Sunday, January 24, 2016

His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal

Maggie, the Magnificent (Mystery Series)

His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal.   Maggie, a member of the elite British Special Ops Executive, is sent on a mission to Nazi-controlled Berlin in 1941. Her first assignment is extremely dangerous especially for a female spy. It’s something she’s trained extensively for, but what happens when training meets reality?

I found this book in a Little Free Library and I’m glad I did. This is an exciting mystery wrapped in history.  In this fast, action-packed book, I got lost in Maggie’s daring adventure while being reminded of the unthinkable horrors of the Holocaust. The author commingles fictional characters with historical figures in a way that brings history to life like no text book can.  Yes, it’s fiction, but events ring true with obviously well-researched, heart-wrenching realities. I found the book smart, informative, and exciting—hard to put down.

This book is part of the Maggie Mystery series.  And while I’m not a fan of any series, my book club ironically has picked another “Maggie” book for future reading. But now, I’m looking forward to the next escapade with Maggie in “Mrs. Roosevelt’s Confidante.”  Look for the review in spring 2016.

This book met one of my 2016 Reading Challenges:  Leave and/or take a book from a Little Free Library.

Happy Reading,


Questions or comments?  Email

Sunday, January 17, 2016

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Family Matters (Oddly Alluring)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is a novella narrated by 18-year-old Mary Katherine Blackwood who tells how she, her sister, and uncle are ostracized by the townspeople because of something that happened six years ago.  That’s when most of their family members were murdered by arsenic which was added to the sugar bowl.  Constance, Mary Katherine’s older sister, was arrested, tried, and acquitted—by the courts.  But the people in town don’t believe true justice was done, so they dole out their own punishments by harassing them. No surprise, the three family members isolate themselves as much as possible from their hatred. They rarely let anyone into their little world---until Cousin Charles comes around one day and turns their world upside down.

This novella quickly drew me in with with its eccentric set of characters and kept me going with the subtle suspense of where it was all leading.  I really enjoyed this dip in the dark, crazy pool.  The story was short but mighty. 

Author, Shirley Jackson, was a master storyteller.  In school I read the short story, The Lottery and have never forgotten it.  I call it a book burr—a story that clamped onto a part of my brain and stayed.

If you’re in the mood for a quick, gripping, definitely different kind of reading experience, I suggest you check out either one of these stories.

Happy Reading,


Questions or comments?  Email

Monday, January 11, 2016

I’m Down by Mishna Wolff

Looking Back with Laughter (Humorous Memoir)

I'm Down by Mishna Wolff is a humorous memoir about a girl growing up in a poor, black neighborhood with a father who seems to believe he was black.  At an early age Mishna, who is bright and scored high on proficiency exams, is sent to a school for gifted, rich students. Now Mishna must find a balance between both worlds: one filled with studying, skiing, and European vacations, the other filled with “capping,” slam charades, and Value Village.  

In this book, Wolff recounts her unusual, sometimes awkward and sad childhood with hilarious, keen insight.  Weaving her wit through a net of issues, she exposes racial and social attitudes, parenting styles, and the struggles of growing up through a wildly funny narrative.  I found it highly entertaining and had a hard time putting it down.

This was a book club selection and my members also really enjoyed the book.  We had a good discussion about Mishna's father who was at times negligent, at times coldly insensitive, and yet also caring and involved. Her upbringing was definitely out of the norm, but who's to say what's normal anyway?  Small portions of it reminded us of the unusual childhood in Jeanette Wall's The Glass Castle.   It was mentioned that this was not a book most of the book club members would have chosen on their own, but were glad they read it.  

I'm lucky to have the opportunity to belong to a book club. We enjoy each other's company, and of course, it's great to bounce our ideas about books off each other.  If you don't belong to a book club, you can join online discussions through sites such as  You can also follow along with our club and send in your thoughts.  

Our next selection is Brooklyn  by Colm Toibin which we'll be reviewing on February 21 and posting the following day.   Come join us!

Happy Reading,


Questions or comments?  Email