Interview with the Pooper Scooper

My guest this week is Elaine Faber, author of The Black Cat Mysteries, the Mrs. Odbody Mystery Adventures, and now, her newest release, The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain. I’ve read and enjoyed the book, featuring protagonists Lou (short for Lulu Jane) Shoemaker and Nate Darling (I haven’t had time to review it yet, but I will). I thought it would be fun to have Elaine interview Lou and Nate so you can get to know them a little.

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain by [Elaine Faber]

Welcome, Elaine, Lou, and Nate!

Questions for Lou

How did you come to own a sewer truck called The Pooper Scooper? This was my husband’s business, but he died in a car crash a little over two years ago. I had to learn the business, get a Waste Management license, and learn to drive a stick shift pretty quickly. In a rural community like Lockleer Mountain, the homes have wells and septic tanks. With all the bells and whistles on the sewer truck, it wasn’t too hard to learn how to operate and clean septic tanks. It may not be a very ladylike occupation, but it keeps the roof over my head and my two cats in Kitty Crunchies. We make it work.

How familiar are you with the Native American reservation near Lockleer Mountain? I know many of the Native Americans and many are my customers. Chief White Feather has been a family friend for years. He told us the legend of the Spirit Woman when we were children. The story line includes a Pow-Wow on the reservation where a shocking event occurs. He also told us that a White Man was selling drugs to his teenagers and if the tribe caught him first, we’d never see him again! Oh my!

As a recent widow, how did you know the time was right to seek love again? I’m only twenty-three. As much as I loved my husband, Steven, life goes on. As it happens, I’ve also known Deputy Nate Darling for years. He was my husband’s best friend and helped me following my husband’s death. When his sister disappeared three months ago following a motor vehicle accident, I was able to help him grieve. We grew closer with our shared grief, and friendship turned to love.

Do you think the Spirit Woman is a real person or just a legend? When our troubles began, folks started to see the mountain lion and glimpses of a woman, sightings that resulted in helpful circumstances. We all know the legend of the Spirit Woman coming to help the community, and with the recent unrest in town, it’s not hard to believe she came to lend a hand. When strange gifts from the forest begin to turn up in my friend’s yard, questions arise. Is the Spirit Woman leaving the items, or is someone from town playing tricks?

Questions for Deputy Sheriff Nate Darling

As a deputy sheriff, are you concerned about the community unrest regarding the government’s plans to build an undisclosed facility and infrastructure near Lockleer Mountain?  Recent news of a mysterious government facility being built nearby, with a big box store and a housing tract has the town in an uproar. The merchants fear the competition will ruin them, and what will happen to the charm of our small town? Threats have been made. I have to take them seriously, but how can we fight the government, already moving forward with their plans without even consulting the city fathers?

How do you feel knowing that someone in town is selling drugs to the teens on the reservation? As if we didn’t have enough problems, my heart sank when White Feather announced drugs being sold on the reservation. I told the sheriff I wished I had about 90 days of vacation time on the books, which I don’t.

Do you believe in the Spirit Woman, or is the mysterious woman in the woods with the mountain lion really your sister, Suzanna? We’ve searched the mountain high and low for three months since Suzanna’s disappearance. I’ve seen the mountain lion and glimpses of the woman. I’m sure it’s Suzanna, suffering from amnesia. I’ve heard the legend of the Spirit Woman, but spirits don’t leave footprints. On the other hand, how could Suzanna survive for three months in the forest…with a mountain lion? Friends say it’s not Suzanna. So, does that mean they think a Native American spirit has become real? What am I do believe?

I guess for the answers to these and other questions, you’ll have to read the book. The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain is available in e-book and paperback at Amazon.  http://tinyurl.com/y82t4xsh

Elaine’s Bio

Elaine Faber lives in Elk Grove with her husband and four feline companions. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association, and Northern California Publishers and Artists. She volunteers at the American Cancer Society Discovery Shop in Elk Grove. Her short stories have appeared in national magazines, have won multiple awards in various short story contests, and are included in at least 16 anthologies. She leads a critique groups in the Sacramento area.

Elaine’s Mrs. Odboddy and Black Cat Mystery series’ have won top awards with Northern California Publishers and Authors annual writers’ contests. Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary and All Things Cat, an anthology of cat stories, won 2018 and 2019 Certificates of Excellence with Cat Writers’ Association. Elaine enjoys speaking at public author venues and clubs sharing highlights of her novels and her writing experience. She is currently working on two fiction novels to be published in 2021 and 2022.

Elaine’s Books

Black Cat Mysteries: With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Black Cat helps solve mysteries and crimes. Partially narrated by Black Cat, much of the story comes from a cat’s often humorous and poignant point of view.

Mrs. Odboddy Mystery/Adventures: Elderly, eccentric Mrs. Odboddy fights WWII from the home front. She believes war-time conspiracies and spies abound in her home town. Follow her antics in these hysterical, historical novels as a self-appointed hometown warrior exposes malcontents, dissidents and Nazi spies…even when she’s wrong.

The Spirit Woman Mystery/Paranormal/Adventures

The Native Americans believe the legendary Spirit Woman ‘protects the community.’ When Govt. demands create social unrest in a small mountain town, and drugs threaten the lives of their youth, the Spirit Woman and her mountain lion companion come to their aid.

Black Cat’s Legacy: http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer: http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel: http://tinyurl.com/y4eohe5n

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary  (NCPA Cover and Interior Design Silver award 2019): http://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

All Things Cat (anthology of short stories): http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot (NCPA 1st Fiction 2017): http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier (NCPA 3rd Cover and Design 2018): http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv    

Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There Was a Tiger (NCPA 2nd Fiction 2019): http://tinyurl.com/yx72fcpx

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain: http://tinyurl.com/y82t4xsh

Thanks to all my guests today!

Until next time,

Amy

Working Without Play?

Do you have a hobby?

Something you love to do in your spare time? Something you have a passion for? Something you love to share with other people?

I have lots of hobbies. I know I’ve mentioned here on the blog that I’ve recently taken up quilling, which is the art of paper filigree. I’m still an amateur, but I love to do it and I find it relaxing and a great way to let my mind wander. I also like to do counted cross-stitch, a hobby I’ve had since I was young. And you all know I love to read and cook. I also love to make gift tags.

There are other things I love to do, too, but these are some of my favorite ways to spend free time.

What do you love to do?

I’d love to spotlight some of my readers’ hobbies. Do you paint? Draw? Write poetry? Swim? Do Pilates? Play the ukelele? Do you do some other cool thing that I haven’t even thought of?

This year I’d love to start a series of blog posts about hobbies. We all learned in 2020 that having a hobby not only helped pass the time when we might have been out doing other things, but it could also mean the difference between happiness and depression.

It doesn’t have to be something that costs a cent. It doesn’t have to be something that requires a membership or a bunch of fancy equipment. All that a hobby requires is that it’s something you can do in your spare time that makes you happy.

Once a month, I’d like to write about a reader’s favorite hobby. If you’d like me to interview you, that would be great. If you don’t want me to mention your name but still want to introduce people to your favorite hobby, also great.

My hope is to introduce readers to things they might never have tried.

Will you join me? I’d love to hear from you! Please let me know in the comments below or email me at amymreadeauthor[at]gmail[dot]com and tell me about your favorite things to do!

I’ll leave you with some photos of quilling projects I’ve done since August, when I started the craft.

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes: January 2021

Happy New Year! I’m eager to begin sharing some of my favorite recipes with you for the next twelve months! As many of you know, I share three recipes on the first Tuesday of each month. I welcome recipes from readers, so if you have one (or more) you’d like to share, please email me at amymreadeauthor[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll be happy to include your recipes (with credit, of course).

What would you like to see?

And speaking of sharing, if you have any suggestions for posts you’d like to see, please let me know either by email or down in the comments below. My goal is to make this blog as responsive as possible to reader wishes, so any and all input is welcome and appreciated. I do a reading round-up on the last Tuesday of each month and a worldwide blogfest of good news on the last Friday of each month, but otherwise my Tuesday posts are yours to help create. So reach out and let me know what you’d like to see!

Let’s Get Cooking!

The first recipe I’m sharing this month is one I serve my family every New Year’s Day. It’s chock-full of flavor and calories and always gets the new year off to a delicious start. If you’ve resolved to lose weight, well…it’ll have to wait until January 2nd. The loco moco is a Hawaiian comfort dish often served with a scoop of macaroni salad. You can (actually, you should) start making this dish a day or two in advance. There’s very little hands-on work.

Kalua Pork Loco Moco

Lots of servings

5-6 pound pork butt roast

1 T. Liquid Smoke

1 T. salt

hot cooked rice (I make this a day or two ahead of time and reheat it)

eggs (1-2 for each person)

brown gravy (I also make this ahead of time. You can use your favorite recipe or just a mix or jar from the grocery store—we use a mix)

Place the butt roast in a slow cooker. Pour Liquid Smoke over roast, then sprinkle with salt. Cover and cook on low for 20 hours (this is not a typo), flipping about halfway through cooking. Shred with two forks and return to slow cooker.

Prepare 1-2 eggs for each person. They can be prepared any way you like, but we like ours over easy.

Place 1-2 scoops of hot cooked rice in a shallow bowl. Scoop desired amount of pork over the rice. Top with the egg(s) and pour brown gravy over the entire thing. Serve with a side of macaroni salad, if desired.

The leftover pork is great in omelets and/or sliders and/or tacos.

***

If you eat the loco moco on January 1st as we do, then you’re going to want something much lighter after that. My suggestion? A salad that checks the boxes on flavor, ease, and nutrition.

Spinach Salad with Pears and Walnuts

4 servings

3/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 c. sherry vinegar

1 shallot, minced

1/2 t. honey

salt and pepper to taste

8-12 cups fresh baby spinach

4 firm, ripe pears, cored and chopped

1/2 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped

bleu cheese crumbles (optional, but I always add them)

Combine oil, vinegar, shallot, honey, and salt and pepper in a medium-sized jar with a lid. Shake dressing vigorously.

In four shallow bowls, divide the spinach. Top the spinach in each bowl with 1/4 of the pears, then with 1/4 of the walnuts. Crumble bleu cheese on salads, if desired. Shake vinaigrette again and pour the desired amount over each salad. Store the rest of the dressing in the fridge.

***

The last recipe for January is another comfort food that goes well with vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. It’s especially good with curry, no matter you like your curry. And it’s even good as a dessert—just sprinkle it with a handful of chopped mango.

Sticky Rice

2 c. Arborio rice

1 1/2 c. canned unsweetened coconut milk (not coconut cream!)

1/4 c. brown sugar

1/2 t. salt

Cook rice according to package directions. Shake coconut milk very well before measuring. In a small saucepan, warm coconut milk, brown sugar, and salt. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add milk mixture to rice and stir gently. Serve as a side dish or dessert.

***

Remember to email me or comment below with recipes and suggestions for blog posts! I’m eager to hear from you.

Until next time,

Amy

Reading Round-Up: December Edition

It’s almost 2021! This is my last reading round-up for 2020, and pretty soon this year will be just a memory. Though 2020 brought lots of changes and more than a few blessings to my family, I know that’s not the case for millions of people all over the world.

Reading has always been a great escape, and my belief is that books have been more important than ever during the past nine tumultuous months. I hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews and that you’ve been inspired to read and review a few books of your own. I look forward to continuing my reviews in 2021 and I hope you’ll join me.

***

A Noël Killing (A Provençal Mystery Book 8) by [M. L. Longworth]

The first book I read this month was A Noël Killing by M.L. Longworth. I was looking for a Christmas mystery, and though I hadn’t read the first 7 books in the Provençal Mystery Series, I took a chance on this one. I enjoyed it. It’s a traditional mystery, as opposed to a cozy mystery or a thriller, and the setting in the south of France made it feel exotic. You can read my four-star review here.

***

The Getaway: A Magical Christmas Story by [Bibiana Krall]

Next up was The Getaway: A Short Read Christmas Romance by Bibiana Krall. If you know someone with a humbuggy heart this year, give them this book to read. If it doesn’t bring a smile to their face, nothing will. It’s a quick read (as the title suggests), it’s got everything I look for in a Christmas story, and it wraps up with a note from the author that makes the tale even more endearing. Read my review here.

***

Two books down, five to go in the Harry Potter series! Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was a great read, and my husband grabbed it up as soon as I finished it. There was really only one thing I didn’t understand in the story, and that was the presence of one particular character. But as I say in my very short review, that really didn’t matter, because the book was a treat to read. Why did I wait so long to start this series?? Read my review here.

***

Mistletoe and Mayhem: Yuletide at Castlewood Manor by [Veronica Cline Barton]

Mistletoe and Mayhem: Yuletide at Castlewood Manor, Book 4 in the My American Almost-Royal Cousin Series by Veronica Cline Barton, was a fun Christmas read that I devoured in a few hours. If you are a royal watcher and you like cozy mysteries, this is one for you. Read my review here.

***

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding: A Hercule Poirot Short Story (Hercule Poirot Series Book 33) by [Agatha Christie]

It seems there are two versions of Agatha Christie’s Christmas short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, a shorter one and a longer one, and I have to say I don’t know which one I read. Whichever one it was, it was throroughly enjoyable. I love a good Hercule Poirot mystery, and this one was fun. Poirot is hired to (discreetly, as always) spend Christmas at an English manor house where he hopes to recover a ruby that was stolen from a prince who had placed himself in a, ahem, compromising situation. What ensues is a mystery that is finally solved after a key clue is found in the Christmas pudding. Read my review here.

***

Menace at the Christmas Market: An English Village Murder Mystery (Murder on Location Book 5) by [Sara Rosett]

Menace at the Christmas Market by Sara Rosett was a great short mystery. Though it’s not the first book in the Murder on Location series, I found that it was easy to follow. I was brought up to speed instantly with the main character and her job as a location scout in England for a Jane Austen documentary series (I want that job!) and her relationship with Alex, another recurring character in the series. This is a quick read that has all the satisfying elements of a longer novel—murder, red herrings, and a great setting. Highly recommend! Read my review here.

***

A LITTLE TASTE OF MURDER: A Brightwater Bay Cozy Mystery (book 1) (Brightwater Bay Cozy Mysteries) by [Carolyn L. Dean]

This was the 60th book I read this year, and my goal was to read 59 books. So…mission accomplished! And bonus—it was a great book AND the first in a series! A Little Taste of Murder by Carolyn L. Dean was an intriguing Christmas mystery with a gorgeous setting (the Pacific Northwest), wonderful and well-drawn characters, and some engaging red herrings. I didn’t figure out whodunit, and I love that in a mystery. Read my review here and put this on your TBR list if you love a good cozy!

That’s all, folks! Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Amy

Book Blogs to Follow…

…because we don’t have enough to do.

This week I’m going to keep it short because we’re all busy. But I do want to share four bookish blogs that I think you’ll love. My advice? Bookmark them and come back to them when things aren’t so hectic, because it’s fun to browse through their pages and find all kinds of great books and great authors.

And so here they are, in alphabetical order:

***

Blur, Blurred, Book, Book Pages

A Blue Million Books

This is author Amy Metz’s blog. She doesn’t do book reviews, but she features tons of interviews, guest blogs, book spotlights, excerpts, and more from a huge number of authors. You’re very likely to find something to tickle your fancy on this blog. Amy is the author of the Goose Pimple Junction mysteries, and I can tell you they’re excellent. So while you’re looking for your next favorite author at A Blue Million Books, check out Amy’s books, too!

***

Christmas, December, Background

2. Aunt Sairy’s Book Reviews

I came across this fairly new blog recently when Sarah, the owner of the blog, reviewed my book The Worst Noel in such a way that brought tears to my eyes. It’s that beautiful (click here to read the review for yourself). All of Sarah’s reviews are heartfelt, honest, and thorough without containing any spoilers. Sarah reads and reviews mostly cozy mysteries, so if you’re looking for a good cozy to read, you’re bound to find one on her blog. And bonus: you get a behind-the-scenes look at life with her dog, Havoc, who sounds like a big, cuddly bear.

***

Cocoa, Whipped Cream, Cookies, Read

3. Discovery

A treasure trove of bookish delights begun by the folks at Reedsy, this site includes a blog (under the
“Blog” tab) with such posts as “45 Best True Crime Books of All Time,” “30 Best Memoirs of the Last Century,” and “The Essential Guide to Reading the Sherlock Holmes Books,” among many other topics. But it also includes (under the “Discover” tab) a gazillion books that you can search by genre, keyword, and/or date added to the site.

***

Winter, Snow, Landscape, Book Hut, Cold

4. Dru’s Book Musings

Dru Ann Love, as her name suggests, is a beloved member of the mystery community. She’s an avid reader who also quilts, writes poetry, and works full-time. How she manages to blog the way she does, I have no idea. But I’m glad she does, because there’s always something new to discover on her site. She features new releases, cover reveals, her own reviews, and the “Day in the Life” series of guest posts (written by the characters in upcoming books!!).

I hope you’ll take some time to peruse all these blogs. They’re great fun for me to browse, and I always come away from them with a list of new books and authors I’d love to learn more about.

Do you have a favorite book blog you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your suggestions!

Until next time, wishing all of you a merry Christmas,

Amy

Candied Citrus Peel

Years ago, my aunt started baking and giving away loaves of stöllen for Christmas.

What’s Stöllen?

Stöllen is a delicious, yeasty bread (sometimes called “Christstöllen) that is traditionally made at Christmastime. It is chock full of nuts, fruits, rum-soaked raisins, and marzipan and covered in powdered sugar. Like any homemade bread, it takes a little bit of time to make, but it’s easy and oh-so-worth-it.

My aunt would make this bread every December, and every other year when we visited for Christmas, she would give us a loaf. Alas, my aunt (and the rest of my family) lives in an area where the weather can be very unpredictable starting in November, so we had to stop planning Christmas trips to see everyone.

We also had to learn how to live without stöllen during the holiday season.

That would not do.

So I started making it myself. I’m not going to reprint the instructions here today, but here’s a link to the recipe I use. You’ll note, if you read the recipe, that the authors recommend making your own candied citrus peel (I also recommend a read because it’s a fascinating look at the history of the bread).

Candied Citrus Peel

I use the recipe for candied citrus peel that the authors link to in the stöllen recipe. It’s easy and delicious. In fact, each year the little sister of one of my son’s friends asks, “When are the Reades making those orange peel things?” Note to that little sister: you’ll be receiving some in a few days.

My son and I made the candied citrus peel today and I documented the process with photos. We used one red grapefruit, one lemon, one lime, and three oranges.

Wash your fruit first!

Slice the top and bottom from each piece of fruit.

Score the peels so the fruit is divided into fourths (just to make it easier to remove the peel), then remove the peel.

Save the fruit for juice or cooking!

Slice each piece of peel into 1/4″ wide strips.

Boil the strips in plain old water for 15 minutes.

Drain the strips, rinse them, drain them again, and repeat the boiling/draining/rinsing/draining sequence TWO more times.

Once the fruit is draining for the last time, mix 2 c. of sugar and 1 c. of water in the pot.

Bring it to a boil and boil for 2 minutes to dissolve the sugar.

Add the peels and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.

While I wait for the peels to finish simmering, I pour some granulated sugar into the food processor and give it a whirr for a minute or so. Pour the sugar into a Zip-loc-type bag.

After the peels have simmered for an hour, scoop them out a few at a time and let them drain…

before tossing them in the sugar.

Take the peels out of the bag and lay them on a baking rack to dry. Repeat with the rest of the peels.

Save that leftover syrup! It makes a mean Tom Collins!

You have to let the peels dry out for a day or two, then use them up or freeze them. Eat them, give them as gifts, chop them up in stöllen, or use them in any other way you can think of!

I wish you happy cooking! Stöllen is a fairly new tradition for our family (within the past five years or so)—what holiday traditions do you have?

Until next time,

Amy

First Tuesday Recipes for December

This is my final recipe post for 2020 and I’m going all-out with a holiday baking edition. So no matter what holiday you celebrate, or even if you don’t celebrate, gather your ingredients and get ready to make some delicious goodies to share this season.

***

Peanut Crisp Bars

(with thanks to my mom)

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. light corn syrup

1 c. peanut butter

2 c. crispy rice cereal

1/2 c. butter

1/4 c. brown sugar, packed

1 T. milk

1/2 t. vanilla

1 1/4 c. powdered sugar

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and a dash of salt. Cook and stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peanut butter and then stir in cereal. Pat mixture evenly into a greased 8×8″ or a 9×9″ square pan.

In a small saucepan, melt butter and brown sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat; add milk and vanilla. Stir in powdered sugar and beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

Spread butter mixture over cereal mixture; chill. Cut into bars.

***

Cherry Bonbon Cookies

(with thanks to my dad)

For the cookies:

1 1/2 c. flour

1/8 t. salt

1/2 c. butter, softened

3/4 c. powdered sugar

2 T. milk

1 t. vanilla

24 maraschino cherries, drained well and patted dry

For the glaze:

1 c. powdered sugar

1 T. butter, melted

2 T. maraschino cherry juice

additional powdered sugar

Make the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. In another mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add milk and vanilla to the butter mixture and beat well. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat until well blended.

Divide dough into 24 portions. Shape each portion around a cherry, forming a ball. Place cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 18-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on a baking rack.

Make the glaze:

Combine 1 c. powdered sugar, butter, and cherry juice until smooth and a little runny. Add more cherry juice if too thick.

Drizzle glaze over cookies; dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.

***

Coconut-Macadamia Nut Bars

Bottom layer:

1 c. flour

1/2 c. packed brown sugar

1/2 c. butter, softened

Top layer:

1 c. packed brown sugar

2 T. flour

1/2 t. baking powder

1 1/2 c. shredded coconut

1 t. vanilla

1 c. diced macadamia nuts

2 eggs

Combine ingredients for bottom layer in a medium bowl. Beat well and press into 9×9″ pan. Bake for 12 minutes.

Mix ingredients for top layer until well-blended. Spread mixture over hot bottom layer and bake for another 20 minutes.

Enjoy!

Until next time,

Amy

P.S. If you don’t already subscribe to my newsletter, click here! Every month I include a bonus recipe in the newsletter, along with news and deals!

We Are the World Blogfest #WATWB

It’s the last Friday in November, and time for some good news to take you into December with a smile. The post I’ve chosen to share this month was brought to my attention by my friend Carol Thompson and is great news for anyone interested in keeping our marine habitats clean, but it’s especially exciting for me because the story comes from Ocean City, New Jersey, which is just a few miles from my home.

The story is about a program to incubate shellfish, and in particular clams, for the dual purpose of cleansing the ecosystem in the bay waters of the Atlantic Ocean and of building “habitat castles” that will help protect the low-lying barrier island from flooding. The incubator is also used to teach local students about shoreline ecosystems and marine management.

Click here to read the story.

Here’s how #WATWB works: On the last Friday of each month a number of bloggers participate in a worldwide blog hop in which each blogger highlights a story that spreads good news, happiness, and hope.

Your cohosts for this month are Lizbeth Hartz, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Damyanti Biswas, and Roshan Radhakrishnan. And if you want to read more uplifting articles, please visit the WATWB Facebook page here or the Twitter home page here to find links to other stories.

Want to join? Click this link to sign up and help spread some happiness!

Reading Round-Up: November Edition

I didn’t read as many books as I would have liked during November because I was participating in NaNoWriMo (a novel-writing challenge, for those of you who are unfamiliar), but I did manage to sneak in a few reads. Add your own November reads to the comments below!

***

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by [Samantha Vérant]

First up this month was The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux by Samantha Vérant. If you know me, you know why the title of this book intrigued me—I thought I would be reading scads of French recipes. But alas, there are only a few recipes in the back of the book, and those are not ones I’m likely to make.

Anyway, this was a romance. Let me start by saying I’m not a romance reader unless there’s a mystery to solve, too, and there wasn’t much mystery in this one. The beginning of the story is a little too dramatic to be believable, but who am I to say? I’ve never lost a job at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Once the main character moves to France, the story gets better. I think readers will find themselves getting hungry while they read this book and they are DEFINITELY going to want to travel to France. Read my review here.

***

It’s time I let you all in on a shameful secret.

Until this month, I have never read any of the Harry Potter books. I have, likewise, never seen any of the Harry Potter movies.

I read this book because the Harry Potter books are among my niece’s favorites and she was appalled (read: disgusted, horrified, speechless) that I hadn’t read them yet. I promised her I would read Book 1 before Thanksgiving so we could discuss it together (it may have to be over the phone thanks to COVID, but we’ll still discuss it).

In short, the book is AMAZING. I can’t wait to read the second one. I would love to spend just ten minutes inside J.K. Rowling’s imagination and discover where she learned to tell stories like this. You can read my review and 7 million others here.

***

I had never heard of Kahlil Gibran’s book The Prophet until I read a review of it on someone else’s blog (thanks, Debby Gies!). And what a book. First published in 1923, The Prophet is a collection of short essays that make up a story. The essays (there are almost 30!) cover every topic from good and evil to crime and punishment to eating and drinking to prayer to children to joy and sorrow and everything in between. The beautifully poetic essays are full of spiritual lessons and brilliant metaphors for human life and behavior. If I could give this book ten stars, I would. Read my review here.

***

THE BODY IN THE TRANSEPT a cozy murder mystery full of twists (Dorothy Martin Mystery Book 1) by [JEANNE M.  DAMS]

The final book I had time to read this month was The Body in the Transept by Jeanne M. Dams. This was a thoroughly enjoyable cozy mystery, complete with English setting, a widowed main character, a much-loved cat, and plenty of suspects. I did manage to guess the killer, but the operative word there is “guess.” I was totally wrong about the motive and that was part of what made this book so much fun to read. I highly recommend it. Read my review here.

***

Remember, every Wednesday afternoon at 1:45 Eastern, I and the other two authors who make up the BookEm channel on YouTube debut a new episode! This week I’m in the hot seat, talking about the importance of hobbies and introducing you to a few new-to-me reads! Join me here at 1:45 if you can. If you can’t join me then, drop by to watch the video at your leisure anytime after that!

***

I wish all of my American friends a happy and safe Thanksgiving! And to the rest of you, have a great week!

Until next time,

Amy

A Hidden Gem

As many of you know, I have been working (forever, it feels like) on Book 2 in the Libraries of the World Mystery Series. In the first book, Trudy’s Diary, protagonist Daisy Carruthers uses collections from the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, to solve the mysteries. In Book 2, Dutch Treat, Daisy has taken a sabbatical from Global Human Rights Journal in Washington to work for one semester as an associate professor at a small college in New York City. As you might expect, the New York Public Library collections play a key role in this book.

I’ve done a great deal of research for Dutch Treat and a lot of that research has been about the main branch of the New York Public Library (the one on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street).

But the New York Public Library has more than just the main branch. In fact, it has 88 branches. And many of these are old—old enough to have been heated with coal in the early part of the twentieth century.

And how do you think the heating system worked when the library was closed?

Easy. Custodians were employed to keep the heating systems running overnight and on weekends. Those custodians and their families lived in apartments on the top floor of each library.

How cool would it be to live in a library??

This week, I’m sharing an article from Atlas Obscura that highlights one of the old custodian apartments: the one from Fort Washington. There are some interesting photos and some anecdotes from people who remember the custodians who took care of the libraries.

Enjoy!

Click here to be redirected to the article.

Until next time,

Amy