First Line: "Penny Weaver stayed so still that the field sparrow in her yard didn't seem to know she was there."
Summary: Penny Weaver and her brother Micah live at Lost Creek Farm, a home previously owned by their grandmother. Micah is an avid birder and is hoping to begin a guiding business. When famous author, bird-watcher Ben Zook hears that a rare White-winged Tern has been sighted near Lost Creek Farm, he books Micah as a guide. It has been many years since Ben has returned to his Amish home in Stoney Ridge and he doesn't plan to visit now. He plans to photograph the rare bird and get back to his life in Philadelphia before anyone spots him.
Years ago, when Penny was staying with her grandmother, she and Ben spent many summer days watching birds. She never thought he would return to Stoney Ridge. The problem is that Ben doesn't seem to have any memory of her. When Ben becomes ill and has to stay longer at Lost Creek Farm, Penny is hopeful this will give him time to remember her.
My thoughts: I was excited to see another book taking place in Stoney Ridge. This is not part of a series, but a stand alone. However, several of the characters we have met in previous books make appearances in this one. The book starts out with a cast of characters and a Birder's Glossary which was really helpful and set the stage for what was coming.
Each of the characters in this story is realistic and relatable. They each have struggles and difficulties and I enjoyed watching them work through them in ways that were not always easy. I especially appreciated the way the author showed how God works in mysterious ways in hearts and lives. One of the major themes in the book is forgiveness and this played out in the lives of the characters in several different ways.
I learned so much about birds in this book as well. There were several different birds mentioned and at the end of each chapter there was a page from Micah's log book which contained a plethora of information about the bird sighted. Often these pages included a humorous thought as well. Speaking of humor, Hank Lapp, who was a character in other Stoney Ridge books, makes several appearances in this one. He is always good for a chuckle. He often tells jokes on purpose, but sometimes unintentionally.
This was a delightful read that I highly recommend.
"Like all the women she knew, Penny was a person of activity, moving purposefully through every waking moment."
"'I was crossing the yard to your house when I heard it first. That buzzing sound of its whirling wings. The ears always come first. Most folks think watching birds starts with the eyes, then the binoculars. They're wrong. The ears come first. Listening, that's what bird-watching is all about.'"
"'Some church leaders feel very strongly about artistic expression, that it can lead someone down a path of pride. But I believe that recording what we see sharpens our awareness and makes us appreciate even more God's most beautiful and varied creations.'"
First Line: "Afterwards Sarah could never be quite sure whether it was the moonlight or that soft, furtive sound that had awakened her."
Summary (Goodreads): When young Sarah Parrish takes a skiing vacation to Gulmarg, a resort nestled in the mountains above the fabled Vale of Kashmir, she anticipates an entertaining but uneventful stay. But when she discovers that the deaths of two in her party are the result of foul play, she finds herself entrusted with a mission of unforeseen importance. And when she leaves the ski slopes for the Waterwitch, a private houseboat on the placid shores of the Dal Lake near Srinagar, she discovers to her horror that the killer will stop at nothing to prevent Sarah from piecing the puzzle together.
My thoughts: The author begins the book with an Author's Note, which is something I really appreciate. Next is a pronunciation guide and a map. The combination of these three pieces put me right into the story. In her note, the author tells the reader that she was living in Srinagar, the capital city of Kashmir, when she began writing this mystery. Her intimacy with the area comes through in her writing.
As you can tell from the first line, the story starts with some suspense. A death has already occurred and now something has awakened Sarah. She is on edge, but tries to tell herself she is being silly, after all the death was an accident, wasn't it? She is not sure. A persistent sound gets her out of bed to investigate. It is through this investigating that she meets Janet and quickly discovers Janet is not who she says she is. From this beginning, the story never slows down. It is not edge of your seat suspense the entire time. There are dinners and dances and shopping in the market, but underneath it all is a buzzing uncertainty.
The author was leaving clues throughout the story, and I remember having a slight suspicion of the culprit, but quickly dismissed it. Due to circumstances, Sarah had to get involved in investigating. Well, it wasn't entirely due to circumstances. There was an instance where she went snooping around by herself in the middle of the night and discovered some things that she probably shouldn't have which put her in danger. But mostly the mystery came to her.
There were several scenes that took place at night with a moonlit sky. The moon was definitely a theme throughout the story. I'm not sure I would have picked up on this if the author hadn't mentioned in her note that she had originally titled the book There's a Moon Tonight. After the first mention of the moonlight, I kept my senses on alert for another mention. That added a fun extra layer to the story. Another fun layer was the humor and the little bit of romance. The story is peopled with interesting characters.
The author's description of the countryside and the homes made me feel like I was there. I can still picture the interior of the houseboat Sarah spent some time on.
M. M. Kaye is a new author to me and I am glad to have discovered her. I am also glad that I picked up several of her mysteries at a used book store this summer. I am looking forward to reading another mystery by this author soon.
"'But then of course so many people are silly about a man who doesn't do any fighting in the war. So stupid of them, because it's so much more sensible not to, don't you think? If we all just didn't, I mean, well where would people like Hitler have been?' 'In Buckingham Palace and the White House I imagine,' grunted her husband. 'Don't be silly, dear. How could he have been in two places at once?'"
"The sky behind the feathery boughs of the pepper trees at the far end of the garden was turning from lemon yellow to a soft shade of green, and the air was sweet with the scent of roses and jasmine and fragrant with the smell of water on dry, sun-baked ground."
"She disappeared with the speed of a diving duck as the little gilt clock in the drawing-room struck the quarter."
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!
First Line: "I quietly slipped out of my bedroom, careful not to wake my wife or young son."
Summary: Dr. John Delony helps us understand that our past is made up of different kinds of stories and how those stories are affecting us today. He then gives us steps to take to heal from our past hurts and live a heathier, more whole life.
My thoughts: John Delony takes a unique approach in helping the reader understand their past. The first part of the book looks at the different stories that make up each of our pasts; stories about the world, about ourselves, about relationships, stories we're told and that happened and stories we tell ourselves. He then asks the reader to own their stories. There are questions at the end of each of the chapters that he suggests you write answers for that will help you identify what your own stories are. In each chapter he uses personal examples or examples of others to help you see what each type of story might encompass. It was really helpful to pause and think about what my stories might be.
The second part of the book gives the reader five steps that will help with the healing process. They are:
*Own your stories
*Change your thoughts
*Change your actions
He gives a clear explanation of each step and how this might play out in an actual life. He repeatedly acknowledges that it will not be easy and that this is not a one time thing. This is something you will have to do over and over, but eventually you will begin to see change. I appreciated his honesty as he tells his own story of going through the process. He has also worked with numerous people as a counselor and a student affairs administrator on a university campus.
I had heard Dr. Delony interviewed and thought he sounded like a down-to-earth, practical person which is why I wanted to read his book. All of us have trauma that we are carrying and many of us don't realize it. Here is how Dr. Delong defines trauma:
"We often think of trauma as the big car wreck, tsunami, heart attack - or when you find out your husband has been cheating on you after twenty-five years of marriage. As Bessel van der Kolk notes, 'Trauma is an event that overwhelms the central nervous system.' But trauma is so much more than the single bad event. Trauma is also neglect, not being seen, experiencing hard things alone, or any other experiential or environmental stressor that causes your body to take over and react for you, using its primitive response system. Trauma can be big or small, and it can accumulate over time."
This book will open your eyes to your own past and give you a vision for a better future.
"Grieving is a practice. It's the movement toward the pain, where you take ownership of what has happened and allow it to integrate into your body. Grieving is allowing your amygdala to recognize that the threat has passed and allowing your frontal lobe to slowly come back online. It's acknowledging that the loss is real."
"Control what you can control. You can control what you think. What you say. What you do. What you want. Who you speak with. Who you allow into your life and how much they influence what you believe. Where you work. Where you live. How you spend your money. How you process emotions. How you spend your time."
"You cannot control what happened. You control how you think about it and what you do next."
First Line: "Emma Daley had always loved Christmas as a child, but...not so much as an adult."
Summary: Emma's parents are serving as missionaries overseas and she has no other family. She has spent the past several Christmases with her friend Gillian Landers' family. While it has been nice to not be alone on Christmas, Emma tires of their extravagance and bickering. She thinks she will spend the holiday by herself this year. However, Gillian can't imagine anyone wanting to spend Christmas alone and insists that Emma join her family as usual. Besides, her dad has made arrangements for the family to swap houses with a family in Colorado so they can have snow for Christmas. Emma gives in and joins the Landers family. But things quickly become complicated and Emma wonders what she was thinking.
My thoughts: I often read a Melody Carlson book at Christmastime. They are usually fun, quick reads that put me in the Christmas spirit and this one was no exception.
The idea of a house swap was interesting. There are members of both families who are not sure this is a good idea. When a complication arises that caused the owner of the Colorado home to have to return after the other family has arrived, things get tricky. It was entertaining to watch this work itself out.
Melody Carlson is an expert at creating deep characters within a small number of pages. The reader learns to appreciate Emma's kindness and humility. She is sensible and tends to put other people's desires above her own. Which is the complete opposite of Gillian. She tries to attract as much attention as possible and will use others to get what she wants. She was very unlikeable.
This is a quick, fun read that will put you in the Christmas spirit.
"Emma hadn't said much about her sleeping quarters, but she still felt certain she'd scored the best room in the house. It wasn't fancy in the way that Gillian or her mom would appreciate, and Gil wouldn't like the lack of closet space. But to Emma, it was perfect. The fabulous view had only gotten better as the sky turned dusky earlier. While alone in the house, Emma had just stared in wonder as the sunset transformed the snowy slope into shades of indigo blue and purple. Meanwhile the lights from the nearby ski lodge had glowed like golden torches. It had been absolutely magical."
First Lines: "(Letter from Anne Shirley, B.A., Principal of Summerside High School, to Gilbert Blythe, medical student at Redmond College, Kingsport.) Windy Poplars, Spook's Lane, S'side, P.E.I., Monday September 12th. Dearest: Isn't that an address! Did you ever hear anything so delicious?"
Summary: Anne has taken a job in Summerside, away from Green Gables. As she settles in at Windy Poplars, she discovers that the Pringle family runs the town. And it seems as though everyone is related to a Pringle somehow. Unfortunately, Anne is not the Principal the Pringle family wanted. However, Anne is determined to win their favor. In typical Anne-fashion, she not only wins their favor, but the favor of many others in the town.
My thoughts: This book is told partially in letters written by Anne to Gilbert who is attending medical school. When it is not told by Anne in a letter, a narrator takes over.
The story is primarily about the characters that populate Summerside and Anne's dealings with them. I always enjoy the way Anne persists in setting things right. She doesn't give up on someone just because they don't treat her right, she persists in making them her friend or putting her foot down and ordering them to do the right thing.
One of my favorite characters in the book was the housekeeper at Windy Poplars, Rebecca Dew. She is a bit rough around the edges, but soft in the middle. She doesn't "suffer fools" as Anne remarked. But she takes good care of Anne and the widows.
"Rebecca Dew says cards are the devil's books and novels even worse. The only things Rebecca ever reads, apart from her Bible, are the society columns of the Montreal Guardian. She loves to pore over the house and furniture and doings of the millionaires."
"And I am sure Rebecca Dew thinks that no Christian woman should try to be beautiful."
"But she's really an old duck. She has produced from somewhere a comfortable old wing chair of faded brocade that just fits my kinks and says, 'This is your chair. We'll keep it for you.' And she won't let Dusty Miller sleep on it lest I get hairs on my school skirt and give the Pringles something to talk about."
This was an enjoyable read and a nice addition to the series.
"Last night I had such a lovely walk with myself. I really had to go somewhere for it was just a trifle dismal at Windy Poplars. Aunt Chatty was crying in the sitting-room because her feelings had been hurt and Aunt Kate was crying in her bedroom because it was the anniversary of Captain Amasa's death and Rebecca Dew was crying in the kitchen for no reason that I could discover."
"'Too old! Of course you're not too old, dearest,' I assured her. 'Nobody is ever too old to wear just what she wants to wear. You wouldn't want to wear it if you were too old.'"
First Lines: "Hurstwell Asylum. One day in late May of the year 1886, I found myself imprisoned in the Hurstwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum. This was unconscionable - I had never been a pauper."
Summary: When Vivienne Mourdant's father dies, he leaves her with many debts to pay as well as the guardianship of a ward at the Hurstwell Pauper Lunatic Asylum. The ward's name is Rosamond Swansea and Mr. Mourdant had been paying for her care for years. This was a surprise to Vivienne. However, there is something familiar about that name.
When Vivienne inquires about Rosamond at the Asylum, she is told there is not a patient there by that name and never was. In order to find out what is going on, Vivienne gets a job as an aid under a false name. Soon she is struggling to tell what is true and what is false. She hears music that no one else hears, she finds notes that seem to be written to her. Something is not right in this place, but will she be able to discover what it is before she succumbs to madness?
My thoughts: This was a beautifully written, atmospheric book that will stick with me for a while. I didn't realize until after I had read it that it is the second book in a series. I had no problem picking this up without reading the first one.
Vivienne is a concert pianist whose father was very demanding. So much so that he would punish her by locking her in the larder if she didn't play well. She does grieve his death, but more than anything, she is relieved he is gone. Even as a grown woman, she still fears the dark. As she begins working at the Asylum, she has many secrets to keep. This becomes harder as her work days become longer and her nights become shorter. She is trying to discover if anyone has heard of Rosamond and where she might be now. I was kept on the edge of my seat, turning pages to find out what was going to happen.
The story is set in Victorian England with the Asylum being located at the edge of the Moors. The author's description of the interior of the building had me feeling like I was walking the hallways. There is even a tower on the property that employees are forbidden from entering.
There are two doctors at the Asylum, along with several nurses who are in charge. Each of them has a distinct personality and the reader is never quite sure what to think of them. We also get acquainted with some of the inmates.
Music is a major theme in the book. Most chapters open with a quote from a famous composer. The concept of music therapy was quite interesting and is woven throughout the story. Some of the other themes are mental health, sanity, light and darkness, appreciating where you are at right now, asking God why?, the value of every human, and serving others.
This book deals with some very hard topics, but it does so in a beautiful and hope-filled way. This was my first book by Joanna Davidson Politano, but I am looking forward to reading more from this author.
"How odd that here, of all places, I should find like-minded souls, yet it was the only place in all of England protected from the influence of society's disapproval."
"How delicate the line was between sanity and madness."
"Layers peeled away before my eyes, and I glimpsed the inner workings of God's creation - a heartbeat and pattern that tied everything together. An expression of his sense of order and creativity placed within humans - even the ones who were deemed lost in all other ways."
"We're all of us told to walk in the light, but we don't. We simply wish to drag the light over to where we're already standing, so we may better see the path we've set out for ourselves."
First Line: "Castle Rannoch, Perthshire, Scotland. April 1932. There are two disadvantages to being a minor royal."
Summary: Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie, daughter of the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch, is thirty-fourth in line for the throne of England. As such, she is expected to behave in certain ways and do certain things. One of these things is marrying into a noble family. Being that she has already come out in society, this is at the top of everyone's mind. Everyone being her brother, her sister-in-law and the Queen.
When her brother cuts off her allowance, she decides it is time to make her own way in life. She decides to go to London and stay in the family house there. The problem is she can't afford a maid. She has never had to dress herself or cook her own food before. She decides the only thing to do is to get a job, which is unheard of for a member of the royal family no matter how distant the throne is.
After a hard day's work as a maid, she returns to the family home to find a corpse floating in the bathtub. Concerned that her brother might have been involved and concerned that her secret life as a maid might be revealed, Georgie hesitates to notify the police. Her fears are realized when she does notify the authorities - both she and her brother are suspects. With the help of her friend Belinda, she tries to discover who this man in the bathtub is and who might want him dead.
My thoughts: This is one of those books that is so easy to read. The writing style is witty and sharp, the dialogue is humorous and the storyline is well paced.
Lady Georgiana is a brave woman. She is willing to do things she has never done, such as collect coal from the cellar to start a fire, attempt to make herself a meal, and reside in a big, old drafty house by herself. But often times her courage and bravery get her into trouble. At times she had to invent lies about the lies she had already told. While she was unwilling to compromise in some areas, in others she readily did things she ought not do. Georgie is an entertaining main character and I enjoyed her narration.
The supporting cast is equally well developed. Her friend Belinda is always there for her, unless she has been out late to a party. Her constant talk about sex did get annoying. Fortunately, it wasn't overly graphic. One of my favorite characters was Georgie's grandfather on her mother's side. He is definitely not in the royal line and is a little rough around the edges. I love the relationship he has with Georgie. And then there's Darcy, who is a good friend to Georgie and maybe more.
The mystery wasn't overly strong and was kind of overshadowed by Georgie's life, but since this was the first book in the series, that is somewhat expected. There is definitely a mystery to be solved and it held my interest and surprised me with its outcome.
I enjoyed learning about the expectations of the royal family and of society in general in 1932 London. Times were tough and belts needed to be tightened even in the royal family.
There was a lot to like about this one, but I don't think I liked it as much as I thought I would. I was a little underwhelmed probably due to the fact that I had heard so many great things about this series and had high expectations. It was a light, fun read and one that I would recommend.
"There is nothing as lovely as a London Park in springtime. Daffodils among the trees, new green emerging on those spreading chestnuts, elegantly turned-out horses crossing from the riding stable toward Rotten Row, and courting couples strolling hand in hand or sitting rather too close to each other on the benches."
"Lunch was a huge success - lovely leg of lamb, crispy roast potatoes and cabbage from Grandad's back garden, followed by baked apple and custard."
First Line: "If not for the proprietor's name on the little shop's window, Philip might never have thought of it again."
Summary: Indi Muir has never recovered from the decision she made eleven years ago. Since then her life has seemed to be a series of distractions to help her forget. When her ex-fiance returns to Muir Harbor with news that is going to force her to face what she has been running from, Indi begins to feel like her carefully constructed world is falling apart. To top it off, someone has been sneaking around Muir Farm looking for something.
When his mother died, Professor Philip West was ,made guardian of his half-sister, Holland. This caused him to move back to Maine and into his grandfather's house, a place that feels cold and lonely. Holland doesn't seem to want Philip around and is sure she can take care of herself. Encouraged by a friend to get away for a while and take Holland with him, Philip decides to return to Muir Harbor, a place that made him feel at home. It all sounded ideal in theory, but in practice it is more complicated than he imagined.
My thoughts: Melissa Tagg is quickly becoming a favorite author. A Seaside Wonder drew me in from the very beginning. This is the second book in the Muir Harbor series and we step into the story at a place overlapping with the previous book, but from a different perspective. Autumn by the Sea was told from Neil Muir and Sydney's perspective. This book is told from Indi Muir and Philip's perspective. Stepping into part of the story we already knew was a unique and interesting twist.
Indi Muir was adopted by Maggie Muir when she was a baby, so this is the only family she has ever known. Just after high school, she made a life changing decision. Since that time she has done all she can to make up for it. If she stays busy, she won't have time to think or feel. Indi thinks her family and others see her as a mess - as someone who doesn't think before she acts and gets herself into difficult situations. The reality is that her family sees her as a talented, creative and kind young woman who has the confidence to take risks. I loved the way the author took us along on Indi's journey of growth.
You couldn't help liking Philip from the very beginning. He is generally quiet, shy, studious and some would say boring. But he is also funny, kind, practical and thoughtful. After his best friend's wife describes him as "shy and bookish", he had this conversation:
"'Shy and bookish are not insults. Not according to my wife. She says it makes you endearing.'
'I don't want to be endearing and I don't want to be having this conversation.'"
The opening scene where Indi and Philip meet - the meet-cute - is hilarious.
While there is romance, there is so much more to the story. There are themes of abandonment, family - birth family, found family, who is your family - , grief, love, faith, loyalty, prayer, loss, failure, and being thankful for what you have. Once again, this story has a little romance, a little mystery and a little family drama. Together they made a wonderful story full of depth and humor with a satisfying ending. There were several story lines that were begun in the first book that continue in this one. Some are brought to conclusion, some are advanced and some have not yet been finished.
If this book sounds interesting to you, I would recommend you start with the first book, Autumn by the Sea. It is a story you won't want to miss and you will be introduced to the Muir family and Muir Harbor. Now I will be eagerly awaiting spring because that is when the next installment of Muir Harbor will be available.
"The night air felt fragile somehow, a crystalline moon tucked into black velvet, the morning's mild temps lost to a brittle breeze that wisped its way in and around the bare branches of Muir Farm's backyard trees."
"... no, none of this had been chance. All of it had been a gift from the God who was teaching him how to wonder again. Teaching him through the beauty of a seaside farm and a tiny town at the edge of a lit-up harbor. Through all the ups and downs of finding his place in Holland's life."
"'Look at Maggie. She doesn't pretend she doesn't have holes in her heart where Robert and Diana and her granddaughter should've been. But she still has beauty and joy and love in her life. She's figured out how to live in the tension between honest heartache and steadfast hope. She's put her trust in a God who...who maybe doesn't make every crack disappear, but who holds all her broken pieces tenderly. Who heals her simply by being with her. Staying with her.'"
This Side of Murder (Verity Kent #1) by Anna Lee Huber