Thursday, June 24, 2021

Books from the Backlog - The Pickled Piper

Today I'm linking up with Carole from Carole's Random Life of Books for Books from the Backlog.  I really enjoy the chance to feature a book that's been hiding in the piles of books for far too long!

Goodreads:  The Pickled Piper by Mary Ellen Hughes

Blurb:  The Cloverdale fair offers Piper a sweet opportunity to promote her business. With her new assistant, Amy, she sets up a booth centered around an eye-catching display of the ever-popular dills in an old-fashioned barrel of brine.
But things soon turn sour when fairgoers witness a fight between Amy’s boyfriend, Nate, and town council blowhard—and bagpipe player—Alan Rosemont. When Rosemont is found floating in Piper’s barrel, Nate becomes the prime murder suspect. With Amy’s boyfriend in a pretty pickle, there’s no time to dillydally. But as Piper searches for the real killer, she needs to be careful to preserve her own life…or she may end up a pickled Piper herself.

Why It Needs to Come Off the Shelf:  I love another series by this author and I've had this book sitting on my shelf for years!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Lady Sunshine - Fiction Review

Goodreads:  Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan

Rating: Liked It
Source: Publisher

Description:  For Jackie Pierce, everything changed the summer of 1979, when she spent three months of infinite freedom at her bohemian uncle’s sprawling estate on the California coast. As musicians, artists, and free spirits gathered at The Sandcastle for the season in pursuit of inspiration and communal living, Jackie and her cousin Willa fell into a fast friendship, testing their limits along the rocky beach and in the wild woods... until the summer abruptly ended in tragedy, and Willa silently slipped away into the night.

Twenty years later, Jackie unexpectedly inherits The Sandcastle and returns to the iconic estate for a short visit to ready it for sale. But she reluctantly extends her stay when she learns that, before her death, her estranged aunt had promised an up-and-coming producer he could record a tribute album to her late uncle at the property’s studio. As her musical guests bring the place to life again with their sun-drenched beach days and late-night bonfires, Jackie begins to notice startling parallels to that summer long ago. And when a piece of the past resurfaces and sparks new questions about Willa’s disappearance, Jackie must discover if the dark secret she’s kept ever since is even the truth at all.

Genre: Fiction 

Why I Picked This Book:  I can never resist a going back to an old place and digging into past secrets so of course I couldn't resist this one!

My Impression:  I think a lot of people will really love this one.  The author has a very flowy sense of style and manages to make the setting come alive without giving it too much structure.  Jackie is a good lead as she is a little bit apart from it all.  While she does love music she was never in the music industry and in both timelines is a bit of an outsider looking in.  She's likable and relatable even if a bit conflicted at times.  Her memories of the summer of 1979 are touched with gold with hidden darkness.  She can't resist remembering but at the same time her reflexive action is to retreat.  

I enjoyed both timelines and it was interesting how the property can't help but draw musicians.  In both Jackie is trying to figure things out.  In the 1979 she is desperate to fit in and learn more about her mother and in the 1999 she is still stunned that she ended up with the estate and is trying to race her demons and figure out what she wants.  My only real issue and what kept me from really loving it was the "secret" premise.  I love a book where past secrets are discovered but I get impatient when there is no progress to discovering what the secret is - especially if the main characters know it or at least have a pretty good idea.  This is one of those books.  Part of what keeps the secret under wraps for so long is Jackie's own fears about facing what happened or discovering more which made it better but it still kept me from being too hooked.  This was a good read and this is an author that I will definitely seek out in the future

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Absolutely.  I really enjoyed the writing style and will be looking for more books from this author.

Would I Recommend this Book?  Definitely!  Especially if the secret issue doesn't bother you.  It's a lighter read but an interesting one.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Virtual Vacation TBR


This summer we won't be traveling but I'm getting a little stir crazy stuck at home so I've decided I'm going on a virtual vacation with a little help through my bookshelves.  It won't be quite as relaxing but it will be quite a lot cheaper and at no point will I have to wait any kind of line or wear anything but comfy clothes so it kind of all works out.  Here are the books that I'm going to "travel" with this summer.


I've never been to France so I'm taking a bit of a whole country tour with a fiction and two nonfictions.

1.  A Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

2.  The Art of French Eating by Ann Mah

3.  The French House: An American Family, a Ruined Maison, and the Village that Restored Them All by Don Wallace

Napa Valley, California

I'm actually not really a wine drinker but Napa Valley looks gorgeous and Roberts never fails to pull me into the story so I figure this will be quite an interesting visit!

4. The Villa by Nora Roberts


A two book tour of Scotland.  One involves a falling apart family  and a castle while the other involves a murder.  They both involve bookshops.

5.  The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan

6.  Lost Books and Old Bones by Paige Shelton


This trip to Greece won't be relaxing as there will be lots of scuba diving, mystery uncovering, and deep dives into history but it will be lots of fun.

7.  The Sea King's Daughter by Barbara Michaels


We spent 4 months in New Orleans in 2019 and 2020 and I miss it so much so I thought I'd do a visit both in New Orleans and up River Road.

8.  The Stalking by Heather Graham

9.  Fatal Cajun Festival by Ellen Byron

The Hamptons

I love summer and heat doesn't bother me but Louisiana in the summer is daunting for just about anyone so I'm going to finish up with a quick trip up north to New York where there will be antique shopping and house clearing out in The Hamptons.

10.  Hearse and Gardens by Kathleen Bridge

Do you have any virtual vacation plans this summer?  Or actual vacation plans?

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Princess Spy - Nonfiction Review

Goodreads:  The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis

Rating: Really Liked It!
Source: Library

Description:  When Aline Griffith was born in a quiet suburban New York hamlet, no one had any idea that she would go on to live “a life of glamour and danger that Ingrid Bergman only played at in Notorious” (Time). As the US enters the Second World War, the young college graduate is desperate to aid in the war effort, but no one is interested in a bright-eyed young woman whose only career experience is modeling clothes.

Aline’s life changes when, at a dinner party, she meets a man named Frank Ryan and reveals how desperately she wants to do her part for her country. Within a few weeks, he helps her join the Office of Strategic Services—forerunner of the CIA. With a code name and expert training under her belt, she is sent to Spain to be a coder, but is soon given the additional assignment of infiltrating the upper echelons of society, mingling with high-ranking officials, diplomats, and titled Europeans, any of whom could be an enemy agent. Against this glamorous backdrop of galas and dinner parties, she recruits sub-agents and engages in deep-cover espionage to counter Nazi tactics in Madrid.

Even after marrying the Count of Romanones, one of the wealthiest men in Spain, Aline secretly continues her covert activities, being given special assignments when abroad that would benefit from her impeccable pedigree and social connections.

Filled with twists, romance, and plenty of white-knuckled adventures fit for a James Bond film, The Princess Spy brings to vivid life the dazzling adventures of a remarkable American woman who risked everything to serve her country.

Genre: Nonfiction - Biography

Why I Picked This Book: I read the memoir The Spy Wore Red years ago and loved it so was really curious to get a more objective story.

My Impression:  I read Aline Griffith's memoir years ago and while I loved it I always wondered just how much of it was true.  The reality is that there was more truth then I expected and even with her embellishments and changes the true story was just as riveting as the story she told if not more so.

Aline was an extraordinary young woman who was willing to do extraordinary things and was able to adapt quickly and think on her feet.  Her efforts during the war while maybe lacking in movie level drama were riveting and intense and I was incredibly impressed by her abilities and her discretion.  

I wouldn't say that this reads like fiction - especially at the beginning when Loftis is introducing Aline and the other players in the book as well as explaining the setup both in Spain and the US.  Once Aline gets to Spain the pace quickens and I flew through the last half.  I really enjoyed that Loftis pointed out the differences from the true story and the memoir as well as gave a wrap-up as to what happened to the various people that we meet through the book.  

This was an interesting look into an area of World War II that I haven't come across very often.  While Aline's book is mentioned quite a few times I don't feel like you need to be familiar with it or her before reading this one though I'd be surprised if you don't immediately search it out after finishing this one.  I've already ordered a copy!  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  I enjoyed Loftis' writing style.  While he doesn't make nonfiction read like fiction I felt like he told a good story with an even hand and backed up where he was getting his information.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you're interested in World War II or interesting women in history I think you would enjoy this read.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Life with Leukemia (And Some Reading) - June 20

It's Sunday Post time!  This is hosted by the awesome Caffeinated Book Reviewer and gives us all a chance to recap our week.

What I Got:

The Spy Wore Red by Aline, Countess of Romanoes - After reading The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis I had to pick up this book for a reread! (Library)

The Official Downton Abbey Cookbook by Annie Gray - When I was at the library picking up the above book I saw this one and couldn't resist checking it out too! (Library)


Reading:  Lady Sunshine by Amy Mason Doan and The Whole Cat and Caboodle by Sofie Ryan

Listening:  A Dangerous Collaboration by Deanna Raybourn

Watching:  Not much but Will has become obsessed by The Food Theorists on YouTube and has spent the last few days telling me all about tricks grocery stores use to get you to buy more.  Pretty sure I fall for all of them.

Other Stuff:  

June 19, 2020

June 16, 2021

It has officially been a year since Will was diagnosed with Leukemia.  What a crazy and scary year it has been but we have made it.  He's such a tough kid and his attitude through all of this has been amazing.  He's had his ups and downs but for the most part he's been up and his sense of humor and serious levels of sarcasm never fail to prevail.  He's fascinated by anesthesia and how it works and actually looks forward to procedures so he can question the anesthesiologist.  And he's absolutely loved getting to hang out with the therapy dog at the affiliate here.  

Every comment and card and message I've gotten from everyone here has meant so so much.  I'm so glad we've been able to stay together as a family but this is so isolating - especially with Covid protocols and having this little space to vent or talk and having you all be so supportive has saved my sanity more then a few times.  Leukemia treatment is a long (but overwhelmingly successful) journey.  We've made it a year and have 84 weeks to go!  If you are interested in following Will's story he does have a Facebook group here.  

I hope everyone has a great week and happy reading!

Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Listening House - Classic Mystery Review

Goodreads:  The Listening House by Mabel Seeley

Rating: Liked It
Source: Publisher

Description:  After losing her copywriting job, young Gwynne Dacres seeks a place to live when she stumbles upon Mrs. Garr’s old boarding house. Despite the gruff landlady and an assortment of shifty tenants, Gwynne rents a room for herself. She spends her first few nights at 593 Trent Street tensely awake, the house creaking and groaning as if listening to everything that happens behind its closed doors.

A chain of chilling events leads to the gruesome discovery of a mutilated body in the basement kitchen, dead of unknown circumstances. Was it an accident or murder? Under the red-black brick fa├žade of the old house on Trent Street, Gwynne uncovers a myriad of secrets, blackmail, corruption, and clues of a wicked past. As she closes in on the truth, the cold, pale hands of death reach for Gwynne in the night…

Genre: Mystery - Classic

Why I Picked This Book:  I've been wanting to read more classic American mysteries and I couldn't resist picking this one up when it was rereleased this month.

My Impression:  I'm a huge fan of classic mysteries - particularly those written by women authors like Christie, Sayers, Marsh, and Wentworth.  However, most of my reading has been limited to British authors with only one Mary Roberts Rinehart read.  So when I saw that this book was originally published in 1938 I couldn't resist.  Mabel Seeley is a new name to me and it seems like quite the crime that she isn't better known.  

I'm not sure this is a British vs American style issue or just my reading experience but if you're expecting an Agatha Christie clean straightforward mystery you are going to be quite surprised.  Like with Mary Roberts Rinehart's books the atmosphere is so palpable in The Listening House it's essentially a character in itself.  593 Trent Street oozes sinister vibes and all of the residents live with the feeling hovering over their head  every day - and that's before the rather gruesome murder.

I really enjoyed this read.  I really liked Gwynne.  She's kind of backed into a corner but she's got a good head on her shoulders and is not afraid to make herself heard.  The other residents of the house are intriguing and figuring out just who is what they seem and what they are hiding is entertaining.  I really had no idea of the whos and the whys until the very end.  My only real issue was the uneven pacing.  The last half had me really hooked but while I enjoyed the first half it was quite a bit slower.  That aside, this was an interesting read and a great choice if you're wanting to investigate some American classic mysteries.  

Would I Read More of this Series/Author?  Definitely!  I'm hoping more of her books are republished but I'll also be on the lookout for them elsewhere.

Would I Recommend this Book?  If you enjoy atmospheric classic reads this is a good one to pick up.

* I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  As always my opinions and impressions are completely my own. *

Friday, June 18, 2021

Friday Fives - Five Series That Do NOT Need to Be Read in Order

I'm taking a bit of a break from my usual Friday Linkups to try something a little different.  I'm in a list making kind of mood so I thought I'd start making random five lists.  Sometimes they'll be bookish other weeks not so much.   This year has been all about the series.   While most of the books I read are in series I was never one who had to read a series in order.  Well this year I've been discovering just how important reading a series in order just happens to be!  That said not ever series needs to be read in order and here are 5 that come to mind.

1.  Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie - I'm cheating a bit because these are two different series but both are series that can easily be read in any order.  In fact the last book in both series were written in the 1940s but weren't published until the 1970s so Christie didn't even write them in order!  

2.  Miss Silver by Patricia Wentworth - This is pretty much the same as the two above.  Yes it's technically a series but the only connection is that Miss Silver and some of the various detectives show up in every book.  There are some repeat characters but you don't need to know who they are and the mysteries are in no way connected.

3.  Murder, She Wrote by Jessica Fletcher (and which ever author was writing it at the time) - This series is on 50+ books and I have read about 4 of them.  Just like the television show that this is based on where you can watch any random episode and completely understand what's going on you can pick up any book without any issue.  

4.  Krewe of Hunters by Heather Graham - This paranormal romantic suspense series is essentially a series of trilogies that come out every year.  Those trilogies are loosely connected but the only connection between them and the rest of the book is that at least one character in the couple is a member of the FBI's special department of paranormal investigators.

5.  Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse - Now you do want to make sure that Bertie appears in the book but other then that I think you can jump in anywhere- and I do recommend them in audio if you can get them!