Friday, March 23, 2018

Dear Abby - Favorite Dog Movies: Asta from The Thin Man

Dear Friends,

Today we are going far back in dog movie history to talk about Asta the Wirehair Fox Terrier from The Thin Man movies of the 1930's. 

The Thin Man was a series of detective comedies starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles.  They lived with their dog Asta.  These movies were based upon The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett.  (My Momma asked me to add that the book is a great read!)

Asta was portrayed by Skippy the dog (also known as Asta) for the first two movies, The Thin Man (1934) and After The Thin Man (1936).   There were several later Thin Man movies that starred other dogs (who were still billed as Asta).   These movies were: Another Thin Man, Shadow of the Thin Man, The Thin Man Goes Home, Song of the Thin Man, and the 1950's TV series The Thin Man.

The popularity of Asta made Wirehair Fox Terriers a popular dog breed in the 1930's!

Skippy, who portrayed Asta, was born in 1931 or 1932 and worked in movies until 1941.  Skippy was owned and trained by Henry and Gale Henry East.  He had a reputation as being one of the smartest and most responsive dog actors in classic Hollywood.

Asta with owner Henry East
Skippy later appeared in The Awful Truth, Bringing Up Baby, and Topper Takes a Trip.

Here is a very short (and very cute!) video of Asta in After the Thin Man.

Have you seen any of The Thin Man movies?  I would love to hear from you in the comments!


Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel

Book Synopsis
Megan Jacobs always wished for a different heart. Her entire childhood was spent in and out of hospitals, sitting on the sidelines while her twin sister Crystal played all the sports, got all the guys, and had all the fun. But even a heart transplant three years ago wasn’t enough to propel Megan’s life forward. She’s still working as a library aide and living with her parents in her small Minnesota hometown, dreaming of the adventure she plans to take “once she’s well enough.” Meanwhile, her sister is a successful architect with a handsome husband and the perfect life—or so Megan thinks.

When her heart donor’s parents give Megan their teenage daughter’s journal—complete with an unfulfilled bucket list—Megan connects with the girl she meets between the pages and is inspired to venture out and check off each item. Caleb—a friend from her years in and out of the hospital—reenters her life and pushes her to find the courage to take the leap and begin her journey. She’s thrown for a loop when Crystal offers to join her for reasons of her own, but she welcomes the company and the opportunity to mend their tenuous relationship.

As Megan and Crystal check items off the bucket list, Megan fights the fears that have been instilled in her after a lifetime of illness. She must choose between safety and adventure and learn to embrace the heart she’s been given so that she can finally share it with the people she loves most


Purchase Links

Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble | iBooks

My Review
The Heart Between Us tells the story of two sisters.  Megan had heart troubles throughout her childhood.  Eventually she was the recipient of a heart transplant.  She has learned to live cautiously because of her years of illness, in and out of hospitals.   Megan's twin sister, Crystal, had a happy, active childhood and as an adult she seems to have it all - handsome husband and career as an architect.  Then Megan meets her heart donor's family and her life changes.  They loan her their daughter Amanda's journal and Megan reads the young girl's bucket list.  She determines to follow the bucket list in order to fulfill Amanda's dreams.  Crystal surprisingly joins her on this quest, and in the process, they fulfill a few dreams of their own.

The Heart Between Us is such a lovely and uplifting novel.  It is told in alternating chapters about Megan and Crystal.  I found Crystal harder to warm up to at first because she seemed so perfect -- but I soon learned that was an illusion.  These were characters I cared about and enjoyed reading about.  I also loved Caleb, Megan's friend who has gone through a similar heart journey.  The romantic sparks between Megan and Caleb were fun to read!

I am a good armchair traveler but don't actually enjoy adventure travel myself.  However, I loved reading the travel scenes in this novel!   I especially loved the scenes in London and Paris.

This is a Christian novel and the message of faith is strong.  There is a wonderful message about trusting God, listening to his will, and being willing to take chances.

I loved the skillful way Lindsay Harrel drew these very different characters and moved their storyline along.  I found this a quick and compelling read.  (I could not put it down!)  It is well written and handles potentially heavy topics of health and life and death in a deft and positive manner.

I recommend The Heart Between Us for fans of women's fiction, Christian fiction, or anyone who is looking for an uplifting novel about changing your life.  I loved it!

Author Bio
Lindsay Harrel is a lifelong book nerd who lives in Arizona with her young family and two golden retrievers in serious need of training. She’s held a variety of writing and editing jobs over the years, and now juggles stay-at-home mommyhood with writing novels. When she’s not writing or chasing after her children, Lindsay enjoys making a fool of herself at Zumba, curling up with anything by Jane Austen, and savoring sour candy one piece at a time. Connect with her at

Connect with Lindsay

Website | Facebook | Twitter


I received a copy of this book from TLC Book Tours.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Spotlight and Giveaway - Playing With Bonbon Fire: A Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery by Dorothy St. James

Book Synopsis
Chocoholic Charity Penn must smoke out the killer to stop her newly inherited beachside chocolate shop from going up in flames in Dorothy St. James’ decadent follow-up to Asking for Truffle. 

Chocolate shop owner Charity Penn is finally settling into life in the quirky South Carolina seaside town of Camellia Beach cooking up chocolate treats. She’s even helped organize the town’s lively beach music festival which has brought rollicking crowds eager to dance the Carolina shag. That is, until one of the band’s lead singers is found dead beside a beach bonfire.

While also trying to balance the amorous attention of music star Bixby Lewis, in town for the festival, and her quest to perfect a new hot flavored bonbon, Charity dives into the investigation. Though it’s more spice than sugar when she discovers a threatening note, comes across decades of age-old secrets, and Bixby comes into the line of fire when a gas grill explodes on the deck of a beachfront house.

Now Charity must turn up the heat and catch the killer before her chance melts away in Playing With Bonbon Fire, the delightful second Southern Chocolate Shop mystery served up just right for fans of JoAnna Carl and Joanne Fluke.

Author Bio
Mystery author Dorothy St. James was born in New York but raised in South Carolina. She makes her home on an artsy island community in South Carolina with her husband, a neurotic dog, and fluffy cat. Though writing has always been a passion for her, she pursued an undergraduate degree in Wildlife Biology and a graduate degree in Public Administration and Urban Planning. She put her educational experience to use, having worked in all branches and all levels of government including local, regional, state, and federal. She even spent time during college working for a non-profit environmental watchdog organization.

Switching from government service and community planning to fiction writing wasn’t as big of a change as some might think. Her government work was all about the stories of the people and the places where they live. As an urban planner, Dorothy loved telling the stories of the people she met. And from that, her desire to tell the tales that were so alive in her heart grew until she could not ignore it any longer. In 2001, she took a leap of faith and pursued her dream of writing fiction full-time.

Known for the White House Gardener Mystery series, Dorothy is going back to her roots and setting a mystery series in a Southern beach town much like the one she’s called home for the past 20 years. The Southern Chocolate Shop Mysteries combine her love of fine chocolates, quirky Southern charm, with a dash of danger.

* Dorothy St. James is the alter-ego of the award-winning multi-published author, Dorothy McFalls. She enjoys writing in several different genres. Her works have been nominated for many awards including Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, Reviewers International Organization Award, National Reader’s Choice Award, CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Award, and The Romance Reviews Today Perfect 10! Award. Reviewers have called her work: “amazing”, “perfect”, “filled with emotion”, and “lined with danger.”

Author Links
Purchase Links
Indie Bound
Google Play
Barnes & Noble


One lucky winner will win a chocolate prize package from Dorothy St. James! (ends 3/25)

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Dear Abby - Favorite Dog Movies - Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

Dear Friends,

I'm back to follow up on a previous Favorite Dog Movie.   We chatted about The Incredible Journey (1963) before.  In 1993 Disney remade this movie as Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.

Like The Incredible Journey, Homeward Bound was based on the novel The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford.  Homeward Bound features an American Bulldog (Michael J. Fox), a senior Golden Retriever (Don Ameche), and a Himalayan cat (Sally Fields).  The pets belong to a family with a mother and children.  When their mother remarries and relocates to San Francisco, the pets end up staying with a friend on her ranch.  They decide to go exploring - and find their family, now far away.   The journey is long and dangerous, but they do safely make it home to be reunited with their family and the boy that loves them.


This is one of classic movie actor Don Ameche's final films.

Unlike The Incredible Journey, which relied on narration, the pets actually talk in this movie.

The pet breeds were changed from The Incredible Journey (1963).  In that movie they were a Labrador Retriever, Bull Terrier, and Siamese cat.

Here is the original movie trailer:

Have you seen Homeward Bound?  I would love to hear from you in the comments below.

Abby xoxoxo

Book Review - The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover by Susan Wittig Albert

Book Synopsis
NYT bestselling author Susan Wittig Albert returns to Depression-era Darling, Alabama…​where the ladies of the Dahlias, the local garden club, are happy to dig a little dirt!

In the seventh book of this popular series, it looks like the music has ended for Darling’s favorite barbershop uiquartet, the Lucky Four Clovers—just days before the Dixie Regional Barbershop Competition. Another unlucky break: a serious foul-up in Darling’s telephone system—and not a penny for repairs. And while liquor is legal again, moonshine isn’t. Sheriff Buddy Norris needs a little luck when he goes into Briar Swamp to confront Cypress County’s most notorious bootlegger. What he finds upends his sense of justice.

Once again, Susan Wittig Albert has told a charming story filled with richly human characters who face the Great Depression with courage and grace. She reminds us that friends offer the best of themselves to each other, community is what holds us together, and luck is what you make it.

Bonus features: Liz Lacy’s Garden Gate column on “lucky” plants, plus the Dahlias’ collection of traditional Southern pie recipes and a dash of cookery history. Reading group questions, more recipes, and Depression-era info at


Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | IndieBound

My Review
The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover tells the story of the ladies in a garden club in Depression era Alabama.  The book gives glimpses of their lives and follows them as they solve a mystery.

I love historical fiction, southern fiction, and mysteries, and cannot believe I am only now discovering the Darling Dahlias series!   This book was such a delight.   I grew up in the Deep South, and love the nostalgic, evocative small town that comes to life in this book.  I could almost smell honeysuckle and hear the screened doors closing!

I also loved the details of gardening and old time cooking.  From the Letter to Reader:

"We know that flowers nourish the heart and soul, but a big plate of stewed okra with tomatoes, buttered corn on the cob, and potato salad go a long way to comfort a body, especially these days, when jobs don't grow on trees and money is as scarce as hen's teeth.  Every Dahlia agrees:  If you've got a garden, you'll have all the wealth you need -- and good health to boost" (p. viii). 

This is my first Darling Dahlias read.  It took me a while to get all the characters straight, but the Autumn 1934 Club Roster, included at the front of the book, helped a lot with that.  I really got invested in the characters easily and enjoyed following their stories.  I especially loved the story of Liz Lacy's work at the law firm -- and re-emergence of her old beau.

The mystery aspect of the story was well written and well paced, with good little clues here and there.  I am very eager to catch up with the previous books in this series -- and to read upcoming Darling Dahlia books too.

The historical details were also well done, and brought a lot to the small town, 1934 Alabama setting.   I find the Depression Era fascinating, and rarely get to read books set during this time period.

For foodie fans, there are also some delicious sounding pie recipes at the end of the book!   They include some unique, old fashioned recipes like Vinegar Pie and Liz Lacy's Green Tomato Pie.

I recommend The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover highly for fans of historical fiction, southern fiction, and mysteries.  It is a delight from start to finish!

Author Bio
Susan Wittig Albert is the NYT bestselling author of over 100 books. Her work includes four mystery series: China Bayles, the Darling Dahlias, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, and the Robin Paige Victorian mysteries. She has published three award-winning historical novels, as well as YA fiction, memoirs, and nonfiction. Susan currently serves as an editor of StoryCircleBookReviews and helps to coordinate SCN’s online class program. She and her husband Bill live in the Texas Hill Country, where she writes, gardens, and raises a varying assortment of barnyard creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Wittig Albert’s website. Visit the Darling Dahlias Facebook Page. You can also find Susan on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest.


During the Blog Tour we will be giving away one paperback copy of The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover to one lucky winner!   To enter, please enter via the Gleam form below.  

Giveaway Rules 
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on March 16th. You must be 18 or older to enter. 
– Giveaway is open to US residents only. 
– Only one entry per household. 
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion. 
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.  
Darling Dahlias 

I received a copy of this book from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.