Hobby Reads

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Vagabond Gardeners by Barb Hendee

When I was about twelve years old, my grandmother told me that she felt sorry for people who moved from one house or place to a new house or place in order try and leave their problems behind.

“The problems always follow them anyway,” she said.

Later, once I was old enough to understand this, it seemed to me that if negative things can follow us around, then so should all the positives. I’m one of those people who prefers to see the positive. If my partner, J.C., and I were characters from Winne-the-Pooh’s world, I’d be Tigger and he’d be Eeyore.

He and I have been married a long time. We’re sort of serial vagabonds… a pair of writers and academics who tend to live for five or six years in one place, making it into a home, and then we go somewhere else and make that place into a home. We’ve lived in Washington State, Northern Idaho, Colorado, and now Oregon.

But no matter where we’ve lived or how much (or how little) space we have outside the house or condo, we’ve always gone to work right away preparing and conditioning the soil so that we can grow our own fruits and vegetables. We always leave four to six blueberry bushes for the next people who will live in the space we’ve left behind. I think it’s a good motto to always leave blueberries for the next folks.  Continue reading “Vagabond Gardeners by Barb Hendee”


Beach Reads By Heather Redmond

I have to admit I’m not much of a fan of beaches. When I was growing up, we actually belonged to a beach club on a protected part of Lake Washington. I could dig my toes into the heated sand and catch up on my beloved Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew mysteries while keeping cool with ice pops. These days, the beaches where I live are eroded, and I have to chase a crazed third-grader out of the water and up the steep sandy hills. In summer, we travel around in an ancient Jeep that has windows canted in such a way that I feel like I’m gonna die by falling off a cliff when I’m riding in it.

As you can imagine, my beach reads for this kind of excursion have to take me as far away from the beach as possible! Of course, they have to be mysteries as suits my long-time summer love of them. So here are five of my suggestions for Summer 2018.

I read my first Krista Davis Diva book on a summer morning at a nail salon getting my annual June pedicure. So she seems like a perfect first choice for beach escapism, with her novels set in Virginia, far from any beach. The eleventh novel in the series has just been released! The Diva Cooks up a Storm (A Domestic Diva Mystery #11)


My second suggestion is Lena Gregory. I’m all caught up on her more appropriately beachy Bay Island Psychic Mystery series, so I’ve started into her All-Day Breakfast Café series, set in Florida. Scone Cold Killer (All-Day Breakfast Café Mystery #1) is the first and a great, fun, non-beachy read!

Continue reading “Beach Reads By Heather Redmond”

Gone to the Dogs by Lee Kilraine

I’m a dog person. Our family, both growing up and my own with my husband and four children, has always had dogs. I don’t think I can pick a favorite fictional dog—even if you threatened to take away my access to coffee or dark chocolate with salted caramel. Wait… Did I just write that? (Quickly imagines life without coffee or chocolate with salted caramel and my soul recreates Edvard Munch’s famous “The Scream” painting.)

On second thought, here are my top three favorite fictional dogs that don’t make me cry are…

  1. Dug from Disney’s movie Up.


  1. Murray from the old TV show, Mad About You.


  1. Gromit from the Nick Park’s Wallace and Gromit movies.

As it turns out I’ve also written a few (cough, cough) fictional dogs myself. The funny thing is I never plan to place a dog into one of my romances. They just show up. A lot. Along with few kittens, rabbits, llamas, a pig, and a chicken named Petey.

My top three favorite fictional dogs from my own books are…

  1. Snot the dog from Bringing Delaney Home. (My hero Quinn Cates made the mistake of letting his three-year-old godchild, Henry Lee, name the dog.)


  1. Houdini the three-legged rescue dog from my book Crazy Love. (Houdini ends up adopting a kitten.)

Continue reading “Gone to the Dogs by Lee Kilraine”

My Beach Reads by Barbara Ross

For me, a trip beach is inextricably linked to reading fiction.

When I was young, my father’s parents had a house in Water Mill, Long Island; my mother’s parents in Sea Girt, New Jersey. On the day school ended, my father’s mother would show up at our home in New Jersey in her white Thunderbird to pick up my brother and me, and we would take off for two weeks on the Long Island shore. In August, the ritual would be repeated, but with my mother’s parents, who arrived in a sensible Dodge, not a Thunderbird.

In both places, we went to the beach everyday there was “enough blue in the sky to make a Dutchman’s pants,” as my New Jersey grandmother would say. On Long Island, we played in the waves, went to the Penny Candy Store, visited a swimming pool that belonged to a family friend. In New Jersey we built sandcastles, took walks on the boardwalk, and played mini-golf.

And always, we read. We read on the beach, of course. To this day, reading when I am completely disconnected and relaxed, with waves breaking in the background, and the smell of salt in the air, is one of my favorite things. I remember just as fondly the rainy days at the beach, when it was possible to stretch out on the living room floor and read all day. In Water Mill, I plowed through my grandparents’ Agatha Christies and Dorothy L. Sayers. In Sea Girt, I read all the Earl Stanley Gardners that were stored on the guestroom bookshelf, always looking for the part about the naked woman on the cover, always disappointed. But I loved the stories anyway.

Those rainy days made me the mystery writer I am today.

When my children were young, my parents revived the tradition of the beach vacation. They rented a house in Stone Harbor, New Jersey and all of our activities continued–the beach trips, the mini-golf, the Jersey corn and tomatoes. And the reading.

This is one of my favorite photos from the beach. Three generations all with their noses buried in books, except my nephew Hume who is looking at the camera. I think there’s a book hidden in his towel.


Continue reading “My Beach Reads by Barbara Ross”

Little Comfort: A Hester Thursby Mystery by Edwin Hill

Download the Little Comfort Book Club Kit!


In a brilliantly twisted debut set among Boston’s elite, Edwin Hill introduces unforgettable sleuth Hester Thursby—and a missing persons case that uncovers a trail of vicious murder . . .

Harvard librarian Hester Thursby knows that even in the digital age, people still need help finding things. Using her research skills, Hester runs a side business tracking down the lost. Usually, she’s hired to find long-ago prom dates or to reunite adopted children and birth parents. Her new case is finding the handsome and charismatic Sam Blaine.

Sam has no desire to be found. As a teenager, he fled his small New Hampshire town with his friend, Gabe, after a haunting incident. For a dozen years, Sam and Gabe have traveled the country, reinventing themselves as they move from one mark to another. Sam has learned how trusting wealthy people can be—especially the lonely ones—as he expertly manipulates his way into their lives and homes. In Wendy Richards, the beautiful, fabulously rich daughter of one of Boston’s most influential families, he’s found the perfect way to infiltrate the milieu in which he knows he belongs—a world of Brooks Brothers suits, Nantucket summers, and effortless glamour.

As Hester’s investigation closes in on their brutal truth, the bond between Sam and Gabe is tested and Hester unknowingly jeopardizes her own safety. While Gabe has pinned all his desperate hopes of a normal life on Hester, Sam wants her out of the way for good. And Gabe has always done what Sam asks . . .

Advance Praise For Edwin Hill And Little Comfort

“Fast-paced and riveting . . . takes off from the opening pages and never lets up. Don’t miss this can’t-put-down debut.” –Carla Neggers, New York Times bestselling author

“In his compelling debut, Edwin Hill spins layer upon layer of intrigue as Hester Thursby, in the business of finding people who don’t want to be found, takes on a job that turns out to be far more surprising and dangerous than she bargained for. This smart, complex, and suspenseful New England thriller will keep you turning pages far into the night.” –Jessica Treadway, author of Lacy Eye and How Will I Know You?

“Compellingly plotted and compulsively readable, Little Comfort will leave you a little uncomfortable in the best of ways. Hester Thursby, its powerhouse protagonist, is tough, intriguingly flawed and complex. Edwin Hill’s first effort is certain to be among the year’s best debuts.” –John Keyse-Walker, author of Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed

“A chilling mix of envy, deceit, and murder. Everyone is lying about something in this tense, stylish debut novel. . . . [It] will have you frantically turning pages until the final, breathless climax.” –Joanna Schaffhausen, author of The Vanishing Season

Little Comfort isn’t just the arrival of a fantastic new book, but also marks the emergence of a spectacular writer to watch. This story had me hooked from the first chapter, and my nails bitten to the nub before I was halfway through. Watch out! Little Comfort delivers just what the title promises.” –Bracken MacLeod, author of Stranded and 13 Views of the Suicide Woods

“Spectacular . . . this book is deftly crafted and its terrifying conclusion stayed with me long after I finished reading. Don’t miss this one!” –Maggie Barbieri, author of Once Upon a Lie

Chardonnayed To Rest by J.C. Eaton

If only Victoria stayed with the other Corgis and didn’t go snooping around, she might not have sniffed out Roy Wilkes’ dead body on the lakefront near her owner’s winery. But she did. And her owner, Rosalee Marbleton, called me of all people to rush to the scene! Rosalee owns the winery across the road from the one I’m babysitting for my sister and brother-in-law while they track down some elusive insect in Costa Rica for Cornell’s entomology department.

I suppose Rosalee thought I had experience with these sorts of things, and in a bizarre way, I do. No sooner did I arrive at Two Witches, our family’s winery, when we had our own dead body crop up in a recently planted Riesling section. Now, I suppose, it’s Rosalee’s turn.

And while I didn’t know Roy Wilkes personally, I knew him by reputation and it wasn’t a good one. The man was a skinflint who recently bought the property that housed Rosalee’s waterline and insisted she pay him a premium for use or he’d cut off her water supply for the vineyards. Naturally, when Rosalee called me, I knew this wouldn’t look good for her. After all, she had a motive for murder, even though it would be the last thing she’d ever do. She’d been running her winery for over fifty years and everyone loved her. Well, maybe not Roy Wilkes…

Naturally, I offered to find the real culprit, even though I’m not exactly on the best terms with our local deputy sheriff who’s told me on numerous occasions that I should keep my ideas to the screenplays I write. Yep, the screenplays. I’m Norrie Ellington and unless you’re one of those people who read the credits on the Hallmark movies, you’ve probably never heard of me. I’m in my mid-twenties and I’m a screenwriter for a major Canadian film company.

I loved writing romance from my apartment in Manhattan, a gift from a late aunt, but now I have to juggle my laptop everywhere in my sister’s house if I expect to get any work done. I also have to contend with her Plott Hound, Charlie, and a very obnoxious Nigerian dwarf goat by the name of Alvin. Watch out for him – he spits.

Continue reading “Chardonnayed To Rest by J.C. Eaton”

Five Beach Vacations by Lee Kilraine

For five years after the death of my mom I waited for a sign. Silly, right? Except two of my siblings said they’d received a sign almost right away. (A shooting star and a flashing light.)

I wasn’t getting my sign in everyday life, and since my mom loved the beach I got it in my head she’d give me my sign there. No pressure, mom, but now you have a one week time frame for this sign that feels so all-important…

The first summer I stood in the hot August sun, the heat penetrating through all the layers of me until even my bones felt warm. I searched the ocean out beyond where the waves started their roll, scanning my eyes left to right and back again.

“Mama, what are you doing?” my daughter Dani asked.

“I’m looking for my sign from Nana. Aunt Alice got a sign. Uncle Dan got a sign. I’m looking for mine. I think it will be dramatic like a whale breaching out of the water,” I said, my throat tight with pain.

“I miss her bigger than a whale, too,” Dani said.

No whale threw itself into the air for me.

Later in the day I heard Dani call, “Mama! Look! Your sign!”

I looked up in time to see three dolphins arc out of the water.

“I don’t think so, Dani, because dolphins jump out of the water all the time.” We ended our week at the beach with no sign from my mom.

The second year a blue plastic watch washed up at my feet. It had water and sand floating inside the face like a snow globe and it was still running. Was this my sign? Was mom trying to tell me it was time to move on past the sadness? The sadness was still there sticking pins in me every day. Not my sign.

The third year a twenty dollar bill washed up at my feet. If this was my sign what was she saying…? This was the cost of loving? You can’t put a price on love? This was too confusing and I decided this wasn’t my sign either.

The fourth year, a starfish washed up at my feet. A perfect sign? It was the softest pink and so small that it didn’t cover the palm of my hand, except I realized it wasn’t dead. Maybe it was sick, and that’s why it washed up on shore.

I filled a plastic cup with seawater, placing the starfish inside. If it was still alive the next day, I’d put it back in the ocean. If not… I’d keep it and it would finally be my sign.

It wasn’t my sign. Dani said some baby starfish was very happy. Continue reading “Five Beach Vacations by Lee Kilraine”

The One and Only Beach Day Must-Have By Laura Bradford

If the quintessential summer beach day could be summed up with five bullet points, my list would look something like this:

*Low 80 degree temperature with a slight breeze.

*A low-to-the-sand chair (preferably striped because that’s extra beach-y).

*A vanilla milkshake within arm’s reach.

*A super big (and super cute, of course) beach bag next to my chair.

*And whatever must-read book I’m working on at that moment.

A pretty good list, if I do say so myself. Though really, if I could “only have one” as my mom was fond of saying throughout my childhood, I’d pick the must-read book without missing a beat. I mean, think about it…

The 80 degree thing is nice, but without a book boredom will invariably come knocking.

The low-to the sand chair is cozy, but without a book, what’s the point?

The super big (and cute) beach bag is great, but if it doesn’t have a book inside, why risk the potential back strain?

The vanilla milkshake is yummy, of course, but without a book to quiet your inner I-shouldn’t-be-drinking-this voice, guilt will rule your day.

But a book? On a beach? Well, that’s truly the ultimate beach day, in my book (see what I did there?).

So here’s to a summer filled with ultimate beach days for all of us!

~Laura Bradford Continue reading “The One and Only Beach Day Must-Have By Laura Bradford”

Minerva’s Bird Sanctuary by Minerva Spencer

When I moved from Houston to rural New Mexico one of the first things I wanted to do was get chickens. I’d grown up with chickens and missed the companionship of hens and (apparently) the persecution of roosters.

We’d only had birds for about a year when a strange thing started to happen: people began to stop by our place and ask if we would take in “stray” or unwanted birds. Of course I said YES: the more the merrier! At one point we had over 100 birds. We took in anyone who needed it and ended up with lots of chickens, two emus, a llama (yep, not a bird—we figured that out pretty quickly!) turkeys, geese, peacocks, and ducks. Oh, and LOTS of roosters.

But I’m getting ahead of my story . . .

Back to the beginning.

Building the coop was the easy part. Before we could even think about getting birds we had to work on our fences. Bears, coyotes, weasels, skunks, raccoons and—especially—wild dogs are some of the predators we face.

So I started fencing. And then I did a little more fencing. And a little more… If you’ve ever been around a farm (even a small one) you know how fencing is an unending job.

We ended up making a series of concentric enclosures. The inner was 40 feet by 8 feet was entirely enclosed and the wire sides were buried down a foot! Yes, it took a lot of time and digging, but it would provide safety at night and when we couldn’t be here.

The second ring had 6 foot fences buried a foot, but no cover.

And the third ring enclosed the whole property.

Here is a picture of the second enclosure (you can see the initial enclosure within):

You can see the outer, bigger, fence works great to keep in hounds but not so great to keep in chickens…. That is Miss Kitty on the fence and Schmoo inside.

Anyhow, when I felt everything was secure enough I placed an order from a local hatchery in Albuquerque. I wanted birds that would do well in our high desert climate, which has temps between -22 and 100.

Here are the first girls:

These ladies are called Giant Cochins—not so giant here.

This is Drusilla, a Polish Crested Continue reading “Minerva’s Bird Sanctuary by Minerva Spencer”

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