All Creatures Great and Small

Three Reasons Why You Should Read This Book

I finished this one yesterday. It was a great read after my month of reading mysteries. But why should you read this book?

  • Read this book if you are looking for something historical that is wholesome. Sometimes you just need to escape to a better time or place and Yorkshire England during the ’30’s might just be what you are looking for.
  • Are you in need of a beautiful setting? Though the setting for Spring, Summer, and Fall seem welcoming the harshness of winter also has it’s beauty until you see the hardship the main character endured. The memoir tells of James Herriot’s stories of sometimes walking miles through the snow to care for the local farmers livestock. But if you can picture each season, you will feel both the hardships and the good times shared within the small towns. I loved the pub visits and the local dances.
  • If you like quirky characters, you will enjoy the townspeople and farmers in the community. Each has their own eccentricities. Some are the kind you may want to see regularly and some maybe just once. Each little vignette he writes about introduces you to more of the community. By the time you are finished, you feel like you too are part of the small village of Darrowby . His books are probably a reason why so many people from around the world travel to England.

I have heard some BookTubers call books like this a palette cleanser after reading stories that are a little more gritty. I would say this is true. It is a comfortable visit to a time in the past. It sometimes makes you wish you lived back then when you see how close the residents of the community are and how they enjoy their time together. Their ability to communicate without the interference of Social Media and other modern technical intruders. You won’t see anyone looking at their phone over dinner. In fact, many residents didn’t even own a landline.

It also makes you happy that in the middle of winter, you have more reliable transportation. The author talks about having to patch his tires frequently and that he has become so good at it that he can do it without much thought. As far as the veterinary medicine, it appears that much of the vet’s practice involved doing stuff they knew probably wouldn’t work and some things that did work but they weren’t sure why.

I enjoyed getting to know the characters, especially those within the Skeldale household, Siegfried Farnon is the Veterinarian who hired Jim as an assistant. Mrs. Hall is his housekeeper. Her part of the story is not as well developed in the book as it was on the television adaptation. Siegfried’s brother Tristan is a real character who always seems to get into trouble and sometimes drags James along with him. Helen is James love interest and that part seemed pretty close to the television show. One difference I did see from the book to the show was with Helen’s family. The book says she has a father, and both a younger brother and sister but on the show she only has a father and younger sister. There are always some inconsistencies with adaptations. I am guessing they decided to eliminate one character because even in the book they didn’t delve too far into either sister or brother’s lives.

Overall this was an enjoyable read and something I might read again so I will give this one 4 stars.

Have you read this series or watched any of the adaptations? There is an older version on Prime that I may watch soon too because I do enjoy this series that much. I also like to compare how shows are adapted.

I am enjoying Spring so far. My next read that I just started is an Agatha Christie – Sinister Spring. I will share more about this one, once I have finished reading it.

Hoping you have a great day. Take time to relax with a good book.

Until next time,


Between Books

My Bookstore by Ronald Rice is full of essays written by authors about their favorite independent bookstores. I haven’t completed reading this one yet, I have about a fourth of the book left to read. This is one of the books that I pick up whenever I am in the mood to read it a little knowing I wouldn’t be completing it in a month. It’s interesting to see what different authors appreciate in their local bookstores. Most love the way the owners arrange book signings and promote their work. Most owners appear to help them with research and suggest books related to whatever subject they need information about for the works in progress. Many owners hand sell their books.

Since I am reading it during the pandemic, once I have completed it, I plan to do a little research to see which of these indie bookstores survive the pandemic. This is strictly out of my own curiosity. I have always thought it would be fun to travel and check out indie bookstores, so I think that is why this book appealed to me. I don’t recognize the majority of authors but that too gives me something to research in the future. If I am introduced to a book from an (unknown to me) author, it might open up new books to read.

So far, this has been an enjoyable read but it isn’t the kind of book I could sit down and read though in a short period of time. Most of the essays are basically praising book stores so kind of repetitious.

I would recommend this book to book lovers because of everything addressed above. I do like the cover and I will give it a proper review once I have completed it and I may be able to share some of my research about how the pandemic has affected the bookstores listed.

I hope I find that all of the bookstores are still open and serving readers but even without the pandemic, I think that may be impossible. I have visited the independents that I am aware of in my area. The main one is Beaverdale Books. I wish I could say it is my favorite, I really do, but it isn’t. It is very small and every time I visited it before the pandemic, I often felt a little claustrophobic. I did attend both writer’s and a reader’s groups there before. The writer’s group didn’t meet my needs at the time and the mystery reader’s group felt closed even though they opened it to the public. I was surprised that the store was unable to buy some of the books for the reader’s group. I don’t know enough about how book stores work so it is still a mystery to me. I also haven’t felt as welcome there as you would think a reader would. Whenever I have walked in there I have never had the owner or staff ever act as though they remembered me. I have been there several times over the years for author talks and to find books locally that I was unable to find at the local Barnes and Noble. I usually tried the Independent bookstore as a last resort before ordering it on-line. I do think the fact that I have a membership at Barnes and Noble that offers a discount makes it more painful to pay more for books just to say I bought it from an independent when that independent has not attempted to make me welcome when I do visit.

This independent is usually the bookstore who is asked to provide books for author talks that the local library conducts each year. I dutifully purchase books at that time when I want them autographed. So I do feel that I have contributed to their being able to stay open. But after reading this book, I feel like I am missing the same experience other’s have with their local independent bookstores. I wonder if it is because I am a reader instead of an author because I do have author friends who love our independent. I do wish them well. I want to see all bookstores thrive.

I do believe the pandemic has affected everything that we purchase. I have bought both kindle books as well as a lot more books from Amazon this past year. I think part of it is the fear of Covid and it is so easy to order on-line. I also think knowing I have a package coming gives me something to look forward to so it may have become more addictive to use Amazon.

Barnes and Noble has been open throughout most of the pandemic and for some reason, I have felt more safe their. I told my husband that I believe it is because readers are smarter than those who don’t and have rarely see anyone ignore the mask mandate. The one person I did see was in the café and the barista said he couldn’t be served without a mask. I usually go during the middle of the week when most people are working so the store is never too crowded. The store enforces mask wearing and I do not linger near others. I don’t spend a lot of time there, just enough to browse and then I head back home.

I have had my first Covid vaccine along with my hubby. We are waiting to get the second in a couple weeks. Reading has helped make our situation better. I have been able to escape in a lot of books this past year. Though it is not as satisfying as real travel, it will suffice for now. How have you been coping? Do you buy strictly from independent book stores or not? How are you doing? I feel that we will be getting back to a more normal life. I hope that rather than settle for normal, we can continue to work to make it better. I hope that our struggle will pay off and like the independent book stores, we too survive.

Until next time,


I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I rarely read non-fiction. If I do, it is usually a writing craft book or self-help- motivational.

I was drawn to this book more because of the author, Michelle McNamara. To be more specific, because of her husband, Patton Oswalt. Patton is an actor best known to me as Spencer on King of Queens.

After I read a little bit about the subject matter, the golden state killer, I decided to add it to my to be read (tbr) list.

There really isn’t much in the book about Patton Oswalt except how he supported his wife during the time she wrote it. Basically I discovered that they were married and had one child, a daughter. They did tell a little bit about how life was for Michelle being married to a celebrity and how they often attended big gala events that she didn’t always enjoy. I am guessing as a writer, she was more of an introvert.

I did get pulled into Michelle’s quest to help find this killer. Michelle was an investigative journalist. When she was a child a woman was killed in her neighborhood and that crime was never solved. That seed planted in her the desire to solve cold cases. She created a popular website: TrueCrimeDiary where she blogged about her investigations into cold cases. That lead to her writing this book.

Though this book is true crime, it often reads like a novel. The author has a smooth voice and it sometimes feels like she and you are sitting together with a drink in front of a fireplace on a cold night as she shares her story. Her characters feel well rounded because they are real people. She introduces them to you showing both their virtues and their flaws. She investigated the family of the victims as well as the investigators on the case. She shows how because the killer killed in several different cities, it took a while for the police to connect the dots. There struggle was enhanced because we did not have the technology we do now, in the 80’s. But when they did eventually had dna technology and this shows how they were able to use it. The tension built as they followed more clues. With each new clue, I wanted them to turn the corner and catch the madman.

I cheered on their search because she shared enough about the crimes to show how truly horrible they were without picturing an 80’s slasher movie. Her writing wasn’t graphic but it did show how the victims felt. She enabled us to feel what the victim felt at the time of the crime.

I do feel that Michelle helped solve the crime even though the police deny it. They say that she did help keep the case alive. HBO did make a documentary about this but since I don’t have HBO, I haven’t been able to watch it.

I would highly recommend this book. It is a page turner. It does make you feel good at the end because the police do catch the killer. The sad part though is that Michelle died before this happened. After this book came out, Patton Oswald was on a promotional tour for the book and woke one morning to see a news show saying that the killer had been apprehended.

Again, if you’ve never read true crime, this might be a good book to start with. My tbr list is so long, I am not sure when I will read more true crime but I haven’t eliminated this genre.

Just a heads up though. I am having issues with my laptop and have scheduled an appointment to take it in for repair today. So if I miss blogging next week, know that I will be back as soon as possible.

Would love to see your comments, let me know what you are currently reading since I am continually adding to my list. Do you read true crime? Do you have any suggestions? How are your reading goals going? What are you reading now? Do let me know that you are out there.

Until next time,


‘The First 50 Pages’ – A Book Review

If you can’t hook an agent or an editor, how can you expect to hook a reader?

Just finished reading‘The First 50 Pages’ Engage Agents, Editors, and Readers, and Set Up Your Novel for Success by Jeff Gerke.

Donald Maass even wrote a blurb for the cover – “From the insider’s perspective, everything they’re not telling you about your first 50 pages. Invaluable.”  Jeff is an editor and author of fiction and nonfiction. I haven’t read any of his fiction but I had read Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great Fiction”. If you are writing to publish, I would recommend this book as well. It breaks down the differences between people who outline and those who don’t and how you can improve by looking at the process from the other kind of writer’s perspective.


Jeff broke ‘The First 50 Pages’ down into two parts. Part one covers the submission process, including proposal killers and a list of mistakes he has seen over and over again with submissions.

Part two consists of what your first 50 pages needs to accomplish. He spells out what you should and shouldn’t do to get published. Jeff’s explanations are easy to understand and he uses examples of both good and bad writing. I was surprised that some of those examples were from published books and well known authors. He showed how they could have been better.

Most of the mistakes made are considered lazy writing. It’s easier to tell instead of show is probably the biggest misstep. He used both books and movies for his examples.

I plan to keep this book handy once my first draft is finished and I’ve started revisions. Jeff reinforced how important beginnings are for publication. I think my biggest surprise was his advise on prologues. He thinks they have been given a bad rap and if done effectively, he thinks they can improve the beginning of a story. Jeff did admit that some Editors are so against them that he has heard of one in particular who would rip it off the front of the manuscript and throw it away before reading the material.

If you’re looking for a writing book to help motivate you to write better, check this one out, I don’t think you will regret it.

May your writing week be productive and your reading enjoyable.


Train To Nowhere

Train To Nowhere

I have to admit a lot of what I read could be called fluff. ‘Train To Nowhere – Inside an Immigrant Death Investigation’ is not. I was lucky enough to attend the Montezuma All-Iowa Writer’s conference this weekend and one of the speakers was author Colleen Bradford Krantz. Colleen was a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Des Moines Register. Now she is an independent journalist who not only wrote the book but also co-produced an award-winning documentary based on the events depicted in the book.

Colleen’s talk was for writers and her task was to discuss other ways to publication. Colleen explained that when she heard the news story that is the basis for this book and documentary, it haunted her and she wasn’t able to let it go. She knew she had to write a book about it. While raising small children she pieced together enough time to research and write down what she wanted to say. Because this was a non-fiction project, she wrote a few chapters and a proposal that she sent out to agents and publishers hoping someone would offer to publish. She would then finish writing the book. Many rejections later, she was about to give up when someone thought her story would make a good documentary. She spoke with IPTV (Iowa Public Television) and they were interested but they wanted her to film the project. They said that if she could make the documentary, then they would talk. She found herself a step closer, but no promise. Because she didn’t have a lot of money to work with, she approached film students, thinking they might be willing to work with her for the experience. That didn’t work out so well either. Eventually, after receiving some grant money, she did find someone to help. She was able to travel to Texas for filming but had to pay someone else to go to Guatemala. Ms. Krantz became the co-producer as well as the writer of the documentary. After the project was completed, a publisher offered to publish the story and that was her path to publication.

No matter what your views on undocumented aliens, you will be pulled into this real life drama. It is not just a story about illegals entering the states and whether they should or shouldn’t be here, it is the story of what we will endure to reach our dreams and because of greed what we will do to each other.

It all started back in 2002, in Denison, Iowa, when they discovered a rail road car that contained 11 bodies. They were undocumented aliens who died when the smugglers lost track of them. It imprinted a gruesome picture that bothered me. How could this happen? What kept them from getting out of the railroad car? Were they murdered and left there?

Ms. Krantz succeeds in telling this human interest story through the unbiased lens of a journalist. Through her research she discovered who the victims were and where they came from. She tells about one of the victims, a young man Byron, who was trying to escape his life in Guatemala to be with his brother who lives here legally in New York. It is also about the INS officer assigned to the case. Officer Martinez is a Latino American who often found himself in an uncomfortable position. Some Americans questioned his ability to be impartial while some of the illegals he had to deal with expected him to show them leniency. He explained that he took an oath to work for his country, America, and never questioned what he needed to do. It is also the story of the smugglers and how law enforcement acted to track them down and make them pay for the murders.

Those eleven people suffered a gruesome death and the author describes in detail what really happened. Initially, I thought they must have starved to death or died from lack of water. The truth was even more startling.

If the documentary is half as good as the book, I would not be surprised that it will be the recipient of many more awards. Ms. Krantz, an accomplished journalist, tells the story with the heart of a novelist.

I was so intrigued; I started reading it as soon as I got home. I finished it quickly because it was so hard to put down. I would recommend it to everyone. Mark your calendar for September 26th. IPTV will be airing this documentary then. You can find more information at Mon, September 26, 8:59 PM on IPTV. For a trailer about the DVD check out .

I look forward to seeing more from this author.


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