Giving Books for Christmas – Don’t Forget You!

There are a lot of cold nights ahead. A good book and hot chocolate sound right to me. I can suggest two books to give for Christmas or add to your own pile of books to read this winter. I have written a sequel (A Garden of Sweet Disorder) to Greening of a Heart, which will be published in the New Year. Greening is only available as an e-book on Amazon books, where you can find reviews and a great price. Facing East is only available in paperback and available on Amazon as well. I think the reviews will help you decide if either of the novels are for you. I hope so. Buying books this time of year is a great present and treat yourself while you’re at it.

If you look on the ribbon at the top of this blog page, you can click and hear me read from Greening of a Heart and also read the synopsis for both books


You can click on the books on the sidebar and it will take you to Amazon. Hope you can take a minute and check the books out. Many Thanks!

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Let Me Tell You a Story about Senator Mitch McConnell – Part 2

Maybe it was because I knew some of the people and places Senator McConnell writes of in the early pages of his autobiography, The Long Game, or that to this day I am a political junkie, but I found the book of great interest, well written, and at moments, good-humored. I know I share his Republican view of the world, but you have to admit the description of Al Gore having the personality of a cardboard box is amusing. There is Professor Obama who lectured people rather than listen and good old Harry Reid (what can I say) who will bring a smile to your face even if you would rather not admit it.

It is a Henry Clay quote from the book that expresses the accumulative legislative experience of the Senate Majority leader that I seize upon, to sum up, the crux of the book.“All legislation, all government, all society, is founded upon the principle of mutual concession, politeness, comity, courtesy; upon these everything is based…let him who elevates himself above humanity, above its weaknesses, its infirmities, its wants, its necessities, say, if he pleases, I will never compromise; but let no one who is not above the frailties of our common nature disdain compromises.”

The Senator goes on to explain that it requires deep understanding, an ability to listen, great patience, and a willingness to subordinate one’s own idea of perfection for the moment in the interest of achieving long-term goals later on. It means viewing the legislative process as the best means we have for making good decisions collectively. These few lines are taken from the book. It explains the measured continence of a leader who looks at the long game as a reasonable and right approach within the Senate body.

Mitch McConnell points out that there are two kinds of politicians. Those who wish to make a point and those who wish to make a difference. I have no doubt that when it comes time to reckon the successful accomplishments of Senator McConnell, his mentor, John Sherman Cooper, will whisper in his ear, “A job well done, son.”  My whisper is less eloquent but nonetheless heartfelt…..”As Kermit, the frog says, ‘It isn’t easy being green.’ and you have worn that burden well!”

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Let Me Tell You A Story About Senator Mitch McConnell – A Proponent of the Long Game – Part 1

Kentucky Senior Senator, John Sherman Cooper was a statesman, a quiet, unassuming southern gentleman, and a leader of his day in our American political system. He was a member of the United States Senate, a deliberating body in those days, respectful of one another, conducting themselves with decorum. Cooper, from Somerset, Kentucky, was an honorable man grounded with a sense of place and our history. Already involved in Republican politics in my late twenties, Senator Cooper and Senator Thruston Morton, Kentucky’s junior senator, inspired these early years of my involvement. Senator Cooper also set a high bar for a young man recently finished with law school with his eye on a career in politics. This was my friend, Mitch McConnell. We were both involved in Young Republicans on a statewide level and worked on the Senate race of Marlow Cook, which brought us together. I flew to Washington, DC to hear Marlow Cook’s maiden speech on the floor of the Senate and it was Mitch who picked me up at the airport for that occasion.

Here is the young man of those days. Oh so bright, articulate, with a love of the game called politics, who had the right instincts, personality, and leadership skills to become a player. This was the competitive side of Mitch McConnell, but his contemplative side was that of a historian, a voracious reader, the posture of a student always willing to learn. With his mentor, John Sherman Cooper to direct his early years, he learned from the best and became practiced in the unflappable, poker-faced man who gives nothing away, regardless of his irritation, exasperation or darn right anger. He is made fun of as you recently heard during the Kavannah hearings – – “That’s about as emotional as we’ve ever seen Senator McConnell.”  This demeanor is intentional and reasoned, built upon experience that shaped his belief in The Long Game, the title of his autobiography published in 2016


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Death of a Busybody – George Bellairs – WHO?

“There really must be a murder or at least a major
felony — otherwise, what’s the point? Who’s ripping
off the hand towels at the Dorchester Hotel is hardly
the business of a mystery novel.”

I  didn’t begin reading mysteries until my early 40’s. Not even an Agatha Christie. My mother was a mystery reader, a Sherlock Holmes aficionado. It is one of those ‘if only’ moments in my life that I would have loved to share with her, but it took me a while to become something of an aficionado myself. We didn’t get to share the conversations I have with my own daughter who loves mysteries too. I have written that book jackets are the first thing that must pass my test. Then there is the blurb that must speak my language, with keywords like ‘village,’ ‘Vicar,’ ‘Inspector.’

One of the most fabulous series of book covers belong to the British Library Crime Classics, crime fiction published during the first half of the 20th century from Sherlock Holmes to the end of the Golden age of mystery writing, Poisoned Pen Press has reissued these classics and  introduced a new generation of readers to these mystery writers and their work. I, for one, am delighted!

George Bellairs was a crime writer and bank manager born in  Lancashire, who settled in the Isle of Man on retirement. He wrote more than 50 books, most featuring the Detective Inspector Thomas Littlejohn.  His first novel Littlejohn on Leave was published in 1941.  His books are regularly set on the Isle of Man and portray the topography of the Isle in great detail.  Many of the later books are set in France, usually in the Provence and Alps-Maritime area. Otherwise quiet English country villages are the most common with Bellairs.

Death of a Busybody by George Bellairs was his 3rd novel first published in 1942. It was my first introduction to Inspector Littlejohn and I look forward to spending more time with this highly likable man.
Death of a Busybody is about Miss Ethel Tither. She has made herself deeply unpopular in the quintessentially English village of Hilary Magna, since she snoops on people, and interfere with their lives. By the end of chapter one, this unpleasant lady is found floating in a cesspool, having been bludgeoned prior to drowning in the drainage water. The local police call in Inspector Thomas Littlejohn from Scotland Yard to help with the case. We have a well-written mystery with characters that engage, especially Constable Harriwincle, the local man who dreams of earning his Sargent stripes by solving this case. A good mystery, well drawn and satisfying.

This post is written with my mother in mind who probably read most of these British Library Classics when they were first published. She gave me the love of reading for my entire life – Madeline Flora Thompson Forgue

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Hallmark TV Movies – How Life is Supposed to Be!

Forget the violence, the long car chase scenes, the F-word, blowing up people and things  -Turn immediately to either of the two Hallmark TV channels. (One is a mystery channel.) I say this knowing that the men that follow this blog just groaned and clicked off. Such a shame, since Hallmark movies, regardless of the theme, give us a world we wish were still true.

Take the Christmas movies: You can count on Carol singers at the door, gingerbread houses made in the kitchen,  a Christmas tree with ornaments that go back to a Santa popsicle stick made in the first grade. There is fresh and fluffy snow on the ground and a Main Street that looks like a fairyland. Of course, there must be a problem, perhaps the Christmas Tree farm will have to close, the very one that provides the tree for the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony in the square. We must have a high powered woman who comes to town from New York or someplace equally far from this idyllic setting. My favorites are when the roads are closed and she can’t leave.  Then there is a wonderful family with a handsome son who is widowed, raising a charming child. Of course, this beautiful woman is in a committed relationship, or worse, is engaged. I mean, these movies are wonderful! You can absolutely count on the fact, that in the end, they KISS.  Ah, happily ever after!

Hallmark movies are a grand escape from things like the advertisement that is running about the one you love smelling up the bathroom. Really? They are a throwback to the movies I watched growing up in Evanston, IL. at the Varsity or Valencia movie theaters — Doris Day and Rock Hudson, twin beds, with a nightstand between. Robes carefully laid at the end of the bed. The truth is I love a good movie. I don’t count these Hallmark movies in the same category as my favorites: Anthony Hopkins in 84 Charing Cross Road, Russell Crowe in A Good Year, Diane Lane in Under the Tuscon Sun. Except that you mix up the Hallmark actors occasionally because they are interchangeable, playing one part here, and another in the next, you can shed a tear, find yourself smiling, and saying, “Nice!”

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I Hope You Made Time to Read This Summer

We are all asking the same question — where did the summer go? I hope my summer books, which I have recommend to you, where suggestions you took me up on.  This is my last review in this series – Summer Time and the Livin’ Is Easy.  I’m sure you read  “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.”  The story of a clandestine book club living on the Nazi-occupied Channel Islands during World War II.  Mary Ann Shaffer, the author, fell ill before the book was ready for publication. Her niece Annie Barrows, a children’s author, completed it. I just watched the movie on Netflicks and loved it too.  Drawing inspiration from her late aunt’s home state of West Virginia, Barrows has written her first adult novel, “The Truth According To Us”

The story takes place in 1938 in the fictional town of Macedonia, W.Va. It’s a novel about a family with well-written characters, an intriguing plot set in the south with its social sensibilities. The one problem I had with the book was reading it on the last hot and humid days of August, combined with the oppressive heat in Macedonia, the book became a sweet tea must.

Layla Beck, daughter of a U.S. senator, is exiled to rural Macedonia by her father after she turns down a marriage proposal he thinks is suitable. She finds employment through the Federal Writers’ Project, which creates jobs for historians, librarians, and writers during the Depression.  She’s there to write a history of the town in honor of its sesquicentennial. While collecting material for her book, Layla revises her opinion of what small-town West Virginia people must be like; the story unfolds in a satisfying and well-written fashion. I highly recommend you add it to your late fall reading after things cool off.


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Summer Time and the Livin’ is Easy – Making Time to Read- Alan Bradley’s The Dead and Their Vaulted Arches

I’ve been reviewing books that I have loved reading this summer. August days are dwindling down and my summer reading has been more than satisfactory. The highlight of ‘making time to read’ is a trip planned with book club friends to Raleigh’s Quail Ridge Bookstore this week. Click Here for more about Quail Ridge.  I consider Alan Bradley a writer’s writer always demonstrating how it should be done. Hence, I’m recommending another book in his series. (Book jacket on right.)No one writes a setting- a time, a sense of place into a story better than Bradley. Here is an example:

Mrs. Mullet had fetched out and cleaned one of the mothballed school uniforms that Harriet, when she was my age, had been made to wear at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, Canada: a black-belted horror worn with long black stockings and a white blouse that made me look like one of those grotesque but amusing creatures from Ronald Searle’s St. Trinian’s cartoons. Like Father and Dogger, Mr. Searle had been a prisoner of the Japanese in Singapore, and his work was much admired by some of us at Buckshaw. 

Here is the blurb about this story, which will give you a peek into the world of Flavia de Luce. On a spring morning in 1951, eleven-year-old chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce gathers with her family at the railway station, awaiting the return of her lost mother, Harriet. Upon the train’s arrival in the English village of Bishop’s Lacey, Flavia is approached by a tall stranger who whispers a cryptic message into her ear. Moments later, he is dead, mysteriously pushed under the train by someone in the crowd. Back home at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ crumbling estate, Flavia puts her sleuthing skills to the test. Following a trail of clues sparked by the discovery of a reel of film stashed away in the attic, she unravels the deepest secrets of the de Luce clan, involving none other than Winston Churchill himself. Surrounded by family, friends, and the usual village characters, another well written, wonderful story unfolds.


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Summer time and the ‘Livin is Easy – Making Time to Read – Joseph E. Persico’s Roosevelt’s Centurions

It was not until the days of my life have begun to dwindle down to a precious few, as the song, September says, that I suddenly needed to know more about the background in which my life has been set. In particular, the people whose names have followed me through my life. When our monuments came under threat, how was I to defend them when I knew so little about the story they represented? What about Jefferson, Grant, Lee? My reading life changed directions as I have pursued what I think of as the backstory of my life. Growing up, Teddy Roosevelt was the ‘good’ Roosevelt, and FDR was a series of iconic photographs incidental to my early years. FDR has never stepped off the pages into my life in any meaningful way until now.

It has taken Joseph E. Persico’s book about Roosevelt and his Commanders that fought and won the second world war to give me a new appreciation for FDR’s presidency and his everlasting impact on the world. My world! After reading Bret Baier’s book on Eisenhower this summer, I am delighted that our respect and admiration for Ike is once again supported in this book. Omar Bradley is a new found hero added to a long list of heroes I have created through the years. Names as diverse in backgrounds and careers as Mike Singletary that played football for the Chicago Bears. If you are only going to read one book of this nature, I highly recommend this one.

In a nutshell, you will have a deeper understanding of FDR, Churchill, Patton, McArthur, Bradley, and others military men written about in the book. The dutiful yet independent-minded George C. Marshall, charged with rebuilding an army whose troops trained with broomsticks for rifles, eggs for hand grenades; Dwight Eisenhower, elevated from obscurity to command of the greatest fighting force ever assembled; the vainglorious Douglas MacArthur; and the bizarre battlefield genius George S. Patton. Also less widely celebrated military leaders whose contributions were just as critical: the irascible, dictatorial navy chief, Ernest King; the acerbic army advisor in China, “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell; and Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, who zealously preached the gospel of modern air power. Though I have a new found respect over FDR’s important place in history, it astounds me that we have forgotten the nature of Stalin and Russia in today’s dealings with Russia and its leaders.

Roosevelt was wrongheaded in his belief, almost to the end, that by obliging Stalin he could make the Soviet Union a benevolent member in the family of nations…he failed to  grasp that the Joseph Stalin’s of the world do not respond to goodwill, which they interpret as weakness, but to force, even bullying, which they fear and respect. Stalin and the rest of the Soviet leadership possessed not a single democratic impulse.



Happy Reading!

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The Voters Need to Save Chicago – Another Tragic Weekend

“I cannot watch the city of Chicago be destroyed by petty politics and bad government.” Harold Washington

Born in Chicago, I grew up in Evanston, IL. at a time when kids could ride their bikes all over town and no one worried. The YMCA was a big part of our leadership training, we graduated from one of the top four high schools in the country at that time. I can close my eyes and find myself sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car, listening to them sing once again. I knew all the words to Stardust and Melancholy Baby, Sunny Side of the Street and more, often part of the drive as we left Evanston along the Outer Drive headed to the Lincoln Park Gun Club that sat along the lake. The architecture of Chicago, a city of neighborhoods, and places like Wrigley Field, The Edgewater Beach Hotel, and the Marshall Fields Windows on State Street are forever with me. A beautiful city that is clean and works. The setting of Chicago made it into my second novel, Facing East, partially set on the Gold Coast facing East looking out on Lake Michigan.

There were “63 murders this weekend” in Chicago and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s legacy is “more murders in his city than ever before.”— Rudy Giuliani on Monday, August 6th, 2018    I won’t elaborate on this information. I feel sure you saw it on the news. This beautiful city must have new leadership to stop this endless slaughter of its people. The current Mayor hasn’t a clue how to protect the city on the many levels needed. The voters must save Chicago with their votes!

Vintage Posters from my Pinterest Boards

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Summer Time and the Livin’ is Easy – Making Time to Read – Robert Parker’s Night Passage

Jesse Stone is the lead character in a series of detective novels written by Robert B. Parker. They were among his last works and the first series in which the novelist used the third-person narrative. The series consists of nine books, starting with Night Passage (1997) and ending with Split Image (2010), which Parker completed before his death in January 2010 but did not live to see published.

I became acquainted with the character, Jesse Stone, played by Tom Selleck, watching the movies made for TV. With a great cast, setting, and excellent cinematography, they are well done! I had never read one of Parker’s books, however.  When Amazon offered  Night Passage, for $1.99, I downloaded it.  Not a long read, I could hardly put it down. I will admit that it was hard to cast aside the image of Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone. Since I’d seen many of the films, I already knew a great deal about Stone as I started the book.

While becoming acquainted with Jesse Stone in Night Passage, we learn that he has played in minor league baseball, retiring after injuring a shoulder, that he has been working as a detective for the Las Angeles Police Department and is forced to resign because of his drinking.  With a bleak future, Jesse is surprised when he is hired as chief of police for the small town of Paradise, Massachusetts (based on the actual town of Swampscott, Massachusetts.) After showing up to the interview intoxicated, Jesse is unaware that he has only been hired because the corrupted president of the town council feels he can be easily controlled. It doesn’t take long for Jesse to realize that something is amiss in this seemingly innocent town.  Seizing this opportunity to turn his life around, Jesse battles with his drinking and begins the mystery of exactly what is going on and why the last Chief of Police is killed out west where he is now living.

After reading this first book and getting the jest of the situation, I think you can read them in any order. Usually, I prefer following a series, one after another, but if your library has any of Parker’s Jesse Stone books, give them a try. I may skip #2 because the reviews were mixed, but I enjoyed the style of Parker’s writing and look forward to trying some more. If the premise doesn’t strike your fancy, keep your eye out for the TV movies which they rerun. I know you will like the film version of Jesse Stone.  HAPPY READING!



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Summertime and the Livin’ is Easy- Making Time to Read -Donna Leon’s -The Waters of Eternal Youth

I’ve been to Itlay once on a wonderful garden club tour in Tuscany. To this day I revisit it again and again in my memories. I’ve researched and used both Lucca and Pienza for locations in my second novel, Facing East. The tour did not include Venice, but I’ve spent hours there now through the mystery novels of Donna Leon. Over time I have come to consider the intelligent and capable Police Commissioner, Guido Brunetti as one of my most interesting and likable friends who waits for me on the pages of Leon’s books. Brunetti and the ensemble of characters never fail to deliver a satisfying mystery that I find addictive.  Each case reveals another facet of Venetian life. Brunetti reports to a self-serving Vice-Questore Patta, while inspector Vianello is at his side helping to solve the crimes. There is the all-knowing and well-connected Signorina Elettra, Patta’s secretary, who provides endless information she should or should not be looking into on her computer.

I just finished The Waters of Eternal Youth, the 25th in the series published in 2016. Brunetti finds himself drawn into a case that may not be a case at all. Fifteen years ago, a teenage girl fell into a canal late at night. Unable to swim, only surviving thanks to a nearby man, an alcoholic, who heard her splashes and pulled her out, though not before she suffered irreparable brain damage that left her in a state of permanent childhood. The drunk man claimed he saw her thrown into the canal by another man, but the following day he couldn’t remember a thing.

Brunetti is unable to let the case rest. Awash in the rhythms and concerns of contemporary Venetian life, from historical preservation to housing, to new waves of African migrants, and the haunting story of a woman trapped in a damaged perpetual childhood, The Waters of Eternal Youth is another wonderful addition to this series. I always recommend you start at the beginning of a series to enjoy the changes and accruing knowledge of the characters. You can read them independently. I highly recommend this Donna Leon series to you and look forward to those I haven’t read YET. Happy Summer Reading!

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Summer Time and the Livin’ is Easy – Make Time to Read -Three Days in Moscow

How is your summer reading going?

Three Days in Moscow, Bret Baier’s new book explores the dramatic endgame of America’s long struggle with the Soviet Union and President Ronald Reagan’s central role in shaping the world we live in today. They are touting this as the best book on Reagan, but since it is the first book I’ve read about him, I can’t be sure. Nonetheless, I highly recommend it. I’d forgotten things or things I never knew in the first place.  I have a new appreciation for the 40th President of the United States (in office from 1981 to 1989)

On May 31, 1988, Reagan stood on Russian soil and addressed a packed audience at Moscow State University, delivering a remarkable speech that capped his first visit to the Soviet capital. This fourth in a series of summits between Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in their tireless efforts to reduce the nuclear threat. Reagan viewed it as “a grand historical moment”: an opportunity to light a path for the Soviet people—toward freedom, human rights, and a future he told them they could embrace if they chose. It was the first time an American president had given an address about human rights on Russian soil.  The importance of Reagan’s Moscow speech was largely overlooked at the time, but the new world he spoke of was fast approaching; the following year, in November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union began to disintegrate, leaving the United States the sole superpower on the world stage.

Today, the end of the Cold War is perhaps the defining historical moment of the past half-century and must be understood if we are to make sense of America’s current place in the world, amid the re-emergence of US-Russian tensions during Vladimir Putin’s tenure.  Baier illuminates the character of one of our nation’s most venerated leaders—and reveals the unique qualities that allowed him to succeed in forming an alliance for peace with the Soviet Union when his predecessors had fallen short.

I have my Godson, Thomas, and his sister, Peggy, to thank for my autographed copy of Three Days. Thomas knew how much I enjoyed Baier’s Eisenhauer’s book built around the three days before Jack Kennedy was inaugurated. It is a fabulous read. These are interesting reads about our American story, about two important men and how they helped shape that story. Author, Bret Baier deserves the acclaim he is receiving for both these books.  ENJOY!

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