Category Archives: Books

Missing Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey just may be my all-time favorite show.

I am well aware that it is just a show, but I’ve spent so many Mondays eating lunch with Lady Mary, Lady Edith, Lady Cora, Anna and the many other wonderful characters that I feel as though I’ve lost a large group of friends now that the show has ended.  I’ve also really enjoyed discussing the show with my actual friends over the past six years.

Knowing there are others who will be missing Downton Abbey as much as I am, I’m sharing a list of books and videos that I hope will help my fellow Downtonites with the transition to life-after-Downton.

Please comment below with your favorite books and videos for Downton Abbey fans!


Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon

Written by the real Countess of Carnarvon, a fascinating book about the Real Downton Abbey.  Includes the story of the Earl of Carnarvon helping discover the tomb of King Tutankhamun.
Also by The Countess of Carnarvon is Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey which I hope to read soon!

To Marry an English Lord: Tales of Wealth and Marriage, Sex and Snobbery by Gail MacColl

On my reading list!

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear 

Maisie is from a lower class family, but after she starts working as a maid in a wealthy home in London her intelligence is discovered by the lady of the house.  She then gains a tutor, becomes a nurse in World War I, and ultimately trains to become a private investigator.  There are currently twelve books in the Maisie Dobbs series.

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

A young Jewish girl from a wealthy Vienna family takes a position as a maid in an English country house to escape Jewish persecution during World War II.  The story follows her struggles to adapt to a very different position from how she grew up and her relationship with the father and son of the house.

Haunting of Maddy Clare by Simone St. James
Sarah is employed by ghost hunters to help investigate a barn believed to be haunted by a maid named Maddy Clare.  This story takes place between between the World Wars.  Not the strongest book on this list, but it’s from the same time period as Downton Abbey, I like ghost stories, and I found it enjoyable.


My favorite version of one of Jane Austen’s best books features Colin Firth in the role of Darcy.  Highly recommended!
I love these movies based on the classic novels by L.M. Montgomery about an orphan adopted in Prince Edward Island.  Highly Recommended!
A great mini series based on the Hornblower book series by C.S. Forester and starring Ioan Gruffud.  I enjoyed the videos so much that I read the entire book series afterwards.
A later time period than Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge tells the story of Harry Selfridge who started the first department store in London.
Young ladies work as midwives in a poor area of East London in the 1950’s.  Great characters and stories.

More Videos

The following shows are not similar to Downton Abbey in time period or setting but they are some more of my favorite shows.  Maybe they will appeal to other fans of Downton Abbey as well!
Starring Jennifer Gardner as a young field agent who finds out that she’s not working for the CIA.  One of my top favorite shows!
Another of my favorite shows that is ending after this season!  Great characters and story about Alicia who does not divorce her husband after his political scandal but also manages to reinvent herself as a successful attorney.
If you like The Good Wife, you may like Canterbury’s Law starring Julianna Margulies (from The Good Wife) as attorney Elizabeth Canterbury.  The dvd linked above appears to have all six episodes, including the pilot episode.
A series about another strong female character, Geena Davis stars as U.S. President Mackenzie Allen.

Pope Joan eBook Deal on BookBub

Today, one of BookBub’s $1.99 Kindle deals is Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross.  These deals are usually only available for a limited time, often only a day.

I read this book several years ago, and found it quite interesting and enjoyable.  It has a 4.5 star rating on Amazon out of 596 reviews.

This story is based on an actual theory that one of the popes in the ninth century was a woman.  Joan was a very intelligent girl who disguised herself as her brother when he died and eventual goes to Rome where she becomes pope.  Whether the story is true or not, it is very well written and a great story about life in the ninth century.

BookBub is a site that sends an email listing several free eBooks and eBook deals each day.  It’s a great way to hear about the daily eBook specials!

Carroll-Caton House

Sisters of Fortune: America’s Caton Sisters at Home and Abroad by Jehanne Wake is about the lives of the four granddaughters of Charles Carroll of Annapolis, signer of the Declaration of Independence.  The Caton sisters were very interesting, well-educated and cultured women, having a very close relationship with their grandfather who was active in overseeing their education.  Their education included excellent training in finances which they put to good use investing their inheritences, and protecting them from their husbands who were not as good with finances.  The book includes very interesting Maryland history of the Carroll and Caton families.  It also includes several references to the Caton House and leaves one wondering about the location of this historic home that is not known locally.

Richard Caton, son-in-law of Charles Carroll and father of the four Caton sisters, was given the task of developing some land for his father-in-law near Baltimore, MD.  The area was named Catonville for Caton.  The town’s name was later changed to Catonsville. (1)

A web search turned up a Caton House Restaurant and a Caton House Apartments in the Baltimore area, but no other Caton House.

Caton House Restaurant – Halthorpe

The Caton House Restaurant in Halthorpe is located at 1506 South Caton Ave.  A call to the restaurant was answered by an employee who had no knowledge of the Caton family, where the original Caton House was located, or any history of the restaurant.  She mentioned that the current owners were not the original owners and doubted that they had any more knowledge of the history.

There is an article on the web titled “Famous Baltimore Restaurants That Burned Down” by Vernelle Nelson.  It says, “Caton House Restaurant first opened in the Cross Street Market in 1846. It moved to an Italian Revival-style building in 1871, which burned down in 1951. Today, Caton House is in the same location that it has called home since 1952.” (6)

Caton House Apartments – Catonsville

The Caton House Apartments are located at 417 Wheaton Place, Catonsville.  An employee at the Caton House Apartments said she thought that they were built in 1969.  No other information was found.

Castle Thunder – Catonsville

Castle Thunder, Catonsville (4)

A staff member at the Catonsville Historical Society said that Richard and Mary Carroll Caton had a country home named Castle Thunder in the area now known as Catonsville.  There is a commemorative plaque for Castle Thunder at the Baltimore County Public Library’s Catonsville Branch at the corner of Beaumont Avenue and Frederick Road.  The plaque says that the house was a gift to the Catons from Mary’s father, Charles Carroll, and was there from 1787 until 1906.

Castle Thunder Historical Marker, Catonsville (5)

“Sisters of Fortune” says of Castle Thunder, “Part of Mary Carroll’s marriage settlement included a small 1,000-acre estate situated on part of the 30,000 acres of Carroll land near the small town of Baltimore, an area still known as Catonsville.  Her father built a new house here for her which was named “Castle Thunder,”  although the plain late eighteenth-century stucco building bore little resemblance to a castle.  Mary, however, shared the Carroll fondness for Voltaire, especially Candide, in which Castle Thunder is an “earthly paradise” of calm and unquestioning optimism.”

However there is some debate whether this is the actual location of Castle Thunder as noted on theBaltimore County Public Library web site (2) and the Historical Society of Baltimore County web site (3).

While Castle Thunder was a home of the Catons, it was not known as Caton House.

Carroll Mansion – Baltimore

Carroll Mansion, Baltimore

Studying “Sisters of Fortune” more closely, it is stated that when Emily Caton McTavish inherited Caton House in Baltimore from her parents, “she gave the property to the Sisters of Mercy, after which it was (and continues to be) known as the Carroll Mansion.” (p. 333)

The Carroll Mansion is located at 800 East Lombard Street in Baltimore.  Carroll Mansion should not be confused with Carroll House in Annapolis, the home of Charles Carroll.

Charles Carroll passed away on November 14th, 1832 at the Carroll Mansion which may be the reason its name was changed from Caton House to Carroll Mansion.

Carroll Mansion is also sometimes know as Carroll-Caton House.  It is now a museum that is open to the public and can be rented for events.

Caton House Restaurant and Apartments Connections

It is unclear how the restaurant and apartments became know as Caton House since they are not especially close to the Carroll-Caton House on Lombard street.   While the restaurant is on Caton Ave., it appears that it was not originally located there according to the article referenced above. (6)  The apartments are possibly named for Catonsville, where they are located.

Additional Links

Baltimore County Public Library Catonsville Room
Has reference materials, “display cases with photographs, even a brick from the original Castle Thunder.”

Catonsville Post Office “Incidents in the History of Catonsville” Murals

“Arrival of Mary Carroll Caton at Castle Thunder” Mural Photo from
Catonsville High School, Baltimore County

Maryland Historical Magazine, Volume 17
Information about Mary Carroll Caton and Castle Thunder

Richard Caton, Buried in Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore 

Mary Carroll Caton, Buried in Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore 

Emily Caton MacTavish, Buried in Greenmount Cemetery, Baltimore

(1) Catonsville Historical Society – 
(2) Baltimore County Public Library – Castle Thunder History –
(3) History Trails 42, no. 4, “Castle Thunder, The Catons, and Catonsville’s Historical Myths”, John McGrain –
(4) Castle Thunder photo and caption from “Catonsville” by Marsha Wight Wise –
(5) Castle Thunder Historical Marker –
(6) “Famous Baltimore Restaurants That Burned Down” by Vernelle Nelson – 

The Winter That Almost Wasn’t eBook

This past winter my daughter and I published our new picture book, “The Winter That Almost Wasn’t” as a Kindle ebook!  It’s currently $.99 on Amazon.  As the weather warms up, a winter story may be the perfect way to cool off!

Inline image 3

Making snowmen, sledding, snow angels, and so much more!
Sally, Mia and Ben can’t wait for snow, so they’ll try all the ways they can think of to make it snow.
“Sleep on a spoon
and we’ll have snow soon!”
How many snow making ideas do you know?

I wrote the story a couple of years ago at the end of a disappointing Maryland winter.  My kids had wished for a good snow all through the winter.  Just like the three kids in the story, they kept trying all the different ways they know to make it snow.

After hearing the story, my then 12 year old daughter offered to illustrate it for me, and we enjoyed working on this project together.

We hope you’ll read The Winter That Almost Wasn’t Kindle ebook and leave a review!  Thank you!

If you don’t have a Kindle, you can get a free ebook reader for PCs and most mobile devices on Amazon.

Howard County Library Hidden Features

This post was originally on my previous blog July 2012.

I am a big fan of our local library in Howard County, Maryland!  I love being able to get free books, movies, and music!

The Howard County Library has a great web site, but I’ve notice that there are a number of great features that while not exactly hidden, are not known by many other library patrons.  Even if you’re not a Howard County resident, your local library may have these features, or you can request them.

Get Almost Any Book!

The Howard County Library has a lot of great books, but they don’t have everything, of course.  If you’re looking for a particular book the obvious first step is to search the library catalog.  You can do this from home at, or from the library.

If you don’t find the book in the catalog, the next step is to search Marina.  Marina is a searchable network of Maryland libraries.  To access Marina, go to the Howard County Library home page and click the “How do I…” pull down. Then select “Use interlibrary loan.”  This screen includes information and instructions for Marina.  You’ll just need a Maryland library card number for a Marina request, and there is no charge.

If the book is not found through a Marina search, the next step is the last link on that page, “Request form for academic or out-of-state libraries.”  Sometimes this is just called ILS for Interlibrary Loan. There is a $1 fee for this interlibrary loan request if they find your item.

Request an Addition to the Collection

There is a form on the library web site under the Contact Us link (top right corner of the page) that patrons can use to request that the county library purchase items not already in the catalog.  From the Contact Us Page, click the “Suggest” link under “Make a purchase suggestion.”  Then find the item in, and copy and paste the ISBN, publisher and date published from there to the library form.

Another great option with this feature is that you can specify on the form that you would like to be placed on the wait list for this item if they decide to purchase it.

Suspend a Hold Request

I love being able to search for books, movies and CDs from my home computer and place a request so that they’re waiting for me the next time I go to the library.  With young children it’s been especially nice to be able to do this as opposed to hunting around the library for items while dragging a small child.  Then we can focus our library time on finding children’s books and pick up mine at the circulation desk!

An extra feature available for holds is Suspended or Inactive Hold Requests.  When you place a hold request, you can specify a future date that you want the hold activated instead of today’s date.  This is great for placing holds on my future book club books or scheduling my book holds so that my reading materials are spaced out conveniently.  The best part about this feature is that you continue to move up the hold queue while the hold is suspended, then when it is reactivated, you are at the top of the list or at least closer to the top of the list.

If you have already put a book on hold you can also go to the Hold Requests page of the Howard County Web Site and suspend a currently active hold.  Just check the box next to the item(s) that you want to suspend, then click the Suspend/Reactivate Selected button. Enter the date on which you want the hold reactivated.  I suggest setting the reactivate date for about 5 days before you need the book to allow time for the library to get it to your branch.

If you want to reactivate a suspended hold before the reactivation date you specified, you can just repeat the above steps and specify today’s date.

Free eBook and Downloadable Audiobook Loans Via Overdrive!

Most Maryland public library patrons can borrow ebooks through their library’s Overdrive subscription.  (I was told that the following information applies to all Maryland public libraries with the exception of Prince Georges County which has a separate subscription to Overdrive.)

To access the Overdrive site from the Howard County Library site, click the “How do I…” pull down and select “Find an e-book.”  This brings up the Electronic Books and Audiobooks page.  This page includes the link to the Overdrive database site, instructions for downloading ebooks to various ebook readers, and information about scheduling One-on-One Sessions to learn about borrowing ebooks from Overdrive.  I highly recommend the One-on-One Session.  I attended a class version of the session and even though I already knew a lot about Overdrive and ebook readers and picked up some interesting information.

When you’re ready to search the Overdrive database for ebooks or audiobooks, click the “Maryland’s Digital eLibrary Consortium (OverDrive)” link.  The Maryland Digital eLibrary Consortium is a group Overdrive subscription for most of the Maryland public libraries (except Prince Georges County as I was told.)

Overdrive allows you to check out 4 items at a time.  For each item, you can select a checkout period of 7, 14 or 21 days.  Kindle ebooks may be returned early through the Manage My Kindle page on (though if you return too many items early in a short time they will freeze your Overdrive account for copyright issues).  You may also place a hold on 4 items at a time on Overdrive.  I plan my holds so that I have 1-2 long term holds (long hold lists) and 1-2 short term holds (short hold lists), so that I have something to read while waiting for the longer hold list items.

Following are a couple of the tips that I learned at the “Are You EReady?” class at the library:

  • The advantage symbol OverDrive Advantage titlenext to some books means that my county library has purchased extra copies of that item for just the patrons in that county.  So if you place that item on your Hold List, you may receive it earlier that it would appear based on the number of people on the hold list.
  • It is recommended that you search the Overdrive site through the link above as opposed to searching the Howard County Library catalog web site for electronic materials.  The county library catalog is not updated very often, whereas the Overdrive site is always current.

For additional information about Kindles and other eReader devices, please see my page linked from

What is your favorite feature of the library?  Were any of these features new to you?

Happy Reading! 🙂