Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Teaser Tuesday

"The fires behind them had melted into one vague glow against the black sky, and the land was almost out of sight.  It was time to come about.  "Watch your head, my lady." (620)

George R. R. Martin.  Clash of Kings.  New York:  Bantam Books. 1999.

First Chapter Tuesday

"The comet's tail spread across the dawn, a red slash that bled about the crags of Dragonstone like a wound in the pink and purple sky.
     The maester stood on the windswept balcony outside his chambers.  It was here the ravens came, after long flight.  Their droppings speckled the gargoyles that rose twelve feet tall on either side of him, a hellhound and a wyvern, two of the thousand that brooded over the walls of the ancient fortress." (1)  Prologue

George R. R. Martin.  Clash of Kings. New York:  Bantam Books. 1999.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Musing Mondays

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What is the best book you read LAST year?

Asking me to pick a favorite book is like asking me to name a favorite grandchild, but I did have two books from 2015 that stand out in my memory.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton and Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.  Neither were written in 2015 but that is when I found them. Both have elements of mystery which is what originally drew me to them but there is so much more to them both.

Amazon.com Review - The Forgotten Garden

Amazon Best of the Month, April 2009: Like Frances Hodgson Burnett's beloved classic The Secret Garden, Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden takes root in your imagination and grows into something enchanting--from a little girl with no memories left alone on a ship to Australia, to a fog-soaked London river bend where orphans comfort themselves with stories of Jack the Ripper, to a Cornish sea heaving against wind-whipped cliffs, crowned by an airless manor house where an overgrown hedge maze ends in the walled garden of a cottage left to rot. This hidden bit of earth revives barren hearts, while the mysterious Authoress's fairy tales (every bit as magical and sinister as Grimm's) whisper truths and ignite the imaginary lives of children. As Morton draws you through a thicket of secrets that spans generations, her story could cross into fairy tale territory if her characters weren't clothed in such complex flesh, their judgment blurred by the heady stench of emotions (envy, lust, pride, love) that furtively flourished in the glasshouse of Edwardian society. While most ache for a spotless mind's eternal sunshine, the Authoress meets the past as "a cruel mistress with whom we must all learn to dance," and her stories gift children with this vital muscle memory. --Mari Malcolm

Editorial Reviews - Mr. Mercedes

From Booklist

King’s interest in crime fiction was evident from his work for the Hard Case Crime imprint—The Colorado Kid (2005) and Joyland (2013)—but this is the most straight-up mystery-thriller of his career. Retired Detective Bill Hodges is overweight, directionless, and toying with the idea of ending it all when he receives a jeering letter from the Mercedes Killer, who ran down 23 people with a stolen car but evaded Hodges’ capture. With the help of a 17-year-old neighbor and one victim’s sister (who, in proper gumshoe style, Hodges quickly beds), Hodges begins to play cat-and-mouse with the killer through a chat site called Under Debbie’s Blue Umbrella. Hodges’ POV alternates with that of the troubled murderer, a Norman Bates–like ice-cream-truck driver named Brady Hartfield. Both Hodges and Hartfield make mistakes, big ones, leaving this a compelling, small-scale slugfest that plays out in cheery suburban settings. This exists outside of the usual Kingverse (Pennywise the Clown is referred to as fictive); add that to the atypical present-tense prose, and this feels pretty darn fresh. Big, smashing climax, too. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: No need to rev the engine here; this baby will rocket itself out of libraries with a loud squeal of the tires. --Daniel Kraus


The greatest popular storyteller of his generation returned to his finest form with this superb evocation of a psychopath who kills by driving an enormous Mercedes into hundreds of people queuing for the chance of a job. -- Geoffrey Wansell Daily Mail With John Updike dead and Philip Roth retired, Stephen King might just be America's greatest living novelist ... THE BEST THRILLER OF THE YEAR ... It is by far his best and it is recommended to crime buffs and King fans alike. Sunday Express When it comes to grabbing an audience by the throat and giving them no choice but to keep reading, King has no equal Guardian A thrilling cat and mouse game Mail on Sunday, Ireland Rrichly layered, technologically savvy story ... is uncomfortable, yet riveting, to read ... A creepy, ripped-from-the headlines climax, a showdown between good and evil that characterizes the best of King's work ... Excellent addition to King's growing list of mystery-thriller titles; there's even a small hint that the Mr. Mercedes show may go on - a scary thought indeed. L. A. Times A tightly plotted crime novel that retains that essential, instantly recognizable flavor that has distinguished King's fiction for more than 40 years ... On one level, MR MERCEDES is an expertly crafted example of the classic race-against-the-clock thriller. On another, it is a novel of depth and character enriched throughout by the grace notes King provides in such seemingly effortless profusion. It is a rich, resonant, exceptionally readable accomplishment by a man who can write in whatever genre he chooses. Washington Post

Saturday, May 7, 2016


Lately I have been obsessed with cozy mysteries.  They are very relaxing yet there is still the challenge of the mystery.  Some of my favorite include the Tea Shop Mysteries, Cackleberry Club, and Scrapbooking Mysteries all by Laura Child.  Then I have added the Book Shop Mysteries by Lorna Barrett, the Molly Malone Mysteries by Maggie Sefton, and the China Bayles series by Susan Wittig Albert.

I am returning to a few other series I started in the past, such as Diane Mott Davidson Culinary series and Carolyn Hart Death on Demand.

There is a bonus to most of these.  Most come with recipes.  For one of my creative challenges I will try a few and post my results.

But for now, I am gearing up for the Bout of Books read-a-thon.  I won't have time for much else!

Thursday, May 5, 2016


As part of this creativity challenge I am participating in a read-a-thon at Bout of Books.  I have signed up already over at Joyful Jottings where I will be making most of my posts but one of the things that this creativity challenge has done for me is to take me out of my comfort zone with reading.  I am reading more and I am reading a variety.  In addition, I am reacting - publicly - to these reads.

If I am not "making" things, at least I am getting more involved in the book.  My reading isn't a passive exercise.  I am putting more of myself into the story and then getting more out for myself.  

I am excited about the challenge.  I can't wait to see how I progress.  I have some lofty goals, one of which is to read the books I have on hand.  I will not buy another book, or download one on Kindle, or check out one from the library.  I am going to knock off some of the ones here gathering dust.  

I will probably do lots of cross-over posts but that's OK.  I am writing.

These are near the top of my stack. These have been around a while!   

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 16 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

First Chapter Tuesday

"I tell you, Trish, we're all victims."
Victims?  In the town voted safest in all of New Hampshire?  Tricia Miles raised an eyebrow and studied the septuagenarian bookseller before her over the rim of her cardboard coffee cup.  Here it comes, she thought wit dread, the pitch.

Lorna Barrett.  Murder is Binding.  New York:  Berkley Prime Crime. 2008

Monday, May 2, 2016

Deadly Politics

Recently I visited the Cozy Chicks site and read a wonderful post about the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.  I made a comment and in the author's response she mentioned areas of DC that we both knew very well.  In addition, she mentioned the first book in her Molly Mallone mystery series.  I was intrigued so I bought that book.
I enjoyed it very much.  I must say it kept me guessing.  In fact, the ending left me wanting (maybe even needing) more.  While the story and characters are important, for me I began reading to feel the setting.  Sefton captured Georgetown perfectly.  
I am not a great "reviewer" so I have included a snippet from Amazon.  It says it best.

From Amazon:

A gripping new mystery from New York Times bestselling author Maggie Sefton 
Molly Malone was driven from Washington, D.C., by political back-stabbing, scandals, and personal heartbreak. But now she’s starting a new life in the one place she swore she’d never come back to.
When Molly’s only Washington job prospect falls through, her politico niece, Karen, sets her up with a position in the office of a freshman senator. As the former wife of a congressman, Molly is alarmed to hear that Karen is having an affair with her boss,  congressional chief of staff Jed Molinoff. Just days later, Molly finds Karen shot to death. Discovering that Molinoff has ransacked Karen’s apartment, Molly investigates further . . . and finds herself in the crosshairs of a shadowy political group that’s killing anyone who gets in its way.

"Maggie Sefton's foray into political intrigue is a marvelous look at the shady underbelly of insider Washington...A tightly plotted tale of treachery."
"Sefton has a sharp ear for dialog and knack for writing strong female characters that serve her well as she ventures into suspense."

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Little Beach Street Bakery

I shy away from Chick Lit.  I am not sure why except I think I feel that that aspect of life has passed me by.  I am no longer a 30 something looking for love.  I am advancing into my Miss Marple stage or at least the Mrs. Marple stage!

I do like books with recipes such as the Tea Shop Mysteries so perhaps the bread recipes are what grabbed my attention.  I am so glad they did.  I loved this book.  I am drawn to the setting and the food but eventually the story sucked me in.  

Polly's life is falling apart.  She and her boyfriend are facing bankruptcy with a failing business and their relationship has hit rock bottom as well.  There is nothing left for her to do but leave and try to start over.  She moves to a small island into a falling apart former bakery with a grouchy baking rival as her landlady.  Before long her therapeutic baking attracts the attention of some locals which leads to a new relationship that isn't what it seems.

Although the ending is uplifting, there are plenty of drops along the way.  

From Amazon:

In the bestselling tradition of Jojo Moyes and Jennifer Weiner, Jenny Colgan's moving, funny, and unforgettable novel tells the story of a heartbroken young woman who turns a new page in her life . . . by becoming a baker in the town of Cornwall
A quiet seaside resort. An abandoned shop. A small flat. This is what awaits Polly Waterford when she arrives at the Cornish coast, fleeing a ruined relationship.
To keep her mind off her troubles, Polly throws herself into her favorite hobby: making bread. But her relaxing weekend diversion quickly develops into a passion. As she pours her emotions into kneading and pounding the dough, each loaf becomes better than the last. Soon, Polly is working her magic with nuts and seeds, chocolate and sugar, and the local honey—courtesy of a handsome beekeeper. Packed with laughter and emotion, Little Beach Street Bakery is the story of how one woman discovered bright new life where she least expected—a heartwarming, mouthwatering modern-day Chocolat that has already become a massive international bestseller.

Friday, April 29, 2016

One Dark NIght

Kevin F. McMurray tells the true story of the murder of Peggy Perez-Olivo and the subsequent trial of her husband accused of the crime.  From the beginning McMurray details two sides of Carlos.  He is a wheeler-dealer get rich quick kind of shyster lawyer who eventually is disbarred for providing poor counsel among other reasons.  On the other hand, he seems to be a loving husband and father who indulges his wife in wining, dining, and shopping sprees.

Did Carlos kill his wife?  Was he trying to get the insurance money?  There is never a clear cut motive.  He had had an affair but it was over.  He did need money but he had deals in the works.  I wanted to know why.

At the end of the story I felt that he was guilty but only because he was an unlikable character.  I just felt like he did it.  His children disagree.  They don't believe he would ever do that to their mother.  They were convinced he loved her.

I'm not so sure!

Book Page

Yesterday, I picked up a copy of the May issue of Book Page from the library.  I like to go through it an circle book titles that I want to add to my TBR list and then reserve at the library.  

This isn't a good picture but this is the "hot list" of books for the month.  The book listed one up from the bottom is the new book by Laura Lippman.  

From Amazon:

Laura Lippman was a reporter for twenty years, including twelve years at The (Baltimore) Sun. She began writing novels while working full time and published seven books about "accidental PI" Tess Monaghan before leaving daily journalism in 2001. Her work has been awarded the Edgar ®, the Anthony, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Nero Wolfe, Gumshoe and Barry awards. She also has been nominated for other prizes in the crime fiction field, including the Hammett and the Macavity. She was the first-ever recipient of the Mayor's Prize for Literary Excellence and the first genre writer recognized as Author of the Year by the Maryland Library Association. Ms. Lippman grew up in Baltimore and attended city schools through ninth grade. After graduating from Wilde Lake High School in Columbia, Md., Ms. Lippman attended Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her other newspaper jobs included the Waco Tribune-Herald and the San Antonio Light. Ms. Lippman returned to Baltimore in 1989 and has lived there since.

The new book out is called Wilde Lake which as you will notice is the name of the high school she attended.  It is also the high school my kids attended and the name of the section of Columbia in which we lived.  So I have got to read this book.  I have read most of Lippman's stand alone books and a few of her Tess Monaghan series.  

Several of her books take place in the Baltimore and Howard County area.  There is something special and exciting about seeing familiar places in a novel and even more fun to be able to make connections from the fiction to real life incidents.

I will read Wilde Lake.  How could I not?  I look forward to seeing my old stomping grounds as part of her story.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Railwayman's Wife

Reviews certainly can be misleading.  I read a five-star review of this book and put it in the back of my mind thinking I would add it to my TBR list.  Then, I read an article suggesting books about libraries.  This topped the list.  Books and the library play a role in this novel, but not to the extent I would have like.  

Reading this book was a strange experience for me.  I wanted to read to find out what happens to the characters, but I didn't really care.  In fact, there was nothing I really cared about.  I was mostly just curious.

I have tried several times now to write something more about the book but can't quite be coherent. So I am going to resort to bullet reactions.

  • Ani's grief seems real.  That is important to the story.
  • Isabel (the daughter who is 10) is not realistic.  She is too wise for her age.  She seems to handle her grief "too well."
  • The secondary characters of Roy and Frank don't get enough development.
  • I didn't like the back in time memories.
  • In reviews I read there was mention of a surprise ending, but it wasn't a big surprise.  It was too obvious.
Here's the kicker....I would recommend it.  I want to hear what others think of this book.  It is a novel that would be great for a book group because there is much to discuss.  It would be easy to agree and to disagree about the story.  I'm glad I read it, and I am also glad I got it from the library.  It is not a book I care to own.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and Beat

"That's what I thought, since Michelle found the body."  Andrea swiveled in her chair to face Michelle.  "I'm really sorry you had to go through that, Michelle.  I remember how I felt when I found Max's body in the old barn."  (245)

Joanne Fluke.  Wedding Cake Murder.  New York:  Kensington Publishing Corp. 2016.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Books About Books - Part One

Finding something to read is not usually a difficult task.  I can walk through a book store or the library and come away with a back breaking haul.  Scrolling through blogs or Facebook yields pages of titles for my TBR stack.  With that in mind, why would I want to consult books about books?  

That's easy, I might miss something.  In one of my field trips through Barnes and Noble, I came across two interesting books:  Book Lust by Nancy Pearl and the follow up More Book Lust.  The titles alone were worthy of my attention - books and lust!

First and foremost, Nancy Pearl is a reader.  Next, she is a librarian.  She comes by her knowledge of books quite honestly.  According to the back cover blurb Pearl also had a weekly program on a Seattle NPR affiliate and she has published several reviews in various magazines.

The books are arranged into lists of books categorized by theme, setting, mood, author or any number of other classifications.  Once I accepted a challenge to read books that represented each state in the US.  The Book Lust books were the first places I turned to get ideas  In More Book Lust there are sections:  Florida Fiction, The Great Plains, Idaho: And Nary a Potato to Be Seen, and New England Novels to name a few.  Thanks to these books I was well into the challenge.

Both of my books are dogeared, highlighted, and bookmarked.  There are post-it notes on almost every page.  Periodically, I will choose a list and read two or three of the suggestions.  I think my compulsion is to complete each category.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tricky Twenty-Two

The Stephanie Plum Series by Janet Evanovich possibly has the best cast of supporting characters of any series around.  Stephanie is no slouch but the gang that surrounds her is the wildest.

In this latest book of the series, Stephanie is still working for her cousin Vinny the bail bondsman who works for his father in law in the mob.  Her job is to find the people who fail to appear at court costing Vinny (and the mob) their money unless they are found.  Stephanie must find a college student who beat up the dean and is now on the run.  She could go it alone but since the files are all online now, the file clerk Lula is her assistant.  

Lula is a "big" beautiful former 'ho.  Her obsessions include shoes and food.  When Lula leave Stephanie literally holding the lunch bag, everyone knows there must be trouble.  Later, when a group of frat brothers lock geese in Stephanie's car, Lula releases them only to be rewarded by being pooped on.  Not to worry this just gives her a chance to change her hair color from lavender to bright yellow.  Lula is laugh out loud hysterical and my favorite character.  If I ever meet a 'ho, I hope she is just like Lula.

Another great character is Grandma Mazur.  Since her husband died, she lives with Stephanie's parents,  Her antics (especially with guns) has driven Stephanie's mother to drinking and Stephanie's father to mumbling.  Grandma Mazur is not ready for a retirement home.  She still enjoys a night on the town especially if it includes a wake or a funeral.  In this book, the widow is bored with her husband's wake so she bolts leaving Grandma Mazur enthusiastically greeting the mourners.

Finally, the men in Stephanie's life are hot.  Ranger a sexy bondsman turned security expert is eager to keep an eye on Stephanie and to add extra protection.  Not to be outdone, Joe a Trenton cop provides a relatively normal love life. Well, usually, sometimes....oh ok it is hot too!

I really don't care how the plot progresses.  I simply want to see what Lula and Stephanie get into and how Ranger and Joe get them out of trouble.  All this goes with Grandma Mazur running in and out and Stephanie's parents nearly blinding themselves with eye rolls.

I can't wait for Twenty-three.  

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jayber Crow

I am not sure where I read about the book Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, but it piqued my interest.  I went right to the library to find it.  Part of the reason I was drawn to it was because the reviewer said it was a book he had to read in seminary.  I assumed it would be "religious."  It wasn't religious but it was spiritual.

Jayber Crow is an orphan.  He has decided to become a minister; however, in college he confronts questions for which there are no answers.  At least the answers will be for him alone and it may take a lifetime to learn them.  So he leaves college to wander.

Eventually, he settles in a small town and takes over as the only barber.  It is here he truly ministers. His clients depend on him for more than a weekly shave and a haircut.

From Publishers Weekly

The role of community in the shaping of character is a recurring theme in the work of poet, essayist and novelist Berry, as evidenced once more in this gratifying novel set in Berry's fictional Port William, Ky. Jayber Crow, town barber from 1937 until 1969, is born in the environs of Port William, but after the deaths of his parents and, later, his guardians, he is sent to an out-of-town orphanage at the age of 10. Returning 13 years later, in the flood year of 1937, the solitary young man goes on to learn the comradely ways of the town. "In modern times much of the doing of the mighty has been the undoing of Port William and its kind," Crow reflectsAa reflection, too, of Berry's often-stated beliefs that salvation must be local, that rootlessness and a fixation on the postindustrial era's bright new toys will destroy us environmentally and economically. Crow earns his living with simple tools; he becomes a church sexton, though he is not unthinkingly pious; and his unrequited love for farmer's wife Mattie Chatham is pure and strong enough to bring him serene faith. In contrast, Mattie's husband, Troy, the novel's villain, disturbs the "patterns and cycles of work" on Mattie's family farm, trumpeting "whatever I see, I want" and using a tractor. The tractor stands for the introduction of new machinery and the unraveling of the fabric of family farming. It is not surprising when Troy cheats on his wife nor does it come as a shock when the Chatham's young daughter becomes a victim of dire chance. Berry's narrative style is deliberately traditional, and the novel's pace is measured and leisurely. Crow's life, which begins as WWI is about to erupt, is emblematic of a century of upheaval, and Berry's anecdotal and episodic tale sounds a challenge to contemporary notions of progress. It is to Berry's credit that a novel so freighted with ideas and ideology manages to project such warmth and luminosity. 12-city author tour. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Me

I loved this book.  Perhaps the theology of the book lies in Jayber's desire to always be fair, to live true to his own beliefs, and to be part of community.  Jayber added so much to his town in ways that far exceed his mere occupation.

It is not a difficult book to read.  As Publishers Weekly says it is a leisurely pace.  That doesn't mean that the reader will want to put it down.  Despite the fact that there isn't one strong plot line, there are several issues that need resolution.

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry may be difficult to find.  My library had an old well read copy but my local Barnes and Noble had two paperbacks.  

This was my first read of 2016 and a very satisfactory was to begin.

Friday, April 22, 2016


I am not a "huge" movie fan.  I rarely go to a theater but I do occasionally check out the "On Demand" section of my cable and I do watch most of the Academy Awards.  This year I was surprised at the number of movies from books that were nominated in one category or another.  I made a promise to read some of them.

My first pick was Brooklyn by Colm Toibin.  What a lovely story!  Eillis Lacey is the youngest child of  a family in a small town in Ireland in the early 1950s.  Her father is dead and her three brothers have gone to England to find work.  They have made it clear that they have no intention of moving back.  Her older sister lives at home.  She has a good "office" job, great clothes, and strong personality.  She loves golf.  It is Rose's decision that Eillis should move to America to work.  Rose will remain in Ireland with their mother.

Eillis does move to America with the assistance of an American Priest who finds her a room, a job, and college.  Eillis struggles to fit in.  She succeeds at work and at school.  Slowly, she makes friends and eventually a young man.

Toibin has created a wonderful character in Eillis.  It is a pleasure to watch her grow.  I loved her reaction to her housemates and their landlady.  

In addition to good characters, the book's setting is well crafted.  The major events such as allowing African Americans in the department store occur naturally without preaching or prejudice.   

I am so glad I read this book.  I don't know if I will see the movie but at least now I know what the "fuss" was all about.  I am going to pass this book on.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

#tbt - Throw Back Thursday

I taught high school English.  I am a reader so maybe that means in a way I will always teach English.  I believe there are some books everyone should read - classics perhaps by some "experts" standard but definitely classics by mine.

Everyone should read Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  There is sadness and despair.  The Great Depression has made finding work almost impossible, but men who are willing to travel and move on can find limited work as laborers.  It can be a lonely life moving to one farm after another facing the role of "new guy."  But, Of Mice and Men shows this life in a different light.  

The two main characters George and Lenny travel together.  Nothing alike, they still manage to stave off loneliness offering each some sense of belonging even as they enter a new situation.  George is small but strong.  He has the brains.  Lenny is big but doesn't know his own strength.  He has the dream.  The dream - they are going to get themselves a little farm and Lenny will raise the rabbits.

They are closer to their dream than ever before when they settle in at the ranch in the Salinas valley. The guys they work with seem fair and hard working if they can just steer clear of Curley and his wife.  But Lenny likes pretty things, soft things and that sets them on the path to destruction.

The book is sad and it can make the reader angry.  After it has long been over, the beauty and love becomes evident and some of the darkness fades.  It is a short but powerful work.  Everyone owes it to themselves to set aside a weekend to spend with George and Lenny to learn the lesson of love.

There are several movie versions.  I have only seen two of them.  The 1981 version stars Robert Blake as George and Randy Quaid as Lenny.  The 1992 version stars Gary Sinise as George and John Malkovich as Lenny.  I liked both films but my favorite is 1992.  I love Gary Sinise.  Watch both and compare.  I am sure there is a 1939 film as well but I don't know about others.  Watch the movie after reading, please.  Both are fairly faithful to the story but the power of words will be diminished if the reader knows what is coming.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Wordless Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Books and Beat

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
 BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
My Teaser:
"For the first time, she was grateful for the city's blackout conditions.  She slipped into the darkness on the sidewalk and all but disappeared." (185  Hannah, Kristin.  The Nightingale. New York:  St. Martin's Press. 2015.)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Eggs In Purgatory

Remember this blog is connected to the challenge posed in A Daily Creativity Journal and today's "assignment" was to use food that was in the house for our project!  

I recently started the Cackleberry mystery series by Laura Childs.  I am a huge fan of her Tea Shop mysteries.  Since I am up to date with those books, I went in search of a new one and was happily satisfied with this.

Three women who by their own description are on the north side of 40 have opened a restaurant in an abandoned gas station.  With a book nook and a knitting corner, the cafe is a big success.  They are the hit of the town.

One day after Suzanne's lawyer stops by with some papers for her to sign, his body is found in his truck behind the Cackleberry Club.  How can Suzanne let this go?  She and her buddies Petra and Toni are off to find the truth.  Luckily, their restaurant is popular and gossip abounds along with several clues.  It makes sleuthing more intriguing.

There are bumps along the way with more crimes and not without accusations but in the long run Suzanne finds the guilty party.  

Technically, my eggs are in the Inferno but they had to go through limbo to get here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016


I read books in order.  The thing that I love about series is that you get to see the characters grow.  It gives the author a chance to gradually develop their personalities.  Another thing about series is that story lines can branch off in very different directions over the course of several books.  Finally, villains can pop in and out leaving the reader unsure about their fates.

I am reading the Kay Scarpetta series in order.  Patricia Cornwell is doing everything I want in a series.  Scarpetta is changing over the course of the books.  Her relationships with Marino, Wesley, and Lucy are expanding and contracting as in real life and the quirky villains are in and out like restless children.  I love that.  Who is going to re-emerge next?

Predator is the 15th book in this series.  Publisher's Weekly some interesting comments about it.

"It's not often a crime novel offers such a smorgasbord of oddball elements, including autopsy advice, methods of combating tree blight, the use of spiders in sadomasochist torture and couples covering the sexual and psychological waterfronts. There's even a little nasty fun at the expense of television psychoanalysts."

But, are these characters growing or shriveling?  Publisher's Weekly goes on 

 "Her Dr. Kay Scarpetta is all snarky professional reserve and personal insecurity. Self-loathing lesbian niece Lucy, sounds properly troublesome and troubled, with an added catch in the throat due to a secret she's keeping. Pete Marino, the bullet-headed, gym rat security chief of the Lucy-originated National Forensic Academy, sounds so gruff and aggressive, he should be kept on a chain leash. And Scarpetta's inamorato, Benton Wesley, whose study of mass murderers' brain patterns gives the novel its title, is, as his name suggests, the very model of a dry, annoyingly passive-aggressive personality. The joke here-intended or not-is that the novel's protagonists are almost as mentally or emotionally disturbed as its homicidal villains."

This isn't my favorite of the series.  In fact, I started to give it up at several points.  I like to have some clues leading to the identity of the "bad guy."  In this book, the big reveal comes out of nowhere.  I didn't see hints leading to the conclusion.  It was almost too neat or something.  

The one thing I am looking forward to is seeing Dr. Self again.  She is a real doozy of a character.  Too good to just drop.

 These quotes from Publisher's Weekly appear on the Amazon page for Predator.  Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

Footnote:  I want to make sure that I give credit for using snippets of that review.  It validates my opinion of the book but the words belong to the review.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Library Day: Memories Part I

Today is library day.  Actually I have no set day to visit the library.  I usually go when they call.  Let's be clear.  They don't invite me to visit.  There is no need for that, but they do send me emails when they know it's time for a visit.  For example, yesterday I got two messages:  one reminding me that I have two books due soon and one announcing that two books are ready for me to pick them up.  So off I will go for a two for two trade.  It doesn't always work out so evenly but today it is even steven.

I am a library lover.  I have been fortunate to live near great library systems.  It began early when my mother would walk me to the DC library branch closest to our house.  Now that was a library - heavy wood furniture, a separate children's room, and "Ssssh" signs all over the place.  I had a paper card(!) and each book had two cards in a pocket in the back - one card with bibliographic information and the other for a date stamp.  Then the librarian stamped the due date on that card and took a picture of my library card and the two book cards.  Imagine no automation.   There was a limit to how many books could be checked out at a time and the late fine was one cent per day.  What a difference a "few" years make.  As I grew up, the DC branch I visited changed but the set up remained the same.  Back then there were not many "young adult" books, if any, so in high school I left the children's room behind and went straight to adults.  I think that is why I read so many classics.

After college, my new library was in Prince Georges county Maryland.  These branches were newer and more modern that the DC library but they were stocked full of delights.  I was exclusively in the adult section now.  My favorite shelves held mysteries but I did drift over to True Crime.  I still enjoyed classics but now I also looked at the "New Release" section.  My interests were broadening.

After I was married, Howard County, Maryland was my home and their libraries became my haunt. These were fantastic.  The main branch by Merriweather Pavillion and the Miller Branch in Ellicott City were my homes away from home.  In the evening after dinner I would wander around those stacks for hours.  Saturdays at the mall often ended with a quick stop at the library.  Card were plastic now and computer systems were all the thing!  I think this library system is one of the very best in the US.  They have so much to offer and if they didn't have what I wanted they got it for me.  Howard County Libraries still are the standard for which I judge all others.

There are other library systems:  Carroll County, South Coastal Library, and now Chesapeake but I have books calling me.  Those stories will have to wait for another day.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Lake House

The Lake House by Kate Morton.  I LOVE this book.  It ranks right up there on my all time favorite list.  I bought this book months ago and it has been sitting in the bag on a chair in my bedroom.  I'm not sure why I left it for so long:  I've been reading several series books?  I've been busy?  I am just not sure.  I'll say now that I was saving it.  I certainly was savoring it.  At one point with about 50 pages to go, I put it aside.  I didn't want to finish.  I didn't want it to end; however, I did want to get some answers.

One of the things I love about Kate Morton is that she knows how to keep a secret.  She can keep her readers in suspense until the very end.  But, the really very clever thing is that early on she reveals the true story.  She just keeps giving plausible alternatives until the reader is not sure who or what to believe.  By the end, and I mean the very end, the reader is surprised.  Perhaps surprised because he knew it all along or perhaps surprised because it didn't seem likely.  Either way by the conclusion everything is neatly brought together in ways that seemed impossible.

There are two stories moving through the book.  The first is the story of Alice Edevane and her family who live at the lake house pre-World War II.  In 1933 at a midsummer party held at their home, Alice's baby brother disappears.  Through a masterful arrangement of flashbacks and flash forwards gradually the facts come out.  Family history, tensions, worries are revealed all contributing to the crime.  

Meanwhile there is a story of Detective Constable Sadie Sparrow who is on forced leave from her job in London.  She comes to Cornwall for a rest at the home of her grandfather who raised her.  She is in trouble because she has become too close to a case of a mother who disappeared leaving her baby home alone.  Sadie can't let the case rest.  There must be an explanation for the mother's disappearance.  There must be foul play.

The stories converge when Sadie discovers the lake house deserted and in disrepair while jogging from her grandfather's cottage.  Curiosity leads her to the mystery surrounding the Edevane family giving Sadie a new case and a distraction from her troubles.  Chapters of her investigations in 2003 are mixed among the chapters during Alice's youth and the story shifts just as the reader begins to understand.

With the help of Sadie's grandfather, an elderly policeman from the original investigation, and Alice Edevane herself, Sadie is able to find the truth in both of her cases.  Some might say the ending is too perfect, but fairy tales play and important part in the story, so why not happily ever after?

I love this book and I love this author.  Unfortunately, she only has four other books for me to read. Should I put them off to extend my pleasure?  

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time Out

Today I am taking a time out from individual books to slow down and enjoy a cup of tea.

A lovely stop along the Book Road.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Scraps and Paper Planes Flying Along the Road

Creativity can be painful.  Thinking of things to meet the daily challenge can be a challenge in and of itself.  Create something from paper without using scissors or glue...and no drawing at all.  That just hurts my brain.  Luckily for my teachers, I was never a paper plane flying ace but in keeping with the theme "Book Road" I made the effort to create a plane.  Don't judge.  I am good of lots of other things.

Today we stop along the Book Road in New Orleans with a book that incorporates uses for scrap paper.  Keepsake Crimes by Laura Childs is the first in her scrapbooking mystery series.  Carmela Bertrand owns a scrapbooking shop in New Orleans.  She has a good business that thrives particularly because she has a small group of regulars who spend lots of time and lots of money there. They also act as sidekicks in her adventures.  

In Keepsake Crimes, Carmela is newly separated from her husband who has decided his stodgy banking position no longer suits him.  He is off to the Bayou to photograph nature sans wife.  She has been left behind to handle their friends, his family, and the police.  There has been a murder and Shamus is a prime suspect.  Although she is hurt and angry at his departure, Carmela can't believe he is guilty so off she goes to investigate.

In addition to the mystery, there are scrapbook tips and recipes included and there is a great picture of life in New Orleans.  This particular book gives a peek at Mardi Gras from the perspective of the home town folks.  Like Childs' other two mystery series,  there are strong women and an assortment of kooky characters.  I am well into the Tea Shop series and just started the other two.  Childs hasn't let me down.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Greta Takes the Road

Dogs are my favorite animal.  Are dogs even animals?  Aren't they really furry people?  They are in my family.  I think that is why books about dogs are especially difficult for me to read.  I don't like movies when a dog inexplicably wanders into the story.  I am sure his demise is eminent.  I will stop watching. 

This reaction  started with the movie  Old Yeller. After that I could never read the book and I have always been wary of Walt Disney.  I only read Sounder because I was supposed to teach it. I requested a grade change the next year.  I think I may be the only person whose heart broke for Cujo. He wasn't naturally mean.  He didn't ask to be bitten.  I really felt sorry for him.  I hated that old drunk too.  It was his fault the family left.  

So I am not sure why I picked up Where The Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  I do know why.  I was with my cousin one Saturday in the fall.  We were wandering in and out of antique (really junk) stores.  I couldn't quite understand why she was so excited to find a Baking Soda tin.  She had to have it to use in her class when they read Where the Red Fern Grows.  The students would finally be able to picture how Billy saved his money.  She assured me I could borrow it when I taught the book.  "I don't teach the book."  In fact, I had never heard of the book.  She fixed that.  As soon as we finished up in that store, we headed to a book store where she bought me my first copy of the book.  After lunch, I headed home to a Saturday night alone with Billy, Old Dan, and Little Ann.

This book should have landed at the top of my Do Not Read list and definitely should head the Never Read Again list but it remains one of my all time favorites.  I used to read it to every 7th grade class I taught.  It became the class of legends.  New classes would ask, "Are you going to read us the book that makes you cry?"  Everyone wanted to be the person sitting next to me when I started sobbing because they knew I'd hand them the book to "pick up where I left off."  The place where I begin to cry changes every year.  It gets closer and closer to the beginning.  Honestly, when I picked up the book to take these pictures, I flipped open and started reading.  I had to stop on page two.  This is the very beginning - the first part of the frame story - not even into the real plot.  I just know what is coming.

I can't believe kids today don't read this book.  I'm not sure there is a movie and it will never replace the book.  I don't care if it wins every Oscar there is.  Nothing can be better than the words that come along the Book Road to "the beautiful valley far back in the rugged Ozarks." 

My dogs mean every bit as much to me as Old Dan and Little Ann did to Billy.  I have to stop thinking about it now.  I can't see the computer screen any more.  I'm crying.  I hate dog books.