Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth

eReaders – everyone is doing it…

Dear Fellow Reader,

Do you know where you get your reading ideas? I frequently forget how I heard about a book. Sometimes they are best sellers, sometimes they are older releases that someone suggested, and sometimes they are books that came across as sale books on BookBub that sound interesting. (I receive a daily email with eBooks that are on sale. You can sign up at www.bookbub.com.)

I do remember how I came across this week’s book. It was on BookBub as a sale eBook. The description was interesting and so I followed the link and read about the book on Amazon. I was intrigued. The Grey Mask was originally published in 1928. The author is British and (I almost hate to bring this up as you may be sick of my love for mystery series.) it is the first book in a series. There are 32 books in the series and the series was written between 1928 – 1961. There are 32 (!) of these books and I have never heard of them before. I feel so dense!

Now for my next surprise. I went to see if it was available on eBook from the library. It was available but there was a line! Not a bad wait but a wait none the less. So, the book is 89 years old and there is a line of people waiting to read it. Now, I just had to read this book. After a few weeks, I received notice that I could check out the book.

There are two things that I want to tell you about the book right away. The first is that if I didn’t know the book was so old that I would not have realized it. There are a few words here and there that I was unfamiliar with but that can sometimes happen with books by British authors. These books (Okay, I have read 2 so far.) are ageless.

The other thing is that I am not sure that I have read a mystery of this style before. Miss Silver is the detective in the series. I know more about her from reading the book description than I do from reading the books. According to the description on Amazon, Miss Silver is a governess turned detective. Most of the story is told by the character who hires Miss Silver to investigate a problem. While Miss Silver has people out making inquiries and seems to have connections, the person who hires her continues to investigate on their own interspersed with meetings with Miss Silver.

Patricia Wentworth, author of Grey Mask. She was born Dora Amy Elles.

In Grey Mask, Charles Moray has returned to England after an absence of four years. He had left when Margaret, his fiancé, broke off their engagement a week before the wedding. He left without receiving an adequate explanation as to why the engagement was broken off. While he was gone, his father died and he inherited the family house. Upon his return, he went over to the house one evening and found  a clandestine meeting taking place. He eavesdropped and felt that something needed to be done about what he heard. He was reluctant to go to the police because Margaret was involved. A friend of his recommended that he see Miss Silver.

Charles finds himself more and more tangled up in the web woven by the man in the grey mask. With the help of Miss Silver, the mystery is solved.

I have enjoyed the first two books in the series. They are interesting studies of human behavior and they present interesting mysteries with not completely predictable endings.

Have you heard of these before? To me, they are an undiscovered gem.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

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Tightropes and Teetertotters by Lisa Pennington

Dear Fellow Readers,

Apparently I need to start this review off with a disclaimer. It seems that the government feels you need to know that I was given this book to review. The fact that I have been given this book to review might in some cases indicate a prejudice on my part to review the book favorably. It seems to me that either you like the book or not – and in my case, if I don’t like the book, I generally don’t review it.

I do have a prejudice. I think it is really hard to write a book and when someone works that hard and gets published, I am loath to say that a book isn’t’ very good. In my view, which is not universal, it is better to just not say anything. Since I can pick which books I review, I generally don’t review books I don’t like. Why would you want to hear about a book I didn’t like? I think it is much more fun to tell you about books I found that I like so that you have something you might want to read.

Almost enough about me…

I was asked to review this book by a group that represents Christian authors. This is the second book they have offered to me for review. Silly me, I did not realize that the books were all Christian based books. My religious/spiritual background is not the same as the authors of the books I have been asked to review. There is a strong Biblical basis for this book.  I think that even if your background is not the same as the author, that you will still find valuable insights in the book.

 

Tightropes and Teetertotters is a book to help you find balance in your life. I found the book to be interesting and I feel that it offers insights that are helpful. It is written in a conversational style with the author using examples from her life to illustrate points she is making in the book.

The book opens with a chapter on balance and what it is and then moved into a chapter explaining that the letters in “balance” will be used throughout the book to help you reach your goals.

 

Begin

 Assess

Learn

    Account

 Notify

  Change

  Endure

Her methodology is that when you find yourself out of balance, you need to begin to get yourself back in balance, figure out why you are out of balance, and then use the Bible to learn what will help you. While you are making corrections, you need to have a way to measure if your changes are working and you need to share your problem with someone so that they can hold you accountable. The last two steps are to make the change and have patience to work toward your goal.

“Asking the right questions provides learning opportunities that help us uncover what God is teaching us as well as what God is doing through us.”

The subsequent chapters each discuss an area of your life that can be out of balance and suggest ways to help make adjustments. Some of the areas include marriage, motherhood, your home, friends, money, gossiping, and moods. You could read through the entire book or just pick the section for where you feel you need help. I would suggest reading through the whole book and then keep it as a reference for when you need to visit it for guidance for a specific area of your life.

The author’s conversational tone and examples really make the book. I thought it was a little slow at the beginning but overall I enjoyed the suggestions and references. The author is the mother of 9 children so you definitely feel she has the experience to help you try to find your personal balance. She is encouraging and offers realistic expectations of what those changes can mean to your life.

“Not everyone will get on board with your new lifestyle, and that’s got to be okay with you. You don’t want to live to impress people or make them happy. You live to please God and He wants you to have financial freedom…”

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

 

 

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Cost Cutting – Another Update

It has been just about two years since I wrote about things we had done to cut costs and the things I had found out. This included cutting our attachment to cable TV, reducing the phone bill, and reducing our alarm system bill. In case you missed it, it turned out that getting the phone and alarm system bill reduced only took a call saying that I was going to drop the service and go somewhere cheaper for them to make cuts to our bill. (That was just irritating – why did I have to call to get the bills lowered if it was available so easily?)

In the meantime, we have now moved. As part of the move, we cut a bit more and found some other good deals.

CABLE TV

We still do not have cable TV. We do pay for Hulu and Sling TV. In case you are not familiar with it, Sling TV is a service that offers three packages of cable TV channels. We have a package ($20/ month) that provides ESPN and HGTV and many other channels. We subscribed so that we could watch more football games. When we subscribed, they had a deal that if you paid for three months in advance, they would send you a ROKU. We paid for three months and got the ROKU. The subscription to Sling can be dropped and restarted at any time. I fully anticipate that we will drop it outside of football season. While I was thrilled to have HGTV at first, I find that I don’t watch it now. I am not thoroughly sold on Sling. I had some problems with the audio not working from time to time. It is also very slow to load which can be irritating.

We just don’t watch TV very often anymore. We do put on the news each night and we try to watch CBS Sunday Morning. Other than that, we don’t really turn it on much. We watched some award show on Fox and saw all the commercials for their shows. We decided that we were not missing anything.

PHONE SERVICE

We switched to Vonage. It is an internet based phone system and the monthly charge is just under $19 per month. It has been fine. I don’t know that it is any better or worse than AT&T. The nice thing was that we got it right before we moved and it can go anywhere with us. You just need to plug into the internet. We could probably get rid of Vonage but honestly, I prefer to talk on a headset rather than a cell phone. The problem with it is that if the internet is out, you don’t have phone but that seems to be the same thing if you have your internet, phone, and TV bundled. Overall, that was a good monthly savings. If you would like to switch to Vonage, let me know and I will give you a referral code. I think we both get a discount.

CELL PHONE

This is my latest and greatest find. We had been with Verizon for years. In fact, we had always been with Verizon. Our phone bills went up and down depending upon how many of us there were on the account but it had gotten down to just the two of us. We had an account with two phones and 3 GB of data. Our bill (after a discount from my husband’s work) was like $141 per month. I had called and they blew me off about finding a lower cost.

If you are stuck on iPhones, then this will not work for you. We have always been android phone users. Our contract with Verizon ended in December. We were used to getting a new phone every two years and Silent Sam was having lots of problems with his phone. We needed new phones. In the past, we could get a deal on a phone on Black Friday from Amazon. We would get the newest phone for $1 and we would have a new two-year contract. As you probably know, those kinds of phone deals are gone.

We looked at Project Fi from Google. With Project Fi, you must buy one of the three phones that work on their system. After looking around, it seems that buying the phone from Google was the least expensive option. (by about $100) As with the other services, you can buy the phone outright or you can essentially finance it (interest free) over a 2-year period. Okay, so the phone set us back a fair amount. But the monthly cost is FAR more palatable. With Project fi, the first line with unlimited talk and text is $20 per month and the second line is $15. Data is $10 per GB. You pick how much you want. BUT THEN – are you ready? – if you don’t use it all, you get a rebate for the unused data. If you go over, you get charged on the $10 GB basis. Our phone service is the $20 + $15 + $10 +$10 because we each took 1 GB of data – $55 before taxes. Because of unused data, this month our bill was $44 after taxes. We are saving about $100 per month on our cell bill. We are happy with the quality of the calls and the phones. We do not have a contract with Project Fi either, so if we are unhappy we can leave.

The one thing that we didn’t know would happen is that since we use Google Hangouts for messaging, the phone calls come through on Google Hangouts also. The first time my computer started ringing, it was odd but once we knew what was going on, it was fine.

When I cancelled my Verizon account, they didn’t care. They did not try and keep a loyal customer or even ask why I was leaving. Yesterday they announced new pricing and unlimited data so that they could keep up with the competition. Guess we weren’t the only ones to leave.

Ebates

This is not quite in the same category as the others but it is my latest find. I had heard about it for years and thought it seemed too good to be true. With Ebates, they have stores that give a rebate when you shop. I have a Ebates Cash Back Button on my Chrome toolbar and if I shop at a store offering an Ebate rebate, it pops up to tell me what percentage or how much I get back for shopping there. When I joined, I got $10 for joining and starting to shop. My first check in December was for $13. Not huge but not bad for not doing anything I wasn’t doing anyway. I just got my second check. It is for $70. Now there was Christmas shopping on there and some other bigger purchases for our new house. (new desk chair, new lamps, eye glasses) Yes, I am allowing them to track my purchases. I guess I think it is done anyway so why not get paid for it. If you are interested, check out their web site.

There is also a way that you can save when shopping in person. I have not yet taken advantage of that program.

As with Vonage, if you would like to sign up, I can give you a code that will give you your $10 for signing up. I will get $25 if you signing up. This deal is available to anyone – I do not have a special deal with them.

That is the update for now. It is amazing how much we have cut from our bills in the last couple of years. I would not have thought that it would be that easy to do. Let me know any great cost cutting tips that you have found. I love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!

 

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Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

Dear Fellow Reader,

I have found a new cozy mystery series. I don’t remember how I heard of this series but I know that when went to the library to reserve the eBook that it took a long time to get it. I think I had to wait a month or so. Which tells you that either the book is popular or lots of people saw the same thing I did and got to the library site ahead of me.

The first book in the series is Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. The book takes place in England in 1932. It is the time between World War I and World War II. The narrator is Lady Georgiana, who is 34th in line for the throne. She was raised to be a proper English Lady and has come out to society but did not find a husband. Her father, the Duke of Glen Garry and Rannoch, shot himself after he lost all his money gambling. Her brother, Binky, inherited the family estate in Scotland and the house in London. The death taxes that he had to pay meant that he had to sell part of the estate and live very frugally. Binky’s wife, Fig, has convinced him the Georgie should not receive any allowance and she wants her to leave the estate in Scotland. Georgie heads off to the London house by herself. While this might sound great – she’ll get away from Fig – the problem is that she doesn’t know how to do anything. She had never even had to dress herself. She gets to London with very little money and must figure out how to live by herself and not freeze or starve in the family house.

Luckily for Georgie, her father had married a commoner. Georgie has a grandfather who lives in London. He is a retired policeman. They have a special bond and he tells her how to start fireplace fires and get the boiler running. She also has a good friend from her school days who lives in London and takes her out to some parties.

A man comes to the door one day looking for Binky. The man claims that the dead Duke had gambled away the London house and that he has the paperwork to prove it. Binky comes up to meet the man and engage a solicitor. Georgie then finds the man dead in her bathtub. She knows that Binky could not have killed him but who did? She doesn’t trust the police – they seem sure it had to be Binky.

As I said, this is the first book in a series. There are currently 10 books in the series with number 11 coming out in August. I was not totally thrilled with the first book. I do think that it serves the purpose of setting the stage for all the other books. In this book, you get to meet the main characters and you get to know Georgie. The mystery part is a bit light and if being able to determine “who did it” ruins the book for you, you might be disappointed. With this being said, I am now reading book #6 in the series (The Twelve Clues of Christmas) and I feel that they have gotten better each book. Can you read the books out of sequence? I think you can because there is usually an introduction to the characters in the first chapter but I think you will get a better feel for the story if you start with the first book.

Ah, a fireplace, comfy couch, a cup of tea, and a book…..

If you are a fan of reading cozy mysteries and reading mystery series books, I think these will be right up your alley. I have been enjoying them. They are fairly quick reads and Georgie is a fun narrator.

The author of the Her Royal Spyness series, Rhys Bowen,  also has three other series – the Molly Murphy series and the Evan Evans series and the Red Dragon Academy series.  I have not read any of those books.  Rhys Bowen is the pen name of  Janet Quin-Harkin. She has won numberous awards for her writing.  You can find out more about her at her author website.

Happy Valentine’s day a little early!

(Okay, here is the part that if you click on the links below that I can make a penny or two from Amazon.  I have still not made any money from the affiliate referral program.)

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What Can You Change in a Year?

 

Hello Fellow Reader!

I decided in January to try a 100-day challenge. I had heard about 100 day challenges a few years ago. The idea is that you use 100 days to master something. It could be something that you want to learn how to do or use the time to start a habit. You are supposed to commit and then do a SHORT video of you doing your activity every day for the 100 days. This way you could see the changes that you have made from the first day to the 100th day. I decided that my challenge would be to NOT SHOP.  I felt I needed to call a halt to mindless shopping. I have plenty of clothes. (I have spent the last year cleaning out and clothing took several rounds to get it down to where it is today.) My other not surprising mindless purchasing is – can you guess? – books. Yes, I get the emails everyday with sale books and I will usually buy a couple a week. Okay, they are generally $1.99 or $0.99 but still I didn’t need to do it. I did make two exceptions. I can get personal items like toothpaste and I can buy gifts. The main idea is not to buy much.

So far, it is going well. I had been looking at a lamp for months waiting for it to go on sale. It still has not gone on sale but I needed a lamp and so I did finally order it. I don’t consider that a mindless purchase. I still catch myself doing some mindless looking from time to time. My hope is that by April 14, I won’t be doing that any longer.

Last month I talked about reading challenges. While I think that Warren Buffett’s idea of reading 500 pages a day is interesting, I don’t think it is feasible for me. I just need to do other things sometimes. (Pinterest and knitting come to mind.)  I did make progress on my Goodreads goal this month. I read 5 books in January. If I keep this up, I should have no trouble making the goal of 55 books this year. We are going on vacation for a week soon and I am hoping that I will read more books in February.

One of the January books I read is MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche. Rachel moves to Chicago to finally be in the same zip code with her boyfriend who shortly afterwards becomes her husband. She finds that she sorely misses having a best friend in Chicago. She had friends in New York that she had been friends with forever and could call anytime to get together or to re-hash the day’s events. She decides that she will spend a year finding a new best friend. Her nature is to be quiet and not overly friendly with strangers. She sets a goal of going on one “girl date” per week or 52 for the year. At first, she connects with friends of friends who live in the Chicago area. As she gets more comfortable going out to find a friend, she feels more comfortable suggesting to women she meets that they get together. She joins some groups to find friends. Her husband is supportive of this because he doesn’t want to listen to her complain about not having a BFF in Chicago.

Admittedly this book appealed to me on the surface because I feel that I am in the same place as Rachel. I had head of this book a few years ago when it came out and I was happy to run across it again. The book was interesting and without telling too much, she was successful in finding friends. She did find out a lot about herself over the year and she made some personal changes. She did research about friendship and shares that information throughout the book. I personally could use about half the information that she gave. I got a little tired of hearing about the theories. Also, it took me what seemed like forever to read this book. I thought the plot moved along well but it was a slow read. You might not want this at the top of your TBR pile but if you feel you need to expand your friendship circle, you might learn a few things from Rachel.

This was also the third “commit for a year to something” book I have read lately. The first was My Year with Eleanor, followed by The Year of Yes, and then this book. I might be feeling that that “year of” theme is running a bit thin with me. I did really like the first two books. If you missed my review of Shonda Rhimes book, you can use this link to The Year of Yes. I also really enjoyed My Year with Eleanor. In My Year with Eleanor, Noelle Hancock takes the quote from Eleanor Roosevelt “Do one thing every day that scares you” and applies it to her life for a year. I thought the author’s choices were interesting and in some cases brave. The book moved at a good pace. She also included facts about Eleanor Roosevelt’s life throughout the book. I found both Eleanor and Noelle interesting!

Have a great weekend!

Thanks for reading.

The following are links if you are interested in purchasing the books listed above.  As usual, it is possible that I could make a few pennies if you buy the books using these links. Seriously, I have still not made one penny.  Yes, I must be doing something wrong.  Oh well as long as you read I am happy.  

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