Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Cozy Reads

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This week’s topic is Cozy Reads–books that give off a cozy vibe!

Dean Street Press’s Furrowed Middlebrow series

Dean Street Press’s Furrowed Middlebrow series is the very essence of cozy!

The Cornish Midwife series is nice and cozy.

Cozy Nonfiction! Even author Meik Winking’s voice is cozy!

Judy Leigh’s books are fun and cozy.

 

Jan Karon’s Mitford is very cozy.

 

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All of the many Miss Read books are very cozy.

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Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books are certainly cozy.

 

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The March family lived a cozy, if often financially strained life. Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott.

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Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Thankful Freebie

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Well this is a pretty easy one! Let’s see if anyone really read it. Leave me a comment if you read it. An “x” is fine even!

  1. Thankful for for my first grandchild (grandson) who is preparing to be born in March.
  2. Thankful my daughter (the mother-to-be) is healthy and happy
  3. Thankful my adult son walked away unhurt from the accident that totaled his car.
  4. Thankful for the new job, with a much shorter commute, that I started last Monday.
  5. Thankful my 85 year-old mother and her 88 year old brother are still healthy & living independently
  6. Thankful that my cousin’s new grandchild arrived safely last week. Hopefully he and his distant cousin (my grandson) can grow up knowing each other.
  7. Thankful there was no post mid-term election violence here in the USA
  8. Thankful for the unemployment checks that kept me going TWICE this year.
  9. Thankful for all the friends who helped me finish my big charity project–the 69 shoeboxes, and 5 cartons of pencil packs I dropped off this morning. ****
  10. Thankful for all of my friends, those I know “in real life,” those I know here on my blog or IG or Twitter and through even more avenues of friendship. I am so grateful.

To the Americans reading this: Happy Thanksgiving!!

Other

Favorite “Aww” Moments In Books & Movies & TV (Share those sweet/cute moments in books that give you warm fuzzies.)

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“Do it for Blair”

The neighborhood may hate her Dad, but they love Blair!

As Shelby and Jackson leave for their honeymoon everyone is waving good-bye. Drum [Tom Skerrit encircles his wife, M’lynn (Sally Field) from behind and pulls her close. Love it every time).

[Left] The faculty reception where Joy (Debra Winger) pulls Jack (Anthony Hopkins) aside and pretends to wipe something from his face to get the faculty men wondering! The faculty men included a much younger Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame as one of the faculty. Then [right] on holiday, once they are “really” married, Jack kisses Joy and she can’t get close enough to him–she puts her hand under his jacket to feel more of him. I love that.

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My all-time favorite tv shows are the original Bob Newhart Show, the original All Creatures Great and Small, the original Upstairs, Downstairs, and my very favorite show of all time: As Time Goes By with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. This show (the awful first season aside–it was necessary but still…) is a multi-year AWE moment. The scene above is wonderful, as is the proposal and so many others. I just plain love this show!

Check out the video from this show at the bottom of this post. If you want to see the whole series, it is now only on BritBox.

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Susan Hampshire and Julian Fellowes (center and right) in Monarch of the Glen
These two had two of the best scenes in the whole series. When Killwillie, knowing Molly and Archie are struggling with the death duties proposes to Molly. When she says a lot of money isn’t a reason to marry he replies “Isn’t it?” and looks so crestfallen! The other scene, which perfectly illustrates the adage that “Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did only backwards and in high heels” is when Killwillie and Molly dance a tango. Killwillie is so utterly “chuffed” at his own prowess–it is adorable.

The whole series is available somewhere on streaming. Just not on Amazon Prime in the USA.

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The Queen’s Guards starred both Raymond Massey (above) and his son, Daniel Massey. Above Ursula Jeans, aka Mrs Fellowes (coincidence on the name–nothing to do with Julian) and her husband exchange the tenderest, stilted, awkward “love” scene ever. Two people who have likely never let anyone see that they are married, in love, or even like each other, but this one “outburst” of affection occurs once she’s closed all the curtains! Love it’s utter awkwardness. You can watch it it here at around the 1:36:28 time stamp. Must be seen to be appreciated. https://youtu.be/h1CxpiXBmaY

I’m back to work! Monday was my first day, so that’s all I’ve got for this week. Thank you to everyone for your encouragement during my TWO periods of unemployment this year. You really helped me.

Other

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I’d Like to Start/Catch up on/Finish

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Series fiction is fun and back when I had an hour’s drive each way to work I got through a ton of books on audio, many of them in series. I don’t always review series books here on my blog though, due to the trouble in avoiding spoilers.

MYSTERY SERIES

FINISH: The Mitford Murders

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I started in the middle, with Book 5 on Netgalley. Then I went back to the beginning and listened to the audio of the first book. So, I have 4 more to go! Each book puts one of the famous Mitford sisters at the center of a murder mystery, The Mitford’s one-time nursery maid is the sleuth. These are good fun. They are written by Downton Abbey creator, Julian Fellowes, niece, Jessica.

START: The Josephine Tey Mysteries

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I haven’t started this series yet. In it author Nicola Upson makes mystery write Josephine Tey into a sleuth. I like the sound of this. Meanwhile, I continue to make progress reading through the real Josephine’s own books.

CATCH-UP: Stephanie Plum

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I hate to admit it, but I got tired of Stephanie, Ranger, Joe, Lula and the rest of the gang. In real life they’d be my age and that’s way closer to Social Security than to the swinging singles life! Still, I love them and have missed them. Time to catch up on this series!

CONTINUE: Vish Puri

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I love Chubby! That’s what his family calls private detective Vish Puri. Modern India with all the sights, sounds, smells, and graft are all included. Yes this is a little cartoon-ish, but they are good fun.

 

CONTINUE: Agatha Christie’s Books

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Dear old Ags as I call her had more than one series–Poiroit, Miss Marple, etc. I’m whittling away at her books, hoping to some day read them all. The [Year] Club challenges help with that.

 

CONTINUE: Dick Francis’ Books

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I’ve been working my way through Dick Francis’ books since the ’80s. I love them for shorter road trips.

OTHER SERIES

START: Emily by LM Montgomery

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Ignore the awful cover! Since giving in and listening to The Blue Castle, I’ve wanted more of Lucy Maud Montgomery! I loved all but the first Anne book, so I’m sure I’ll like this series as well.

 

START: Cazelet Chronicles

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I’ve had these books on my TBR for DECADES! It’s way, way past time to start them. A reading goal for 2023 is to read or listen to the first book.

START: Old Filth Trilogy

 

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This trilogy hasn’t been on my TBR for decades, but I should give it a try soon.

START: The Alexandria Quartet

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Since watching the Durrells of Cofu online last year I realized I’ve had this quartet of books on my TBR since befroe I knew who Lawrence Durrell was. I’ve read some odd comments about them, but I think I’d like to at least try the first book.

Have you read or are your reading any of these? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post. I’d love to read what you have to say!

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Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday:Unlikable Characters You Can’t Help but Love

 

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Richard Grenville

King's General

Richard is unapologetically masculine, while also being weak. But Honor Harris fell in love with him and so did I. I cried a few times reading this book. It remains my favorite by Daphne Du Maurier–even more so than the older man -younger woman Rebecca.

Dexter Mayhew

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I know, I know! I shouldn’t like him. He trampled all over Emma! It’s disloyalty to a sister to say that maybe Emma asked for some of it. Not like she tried very hard to get a life, is it?  So, yeah. I kind of liked Dexter. Kind of. Not in a “let’s spend a lifetime together” way. Just kinda. Sure he’s a jerk, but let’s face it, he was an appealing jerk!

Investment Banker Piers

An appaling toff with toff manners and attitudes. But… Oh, just read it!

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting aka The People on Platform 5 (UK title)

The Pirate aka The Frenchman

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A dastardly pirate with a great bedside manner? Heck yeah!

Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne DuMaurie

That’s all I’ve got this time!

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Other

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my TBR with Halloween-ish Elements

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This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is “Halloween Freebie.” I’ve used my old Halloween TTT post so many years….it was just time for a new one! So, here you go!

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This is such a glorious cover. I have yet to read it–but will, due to the cover. “Fancy Dress” aka costumes, are very much part of Halloween. Death in Fancy Dress by Anthony Gilbert.

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What could be more Halloween-ish than a “haunting”? A Haunting at Holkham by Anne Glenconner.

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Frankenstein is a Halloween staple. I’m sure somewhere, some year, someone dressed up as Cleopatra either to trick-or-treat or to go to a grown up’s Halloween party. Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors.

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Blood and Bones! Totally Halloween-ish! Blood, Bones, and Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton.

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Land of the Dead? Totally Halloween-ish! Touring the Land of the Dead: Two Novellas by Maki Kashimada

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The fires of hell or the road to hell are often used by very far right churches in “Hell Houses” or similar to scare young adults away from the excess of the world. My church would never put one of these on, but they are a Halloween fixture in the Midwest and probably the South. Hellfire by Leesa Gazi

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Quoth the raven, “Nevermore” Ok, this isn’t Edgar Alanh Poe’s The Raven, but…. it is Poe-ish (Poe-like?) and therefore 100% Halloween-ish. The Raven Master by Christopher Skaife

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Pumpkin = Halloween, right? The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer

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Perfect craving for Halloween–bones! And to be morbid about it–even better! A Morbid Taste for Bones by Ellis Peters

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Most important thing about Halloween? Candy, of course! The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

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Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’ve Read About Vacations aka Vacation Books III

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This week’s topic is supposed to be: “Books I Read On Vacation,” but I don’t go on vacation. I just hang out at home when I’m off work. So, I looked at fictional vacations instead. I’ve done two past posts, conveniently with five books each on this topic! I’ll like those at the bottom.

The Newest Vacation Books I’ve Read

The links are to my review unless otherwise noted.

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Several of Judy Leigh’s books have vacations in them, but this one is almost solely about a vacation. Lil’s Bus Trip by Judy Leigh.

 

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Going from Ireland to India mostly on a bicycle is not everyone’s idea of a vacation–especially not for a lone young woman in 1963! Full Tilt: From Ireland to India With a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

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Going into hiding and faking a vacation can be fun, right? The Bodyguard: A Novel by Katherine Center

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You just know when Chief Inspector Armand Gamache goes to Paris for the birth of his grandchild that something will force him back on duty. All the Devils Are Here: A Novel by Louise Penny is the 16th Gamache book. (Link is to Amazon–I rarely review series books due to spoilers).

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The annual workingman’s family vacation at the shore. The Fortnight in September by R.C. Sherriff

 

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The Maine summer colony vacation. Haven Point: A Novel by Virginia Hume

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A 1930’s matron travels to the Middle East to visit her daughter and gets stranded for a while at the border with an old friend. Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (aka Agatha Christie)

 

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Part travel writing, part foodie book, many stories are “vacation-like” enough to include this book. World Travel: An Irreverent Guide by Anthony Bourdain

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The private island where William and Catherine, the late Princess Margaret, Mick Jagger, and more of the ultra-rich love to vacation is the setting for this mystery. So vacation-ish book. Murder on Mustique by Anne Glenconner

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A memoir this time, of a wonderful group vacation riding Icelandic horses! Wild Horses of the Summer Sun by Tory Bilski

Want more vacation books? Click the links below to go to my previous vacation books posts!

Best Vacation Books

Vacation Books II

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Other

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Fall TBR

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First of all, THANK YOU to all of you who reached out to me after my post about the difficulties I’m having with my second round of unemployment. It meant so much to hear from you and to receive your encouragement, prayers, and good wishes. Thank you!

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is Typographic Book Covers (Book covers with a design that is all or mostly all words. You can also choose to do books with nice typography if that’s easier!) (Submitted by Mareli @ Elza Reads). What a cool topic! Sadly, I did not get back into my blogging routine in time to compile it. I’ll try to remember it for a future freebie. I am embarrassed that the topic I suggested (geographical terms in titles) came and went without my participation! Sorry!

To make it easier to get back into my blogging rhythm, I choose to do last week’s topic–Books on My Fall TBR.

The one I’m worried about

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Another book on Jennie Jerome Churchill. I’ve thrown two recent books on her back–one a novel, one a so-called “biography.” We’ll see how far I get with this one. Fingers crossed that it is actually readable. The American Adventuress by C.W. Gortner. Here is a link to my review of his book Mademoiselle Chanel.

The One I am Most Anxious to Get

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Come on November 29th!! I listen to these books, but I am so excited that the date is getting “close.” Chief Inspector Gamache is a annual for me. I love the whole Three Pines crew. A World of Curiosities: A Novel by Louise Penny.

The Others

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His voice is so soothing! I have to listen to this one. Here’s a link to my reviews of his other books, The Little Book of Hygge and  The Little Book of Lykke.

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Book Reviews

Top Ten Tuesday: School Freebie–Books Set in Colleges or Universities

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This week’s topic is “School Freebie” so make up your own topic around schools of any sort. I decided on colleges. I’ve done other posts on favorite school books in the past and will link them at the bottom of this post.

The Staff and Faculty Books

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The Groves of Academe: A Novel by Mary McCarthy

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The Netanyahus by Joshua Cohen

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Groundskeeping by Lee Cole. This novel has a character who is faculty (writer in residence) and character who is a student who also works on the college staff.

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Changing Places by David Lodge

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Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher

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The Professor’s House by Willa Cather

Vera [Mrs Vladimir Nabokov] by Stacy Schiff, is a biography but includes so much about Cornell that I’m counting it. The Wife is a novel that pairs perfectly with Vera. As in The Netanyahus, faculty wives (today husbands or partners) are the unpaid half of a pair. Both are necessary for one career to flourish.

The Student Books

Each group counts as “one”

Harvard Law School

The Paper Chase: A Novel by John Osborne spawned a movie and a t.v. show.

One L by Scott Turow, a nonfiction book on the first year of Harvard Law School is the nonfiction counterpart to The Paper Chase and started his career.

Pinstripes and Pearls by Judith Richards Hope tells the (nonfiction) story of Elizabeth Dole and others who turned Harvard Law coed in 1964.

The Military Academies

Note to readers from outside the USA: The Military Academies in the USA are degree-granting, 4-year undergraduate colleges–not simply officer training schools. At the US Military Academy (West Point), Naval Academy (Annapolis), US Air Force Academy, US Coast Guard Academy and US Merchant Marine Academy, engineering is the focus, with only a small percent of students allowed to major in other subjects. The private or state military colleges: The Citadel, Virginia Military Institute (VMI), Norwich University, Texas A & M, and a few others other majors are more easily had.

Dress Gray by Lucian K. Truscott IV is set at West Point.

The Lords of Discipline: A Novel by Pat Conroy tells the story of life at the Citadel (aka The Military College of South Carolina)

The Classic Harvard Undergrad

Books

Class Reunion by Rona Jaffe (Radcliffe  and Harvard)

The Last Convertible: A Novel by Anton Myrer

Love Story by Erich Segal

Have you read any of these? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post on college books.

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Other

Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Have Loved and a Few I Gave Up On (and why)

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This week’s topic was actually “Completed Series I Wish Had More Books” but this didn’t work for me. So, once again, I tweaked it. This post is bascially a re-run. I’m sure I’ve done this exact line-up before.

I love Mrs. Tim Christie–an officer’s wife who must deal with the demands of husband, children, and Army pay! Mrs. Tim Carries On (aka Mrs Tim of the Regiment) is the first book. (I haven’t yet read all of this series).

The Diary of a Provincial Lady (a sort of civilian counterpart to Mrs Tim) is the wife of the land agent on a great estate (like Bertie Pelham in Downton Abbey before he inherited the title of Marquess). Her husband, Robert, when home is always asleep behind the Times newspaper. Diary of a Provincial Lady is the first book. Be warned–there are some fake/scam Kindle versions of these books.

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I really enjoyed the first book of this trilogy–The Rosie Project. The second book wasn’t as good, but was still fun. I haven’t yet read the third.

Here is my review of book 2, The Rosie Effect.

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I hate to say that JoJo Moyes made me so mad with her Kentucky book, that I haven’t gone back to reading her. She was a favorite of mine until then–a “must-read” even. Unlike many readers, I liked each of the books in this trilogy.  Me Before You is the first book.

My review of book 3, Still Me

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Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series is a fixture on my reading calendar. Still Life is book one.

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I loved the William Monk series, but over time the crimes became too se__al for me. I had nightmares. I still love William, Hester, Oliver, and the others though. Face of a Stranger is book one. The crimes in the first several books are not as se–al.

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I still have 2 more of this six book series to read. I never get tired or Maura Beth or the gang of friends who love the Twinkle’s tomato aspic! The Cherry Cola Book Club is the first book. (Scroll down in the linked post for the review of book one).

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I love Stephanie Plum–Trenton, New Jersey’s favorite bounty hunter! But, after 20+ books when all the exact same stuff happens in each book (i.e. Rex runs on his hampster wheel, Grandma Mazur causes a disaster at the funeral home, Stephanie’s car gets put out of action, Stephanie and Lula eat Cluck in a Bucket or donuts, Stephanie is either in love with Ranger or with Joe) I got tired. In real-life Stephanie, Ranger, and Joe would be about my age! They, too, (well–not Ranger) would be trying to improve their 401(k) and be looking for ways to pay for retirement! I’d had to switch to reading them after the first narrator of the audio books was changed. I didn’t like the new one at all. One for the Money is the first book.

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44 Scotland Street, where little Bertie is forever stuck in crushed strawberry dungarees with his crazy mother reading Melanie Klein, is like a visit with an old friend. I grab the next one when I remember it. I like some characters more than others. I love Cyril the dog with the gold tooth most though. 44 Scotland Street is the first book (as well as the name of the series).

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I devoured the early books of Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series. Then…well…let’s just say the quality went away. “Milked it” is the term I’ve used before. I can’t blame him—authors need to earn money. Publishers push. I get it. But I stopped liking them as they got dumber and covered less ground per book. The first several books, though, are a delight for anyone. An Irish Country Doctor is the first book.

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The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency is my all-time favorite series, but it has suffered in the wake of cancel culture. It is apparently ok for an elderly white Scotsman to write it, but not for a white woman to voice it on audio. I’m not sure what happened, but that’s how it appears. Long-time voice of the series, Lisette Lecat, was canceled (If the poor lady died and I missed it, then I understand, but tell readers that like when the long-time voice of the Chief Inspector Gamache books died). The “new” voice of the series changed all the personalities–this was after 20+ volumes!! I quit. I loved them on audio, but not without Lisette Lecat.

Of course, there are others! The wonderful James Herriot books, Anne of Green Gables, Sherlock Holmes, and more!

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