Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Memorial Weekend

Hope everyone had a great long weekend. We went to a cookout Saturday at a lovely country house. Lots of people, two very energetic black labs who entertained us all afternoon and evening, wonderful food. Four of us went for a hike on a trail the homeowners have made in the woods. We got just a little lost at one point, but made it back safe and sound just in time for the food.

Very funny conversation that afternoon with three of us who have had knee replacements. Sounded like my grandmother and her friends comparing health problems. Anyway, my knee was the best outcome of all of us.

I finally joined Netflix so we had a movie to watch. I've given up on getting to the theater. If there's a movie on that I want to see, we have something else going on or we just don't want to drive the 25 miles to get to the nearest theater.

We saw "The Tourist" because we have both been Johnny Depp fans since way back when he played the clean-cut rookie in "21 Jump Street" on television. He's such a chameleon; so good in whatever part he plays. I know the critics were rough on "The Tourist" and Dave was just plain confused throughout because he doesn't remember faces well, but I liked it. Okay, so the plot was a little out there, and some of the chase scenes were funny rather than suspenseful, but it was a good relaxing way to spend the evening. And it starred Depp and Angelina Jolie - what's not to like?

We've been without rain since Friday night, actually Sat. morning, so I'm hoping I can get some mowing done this afternoon. However, it's supposed to be 90 or better and humid. If I can breathe, I'll try it. If not, the yard will just have to resemble a hay field a little longer. Wish me luck.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I'm Back, Hopefully for Good

I haven't been able to log in to blogger dashboard or make comments since May 25th so I'm very happy to discover I'm back in the loop this morning. Not that I have anything important to say, you understand, but I missed being able to read the blogs I follow and make inane or silly comments and look at everyone's pictures.

The storms that have been plaguing the Midwest finally arrived in our part of the country Thursday evening so I hope my midwestern friends are all safe. We didn't have tornadoes here, but strong wind brought down one of our huge spruce trees. It had been doing a pretty good imitation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa for quite some time, so we had wondered where it would land when it fell and whether it would take the shed with it since its roots grow under the shed. Thursday night it went down in the best possible place, across the yard, and didn't damage a thing. We just have to cut it up and take it out to the burn pile.

Our power was out for a while but we were asleep, and some other people around here lost trees too. People in other parts of NE Pennsylvania are still without power. All in all, in comparison to other states, we got off scott free.

Now to catch up with my Google Reader.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson

The Reservoir This book is a difficult one to review. I liked many things about it, first and foremost the story, which is based on a true tragedy.

In March 1885 in Richmond, Virginia, the body of a young pregnant woman is found floating in a reservoir. The back of her head is injured and the weather is quite cold. Many remark how angelic she looks and there is an uproar to learn who is responsible for such a horrid crime. Surely she couldn't have committed suicide. This much of the story is true, according to news reports and other documents of the time.

Thompson found the story fascinating and proceeded to research it. Having learned everything he could, he then wrote this novel with some real characters and others fictional. He invented a love triangle, an extended family, and perhaps the killer. The problem is the main character, Tommie Cluverius, and his mind. The victim is his young cousin who had been raped by her father and then went to live with her aunt, the same aunt who has raised Tommie and his brother Willie. This is the dysfunctional family from hell, but Aunt Jane is a good woman who loves all three and does her best by them.

These are classic characters and I think perhaps that fact is what bothered me as I read. One is a simple good man, one is ambitious and willing to do anything to make his dreams come true. Lillie, the victim, is pretty and a handful who is doomed to trouble. Her father is mean through and through. The women are stereotypical for 1885, and so are many of the men.

You can't help reading with bated breath, however, because you can't make up your mind about Tommie. He is like a Jekyll and Hyde person. Which one is the real Tommie? Even though you know from the beginning that Lillie is the woman found in the reservoir, you keep going back and forth about how and why she died.

I enjoyed seeing postwar Richmond depicted so well and how the burning of the city affected 1885 life there. The setting is one of the best things about this book, along with the terrible situation of an unmarried pregnant woman in those days. I recommend reading The Reservoir because the problems with the book aren't worth denying yourself the pleasure of the story. I also recommend a box of tissues nearby.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter

A Faint Cold Fear (Grant County, No 3) I'm gradually becoming a solid fan of Karin Slaughter's mystery novels. In this one the lead characters are Sara Linton, medical examiner, and Jeffrey Tolliver, Chief of Police, of a small college town in Georgia. The college plays a large role in the story; it's supposedly a school for dorky types who don't fit in at the better known large universities in Georgia. Judging from the scene at one dorm party, though, these kids don't seem very nerdy at all.

As this gripping story begins, the body of a young man has been found in the dry river bed under a bridge by the college. He has fallen or jumped from the bridge and his legs are shattered. Is it suicide? He has tried to slit his arm before. While Sara, Jeffrey, and others try to figure out what happened, Sara's very pregnant sister leaves Sara's car to go up a hill into the woods to relieve herself. They find her stabbed and bleeding profusely a few minutes later. In other words, the book grabs the reader by the neck and doesn't let go until the end.

There is one masterfully drawn character in this book you won't soon forget. Lena is a former cop who now works for the college security department. She hates the job, mostly because of her bigoted, smarmy boss. She was an excellent cop but was the victim of one of the most terrifying violent kidnappings you'll ever read about. Her head still isn't back to normal, and neither is her body for that matter. I was impressed by the depiction of this woman and her struggle to keep it together.

The other characters are well drawn too and although the plot kept me turning pages, it was the characters I really loved. Slaughter has been compared to Patricia Cornwall and Kathy Reichs and I can see the truth of that comparison, but I am more impressed with Slaughter's characters than Cornwall's. I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Book for Book Lovers

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading I chose Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading from Amazon Vine because the description sounded just like me. Thank heaven I did receive this book. I connected with Nina Sankovitch so much that I felt like I was reading a long letter from my best friend. Obviously, this qualifies as my best read in a long, long time.

Sankovitch was the youngest of three sisters born to Russian immigrants. She grew up in a suburb of Chicago in a bookish, close knit family. Eventually the family all ended up in New York City, except for Nina who lives in Connecticut with her husband, his daughter, and their four sons. Sankovitch seems to have boundless energy. She's a lawyer like her husband and their home is a happy place of fun times with the kids.

Then her eldest sister, Anne-Marie, died of cancer at the age of 46. She was devastated but felt that from then on she must live life to the fullest. In truth she was trying to run away from her grief. As she neared her own 46th birthday though, she realized the frantic racing around trying to do everything wasn't working. The only way to cope was to face her grief and look for serenity in books. Well, that's exactly what I would do. She took it far beyond what I would do though, because she decided to read one book a day for her 46th year, good books no more than 300 pages long, never one author more than once, and she would review each book the following morning on a blog.

Most people would think she was nuts, but I absolutely "got" it. She turned her music room into a reading room and used an old purple chair for her comfortable reading place. She read all types of books and learned from many of them life lessons that were of great use to her as she learned to live without her sister.

This book tells not only of that reading year, but stories about her family, her childhood, her sons, her relationship with her step-daughter, and her marriage. I finished the book admiring her for her maturity, her energy, and her loving nature. I also knew as I turned the final page that Sankovitch will be fine; she found her answers in her year of reading.

I recommend this book highly to anyone who loves books and depends upon them for solace or escape in times of need, and especially for book addicts like me.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: Long Gone by Alafair Burke

Long Gone: A Novel I had never read anything by Alafair Burke. She has written two series of three books each. This one is a stand-alone, a suspense novel set in New York City.

The story is about Alice Humphrey, a former child star and daughter of a big name director. She has purposely gone on her own after learning that her father had had affairs, but is having a tough time since she lost her job at a museum. She was an art history major, so she is at the opening of an artist's show when she is approached by a handsome man. They chat and when he learns about her art background, he offers her a job managing a new gallery. He says she would be required to show some "unconventional" photographs done by the owner's boy toy several times a year, but in between she could select the art for the gallery. The job sounds too good to be true, but at the end of the day she desperately needs work and decides to sign on. A few days later her boss, the handsome guy, asks her to meet him early at the gallery. She arrives to find the windows covered with brown paper and the gallery empty except for his quite dead body in a pool of blood. The prime suspect? Alice of course.

I had a problem with the beginning of this book. Several story lines are introduced in separate chapters, none of them seeming to have any relationship to the others. For instance, there is a missing 16 year old girl from New Jersey. What? Then there is Alice's brother who is a recovering drug addict. Several times I had to turn back to read again who a character was and what their story was. Of course everything eventually comes together and once you get into the book it becomes absorbing, if a little confusing.

I don't normally try to solve the mystery in a good book because I enjoy just going along for the ride. Surprise me. In Long Gone I don't think I could have solved it if I had tried. The convoluted twists and turns are beyond my imagination but always make sense. However, I think if I had time I would read the book again to see if my impression that there is a lack of foreshadowing is true. You may be a better puzzle solver than I am, or less gullible, but I would bet everyone will be shocked at the end.

I do recommend this book and this author. Burke has been a prosecutor and a police advisor. She lives in New York. All of this lends itself to sense of actually being in the city. For myself, I intend to find and read her two series, one about a NYPD detective, and the other about a Portland Deputy District Attorney. Happy reading.


I submitted a post on May 11 or 12, I don't remember which, about finally being able to mow the yard because we had had sunshine since last Friday. This morning Blogger wasn't available, and now it's back on but my last post has disappeared. Not that it was that important, you understand, but I thought it was worth reading or I wouldn't have posted it.

Oh well, suffice to say the yard is mowed and some trimming is done but today I'm indoors. I went out to lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in ages and other than that I'm resting.

I had also posted an update about Scaredy Cat. She came to within a couple inches of me a few days ago and every morning she waits for me on the patio trying to look very hungry. If I put out dry food, she turns up her nose but most mornings I cave in and give her canned food. No touching yet, but she is getting very curious about the inside of the house. Maybe soon we'll be touching friends.

I hope Blogger is back in business for good now since I'm going to post a book review and I don't want to lose it. Keep your fingers crossed.

By the way, Mike and Kathy had made a comment on the post that disappeared into the ether so I thank you but the comments won't post.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

At Last, Sunny Days and Lawn Mowing

This has turned out to be a busy week. I'm reading a book that I'm dying to finish, but since it finally stopped raining every other day and the yard gradually dried out, I haven't had time. Every day since last Saturday I've been out mowing for at least a couple hours a day. I started with the least "gooshy" sections and then moved on as the drying continued. I've even gone over sections that were too damp when I mowed the first time, so now the yard is looking good. I have one section to go, the one that is normally the wettest. Hopefully I won't get stuck this afternoon; I've had to have Dave help me out several times when I got stuck in mud or fell into a woodchuck hole. He won't let me hear the end of it.

I also got my new crown at the dentist's office. The temporary was driving me crazy because it was rough and had a kind of sharp edge so my tongue has been feeling raw. Now I'm back to normal, thankfully.

Most of the leaves are out now but still have that "new" green appearance. Dogwoods are blooming around the towns nearby and the magnolia trees are losing their blossoms. We had a magnolia in our front yard in Connecticut; I have fond memories of its beauty but less fond memories of trying to clean up the juicy petals from the ground.

Update on Scaredy Cat, our stray that I've been trying to make friends with since last summer. She is not only eating on the patio, she actually talks to me now (no, I don't know what she's saying) and has come within a couple inches of my hand. When I get up in the morning, she's waiting and watching the window for me. I don't think her name will change after all. Scaredy Cat will be it forever. I think this summer we'll finally get to be on a touching basis, and she's getting curious about the inside of the house. I hope she won't be spending next winter in the barn.

Tomorrow I'm going to take a day off from yard work (my body will be sooo grateful), have lunch in town with an old friend, and finish that good book. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Till the Butchers Cut Him Down by Marcia Muller

Till the Butchers Cut Him Down I've been reading Marcia Muller for years but in no particular order. Whenever I see one of her Sharon McCone series books at a book sale that I haven't read, I buy it. I still have one more in my TBR stack. The reason is that they always are entertaining and I like McCone.

Till the Butchers Cut Him Down is the first one I've read that disappointed me. I'm not sure why. I still like McCone and I find her life interesting. I enjoy her trials and tribulations with her nephew Mick. This story is set when McCone first opens her own business, renting an office from her previous employer, All Souls Legal Cooperative. Her sister has sent Mick to stay with her because they aren't getting along. He's 17 and a computer wizard, which is convenient because McCone has decided to finally enter the computer age. Her boyfriend Hy is off on mysterious business in this one and she's wondering if they will last.

With all of this going on, the last thing she needs is for her first client to be a man out of her past who is anything but likeable or easy to get along with. T. J. Gordon is known to her as "Suits," shortened from Suitcase because when McCone was in college he traveled around with a ratty old suitcase and sold pot. Now he's a multimillionaire who takes companies in big trouble and turns them around, usually successfully.

The story is set in California, a place fittingly called Lost Hope, Nevada, and a former steel town in Pennsylvania called Monora. Then there is Suits' mansion and guest house on the northern California coast. Maybe that's the problem. It jumps from place to place, Suits is a very jumpy person with absolutely no consideration for others, and I was simply uncomfortable reading about him. The story didn't hold my interest like Muller's novels normally do.

This is not to say that it's bad. Not at all. It just didn't fit my mood or something, but you may really like it. I always recommend Muller for a good read, even if like me you read the series out of order.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Review: Killer Market by Margaret Maron

By Margaret Maron: Killer Market (Deborah Knott Mysteries) After reading a serious history of World War I, I needed something light and fun and who better to turn to than Margaret Maron. I love her books and have been saving a couple I found at a book sale.

Judge Deborah Knott not only has a huge family, she has many friends throughout the South, and occasionally is sent to fill in for a vacationing judge in some interesting little town. This time she's been sent to High Point, North Carolina and doesn't realize until she arrives and finds every motel filled that it is Market Week. That's the week when everyone who is anyone in the furniture business arrives in High Point to sell, steal ideas, entertain, and oh yes, there's a murder.

Thankfully Deborah runs into an old friend from law school who had to drop out when her daughter was severely injured in an accident. Dixie then wound up in the furniture design business. Her best friend and neighbor Pell Austin, has a spare bedroom Deborah can occupy. That good news is clouded by Deborah finding the murder victim who happens to be Dixie's son-in-law.

The story is convoluted but easy to follow with the fun mix of characters that we've come to expect in a Maron mystery. One of them is a woman who was a brilliant designer until she fell victim to bipolar disease; she won't stay on her medications and so is believed to be a crazy bag lady.

Through the story we learn a lot about the ins and outs of furniture design and marketing. It appears to be a more cut-throat business than I would have thought. This is a good story, a fun read, and one I recommend.