Monthly Archives: February 2021

The Book Whisperer Highly Recommends The News of the World

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I first read The News of the World by Paulette Jiles several years ago. Apparently at that time, I did not discipline myself about writing a review for each book I read. I regret not writing about The News of the World, but I have reread it now and will rectify my earlier mistake. The book provides pure joy to a reader—suspense, sparse landscape, and characters for whom we develop affection.

The Civil War has ended. Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd has been in too many wars and has lost his printshop to conflict. His wife died, and his daughters grew up and married, starting lives of their own. Captain Kidd travels throughout the rough Texas landscape stopping to read the news from newspapers.

A Black man he knows who trades in goods and takes them from place to place asks Captain Kidd to take Johanna, a ten-year-old girl who has been rescued from the Kiowa Indians, back to her home in San Antonio. At the moment, Kidd is in north Texas, so the trip will be long and over dangerous territory. Reluctantly, he agrees to take the girl to her aunt and uncle. Johanna’s parents and younger sister all died in a Kiowa raid on their farm.

Johanna has no memory of her former life and she desperately wants to go back to her Kiowa family. She is mistrustful of the white people around her and she looks for any way to escape. Captain Kidd must use all of his wits to keep her with him and keep her safe. He wins her trust, but it is not easily or quickly won.

Jiles describes Captain Kidd and Johanna’s journey with all the pitfalls. They encounter criminals including a man who wishes to buy Johanna to put her in a brothel. Kidd must use his own cunning to outwit the man and keep Johanna safe.

Soon Johanna is helping Captain Kidd as he gives his readings in the towns where the stop, for he must continue to earn money to keep them moving toward San Antonio. He puts up flyers, rents a hall, and Johanna watches the paint can where people put their nickels as payment for the reading.

The pair finally reach San Antonio and locate Johanna’s aunt and uncle, two sour-faced people who live on a farm. They say they will take Johanna in and that she will work for her keep. Kidd leaves Johanna there even though he has a bad feeling. Still, what can he do? He travels the harsh trails all over Texas. How can he take care of a ten-year-old girl?

Before he leaves San Antonio, he goes by Johanna’s aunt and uncle’s farm. What he sees makes him angry. Without giving away what happens next, I will simply say that Paulette Jiles has created a story that will haunt readers because it delves into the deepest of human emotions and strikes home with what it means to be a family.

Paulette Jiles, http://paulettejiles.com/, is not only a novelist, but she is also a poet. She wrote a memoir called Cousins. Her newest novel is Simon the Fiddler.

The Book Whisperer Reads A Southern Classic

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Shirley Ann Grau died at age 91 in New Orleans on August 4, 2020. The Washington Post ran this headline with the article about Grau, her life, and her work: “Shirley Ann Grau, a ‘Quiet Force’ in Southern Literature Dies at 91.” Reviewers and professors of literature have called Grau’s works “richly detailed.”

Grau had the ability to draw readers into her stories through her exploration of race, gender, and power. Certainly, The Keepers of the House, Grau’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, takes readers into all of those topics.

Grau developed the story through the voices of William Howland, Margaret Carmichael, and Abigail Howland Mason. The story developed through the eyes of three characters provides readers will a complete story.

William Howland’s family settled the land William now owns in the early 1800s. The family has been influential throughout the years. The townspeople sometimes think the Howlands are eccentric. That doesn’t bother William in the least. He simply goes about his life. When his young wife dies following the birth of their second child, he remains a widower for years. His wife’s death is soon followed by the infant son’s death, leaving William and his daughter Abigail to carry on.

Years later when Abigail is away at college, William fulfills a challenge he made to find a corn likker still deep in the woods. He manages to find the still and then starts back out of the deep woods and swampy land. He finds himself at New Chapel, an area where a number of Black people live. He spots Margaret Carmichael, 17, washing clothes in the spring. He tells her he needs a housekeeper.

A few days later, Margaret shows up at William’s ancestral home. Before long, Margaret is not only the housekeeper, but also William’s mistress. She gives birth to five children, three of whom live: Robert, Crissy, and Nina. As each child gets close to being a teenager, William and Margaret send them away, one by one, to school in the north. They never come home for holidays and Margaret does not go to see them. William makes trips once or twice a year to see them while they are still in school.

Abigail, William’s daughter, returns home with her only child, also named Abigail. Abigail’s husband, a professor at the college where Abigail met him, has decided to return to England because of the rumblings of war. Abigail Howland Mason has no intention of leaving her homeland, so she moves back to her father’s home.

Abigail Howland Mason, William’s granddaughter, tells the third part of the story. Abigail marries a man she meets when she is in college, a law student. When he finishes his degree, they move back to the land where Abigail has lived with her grandfather, but they build a new house for themselves and their children.

Abigail’s husband delves into Southern politics and embraces the racist policies of the time. Abigail’s grandfather dies and she and her family move into the ancestral home. Her husband is successful and well-known as he runs for office and wins. He has his sights set on the governor’s office. Then Robert shows up and brings the press with him to the Howland estate. He shows the press his parents’ marriage certificate. When that news breaks, Abigail’s husband leaves her. Angry racist townsmen swarm onto the Howland estate and burn down the barn, killing animals and endangering the Howland home where Abigail and her children are.

Abigail has been betrayed and she will seek revenge. She has enough money and owns enough property in the town and the county to ruin a number of the people who burned her barn and threatened her and her children.

The Keepers of the House will create a lively discussion in any book club.

The Book Whisperer Reads a Novel Set During the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic

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Reading a book that focuses on the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic during the present COVID pandemic makes for a difficult read. That is the case with The Orphan Collector by Ellen Marie Wiseman.  Publishers Weekly advises readers that “Wiseman’s depiction of the horrifying spread of the Spanish flu is eerily reminiscent of the present day and resonates with realistic depictions of suffering, particularly among the poorer immigrant population.” That is true, and yet Wiseman also offers hope in her depiction of the healthcare crisis.

Reluctantly, Pia Lange, 14, goes with her mother and infant twin brothers to the huge patriotic parade in Philadelphia. They are German immigrants, and Pia’s mother thinks it is important for their neighbors and others to see them showing support for America. Pia’s father has already joined the army to show that he is loyal to America and not Germany. Pia does not like crowds or the possibility of others touching her in crowded places. Hence, she wishes she could just stay home.

The thousands of people attending that parade provided a breeding ground for the Spanish flu which had just begun to spread. Sadly, Pia’s mother dies from the flu; it hits and people die very quickly. Those who recover are blessed, indeed. Pia leaves her brothers, four months old, in a cubby in the drab apartment to forage for food. Unfortunately, Pia falls ill on the street and is taken to a makeshift hospital in a church. Pia does recover, but she is unable to return to the apartment to find out what has happened to her brothers.

Instead, Pia is transported to an orphanage where the children are treated poorly and fed almost nothing. Pia is put to work in the nursery helping care for the infants. She thinks only of escaping and finding her brothers or at least discovering what has happened to them.

Enter the villain in the story—the human villain since the flu is already the specter haunting everyone—Bernice Groves. She resents Germans because she believes a German immigrant took her father’s job away. She also feels immigrants of all kinds should not receive health care or help when Americans born in the country are suffering. Her own infant son dies of the flu, further pushing Bernice into a dark place.

After several years in the orphanage, Pia is sent to live with Dr. and Mrs. Hudson to help care for their four children: three girls and infant son. Pia is wary of what will happen to her there because she has known so little kindness. Fortunately, Mrs. Hudson is happy to have Pia’s help with the children because she is overwhelmed.

Pia’s strange sense of being aware if someone is ill becomes more apparent when she joins the Hudson household. She cannot help feeling that something is wrong with baby Leo, the only son. Dr. Hudson examines Leo and finds nothing, but a few days later, Leo dies. Dr. Hudson questions Pia, certain that she has harmed the child. Finally, Pia convinces Dr. Hudson that she does not understand her own ability, but she certainly would never harm anyone. Dr. Hudson recalls a nurse with whom he worked in the war who had the same sense of being able to detect illness, so he believes Pia.

The Orphan Collector also focuses on what happens to children whose parents die, leaving them orphans. Philadelphia itself is suffering with so many deaths. What will happen to the children who survive, but have no one to take them? Part of the story involves horrors of what happens with those children. Pia is a lucky child who finds a place with the Hudson family.

Readers will have many questions. Does Pia find her brothers? Does her father return from the war? I will include no spoilers here; read the book!

Ellen Marie Wiseman, https://ellenmariewiseman.com/, did a great deal of research into the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. What she writes rings true to the times. While Bernice Groves commits heinous acts, there is no historical evidence of women committing such acts. Still, she is a necessary part of The Orphan Collector.

The Orphan Collector provides a satisfying read even if the subject is hard. Book clubs will have much to discuss about the book. I am also delighted to report that Ellen Marie Wiseman has graciously agreed to meet with my book club to enlighten us further about her writing of The Orphan Collector.

The Book Whisperer Revisits a Tulsa YA Novel

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Note: I am reposting this review from 2018 because Beyond the Book, the South Broken Arrow Library book club, met today to discuss Dreamland Burning and Jennifer Latham joined us for the discussion. She gave generously of her time and answered questions and gave some background on her research for Dreamland Burning.

Jennifer Latham’s Dreamland Burning is a hard book to read. No, the sentences are not difficult, but the subject matter certainly is. Rowan Chase is a sixteen-year-old girl living in affluent Maple Ridge, Tulsa, OK. She is biracial; her mother is a high-powered black attorney and her white father comes from a long line of Oklahoma oil barons. Rowan’s mother wants the old servants’ quarters behind the house renovated because her mother says, “I won’t stand by and let a perfectly good building crumble to dust.” The home has been in Rowan’s family since 1922, but no servants have lived in the servants’ quarters for many years.

Rowan wakes up to the noise of the construction workers tearing into the building. Just as suddenly as the work began, it stops. Curious, Rowan dresses quickly and goes to see what has happened. The workmen have uncovered a skeleton wrapped in a tarp under the floorboards of the building. The workers flee, leaving Rowan a bit bewildered about what to do next. She calls her close friend James to come over immediately without telling him why. She tells him, “You’ll see when you get here.”

Rowan and James examine the skeleton and discover a gun with a name etched into the gun. The two see thin cracks in the back of the skull as if someone had hit the deceased with a hard object. Rowan takes a wallet out of the back pocket and hides it in the waistband of her shorts. At that moment, the police arrive along with Rowan’s parents. Clearly, the body has been under the floor of the servants’ quarters for some time. The obvious questions haunt Rowan from the beginning: Who is the dead man? Who killed him? Who put him under the floor?

Latham tells the story through Rowan in present-day Tulsa alternating with William Tillman’s account of 1921 Tulsa. William, himself is bi-racial; his mother is Osage Indian and his father is white. William’s father owns Victory Victrola Shop on Main Street in Tulsa. In those times, Tillman could not openly sell to black customers; therefore, he would arrange for them to come through the back door after hours to purchase a Victrola.

Rowan and James become sleuths because the police do not wish to spend much time on such an old death. The case starts coming together when Rowan discovers a receipt in the wallet; that receipt contains dates and payments by Joseph G to the Victory Victrola Shop and also includes the initials W.T. These clues lead Rowan and James through Internet searches to information about the shop and its owner. The land title to Rowan’s home also turns up interesting information: Stanley Tillman and his wife Kathryn Elizabeth Yellowhorse built the home; if they lived in the home at all, it was only briefly, however, because they sold it in 1922 to Rowan’s great-great grandparents, Flowers and Ora Chase. Members of the Chase family have lived in the home ever since.

Readers learn a great deal about both Rowan and William, from their own points of view. William, himself Osage Indian and white, is racist himself. We see him learn from his mistakes, especially when he befriends Ruby, a ten-year-old black girl whose brother Joseph is buying a Victrola for their mother. Throw into the mix Vernon Fish, a totally despicable Ku Klux Klan member who owns Vernon’s Tobacco Store near the Victory Victrola Shop.

As I said in the beginning, the book is hard to read because Latham is true to the 1921 times, using the harsh words and actions that made me cringe with shame for the way people were treated. The story may be fiction, but it captures the time and the ugliness and horror of the riot, the senseless killings, and the blatant racism.

A Kirkus Review reminds readers that “for more than 50 years, Tulsa’s schoolchildren didn’t learn about the race riot, and many outside of Tulsa remain unaware today. This masterfully told story fills this void.”

The Book Whisperer Enjoys a Cozy on a Winter’s Night

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I enjoy mysteries and cozy mysteries are among my favorite relaxing reads. When I had the opportunity to choose from BookTrib’s offerings for Feb 2021, I selected Grounds for Murder by Tara Lush with no hesitation. I was not familiar with Lush and her previous books, so Grounds for Murder is a good introduction.

Cozy mysteries don’t necessarily follow a formula, but they do adhere to certain characteristics. And these are characteristics I enjoy discovering in a cozy. First, the murder is often committed before the story opens and/or it is bloodless. I am not fond of gory scenes. Too, if the murder victim is already dead at the opening of the story or near the opening, I don’t become invested in the character. Usually, cozy mysteries do not contain explicit language or sex. Grounds for Murder does contain some sexy language once Erica enters the novel.

Like most mysteries, the villain is caught and punished. That’s one of the satisfying features of a mystery: justice in a world that often lacks justice! There are other characteristics of the cozy mystery, but readers who love the genre are already familiar with them.

I enjoy the titles of cozy mysteries which are often puns or plays upon other titles or sayings. Grounds for Murder gets it title because our protagonist Lana Lewis owns Perkatory, a coffee shop. The shop is located on Devil’s Beach, a tiny island community in FL. Note the plays on words already. Another cozy characteristic comes into play here because Devil’s Beach creates a limited setting, thus also limiting the suspects in the murder.

Lana, 30, has returned home from Miami when the newspaper for which she wrote downsized and she was let go. Her marriage also fell apart at the same time when she discovered her smarmy husband had taken up with as Lana puts it “a girl hardly old enough to drink.” She has come home to manage Perkatory, the coffee shop that was her mother’s dream. Sadly, her mom has died of cancer, so Lana and her dad are running the shop along with help.

Fab, a womanizer, has worked for Perkatory until the day before he is found murdered. Unfortunately, Fab has switched to the rival coffee shop in town without giving Lana notice, so she blisters him in front of a large crowd about his disloyalty. The next day, Lana discovers Fab murdered. Luckily, Lana has an airtight alibi, not that she would kill Fab over quitting Perkatory anyway.

As a former crime reporter, Lana’s instincts kick in and she is certain she can solve the murder even though the police chief Noah Garcia is almost convinced Fab’s death is suicide. When the gas line to Lana’s oven is cut causing a serious gas leak and possible explosion, Lana becomes more than ever convinced that Fab has been murdered and that the murderer feels Lana is getting too close.

And should I mention that a little romance if often a characteristic of cozy mysteries? Yes, Lana who has not dated for over a year since her divorce finds herself more and more interested in the handsome Chief Noah Garcia. All in all, Grounds for Murder is a cozy read for a winter night or two. Thanks to BookTrib for this offering.

Tara Lush has won a variety of awards for her writing. Like Lana, her heroine, Lush is also a journalist. Her novels include contemporary romance and now this cozy mystery. Discover more at her website: https://taralush.com/.

The Book Whisperer Recommends Black Buck

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Entertainment Weekly wrote of Black Buck that it is “a combination of character study, searing indictment of all the problematics of white corporate culture, and some good old-fashioned enjoyable sarcasm.” Mateo Askaripour, who has written for Lit Hub, Electric Literature, Catapult, and The Rumpus, was also a 2018 Rhode Island Writers Colony writer-in-residence. Discover more about Askaripour on his website: https://mateowrites.com/.

I had requested Black Buck from the library and eagerly awaited my turn to read the book. The book has received a great deal of press and Jenna Bush Hager chose it for her book club in January 2021, Read with Jenna. I like to follow Jenna’s book club choices even if I cannot read them at the same time as the book club. They are always newly published books that are in high demand.

Black Buck lives up its hype. The story will make readers laugh, cringe, and probably even experience some discomfort. Isn’t that what literature should do for us?

Darren, quite bright, but not living up to his potential, lives in a brownstone with his mother. AT twenty-two, Darren works Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown NYC office building. He is a good manager and helps the other employees. He is happy with the low demands of the job because he can spend time with his girlfriend and has no pressures on him.

Then he suggests to Rhett Daniels, owner of a startup in the building, that he should not get his Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew. Instead, Daniels should order “the Nitro Cold Brew with Sweet Cream…. It has ten grams less sugar than your regular, forty fewer calories, and one-hundred forty milligrams more caffeine.” Darren isn’t even sure why he makes this suggestion, but once he has started, he continues.

Daniels is surprised and begins asking Darren questions about himself. Daniels invites Darren to come upstairs to his office when Darren gets off work. Darren does not comply that first day, but later he does go to Daniels’s office, a wild startup that in no way resembles a regular business.

Daniels tells Darren that Sumwun, his company, does deals and “I sell the one thing that everyone wants.” When Darren asks what that might be, Daniels replies with one word: “Vision.” He does elaborate though with a longer explanation: “A vision for the future. I sell people on the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest, and I’ll tell you, people will pay an absolute fortune for that.”

The upshot is that Darren goes to work for Sumwun, the only black person in the company. Readers learn the story through Darren’s eyes. He tells with honesty what happens to him and turns the story into a how-to book with rules highlighted in bold throughout the book.

I particularly enjoyed the asides as well as the rules which all appear in bold. One of the first reads like this: “Reader: What you are about to see is what happens with intuition overrides logic, which is the mark of any salesperson worth their salt. People buy based on emotion and justify with reason. Watch.” Then he goes on to illustrate the principal.

Black Buck will definitely take readers on a wild ride and it’s worth the risk.

The Book Whisperer Highly Recommends Fish in a Tree

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For ten years, I led a book club for adult learners through Creek County Literacy. The adult students met with a tutor weekly. Once a month, tutors, students, and I would gather to discuss a book together. These adults were bright people who had struggled with reading and writing for a variety of reasons. At some point as adults, they had the courage to seek help.  Admitting that they needed help was the first step toward becoming readers. Our book club meetings were joyful events that involved time together to talk about a book we had all read and to enjoy food together. What’s better than that?

Recently, I read Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. Reading the book caused me to think back on the times I spent with the adult learners and our book club. In Fish in a Tree, Ally, an elementary student, is constantly in trouble. She practically has a seat with her name on it in the principal’s office. The problem is that Ally, bright and articulate and talented in math an art, cannot read or write well.

Sadly, no one has realized what Ally’s problem is. When she is called upon to write in class or to read aloud, she acts out. She might draw wild circles on her desk with her pencil, thus annoying the teacher and getting her sent to the principal’s office yet again. But going to the principal’s office is a better alternative in Ally’s mind that having to read aloud and have the whole class make fun of her.

Ally looks at the copy of Alice in Wonderland that her beloved grandfather has given her and the book he used to read to her. She thinks to herself: “It’s like having a gift that’s locked in a glass box.”

When her regular teacher goes on maternity leave, Mr. Daniels steps in as the substitute. He is a breath of fresh air. He calls the students “my fantasticos!” At the end of the first day, Mr. Daniels tells Ally that he knows about her troubled past. He encourages her with these words: “I just want you to know that I’m going to try really hard not to send you to the office. If we have something to deal with, you and I will deal with together.”

Before long, Mr. Daniels figures out Ally’s problem and begins helping her cope with the dyslexia that has been holding her back and causing her to act out in school. Along with her own problem, Ally faces Shay, the class bully, and her sidekick Jessica. But Ally find allies in Keisha and Albert, two other students who also face Shay’s meanness.

Fish in a Tree is must-read book for parents and children, especially any children who are struggling with an issue in learning. It is an uplifting story of perseverance and the kindness and help from a teacher.

Lynda Mullaly Hunt, https://www.lyndamullalyhunt.com/, maintains a robust website where readers can find a wealth of material. The paperback version of the book I read also has discussion questions and “The Sketchbook of Impossible Things” much like the one Ally herself keeps.

The Book Whisperer Discovers a New YA Author

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As mentioned before, I am fortunate to receive books from BookTrib, https://booktrib.com/, to review. Receiving the free book does not influence what I write about the book. I must be honest with myself about the books I read and review or lose my fellow readers’ trust.

Augie Sweetwater and the Dolpin’s Tale by William J. Harrigan is a young adult novel, for ages 7-18, quite a range of readers. I am an eclectic reader and I read books for all ages. Readers who limit themselves to a particular age or genre do themselves no favors.

Augie Sweetwater is a genius who at age 11 already has “a doctorate in nano-engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Mrs. Treneger, school principal, continues with more about Augie: “By the time he finally gets his high school diploma here at the Anacortes School, he’ll also have earned a second doctorate in biomedical engineering.”

Then one could reasonably ask why Augie is still in the ninth grade. The principal explains that Augie’s mother, now deceased, had wanted him to be in school with his peers. Unfortunately, that causes problems because some of the bigger boys enjoy tormenting and bullying Augie who is not physically strong enough to push them away.

Along comes Yardley Holdsworth Cooperlick, “call me Coop,” to Anacortes as a new student in town. At fourteen, Coop is a large boy “pushing six feet now and starting to fill out in the shoulders and chest.” When Coop sees Banner, a big boy, picking on Augie, Coop simply steps in breaks Banner’s nose which, of course, makes him drop Augie.

For this rescue Coop gets a trip to the principal’s office. While he does receive a slight punishment, Mrs. Treneger, the principal, mainly calls Coop to the office to ask him to be watchful over Augie and befriend him. Coop agrees to do so and in turn makes a good friend who leads them both on adventures along with Mika Deerwood, a Lummi Indian who has long been Augie’s friend.

Augie’s family is wealthy. Well, saying the family is wealthy is an understatement. Augie has a great deal of money at his disposal. Unfortunately, Augie’s father is in prison for murdering Augie’s mother. And Augie’s father has hidden away five million dollars which he uses to bribe people on the outside to try to kidnap Augie and hold him for ransom. Fortunately, Augie with his great inventions has created a number of safeguards to keep his father from realizing his wishes.

Readers learn about many of Augie’s inventions. Some of the descriptions left me in the dark, to be honest. However, he uses the inventions for good. One of the best is a bullet-proof shirt which Augie wears and then gives Coop several of the shirts as well.

Harrigan has created an interesting storyline in that Coop has four and half fathers/stepfathers. His father, dad #1, is a police detective. The other stepfathers have various talents which come in handy as Augie, Coop, and Mika get into scrapes. The best part about the fathers is that Coop gets along with all of them including the one who will soon become father #5. The one thing we don’t learn is why Coop’s mother has such a string of husbands and ex-husbands.

Augie, Coop, and Mika solve several problems over the course of their adventures. In the last line of the book, Coop speaks: “Oh, boy, here we go again.” Thus readers know to expect a sequel to the trio’s adventures.

The Book Whisperer Reviews a Winner

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As an admitted book club junkie, I enter contests to win books for myself and for my whole book club. I hit the jackpot recently when I won copies of Promises to Keep by Nan Rossiter from the Book Club Cookbook, https://www.bookclubcookbook.com/. The book publishes 27 April 2021, so not only did we win books for the whole membership, we also got advance copies. When the Circle of Readers meets soon, Nan Rossiter will be joining us. To win the advance copies and to have Rossiter meet with us can hardly be beat!

Promises to Keep can be read as a standalone novel, but it is book 2 in Rossiter’s Savannah Skies series. The first is Promises of the Heart. I decided to read both books in preparing for the meeting with Nan Rossiter, http://www.nanrossiter.com/index.html. I have already posted a review of Promises of the Heart.

I enjoy books in a series because the author has an opportunity to develop characters through the series. Going into Promises to Keep, I enjoyed having knowledge of the background from the first book.

Promises to Keep focuses on the same extended family. However, the main attention has shifted from Macey, Ben, and Harper Samuelson to Macey’s sister Maeve and her romance with Gage Tennyson. Promises of the Heart took readers on a rollercoaster ride of sorrow as Macey suffered her fifth miscarriage and then the turnaround as she and Ben decide to foster and then adopt Harper, a little girl who needs a heart transplant.

Readers will be happy to learn that Harper is healthy and well after the transplant and has found her forever home with Macey and Ben. Now, we turn our attention to Maeve who works at the Willow Pond Senior Care Home. She and Gage, who works for Ben in his construction firm, seem right for each other.

Sadly, both Maeve and Gage withhold secrets from one another. In Maeve’s case, she has kept a secret from her whole family for years. Now, after Gage asks Maeve to move in with him, Maeve’s secret comes to light. Will it damage the relationship between Maeve and Gage? Ultimately, will the secret also harm Maeve’s place in her immediate family?

And what is Gage’s secret? Why has he left Tennessee and his family’s farm? When Maeve asks Gage questions about his family, he is evasive. Surprisingly, when Chase, Gage’s youngest brother, comes to visit, Gage introduces him and his partner to Maeve. The four even have dinner together.  So why can’t Gage talk about the rest of his family?

Readers will fall in love with Gus, Gage’s irrepressible golden lab. They may even like the chickens he has named.

As readers follow Maeve and Gage, Rossiter inserts another story of Mason and his mother. Mason is graduating from high school. Unfortunately, his mother is undergoing treatment for cancer. The prognosis is dire. Mason, the class valedictorian, delivers an impassioned speech from the heart, looking directly at his mother the whole time. He refers to his mother and her love of poetry and of her support of him throughout his life. He ends the speech with a poignant line from poet Mary Oliver: “Tell me, dear one, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Readers recognize the two stories will have to intertwine at some point. The question remains what connects the two? Readers will have to read the story to discover all the secrets and all the truths. It will be a pleasant journey!

Did I also say that sisters Macey and Maeve are both redheads and that Harper is as well? Add one more character to the ginger collection: Mason. The Book Whisperer as a redhead herself always likes stories that feature redheads. The crown on this story is that Nan Rossiter, too, is a ginger!

Nan Rossiter lives in Connecticut and has set several books in the Northeast, but she has branched out with Promises of the Heart and Promises to Keep by setting them in Savannah, GA. She didn’t guess about the location. She and her husband took a trip there to learn about the area and so she could include local landmarks including eating places.

In corresponding with Nan Rossiter about joining our book club meeting via Zoom, I’ve learned that she is warm and inviting. She mentioned that her “oldest son just moved out to Altus AFB in OK over the weekend. He will eventually be flying the new KC-46 refueling plane for the NH Air Guard.” So she is joining our Broken Arrow, OK, Circle of Readers and her son now is stationed in OK.

The Book Whisperer Enjoys a Mystery Within a Mystery

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As a big fan of Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War, both created by Anthony Horowitz, a prolific and multi-talented writer, creator, and producer, I seek out any books by Horowitz as an automatic reading choice.  The Magpie Murders and The Word is Murder are both recent favorites. Learn more about Horowitz on his site: https://www.anthonyhorowitz.com/.

I was delighted when Moonflower Murders became available. It stars Susan Ryeland, former editor for Alan Conway, now living in Crete and running a hotel with Andreas, her love. Thinking that she is finished with book editing and getting involved with mysteries, Susan and Andreas face other problems in running their slightly dilapidated hotel in Crete. They face a variety of problems in keeping the hotel going.

With Alan Conway dead, Susan does not expect to be involved with anything related to Conway again. Then Susan receives a request to help the Trehearnes find their missing daughter Cecily. The Trehearnes own an upscale hotel in England, Branlow Hall. Why are they involving Susan in trying to locate their missing daughter?

That reason hinges on the fact that she had been the editor on the Atticus Pund stories. A murder had occurred at Branlow Hall several years earlier and Stefan Codrescu, an immigrant who worked at Branlow Hall, has been accused, tried, and found guilty of the murder. The murder occurred on the day of Cecily’s wedding to Aiden McNeil.

A few years after the murder, Alan Conway stays at Branlow Hall and asks questions about the murder that took place there. Soon thereafter, he wrote his last Atticus Pund mystery that includes thinly veiled references to Branlow Hall and its staff as well as the murder.

Cecily has read Atticus Pund Takes the Case and becomes convinced that Codrescu is innocent and that she knows who the real murderer is. When she makes a phone call to her parents to tell them of her discovery, someone must have overheard her say that she now knows who the real murderer is because the clues are all in Conway’s last book: Atticus Pund Takes the Case. She does not reveal the clue or the murderer’s name; suddenly, she goes missing.

Susan knows Conway was fond of hiding clues, anagrams, and teasers in his mysteries. She just has to figure out what the clues are that will lead to the real murderer if, indeed, Codrescu is innocent. Along the way, Susan hopes to find Cecily. Susan already fears that Cecily is dead, killed by the real murderer who is still at large.

Horowitz cleverly gives readers a mystery novel within a mystery novel. Susan must re-read Atticus Pund Takes the Case to search for clues. As a result, readers have the same opportunity to read along with Susan and hope they can also figure out the clues to tell them who the real murderer is and where to find Cecily.

Of course, the hotel is staffed with Lisa, Cecily’s snarling sister. Aiden MacNeil, Cecily’s husband, plays the part of a grieving husband, but is that an act? Susan must also interview the sister and brother-in-law of the dead man, Frank Parrish. What sort of connections might Parrish have had to others at the hotel, either guests or staff?

Fans of Agatha Christie will enjoy Susan’s gathering of the suspects in one room and then going person-by-person to eliminate them until she reveals the murderer. Luckily, she has DCI Locke in attendance, at Andreas’s insistence. A surprising, dangerous, and striking incident occurs when everyone there realizes who the real murderer is. However, the Book Whisperer will not reveal any clues to spoil your reading!