The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan is set in a small village not too far from Dover, England. Due to WWII life has changed for many. The local Vicar has decided due to the lack of men the choir will shut down, just at a time when people need music to lift their spirits. Music can express what we feel.

Through a newly arrived music teacher, the local women, and one young teenager’s enthusiasm the choir continues and blossoms. While the choir may be small, the women find both their singing voice and their previously unknown strengths.

The story follows the lives of several choir members through a format of letters and journal entries. This village is not spared the danger of WWII. Heartache, worry, hope, love all find their way into the lives of the women.

I enjoyed this book, although I had to go back a few times initially to keep track of the many characters. Life, no matter what it brings our way, is much easier to face with the support and encouragement of friends.

4 stars

To Die but once by Jacqueline Winspear

The latest in the Maisie Dobbs series centers around a missing boy who turns up dead. The catch? Why did someone kill him or was it an accident caused by the damage his brain was suffering due to exposure of dangerous chemicals?

Maisie Dobbs is one of my favorite book characters. She is calm when I’m fidgety. Maisie thinks things through, while I dive in without a thought. She is now rich and I am not. And Maisie has found peace in her life, while I’m still working on it.

Set at the beginning of WWII, Maisie is reminded of her days in France in WWI. Her friends’ and co-worker’s sons are serving and a son disappears. Twists and turns around every corner. Dunkirk is even part of this book.

I highly recommend this book but caution it is #14 in the series and time has passed steadily in the series. The series progresses through time. Book #1 begins with the prelude to WWI and the war begins in the first book. My suggestion is read book one and go from there but enough of the past is filled in you can enjoy To Die but Once as an individual read.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

I went to Half Price Books when my daughter was visiting and picked up a few books. Having no idea what this book was about, I chose it because of its title.

Arthur is a widower of a year and stuck in a rut. His adult children have drifted away. Each day consists of his very strict routine. Arthur never varies it because the routine helps him feel in control.

One day he bravely faces the task of going through his wife’s things and in the bottom of a boot he finds a mysterious gold charm bracelet which belonged to his deceased wife. This bracelet with exotic and beautiful charms sends Arthur on a journey which ultimately changes his life.

A warm and inspiring tale, this book made me laugh and cry. While I am not a widow, I have found myself divorced after 30 years of marriage. And this unexpected event in my life forced me on a journey which until recently has been very rocky, so I’m so many was I identified with Arthur. Set in England, Arthur questions his 40+ year marriage and asks himself, ‘Was my wife happy in our marriage?’ He finds his answer but it isn’t an easy journey.

5 stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Little Beach Street Bakery

littlebakery I picked up The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan at Half Price Books. I chose it because I liked the title and the cover. Having spent the last several months reading nothing but detective books, I wanted something more lighthearted. 

A broken heart, a job loss, limited funds and a search for a new beginning introduces us to Polly Waterford. She moves to a seaside resort which is only accessible at intervals during the day. Isolation from her friends and family, along with very little money finds her living in an old, rundown flat above an abandoned bakery. Her lifelong love of baking leads her to a job working in a bakery. Not a good bakery, but one run by an unhappy older woman who now brings in her baked goods.


Polly meets a variety of characters including a handsome and charming fisherman, a beekeeper and a wealthy tycoon. Life on the island is driven by the sea. Has the sea brought joy or heartache? What will it bring for Polly?

There are recipes throughout the book, and I was inspired to try and make bread. Polly makes it sound easy. However, after purchasing bread flour and making a loaf, kneading it by hand, I decided I’d have better luck if I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the kneading hook. bread My bread loaves would make excellent anchors for the fishing ships found on Polly’s new seaside home.  So, if I want to make homemade bread, I will “knead” some personal, hands-on instruction by a real life baker.

This book was a fun read, but it also stirred my emotions. I laughed. I cried. I felt sad, and I felt hopeful.  I went out and bought another Jenny Colgan book.

A Test of Wills by Charles Todd 

Dear Detective Inspector Rutledge,

I hope I may call you Ian. When I first read your story, my heart broke. The war to end wars failed because in 2016, we still have wars. Yes, almost 100 years since your war ended, war still rages. Shell Shock is now referred to as PTSD and it sadly still rips men and women’s souls apart. I am sure you are surprised by women being soldiers but a lot has changed for women since 1918 but in some ways we are still defined by our sex.

 Hamish, the Scottish soldier you were forced to severely discipline resides in your head and his voice is so loud at times you believe others can hear him.  Faced with the heartbreak when the woman you loved abandoned you in the face of a mental illness, you persevered. Saved by your sister’s love, you returned to Scotland Yard. I know you worry you’ve lost your ability to discern the truth, the sixth sense you had before the war. You seek solace in your work and escape from the horrors of war. But Ian, can any of us ever escape the wounds we suffered in life? Learning to live with them is the best I’ve been able to do.

Your boss, Chief Inspector Bowles is a man hungry to move up the ladder. The English society of class bears down on him and he resents your education and higher societal rank. You take it all in stride as you grapple with life after war. He likes to remove you from London and send you on what appear to be cases which can not be solved. You always surprise him though and come through in the end.

Bowles has sent you off to Warwickshire to solve the murder of Colonel Harris. Here you encounter a suspect who is close friends with the Prince of Wales, a catatonic girl, a talented female artist and the uniquely beautiful Lettice Woods. Can Hamish stay quiet long enough for you to solve the case? Will you be pushed over the edge and forced out of Scotland Yard? You know Bowles would be happy to see you gone. 

There have been so many changes Ian. We no longer open our doors to strangers. Cars and horses no longer battle for the road, for the auto won. Telephones are now carried in your pocket and you can call someone halfway around the world, but the love of country, family, friendship and loyalty are still of tantamount importance in our lives. I can picture myself sitting along side you in your auto touring the lovely English countryside.

Ian, will your skills as a policeman return? Can you solve this murder and keep Hamish a secret? Or will all your carefully placed shields fall and expose your secret to the world? Will you confide in Frances, your sister? Will she see through your carefully protected soul and discover Hamish? If she does, will she still love you?

One last thing, have you met Maisie Dobbs an attractive private investigator who was a nurse in the war? She lives in the mind of Jacqueline Winspear. 

Daphne. A five star book.