6). Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain. Signet (1996). 292 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line: "I saw it as a speck on the distant horizon, a tiny insect hovering in the hot haze of the day."

Summary:  Jessica has agreed to help her attorney friend, Malcolm McLoon, by serving as a Jury Consultant on his latest case.  This means that she will be spending several weeks in Boston, a city she loves.  However, being away from home for several weeks isn't ideal.  Her publisher, Vaughan Buckley, has suggested that her next book should revolve around a murder trial.  So, Jessica sees the opportunity to serve as a Jury Consultant as research for her next book.

The case Malcolm McLoon is handling involves a wealthy man accused of murdering his brother. There is no solid evidence against him and he has an alibi for the time of the murder.  However, when his alibi is murdered, Jessica begins to wonder if she is in over her head. 

My thoughts:  One of my favorite things about this series, aside from Jessica, is visiting cities around the country that I have never visited.  This time Jessica is in Boston.  I learned so much about the city from reading this book.  It was not a place that topped my list of places to visit, but this book has certainly  moved it up.  Jessica is fortunate to be staying at the Ritz-Carlton in a room with a view of the Public Garden.  Mr. McLoon has spared no expense in regards to her stay.  She is invited to have dinner at many wonderful restaurants, is provided with a driver and enjoys some free-time to explore the city.  Boston is familiar to her as she attended college there.  

"I'm an unabashed Boston lover. To me, it's the closest thing America has to a European city, which is how I usually describe it to people who've never been there.  It's the most civil of cities, quaint, charming, superb food, plenty of culture and intellectually stimulating."

I learned a lot about the process of jury selection and court proceedings.  Malcolm McLoon has asked Jessica to help with the jury selection process.  He believes that as a writer she is very good at reading people and notices things that others wouldn't.  This made sense to me.  She also sat in on some of the court proceedings.  But, in order to keep things interesting she does take some days off for exploring and investigating. 

The original mystery, of who killed the accused's brother, was just the tip of the iceberg.  There were plenty of people with things to hide and a tangled web to unwind before the mystery was solved.  It was hard to know who to trust, even for Jessica.  

The one complaint I have is that the book contained many editing errors.  Other than that, I enjoyed this unique Murder, She Wrote installment.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Book Review: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Hercule Poirot, #4)The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Agatha Christie. William Morrow (2011) (First published 1926). 286 pages. Genre: Mystery.

First Line: "Mrs. Ferrars died on the night of the 16th - 17th September - a Thursday."

Summary:  The Murder of Roger Ackroyd begins with the death of Mrs. Ferrars.  She presumably died of an overdose of Veronal.  However there are rumors it was suicide.  Dr. Sheppard, our narrator, receives a good dose of the King's Abbot rumor mill from his sister Caroline.  And she insists it had to be suicide. 

That evening Dr. Sheppard is summoned to the home of Roger Ackroyd by a phone call asking him to come quick because Roger Ackroyd has been murdered.  However, upon arrival, he finds no knowledge of such a call.  Mr. Ackroyd has asked not to be disturbed and no one has disturbed him.  Dr. Sheppard breaks down the door to  the study and finds the man slumped over in his chair with a dagger in his neck.  Who made the call to alert Dr. Sheppard of Mr. Ackroyd's death?  Is there a connection between Mrs. Ferrars death and the death of Roger Ackroyd? Where is his nephew who is always asking for money?  There is much to investigate, so it is a good thing Hercule Poirot has retired to the village of King's Abbot.

My thoughts:  I will not soon forget this cleverly plotted mystery.  I loved following the trail of clues along with the diagrams and was quite surprised by the ending.

Dr. Sheppard is the narrator of the story, which gives it a unique perspective.  Hercule Poirot is involved, but most things are seen from Dr. Sheppard's point of view.  I enjoyed his relationship with his sister Caroline and his attitude toward her tendency for gossip.

"Whatever I told Caroline now concerning the demise of Mrs. Ferrars would be common knowledge all over the village within the space of an hour and a half.  As a professional man, I naturally aim at discretion.  Therefore I have got into the habit of continually withholding all information possible from my sister."

There are plenty of suspects along with plenty of secrets to uncover.  As Hercule Poirot says, 

"Yes, yes, I know what I am saying.  It may be something unimportant - trivial - which is supposed to have no bearing on the case, but there it is.  Each one of you has something to hide.  Come now, am I right?"

This fact makes for red herrings and dead ends galore. As always, I love Poirot's methodical processing of the information and clues.  He has taken on Dr. Sheppard as his assistant since Hastings is in Argentina.  Dr. Sheppard does a good job of documenting the case which impresses Poirot.  The story includes a list of everyone in the house at the time of the murder and their location as well as a couple of diagrams of the home.  I found it very easy to keep track of the suspects and their locations at the time of the murder, which is not always the case. 

I can see why The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is considered one of Agatha Christie's best works.  It is included on numerous lists of "best" books as well as must read books.  If you haven't read it, I encourage you to give it a try.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Book Review: Pint of No Return by Dana Mentink

Pint of No Return (Ice Cream Shop Mystery #1)Pint of No Return (Shake Shop Mystery #1). Dana Mentink. Poisoned Pen Press (2021). 350 pages.  Genre:  Cozy Mystery.

First Line: "It was an absolute monster."

Summary:  Trinidad Jones is new to the town of Upper Sprocket, Oregon.  Her family hails from Miami and her grandfather from Cuba.  A divorce is what brought her to Upper Sprocket, her ex-husband's hometown and that of his other two previous wives.  You see, when he was arrested and sent to jail, he deeded "Gabe's Hot Dogs" to Trinidad.  Since she had lost everything else, she decided to turn the shop into the Shimmy and Shake Shop.  Growing up she had helped her grandfather, Papa Luis, make ice cream.  She is determined to make a go of it.

Unfortunately, before she can open her shop, she discovers the body of a neighboring shop owner, Kevin The Popcorn King, in a giant popcorn kettle inside his shop.  Trinidad thought she had escaped the crime of Miami by coming to Upper Sprocket.  The town gossip mill is set into motion and soon everyone is whispering about greed and treasure and ex-wives.  Juliette, one of Gabe's ex-wives is the prime suspect.  Trinidad can't believe Juliette is capable of murder and is determined to discover who the real killer is.

My thoughts:  Dana Mentink is an author I enjoy so when I saw she had a cozy mystery series coming out I had to give it a try.  I am glad I did!

Trinidad Jones was devastated by her divorce.  She never saw it coming.  Not only did she learn her husband had been married before, but he had started a relationship with another woman before her divorce was finalized.  And to top it off, he was convicted of embezzlement.  The three woman caught glimpses of one another at the trial.  He left each of them a business.  Trinidad was left "Gabe's Hot Dogs" and Juliette was left "Store Some More", a storage unit facility that she has been trying to run by herself.  It is awkward when she and Trinidad meet, but they both make an effort to be civil and eventually realize that they were both hurt by the same man and share something of a bond.  So, when Juliette is suspected of murder and held in jail, Trinidad decides she needs a friend and does her best to support her.  Bonnie, the third ex-wife, is mentioned, but doesn't come into this story.

There are several great characters in the story.  Carlos and Diego, teenaged twins Trinidad has hired to help in her shop.  Quinn Logan, who owns Logan's Nut Farm just outside of town.  He has a brother, Doug, who is autistic.  Quinn is his primary caregiver and the two of them are practically inseparable. They become good friends with Trinidad.  I loved the relationship between Quinn and Doug.  Trinidad's dog, Noodles, adopted when she moved to town.  He is a senior dog who flunked his Emotional Support Training.  But he is a dog who wants to help anyone in distress.  He and Doug understand one another and get along well.   I really loved the role Noodles played in the story.  Police Chief Cynthia Bigley, older sister of Trinidad's ex-husband.  She loves her brother, but realizes he is not a saint.  She keeps an open mind and follows the clues.  I like her and hope to see more of her in future installments. 

The mystery was interesting and involved a rumor that there was hidden treasure in one man's storage unit.  The man had recently passed away and the contents of this unit were auctioned off.  Everyone seems to know about the possibility of hidden treasure, it even brought people from out of town to an open house for the man's home. So, the mystery involves trying to discover what the treasure might be as well as who would kill in order to get it. 

I enjoyed the descriptions of the town and surrounding countryside:

"Somehow the quirky name suited the town settled firmly in the shadow of the mountains, with old trees lining the streets and people who still waved hello as they drove by.  Five hours east of Portland, surrounded on three sides by the Wallowa Mountains, Sprocket was plopped at the edge of a sparkling green valley, with soaring peaks as a backdrop and air so clean it almost hurt to breathe it."

"Neat rows of well-tended trees backed a tiny wood-sided office.  The shade looked cool and inviting as she wiped the sweat from her brow."

Be warned, the descriptions of ice cream concoctions will cause your mouth to water.  There is a recipe for Easy Key Lime Ice Cream included at the end.  

Pint of No Return is a great start to what looks to be a promising series. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Book Review: The Iliad by Homer

The Iliad of Homer: Translated by Samuel ButlerThe Iliad of Homer.  Translated by Samuel Butler. Walter J. Black, Inc. (1942) (First Published 800 B.C.). 391 pages. Genre: Classic.

First Lines: "Sing, O Goddess, the anger of Achilles, son of Peleus,  that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans.  Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Zeus fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles first fell out with one another."

Summary:  The epic story of war between the Trojans and the Achaeans, involving gods and men.  The Iliad takes place during the tenth year of the Trojan War and begins with an episode involving a man who would not free the daughter of a priest of Apollo.  

Agamemmon is forced to give her up, but in retaliation takes from Achilles the lovely Briseis.  And so, war goes on between Agamemmon and Achilles.  There are tales of battles, adventure and other goings on during the final year of the war.

My thoughts:  This is my first time reading The Iliad.  I have read a couple of retellings over the years, but never original.  One of the categories in The Literary Life 19 in 2021 Reading Challenge is an Ancient Greek or Roman work, so the timing was right to read it.  I am so glad I did.  It is such a great tale full of acts of valor and heroism.  Also full of very descriptive battle scenes.  The way the tales are told is reminiscent of the way stories are told in the Bible.  

For example; "Socus had turned in flight, but as he did so, the spear struck him in the back midway between the shoulders and went right through his chest. He fell heavily to the ground and Odysseus vaunted over him saying; 'O Socus, son of Hippasus, tamer of horses, death has been too quick for you and you have not escaped him."

The telling is descriptive in a matter-of-fact way.  The reader is not told what we should think about the people or events, rather the story is played out and the reader may make his own judgement.  

Something that stood out to me was the way parents were involved in the lives of their grown sons and daughters.   Especially mothers and sons.  One situation in particular was when Patroclus, friend of Achilles is killed.  Achilles mourns deeply and his mother hears from her home and goes to him.  She comforts and helps him.  She also mourns with him and for him because she realizes that in his anger he will pursue Hector and will be killed in the battle.  She is the daughter of a god and is able to help him by getting him new armor.  But, she cannot save him from being killed.

I also enjoyed the use of similes -

"And now as a band of reapers mow swathes of wheat or barley upon a rich man's land, and the sheaves fall thick before them, even so did the Trojans and Achaeans fall upon one another;..."

"As a lion fastens on the fawns of a hind and crushes them in his great jaws, robbing them of their tender life while he is on his way back to his lair - the hind can do nothing for them even she be close by, for she is in an agony of fear, and flies through the thick forest, sweating, and at her utmost speed before the mighty monster - so, no man of the Trojans could help Isus and Antiphus, for they were themselves flying in panic before the Argives."

"As when the west wind hustles the clouds of the white south and beats them down with the fierceness of its fury - the waves of the sea roll high, and the spray is flung aloft in the rage of the wandering wind - even so thick were the heads of them that fell by the hand of Hector."

"As when a cloud goes up into heaven from Olympus, rising out of a clear sky when Zeus is brewing a gale - even with such panic-stricken rout did the Trojans now fly,..."

The Iliad is not hard to read, however I will admit I found my mind wandering at times.  I listened to most of it, but did read some as well.  I discovered Librivox, which contains recordings of books in the public domain.  The Iliad is divided into 24 books or chapters and each book is a separate recording read by a different person.  I chose to do it this way because I took several months to finish the book. I did read some chapters, but mostly listened.  

If you have never read the Iliad, I encourage you to give it a try.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Book Review: A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver

A Peculiar Combination (Electra McDonnell #1)A Peculiar Combination (Electra McDonnell #1). Ashley Weaver. Minotaur Book (2021). 304 pages.  Genre:  Mystery, Historical.

First Line: "London. August 1940. We were going to get caught."

Summary:  Electra McDonnell has been cracking safes for as long as she can remember.  It is certainly not the most law abiding way to make a living, but it has worked for the McDonnell family.  

Electra, "Ellie", was raised by her Uncle Mick along with her cousins, Colm and Toby.  Since they are away fighting in the war, Uncle Mick had allowed Ellie to come along on some of his risky jobs.  When work was good, Uncle Mick was a locksmith.  But, when that work dried up, he took jobs breaking into safes and stealing the contents.  

On this night, in August 1940, Uncle Mick and Ellie were breaking into a home to get their hands on some jewels.  The problem was, Ellie had an uneasy feeling about this job.  There was nothing out of the ordinary, nothing that should cause alarm, just a feeling she had.  

It turns out Ellie's feeling was right.  Ellie and Uncle Mick are caught and handcuffed.  They are put in a car to be transported to jail.  Instead, they arrive at a residence of sorts.  After being questioned alone, without Uncle Mick, Ellie is given a choice - agree to work for the government or go to jail.  She certainly doesn't want to go to jail, but working for the government was never in her plans.  But, as Major Ramsey explains that she would be helping the war effort, Ellie finds herself strangely excited by the prospect.  

Ellie is to assist Major Ramsey in opening a safe that contains sensitive weapons plans that have been stolen and are going to be given to the Germans.  Will Ellie be able to carry out the job without the help of Uncle Mick?  Will they be able to acquire the plans before it is too late?

My thoughts:  I am so glad I caught wind of this new series by Ashely Weaver.  Once I picked it up, I had a hard time putting it down until the end.  

I liked Ellie and Uncle Mick from the get-go.  Even though they are criminals, they are wonderful, good-hearted people.  Uncle Mick raised Ellie like his own daughter.  He had two sons of his own, and after his wife died, he raised all three of them.  His housekeeper, Nacy, was the mother-figure they all needed. Ellie's cousins are fighting for their country and they all miss them terribly.  As Ellie is a grown woman, she has an apartment on her Uncle's property.  However, Nacy still supplies a large dose of mothering on a regular basis.  The relationship between Ellie and Uncle Mick is definitely a loving one and similar to a father-daughter relationship.  

Major Ramsey is all business and as Ellie states, "As I had suspected, working with Major Ramsey was going to be very trying."  But, when one gets to know him, one finds that it is only the exterior that is rigid.  Underneath is something a bit softer.  I really enjoyed his character!  Especially the formality and stiffness, but that made the soft parts especially enjoyable.  The more they work together, the more Ellie gets to know him and understand where he is coming from.  In fact, there may be something more than a working relationship brewing.  In the course of this story, we learned a few things about his past, but there is definitely so much more to learn.  That has me looking forward to future books in the series. 

There is plenty of depth in the supporting characters as well, and much to be learned about them.  In addition to Uncle Mick and Nacy, there are Colm and Toby and their good friend, Felix. 

The mystery was complicated and suspenseful.  There were twists, turns and surprises galore.  I was completely surprised when the culprit was revealed.  

This is a historical mystery, but not many details of the war come into play.  Mostly just those that have bearing on the story.  Such as, black out curtains were being used, the cousins were away fighting in the war, and the weapons plans were going to be given to the Germans.  However, nothing more was needed.  It was through these details and the daily interactions and activities of the characters that I got a feel for the times. 

Overall, this was a fantastic story and will be one of my favorites of 2021.  


"Focus on what's before you and wait to see what comes. That was his motto, and he proved it again when he spoke."

"I looked at the neat rows, which had produced tomatoes, lettuce, onions, radish, cabbage, turnips, peas, and other fresh produce over the past few months.  There was beauty in it, in the symmetry of the rows and the way the greens glistened with dew.  There were birds chirping happily as they pranced and flew around the garden.  Even with the noise of the cars in the background, it was like a bit of the country in the middle of the city."

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Book Review: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family from a Lifetime of ClutterThe Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. Margareta Magnusson. Scribner (2018). 117 pages. Genre:  Non-fiction.

First Line: "I am death cleaning, or, as we call it in Swedish, dostadning."

Summary:  Margareta Magnusson has death cleaned more than once.  Not for herself, but after a loved one has passed away.  She describes it  like this, "For me it means going through all my belongings and deciding how to get rid of the things I do not want anymore. "  This can be done at any point in your life, but the older you get, the harder it becomes. 

In this book, Margareta takes the reader through several categories of possessions and offers helpful suggestions for making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of.  She also offers plenty of personal illustrations along the way.

My thoughts:  Swedish Death Cleaning is a topic I had heard about a couple of years ago, probably around the time this book came out.  I knew a few things about it, but had never actually read the book.  My mother-in-law recently joined a Swedish Death Cleaning Facebook group and we were again discussing the concept.  I decided I needed to read the book.  

The book is short, just over 100 pages.  I can't say that I learned anything earth shattering from reading it, but I enjoyed getting to know Margareta and felt encouraged on my own journey of getting rid of clutter. 

Margareta describes her age as, "somewhere between eighty and one hundred years old."  That is impressive and also shows that she has some life experience to share.  

From the beginning she wants to encourage the reader that death cleaning is not sad.  There is no getting away from the fact that we will all die someday.  There is also no getting away from the fact that as we age we have less energy which may make it more difficult to death clean.  Margareta encourages the reader to get started.  She has a lot of enthusiasm for the topic and says, "I have collected many things over the years, and it gives me such joy to go through them all."  Her joy and zest for life are contagious. 

She is a book lover and discusses the difficulty of getting rid of books.  She has moved to a smaller home and now, "I only keep books that I still haven't read or books that I keep returning to.  In my case these are mostly books about art and some reference books, such as a dictionary, a thesaurus, and an atlas."  Those seem to be very doable guidelines.  She mentioned that she had Bibles that were old and bound in leather.  They had belonged to relatives in her family and her husband's family.  When she was downsizing, she had trouble figuring out what to do with them.  No one in her family wanted them, the local church didn't want them.  In the end, she ended up throwing them away and felt bad about it.  However, this is what would happen to them eventually since no one wanted them.  

She discusses what it was like decluttering her home after her husband died.  She and her husband had five children who had all come home for the funeral.  However, several of them live in far away places.  She did most of the decluttering by herself and this was by choice.  She knows that if she had asked, her children would have helped her.  But, she realized that it would be difficult for them to make the arrangements.  While she admits to feeling lonely during this time, she says that it was much easier to make decisions about items without other opinions.  I appreciated her honesty.

If you are curious about Swedish Death Cleaning or maybe you have had experience cleaning up after someone else's death and would like to save your loved ones that trouble, I recommend this book.  Margareta will point you in the right direction and encourage you along the way.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Book Review: Peach Clobbered by Anna Gerard

Peach Clobbered (Georgia B&B, #1)Peach Clobbered (Georgia B&B #1). Anna Gerard. Crooked Lane Books (2019). 317 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Lines: "If the incidents of the past few weeks are ever turned into one of those Hallmark Channel murder mysteries, I'll suggest the producers call it Summer of the Penguins.  Which would be all the more ironic because I live in the small Georgia town of Cymbeline."

Summary:  Nina (pronounced "Nine-ah") Fleet has only lived in Cymbeline for a few months.  After her divorce she wanted to get out of crowded, impersonal Atlanta.  So, when she spied this house after making a wrong turn on an antiquing jaunt, she was smitten and knew she had to purchase it.  

Since that time she has been harassed by a man who claims to be a relative of the previous owner.  Harry Westcott claims his aunt meant to leave the house to him and he aims to take back what is his.  Nina has been ignoring his calls, so when he shows up on her doorstep wearing a penguin costume, she is a little rattled.  He has brought a letter that proves his aunt meant to leave the house to him.  Nina has no intention of giving up the house so easily and lets him know he will need to pursue this through the proper channels.  Thankfully, Harry leaves peacefully.  

In the meantime, the mayor of Cymbeline approaches Nina offering to approve her application for a B&B if she can open immediately.  There is a convent nearby that has been purchased by real estate developer, Mr. Bainbridge.  The Sisters of Perpetual Poverty are without a home and the mayor is trying to help them.  All of the other B & B's in town are full, so if Nina could accommodate them, the mayor would help her out by approving her application.  Nina is up for the challenge. 

The very first morning of their stay at Nina's new B & B, the nuns head to the town square to peacefully protest Mr. Bainbridge.  Nina chooses to tag along.  As she is juggling waters bottles and snacks, a frantic woman comes running out of an alley calling for help.  Someone has been stabbed.  And that someone is wearing a penguin costume.

My thoughts:  I really enjoyed this first book in the Georgia B & B series.   It drew me in to the extent that I once I started reading I became unaware of my surroundings until I was several chapters into the book. 

Nina is a likeable character.  She is new to town, but has already made a few acquaintances.  She is eager to make new friends, maybe a little too much at times.  After living in Atlanta for several years and going through an awful divorce, she was ready to live life a little slower.  

The nuns were a lot of fun!  They are all elderly, except one, who feels it is her duty to watch out for the older nuns.  These ladies may be pious, but they are not wimps.  They are very willing to stand up for what is right.  They are very capable and get things done. Nina enjoys their stay at her home and finds herself quite sad when they leave.  I hope they will make an appearance in future books in the series. 

I liked Sheriff Connie Lamb, too.  She knows how to take charge of a situation, but she also knows when to be a bit more lenient.  People trust her and she is well respected in the town and by her deputies.  If Nina comes across something she thinks would be important to the case, she does not hesitate to contact the sheriff.  I liked that about her. She is in no way trying to find the killer on her own.  

The mystery kept the pages turning.  There were several twists and secrets that might have been related to the mystery or not.  Just when I thought I might have a clue as to whodunit, another twist came up and had me doubting myself.  In the end, the killer was revealed and order was restored. 

I loved the way the author described the Georgia heat.  I could visualize what it must be like even though I have never been to Georgia.  Now I am plotting when I can come back to Cymbeline and can't wait to read the next book in the series. 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Book Review: Trial and Error by Robert Whitlow

Trial and ErrorTrial and Error. Robert Whitlow. Thomas Nelson (2021). 432 pages. Genre: Christian Fiction. 

First Line:  "Buddy Smith sat on a green vinyl chair in the expectant fathers' waiting room at the Milton County Memorial Hospital."

Summary:  Blair "Buddy" Smith has been searching for his daughter for seventeen years.  Days after she was born, his girlfriend left town and took the baby with her.  She never said goodbye or tried to contact Buddy.  Since that time Buddy has become a lawyer with a soft spot for cases involving missing children.  

Gracie Blaylock is the first female Clerk of Court in Milton County, a position she was elected to.  In her free time she coaches a girls softball league.  Gracie and Buddy have known one another since high school and their paths often cross in their work lives.  When a member of the softball team goes missing, Gracie knows Buddy will be able to help.  As the days drag on and the girl is still missing, a detective from the police force becomes involved.  The detective, along with Gracie and Buddy follow several leads, fearing the girl may be involved with drugs and prostitution.  Just as they are about to give up a new clue surfaces.  Will they be able to rescue the girl before it is too late?

My thoughts:  Robert Whitlow is a must read for me.  He is a practicing lawyer who writes fiction. This gives him special insight into the practice of law.  However, his books don't get bogged down with legal details.  He has the ability to create unique, interesting characters who have some involvement in the field of law.  This is definitely true in Trial and Error.

Gracie is a woman who stands up for what she believes is right.  She doesn't hesitate to encourage and support others.  This is especially seen in her love for the girls on the softball team.  She played the sport herself and is able to coach the girls in technique and attitude.  She has a lot of responsibility as Clerk of Court and is well-respected by judges and members of the community.  

Buddy is dealing with issues of abandonment and grief.  However, he has not let these things cause him to be stuck.  He went on with his life the best he could after his girlfriend left town, but he has never stopped searching for her and their daughter.  His father's nickname was Rascal and he lived up to it.  Keeping up appearances was important to him and he didn't like the idea of his son getting married so young.  When Buddy's girlfriend left town, Rascal thought it was for the best.  In his mind a marriage between them would ruin any chance of his son making a name for himself.  Buddy and his father didn't see eye to eye.  

While Buddy and Gracie were great characters, my favorite was Beatrice, Buddy's mom.  She has been a  widow for several years since Buddy's father passed away.  She loves to grow flowers, read books and fix food for her son when he stops by.  She is involved in her church and the community and is always ready with a listening ear. She is a woman of strong faith and fervent prayer.  

The mystery of the missing girl and Buddy's continual search for his daughter drew me in.  The involvement of the detective added an extra layer of depth to the search.  Clues were revealed slowly and many times lead to a dead end.  This caused me to want to keep reading to find more clues.  

One of the major themes in the story is that of faith and the role it plays in our daily lives.  I appreciated how the author worked this out in different ways in the characters.  Gracie and Beatrice had a strong faith, while Buddy and some of the other characters didn't.  When difficult circumstances entered their lives, the characters handled them realistically.

I also enjoyed the taste of small town Georgia.  The summer heat, gallons of sweet tea, and the sprawling front porches all gave me a feel for the area.  The sense of community was strong.  

This is a stand alone novel that involves characters with depth and interest, a good mystery and a sense of faith and community.  If this sounds appealing to you, I recommend you give it a try.


"She loved everything about the softball field. The green grass, the brown infield, and the blue sky, the smell of a top-quality leather glove, the orderliness of the white lines that framed the field of play.  It was a controlled world where the rules were clear and results easy to quantify."

"Buddy followed his mother into the kitchen.  The spacious room had the most natural light of any part of the house. Black-and-white tile squares covered the floor.  The wooden cabinets were white, and there was a round antique farm table in one corner.  Neatly stacked on the table were newspapers, books and different types of magazines.  Beatrice always kept a pitcher of freshly brewed iced tea in the refrigerator.  She filled a cut crystal glass and positioned three lemon wedges on the rim."

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

May Reading Wrap-Up


Crab Apple blossoms and May always go together in my mind.  We have had a variety of weather in May.  The first part of the month was pleasant and dry, maybe a little too dry.  Then we had heat, humidity and rain.  It looks like we are headed for heat again.

The big event for our family this month was our oldest son's wedding.  The wedding was held outside, so the weather was a concern.  The day dawned warm, humid and rainy.  The ceremony was to be held in the midst of a grove of pine trees.  However, in case of rain it would be moved under a pavilion.  By postponing the ceremony a little, we were able to hold the ceremony in the pine cathedral.  It was absolutely beautiful!  

It has been a joyous month, but my reading and blogging have suffered a little.  That is okay.  There will always be time for that!  So, on to the reading...

In May I read 8 books.  I read many good books, but my favorite was The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin.  Here's the break down:

Christian Fiction: 1
Mystery: 1
Cozy Mystery: 2
Romantic Suspense: 1
Non-fiction: 2
Historical Fiction: 1

Christian Fiction:
Father Elijah: An Apocalypse (Children of the Last Days, #4)
Father Elijah: An Apocalypse by Michael D. O'Brien - Father Elijah is sent to the Vatican in order to assist the Pope.  His mission  is to get to know the new President of Europe and convert him to the Catholic faith.


The Mugger (87th Precinct, #2)

The Mugger by Ed McBain - The second book in the 87th Precinct series.  Burt Kling and the other detectives at the precinct deal with a rash of muggings.  Unfortunately they don't have much to go on other than the mugger wears sunglasses and before leaving the scene he bows and says, "Clifford thanks you". 

Cozy Mystery:

The Secrets of Bones (Jazz Ramsey #2)
The Secrets of Bones (Jazz Ramsey #2) by Kylie Logan - When a decomposed body is found in a closet on the fourth floor of the St. Catherine's Girls' School, Jazz suspects it might be the body of a former employee of the school.  She has not been heard of for three years.  But, why would someone kill her?  And why would they put her body in this closet?  

Bookmarked for Murder (Mystery Bookshop, #5)

Bookmarked for Murder (Mystery Bookshop #5) by V. M. Burns - Samantha Washington is on a bus trip with some of the residents of Shady Acres Retirement Village.  One of the residents is her grandmother.  When a man is found expired in his seat on the bus, the trip is delayed.  Sam's grandmother and her friends beg Sam to figure out what happened.  Is it murder?  Who was this man?  

Romantic Suspense: 

Collateral Damage (Danger Never Sleeps, #1)

Collateral Damage (Danger Never Sleeps #1) by Lynette Eason - Since Asher James left the military he has been dealing with PTSD.  He finally agrees to see former Military Psychiatrist Brooke Adams.  However, when he arrives for his appointment he finds her office ransacked and her assistant murdered.  Asher and Brooke work together to figure out who is after Brooke and why.


The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon - This is the story of Kamila Sadiqi, a young woman living in Afghanistan.  The year is 1996 and the Taliban has taken over the country.  As some of her family flees the city of Khair Khana, Kamila uses her resources to find a way to support her siblings.  A riveting story told by a reporter who met Kamila while researching her graduate thesis. 

Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism

Goodbye, Things:  The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki - The author shares his personal experience with clutter and the effect it had on him.  He also shares his journey toward letting go of things.  Included are some tips on how to minimize and the benefits he has found living with less. 
Historical Fiction: 

The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin - Grace moves to London to live with a friend of her mother.  She gets a job working at a bookshop.  As war descends on London, Grace finds herself sharing her new-found love of books with others as a way coping with the terror that is surrounding them. 

Other things on the blog:

Spring in My Yard -  I shared some photos of spring in my yard, including one of a red fox that visited.

Last, but not least, our library has opened again for browsing!  I sure missed wandering the aisles, pulling books off the shelf.  

I hope your May was full of good books!

~ 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.