Adult Non-Fiction ~ Slave Stealers

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day today my Facebook and Instagram feeds have been full of quotes by the amazing man which are unfortunately still more than relevant decades after his death. I’d like to think we’ve made some progress as a society but watching the news it’s hard to imagine that we’ve taken any steps forward at all. But I have to take comfort in the fact that his words are still alive and well, that people believe them enough to share them, and hopefully that means they are living them as well. “A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true.” There are few better examples of standing up for what’s right than those laid out in this book.

I honestly don’t remember when I first heard about Operation Underground Railroad but it’s been on my radar for the last couple of years and it’s become a cause that is near and dear to my heart. Over 27 million people (including at least 13 million children) are victims of modern-day slavery (slave labor, sex trade, etc.), with over 100,000 of those children living here in the United States. OUR goes around the world breaking up human trafficking rings and rescuing and rehabilitating the victims. They’ve arrested countless traffickers and rescued hundreds of victims.

Some books are so powerful they punch you in the solar plexus and leave you gasping for breath for days or longer. This book is one of those. It details a bit of the founding of the organization, touches on a few of the rescue operations they’ve undergone, and talks about how the name Operation Underground Railroad came about by profiling a slave named Harriet Jacobs. Born into slavery she continually rebuffs the advances of her master and he retaliates by selling her children. After years of searching and fighting for them they are finally reunited and she spends the rest of her life working and fighting to abolish slavery. She’s an amazing woman I’d never heard of before, and just one example of many who risked and gave their lives to ensure others wouldn’t have to suffer in the same way.

It’s a fascinating look at slavery as we commonly think of it (around the time of the Civil War) as well as the atrocities that continue today. Be warned, I cried with nearly every page turn. Sometimes ugly, hiccuping sobs. It’s brutal. And that’s all the more reason why I think you should read it.

There’s also a phenomenal documentary on Amazon Prime right now about one of their rescue missions in Haiti that is discussed in the book. Check out Operation Toussaint, it’s a tough subject that everyone needs to be made aware of so spread the word and let’s make sure another child doesn’t have to experience the horrors of human trafficking. And if you’re so inclined, you can become an abolitionist or supporter by donating time or resources for the cause. Head over to their website for more details and find some happiness for yourself by seeking happiness for others.

Slave Stealers book review

Slave Stealers

Written by: Tim Ballard

Number of Pages: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain, 2018

Age Range: Adult

Rating: 5/5

Happy New Year 2019

One day or day one

Happy New Year!

It’s that time of year when we all focus our attention on improving ourselves. Gym parking lots are full. Spinach sales are up. Self-help books are flying off the shelves and alarms go off earlier than usual. (I have no idea if any of those statements are actual fact aside from the gym one, but I feel pretty confident that they are.) Each year we set goals and resolutions that last maybe a week or two and then fall by the wayside until the following January when we dust them off and swear that we’ll be true to them this time. And I am no exception.  I’ve always been a goal maker and I believe that is what has helped me to accomplish so much of what I have throughout my life. But I’ve definitely failed at more goals than I’ve reached. And it seems as if each year I’m making some of the same resolutions over again. (Though I did have some awesome accomplishments last year too—50 hikes on the record, over 250 books read, another stamp in my passport, and several household projects done!)

I’ve even read a ton of books on how to make and keep goals, the science behind our habits and how to make lasting changes (only a few of those teachings have stuck, apparently!) But I continue to make them and I continue to make steps, even baby ones, towards the end goal. And I’ve found that the smaller steps and changes tend to last.  Many have started choosing intentions or words of the year to focus on and I love this idea. Using an overriding thought to influence your actions in all areas of life can be a powerful way to enact change.

This year I tried to simplify a bit. I still have my list of things I’d like to accomplish, from daily habits to bucket-list type events, but I boiled them all down to 2 basic overriding themes. One, I want to get up with my alarm and stick to my daily schedule. And two, within that schedule I’ve allotted specific writing times to work on finally finishing a book. (Yeah, anyone who knows me will know I’ve set both those goals before…but this just might be the year!) My mantra/thought/intention to follow along with those is: “Never miss twice.” Obviously, the goal is to hit 100% every day but this way when life gets out of control and things fall apart it will hopefully be a little easier to get myself back on track and start again. Even if I routinely miss every other day, I’ll still make some great progress.

What goals or resolutions have you set for 2019? Or do you set them at all? What’s your method of inspiring yourself and staying motivated? How have you found the most success? What success did you see in 2018? Tell me all about them in the comments and good luck in your endeavors. You’ve got this!

Moon and Space Books

I’ve long been fascinated with space; staring up at the twinkling lights above imagining being one of the first people to see them and thinking up stories to explain how they got there, or pondering if there’s anything else alive out there. If I weren’t so darn claustrophobic, I’d be saving up my pennies for one of those tourist trips on a rocket ship so I could voyage into the great unknown and see the stars and planets and swirling, multi-colored universes.

Earlier this year I read a book that shaped much of the rest of my reading for the year, a book I gushed about, foisted on both of my book clubs, and mulled over during many empty moments. And it was all about space!

Fifty years ago the world was in turmoil (sound familiar?) The president saw a need for something to bring the country together, to put a temporary halt to the violence and chaos that were dividing the country, to give us something to work on and root for together. (Yeah, that part doesn’t sound too familiar right now, darnit.) So, he made a bold proclamation that America would be the first to reach the moon. And we were off.

Enter Rocket Men, by Robert Kurson. He starts with a brief re-cap of the tumultuous events around the country and world in 1968, Kennedy’s announcement and the ensuing space race. And then he takes time to introduce us to each of the three men who would make history by venturing to the moon. We get a great glimpse into the lives of the three key players of the Apollo 8 mission (Frank Borman, James Lovell, and Bill Anders), their backgrounds, training, and everything that brought them to be in the right place at the right time. We also get to watch the fledgling organization known as NASA navigate wholly uncharted waters. We cheer along with the rest of humanity (in retrospect) as the men loop around to the dark side of the moon and emerge safely on the other side. And we feel just a little more hopeful about the world and humanity as we view the famous earthrise photo, our first glimpse of the sphere of green and blue that supports life as we know it.

This is the ultimate mix of history, biography, adventure, exploration, and the celebration of the human spirit. I was wowed and amazed at nearly every page. The hubs and I read this one out loud to each other and constantly paused to exclaim over the gall of the people involved. We were amazed over and over again at passages that talked about engineers and mathematicians who had a strictly pen and paper proof of something convince the astronauts to climb into overgrown tin cans and launch themselves into the final frontier where literally no man had gone before, with only mathematical equations to guarantee that they would survive and return safely. And the astronauts’ courage to risk their lives to do it.

If you need a little bit more hope in your lives, I cannot recommend this book enough. And if you love this one as much as I do here are a few others to keep you reading!

Moon and Space Booklist

Fiction Picture Books

Moon by Britta Teckentrup

Mousetronaut by Mark Kelly

The Stuff of Stars by Marion Dane Bauer

Astronaut Annie by Suzanne Slade (see my review here)

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom I’m Off to the Moon by Dan Yaccarino

Mars Needs Moms by Berkeley Breathed

Non-Fiction Books for Kids

The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons

The Darkest Dark by Chris Hadfield

Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin

A is for Astronaut by Clayton Anderson

A Hundred Billion Trillion Stars by Seth Fishman (see my review here)

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by  Laurie Wallmark

Margaret and the Moon by Dean Robbins

Moonshot by Brian Floca

Curiosity: The Story of a Mars Rover by Markus Motum

I Am Neil Armstrong by Brad Meltzer

Earthrise by James Gladstone

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh

The Moon by Seymour Simon

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

If You Decide to Go to the Moon by Faith McNulty

Non-Fiction Books for Teens and Adults

First Man by James R. Hansen

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (MG and Picture book versions also available)

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

Cosmos by Carl Sagan

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Death by Black Hole by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Women in Space by Karen Bush Gibson

Fiction Books for Teens and Adults

The Martian by Andy Wier

Space Case by Stuart Gibbs

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

Picture Book Review ~ Mabel and Sam at Home

Bridging the gap between a picture book and early chapter book this tale of a brother and sister duo is sure to please.

Having moved into a new house the two were feeling a bit discombobulated amongst the movers and boxes and chaos. Nothing was as it should be and everything felt foreign and new. So they made the most of it by commandeering a box and setting sail on a grand adventure.

First Mate Sam and Captain Mabel voyage in the Handle With Care over rough seas, past pirates and sea serpents to a new land. But they’re not sure they’re ready for the dangers that may wait for them outside of the safety of their boat.  But eventually hunger wins out and Sam makes the first daring move.

Next Mabel becomes a tour guide among the artifacts that used to belong in the before house. At the New House Museum she imparts her wisdom and experience but again Sam gets to have his say.

In the final chapter the two adventurers are off to space exploring the darkness and their new surroundings. This time its mom and dad to the rescue and as they all bed down for the night they’re eager for the prospects of more exploring on the horizon.

Sweet tales of adaptation and confronting fears with heart and soul and adorable details.

Mabel and Sam at Home book review

Mabel and Sam at Home: One Brave Journey in Three Adventures

Written by: Linda Urban

Illustrated by: Hadley Hooper

Publisher: Chronicle, 2018

Number of Pages: 56

Age Range: 4-8

Rating: 4/5

Mabel and Sam at home book review2

Picture Book Review ~ Bear Snores On

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.     

First SentenceIn a cave in the woods,
in his deep, dark lair,
through the long, cold winter
sleeps a great brown bear.

Said bear sleeps (and snores) through the day and night, through storm and a host of uninvited guests. A tiny mouse stumbles in and builds a fire and is quickly joined by a hare, a badger, a gopher, a mole, a raven and a wren. They share food with each other, pop popcorn, laugh and visit while bear snores on unaware until a rogue pepper flake makes its way to his nose and he sneezes himself awake. I’ll let you read this yourself to find the ending but it’s got a fun little twist, just perfect for preschoolers.

There are a lot of rhyming picture books out there and a lot of them are just mediocre. They look great on the page and even sound good in your head, but when you try to read them aloud the words and rhythms just fail to flow smoothly. Not so with our Ms. Wilson. She has a veritable gift for verse. And she uses some lovely words to do it. Nothing about her vocabulary is trite or tired, another reason why I love her so much. At an age when children are gaining words in their own vocabulary at the rate of +/- 5 or so words a day,  the more rich language they are exposed to the better. So the bear’s cave is also referred to as a lair and a den. The animals ‘pitter-pat,’ ‘creep-crawl,’ ‘sneak-peek,’ and ‘scuttle;’ and they ‘divvy’ up their snacks, in the ‘damp’ ‘dank’ cave. There are also lots of fun action sequences for varying voice volume and pitch. And a host of sequels!

Wilson has a bunch of other titles that are all quite good as well but the bear books are my favorites. There are currently 10 (if I counted right!) with several board book variations and sets available.

Chapman’s illustrations are friendly, the animals at once recognizable for what they are but with a definite cartoonish quality in their faces and posturing—I think little mole is my favorite–(and ability to be friends without eating each other!) Highly, highly recommended!!

 

Bear Snores On Book Review

Bear Snores On

Written by: Karma Wilson

Illustrated by: Jane Chapman

Number of Pages: 32

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2002

Age Range: 2-5

Rating: 5/5

Middle Grade Book Review ~ The Lions of Little Rock

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.     

Marlee’s world is changing. Her older brother is off to college, her sister is being shipped off to their grandmother’s because the high schools are all closed in protest of integration and she’s not sure she’ll be able to handle things on her own. She’s basically a selective mute speaking only to her family (mostly her sister) and providing one word answers at school when forced. And then Elizabeth shows up. Liz has a way of pulling the words out of Marlee and making her do things she never thought possible. But when it’s discovered that Liz is actually a light-skinned Negro their friendship becomes forbidden. Their world is volatile and the racial tensions in the city are real and life threatening.

When Liz goes back to her school she enlists Marlee to help her learn to be quiet and ignore the comments and slams she receives. The girls sneak around in an effort to see each other and call each other on the phone using fake names. Their efforts lead to more and more trouble until it escalates into an older white boy’s violent actions against Liz’s family and neighbors. But the girls won’t be deterred.

Listening to the lions in the nearby Little Rock zoo roar each night Marlee bolsters her courage (much as the lion in the Wizard of Oz, a movie the girls see together, does as well.) She decides to do what she can to keep the first friend she’s ever had.

Marlee and Liz deal with realistic portrayals of racism, ignorance and bigotry even from members of their own families. There’s a lot of history here with some background information on the NAACP, Emmitt Till, John Carter, the KKK, the Little Rock Nine, lynchings, bombings and more. There’s enough info given to explain the gravity of the situation without dwelling on it all, as befits the target audience.

Marlee is a fantastic character with a great voice and insight into the people around her. Because so much of her dialogue (at least at the beginning of the book) is internal we see her growth and evolution in a very direct way through her thoughts but also the words she chooses to say aloud and those she chooses to say them to.

Here’s a sampling:
You see, to me, people are like things you drink. Some are like a pot of black coffee, no cream, no sugar. They make me so nervous I start to tremble. Others calm me down enough that I can sort through the words in my head and find something to say.

My brother, David, is a glass of sweet iced tea on a hot summer day, when you’ve put your feet up in a hammock and haven’t got a care in the world… (pg 5)

Each new person she comes to interact with is labeled in this way; bubbly sodas, wholesome milk, shots of whiskey. Eventually it all leads to this conclusion near the end of the book:

Summing people up as a cola or a coffee wasn’t really fair. Most people were a whole refrigerator full of different drinks. Trying to force them into one cup or one glass meant I never really got to know them. (pg 271) 

Not only does little Marlee find her voice but through her influence the people around her find their voices as well and slowly change begins to come. This is a quietly powerful fictionalization of ‘the lost year,’ 1958 (the year following the events of the Little Rock Nine) and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history, the Civil Rights movement, equality or just plain great stories.

Lions of Little Rock Book Review

 

The Lions of Little Rock

Written by: Kristin Levine

Number of Pages: 298

Publisher:  Puffin Books, 2013

Age Range: 8-12

Rating: 4/5

Music Monday ~ Welcome, November!

Silver Lake fall leaves

How the heck is it already November!? I feel like time is not just marching on but it somehow got a hold of a fast Italian sports car and is steadily trying to run me over. This month is absolute madness around here and the holidays are just around the corner which means the list of things to do has multiplied a thousand-fold and is begging me to gift-wrap, bedazzle and hand-deliver every item while singing carols…and probably dancing too. Sheesh! I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

In an effort to tame just a bit of that madness I made a goal last year to get Christmas cards and neighbor gifts and the bulk of the shopping done by Thanksgiving so that we could spend the month of December in a state of relative relaxation just enjoying each other’s company and all the events and hoopla that will inevitably crop up. Little did I know that we would book a spontaneous trip to Ireland, that I’d take it into my head to plan a surprise party for my husband’s 50th birthday, have tickets to several concerts and performances, and start the month out with an awesome cold. Add to that the preparations for Thanksgiving and everything I need to do to help contribute to this amazing event at the end of the month, and well, there’s a lot on my plate. Needless to say it won’t all get done in the time or way I’d hoped but I’ve decided to just go with it rather than stressing. (We’ll see how well that works, but that’s the plan!)

So, my Christmas cards have become Thanksgiving cards which will give me a chance to shower my loved ones with gratitude for their influences in my life. And hopefully will be a bit more personal and standout rather than becoming lost in the deluge at Christmas time. It also gives me a great opportunity to share this Thanksgiving playlist with everyone. One of the things that has saved my sanity over and over again throughout my life is music. I firmly believe heaven will be one continual musical with people spontaneously breaking into song and dance at every opportunity (and I firmly believe that I will thus be blessed with the ability to dance!) So, as I will wish to everyone on my Christmas card list a few moments carved out of the craziness to be able to listen with those they love, so I wish to you.

And here are a few other things I’ve learned that have helped me make it through some of the busier moments:

  • Make a list! While it’s sometimes overwhelming to see the pages and pages of things that need to get done it makes it so much easier for me to group tasks together, prioritize and work out a plan of attack. Can you make phone calls while waiting in the carpool line? Can you group errands to save you some trips?
  • Make a list part 2. Take a really good look at that list. Can you outsource anything? Or drop it altogether? While we sometimes think that we need to do it all, honestly some things just aren’t important. If it’s not going to feed your soul (or your family) then maybe it doesn’t really need to be on the list. Be honest and brutal…it’s okay to say no, to buy cookies for the bake sale instead of making them, or let the kids skip out on soccer this season. The world won’t end. I promise.
  • Take time to take care of yourself. This one can be tough. It’s easy to justify skipping the workout to squeeze in another load of laundry or eating the cookies instead of an actual lunch but resist! The old adage ‘if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy’ applies in spades here. If you’re well-rested and healthy you can take better care of everyone and everything. So find a few minutes to do some yoga or meditation, stock the fridge with some quick, healthy snacks, stick to your sleep routine; your immune system will thank you.
  • Take care of yourself part 2. Schedule in a few minutes daily to unplug, unwind, and really relax. This works especially well if it’s something out of the ordinary so that it truly feels like a splurge and gives your mind a chance to reboot. Grab an adult coloring book, savor a piece of fancy chocolate, take a walk and observe what’s around you, immerse yourself in a song or piece of music; whatever it is that makes you happy make sure you find a little time to do it fully and mindfully.

What are your favorite tips for preparing for a stressful event or time? (or keeping your sanity on a normal day?!) Any favorite songs you listen to around the holidays? I’d love to hear about them!

And good luck to all of you and whatever holiday madness may come your way. You’ve got this!

How Are You Spending Your Time?

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.   

Earlier this month the leader of my church challenged the members of our women’s organization to participate in a 10 day fast from social media. The goal being that we would take the time we would have spent on those mostly mindless tasks and devote that time instead to serving others, reading scripture, and bettering ourselves and our communities. I took the challenge to heart and was amazed at the results.

I was also amazed at how often I pick up my phone to ‘check in’. I found myself looking at my phone the first few days and not knowing what to do with it. It just goes to show just how much time I spend/waste doing relatively unimportant things! Lessons learned: I do not miss Facebook. More often than not it’s full of negativity and meaningless trifles. I did, however, miss Instagram. For now, at least, it’s filled with more positivity and uplifting images. But they all have a tendency to suck you into a time warp and so I’ve instituted a daily personal media fast from 9pm-9am going forward. And I’ve mostly stuck to it! 🙂

While pondering all of these thoughts I was reminded of this book that I read not too long ago. It talks a lot about the idea of opportunity cost in relation to our time management.  (Not being a business major I wasn’t super familiar with the concept, but basically when you make a choice to do one thing you automatically make choices to NOT do other things–ie, if you have $5 and spend it on candy bars you choose to NOT spend that $5 on rent–roughly.) And then it introduced the idea of a “stop-doing” list.  As one who lives by my many “to-do” lists I was intrigued. In order to accomplish any goal or make progress toward something (particularly something new) in your life you have to choose to stop doing something else in order to make room/time for it. To start a new exercise program you have to stop sleeping and get up 30 minutes earlier. To learn to paint you sign up for a class which means you have to cut back on the time you watch TV.  You get the idea. It’s all about priorities and what you are willing to sacrifice in order to do/be something better. (This is a fabulous talk on the same subject.)

I continually fall prey to this. There are so many things I want to do with my life that I dip my foot into as many pools as I can but I never actually go for a swim in any of them. My book is a prime example.  I tell myself I really want to write and I even go so far as to take a class every now and then, jot down a paragraph or two when the ideas strike and drag a notebook around with me wherever I go.  But I haven’t taken the firm step yet of cutting something out of my life to make room for it. I’m still not truly making it a priority. And that’s just one example. I’m a great dabbler and often pride myself in being well-rounded and interested in many things. And for the most part I’m really okay with that. But I sometimes forget that it comes at the cost of never truly excelling at anything. And one day I won’t have any more somedays to hope for. Am I going to look back and wish I’d done something different?

This video made the rounds on social media a few years ago. I was just as impressed re-watching it now as I was when I first saw it. It’s a rather startling visual…and I do love visuals! How much time do we all really have left?  And what are we doing with it?

I also found it really interesting to read the comments section on the youtube page. They tend to fall into two basic categories; some people found the video/facts depressing while others found them motivating. I think it’s safe to say that those who were depressed by it all probably spend less time doing what they love than they’d like.  Looking back at years spent scrolling through facebook versus actually picking up that guitar and learning how to play has got to be discouraging. Those who were motivated either realize that they need to seize the day and finally do what they keep talking about or have already found a way to do it and really enjoy and savor the time that they have.

The key, for me, is balance. Set some limits for yourself along with some goals. There’s nothing wrong with vegging on the couch catching up on Netflix to unwind after work. But if that’s all you ever do then you’ll never get anything else done. Limiting your veg time to say one show each night will give you time to focus on something else. Make it something that really excites you but also start with small, manageable steps. When you find yourself succeeding at those you’ll be motivated to take the next steps and pretty soon we’ll all be clamoring to see you perform or buy your book.

Another key is appreciation. Accepting and savoring what is instead of wishing for something else can be invaluable (especially when those things are outside of your control.) Spend time with those you love doing the things you love and you’ll be able to look back at your life with very few regrets. This is a great time to practice this as we move into the holiday season. Instead of jamming your schedule so full of things to do and places to go, take advantage of the moments you have to slow down and enjoy. Cuddle up and watch movies together, buy some fancy hot chocolate and really taste and savor it, marvel at the first snowfall or bring out your inner child by starting a snowball fight.  ‘Tis the season for hygge! (Check out this past post about hygge and Hobbits for some more ideas!)

My challenge to you (and myself) over the next couple of weeks is to find 3 things you can put on your “stop-doing” list, be they big or small. And then use that re-claimed time to try something new, start a new project, or re-focus on a goal you’ve set that keeps getting put on the back burner. You only have so many hours in a day and nothing you do will change that, therefore you can only change what you do with them. What are you doing with yours? I want to hear all about it in the comments below. 🙂

P.S. Want a great kid’s book connection to go with the video? Check out How Many Jelly Beans? by Andrea Menotti.

A Spooky Series for Adults ~ Barbara Michaels

Spooky book series for adults

Earlier this week I confessed to my love of cozy mysteries. One of my absolute favorite authors of this genre is Barbara Michaels. (Her real name is Barbara Mertz but she also writes under another pseudonym, Elizabeth Peters.) Peters tends towards the historically set, more in-depth mysteries set purely in the human realm. She’s probably most well-known for her Amelia Peabody, female Egyptologist, series. Michaels always has a touch of the Gothic and supernatural in her stories. The writing isn’t as sophisticated as the Peters books but they are delightful little mysteries all the same. Under her own name she published several non-fiction books. Ms. Mertz passed away in 2013. I mourn the loss of all the books she won’t have a chance to write. But she was quite prolific, with more than 65 titles under her belt, so there is plenty for me to read and re-read for years to come.

This series follows a couple of characters throughout several years with each taking turns acting as main and supporting characters. The stories can be read independently but it’s most fun to read them in order and watch the relationships progress and shift over the years.

In the first book, Ammie Come Home, we meet Ruth, a middle-aged heroine living in Georgetown with a visiting niece, Sara. She ropes herself into hosting a séance at her hundreds-year-old home. But things take a dark turn when a presence settles on Sara during the event and refuses to let go. It’s up to Ruth and Pat (Sara’s professor and eventual love interest for Ruth) and Sara’s boyfriend Bruce to figure out what the ghost wants to bring peace back to the home and its inhabitants.

The second volume, Shattered Silk, also takes place in Georgetown. This time we meet Sara’s younger sister, Karen who is in the middle of a nasty breakup. She’s house-sitting for Pat and Ruth and basically wallowing in self-pity and derision. After a few encounters with an old flame and a mean girl from her past (and with the help of Pat’s eccentric mother) she learns to stand on her feet again and decides to open a vintage clothing store. This is more of a straight-forward mystery. No supernatural encounters.

The final installment, Stitches in Time, published in 1998, is probably my favorite of the three. Here we meet Rachel, a grad student who is struggling to find a topic for her thesis and winds up working at Karen’s vintage clothing store. When a bag of old quilts shows up on the doorstep the family gets caught up in a possible theft/murder while trying to figure out who the rightful owner is. Meanwhile Rachel is drawn to a wedding quilt from the collection that seems to have a dark story to tell. When she begins to see and do things not of her own accord she enlists the help of Pat and Ruth to uncover the history of witchcraft and betrayal literally sewn into the seams of the quilt and bring closure to its former owners.

This first book was published back in the late 60s so there are a few things that will date it a bit (feminist quirks and old-fashioned attitudes of the men being most predominant). The second wasn’t published until the mid 80s so we’re still a tad dated but our feminist sensibilities are a little more on track for this one (once Karen kicks the no-good husband to the curb). The final installment, published in the late 90s, is obviously the most modern of the three. In each we’ve got a female protagonist coming into her own with the help of an unlikely but strong support system, yet the ways and means are a little bolder in each successive story. If you’re not too hung up on that sort of thing you’ll not have any issues as the stories themselves hold up quite well. Grab a cup of tea or cocoa, curl up in front of a fire and enjoy some spooky chills while you read these light, gothic-flavored tales. And you should absolutely check out some/any of her other books and let me know what you think!