Book Talk Tuesday: Christmas Mourning

I love Margaret Maron and I love Deborah Knott. Maron knows Deborah intimately and refuses to let her do anything in a book that would be out of character, even if it would serve the mystery that needs to be solved.

I’m thinking of an earlier book when Deborah went into an empty house alone. It’s the moment that usually makes me toss a book across the room. No sane person would do that.

Unless … a child is missing and she hears a child crying inside. Then, like Deborah, a sane person pulls up her courage, grabs her cell phone, and walks through the door.

Each Deborah Knott book also focuses on a current topic (land development, illegal immigration, migrant workers) and Maron weaves the issue into the story without soapboxing.

9780446555791.jpgIn Christmas Mourning, Deborah and Dwight are soon going to celebrate their one year anniversary. Dwight’s son Cal is now living with them and adjusting well.

There have been a rash of teenage driving accidents, leaving several teens dead or permanently injured. Maron addresses texting while driving, underage drinking, and drinking and driving.

Mallory Johnson is the latest teenager to die in an accident. Dwight is investigating the solo accident. Tests show Mallory had a bit of alcohol in her system when she died but everyone swears Mallory wasn’t a drinker. Her father had trained her not to swerve for an animal in the roadway. So what caused her to crash?

Deborah’s relationships with her nieces and nephews often play a part of the books and Christmas Mourning is full of the teenagers, running in and out of the house, baking cookies, wiring up lights. I’m always thankful that Maron includes a Knott family tree because it’s easy to lose track of the large family. And it shows that Deborah has brothers and kin that we’ve yet to meet, assuring me of some great books in the future.

The mystery is Christmas Mourning is well set up. The clues are there. I often figure out the culprit before the halfway point of most mysteries. In this one, I knew it was one of two people and I wasn’t completely sure which one was the killer until Maron revealed it at the end.

If you haven’t read any of Deborah Knott’s stories, I encourage you to start with Bootlegger’s Daughter. It’s the perfect setup for the whole series. And Christmas Mourning is a stellar entry.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Gracey or Meany?

Another tidbit from the Beth Moore study I’m doing (Sacred Secrets):

People who have been deeply graced by God never withhold grace from other people, but people who don’t feel like they’ve been terribly graced are the meanest people on the planet.

This statement was first greeted with laughter then a pensive silence as women all over the room scribbled it in their notes.

I don’t know if I should be ashamed to admit it, but one person immediately flew to my mind. And I knew they had never been graced. They would claim they have been because they claim to know Christ as their Savior.

A friend of mine, a retired therapist, once told me, “When actions and words don’t match up, it’s the actions that count.”

Using that as my yardstick, I can see the truth of what Beth said.

Ungraced people may say the right things, but they are incapable of putting feet or action to their words. They may say they care for you, but until they show it tangibly, it’s empty rhetoric, clanging cymbals without love. And they’re just plain mean.

Oh God, I’ve been graced so, please don’t let me ever withhold grace from others. Let your mercy and grace and love flow through me. Show me how to grace someone who doesn’t feel graced.

I almost deleted those words above because I have a feeling I’ll soon be given an opportunity to do just that. I continue to pray I won’t fail; that when given the choice to forgive or hold to a hurt, that I’ll choose grace.

Romans 5:20: But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.

Enjoy this song:

Book Talk Tuesday: Taking a Breather

After reading four books in quick succession for review purposes, I took a few days off from reading. I did crossword puzzles, finished my grand-daughter’s knitted scarf, and played games on my phone. I discovered that when I did crossword puzzles all the time, I was better at them. I’ve struggled a bit with the hard ones I’ve attempted. I can still breeze through the easy ones, but not the *** puzzles anymore.

Which goes to prove, use it or lose it.

I’ve certainly continued to use my brain, but the part that was good at logic and trivia has atrophied a bit.

So, like any good over-achiever, I’ve added crossword puzzles to my daily mental regimen.

And I’m back to reading, but haven’t finished anything to review.

Actually, that’s not true. I do have one I can review but I want to read the next book in the series and review them as a pair, so look for a post in a few weeks about a fun Jane Austen update.

I’m in the middle of two fiction books just now, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, a writer whose prose is as crystal clear and beautiful and sharp as an icicle dangling from a tree branch. And Christmas Mourning by Margaret Maron. I’m usually all over Margaret’s newest releases and somehow this one slipped by me. But I can’t put it down, so it will likely be next week’s Book Talk Tuesday.

See you then!

PS: I’d love it if you’d click through to my entry at Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest and leave a comment!

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Authenticity

“The most exhausting thing in life, I have discovered, is being insincere. That is why so much of social life is exhausting; one is wearing a mask. I have shed my mask.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift From the Sea.

I tweeted that quote a few months ago and people are still telling me how it touched them. One gal at church told me she’d had to stay home from church one week because she was too exhausted to put on her Sunday morning mask.

I’m in a Beth Moore Bible study right now and she made the following points.

We should be:

  • Authentic with all
  • Transparent with some
  • Intimate with few

I’ve been mulling over both observations in the last week and I’ve come to a few conclusions.

Authenticity takes practice. Transparency is hard. Intimacy is risky. But they all flow from taking off the mask.

Some of us have worn the mask so long, we’ve forgotten who we are without it.

In the last few years I’ve become more aware of some of my masks and am making an effort to drop them.

I’m still working but I think I’m making progress.

What about you? Do you think we wear masks?

Book Talk Tuesday: Christmas on 4th Street

From the beautiful “snowy” cover (the picture doesn’t do the cover justice – you have to see it!) to the delightful story inside, Susan Mallery’s Christmas on 4th Street is the perfect Christmas romance. It’s full of snowy evenings, hot chocolate, shared kisses, and even a Christmas miracle.

CHRISTMAS ON 4TH STREET, romance novel by bestselling author Susan MalleryWe return to Fool’s Gold, California for Noelle’s story. We met Noelle Perkins when she moved to town in Just One Kiss and opened a Christmas store. But we haven’t really gotten to know her until now.

Noelle has recovered from several of life’s hardest challenges: loss of loved ones, health issues, and abandonment and now is ready to fall in love and have her own happily ever after in Fool’s Gold. Too bad she’s attracted to Gabriel, the visiting doctor, because he’s made it clear he’s out of there ASAP. Not to mention he isn’t nearly as enamored of the town as she is.

Gabriel Boylan is Gideon’s brother (Gideon and Felicia fell in love in Two of a Kind). He’s come to visit for the holidays and to heal from an injury he received as an army doctor. His hand mends fine, but the same can’t be said of his war-weary psyche. He plans to grit his teeth and get through the family holiday then bolt back to – well, he’s not sure where, just not Fool’s Gold. A gorgeous and spunky blonde is not in his plans.

I’ve raved here already about the other Fool’s Gold books I’ve read. Christmas on 4th Street is just as good, if not better. The sex scenes are toned down, which is great for me because the only objection I’ve had to the other books is the graphic sex. This one is definitely gentler, as befits a Christmas story.

Now that I’ve read a few more Fool’s Gold books, I’ve noticed another trait that all the men share.

They run.

They feel they’re damaged or broken, too messed up to be a husband or boyfriend. So they bolt. Somewhere in their journey they wake up to the fact that they’ve left their one chance at happiness and love behind. They return, apologize, she forgives, and it’s a happy ending all around.

Gabriel follows the pattern.

It’s not a bad pattern. It’s just, for the first time, I found it predictable. And that very predictability made it a bit anticlimactic. I knew what was coming so I wasn’t engaged in his journey and was just turning pages to get to the happily ever after.

That teeny tiny criticism aside, I really loved this book and highly recommend it.


I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review. But I’ll be buying a few copies as gifts this year.