Review of two delightful cozy mysteries

As a break from my reading to give my overstimulated mind a rest, I read two light, light whodunnit, cozy mysteries.

The first was Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran, which is the first in a new culinary cozy series.  The recipe in the back of the book was for buttermilk pie, a specialty at the bookshop/cafe where several book clubs met. At the cafe/bookshop, books are sold, three meals a day are served by the owners/waitresses who share a life, are roommates, and , of course, solve a murder.  The victim, “Miss Delia,” one of the older women’s book club’s charter members, is found bludgeoned by a dull, heavy object and totally dead. We are on the “outskirts” of the mystery wondering what “Skully”, a local homeless man was doing skulking ( pun intended) around Miss Delia’s house.  I, an amateur Sherlock, just knew there was a “connection” but still got the “connection” wrong.  Excellent twists and turns, treasure hunters on motorcycles known as “wreckers”, and a touch of romance make an excellent summer read for anyone who loves books, belongs to a book club or just likes to read about food.  Available in paperback.

The second, Spell Booked by Joyce and Jim Laverne, a husband and wife mystery writing team, is again, the first in a series of books, the Retired Witch Mystery series.  It has great promise even though I am a good Christian and don’t like reading about witchcraft of any kind, even those as hilarious and delightful as these three witches. The book was a gift, and I enjoyed it very much.  It has a simple, but original plot. Three witches who realize they are now eligible for AARP, must “conjure up a retirement package” and find three young recruits to take their place. A big plus for me is that it is set in Wilmington, N.C., near my original “home state” of Virginia and near Beaufort, N.C. where my husband was born and raised until the age of five.

Olivia, one of the witches winds up dead near the beginning of the book, and the witch hunt (pun intended again) is on!  This is a fast read, an amusing read, and for any reader who likes humor, loves books and thrives on twists and turns.  This book is written by a very talented “team”. Available in paperback. 2014 publication.

Both books are my recommendations for beach reads, escape reads or  a “just- plain take-a-day-off-and- read- a -book- day”.  Both are  also easy to read as a “pick up and put down” book as well.








Review of The Kashmir Shawl

Kashmir Shawl was my Third Tuesday Book Club Selection for the month of May.  I had never heard of Rosie Thomas, and probably would have not read a “romance” on my own, but it was “assigned.”

I soon came to realize that as one member said, “Oh, it is so much more than a romance.” And oh my, it is!

The author, a wonderful gifted writer swept you away to India to the extent that I felt I had been there in that time during the Second World War. The descriptions and characterizations were exceptional, and the theme of the shawl was very vivid as the modern day girl searched out how her grandmother had come to own such an exquisite item, and  unfolded the grandmother’s “secret story.” I could feel the texture and see the colors of the shawl as I was seeing India and its former beauty.

As far as the romance, what woman wouldn’t be swept away as well by the Magician-hero with his tawny mane and his “leonine appearance?”

All in all it was a good read, perfect for summer and get-away-from-everything reading.

Book Review: Peace Like a River

Peace Like a River by Leif Engle is one of the best reads I encountered so far in 2016.  It was recommended by a friend who had borrowed it from the library, and she wanted me to read it so badly, she sent an Amazon copy to my front door (good friend!).  One of the blurbs on the book said, it “serves as a reminder of why we read fiction to begin with.”

The Land family,consists of  father-Jeremiah, Davy-older brother, Ruben-narrator and wonderful but asthmatic middle child, and Swede- the blonde haired blue eyed baby of the family, whom one reviewer compares to Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.  The story is set in Minnesota and travels to the Dakota badlands as the story progresses.  The characters are unforgettable and the plot is suspenseful to the point where you discover you are holding your breath as you read.

There is a peace, as mentioned in the title, constantly searched for and finally attained by both the characters and the reader. One reviewer called the novel, “the perfect book for an anxious time,” referring to both the decade of the novel and today’s times which often require the total immersion in a good book to “make it through.”

I wholeheartedly recommend this book as a good investment of your reading time.

This and That/Here and There

My two weeks off from blogging extended into much longer than two weeks, primarily because I couldn’t remember how to “get back on the pony!”  With the assistance and kindness of my former student/”grandson”, Andrew, I am back.

I have read many books in my “absence”.  For starters, The Art of Grace, by Sarah Kaufman,was an excellent, engaging non-fiction read which kept me wanting to turn the page or start the next chapter throughout.

One of the best reads during my hiatus was In the Shadow of the Banyan a novel by Vaddey Ratner.  It was recommended by a book club friend and was as good as she described. It was horrible and yet beautiful, at the same time,thanks in part to the author’s wonderful writing.  I knew nothing of Cambodia during its civil wars and horror during the years 1975-1979 but had a connection to them in that I was teaching 7th graders who were refugees brought to Alvin by a local church.  Since they spoke no English and I spoke no Cambodian, it made for some interesting “aha-teaching experiences”.  The takeaway of the book, the indomitable human spirit ,was so uplifting that this reader came away moved and encouraged rather than sad and depressed.

Two others out of the dozen or more books that I finished were Bill Bryson’s The Road to Little Dribbling (“Adventures of an American in Britain”), a NY Times bestseller, and Ann Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread . The former I read along with my brother in Virginia in a two-person book club.  He sent the book,printed in large print (which added to my reading pleasure). Ann Tyler is one of my favorite authors, and I believe I may have read everything she has written. I’ll just comment that she lived up to the high expectations I always have for her novels–a great read . Whenever I read in the newspaper she has a book coming out, I drop everything and read her latest.

So much for my reading here of late. What recommendations do you have to add to my lengthy To-Read-When-I-Can- Work-It-In-List?




Meeting Update

The Powerful Women Readers met March 31st at Hope Village in Friendswood.  The food was wonderful, and the conversation was lively.  Attendance was sparse, but the quality time and fellowship was extraordinary.

We agreed that weekdays were not an optimal time to meet, and that the next get-together will be at Rae’s on a Sunday afternoon in late June or early July.

The selected/recommended list of books for this third quarter will be the suggestions made for  last quarter plus two more novels from Stephanie Kallos (listed for Language Arts:A Novel last quarter) Broken for You , her debut novel, and Sing Them Home.  Also we added a new category, non-fiction (as differentiated from Autobiographies/Biographies/Memoir.  The first book selected for this category was The Art of Grace by Sarah L. Kaufman.

Alvin and area Alert to Literacy Efforts

My Little Free LibraryThis past week in the Community Section of the Houston Chronicle (Yes, I still have the Chronicle delivered to my home each day; we’ve got to “do our part” to keep print newspapers going.)there was an article on Little Free Libraries in the area. Two of my friends were mentioned, and Alvin received some much overdue positive attention.We are working for literacy down here, one LFL at a time. Nan Self,a long time friend from previous AAUW membership, fellow member of the Alvin Historical Society and too numerous connections since the late sixties in Alvin to mention, was featured on the cover of the section with her red-white-and blue, two-shelf library. It was a lovely article, and also quoted Debbie Nance, librarian at Robert Louis Stevenson school across the street from my sub-division, who has written and received a grant to promote literacy by building and maintaining LFL’s in underserved Alvin neighborhoods. It was she who introduced me to the concept of Little Free Libraries and the international movement. She has a lovely LFL outside her home on a well-travelled road, “just up from” Alvin High School. Hers sits under a shaded tree, and there is a bench installed for weary walkers to rest and browse, sampling before selecting a book to take with them. It provides a moment away from the continuous traffic and the hustle and bustle of the area.My LFL is all about location, location, location–to quote a realtor friend. We are on the “main drag” into the subdivision between a primary school and an elementary school, two blocks down from the bus stop where the jr. high and high school students are dropped. We are on the side of the street that has sidewalks; our sidewalk is parallel to and within reachable distance from our LFL.Mt LFL was a 69th birthday gift, paid for by my husband and built of scraps from our house–shingles from the last time we had the roof done, scrap lumber from various projects, painted with leftover paint since our last painting adventure, and designed and executed by Robert Hockin of Alvin, a man of good will who does an amazing amount of good things for our church (South Park Baptist Church, located at the corner of Johnson and South Streets in Alvin–sorry had to get in a plug; we have been members there since 1968 and continue active membership today–as active as people our age can be.)and for everyone in the community. Robert and my husband set the post in concrete and let it “set” for a couple of days before attaching the little “house” that is my LFL and matches my house. A hurricane may wipe out my house, but the LFL in our side yard will stand!For my seventieth birthday, my Monday class at UHCL gave me a birthday party, and gifts were books for my LFL “Christmas Giveaway.” You have not celebrated until you have celebrated with 25 20-30+ year olds! It took me a full day to recover, but many books were distributed throughout my neighborhood thanks to my students that semester. I don’t think anyone, especially me, would forget that party or the lovely moments that caused my LFL to be the “gift that kept on giving.”We have done trick-or-treat outside our back drive, introducing parents and kids to the LFL, and often heard questions of, “How much does it cost?” “We can keep the books?”and, best of all, “Can I put the books my kids have outgrown in it?” Several young women keep paperbacks by Debbie McComer, Nicholas Sparks and other escape/when-I-have-a minute-to-read-books in plentiful supply at my LFL. There are evidently reading men in my neighborhood because detective novels like one I discovered in my own LFL, the Alex Cross series, a really good read either in series or as individual books. Fathers and mothers bring their little ones, lift them up to unhook the latch and help them select the books Mom and Dad will read to them.We are in the middle of our Spring Break push, offering the entire Treehouse series as well as the Magic Schoolbus books and at least three or four of the “Little House: series. Recently a dear friend gave me her son’s childhood books now that he is off to college. As she said, “Books should be in readers’ hands, not packed in boxes.” Good old Nancy Drew is making an appearance as are the Hardy Boys and the Boxcar Children. Even Spiderman, Batman, and Superman are making guest appearances in the form of Scholastic versions of their adventures in “reluctant reader” form. As I said, the Little Free Library is in its third year of giving and giving. My hairdresser and chiropractor here in Alvin have had bookshelves and space for free books for a long time, before the movement ever started.Yes, we are doing our part to promote literacy and distribute books here in Alvin.



Welcome to Powerful Women Readers. This book group/society of women is the resurrected book group of the Alvin branch of the American Association of University Women from back in the 80’s. We have been active as an on-line book group since September of 2015 and have had one get-together this past Jan 31st, open to all AAUW book group members and friends of those members who share a love of reading, books, and literacy concerns. As AAUW members, we believe in Life Long Learning, and reading and sharing books is part of that goal. We suggest good books to read and get together irregularly and spasmodically to share book recommendations, pass along books we’ve read, and encourage each other in our efforts to promote literacy locally and nation-wide. Some of us have or are working on “planting” Little Free Libraries in our yards and around the Alvin area. Some of us are teachers and professors, others just love to read and discuss good books we’ve read for our own satisfaction. The Powerful Women Readers post will be made approximately once a month, depending on the activities of this blogger. Blogging is new to me as are the computer skills needed to pull this off. In other words, I need all the help I can get! You are encouraged to correspond and to participate. Sincerely, RAE