Book Review: The Butterfly Conspiracy by Vivian Conroy


The Butterfly Conspiracy is a historical mystery with the undertone of an adventure novel.

Miss Merula Merriweather is different from other girls. She has an unconventional family life, not knowing what became of her real parents or who they were. She isn’t the prettiest of ladies, relying on a spotless reputation to secure her future. She puts that spotless future in danger by pursuing her passion: zoology.

Merula has a special interest in butterflies. Her uncle allows her to use the greenhouse as a place to raise imported creatures from their cocoons. She has an impressive collection of butterflies, but one of them—the largest—is her pride and joy. She has raised it and seen it hatch, and makes the decision to let it out during a zoological lecture.

When Merula’s prize butterfly lands on a wealthy woman’s arm, the woman dies immediately. Blame is placed on the insect, which is killed by the butler. It was heartbreaking to read about Merula’s butterfly being disposed of mercilessly, but under the circumstances, what else could they think to do?

Lord Raven Royston was present during the scene at the lecture. He knows that Merula’s butterfly was not the cause of the death, and he wants to bring justice. He helps her rescue the last cocoon of her butterfly species, escaping a greenhouse that has been set on fire. He introduces her to a chemist friend who collects bizarre creatures such as scorpions and giant spiders. When it becomes clear that police are after her, he gives her shelter at the home he hasn’t visited in twenty years.

Merula and Raven are a great team. She isn’t the fainting sort—after all, she worked with insects for fun—and does well under pressure. He is a deep thinker and willing to try explanations that seem absurd. Together, they work out what happened to the woman. If the butterfly did not kill her, and Merula insists it isn’t venomous, what did?

Rarely do I come across a book and realize from the blurb alone that I need to read it. This was the case with The Butterfly Conspiracy; I cheated my October reading list in order to devour the mystery. The characters are very well developed, the mystery seamless, and the ending satisfying.

There is even an air of steampunk to the world described here—I was waiting for the mechanic creatures to come out!

I had already found a great mystery series in the Lady Hardcastle books, but now I will be looking out for these books too. If you want to try a new mystery series, or if you like visits back in time, The Butterfly Conspiracy is a great book!

What I’m Reading In October


October is my favorite month. Halloween is a fantastic time; we’re allowed to immerse ourselves in ancient legends, dress up as our favorite creatures, and binge on leftover candy.

There is so much more to October—leaves fall and make the grass into a golden carpet, while the air is filled with the aroma of fireplace hearths.

The cold weather makes October a perfect time for reading. While September has warm days left over from summer, October is the beginning of our land’s slumber.

Have you chosen your reading list yet? I made a list of books I wanted to read in September and came through with almost all of them (I’m struggling with Stonehenge).

I’ve made a new list for October. Here it is!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Last year I read the Green Gables series for the first time, all eight books in perfect order. It was worth the wait; if I had read these books earlier in life, I might not have appreciated the themes of love, poetry, and hope that Montgomery wove into the stories.

I don’t know if I can dedicate myself to the full series again. However, I will be reading Anne of Green Gables, because I need that redhead in my life as the world outside becomes crisp!

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Medicine in the eighteenth century is a fascinating, terrifying thing. What was considered a cure could only make you sicker; the solution to an ailment would make said ailment worse.

Dr. Mütter’s Marvels is the biography of a doctor who had to go through with the worst procedures in order to progress in his career. His work left behind a museum of oddities that makes the skin crawl.

Isn’t this a perfect Halloween read?

Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories

A Christmas Carol is a ghost story that everybody in the world has read, heard, or seen. What a lot of people don’t know is that Dickens wrote other ghost stories. I am sure they’re all just as good!

This collection has all twenty of Charles Dickens’ ghost stories in one volume—or, in my case, eBook. Dickens being my favorite author, I am eager to explore more of his spooky prose, meeting more characters.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I’ve resolved to read a classic and an old favorite every month. Wuthering Heights is a great choice for the darkening days of October.

I have a nice, cloth-bound copy of Wuthering Heights I got when I first read and enjoyed the story. This will be my chance to smell the pages of that book and meet the characters once more.

I admit that part of my interest in reading Wuthering Heights is because it is mentioned in my favorite September read, The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood. Isn’t it wonderful when a classic is referenced in another book?

Death Around The Bend by T. E. Kinsey

Lady Hardcastle has become my new obsession. I was looking for a series to obsess over; I found it in these clever mystery books. After the amazing way T. E. Kinsey ended the previous book (what a great use of spiritualism to solve a mystery!) I am ready for Lady Hardcastle and Flo’s next adventure.

In the previous book, Lady Hardcastle purchased a car which she intends to drive on her own. Surely this will create great comic moments. Lady Hardcastle on her feet is good enough; imagine her driving in a motor vehicle—without a chauffeur!


What are you reading this month? Do you arrange your to-read pile based on the seasons, or do you prefer to read on a whim? It’s a bit of both for me; I have some spooky options as well as classics in this list.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

5 Intriguing Facts About Bram Stoker


If you’ve noticed that my blog’s been a bit slow, I have a good reason. I said that I would be reading Dracula in September. Dracula has long been my favorite book, though it had been a while since my last read. I had forgotten a lot of the details that make it great.

I decided to reread it after almost a decade, and felt as if I were opening a new book. When a long time passes between rereads, you forget enough about a story for surprises become fresh as ever.

I finished two days ago and have been mulling over how well-written it is. ‘Composed’ in the form of letters and diary entries, it pulls you in. Being told from the viewpoint of the frightened heroes, it helps you share in the fright.

Here are five intriguing facts about Bram Stoker, creator of the most famous vampire in history.

He Wrote Other Books

I admit sheepishly to having been surprised when, surfing on Amazon, I found other books that Bram Stoker had written. Dracula overshadows them, but I am excited to explore some of his other titles.

These include The Jewel of Seven Stars, which is a book about a mummy’s curse, and The Lair of the White Worm, about a giant white worm that can turn itself into a woman.

Portrait of Bram Stoker

He Was A Sickly Child

Bram Stoker suffered from a mysterious illness when he was a child that left him bedridden for long periods of time. Not much is known about this illness, but it seemed to clear up when he was seven years old.

One has to wonder if some of the horror stories Bram Stoker came up with originated during these periods he spent bedbound.

He Worked At Dublin Castle

Bram Stoker worked at Dublin Castle as a clerk during his time at university. When I learned this, I wondered how much this job would have influenced his descriptions of Castle Dracula later on.

After all, is this not the writer’s dream? Especially a writer of Gothic fiction! I can’t imagine that time in a castle wouldn’t have molded the stories he would pen.

Dublin Castle (Source)

Dracula Was Inspired By A Dream

Any author knows that dreams can give us the most bizarre ideas for stories. Whatever we come up with in the waking hours doesn’t stand a chance against what we do in slumber.

Bram Stoker claimed that his most famous book, Dracula, was inspired by a blood-sucker in a dream. He blamed the dream on a ‘too-generous helping of dressed crab at supper.’ Fans of gothic and horror literature can be thankful that the crab supper was so generous!

He Was Walt Whitman’s Fan

Bram Stoker sent fan mail to Walt Whitman. He was impressed by Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, which he came across during his college years. The collection of poetry was controversial for its experimental style; this seems to have been the reason why Stoker was impressed by it.

In 1872 he wrote Whitman a 2000-word letter expressing his enthusiasm for Leaves of Grass and hoping that one day the two of them could be friends. They met three times after this, forming a friendship based on common interest in philosophy, theater, and literature.


Bram Stoker was a fascinating man, just the person to write a novel enthralling as Dracula. There is much more to be known about him, so I will be doing my research—if I’m not lost in one of his other novels!

On a side note, I have been writing again! It’s a historical romance, and I wrote 11k in about 2 days without meaning to. If there are any more pauses between posts, the reason is that I am writing a work of my own that I hope will have fans one day.

Forgive these pauses; I hope that one day you’ll read Tessa’s story and enjoy it as much as I love writing it!

Update: Books I’m Reading In September


I can’t believe we are halfway through with September! I posted a list of books I was going to read in September, and I’m going to update you that. Some books I have read as planned, others are taking more time, and more crept in because my bibliophile self could not stick to the plan.

Stonehenge: A New Understanding is taking me the longest to read. I can’t quite name why—I bought it because I am interested in Stonehenge and its history, but the way that it is told in this book is slow and rather dry. Perhaps a person who is interested in obscure archaeological details would enjoy it more.

I am still going to finish it one day, but as it is, I’m reading a chapter at a time. I don’t want to speed-read something I don’t like and forget all about it. There is valuable information to be found in this book, but I’ve enjoyed other history books that were far more gripping.

I’ve read half of Dracula. At once upon starting, I remembered why it was my favorite book ten years ago. The book manages to be frightening without the notorious jump-scare that has invaded modern books and movies. You’re able to soak in the mystery. When they are frightened, so are you. I’m thinking that I’ll read the second half of Dracula in October.

As an aside, I’m reading the paper copy I enjoyed as a teenager; holding the pages is a great comfort!

Now, for the books I have finished so far in September:

In The Market For Murder by T. E. Kinsey

Oh, Lady Hardcastle! I think of this series and feel a thrill. Not since Harry Potter have I found a set of characters I am so fond of! In The Market For Murder can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, though I recommend you read the first installment so that you can appreciate why these characters are so great.

Lady Hardcastle and her ladies-maid Flo are not sit-on-your-hands Downton types who avoid trouble (or murder). In book one it is hinted that Lady Hardcastle and Flo were stranded somewhere in Asia where they escaped murderers, a deserted island, and other such atrocities after Lord Hardcastle’s death.

The first book, called A Quiet Life In The Country, is exactly that: Lady Hardcastle’s attempt to be a proper lady and find a quiet life in the country. There is murder in the country as well, disrupting her plans.

Lady Hardcastle and Flo are not damsels in distress. In book one, there is a scene where a drunken man touches Flo inappropriately. She ‘accidentally’ trips on the recently waxed floor and ‘accidentally’ hits him in the groin with her elbow. Then she warns him to be careful or she might ‘accidentally’ hit him again.

Read this series on purpose. You need these heroines in your life.

The Particular Charm Of Miss Jane Austen by Ada Bright & Cass Grafton

What would become of the world if Jane Austen had never written her books? What would a bookstore look like without Pride and Prejudice, in all its different editions, entire shelves? This comedy/romance, the first of a duo of books, insists that life without Mr. Darcy would be tragic.

The character of Jane in this book has the ability to travel in time. She is enjoying the costumes, tributes, and merriment at the annual Jane Austen festival in Bath, one of the cities where she once lived, when the necklace that lets her travel in time is lost.

Following its loss, her work disappears. There is no longer a Jane Austen festival. The main character, Rose Wallace, is frantic that she will never read about Mr. Darcy’s dysfunctional courtship again.

This book is a comedy, so I try not to be cynical that Rose’s first worry is not about Jane Austen being trapped in a century not her own. Instead, she’s going berserk about the fact that Mr. Wickham is no more.

I often wanted to scream at Rose that she was being a selfish entitled little—er, bookworm.

Because of all of these things, the book is hilarious. It’s a great twist on Jane Austen fan fiction, and it’s well worth the read. I won’t soon forget it!

The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood

I have just finished reading The Hidden People today. I might have written this update post because I needed a space to gush. The book is often compared to my other all-time favorite, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and rightly so. The setting is impeccable; I have literally had a dream in which I was staying at a bleak house exactly like the one described in Littlewood’s book.

It’s the second book that influenced my dream world with its magical setting and description. The first book to do so was Piranesi; I’ll talk about that sometime soon!

Halfoak is a little village in the English countryside where the people swear that Changelings are not only real, but they live in an oddly shaped hill and steal children. When main character Alfie’s cousin Lizzie is killed on suspicion of being a Changeling, he goes to investigate this murder and ensure that she is given a Christian funeral—which few of the superstitious villagers attend.

The magic in this book is that the ending doesn’t steal the wonder. Was it all a result of the villagers’ superstition, or are there really Changelings in Halfoak stealing children and corrupting wives?

It is not a happy ending for Alfie, but I consider it happy that the reader can ask themselves while unable to sleep, Could it be?


The Hidden People is a perfect Halloween read if you need something a bit lighter than Dracula. It’s also good for people who like fairy stories.

All of these books are ‘family friendly,’ though Littlewood’s book is Gothic and that is the magic of it. In The Market For Murder is a cozy mystery; there is a crime committed, but you spend more time laughing at Lady Hardcastle’s antics than dreading pools of blood. Miss Jane Austen is pure fun—if you want a light read, this is it!

What have you read this month? Please tell me!

Bullet Journaling for Readers


I’ve kept journals for as long as I’ve been able to write! It’s satisfying to put my thoughts into an elegant notebook. By sheer persistence I filled a shelf with notebooks of all sizes and colors. Flipping through the pages, I encounter myself in different stages of my life. These can be difficult times, calm times, creative times.

Since my journals tend to be wordy, it took me a while to get the hang of bullet journaling. It did not seem a good fit, considering the details I’m used to recording. Something changed this year. Perhaps it was the sense that, with the pandemic, it’s been a dull world; this pushed me to try new things.

I wanted to use colorful marker pens; I wanted to draw and use washi tape. Keeping a traditional diary is therapeutic, but the bullet journal gave me a way to learn new skills.

I’m still getting the hang of it; my journal is nothing close to the things you see on Pinterest! I have found some fun ways to use it as a reading journal. As I figure out which methods work for me, I’ll share them with you.

The Bookshelf Drawing

Source: britishbookart on Etsy

I have to admit that the popular practice of drawing books to represent the real shelf is what attracted me to this form of diary.

I’ve seen really creative shelf sketches with bears, flower pots, and paintings on a shelf. My shelf drawing was much plainer. I still enjoy filling in the colors of book spines when I finish reading them!

If you’re not an artist but want to have a reading tracker, I found this excellent print on Etsy! Isn’t it adorable? It’s full of color and personality; seller britishbookart is very talented!

Genre Tracker

What is the ratio of genres that I enjoy? Do I read more Mystery than Romance? As a writer, I would find it useful to see which genre I ‘know’ most about—it’d help me find my strengths and craft better stories.

Bullet journaling offers a great way to track habits such as study time, outdoor time, or tracking the glasses of water taken daily. In a like manner, I’ve made a genre tracker.

I keep my genres general—Romance, Mystery, Self-Help. Under Mystery I gather all of the “subgenres” like historical mystery or murder mystery, making the tracker quite simple. According to my BuJo right now, right now I’m I enjoying Mystery and Romance more than Fantasy–but that could always change!

Quote Collection

Source: She Doodles on Instagram

Goodreads is a great place to save your favorite quotes from books, but my eyes are really sensitive to light. Unless I’m writing or blogging, I try to avoid computer screens; my phone light is really low.

For this reason, I prefer to keep my quotes on a page I can read comfortably.

You can make a “quote dump” page to gather these words of wisdom, or record them on the “sidebars” of your daily spreads. I’ve done a bit of both!

I’m crazy about this spread by She Doodles on Instagram; they can be used for words of encouragement, but also to keep track of quotes. It’s minimalist but catches the eye!

Cover Collage

For the same reason stated above—my eyes are sensitive to light—I don’t use Goodreads to keep track of books.

Considering all of the eBooks on my Kindle, it’s easy for me to lose track of what I have to read when I can’t see them visually!

I printed out the covers of books I haven’t read yet and glued them into my bullet journal, trying to sort them by genre. I have my section on nature books, mystery/thriller, classics…it’s a bit of work, but when you see the books collected, the work is worthwhile!

Here’s a glimpse into my own journal! You can tell I’m a fan of historical romance!

Book Reviews

I don’t post all of my reviews online, but I read quite a bit. I want to record my thoughts on each book so that I can reflect on them later. I reserved several pages in my BuJo with blue “tabs” on the edge. That way, I can easily find my personal book reviews.

It’s nothing special—I note the title, the day I finished reading, and up to three paragraphs of reflections. These are useful, because my reviews help me revisit them!


There are other fun ways to use a BuJo for reading. I’m eager to learn more as I continue this wonderful hobby! If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them!

The Tragic Life of L.M. Montgomery


I often find authors’ lives more fascinating than the novels they write. I’ve written posts about Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott; in the process, I discovered there was more to these ladies than happy endings.

To make it as a writer all those years ago, you needed resilience and character—especially if you were female. Women so feared the ill repute of being a writer that they used pen names.

L.M. Montgomery, writer of Anne of Green Gables, is a woman whose life was not what I had expected. Her life was marred by tragedy, yet she pressed on with her books.

Here are five facts about L.M. Montgomery.

She Didn’t Like Her Name

An author is often connected to their character in personal ways. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne begs Marilla to call her Cordelia. She does not like her name, which is actually Ann, to which she added the e at the end.

L.M. Montgomery did not like her name, either. It was Lucy, but she always preferred to be called Maud—without the e, ironically. She combined these names in her pen name. In her journal she wrote, “I never liked Lucy as a name. I always liked Maud—spelled not ‘with an e’ if you please.”

Here we have a woman who took a pen name, not because she was afraid of what society would think, but because she didn’t like her name!

Her Family Wasn’t Supportive

One thing that doesn’t change over time is how writing is seldom considered a ‘productive’ career. I am fortunate to have a supportive family for my work, but I have many friends who don’t. L.M. Montgomery didn’t, either.

Montgomery’s family thought so disdainfully of her writing that she resorted to working at night by the flickering light of a candle. She did not let their opinions dissuade her from pursuing her passion, for which we are all grateful.

This passage from Lantern Hill is telling: “I struggled on alone, in secrecy and silence. I never told my ambitions and efforts and failures to any one. Down, deep down, under all discouragement and rebuff, I knew I would ‘arrive’ some day.”

Anne Was Inspired By An Old Journal

Many authors keep journals in which they store ideas. So did Montgomery. She was paging through one of her old notebooks when she came across a note she made a decade before: “Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them.”

Montgomery breathed life into her old idea. Her intention was to write it as a serial and submit it to a newspaper, but things did not go as she planned, and Anne took on life as a novel.

Her manuscript for Anne of Green Gables was rejected by every publisher she sent it to, so she put it away in a hatbox for a while. In 1908 she gave Anne another chance, and the book was published.

No Stranger To Tragedy

Montgomery was among the hundreds who caught the Spanish Flu in 1918. Though she survived and went on to write novels, she lost her best friend Frederica Campbell MacFarlane to the illness.

The Spanish Flu was one of many dark times she survived. She also lived through the First and Second World Wars. Every writer and artist knows how tragedy affects our stories.

L.M. Montgomery used her writing to cope with the darkness of war. This is evident in Rilla of Ingleside, my personal favorite in the series. We think of Anne’s world as one of comfort and meadows; in this book Anne’s family is torn apart by war.

She Had A Dark End

On April 24, 1942, L.M. Montgomery died in her Toronto home. Her body was laid to rest in her beloved Prince Edward Island, and a wake was had at the Green Gables House. The certificate blamed her death on coronary thrombosis, but that was not the end of the story.

In 2008, Montgomery’s granddaughter revealed a shocking truth. She believed that her grandmother had not died of thrombosis; she had ended her own life with a drug overdose. The beloved author had left a note apologizing to her family for what she was going to do.

The family decided to reveal this in 2008 to open up dialogue about mental health. It’s important to talk about our struggles, because life has no shortage of challenges to throw us. We should never feel alone.


L.M. Montgomery and her character Anne Shirley hold beloved places in our hearts. I did not read her books until last year; her description and storytelling made me believe in magic. If you want to see these stories from a different angle, learn more about the creator of Anne Shirley.

Are you doing Annetober this year? It’s a challenge in which we read the Anne books in the month of October. I did it last year (reviewing each as I finished) and might try again this year.

In my opinion, there is no better time to read about Anne than in the fall, when the leaves make golden carpets on the grass!

Books I’m Reading in September


Autumn is kicking in—the best time to get reading done! Chilly weather, a cup of tea, and a warm blanket set the mood, making your journey into a story somehow more tangible. As the world outside begins to settle into its slumber, we find in the pages of books a way by which we can live even more.

Do you know what you’re reading this month? My September TBR includes:

Stonehenge: A New Understanding by Mike Parker Pearson

I started reading this in late August. It’s not the sort of thing to speed-read; you’d lose a lot of interesting information! I’ve been interested in Stonehenge since I was very young, but the shows on television—at least at the time—seemed to focus on the ‘spooky’ reputation Stonehenge has, especially around Halloween.

While I love ghost stories, in this case it is more interesting to learn about the archaeological aspect of Stonehenge. With October near, I get the best of both worlds this year!

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I want to make two resolutions: First, to read a classic every month. I keep meaning to read all of the best known classics but keep getting distracted. Second, to reread a favorite every month. Dracula falls into both of those categories. I’ve read it twice and enjoyed both times; this was almost a decade ago, so I’d be going into it now almost as if it were a new book.

C.S. Lewis said, ‘I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.’ While it’s true that there are many books to read, I’d like to revisit some favorites and remember why they’re favorites. Dracula is also fitting for the season!

Meadowlands by Elizabeth Jeffrey

I’ve become a big fan of historical fiction. It’s the genre lean to when writing. Though I’ve dabbled a bit in mystery/crime fiction, it doesn’t come naturally. Investigating the fine points of crime is not as fun as researching the past!

Meadowlands by Elizabeth Jeffrey is one of the books I most look forward to. It’s set during the years of WWI and was in a list of books to read if you enjoy Downton Abbey (which I do—I’ve been rewatching the first season and it never gets old!)

In the Market for Murder by T.E. Kinsey

I read A Quiet Life in the Country, the first Lady Hardcastle mystery, last month. The clever characters and witty writing style has me hooked! Combining mystery with historical fiction, it’s perfect–those are the two things I enjoy most in a book!

If you’re looking for a good series to get hooked on, I’m a huge fan of Lady Hardcastle and plan to read all of the books!


What are you reading this month? Do you have any go-to books that set the mood for Halloween? Let me know in the comments!

Paper or eBook? THE STORYTELLING ANIMAL by Jonathan Gottschall


Is the paper book becoming extinct?

This is a question that keeps surfacing, and it divides the community of readers in a manner that is not always pleasant. Debates rise that are unfriendly in nature. If you say that you prefer eBooks or audiobooks, someone feels the need to be judgmental.

We need to remember what a story really is. A story isn’t confined to paper, or an audiobook’s voice, or the screen of your Kindle. A story is something else difficult to describe, and we don’t do it justice by saying it belongs on paper alone.

Are we addicted to books, or to the stories recorded on pages? When the cliche Kindle-versus-paper-book debate surfaces, how many of us stop to think that it is not the paper which keeps us entertained, but the words on it?

The Storytelling Animal is a short book about our natural addiction to fiction, to the escape we have craved for centuries. Gottschall reminds us that, as our world changes, we find stories in different forms.

His insight was fascinating, and it made me question why so many of us participate in the Kindle-versus-paper debate at all. Some like to collect paper books (I’m certainly one of them) but if I can find the story I want on my Kindle for a smaller price, I won’t say no to that. 

It’s the story that eases the banality of day-to-day life. It isn’t paper that plays a story like television screens do, but my own imagination.

Ancient cultures told stories orally. Generations memorized them and passed them down. Now they may be found recorded in books, but were they not stories when they were spoken to attentive crowds? Consider epics like Beowulf; they were not written but spoken by bards. Are they disqualified from being called stories because they did not originate on paper?

One chapter spoke about dreams, how our brains are never through telling stories, even when we sleep. In dreams, the mind goes to a place where bizarre things are ordinary. Later we remember snatches of what we have dreamt, and only in this waking hour do any of these things seem odd, because in the dream it was quite natural.

I’ve always been of the opinion that what humans want is the story. We like to see the titles on our shelves grow; there is certainly satisfaction in watching the line of black Penguin classics increase. What we will carry with us when we aren’t reading are the scenes we visited, the words of poetry planted into our memories like wildflowers.

This doesn’t take the excellence from the paperback or leatherbound book–it only reminds us of what our memories can do. We don’t need to hold paper in our hands to revisit a place we loved. 

The stories that capture our imaginations will live in us after we finish reading. I sometimes wonder what plotline I’ll revisit in my final hours. Will my tired mind wander to a Jane Austen romance, or will it echo verses of poetry?

The eBook did strike a pet peeve when it ended at 60%, only to be followed by promotional features. I wanted more insight on the nature of story and how it affects us as humans. When 40% of a book is promotional, you feel cheated and rather mocked. This book is, therefore, very short.

I enjoyed reading it, but I hope that the paper edition is not like this!

Your Favorite Author?


It takes a while to discover which authors you might call ‘favorites.’ I, for one, tend to bounce from book to book, rarely lingering on a single author unless they wrote classics.

Charles Dickens has been a favorite author of mine from the start—I read A Christmas Carol every Christmas Eve!—but apart from him, I have never thought, “I need to read all the books this person wrote.” There are too many to choose from, I think, to not allow room to explore.

shelf above: Agatha Christie & history (mostly European); below, historical fiction and women writers I enjoy

At last, however, I have found some authors who—while I hesitate to call them favorites—I would want to read their books over and over. It’s their writing style; it’s the way they build the worlds in their novels.

Why don’t I call them favorites? I don’t know; I’ve always had an easier time picking favorite novels than favorite authors. After all, an author might have one really great book, while their others are mediocre; I still like them, but are they a favorite?

Have you ever grappled with the question of a favorite author? I would love to hear if you settled on one, and if so, what you love most about them!

Featured is a photo of a shelf with some of the authors I would read again. (There are more, but their books are on my Kindle!)

Review: Anne of Ingleside


My journey through Annetober took me from Anne’s House of Dreams to Anne of Ingleside, the fifth book in the beloved series by L.M. Montgomery.

This book differs from the first because it focuses on the Blythe children–Jem, Walter, Shirley, Diana, Anne, and newborn Rilla. (If you hadn’t caught on yet, Rilla is short for Marilla, who certainly is deserving of a child to be named after her!) Ingleside was the second home that Anne and Gilbert lived in after their marriage, and it is where they stayed to raise their loving family.

This chronicle of Anne’s life allows us to laugh and cry over the years when their children are still young enough to get into trouble. With a big family like theirs, there’s always trouble to get into. We are delighted whenever one of the Blythe children finds themself in an awkward spot; it’s a comical way for them to learn a lesson–and for readers to learn it, too.

I was impressed at the distinct personalities each of the children have. Jem is a soldier trapped in a child’s body, ready to fight but too small to fight any real battles. Walter is a dreamer, very much like his mother was in the first book, and I could relate to his sensitive ways. Diana struggles to make friends, and for a while is insecure enough to associate with anyone at school, no matter the trouble it might bring about.

Having by now finished the series, I am doubly impressed that these personalities matured consistently. Walter will not suddenly stop being a dreamer when he’s a young man; Jem is still ready to fight. That is a post for another day, though.

Gilbert Blythe shone in this book. He is a hard-working doctor, well-respected in the community, often losing sleep to go and see a patient. In this book, Anne’s dreams seemed to move aside so that we could have a better view of him. At last we can appreciate Gilbert’s accomplishments, seeing him for the intelligent and responsible man he is. While I had already admired him, I appreciated that Montgomery gave him a spot of more importance.

As for Anne, she is happy to run her house, already having spent so much time as a schoolteacher. If you remember that Anne and Gilbert both were the best students at their schools, you might think that Montgomery was giving us a chance to appreciate Gilbert’s good grades as well as Anne’s.

Like in the other books, you’ll find plenty of fascinating characters in Anne of Ingleside. Susan the housekeeper, in particular, was my favorite. She’s a great help to Anne with the children, more of an aunt or beloved nanny than a housekeeper. Her wisdom helps the family out of many scrapes, and she has some lines that made me chuckle. Susan has a solution for everything.

My favorite scenes in this novel were those of forgiveness. When Jem discovers that the pearl necklace he bought his mother was fake, he thinks he has done a great wrong; he begs her to forgive him for having fooled her into thinking they were real, but mothers always know best. Anne assures him that the effort he made to save up for that pearl necklace made it worth more than a handful of real pearls.

I also loved how Anne and Gilbert settled a disagreement, towards the end of the book. With age come new worries and stresses. Gilbert is busy with work, and Anne has begun to notice in herself signs of aging–her red hair turning silver, her energy no longer what it used to be. It has lowered her spirits enough that she and Gilbert have a misunderstanding. We discover in the end that their love is still young and full of spirit. I think this scene was meant to remind us readers that we should always tell a person how we feel about them, because when life becomes a challenge, kind words do help.

The storytelling in this whole series is magnificent. We meet and say farewell to characters in such a natural manner that we could almost reminisce on them as people we actually knew in real life. They are so vivid that we can stop in a moment of distraction and think, “Hmm, I wonder what happened to Captain Jim?” or “What’s new with Susan?” This is the sort of story that beats time; it wins hearts of readers for generations, and it takes great skill to create such a world.

I am nostalgic for such a world. I can easily imagine that these places–Green Gables, Ingleside, the House of Dreams–do exist in some dimension we can only access in between book covers. I am nostalgic for a world where people spoke in person, built things with their hands, valued the concept of a loving family, and passed traditions on to their children. 

The Internet connects us with friends, which is wonderful, but we lost so many valuable talents–such as the ability to make our own clothing, or to enjoy the silence during a beautiful sunset, or to value gifts like Jem’s necklace. It is fortunate that books like these keep such powerful, warm places alive for us today.

In the next book, Rainbow Valley, Anne is no longer the main character. It focuses on her children as they grow into adolescents–and make more mistakes. The Blythe family is flourishing, and they invite us to join them in their play through the book; I will post my thoughts on it next week.