Monday, March 28, 2022

Book Review: Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet? by Charlene Ann Baumbich

Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet? (Dearest Dorothy, #1)Dearest Dorothy, Are We There Yet? (Dearest Dorothy #1). Charlene Ann Baumbich.  Penguin Books (2001). 256 pages. Genre: Christian Fiction.

First Line: "A powerful CRACK! broke the pre-dawn hush as a bolt of lightning seared into the field, briefly illuminating the clapboard farmhouse."

Summary:  Dorothy Jean Wetstra has lived all of her eighty-seven years in a farmhouse near the town of Partonville.  She has recently begun to think about the fact that she won't be around forever.  Maybe it is time to sell the property on Crooked Creek.  Dorothy is just not sure she is ready to leave yet.  

Meanwhile, life goes on in Partonville.  The biggest news is the death of Tess Walker, a member of the community who had kept to herself for many years.  Dorothy had been good friends with her when they were young, but life had taken its toll and Tess had retreated to her home where she rarely welcomed visitors.  Her only living relative is a niece who lives in Chicago.  

Katie and her son, Josh, are making the trip to Partonville to take care of Tess's arrangements.  Katie hasn't been to Partonville since she left for college.  She views the town as slow, backward and annoying.  Josh can't wait to see this town he has heard so much about.  Katie plans to spend as little time there as possible.  However, Dorothy's kindness and love begin to melt Katie's rough exterior.  

My thoughts: Occasionally I come across a story that is satisfying from beginning to end.  This is one of those stories.  From the get-go we learn that Dorothy is full of life and zest even if she is gaining on ninety.  She has a firm faith and sees God's hand in everything.  She loves to get out into nature, often accompanied by Sheba "Queen of the Mutt Dogs".  Pink is her favorite color and she wears it with relish.  Her ancient car, dubbed "The Tank", takes her where she needs to go often at a frightening speed.  But, most of all, she makes everyone feel loved and accepted.  

I did not immediately like Katie, but I definitely related to her.  She is a strong, accomplished woman who couldn't wait to leave Partonville for the big city.  She is used to power suits and expensive lunches.  It hasn't been easy raising her son Josh on her own.  She has developed a thick skin to protect herself. What I related to most about Katie is her realization that she has been focusing on the wrong things.  As she comes to that realization, she is honest with herself.  She doesn't change in the blink of an eye, rather it happens slowly.  As she spent time in Partonville, she couldn't deny that the people were kind and that kindness was changing something in her. 

Fifteen-year-old Josh and his mom don't have a close relationship.  Often, Katie is busy and doesn't have a lot of time for Josh. In his heart of hearts, he longs for a deeper relationship with her.  But on the exterior, he is tough, lippy and knows it all.  I really liked Josh and how he could see things for what they were.  Throughout the course of the story, Dorothy and Josh develop a friendship built on true interest in one another's lives. 

There is a lot to like about the supporting characters as well.  They are all quirky and often don't go about things in the right way.  But each of them is a loyal friend.  I look forward to meeting them in future novels. 

Throughout the story each of the main characters grows and changes.  Some of the main themes are family, friendship, kindness, recognizing what is truly important in life, and making difficult decisions.  The author does a great job of infusing the story with humor.  There were times I laughed out loud and had to read lines to my husband. 

The highest praise I can give this book is that I wanted to pick up the next one in the series the minute I finished.  I can't wait to see what is next for Dorothy and her friends.  


"Now, don't misunderstand.  I love that firstborn child of mine, just the way he is.  I simply don't kid myself about reality."

"I can't believe all of what I've heard! She's always so upbeat and funny.  So spunky and ready to help.  How does she manage to be so positive..."

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Book Review: The Highland Fling Murders by Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain

The Highland Fling Murders (Murder, She Wrote, #8)The Highland Fling Murders (Murder, She Wrote #8). Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain.  Berkley Books (1997). 290 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.  

First Line: "'Before Candlemas we went by East Kinloss, and then we yoked a plewghe of paddokis (frogs or toads).'"

Summary:  Jessica and eleven friends from Cabot Cove take a trip to Great Britain.  Inspector George Sutherland, a friend of Jessica's, invites the group to spend several days at his home in Scotland.  George's home is a castle that is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a witch who was executed long ago.  Jessica doesn't believe in ghosts, but on her first night there she catches a glimpse of the spectre.  She is not sure how to explain what she saw, but she is still not convinced it was a ghost.  Within a few days a local young lady is executed in the same manner as the legendary witch.  There is definitely something evil going on in the village of Wick and Jessica is determined to discover its source.

My thoughts:  Taking a trip with eleven friends sounds complicated.  But, as is often the case with Jessica Fletcher, she is able to diffuse disagreements with her no nonsense manner before they get out of hand.  At the beginning of their trip, the groups spends a few days in London.  One of the couples on the trip goes off on their own to do some exploring.  When they don't return, the group starts searching for them.  Someone remembers they were going to visit the Tower of London. After involving the police, the group sets off to look for them.  As it turns out, they are at the Tower of London being held hostage by a man who wants to clear the name of a relative who was burned at the stake. There are some tense moments as it all gets sorted out.  I enjoyed the history the author gave in regards to the Tower and what it meant to be locked up there in Tudor times.  

By the time the group gets to the castle in Scotland, nerves are on edge.  Most people in the town of Wick believe that the ghost of the witch who was executed inhabits the castle.  They are very superstitious and believe that the Sutherland family is cursed and therefore blame George for every bad thing that happens.  This has been difficult for George, but he is not ready to sell the castle that has been in his family for hundreds of years. 

There are two mysteries that need solving - the ghost and the murder of the local young lady. This was a bit tricky.  There weren't any obvious suspects for the murder, so Jessica had to begin looking in different directions.  She works with the local law enforcement, as usual.  There were several clues that seemed to be unrelated, but began to fit together as the story progressed.  The ghost aspect did lend a bit of eeriness to the story.  However, I always appreciate Jessica's insistence that there is no such thing as ghosts and her determination to find out what is causing the phenomenon. 

Jessica and George's relationship moves into new territory. We learn something about our heroine's past, as well as how she views her present.

Overall, this was a good addition to the series.  It was not one of my favorites, but that won't keep me from reading the next book in the Murder, She Wrote series.  


"Today, the Tower of London is anything but a brutal prison.  The famed Crown Jewels are housed there; fifty families reside within its walls, and use the 120-foot-wide moat, now covered with green grass for picnics."

"I love fly-fishing, and do it as often as time allows back home.  It's the most liberating personal experience I know.  The world disappears, all tension dissipates; there is only you and the water and the fish."

"I didn't try to fight my sweet tooth.  I savored a piece of fudge with my tea and returned to reading Malcolm James's novel."

Monday, March 21, 2022

Book Review: For Such A Time As This by Kayleigh McEnany

For Such a Time as This: My Faith Journey through the White House and BeyondFor Such A Time As This: My Faith Journey Through The White House And Beyond. Kayleigh McEnany. Post Hill Press (2021). 256 pages. Genre: Non-fiction, Memoir.

First Line: "Beams of sunlight poured through the shutters of my bedroom window."

Summary: Kayleigh McEnany gives the reader a glimpse into her time spent as Press Secretary for Former President Donald Trump.  Along the way we learn about the path she took to get there, how this role affected her personal life and how faith carried her through every circumstance. 

My thoughts:  Memoir is my favorite type of non-fiction book.  One of the things I enjoy about memoirs is that they are often full of daily details that might get left out of a biography.  For Such A Time As This was just such a book.

Before reading this book I knew very little about Kayleigh McEnany.  I admire her diligence and her dedication to what is important.  It was fascinating to see the inner workings of the White House.  I gained a deeper understanding for the time, dedication and sacrifice every member of the President's staff must give.  While this is Kayleigh's story, she spent much of the book shining a light on those around her, pointing out how they helped her or sacrificed for others.  

I really appreciated the way Kayleigh shared the struggles she faced in being a wife, mother and White House Press Secretary.  Even though she loved her job and took it very seriously, she often shed tears when leaving her daughter whether for a week or a day.  She was fortunate to have a mother who was willing and able to help her out.  She also highlights the way the President and White House staff emphasized the importance of family and gave her flexibility.  

As a Christian woman, Kayleigh's faith comes through on every page.  In most chapters she shares a situation, either in her work or personal life, where she relied on her faith.  I found this encouraging and refreshing. 

The Acknowledgements pages at the end of the book give further testimony to the type of person Kayleigh is.  I don't think I have ever read a book containing nine pages of Acknowledgements!  Each one was very personal and specific and I am sure let each person know what they meant to her.  

If you enjoy memoirs, especially those of Christian women, or are curious about the inner workings of the White House, I recommend this book.  


"If we all endeavored to recognize loss wherever it occurs, rather than taking sides, we would be far better off."

"I believe God wants everyone to embrace an Esther-like outlook.  You are sitting where you are sitting geographically, professionally, and personally for a reason.  God wants you to fulfill His purpose.  He has great plans and a solemn mission for all of us to further His kingdom."

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

 fun lucky shamrock facts


Happy St. Patrick's Day!  I can't say that I have much Irish in me, but I have always enjoyed celebrating the day.  Most years I make Corned Beef and Cabbage and Irish Soda Bread.  This year, however, my husband and I are traveling.  We are visiting my mom in Arizona and will be spectators at a St. Patrick's Day Parade.  Later today we will begin a drive to Utah to visit our son.  

I thought I would share a few St. Patrick's Day themed books:

St. Patrick's Day Murder (A Lucy Stone Mystery #14)

A Catered St. Patrick's Day (A Mystery with Recipes, #8)

St. Patrick's Day in the Morning

The St. Patrick's Day Murder (Christine Bennett, #4)

St. Patrick's Day

I will leave you with a link to an article titled 5 Lucky Shamrock Facts for St. Patrick's Day from Birds and Bloom. 

Have a great day!

~ Gretchen

Monday, March 14, 2022

Book Review: Acceptable Risk by Lynette Eason

Acceptable Risk (Danger Never Sleeps Book #2)Acceptable Risk (Danger Never Sleeps #2). Lynette Eason. Revell (2020). 320 pages.  Genre:  Romantic Suspense, Christian Fiction.

First Lines: "The pain compelled her - No...propelled her.  It had to end.  Living this way wasn't living."

Summary:  Sarah Denning is an investigative journalist with the Army stationed in Afghanistan.  Her unit is taken hostage and kept in a rough jail.  Sarah smuggled a satellite phone in the folds of her burqa and is able to send an SOS.  Sarah's father, a US Army General, sends Gavin Black and his team to perform the rescue operation.

Sarah's difficulties are only beginning.  Shot in the rescue process, she has many weeks of recovery ahead of her.  When she is finally able to be discharged, she discovers that a false psychiatric evaluation will prevent her from returning to her job.  While she is working to get the evaluation overturned, she learns of her brother's suicide.  Finding it hard to believe that he would do such a thing, she enlists Gavin to help her discover the truth.  As they begin investigating, their lives are in danger.  But Sarah can't find peace until they uncover the truth.

My thoughts:  Lynette Eason is a must read author for me.  She has a knack for creating characters that are strong and smart, while also being flawed.  Her stories are always action packed and this one is no exception.

The focus of this series is a group of friends who work together in the Middle East.  Some are in the military, others are not.  Each book focuses on one of the female characters.  In the first book, Collateral Damage, Sarah Denning was mentioned, but we didn't really get to know her.  

Sarah has become well known in the area for a story she wrote about an orphanage that was bombed in Kabul.  The incident affected several members of the military.  Many were discharged with medical issues and received treatment for PTSD.  Sarah is brave and willing to take risks to find the truth.  She also has a lot of baggage.  She has a difficult relationship with her father and tends to do things just to spite him.  I loved the way she slowly, realistically comes to realize that she has been acting out of anger and begins to accept the ways her father has been imperfect.  

Gavin Black has also left the military and started his own security business.  Formerly an Army Ranger, he also was stationed in Afghanistan.  He and Sarah dated briefly during that time.  When Sarah's father contacts him about the rescue mission, he doesn't hesitate.  He and his team are well trained not only in security, but also rescue missions.  He was hurt by Sarah previously, but is able to put that aside for the greater purpose.  Gavin also grows in the course of the story.  He confronts some things in his personal life that he had been ignoring.  

One of the major themes in the book is reconciliation.  I loved the way this was worked out in several character's lives.  

The story begins on a suspenseful note with Sarah being held hostage and rescued.  From there it only becomes more complicated.  There were so many twists and turns it was hard to put the book down.  I had a hint of where things were going, but no idea how it was going to play out.  

There are some heavier topics in this book - bombing, terrorists, suicide, PTSD, drug use and addiction.  The author never lets the atmosphere become too heavy, but balances the difficult things with hopeful things.  

While this is part of a series, it could be read on its own without missing too much.  However, I would recommend you start with the first book in the series, Collateral Damage.  It won't be long until I pick up the next book in the series. 


"Sometimes you need someone to step in and save you from yourself."

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Book Review: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery, #1)Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery #1). Mia P. Manansala. Berkley (2021). 336 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line: "My name is Lila Macapagal and my life has become a rom-com cliché."

Summary:  After moving to Chicago for college, Lila Macapagal has returned to the small town she grew up in.  When she discovers her fiancĂ©e has been unfaithful, she breaks the engagement and returns home.  She has been working at her Tita Rosie's restaurant and trying to figure her life out.  Part of figuring things out involves reconnecting with some old friends.  One of which was her first love, Derek Winter.  Derek is now writing restaurant reviews for the local newspaper and has caused several restaurant owners to despise him.  He writes scathing reviews that often lead to health department inspections and loss of business. 

When Derek becomes deathly ill after finishing his meal at Tita Rosie's restaurant and toxicology reports are showing he was poisoned, Lila is the top suspect.  She served him the dessert that was laced with poison.  Lila is completely mystified and can't imagine how the poison got in the dessert.  Unless she can prove someone else put it there, she will be going to jail.  Her pack of godmothers puts together a list of restaurant owners who would have reason to kill Derek.  As Lila begins asking questions, she discovers there is a lot she doesn't know about the people of her hometown.  As she works to try and uncover what happened to Derek, she also discovers who her real friends are. 

My thoughts:  Lila Macapagal was raised by her grandmother and aunt after her parents died.  Her family hales from the Philippines and have a love of good, traditional food.  Besides her grandmother and aunt, Lila has a bevy of godmothers and cousins she calls family.  I loved learning about the customs and culture of Lila's family.  This was accomplished in the telling of the story as well as the author's note and glossary at the beginning of the book.  

Lila is a wise young women who loves and honors her family.  However, she is trying to figure out who she is and where she belongs in the world.  Some of her family members and friends have been offended by the choices she has made.  In their opinion, family comes first, which means you think about what is best for the family, not what is best for you individually.  While this frustrates her at times, she does her best to honor those she loves. 

Her family and friends are great.  Most of them are well developed, with a few being less so.  Hopefully in future books we will get to know them better.  Lila doesn't think she has many friends, but through the course of the story she connects with some old friends and make some new ones.  I am looking forward to seeing them in future books.  There is the beginning of a love triangle going on.  I will not be sad to see that resolved. 

The mystery is multi-layered with several good suspects.  Derek Winter has become a very unlikeable person.  From the beginning we know that he has been writing negative reviews about local restaurants.  However, as the story progresses, we learn more about him and what has been going on in his life since Lila left for college.  He has made many enemies, so the suspect list is long.  This was made especially interesting because Lila didn't know most of the other restaurant owners, so we had just as much information as she did.  I had an idea who the killer might be, but was completely surprised by how it all turned out.

There is some fascinating and delicious food prepared in this story.  I was reminded of an Adobo Chicken recipe I used to make.  I need to pull it out again!  Not only is there the delicious food always being made by Tita Rosie, there is also the mention of some delicious hot drinks made at Java Jo's where Lila's best friend works.  The author has included several recipes at the end of the book.

Arsenic and Adobo contains a fine cast of characters, a strong sense of family and community, some great food and a compelling mystery.  The story wrapped up with some exciting changes for the future.  I look forward to where that takes Lila in the next book.


"I sat in the driver's seat, tears rolling down my face, embarrassed by my overly emotional reaction.  I guess it was just so reassuring that this complete stranger believed in us.  Believed in me. Nice to be reminded of all the kindness there still was in the world."

Monday, March 7, 2022

Book Review: The Big Four by Agatha Christie

The Big FourThe Big Four. Agatha Christie. William Morrow (2011) (First Published 1927). 211 pages. Genre: Mystery.

First Line: "I have met people who enjoy channel crossing; men who can sit calmly in their deck chairs and, on arrival, wait until the boat is moored, then gather their belongings together without fuss and disembark."

Summary:  Hastings returns to England and shows up unexpectedly at Hercule Poirot's residence.  As they are catching up, a mysterious man stumbles out of Poirot's bedroom and collapses.  How did the man get into the house?  Who is he and why did he write the number four repeatedly on a piece of paper.

Poirot has recently been approached by Abe Ryland, the American Soap King, to investigate some "hocus-pocus" going on in connection with a company in Rio.  Poirot has no desire to take an ocean voyage, but the sum of money offered him to investigate was such that he couldn't say no.  In the course of his investigation he has come across the term "The Big Four".  As far as he can tell it refers to a gang of international criminals.  Could the number four written on the paper by the man who collapsed be referring to this gang?  

My thoughts:  This was a bit of an unusual mystery for Hercule Poirot.  It felt more like a Mrs. Pollifax novel than an Agatha Christie novel.  

The mystery begins with the man who somehow gets into Poirot's home and then collapses.  The doctor is called for and after examining him, gives him a piece of paper to see if he will write anything.  He writes the number four repeatedly.  The doctor advises they let the man rest and recover his senses.  After the doctor leaves, the man sits up and begins reciting some things that give Poirot and Hastings several clues about The Big Four.  Now they have a puzzle to solve.  

I was bothered by the way this man showed up at Poirot's home.  There was never a definite explanation about how he entered the bedroom.  It also seemed way too convenient that he would tell Poirot and Hastings all the information about The Big Four.  Once I was able to let that go, I enjoyed the rest of the mystery.  

There are plenty of puzzles to solve and clues to follow.  There is also danger, deception and intrigue. There are explosions and kidnappings.  In usual Poirot fashion, the little gray cells are used.  I am always thankful for Hastings and his inability to use his little gray cells.  I tend to be in the dark right along with him.  

While this wasn't a typical Poirot novel, it was still a lot of fun.  


"Women are such wonderful observers - they see everything, they notice the little detail that escapes the mere man.  I have seen a woman identify one man out of a dozen others - and why, do you think?  She had observed that he had a trick of stroking his nose when he was agitated."

"Poirot employs a peculiar manner sometimes which makes it wellnigh impossible to know whether he is jesting or in earnest."

Friday, March 4, 2022

Book Review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader” (The Chronicles of Narnia, #3)The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (Book 3 in the Chronicles of Narnia). C.S. Lewis. Macmillan Publishing (1970) (First published 1952). 216 pages. Genre: Children's Fiction.

First Line: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it."

Summary:  Edmund and Lucy Pevensey are spending the summer at the home of their relatives, the Scrubbs.  Eustace Scrubb is their cousin and he is a rather difficult boy to be around. One afternoon, Edmund and Lucy were sitting in her bedroom talking about Narnia.  Eustace thinks all their talk about Narnia is silly.  When he enters the room he begins teasing them.  Soon they are all looking at the picture on the wall.  It is a picture of a ship at sea.  But something is different about this picture.  It seems that they can actually see the waves moving and feel the sea spray on their faces.  Suddenly, they are in the water inside the picture.  

They have once again entered Narnia.  The ship belongs to King Caspian who is sailing in search of seven friends of his father's that his Uncle Miraz got rid of by sending them to explore the unknown Eastern Seas.  They are welcomed on board and reunited with old friends.  Edmund, Lucy and Eustace will join them on their voyage to find the lost men.  Along the way they will encounter danger, meet some interesting creatures and discover long lost secrets.

My thoughts:  When I read these books as a child, I usually identified with Susan.  I think because I was the oldest girl in my family.  Of course, Peter and Susan are now too old to visit Narnia, so they are only mentioned in this book.  I am finding that I am now relating more to the difficult people in the stories.  In this one that is Eustace.  

He grumbles and complains.  He doesn't like it when things are different.  He has no sense of adventure.  There are times when I feel exactly like that.  I really love the way C.S. Lewis portrays his metamorphosis.  I don't want to say too much in case you haven't read the book.  I'll just say it is very fitting.  When he returns to our world, he returns a better person.

A sea-faring adventure is always a lot of fun and this was no exception.  Traveling by sea allows the characters to encounter many different types of places and meet creatures they didn't know existed.  But also, we got to spend time with some characters we already know such as Reepicheep.  For such a small creature, he has such a large sense of duty.  He is also quite brave and often annoying.

Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a magical read full of adventure, danger, nobility and fun.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Book Review: A Trail of Lies by Kylie Logan

A Trail of Lies (Jazz Ramsey #3)A Trail of Lies (Jazz Ramsey #3). Kylie Logan. Minotaur Books (2021). 320 pages. Genre:  Mystery.

First Line:  "There is one truth that holds across countries, across cultures, across time: getting a phone call at two in the morning is sure to make the blood race, breaths catch, heartbeats speed up."

Summary:  Jazz Ramsey's boyfriend, Nick Kolesov, is working a case out of town.  While he is gone, he has asked Jazz to check up on his mom.  Kim Kolesov is an alcoholic who lives alone and often hallucinates.  When Jazz receives a call from her in the middle of the night claiming there is a body in her backyard, she tries to remember that Kim often sees things that aren't there. However, when Jazz arrives at her home, Kim is adamant there is a body in the backyard and that she killed the man.  Jazz searches the yard and finds nothing.  

A couple of days later when Kim is still adamant that she killed a man and his body is in her yard, Jazz decides to use a Human Remains Detection dog to see if he can pick up the scent of remains.  When the dog picks up a scent in Kim's yard, Jazz is afraid Kim's story might be true.  Then a man is found dead in a nearby park with a picture of Kim and young Nick in his pocket.  Now Jazz has more questions than answers. 

My thoughts:  Jazz Ramsey is a likeable main character.  She is smart, humble and tries to do the right thing.  Her job as an administrative assistant at an all-girls school continues to be interesting.  However, it is her hobby of working with detection dogs that I find most fascinating.  In this story she works with three different dogs - one in training, one that is well trained and one that is retired.  It was fun to see their different strengths and personalities.  

We get to know Nick a little better in this installment too as Jazz is getting a glimpse into what his life must have been like growing up with an alcoholic mother. Kim's alcoholism is handled well.  She is struggling, but refuses to get help.  Nick continues to care for her the best he can.  This does give the story a bit of a heavier tone, but it never feels overwhelming and is balanced with lighter situations.  There is also a bit more language in this one.  

The relationship Jazz has with her coworkers adds some depth to the story as well.  Sister Eileen and Sarah care about Jazz like she is family.  When Jazz needs help, they are there for her.  Jazz is close with her mom and brothers as well.  The importance of family is clear. 

The mystery begins on the very first page and kept me enthralled until the end.  It is very well-paced as the layers of lies are peeled away.  There are several suspects as well as twists and surprises that kept me guessing.  Even after her life had been threatened, Jazz didn't give up.  She kept digging.  She does take some risks, but nothing over the top.

Overall, this is a great mystery with likeable, well-developed characters.  I have really enjoyed all three books in this series and am looking forward to the next one.