Memorial Day in the United States is observed on the last Monday in May and honors those in the U.S. military who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our protection and freedom. In my mind it also honors the families who have lost their loved ones to that cause. Their lives will never be the same.
As I walked around our home in the mountains this weekend, I saw inspiring red, white, and blues in nature and am sharing them in honor of those heroes. Some of the reds have an orangish glow on the camera and the blues tend more toward purple, but we’ll use our imaginations and call it creative license.
Green Leaf in Drought
by Isobel Kuhn
Arthur and Wilda Mathews and their baby spent a frustrating two years trying to discern and follow God’s will as missionaries for the China Inland Mission, a group spread widely over mainland China. Under the Communist regime, they were not allowed to witness to people about Jesus or to help people in need. They were eventually confined to their meager and uncomfortable quarters and socially isolated. Their living situation was desperate as the authorities tried to starve them and forced them to live in unhealthy conditions. Why had God brought them to this place? Why wouldn’t the authorities allow them to leave? Having arrived with enthusiasm, they eventually suffered through round after round of seeking God’s will in the midst of despair. Their little girl was a bright note as she absorbed and repeated the songs and Scriptures that sustained her parents during the difficult times.
If you are inspired by missionary stories or want to read about God working in the hearts of His children when times are hard, then you would probably find Green Leaf in Drought to your liking. The content is very interesting. Stylistically speaking, this book is not in the excellent category. Author Isobel Kuhn had very difficult resource materials to work with, mainly the writings of Arthur and Wilda Mathews. Their compositions were letters intended for family and recordings on paper of their thoughts, prayers, and poetry, which we would refer to today as journaling, often written in tiny script on thin airmail paper. Others were involved in deciphering and organizing the events which Kuhn then transformed into a readable narrative. As Kuhn tries to translate the couple’s thoughts into dialogue, the result is somewhat stilted. The descriptions, however, are well executed. Kuhn maintains the integrity of a biography. She does not veer off into historical fiction and is to be commended for that. Readers who want a more in depth character study will not find that because it was not provided in the source materials.
Rating: 4/5 (3/5 for writing style, 4/5 for interest and historical veracity)
Category: Christian, Biography
Publication: January 1, 2007—OMF International (first published in 1957)
The bamboo curtain shouts and bellows as it descends, boasts and preens itself. The Feather Curtain of God falls silently. It is soft and comforting to the sheltered one; but intangible, mysterious and baffling to the outsider.
Amazing how we plan everything so carefully and then God walks sovereignly right across the lot with something far better.
The slow wearing down of the human spirit is a species of torture which the communists delight to use and have found very productive for their purposes.
by Veronica Heley
Much to her dismay, Bea Abbot, the owner of the Abbot Agency becomes desperately entangled in the affairs of the rich and influential Trescott family. All is not as it appears in that closely knit family…well, closely knit in terms of the secrets they try to keep. Mysterious deaths keep piling up. Bea’s ward Bernice is rather forced at boarding school into a friendship role with the Trescott matriarch’s niece Evelina (Evie), a disheveled and almost incoherent teenager. Evie is meant to marry an older cousin Joshua who has promised to take care of her and, Bea suspects, her fortune too. Meanwhile, some rather disturbing patterns arise when Joshua’s tempestuous brother Benjy takes an interest in Bernice who is only 14 and also destined to be wealthy.
Veronica Heley’s False Conclusion is a good mystery that combines reasoning, investigation, and character conflicts with action. The author’s writing style insists that the reader sneak a quick peak at each “next chapter” which, of course, segues into the next and the next; it is a book that is hard to put down.
If you have been following this series, you will be interested in the relationship developments between Bea and her ex-husband Piers, a famous portrait painter whose artistic skills and quick thinking play a role in False Conclusion’s plot. If this series is new to you, don’t hesitate to dive in; you will quickly be brought up to speed on the characters and find that the plot is fresh. In fact, the intriguing opening lines throw both new and returning reader into the story without hesitation: “Bea Abbot shut the front door on her departing guests and demanded, ‘What on earth was that all about?’ ”
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Mystery, Christian
Notes: 1. #14 in the Abbot Agency Mystery Series, but would work as a standalone.
2. Although not overtly a Christian book, the author does show Bea’s reliance on God through a few short prayers for wisdom and protection during difficult times.
Publication: July 7, 2020—Severn House Publishers
His hand on her shoulder had been heavy. He’d meant her to feel the weight of his hand, and to remind her of the power behind it. He was smiling, but his eyes glittered, needle sharp. He had ceased to dismiss her as a pawn in the game.
She stared into the future. It was a dark pit, filled with crashing noises and a seething tangle of snakes. It was more real than her bedroom. It horrified her. She couldn’t look away. She couldn’t even pray.
“Forgiveness comes with understanding. And remorse. And courage to look into the future and not back at the past.”
Great Quotes from Cozy Writers
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Of Mutts and Men
by Spencer Quinn
Although I really enjoyed reading the first book in the Chet and Bernie Series, I was a little disappointed as I read Of Mutts and Men, the tenth book in the series. I felt like I was reading a clone of the first book, sporting a different cover and title and with the same jokes, but repeated too often. The mystery concerning a murder, an aquifer, and big business is fresh but somehow did not thrust me into a page turning mode. Chet, a K-9 school failure but faithful sidekick to P.I. Bernie, is always devotedly at Bernie’s side, but his role in capturing the “perps” in this book is less than I think he deserves. He has valuable deductions, but as a dog can not share them effectively in this tale. The story includes a personal side of Bernie’s life as a former flame reenters the picture, but there is no deep examination and it doesn’t seem believable.
I recommend this book if you like mysteries that involve canines and you want a light read. Unfortunately, although it reads well as a standalone, it does not compel me to read the eight books that I skipped over in the series. I am planning to read the next book in the series to inspire me to read more or to convince me that the series is not worth investing more time.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Macmillan—Tor/Forge for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #10 in the Chet and Bernie Series, but can be read as a standalone.
2. Contains some profanity.
3. Link to my review of the first book in the series, Dog On It.
Publication: July 7, 2020— Macmillan—Tor/Forge
“Sometimes I don’t understand you.” Well, right back at ya. Which didn’t change how I felt about him, not the slightest bit. And just to show him, I put my paw on his leg and pressed down firmly, so he’d know how much I cared. We shot through the intersection, the light luckily turning green at that moment, or just about to.
The big heat of summer was coming very soon, and the back of Bernie’s shirt—one of his nicest, with the flamingos drinking at a bar pattern—was getting sweaty, and he was huffing and puffing a bit. I followed him up the slope, first from behind and then from in front, where I do my best following.
I started feeling very good about the case. As for what it was about, exactly, those details would come to me soon, or later, or not at all. But the important thing was that we were cooking, me and Bernie.
Mums and Mayhem
by Amanda Flower
Fiona Knox transplanted herself from Tennessee to the east coast of Scotland when she inherited Duncreigan, a very small cottage with its magical garden, from her godfather Ian. She became Keeper of the garden and is learning how to care for it through trial and error. She also owns a floral shop in the little town of Bellewick where she has made a number of friends despite some animosity against her as an American.
In this mystery, world famous fiddler Barley McFee has returned home for a concert, but there are complications to his visit. Fiona’s parents have also come to Scotland for a visit. She plans on pinning them down on the identity of her biological father. Fiona and her sister Isla also want to introduce them to the men in their lives. Complications added into the plot are disputes in Barley’s backup band, a historian who wants access to the magic garden, a businessman who wants to restore a tumbling manor house, a fire at sea, vandalism in the magic garden, and a murder.
With so much going on in the little village, Fiona is stretched to her limits, but her boyfriend, Chief Inspector Neil Craig, her friend Presha, and her Scottish Fold cat, Ivanhoe, are a constant source of support.
Amanda Flower’s Mums and Mayhem is a cozy mystery with a Scottish flair and a sprinkle of magic of the whimsical variety. Fiona is desperate to restore the magical garden and the conclusion not only reveals the murderer and resolves the personal conflicts with her parents, but also shows Fiona regarding the garden in a new light.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in the Magic Garden Mysteries, but can be read as a standalone allowing the author to fill in any needed background information.
Publication: July 7, 2020—Crooked Lane Books
The American tendency is more and bigger and better and new. We don’t always buy into that in Scotland. We appreciate old and tradition.
My heart sank. I wanted to grab the words out of the air and shove them back into my mouth. But it was too late for that.
“I think it’s the right thing to do. It feels right, in any case, and when dealing with the garden, I have learned that going with my gut has always been the best choice.”
by Wendell Berry
The narrator through the voice of Hannah Coulter ends the first chapter of this novel with the simple line “This is my story, my giving of thanks.” Do not, however, be lulled into thinking you are going to read a book consisting of platitudes on gratitude. Hannah reflects from old age on a full life, but what most would consider a common, ordinary life. She grieves over those she lost whether to sickness or the War. She keeps moving forward because what else is she to do?
Wendell Berry, the author of Hannah Coulter is an agrarian, a novelist, a poet, and an essayist. He brings his characters to life with carefully chosen words that reflect their deepest thoughts about difficult subjects as well as their humanity. This is a book that you may want to reread, that may make you tear up, and that will certainly be the cause of reflection as you identify with certain characters or events.
Perhaps because I usually prefer linear storytelling and Hannah Coulter strays from that paradigm in its first and last chapters, it will not be one of my favorite books. I do recommend it as a book of depth with passages that are worthy of sharing orally for the way the words delight or for the descriptions meant to be savored for the images they evoke. Hannah Coulter opens the door to her heart, her life, and her community to the reader in an honest and touching manner.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Counterpoint for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Literary Fiction
Notes: 1. Part of the Port William series but they don’t have to be read in order.
2. Map and Genealogy included at the end.
Publication: October 10, 2005—Counterpoint
Time doesn’t stop. Your life doesn’t stop and wait until you get ready to start living it. Those years of the war were not a blank, and yet during all that time I was waiting. We were all waiting.
He told of the time he went fishing and the mosquitoes were so big and fierce that he had to take shelter under a lard kettle, and the mosquitoes’ beaks were so tough and sharp that they pierced the iron and came through, and he picked up his hammer and clenched their beaks, and the mosquitoes flew off with his kettle.
The chance you had is the life you’ve got. You can make complaints about what people, including you, make of their lives after they have got them, and about what people make of other people’s lives, even about your children being gone, but you mustn’t wish for another life. You mustn’t want to be somebody else. What you must do is this: “Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.” I am not all the way capable of so much, but those are the right instructions.
A Fatal Fiction
by Kaitlyn Dunnett
Mikki Lincoln is a retired middle school English teacher in Kaitlyn Dunnett’s A Fatal Fiction. In order to remodel her childhood home that has been neglected for many years, she supplements her retirement income using her skills as a copy editor. She lived in Maine for about fifty years, but has returned to her hometown, Lenape Hollow, NY. While stopped at a gas station, seventy year old Mikki is verbally attacked by a very angry businessman who has cheated a lot of people over the years by luring them into failing investments. Video of the encounter goes viral, even though Mikki never understood the cause of his anger. Mikki is the prime suspect when her attacker, CEO Greg Onslow, is found dead on one of the properties his company is developing.
Mikki is determined to discover who killed Onslow, but he was not a very nice man, so there are multiple suspects. Friends and family discourage her investigations as they seem dangerous at times.
The editing aspect of the story revolves around Sunny Feldman, last of the owners of a famous resort in the Catskills. She has hired Mikki to edit her semi tell-all memoirs of the celebrities who frequented the resort when she was a teenager. Onslow has bought the property for a development venture. Could their interests be colliding to cause these problems? Could Onslow’s ex-wife or even his second wife have killed him? There are some interesting locals who may have been involved as well. Most importantly, will the murderer set his or her sights on Mikki to cover up the crime and stop the investigation?
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #3 in the Deadly Edits Mystery Series, but will work as a standalone.
2. At the end of the book, there is a section that will especially appeal to those who love language. It is composed of several pages of language and grammar tips including warnings on split infinitives, dangling modifiers, and usage of the terms swearing and foul language. The tips are interesting and often humorous.
Publication: June 30, 2020—Kensington Books
Warmth crept up my neck and into my face. I was torn between feeling a sense of pride for standing up for myself and enduring acute embarrassment because I’d lost control.
Since I used the “teacher” voice I’d perfected over decades of dealing with junior high students, he caved, but he wasn’t happy about it. I’d have said he was sulking, except that there was a definite look of panic in his eyes.
Unfortunately, to properly put on the airs of a grand dame one really needs to be sipping tea from a delicate china cup. I was drinking my coffee out of a Star Wars mug, a Christmas present from my great-niece.
by Susan M. Boyer
I am not regularly a reader of paranormal books, but Susan M. Boyer’s cozy mysteries have a different sort of paranormal twist. They focus on Liz Talbot, P.I., who is married to Nate, also a P.I. and her business partner. It’s no spoiler in my review of the ninth book in the series to say one of the characters is the spirit of Colleen who passed away during her junior year in high school. A spunky redhead, she has returned on a mission to guard their little town of Stella Maris. There are rules she has to follow or there will be consequences. Liz and Nate are the only people who can see her. She adds humor to the books but also aids in the investigations—sporadically. I write about her at such length because she has a pivotal role in this book, but to say more would indeed be a spoiler.
There are a number of threads in Lowcountry Boondoggle. Darius, a former reality TV star has been located by Brantley, his “long-lost love child” who is the sole survivor of a fire that wiped out his adoptive family’s home. Brantley has teamed up with two other friends, Tyler and Will, to establish an agricultural business to raise hemp. The young men will be concentrating on selling the stems to make supercapacitors, and they need money to start their business.
The plot centers around arson, murder, theft, deception, and jealousy. There is some humorous relief when Liz discovers her father’s plotting to create a Halloween scene on steroids on the front lawn. What will Mama say? Foodies will enjoy descriptions of Liz’s mama’s Southern cooking as well as some of the couple’s extravagant dining at the expense of their clients.
The plot was well-devised, but seemed to drag a little. I also didn’t enjoy the characters as much as I have in some other cozy mysteries in this series. Even the setting didn’t have the pizzaz I expected. Fortunately, I have read several books in this series and know the next one will probably be more to my taste as Boyer has included several intriguing hooks in her conclusion.
I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #9 in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series
Publication: June 30, 2020—Henery Press
“…bad people are often very good at hiding behind masks of fake virtue.”
My husband was up to something, just as sure as azaleas would bloom all over Charleston in the spring.
“I always thought I had plenty of time, no rush. We make that same mistake all the time, don’t we? Thinking we have time?”