Summer of Suspenseful Reads, 2018

For several years I have participated in the Adult Summer Reading Challenge Program sponsored by my local library. This summer I read 20 plus books and won the grand prize of an Acer 10-inch tablet, which my granddaughter is thoroughly enjoying.



One book I selected because I thought it would be a good summer-time read was The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson (2018). I was not disappointed. Throughout the novel I could clearly hear former President Clinton’s voice. The idea of a cyber terrorism plot that would create chaos across our nation was terrifying. Very early in the novel, the reader learns an assassin has entered the country. Needless to say the suspense from that point increased tremendously. Finding out how things work in the Oval Office was interesting. This novel was very intriguing, very suspenseful, and had a satisfying conclusion.

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I also read the complete “If I Run” series by Terri Blackstock—If I Run (2016), If I’m Found (2017), and If I Live (2018). Blackstock stated in an “Author Note,” that this three novel series was inspired by the TV program, “The Fugitive.” Casey Cox is a female fugitive on the run. Accused of killing her best friend Brent, she flees the scene. Dylan Roberts, a veteran with PTSD, is hired by Brent’s parents to find Casey and assist the local police department. Throughout each novel, it’s amazing the strategies Casey uses to continue to elude the police, how Dylan is able to track her, and how corrupt the local police are. Once you start this series, you will not want to put it down until you reach the conclusion in If I Live.


The most chillingly suspenseful novel I read was The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware (2017). At first I thought “Cabin 10” was a primitive cabin at a summer camp somewhere deep in a national forest. Wrong! Cabin 10 was actually the last cabin on a very expensive and exclusive ocean liner traveling from England to Norway to view the Northern Lights. Cabin 10 is also unoccupied. The narrator is Lo Blacklock, a journalist in Cabin 9, who drinks too much and has anxiety issues. The unraveling of what Lo sees and hears and who she can actually trust kept me on the edge of my seat. The glaciers and fjords of Norway sounded beautiful—but I think I’ll pass on that particular cruise until I get over the chill created by this book.


The most challenging book I read was The Mosaic Crimes (A Dante Alighieri Mystery) by Giulio Leoni, translated by Anne Milano Appel (2007). Dante Alighieri is better known as a poet, author of Divine Comedy. The setting for the novel was Florence, Italy, in June 1300. The Middle Ages time period, the Italian words (even with the use of the glossary, which I discovered halfway through the book), and my lack of knowledge of the Catholic Church made this a most challenging book to read. How the mosaic artist was killed was intriguing. I did not discover who the murderer was before Prior Dante did.


Another book that was challenging but for a different reason was an audio book—Heart on the Line by Karen Witemeyer, recorded by Stephanie Cozart (2017). The challenge was to listen and imagine the story without holding a book in my hands. I found I could color in an adult coloring book while listening to the story of Grace Mallory, a telegraph operator, whose life is in danger. Amos Bledsoe arrives to help her at the same time a Pinkerton Agent shows up. Which man is telling the truth? And who is the wounded man that Helen Parker finds? I did enjoy the book not only for the glimpse of a historical time when bicycles were a new form of transportation, but also for the romance(s). I look forward to reading more books in “The Ladies of Harper Station” series.

What books did you read this summer that you would like to recommend?

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Smyrna, SC

A few years ago, I moved to Smyrna, SC, a community whose claim to fame is that it is SC’s smallest town, with a population of 45 as recorded in the 2010 census.

Down the road from our house on Highway #97 is a sign that reads, “South Carolina Scenic Byway.” The website states that the Western York County Scenic Byway “connects several US and SC routes to create a 66 mile journey through the historic and picturesque countryside of western York County. . . . The byway features numerous historical buildings . . . and beautiful rolling countryside.”


It appears that “our” sign marks the end of the Western York County Scenic Byway. However, I would like to encourage you to continue around the curve and travel through our little town.

Within a mile, you will find other interesting places, like the Smyrna Town Park which includes a picnic shelter, a baseball field, tennis court, and a gazebo.


The historic Smyrna ARP Church, first built in 1835, is located next to Smyrna Town Park.


Highway 97 curves again and continues on to Kings Creek, ending at Highway 5.


I hope you enjoy this short trip through Smyrna, SC.

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A Vast and Gracious Tide, by Lisa Carter: A Review

I’ve read several books by Lisa Carter. With each one, I have been gripped by the story from beginning to end.

I was selected by the author to be a member of a “Person of Interest Suspense Team” for her newest book, A Vast and Gracious Tide, to be published June 12, 2018, by Gilead Publishing. We were asked to share bookmarks, notes, photos, with friends, librarians, book store owners, wherever books are sold. We could use social media to publicize the book.

So far I’ve taken book marks to five different places—and been rejected only one time, posted a photo of the book on Facebook, shared a YouTube video on FB, posted a photo of me holding the book on FB, and posted a picture of a special bookplate to be given to the first 50 people who pre-order the book. Today I attempted to post a review on but was unable to do so because the publication date is still a week away. So I’m putting my review here.

I read the book over one weekend. It was a compulsive read. I was so engrossed in the stories of Caden Wallis and McKenna Dockery that I did not want to put the book down. There were so many layers to this novel—a beautiful Outer Banks setting, a wounded soldier with a quilt, a three generation family, and, of course, the bad guys who might be  members of a drug cartel and are busy committing murder, arson, and acts of vandalism. I was worried about McKenna’s father, the police chief. I was suspicious of–but I don’t want to give away the story. In spite of several horrible events, a Christian message of God’s love runs throughout the novel, as vast as the ceaseless tide.

I thought A Vast and Gracious Tide was a truly great book. A keeper for sure.

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A Short List

This short list is in response to “Read Like a Writer,” an activity designed by Gabriella Pereira ,  DIY MFA. Her website is
A—Anthology of—Good Poems for Hard Times, edited by Garrison Keillor.
B—Book of Prompts—Chapter after Chapter, by Heather Sellers.
C—Craft—Story, by Robert McKee.

Since I would like to write cozy mystery with either a high school or college setting, these are some of the books on my “To Be Read” list.
Competitive Books
1. Maggie Barbieri, “Murder 101” series.
2. Denise Swanson, “Scumble River Mystery” series.

1. Christy, by Catherine Marshall.
2. Techer Man, by Frank McCourt.
3. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark.

1. See Competitive Books above.

Contextual Books
1. Columbine, by Dave Cullen.
2. A Mother’s Reckoning, by Sue Klebold.
3. Lessons from a School Shooting Survivor, Missy Jenkins Smith & William Croyle.
4. The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch.


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How I Became a Word Nerd

Writing has been my secret ambition since I was old enough to deny having a secret ambition. My love of words began many years ago, when I first learned to read. Not too long after that, I wanted to write my own stories.
‘Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Martha. . . .’ No, I should change the name to something more exciting—like Bethany, or Rose Marie.
My first adventure as a word nerd was for a class assignment in fourth grade. As near as I can remember the assignment was to write about a true experience or to make up a story.
Immediately I knew my story would be shaped like a fairy tale. I knew I had to have three things—three golden apples, or some other delicious fruit. Maybe instead of apples, I could use lemons, the fruit that grew on the tree in our back yard in California.
I also knew my story needed a good person and a wicked person—like a wicked stepmother. I had recently acquired my own stepmother, who I was beginning to love. I didn’t think she was wicked at all. I did not want to make her the bad person in my story.
My teacher suggested that my story needed an unusual setting. Well, during the summer between third and fourth grade, I had moved from California to South Carolina, two very different places from opposite sides of the world. So I decided the setting for my story would be a hospital in California.
I don’t remember how I resolved the issue of the wicked person. Maybe I used a wicked disease that was cured by lemons. Even then I resisted changing fact to fiction. The tree I remembered grew lemons. Should I change lemons to oranges? As a word nerd, I surely could.
I do remember that my story was three hand-written pages long, and I had to read it in front of my fourth grade class. I don’t know if anyone actually groaned out loud, or if it was just something I felt like doing. ‘Oh, no! A three-page story!’ I do remember that my face felt hot, and I thought my cheeks must be as red as the sweater I wore.
Since then, through my forty-year career as a special educator, as a wife, as a mother, as a single parent, and now as a retired person who enjoys the role of loving grandmother, I’ve had many opportunities to put pen to paper, either for a class assignment, for work, or from a deep burning desire to write a story.
Now my word nerd tools include a lap top and a flash drive, but I still carry a small notebook in my purse for those unexpected moments when my muse speaks.
About fifteen years ago, I joined an organization called South Carolina Writers Workshop (now called South Carolina Writers Association), and began attending conferences and workshops for writers. I also joined several local writing/critique groups. I was finally ready to admit that:
1. Yes. I write.
2. I want to write well enough that other people will enjoy what I write.
Somehow, during my writing journey, my desire to write fiction morphed, and I found I enjoyed reading and writing poetry. I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several poems, short stories, and personal narratives published. My publishing credits include: The Petigru Review, an annual publication of SCWW; moonShine review; Mom Writers’ Literary Magazine; and Catfish Stew, the precursor to The Petigru Review. My current works-in-progress include a chapbook of poetry, several short stories, and a murder mystery.


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A Review of Meredith’s Wolf, by Judith Barban


Review—Meredith’s Wolf by Judith Barban, Thomas Max Publishing, 2014, 164 pages.

 One morning, while her mother and stepfather were away, Meredith Marsten, sixteen years old, climbed into a small airplane and flew into the Canadian wilderness in search of Wolfie. Meredith had adopted Wolfie as a pet when he was a small, helpless pup. As he grew to maturity, she and her stepfather realized he needed to be with his own kind and released him into the wild.

 From the opening lines to the final words, this short coming-of-age young adult novel holds the reader’s attention with excitement and suspense. The setting for the novel—the Canadian wilderness—sounded incredibly beautiful but seemed to be chockfull with many dangers as well.

 My favorite characters were Meredith; Wolfie, also called Maengun; and Mark, the Ojibwe. I admired Meredith for her gutsiness and bravery in both raising a wolf pup to adulthood and then going after him. The sections of the novel told from Wolfie’s point of view are particularly poignant and educational. The introduction of Mark was a delightful surprise.

 I don’t want to spoil the plotline or the ending, but I will say there are plenty of twists and turns, and lots of unexpected characters.

 This book is a wonderful, exciting, suspenseful adventure, love story. I highly recommend it.





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Summer Reading Program–2015

My local library sponsored a summer reading program–mostly for children, but it also included an adult summer reading goal. The goal was to read three (3) books during June and July.

I’ve kept a record of books I’ve read for the last year–so keeping up with what I read during those two months was not a problem. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my list and discovered I’d actually read fourteen (14) books!

And, yes, I did win one of the weekly prizes–a $10 gift card for TCBY, a card both my five-year-old granddaughter and I enjoyed using.

My granddaughter also participated in the summer reading program by listening to either her parents or me read books to her. She completed eight (8) hours of listening, a little short of the goal of ten (10) hours for her age group. Thanks, Mommy and Daddy, for reading and counting the stickers!

What did I read? My number one choice for pleasure reading is mystery and detective fiction.

An old favorite was Victoria Holt, an author I discovered when I was eleven (11) years old. Mistress of Mellyn was just as exciting this summer! A new author who thrilled me just as much was Sandra Byrd, with Mist of Midnight. If you haven’t read it, find it and see what you think.

A new/old author I discovered by watching “Inspector Morse” on PBS was Colin Dexter. I read four (4) in that series.

Linda Castillo, author of Pray for Silence, was one author I re-discovered, and read two (2) in her Kate Burkholder series.

Re-reading Sue Henry’s The Serpent’s Trail was a special treat.

The remaining five (5) titles would be found in the Christian fiction section of your local book store: City of the Dead, by T. L. Higley; Face of Betrayal, by Lis Wiehl; Under a Turquoise Sky, by Lisa Carter; The Priest, by Francine Rivers; and Writer to Writer, by Thoene and Thoene.

Trying to decide which was my favorite book or series was extremely difficult but top honors go to Lisa Carter, Linda Castillo, and Sandra Byrd.

Which authors would make your list?


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