Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Resolutions, not Revolutions

In years past I would routinely make a list of New Year's resolutions on the order of losing a lot of weight, exercising every day, managing money better, losing clutter, and keeping the house spotless - all of those revolutionary changes that people think they'll do in the glow of New Year's Eve. Like everyone else, though, within days my revolutionary resolutions would be down the drain.

Finally I stopped making resolutions at all. Rather in the spirit of the change to a new year, I began thinking of January 1st as a fresh clean slate where I could do what I want in the year ahead to make my life better. Not that this has made a huge change in my life, but it has taken the pressure off, as well as the guilt when I don't live up to specific goals.

At least this year I have one accomplishment to be proud of, the fact that I'm 25 pounds slimmer than I was this time last year. I haven't been on a diet; I've changed my way of eating. Since I can't be as active as I used to be, I've turned the consumption of sweets and chips and all those really bad things that I love so much into a rare treat - like 2-3 times a year rare. In the process I've become addicted to baby carrots, but believe me there are much worse things to be addicted to.

I think my focus in 2011 might be on clutter containment. I'm the end of the line in my family so all sorts of things have come to roost in our house. I've kept too much "stuff" for the sentimental value of it so I think E-Bay is in my future and maybe, even though I hate even the thought of it, a yard sale.

Do you make New Year's resolutions? Do you keep them? How about New Year's Eve; do you go out and party or stay home? We'll be asleep at our usual time; our partying days are long gone. It's so nice to wake up New Year's Day feeling great and starting the year well rested. Besides we look silly enough without funny hats or lamp shades. :-D

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Evidence by Jonathan Kellerman

There's only one good thing about frigid, snowy weather and that's the extra time for reading. For some reason I'm out of my serious book/mystery/serious book/etc. reading habit for the time being so I've been breezing through fun mysteries. Evidence is the latest and though not really appropriate for Christmas, I sure did enjoy it.

I've read many Jonathan Kellerman mysteries in the Dr. Alex Delaware series, but not for many years. This is his 24th Delaware novel and I've read maybe half that number. I think the reason I stopped for a while was that Delaware is a child psychologist who is an LAPD consultant and some of the earlier books had such creepy villains and psycho children that I needed a break. Delaware is a great character but in this book he takes more of a narrator role.

Delaware rides along with his friend, Detective Milo Sturgis, a gay man whose partner is a doctor. Milo has of course had tough times being an openly gay man in law enforcement but his rock has always been Delaware. Delaware lives with Robin, a lovely woman who builds and repairs guitars. She is internationally known, sought out by the best guitarists, so her schedule rivals that of Delaware's. I don't know if they have married yet or not but they've been together forever.

This story is about sorely dysfunctional adults and ecoterrorism plus a royal family from a fictional island in Indonesia. There is a bald, cold as ice woman architect, a formerly wealthy bigot who is a real nut case, young people who use a type of explosive made partially of Jello to blow up McMansions, and other distinctive characters.

It amazes me that after so many books in this series Kellerman can still come up with such unique characters and maze-like stories. His books aren't great literature but they certainly are fun. Milo for instance is a quirky character who frequently shows up at his friends' house to "clean out their refrigerator." As Robin says when they want Milo to come over, "We've got steaks, let's feed him." Too bad he's currently on an Indian food kick. His partner is having a fit about his cholesterol.

If you also freaked out on Kellerman's wacko kids mysteries, it's safe to return. This one will have you saying, "Oh boy, the kind of people you find in California!" I apologize to California folks, but you know the reputation your state has better than anyone. I assure you there are nutty people in Pennsylvania too.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day 2010

Just a short post hoping Santa was good to all of you this year. I know you were all super good! ;-)

I'm enjoying a lazy day until the turkey goes into the oven this afternoon. Dave is, of course, working in his machine shop as he does every year, so I can watch the snow when it starts and meanwhile I can read. Then I can watch football while I cook. Now that's my idea of a good day!

I have many wonderful memories of Christmas. When I was a child, I had more presents than I deserved from Santa, and then we were off for two Christmas dinners - first at my mother's parents' in town and then 60 miles away to my other grandparents' for more food. Makes you wonder why I was such a skinny child, but explains why I grew much wider later I guess. I also remember a Christmas when my parents took me out to dinner and I ordered spaghetti! Mom thought that was just me being quirky as usual.

Once when my parents lived in Canada, I flew up from Illinois for the holidays. As we approached Montreal my two seatmates asked if I had ever seen Montreal from the air at Christmas. I said no, so they insisted I sit by the window. What a sight! It seemed like every building down below had colored lights; it looked like fairyland. I'll always be grateful they let me see it.

Earlier in our marriage Dave always spent way too much on me. He has good taste in clothes and I would open box after box of new things to wear, along with books of course. I never knew what to buy him. What he wanted were things for his shop, either costing thousands of dollars or things that I didn't know about and wouldn't have known where or what to buy. I had a terrible time buying for him. Years ago we stopped buying for each other so I don't have those worries anymore.

There was one Christmas, the first year we were married, that we happened to be in a campground in West Virginia Christmas morning. It was only an 18' camper and we were on a month-long trip so I don't know where he hid the presents, but when I got back from taking my shower that morning there were wrapped gifts everywhere. That was fun. That evening in Tennessee though we couldn't find a place to eat out so our Christmas dinner was a can of chilli!

Our tree, when we were home for the holidays, was filled with meaningful ornaments. Every year we bought or made something that was representative of that year: a dove for our first year which is reddish because it "flew" into the shrimp sauce, cookie cutters from the year we were broke and I gave everyone homemade cookies, a tiny bench Dave made for our 7 dwarves that same year. Friends and relatives also gave us ornaments, and I had a baby face drawn by my grandmother that is supposed to be me to hang on the tree.

Due to our health issues, I don't decorate the house now but we enjoy everyone else's decorations and we enjoy having a quiet time of year while everyone we know is bustling around and getting exhausted. This turned out not to be such a short note after all, but I do wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Oh No, Sue Grafton is Getting to the End of the Alphabet!

Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone is a character that I feel like I actually know. I've read all of her alphabet series except for "T" so when I saw "U" at a book sale, I grabbed it - right out from under the nose of my friend who is also a Grafton fan. Of course, now that I've read it, I'll give it to her.

U is for Undertow is a little different than the rest. At first it's confusing to say the least. We're introduced to a family, then someone else, then someone else, and we can't see how all these people could possibly interconnect. From there the story gets more and more mystifying until slowly, gradually we begin to realize, son of a gun, these people are all somewhat involved in the same crime - some victims, some innocent bystanders, some bad guys - and it's a lot of fun figuring how just how this is all sorted out.

As usual Kinsey meets an assortment of almost recognizable characters, people like you run into in your own town. I think that's why I'm so comfortable with this series. Hardly anyone is really outlandish; they're people you can relate to or at least are a little familiar. My favorites, and probably yours too, are her landlord Henry who is now (1988) in his late 80s and Rosie the Hungarian restaurant owner who tells Kinsey what to eat. Although Kinsey is such a loner, I don't know what she'd do without Henry and Rosie.

Kinsey also learns more about her family in this book. Since she never knew she had family until four years earlier and is not at all sure she wants to know about them, this presents the usual trauma.

Since the story is set in 1988, Kinsey does her research in the library and by knocking on doors, and people aren't carrying cell phones and laptops. I like that facet of these stories. She is an old-fashioned detective which makes her work a little more instinctive and more difficult. She uses her people skills to the max digging up a cold case.

I am an Amazon associate and a Barnes and Noble associate.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Another Good Read by Carol Goodman

Since I enjoyed Carol Goodman's The Drowning Tree so much, I borrowed The Night Villa from our library. Although I didn't like this one quite as much as The Drowning Tree, it is a good read to warm you up on cold evenings.

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 which buried Pompeii is the major focus of this story. Our heroine Dr. Sophie Chase is a classics professor at the University of Texas who agrees to go along on a project involving the excavation of a villa in Herculaneum. The people involved stay in a copy of that villa which the wealthy man who is heading up the project had built on the Isle of Capri. Chase has been researching a slave girl called Iusta who grew up at the villa at Herculaneum, a girl who was free because her mother had been freed before Iusta was born. After her mother's death, however, the wicked woman who owned the villa had gone to court claiming Iusta was born afterward and was therefore still her slave. It's quite a story; your heart breaks for Iusta.

There are rumored to be scrolls hidden in the villa that many people are interested in, enough to kill for them. Chase finds herself in a position where she doesn't know who to trust. Even though she is aware of being in danger, she can't do much about it because she mistrusts nearly everyone. She's also vulnerable because she is recovering from a gunshot that damaged her lungs badly. The shooting happens at the beginning of the book.

Goodman writes about classic literature, GrecoRoman history, and poetry so her books are fascinating and you can be sure are accurate. In this one, though, she has hit on one of my pet peeves. Chase is a woman who has been treated badly by two men, one of whom she was deeply in love with. Rather than just moving on and getting over her abandonment by him, she obsesses about him and continues to expect him to show up again. It seems like she thinks about him constantly, and her work is suffering as well. Okay, I know about such things but I have no patience with an intelligent, independent woman who wallows in her misery.

That's my only reason for not liking this book as much as The Drowning Tree though, and so I recommend it for anyone who likes a novel with a tantalizing mystery, intriguing characters with questionable motives, and an exotic setting. You just might have a lot more patience with Dr. Chase than I did; I cheered for her despite my impatience after all.

My copy came from the library and had some interesting information about Goodman at the end. However, you can buy it from or B& and I will receive a little commission.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

And in Other News . . .

I just read in the newspaper this morning that the term "beauty sleep" is true. Seems people who get a good night's sleep really are better looking. Since my main talent seems to be sleeping, I should be doggone gorgeous any day now! Of course they were comparing those who got a lot of sleep to people who stayed up all night. Oh well, for a while there I thought there was hope.

Why is it that people who commit crimes are so intent on demonstrating just how stupid they are? You frequently see a case of a burglar getting caught in a chimney or a ventilation system because he thought that was the easiest way in to a store. The latest case of public stupidity is the motorcyclist who entered the Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas, swiped thousands of dollars' worth of chips, ran out, and took off on his bike. Uh, the casinos have serial numbers on those chips, Buddy, so they know which ones are missing now. Lots of luck cashing them in!

The serious side of today's news: the man who went to a Panama City, FL school board meeting with a spray can of paint and a gun. He was angry because his wife had been fired. He painted something on the wall, drew his gun, ordered everyone out except the school board members, and finally shot at them. Apparently he was seeking suicide by cop since he didn't actually hit anyone when he fired point blank. A security guard wounded him and then he fatally shot himself. My question? How in the world did this guy think his actions would solve the problem of his wife being fired? Now she has all kinds of problems besides her job situation and she's alone - better off without this wacko but still . . .

Then there is the high school basketball player who shoved a referee who called a foul on him. He went nuts and threw the ref on the floor like he thought he was in the WWE (or whatever that wrestling show is). Now he can't ever play basketball again. I'm dumbfounded as to how we got here. Why is violence the first thing so many people think of to solve their problems?

We can't just blame it on video games or television. That may be a component but the vast majority of us see it for what it is, nothing to do with reality. I think we've created a violent society somehow: beginning with lack of simple courtesy, on to road rage, examples like parents of young athletes losing their tempers, widespread gang activity, and even more widespread - bullying. I've been a victim of bullying and you probably have too. Why does it get so out of hand now?

I wish I knew the way to turn things around but the only way I know is for parents to be conscious of what kind of example they're setting for their children. All the school programs in the world, all the public service announcements by celebrities, all the DARE and similar programs aren't going to do it if the kids are being raised by people who are out of control themselves. My generation was lucky in that our parents (1940s and 50s) thought the parents they should emulate were the kind on "Leave it to Beaver," "Father Knows Best," and the "Donna Reed Show." It was a much kinder world and I miss it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Still Life, Louise Penny

The wind is howling, it's something like 16 degrees outside, and the snow is blowing sideways. I'd say it's a good day to finish my Christmas cards (I know, I'm late as usual) and read and, oh by the way, review this first Chief Inspector Gamache novel. I'm a Louise Penny fan now and I have friends who love Chief Inspector Gamache, so when I saw the library had the first book in the series I grabbed it.

Gamache is truly a lovable character and so wise. He's also a good mentor who likes to take on young people and teach them everything he knows about being a detective. This time he takes on a young woman who is smart but has no compassion for people. This one is a mistake for sure. His assistant Jean Paul Beauvoir is his prize pupil, but even Beauvoir can't measure up to Gamache and he knows it.

Louise Penny creates such unique characters with such depth to them that I take my time over her books. This mystery includes a gay couple, a grumpy poet, a teenager with terrible problems, a vindictive woman, and a couple of artists. The wife is quite intuitive, a quality Gamache uses to good effect. These people and others live in a small village in Quebec where a woman seemingly beloved by everyone is found dead. She has been killed with a hunting bow and arrow. You'll learn along the way more than you probably ever wanted to know about bow and arrow hunting and target shooting, but it's actually fascinating as the investigation goes on.

I had many suspects but missed the clues as to the actual killer until the end. That's fine with me, I love to be surprised and then realize the groundwork for that conclusion had been there all along. In other words, I'm getting even more enamored of Louise Penny's books. Now to find the second Gamache novel.

Louise Penny's books are of course available from and I'm an Amazon Associate.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Light Reading for Busy Days

After the intensity of Tami Hoag's Deeper than the Dead, I needed something light and quick to read while hopefully catching up on necessary chores. So, I borrowed this Rosemary Harris book from the library and it was just what the doctor ordered.

This isn't the greatest mystery novel ever written, nor is it the worst. Set in a small town in Connecticut, it's light fun with quirky characters and situations, and a crime solver named Paula Holliday who is trying to make a living with a nursery and landscaping business called Dirty Business. She hangs out at a cafe called the Paradise Diner run by her friend Babe, one of the aforesaid quirky characters.

A group of wealthy soccer moms comes to the diner frequently for the home baked goods and tea. Surprise! One of those expensively dressed women who has become an unlikely friend of Paula's is suddenly arrested and returned to face an old jail sentence in Michigan. She had been convicted of drug dealing more than 20 years earlier but escaped. Reminded me of radical organization members from the 60s being found living a soccer mom life in recent years.

Her husband asks Paula to find out who turned her in. He hadn't known about it, nor had anyone in town, so who did it? Paula's adventures trying to help her friend are very funny, a good escape from the busyness of the season, and short so it isn't impossible to get it read this month either.

It's available from of course. I'm an Amazon Associate.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Another Book Sale? This One has a Cash Bar!

Thankfully our high winds and downpours of Tuesday and Wednesday have subsided. Not only that, the sun actually appeared today. That was good news for our county library and historical society's book sale today and tomorrow. Books are selling from noon to 9 pm both days, but from 5 to 9 there is also a cash bar, Christmas trees are for sale outside, and a local man will be selling yule logs on the patio - all taking place at a local inn.

Well you know I couldn't pass that up. After all, as I told Dave, we're trying hard to raise money for the new library building. Then the historical society can take over the entire historical building on the green where at this point books are double stacked, squeezed into unlikely spots, and still most are stuck away in the basement. We really need that new building.

He wouldn't try to keep me away from a book sale anyway so off I went early this afternoon. Walked in and heard, "Now why am I not surprised to see you here?" It was a friend who used to be my editor when I was a reporter for the local paper. About the only time we see each other now is, you guessed it, at book sales. Since there wasn't a big crowd, we had a chance to catch up on each other's lives. It was great to see her, and then I snitched a Sue Grafton right out from under her nose. I must remember to send it to her when I finish reading it. :-)

I spent $25 and came home with a nice stack of mysteries plus two brand new children's books to donate to Toys for Tots. We don't buy Christmas presents anymore but we do remember to donate to good causes and Toys for Tots is one of our favorites. We'll also buy something else for them.

I hope you're all able to squeeze in some fun things just for you during this busy time of year. If nothing else, sit in a hot bath and read for a while. I think women in particular run themselves ragged for the holidays, trying to make everything perfect, and then are too exhausted to enjoy anything. It can never be perfect and the best thing you can give your loved ones is your presence and your love. Happy holidays to all of you.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Deeper than the Dead, Tami Hoag

If you haven't read this one and you like exciting mysteries, you absolutely must read it! I was literally out of breath when I finished it yesterday afternoon, tearing through the last chapters as if I were afraid someone would take the book away from me. I had things that needed doing around the house, but they had to wait until I finished and then got my breath back. What a story!

One thing that makes this book so interesting is that it is set in 1985 when the FBI was just beginning to get into profiling. The Behavioral Sciences Unit was at that time housed in a sub-basement of the FBI building in D.C. They were so far underground that, in the gallows humor that keeps them sane, the investigators joked that they were deeper than the dead. One of the major characters in the story is an FBI profiler.

In 1985 people didn't have cell phones, DNA wasn't a part of criminal investigation, nor were computers in most places, and all the CSI techniques we are so accustomed to didn't exist. So in this story we have a serial killer being hunted by old-fashioned hands-on detective work with the assistance of the profiler.

There are three prime candidates for the serial killer and their families are also deeply involved. Four children find one of the bodies half buried in a park. Each family is unique, each has its own secrets and tragedies. Then there is the childrens' teacher, Anne Navarre, the one person who is totally determined to do whatever is in the best interests of the kids. These characters are fascinating.

I picked out the three major suspects and before long I had rejected one as the serial killer, and was leaning toward one of the other two, but I wasn't absolutely certain until just before the end of the book. Meanwhile I was really tense; this killer is a doozy!

I read another review of Deeper than the Dead and intended to put it on my wish list, but it sounded familiar. Turned out it was in my treasure box of books given to me by friends months ago. Lucky me! If you want to buy it, it is of course available from and I am an Amazon Associate. Happy reading!