Power Outage = Power Reading

We were all impressed this week when the power stayed constant despite a storm that delivered record snowfall amounts in a short space of time. The snow was deep, but dry. Unlike the storm a few weeks back that was thick and wet. During this previous weather event, snow snapped branches and power lines failed when trees toppled. While it’s an inconvenience, power outages have their own rewards. Just curl up with a few blankets, a battery powered booklight, and revel in reading time. This 18 hour power outage helped me successfully meet my 2020 reading challenge. Thirty books in 52 weeks. I probably read a few more, but those are the ones I recorded. This last power outage revealed one problem with our trusty generator. It’s not big enough to power everything simultaneously. So we rotate through a cycle of powering the furnace and water pump, then the refrigerator and some kitchen outlets. This is how I know I can brew a morning cup of coffee. But this year, no coffee. There wasn’t enough voltage for some reason to bring the coffee maker to life. I was ready to hike out to the neighbors because days just don’t start without “a cup of Joe”. As I grew more irritable and impatient, I finally realized hot chocolate made with boiling water on my gas stove would suffice. Since that day, I decided on an inexpensive solution. My husband doesn’t know it yet, but during our Christmas gift exchange, he’s giving me a stove top percolator. I am truly comforted to know, I can enjoy a cup of coffee with or without power. Here’s to many happy hours of reading in 2021!

photo credit: Amazon and the Colletti Bozeman Percolator Coffee Pot

The Windsor Knot by S J Bennett

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While listening to a recent podcast, a publishing rep gushed enthusiastically over this book. In the blink of an eye, I clicked over to NetGalley and submitted my ARC request. I was pleased to receive The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett to review. Now that I’ve finished it, I understand his enthusiasm. Queen Elizabeth II and her assistant private secretary Rozie Oshodi are detectives. The Queen skillfully directs Rozie to track down clues while her majesty simultaneously carries out her royal duties. Each time Rozie reports her findings, new clues are unveiled and her task list grows. All of this is done in the background. It turns out, the Queen has been solving crimes since her coronation decades ago. At times she asks Rozie to enlist the help of Billy MacLachlan, a trusted former law enforcement officer. As she moves closer to the truth the Queen skillfully gets just enough info to the MI5 investigators to get them to see her point of view. The MI5 detectives have some of her staff high on their suspect list. They also consider a wild theory involving an unknown sleeper agent planted by Russia as valid. The Queen’s desire to prove them wrong launches her into this crime solving inquiry.

You may think the Queen is hoping to capture an art thief or a high level robber making off with the palace jewels. But it’s a murderer that must be caught. A young Russian pianist died after an evening of royal feasting and dancing at Windsor Castle. The guest list for the evening reads like a gathering of Who’s Who from Britain and Russia. Among them are a few individuals who look guilty. Due to the sordid circumstances of the young Russian’s death, a cloak of secrecy covers the investigation. Queen Elizabeth and her staff hope the solution will arrive before news of the event leaks to the tabloids.

It’s a contemporary novel with former US president Barack Obama and his wife visiting the castle. References are made to Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkle. The agendas of World Powers are called into question and the plot involves a good dose of international intrigue. You’ll have fun reading the uniquely British terms like bespoke and brio and deciphering the acronyms HRM and MBE. (Her Royal Majesty and Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s husband adds a touch of humor to the story. Their dialogue and his remarks are upbeat and quirky.

This book is due out on March 9, 2021. It’s available now as a pre-order. As stated at the opening, I read an advanced reader’s copy of this book supplied by NetGalley. I was under no obligation to publish a positive review. #TheWindsorKnot, #NetGalley

“Things We Didn’t Say” by Amy Lynn Green

Things We Didn’t Say
By Amy Lynn Green / Bethany House
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I just finished “Things We Didn’t Say” by Amy Lynn Green. Just after its debut day, I was so excited to pick up my copy from the local Indie Bookstore. Later when I flipped open the cover, I  was caught by surprise. “Hold on a second,” I said. “An entire book written in letters? How did I miss this? Will I like it? I don’t know.” I couldn’t recall another similar literary offering that I had read. But upon reflection, I thought of two; The Screwtape Letters and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I enjoyed both of these. With this recollection, I was convinced. An epistolary novel is a  powerful form of expression. 

I got over my initial speed bump and plunged in. With a few page turns, I was all in. There’s great movement in the plot. The multiple points of view made the story rich. At the end, I thought the characters were so vibrant. Each one essential to the story. I had my doubts with Olive’s missives but even her correspondence proved to be a key story element. 

At the conclusion, I thought about the story of the prodigal son in the Bible. Not the returning prodigal son himself, but his brother. The one that would never go in and join the celebration due to his anger and unforgiving nature. I thought the letters did a good job of showing that often when presented with something that threatens our sense of justice we react just like the older brother. We lash out and harbor anger toward the person or situation that has rocked our world. Bitterness defines us. When the German POW’s came to the camp in the villagers’ northern Minnesota community, few were thinking about practicing hospitality, or letting their light shine, or showing God’s love. It was heartwarming to travel along with the characters on their path to greater understanding.

Fun surprises along the way lightened the mood and solved some mysteries. I’ll admit, I’m a little curious about the title. Why is it called “Things We Didn’t’ Say.” To me, the story is complete. It’s a homerun. The letters tell it all. As I think about it, I guess the title stems from the idea that the characters later expressed in letters what they neglected to say in the moment. Words left unspoken due to fear and bad timing. This certainly happened first with Johanna Berglund and Erik Sorenson, and later with Johanna and Peter.

Amy Lynn Green has crafted a thoroughly satisfying story. The book is part of my personal library, but it’s not likely to sit on the shelf for long. I’m looking forward to sharing it with my book buddies.

“Test, before You Trust!”

When I worked as a school library media specialist, I repeated this phrase often. Facts should always be verified. When you find a fact repeated the same way at another trustworthy source then it’s a “Go!”- use that fact with confidence.

However, errors often occur and they are frustrating and confusing. Recently I was looking at a historical photo. An anonymous writer had written a caption with some identifying information. The trouble is it didn’t line up with photos I had turned up in the state archives and local historical society. Finally after consulting with another respected researcher we solved the puzzle. He remembered a fact from a previously recorded oral history and together we judged the photo caption to be false. When I wrote my caption correction, I dated it and wrote my name. The lesson I learned is fact check all claims.

You can certainly get lost doing research. I was listening to a podcast last week, and the highly respected author Melanie Dobson said, “I write to support my research habit.” I can identify with this statement. Whether it’s checking facts or conducting an investigation to answer a question, I often find myself doing a deep dive into research. As deadlines near, more than once I’ve told my editorial board, “I’m just going to call it and start writing.” As the word count goes up, it easier to see what is needed and what can be discarded. With a project I’m working on, I still have two more outstanding unverified claims. One involves Henry David Thoreau, and the second is centered on the 1824 visit of the Marquis de Lafayette. Right now, the answers are just outside my grasp, but I’m hoping to prove them both of the claims true.

Winners announced November 12, 2020

2020 Christy Award Finalists

In each category, you’ll find great books to enjoy. Authors and publishers have given us many top quality novels. Page turners you can’t put down. You’ll experience a whole range of emotions with many. You’ll remember stand out quotes long after the back cover flips closed.

As I like to say …. “Bookmarks are for Quitters!”

Finalists in the First Novel Category. Use the link above for a list of all finalists.

Summer News

Since mid summer, my mind’s eye could see only deadlines. Two big projects came due at the end of September. For one I had to use primary sources extensively. With the state archives closed, its been like working with one hand tied behind your back. Microfilms at the historical societies can only be used in one hour appointments. At the state library the materials you look at one week are then quarantined for a week so they are not available until a week later. Patience was required. I managed to meet my deadlines. I am thankful.

Since I often work with many primary sources, I became aware of this 19th amendment display offered by the National Archives. I signed up to receive the display and was able to secure one. I made arrangements to have it on display starting just before August 18th. This date is significant because one hundred years ago on August 18, 1920, Tennessee passed it and became the required 36th state to pass the amendment. The contents of the display were superb. It was easy to set up. It was a bright spot in a very busy summer.

Don’t Keep Silent

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729865: Don"t Keep Silent, #3 Don’t Keep Silent, #3
By Elizabeth Goddard / Revell

I want to state this loud and clear: “Don’t Keep Silent” by Elizabeth Goddard is a fantastic novel. She builds a multi-layered mystery around the disappearance of Zoey, a young mother with a secret identity.  Her sister in law Rae Burke, a veteran investigative reporter is called in to search for clues and find the missing person before the trail goes ice cold.

The entire novel spans one action packed week and two Rocky Mountain states. Rae and her brother Alan decide to start the search by interviewing Zoey’s estranged mom back in Jackson Hole Wyoming. Alan stays in Denver, Colorado to care for Callie, the daughter that is the center of Alan and Zoey’s home. Alan’s sister, Rae sets off for Wyoming with hopes that she and a hired P.I. can cover more ground faster than the law enforcement personnel assigned to the case. Rae trusts only Liam McKade to be her partner on the job. Their partnership ebbs and flows between harmony and division. Rae and Liam have a stormy history. They both crashed and burned from a previous incident and have spent recent months rebuilding from this epic fail. Liam was forced to walk away from his undercover assignment since his cover was blown while trying to rescue Rae from an armed assailant. At the start of this novel, Liam is living in Jackson Hole on the family ranch. He has multiple new job offers but is confused over which one to accept. Rae seeks him out and together they acquire the puzzle pieces required to solve the missing person mystery.

The setting based primarily at ski resorts in Wyoming is perfectly suited to the plot. Elizabeth Goddard builds her story around the grim activities connected to human trafficking. In addition to hiring Liam as a P.I, she brings in Reggie, a cyber-sleuth who works the deep web angles for leads.

The book is a page-turner with smart characters and plenty of action. The suspect list expands and contracts until a major breakthrough brings the plot to a dramatic end. It’s a great book to share with mystery fans. Don’t Keep Silent is Book 3 in the Uncommon Justice series. I had not read the previous two books, but I jumped right into book 3 and never missed a beat. The plot’s pace is fast, just like the run an expert skier would take on an black diamond trail with plenty of life threatening obstacles. I received an advanced reader’s copy from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing, in exchange for my honest review.

Standoff

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735732: Standoff, #1 Standoff, #1

By Patricia Bradley / Revell

The National Park setting of this book caught my eye, but it was the clues, red herrings, and sustained slow release of the mystery that kept me hooked. It’s a book I highly recommend. The Natchez Trace National Parkway in Mississippi is the scene for some of the climax moments. The cast of characters is well developed. Brooke Danver’s story, the female protagonist, is very engaging. She is a young lady who has followed her dreams and is about to start on a career in law enforcement throughout the Park. In her wildest dreams, she never could have guessed what her first days on the job would entail. Just prior to her swearing in ceremony, her father dies. It’s ruled a suicide, but Brooke rejects this decision. Her primary goal is to solve the mystery surrounding his death. As the action unfolds, Brooke must lean on Luke Fereday, an undercover agent, to discover answers. Luke arrives on the scene to bust a drug ring. The illegal drug trade along the Natchez Trace is a dangerous network spanning two continents. Brooke and Luke team up to solve the crime and they discover a handful of likely suspects with valid motives. All of them are close acquaintances or colleagues or Brooke and Luke, so it’s hard to know who to trust.

The subplots are as interesting as the main mystery. Standoff by Patricia Bradley is Book 1 in the Natchez Trace Park Rangers series. It’s a great opening to a series that certainly will win over many fans. I reviewed a complimentary copy from the publisher, Revell Books in exchange for an honest review of this new release.

 

Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish

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103933EB: Hadley Beckett"s Next Dish - eBook Hadley Beckett’s Next Dish – eBook
By Bethany Turner / Revell

Read this book for sheer enjoyment. You’ll chuckle and adore the happy ending. This book is a contemporary novel with great appeal for fans of the Food Network. The main characters are celebrity chefs with opposite styles. But hold on because as you know… opposites attract.

Our main female protagonist, Hadley Beckett cooks in a Southern Style. She whips up delightful desserts from her own recipes that feature butter, sugar, and more butter. Her career soon catapults to the big leagues where she continues to thrive. Her arch-rival, Max Cavanaugh, explodes on the scene in a fiery TV episode, but works on redeeming himself throughout the rest of the story.

I loved the strategy Hadley uses to manage stress. She makes an alphabetical mental list of kitchen gadgets or ingredients. Now that’s clever. I did notice when angry words flew between she and Max, the gadgets she envisioned were the sharp pointy kind: Fillet knife, Grapefruit knife, Herb chopper, Ice Pick

As their relationship develops, and a future together looks promising, Max’s declaration of what he can offer is delightful, sincere, and appealing. Respect and fidelity. Top shelf ingredients for any relationship.

This was a fun read, and I’m glad I picked it up to review. The opinions are my own. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley. #HadleyBeckettsNextDish, #NetGalley

Starfish Pier: Hope Harbor Book 6

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0736149: Starfish Pier, Hope Harbor Series #6 Starfish Pier, Hope Harbor Series #6

By Irene Hannon / Revell

Let’s just rename Starfish Pier…. “Five-Star-fish Pier!” It’s that good.

Irene Hannon’s characters are fun and full of life. It was a delight to meet the gang that have populated earlier books in the Hope Harbor series. My favorites include Charlie, the artist and food truck owner, who specializes in tantalizing fish tacos and words of wisdom. Then the cleric duo of Father Murphy and Reverend Baker reappear who bring the right dose of amusement to the story.

Amidst the fun, are some serious issues about alcoholism, mental health, and fostering community connections. Author Irene Hannon deals with both the serious issues and fun with great skill. The story is appealing because we are not only drawn into a great love story, but we also get to see how bridges are built between hurting people. Bridges that set people on healing paths. Her character list is an all-star roster of caring friends who look outside themselves and find ways to support those in need.

I thought each plot line resolved in a believable and satisfactory fashion. One element to appreciate is the multigenerational plotlines surrounding Pete and his new circle of friends.

The phrase “Never say Never” applies here, or as Hanon writes “God’s delay is not denial” While the way forward looked bleak for some, at the story’s conclusion not just one but three characters all find bright futures in new careers. These outcomes were so unexpected, but highly satisfying.

I haven’t read the entire Hope Harbor series, just three books out of six. It was nice to read in the epilogue one more is expected next fall. Oh my…. Where will the story go next?

I recommend this book. There’s romance, a story about dysfunctional families that mend, forgiveness, and second chances. I received a complimentary copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. #Starfish Pier #NetGalley