Monday, February 27, 2023

Book Review: Dear Henry, Love Edith by Becca Kinzer


Dear Henry, Love Edith. Becca Kinzer. Tyndale House (2023). 373 pages. Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction.

First Line: "Henry grimaced, not sure which irritated him more - the persistent ache in his knee or the relentless voice in his ear."

Summary (Goodreads): After a short and difficult marriage, recently widowed Edith Sherman has learned her lesson. Forget love. Forget marriage. She plans to fill her thirties with adventure. As she awaits the final paperwork for a humanitarian trip to South Africa, she accepts a short-term nursing position in a small Midwestern town. The last thing she needs is a handsome local catching her eye. How inconvenient is that?

Henry Hobbes isn't exactly thrilled to have Edith, who he assumes is an elderly widow, dumped on him as a houseguest for the summer. But he'd do almost anything for his niece, who is practically like a sister to him given how close they are in age. Especially since Edith will be working nights and Henry works most days. When he and Edith keep missing each other in person, they begin exchanging notes--short messages at first, then longer letters, sharing increasingly personal parts of their lives.

By the time Henry realizes his mistake--that Edith is actually the brown-eyed beauty he keeps bumping into around town--their hearts are so intertwined he hopes they never unravel. But with her departure date rapidly approaching, and Henry's roots firmly planted at home, Edith must ultimately decide if the adventure of her dreams is the one right in front of her.

My thoughts: This is a fun romantic comedy that could easily be a movie. The author writes in such a way as to allow the reader to "play the movie" in their head.  She could take a simple sentence uttered by one of the characters and turn it into a hilarious mess.  I will admit it did feel a tad over-the-top at times.  

But, the story is not all fluff and light-heartedness.  There is some depth.  Edith and Henry have both had some difficult times in the past that are informing how they are living now.  They both have to do some soul searching.  Fortunately, each of them has a friend to give them a nudge in the right direction.  But, these things take time which is realistic, but also really frustrating for the reader!  Just when you think things are going the right direction, suddenly they are going the opposite way.  Yes, there was quite a bit of tension which kept me turning pages. 

The scenario is a funny one - two people live in the same house, but have not met.  As the story progressed and Henry discovered who Edith was, but chose to keep deceiving her, I was disappointed.  However, that didn't last long as Henry finally set out to right the wrongs and tell the truth.  And of course that didn't go smoothly either. 

Some of the themes are home, serving God, love, being good enough and self-doubt.  If you are looking for a light-hearted read with some depth, give this book a try.


"The light of the full moon guided her.  The muted brassy sound of big band music, competing with the tune of cicadas, followed her.  She folded her arms over her stomach, a sense of peace battling with a restless desire to run."

"'Let me get this straight,' Lance said, raising his voice to be heard above Frank Sinatra's croons.  'You're baring your soul to an old lady who's living in your house but you've never actually met.  You've got the hots for a lady you've met but don't know anything about.  And you're still going out with a lady who drives you crazy every time she talks, which is all the time.'"

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild


Ballet Shoes: A Story of Three Children on the Stage. Noel Streatfeild. First Published 1936. 191 pages. Genre: Classic, Children's Literature.

First Line: "The Fossil sisters lived in the Cromwell Road."

Summary:  Pauline, Petrova and Posy Fossil are orphans who have been added to the household of Great Uncle Matthew.  While Great Uncle Matthew is traveling the world in search of artifacts, Nana and Sylvia run the household and care for the orphans.  Their lives get exciting when the three girls are accepted into the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training.  The girls make a vow to make a name for themselves.  Through hard work and sacrifice, they each learn that there is more than one way to make a name for yourself.  

My thoughts: This is a book I didn't know about until I was grown up.  But it is one I would have liked when I was young.  

Sylvia is the great-niece of Great Uncle Matthew, G.U.M. for short.  She was the first child to live in the house full of fossils.  She lived there with her mother and her nurse, Nana.  After her mother died, Sylvia became the caretaker of the house.  When G.U.M. is injured on one of his expeditions and can no longer search the land for fossils, he decides to take to the sea.  The first treasure he finds is Pauline, who was the only survivor besides himself when the ship they are sailing on hits an iceberg.  Naturally, he brings her home for Sylvia and Nana to take care of.  Petrova and Posy are collected along the way as well.

Soon the girls are old enough to be educated and some decisions need to be made.  Through a series of happy events, all three are accepted into the Children's Academy of Dancing and Stage Training.  

Each of the girls is unique in her own way.  Pauline really acts like an oldest child, she follows the rules and looks out for her siblings.  Petrova tolerates dancing, but she would rather be working on a car or flying in an airplane.  And Posy is naturally gifted at dancing and thinks she is loved by everyone.  I appreciated how each of the girls were allowed to suffer the consequences of their behavior.  But my favorite character was Nana.  She keeps everyone in line and keeps the household running on a daily basis.  At times she seemed like a drill sergeant, but she had a tender heart for the girls. 

There is a lot of specific detail about the classes at the school and the plays that were performed.  I could see how some readers might find this boring.  I like that kind of detail and enjoyed being able to form a clear picture in my mind of what was happening.  

This was a fun, quick read that I would recommend. 


"Both doctors had lovely ideas about the sort of things to have in the middle of lessons - a meal they called a beaver.  They took turns to get it ready . Sometimes it was chocolate with cream on it, and sometimes Doctor Jakes' ginger drink, and once it was ice-cream soda; and the things to eat were never the same: queer biscuits, little ones from Japan with delicate flowers painted on them in sugar, cakes from Vienna, and specialties of different kinds from all over England."

"Pride has to come before a fall, and that's the law of nature; you've got your fall, and now you've got to be brave and get up again."

Monday, February 20, 2023

Book Review: The Right Kind of Fool by Sarah Loudin Thomas


The Right Kind of Fool.  Sarah Loudin Thomas.  Bethany House (2020). 384 pages. Genre: Historical Fiction. 

First Line: "Beverly, West Virginia.  July 1934. The day's heat lay close to Loyal like a quilt he couldn't push back."

Summary (Goodreads): Thirteen-year-old Loyal Raines is supposed to stay close to home on a hot summer day in 1934. When he slips away for a quick swim in the river and finds a dead body, he wishes he'd obeyed his mother. The ripples caused by his discovery will impact the town of Beverly, West Virginia, in ways no one could have imagined.

The first person those ripples disturb is Loyal's absentee father. When Creed Raines realized his infant son was deaf, he headed for the hills, returning only to help meet his family's basic needs. But when Loyal, now a young teen, stumbles upon a murder it's his father he runs to tell--shaping the words with his hands. As Creed is pulled into the investigation he discovers that what sets his son apart isn't his inability to hear but rather his courage. Longing to reclaim the life he abandoned, Creed will have to do more than help solve a murder if he wants to win his family's hearts again.

My thoughts:  It has been too long since I read a book by Sarah Loudin Thomas.  When I sit down to read one of her books I know I will be immersed in the West Virginia hills and hollers.  And I definitely was in this story.  

Loyal Raines, who is almost fourteen, has been deaf since an illness took his hearing when he was four.  His father, Creed Raines, has been spending most of his time in the mountains for nearly as long.  He hasn't abandoned his family, but provides for their needs while mostly living apart from them.  If you were to ask him why he spends most of his time in the mountains, he would tell you it is better for his family that way.  Creed blames himself for his son's loss of hearing.  And if his wife, Delphy, was honest, she blames him too.  At the same time, Delphy longs for Creed to return to their home and so does Loyal.  The Raines family has a lot to work through and they do so realistically.  

After Loyal discovers a man's body near the river, it is his dad he goes to.  It means a lot to Creed that his son trusts him enough to come to him.  This is the first step in healing some of the wounds between father and son, husband and wife. 

While this book isn't listed as a mystery, it contains one of the best mysteries I have read in a while.  The dead man worked for the government and was trespassing where he didn't belong.  But, the property owner has an alibi.  Complicating matters, Loyal saw some things before he discovered the body that he is not sure he wants to tell.  Things that could cause trouble for his friends.  Also, because he is deaf, it is often hard for him to make others understand what he is saying. Creed works with the sheriff to uncover what happened.

This is also a coming-of-age story with Loyal feeling like he is almost a man and should be allowed to do certain things.  There is tension between Loyal and his parents as they try to protect him.  I loved how the author portrayed the struggle his parents were going through wanting to protect him, but also realizing that he was growing up and could handle things better than they thought.  

This story has it all - history, atmosphere, family drama, great characters and a mystery.  I only wish it were part of a series so I could spend more time with these characters.  


"It was early afternoon.  As he stepped into the front room, he could smell beans simmering on the stove, as well as the furniture polish Delphy used to keep the end tables gleaming.  The windows were open, and gauzy white curtains tugged at their rods as a breeze followed them inside."

"He'd been so afraid of doing more damage to the boy for so long.  Finally seeing how he could hold his own was liberating.  Maybe it wasn't about pushing like his own father had done, but simply encouraging the boy's natural abilities.  He thought maybe that was what a father ought to do and he was eager to try it out."

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Book Review: Death Threads by Elizabeth Lynn Casey


Death Threads (Southern Sewing Circle #2). Elizabeth Lynn Casey. Berkely Prime Crime (2010). 280 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line:  "Tori Sinclair had always prided herself on being a relatively calm person - the kind of woman who kept a cool head and a professional demeanor at all times."

Summary:  Local author and husband of one of the members of the Sweet Briar Ladies Society Sewing Circle, Colby Calhoun, has come upon some information that is going to make people angry.  Colby could decide to keep the information to himself, but as a writer he feels it is his duty to get the truth out.  When his article is published in the local paper, not only is Colby ostracized, but so are his wife and children.  

Then Colby disappears and all that is left behind is a note written in crayon and a trail of blood.  The sheriff begins his investigation, but keeps coming up empty handed.  There are plenty of people who had a motive, but he can't seem to find anyone who had opportunity.  As the days pass with no new leads, Tori feels compelled to do something to help her friend.  

My thoughts:  Death Threads picks up just six months after Sew Deadly and is a great follow up.  Tori Sinclair is feeling more a part of Sweet Briar.  Having moved from Chicago, it has taken a while for some of the members of the town to accept her.  

Tori loves her job at the local library and continues to find ways to improve their services for the residents of the area.  This time she has come up with a project the sewing circle can work on that will help members of a local nursing home.  I enjoy the characters who make up the sewing circle.  They each add something to the story and many of them make me chuckle.  Some of them are quick to gossip, others keep them in line.  In the end they all have big hearts that are willing to help others.

The mystery was unique - murder was presumed, but no body was found.  This added an extra element to the investigation that was interesting.  I had an inkling what was going on, but there were some twists that added surprise and kept me guessing.  

I liked the way the mystery wrapped up.  The author set the stage for the next installment, which I look forward to reading soon.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries, southern fiction or sewing, you might like this series.  Some sewing patterns and tips are included at the end of the book.


"'It was despicable,' Rose interrupted firmly, 'because you let your replaced hormones run amuck in favor of your friendship with Victoria.'"

"'Anyone who's spent more than two seconds with your kids knows they're rare - respectful, creative, and loved.'"

Other books in this series:

1. Sew Deadly

Monday, February 13, 2023

Book Review: The Deadly Shallows by Dani Pettrey


The Deadly Shallows (Coastal Guardians #3). Dani Pettrey. Bethany House (2022). 416 pages. Genre: Romantic Suspense, Christian Fiction.

First Lines: "Early December.  Holly Ridge, North Carolina.  Crisp night air slapped his cheeks, but he'd long since learned to endure the elements."

Summary (from Goodreads): CGIS Agent Noah Rowley is rocked to the core when several of his valued team members come under fire on his Coast Guard base. He and his remaining team race to the scene and end the attack, but not before innocent lives are lost. Furious and grief-stricken, he vows to do whatever is needed to bring the mastermind behind the attack to justice.

Stunned by the ambush, Coast Guard flight medic Brooke Kesler evacuates in a helicopter carrying the only surviving gunman. The gravely wounded man whispers mysterious information to Brooke that immediately paints a target on her back.

As Brooke and Noah race to uncover answers, emotions between them ignite. Noah struggles to protect Brooke at all costs and to conceal the secret that prevents him from becoming what he longs to be--the right man for her.

Everything is at stake as a horrifying truth emerges. . . .

The attack wasn't the end game. It was only the beginning.

My thoughts:  The Deadly Shallows has an intricately detailed plot along with two well developed romances.  I really like the way Dani Pettrey tells a story.

The books starts with a mass shooting at a graduation ceremony located on the Coast Guard base and attended by flight medic, Brooke Kesler.  Things quickly erupt into chaos.  Not only is Brooke traumatized by witnessing the shootings and being injured, she is needed to help treat other injured people.  The pace is intense and doesn't slow down.  There are some quieter moments between some of the characters, but they are short lived. 

The mystery that needs to be solved is who is behind the shootings and why.  Unfortunately, these are professional criminals and are difficult to find or trace.  Also, since Brooke was assigned to treat the one shooter who survived and he choose to whisper something to her just before going into surgery, she has become a target.  Noah Rowley was also injured in the shooting while trying to take down the shooters, but he doesn't let that slow him down.  Noah and Brooke are forced to spend lots of time together as they are working on staying safe and trying to figure out what happened.  As they spend more time together, they have to examine their feelings toward one another.  As is often the case, it's complicated.

There is a secondary storyline involving another member of Noah's CGIS team, Caleb, and female private investigator, Austin.  When Austin's dog becomes ill and is taken to the vet, the vet discovers the dog has been poisoned with a hard to identify substance.  Caleb takes a sample to the Coast Guard lab and they discover is has come from the sound near Austin's house.  This is also a complicated plot that was interesting to look into.  It involved the process of foam production and the waste chemicals involved in the process.  

The author was able to weave all of this together seamlessly.  The romances were always secondary, but provided a nice break from the action.  The characters from the first two books also make appearances as the team works together.  I'm becoming rather fond of them.  Thankfully there is one more book to go in this series.  I look forward to reading it!


"With the majority of the surrounding houses dark for the night, the sky shone with sparks of illumination.  It reminded him just how small he was in the majesty of God's creation."

"Eye contact was crucial in Brooke's job.  If the patient couldn't see her intent and her reassuring gaze, they often slipped through her fingers rather than hanging on."

"'Vanilla is a perfectly good flavor.'  Once he found one he liked, why switch?"

Other books in the Coastal Guardians series:

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Book Review: A Midnight Dance by Joanna Davidson Politano


A Midnight Dance (A Midnight Dance #1). Joanna Davidson Politano. Revell (2021). 384 pages.  Genre:  Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance.

First Lines: "Covent Garden, London, 1833.  He was so very blue. That was all my scattered mind could gather as he sailed past the window of Craven Street Theatre."

Summary:  Ella Blythe has always loved to dance.  It's not surprising considering her mother was the famous Delphine Bessette and her father, whose identity is unknown to her, was also a dancer.  Delphine Bessette was badly burned in a fire and presumed dead.  But she survived and went on to give birth to Ella.  Delphine and Ella have always lived in seclusion.  Ella longs to dance at the Craven Street Theatre like her mother did.  But, her mother begs her not to.  She doesn't want Ella's life ruined like hers was.  

While Delphine is alive, Ella keeps her promise.  But once she is dead, Ella auditions and is accepted into the corps de ballet.  After working hard and receiving a scholarship, she has her wish of dancing at the Craven Street Theatre.  Part of her reason for wanting to be at Craven Street is to discover who her father is.  As she is preparing for her first show, she realizes that the world of the ballet is cut-throat.  Ella is not willing to do the things some of the other dancers do to secure their position in the hierarchy.  Will she be able to survive in this world of dance?

My thoughts:  I read the second book in this series a couple of months ago not realizing it was part of a series.  I loved it so much that I wanted to go back and read the first book.  However, each of these books could be read as a stand alone with out missing too much.  The characters from this book make an appearance in the second book, but it is a small part.

I took ballet when I was young and am always drawn to books about dancing.  When the book begins, Ella is fifteen-years-old and desperately wants to train to be part of the ballet.  Her mother has danced with her from a young age, but never leaves the house.  Just before Ella was born, there was a terrible fire at the Craven Street Theatre.  Her mother was believed to have died in that fire that was deliberately set.  She changed her name and has stayed in seclusion all these years.  Delphine loved to dance, but theatre life was cruel to her and she wants to protect Ella from that.  It was shocking and fascinating to learn about the life of a dancer in Victorian times.  The author gives a few more details in her Author's Note as well.

I really liked Ella as a character.  She worked hard for what she wanted, but she wasn't willing to  compromise her convictions to get it.  Because of this she received lots of ridicule.  Something she has always struggled with is feeling like she is not enough, both as a dancer and as a person.  This story is her journey of growth toward realizing that she is enough.  It is also a beautiful example of giving glory to God in everything you do. 

Jack Dorian is the choreographer at the theatre.  He is known for being charming, wild and a ladies' man.  Ella does not make life easy for Jack.  She refuses to be charmed by him and assumes that anytime is offering her something, he expects something in return.  Eventually, when she has no other choice, she decides to accept a kindness her offers her.  She keeps telling herself that eventually Jack will want something in return.  I enjoyed watching Ella and Jack's relationship grow.  

Ella wants to learn who her father is and who set the fire that almost took her mother's life.  There are so many layers to this mystery.  Just when I thought she was getting close to the truth, there was another twist.  In the end, Ella discovers what she needs to and many things she didn't know she needed.  

This was a beautifully written story full of vibrant, deep characters.  I highly recommend it.


"'Always maintain marvelous posture, even in little things - smaller roles, backstage conversations, darning a pair of shoes - make beauty and elegance a way of life, even in the mundane moments, and they cannot help but notice you shining in your little corner.'"

"Already he felt freer, calmer, simply being outside."

"'A great many things that were originally noble and beautiful have been tarnished by this world, but that doesn't change what they were originally created to be.'"

The second book in the series:

Monday, February 6, 2023

Book Review: Deceptive Hearts by Marlene Chase


Deceptive Hearts (Amish Inn Mysteries #9). Marlene Chase. Annie's (2017). 201 pages. Genre: Cozy Mystery.

First Line of the Prologue: "He paused at the entrance of the dimly lit cafe and watched the girl seated near the back."

Summary:  Liz Eckardt and The Material Girls sewing group are planning a Valentine's Day party to take place at Olde Mansion Inn.  In the midst of the planning Liz has several guests staying at the Inn.  One frosty morning as Liz heads out for a walk, she discovers the body of one of her guests.  She and the other guests hadn't seen him since he checked in and assumed he was enjoying the privacy of his room.  Very little is known about him as he was traveling alone.  The police discover an old photograph of one of  Pleasant Creek's citizens in the victim's pocket.  Who was this man and why was he in Pleasant Creek.  The authorities have their work cut out for them, but can always count on a little help from Liz and The Material Girls.

My thoughts:  I picked this book up thinking it was the third in the series.  It wasn't until I finished it that I discovered it was actually the ninth.  I have read the first two books in the series so I was familiar with the characters, but I had no problem jumping in here.  I will go back and read the books I missed, however.

This is a series that includes several authors.  I had not read Marlene Chase before, but I really like her writing style.  The book starts with a prologue from the point of view of a man with a woman who seems to be Amish.  We know from his thoughts that he is using her to find someone in a photo.  It was a little creepy, but set a good tone for the book.

Liz has an interesting mix of guests at the inn this time.  There are two sisters and their cousin.  The cousin is an avid birdwatcher who they have not seen for years.  They decided to meet up at the inn and get reacquainted.  The cousin's character was entertaining.  He is always spouting off bird facts and I learned some interesting things.  

One thing I always enjoy about this series is the interaction of the Amish and the English.  Liz's mother was Amish, but left the order before Liz was born.  After her mother's death, Liz returned to Indiana to find out more about her mother's family.  There are always Amish characters in the stories and it is interesting to have their lifestyle included without it being the focus of the story.  

The pacing was just right.  The secondary story lines didn't slow down the flow, but added to the story.  The mystery was complicated especially as the victim was a mystery himself.  Liz is the perfect cozy sleuth - she only gets involved when she can truly help the police.  And if she happens to discover something on her own, she is quick to let the police know.  There were a couple of times when something happened that should have been a red flag, but Liz just explained it away.  Maybe it was a red flag to me because I read so many mysteries.  I did appreciate that the author always gave a good reason for the characters not to be alarmed by something I was pretty sure was a clue.  

I really enjoyed this one and am looking forward to going back and reading books two through eight.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries, I think you might like this one.  


"The sky seemed like a designer quilt in a hundred shades of white - lavender-white, blue-white, gray-white.  Like busy crafters, snowflakes sewed a border on a hemlock-covered hill, embroidered a valley and stitched a ruffle on a porch rail."

"Sweet Sarah, for whom faith was a living, everyday reality."

"She was a woman who had learned the secret of aging gracefully.  She enjoyed life and looked for the best in everyone."

Other books in the series:

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Book Review: Alaskan Sanctuary by Teri Wilson


Alaskan Sanctuary (Alaskan Wilderness #5). Teri Wilson. Love Inspired (2015). 217 pages. Genre: Contemporary Romance, Christian Fiction.

First Line: "'Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?'"

Summary (Goodreads): Piper Quinn is fighting for the future of her wolf sanctuary. A painful childhood has taught her to be more comfortable with animals than humans—especially the beautiful wolves of Aurora, Alaska. So when reporter Ethan Hale arrives to cover her struggling shelter—and deems the wolves a danger to the community—she's ready to prove him wrong. A former park ranger, Ethan's seen just enough tragedy to support his claim. Soon their difference of opinion is front-page news. And Piper and Ethan must reconcile their opposing views with their stubborn hearts that are quickly finding refuge in each other.

My thoughts:  Often when I go on vacation, I like to take books that have been sitting on my shelf for a while.  Alaskan Sanctuary met the criteria and sounded intriguing.  What I didn't realize until after I read the book, is that it is the final book in a series.  However, I never felt like I was missing anything during my reading.  Looking into the series a little more revealed that all the books take place in Alaska, but have different characters and scenarios.  

My interest was peaked from the very first page and I don't mean the first page of the story.  The author dedicated the book to the people and wolves at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center and went on to thank them in her acknowledgements.  That told me the author had done some research on wolves and I was in for a learning adventure.  I was not disappointed.

Piper Quinn has developed a heart for wolves and is working hard to find funding for her wolf sanctuary.  She has two wolves living in the sanctuary and has become friends with them.  If that sounds a little frightening to you, I understand, I felt the same way.  However, the author did a wonderful job of informing the reader about these magnificent animals and their habits and she did it all in a natural way through the main character's thoughts and dialogue with others. I liked Piper.  She is a lonely soul who has been hurt and is afraid to open up to others.  She has a big heart and has found solace in caring for the wolves.  

I wasn't sure what to think of Ethan Hale at first.  But as the story went on and we learned something about his past, I warmed up to him.  He is a man dealing with past pain that is informing the decisions he is making in the present.  I didn't blame Piper for not trusting him.  

There is a lot to work through when Ethan's article comes out and makes the wolf sanctuary seem like a danger to society.  Ethan soon realizes that he was hasty in his assessment of what Piper is doing and hopes to do with the sanctuary and amends need to be made.  There was also a mystery to solve and a bit of suspense.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this story set in Alaska.  I'm not sure I will go back and read the other books in the series, but I will definitely look for more books by Teri Wilson.


"She was consciously aware of the fact that she spent the majority of her time with wolves.  For the most part, she preferred it that way.  Wolves were easier to understand than most people.  Wolves had an organized, predictable social structure.  You knew where you stood with wolves.  Wolves didn't lie.  And they didn't keep secrets.  Not that they were particularly noble.  Like other animals, they were simply incapable of deception."

"The crisp morning air swirled with snowflakes as she led him down the path toward the wolf enclosures, their footsteps muffled by a blanket of pine needles." 

"Snow drifted down from a sky the color of glaciers in springtime and surrounded them in a feathery embrace.  The wind whispered through the lonely forest, and it sounded almost like a sigh. "