Monthly Archives: August 2021

The Book Whisperer Insists You Read You Belong Here Now!


Several months ago, I watched a live Zoom interview with William Kent Krueger, whose books I truly enjoy. Dianna Rostad, a debut author, was a member of the Zoom as well. Krueger praised Rostad’s upcoming novel, You Belong Here Now. Naturally, Krueger’s endorsement made me interested in reading You Belong Here Now. I was delighted when the book was a choice through BookTrib, a source that promotes authors and books and allows readers to review free copies. Readers will find this review fair and unbiased.

Dianna Rostad has created memorable characters in three orphans: Charlie, Opal, and Patrick. The children, unrelated to one another, become part of an orphan train from NYC heading into the raw American West in 1925. Opal and Patrick are legitimately on the orphan train. Charlie, somewhat older at 16 and large for his age, has wrangled a place aboard the train because he needs to escape from NYC. He, too, is an orphan, and he has been living on the streets.

At stop after stop long the way, Charlie, Opal, and Patrick are shunned by those who come to either adopt the children or at least take them into their homes. Of course, readers know that some of the children will be well-kept and loved, but many of them will be used as slave workers, especially by those who are unscrupulous.

Opal, who refuses to speak, is about 6 years old. Patrick is Irish and has lost his whole family to the Spanish flu. Charlie’s dad simply disappeared and his mom fell into drug abuse. He drifted away from his mom onto the streets of Hell’s Kitchen where he did what he could to survive. On the train, Opal latches onto Charlie as does Patrick. Charlie does all he can to push them away, but his heart is soft, and he becomes their protector.

In desperation, Charlie, Patrick, and Opal leave the train in Montana and think they will make a go of life on their own. Charlie is caught by the Stewart family trying to steal a horse. Instead of turning him into the sheriff, the family tells Charlie he will work off his misdeed. Then, of course, Charlie has to tell the family about Opal and Patrick who are waiting for him to return.

As readers can guess, the Stewarts do take all three children for what they think will be a temporary period. Mrs. Stewart falls in love with Opal and starts teaching her to cook and help around the house as well as take care of the chickens. Mrs. Stewart had lost a daughter to a cattle stampede. She has two adult children, Nara and John. Nara would like to take over the farm, but she knows it will be difficult since she is a female. John, her brother, has fled to the city to become an artist.

Nara is tough and particularly unhappy about having the three children on the farm. Still, Charlie is a large boy and a hard worker, so he is useful. Patrick is still young, but he pulls his weight too. Opal, of course, has already won a place in Mrs. Stewart’s heart.

For a time, things go smoothly for the family and the children. There are small bumps in the road, but they are worked out. However, Charlie knows that he was on the orphan train under false pretenses and he also fears Patrick and Opal will be taken away; they have become like his siblings. Larger issues are on the horizon and they will be difficult to surmount.

Readers will hold their collective breaths as they discover the pitfalls the Stewarts and the children face. The big question is what will happen? Mr. and Mrs. Stewart have adult children. Will they be allowed to adopt the three children? Nara is single and she is adamantly opposed to the adoption on any level—although readers can also see that she is beginning to find a soft spot in her heart too—not that it will be won easily.

You Belong Here Now will warm readers’ hearts and shock them too at the abuse children can be made to suffer through no fault of their own. Book club members will find much to discuss in You Belong Here Now. The issue of the orphan train itself and those who run it will create quite a conversation. The sheriff and his mean-spirited wife will also generate a lively discussion. Nara’s hardened ways will become a point of discussion, especially as readers see inside her own thoughts and insecurities.  You Belong Here Now, a debut novel, is a must read and Dianna Rostad is an author to watch!


The Book Whisperer Delves Into a Marriage Proposal & Its Retraction


In the last posted blog, I mentioned that I had stopped reading a book that was making me feel itchy and twitchy. To cleanse the palate, so to speak, I quickly read The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer, part three of the series featuring Enola Holmes. The day was still young, so I turned to The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals. Despite having two book club books to finish, I dipped into Wilfred Price’s thoughts.

After my recent experience of disliking a book intensely, Wendy Jones hit the spot for me with The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals. And I’ve learned there is a sequel: The World is a Wedding. It is definitely on my TBR list.

Having a picnic with the lovely Grace Reece who is wearing an uncommonly beautiful yellow dress, Wilfred Price blurts, “Grace, will you marry me?” Then immediately feels horrified at what he has asked since he meant to ask, “How to you get out of your dress?” He could see no visible zippers, buttons, or hooks. Yet, he has now asked Grace to MARRY him! Quite a difference in the two questions! And Wilfred did not mean anything untoward by the second question that was in his head; he simply couldn’t see how Grace got into the dress or would get out of it. Curious.

Grace, equally surprised, responds, “Here you are, Wilfred, darling—and yes, it would be delightful.” Thus, Wilfred is now engaged. Her response is somewhat odd, but readers will discover that Grace is relieved to be engaged because she needs a husband.

Grace tells her parents about the engagement to Wilfred Price. Oddly, though, Wilfred does not phone or stop by again after he leaves Grace and the picnic. Wilfred is consumed with trying to find a way out of the engagement. Finally, with the same finesse he used in asking Grace to marry him, he tells her he does NOT wish to marry her. Grace’s response is practically no response, yet she does not tell her parents, so they assume the wedding is going forward.

This story takes place in 1924. Grace needs a husband, so she is happy with Wilfred’s proposal and neglecting to tell her parents that she is no longer engaged simply adds to the problem. Suffice it to say, that the Book Whisperer will not divulge the intricacies of the story because readers must discover for themselves what happens next.

I will say that I sat down and read The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals in one sitting because I needed to know why Grace refused to tell her parents about the broken engagement and also what happens as a result of Grace’s need for a husband.

Book clubs will enjoy Wilfred and Grace and their comedy of manners—which also has some serious moments. The Book Whisperer recommends The Thoughts and Happenings of Wilfred Price, Purveyor of Superior Funerals.

The Book Whisperer Continues to Be Enthralled With Enola Holmes


Saturday, I sat down to read a book highly recommended by a friend in my book club. She had touted the book as one that would frustrate, annoy, satisfy the reader and leave the reader with questions to answer, especially about what is ethical, right or wrong. I started the book, which will remain nameless here, with high hopes. The more I read, however, the more itchy, twitchy, and uncomfortable I became. After reading about one-third of the book, I closed it, put it down, and determined not to finish it. I hated the way the story made me feel as the plot continued to unfold.

Instead, I picked up The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets by Nancy Springer. It is the third book in the Enola Holmes series. I felt vindicated in my choice as I followed Enola in her efforts to free Dr. Watson, yes, that Dr. Watson, from the mental asylum where a mean-spirited woman had imprisoned him under false circumstances. And I finished the book on Saturday, finding it a much more satisfying read than the book aforementioned.

Now, readers may remember that Enola, age fourteen, has run away from her controlling brother Mycroft who wants to send her to finishing school to become a lady. Enola continues to search for her missing mother and is living in London on her own. Of course, Enola is no ordinary fourteen-year-old.

Enola is perceptive, inventive, and quite bright. She manages to figure out where Dr. Watson is being held and then helps, behind the scenes, to free him. Sherlock and Mycroft, her two brothers, have to acknowledge that Enola has, indeed, saved Dr. Watson.

Nancy Springer has created a terrific creature in Enola, alone spelled backwards. Determined to find her mother and stay out of Mycroft’s clutches, Enola wins a grudging respect from Sherlock and most likely from Mycroft too, though he may be the more reluctant to admit it.

Enjoy yet another adventure with Enola Holmes in London. I am looking forward to book four: The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan.

The Book Whisperer Discovers Supernatural Creatures


Being in a book club, as noted many times, pushes readers into reading books they might not choose on their own. The ensuing discussion in the book club further enhances the enjoyment, pleasure, and learning gained from reading a book. Recently, in the South Broken Arrow Library, we read The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

Quite honestly, I would not have chosen to read The Golem and the Jinni on my own. I am not sure the book would have crossed my radar even. However, I am here to report that the book caught my attention and kept it throughout. Fantasy and mythical creatures are not generally my go-to subjects in fiction.

Chava, the Golem, has been made to be curious and bright and to serve one master. Unfortunately, that master dies in the voyage across the ocean to the US. What, then will happen to the Golem? Will she be destroyed? Will she destroy herself, not having a master to serve? Luckily for her, Chava encounters a kindly, if elderly rabbi, who knows exactly what she is and feel determined to save her and give her some kind of life in NYC.

The Jinni, who takes the name Ahmad, is suddenly cast out of an ancient olive oil jar when a Syrian tinsmith is working to restore the container. Both the tinsmith and the Jinni are surprised! Again, luck is with the Jinni because the tinsmith is willing to help the Jenni acclimate to his new life in a new century and new country.

Of course, somehow the Golem and the Jinni must meet and form a relationship—not a romantic one, but one of mutual admiration. Too, both the Golem and the Jinni are supernatural creatures, so they cling together in a sort of symbiotic relationship since they understand one another in ways no one else can.

This story lends itself to book clubs and discussions because of the many topics that will arise. Chava is created to serve a master, a man. What does that say about the creator and the man to whom she is bound? What happens to Chava as she navigates new territory, learning as she goes? The Jinni, though somewhat arrogant and self-assured in a way the Golem is not, also needs tending or he will be found out. Ahmad has to learn to hold himself in rather than giving way to his natural tendencies.

Wecker has done a good job of portraying NYC in the late 1800s. She delves into various cultures that overlap as the Golem and the Jinni meet. Even if supernatural creatures are not your natural choice in fictional characters, take a chance with The Golem and the Jinni. Wecker has also written a sequel to the original story: The Hidden Palace: A Tale of the Golem and the Jinni.

The Book Whisperer Recommends a Literary Thriller


I had watched The Undoing on HBO and enjoyed the twists and turns of the fast-moving plot. Only when the show ended did I pay attention to the fact it was based on You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz. Then Jimmy Fallon’s audience chose The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz as The Tonight Show’s summer read. Often, such books are in such high demand at the library that I simply put hold on the book and wait for it to arrive. To my great surprise, The Plot was readily available, so I checked it out.

To say that I was hooked from page one would be an understatement. Jacob Finch Bonner published his first novel to great acclaim. His second novel, a set of loosely connected short stories, however, received little attention. Then writer’s block sets in and Jake finds himself cobbling together creative writing teaching jobs at various places including a little-known liberal arts college in Vermont.

An arrogant student, Evan Parker, considering using Parker Evan as his pen name for his yet to be published masterpiece, takes Jake’s class. Parker insists that he is not even sure “writing can be taught.” He has signed up for the class mainly in hopes of getting an agent or editor. In his one-on-one meeting with Jake, Evan insists he has THE plot for a terrific novel, one that will garner him tremendous attention, a highly prized book deal AND a call from Steven Spielberg for the movie rights.

Jake read the few pages that Parker turned in for the class and thought they were unremarkable, but well-written—without grammatical errors. What really struck Jake, however, was Parker’s plot which had not been written down yet. Parker provided Jake with a sketchy recitation of the plot he felt sure was going to make him the next great American author. The class ended, and Jake thinks that’s the last he will hear of Evan Parker—unless the book does come to fruition.

A few years later, Jake learns that Evan Parker has died, apparently from a drug overdose. Now, readers will see a new plan taking shape in Jake’s mind. What happens over the next few years will take readers on a wild ride. Some readers will figure out what is happened sooner than others. Regardless, the story will keep readers engrossed in what is happening to the very end.

The Plot will provide much fodder for discussion among book club members and other reading friends. What makes a plot unique? What makes a plot the property of this author or that one? What is ethical when one hears the germ of a story? These questions and more will contribute to a lively discussion.

The Book Whisperer Enjoys the Further Adventures of Enola Holmes


Since my cousin Ronny introduced me to Enola Holmes, much younger sister of Mycroft and Sherlock, I have been fascinated by her and her stories. Nancy Springer does an excellent job of pulling readers into her stories.

The Case of the Left-Handed Lady is the second book in the series. It is quite as good as the first one, The Case of the Missing Marquess. In the second book, Enola, alone spelled backwards, continues to live in London, hiding from “the world’s most famous detective –her own brother, Sherlock Holmes.” This trick is no mean feat either since, as we know, Sherlock, is quite a brilliant detective.

Still, Enola knows she must stay hidden from the world in order to find her mother, the missing Marquess. One difficulty lies in the fact that Sherlock is now in possession of the book of ciphers that the Marquess had given Enola on her birthday. I truly enjoyed the subterfuge Enola employs to get into Sherlock’s rooms and steal her book!

Enola continues to find herself in dangerous situations. She is quick-witted and even in a brief confrontation with Sherlock in person, she outwits him and escapes once more.

Readers will enjoy this romp with Enola Holmes as she continues to navigate the mean streets of Victorian London. The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets, book three, is already on hand just waiting for me to discover more of Enola’s cleverness.

The Book Whisperer Discovers Another Delightful Debut Novel


Recently, one of my holds at the library became available: The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton by Eleanor Ray. On the front of the book is a blurb by Beth O’Leary, author of The Flatshare, who calls Ray’s book “a joy.” Now, I truly enjoyed The Flatshare and O’Leary’s next book, The Swtich, as well. I thought O’Leary’s endorsement meant The Missing Treasures of Amy Ashton would be worth reading. And I was right.

Amy Ashton, readers soon learn, has suffered a tremendous loss; she believes Chantel, her life-long best friend, and Tim, the love of her life, have run away together. They both disappeared at the same time with no word from either of them. Now, eleven years down the road, Amy still has no clue what has happened.

In the meanwhile, Amy continues at her job, following a daily routine and keeping herself shut away from others. To assuage her sorrow, Amy begins collecting treasures, beautiful objects. Sometimes, the objects are not all that beautiful or they are wounded and need to be fixed, so Amy buys them and fixes them. Soon, though, her home becomes filled with so many of her treasures that hardly any room remains for Amy. As a result, she refuses to allow anyone into her home.

Then a new family moves into the house next door. Richard, Nina, his live-in girlfriend, and Richard’s two sons, Charles, age 8 and Daniel, age 3, arrive taking over old Mrs. Hill’s home. Amy feels concern because she has a number of beautiful flower pots in both her front and back yards. She knows that some of them are precariously stacked and could be in danger from little boys’ play.

Charles, himself, is a collector of toy trucks and bulldozers, so he is a kindred spirit with Amy. Readers quickly see that Charles will insinuate himself into Amy’s life regardless of whether she likes it. This part reminds me of The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons, another book I truly enjoyed. In both books, a new family moves in next door to a woman who wishes to remain isolated and on her own. In both cases, a child brings that woman out of her shell. One major difference is that Amy is years younger than Eudora.

Of course, readers want to know what happened to Chantel and Tim. Did they really betray Amy as she believes they did? This mystery haunts Amy. Eleven years after the disappearance, Amy finds a tattered letter and a beautiful ring. She recognizes the ring as one she had long admired in one of her treasure shops; she had even shown it to Tim. Amy discovers the ring and the letter when the boys next door slip into the backyard and topple over some of the flower pots. Because the letter has been outside, much of the writing is smudged, but she recognizes Chantel’s handwriting.

Amy’s hoarding has created a perfect den for mice and insects both inside and outside her home. As a result, her neighbors report her to the Council. Amy ignores the letters she receives about cleaning up her property. Even when Council members come to the house, she refuses to allow them inside and insists that everything is all right in her home and her yard.

What will bring these issues to a head? How will Amy address the hoarding? What will happen with the family next door, especially the children whom Amy has come to enjoy? And what has happened to Tim and Chantel? These are all questions readers will wonder about and all will be revealed as the story plays out.

The Book Whisperer Enjoys a Romp with The Very Nice Box


Readers seeking a romp of a read should quickly get a copy of The Very Nice Box by Laura Blackett and Eve Gleichman. This debut novel will delight readers, make them laugh, be a bit pensive, and then turn them on their heads with a few unexpected twists.

Ava Simon, an engineer, works for STADA, a furniture company in Brooklyn. Ava is obsessed with her work of currently designing The Very Nice Box. Her life is quite ordered and orderly. She divides her time into units so that everything is done in a timely fashion.

Ava’s apartment is filled with STADA furniture including the Principled Bed, the Alert Percolator, and the Cozy Nesting Tables. All of the products made by STADA have such names. My favorites may be the Encouraging Desk Chair and the Embracing Arm Chair.

In addition to the names for products, STADA employees receive affirmations to encourage their productivity and connections. At one point, Ava even asks herself, “Am I in a cult?” She quickly dismisses that idea and continues with her routines both at work and at home. That is, Ava continues until the explosive Mat Putnam joins STADA as Ava’s new boss. He is handsome, charismatic, charming, but Ava wants nothing to do with him.

Readers discover Ava’s backstory which explains why she is so ordered in her life and so solitary except for her friend Jamie at work and her dog Brutus at home. Mat disrupts everything in Ava’s life. Will that turn out for the good or will it be more than disruptive?

Without giving away any spoilers, I will say a romance occurs. At the same time, readers continue to feel Ava’s unease with Mat. The Very Nice Box is funny, intriguing, and a terrific read.

The Book Whisperer Enjoys Cool Desserts


Another cookbook caught my attention recently: Taste of Home Frosty Treats & More: 201 Cool Ideas for Icy Sweets. Since we are in the heat of summer in Oklahoma, the recipes in the book sound refreshing. From the table of contents, we learn the book features recipes on cool beverages, DIY ice cream, frosty desserts, and much more including saucy toppings.

At the beginning of the cookbook, cooks will find “Serving Secrets.” That page contains suggestions like what to do when out of ice cream toppings: Warm a little jam or jelly in the microwave and drizzle it over the ice cream. Another addition to the cookbook which I really like is a page for one’s own notes. That does not appear on every page, but the pages are interspersed throughout the cookbook. That will provide useful reminders about what happened the last time or suggestions for altering the recipe a bit.

Color photos accompany each recipe. Each recipe gives the time it takes to prepare and bake, and freezing time if that is appropriate. Tips are also included throughout the cookbook. For example, one tip reminds cooks that even “a trace amount of fat in a bowl can keep a meringue from reaching its maximum volume.”

The Book Whisperer is a Reader & A Cook


The Taste of Home Test Kitchen Favorites 2021 contains 344 recipes. It is a comprehensive cookbook covering all meals, snacks, breads, and desserts. For those who may be novice cooks or those who don’t remember such things, the cookbook also contains equivalents and substitutions, a very handy section. Generally, I check a recipe before starting and then make sure I have all the necessary ingredients on hand. I have, however, found myself short an ingredient on occasion and the equivalents and substitution section is quite handy.

The recipes are clearly written and include tips from good cooks who have submitted the recipes to Taste of Home. Those recipes have then been vetted by professional cooks with degrees in a variety of food related fields. Each recipe also provides information on calories, fat content, fiber, sodium, sugar, and carbs.

Some of the recipes use shortcuts, such as this one called Green Onion Rolls. That recipe starts with frozen bread dough. I like having recipes at hand that I can turn out quickly. Another recipe, Smoky Macaroni & Cheese, is an updated mac and cheese staple. By adding smoked cheese, the dish becomes new again.

Full color pictures accompany the recipes, so cooks can see how the dish looks. That’s always a helpful addition to a cookbook. All in all, The Taste of Home Test Kitchen Favorites 2021 is a winner!