Remarkable Reads for 2018, Part Three

I read four more books this month, so I’m still on track for reaching my Goodreads goal of 50 for this year. All were enjoyable reads.


Snow&7TeensSnow and the Seven Teenagers by Julia Keanini
(Book Two in Second Chance Fairy Tales series.)

Julia is a member of one of the Author Promo groups on Facebook, and this book was offered free for one day last month. Snow is a widow with twin boys. Grayson Prince is an heir to a big company (although I don’t remember reading what sort of company it is). He coaches a soccer team the boys play on. When the team is broken up by a powerful parent with a grudge, Snow saves the day because she’s taken in her sister’s five boys for the summer, and they just happen to all play soccer. I enjoyed this story despite a few minor editing issues, and hope to read others in the series. Both Snow and Grayson are fighting ghosts from their pasts, and they help each other deal with them while guiding the boys through the summer soccer season.


SpinsterSpinster by Suzanne G. Rogers

When Suzanne announced a sale on some of her books, I was surprised to see a title I hadn’t yet read, so I hurried to remedy the situation. Like all Suzanne’s historical romances,  Spinster immediately drew me in, and I finished reading it in one day – when I should have been doing other work. Suzanne’s stories are so compelling that I have to make deals with myself – if I finish this one task, I can read another chapter. Anyway, this is the story of a Clare, who’s been rudely jilted by her fiancé. She decides to go off on her own to the cottage her grandmother bequeathed to her and make a life for herself. She promptly meets her neighbor, Meriweather Holcroft, under less than ideal circumstances, but as time goes by they become friends, and Clare helps him overcome his own tragic past.



Leap into LoveA Leap Into Love by Alina K. Field

Alina is an active and supportive member of another of my author promo groups. She writes historical romance, and I decided to read her newest novella to get a taste of her writing. A Leap into Love is based on an old tradition: on Leap Day, a single man who refuses a woman’s marriage proposal must offer a forfeit. The hero is a handsome widower, and the single ladies of the village decide to propose to him, knowing he’s in possession of a supply of lovely fabric, perfect for fancy dresses. The heroine works with the young children in the village, and she’s disturbed by the plan and decides to warn I enjoyed this tale, and look forward to reading more by Alina.



Good badThe Good, The Bad, and the Emus by Donna Andrews

I adore Donna Andrews’ cozy mysteries featuring blacksmith Meg Langslow. In this edition, Meg’s grandfather, the famous wildlife television personality Dr. Montgomery Blake, has hired PI Stanley Denton to find his long-ago love Cordelia Lee, who is the grandmother Meg has never known. Unfortunately, Cordelia was recently murdered, but the killer is unknown. In the meantime, a herd of emus is on the loose and Dr. Blake rounds his troops to gather them up to deliver them to a wildlife sanctuary. Meg, her husband, and four-year-old twins are caught up in the chase for the scattered emus, and in the process is embroiled in the mystery of what happened to her grandmother. As usual, Andrews whacky cast of characters entertain without being unbelievable, and the solution is unexpected.

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Whispers To The Past

This past week I had yet another appointment out of town and completely forgot to type up my post and schedule it. So I decided to go ahead and post Saturday. We’re talking about advice we wish we had been given.There is a lot that I would want to go back and tell myself or have someone that I trust tell younger me.

Slow down and enjoy the little things. I have a feeling that this was something that my grandma June was trying to teach me through example when I was younger. I remember spending many of days at the farm. Evenings would roll around and Grandma would take me out to sit on the deck. We would sip our drinks and watch the sunset. The frogs, crickets, birds, sheep, and many other creatures would fill the evening with their chatter. I remember Grandma telling me to listen to the symphony that nature created for us. On stormy days she would get me in the kitchen and we would make Thunder Cookies, this was done to help keep my mind off the storm as I was scared of them when I was little. Dancing around the kitchen and baking during a storm, there was nothing else like it. Sunny days when we walked down the gravel road and looked at all the beautiful wild flowers that grew along the road. After my grandma passed away I didn’t really have anyone who just slowed things down like that for me. I sort of forgot about just enjoying the little things which turns out can be some of the bigger moments in life.

Don’t be afraid to just be you. In high school I was outgoing. I didn’t care what others thought of me because I loved who I was. I was the only girl in several of the agriculture classes. The boys made m days difficult because I “did not belong there” but I kept going. I didn’t let it stop me, not even when they put me in the Emergency Room. I went back day after day. I kept being me. Then I graduated high school. I sort of lost that confidence that I always had. I let others decide who I should be. I withdrew into myself. The only time I felt like I could really be who I am was when I was with just my family or when I was writing. I spent several years trying to be the person that others wanted me to be and I was miserable.

Don’t let fear stop you. There were so many things I wanted to do but didn’t because I was afraid. I wanted to travel the world. I wanted to live in several different places. I spent a summer in Texas when I was still in high school. I stayed with my oldest brother and his wife. It was an amazing summer. It only reassured me that I do want to explore the world. I was a mom less than a year after high school graduation and I let that stop me. I was scared to pick up and start all over with my kids alone. I let fear stop me from going back to college, what if I failed? It would have been a waste of time and money. I let it stop me from pursing jobs that I wanted because I was afraid that they would think I was unqualified. Looking back it all seems a bit ridiculous, why did I let something like that stop me? I should have tried, if I failed it would have been alright. I could have always moved back home, got a tutor, or found a different job.

There are several more bits of advice that I would whisper to the past if I could but maybe I should just make sure to follow that advice now and remember to give it to my own children.

What bit of advice do you think we should remember to hand down to the next generation?

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Brave, Courageous and Bold

This week’s topic is the advice we would give to our younger selves.
That’s easy. There are two which would have made my life much better and they are linked:
“Be brave”. “Rely on yourself”.

I still have to battle the feelings that need this advice.

For many reasons, I was ridiculously shy .I knew that I had certain talents, but I never fully used them…and I still don’t. Most of my life I have found it hard to put myself and my works out there. I didn’t fail. It wasn’t hard once I did it. I have had success with many things to which I have put my hand. If only I had had the courage to do so early in life.

I really went through agony and lost precious time by worrying and holding back.
The second part, rely on myself. Despite the nay-sayers around me, despite the ones who instilled the fears in me, despite those who were jealous, I should have pulled myself up and been strong, which also would have helped others. It took me too long to do it. I should have had enough faith in myself to make more of myself FOR myself, BY myself. I should have shrugged off those who projected their self-doubts into me and had I only realized that some of those who inhibited my success were actually jealous, I would have been able to put my back to them, too.

I should have realized that just because I didn’t have support for my emotional and intellectual needs that I did not need them. I should have been stronger. I would probably have found support elsewhere.

“Don’t worry so much about what people think, or of failing. It’s not the end of the world. NOT trying is guaranteed  failure.”

I should have taken more chances. Just because others failed me, just because I wasn’t always immediately successful, just because others around me were not conducting their lives with the greatest care, did not mean that I had to be held back, or had to make up for their losses all the time, and not reached for more for myself.

Another piece of advice would be: “Do it now. It is never going to be the perfect time, there are never going to be perfect circumstances, take the little, more will come later.” That would have gotten me to continue my education, gotten training in other areas, gotten me through lesser jobs with more ease.

And I need to remember this to get my writings back in gear and put those which are finished out more.

“Go with your instincts, you prayed, you were answered. Seek God, seek the Lord” . That took me waaaay too long. I needed Him very much when I was young, but didn’t know that I could always have Him. My life and the lives of others around me would have been much better, had I known how strong I could be in Him.

Had I known that He had my back, I think all of the actions of the advice above would have come along.  Which would have led to :

“You have more courage then you know. ” I had to find it under trial by fire. If only I had used it for the betterment of my situations.

How about you? Did you have  personal support? Did you find it in the Higher Power?

[Is anyone old enough to remember the TV theme from which I borrowed today’s title? Has anyone younger seen it on retro television stations?]

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I Didn’t Need No Stinking Advice

What I mean is: I probably wouldn’t have followed it anyway

By Jeff Salter

This week, we’re blogging about advice — what advice do we wish we’d been given when we were younger?

As I mentioned to the Monday Fox, when I was (a lot) younger, I was loathe to take advice, no matter how sound. I was pretty much determined to do things my way – whenever possible – whether or not it blew up in my face.

Not sure if that’s a “guy” thing or a “teen” thing… or just a “Jeff” thing.


But here’s some advice that I wish I had FOLLOWED:

Stay in Church

For 3.5 years in the Air Force and (later) one year during grad school, I just wouldn’t / couldn’t get myself to church. I rationalized it by convincing myself that I wouldn’t be in that town long enough to form any real relationships, so why bother. And it’s true I lived in four different places (NM, Greenland, CA, & LA) during those 4.5 years. [Note: for the 3 years after the Air Force, we were back in our home church, and for 2.5 years after grad school, we lived in a small community — but we were quite active in both of those churches… even though both periods were relatively short.] When I look back to those years I stayed away, I regret the worship and fellowship that I missed. My advice: stay in church – no matter WHERE you are – and don’t fret about whether you’ll be there for months or years.

Don’t waste your college years

I’m ashamed to admit that I pretty much wasted most of the two college years between mid 1968 and mid 1970. At that point, lots of boys stayed in college to avoid the military draft — until those student deferments were dropped and all able-bodied boys were tossed into the lottery system. My point is that I got next to nothing out of those classes and wasted not only my time, but that of certain professors. [Now, it’s true that I began my freshman year at age 17.5 and during my sophomore year I was working part-time, but that’s still no excuse for frittering away the college classes.] My advice? Don’t do that. If you’re in college for any reason other than to learn… just quit faking college and get a job. Don’t rack up all that student debt just because a lot of other kids do it. When you’ve matured a bit (after being in the “real” world for a while) maybe you’ll wish to return to college and actually be hungry to learn. That’s what happened to me. After my Air Force hitch, I returned to college and really invested myself in it. Even made the Dean’s List a few times.

Save credit cards for emergencies

This one actually applies to a period somewhat later in my life, because until I was 30-something I really didn’t have any REAL credit cards to speak of. [One from a furniture store, but it was only good at that store. One from a gasoline company, but the town we lived in didn’t have any of their stations.] But after we started getting a few cards, we fell into that trap of spending now and paying later. In terms of our overall financial health, things were a lot better when we saved first and bought [whatever it was that was needed] after we’d saved up the money. My advice: don’t finance optional purchases.

Be kinder and more sympathetic

I regret to say that in my younger years, I had little patience or sympathy for people adversely affected by age or infirmity. It took becoming infirmed myself for me to be patient and empathetic toward those who were thus challenged. It took enduring my own aging process for me to be understanding toward the aged. My advice: one day you may be in the circumstances that you’re so impatient about right now… so be patient with those folks.

Don’t purchase stuff you don’t actually need

This is a toughie, because “our eyes are bigger than our stomachs” — to borrow a phrase from my generation’s grandmothers (as when we were competing for portions of dessert). In the retail world, companies pay other companies to advertise their products with such zeal and effectiveness that you’ll want them even though you don’t need them. And you’ll probably acquire many of them. And you’ll eventually have to pay for them — even if you never needed them to begin with… and possibly will never actually use them. My advice: Ask yourself if you need it or merely want it. [Except for very special occasions / purposes] if you don’t need it… don’t get it.

Get rid of stuff you don’t actually use

I know – and admire – people who regularly go through their closets and donate clothes they no longer wear (for whatever reason – fashion, fit, age, whatever). I can’t do that. And I envy those folks who can keep their homes free of clutter because they regularly clear it out and recycle or discard it. I can’t do that either. Unfortunately, I was born with that hoarding gene – from the generation which survived the Great Depression – which dictates: “you’d better hold on to that, because you might need it someday and there’s no need to buy it twice.” My advice here is: even if you ever DO actually need that whatever (at some point in the future), there’s a 95% chance you’ll never find it. Get rid of it. Now.

Eat healthier and exercise more

This one should speak for itself as we look at the newest generation and see the rising rate of overweight kids and health problems in young adults with too much weight. I was in pretty durn good physical shape when I exited Air Force Basic Training. But somewhere along the way, I stopped doing a lot of the outdoor recreational things and eventually became a couch potato. [There are other medical issues involved me becoming so sedentary, but – for this column – suffice it to say, my lack of purposeful exercise exacerbated those other problems.] As you leave high school, you will probably be in the best shape you’ll ever be in… unless you are purposeful and diligent about getting regular exercise and watching your nutrition. [Another way to say it: “it’s all downhill from there.”] My advice: don’t let your health slide… because it’s a lot more work to regain it than it is to keep it to begin with.

So that’s my sermon for this topic about advice. Now, if I can just follow my own advice, things should be hunky dory. 


What advice would YOU give to your younger self?

[JLS # 374]


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I Wish I’d Known…


Image from

Topic of the week: What advice do you wish you’d been given when you were younger?

This is a question I posed. I must have put it in the queue a long time ago, because I honestly don’t remember what made me think of it. Maybe I was frustrated by something the kids did or said. Or maybe I was overwhelmed with my responsibilities as a member of the Sandwich Generation – having kids and grandkids as well as an aging parent who needs care. Or maybe I was missing my dad and his calm, capable way of handling things. He always seemed to have a logical answer for anything that was bugging me. Anyway, I’ve almost always been one who needed to experience failure in order to understand what not to do. Advice like “Don’t run on wet tile” didn’t sink in until I’d skidded across the tile at the pool. So some advice probably wouldn’t have done me any good. But there are a few things I wish Dad would have told me:

Don’t sweat the small stuff. Back when I was in grade school, I realized that most of my friends had a Van or Vander in front of their last name. I asked Dad why we didn’t have a name like that. His response, “You can write Van in front of your last name if you like.” If the lesson he’d hinted at back then had sunk in, I’d have saved myself so much agony. So many things are not worth the effort to worry about.

Write everything down. I’ve kept diaries from time to time, and later on I’ve looked at them and laughed at how much I anguished over things that now seem trivial. While I suppose it could be depressing to know that problems get bigger, I look at it as a sign that I’ve always managed to overcome my problems and move on. I think I read somewhere that writing things down helps you let go of things that are bothering you. I haven’t tried that yet, but I know that making a to-do list for the following day helps me keep on track. Knowing that I have it written down helps me to get to sleep because I know I won’t forget something important. Even if I lose my list or forget to take it with me (which happens more often than I like to admit), simply writing something down makes it more likely I’ll remember whatever it was. As the years go by, remembering things is more and more difficult, so I’ve finally gotten in the habit of writing down as much as I can.

Ask questions. I’ve learned a lot by asking “Why?” I suppose curious toddlers have it right. Asking why gives you answers. Once I asked mom why we use chopsticks. She told me it was because it’s bad luck to cut your food after it’s been cooked. I’ve never been able to verify that belief, but the explanation worked for me. Now I wish I’d asked other whys when I had the chance. Why did grandma and grandpa come to America? What happened to the rest of dad’s relatives in Japan? Now it’s too late to ask. I should have asked when I had the chance.

Hug more. I’m not demonstrative by nature, and it might be a cultural thing. But I wish I’d been more attentive to the family members who are no longer around to hug. My grandkids all hug me, even the adult ones. I wish I’d done that for my dad and grandma.

Don’t dwell on mistakes you’ve made or things that have gone wrong. Focus on the happy times. I tend to be optimistic, but I do tend to dwell on things I’ve messed up on. Mistakes I’ve made. Things I should have said but didn’t. Things I said that I shouldn’t have. I think my scrapbooking habit helps with this. When I’m putting pictures in my scrapbooks, I’m reminded of the happy times. I’ve been at this for over twenty years now, and I’m running out of shelf space for my albums, but I’ll keep on going, because it’s therapy for me. It’s friend therapy because I normally work on these pictures while I’m with friends, and I’ve read that socializing with peers is good for you. And it’s other therapy because I’m reminded that there are plenty of good things happening, so I have nothing to complain about when it comes to my life.

I’m sure if I think about this some more I’ll come up with other things I wish I’d known, but this is enough for now. What advice do you wish someone had given you?

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Guest: Author Diane Vallere


Vallere Author PhotoI seem to be inexplicably drawn lately to writers from Pennsylvania, and today’s guest lived even closer to my mother’s people than most. Diane Vallere comes right from my mother’s neck of the woods. Indeed, my mother once lived in the town where Diane graduated from High School.

Diane now lives in Los Angeles, (which is where my husband was born). She is here also to tell us about herself and about a new book which was released last month.

Welcome, Diane!

DV: Hi, Tonette!

Diane, you used decades of experience working with a ‘top luxury retailer’ in fashion and fashion accessories to help you with several, if not all, of your series: The Costume Shop Mysteries and The Material Witness Mysteries, (I love that name!) I, too, had ‘fashion accessory’ experience with a top retailer. (Actually, I ran Blue Light Specials at a Kmart in Idaho to sell purses and scarves for a few months 36 years ago. LOL! A far cry from Neiman-Marcus.)

DV: My mom worked at Kmart and I remember back-to-school shopping fondly!
Here I’d like to show some book covers, Diane, with some of my favorite titles, such as Some Like it Haute, Pearls Gone Wild, Masking for Trouble

hautepillow stalkpearlspajamamaskingthe decoratorsuede to restmidnight ice

Can you give us some insight into your work and how you used your knowledge in your stories?

DV: First, thank you for inviting me! It’s particularly fun to spend time with someone who has a connection to the town where I grew up (and set my Samantha Kidd mysteries).
I didn’t set out to specifically use my work experience in a book, but in an industry where you constantly hear the advice, “write what you know,” I guess it was inevitable. I had, for a long time, wanted to write a mystery series (I grew up reading Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, Connie Blair, and others) and loved the mix of personal growth and puzzle, but had no solid ideas. After discovering authors like Janet Evanovich and Sarah Strohmeyer, I realized there was such a thing as grown up Nancy Drew and that’s when the idea clicked. I was working as a fashion buyer at the time, and immediately I imagined a former fashion buyer who gave up her career and moved back home, only to discover a dead body on her first day of work. Samantha Kidd was born!

Your “Sylvia Stryker Outer Space Mysteries” even has the protagonist in charge of the crew’s uniforms! How did you decide to delve into science fiction?

DV: The Sylvia Stryker Outer Space Mysteries are more mystery than sci-fi. Sometimes I come up with crazy ideas, ones that I haven’t seen done, and setting a mystery series in outer space was one of them. The fantastically talented Stuart Gibbs came out with SPACE CASE shortly after I had my idea, and it was genius, and that was that, at least for a few years. One day it occurred to me that Sylvia could be in charge of uniforms on her space ship, which made it feel right to me.

You are a detective at heart, since your biography says that you started a detective agency when you were 10! “Samantha Kidd” is a former fashion buyer-turned-detective in her /your mysteries series of the same name. How much of her is you? How much of her life is what you’d like to have done?

DV: Samantha Kidd seems like the person I once was, probably around college age, except I took a left turn and she turned right. She definitely feels like the kid-version of me! But the whole idea of her giving up her glamorous job to move back home, simplify, and try to find out what would make her happy in life was something I was definitely feeling at the time. I was able to fulfill a lot of that by writing about her journey.

What did you actually “detect” at age 10?

DV: I helped solve the case of the missing pencils. It involved much sorting through lost and found, surveilling the client’s behavior, and a bit of profiling. The case was solved when I presented the evidence that the missing pencils slid off of the client’s desk and rolled under another student’s chair. Case closed!

What events lead you from northeastern Pennsylvania to L.A. ?

DV: I first moved from Pennsylvania to Dallas, TX to enter the buyer training program for Neiman Marcus. After nine years, I moved to California. The first move was corporately professional, and the second move was about quality of life and fulfilment of dreams. It was me making a significant statement to myself that writing was something I wanted to pursue.

“The Pajama Frame” [The Pajama Game] is your new book in “The Madison Night Mysteries”, Madison being an interior decorator. Please tell us about it.

DV: Madison Night is an interior decorator who has modeled her life, style, and business after Doris Day. She was born on Doris Day’s birthday and her parents used to gift her the movies each year until they died when she was in her twenties. Now she studies the look of the actress’s movies to train her eye toward mid-century decorating and considers Doris Day (the person) a role model.

All of the titles in the series are take-offs on Doris Day movies, such as “Pillow Stalk”, [Pillow Talk], “That Touch of Ink”, [That Touch of Mink]. I am a fan of those movies. I was particularly fond of Tony Randall, who often had a supporting role. (I met him; he was a real gentleman.) What inspired you to choose Doris’ movies as a base for the series? Do you do any research other than watching and rewatching the movies?

DV: I didn’t see my first Doris Day movie until I was 39. I was going through my divorce, and I was watching a lot of Hitchcock movies (also for the first time). I saw THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH, and was immediately taken with Doris Day, which led to watching PILLOW TALK, LOVER COME BACK, and the rest of her canon of fifties and sixties comedies. I just fell in love! Years later, I had the idea for Madison Night. PILLOW STALK was the first non-Samantha Kidd book that I’d written, and where Samantha is the kid version of me, Madison is the adult version of me who had been knocked around a bit by life.
As for Tony Randall, yes, I love him too! (have you ever watched DOWN WITH LOVE? There is a wonderful documentary in the extras called UP WITH TONY RANDALL). I did introduce a therapist in THE DECORATOR WHO KNEW TOO MUCH who I think of as the Tony Randall character. He doesn’t get a ton of page time, but in my head, from that point on, he’s working on things in the background.

Your “Material Witness” protagonist is named Polyester and you also own-run “Polyester Press”. Please tell us why you chose this fabric for a name and about your venture into publishing.

DV: I came up with “Polyester Press” the night before I had to filet he paperwork for my company, and as soon as the name popped into my head, I knew that was what I wanted to use because it made me smile.
Polyester used to be the joke of the fabric world. Even now, there are fabric purists who refuse to use it. But it changed the way women dressed, made fashion more accessible and durable in the sixties, allows us to pack stuff that doesn’t wrinkle, holds color, and will probably outlast us all. I figure it’s okay to be the thing people laugh at–because I’m writing humor!
As for Polyester Monroe, well, I will admit that when I named her, I was thinking it would reinforce Polyester Press. But also, I thought about a girl named Polyester (she was born in her family’s fabric store on a bed of polyester) and how that name would shape her through life. She would have heard every joke, been made fun of and grown a tough skin. Also, while most people call her Poly, when people call her Polyester, she knows they’re trying to belittle her, so it puts her on alert.

What do you do when you aren’t writing? Do you have any hobbies?

DV: I love old movies (good ones and bad ones; THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD is cued up for tonight), Midcentury modern decorating and design, shopping, fashion, makeup, going to the beach, anything involving cats. I play way too much online Freecell (for some reason, it helps me achieve focus!), sew (occasionally), and like messing around with graphic design. I’m also a bit of a webinar junkie and take lots of courses to continue learning.

Thank you for taking time from your busy schedule to be with us, Diane. Please tell our readers how they can learn more about you.

DV: I send The Weekly DiVa Newsletter, (get a free book for signing up: which goes out on Sunday mornings plus have ShopTalk, a closed group on Facebook.

Other places to find me:
My W:

After two decades working for a top luxury retailer, Diane Vallere traded fashion accessories for accessories to murder. THE PAJAMA FRAME, #5 in her Madison Night Mad for Mod Mysteries, came out February 2018. Diane also writes the Samantha Kidd, Sylvia Stryker, and Lefty Award-nominated Material Witness and Costume Shop mystery series. She started her own detective agency at age ten and has maintained a passion for shoes, clues, and clothes ever since.

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