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The Hope Chest: A NovelThe Hope Chest: A Novel by Viola Shipman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was personal for me. I recently lost a dear cousin to ALS. It was through her mother that I got my antique hope chest. It was one of those dome-lidded train trunks. My grandfather and brother lined that hope chest with cedar and the lid with velvet. With all that family involved in this chest, how could I not fall into the thought processes of the day? Girls grow up and have families. They get married. Become someone else’s. That’s not all bad. (I’ve grown to accept that a hope chest could just be hope of growing up and having a place of your own, not put the hope into another person.) But I had a wonderful family full of aunts and uncles and double the grandparents. No matter how life at school or home was, there were other relatives of love I could rely on.

My hope chest aunt taught me to knit. All the cousins, girl cousins, learned to knit slippers. My other aunt taught me to crochet and sew. Mom didn’t have the patience for all that but having a fantastic extended family gave me hope and taught me what I think everyone should know. That you can love past differences. The uncle attached to that aunt, taught me how to tie my shoes. That uncle and the uncle attached to my crochet aunt, taught me that even if you disagree so much with ideas the rest of the family hold, everyone will still love you. Just disagree with you.

My brother, who helped my grandfather fix up that chest, was killed in a car accident. That grandfather died of Parkinson’s. Even that chest disappeared in the many moves of my life. But the love of that family is still there. My cousins and I see each other on FaceBook daily. It is the only reason I haven’t left social media. It is my new hope chest. It’s in my heart. And so is the cousin who isn’t with us anymore, at least not where we can see her.

This book brought all that up for me. Sure, in ways it is a little hokey. But it wasn’t a stupid romance novel. It was about people who love or learn to love and help each other. The writer wrote characters I could believe. The mom was a little too strict with the little girl, seemed she wouldn’t let her be a little girl. But there are people like that. The woman with ALS seemed a little too perfect, though in pain and having the disease. The husband was every woman’s dream husband, so maybe not so real. Even still, when a book can reach into your heart like this one did and you see and smell the garden and the lake and feel the love, that’s a good book. Bring your Kleenex.

Thank you, NetGalley for letting me read this gem!

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Agnes Barton Senior Sleuth Mysteries Box Set, cozy mystery (Books 1-3)
Agnes Barton Senior Sleuth Mysteries Box Set, cozy mystery (Books 1-3) by Madison Johns
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, I have finished with the first combined book that encompassed books 1-3. I have to admit that it was fun. By reading the books this way I was able to watch the characters grow into believable people. The story became more and more real. I felt the humor the author sprinkled in as hugs from a friend.

If you want to see the reviews for each of the books here:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/912149747
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/936450786
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/939739919

I bought them all individually but chose to read the books with the box set so as to get more deeply into Madison Johns’s cozy mysteries. Besides, when I find someone doing what I think is right, I try to support them with my money, meager as it is. In this case, I had been researching stories that featured older womyn. I don’t like mysteries, especially the murder-y kind. I would rather read science fiction or fantasy with crones, senior ladies, being the ones getting to have the adventures. When I think that the baby boomers are the largest generation, then having stories about us, especially the womyn, should be easy to find. But alas, that isn’t the case. Anyway, that is how I found this series and invested into it.

Cozy isn’t the word I would apply to murder of any sort. These books do contain that wicked element. But the author doesn’t spend time dredging up the blood or other details I’d rather not have in my head before going to sleep. The thrill is in watching the main characters sort through the facts and figure out the whodunnit and why. So I suppose that is how it rates the ‘cozy mystery’ tag.

These are great beach reads or quiet reads to accompany tea. One needs lighter reads like that, occasionally. By the way, I do have the next boxed set ready to read but I have a lot on my read-to-review shelf that I need to read first. I do plan to continue enjoying Aggie and El again, soon.

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