Monday, January 30, 2023

Book Review: Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie


Murder at the Vicarage.  Agatha Christie.  1930. 288 pages.  Genre: Classic, Mystery.

First Line:  "It is difficult to know quite where to begin this story, but I have fixed my choice on a certain Wednesday at luncheon at the Vicarage."

Summary:  Colonel Protheroe has managed to rub most of the people in the village the wrong way.  He has a knack for making a fuss.  And his fuss has now come to the vicarage.  He wants to meet with the vicar to go over the church accounts.  A couple of hours before the meeting, the vicar receives a call telling him he is urgently needed elsewhere.  The vicar leaves word with his housekeeper that he will return soon and requests that Colonel Protheroe wait for him in the study.  

Before the vicar returns, Colonel Protheroe is shot while sitting at the desk in the study.  Before long a suspect confesses.  He was the most likely suspect so the police relax.  When a second suspect confesses things get complicated.  With so many villagers having grudges against the colonel, the police have their work cut out for them.  Its a good thing nothing gets past Miss Marple.

My thoughts:  Murder at the Vicarage is told from the perspective of the vicar.  He and his much younger wife, Griselda, live at the vicarage along with Denis, their fifteen-year-old nephew.  They have a housekeeper, Mary, who is a terrible cook and a passable housekeeper.  However, since Griselda's talents in both areas are non-existent, Mary will have to do.  At first I thought Griselda was going to be a woman who thought housework was beneath her and thought much of her position as vicar's wife.  But my assumption was wrong.  Griselda adores her husband and appreciates Mary.  She respects her position as vicar's wife.  The vicar's perspective was often surprising and funny.

This is the first novel in the Miss Marple series, but Miss Marple felt like a secondary character. However, she did have a hand in solving the mystery. I really enjoyed getting to know her.  She doesn't fool the vicar with her seeming lack of interest in village affairs.  She may not be a gossip, but she doesn't miss anything that goes on in the village. 

The mystery was a great puzzle that kept me guessing.  There were lots of twists and turns and secrets to uncover.  Right up to the end it was difficult to prove whodunnit.

This was an enjoyable read.  I look forward to following Miss Marple in her next crime-solving attempt.


"I looked round the small living-room.  Every shelf and table was littered with miscellaneous articles.  Lawrence lived in the midst of artistic disarray that would have driven me quite mad."

"During all this, Mary had been extracting eyes from potatoes with such energy that they had been flying round the kitchen like hailstones."

"No one can fail to be interested in a murder.  Simple people like Griselda and myself can admit the fact, but anyone like Raymond West has to pretend to be bored - at any rate for the first five minutes."

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Taking a break...


Hello Friends!  I will be taking a blogging break for a couple of weeks.  My husband and I will be doing some traveling and I will be away from the computer most of the time.  

The above picture is from a road trip we took last year.  We were in Colorado and needed to pull over for some reason and chose to pull into this driveway.  Once we did, the house caught our eye and we decided to take a picture of it.

You can bet I will be doing some reading while we are gone and I look forward to telling you about when we get back.  

~ Gretchen

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Book Review: A Cross-Country Christmas by Courtney Walsh

A Cross-Country Christmas (Road Trip Romance, #1)A Cross-Country Christmas. Courtney Walsh (2021). 242 pages. Genre: Christmas, Romance, Christian Fiction.

First Line of the Prologue:  "Texts from Spencer to Lauren: December 1st, 8:32 am. 'I know you hate talking on the phone so I'm trying your favorite mode of communication... I figured out a way for you to get home for Christmas... Since you promised you would - Call me!'"

Summary: Lauren promised her brother she would come home for Christmas this year.  She is not a fan of Christmas, but Spencer's wife is having a baby and Lauren promised she'd be there.  Home is in Chicago, which is a long way from California.  Besides not being a fan of Christmas, Lauren is not a fan of flying.  

Spencer's best friend from high school, Will Sinclair, is also heading from California to Chicago for Christmas.  Spencer has arranged for Lauren to ride with Will.  The problem is Lauren has no desire to ride with Will.  You see, Lauren had a crush on Will for many years and he broke her heart.  But her fear of flying is stronger than her dislike of Will, so she accepts the ride.  

My thoughts:  Courtney Walsh has created some realistic, relatable, likeable characters in Will and Lauren.  

Lauren has a difficult past.  Not only with Will, but with her parents.  She has created a wall around herself for protection.  She is afraid of being hurt again, although she might not readily admit that.  She has a successful career as a set designer for TV shows and pours herself into that.  She has a best friend and a brother who loves her, what more does she need.  She is also convinced that people can't change.  She is organized and independent.  I could relate to her on many levels.

Will also had a difficult past, but it was of his own making.  He has a great family and was blessed with a stable upbringing.  But, somewhere along the way, he began making bad choices.  Because of those choices, he lost something he loved.  Now, he lives his life trying to make up for his past.  Unfortunately, Lauren remembers the bad choices and doesn't know that he's trying to live differently.  As they ride together, she is closed off and cold.  She doesn't want to let him in, but she begins to wonder if maybe he has changed.  

I loved the way this story was told.  It was realistic, fun and humorous.  But Will and Lauren also deal with some heavy issues.  They both change and grow throughout the story.  The romance is gradual and sweet.  The road trip was an interesting plot and allowed me to see the sights with them as they drove.

Some of the themes are second chances, love, believing the best about someone, friendship, family, the consequences of bad choices, and forgiveness. 

I wasn't ready to leave Will and Lauren and especially Will's family.  So you can imagine how excited I was when I learned there is a sequel coming out in November!  I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it.


"Lauren's heart raced like a dog in a house with an Amazon Prime truck pulling up outside."

"He hadn't seen her in a lot of years, but in that time, she had not only grown up, she had also apparently planted a grudge against him.  He wasn't exactly sure why, but decided to put it in the 'not my problem' thought box."

"She was probably one of those women who was insulted when a man tried to hold the door open for her.  It was impossible to know how to act these days.  He'd been taught to be a gentleman, but now that was insulting."

"She was a caffeine addict, and she really didn't care."

Monday, January 9, 2023

Book Review: The Crushing Depths by Dani Pettrey

The Crushing Depths (Coastal Guardians, #2)The Crushing Depths (Coastal Guardians #2). Dani Pettrey. Bethany House (2020). 320 pages. Genre: Romantic Suspense, Christian Fiction.

First Line: "Late September.  Thirty-eight miles off North Carolina's Coast. Greg Barnes clinked along the grated metal steps, his boot heels rasping with each shuffle as he headed topside for a much-needed breath of smoke."

Summary:  Coast Guard Investigative Services agent Rissi Dawson has been assigned a new partner.  When he walks in however, she is stunned.  Her new partner is Mason Rogers, the boy who was in the same foster home with her when she was a teenager.  The boy who always comforted and protected her when things went bad.  She hasn't had contact with him since the day he aged out of care.  

Rissi and Mason are assigned to investigate a death that happened on oil rig off the coast.  There are too many coincidences in the case for there not to have been foul play.  To complicate matters, many of the sailors believe in a curse and are convinced that is what is causing bad things to happen.  Will Rissi and Mason be able to uncover the truth before more deaths occur?

My thoughts:  I rarely read books in a series one after another.  But, after reading the first book in the Coastal Guardians series, I couldn't wait to see what happened next.  The Crushing Depths picks up just a few weeks after The Killing Tide ends.

Rissi Dawson is a character we were introduced to in the first book.  We were given glimpses of her past.  I was eager to learn more about where she had come from and what she had endured.  My curiosity was satisfied in this book.  Not only that, but Mason, the boy who always watched out for her and who she had a crush on, has reappeared in her life.  Now they have been paired together in a work environment.  Fortunately, both are professional enough to realize they need to focus on their work.  However, both wonder if the other feels the same.  The romance is realistic and sweet.  

The mystery of what happened on the oil rig is complicated.  The death is deemed an accident.  But, the circumstances are too specific to be a coincidence.  As Rissi and Mason investigate, their lives are put in peril.  There is plenty of action and suspense.  As part of the investigation they need to find out more about the curse that many of the sailors believe in.  It was interesting to learn about this.  There were many layers that needed to be uncovered.

A secondary storyline involves Noah and Brooke, a Coast Guard Medic.  Someone is stalking and threatening her.  She thinks it is an ex-boyfriend.  However, as Noah investigates, the threats keep coming.  Some of them were chilling.

Once again I enjoyed the team working together.  The dynamics between them are a lot of fun.  I also enjoy the unique setting and job that they do.  I don't live near an ocean and know very little about what is involved in the Coast Guard.  This is an interesting way to learn a little about it.  

This was an enjoyable read and I look forward to reading the next book in the series. 


"Instead of an apartment, he'd gone with a cool seventies-style beach cottage on the sound side of Wrightsville Beach.  Tall marshes dotted the waterways on her left.  The sound of seagulls squawking contrasted with the beautiful silence of the white-and-gray egret standing regally at the marsh's edge."

"'That was the first and only time I saw Senior Chief smile.  He went on to explain that there's military bearing and gentlemanly bearing and that the two aren't mutually exclusive.  That talk anchored in my brain.'"

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Book Review: The Killing Tide by Dani Pettrey

The Killing Tide (Coastal Guardians, #1)The Killing Tide (Coastal Guardians #1). Dani Pettrey. Bethany House (2019). 347 pages. Genre: Romantic Suspense, Christian Fiction.

First Line: "Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Fire ripped through Finn's right shoulder, ricocheting down his arm."

Summary (Goodreads): A Corpse That Only Leads to Secrets. 

An Old Flame with Danger Written all over Her.

Things Are about to Get Very Complicated.

When one Coast Guard officer is found dead and another goes missing, Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Finn Walker faces his most dangerous crime yet. His only clues are what little evidence remains aboard the dead officer's boat, and the direction the clues point to will test Finn and the Guard to their limits.

The already volatile situation is complicated even further by the arrival of Gabby Rowley--Finn's boss's sister and an investigative reporter with unrelenting questions about the crime. Now that she's returned, the tug on Finn's heart is strong, but with the risks she's taking for her next big story, he fears she might not live through it.

Thrown together by the heinous crime, Finn and Gabby can't ignore the sparks or judgments flying between them. But will they be able to see past their preconceptions long enough to track down an elusive killer, or will they become his next mark?

My thoughts:  Dani Pettrey is an author I have not read before, so it took me several chapters to get into the flow of the story.  But once I did, I couldn't read it fast enough.  

The investigative team involved in the series is the Coast Guard Investigative Service, so much of the action takes place on the water.  The book opens with a heart-wrenching rescue scene that goes bad followed by a chase scene through the streets of downtown.  The difficulty for me came in keeping the characters straight and feeling like I was missing something.  This didn't last long and I wasn't missing anything, the author was just revealing some of the characters' past and it caused to wonder if these characters had been in another book.  They weren't and more of the past story emerged as this story proceeded.  

Each of the members of the team plays a unique role.  I really enjoyed getting to know each of them and cared about them.  This story is primarily Finn and Gabby's, but we get to know the other characters as well.  I especially enjoyed scenes where the team would meet to go over the evidence gathered.  It gave me an NCIS (the tv show) vibe and helped to pull things together.  

Finn is likeable hero who is flawed, but takes his job seriously.  He cares about his team members and doesn't like to leave anyone behind.  Gabby is head-strong and driven and often took unnecessary risks just to get a story.  She seemed selfish at times, but just when I was thinking I didn't like her too much, she would check herself and realize she had been acting selfishly and correct it.  Being a reporter, her involvement in the investigation seemed a little unrealistic, but the author did a good job of providing an explanation.  

Figuring out if and how the two storylines intersected kept me guessing.  There were plenty of suspects, many of whom the team hoped weren't involved.  There were so many twists and surprises, it was hard to put the book down.  

I enjoyed this one so much that I immediately started on the second book in the series.  It picks up just a few weeks after this one.  If you are looking for edge-of-your-seat suspense with some great characters and some romance, give this series a try.


"Did she always put the story above all else? And did that include everyone? Did she put the story before God and His will for her life? She always assumed the pursuit of truth was what He wanted for her life, but she'd never actually prayed and asked Him to reveal His will.  She preferred to assume the insatiable drive in her - the urge to discover the truth - was created in her from the start."

"The moonlight shone through the upper windowpane, a cool breeze sweeping through the lower screen.  The air was growing heavy - the sign of another storm rolling in."

"The scent of corn bread and fresh chili swirled in the air, mixing with the burnt coffee smell that Gabby insisted was the worst way to describe the wonderful smell of roasting coffee beans emanating from the gold roasting machine."

Sunday, January 1, 2023

2022 Reading Reflections

 I always love to look back on my year of reading and remember what books stood out to me.  If you have been around my blog for any amount of time, you may know that I am a mood reader.  I do have a list of books I might be interested in reading, but the minute you call it a list of books that have to be read, I no longer want to read them. In my wanderings, I discovered some new authors this year and some of them made it on to my favorite reads list.  

Favorite Reads of 2022:

The books are listed in the order I read them.


Sunrise (Sky King Ranch #1) by Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren excels at creating characters who are true heroes and the Alaska wilderness is stunning.

A Rogue's Company (Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery, #3)

Deep characters, witty dialogue and a great mystery.

A Trail of Lies (Jazz Ramsey #3)

A likeable main character who trains detection dogs as a hobby.  They always come in handy when she gets involved in a murder that needs solved.

The Enchanted April

This is the book that surprised me the most this year.  It was delightful.  I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did.

I Capture the Castle

Captivating writing, interesting characters and an engrossing story written in diary form.

The Sweet Life

I loved this hope-filled story of a mother and daughter learning to work together and appreciate one another. 

Nine Coaches Waiting

My first Mary Stewart.  An enthralling story that hooked me from the beginning.

A Sky Painted Gold

Of all the books I read in 2022, this one stands out the most.  It surprised me, it captivated me, it was fun, I didn't want it to end.  I think the cover was especially apropos because if I had to pick one word to describe the story it would be sparkly. 

Autumn by the Sea (Muir Harbor #1)

Melissa Tagg was a new author to me and has become a favorite.  I want to have these characters as friends and the setting is amazing.

A Christmas Candy Killing

Another new author and a new series.  A savvy sleuth, great supporting characters, a solid mystery and some Christmas spirit.

The Lost Melody

Beautifully written historical fiction with a little bit of mystery and a lot of atmosphere.

Reading goals:  My Goodreads goal this year was 100 books and I fell a little short with 97 read.  This is the first year in a while I read under 100 books and that was okay with me.  I don't like the pressure of feeling like I need to meet a goal, so I usually pick a number that I know I will be able to meet.   

I also completed the two challenges I participated in Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks and Cruisin Thru the Cozies.  

Looking ahead to 2023:  I will probably set my Goodreads goal at 95 for next year.   

As far as challenges, I am again participating in Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks and Cruisin Thru the Cozies. 

I will leave you with quotes from the January chapter in Stillmeadow Calendar by Gladys Taber:

"There is, I have found, at least one good or lovely thing in every single day.  Everyone has sorrow, endures difficult times, but loveliness abides if we look for it."

"What the new year will bring, we cannot know.  I think of the year that has been folded away in time.  There has been much good in it, although some sorrow. But there are always, in any year, many lovely memories, and I shall cherish them.  Life is not, for most of us, a pageant of splendor but is made up of many small things, rather like an old-fashioned piecework quilt."