‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ by Ruth Hogan is a gem


“The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan is that rare book that will have readers thinking and marveling about the lovely characters, events, places, and myriad mysteries of the lost items — each of which has its own story.

Laura is divorced and adrift when she responds to the advertisement for a housekeeper/personal assistant in a paper. That job, with author Anthony Peardew, changes Laura’s life. While Laura is the main character, there are many other characters whose stories and possessions fill the pages with warmth, humor and pathos. Laura’s story includes Peardew, the author whose heart was broken twice on his wedding day — once tragically when his fiancee died, and again on that day when he lost the medallion she had given him asking him to “keep it with you always,” and he had promised that he would.

But he had lost it.

That same day was to be the best day for Eunice, for it was the day when she answered an advertisement for an assistant to a publisher. On that day, she met someone who would end up changing her life.

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4-Year-Old Dog with Old Injury Desperately Needs Rescue


Update: She was pulled by rescue!!

This is a short plea for a rescue — or wealthy benefactor — to help Lady, a small, four-year-old Shih Tzu who is currently at Miami Dade Animal Services. Their vet examined her and her report shared on her Facebook page says:

“Pet presents for evaluation of an injury. She’s unable to stand in the hind end and drags her hind limbs when walking. There are large abrasions present on the dorsal surface of both hind paws. The hair coat has a strong smell of urine and the hair coat is dull and soiled. It is apparent that the inciting cause of the injures likely occurred some time ago. Absent conscious proprioception in both hind limbs with sensation present in both hind paws. Quiet, alert, responsive, and approximately 6 – 7 % dehydrated. Oral mucous membranes are pink and slightly tacky with a capillary refill time of less than 2 seconds. The abdomen is very tense during palpitation. She has a good appetite at this time. Thoracic auscultation reveals a Grade II/VI left sided heart murmur with clear lung sounds. She is a very sweet girl! Recommend transfer to rescue ASAP for further diagnostics and care. Humane euthanasia may be indicated.”

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‘Fate of Flames’ is fabulous fantasy for young adults


“Fate of Flames” by Sarah Raughley is the first book in the series “The Effigies.” It’s a story about an alternate world much like ours, but one in which evil creatures, Phantoms, have appeared to plague humankind. At the same time, four girls have suddenly gained powers that help them fight the Phantoms.

When one of the girls with the power dies, another is created — seemingly at random.The girls are called Effigies, and for obvious reasons, they become famous.

The story begins with high school student Maia, the most recent girl to receive the power. She hasn’t told anyone, even the uncle with whom she lives. Since her parents and twin sister died in a fire, Maia has had trouble making friends. She feels guilty that she lived while everyone else died. Ironically, the power she gets from the Effigy who died is the power of fire.

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‘The Odds of You and Me’ by Cecilia Galante: Gritty story of impossible love


“The Odds of You and Me” by Cecilia Galante is not a typical love story. It’s really a story about how the smallest moments, the smallest mistakes, can alter our lives in profound ways.

And that’s what happens to Bernadette, or Bird, Sincavage. Galante shares her story slowly, interspersing the past and the present to slowly pull back the covers on how the past influenced the present in ways that will surprise not only the reader, but also the main character, Bird.

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‘Daisy in Chains’ by Sharon Bolton is a marvelous thriller


“Daisy in Chains” by Sharon Bolton is a psychological thriller, murder mystery and romance. Hamish Wolfe, a doctor convicted of killing three women, is helped by Maggie Rose, a well-respected author/attorney who has gotten several convicted killers out of jail on appeal.

The reader is very aware that there is much that is off-kilter about the two main characters. Maggie Rose is mysterious, and the third-person omniscient narrator shares her thoughts, her doubts, and her obsessions. The author says:

“Every copper in the land has heard of Maggie Rose: defense barrister, true-crime author, pain-in-the-police-force’s-collective-arse, but few have met her. She doesn’t do interviews, has never released a photograph.”

For a good part of the book, Wolfe, his mother, and a group of supporters beg Rose to take his case. They truly believe he is innocent of killing the three women, but the evidence was extremely convincing that he did, indeed, do the deed.

In college, Wolfe’s girlfriend was Daisy, a very overweight girl whom he loved in spite of her girth. One night she disappeared after finding out that Wolfe’s friends targeted heavy girls in order to ridicule and film them. The three murdered women, like Daisy, were very overweight.

When Rose finally does take the case, it’s obvious that she feels a personal attraction to Wolfe. It’s understandable because he is an extremely handsome man. But the reader will sense that there is more going on. There is the mysterious person Rose talks to. There are mysterious letters to Wolfe. Rose’s house is broken into.

By the end, the reader is very aware of what the mystery is and who Rose really is. But that’s not the final twist in the story. While making the reader think that the big reveal will be who Rose really is, at the end the author pulls a fiendishly clever double switch.

The story is intriguing and well written. It’s also a difficult book to put down once begun — the author includes Rose’s draft chapters for the book she is writing about Wolfe, letters from and to Wolfe, and the story itself. It’s a wonderful choice for mystery lovers and would be a great book to discuss with a book club.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur Books for review purposes.

‘Back on Track’ is Book Two in “The Wildwater Walking Club” series by Claire Cook


Bestselling author Claire Cook‘s newest adventure — and it is an adventure — is “Back on Track,” Book Two in “The Wildwater Walking Club” series. The first book about the Wildwater Walking Club was first published in 2009, and Cook decided that it was time for these characters to take another walk together — and fly-together — to France and lavender country.

I’m sure when Cook picked this destination, it wasn’t with the idea that she could go there first to get the details of a river cruise for the book — or maybe it was. Cook takes what she learned and experienced on her trip to fill the book with details that flood the story and make it real. The reader can almost smell the fields of lavender, and many will want to grow their own lavender and make lavender wands (instructions included).

Cook explained, “I didn’t want to fake this. I’d never done a river cruise but thought it would be a good way for them to do this.”

One of the things that many readers love about some of Cook’s books are the recipes that she includes. In “Best Staged Plans,” she includes ideas about how to use Trader Joe’s food to create sumptuous meals. In this book, she includes recipes to make lavender water, lavender moisturizer, and more.

Cook also does what she excels at: She creates characters who are just like her readers. They are not young, nor are they old. They are not fabulously wealthy, nor are they poor. They each have their own insecurities — which is true of almost all of us. When her main character, Noreen, signs up to take a health coaching session (who knew that was a career?), she sees all the others have brought expensive water bottles made of stainless steel or BPA-free plastic. Noreen reflects:

“Great. My own water bottle was a disposable. Not even a hip, overpriced throwaway like Evian or Fiji or Smeraldina, but a cheap, flimsy supermarket brand. Health coach training had barely begun and already I didn’t fit in.”

Toward the end of the book, Noreen sees another couple and says,

“A couple in jeans and sunglasses walked by the ship, so close I could almost touch them from the balcony. The man reached over and twirled a lock of the woman’s long straight hair. She laughed and gave her head a flip, as if she were filming a shampoo commercial. As if he were the luckiest guy in the world to get to touch her hair. In my wildest dreams, I could never be that cool.”

But while she is saying that, she has also grown emotionally over the course of the story. At the beginning, she was in a kind-of-relationship with Rick, who had also been made redundant at her former place of employment. They met during the job counseling that the company provided for those employees. While they dated, it was not serious. Neither of them was in an emotional frame of mind to take it further.

Cook uses the health coaching classes as an instrument to include some real truths about life in this novel. Some are the same truths that she shares in her nonfiction books, “It’s Never Too Late” and “Shine On.”

Cook touches on the real and current issue of bullying. It actually becomes a twist in the story, but it’s thoughtfully done and touching. It should make every reader think about whether she’s ever done anything like that or been the victim of anything like that.


“And I remembered that health coach thing you said about the difference between a fixed mindset, when if you screw up, it means you’re a screw-up, end of story. But a growth mindset is like being in beta, where your screw-ups give you the information you need so you can fix the bugs. And I realized that if you buy into that, you don’t have to cut and run when you mess up. Or when somebody else does. You can take the lesson and grow.”

Cook reflected on this last book. She explained:

“I think that for me, as I jumped into the book, I wanted to share that we think that change is a destination, but the truth is that the backsliding happens to all of us. And that’s okay. That’s how we continue to grow. I hear from my readers, “I’m not as far along as I thought I’d be…” whether they are talking about getting in shape or a new job or finding out their passion.  They say, “I was doing so well for a while.”

Cook wanted the characters in the book to reflect that reality. “All three women slid back, and that’s normal and we should accept it. I sat in on health coach training at Emory to make sure that I had the picture. What I wrote in the book were fictional people, but the details were authentic.”

The reason fans love each one of Claire Cook’s books is that every book — fiction and nonfiction — helps readers find ideas that they can use in their lives. Whether it’s a river cruise in France or health coach training, or just learning something new, we all are growing and changing throughout our lives. And that’s wonderful. Readers always learn something from Cook’s books — about life and lifelong learning.


Enjoy the story. Learn about river cruises and lavender and health coaching. Learn that making mistakes in life just helps us grow as people. And Cook would certainly say to enjoy the journey. That’s what life is all about.