Death On The Downs by Simon Brett



Carole out exploring comes upon the bones of a human skeleton. Once again she and her friend Jude take up their own sleuthing. 


#2 in the Fethering Mystery series

Cozy mystery


Odd couple vibe



I loved the character development more than the mystery in Death on the Downs. There were a lot of characters introduced briefly and I didn’t get a strong handle on who they were. So when they reappeared I couldn’t remember who was who and who had which background. As the mystery is coming to an end Carole and Jude are coming up with answers that they aren’t sharing with the reader. I knew they knew, but just weren’t sharing and I’m not sure how I felt about that. 

I loved the continued look into the friendship of Carole and Jude. For me, the book was about friendship and the mystery was just a way to show this friendship. Friendship isn’t always easy . Especially new friendships with their insecurities and I liked that look into friendship.  Carole and Jude are both growing individually in this book and I really liked watching that development. It’s also interesting to me that Carole seems like such an open book and Jude is very much a mystery. Though there were times in this second book where they surprised me. 

Stress-Free Small Talk by Richard S. Gallagher, LMFT


A guide to managing social anxiety and making conversation



Easy to read

Exercises to practice



Sometimes engaging in conversation can be hard. Though this book deals more with those who struggle with social anxiety and therefore struggle with conversation, I felt that many of the  skills taught benefit all. Though I don’t suffer with social anxiety I have had my share of conversations that have not gone well. Often it is the small talk conversations that seem the most difficult for me and I found the suggestions very helpful. 

The book discusses what small talk is, why it is important and how it is used in society.

Explains shyness, introversion and anxiety.

Includes skills and exercises to prepare for social situations

Includes skills to handle social situations where small talk takes place. Even includes small details like how to stand and where to look. Lots of exercises are given to practice and use when in social situations.

Author includes personal experiences and experiences of other people to help show skills.

My copy of Stress-Free Small Talk was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

A Shared Grandmother’s Journal by Marianne Waggoner Day


Writing prompts for a grandparent and grandchild to share stories, feelings, likes, dislikes, dreams, etc. 


  • Colorful pages
  • Easy to respond to prompt



I really love the idea. I think the prompt ideas were all great and it could be a great way to learn more about one another. However, as I think about it, I think I would have trouble finishing it. I can see myself starting off great and being excited about it but as life happens I can see it getting pushed to the bottom of things to do. I also think a grandparent would like this a lot more than a child. Though I loved the prompts, I think they are pretty similar to prompts kids are writing in school and I can see kids not being very excited for yet another writing assignment.

My copy of A Shared Grandmother’s Journal was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review


The Mindfulness Journal for Teens by Jennie Marie Battistin,MA, LMFT


Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment. It means being aware of what you are doing and how you are feeling. This is a book that teaches mindfulness with a teenage perspective through prompts and journal ideas. 


  • Prompts are quick and easy
  • Book is easy to understand
  • Beautiful pages



Even though I am an adult I have really enjoyed reading through this book. Even though this is a journal for teenagers I felt it could easily be applied to any age. In fact I plan on going through the journal more slowly and really thinking through the ideas and prompts. The prompts dealt with everyday issues like self-esteem, personal growth and relationships.

My copy of The Mindfulness Journal for Teens was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Celine by Peter Heller



Celine is a private eye who specializes in finding missing people. When Gabriela comes to Celine to find her father who went missing over twenty years ago in Yellowstone National Park, Celine is off to Yellowstone with her husband Pete, hoping to be able to reunite father and daughter. 


  • Great descriptive setting
  • Older main character
  • Slower descriptive read
  • Mystery
  • Teenage pregnancy 



As a reader who is nearing into the older side, I have started to love books with older main characters. Celine was a great older character. She had so much complexity that I think comes with a longer life. She was a compassionate woman who has one of those personalities that people find themselves comfortable around and opening up to. Yes, this is a mystery and we follow Celine to Yellowstone to go with her as she researches and hunts for clues to find what happened to this missing man. But, the story felt not so much about a mystery but about Celine. The mystery was the way for us to get to know Celine and understand her. I really loved this flip on a mystery and I found myself wanting to know more about Celine and wanting to observe her as much as I wanted to know what happened to Gabriela’s father. 

Before going to Yellowstone Celine flies to Colorado, were her son lives, to borrow his camper which she then drives to Yellowstone. I grew up in Colorado and as a child we took many family vacations camping in Yellowstone. Author, Peter Heller, brought all those memories alive for me with his descriptive writing. I could see The Colorado Rockies and I could picture that drive to Yellowstone as you travel through sparse Wyoming. Then to arrive in Yellowstone and see the animals everywhere, the trees, the people, it was all as I remembered it. 

This book had me with an older main character, Colorado and Yellowstone. And it kept me hooked with the mystery, Celine and the descriptive writing. 

The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes by Leonard Goldberg



Dr. John Watson, his son Dr. John Watson Jr, along with the help of Joanna Blalock, the daughter of Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, solve the mystery behind a man Joanna and her young son saw falling from a building. 


  • #1 in The Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries
  • References to cases of Sherlock Holmes
  • Light reading



This was a book I was excited to read. I thought a mystery with the daughter of Sherlock Holmes was a great premise. It is a great premise and it is a good book for light, easy reading. I was hoping for a bit more substance and found myself rolling my eyes often. My first eye roll occurred when I realized that all of the original characters’ children went into the same careers as their parents. Even Detective Lestrade’s son is a detective and the murderer is a son of a murderer from Sherlock’s time. As the detective work progressed everything came so easily to the trio. Every person they interviewed gave them the information they needed and they didn’t really seem to come against any obstacle. I found these characters lacked substance and I found myself not interested in them at all. 

His Majesty’s Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal



After going through training Maggie is ready to start her first assignment as a spy where she will be dropped into Germany and gather information from top Nazis. But is she really as prepared as she thought she was? 


  • #3 in the Maggie Hope Mystery series
  • World War ll
  • Historical mystery
  • Woman spy
  • Nazis euthanasia of those they saw as defective, including children
  • Ongoing storylines from past books in the series



I had about an even amount of things that I loved about this book and things I didn’t.

I had trouble connecting with the characters even though this is the third book in the series. Many of the characters, old and new, seemed to do things out of the blue that didn’t really fit with the rest of their actions and there wasn’t any explanation for it. There was also a storyline with a very side character that didn’t really fit with the rest of the book and I’m not sure what the point of it was. The plot moved a bit slowly for me and when it would pick up something would very conveniently happen that then slowed it back down. 

I did really love the historical aspects of the book. I had no idea the Nazis were killing children that were ill. There were many other mentions of things the Nazis were doing that had me doing research to see if it was true. I love learning about things I didn’t know before especially with the many World War ll books there are. I enjoyed the unique looks into some of the things happening. 

The things Maggie experiences in Germany leave her broken. I do look forward to the next book to see how, and if, Maggie recovers. 

Penny For Your Secrets by Anna Lee Huber



Verity and her husband, Sidney, continue to adjust to the end of the war. While their relationship is sturdier now, Sidney continues to struggle with demons. They soon find themselves involved in investigating two deaths. First, is the death of Verity’s friend Ada’s husband, Lord Rockham. Then the death of a former Secret Sister colleague’s sister. Though the two deaths seem to have no connection, Verity begins to wonder if they are in fact connected. 


  • #3 in Verity Kent series
  • Look into upper class England in 1919
  • Historical fiction/ mystery



I found Penny For Your Secrets engaging and fun to read. I loved the look into what life is like after a war.  Not just for individuals but also society as all have changed and people must decide if things will go back to the way they were before or if the changes are good changes that should continue. 

I continue to enjoy Verity and Sidney and their relationship. Because of the war they have both changed and were not together as those changes happened. I enjoy watching them as they navigate who they each have become while also adjusting to who their spouse has become. 

The mysteries were engaging and had me guessing and I really loved the historical looks into 1919 and learning about a British cargo ship whose crew vanished during the war. 

I received a copy of Penny For Your Secrets from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

How to Read Literature Like a Professor: A Tale of Two Takes


In How to Read Literature Like a Professor, Thomas C. Foster makes the point that you can make your everyday reading experience more rewarding and enjoyable by looking more closely at what you are reading and finding symbols and themes, along with other similar devices. Foster writes that when the average reader reads a book they focus on the story and the characters. They respond to their reading on an emotional level.

“Writers tend to be men and women who are interested in the world around them. That world contains many things, and on the level of society, part of what it contains is the political reality of the time – power structures, relations among classes, issues of justice and rights, interactions between the sexes and among various racial and ethnic constituencies.”

When a reader takes the time to read more closely looking for significance, symbolism, theme, meaning, pretty much anything except character and plot the reader has an added depth to the experience.

IMG_5741I first read How to Read Literature Like a Professor probably about 5 or 6 years ago. I was very intrigued by the idea of getting more out of my reading and  becoming a “serious” reader. As I picked up this book to read again, now 6 years after the original reading, I started the book not quite as intrigued at getting more out of my reading because I realized in the 6 years since the original reading I am not any closer to employing any of the skills he taught. I didn’t feel that during that time my reading had suffered, I felt that I had read some great books and had gotten a lot out of them. So on my second read I was much more skeptical. In reading How to Read Literature Like a Professor I have discovered that I read a book for the emotional experience I have. I love having all the emotional responses that reading often brings, rage, laughter, crying, peace. I read to get a look into other people’s lives. I love to people watch and I feel a book is just like people watching only you get more than what you are observing in one moment of time. I love to read to learn more about people that are different then I am and try to understand them. I feel that reading helps me to develop empathy for people whose lives are different than my own because I can see why people make the choices they make and I realize I don’t have all the details so judging is pointless. These are the some of the reasons I love to read.

As I read How to Read literature Like a Professor I kept thinking that reading for depth over the emotional journey takes all the fun out of the experience. Instead of going along for the ride you have to keep stopping and figure out why the ride is there in the first place. I also am not convinced that in writing a book an author isn’t also writing to provide an emotional experience but is wanting the reader to dig through every word to find meaning that is hidden. I don’t think authors always hide what it is they want to say. Also reading closely takes too much work. I don’t watch very much TV. Reading is the way I relax. I don’t want to be working when I relax. When I read a book and someone drowns, I don’t want to stop and wonder what that means. If someone drowns, then I get to experience the emotions that come with the drowning. If the character is able to get out of the water then I get to experience the emotions that come with a rescue or maybe it just means the character can swim. A great book for me brings out emotion, makes me feel. I think that looking for meanings, reading closely, is forcing that emotion to happen.


As both a casual reader and a future professor, I enjoy How to Read Literature Like a Professor  by Thomas Foster because it is the basis of how and why I read.

“When an English professor reads, on the other hand, he [or she] will accept the effective response level of the story, but a lot of his [or her] attention will be engaged by other elements of the novel? Where did that effect come from? Whom does this character resemble? Where have I seen this situation before? . . . If you learn to ask these questions, to see literary texts through these glasses, you will read and understand literature in a new light, and it’ll become more interesting and fun.” (xxvii)

I first read How to Read during the summer before my high school AP Literature course, back when I thought I knew everything about literature. So it was interesting to return to the revised edition just months after my graduation and see if Foster held up after I learned directly from professors how to read. And it does, so much so that I wished I had reread the book more seriously for my introductory English courses, because the concepts I had such a difficult time are laid out clearly. These concepts include ideas like what Fosters calls “the grammar of literature,” that literature, like any art form, has a kind of code or set of conventions which can be identified and then analyzed for meaning. It was understanding literature on a deeper level that took me from a casual reader who didn’t know what was so important about a wheelbarrow in the rain to a scholar-of-sorts.

IMG_5742 (1)This being said, not everyone reads like this, and that’s okay. Foster, while being an engaging and lively voice, is an academic and values analysis as a fundamental part of his reading style. Not everyone wants to read the Greek classics just so they can understand something they’re reading from this decade or use words like “intertextuality.” Not everyone needs to recognize every allusion the author makes in a work, or understanding the minute historical underpinnings of a text. And that’s okay. We need different kinds of readers, just as we need different kind of writers and artists and consumers and so on. However, I read the way that I read “like a professor” (though that probably gives me more credit that I deserve) because I enjoy it. I enjoy consuming a text, and then picking at the bones for the hidden bits of meat. I enjoy finding a snag in a booksomething that doesn’t make sense to me—using that to formulate a question, and then trying to find the answer to that question in the book (and it is my fervent belief that the best of literature poses difficult questions). I enjoy experiencing the emotions a poem gives me, and then going back to understand how the poem impacted me the way that it did. I enjoy finding meaning in works that reflect a world that sometimes feels meaningless.

So if you find yourself in my camp of close readers, Foster may have something new to show you about the (not-so) secretive world of literary criticism. Or, at the very least, some patterns he reveals may conjure up new meaning in a familiar book and set you on a fulfilling path of closer reading.

Have you read How to Read Literature Like a Professor?How do you read, more like Michele or Kennerley? What book captures your personal reading philosophy? What books from high school English would you revisit? Let us know in the comments! And stick around: book reviews to come every Tuesday and Friday.