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The Snow Goose–a story to be treasured

The Snow Goose

by Paul Gallico

Occasionally a story is written that is like a rare and exquisite jewel meant to be held with reverence and examined over and over to absorb the depths of its beauty. For me, that story is Paul Gallico’s novella, The Snow Goose. It was originally written as a short story for The Saturday Evening Post, but Gallico expanded it into a novella that can be cherished for its beautiful language and its emotional impact. It combines the tale of a hunchback with the love of a young girl who brings an injured Canadian snow goose to Rhayader, a recluse who lives in a deserted lighthouse near the village of Chelmbury on the Essex coast. He is an artist and a gentle soul, not at all fitting the image conjured up by the townspeople. When the call comes to rescue the stranded soldiers at Dunkirk, Rhayader has an opportunity to fulfill his potential as a man.

I read this book for my book club. It is only a thirty minute read. Before the meeting I read it again just to immerse myself once more in the beauty of the words, in a tale of love, friendship, and heroism that is such a treasure that you will wish, from deep down in your soul, that it were true. This book is moving, heart-wrenching, and full of magnificent word images. It is a story that will stay with you long after you gently close its pages.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Fiction

Notes: 1. novella
2. I owe a debt of gratitude to the lovely ladies of my book club who contributed to this review through our conversations about The Snow Goose. I think you will find your insights woven into my review.

Publication: First published in 1940—Caramna Corp.
My copy was published in 2018 by Project Gutenberg

Memorable Lines:

Grays and blues and soft greens are the colors, for when the skies are dark in the long winters, the many waters of the beaches and marshes reflect the cold and somber color. But sometimes, with sunrise and sunset, sky and land are aflame with red and golden fire.

Lately it served again as a human habitation. In it there lived a lonely man. His body was warped, but his heart was filled with love for the wild and hunted things. He was ugly to look upon, but he created great beauty. It is about him, and a child who came to know him and see beyond the grotesque form that housed him to what lay within, that this story is told.

With the departure of the snow goose ended the visits of Frith to the lighthouse. Rhayader learned all over again the meaning of the word “loneliness.”

Death in Daylesford–mysteries in Australia

Death in Daylesford

by Kerry Greenwood

The inimitable and exquisite Phryne Fisher, lady detective, stars in a new Phryne Fisher mystery. In Death in Daylesford, there are two main plots as Phryne is invited to visit a spa that helps soldiers recovering from shell shock with an end to soliciting her financial support. She and her constant companion, the very sweet Dot, enjoy a vacation in the area where there are many mysteries that find their way to Phryne’s attention.

Back at home in St. Kilda, a girl is found dead in the water. Jack Robinson has been assigned a temporary post in another town, and an incompetent detective inspector is taking his place. Dot’s boyfriend Detective Sergeant Hugh Collins recruits Phryne’s household to assist in his investigation. Phryne’s adopted daughters Jane and Ruth along with Tinker, a helpful youth Phryne has taken in, use their respective strengths to uncover the secrets that led to the girl’s death.

This is an intricate and well-played mystery with multiple surprises and twists along the way. Given that there are so many issues to be resolved, it is amazing how Phryne sorts through the mysteries which range from minor quirks to multiple murders that occur in plain sight of crowds of people. Yet no one sees anything.

In Daylesford there is a local bumbling officer whose “talents would be taxed to the limit by remembering his own name and address, or the number of digits on his extremities.” There is also a quite competent inspector brought in to work on the murder cases, and he respectfully solicits Phryne’s help and their collaboration, although dangerous, is successful.

Although sexual encounters of various types are referred to, they are not displayed in the book. Phryne is an unusual woman for her time. Her wealth allows her the freedom to challenge conventional norms while her background helps her understand the dark, seamier side of life.

There are a lot of characters in this novel, and at times I had to refer back to refresh my memory. The setting changes back and forth between storylines, but at no time do the two overlap.

I have enjoyed all the Phryne mystery novels and the movies made from them under the title Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. This book exceeded my high expectations for another complicated plot with a creative, sophisticated sleuth.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #21 in the Phryne Fisher Series, but could be read as a standalone.
2. There are references to various sexual preferences.
3. Set in Australia, it contains lots of Australian terms if you enjoy dabbling in linguistic differences.

Publication: June 1, 2021—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

“To save time and fuss I may as well tell you that your fame precedes you. And while I’m not gonna play Dumb Cop to your Aristocratic Detective, I need a result here and I’d be a fool if I didn’t use whatever help you can give me.” He blinked, and put his massive head on one side, looking now like a kookaburra eyeing off an unattended sausage at a barbecue.

“You do realize that the front door doesn’t lock, don’t you?” Al grunted. “S’orright, though. We got a dog. Burglars are scared of Bluey.” “Why is that, sir?” “On account of gettin’ slobbered on a lot. Nuthin’ worse than an overenthusiastic dog when yer tryin’ to rob a house.”

Now the smugness was unmistakable. Kelly could feel the conceit rising in the insolent young man like yeast in a bowl of dough.

Buried in a Good Book–murder in the boonies

Buried in a Good Book

by Tamara Berry

For anyone who likes a good bookish story, you can’t get much more bookish than Tamara Berry’s new cozy mystery Buried in a Good Book. The main character, Tess Harrow, is a best selling mystery author. Another character is a librarian who operates a bookmobile in the remote area where Tess and her precocious teenage daughter Gertrude (Gertie) go to heal after a divorce. One of the deputies there has written a very long science fiction novel. Also, with no Internet, research and reading are done the old-fashioned way—from printed volumes.

The book begins with both a grizzly murder discovery and a lot of humor (written in such a way that it is not inappropriate) as Tess compares everything to a scenario or a character in one of her books. The local sheriff has enjoyed all of her books, but doesn’t agree with some of the police procedures Tess uses in her plots. He actually has a lot in common with her main character Detective Gonzales. As the action in Buried in a Good Book moves along, the plot becomes delightfully complicated, and Tess and Gertie become increasingly involved. The number of murders grows along with the number of suspects. Tess will not be deterred from trying to discover what is going on. There are odd exotic animal sightings, and Bigfoot is even seen roaming near the remote cabin Tess inherited from her grandfather. Someone appears to have been living in her grandfather’s hardware store. An upcoming election pits the current sheriff against a moneyed businessman with logging interests. After six months of no contact with his daughter (except for receiving palimony checks from Tess), the cheating ex-husband shows up.

Meanwhile, through all the complications and dangers, the story maintains the perfect level of humor. The identity of those behind the evil and plotting was a surprise to me until shortly before the reveal. I enjoyed this cozy and am looking forward to the second in the series to be published in November of 2022.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the By the Book Mystery Series

Publication: May 24, 2022—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

She’d toyed with the idea of prepping Gertrude ahead of time—warning her that the next month was going to be one of rusticity and a return to basics—but she was no fool. Nothing turned a fourteen-year-old against her mother faster than the threat of prolonged one-on-one time.

Until she saw that picture of the woman’s face, Tess hadn’t realized how real all this could feel. When the body was just a hypothetical and anonymous person, it had been easy to treat everything as a puzzle to be solved—a clue to discover….Seeing the woman’s smile, realizing just how young and alive she once was, changed everything.

She’d been warned by her literary agent, early on, to be wary of the line between author and fan….Requests for personal meetings, demands made under the guise of friendship, people showing up outside your remote grandfather’s cabin…those flags weren’t just red. They were crimson.

Made to Crave–not a diet plan

Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food

by Lysa TerKeurst

When Lysa TerKeurst decided to get serious about losing weight and keeping it off, she consulted a nutritionist, was given a food plan, had weekly weigh-ins for accountability, and learned a lot about food choices and portions, but all of that is not what her book, Made to Crave, is really about. TerKeurst uses the weight loss challenge as an opportunity to reexamine her relationship with God; what she learned can be applied to other addictions as well. In her introduction she says, “God made us capable of craving so we’d have an unquenchable desire for more of Him, and Him alone. Nothing changes until we make the choice to redirect our misguided cravings to the only one capable of satisfying them. Getting healthy isn’t just about losing weight. It’s not limited to adjusting our diet and hoping for good physical results. It’s about recalibrating our souls so that we want to change—spiritually, physically, and mentally.”

This book is not going to be right for everyone as it tells of TerKeurst’s personal journey. She addresses the problems she confronts like stress eating, being comfortable with your body regardless of your size, and overindulgence. She ties her thoughts into appropriate Scripture references and includes sections at the end that collate the verses into one area according to subject. She also has “Healthy Eating Go-To Scripts” that are self-talk and Scriptures you can use to encourage yourself to stay the course. Each chapter ends with Personal Reflections that reiterate TerKeurst’s theme in that chapter and has questions for thought.

Is this the right book for you? That is a question only you can answer for yourself. As anyone who has ever tried to break the pattern of yo-yo dieting knows, it is not an easy or simple task. I would suggest that it would be one more tool in a Christian’s toolbox when trying to address the complex problem of losing weight. It is not an eating plan or a book that will “fix” your problem. To really work through this process requires soul-searching and hard work.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Health

Notes: There is some humor sprinkled through the book. My favorite is her reference to removing her ponytail holder in a desperate attempt to make those scales go down. I can identify in my attempt to attain “data collection consistency,” right?

Publication: 2010—Zondervan

Memorable Lines:

We need a power beyond our frail attempts and fragile resolve. A power greater than our taste buds, hormones, temptations, and our inborn female demand for chocolate. Yes, the truth of who we are and the power to live out that truth—that’s what we need.

But I’ve realized when the desire for treats is triggered by difficult emotions, it’s not really a desire for treats—it’s a thinly veiled attempt at self-medication.

But pity parties are a cruel way to entertain, for they leave behind a deeper emptiness than we started with in the first place.

Love in Plain Sight–learning to trust again

Love in Plain Sight

by Kathleen Fuller

Although Love in Plain Sight is an Amish romance, it is not a sugar coated love story. It addresses two cases of physical and verbal abuse in two different Amish communities—how it affected the victims and how they reacted to it. Along the way though, the reader meets some noble and likable characters. They are people with standards, people you would want to meet. The book does not address abuse from a community standpoint, but from an individual one. The abusers have other character flaws or sins that are intertwined with their abuse—a hunger for money and power. They abound in self-interest and don’t care who gets hurt.

The plot is complex as Katharine decides to flee her abusing fiancée and lies to everyone to protect herself and her parents. She is Amish and finds a job at an Amish inn in a distant town where she is surrounded by loving people. One of them was abused by her husband who has been missing for nine years and is presumed dead. The two women recognize the backgrounds they see in each other. It is difficult for both to move on with their lives. Rhoda is still legally married, and Katharine has major self-esteem issues compounded by the stress of never being able to do anything the way her fiancée wants it done. As a result, she gains weight and her acne worsens causing even more criticism from him.

I started the book one evening and couldn’t wait to resume it the next day. The plot moves quickly, and both plot lines have dramatic conclusions. One of the major themes is forgiveness. Another is trusting God to work out things for good.

There is an amusing thread in the story. An ad has appeared in a number of Amish newspapers inviting young Amish women looking for bachelors to come to the little town of Birch Creek. Katharine chooses to “disappear” in that town, not because she wants a husband, but because there will be so many Amish women arriving that no one will question why she is there. The big question locally is the identity of the ad writer, and the surprising answer emerges at the end of the book.

Kathleen Fuller is not a new author, but this book is a first of her works for me. I recommend this book and look forward to reading more in this series and others by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Christian

Notes: 1. #3 in the Amish Mail-Order Brides of Birch Creek Series. Although I have not read the first books in the series, I had no problem reading this as a standalone.

  1. The abuse is not described graphically.

Publication: May 3, 2022—Zondervan Fiction

Memorable Lines:

Despite decades of practice stuffing down her thoughts and feelings to the point where she was numb, fighting the bitterness edging her heart was getting harder.

To cope with his verbal abuse she disappeared into herself until there was nothing but silence in her head replacing his voice. Blissful silence—

“Make sure that the man you marry is gut, kind, and true. Don’t let love blind you to his faults, and don’t compromise yourself to please him. If you do, you’ll lose the person you are, and you’ll live to regret it.”

Seabiscuit–racehorse with a heart

Seabiscuit: An American Legend

by Laura Hillenbrand

Seabiscuit is the story of an incredible racehorse who took the nation by storm at a time when people needed something positive. He lacked perfect conformation. It seemed like he never got a lucky break when it came to weather or rulings about the amount of extra weight added to his saddle for the races. What he had, however, was strength, speed, competitiveness, and the ability to give all that was asked of him. He also had a supportive team that never gave up on him.

Laura Hillenbrand had been writing about horses and racing in periodicals for years. In Seabiscuit she took that writing to a whole new level, researching, interviewing, delving into archives and corroborating the facts. Then she worked her magic as an outstanding writer to organize the information and make it come alive in word pictures that capture the reader’s heart and imagination.

Hillenbrand doesn’t just help the reader understand and come to love Seabiscuit as his fans did. She takes us into the life of Red Pollard, the jockey who knew Seabiscuit and his ways best. She introduces us to owner Charles Howard and trainer Tom Smith who were as unlikely to be part of his success story as Seabiscuit himself. We are treated to mini-biographies of those around Seabiscuit and the general nature of racing and betting in the 1930’s.

As a complete novice in the world of horse racing, I had to labor a little initially to follow the details, but I soon caught on and began chasing the powerful horse across the pages of this well written book. Hillenbrand’s words are chosen with care and create images in the mind and stir emotions in the heart making this a truly unforgettable piece of nonfiction.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Nonfiction, History

Notes: I purchased the Special Illustrated Collector’s Edition which contains more photographs than the original publication. I highly recommend this edition.

Publication: 2003—Random House

Memorable Lines:

Red Pollard and George Woolf had signed on to a life that used men up. But for all its miseries, there was an unmistakable allure to the jockey’s craft, one that both found irresistible….When a horse and a jockey flew over the track together, there were moments in which the man’s mind wedded itself to the animal’s body to form something greater than the sum of both parts….At the bottom of the Depression, when wrenching need narrowed the parameters of experience as never before, the liberation offered by the racehorse was, to young men like Pollard and Woolf, a siren song.

Seabiscuit seemed a cumbersome giant in comparison. At 1,040 pounds, he outweighed War Admiral by 80 pounds, with six feet of girth and a markedly wider chest. But the big body was perched on legs a full two inches shorter. His neck was thick, his head heavy, his tail stubby, his boxing-glove knees crouched….the mane plaits didn’t lie right and stuck out like quills. the horse stood straddle-legged, as if perpetually bracing himself against a strong wind.

A mournful hush fell over the barn, broken only by the long, low moans of a saddle pony who missed his absent stable companion. All evening long, the deep sad sound drifted out from the shed rows.

Murder with Darjeeling Tea–the man no one liked

Murder with Darjeeling Tea

by Karen Rose Smith

Daisy, owner of a tearoom in Willow Creek, sets out to buy a dog statue for her boyfriend Jonas’ birthday. Unfortunately, the odd man she bought it from is murdered soon after. While trying to keep her business running successfully, she is drawn into the investigation because she has an easy way with people and they find themselves confiding in her. She and the reader are drawn into the world of local secrets, teenage mistakes, catering for the wealthy, rescue dogs, homeless shelters, and Amish customs. It is a wild ride whenever Daisy is around whether she’s on her bike or driving an Amish buggy for her friend. On the side, she is dealing with the deepening of her relationship with Jonas and the realization that her children are moving closer to leaving the nest.

If you are new to this series, you really could jump into it with the eighth book. Author Karen Rose Smith has your back, serving up needed background information as you dive into the story. She is also talented in providing detailed descriptions of the characters and what they are wearing. From the pen of a less skilled writer, this might seem like overkill, but Smith does it in such a way that the characters stand out. Because the background is the tearoom, there is a lot of food talk but it is never repetitive or seems like it is included just to increase the word count. There are many plot threads and a number of suspects. The conclusion of Murder with Darjeeling Tea is dramatic, and the identity of the murderer is a surprise.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #8 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but can be read as a standalone.
2. Recipes are included: Chicken Chili, Cheese Biscuits, and Mild Peach Salsa.

Publication: May 24, 2022—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Fiona already had more color in her cheeks and a smile on her face. That’s what the tea garden could do for Daisy’s customers. That’s what her customers could do for her.

Amish buggies in Lancaster County taught everyone in the community an important lesson—slow down and enjoy the scenery.

“What are you thinking about?” he asked. “You look preoccupied.” “Too much to sort out, I’m afraid. Mainly, that life is one big succession of changes. At my age, you’d think I’d be used to it.” “I’m not sure we’re ever used to change.”

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