Book Review: Jump Cut by Libby Fischer Hellmann—and a Giveaway!

Jump CutJump Cut
An Ellie Foreman Mystery #5
Libby Fischer Hellmann
Poisoned Pen Press, March 2016
ISBN 978-1-4642-0519-4
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Hired to produce a candy-floss profile of Chicago-based aviation giant Delcroft, Ellie is dismayed when company VP Charlotte Hollander trashes the production and cancels the project. Ellie believes Hollander was spooked by shots of a specific man in the video footage. But when Ellie arranges to meet the man to find out why, he is killed by a subway train before they can talk. In the confusion, she finds a seemingly abandoned pack of cigarettes with a flash drive inside that belonged to the now-dead man.

Ellie gets the drive’s contents decrypted, but before long discovers she’s under surveillance. Suspecting Delcroft and the ambitious Hollander are behind it, she’s unconvinced when Hollander tells her the dead man was a Chinese spy. Ellie and her boyfriend, Luke, try to find answers, but they don’t realize how far they have ventured into the dangerous echelons of hidden power where more lives are on the line―including their own.

I first met Libby Fischer Hellmann years ago, not too long after the release of her first Ellie Foreman book, An Eye for Murder, and both the book and its author called to me mightily. Through the years before I left the bookstore business, I’d run into Ms. Hellmann here and there at various mystery conventions and we always had a nod and a smile for each other but what I really enjoyed about those times is that it usually meant she had a new book out.  In the early days, the books were in the Ellie Foreman series and I always looked forward to them. Alas, the last one came out in 2005 and then the author moved on to other series and standalones, all just as good but I always wished for more Ellie.

Maybe the author heard my wishes; whatever the reasons, Ellie is back and I could not be happier. She’s the same intelligent, caring, somewhat foolhardy woman she’s always been and it takes next to no time for her to become embroiled in a mishmash of espionage and murders, all because she and her video production team were unfairly fired from a job for a huge aviation company. Being fired is one thing—they’ll still get paid—but Ellie is so outraged that she can’t resist digging into what’s going on. Remember I called her “somewhat foolhardy”? Yeah, that’s the perfect term for her and it’s not the TSTL syndrome so much as her mind and her sense of integrity just won’t let it go. Unfortunately, Ellie comes to the attention of a lot of people and they don’t all have her best interests at heart.

Jump Cut is a thriller in the very best sense with explosions and missing people along with the espionage and murders and it would be easy for all of this action to turn sour in the hands of a lesser writer but Ms. Hellmann is, as always, on point. She kept me riveted, needing to know what this simple flash drive held and how it could be so very important to so many factions but, at the same time, I was pulled into her truly normal and appealing personal life. Now, I have to hope that I won’t have to wait so long for my next Ellie Foreman fix 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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To enter the drawing for a trade
paperback copy of Jump Cut by
Libby Fischer Hellmann
, leave a

comment below. The winning name
will
be drawn Thursday evening,
March 3rd.
This drawing is open
to residents of
the US.

Book Reviews: Come Rain or Come Shine by Jan Karon, Need by Joelle Charbonneau, and The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

Come Rain or Come ShineCome Rain or Come Shine
A Mitford Novel #11
Jan Karon
G. P. Putnam’s Sons, September 2015
ISBN 978-0-399-16745-4
Hardcover

From the publisher—

Over the course of ten Mitford novels, fans have kept a special place in their hearts for Dooley Kavanagh, first seen in At Home in Mitford as a barefoot, freckle-faced boy in filthy overalls.

Now, Father Tim Kavanagh’s adopted son has graduated from vet school and opened his own animal clinic. Since money will be tight for a while, maybe he and Lace Harper, his once and future soul mate, should keep their wedding simple.

So the plan is to eliminate the cost of catering and do potluck. Ought to be fun.

An old friend offers to bring his well-known country band. Gratis.

And once mucked out, the barn works as a perfect venue for seating family and friends.

Piece of cake, right?

In Come Rain or Come Shine, Jan Karon delivers the wedding that millions of Mitford fans have waited for. It’s a June day in the mountains, with more than a few creatures great and small, and you’re invited—because you’re family.

By the way, it’s a pretty casual affair, so come as you are and remember to bring a tissue or two. After all, what’s a good wedding without a good cry?

Like so many others, I’m a longtime fan of Mitford and its wonderfully normal citizens, quirks and all, and I’ve laughed and cried my way through every book in the series. Come Rain or Come Shine fits right into the mix and I loved being back in the center of this delightful place. It’s even better that the story centers on one of my favorite characters, Dooley, adopted son of Father Tim and Cynthia, and his upcoming wedding to Lace Harper.

There’s a lot going on in Dooley’s life all at once—graduation from vet school, starting his clinic, getting married—but that really isn’t so unusual and it’s even less unusual that money could be a little tight at such a time. What’s so heartwarming is the way others in the community come together to make this wedding happen, good evidence of the affection the townspeople have for one another.

I do wish there had been more of Father Tim and Cynthia but this is the way life evolves from one generation to the next, isn’t it? Truthfully, there isn’t any real plot here but that’s not what comfort fiction readers look for and the important things, the characters, just sail off the page and into the readers’ hearts.

Technically, this is not part of the original Mitford series but more like an offshoot. When it’s all said and done, I don’t really care because I love this book as much as the earlier ones. I do think there’s a bit too much headhopping and, because of that, I heartily suggest that readers new to the series start at the beginning because, otherwise, you just won’t get the full effect and you won’t understand the characters. Guaranteed, you’re going to love Mitford and it’s citizens 😉

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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NeedNeed
Joelle Charbonneau
HMH Books for Young Readers, November 2015
ISBN 978-0-544-41669-7
Hardcover

From the publisher—

“No one gets something for nothing. We all should know better.”

Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need . . . regardless of the consequences. Soon the site turns sinister, with simple pranks escalating to malicious crimes. The body count rises. In this chilling YA thriller, the author of the best-selling Testing trilogy examines not only the dark side of social media, but the dark side of human nature.

One of the many things that concerns me about today’s society is that we’ve been teaching our children to expect far more than they’ve ever earned, a sort of privilege in which many of them believe that all good things must come their way. Such is the darkness at the heart of the social networking site, NEED. It’s a hopeful sign that Kaylee recognizes the fallacy behind what NEED offers but she joins anyway. She’s a smart girl, though, and it doesn’t take her long to begin to realize the truly awful things happening and the demands that teens are facing in exchange for having their needs met.

The action takes off exponentially and tension continues to build as teen and adult readers alike go along for the rollercoaster ride until a most satisfying ending. If I have any reservations, it’s that I don’t really think that teens, despite their feelings of privilege, are quite this gullible (although they DO tend to behave like sheep and follow the latest fads just because everybody else does). I also think there are way too many narrators but, on the whole, I do recommend this. It’s not Ms. Charbonneau‘s strongest work—she’s one of my favorite authors—but it kept me up at night and that’s a good thing.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend
Katarina Bivald
Sourcebooks Landmark, January 2016
ISBN 978-1-4926-2344-1
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Once you let a book into your life, the most unexpected things can happen…

Broken Wheel, Iowa, has never seen anyone like Sara, who traveled all the way from Sweden just to meet her book-loving pen pal, Amy. When she arrives, however, she finds Amy’s funeral guests just leaving. The residents of Broken Wheel are happy to look after their bewildered visitor―there’s not much else to do in a dying small town that’s almost beyond repair.

You certainly wouldn’t open a bookstore. And definitely not with the tourist in charge. You’d need a vacant storefront (Main Street is full of them), books (Amy’s house is full of them), and…customers.

The bookstore might be a little quirky. Then again, so is Sara. But Broken Wheel’s own story might be more eccentric and surprising than she thought.

A heartwarming reminder of why we are booklovers, this is a sweet, smart story about how books find us, change us, and connect us.

Being a former bookstore owner and current bookblogger, it’s only natural that I would be drawn to a book about, well, books and the love of books. As it turns out, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend was not exactly what I thought it was going to be but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment of this quiet yet quirky story.

From the beginning, I had to suspend a lot of disbelief. For instance, I found it hard to credit that Sara would leave Sweden and her life behind just because she lost her job even though her life really was all wrapped up in that job and in her correspondence with Amy. I also found the willingness of the townsfolk to have Sara move into Amy’s house more than a little puzzling.

Putting those issues aside, this is an appealing story and, having had a bookstore myself, I totally get Sara’s desire to share her love of books with the town. There’s something truly uplifting about finding the right book for a person or just in helping them experience the joy of escaping into whatever world a particular book offers. I don’t mean to sound silly about it but being a bookseller is a passion that never goes away and I know that librarians and individual readers lending books to their friends feel the same joy. That goes for today’s book bloggers, too, who simply have to tell people about the books they want others to know about. Because of all that, and Sara’s general aimlessness, I did believe in her idea of having the bookstore.

The other aspect of the tale that I found interesting is the juxtaposition of the dying town, Broken Wheel, with the nearby more prosperous town of Hope. Without knocking the reader over the head with the comparison, Ms. Bivald brings the two towns into the full light of day and watching what happens to Broken Wheel and to Sara when she opens her bookstore is endearing to say the least. Bookstores really can be the heart of a community and that’s why I long to be running one again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

Book Review: Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Try Not to BreatheTry Not to Breathe
Holly Seddon
Ballantine Books, February 2016
ISBN No. 978-1-101-88586-4
Hardcover

Alex Dale and Amy Stevenson might be referred to as two lost souls. Alex Dale’s problem is alcohol. Alcohol is the main factor that destroyed Alex’s marriage and destroyed Alex’s career as a journalist. Alex fights her addiction but so far, it is a losing battle. Alex’s ex-husband is remarried and has a child. Alex is surviving as a freelance writer but just barely getting by.

Amy Stevenson was attacked 15 years ago. She is in a coma and has been silent the entire 15 years. Her only visitor is Jacob, her boy friend from 15 years ago. Jacob is married and his wife is pregnant but she is unaware of Jacob’s visits to Amy.

Alex is writing a freelance article about patients that are in a coma and the doctor who is trying to communicate with patients that he feels are functioning on some level. She visits the hospital and recognizes Amy from the story of her abduction fifteen years ago. Alex makes a decision to try to find out the true story behind what happened to Amy. Part of that decision is to make a stronger attempt to curb her desire for alcohol.

Amy as well as Jacob and Alex speak to the reader from the various chapters of Try Not to Breathe. Alex feels that she is reaching Amy and notices little changes in her.

The book is well written and an exciting read. I look forward to more books by Holly Seddon.

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid, February 2016.

Fear Itself

Drew ChapmanDrew Chapman was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a BA in History. His early work history included: bike messenger, newspaper reporter, bootleg T-shirt salesman and knish vendor at Yankee Stadium. He wrote his first novel in fourth grade. It remains unpublished.

After college Drew moved to Los Angeles and began working in film production. He got an agent and took a position as a staff writer for Disney Animation. He has since written on projects for studios including Disney, Fox, Universal, Warner Brothers and Sony. He wrote and directed a feature film, “Stand Off”, starring Dennis Haysbert and Robert Sean Leonard.

Drew works extensively in television, where he writes under the name Andrew Chapman. He has sold pilots to ABC, Fox, Amazon, ABC Family, and Sony. In 2014 Drew wrote and produced an eight part limited series for ABC called “The Assets”, and this year wrote on and co-executive produced the second season of the spy show “Legends” for TNT.

His first novel, The Ascendant, was released by Simon & Schuster in 2014. The sequel, The King of Fear, was published as an eBook series starting November 3, 2015, and was released in paperback February 16, 2016.

My parents had this book on their shelves when I was a kid growing up in New York City called Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. It was written in the 19th century, and it’s considered the seminal work on mass hysteria. The book has always fascinated me, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe because I came of age through two blackouts and subsequent riots – moments when my hometown seemed to go completely nuts. Or maybe because I am the grandchild of a French Jew who fled the Holocaust – who was paranoid enough to see trouble coming early and ran fast, while others sat and waited. And didn’t make it.

Either way, I’ve always been amazed at the way fear and delusion can spread through a population of people like a virus. So for my second book, I researched fear. And one idea I found stuck with me.

Evolutionary biologists have this theory that fear is cooked into humanity’s DNA. The idea goes something like this: if you were an early human, a Cro-Magnon or Homo Erectus, living on the plains of Africa, and you spooked every night at the wind blowing, you might not get a lot of sleep, but you wouldn’t be eaten by a marauding lion either. You were fearful, and you ran, and you lived to fight another day. But if you were a more laid back early human, and you slept through that tree limb snapping in the darkness, well nine out of ten times it might be nothing – but that tenth time, when it was a saber toothed tiger? You were cat meat. And more importantly for the species, you didn’t get to pass your gene pool on to your descendants.

So the biologist’s theory is that we are all descended from surviving paranoids. Fear is hard-wired into our genes. Which means that people who see danger everywhere – be it overly anxious parents or tin-foil hat type conspiracy theorists – can’t really help themselves. They are just doing what their DNA is commanding them to do. And looked The King of Fearat in that light, fear becomes not a source of weakness, but a primitive well of strength. Fear helped our species survive all these millennia.

Of course primitive fears don’t help much when the wind blows outside our suburban windows. It’s not a lion out there. It’s just the wind. The problem arises when other humans exploit that hereditary reaction for their own purposes. People like conmen, politicians… and novelists.

What I’ve come to realize in researching my second novel is that I’m one of those exploiters of people’s deep dark fears. I look for what Americans are most afraid of, and then I turn it into a book. Fear of collapse, fear of contagion, fear of The Other. I’m a horror storyteller, masquerading as a thriller novelist. The masquerade is in part because I don’t like horror stories – they scare the hell out of me. I guess that’s ironic, but it also makes sense. I’m just another fearful human, turning and tossing all night long at the sound of the wind.

I can’t help myself – I’m not bad, I was just born this way.

Book Reviews: As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley, Huntress Moon by Alexandra Sokoloff, and The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn

As Chimney Sweepers Come to DustAs Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
A Flavia de Luce Novel #7
Alan Bradley
Delacorte Press, January 2015
ISBN 978-0-345-53993-9
Hardcover
Random House Audio, January 2015
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book
Read by Jayne Entwistle

From the publisher—

Banished! is how twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce laments her predicament, when her father and Aunt Felicity ship her off to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, the boarding school that her mother, Harriet, once attended across the sea in Canada. The sun has not yet risen on Flavia’s first day in captivity when a gift lands at her feet. Flavia being Flavia, a budding chemist and sleuth, that gift is a charred and mummified body, which tumbles out of a bedroom chimney. Now, while attending classes, making friends (and enemies), and assessing the school’s stern headmistress and faculty (one of whom is an acquitted murderess), Flavia is on the hunt for the victim’s identity and time of death, as well as suspects, motives, and means. Rumors swirl that Miss Bodycote’s is haunted, and that several girls have disappeared without a trace. When it comes to solving multiple mysteries, Flavia is up to the task—but her true destiny has yet to be revealed.

There are just a handful of series that I never miss these days and this is one of them, largely because I so adore the protagonist but also because I can always depend on the author to offer a truly good book. In the case of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, I was slightly less enthused but certainly not enough to say I didn’t like it.

My discontent stems from the setting of this particular entry. Much of Flavia’s charm comes from her interactions with her family, her father’s “man”, their home, Buckshaw, and their village, Bishop’s Lacey. This time, though, Flavia has been sent to Canada to attend her mother’s boarding school and, to me, it just seemed awkward to have her suddenly isolated from all she has known in her short life. Having said that, Mr. Bradley soon develops some pretty good reasons for Flavia to be in this particular school and, of course, she becomes involved in a death investigation in her quite inimitable way.

As much as I missed those familiar characters, there are certainly some at Miss Bodycote’s that appealed to me in various ways, especially Collingwood, and it doesn’t hurt that a body appears on the scene quite fortuitously, a most welcome distraction for the homesick Flavia.

No matter her circumstances, Flavia cannot be repressed and my only true concern is that I have to wait till September for her next adventure, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d.

Note: I both read the book and listened to the audio edition and, as always, Jayne Entwistle brings Flavia to life and continues to wow me as a wonderful narrator and voice of this charming young girl.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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Huntress MoonHuntress Moon
The Huntress/FBI Thrillers #1
Alexandra Sokoloff
Read by R.C. Bray
Alexandra Sokoloff, May 2014
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the author—

FBI Special Agent Matthew Roarke is closing in on a bust of a major criminal organization in San Francisco when he witnesses an undercover member of his team killed right in front of him on a busy street, an accident Roarke can’t believe is coincidental. His suspicions put him on the trail of a mysterious young woman who appears to have been present at each scene of a years-long string of accidents and murders, and who may well be that most rare of killers: a female serial.

Roarke’s hunt for her takes him across three states… while in a small coastal town, a young father and his five-year-old son, both wounded from a recent divorce, encounter a lost and compelling young woman on the beach and strike up an unlikely friendship without realizing how deadly she may be.

As Roarke uncovers the shocking truth of her background, he realizes she is on a mission of her own, and he must race to capture her before more blood is shed.

It would be easy to say that if you’ve read one FBI crime novel, you’ve read them all but authors manage to keep finding ways to make their own stories just a little bit different, enough to catch a reader’s attention. In Huntress Moon, I was drawn in by the notion of a female serial killer. In real life, such a person is rare and that’s what makes the idea so interesting, at least for me.

Special Agent Roarke is an appealing protagonist in a number of ways, not least of which are his intelligence and his dogged determination to track down this elusive young woman. What’s surprising is how fascinating she is, especially since we don’t even know her name. Clearly, she has an agenda and she hunts her victims as much as Roarke hunts her; with each new killing, she becomes more real, as it were, perhaps just a little more understandable. It becomes difficult to see her as entirely evil when she meets a young father and his son and, yet, she is a bloodthirsty killer. How she came to be the way she is and Roarke’s pursuit of her are what make this such a fine story.

R.C. Bray is a new narrator to me and, at first, I wasn’t completely on board with him largely because his voices seemed not very distinctive. As the novel wore on, his performance became more satisfying and he has won awards so it was my problem, not his. He is the narrator of the second and third books in the trilogy and I’m looking forward to spending time with him again.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

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The Sound and the Furry AudioThe Sound and the Furry
A Chet and Bernie Mystery #6
Spencer Quinn
Read by Jim Frangione
Recorded Books, September 2013
Downloaded Unabridged Audio Book

From the publisher—

When Chet and Bernie happen upon a prison work crew that includes Frenchie Boutette, an old criminal pal they sent up the river, getting a new case is the last thing they expect. But Frenchie, who comes from an old Louisiana family full of black sheep, needs help finding his one law-abiding relative, his brother Ralph, a reclusive inventor who has gone missing with his houseboat. Though he’s tempted to take another job (with a big payday) in Alaska, Bernie decides to set course for the bayous of Louisiana, a trip that will introduce Chet to a world of sights, smells, and tastes that are like nothing he’s ever encountered. Out in bayou country, Chet and Bernie meet the no-good Boutette family and their ancient enemies, the maybe-even-worse Robideaus, and at first it seems as if Ralph’s disappearance is connected to a dispute over a load of stolen shrimp. But when Chet uncovers a buried clue, the investigation heads in a dangerous new direction involving the oil business and an impending environmental catastrophe. The more Chet and Bernie discover about Ralph, the more treacherous the job becomes, and soon they’re fighting not only Big Oil, but also shadowy black ops figures, a violent biker gang from back home, and Iko- a legendary bayou gator with a seemingly insatiable appetite. Meanwhile, deep under the Gulf, the pressure just keeps building.

Ah, it’s always so good to be back in the world of Chet and Bernie, two of my all-time favorite detectives, and following them to the bayous of Louisiana was a special treat. If ever a pair were out of their element, this is it and, to make matters worse, they fall right into the middle of a longstanding feud between two less-than-nice families.

What seems at first to be a rather simple case of thievery soon turns out to be much deeper and the missing Ralph, perhaps the only non-criminal in this unruly and menacing bunch, is still missing. Chet and Bernie learn that there’s much more than stolen shrimp going on and these two may be dealing with their most sinister case yet.

As narrator, Chet is a delight as he always is and there were many moments when I found myself grinning out loud, so to speak. I can’t help it, Chet is a terrific storyteller and his ruminations on life are hilarious 😉

There’s definitely a difference between this book and the earlier titles in the series and I think it has to do with atmosphere. Having lived in Louisiana for several years long ago, I can attest to a certain darkness, for lack of a better word, that comes from the insularity of the bayous, a kind of hostility and distrust towards the rest of the world that can lead to an uneasiness not found elsewhere. In contrast, Chet and Bernie’s usual terrain is open, perhaps deceptively so, and one can’t help feeling a little less threatened so these two are definitely in a different world when they go to the bayous.

Speaking of narrators, I always enjoy Jim Frangione as the voice of Chet and The Sound and the Furry is no exception. A good reader can make all the difference and Mr. Frangione really does the job well. He and Spencer Quinn (and the delightful Chet) are a team that can’t be beat.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, February 2016.

Book Review: Titans by Victoria Scott

TitansTitans
Victoria Scott
Scholastic Press, February 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-80601-5
Hardcover

Guilt is a heavy burden, even more so when you’re a teenager with two sisters and are part of a family teetering on the edge of losing everything. That’s life for Astrid Sullivan. Both her dead grandfather and her dad turned family stability into chaos because of their gambling addictions. With her father laid off and jobs for blue collar workers almost nonexistent, her family is falling apart and about to lose their home..again. Older sister Dani is escaping by spending all her time with a boyfriend, while Mom deals with stress by sneaking out at night and taking care of the neighborhood gardens. Home life stress is exacerbated because everyone’s avoiding talking about it.

Astrid and her best friend, Magnolia, who aspires to become a small businesswoman by selling her artful hair decorations, started hanging out near the racetrack when they were thirteen and have spent the past five years watching the mechanical horses, called titans, race. Astrid is a math whiz and spends part of her racetrack time using that skill to calculate how jockies could better run a race.

When she and Magnolia help an older man who is dizzy and weak while at the races one afternoon, little do they know that it’s the start of an adventure of a lifetime. Rags, the man they helped, and his friend Barney, have a secret. They have an early model Titan, one with artificial intelligence, something the newer 3.0 models don’t have. When the announcement that one rider will receive an entry into this year’s race series with the $50,000 fee waived, the men ask Astrid if she’s interested. Is water wet? Heck yes, she’s interested, especially with a $2 million prize up for grabs.

How they get a horse that has been sitting unused for years, into shape, how Astrid and Magnolia get mentored in social skills, what pitfalls are involved as the races get more competitive and how her choice affects her family life, make this an incredible read. Teens (and adults) who love a great adventure yarn with lots of action will devour the book. I could not put it down.

Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS, January 2016.

Minimalizing

Kathleen Delaney with BooksKathleen Delaney, author of Murder Half-Baked and other books, retired from real estate to pursue writing full time. She’s here today to share the pros and cons of cutting back on stuff.

Murder by Syllabub, fifth in the Ellen McKenzie series, is available in bookstores now. Purebred Dead, the first in the new Mary McGill series, was released in August 2015 and Curtains for Miss Plym will be out in April 2016.

http://www.kathleendelaney.net

There’s been a lot of talk lately about minimalizing. The latest discussion I heard was on NPR. Two young men who chose to minimalize described how they went about it. They differed a little on exactly what it meant, and how much downsizing you should do but I think they finally agreed it meant we all have too much stuff.

One of the men had really taken it to heart. He’d sold everything, house, truck, dining room set, and was traveling the country on his motorcycle. I’m not sure this is minimalizing, more like a grand adventure before going back to work, but still, I’m impressed. The other one kept the sofa but made a vow to get rid of one item in his house every day. Now that is a great way to clean out closets and I guess it worked. He ended up with not much. I didn’t hear how big his house or apartment is, but probably small. I didn’t hear how big his dog is, either. Probably not a Great Dane.

This seems to be a popular trend. I’ve seen a lot of articles and advertisements for small houses, really small, 300 sq. ft. small. One thing about something that small, you never have to host Thanksgiving dinner, an advantage, or disadvantage depending on your point of view. I’ve decided it’s an advantage. I have bequeathed my turkey roaster to my youngest daughter. The others already had one.

I liked the idea even before I heard these two discussing it on NPR. For years I’d lived in 2000-3000 sq. ft. houses. That was fine when all the kids were home but over the years it dwindled to just me, the dogs and the cat. Even when I left South Carolina and my 100+ year old 4 bedroom home, I ended up with another one equally as large in Georgia. There was a reason for that. My escrow was closing and I had to find a home on the school bus route my grandkids took and a house that would accommodate a wheelchair. I ended up with a lovely 4 bed home on a 1/3 of an acre. But the kids got bigger and didn’t need to come to me after school, and I got older and had no need for all that house, so…I minimalized.

It’s been great. I have two bedrooms and a loft. One bedroom is large enough for my desk and all the stuff that goes with a home office, and some of the bookcases. The closet is big enough for most of the boxes of books. The wheelchair fits through the door just fine. I thought I’d have a hard time giving up some of my things, like my dining Curtains for Miss Plymroom set, after all I’d had them for years, but when the time came, I parted from them without a pang. The sofa came with me, of course, and so did my big reading chair. The dogs claim the sofa until it’s time for the news in the evenings, and the cat claims the reading chair whenever she feels like it, so I could hardly leave them behind. I’ve found one set of dishes does me just fine, I only need the pots and pans that fit on the hanging rack, and if there are more than four of us for dinner, we’re going out.

There is one place minimizing wasn’t as successful. I actually brought all my bookcases and it seems most of the books. I gave some away, I know I did. Hardbacks to Friends of the Library, paperbacks to the Good Will, some to friends, but my bookcases seem as full as they ever were. Several of them have ended up in the loft and, as there is extra storage up there, some boxes that I haven’t yet opened, labeled “books, assorted”. I wasn’t sure I wanted a loft, but it’s a good thing I have one. I wonder …the wall next to the love seat is empty. Almost anyway. A bookcase would fit there, yes. That would work just fine.

You can only minimalize so much.

Publishers Weekly has issued a lovely review of
Curtains for Miss Plym, saying “an enjoyable sequel to
Purebred Dead, and “ Animal lovers will enjoy this dog-focused
cozy with its appealing characters, both two- and four-legged.”
Kirkus enjoyed spending time with Mary McGill and Millie
and Booklist recommended it to all fans of Laurien Berenson’s
works. All in all, high praise for Mary McGill and her
cocker spaniel, Millie, and their sleuthing skills. Read
excerpts from both books here: www.kathleendelaney.net

The real-life Millie and her first book

The real-life Millie and her first book