Book Review of Kitchen Privileges – a memoir by Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark passed away earlier this year, but lovers of Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries will enjoy learning about her life through this memoir, one of the first books I checked out from a local library when it partially reopened following COVID-19 shutdown. It covers the talented author’s life up until the mid-1990s.

Mary worked as a stewardess, and in the business and entertainment worlds, before becoming an author; roles that gave her the necessary experience to write stories based on, as she and other advisors often tell aspiring writers: “what you know”.

It’s a comfort to hear such an iconic author confide the uncertainties she held for years, despite her determination to succeed in the mystery-suspense genre. A woman widowed, with children, she cared for them, held a demanding job, began her fiction career by squeezing in a session of typing at the kitchen table from five a.m. to six forty-five each morning.

Her creative and ambitious management of time inspires me as I strive to complete freelance projects, and works of fiction; various writing projects at once, between the hours of my “regular job”.

Whether you’re an aspiring writer, or a consumer of Mary Higgins Clark’s mysteries, you’ll enjoy learning more about this lady, with whom I would have loved to lunch, given the chance, in New York, a city I would love to learn to navigate.

 

 

 

Book Review of Thread on Arrival – A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery By Lea Wait

I liked this installment of the cozy mystery series better than the last. It seemed more realistic, and the budding romance between main character Angie, a manager of Haven Harbor Maine’s needlepoint creation and sales enterprise, and Patrick, the artist son of a hugely successful actress progresses nicely.

The new character, Leo, a teen without a family, taken in by Dave, Angie’s poison expert friend, is likeable, though he does become a suspect in a murder.

The scene is mid-spring. Bulbs have bloomed or are blooming, businesses are not yet facing the busyness of a Maine tourist season. Angie is determined to find out who killed two townspeople, if indeed, they were both murdered, in spite of the fact that her birthday is coming up, and her kitty, Trixie tries to distract her.

A page turner for any season.

Lea Wait keeps on earthing out new sayings from historic samplers for the beginning of each chapter. Love the historic insights and whimsy of the rhymes.

The girls of those days could do more than text and surf on smartphones.

Book Review of Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry by Mary Higgins Clark

I can’t believe it took me so many years to read a work by this supremely talented author. Friends had recommended Mary Higgins Clark to me for years, but I was always caught up in the latest editions of series’ by my favorite New England based mystery mavens and the cheerful works of M.C. Beaton, as well as other new discoveries and the varied non-fiction works on a wide variety of topics that I can never resist.

But I digress. Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry is, I believe, the last novel written by Mary Higgins Clark, before her recent passing. It is certainly pertinent to the current issue of the #MeToo movement.

The story follows freelance journalist Gina Kane as she investigates reports of women treated inappropriately, as it turns out, by the star anchorman of a prominent news organization.

The women were then intimidated by an executive associated with the organization, who, with the assistance of other company officials, engineers a cover-up plan which includes payoffs to the victims of sexual abuse, two of which seem to have become possible victims of murder also, though their deaths, at first glance, seem to have been simply from suicide and accident.

Will Gina be permitted to complete her investigation? Can she sell her story? Will she be able to continue a romantic relationship with the man she loves when he becomes indirectly involved in the situation she is investigating? Must she break off the relationship in order to avoid the chance of criminal charges for both of them?

I read half of this novel within the first several hours then picked it up every spare moment I could find until I reached the end. Can’t wait to get my hands on more of Ms. Clark’s forty plus books.

 

Book Review of Beating About the Bush – An Agatha Raisin Mystery- By M.C. Beaton

Wizz-Wazz, the donkey is the star of this story, and also a suspect in M. C. Beaton’s latest Agatha Raisin series installment, Beating About the Bush. Agatha forms a strange relationship with the animal who resides at the headquarters of a company with which Raisin Investigations has a contract.

Aging detective Agatha and her protégée, young, blonde Toni experience some relationship tension, but artfully work together with  Agatha’s long time friend and policeman Bill Wong, and the investigation company’s other team members to solve the case.

Agatha is in possibly the greatest danger ever, as the case comes together.

Roy Silver, Agatha’s former protégée from her years in public relations, now a talented promotions man himself, arrives in time to assist with Agatha’s PR needs, relative to the murder investigation.

Sir Charles Fraith, with whom Agatha has an off/on relationship, is planning to marry a girl from a family of means, in order to gain cash to keep his estate running. The prospect has Agatha in a tizzy, but she is distracted from the distress by the attentions of Chris, a talented mechanic she meets through the case upon which she is focused.

A topsy-turvy fun and enchanting mystery in classic M.C. Beaton, style.

Book Review of Crash – The Great Depression and the Rise and Fall of America by Marc Favreau: This book carries messages we need now.

A story of pain and suffering, but also a tale of hope and inspiration.

The Crash by Marc Favreau, tells many little known details of the times leading up to The Great Depression in America, the human impact of the devastated economy, the rise to prosperity fueled, whether fortunately or not so positively, by World War II:

Herbert Hoover suffered the bad luck of being president at the time of the crash but his seeming lack of sympathy for those who suffered most spelled his death as president.

His lack of ideas for bringing the country back to prosperity caused his presidency to go up in smoke with the “Bonus Army’s” shacks – the ones that Hoover ordered burned to the ground to quell the fervor of the World War I Veterans who protested the postponement of their promised benefits until 1945, during a time when they greatly needed the supplemental income.

The story tells of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, two people of wealth and privilege who formed plans to help all Americans.

Their marriage wasn’t always completely rewarding, but they each remained focused, without arrogance, upon improving conditions for the country’s citizens.

This excerpt from an early speech by FDR captures the spirit of his presidency and of Eleanor’s attitude:

“Help for people stricken by the Crash must be extended by Government not as a matter of social duty; the State accepts the task cheerfully because it believes that it will help restore that close relationship with its people which is necessary to preserve our democratic form of government.”

Whether the offering of government sponsored jobs and aid was done in the interest of keeping the public peace, or due to actual empathy on the part of leaders, it was certainly a necessary and humanitarian action.

Readers learn of fights for citizen benefits. Of civil rights and worker’s rights.Of the CCC and the WPA, and various programs that pulled people up from despair and failure, lifting their prospects spiritually and financially, and improving conditions across the country.

Of people like John L. Lewis, a man touched by the witnessing of a horrific mining explosion, who founded the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

Of the little-known lady named Frances Perkins who inspired and drafted the founding documents of the Social Security System. The same lady hoped for a system to provide health care for all, but achievement of that goal still lies in the future.

The Crash and resulting Depression of the 1930’s taught us many lessons. Alas, history tends to repeat itself due to lack of respect from citizens.

The causes of our country’s troubles today differ a bit from those of the Depression. But the resulting affect on society seems similar. May the lessons we learn from the current situation in our country, and the COVID-19 pandemic, lead America to develop new programs to provide hope and prosperity for all of its citizens.

A study of The Crash, can inspire hope and innovation action to benefit our future.

 

 

Book Review of The Complete Language of Flowers By Sheila Pickles

I do love the British- At least their whimsical attitude toward gardening and home life.

This book is like a lovely museum devoted to flower lore and Renaissance and 19th Century paintings – of long ago scenes of children and adults, seemingly intoxicated by the pleasure of languishing in verdant settings filled with color and greenery.

Author Sheila Pickle should be commended for recording in such a wonderful way, the traditional symbolism and tradition of classic flower species.

I shall have to seek out her other works, including, The Essence of English Life, and Simply Christmas 

I plan to include posts referencing The Complete Language of Flowers over the next few months, with full credit to the book and its author.

If you love gardens and nature, if you long for the days when spare time on fair season days was spent, not with eyes glued to a screen, but lazing in the sunshine reflecting upon the symbolic essence of flowering plants, you must seek a copy of this book.

A first rate escape from stress.

 

Robert Frost and Vrest Orton Were Friends, it Seems

Vrest Orton, original proprietor of The Vermont Country Store, and Robert Frost, poet laureate, were familiar with each other, it seems, according to his grandsons, Gardner, Cabot, and Eliot, who operate the store and catalog company today, along with their father Lyman Orton.

This post’s featured photo, of the bunny taking advantage of a maple syrup collection site to catch a sweet treat, is from the pages of a spring catalog by the company that keeps iconic products alive for their fans, even when popularity wanes.

In our area, at least, daffodils and hyacinths don’t appear at the time of maple syrup processing, but artistic license makes for a cute photo.

Robert Frost was famous in the mid-twentieth-century for his poetry centered upon the natural world. He celebrates impending spring in the following:

To the Thawing Wind

by Robert Frost

Come with rain O loud Southwester!

Bring the singer, bring the nester;

Give the buried flower a dream;

Make the settled snow bank stream;

Find the brown beneath the white;

But what’er you do tonight

Bathe my window make it flow

Melt it as the ice will go;

Melt the glass and leave the sitcks

Like a hermit’s crucifix;

Burst into my narrow stall;

Swing the picture on the wall;

Run the rattling pages o’er;

Scatter poems on the floor;

Turn the poet out of door.

 

 

 

Are Cozy Mysteries Your Cup of Tea?

There’s no better way to while away a winter day than to settle in with a cup of tea or coffee, as it may be.

Taking ourselves out of our own reality for an hour or an afternoon, makes stress easier to bear.

Kathryn Gerwig’s story, “The Martens and the Murder Attempt” appears in the fun anthology titled A Murder of Crows. It’s a collection of fun crime stories each featuring multiples of a familiar or a unique creature.

No animals come to harm in any of the tales, so its safe for pet and nature lovers.

Never heard of a marten? Get acquainted with these cute northern creatures and enjoy the many other wonderful stories in this excellent title from Darkhouse Books, easily ordered from Amazon.

 

Book Review: The Art of Mindful Reading – Embracing the Wisdom of Words By Ella Berthoud

The Art of Mindful Reading is a book for those of us enamored with the way words make us feel; who see reading as a pastime that touches each of our senses. And for those who have yet to discover these pleasures.

The lovely cover’s printed pattern hints at inlayed designs of days gone by. Nature lovers will take solace in its two shades of green and the third color, a maroonish brown.

Care has been taken with the paper selection. A cut above most of today’s choices, it’s smooth as silk, yet sturdy, not easily creased or torn.

Fittingly, the author, Ella Berthoud, is a bibliotherapist; a profession at which some may scoff. Frankly, it’s a role of which I hadn’t previously heard, but to which I now aspire. What fulfillment it would bring to prescribe appropriate titles to heal the ills afflicting individuals from various walks and at various stages of life.

Reading with mindful intent is the book’s stated theme. Its chapters address such topics as:

  • Where and when we might find stolen moments of reading time within our busy lives.
  • The importance of periodically making arrangements for two or three hours of private, uninterrupted literary indulgence, and how to accomplish this challenging goal.
  • How to incorporate reading into a yoga session.
  • Making use of audiobooks when time is extremely scarce.
  • The fun of sharing books or quotations from them with others.
  • Just to name a few . . .

Veteran readers and those who have yet to discover the pleasures of losing oneself in the world of words on a wintry afternoon, cuddled near a hearth, or sprawled in a hammock beneath a shade tree, on a hot summer day, will achieve equal enlightenment from the innovative concepts within this book’s pages.

 A great gift book at the Holidays, for a birthday, or just because . . .

 

A Muder of Crows Receives Rave Reviews

Here’s a link to an opinion piece about the recently published anthology, A Murder of Crows, in which Penny Mason Publications associate, Kathryn Gerwig’s story, “The Martens and the Murder Attempt Appears.”

The book would make a great gift for Christmas or a surprise post-Christmas winter present for friends who love animals – and crime stories in which no animals were harmed.

Check out the review and this link to an interview with Sandra Murphy, the book’s editor.

Here’s a link to order the book through its publisher: Darkhouse Books 

Merry Christmas and Happy Reading from Penny Mason Publications!