Thursday, October 27, 2016

Ireland - Day 1

Are you ready for Ireland photos in between book talks? I could always put these on my personal blog for memories, but so many of you were patient while I was on my dream trip. So, I'm going to tell the story of that trip, but it will be here and there between scheduled book posts.

Everyone wanted to know what was most memorable about the trip to Ireland. It was the entire trip, going with my sister and brother-in-law. Ireland turned out to be just what I expected, which was a surprise, and even better. How can you drive along those roads, with green fields filled with sheep on one side, the ocean on the other, and come across a ruin or a castle, and not be in awe? There were mountains and ruins and charming buildings and music. And, I'm in love with Ireland.

I don't really have a bucket list, but if I did, the only item on it was a trip to Ireland. My sister, Linda, and I had been talking about going for a couple years. She's been there before, over twenty years ago, but not really to the southwestern portion of the Republic of Ireland. Neither of us wanted to drive on the wrong side of the road, so she enlisted her husband, Kevin. He had been there several times with his father, but, again, not to the section of Ireland where we were going. All I can say is, thank heaven for a patient man who can drive on the left side of the road, and shift with his left hand. Kevin made this trip possible.

We left New York City on Monday, October 3, via Aer Lingus, and arrived in Dublin on Tuesday, October 4.

After picking up the rental car, we drove to Kilkenny, on our way to Adare, which would be our home base. Monday was spent in the beautiful city of Kilkenny.

Can you believe this is the street scene from the lot where we parked in Kilkenny?

And, sometimes, I just took pictures of buildings because I liked them.

We had lunch at Playwright, a pub. In fact, except for breakfast, we ate every meal at a pub, and the food was wonderful. Here's Playwright, inside. My lunch, the best shepherd's pie I ever had. And, Linda & Kevin coming out of the pub. And, because we were there off-season, we were often the only Americans in the pubs.

Kevin said every photo would be of him coming out of a pub. (They aren't - smile.)

Pubs and cathedrals, and castles. We spent time at all of them. Here's St. Mary's Cathedral in Kilkenny. Several churches had the same gates around them with shamrocks on them.

And, from St. Mary's we went to Kilkenny Castle. (I have lots of photos of Kilkenny Castle.) The original castle was built by William Marshal during the first decade of the 13th century. Then, Kilkenny Castle became the principal Irish residence for the Butler family for almost 600 years. In 1967, the family presented the castle to the people of Kilkenny in return for 50 pounds.

And, then, the streets of Kilkenny again before we drove to Adare. (And, what would one of my trips be without pictures of doors? Ireland really does have beautiful doors.)

We stayed at Adare villas, on the property of Adare Manor, but only because Adare Manor is closed for renovations. Thanks to Groupon!

Home for the week in Ireland

Wonderful day one, October 4. More soon.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber

Before Halloween; before Thanksgiving. It's too early for Christmas books, but the 2016 ones have already been coming out for a couple months. I guess it's never too early to read comfort reads. And, Debbie Macomber's Christmas romances, predictable as they are, are still comfort reads. Anyone who reads the cover flap of Twelve Days of Christmas will know how the book is going to end.

Julia Padden is a little too friendly and bubbly for her neighbor, Cain Maddox. He's not a morning person. In fact, Julia thinks he's a grouch. But, when he tries to steal her newspaper, it's just too much.  When she complains to her best friend, Cammie, her friend has a suggestion. Julia should try to kill him with kindness, and turn him around. Julia needs a blog idea in order to compete for a social media job. Perfect! She's going try to make "Ebenezer" a little less of a Scrooge in twelve days. She'll do her best to be kind to him, and blog about it.

While Julia goes about her daily life, working at Macy's, volunteering to play piano for a couple groups, she blogs about her attempts to win over "Ebenezer".  Cain turns down her offer of coffee. He turns down chocolate chip cookies. And, he even accuses her of stalking him. While she complains on her blog, her readership increases dramatically. Readers make suggestions, and, best of all, several try to change people with their own acts of kindness. But, when Julia begins to see the man behind the gruff exterior, she finds herself falling for him. Now, how does she tell him he's the subject of a blog?

Twelve Days of Christmas is a light holiday story with messages of kindness and love. It's actually a typical Debbie Macomber romance, set in Seattle with two likable characters (yes, "Ebenezer" is likable). And, we'll probably see it on Hallmark in the next year or two. But, in the long run, that's what most of us want at Christmas, kindness, love, and people to like. Debbie Macomber has it right.

Debbie Macomber's website is

Twelve Days of Christmas by Debbie Macomber. Ballantine Books. 2016. ISBN 9780553391732 (hardcover), 268p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson

If you like flawed characters who struggle with day-to-day life, quirky, engaging characters, you'll want to meet Nina Popkin in Maddie Dawson's The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness. Nina won my heart. I don't know that I'd want to live with her, but it's fun to laugh with her.

Nina Popkin always knew she was adopted. She always felt as if she didn't quite belong. So, when her mother dies, leaving her one clue to find her birth mother, the thirty-five-year-old hopes for answers. She doesn't expect to find she has a younger sister. And, Lindy McIntyre isn't excited when she finds she has another sister. Lindy has her own problems with a family, a business, and anxiety. Lindy has everything Nina wants - a family. Nina has always wanted to belong.

Nina is impulsive and hopeful. So, she pushes her way into Lindy's life. When she meets Carter Sanborn, newly divorced with two teenagers, she somehow finds herself in their lives. It's not easy dealing with a fifteen-year-old rebellious girl, a high school senior, and an easygoing man who doesn't seem to know as much as Nina does about his children. Even though her life is messy, Nina wants more. She wants to find the woman who as a teenager gave up two little girls.

Nina is so desperate for love, so needy, that it's easy to fall for her. She narrates most of the story, but, at times, Lindy allows readers to see Nina as she does. Nina is offbeat, charming. And, she's the heart, the attraction, in Maddie Dawson's delightful novel, The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness.

Maddie Dawson's website is

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maddie Dawson. Lake Union Publishing. 2016. ISBN 9781503939103 (paperback), 410p.

FTC Full Disclosure - I received the book to review it for a journal.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Murder in Containment by Anne Cleeland

How to describe Anne Cleeland's Doyle and Acton mysteries? They are as difficult to summarize as Louise Penny's works. While Cleeland's characters work for Scotland Yard, she's created her own unusual world for them. Murder in Containment, the fourth in the series, is a complex, riveting story that draws the reader in from page one.

It's hard to turn away when a Detective Chief Inspector is bait for a killer. And, that's only the beginning of a convoluted trap. While Detective Sergeant Kathleen Doyle struggles with her morning sickness, she also struggles with the knowledge that Scotland Yard somehow seems involved in containment murders. Someone wants to keep scandal from reaching the higher levels in Scotland Yard, and a few murders seem ominously convenient. And, Doyle, with her uncanny ability to recognize lies and her "gift", senses that her husband, Acton, may have been involved in a few of those murders.

Doyle's nighttimes are as disturbing as her days. She's tormented by a recurring dream, and both she and Acton are aware that it may be warning. Acton is already obsessed with Doyle's safety. Now, the foreboding dream makes him take extra precautions despite Doyle's restlessness.

Cleeland's mysteries have an intimacy that is lacking in most other books. The reader is drawn into the extraordinary lives of Doyle and Acton. Perhaps it's because of the unusual protagonists. Perhaps it's because of the tangled relationships in the books. Characters are skillfully drawn with fascinating stories. Perhaps it's the author's skill in creating ingenious plots and original characters that draws the reader back again and again.

Murder in Containment is the fourth in this compelling series. But, you must read the earlier three books in order to understand the characters and the storyline. Pick up Murder in Thrall, and, if you're as entranced as I am, you'll soon be caught up in a Cleeland's world of Doyle and Acton.

Anne Cleeland's website is

Murder in Containment by Anne Cleeland. Artemis Press. 2016. ISBN 9780692774427 (paperback), 323p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Note: The winner of the copy of Murder in Containment was Willetta H. from Dearborn, MI.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Little Grey Cells: The Quotable Poirot by Agatha Christie, edited by David Brawn

The minute you saw the phrase "Little Grey Cells" you knew it was about Hercule Poirot, didn't you? Mystery readers would recognize the phrase that identifies the man who is aware of his own abilities. "My name is Hercule Poirot, and I am probably the greatest detective in the world."  David Brawn edited Little Grey Cells: The Quotable Poirot, a collection that includes two pieces Agatha Christie wrote about her detective, as well as quotes from the various stories.

Perhaps the most interesting section of the entire book is Christie's introduction about Poirot. She already had the plot of The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Now, she needed a detective. It was 1914, and there were Belgian refugees throughout England. So, she decided to make her detective a Belgian refugee, a "former shining light of the Belgian Police force". Her piece about him was written in 1938, and she discusses his use of psychology in his cases, and the importance of method and order to him. And, she includes a comment reminiscent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's feelings about his own detective. "Why-why-why did I ever invent this detestable bombastic, tiresome little creature?"

Little Grey Cells is a charming, gift-sized collection. Brawn breaks the book down into chapter such as Poirot's comments about "Food & Drink", "Detective Work", "The Criminal Mind". Each chapter includes short quotes, and then identifies the work in which it appeared. For instance, in Curtain, Poirot says, "The cooking, it is English at its worst. Those Brussels sprouts so enormous, so hard, that the English like so much. The potatoes boiled and either hard or falling to pieces. The vegetables that taste of water, water, and again water. The complete absence of the salt and pepper in any dish." In The ABC Murders, Poirot claims "I am better than the police." The quotes are often intriguing enough to entice the reader to look for the book or short story.

Little Grey Cells is a small book, but it includes an excellent reference, lists of the Hercule Poirot novels and short stories. Looking for a gift for the Agatha Christie fan in the family? You might have just found the perfect little gem.

Little Grey Cells: The Quotable Poirot by Agatha Christie, edited by David Brawn. William Morrow. 2015. ISBN 9780062425171 (hardcover), 160p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Darkest Journey by Heather Graham

Heather Graham takes readers back into the world of the Krewe of Hunters in Darkest Journey. As a fan of the series, I enjoy the return to the paranormal investigations of an elite group of FBI agents, as well as the romance. And, Graham knows the setting well, Louisiana and the Mississippi River with its connection to the Civil War.

Charlene "Charlie" Moreau is back in her hometown of St. Francisville, Louisiana, acting in a movie. It's there, when she was in high school, that Ethan Delaney rescued her from a high school pledging in a cemetery just before a serial killer attacked. Now, when Charlie finds a body in the middle of filming, she remembers Ethan is with the Krewe of Hunters, and, with connections, requests that Ethan be put on the case. The two have an uneasy history, but they'll find that sparks fly once they're together.

Charlie, like Ethan, can see and hear the dead. It's a connection that causes complications when one of the dead mentions Charlie's father, a historian and cruise director on the Journey, a riverboat now owned by the Celtic American line. Charlie's convinced her father is not a killer, and she'll do anything she can to protect him.

Graham intertwines local and Civil War history, and Civil War ghosts with the contemporary setting. That works well, and this novel is as atmospheric as the author's other works. But, this is a weak link in an ongoing series. Charlie herself hides too much, and keeps secrets from the FBI, after she called them in. The story of the Civil War dead rising to protect Charlie seems familiar, as if Graham has used it before. And, the Celtic American line has now appeared in three books with a connection to killers. It's enough to make a reader not want to go on a cruise.

Seriously? I love the paranormal and romantic aspects of Heather Graham's Krewe of Hunters books. Darkest Journey just isn't the best in the series.

Heather Graham's website is

Darkest Journey by Heather Graham. MIRA. 2016. ISBN 9780778330134 (hardcover), 315p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Friday, October 21, 2016

Winners and Popular Title Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of the copies of Ann Cleeves' The Moth Catcher. The copies are going to Angela L. from Murphy, TX and David C. from Berrien Springs, MI. The books are going out in the mail today.

This week, I have two titles that have been popular lately. One is a psychological thriller, while the second one is historical fiction with tension and suspense. The first title is Ruth Ware's The Woman in Cabin 10. Lo Blacklock, a journalist, has been given the assignment of a lifetime, a week on a luxury cruse with only a small number of passengers. When she witnesses a woman being thrown over, no one believes her. All passengers are accounted for. It's only the start of Lo's nightmare.

The other title is one of the current hot books. Paulette Jiles' News of the World is a finalist for the National Book Award. The back jacket of the ARC refers to it as a "morally complex, multilayered novel of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust". After the Civil War, seventy-year-old retired Army Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels northern Texas reading the news from Eastern and European newspapers to paying audiences. Then, he's paid to take ten-year-old Johanna home to relatives. She was kidnapped after a raid by Kiowas, and lived with them for four years. She no longer speaks English, and she longs to return to her Kiowa family. The Captain and Johanna have a difficult journey on the way to Johanna's family, and they learn from each other along the way.

Which title would you like to win? You can enter to win both, but I need separate entries. Email me at Your subject heading should read either "Win The Woman in Cabin 10" or "Win News of the World." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Oct. 27 at 6 PM CT.