A Writers Writer – Christina Baker Kline – Orphan Train


How could I resist an opening like this…..

I believe in ghosts. They’re the ones who haunt us, the ones who have left us behind. Many times in my life I have felt them around me, observing, witnessing, when no one in the living world knew or cared what happened.

Sometimes these spirits have been more real to me than people, more real than God. They fill silence with their weight, dense, and warm, like bread dough rising under the cloth. My gram, with her kind eyes and talcum-dusted skin. My da, sober, laughing. My man, sing a tune. The bitterness and alcohol and depression are stripped away from these phantom incarnation, and they console and protect me in death as they never did in life.

I’ve come to think that’s what heaven is — a place in the memory of others where our best selves live on. 

Until I read the fine novel, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty, I knew nothing about the orphan trains that ran regularly from the East Coast to the midwest with thousands of abandoned children. (1854-1929) One of the main characters in The Chaperone was a train rider. It is hard to imagine the rationale that left children in the hands of strangers, with no idea how they would be treated, what they would endure. Orphan Train, one of my book club selections, is an amazing piece of fiction about this subject. The opening lines above, quoted  from the prologue, are the best case I can make for this stunning work. We meet Vivian, 91 years old, who in 1929 came to Minnesota on an orphan train.  Then there is the story of teenager, Molly, that intersects with this old woman; together they teach us a great deal. Don’t miss this wonderfully written story of courage, forbearance, and love.

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Gardening – A Balm In Gilead

Autumn Labyrinth - Jacek Yerka

Autumn Labyrinth – Jacek Yerka  .

Meditation CircleGardeners have long known that a great way to still their minds and restore their equilibrium is to go out into the garden and get their hands dirty. As our election cycle draws to an end, we’re all looking for ways to restore our sanity. Like Lucy in the Peanuts series, I charge a nickel for the following suggestion. Think about building or having  a labyrinth built into your garden design.

Those of you who are Harry Potter fans, and read Goblet of Fire, remember the Triwizard maze, a design that offers a choice of pathways. A labyrinth has one pathway winding to the center and back out again. the-pointWalking a labyrinth with a prayerful attitude is a quieting experience. Since not all of us can travel to holy sites and lands, Labyrinths are symbolic of pilgrimage and can be a meaningful substitute. Gardeners are in the business of creating spaces of serenity and calm. There are interesting books on the subject, and here are two links to sites you will enjoy. This is hardly an exhaustive study of Labyrinths, but having walked them many times in places in the United States and on a garden tour in England, I can vouch for their beauty and spiritual significance. Google Images of Labyrinths and sense their peace.

The Garden Labyrinth Becomes A Pathway to Healing

The Labyrinth Society

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A Receipt from a Bookstore Brings Happiness -Author Beatriz Williams – Part 3


I have been writing about the books I bought when one of my two book clubs had an outing to Quail Ridge Book Store in North Hills Mall, Raleigh, N.C.. At some point you have to stop shopping or be asked to move out when you get home. I knew nothing about author Beatriz Williams, but spotted her new book on the shelf.  I loved the jacket and the blurb intrigued me. I resisted! When I got home, high as a Georgia pine, over my purchases, I  began to feel deep regret over the books I left behind. I slipped away to Amazon World and downloaded Along the Infinite Sea on my Kindle. Saving some money, I congratulated myself. The question was where to start with this plethora of new books? That night I decided to fire up my Kindle and begin William’s new book.

Only when I finished this enjoyable novel did I google information about the author. It turns out she writes a series of books that feature female members of the Schuyler family. In each book, a different member of this family has a prominent role, and other members pop in and out of the background. A whole world awaits me. We are used to reading series whose same characters become our friends. I love Donna Leon’s series set in Vience. Louise Penny’s characters in the Inspector Gamache books. Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May Peculiar Crimes Unit. These are all mysteries, but I like the idea that  different  members of the same family each have their own story. If they are all as good as the Along the Infinite Sea, I am hooked. One of the things I love about my Kindle is the ability to highlight passages and write a note to myself. Here are three examples of lines I enjoyed.

Gratitude isn’t her natural attitude, but then you didn’t  spend your life dangling elegantly from the pages of the Social Register without learning how to keep your legs crossed and your hostess well bettered.

I inhaled the warm scent of the dying summer, the weeks that would not return.

Because motherhood doesn’t always end so well for the Schuylers. Motherhood usually goes splash headfirst into a vodka tonic with lime.


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A Receipt From A Bookstore Buys Happiness – Part 2

img_4277-1“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

51xjwt4rcklWithout the collective reading life of wonderful friends and readers in my two book clubs, I might never have discovered many of the authors I have come to love; several whose books I bought at Quail Ridge Bookstore the other day. They are on my ‘can’t do without’ list. Louise Penny, a Canadian writer, is a perfect example. Here is a link I hope you will reference for further information about this #1 author and her Inspector Gamache series. I am waiting for the perfect time to read this latest release because I know from experience, you can’t put them down. I’m thinking of a perfect fall weekend, sitting outside at a restaurant to begin the pleasure. The series is best read in order to maximize the changes and growth of these well drawn characters that will become friends. This is #12 in the series. I envy you the journey you have ahead….When an intricate old map is found stuffed into the walls of the bistro in Three Pines, it at first seems no more than a curiosity….

514awsjeel-_sx337_bo1204203200_I’d never heard of Rick Bragg. That is until my book club recommend we read It’s All Over But The Shouting’  (Click on this link for further information) You think you read a lot, but, no, never enough, and to miss Bragg would be a great loss. Those of you who read Southern Living Magazine may have read one of his essay’s  printed there from time to time. I decided on his book published in 2015, My Southern Journey-True Stories From The Heart of the South. It is a collection of his old, along with new portraits of the South. I already know Bragg can make me laugh, shed a tear, and marvel over the power of a good writer.

NAMED A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY: THE WASHINGTON POST, NPR, TIME, THE SEATTLE TIMES. I couldn’t resist buying this unknown author’s book after the Bookseller gave a summery that made it irresistible. I’m looking forward to seeing for myself what writing the 2015 Amazon Best Book of the Year is about; a story of a marriage told from two different perspectives. I can’t wait to read this new author and her acclaimed book.




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A Receipt From A Bookstore Buys Happiness – Part 1


Imagine my pleasure when I found a paperback copy of Edward Marston’s, The Stationmaster’s Farewell. 9th in Railway Detective Series, with a 50% off sticker. Fifty or more women, wandering around in the new location of Quail Ridge Books at North Hills in Raleigh, NC, walked right past this gem, which was mine to claim. I discovered this series when doing research for my other blog, Mainstreetrockymount.com (The railroad is an important part of the Rocky Mount story.) Edward Marston, born and brought up in South Wales is a highly successful writer, who has written this series featuring Inspector Robert Colbeck and Sergeant Victor Lemming. Here is a link to a previous post that will give you more information about the series. You will love the setting in the 1850’s, the good writing and always a good mystery.

51xlrajhsxlAnn Patchett wrote a book called Run, which is on my ‘all time favorite’ book list. The morning of the event at Quail Ridge, the staff was setting out stacks of her new book, Commonwealth. I have 49 pages  left and stayed up until after 2:30AM last night. Need I say more. One of the two book clubs I belong to has an unwritten rule that, if possible, we wait to read things in paperback to save money. Of course, we all use the public library and often download a book on our e-readers. The other rule is that someone in the club must have read the book before we consider it. As an only child, I often advocate breaking the rules so I am delighted my second book club has picked for our October selection a hardback that no one has read, Commonwealth. I’m giving nothing away except this line from the jacket. …a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. Spanning five decades, the novel explores how a chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Here is a link I hope you will reference. A Writers Writer – Ann Patchett



Did you read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand? With a fabulous book jacket, how could I resist Helen Simonsson’s new book, The Summer Before the War.  East Sussex, 1914. It is the end of England’s brief Edwardian summer…..



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Selecting Books for Your Book Club


“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

I belong to two bookclubs. One of them meets once a month and the other every six weeks. The women in each of the groups are great readers, not only the book club selection, but everything in between. I don’t know about you, but when I finish a book, I pick up the next one the same day. My St. Andrews Book Club have had our first meeting, this time an outing. We drove to Raleigh, NC to the beautiful new Quail Ridge Book Store in North Hills. The store was hosting an event in which the staff take turns giving brief summaries of books they are recommending. It was SO much fun!

Tomorrow I will publish the first of a 2 part post about the books I brought home

I imagine your Book Club is meeting soon. You will be selecting your books for the upcoming months. I hope you will consider either Greening of a Heart (available only as an E-Book) or the newest novel, Facing East (available only in paperback) from Amazon Books. Click on Title for Amazon information. Tell them you know the author personally because you read her blog and have gotten to know her. Do let me know if your club selects either of the novels, and if I can help by answering a few questions ahead of your gathering. Happy reading this fall.


I have been asked to speak to another book club in early October that meets in Ahoskie, NC. They will be discussing Facing East. Such occasions put a bounce in my step and a smile on my face. Nothing more fun than spending time with fellow readers. I often think to myself, I can’t imagine my life with out books. I bet you feel the same way too.


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A Passion for Architecture – The Bungalow- Part 4

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You might say it is my age, but I have always looked at the world through an emotional blur. I count this as a gift that includes observation, memory, and a propensity for nostalgia. It makes me do things like hastily pull to the curb, a quick glance in the rearview mirror hoping that an outraged driver is not about to plow into the rear of my car. This was the rash move I made the other day. I caught sight of a bungalow that called to my imagination. Blinker on, I left the car running while I took the photographs you find here.  Blinker on, I left the car running while I took the photographs you find here. The watercolor app on my phone helps cover up the work this house needs, and also helps us imagine the American story we connect to bungalow architecture.

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 Here is a direct quote and brief example from my research on the bungalow

At the turn of the century bungalows took America by storm. These small houses, some costing as little as $900, helped fulfill many Americans’ wishes for their own home, equipped with all the latest conveniences. Central to the bungalow’s popularity was the idea that simplicity and artistry could harmonize in one affordable house. The mania for bungalows marked a rare occasion in which serious architecture was found outside the realm of the rich. Bungalows allowed people of modest means to achieve something they had long sought: respectability. With its special features – style, convenience, simplicity, sound construction, and excellent plumbing – the bungalow filled more than the need for shelter. It provided fulfillment of the American dream.

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A Passion for Architecture – Chicago – Part 3

557261_568450953202435_491016055_nFor me, one of the most important buildings in the magnificent City of Chicago sits on the corner of LaSalle Street and Elm. It is The Church of Ascension, the Anglo-Catholic Episcopal Parish in the Chicago Diocese. There is a bronze sculpture of Christ afixed to the front of the church, which faces busy LaSalle street. Underneath the sculpture is this inscription.  Is it Nothing to You, All Who Pass By.  Chicago, glorious in architecture and culture has at its heart a spiritual life that permeates this city of neighborhoods with its diverse religious and ethnic  population. While visiting Chicago, I hope you can spend some time visiting the churches and synagogues of the city.


Chicago is universally recognized as the cradle of modern architecture and has long been connected with some of architecture’s most important names—Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe, Holabird & Root, and Daniel Burnham, architect of the famous Rookery Building of the 1890s. It is known worldwide for the development, beginning in the late 1800s, of the renowned “Chicago School” of commercial building. In the early 1900s, Chicago saw the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Prairie School” of residential design, which gave rise to the modern, open-plan house we know today.

The 1940s saw the completion of Mies van der Rohe’s revolutionary Illinois Institute of Technology and his Lake Shore Drive apartment buildings. Skidmore Owings & Merrill’s landmark Inland Steel Building was finished in 1954, their John Hancock Center in 1970, and their Sears Tower in 1974. Philip Johnson and John Burgee’s 190 South LaSalle Street office tower went up in 1987. This litany of names  are responsible for some of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Google the Chicago Architectural Foundation and start your Bucket List in Chicago.

IMG_3639In June 2016 my husband and I took one of the Chicago River Boat Architectural Tours. It is a MUST! The 70 minute tour was information overload as far as remembering everything we were told, but the majesty and awe of what we were seeing from this unique vantage will never be forgotten. Beholding the famous buildings up and down the Chicago River, the new Trump building that appears to rise up out of the river as if some magical spell has been cast upon it, was an architectural fix I wish for you all.

“Chicago has so much excellent architecture that they feel obliged to tear some of it down now and then and erect terrible buildings just to help us all appreciate the good stuff.”
― Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife12391964_10153919235716162_566245265261688901_n (1)



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A Passion for Architecture – The House I Grew Up In – Part 2

IMG_3591I was born in Chicago, but celebrated my 6th birthday in Evanston, IL. where we moved to a Colonial Revival style home on the corner of Asbury Avenue and Lyons Street. This beautiful home is where I return when I remember the little girl I once was, my mother reading to me at the breakfast room table, my father in his basement workshop making furniture. Here we remain in the dust mots floating in the sunlight on the staircase. My passion for architecture began in this house in a neighborhood filed with a mired of styles, Victorian beauties in particular. The streets were canopied with stately Dutch Elms that guarded over the years I walked to and from school, eventually rode my bike, and the car I learned to drive. I brought my first born child home to his grandparents in this place.


We continue this series on architecture with a brief description of  Colonial Revival – 1876-1955 – This style became popular when it was showcased at the 1876 US Centennial Exposition. It is very similar to the Georgian and Federal styles, with a symmetrical front elevation, that emphasizes the front entrance, with a portico (a covered porch supported by columns), and with fanlights, sidelights, and transom around a paneled front door. Windows tend to be multi-pane, and double hung, and are accented with shutters. Colonial Revival is a clear reaction to the lavish Victorian styles, and was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Influenced by the design of this home, to this day, I have a passion for architecture.








Identifying Colonial Revival Architecture
2 or 3 stories Symmetrical façades
Formal entrances: porticoes topped by a pediment
Paneled doors with sidelights, topped with transoms or fanlights Brick or wood siding
Simple, classical detailing
Gable roofs Pillars and columns
Multi-pane, double-hung windows with shutters
Center entry-hall floor plan

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A Passion For Architecture – Part 1


It is never too late to have a grand passion. I have several….and today it is architecture! I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and was  exposed to the magnificent architecture of the city. My interest was renewed when I started writing a second blog, Main Street Rocky Mount, a place rich in history and with a vast architectural inventory. It is more than structures that call to me. “Architecture is the very mirror of life. You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society.” I. M. Pei

I am taken with the work of R. Kenton Nelson (born 1954), an American painter and muralist from California. He has a large body of work that goes beyond these commercial and residential examples, but when I look at his work, I can imagine the beginning of a story…another  reason to acquire a passion for architecture.


I heard a noise from the adjoining building. Even the cat, nestled beside me, looked up from where she slept. The sound was implausible coming from the silent and vacant space on the other side of the wall, a welcomed barrier that separates me from any neighbor who tries to interfere with my life and solitude.  SFH



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A Writers Writer – Christopher Fowler – Bryant and May Mystery Series


Here is what research will tell you about Arthur Bryant and John May who are Golden Age Detectives in a modern world. They head the Peculiar Crimes Unit, London’s most venerable specialist police team, a division founded during the Second World War to investigate cases that could cause national scandal or public unrest. The technophobic, irascible Bryant and smooth-talking modernist John May are partners I have grown to appreciate as I read my way through Christopher Fowler’s well written and amazing mystery series.

51ZB88ZubOL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I started Seventy-Seven Clocks Saturday night at bedtime. I never got out of my PJ’s on Sunday, propped up in bed most of the time, delighted once again to be in the company of  two of my favorite characters. Late Monday morning I bid them farewell until next time. The following few lines will help introduce you to these two interesting men.

“That was the difference between himself and May, John had no attachment to the past, sentimental or otherwise. He was interested in moving on. He saw life as a linear progression, a series of lessons to be learned, all extraneous information to be tossed away, a continual streamlining of ideas. Bryant collected the detritus of historical data as naturally as an anchor accumulates barnacles. He couldn’t help it; the past was as fascinating as a classic beauty, infinitely fathomable and for ever out of reach.”


Fowler’s writing is irresistible as far as I’m concerned. There is little doubt of his brilliance providing layers of fascinating information about London, the underground trains, pubs, theater, art, all depending on his settings for each intricate mystery. FYI: The novels are written chronologically, but you can read them out of order.

Here is one more example of Fowler’s writing in Seventy-Seven Clocks: “Here they were, he thought, the Family Whitstable, well schooled, well shod, and well connected, the cream of British society. The kind of Hard Tory, High Church, pro-hunt landowners idolized in magazines like Tatler. Photographed at weddings or debutantes’ balls they appeared affable and elegant, but gathered en masse, they forget the rest of the world existed.” 

I give each of the books I have read in this series a #10 – Let me know what you think

1. Full Dark House (2003)
2. The Water Room (2004)
3. Seventy-Seven Clocks (2005)
4. Ten Second Staircase (2006)
5. White Corridor (2007)
6. The Victoria Vanishes (2008)
7. On the Loose (2009)
8. Off the Rails (2010)
9. The Memory of Blood (2011)
10. The Invisible Code (2012)
11. The Bleeding Heart (2014)
12. The Burning Man (2015)
13. Strange Tide (2016)
14. The Wild Chamber (2017)
Bryant & May’s Mystery Tour (2011)
The Casebook of Bryant May: The Soho Devil (2013)
Bryant & May and the Secret Santa (2015)
London’s Glory (2015)


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Thanks To Bookworm Buffet – A Review of Greening of a Heart

A special Welcome to those participating in the 2016 A to Z Post Challenge Road Trip or have just read my reflection posted on the #Challenge Blog Site


I owe a big THANK YOU to Barb Radisavijevie who blogs at Bookworm Buffet. She lives and writes in California. She has written a detailed review of Greening of a Heart. Never doubt the far reaching consequences of the blogging world. This was my 4th year to participate in the A to Z Blogging Challenge. This year I wrote 26 posts on the architecture and impact on the community of historic hotels and inns. It was well received judging by the stats surrounding the posts. Bookworm Buffet must have liked what she found when visiting, did a little exploring, and downloaded from Amazon, Greening of a Heart.  I’m delighted that her appreciation for the novel led to this review and recommendation.

Here is the link to review. Perhaps the setting and characters will call to you too!

An excerpt from the review……My Recommendation

I got very involved in this book. I began to really care about these new book friends. If you enjoy books that are more character than plot based, if you like watching people examine their lives with a mind to understand themselves and others, you will find this a rewarding read. You will see people falling in love, reconciling their differences, and experiencing spiritual and marital renewal through relationships begun in a garden.

If you thrive on relationships with people and like to observe positive changes in their lives, you will want to read Greening of the Heart. It will make you think about your own life and relationships as you watch the drama unfold. If you are also a gardener, this book will have an added layer of meaning for you. If you enjoyed reading the Mitford Series or Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven by Fanny Flagg, I would also expect you to find Greening of the Heart appealing. If you haven’t read any of these, what are you waiting for? You won’t want to miss any of these books.


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