I’m back with another short book review and reading suggestion. THE RHINESTONE MURDER is the best little cozy mystery I’ve read in quite a while. Last week, I reblogged the posts from Isaac Wallace with 4 preview chapters, so you may have seen those posts. I have to agree with what the back of the book says about the story. In fact, I’ll just quote it here:
“A snappy little novella introducing private investigator Carson Knight, who finds himself at the end of a gun barrel when Police Detective Andrea Pierce discovers him searching through an active crime scene. Knight, who was hired to investigate threats to his client, barely gets started on his case before the client is found murdered. Starting out on the wrong side of the police detective in charge of that murder investigation puts him in a bad position. But when he unexpectedly discovers a handful of rhinestones at the scene of the crime, they prove to be a key to discovering the killer. Knight’s a committed Christian, convinced he can get help from the Lord in solving his cases, and he’s going to need that kind of help if he’s going to win over Detective Andrea Pierce and help bring a murderer to justice.”
That pretty well sums things up. If you like cozy mysteries, I think you’ll thoroughly enjoy THE RHINESTONE MURDER by Isaac Wallace.


I’ve felt led this year to devote a little attention to helping promote some authors and their works that I feel are worth readers’ time and money. I shared last week about my favorite novel, and this week I’m passing along a series that I think a lot of you will enjoy — if you like a good mystery that is.
NO GAME FOR A DAME (BY M. Ruth Myers) is the first book in the “Maggie Sullivan Mystery Series.” And one of the best things about this story is that it doesn’t have to end with the words “The End,” because there are several more where it came from.
The heroin, Maggie Sullivan, is a tough but totally likeable young woman who has broken through the barriers of the early 20th century resistance to women in the public work sector. In fact, the story is set in the years just prior to and including America’s involvement in WWII — a time when women in America were catapulted from being considered out of place in almost any workplace to holding down jobs in virtually every sector of life.
But Maggie has been ahead of the game, because she already had her own detective agency before 1940, and she doesn’t shy away from any case that needs her innate ability to solve a mystery and get people out of trouble.
The storyline is captivating, and the historical aspects of the setting are realistic, but not overbearing. Readers get a good handle on customs and attitudes without having to wade through a lot of excessive and unnecessary descriptions.
On top of that, the book is well-written. In an age when many independently published writers allow their work to go out to the public lacking any journalistic polish — or even the best grammar — Myers’ books have passed my “English teacher’s” test just fine.
Are there one or two things that I don’t particularly like about the books? Yes, but they are things that reflect my own very personal feelings and attitudes, and they don’t detract from the positive aspects of these stories. I’ve read 4 of the books in the series, and I’d have to say that if I were rating them with the 5-star test, I’d have to give them all 5 stars.

Looking for a good book? – Try ‘A Redbird Christmas’

It’s a little place — a mostly happy place — called Lost River, Alabama. I’d move there if I could. I can’t because, unfortunately, it isn’t real — except in the pages of a delightful novel titled A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS, by Fannie Flagg. Now, in general, I don’t care much for Alabama. And, in general, I’m not a fan of Fannie Flagg’s novels. However, Ms. Flagg did write one novel that is totally entertaining and gratifying to read. In fact I read it about once a year. And that novel is  A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS.

Let me deal first with the story’s one failing — if it can be called that. The first chapter introduces the main character, Oswald Campbell, as he is being given a very negative prognosis about his health. Now, unfortunately, coming so early in the book, that situation could be enough to turn many readers away. But if you’re looking for a story that is uplifting, encouraging, and life-affirming, please take my word for it that you need to push right on through that first chapter to find out what Oswald does in response to that prognosis and how he finds an altogether different future.

The rest of the story is set in the peaceful, friendly, (let me say it again) ‘life-affirming’ community settled on the banks of a clear, quiet river known as Lost River, Alabama. Even the mail is delivered by river in this little community. Everyone living there knows everyone else — and cares about everyone else. The weather is not too cold or too hot. The flowers, birds, and other natural wildlife are pleasant company. And the whole attitude and atmosphere is one of optimism.

Now, if you’ve read this far in the review, you may be thinking that the story will be too “Pollyanna-ish” for you. But, again, I’ll ask you to take my word for it that the positivity found in this story is really quite natural and down-to-earth. It’s just that the focus here is on looking for and trying to bring about the best in the midst of all circumstances — both good and bad. It makes a terrific change from all the criticizing, back-biting, hate-dispensing, and fear-mongering that we have been subjected to for the past two years in most of the media and a good deal of our day-to-day interactions.

And don’t think you need to wait until next Christmas to read this book. It isn’t a “Christmas” novel in the usual sense of that term. It does include some Christmas celebrations, but the story is about people who value life and love and sharing and caring. It’s a book for any season of the year.

How much do I like this book? Well, it sits right at the top of my list of favorite books. And I’ve already told you that I generally read it every year. I can’t move to Lost River, Alabama to live, but I can visit annually and enjoy the vacation from stress and life overload that most of us deal with on a regular basis. So if you’re like me, and you like reading about kind people, second chances, and happy endings, you must read A REDBIRD CHRISTMAS.


Look for more book reviews over the next few months. Most of my followers know me as an author, but I’m also an avid reader, and this year, I’d like to help promote some of the books and authors that have given me so much personal reading pleasure. So adding a few book reviews is part of my plan for this site during 2022.

A Happy Plug for a Happy Little Book

RALPH'S AMAZON COVER - frontA great friend and ministry colleague of mine, Pastor Ralph Brandon, has written a book of uplifting, life-enriching devotions, and it has recently become available on Amazon.

Ralph has served the Lord for more than 45 years as a pastor, professional Christian counselor, and founder and administrator of a large Christian school. He is also a columnist for two newspapers, and those columns have been so popular that his readers began to clamor for him to put those articles into a book.

So a few years ago, he did so. The book Stories From the Sunnyside of Life, offers a unique look at truths from God’s Word. What makes them unique is that he’s wrapped up these truths in stories filled with the “down-home” humor from his life experiences since childhood, growing up in a little hamlet known locally as “Sunnyside.” I’m going to let him tell you about his work in his own words below.

“Nestled deeply into the southern portion of the state of Illinois, USA, is a little hamlet known as Sunnyside. I grew up there, and my wife Barbara and I still make our home there today. 

“That little hamlet — and the wonderful people who have populated it — have molded me in multiple ways, so it’s only natural that as I go about the work I’ve been assigned in this world — pastoring, professional counseling, teaching and administrating Christian schools — I find myself applying years of Sunnyside experiences to those endeavors. 

“So years ago, when I began writing a column for two local newspapers, I found myself sharing Sunnyside in my lessons and exhortations in those columns. As a result, readers began requesting me to put those articles into a book, and I finally complied. My first book “Stories From the Sunnyside of Life” is the result. 

“Early in my life, I discovered that the Lord has evidently given me a gift for comedy, and, to my joy, He has made much use of that gift as an asset in carrying out my work in every part of my service to Him. He’s made significant use of that gift in my writing. I love sharing the powerful, life-changing truths from God’s Word, and when I can offer those truths and lessons wrapped up in some of the “down-home” humor of life in Sunnyside, it’s a great delight. I’ve been thrilled and grateful to see how popular the first book is, and I’m looking forward to offering a second volume of similar stories in 2018.

“The Word of God says in Acts 17:26 that He “appointed … the boundaries of our habitation.” I thank God that He chose the boundaries of my habitation to be Sunnyside. The stories I share are not mine alone. They belong to all of those wonderful people.”

Ralph will be putting out a second volume of similar stories this year, but if you’d like to check out Book # 1, you can find it in digital or paperback HERE.

I hope many of you read it and find it a boost to your life and your faith.




I Recommend “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” Series


NO. 1 LADIES DET. COVERI seldom post reviews of books that I am reading – not because I do not think they are worthy of a post – but mostly because I am always reading and enjoy so many different genres by so many different authors that if I let myself do so, I would be posting about them all the time, rather than about other things. However, occasionally, I find myself enjoying a book so very much that I am just compelled to share it – or to share a series that is special to me.

I have posted a time or two about the Miss Read books – authored by the late Dora Saint – and I talked about how those books take the reader right into villages, the homes, and the lives of the charming and endearing characters. I became a bona-fide citizen of the fictional villages of Thrush Green and Fairacre through living in the books of the two series by those names.

More recently – and currently – I find myself in Botswana – deeply and cheerfully involved in the lives of one Precious Ramotswe and Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni, as well as all the other colorful people who populate their lives. I met Precious and Mr. J. L. B in Alexander McCall Smith’s book, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. That particular book eventually became a series of 15 books (as of the date of my post). The original book has been made into a movie, and the BBC eventually picked up at least some of the series for TV production.

The series shares the life of Mma Precious Ramotswe, who, after losing her father and inheriting all of his cattle, sells the cattle to get money enough to open a private detective agency. Precious has always been gifted with the ability to figure out mysteries and to find people and things, and after acquiring some education in the subject and earning a certificate, she sets out to open her business. From that point on, the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency provides the backdrop for all the colorful, lovable, entertaining people and events that carry the reader from one book to another.

I will have to admit that when I first picked up book #1 and started reading, the African names and idiomatic expressions seemed to make reading difficult. As interesting as the story sounded, I thought perhaps it would just not be worth trying to figure out all the correct pronunciations enough to make the reading flow smoothly. However, I discovered the movie online and watched it. That experience brought the language to life for me – and allowed me to grasp the unique beauty in the lyrical, almost musical, rhythm of it. (There are audio versions of the books that will do that as well.) Once I had heard the language spoken, I found it totally delightful. From that point on, I was able to pick up the books again and read with no difficulty.

I think it might be of interest to future readers of the series to note that the books have become so popular around the world that there are sites online devoted to explaining the pronunciation of the names and words used, as well as some of the social protocol that influences the way people speak to and interact with one another.

One of the most obvious and affecting things that I noticed concerning the characters, who are very real and true to life – according to all the research I have done – is that the people of Botswana think of each other and speak to each other with enormous respect. Showing respect seems to affect every part of how they speak and interact with each other and with strangers, and I can’t help but compare that to the way so many of the people of the United States speak to and treat each other. We could learn some lessons.

But, overall, the beauty of the series is that the characters do live their lives in a very realistic way – loving, caring, sharing joys and sorrows – and although the stories revolve around some degree of mystery and investigation (it is about a ladies’ detective agency after all), the whole thrust of the books is positive and life-affirming on every level. The basic, everyday wisdom that Precious and her family and friends share in thought and in dialogue help the reader see life situations at ground level – in a way that strips away all the pretense and prejudice and just lets honesty shine through. Readers often find themselves thinking: “That’s just exactly how I feel about that situation, and she has put it into perfect words.” And readers feel a sense of hope and well-being as they move through these stories and when they close each book at the end of its final chapter.

I can’t help but compare the series – as I have the Miss Read series – to the long-running American television series The Andy Griffith Show. That show has broken all kinds of records as a result of running successfully for so many years – first in its original sit-com schedule and then through decades of re-runs right up to the present day. It’s still one of the best-loved TV series that ever existed, and it’s because it tells the story of a hometown full of real-life, imperfect, but lovable people who spend their lives sharing the good and the bad with their family and friends, always focusing each other on what is wholesome and valuable in life.

Yes, I know there are thousands of readers out there who “say” they want what they call “realism,” but who mean they want to read books and see movies that focus on the ugly, the destructive, the deadly, the evil in this life. But during my 66 years on this earth, I’ve experienced just about all the good and bad that this life has to offer – both in people and in situations – and I can tell you that the vast majority of people who pick up a book or sit down to a movie – if they are honest – are hoping to find a little bit of a reminder that there really is something a little better than the bad they’ve experienced so far. They’re hoping that they will get a glimpse of a possible level of life that is just a little higher, a little finer, a little happier than what they see in the norm. They want to see heroes – men and women who have that special “something” that makes them just a little bit more noble, more loving, and more victorious than the mediocre that surrounds the average person 24/7.

I’ve always been aware that, as a writer, I have a choice to make: I can take people down to the lowest levels of life, where there dwells no happiness and no hope. Or I can take them up – by getting them to look up – to the highest levels of life and the possibilities of making the world a better place through how we live and love. That’s why I choose to write about heroes and heroines who are just a tiny bit larger than life because they are focused on what is good and true and lovely – and, yes – available – if we will but make up our minds to have it. I see that component coming through strongly in the books that I have read (so far) in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. That’s why I can’t seem to stop reading until I get to the last book – and I’m hoping that by then, Mr. Alexander McCall Smith will have written more.

In book # 9 of the series, The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Precious Ramotswe tells her adopted son, “We are all the same. All the same people. Bushmen, San, whatever you want to call them, and us, Batswana. White people too. Everybody. Inside us, we are exactly the same.” (Alexander McCall Smith, The Miracle at Speedy Motors, Pantheon Books, p. 35). That’s one of the main assurances the reader takes from this series. Inside us, we are all the same. That’s why it’s so easy to fall in love with the people of Botswana. Whether the reader even knows enough geography to point to the country on the map or not, he feels a kinship with its people – and thereby with all the peoples of the world – as he lives in these books.