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I’m a sucker for a locked-room mystery. Or an isolated-island mystery, in this case. It’s day 114 of quarantine here, and while nobody has been killed off yet, I’ll admit I’m starting to have a lot more sympathy for all those characters trapped in country houses, abandoned islands, and snowbound trains.

I’ve been looking forward to reading They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall since I first saw it mentioned last year. Little did I know that by the time I finally read it, I would be feeling the walls closing in on me as if I was the one stranded on a deserted island. Nonetheless, I was excited to finally get my hands on this book.

Miriam Macy has big plans for her week on a private island off the coast of Mexico. This is her chance to fix all her problems—the financial problems, the legal problems, the problems with her teenage daughter.

It was supposed to be a week in paradise, participating in a new reality show that must surely have a hefty cash prize waiting at the end. Instead, Miriam and her fellow travelers quickly find out that they’ve all been lured to the island under false pretenses. And before long, one of them is dead. Then another.

Miriam’s new plan is simple. Survive the week, escape the island, and get back home to her daughter.

If, like me, you’re a huge Agatha Christie fan, this probably sounds a little familiar.

And Then There Were None is one of my favorite Christie novels—one of the first I read as a child and probably the one I’ve reread the most. Howzell Hall makes it clear on the dedication page that this is her version of Christie’s novel:

While I’m all about cozy mysteries, I was intrigued by the idea of “something darker and American.” Howzell Hall delivered on her promise by bringing in issues relevant to today’s headlines—cyber bullying, police violence against people of color, a diverse cast. And it definitely has a darker feel. Which is kind of strange, when you think that Christie’s version included multiple murdered children as well as an unrepentant mass murderer, although those murders were firmly in the past and only alluded to. They All Fall Down feels grittier and more realistic.

I had quite a bit of fun as I read, picking out details she had carried over from Christie’s novel, a bit like hunting for Easter eggs in a Pixar movie. Starting with the title. Howzell Hall, like Christie, took her title from a children’s poem, although fortunately a much less offensive one. Then there is the boat ride to a forsaken island with other guests who have been invited under similarly false pretenses, a table with disappearing figurines, a female narrator whose character is repeatedly questioned by her male housemates, a gun that goes missing . . . there are lots of little nods to the original novel. I won’t list them all, especially since some would be spoilers, but see how many you can find!

While I enjoyed the book, especially at the beginning, I found that the further I read, the less likable I found the characters. I sympathized with the narrator in the beginning. I could feel the pain of the rift between her and her daughter, but found her less and less sympathetic as the story went on. While all of the characters in And Then There Were None are clearly bad people, I admit I always found myself hoping a bit that Vera would survive and change her ways. Maybe because her guilt seemed to haunt her so. With Miriam Macy, I just couldn’t seem to root for her in the same way. She seemed intent on putting the blame for her actions on others. I found most of the characters equally unlikable.

Overall, I do recommend the book. Just be forewarned if you are expecting a Christie-esque cozy, this is not one. It is, as the author promised, “something darker and American.”

Have you read They All Fall Down? How many details
from Christie’s novel did you find folded into the story?

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There may be no such thing as bad weather in Ireland, but here in Kentucky and Tennessee the endless rain is starting to wear out its welcome. I love rainy days, but the rising floodwaters have me wishing for some sunshine!

It feels like it’s been raining here for the proverbial 40 days and 40 nights. Rivers and creeks are overflowing their banks, farmers’ fields have turned into ponds and lakes, and my hometown has closed the gates in the flood wall that holds back the Ohio River. Early forecasts—often made by woolly worms and persimmon pits—warned us that this would be a bad winter. Lots of snow and below average temperatures.

And what have we had? Unseasonable warmth and interminable downpours. My daughter and the dog of mischief are slowly losing hope for a big snow to frolic in. Mud puddles just aren’t the same.

I’ve been making use of the time stuck indoors to Marie Kondo our kitchen and dining areas, because the three junk drawers were sparking something that was definitely not joy. Getting the house cleaned and organized cheers me up on gloomy days, and it’s a great way to procrastinate when you’re supposed to be writing, because it clearly isn’t avoidance—it’s just something that needs to be done.

I’ve also been sorting through the photo storage boxes that hold most of my prints from my pre-digital days. I knew that if I weeded out all the prints of missed focus, bad exposure, and multiple shots of random things that I practiced on when I was starting out with photography, I could clear out some serious storage space. I’m about halfway there, and though it’s slow going, it feels good to be making progress. Looking through all those photos reminded me of something I’d been meaning to do on the blog, so . . .

Starting this month, I’ll be sharing a monthly photo. Since March brings us St. Patrick’s Day, a photo from our trip to Ireland seemed appropriate. This is one my favorites—a view of Dingle town from the bay. The colorful buildings made me feel like I’d stepped into a storybook.

A view of the colorful buildings of Dingle, County Kerry, Ireland

How is the weather in your neck of the woods? Have you had snow? We’ve 
had pretty much zero snow this year, so if you do, I’m jealous. Enjoy!
As for me, I’ll be over here waiting for spring . . .

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I’ve been a little bit obsessed with all things Irish for . . . well, pretty much always. But since I visited in 2016, it’s reached a whole new level of madness. I absolutely cannot wait until I’m able to go back to see more of the country, but until then I relive my visit through the many, many pictures I took while I was there. (And through all the Irish products I can find locally—Guinness, Jameson, Barry’s Tea, Bewley’s Coffee . Not to mention the Butler’s White Chocolate I order direct from Dublin. If you haven’t tried it, you must. It doesn’t really taste like white chocolate to me. It’s like Eagle Brand Condensed Milk in candy form.)

It’s no secret that I love all things Irish. So to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, I’m giving away an Irish Blessing wallpaper & a free printable.

The beauty of the Irish countryside is simply breathtaking.

This photo was taken from the Ionad an Bhlascaoid Mhóir—The Great Blasket Centre, in Dingle, Co. Kerry, which is a fascinating history museum. I mean, seriously. Can you imagine having that view all the time? I think I spent about 75% of my trip with my camera glued to my face because everywhere I looked was just beautiful. For instance . . . 

This was our view when we stopped at a petrol station. Yep. A gas station. You know what my local gas station has a view of? A Rite Aid & another gas station.

The Irish have quite a way with words.

Kissing the Blarney Stone (which I did—my fear of heights & the ick factor did not stop me) is supposed to grant you the gift of gab. While I can’t say I’ve become much more loquacious, the Irish are certainly known for their way with words. They gave us Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Jonathon Swift, Bram Stoker, C.S. Lewis. The list goes on and on. Oh, and one of my favorite poets, W. B. Yeats. His The Second Coming is just chilling.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
. . .

— W. B. Yeats

If those words aren’t prescient, I don’t know what is.

And then there is the Irish blessing, which can admittedly be a bit of a mixed blessing.

Sure, there are the blessings like the one I chose for this post, but there’s also this . . .

May those who love us, love us;
And for those who don’t love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if He doesn’t turn their hearts,
May He turn their ankles,
So we will know them by their limping!

— Irish Proverb

I like to think my slightly twisted sense of humor comes from my Irish ancestors.

Oh, & if printables are more your thing, visit
this post to download my Irish blessing printable.

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Our gloomy January weather here in Kentucky has left me feeling completely unmotivated to pick up my camera. Or to do much of anything, really. (Except bake and consume cookies. Seriously, last week I baked iced oatmeal cookies, and I’m pretty sure I ate the entire batch myself.) 

So, today I’m sharing one of my favorite shots from our trip to Ireland last year, when I couldn’t seem to put my camera down. We were somewhere along the Wild Atlantic Way, in County Kerry near Dingle. The brilliant turquoise of the water took my breath away. It was nothing at all like the iron gray I’d always expected of the North Atlantic.

Photo of two children on a cliff overlooking the ocean on a stormy day in County Kerry, Ireland

We stopped at an overlook to get a better view of the beautiful waves crashing below, and the sight of my two babies, an ocean away from home and all they’d ever known, seeing the world for the first time, stopped me in my tracks. They looked so very small there at the edge of that big sea. Of all the blessings on our trip, I think the one I’m most grateful for was being able to see it through their eyes. This picture brings all those feelings back every time I see it. I think it may have to go on the wall.

I can’t wait until we get swept away again.

Fueled by equal parts sweet tea and passion, I spend my days capturing the kinds of images that make you stop, smile and ask time to please slow down. 

Your story, your love, is beautiful and I can’t wait to capture it in images you will treasure for years to come. I believe in real moments and heartfelt conversations on the front porch. In the kinds of images that remind you of the joy that can be found in the simplest of moments together. 

mystery writer & editor

I’m Amanda

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