THE BUTTON COLLECTOR by Elizabeth Jennings

Pleasant enough chic lit (oh, pardon me, women’s literature) offering.  The basic storyline is built around the memories that a jar of buttons brings out for the main character, a woman who was kind of the black sheep of the family.

She goes to a flea market and ends up buying a mason jar of buttons because it is pretty, and then getting out her own mother’s button jar, and as she sorts through the buttons, she remembers the clothes of the various people from which the buttons came, and each button provokes a vignette or slice of memory of that person and the event that possibly resulted in the button coming off the garment.

It is the usual family stuff, mother dying of cancer, who loved who best, etc.  Like I said, pleasant enough, and very readable.

My mother had a fancy large tin in which she saved buttons.   When she died, I took on the curatorship of the buttons, complete with that decorative tin, and part of the joy of sewing garments was sifting through the unsorted buttons looking for matches.  A nice way to keep little fingers busy while I sewed was to give the little one a large blunt yarn needle threaded with a length of yarn, and the button tin, and let her sift through them, putting her favorites on the yarn string.




A charming story of a young woman who left Iowa in 1865 for the Colorado Territory as the new wife of a homesteader.  It is built around the idea that a woman  in current times is helping her elderly neighbor lady clean out her home prior to moving to assisted living.  In a trunk, she finds an old diary, hidden in the lid lining. It turns out to be the diary of the grandmother of the elderly neighbor.  The  helpful neighbor types it out so the fading writing can be read and the brittle paper can be preserved.

It is a lovely story, but it is a basic chic lit theme.  The young husband has been courting another gal for years, and suddenly, asks Mattie to wed, and a month later, they are on their way.  Of course, she learns that he only asked her because the other chick was too smart to agree to go live in a soddy on the prairie with all the hardships involved.

It is filled with details of life on the trail and then on the plains, with nary a tree in sight, daily life including the hardships of childbirth in remote areas.  The characters are finely drawn, and Mattie herself makes us modern day lasses ashamed of our wimpy, self-indulgent ways when we compare our lives of indoor plumbing and one-touch pizza delivery to her daily grind.

It is curious;  it is not a new plot — I’ve read it hundreds of times; it’s not the setting of mid-19th century America, the trek west and frontier life — Jessamyn West probably has the corner on that;  it isn’t that s.o.b. cheating husband – that trope  fairly litters chic lit;  and that diary style narrative – getting old and rusty.  But all together, it was a wonderful read and I loved it.

This is an accomplished author who has written a number of books.  I think I might look around and see what else I can find of hers for those times when a chic-lit kind of story is just the ticket.


This is the first in what is or will be a series call The Afterlife.  Doesn’t anybody write a one-off anymore?  I guess not.

Although a lot of people liked this book, some calling it ‘sensational’, I was frankly underwhelmed.  The basic premise is that when you die, you go to a place that isn’t a place while the authorities decide what to do with you.  You are attended by an angel, who keeps complaining about how busy they are, what with a cruise ship having just sunk and all, so your instructions are to hang around and wait until they can get to you.  Oh, yeah, and if you want, you can pop back into your earthly life from time to time to check up on the family and friends, but they can’t see you and try as you might, you can’t really interfere anymore in earthly matters.

First of all, the logic of a lot of the plot didn’t make much sense.  All the angel staff are busy because of a sinking cruise ship?  Talk about First World White People problems.  What about the millions who are dying daily around the world?  Do you mean to tell me that every freaking angel is busy with the over-monied white people on a cruise ship?

It concerns primarily a young woman who just got engaged, takes a taxi home to her own apartment, the taxi driver is busy fiddling on the floor for his phone and gets them into an accident in which they are both killed.   There are a couple of other people who die and I forget how because my mind drifted just a wee bit at that part.  OK, I fell asleep.  All right?  Are you happy now?  So it is all about the lives and secrets of the family and friends of these dead people and how they cope, with these dead people trying to interfere.

Told as a straight chick lit story, minus the dead people, would have made a pretty good chick lit book.  Working it around the Dearly Departed made it a mashup that frankly didn’t work all that well for me.

While it was a pretty good idea for a book, it was merely close but no cigar, as they say in…  well I don’t know where they say that.  I surely can’t imagine a series based on this.

I like my ghosts ghostly and not whining and complaining all the time, and my haints  doing some decent spooking.  This?  Well, no.



This is the kind of book you had better read now, because among other things, it is about the post office, and delivering mail, and the writing and receiving of letters.  When was the last time you had a paper letter from someone?  Do you still get a lot of mail?   Email is taking over, and soon, our little children will be saying, “Mumsy, what is a post office?”

It is set at the beginning of World War II.  the war to end all wars.  Oh, wait, no.  That was World War I, which obviously did not end all wars.  There are currently something like 134 major ‘conflicts’ happening throughout the world.  Might be more, hard to get a good count.  There are 15 big hot spots.  But, yeah, back to 1940, the German nightly bombing of London has begun, and a young reporter, Frankie Bard, is sent to London to work with Ed Morrow, reporting nightly on the radio of what she sees going on in London.

Meanwhile, a sweet young woman marries a young doctor, and they move to his hometown, a small place on Cape Cod, where he tries to make up for the drunken mistakes of his doctor father.  Iris is appointed the new Postmaster for the town,  and so begins the disparate threads that will come together in an unexpected way.

Frankie records a nightly broadcast from London about the blitz and the daily experiences there.  She tells of her meeting up with a little guy in a shelter, and taking him home to his apartment only to find that the building has been pretty much demolished, killing his mother, and Frankie’s roommate journalist.  Hearing this broadcast, the doctor, after unsuccessfully attending a woman giving birth to her fifth or sixth child, but who dies in childbirth, probably due to his reluctance to call in more experienced help, decides to go to London to help out, thereby running away from his problems, and leaving his new bride to cope on her own.

Frankie has a reporter friend who is very concerned about the plight of the Jews in Germany and other European countries,  and Frankie is sent on a trip through Germany by train to garner local color.  What she finds are massive crowds of Jewish people fleeing for their lives, the cruelty of the German soldiers, and the reality of war.  In a coincidence found only in novels, Frankie meets that Cape Cod doctor husband in a bomb shelter, he gives her a letter to send to his wife in case of his demise, and she then watches later as he steps off a curb into the path of an oncoming vehicle and is killed.

After her trip through Germany, she is shattered, and goes back to New York, where she decides to go to that small Cape Cod town to deliver the letter in person, and it is there that the lives of the Postmaster, Frankie and the doctor’s wife all come together.

So there is a lot about the run up to the Holocaust, about fear of Germans in the US,  about the fear of German submarines attacking the coast.

The title of the book comes not only from the Postmaster Iris, but during a conversation between Iris and Frankie, Frankie refers to Iris as the postmistress, to which Iris huffily replies that she was the postMASTER.  The US does not have the title of postmistress, that was a British thing.

Good read, I guess something of women’s fiction, as it had mainly to do with the three women.




THREE WISHES by Liane Moriarty

Chick lit.  Not bad.  A little forced, but readable.  (Geez, do I sound pretentious, or what?)

It is about three sisters — triplets, thirty years old.  Sort of triplets, as the books is careful to keep reminding us.  Two from the same egg, one from a different egg. The different one is really different, especially in looks, with wild red hair.

The three sisters each have their own special character.  Per the blurb:  Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, juggling the many balls of work, marriage, and motherhood with expert precision, but is she as together as her datebook would have her seem? Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage — can she bring another life into her very precarious world? And can free-spirited Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, ever hope to find lasting love?

It is just the typical chick lit kind of story about decent people and the life stuff that happens to them.  What made it really annoying for me was that sprinkled throughout the book were little vignettes, observations by outsiders, bystanders, passersby,  presented as a memory of that bystander, or a postcard written to someone about what they observed, etc.  Really, just so precious I could hardly stand it.  Yeah, like you are going to write home from your vacation about some triplets you saw.  Gimme a break.

So I am not going to actually give this a rating.   Some genre fiction is really only pass/fail.  If it isn’t awful, then it exists as a satisfactory member of its genre.  This passes.


A charming chick lit work, it blends the serious with the humorous to good effect.   Set in the 50s?  60s?  A mother and her three kids leave an abusive, alcoholic man and move out of state to the small town where her prosperous father lives, who helps her buy a house only a few blocks from him.  She gets a job at the department store which his wife owns.

But their first morning there, they awake to find an elderly woman comfortably seated on their front porch, reading their newspaper. Her name is Tillie, and she has removed herself from the assisted care facility back to what was once her home until her three sons sold it after their father died.  She refuses to leave, and her one son who still lives in the town comes rushing up to take her back.

Tillie shows up again the next day, insisting that the house is hers, even though it had been sold, because she and her husband built it, she has sweat equity in it.  The family can’t get rid of her;  she goes into the kitchen and makes herself a cup of tea. cleans up and starts to make herself useful.

When school starts again, mom is working, and the teen son has to go back to school, there is no one to take care of the youngest toddler, Tillie says she can do it, and they offer her a room in the house.

Meanwhile, the alcoholic father has followed them to the new town,  and secretly contacts our young 11 year old protagonist, swearing her to secrecy, telling her that the family will get together again soon, when the time is right.  He swears he has given up drinking and is now a model citizen.

She believes him, and meets up with him a couple of times, finally telling him where she lives, and even describing the house and the bedrooms.

Well, you can guess that such a sharing is a very poor idea, and culminates in a corker of an ending.

Promises.  Be careful what you promise.




GARDEN SPELLS by Sarah Addison Allen

When you see a pretty cover and a title that has the word ‘Spells’ in it, and the author has three names and the first one is Sarah with an ‘H’,  you know there will be some light magic, some kind of love story, and possibly fireflies.

Well, we lost out on the fireflies, but there was plenty of fanciful stuff going on, and love is definitely in the air.

OK, it’s chick lit, but it was lovely, basically about home and what constitutes home, and abandonment and reconciliation.   Sounds terribly heavy, but you know how a spoonful of honey etc. etc.

Claire Waverly was pretty much a recluse, a gal in her thirties who lived in the big old house her grandmother left her.  It has a bossy apple tree in the garden, which throws apples and demands to be in on everything.  If you eat an apple from that tree, you will learn what the biggest event in your life will be.  Since one’s death is usually the biggest thing in their life, it is not a good thing to know.

Claire has been estranged from her sister Sydney for ten years, ever since Sydney left town and never made contact again.  Claire never knew her father, and her wild-living mother  came back to town to stay with her mother, (Claire’s grandmother) when Claire was 6, because she was going to have another baby.  When that baby was six, she left again, and died in a car accident.

There is a wonderful character, a distant relative, Evanelle, who feels a strange compulsion to give people things, and it always turns out the recipient always needed the item in the future.  Everyone in town looked forward to seeing Evanelle, and her gifts.  Me, too.  I wish she lived around here.

After being physically abused by her current boyfriend, but afraid to leave because of their 6 year old daughter, Sydney finally has enough and escapes in the middle of the night with her daughter and comes back to the Waverly house as the only safe place she can think of.

We have the requisite attractive single male next door neighbor, the requisite best guy friend from second grade, now conveniently single and attractive, some snobbish women who look down on the Waverlys, and let me see, what else.

Oh yeah.  Claire makes a living baking and catering.  What makes her stuff special is that she uses botanical magic in her products, this flower for one thing, this herb for something else.  Like that.  Her products are in great demand.

Sydney is a hairdresser, and when the town sees the fabulous transformation that Sydney did to Claire’s hair, she now realizes she has her own share of the Waverly magic.

Do the Waverlys overcome all obstacles, and find the right guy?  Well, of course.  It wouldn’t be chick lit if they didn’t.  Do you wish you had a little light magic going on in your life?  Well, of course you do.  But look closely, maybe you do, and just haven’t recognized it.

As you know, I love happy endings.  Because being happy is its own sort of magic.