2021 in review: How the year played out and the best books I read



I’ve been trying to start this blog post for the past two days, but I keep getting caught up in one home organization project or another. I organized the clothing in my dresser and closet. Then, I sorted through all my jewelry and placed it into old pill boxes and various decorative storage containers to keep it straight, And this evening, I moved my sewing kit into one plastic lunch container so I could get rid of the old plastic drawer solution since the drawers never stayed closed.

Of course, that doesn’t include the regular things I did such as loading and unloading the dishwasher, doing laundry, cooking dinner (homemade pizza on Saturday night) and helping my husband with his apple pie by peeling and slicing the apples while he made crust. I don’t regret the time I spent engaging in any of these activities or the time I spent with my family.

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That for which I am thankful

Be thankful graphic with leaves


If someone had told me a year ago the changes I would face in 2021, I’m not sure I would have believed them. This time last year, I was hopeful for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, thankful for my family and friends, grateful for a job I loved and was able to keep while working from home to help stop the spread of the virus, missing my best Buddy, and preparing to publish my 4th novel. In some ways, beginning the final month or so of 2021 feels like a repeat of 2020. I’ve jokingly referred to 2021 as 2020: Part II several times throughout the year because, in many ways, I feel like we’re in the same place with the pandemic. So many other things have changed, and there are still so many things for which I am thankful. Continue reading

Rest in Peace, Queen of Suspense

Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark

Mary Higgins Clark
-from her author homepage

One of my favorite authors died on Friday, January 31, 2020. “Queen of Suspense” author, Mary Higgins Clark, lived to the remarkable age of 92. 

I discovered Clark’s books as a young teenager. My mom, aunt, and I would often frequent the Goodwill store in Benton, Arkansas. We all enjoyed the search for a good bargain and liked supporting a program that offers job training and other skills for people trying to make a living for themselves and their families. Plus, the savings on products helped our own family and is a great way to teach kids about recycling.

I am still a frequent Goodwill and thrift store shopper today. My favorite things to buy at these places are books. I buy plenty of new books, but finding a used treasure is always a blessing. I donate books frequently as well if it isn’t something I want to add to my permanent collection of books, which is around 675 volumes (an no, that is not a typo). I love to read more than any other hobby.

Around the same time, I discovered another late female author, V.C. Andrews*, thanks to the 50-cent paperbacks at the Goodwill, I also stumbled across an older book with an intriguing cover. It was Where are the Children? by Mary Higgins Clark. I hadn’t heard of this author before, but after picking up the book and reading the blurb, I knew it was a story I wanted to read. Further inspection of the shelves, which were in no particular order, revealed two other books by the author, The Cradle Will Fall and A Cry in the Night. So, for $1.50 (Thanks, Mom!), my journey of loving Mary Higgins Clark novels began.

Now, I have almost all of her novels in my collection. I love her storytelling ability. That’s not to say that I loved every single one of her stories. Some were just okay, but for the most part, I rated them as 4-star or above. The three pictured above were all 5-stars from me. Her early work at its best.

What intrigued me most about Clark was that she didn’t have commercial success until she was in her 40s. That gives hope to authors like me — authors who haven’t reached a considerable level of success, according to some people. While I may never reach Clark’s level of success, she was one of my favorite authors, and I am sad that there will be no new material from her intricate mind. The legacy she left behind will remain intact, though.

Another thing I admired about Clark was her class. She always spoke highly of her readers and her family. She carried herself with a level of class that is too often ignored in today’s world. My heartfelt prayers go out to her family and friends. While she lived a long life, I know her loss will leave a hole in their lives. Rest in peace, Mary. Thanks for all the stories.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

*Original novels actually written by Andrews, not the stories still being released under her name, which just aren’t the same.