Saturday, December 31, 2011

Unraveling Anne by Laurel Saville

My last review of 2011 is not one of my best books of the year. This is a very sad book about a tragic woman and her daughter who has tried valiantly to come to terms with the consequences of being Anne Ford's daughter. In the 1950s Anne Ford was beautiful, a talented fashion designer, and an artist living the Hollywood life. She gave birth to three children by two men and proceeded to neglect them for the rest of her life.

Actually Laurel Saville, the daughter, would have been better off if her mother had totally ignored her. In fact, Anne alternately criticized Laurel and abused her in fits of jealousy. Mom wanted a beautiful daughter who would fulfill her dreams, but beginning with puberty Laurel was the object of attention from the men Anne brought home and that infuriated her mother.

Anne Ford was the product of very strict upbringing. She was a beauty queen but her parents were never happy with her. She just couldn't live up to their expectations. The rest of her sad life she was free spirited, a hippy in the 60s, an artist, a drunk, and promiscuous. She thought she loved her children but was incapable of being any kind of a mother so the kids raised themselves.

Laurel lived with her father in New Jersey for some time and learned what a family was, but always suffered from want of love from her mother.

After learning of her mother's death, murder actually, Laurel tried to see another side of her life. Surely there was good in her. Her mother's friend gave her some perspective, and learning about her grandparents' story helped as well. Still, as an adult it's easy to see that Laurel will never truly know her own mother.

A very tragic story that ultimately goes nowhere. I admire the attempt, but Laurel Saville will have to live with the knowledge that it is simply a tragedy.

I received this book from Amazon Vine; it is available from

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Sampling of Excellent Books from 2011

I'm unable to select the ten best or even the twenty best books read this year partly because my reading is so eclectic, so I'm just going to point out some of the best.

One of my favorite authors is Linda Gillard and I read two of her books this year, Emotional Geology and House of Silence, both of which were among my most enjoyable reads. I also loved reading books by Dorte Jakobsen this year.

I loved the characters and the plot of The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson. Couldn't decide exactly how the victim died, but had a lovely time trying.

The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield drew me in and I still remember vividly the characters, particularly Swan Lake, the best child character in years.

Settings drew me in in such books as Tom MacDonald's The Charlestown Connection (Boston), J. Sydney Jones' The Silence (Vienna 1900), and The Sleepwalkers by Paul Grossman (Berlin during Nazi takeover).

As I look at my list, I realize I didn't write down some of the books so maybe I got closer to 100 than I thought. My list says I read 71 and I'll have 72 finished by tomorrow night for sure. However, I don't see The Help, a great book.

That reminds me that I discovered many authors new to me this year. I read a mystery by Perri O'Shaughnessy which makes me very glad that a friend gave me several of their books. I also discovered C. J. Box (Cold Wind), Reginald Hill (wonderful The Woodcutter), Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear (Bone Walker), Jacqueline Winspear, Shamini Flint, Dennis Lehane, George Pelecanos, and B. Kent Anderson (Cold Glory). I'll be following these authors in 2012.

Finally, I reread Jane Eyre with a new appreciation thanks to my more, er, mature mind. I have plans to read many more classics in the future. Perhaps Wuthering Heights next.

I may not have read as many books as others but I definitely enjoyed my reading more this year, and I think I have blogging to thank for that. I'm looking forward to my reading and blogging in 2012.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dead Air, Deborah Shlian and Linda Reid

I know I've been absent for a few days, but Dave has been ill and I've been staying close by him. While doing that, I read a book I downloaded free to my Kindle from Oceanview Publishers called Dead Air.

I had no idea what to expect from this book since I didn't know the authors, the series, or anything about it. However, I'm glad I tried it because I like the gutsy, caring heroine and the writing style of the authors. It served to keep my mind from wandering to my worries, which is a great recommendation under the circumstances.

The heroine, Sammy (Samantha) Greene, is a student at a private college in New England who is a reporter for the school radio station. Her boyfriend is a med student who frequently gets very put out that she gets so wrapped up in her stories that she forgets to meet him or call him. He doesn't understand that in this book at least, she is researching a story with deadly consequences.

The plot involves a research institute at the college, a new vaccine for AIDS, professors vying for tenure, and murder among other issues. The story is very well told and only difficult to figure out because of the motives of the people involved. It's easy to follow, not so easy to see how it will end, and bad for the fingernails because Sammy is in danger.

I don't dare tell you any more except that the characters are well-drawn and the plot is a dandy. I do recommend this mystery novel highly and I'm going to look for more books in this series.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself

This book is a free book available for Kindle and as there are so few memoirs of slaves written by themselves, I couldn't resist. You most likely know it was illegal to teach slaves to read and write and those who did learn usually kept that fact secret. This slave, however, as a house slave had access to reading materials and read especially newspapers and the Bible all her life to give pertinent news to other slaves.

Her name was Linda. She was owned by the very young daughter of a doctor, but the doctor treated her as his own. She resisted his attempts to seduce her and managed to evade his direct orders to make her body available to him at will. She was quite valuable since she had light skin (the daughter of mullatoes) so he didn't dare lessen her value in any way.

Eventually she was seduced by a white man who she trusted; he had convinced her he would buy her and set her free. She had two children by him which of course infuriated Dr. Flint, her owner's father. When the children are still quite young, she finds herself in such danger that she must leave her children with her aged grandmother in order to escape. She spends many years hidden in an attic of a shed where she is unable to stand up before she is able to escape to the North.

Linda's story is one of courage and heartbreak, a story of almost unendurable physical and mental abuse and hardship, but throughout a story of a woman's pride despite being a slave and her devotion to her family, particularly her children. It is also the story of the courage of people willing to help her and her children. I found it as page-turning as a mystery novel and even more frightening since it was a true story.

I recommend this free book to Kindle owners.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Movie Night: "Warm Springs"

Now that TV rerun season is beginning and will go through the holiday season, we'll have more time for Netflix movies. We do have lots of our regular shows recorded to catch up on too, but we finally watched a movie.

"Warm Springs" may sound familiar to you as it is where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt died. You may remember his mistress was there with him rather than his wife. Eleanor was probably home in the cottage she had built at the family estate in New York. She was still married to FDR but no longer bothered to keep up the fantasy that they were actually happy together.

When FDR was stricken with polio during a family vacation on the island of Campbello off the northern coast of Maine, he was convinced his budding political career was finished. He was devastated and depressed. He went south and hired a man to care for him; he was paralyzed from the waist down permanently. At first he refused to believe it was permanent and in a determination to walk again, he went to a place in Georgia called Warm Springs. He had seen an article about a boy who, because of the warm mineral water in the pool there, had begun to walk again.

Warm Springs turns out to be a wreck of a place but as FDR swims daily of course his legs regain some strength. There are many ups and downs but finally the only actor I recognized in this movie Kathy Bates, as a physical therapist, comes to Warm Springs, FDR buys the place, and together they turn it into a rehabilitation hospital for people with polio. I was surprised to learn that it is still in operation today.

Kenneth Branagh was good playing FDR who was larger than life in his lifetime and has become legend since. Eleanor is portrayed by Cynthia Nixon with that famous overbite and strange voice, but wonderful strength and intellectual brilliance. Again, this is a difficult role but was well done.

The movie is sentimental and leaves one with the wrong impression about the future life of this couple, but it's warm and funny as well. I thought it a good movie for this season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas in Knavesborough by Dorte Hummelshoj Jakobsen

This delightful little ebook available from Smashwords among other places is my friend Dorte's latest book about the village of Knavesborough.

There are four short stories here, featuring characters I loved from her earlier work. Constable Archibald Penrose is engaged to Rhapsody Gershwin, the librarian. Her father, the vicar, is especially beloved by this reader, but I also enjoy the names of other characters. Rhapsody's sisters, for example, are Psalmonella and Harmonia. The vicar is proud that the youngest child is a son who he was allowed to name; hence the boy is called John. The ladies of the town have names that make me smile as well.

In these stories which are set around the time of Christmas, you won't find the usual miracle or feel-good, what I like to call schmaltzy, plots. No, this being Knavesborough, there is murder afoot.

Dorte has a way with short stories that end with the reader saying with a grin, "Oh, so that's what was going on. That's very clever." I hope you will buy this Christmas selection. It costs very little but is worth much more.

Motion to Suppress by Perri O'Shaughnessy

A good friend gave me a pile of books recently, including several by Perri O'Shaughnessy. This was my introduction to the O'Shaughnessy books, actually written by two sisters. I think I had avoided reading them on the basis of a vague suspicion that the novels would read as if written by a committee. I couldn't have been more wrong. This first book in their Nina Reilly series is seamless and engrossing.

In this debut, Attorney Nina Reilly is suddenly and surprisingly abandoned by her husband (also a lawyer), and not only that, he's taking back his home so she has to get out. So, she and her young son by a previous relationship head to her brother's home at Lake Tahoe while she figures things out. Matt and Andrea and their children are happy to have them stay. And that is followed by another sudden change when Nina rents a nice little office and hangs out her shingle to practice law on her own.

She hires a very practical and also very funny receptionist/secretary and waits in hope for her first client thinking about how many other lawyers there are in this small area. Well, one of the first clients becomes the defendant in Nina's first ever murder trial. Melissa (aka Misty) Patterson is a troubled young woman who seems to have murdered her husband. Not much about the case makes sense and Nina is under pressure from a smarmy big-time attorney to turn the case over to him, but something about Melissa makes Nina unable to turn her away. She digs in her heels, hires one of her ex-husband's old investigators, and starts on a difficult journey to the truth.

It's a fascinating case involving amnesia, shady doings at a casino where Michelle and her husband worked, greed, and infidelity, along with a mysterious event from Michell's childhood at Subic Bay in the Philippines.
I got so involved in it that toward the end I was even ignoring the football games on TV to finish the book. Now that never happens!

I recommend this O'Shaughnessy book at least and I'm anxious to dive into the second in the series. So glad my friend gave me a bunch of them.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I'm Still Here, Sort of

This week has been one medical appointment after another. We usually group them purposely to just get them over with in one fell swoop - or one swell foop as Dad used to say. The beginning of the week it was Dave so he's all set for a while.

Yesterday I had two painful cysts removed from my scalp, for which the beautician who cuts my hair will be eternally grateful. I don't know whether I have a headache simply because of that or due to the antibiotic I'm on. Have to premedicate because of my artificial knee. The doc also took a biopsy of a painful lesion on the back of my right hand, so that hurts too. It was like taking a plug out of a watermelon. Very funny if you think about it.

Anyway, today I can't really shower, can't wash my hair until tomorrow when the stitches come out. Yuck! Be glad you're just hearing from me via my blog.

I did get some reading done in doctors' waiting rooms, but no review yet. I'm reading the first Perri O'Shaughnessy, Motion to Suppress, and I'm loving it. The characters and the story are keeping me very interested and it's set in Lake Tahoe so the descriptions of the area are wonderful. My friend gave me several books by these sisters since I hadn't read them before.

Our new exercise bike is getting a workout most days but not today. We had snow last night and I believe it's still snowing a bit but it may just be blowing off the roof. It's beautiful, especially since we know it won't last long because it's warming up.

Off to rest my poor aching head.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy But Rest is Coming

I haven't had a chance to read lately and I'm suffering withdrawal symptoms. Last Thursday we drove to Arlington, Virginia to a conference about COPD. That evening we drove all over town looking for a restaurant we like; Legal Seafoods is a chain of restaurants with clam chowder to die for and everything else seafood you ever loved. The chain originated in Boston but we discovered one in Arlington. We found the street but the street numbers made no sense and we were up and down until finally there it was. Then we drove around and around looking for a parking space close enough for Dave to walk. (We forgot to take the wheelchair.)

The restaurant made me think we were in NYC. Tables about 4" apart and LOUD. One woman had such a loud cackling laugh, we thought she was laying eggs, and a middle-aged guy next to us was entertaining three women with his knowledge of Washington, etc. He was probably from Podunk, but since he was paying, they were a good audience.

On the way back to our motel, I hit the curb of a street divider in the dark. Bang - down went the left front tire. Turned out the left rear also had a big bubble on the side. Everything went downhill from there. Our car spent the next day at a tire store while we went to the conference which, while good, was too much oriented toward professionals, particularly doctors. I learned quite a bit and the packet of materials we received was excellent but about 4 pm I just hit the wall - hardly any sleep and too much expense that worried me.

Sat. we came home, rested for an hour and then went to a basketball game. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in our own bed and sleep for 5 days, but Sun. we had to go grocery shopping. Now we have a busy week of appointments beginning this afternoon. It won't be until next weekend that everything will quiet down so I can just get some sorely needed rest.

Maybe I can read while we wait at all those appointments this week.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Slave in the White House by Elizabeth Dowling Taylor

This book will unfortunately have limited appeal because of its scholarly approach and necessary supposition of much of Paul Jennings' life. I received it from Amazon Vine.

He was born at Montpelier, James and Dolley Madison's home in Virginia. His mother was Dolley's maid and Paul was mullato so he was raised in the house as Dolley's son's "boy." As Payne Todd's constant companion, Paul was present during his sessions with his tutor. Later, as Madison's valet and doorman, he was present during political discussions and long talks about running the agricultural affairs of Montpelier. No surprise, then that he learned to read and write, and that he was more sophisticated and gentlemanly than many slaves.

During the War of 1812, Paul was instrumental in saving the large portrait of George Washington as the British approached, intent on burning the White House. Master and Mistress both trusted Paul implicitly.

However, he remained a slave until Dolley Madison was in deep financial trouble living as a widow in Washington. He had met Daniel Webster, who was known to purchase the freedom of slaves and let them work off the purchase price in his household, perhaps one of the reasons Webster was always broke. By the time Webster bought his freedom, Paul was a middle-aged married man with children.

Because of Paul's position in life, author Elizabeth Dowling Taylor was forced to make too many assumptions about who he met, where he was at any specific time, what he may have overheard, and who his slave associates were. She does use any documentation she has found in her career as a curator and researcher, and there is more than usual for a slave, but still one tires of "he might have" and "probably."

I was quite interested in learning more about Dolley Madison and about President Madison's views on slavery, as well as the life of a slave in a president's house. As I don't mind scholarly works, I did enjoy this book and I believe the author knows as much as one can know about her subject. One just needs to realize what type of book this represents.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Eat, Pray, Love" the Movie

We finally got to see Julia Roberts in "Eat, Pray, Love" last night. Both of us normally love her in anything and this was no exception. Even Dave, who usually says, "Boy, you sure can pick them," sarcastically after this kind of movie, actually stayed awake and enjoyed it. Well, maybe he just likes looking at Julia. :D

For people who have been living under a rock for the past decade, the story is about a writer who suddenly realizes her life isn't at all what she wants, divorces her husband (who doesn't want a divorce), has an affair with a much younger actor, and then leaves him as well to go on a year-long search for the meaning of life. She wants balance and inner peace, but doesn't really know what else she wants.

I couldn't help noticing that her husband was the best looking man of the three she gets involved with, but I agreed that they just didn't "fit." That she fell in love with the actor was the biggest stretch for me. I couldn't see why he appealed to her at all; as a fling, sure, but in love?

However, I loved her stay in Rome and the friends she made there. I loved her stay at the ashram in India and the characters there, especially the Texan who called her "Groceries." My least favorite section was her life in Bali. Other than the young stud who stripped for her on the beach, the characters there were not at all believable to me and I wanted to see more of the island. I loved it that she laughed at the naked guy on the beach.

This is a nice movie to rent and watch at home. Now I think I'd like to read the book because Liz intrigues me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I'm Thankful For . . .

First of all of course, I'm thankful for my husband every single day.

All you have to do is read a newspaper, watch the news on TV or online and you know simply the fact that I have a warm comfortable home in a peaceful, beautiful location puts me way ahead of probably the majority of people in the whole world. When I look at it that way, dusting and vacuuming don't really present such a chore.

For all the complaining I do about my COPD and arthritis, in general I'm in pretty good health for my age and I'm very grateful for that. I can do almost anything I want to do and the exceptions aren't really important.

Since I don't have family of my own, I'm thankful for Dave's family who I love like my own. His cousin in Rome, for instance, who sends me messages and pictures on FB or email. We are both quite opinionated about politics and have great discussions about Italian and U.S. politicians. The rest of his family is in Ireland and Maine, and we just got the happy news that there is another one on the way. The expectant parents will be excellent parents.

I'm thankful for my friends. I don't make friends easily and have few close friends but the ones I have are valued beyond saying. I'm also thankful for my book blogger friends. Only one of my local friends loves books as I do, so my book blogger friends fill that big hole. I learn from them, get support from them, and enjoy our discussions about the world of books.

The last thing I'll mention, though there are many more, is how thankful I am for memories. Dave and I have made wonderful memories through our 36 years together. Laughing at funny memories has gotten us through many a tough day, and remembering particularly sweet things he has done and said have gotten me through many a tough time.

I hope you have a long list of people and things to be thankful for too on this day when we take time to think about being thankful.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"The Legend of Bagger Vance"

We've slowed down on Netflix films during football season, but still have one ready all the time. Last week it was "The Legend of Bagger Vance," an old movie with Will Smith and Matt Damon, directed by Robert Redford.

It's a silly movie really, but the characters win your heart. It's about a small town golfer with a promising future who enlists for World War I. His entire unit is killed, leaving him alone on the battlefield bereft and lost. He just disappears for several years after that, but finally returns home. The girlfriend he had left behind is unmarried yet but they can't get together, too much hurt on both sides.

A great country club and golf course owned by the girlfriend is going bankrupt, so an idea is born to save it. Have a golf tournament with Bobby Jones and I forget the second famous golfer, as well as a local guy to bring local crowds. A wonderful young boy sets out to convince drunkard Capt. Junuh (Matt Damon) to play. Suddenly, out of the misty twilight, appears Bagger Vance (Will Smith), a caddy who can save Junuh and bring back his golf game.

Well, everyone knows how this will turn out of course, but that doesn't ruin the movie at all. Matt Damon's engaging smile and his manner are perfect (although he isn't so convincing as a drunk), and Will Smith is terrific in this part. Sorry I don't remember the boy's name offhand because he's so good as an innocent symbol of hope and goodness.

I think although it's set in summer, this is a good holiday movie because of it's message. It's fun for anytime.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

It's National Caregivers' Month

I'm very late announcing National Caregivers' Month, but I only found out about it last Friday at a conference in Philadelphia. We attended our fourth Parkinson's event hosted by the therapists who helped Dave. Every year we learn something new, and it's so nice to see the therapists as well as other PD patients and their caregivers.

Last year on the evaluation sheet we all fill out I noted that some attention to caregivers would be appreciated since we all face difficulties both physical and emotional. This year I was happy to discover caregivers were the focus of the event.

In addition to hearing a wonderful speaker and having a break-out session with her too, I tried yoga. I've been curious about yoga for some time and there are classes about five miles from us; now I'm thinking I'll enroll in one of the less energetic classes. It was excellent for my arthritis and other aches and pains, even the tendinitis in my shoulder.

We all know caregivers for people with chronic diseases or a child, perhaps one who is autistic. I had thought some people were just better suited for this role, but you never know when you might find yourself in that situation. If you don't find a way to relieve the stress and fear, you can wind up quite ill yourself. So, the focus in this program was to take care of the caregiver. After all, if you become ill, you won't be able to take care of the person who needs you.

In the room were people who are professional caregivers, but most of us are caring for a spouse or a parent. Sometimes I think the fact that it's a loved one makes it even more difficult, so I was happy to participate in the forum and learn how to help myself. Maybe the program even gave my husband a better appreciation of the fact that this is hard on me too.

This Thanksgiving would be a good time for you to acknowledge the caregivers in your family or group of friends. Maybe you have a sister who takes care of your parents, or a friend with an autistic child, or a grandfather who cares for your grandmother. They don't have an easy life and it wears on them. Can you think of some way to help? Try to suggest something specific you are able to do; maybe bringing dinner to them one day a week or grocery shopping for them. If you live far away, get in touch with an organization that cares for the elderly and ask how you could hire someone to give the caregiver respite once in a while. There are many ways to get involved; you just have to be a little creative.

For all of us, thank you.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Nevada Barr's Best Anna Pigeon Novel Yet

Thanks to Amazon Vine I've just read Nevada Barr's new novel coming out January 17, 2012. The Rope is a prequel to the whole series.

In this story Anna Pigeon is 35 and she is still numb with grief at the loss of her husband, Zach, in an accident she witnessed in NYC. She has a satisfying career as a stage manager on Broadway, but she decides it might help to take some time completely away from everything familiar. She takes a summer job at Glen Canyon National Park, stationed at Dangling Rope Marina on Lake Powell.

Anna and her housemate Jenny work hard at their job clearing the area of human waste, and trying to educate vacationers about the proper way to handle toileting (to put it nicely) in the great outdoors. Jenny likes Anna but can't make a connection. Then Anna disappears. She went hiking alone on her day off and accidentally found herself in a peck of trouble.

In this story we see the making of the strong, independent woman we've grown to love over the years. She enters this summer job weak, too thin, and grief stricken. She ends the summer strong, resilient, and determined to become a national park ranger; I don't think that's giving anything away.

Meanwhile, the characters she meets and the trials and dangers she withstands are engrossing. This is an old-fashioned page turner. Anna learns that the area isn't desolate; it has its own life and beauty. I discovered another place I want to see for myself. I also came away with a new respect for her character now that I know the beginning of her story.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hill Towns by Anne Rivers Siddons

This novel is a book sale find from several years ago. I finished reading it yesterday and still cannot really make up my mind about it.

My main problem with it is that I didn't like one single character in the book. The protagonist, Catherine (Cat) Compton Gaillard, lives on a mountain in Tennessee near famed Trinity College. Her father is a teacher there and her mother is from a poor family, and they are killed in a grotesque accident on a bridge down off the mountain. Five-year-old Cat is sleeping in their car near the bridge so she is unhurt. From that moment she believes she is only safe on the mountain, and refuses to leave, even to live with her wealthy Compton grandparents. She instead insists on staying with her mad maternal grandmother and her grandfather who is a janitor at Trinity.

She marries Joe, a teacher, and they have one child, a daughter who is born blind. Cat's entire life revolves around her home and the mountain. Finally she seeks counseling, and when Joe's protege and his girlfriend decide to get married in Rome, Joe and Cat accept their invitation to go to Rome for the wedding and then accompany the newlyweds on their honeymoon through Tuscany.

It ends up with a group of seven people traveling together and the discord the journey evokes. They drink so much I felt half drunk throughout. One of the women keeps going off after a man, any man, so mostly they are three couples, but three more different couples you couldn't find.

All this time Cat has occasional panic attacks, but stubbornly continues to wander off alone. I just couldn't understand her, so most of the time I felt like shaking her silly.

At the same time, the story seems to be leading up to an event and I couldn't stop reading because I needed to find out how the trip eventually ended. So I must admit it was quite a story even though it drove me crazy more than once. The characterizations are masterful, the description of the places they all go is enough to make me want to pack a bag and go, now. Siddons is an astonishing writer, but I do wish I had been able to like at least one character.

Sad Day in Pennsylvania

I should tell you at the outset that I'm not a Penn State alum or a fan. I'm a Rutgers alum and fan, and Penn State is a rival we don't like very much.

Having said that, the firing of Joe Paterno, "our" JoePa, is very sad. He has insisted on integrity, the necessity of good grades first and athletics second, and that the members of his football team be good citizens. Obviously one of his assistant coaches of previous years was the antithesis of the values JoePa represents.

When Paterno was told of the sexual misconduct of his assistant coach with a 10 year old boy in a locker room shower, he immediately did what he was supposed to do - reported it to his boss, the athletic director. In retrospect, however, he should have followed up and when he discovered his boss wasn't doing anything about it, he should have reported it to the police. That he didn't follow up is a tragic lapse of his usual good sense and personal ethics.

I think the fact that the Board of Trustees fired him in a kneejerk reaction to the media frenzy that hit Penn State yesterday is wrong. Paterno had already stated he would retire at the end of the season, but they refused to let him retire with dignity, and that ignores all the money, media attention, and students that Coach and Mrs. Paterno have brought to the university, not to mention all the money they have given the university. Next thing you know, they'll be taking his name off the university library!

At 84, after an association with Penn State that began in 1946, Paterno was understandably tearful when he told his team he was no longer in charge. On Sat. they play Nebraska. Will the team go out determined to win for Joe, or will they be so saddened and unable to concentrate that they will lose badly? I hope it's the former.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm Just Plain Worn Out

This past few weeks have been exhausting but there is finally a tiny little light at the end of this particular tunnel. The auction of my husband's machine shop equipment will be Sat. Nov. 12. It's devastating for him, and even emotional for me.

We've been going back and forth to a scrap metal yard in Scranton getting material off the floor and out of the way in his shop. Don't want any prospective buyers falling and killing themselves on sharp edges. The auctioneer and his son have been here nearly every day tagging, sorting, and cleaning.

Meanwhile, the tension builds in our house as Dave's nerves become more frayed. Then yesterday I took my car to the dealer's because I heard squealing, clanking and other assorted bad news noises. It's a 2004 but has been the most reliable, dependable car I've ever owned. Well, after they looked it over, the verdict was, "You have to leave it here for a few days, and by the way there will be $2500 worth of repairs." I called Dave to come pick me up, and of course he was furious and suspicious. (He never drives the car.) It was only later when he realized how emotional I was that he calmed down and smiled at me. Thank you, Dr. Parkinson, these mood shifts from your disease are loads of fun.

Last night saved us I think. We have been buying season tickets for Binghamton University Div. I basketball for many years and the first men's game was last night. It was fun to see our "basketball friends" and see the new guys on the team. Tonight we will be going to the first women's game. Getting out and watching the game was very good for us.

We will get through this just fine, as we have other difficult issues we've faced together. We've always said as long as we have each other, we're okay. But we certainly will be happy when it's over!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Letters of a Woman Homesteader, Elinore Pruitt Stewart

These fascinating letters written between 1909 and 1913 by a woman who homesteaded in Wyoming were free on Kindle. I enjoy learning about those intrepid pioneer women who went west when conditions were harsh and dangerous. Perhaps I want to know more because my own great-grandparents homesteaded in Nebraska, and both my grandfather and his sister were born on the homestead. That's also where my great-grandfather lost one eye when he was chopping wood, a friend of theirs was murdered by an outlaw, and then my grandfather got polio. After all that, they returned to Illinois and a more peaceful life.

If ever a woman was made for the life of a pioneer, though, it was Elinore Rupert, as she signed her name before marrying Clyde Stewart. She was the single mother of a toddler and full of dreams to see Alaska and Hawaii and do all sorts of things when she decided to skip the Civil Service exam she had registered for and take a job as a housekeeper for a homesteader in Wyoming. Eventually she married her employer, a "gude mon" who played his bugpeep (bagpipes) every evening.

Her daughter Jerrine called her stepdad "our Clyde." Soon she had a little brother but he died as a baby. Later two more boys were born. Jerrine wrote about one of them, "My brother Calvin is very sweet. God had to give him to us because he squealed so much he sturbed the angels. We are not angels so he Dont sturb us."

They have many adventures which Elinore writes about in her letters to a former employer and friend, Mrs. Coney. She and her daughter get lost in a blizzard at one point and are running out of food. Then they see a light and hear a voice which fortuitously is that of a bachelor settler. He takes them to his cabin to warm and feed them, and he becomes a lifelong friend. In another excursion Elinore, Clyde and friends discover two Mormon women who have been left in cabins alone, and one is in labor. They deliver the baby and later return with an old-fashioned Christmas including tree and gifts for the Mormons.

One thing I do like about my Kindle is that I can find free books like this, something I would probably never have discovered without Kindle. I recommend this for anyone who is interested in the pioneer life in America.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Have a Winner!

The winner of the Macmillan Audio of Jeffrey Archer's Only Time Will Tell is Margot of Joyfully Retired!

Congratulations, Margot. Enjoy. I know you'll then be looking forward to the second book in this trilogy.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Deep Shadow by Randy Wayne White

Randy Wayne White has written 16 previous novels about the same hero that appears in Deep Shadow but I hadn't read any of them. This book was a gift to me some time ago and I just now got around to reading it. Now I think, if my heart can stand it, I'll look for the rest of his books. He's also written nonfiction about sea creatures and travel, and he lives in Florida where he used to be a fishing guide.

I like the hero, Marion "Doc" Ford, who is a biologist who supplies fish. Two of his best friends are funny characters. Captain Arlis Futch is an old swamp expert, Tomlinson is a hippie who smokes too much pot but has a good heart, and Will Chaser is an Indian teenager who has been brought to Florida to learn more about diving. These four guys are very entertaining and we get to know all of them well, as we hear their individual experiences and point of view.

The reason my heart has something to do with whether I read more of these novels is that I read this book alternately clenching my jaw, holding my breath, and fighting the need to do anything but read. In fact, my jaw aches today after finishing the book this morning.

Capt. Futch talks the other three into going with him to a teardrop shaped lake he found. He's positive it's where a plane loaded with gold crashed in late 1958. That was when Castro was closing in on Cuba's leader, Batista, so Batista loaded four planes with gold raided from the treasury and anyplace else it was stashed and fled the island. Three of the planes landed safely but the fourth apparently wandered off course and was never found. Futch has actually bought the land the lake is on so they can dive and look for the plane, because he has found gold coins and a broken propeller.

They think they're alone but unfortunately a couple of really desperate bad guys are watching. There is also apparently some kind of "creature" in the lake area that has been killing a neighbors cattle. Spooky enough for you?

I learned a lot about what's under what we all see and enjoy in Florida. There are limestone caves and underground rivers. There are also many exotic animals living and breeding there. They had been brought into the country, then escaped or were simply turned loose to thrive in the swamps of the state. Very interesting stories.

I think this is meant to be a guy's novel, but it's full of all the ingredients for making your heart race as you turn the pages. Great story that I highly recommend if you like action and danger.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Halloween Story

I may have told this story before so I apologize if you've already read it.

In the 1940s when I was a girl Halloween was a night when kids went out in two's and three's and knocked on every door in the neighborhood. Well, except that one house where the scary old lady wouldn't answer the door. My friend Phyllis and I loved the candy, but I hated to wear a costume (still do). Hence, I would throw an old sheet over my head with two holes to see through and out we went. This was before people thought to put dangerous stuff in your bag, when it was actually safe to prowl through the neighborhood, giggling all the way.

We already had lots of candy in our bags when we reached the corner. Across the street was "the" house. The people who lived there loved to see kids in costume. They always invited us in and made us do a trick before we got our treat. We dreaded it, but they gave the best candy ever, so we were deciding what to do as our trick before we crossed the street.

About that time here came the neighborhood bully, Harold. He was in our class but he had older friends and they were with him. Phyllis froze, knowing they would take her whole bag of goodies. As they approached, I suddenly grew a spine, spun around and ran as fast as I could - right into a tree! The holes in my sheet hadn't turned with me. They were now on the back of my head.

I came to with Phyllis kneeling over me crying, thinking I was dead, candy strewn all over the corner, and no bullies in sight. They thought I was dead too, I guess, because they abandoned their plans and took off. Poor Phyllis - until she realized I was okay (except for a bump on my head of course) and not only that, we had all of our candy. It was a great victory!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Finally Saw "Invictus" - Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon

Ever since we got Netflix I've been catching up on movies I wanted to see in the theater but missed. This week it was "Invictus." I figured anything with Morgan Freeman in it had to be good, and I think Matt Damon is an underrated actor too.

We liked this movie but it didn't have quite the thrill I expected. Have to say Morgan Freeman took on an impossible task playing Nelson Mandela. How in the world do you portray a man who is admired in most of the world, a man who has achieved fame that very few leaders do. His charisma, his charm, his genuine determination to make South Africa into a rainbow nation all combine to make him a person no one could hope to portray really well. Freeman had his posture, his mannerisms, and his firmness with those who only sought revenge down pat, but the charm and charisma just weren't there.

The poem that inspired him, "Invictus," is the one that ends:

"It matters not how strait the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul."

Most critics hate it but who can argue with the inspiration it gave Nelson Mandela to survive the long years of imprisonment without coming out full of plans for revenge.

For once Matt Damon's good looks were appropriate for his role as the captain of South Africa's rugby team. I expected his leadership after meeting Mandela to be sort of "pow" but it was more subtle and therefore more realistic. I liked very much the scene where he took the team to Robin Island to see where Mandela had been imprisoned. What was "pow" was his build. He obviously hit the gym a lot preparing for the role.

As for Netflix, we weren't affected by the recent price hike at all. We chose the plan where we get one DVD at a time in the mail. We aren't interested in immediate streaming of the movie on our television set. Our monthly fee remained exactly the same and we are just as happy as we were before the mess that made so many people unsubscribe.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stranger in Paradise, Robert B. Parker

Since Robert B. Parker died, I've been saving the few novels of his that I hadn't read. I parcel them out to myself very slowly. Yesterday I allowed myself the pleasure of reading this Jesse Stone novel.

If you've read any of this series or have seen a TV interpretation of one, you know Jesse has a drinking problem which got him fired from the police force in California, and an ex-wife who just refuses to stay away from him so he can get over her. He is now the police chief in Paradise, MA. He sees a shrink regularly in a vain attempt to handle his problems.

In Stranger in Paradise we have a character who is much like Hawk of the Spenser series. This guy is a crook, but he has scruples. He won't kill women, for instance; he likes them. And the women are fascinated by him, including me. He claims to be an Apache Indian and goes by the single name Crow although his real name is Wilson Cromartie. To my mind he makes this novel.

Detective "Suitcase" Simpson has changed since the beginning of the series, in what was to me a very surprising way. As usual, the story is punctuated by witty dialogue, a laid back approach to detecting, and some very snobby folks who are incensed because a half dozen little children are being transported to their neighborhood Monday through Friday to a new school. The residents keep going on about "the camel's nose in the tent" as if these little kids are going to steal their silver and put graffiti on their mansions. It's very funny, and of course Jesse gives them enough rope to hang themselves.

I'm not an unbiased reviewer in this case because I've loved Robert B. Parker novels forever, but really who wouldn't like this book. I urge you to read it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Reminder - Giveaway has a week to go

Just a reminder that next Monday night at midnight is the cut-off date for my giveaway of the audio version of Jeffrey Archer's Only Time Will Tell. It is read by Roger Allam and Emelia Fox, and provided complements of Macmillan Audio. There is also a bonus interview with Archer to tempt you.

Don't forget to comment and include your email address before next Monday night to have a chance to win.

The Train of Small Mercies by David Rowell

In June 1968 Robert Kennedy's funeral was held in New York. Afterward, his casket, his family and friends, the press and others were carried by train to Washington, D.C. where he was buried near his brother, President John F. Kennedy. This novel's core is that train and what Bobby's death meant to Americans, using the stories of six characters who view the event from different perspectives.

Anyone who remembers 1968 knows what a devastating impact Bobby's murder had on us as a nation. It seemed like the world was off its axis; first the president, then Dr. Martin Luther King, and finally Bobby Kennedy. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who was frightened, thinking that our best leaders were being assassinated one after another. What would become of us?

We all, regardless of party affiliation felt terrible for Ethel Kennedy and the children, especially the child yet to be born who would never know his father.

These characters reflect those feelings. A mother crying for Ethel and the children, a Vietnam vet who came home missing a leg, a young black man working his first day as a conductor assigned to that very train, a boy who has just been returned to his mother after being kidnapped by his father, and others. All are affected in different ways, most realize what a momentous tragedy it is.

I liked this book but wasn't thrilled about the way it was written. Having said that, I don't know how the author would have done it any other way. It is definitely worth reading.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Silence by J. Sydney Jones

I'm delighted that J. Sydney Jones sent a PDF of this book to me for review. It is the third in a series of mystery novels set in historic Vienna, a city Jones lived in for some time years ago. The fact that I hadn't read the first two was no barrier to enjoyment of this one, but certainly convinced me that I must read the others very soon. They are, in order: The Empty Mirror and Requiem in Vienna, both published last year. I should add that these are print books with gorgeous covers appropriate to the setting.

Attorney and private inquiries agent (private detective) Karl Werthen is the protagonist but by no means alone in his investigations. His wife Berthe is one of my favorite characters, so level-headed, patient, and fully invested in each case. She gives him fresh eyes and good ideas. Another partner in solving the crime is a real person, Dr. Hanns Gross who was the father of criminology. He is gruff and abrupt with people but has a better grasp of the issues than anyone else.

In addition to his case, Werthen is beset by family squabbles involving his orthodox father-in-law, and his snobbish parents who apparently don't credit Werthen and his wife with the good sense to take care of their baby daughter, the apple of Werthen's eye. Leave it to the grandparents to muddy the waters when the first grandchild is born.

Werthen is at first hired to find a wealthy family's oldest son. As he goes to their mansion we learn one of the many things about 1900 Vienna that make this book so charming and interesting to read. The wife has a migraine, so city workers have been dispatched to spread straw on the street to muffle the sound of horses' hooves. There are descriptions of homes, the architecture of city buildings, the sounds and smells of the city, and the Vienna Woods. We also learn of the anti-Semitism rampant in the city so long before WW II, and the great gulf between the rich and the poor.

At the same time, a councilman who is second in power only to Mayor Karl Lueger (who has visions of undermining the rule of Emperor Franz Josef) has apparently committed suicide in his office. Werthen becomes involved in that case as well and finds himself and his family in great danger.

Two of my favorite characters are two young boys, one a son of the wealthy family, the other a street urchin that Werthen's legal assistant wants to adopt. The boys become unlikely friends. I liked both of them immensely.

I find it difficult to tell you much about the story, partly because there are several plotlines, but also because I don't want to give anything away. Let me just say that it is a great story told by an author who is capable of putting the reader in 1900 Vienna (so much so that I was startled when a horn honked outside my house), and the characters are ones that you will enjoy getting to know. My next job is to order the first two books. Highly recommended.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Loose Diamonds by Amy Ephron

This book is just what I needed after finishing a long classic novel. It's Amy Ephron's collection of memories of her life. You may know her from her articles in pretigious magazines and her previous books.

Ephron has a delightful sense of humor. She reminds me of a former neighbor who could go in her van to pick up a new chair she had ordered, and come home with a story about the experience that would have the neighborhood in hysterics. Ephron once pulled into a parking space in front of her son's school only to have a Mercedes rear end her - twice. The driver was another mother who had been dating (and dumped by) Ephron's ex-husband. Ephron could only assume she was taking it out on her for divorcing him and setting him loose among the women of the world.

She also writes very movingly about her mother, a woman who kept up appearances even while falling apart. The day Ephron's first child was born is touching even though it turned into a surreal scene in the ICU with Elizabeth Taylor's daughter-in-law screaming in labor across the aisle. The dog (yes, in the ICU) kept barking, the assistant's mobile phone kept ringing, and the mother-to-be sat up and waved merrily in between contractions. It's hilarious.

This short book should cheer up anyone. I read it in one day when we were running errands and I was often in the car waiting for my husband. Lots of fun. I do recommend it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

It seems like I've been reading Jane Eyre forever but I finally finished it last night. My paperback copy is so old it only cost 60 cents. The print was tiny and the pages were a little brown, but my eyes survived the ordeal and I learned that, with maturity and patience, I really like this book.

The book requires patience because of the writing style of Bronte's era. In the beginning Jane is only 10 years old, yet she thinks and speaks in an adult manner. She says her future is too uncertain for conjecture, for instance. She studies faces of the other orphans and their teachers at Lowood Institute and describes individually each feature, nose, lips, hair, hands, etc. Each feature tells her something about the character of the person she observes, and that does get somewhat tiring at times. Not to worry, though; you can skim and not miss a thing.

Jane is an orphan whose kindly uncle has undertaken to give her a home and raise her. Then he dies and his horrid widow treats Jane wickedly, while brainwashing the little girl into thinking herself evil. Finally, escape comes in the form of being sent to Lowood where the children are underfed, taken outdoors in winter without warm clothing, and strictly monitored 24 hours a day.

As Jane becomes an adult she finds a position as governess to one child in the home of Mr. Edward Rochester on a large estate. I think most people know that she and Rochester fall in love but there is an unsurpassable burden in the way of marriage; he already has a wife - the madwoman in the attic.

Margaret, of BooksPlease, has said that reading this as a youngster she was terrified of the madwoman in the attic. Frankly, I was nervous as to what the woman was capable of. After all, she did set fire to the bedcurtains in Rochester's room one night. From the time Jane arrives at this estate the story gets better and better. There are coincidences that are unbelievable but I think that was common in Bronte's day, and therefore forgivable.

Reading Jane Eyre has convinced me to go back and reread or read for the first time many other classic novels so I'll be reviewing a classic now and then. Hopefully the rest of them will have a bit larger print.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Update on The Magnificent Medills

On September 2nd I reviewed a nonfiction book called The Magnificent Medills, a saga about one of the most important families in newspaper publishing. My only complaint at that time was that my ARC copy didn't have pictures.

Now HarperCollins Publishers has been kind enough to send me the published book, and lo and behold, there are pictures. We can see Joseph Medill, founder of The Chicago Tribune and major player in nominating Abraham Lincoln for the presidency. We have portraits of his two daughters, the "she-devils," as well. Kate was the mother of Col. Robert R. McCormick of the Tribune. Nellie Medill Patterson was a beautiful but difficult person.

One of the best photos is of Joseph with his four grandchildren who carried on his tradition of newspapers and politics. There are many others of which I was most interested in seeing the controversial Cissy Patterson.

With that major quibble taken away, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book by Megan McKinney.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Last Sunny Day for a While

I haven't been posting lately because it's been way too nice to stay indoors. After our rainy summer and floods, we have had seven sunny, warm days in a row! I've been frantically working outdoors to catch up, which has been the name of the game this year. I never have actually finished the yard work at all this year because of all the rain.

Also, Dave has been cleaning out his shop in preparation for going out of business so we've been driving back and forth to a scrap yard in Scranton with loads of metal. Forty miles each way plus unloading takes a huge chunk out of your afternoon. That also means he hasn't been helping with the yard work of course.

As all good things have to end sometime, the forecast for tomorrow is rain. My plans then are to catch up on blog reading, maybe even have some time to read my current book, and housecleaning.

I'm reading Jane Eyre, a book I had tried to read years ago but couldn't finish. This time I'm enjoying it. Unfortunately, I'm reading an old paperback with tiny print and the pages have browned a little. I could have sworn I had a nice copy but can't find it. Jane, as a child at least, appeals to me. I do chuckle a bit at the stereotypical characters - her aunt and cousins, the owner of Lowood, and the people there - but like the florid style (a child thinking in huge words for instance), it's just typical of the era. I'm interested enough to go on with it to see what happens to Jane.

In other words, I haven't croaked or anything drastic, I've just been super busy. Soon I'll be back to reality and blogging and commenting.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Surprise! I'm Having a Giveaway!

For the first time ever, thanks to Macmillan Audio, I'm having a giveaway and it's an audiobook.

You've seen Jeffrey Archer's Only Time Will Tell reviewed here and on several other blogs. Now you can own a brand new audio version of this book. It is read by Roger Allam.

Since I like things simple, all you have to do is leave a comment with your email address by the end of October. November 1st we'll all find out who won and I will let the winner know.

Good luck!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad

This is a difficult book to review, although I must say from the start that I truly enjoyed it. If you read it, I have a suggestion. Pretend that you are at a library or an outdoor event, in a group gathered around to listen to a great storyteller. There is tea for everyone and perhaps some dates, nuts, and other little snacks. Then the 80 year old Jamil Ahmad begins to tell strange and wonderful stories about the people of the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He gives some idea of the harsh landscape and living conditions, but for the most part his stories are about the people he has worked among and understands. Tribal leaders who make their point in meetings through parables, men who treat their animals better than their women, women who nevertheless manage to exert influence on decisions for the tribe, children who know instinctively who to trust.

In short, this isn't a novel as you normally think of it. A child, the Falcon, who is 5 years old in the first story is the thread upon which Ahmad weaves his fictional tales. In another story he is 7, then 13, then a young man. He appears in each tale but sometimes only in a cameo appearance. The stories tell about the customs and unwritten laws by which the tribal people of this wild country govern their entire lives.

I've read a little about the city people of these countries but wanted to know more about the mysterious tribal people. This is Ahmad's first book, but I hope that even at his advanced age he will continue to tell these stories. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Sound Among the Trees by Susan Meissner

This is the story of Holly Oak, a house in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the generations of women who lived in the house between the Civil War and present day. A cannonball still stuck in the side of the house is a reminder that it survived the war, but it did so because the family had connections to both sides. Rumors say the house is haunted, that there are Yankee soldiers buried in the cellar, and that one of the women in the family was a spy for the North.

Beginning in this way, with Adelaide, the great-granddaughter of the supposed spy, hosting a wedding reception in her garden, I had high hopes for the book. Adelaide's daughter and her husband Carson had lived in the house. Their two children were born there. Then the wife died and Carson and his kids had stayed at Holly Oak, believing the children shouldn't be moved from the only home they had ever known. Now Carson has married a young woman from Texas and they too will live at Holly Oak.

The bride, Marielle, has had a successful career and is presumably an intelligent woman. But this is where the story begins to fall apart for me because Marielle suddenly turns into a timid, frightened, gullible child/woman.

Holly Oak is full of secrets and rumors that no one has bothered to investigate and set to rest. It's like a soap opera where everyone keeps secrets which cause all kinds of problems. I kept thinking, "What's the big deal? Why don't these characters just come out with it?" This could be such a good story but I'm sorry, it just didn't work for me. Nor was there any sense of place and motivation was lacking for the characters' actions.

This is just my opinion of course and you might love the book. It is coming out Monday, Oct. 3, 2011. If you like family sagas and historical fiction, this may well be the book for you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Sleepwalkers by Paul Grossman

I was interested in reading this novel because it is set in 1932-3 Germany, the end of the Weimar Republic and beginning of Hitler's Third Reich. This period and on through World War II in Germany's history is endlessly fascinating to me. How could Hitler and his Nazi Party seduce a whole country and commit such horrors as the attempt to annilate all Jews, gypsies, communists, handicapped people, and anyone else they didn't like? All this in an effort to form an unsullied blue-eyed, blond, strong Aryan nation, which of course if taken to the extreme would have taken out Hitler himself with his dark hair and eyes, and his Austrian childhood.

So, perhaps because I have read so much about Germany's history, this novel scared me half to death from beginning to breathless end. Grossman has taken some actual events from later in the 1930s and incorporated them into the story, but most of this actually happened during the 1930s.

The hero is Willi Kraus, a police detective in Berlin, who has achieved something of a celebrity status because his investigation had run down a serial child killer. That status opens doors and protects him in the first part of the book. Unfortunately in this time and place, though, Kraus is a Jew, a widower with two young sons which make him vulnerable. He also has ties to the government which put a target on his back with the growing Nazi Party.

One morning he is called to a crime scene by the river. The body of a pretty young woman has washed up on shore. Everyone is standing around horrified because her lower leg bones have been surgically reversed. This case will lead Kraus on a trip to Hell, and the story will include an evil man who really did medical "experiments" on people, Dr. Josef Mengele.

I couldn't read this book fast enough and yet occasionally I had to get away from it. I found myself warning characters under my breath as I read or breathing a sigh of relief when imminent danger was averted. I was so caught up in the story that I was nervous until the end. If that's the mark of a good novel, this one is very good. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time.

I won this book from LibraryThing and the recently released paperback version is available at or your bookstore.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Untying the Knot, Linda Gillard

Untying the Knot is a Kindle book, my first since I bought the Kindle, and though I'm not excited about the Kindle, I'm very excited about the book. Full disclosure here: although we have never met in person, I consider Linda Gillard a "virtual" friend and I have enjoyed all of her previous books set in Scotland, her home, so I bought this one fully expecting to be just as pleased with it. I was right.

Gillard has a talent for creating fully realized characters that the reader comes to care about very much. In this book the main characters are Fay and Magnus Gillivray. They have been divorced for five years but have never stopped loving each other. Now their daughter is engaged to a man who presents an awkward situation for Fay, and Fay and Magnus are united in their determination to make her wedding and marriage happy and fulfilling.

Another aspect of Gillard's books is that there is always a physical or mental handicap to muddy the waters so to speak. In this case, Fay is emotionally fragile and Magnus suffers from severe PTSD as a result of his service where his job was to disarm bombs. In Londonderry, in fact, he had been nearly blown to pieces by an IRA bomb. He occasionally becomes violent, other times frightened; he is startled into these mental lapses by loud noises, dreams, and other triggers.

As in her other books, Gillard lets us in on the inner turmoil of the characters and there is a fine plot to keep us turning pages. She understands the complex thinking and motivations of her characters. A very satisfying read in all, and I recommend it highly.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ironweed by William Kennedy

I mentioned a couple days ago that I was doggedly making my way through a book that won the Pulitzer Prize and that I couldn't understand why. I kept hoping something would happen or I would recognize beautiful writing that would justify Kennedy's renown in this part of the country but it just never came about. I know Kennedy was famous for writing about Albany, NY politics and that's why I was interested. Ever since I moved to the East Coast, New York politics have bewildered me but I was drawn to reading about the topic like a moth to a flame. (Hackneyed phrase I know but I've been sick, so give me a break.)

The closest this book comes to politics is that the story is set in Albany, but it's the Albany of bums and winos and losers in 1938. It's about a man named Francis Phelan, an ex-ballplayer who has become a drunken bum, literally. He had been well known for his skill as a baseball player for a local team; he had married and fathered three children. He still loved and thought about his wife, but he had gone on the run twice, once when he killed a scab in the middle of a trolley workers' strike, and again after he dropped his baby son and the baby died.

Phelan's life has been a continual tale of violence, drunkenness, pick up work and spend the money on booze, sleeping in weeds or flophouses. I'm still depressed after finishing the book. This book tells what I assume is the end of his life although it's so hard to tell I'm not sure. He is seeing the ghosts of all the people in his life and drowning in nostalgia, so he finally uses the money he earned working on a junk wagon one day to buy a 12 1/2 lb. turkey and go to his wife's house.

His wife (apparently a saint) welcomes him home but understands when he says he can't stay. He talks to his grown son and daughter, meets his grandson, takes a bath he's needed for months, dresses in old clothes his wife had saved, but when he leaves her house, he uses a ten dollar bill his son gave him to go off the wagon and into a binge. At the end all I could say was, "Whaaa?" I just don't see the point. The New York Times had said, "Rich in plot and dramatic tension . . . almost Joycean in its variety of rhetoric." Well, maybe that's my problem. I've never been able to read James Joyce either.

Unsurprisingly, I don't recommend this book unless you are unbearably cheery and want to discover what sadness and depression are like.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

I Didn't Really Disappear Off the Face of the Earth

Since I haven't been able to post anything for several days, I thought I should let you know I'm still alive and kicking, well alive anyway. Alive and coughing. I have bronchitis and I'm barking like a lonesome dog. Feel better today but I still could sing bass in the church choir down the road.

It finally stopped raining and dried up a bit around here so Dave and I have been trying to catch up with yard work again. Yesterday I rested while he worked but today I'll get back out there for a while. I still can't mow all the yard because it's too wet where the pond overflowed, but I can get it looking much better.

The leaves are turning here already. Hard to believe in a month we'll have the peak of foliage season here. I remember when we used to go to dirt track auto races, at one track the announcer insisted on talking about the fall "foilyage" spectacular race. He's probably still calling it that but we stopped going to the races thanks to my lungs. I'd be happy for Dave to go with a friend, but he lost interest.

In between coughing I've been reading an old book that had been sitting on my shelf for a long time, Ironweed by (can't remember his first name) Kennedy. Maybe I coughed my brain out? Anyway, I'm sticking with it, determined to finish, but I just can't see so far why it won a Pulitzer Prize. I don't think it's because I'm sick; it's just horribly depressing and so far doesn't go anywhere. I must be missing something.

I got my first Kindle book today so that will be next. It's Linda Gillard so I know it'll be good. Looking forward to that.

The newspaper today is full of pictures and personal stories from our flood. Many of the business people are ready to give up, but they're planning to reopen because of their employees. There just aren't enough jobs open for them to all find work. Some of those businesses were just drowned out five years ago, so I sure can't blame them for being too discouraged to rebuild. The bright side is the help they're getting. The communities involved have come together, including college students who are from places far away from here, to help people throw out what's unsalvageable, clean what is, and bring them food and water and cleaning supplies. When Mother Nature does a number on us, people shine.

I'll finish that book and then I'll be back to do a review, such as it is.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Only Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

Only Time Will Tell (The Clifton Chronicles) Jeffrey Archer's latest book comes out this month. Only Time Will Tell is the first volume in a trilogy, the story of the Clifton family and therefore called The Clifton Chronicles. It begins in Bristol, England and at the end of the first book Harry Clifton comes to New York City.

The plot of this book is as old as storytelling and so it takes a master writer to make it fresh, new, different from all the other versions. Archer solves this problem with an unsettled time period and with the characters he creates to populate his story. His characters, after all, have to be real enough and interesting enough for the reader to care what will happen to them in the next volume of this trilogy.

As I finished the book yesterday afternoon I was anxious to know what will happen next, particularly since there is a fascinating twist at the end that throws everything up in the air.

The major character is Harry Clifton, a boy of only about five when the story begins and a young man at the end of the book. He is a character so believable and vividly drawn that I'm sure he will stay with me until the next book comes out. The poor kid goes through struggles that would make most people give up, but Harry struggles on showing he is truly his mother's son. She works as a waitress and has her own difficulties as she works to make enough money for Harry's schooling. His amazing voice helps him get ahead for several years, but puberty sends him to the drama department where his maturing voice and theatrical talent added to his determination to make good grades ensure his success.

The other character I love in this book is known as Old Jack Tar. He lives at the docks and befriends Harry, becoming a father to this fatherless boy. You'll be surprised at who Jack really is, as is most everyone in the town.

There are many other wonderful characters in the book, all of whom raise this story above the ordinary telling of this well-worn plot. I do recommend the book which I won from the blog "Tutu's Two Cents."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachia

Sharyn McCrumb's Appalachia I recently bought this little book from It's a collection of essays about how McCrumb became a storyteller, her family background, the Celts who settled in Appalachia, and her thoughts on writing historical fiction.

I've been a Facebook fan of McCrumb's for a long time and had felt I was really getting to know her that way, but this book told me so much more. Now I feel like I know why she writes the kind of stories she writes; she comes by it naturally since it's a long family tradition. They told stories through songs frequently, and she still uses music to set her mood as she writes. In fact, she does a CD of appropriate music for the setting and the characters and the story before she begins to write. I find this fascinating.

McCrumb takes offense, and rightfully so, that her books are often shelved with mysteries. She doesn't write mysteries, she writes historical fiction that sometimes involves magical realism. Don't know what that is? She explains it beautifully in one of these essays.

Her books, especially the "Ballad" novels, are always best sellers. Now you can read this 65 page book and learn why they are so good and so readable and so much fun to read.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Floods All Around Me

In 2006 this area went through what everyone called "a hundred years" flood. Now five years later we are flooded again, and the news is calling this one worse than 2006. It's supposedly even worse than the catastrophic floods of 1972 when Hurricane Agnes went through.

In the winter I complain about living on top of the mountain because it's sometimes difficult to get out, or to get home for that matter. Today I'm very glad we live so high. While hundreds of people are evacuating near the Susquehanna River and its tributaries, we sit high and dry. Our basement is even dry, though the sump pump worked its little heart out for the past three days.

Sometimes tragedies bring me around from a slump. In Arizona a friend's sister's house burned; nothing left but ashes. Around here people's homes and businesses are under water. I have been so very fortunate that I haven't suffered a tragedy like these and I can't imagine how one would go on. I do know that my life has been a litany of "you gotta do what you gotta do," but I think there's a limit.

How can I feel downhearted or sad when my life has been so blessed? It's high time I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and got busy enjoying life again. I'm going to look on the sunny side of the street, if the sun ever comes out again that is. :D

An Exciting Thriller Coming Out Next Month

Cold Glory October 11, 2011 is the release date for a new thriller by B. Kent Anderson. Cold Glory is the story of a supremely well-organized organization, Glory Warriors, who believe U.S. Grant and R.E. Lee signed a document just prior to Lee's surrender that details a plan for takeover of the U.S. government if the Speaker of the House, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the President are all taken out by violence. The Glory Warriors, who include people in all stations and walks of life, would take over the country swiftly before anarchy could arise.

It begins with the discovery at a construction site in Oklahoma of a cache of weapons and a document. Dr. Nick Journey, a history teacher, is called on to study the document. Journey is a hero you can't help but love. He has a severely autistic son who he cares for as a single parent since his wife left him, unable to take the day-after-day stress. He eventually is helped by a government researcher, Meg Tolman, who is the only one that believes him when he realizes the document has put him in terrible danger.

The Glory Warriors have been looking for that document since the end of the Civil War and they mean to get it no matter what it takes. They pursue Journey and Tolman across the country, and it's one of those cases where you can't trust anyone, even someone who has supposedly been one of your best friends. They can't be sure who is part of the conspiracy, especially after the Speaker and the Chief Justice are assassinated. The president is next and they must stop the Glory Warriors.

It's an exciting story. After about the first chapter the tension begins to escalate and finally it gets to be sitting on the edge of your seat time. This is a book where you need to suspend reality, don't question much, and just take the ride. Very good escapist thriller but with questions about autism, friends, and love underneath.

I may be prejudiced because of my love of history, but I recommend this book.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


This is getting frustrating. My friend in Austin, TX has suffered through a terrible drought and now they have fires again. Her sister has been evacuated but fortunately has her sense of humor intact. She says she wanted to move anyway and now she won't have so much to pack. I'm not sure I could be so funny at a time like this.

A friend in Phoenix and another in Tucson are suffering through unrelenting heat so they're trapped in air conditioning or a pool. I would be a raving lunatic by now I think.

Meanwhile, we're drowning in the East. Everything in the house is damp, the towels never dry unless I put them in the dryer, the sheets feel clammy every night, and discouragement has set in for outside work. Our pond overfloweth. Sorry for the King James English but I'm starting to feel like Job here.

We've had 7+ inches of rain from Hurricane Irene, and now we're getting rain from a front and rain left over from Tropical Storm Lee, plus Hurricane Katia is keeping the dry air from moving into our area. I never thought living in Pennsylvania would put us in trouble from hurricanes. Sheesh! We should have moved to Vero Beach, FL like we considered.

I know, I know - heat and more heat plus humidity in Vero Beach but at least we would have air conditioning and a nice park by the river and the beach where if the breeze is coming off the ocean it's cool. We would also have a pool which I dearly wish we had here.

Do I sound happy? No? Well, it's just a phase, as my mom used to say. All the rain and overcast skies piled on top of other chronic problems sometimes get the best of me. It could certainly be worse and it will certainly get better, but for today I think I'll whine. Occasionally I just need to get it all off my chest and clear the air. No happy face today, maybe tomorrow.

One funny note though. Did you see the major league baseball player (didn't catch his name) on the news this morning? He was giving his bat a good talking to - and then he went out and hit two, count 'em, two home runs. He should be a motivational speaker. :D

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Magnificent Medills by Megan McKinney

The Magnificent Medills: America's Royal Family of Journalism During a Century of Turbulent Splendor The old saying that if you're rich, you're eccentric and if you're poor, you're insane, certainly applies to this large family. Joseph Medill, of Chicago Tribune famed spawned a magnificent family alright but nearly all of them were definitely eccentric. The fact that most of them died of cirrhosis of the liver from a lifetime of heavy drinking is just the beginning of their story.

Since this family was high society in Chicago, New York, and Washington, the reader learns interesting facts about other well known people of their time as well as tidbits that I would classify as gossip. One married Drew Pearson, for instance, so we get an entirely different look at his life than in other works.

Arguably the most influential in politics was Joseph Medill who was a founder of the Republican Party and was close to Abraham Lincoln. So close in fact that when Medill walked into his own office and found Lincoln sitting with his feet up on the desk, he yelled at him to get his feet off of it.

The Tribune was located in a "fireproof" building at the time of the great Chicago fire, and of course burned down. Afterward, Medill was mayor of that city. However, his two daughters were, though elegant and educated, known as "she-devils." They meddled incessantly in their children's lives until they died.

Perhaps the best known person in the family was Cissy Patterson, one of Joseph's granddaughters. She was a friend of Alice Roosevelt (Teddy's flamboyant daughter), the publisher of a Washington newspaper, and mixed with presidents, artists, and other famous people. Her love life was a scandal.

I could go on and on about this book and the Medill family. I found their story fascinating. I have a proof of the book so I'm anxious to see the finished product because I want to see the pictures that will be included. I highly recommend this one. (Source: Amazon Vine)

Monday, August 29, 2011

"Blue Skies Smilin' on Me . . ."

Post Irene the sky is so blue you could get lost in it. Down below there is a lot of flooding around here. A town about 5 miles from us got officially 6.32" of rain, but it was still raining when I saw that report so we probably got more. It will take our property a long, long time to dry out so once again it will look like a jungle before I get it mowed again. Sigh. One area will definitely take a while to dry - our lower pond overflowed on one end onto the lawn.

Down the mountain in Hallstead on the Susquehanna River, according to the news, several houses are in danger. It always floods along one side of Main St. where Salt Lick Creek flows behind those houses into the river, so I imagine even the road is flooded now. I'm not going out until tomorrow, by which time I hope most of the flooding will be off the roads. Some bridges were damaged badly by flood waters with trees and other debris roaring along but nothing near our house.

We were supposed to go to a picnic and concert just across the state line in Conklin, NY Wed. evening, but the park where it was to be held is now a lake. It's another place that floods easily. Lots of roads blocked off there. Conklin was one of the hardest hit places in the area during the flood of 2006. Many homes were demolished and never rebuilt, but a group called CHOW has taken over some of those lots to grow food for the needy. Come to think of it, I wonder if the rest of their harvest is under water?

We just had a slightly hilarious adventure here. We lost power for two hours, during which time the sump pump couldn't run. I guess water backed up in drains, etc. because it didn't flood the basement floor. When the power came back on, I heard a lot of gurgling in the kitchen sink (I hadn't used it), then Dave came flailing out of the downstairs bathroom with water gushing all over the place. It had backed up in the shower stall drain and flowed across the floor, out the door and onto the hallway carpeting. I opened the basement door to see it was raining inside; it had gone through the floor and was falling in the basement.

Even as it happened, I couldn't help laughing (to myself - Dave was steamed) but the sump pump soon caught up and everything was okay again. At least the bathroom floor got washed, but the carpeting is still wet this morning. I have the fan blowing on it.

So, we've had an earthquake and a hurricane in one week. I think we've had enough for now. I'm very happy that "nuthin' but blue skies do I see."

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Wet Weekend for Us, but Little League Will Go On

Hurricane Irene is supposed to skirt NE PA, just bringing wind and rain, but nothing like they'll get east of here. They are predicting as much as 7" of rain though!

Thankfully the Little League games are far enough west that they shouldn't be too affected, but just in case, they've pushed up the schedule so they'll play earlier and the consolation game is cancelled. The Keystone Little Leaguers from Clinton County, PA were welcomed home with a parade yesterday. Their hometown people supported the kids like they were astronauts or something. It was great, and the kids are too. They won't be in the finals today, but they played much older than they are.

I'm reading a nonfiction book about the family that founded the Chicago Tribune so it's slower going than the mysteries I've been reading. Good book; I'm really enjoying it. Why is it that so many very wealthy families have so many strange people? Some of these are real doozies.

I probably won't be online tomorrow because of winds and rain, so see you Monday!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Cut by George Pelecanos

The Cut I love times like this when I find a new-to-me author who has a long backlist for me to read as well. I won this book from LibraryThing. Since I hadn't read Pelecanos before, I was a little concerned, but all is well - I loved this book and this hero. Can't wait to find the rest of his books to read.

The hero is Spero Lucas. Now all this may be familiar to you, but if not, Lucas is a Marine Corp vet who served in Iraq. Now he works as an investigator for a lawyer and, as in this instance, occasionally takes on a job independently. This one is, believe it or not, for a drug kingpin who is in prison awaiting trial. The title of the book comes from the fact that he gets a 40% cut in his work.

Lucas takes umpteen showers a day, changes his clothes just about as often, but not for vanity; this guy is clean-cut and fit. He bikes, kayaks, does calisthenics in his apartment, anything to keep as fit as possible. I can just see his six pack and guns. Girls, this guy is sexy. And he loves women, even treats them very well. I'm reminded of Robert B. Parker's Spenser in many ways. However, he does goof sometimes or strike out with a woman, i.e., he's human. I love that in a hero.

Pelecanos has a spare writing style with no long, flowery descriptions. I admire his ability to create a character or give the reader a scene without long descriptions. He shows what a person is like; hence the exercise and showers and women. His villains also are evil but three dimensional. One loves to learn the proper use of big fancy words to impress his friends, which just serves to convince them he's a dunce. One of the main rules of writing, one frequently ignored, is to show rather than tell. Pelecanos has mastered this technique.

I highly recommend this book for mystery lovers. Now I'm off to the library to look for more Pelecanos books.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tough News for a Tough Woman: Pat Summitt

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at my desk when my chair began to shake and so did my computer. Only went on for about 10-15 seconds, by which time I realized I was experiencing my first earthquake. Dave didn't feel a thing in the shop; perhaps because he was standing on the concrete floor.

Later on the evening news there was a different kind of jolt but no less earth-shaking for me. Pat Summitt, the legendary coach of women's basketball for the Tennessee Volunteers, announced that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. I also learned for the first time that she has rheumatoid arthritis and at first she thought her symptoms were side effects of her medication for that disease.

I've never been lucky enough to see the Vols play in person but I've been watching them on TV and admiring Summitt's coaching for years. She is a no-nonsense coach who gets the best out of her players, and yet she has such a rapport with them that they love her. Her assistant coaches have said they will help in any way possible. You can't buy that kind of devotion; you earn it by year after year of doing the right thing.

I don't know why I love basketball so much. After all, I only played in prep school and there we were forced to play girls' rules. Stupid game. Maybe it's because I understand the game and I've played just enough to know how hard it is to play well. Of course, it's a much more aggressive game now than I ever thought it would turn into but it takes tons of practice on top of talent. Not just anyone can play well.

As a Rutgers alumna, of course I admire Vivian Stringer, the women's coach there. But Pat Summitt has always struck me as the epitome of women's coaching, a person to strive to be like, a person who has found the exact place for her passionate approach to the game.

My father had Alzheimer's so I know too much about dementia, and I am deeply saddened by this news. Her approach to it echoes her life's approach to everything: toughness and determination to live every day to the limit of her ability. Best to you, Pat Summitt.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Wedding in December by Anita Shreve

A Wedding in December : A Novel I just proved that my reading taste has changed for the better. Many years ago I tried to read an Anita Shreve novel and couldn't finish it. Even though it's been so long ago that I don't remember which book it was, I do recall thinking it was awful because nothing happened. The protagonist just thought and thought and thought, and I was totally bored with her thoughts.

Other bloggers whose opinions I trust have been posting good reviews of Shreve lately though, and I decided I should try her again. I must be missing something. Sure enough, I was missing something. Now that I'm more mature (read old), I'm more patient with character development and books like A Wedding in December where nearly all the action takes place in people's memories of the past.

Several people are reunited after 27 years for the wedding of two friends. They had all been classmates at a private prep school and one of the group of friends had died not long before graduation. He was sort of the catalyst around which all the others had melded into a solid group and without him, they all went their separate ways after graduation. There is a mystery about the boy's death that haunts them all and it creates an underlying tension throughout the wedding celebration.

The bride, it turns out, has cancer which appears to be terminal. She is marrying the man she had loved in school. He had broken up with her then and they had both married someone else. Now they are together again and want to celebrate that fact with their friends from long ago.

One of the friends is writing a novel based on a real tragedy that happened in Halifax, Nova Scotia during World War I. Since I had known about this event from a vacation there, this was an interesting side story for me. She, it turns out, also has something she has been hiding, but is bursting to disclose.

This book was published in 2005 but it is a timeless story of love, loss, guilt, and people's expectations of their friends. In short, I have become an Anita Shreve fan. I did enjoy her writing, the plotlines, and her characters. I recommend her for others who may not have realized she had something to tell them before.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Culture Shock in Pennsylvania

I received the funniest phone call first thing this morning. A big booming voice that sounded like Lyndon B. Johnson was calling to let me know his people would be on our land today doing seismic testing for the gas drilling company. Like most Texans he was loud and friendly, and I was flustered because I kept thinking of LBJ.

We've had to get used to Texas accents and Texas manners around here in the past few years since we live atop the Marcellus Shale, the biggest concentration of natural gas discovered in this country in ages.

Since this is a rural area, we're used to nearly everyone having a pickup truck, but now we're overwhelmed with them. The motels, rooming houses, and furnished apartments are now full, and the license plates on the pickups in the parking lots are from Texas, Oklahoma, and places like Oregon and Washington. A few of the men have brought their wives, but mostly we're overrun with single men who fill the restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores. It's good business, and it can be amusing when a couple guys are in the grocery store trying to decide what they can cook.

This has also been a boon for employment. The local community colleges are offering courses for jobs in the gas industry and I expect it won't be long before most of the jobs will be filled by local people. Bluestone quarries had provided employment to many young strong men but then the boom in bluestone was over and unemployment went up again. Suddenly now there are new opportunities, but they do require some training.

The "pads" they construct for drilling rigs are a marvel. One huge pad is just down the road from our house and we will hear lots of noise and see the lights 24 hours a day when they begin drilling, but the landowners will profit big time. Our economy has been in the pits for so long, we aren't upset about the noise, the traffic, or even the damage to our roads - yet. Someday we may regret all this, but for now there's a lot of hope in this area that things are going to get better.

Speaking of traffic, when we moved here 17 years ago there might be a dozen vehicles go by for a whole day, and night time was quiet as a tomb. Now you'd think we live on a highway we have so much traffic, and it's fast. No more rural carelessness about crossing the road here.

The hope for a better economy is especially true for senior citizens like Dave and me. We started out 36 years ago in an 18 foot camper in a campground. We worked hard and worked up until now we have 26+ acres of gorgeous land, a house built in 1861, outbuildings, two ponds, hay fields, and a beautiful view. But here we are in our 70s, both with chronic diseases and hence expensive medications to buy, and an iffy future. Do we want gas royalty checks? You bet we do.

Drilling for natural gas is a controversial process and some people claim their water has been polluted, but there was a problem with their water for 50 years or more so we aren't really concerned. You'll see all kinds of scare stories about the dangers of hydrofracturing to get the shale oil, but we've done our research and we don't see the danger. We're not blind, just not easily frightened.

Meanwhile, the excitement is building in our part of the county and we're getting friendly calls from LBJ; oops, I mean Texans.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rain, Rain Go Away - To Texas for Instance!

This has been the wettest summer in years. It has also been cooler, which is nice, with only one bad week of a heat wave, but even a person who loves rain like me is getting tired of this. Meanwhile, my friend in Austin, TX would kill for a decent rain. It just isn't fair.

I just get our grass mowed so I can start on the trimming when it starts to rain again. Ergo (as a doctor I used to work for always said), I never get to the trimming. Arrrgggh! We never got the blueberry bushes covered either so the birds have been feasting. I'm really frustrated, can you tell?

When it is hot and humid, summer seems to drag on forever, but this summer has flown by. We are going to our first Binghamton Mets game of the season this week, and the season is almost over. If Binghamton Univ. hadn't offered tickets to basketball season ticket holders, we might not have made it there at all. Then it will be Harford Fair time (sort of our county fair), New York State Fair, and Fall. What happens to the time?

Actually we're coming up on my favorite month of the year - September. That's when my energy level soars and I'm ready for some serious work, more serious reading, and hopefully a lot of writing. Writing time is hard to come by these days because of our health issues, but I'm hopeful for this fall.

The good news is that I have a nice little stack of ARC's to read and review while it rains and we've been getting good reports at the doctors' offices lately so things are looking up. On the other hand, both of us have been spending time at the dentist's office having crowns replaced - the ones we got when we were young, back in the Middle Ages. You just can't win, can you?

OK, that's my whining for the month. I'm in the middle of an Anita Shreve that's very good, so I'll be posting a review soon.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Death of a Chimney Sweep by M. C. Beaton

Death of a Chimney Sweep (Hamish Macbeth Mystery) I've been reading reviews about Beaton's Hamish Macbeth for a long time, but just now got around to reading one of this amusing series myself. There's a long list of titles to choose from but this one happened to catch my eye first.

I'm of Scottish ancestry so anything set in Scotland is bound to please me but even more so if, like in this book, the characters are memorable. Macbeth, for instance, is a constable in a village. He has bright red hair, he's single, and he has a dog named Lugs and a wild cat named Sonsie. These two animals play together like two peas in a pod. The village and the police office are right on the ocean with high hills on the other side which is a beautiful setting for any type of novel.

This story begins with the murder of a rich man whose body is shoved up the chimney in his own house, and the subsequent death by accident or murder of the chimney sweep who had been there that very day. The sweep was a beloved character in the area, and the widow of the first victim is soon friends with everyone too. Her husband had kept her isolated before.

Hamish Macbeth is a sort of maverick when it comes to crime solving, so he's always in trouble with his superiors, but he solves the crimes which makes his bosses even more upset of course. He's sort of unlucky in love, but the people of his village appreciate him and his skills.

Beaton is a witty writer. The jacket tells us that the BBC did a series of her stories, which I'm determined to find. She also writes a series starring Agatha Raisin and I want to try one of those as well. The Hamish Macbeth series is just the ticket for a summer day, or actually any time you want a light, amusing mystery with a very likeable hero.