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Tuesday, September 6, 2022

RIP XVII Challenge - September 1 through October 31, 2022


I love the fall season and the 'spooky'/Gothic reading that I usually do at that time of year.  And the RIP Challenge is the only one that I still participate in.  This year is #17 and, though I'm a little late posting about it, I'm going to try to read a few books for the challenge.  Life is a bit (or more than a bit) hectic right now.  However, I'll be using this post as a list and the graphic as a link in my sidebar.  Let's have some good fun.  Thanks to Diane and Diana for the info regarding the challenge.  

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*Grab your spooky books, because it’s the best time of year again!

*To join the R.I.P. Challenge, just read as many mystery, suspense, thriller, horror, dark fantasy, supernatural, or Gothic books as you’d like September 1st – October 31st, and post/discuss them on your blog, Instagram, or Twitter. The group is also on Discord!

*Use #RIPXVII to connect with other challenge participants.

*Check out this link for all of the challenge details: https://linktr.ee/perilreaders


1. Parting Glass by Lissa Marie Redmond

2. Catch Your Death by Lissa Marie Redmond

3. The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

Monday, August 29, 2022

Writer's Conference at Kerrville's Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library - September 24, 2022

Even though I'm on a sort of break, I wanted to share this information about an event planned for my area, Kerrville, TX, in late September.  The Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library is my local 'happy' place and it's where I volunteer and attend book groups and help out with the 'Friends of the Library'.  The patron services librarian, Rachael, has been planning this conference for many months and I'm going to be excited to attend.  Please take a look and, if you're from the Central Texas area and are available, stop by and see us!  I've met several of the authors that will be speaking and I'm hoping to get more to share guest posts here in upcoming weeks.  



 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The renovations begin....plus a new Kelley Armstrong book I'll be excited to read next year...

Hello book friends!  I've been away a bit and am going to continue to be on a break for a while.  The lovely news is that our renovations have begun on our house here in Kerrville.  We've been waiting for several months and anticipating the work to be done.  Our contractor began with our guest bath and today was 'rip-out' day for my kitchen.  It is complicated to have major things done while one is still living in the house, but we've done it before.  Happily, things are moving along.  Most of the cabinets are done, ready to be set so the countertops can be measured and the guest shower has been tiled.  Progress!  All the appliances are in and sitting around in boxes.  My current fridge is in the family room.  We'll manage.  Ha!

So, as I said, I'm taking a break for a few weeks.  I did want to mention a book that I'm going to be excited about reading next spring.  I've enjoyed Kelley Armstrong's Rockton series - all 7 books so far.  It was apparent in the last book that many things would be changing for Casey Duncan and her town.  The next book featuring Casey will be Murder At Haven's Rock and it will be available in late Februrary, 2023.  Here's the cover and the blurb below.  I'm so happy that Casey will continue as a character!  And I'll be around in a few weeks to update on what's going on with me and my reading.  Take care, everyone!


Murder At Haven's Rock by Kelley Armstrong - Available February 21, 2023

Haven’s Rock, Yukon. Population: 0

Deep in the Yukon wilderness, a town is being built. A place for people to disappear, a fresh start from a life on the run. Haven’s Rock isn’t the first town of this kind, something detective Casey Duncan and her husband, Sheriff Eric Dalton, know first-hand. They met in the original town of Rockton. But greed and deception led the couple to financing a new refuge for those in need. This time around, they get to decide which applicants are approved for residency.

There’s only one rule in Haven’s Rock: stay out of the forest. When two of the town's construction crew members break it and go missing, Casey and Eric are called in ahead of schedule to track them down. When a body is discovered, well-hidden with evidence of foul play, Casey and Eric must find out what happened to the dead woman, and locate those still missing. The longer Casey and Eric don’t know what happened, the more danger everyone is in.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Award-Winning Novels of Madness, War and Magic - A guest post by J.G. Schwartz

Today, I have a guest post by author J.G. Schwartz.  Joyce did an event recently at our local library here in Kerrville and she talked about 'Madness, War and Magic' and how she included these topics in her books.  Thanks so much, Joyce, for stopping by and tell us about your writing journey and your books.  Enjoy, everyone.  

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I truly believe that everyone who loves to tell stories or write stories loves to have stories told to them.

One of my favorite childhood memories was when one of my parents would tuck me into bed and then read a story—usually one from Grimms’ Fairy Tales--Hansel and Gretel—how scary the hot oven must have looked! Snow White—how sweet was that red apple? Little Red Riding Hood—could she really not recognize that it was a wolf instead of her grandmother?? Although I listened intently to the same stories told to me hundreds of times, they always seemed exciting and new.

I soon realized how wonderful it was to sit down and write a story. For some strange reason, I am able to just sit at my desk, listen to what my characters are saying, and then place their words on a page. I have been extremely fortunate in that each of my novels has won national awards.

Writers decide just how they want to tell their story – some brave souls, often those who have experienced great trauma, leave their own story on a page by writing a memoir. 

Others write of the life they longed to have. But all writers, especially those who write fiction, tell stories from their own points of view, from their own experiences – their thoughts and imagination.

It is our story, even if it is fictionalized. Every author leaves themselves on the page – even if they don’t write a tell-all memoir.

I have always enjoyed intertwining history with fiction in my novels—plus, I usually add a murder or two.

I try very hard to write books that I would enjoy reading, filled with characters that I would like to have as next-door neighbors.


My first novel, Inventing Madness, is filled with murder and mystery. In the late 1800s, Thomas Edison is a serial killer. How else do you think he acquired two thousand patents? Although I intertwined fact with fiction in this novel, the actual deeds committed by Edison were far worse than anything I could have imagined.


My second novel, The Pearl Harbor Conspiracy, was influenced by my father. He was one of the few survivors of the Bataan Death March which occurred at the beginning of World War II. He spent four years in a Japanese Prison Camp. The novel involves Ethel Rosenberg, who attempts to draw isolationist America into the European war to stop the Jewish genocide. The novel is a harrowing tale of female resistance and camaraderie. 


My latest book, The Curious Spell of Madam Genova, begins with a fortune-teller explaining to her client that she must purchase a scarf that was used to commit a murder.

And why write about a fortune-teller?

Well, as a young girl of about 12 or 13, I went with my girlfriend and her family to a rodeo that was held at the Joe Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio. I paid a fortune-teller twenty-five cents to tell my future. She was amazingly accurate, and since that time I have been fascinated with fortune-tellers and the magic that surrounds them…even as a pathologist, I know I should base my beliefs solely on scientific research.

So, whether you read a novel or listen to your characters and write their stories, I hope both will bring you joy.

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Joyce G. Schwartz, M.D., is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin where she received a Master of Arts degree with high honors. She then attended The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio where she obtained her Medical Degree. She currently works as a pathologist in San Antonio, Texas.


Monday, August 1, 2022

A little visitor and a couple of more books read...

 


Hi there book friends!  Can you believe that today is the first day of August?  I can't.  And yet, since I'm kind of ready for fall, it's OK.  Hope you like my picture above of a sweet little visitor we had right below our back porch area.  I took this shot a couple of months back and had forgotten that I was going to share it here.  I suspect this little one was only a few hours old.  Very tiny.  We have a bunch of deer that wander around our area and the fawns in the group have grown much bigger since spring.  Don't worry.  The 'mama' deer was very nearby, though the does will sometimes tuck their fawns in a sheltered spot and leave them for a bit to forage.  They always come back for them.  

I've still been reading up a storm and have a couple of books to share thoughts with you.  The first is The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner.  I did like this book so much!  It was just the right book for me to read after several thrillers.  I love anything about Jane Austen.  The Jane Austen Book Club is one of my favorite movies.  This book is about a group of people who come together in the English village of Chawton to try to preserve Jane Austen's final home and some of her possessions as a gift to society in general.  The time period is the late WWII period, though the war itself plays very little part in the story.  There's a doctor, a teacher, a farmer, an actress, a housemaid, and others who form the Society.  Each of them has a story and we get to know them gradually.  Their struggles are eased by their personal journeys reading Austen books and I like the way the themes of the novels and characters are used to support and tell this tale.  

I'll be discussing this book with our 'Historical Fiction' Book Group on Thursday and I'm excited to hear what others thoughts about it.  This is Natalie Jenner's first book, but she has a second that was published in late spring, The Bloomsbury Girls.  Set in the 1950's, the new book tells of a bookstore and three women who work there.  There is a character from The Jane Austen Society who is part of the book, but I won't tell who.  Have you read either of these books?  Do tell!

The second book I read recently was The New Neighbor by Karen Cleveland and it was another thriller.  I think I've read all of this author's books.  They usually include people who work for either the CIA or the FBI, sometimes both.  I've enjoyed all of them and that was the same here.  As a former CIA counterterrorism analyst, Karen Cleveland brings a sense of authenticity to her books that I like.  This story was set in a neighborhood cul-de-sac and tells of Beth Bradford, a CIA analyst, who has been hunting for a spy for over 15 years.  However her life is going to change - rapidly.  Her children are now grown and gone and she and her husband are selling their house on the 'perfect' street.  She goes to work and finds big changes to her job - she's being taken off her primary case.  What has caused this action and how might it be connected to her own neighborhood?  Well, you'll have to read The New Neighbor to see.  This was a quick read for me.  

I'm now reading Tess Gerritsen's new Rizzoli and Isles book, Listen To Me.  Good so far.

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Come back tomorrow when I'll have a guest post by J. G. Schwartz, an author from San Antonio who had an event at our local library a couple of weeks ago.  She had an interesting presentation and I look forward to reading her books.         

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Reading a few more recently published books...I'm having a good summer in that regard...

Hi there, book friends!  Hope you are all doing well or doing well enough.  I greet you from the dry, hot Central Texas area with little rain forecast for upcoming days or weeks.  Well, that's summer.  This is indeed one of our hottest years in over 10 years, but 2011 was awful as well.  Guess we will see what fall brings.  Yes, we've got August to get through first.  Aren't we glad that we have air conditioning?  When I was a kid, not so much or not everywhere.  I can remember the sound of fans rotating back and forth and back and forth.  Ceiling fans were not such a thing in those days and windows were open to catch a small breeze.  Yes, that was in Texas too.  What was really hot was school.  It wasn't a normal thing for schools to have A/C in Texas probably until the 1970's.  Anyway, I'm grateful for what we have now.  


I've been reading more newly published books and enjoying them.  Here's some info about three of them.  First up was Ruth Ware's new book, The It Girl.  I think I've read all of Ruth Ware's books and though I have my favorites, I've enjoyed each of them.  This tells the story of friends at Oxford over a decade ago and what happens when one of them is killed during that university time.  And it also brings them up to the present day and how their lives are now and the possibility that the man convicted of the murder was not guilty.  Two of the friends are now married and expecting their first child.  The story goes back and forth and I was reading quickly to see if I could guess the solution.  Enjoyed this one a lot.


The next book I picked up was Sarah Pearse's latest, The Retreat.  I read this author's first book, The Sanatorium, last fall I think.  That book featured the same detective, Elin Warner, and was set in the Swiss Alps.  The Retreat has an island setting that has a dark history but now contains a wellness 'retreat'.  When a body is found below the yoga pavilion, Elin and her colleague are sent to investigate.  As I said, the island has a dark and supposedly 'cursed' past.  The setting is important here and the weather also plays a big part.  More than one person dies and Elin's investigation gets very complicated.  I liked this one a lot too.


My next book had an even more vivid setting, The Himalayas, and it was definitely a 'cold' book with mountain climbing and murder.  Breathless is Amy McCulloch's first adult book, though she has written several YA books.  The pace of this story was 'breathless' indeed and the setting and information about climbing the highest peaks was interesting and very scary.  The mountain to be climbed is Manaslu, 8th highest in the world, and the author did make that climb herself.  I think that's why her descriptions are so amazing.  The story is good, though I did get a little annoyed with the protagonist, Cecily Wong, a journalist who has come to climb the mountain in order to get an interview with Charles McVeigh, a famous mountaineer.  As the expedition begins, someone dies and then another person....are these horrible accidents or is there a killer on this mountain?  Well, you'll have to read Breathless to find out.  

Now, I'm reading The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner for the August discussion of the historical fiction book group I've been attending.  I'm liking a little slower pace and not so many gasps - ha!  I'm only going to be able to attend two of the four book groups I've been enjoying for August, so I won't have quite as many books to attempt to read.  The mystery group will be discussing The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey and I'm looking forward to talking about that one with the group.  Happily, I've already read that one and will likely just remind myself of a few things about it.

So, have you tried any of the books I mentioned above?  Let me know if you have and what you thought about them.  I'll be back soon to share more.  Take care!                

Friday, July 15, 2022

Reading three brand new books...plus a couple of book group meetings...

Hello my book friends!  How are you doing?  I have been fine and am delighted to say that we got almost half an inch of rain late yesterday afternoon and evening!  It was wonderful and I could almost feel the grass and plants 'drinking' in the moisture.  Lovely.  When I got out this morning to take my daily walk, it was 67 degrees and the air was fresh and clean.  I saw a bunch of fellow walkers as everyone wanted to make the most of the cool temperatures.  It's only supposed to get up to 93 degrees later this afternoon and that is about 8-10 degrees less than yesterday before the rain.  Will this be the start of something?  Probably not.  It is July after all and we still have August and probably September for summer-ish weather.  I'll take what we can get though.

First of all, I've attended two book groups lately.  Last week, I enjoyed the 'Historical Fiction' group discussion of Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.  And this week, the 'Brown Bag' group met and talked about Brit Bennett's book, The Vanishing Half.  Really interesting meetings and discussions.  I had not been able to read either book, but attended anyway and was glad I did.  I hope to get to both at some point.

I have been reading several 'just published' books and I'll talk a little about those next.  First up is Augusta Hawke by G. M. Malliet.  I met this author at one of the mystery conferences that I attended a few years ago and have known several who have read her Max Tudor series.  This book is the first in another series with the second hopefully to come out in 2023.  Augusta Hawke, the protagonist, is a crime writer who lives in the suburbs of Washington D.C.  She writes alone in her home and often peers out her study window thinking about how her story will go.  That's how she notices that her neighbors have gone missing.  When a police detective appears at her door with questions, Augusta decides to 'assist' in hunting for them.  Her current book is not going well and it will give her something to do.  The story was kind of easy for me to figure out, but as the first book in a series, I always give some grace for learning about characters, etc.  I'll be watching for the next book.

The next book I was delighted to pick up was Linda Castillo's new Kate Burkholder mystery, The Hidden One.  This is the 14th in the series, and it's a series that I  love.  I am also listening to an event at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore from yesterday with Linda and Barbara Peters.  I really enjoy these events (released on YouTube or can be live or as podcasts).  The Hidden One takes Kate out of Painter's Mill and I suspect that some will not be as happy with that, but the author herself thinks that it keeps the characters fresh and allows different aspects of their lives to be shown.  Kate is asked by three Amish leaders from a community in Pennsylvania to come to their town and help an old friend of hers.  Jonas Bowman and Kate were close when they were teenagers and Jonas has been arrested and charged with the murder of an Amish bishop.  Kate's regular team and significant other do appear, but not as much.  I liked this book a lot though.  I've enjoyed how the author has told us Kate's backstory bit by bit through the series.

Today, I finished up Carol Goodman's newest book, The Disinvited Guest.  It just came out on Tuesday and I was lucky enough to get an audio of it from the library.  I've read a number of this author's books, all standalones, and liked them.  They are often set in the woods of the Northeast or at schools and usually include things that would be considered in the Gothic realm - creepy, spooky, parts of legends or lore.  The Disinvited Guest does include the pandemic of 2020 (as the author refers to it), but I think it's set in about 2030.  There is another time of sickness, a new virus, and people are having to go back to some of the behaviors and cautions that filled our recent years.  Lucy and her husband, Reed, are going to an island off the coast of Maine, that Reed's family has owned for many years.  Some friends will be sheltering with them.  What Reed hasn't shared so much with Lucy is the history of the island in the 19th century.  It was known as Fever Island and served as a quarantine hospital for people coming to the US and Canada from Ireland.  These people had typhus and many died there.  When Lucy finds a diary written by one of the doctors that treated these patients, she discovers all kinds of secrets and also what people believe about the island.  Ah, yes.  I found this quite spooky and enjoyed it a lot.  I've been kind of picky about the books that I've read that include the pandemic times, but I was OK with how Goodman included it.  

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That's all the news I have for now.  I'll try to get back in the next week or so and let you know what I've been reading or doing.  Take care and have a good weekend! 

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Sarah Stewart Taylor's Mystery series featuring Maggie D'arcy - I've read all three...

Hello everyone - hope you're all having a good week and reading some great books!  I wanted to check in and tell about my recent reading - Sarah Stewart Taylor's mystery series.  There are now three books in this series and the protagonist is Maggie D'arcy, a police detective in Long Island, New York.  The books are:






I really enjoyed these books and liked Maggie and her colleagues a lot.  Maggie works as a homicide detective in Long Island, but her family has ties to Ireland and her uncle owns an Irish pub that she grew up working in.  In the first book, The Mountains Wild, we learn that Maggie's cousin, Erin, went missing in Ireland 23 years ago.  At that time, Maggie herself travelled to Dublin in order to help the police any way she could.  Erin was not found.  In the present time, the Gardai' let Maggie's family know that Erin's scarf has been found and another young woman is missing.  Again, Maggie travels across the sea to see what she can find out.  The difference is that Maggie is now a divorced mother of a teenager and she's also a cop.  

In the second book, A Distant Grave, the story continues with the action set on Long Island, but definite ties to Ireland.  And the third book, The Drowning Sea, takes Maggie and her daughter, Lilly, back to Ireland for a supposedly relaxing vacation that will include a lot of personal changes in their lives.  I don't want to share too much, so no spoilers.  

What I will share is that the mysteries themselves were good and I enjoyed the puzzles.  I loved the descriptions of the settings, Ireland especially.  I was so immersed in the audio of the first book that I almost ignored a neighbor saying 'hello' while I was out walking.  I apologized and told her that I wasn't in 'hot' Texas, but I was in 'cool, damp' Ireland.  Ha!  

Sarah Stewart Taylor has another mystery series as well, the Sweeney St. George series, that I believe has four books.  These were written previously and the first book is O'Artful Death.  Have not read these, but maybe...  

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As to what I'm reading now, I just started G.M. Malliet's new book, Augusta Hawke.  So far, so good.  And I've got Linda Castillo's new Kate Burkholder mystery, The Hidden One, waiting in the wings.  Reading is definitely good right now!  

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Asheville, NC Vacation - Part 5 - Two Bookstores and some author info...

Last post about our trip to North Carolina.  I wanted to share pictures of two bookstores we visited and, of course, I bought a couple of books.  Not too many as I was having to transport back by air.  Anyway, hope you enjoy these.

The first bookstore is in downtown Asheville and it's called Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe.  We really enjoyed looking around the store and I bought one of those 'blind date'-type books.  More about that below.  The employees were very friendly and there was a great display of local/areawide authors that was fun.

I learned that an author that I'd been aware of, but not read, was from the area.  His name is Mark de Castrique and he has a mystery series, featuring Sam Blackman, that's published by the Poisoned Pen Press.  It is set in Asheville and, as I said, I'd been aware of his books - probably saw them at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore.  Anyway, I was glad to know the Asheville connection.

I also had vaguely known that Zelda Fitzgerald had been mentally ill and hospitalized for a portion of her life.  It turns out that she had been a patient at Highland Hospital in Asheville and actually died in a fire at that hospital.  Anyway, Lee Smith, an author that I've read a couple of times, wrote a book called Guests On Earth, and it's a fictionalized account of mental illness treatment in the early 1900's and includes the fire at Highland Hospital where 9 women died in the fire.  I'm planning on reading Guests On Earth at some point.  As I said, nice display about area authors.      




 

My 'blind date' book is below.  As you can see it was wrapped in brown paper and had 'Asheville landmarks, Mystery and murder, Quirky characters, Amazing animals, Roller derby, And a bird to love' as a teaser.  Yes, they had me at 'Mystery and murder'.  When I bought the book, the staff at the checkout desk said that I would likely not guess the author if I wasn't from the area.  And I did not guess.    


When I unwrapped the package, I found As The Crow Dies by Kenneth Butcher.  I haven't started it yet, but I'm looking forward to it.    
 

The second bookstore that we visited was in the little town of Hickory, North Carolina and called The Book Exchange.  It's between Asheville and Charlotte.  A fun little used bookstore that I enjoyed wandering around for a bit.  




I told the lady behind the counter that I was checking to see if they had any of Mark de Castrique's books, since I had just discovered that Asheville mystery series.  Happily, they did have one book and I snatched it up.  It's the 7th book in the series and entitled Murder In Rat Alley.  The first book, which my local library happily has, is Blackman's Coffin and I think there just happens to be a picture of the Biltmore on the cover.  Ha! 


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Well, that concludes my lengthy sharing about our North Carolina trip.  As I've said, we had a great time.  Hope you found something you didn't know or of interest to you.

Take care everyone and I hope that all have a nice holiday weekend if you're in the US.  Happy 4th of July!


Thursday, June 30, 2022

Asheville, NC Vacation - Part 4 - Grove Park Inn - Historical Tour


Welcome to my second post about the historic Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina.  The link here tells about the building of the hotel.  The information included was part of the historic tour that one could listen to while walking from place to place on the property.  I had a good time looking around, listening, and imagining.  The hotel had displays and exhibits everywhere.  I just wandered about and enjoyed.  It reminded me a bit of the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, which I wrote about here and here several years ago.  Like the Broadmoor, this hotel was also built as a retreat for health in a mountainous region.  Edwin Wiley Grove was a very rich man.  His fortune came from inventing Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic, a way of taking quinine for treatment of malaria without experiencing the awful taste.  He was very successful.  Mr. Grove then decided to build a hotel.  Below, you can see two pictures taken during the building phase.  The rocks to create the Inn were hauled from the area and 400 men worked long, long days to finish the hotel in a year's time.
 



Below is a picture of one of the gigantic fireplaces in the main room/lobby area of the Grove Park Inn.  


This is a very unique feature built into both the giant fireplaces - an elevator for each.  Yes, this is how one accesses the upper floors of the main historic section of the hotel.  Elevators built into the side of the fireplaces.  They each are small, require an operator, and you go in one door and exit another door when you get to your floor.  I was a little scared the first time we went up, but the elevator operators were very friendly and knew a lot of fun tidbits about the hotel and the area.  Still, it felt a little 'Harry Potter'-ish.  Ha!


As I said, there were exhibits and displays and photographs and videos all over the hotel.  This was a display of the original advertising for 'Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic'.  It actually says 'Makes Children and Adults As Fat As Pigs'!  Back when this medicine was in use, being well-fed and roly-poly was considered a blessing.  It's an odd little ad though.  Ha!


As with many historic places, there have been odd and unexplained things happen.  The picture below is of the type of dress that 'The Pink Lady', the local 'ghost', would have worn.  'The Pink Lady' was a young woman who perished in a fall from the 5th floor to the 3rd floor of the hotel in 1920.  


There have been many famous people who have visited this hotel over the many years it has been open.  A local writer has a book that's available to purchase and I, of course, got a copy.  In Tales of the Grove Park Inn, Bruce E. Johnson, shares stories and history of the area.  I haven't read it yet, but I'll let you know how it is when I do read it.  


Bruce E. Johnson also wrote a book about 'The Pink Lady' entitled An Unexpected Guest.  I decided to treat myself to that one too.    


The last pictures I will share are all from an event that happens at the Grove Park Inn each holiday season, The National Gingerbread House Competition.  I didn't know this, but the competition has occurred for 30 years at this hotel.  There was a whole section and display regarding the creative people that come to share their 'gingerbread' art.  Loved it.  

I can make gingerbread cookies and do some fun things with cookie cutters, but these creations are amazing!  Who wants to enter this year?  Ha!  I texted my daughter the pictures and said she and her husband should try it.  She just laughed and said it seemed way beyond their skills.  






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My last post about Asheville will be Saturday and I'll show a couple of North Carolina bookstores that I visited (and picked up a couple of additional books).  Take care, stay well, talk to you soon!