The Spymistress

This historical novel by Jennifer Chiaverini (Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker), tell the story of  Elizabeth Van Lew, a young well to do lady of Richmond, Virginia during the turbulent Civil War. This historical figure risked her life as a Union sympathizer to pass information to Northern forces and offer aid and comfort to the wounded Union prisoners of war that lived in deplorable conditions. The author deftly tells her story and offers readers a fascinating portrait of this amazing woman. She was so well regarded by the North that when she died destitute in 1900, Massachusetts admirers arraigned for a boulder from the grounds of the Massachusetts State House to be shipped to Richmond to serve as her headstone.


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The Keeper by John G. Ives

IMAG4687   This is a breathtaking historical novel which takes place in 1899. Joshua Duell is a young man, fresh from the shores of Cuba where he fought, reluctantly, in what became know as the Spanish-American War, where he witnessed his brother’s death, which he blames on himself. His mother has recently perished in a shipwreck off Cape Cod, after attending his brother’s funeral. Devastated, Joshua takes the train to Provincetown, the tip of Cape Cod, uncertain why he is drawn to this remote place, near where his mother disappeared. He ends up joining the U.S. Life-Saving Service (a precursor to the U.S. Coast Guard), which patrols the treacherous coastline and rescues crew and passengers from shipwrecks. The work is almost unbearably hard on the body and soul, as not all people are able to be rescued. The scenes of stormy seas, physical hardship and dramatic rescues are authentically and wonderfully rendered here. Joshua finds romance (again beautifully drawn), and learns more about his mother’s mysterious fate, as well as the true meaning of friendship and loyalty.

I highly recommend this novel, there is not a false note here, which is more than I can say about many books I’ve read, even those I’ve truly enjoyed. This goes to the top of my list of favorite books this year. It is published locally (Cape Cod), and so best acquired by going to where it can be purchased for $18.95, and shipped to anywhere. The book is enhanced by the authors’ daughter’s beautiful illustrations, as well as photos and illustrations of rescues and rescuers.

Here is another inspiring illustration by Winslow Homer, The Lifeline, which plays a small part near the end of this magnificent novel.


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Susan Branch

Susan is an amazing artist who has a huge following (her ‘Girlfriends’), I had the distinct thrill of meeting her in person this past Monday at a fantastic event hosted by Titcomb’s Bookshop, at the old Town Hall (gorgeous) in historic Sandwich, Ma.

Susan’s first books were published in the 1980’s, and over the years fans of her work have faithfully collected and treasured each of her many books and her latest ‘A Fine Romance: Falling in Love With the English Countryside’ is wonderful, just packed with the beautiful illustrations that her millions of fans love, in addition this book has way more Susan, more writing (rather than the usual wonderful quotes that she usually uses with her illustrations)

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There’s Waldo! In Sandwich | SANDWICH – The most famous missing person case in literary history seemed solved Saturday by hundreds in Sandwich. “There’s Waldo!” people cried out.

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Goodreads | The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly – Reviews, Discussion, Bookclubs, Lists

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Z a Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald


by Therese Anne Fowler This is a fascinating work of fiction that brings the mysterious and enigmatic Zelda Fitzgerald to life and fleshed out a personality previously portrayed as crazy and shrewish. Zelda had talents and dreams of her own but was unable to make a name for herself as hers were always subjugated by those of her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his fragile ego feared anyone’s success over his. The author drew from archived letters from and to both F. Scott and Zelda to create this vivid and fascinating portrait.

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Time Flies by Claire Cook

time flies  When my pile of books starts looking like an avalanche of high-falutin’ literary la di da, I turn to Claire Cook for an antidote to this madness, and she never fails. If you haven’t read her books, she writes in an enjoyable, funny voice and each of her books focus on a woman who’s life has taken an unexpected turn and who may stumble and fall but always in a laugh out loud, true to life way. This one is coming, as usual in June, timed for the beach read crowd, and it will not fail to satisfy the reader. I find that ‘beach read’ books tend to be fluffy romances or funny chick books that are a bit short on funny and somewhat long on stilted writing, this is not the case with Clare Cook’s writing. We (women of a certain age) can identify with her characters, divorced  single mothers, who learn to adapt and survive by following a dream they didn’t even know they had.

In Time Flies, Melanie is newly divorced and has developed an alarming highway driving phobia. She has also become a metalwork sculptor and trying to get her quirky work out in the marketplace. She has relocated from the south shore of Massachusetts where she grew up to the suburbs of Atlanta, thanks to her ex-husband. So when her high school reunion looms and a friend won’t take no for an answer, she has to face her fears and start living. Along the way she discovers that her life is much more interesting than she thought it was as friendships are tested and the another chance at love is once more a possibility. Loved it, and I’m not just saying that because I appear in this novel’s acknowledgements thanks to a very generous Claire Cook!

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