Valentine's Day is coming up on Monday, February 14.
Although popular among many people, gifts and cards are not required on Valentine's Day. Perhaps your Valentines, however, enjoy books, and you would like to give each of them a novel.
But which novel?
Here are six "good reads" perfect for your gift-giving list.
A Beautiful Blue Death.
Book 1 of 14 in the Charles Lenox Mysteries.
Charles Finch, 2017.
England. 1865. Gentleman Charles Lenox, a bachelor with comfortable means, enjoys his comfortable life in his comfortable home in London next door to his widowed friend, Lady Jane Grey.
Nice guy (or rather, gentleman) that he is, Lenox must help when Lady Jane asks him to investigate the unexpected death of her former maid, a likable young woman engaged to be married. Lady Jane thinks the maid might have died by poisoning or suicide.
I haven't had the pleasure of reading A Beautiful Blue Death, but my husband Richard recommends it because he blasted through all fourteen books of the Charles Lenox Mysteries during our on-going pandemic. He shared details with me about each novel, often when I was about to drop off to sleep.
The plot always woke me up.
You love to read, and you want to discuss books with other people who love to read. You’ve decided to start a book club. What’s the next step?
I started and conducted a book club that continued for over ten years. Currently, I’ve been participating in a book club for over two-and-a half years.
Try out these ten tips to make your book club great.
1. WHO TO INVITE?
Fellow book lovers!
They’ll need to be readers who have both the time to read and to discuss books.
Are you interested in creating a club that focuses on one genre of fiction (for example, mysteries) or several genres? Do you want to include nonfiction selections? You might find it easier to recruit members if the readers are open to a wider range of books.
2. HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES A BOOK CLUB NEED?
It takes only a few people. Four or five regular attendees at each meeting might be just the right number for a discussion in your group. Over time, the club can adjust that number to what works best for them.
Two of the biggest determinants of a club’s size are
As the founder, take the role of coordinator to keep the group together.
Independence Day in the U.S.A. is celebrated on July 4th each year in memory of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Sincerity and gratitude distinguish the national holiday.
Traditional festivities are exuberant and, although perhaps reduced in size, will be possible again this summer in many communities due to the prevalence of the vaccine against the virulent COVID-19 virus.
The ravages of the pandemic presented another painful example of how the absence of good health steals freedom from individuals, families, cities, and countries. Surely the pandemic spurred many people around the world to reflect deeply on what freedom means to them.
The men who signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, summarized their beliefs in the second paragraph of that revered document.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...
National Flag Day, June 14, commemorates the day in 1777 when the Second Continental Congress adopted the national flag of the United States of America.
How did Flag Day begin?
If Americans can fly their flag every day of the year, why is a Flag Day necessary?
Americans can fly the flag every day of the year, but June 14 is a special day of observance.
Memorial Day falls on Monday, May 31, this year in the United States. The most important thing Americans do on Memorial Day is honor military service members who gave their lives serving in the nation's wars or who died as a result of their combat injuries.
Many novels, memoirs, histories, and films tell the story of the men and women--sometimes known and more often unknown to most people--honored on Memorial Day.
Among the many are two young Marines--Corporal Jonathan T. Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter--who gave their lives in the line of duty. Their actions on April 22, 2008, saved over 150 U.S. Marines and Iraqi Police. It all happened in Ramadi, Iraq, which at the time was one of the most dangerous towns on Earth.
I learned about their inspirational actions from the following speech and film. You can, too.
I. Have you experimented with any of the following hints?
Good suggestions, but if it hasn't come together for you or you'd like to up your game, then check out one or more of the following five books for ideas.
Are you looking for time capsules back into the 20th century?
Advertising is a perennial repository of culture brimming with hints of "the way it was."
Some of my favorite ads recruit women to the Women's Army Corps (WAC). I started collecting WAC advertisements while writing my novel, Women's Company - The Minerva Girls, about WACs in the 1960s and 1970s.
I invite you to take a look at two ads that I added recently to my collection. Both ads appeared in popular women's magazines.
Is Oklahoma your home state, too?
I grew up in Oklahoma. For me, it’s my home even when I’m not able to live there and always wins first place on my map.
Perhaps you rank your home state as Number 1 on your map. Where do you rank Oklahoma, and why?
Out in the wide-open spaces?
After I left Oklahoma to join the Army and see the world, I met many people with few, if any, accurate conceptions about my favorite state. The closest they could get is “it's somewhere out in the wide-open spaces.”
The Dustbowl, tornados, and flat terrain might feature in their mental image along with oil and Indians. About all they really knew was the wonderful song “Oklahoma!” from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical of the same name.
I like Oklahoma’s wide-open spaces so much that I set my novel, Cloud County Persuasion, in that great state. My research on the 1940s and 50s reminded me of a few of the reasons why the location and geography of the “Sooner” state is sometimes misconstrued or just dead wrong.
What is National Handwriting Day? When is it?
Handwriting. Print. Cursive. You remember, maybe? The practice of penmanship that pre-dates keyboarding words into computers.
In the late 1970s, penmanship inspired the creation in the United States of the unofficial holiday known as National Handwriting Day. The commemoration occurs annually on January 23, the birthday of John Hancock (1737-1793), the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Is penmanship old school now? Even archaic? Nothing more than a superfluous pastime in a high-tech society?
Today, November 11, is Veterans Day in the USA, a date set aside each year to honor everyone who served in the United States military.
Memorial programs and parades occur throughout the country in a formal effort to show the nations's daily appreciation and gratitude for the service of the citizens who stepped forward during war and peace. Individuals who never served in the armed forces greet the veterans they see with a warm "Thank you for your service." Veterans turn to fellow veterans and say, "Thank you for your service."
Everyday is a good day to express one's appreciation to a veteran, but Veterans Day adds the contagious energy of an entire population celebrating together.
My generation is one where just about every kid's dad and uncles served in World War II or Korea. I never met any of the women who served in those wars until I enlisted in the Women's Army Corps during the Vietnam War.
Based on what I've learned since then, I might have met some female veterans during my childhood and adolescence without realizing it because women are often less likely to point out their military service.
I like to think that is changing.
I was twelve years old when I first visited the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Italian-Renaissance style mansion (the first mansion I had ever entered) and gardens impressed me then and continue to do so each time I return.
Oil tycoon Waite Phillips (1883-1964) and his wife Genevieve built Villa Philbrook on 25 acres in 1927. In 1938 they donated their Tulsa residence to the Tulsa community to:
create a cultural institution for housing, preserving, and displaying therein works of art, literature, relics and curios, including those representative of the native North American Peoples." --Waite and Genevieve Phillips
The Phillips would be pleased with the hard work that has taken place over generations to establish and enhance that vision.
What are three reasons to visit The Philbrook Museum of Art?
#1. The Art.
#2. The Gardens.
"Sixty-one thousand, three hundred and seventy-two," the pleasant lady with the British accent said.
"Ohhh...!" The children dressed in play clothes and sunscreen crowded closer.
I'd seen the grade school kids earlier in the Butterfly House and the Children's Garden. From the McConnell T-shirts many of them sported, I guessed they were from McConnell Air Force Base here in Wichita.
"How many?" a straggler bringing up the rear asked.
"61,372. It's the biggest Lego sculpture in the exhibit." For emphasis, the pleasant lady with the British accent held up her mobile phone and took a picture.
The Bison and Calf are impressive, especially if you're a child who plays with Legos or an adult who grew up fascinated by them. And there are fourteen more Lego sculptures that anyone can enjoy this summer at Botanica Gardens. Birds, bison, butterflies, flowers, fish and more: Sean Kenney's often bigger-than-life creations are a colorful, if only temporary, addition to Botanica's approximately 18 acres of lush grounds.
The Legos are fun, but the real treats of the gardens are the flowers, water features, and trees.
Hard-working Wichitans started planning for Botanica in 1982, opened the property to the public in 1987, and, over time, added new speciality gardens, exhibits, and events. Today there are more than 30 themed gardens and exhibits, over 4,000 species of plants, and approximately 50 permanent sculptures.
It was a lovely summer morning for a walk in Botanica. Here are a few of my snapshots that I hope you enjoy seeing.
A limestone fountain is the centerpiece of the Shakespeare Garden, a blend of formal and cottage gardens of the Elizabethan era. Some of the perennial herbs and plants are mentioned in Shakespeare's works.
"There's a duck in the front yard," my husband said.
We'd had the rainiest May ever recorded in Kansas, but a duck on the lawn? I went to the window and squinted. It was too early for eyeglasses.
"Over there, Lynne. By the tree."
"It's a mallard," I said. "What's he doing here?"
My husband grinned. "Looking for girls."
Whatever the duck's agenda that morning, the spring rains once again helped our ornamental trees explode with color and our Itoh peonies produce the loveliest blossoms yet. Since we dodged the extreme flooding suffered by parts of Kansas this year, we were especially grateful for the colors in our garden. We enjoyed them so much that I thought you'd like to see a few snapshots from 2018 and 2019.
Memorial Day is Monday, May 27, this year in the United States. The three-day weekend marks the beginning of summer for most Americans (ahead of the June 21 summer solstice), a day off from work and, weather permitting, outdoor activities in glorious sunshine.
But the most important thing Americans do on Memorial Day is honor service members who gave their lives serving in the nation’s wars or who died as a result of their combat injuries.
Somber memorial services at cemeteries across the country are often punctuated by gun salutes and aircraft flyovers. Local officials give speeches and the media snap images for news outlets. An active-duty service member might be invited to share accounts of soldiers, sailors, marines, or airmen who gave their lives for their country. Sitting in the bleachers at one of these memorial tributes is a humbling reminder of the debt we owe to those who have gone before us.
Hampton Sides’ nonfiction book, On Desperate Ground: The Marines at the Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle, is another excellent reminder. His thorough and riveting account of the epic battle high in the mountains in the dead of winter at the Chosin Reservoir reads like a novel—a story you don’t want to put down, a story you wish were fiction rather than harsh truth.
Advertising is a perennial repository of culture.
Consider the advertisements used by the U.S. Army to recruit women during World War II. You’ll find a wealth of hints regarding not only the culture of the Army, but also the American public. As you look at the ads I’ve selected, ask yourself, “Who’s in the ad? Who’s left out? Are they depicted in an accurate or idealized fashion? Why or why not?”
Lynne Schall is the author of Cloud County Persuasion and Women's Company - The Minerva Girls. She and her family live in Kansas, USA, where she is working on Cloud County Harvest, a sequel to her second novel, Cloud County Persuasion.