Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts on Emotional Geology by Linda Gillard

Emotional Geology (Ulverscroft General Fiction) Months ago I read a wonderful book called Star Gazing. Its author, Linda Gillard, lives on an island off Scotland and I soon became FB friends with her. Recently I learned she had a few copies left of her earlier book, Emotional Geology, so I bought one.

I don't know how many U.S. readers are familiar with Gillard's work, but I would encourage anyone who likes a deep love story (as opposed to what we all call romance) to find either of these books and read them.

Warning though, Emotional Geology is an intense experience. It's the story of Rose Leonard, a woman who has been hospitalized after breaking up with her lover of five years. He has left her for another woman and a less complicated life. Gavin was a mountain climber and Rose remembers how he loved climbing more than her, and how she was left behind to worry herself sick every time he took on another climbing challenge. She has a daughter who was a teenager at the time Gavin lived with them. Megan's point of view is different. She loved Gavin and saw him as her protector and the strong man who took care of her mother. You see, Rose is bipolar which has robbed Megan of her childhood.

Rose moves alone to an island a distance off of Scotland where the weather is harsh but there are no mountains except on a distant island. She is an artist and finds it impossible to work when she takes the dose of medications her doctor has ordered. They make her feel like a zombie. But she can't live without them either, so she tries to live on a smaller dose and pursue her textile art in quiet privacy.

Close neighbors become friends, especially Calum, a man with a past that makes him drink a bit too much. However, he's a poet and he's a successful schoolteacher as well. You can see where this is going. I loved Calum and suffered along with him in his trials and tribulations with Rose's illness. Megan comes for a visit which stirs things up to a boiling point.

The setting is bleak according to Megan, but Rose finds it beautiful. She sees the different colors and textures in the landscape and the sea. Since I'm pretty much of a loner myself, the island and the cottage Rose lives in appealed to me. I did have to put the book aside occasionally; the emotional storm of Rose and Calum's relationship was hard to bear.

In short, I will keep this one and I may even go back to reread it sometime which is something I never, ever do.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Goofed! Comments are Gone!

Yesterday I was trying to do something new on my blog and realized I had 527 comments stored. Well, no wonder my computer kept sending me notes about memory usage. So, I deleted tons of them. Intended to keep the more current ones, like maybe a month's worth, but got carried away and they are all gone!

I don't know why it is that every time I try something new, I mess up what I thought I had already mastered. It never fails. Maybe it's because I'm not a product of the computer generation. When I started working, I was typing (on a manual typewriter!) spreadsheets on Ditto masters - my purple summer. Got really good at typing numbers, but I had purple from those Ditto masters everywhere all summer. Was never so happy to go back to school.

I didn't really work with computers until the 1980s, more than 20 years after I started working, so some was self taught. I took a couple courses at IBM for a specific computer system for the hospital I worked at, and once after we moved here I took a sort of basic course hoping I would learn something, but it turned out to be too basic. So, I stumble through and every day I learn something new by trial and error, lots of errors.

Everyone laughs at how hard I hit the keys when I type (enter data) on my computer, but my fingers apparently still remember those manual typewriters I worked on for a long time. I even had a portable Olivetti typewriter - anyone remember those?

Anyway, I'm sorry about all your lovely comments but once again I learned something. :-(

Our Neighborhood Fox Came for a Visit

This morning the coolest thing happened. We looked out our bay window in back and saw a fox out cruising for breakfast. As we watched, he zigzagged across the hay field from our shed (underneath which rabbits live) and then suddenly launched himself up and down headfirst into the snow. We were too far away to see if he caught whatever it was he had spotted, but he just kept on exploring the field. Then he worked the tree line at the bottom of the birm this side of our larger pond and disappeared into our neighbors' property.

I've seen foxes do that on TV of course but never before in person. We used to see a fox patrol the back of the shed at twilight a couple years ago but hadn't seen one since. Rabbits, watch out!

I still have to feed "our" stray cat, Scaredy Cat, on the patio and I've noticed some animal cleans out what she leaves in the bowl every evening. I thought at first she must be coming back late for an evening snack, but now I wonder if it's the fox. When I go out to get the dish, I turn on the outside lights and take a flashlight because I certainly don't want to run into a skunk or offend a possum.

Every time I dream of moving to the city, it seems, something like this happens and then I realize how much of country life I would miss. I would still like to be closer to basketball games, concerts, theaters, and big libraries though.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Review: I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel This is a library book that I picked up because I like the author, but it was different than her books I had read earlier, a stand-alone.

Normally I don't notice cover art very much, but this time it grabbed me. At top is a girl in a blue coat running through tall brush; at bottom is the negative image of that scene with the girl's dark hair turned white and her coat turned red. It looks like she is disappearing into the unknown. Between the cover art and the story, this book got under my skin and was disturbing. I say that despite the fact that the villain in the story is from the outset on death row where he has been for two decades as his lawyer managed delay after delay. Soon however he will be executed, but he has one last request.

Walter Bowman had kidnapped and murdered four teenage girls but a fifth girl, Elizabeth Lerner, he had held hostage for nearly six weeks and then he was arrested and she was saved. Now Eliza Benedict, married and the mother of two young children, she has managed to create a normal happy life with an understanding man who has always known about her past. Then one day she receives a letter from Walter. He says he saw her picture in a magazine that was taken at a party she attended with her prominent husband. He writes, "I'd know you anywhere."

Of course this is a terrible bolt out of the blue, bringing all the horrible memories crashing back down upon her head. Walter wants to talk to her, and after talking it over with her husband, she decides to accept a phone call from him. There is a woman who intercedes for Walter. She is an advocate for abolishing the death penalty. Particularly interested in Walter's case, she actually contacts Eliza. Another character playing a role in the story is the mother of the final victim who would like nothing more than to see Eliza dead and her own daughter alive. She is obsessed with the execution.

Through flashbacks we learn some of the details of those weeks she was Walter's hostage. My nerves were on edge; I actually kept telling myself it was just fiction. The tension builds right up to the end as you see Walter's real agenda and everyone else's as well. This is one of those stories you have to finish because you are on tenterhooks until you find out how it ends. I do recommend it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Treasure Hunt by John Lescroart

Treasure Hunt I won this book from GoodReads but it never arrived. Then someone gave me a copy so I got to read it anyway. Although this is the second Wyatt Hunt novel, it didn't suffer at all from my not having read the first one.

This is about a private detective service in San Francisco called The Hunt Club which has been suffering from a lack of business since the economy tanked. It's so bad that Wyatt Hunt has been dreading the day when he will have to let employees Mickey Dade and his sister Tamara go even though they are like his own kids. In fact Wyatt had saved the two from the foster child program and they love him like a father.

Then Mickey sees a hand protruding from a lagoon beside the Palace of Fine Arts and is interviewed on television because the dead man is Dominic Como, a high profile, publicity-loving citizen who serves on the board of several charitable organizations. Suddenly business at the Hunt Club is booming as former clients, and new ones seem to realize they are still in business. Meanwhile, they are trying to solve Como's murder.

Suspects are plentiful because of the nature of his life and the fact that he was associated with such bountiful sums of money in his charitable work. Follow the money is the best advice on this case, although his wife is a good suspect and his associate, the young beautiful Alicia.

Mickey has been studying to be a chef, as a back-up plan in case the firm went under but also because he loves cooking. Cooking, therefore, is a feature of the book, and also San Francisco's renowned restaurants. A funny part of the book is the response they get when they set up a tip line for people who are not fond of the police to phone in anything they think might be related to the murder. The calls they get are hilarious, but one might be a solid tip after all.

I loved the characters Mickey and Wyatt, and was happy to see Tamara come out of what seemed to be a dangerous depression. Wyatt's home is a bit of a stretch to believe, but that's a minor quibble in a very enjoyable read. The mystery isn't easy to solve but at the end I was able to see where clues had been there all along. I'm easily led down the garden path to a red herring. I recommend this book; I think I'll find and read the first Wyatt Hunt novel.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review: Body Work by Sara Paretsky

Body Work (V.I. Warshawski Novel) I love Sara Paretsky's V. I. Warshawski series so a warning is in order that you won't read anything bad in this review. I've read every book in the series, and it just gets better and better. They're set in Chicago, a city I love, and I only wish there was a little more Chicago in the novels.

For one thing, V.I. is maturing, begrudgingly and full of complaints, but maturing anyway. She's around 50 now, but that isn't stopping her from trying to do everything she did 20 years ago. V.I. is tough as nails, but she is loyal to her friends and family and determined to keep them safe. Her downstairs neighbor, Mr. Contreras, and her doctor and friend, Lotty, do their best to keep V.I. safe but it's an impossible mission. I must say V.I. is a little less reckless than she used to be, but she still barges in where anyone else would think "wait a minute, I shouldn't do this."

All of the books have their funny moments, partly because V.I. can see the humor in situations, but this one is totally wild in many places. For instance, after V.I. is injured by the bad guys, she wants to retrieve an item from a man who is sort of an unknown quantity. Her protectors won't let her do it alone, so she shows up with Mr. Contreras, her cousin Petra, the dogs (Mitch and Peppy), the sister of a murder victim, and a couple Marines. It's like a three-ring circus. The neighbors also get involved and they're a bunch of characters. By the end of the scene I was in stitches.

The story centers on a body artist - a woman who appears on stage nude but covered with paint and wearing a very skimpy thong. (Actually I supposed there isn't any other kind.) She allows people in the audience to paint whatever they want on her body. The show is a huge hit but the woman is a mystery right up until the end of the story. Veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and several other types of people are also involved. Sounds confusing but this is a story that is not only mysterious, it also brings up important issues about our veterans.

One change in V.I.'s life is that she has a boyfriend that seems to be a keeper. He is a musician who lives in her building and so far he seems perfect for her, except that he can't stand the sight of blood.

I highly recommend Body Work as well as the rest of this series.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mud Season in Pennsylvania

Who has been digging in our yard? It looks like someone is looking for buried treasure. Oh, that's right, despite the cat, we have moles all over the place and they've been having quite a family reunion by the looks of things. There are piles of dirt everywhere. We should have known this would be the case since there were little trails just under the snow all winter.

Must get out our secret weapon, one of the few gadgets we've ever bought. It is an electronic plastic thing that looks like a small rocket. It is battery driven (note: buy batteries) and you stick it in one of the mole holes. It emits a noise humans don't hear but moles sure do because they quickly decide to go elsewhere. Miracle - a gadget that actually works!

Two years ago we succeeded in driving the moles all the way out into the hay field. Apparently this winter they returned, so the cat will have fun hunting them and we will put the gadget into each area until they're gone.

Our yard is always damp since there are many springs under our land, but after several inches of rain and lots of melting snow, it is now a quagmire. It will be a while before I can get out my trusty Cub Cadet, which looks and sounds like it's been through a war but still runs great. Then I can roll down all the hills and molehills, by which time it'll be time to mow. Before long, though, I'll already been tired of mowing.

For now I'm just happy that the male red winged blackbirds are back. They're the first true sign of spring I see every year. We have a few robins too, V formations of geese overhead, and grass turning a little more green than brown. Subtle changes but heartening anyway.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trial by Fire, J. A. Jance

Trial by Fire: A Novel of Suspense When I went to the library this week, I just couldn't resist picking up a new-to-me J. A. Jance and this one is as good as, if not better, than all of the others I've read. It's the fourth novel in the Ali Reynolds series.

As usual, Jance grabbed me with the first page which begins, "She awakened to the sound of roaring flames and to searing heat and lung-choking smoke. Maybe she was already dead and this was hell, but why would she go to hell?"

The woman realizes finally that she is alive because she knows her leg is burning. Something, a beam maybe, is holding her leg down and when she tries to move it, her hand catches fire too. This poor woman doesn't know how she got there or why, where "there" is, or even who she is. Then she sees a creature coming through the flames. He's yellow or possibly orange and he picks her up to carry her away. She thinks he's Satan and she is in hell after all, but of course he's a fireman who has entered the burning house under construction and saved her.

She awakens in the hospital in horrible pain which disappears into a cloud only when a kind nun pushes the button to give her a dose of morphine. The nun seems always to be there.

Meanwhile, Ali Reynolds has been recruited to be a temporary media relations consultant for the Yavapai Sheriff's Department in Prescott. She lives in Sedona but won't have to go to Prescott very often. Trouble is, her predecessor has been fired and no one in the department wants her there. She is called out to the fire to handle the media and at the site she notices someone has painted ELF in giant letters on one of the burning houses in this new development. The Environmental Liberation Front is an echo of a real life group that has made headlines in the western states for the last two decades or more so this is drawn right from the headlines.

Ali follows the victim to the hospital in Phoenix where she is asked to stay in the waiting room to see what develops, and incidentally to protect the victim because the person who tried to kill her is still at large and for that matter, unknown. She discovers, as I have many times, that if you sit quietly in a hospital waiting room reading (or in her case typing on a laptop), you sort of disappear into the woodwork as far as other visitors are concerned. She also becomes a confidante of Sister Anselm, the caregiver for the victim.

This wonderful story grabbed me by the collar yesterday, got me through an evening when my husband insisted on watching American Idol (ugh), and wouldn't let me go today until I finished it. The characters are real as life, and although I figured out whodunit before the end, it certainly didn't spoil finding out how Ali solved it or what became of the characters at the end. I do recommend this suspense novel.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Read the Book, Think I'll Skip the Movie

The Lincoln Lawyer: A Novel I won The Lincoln Lawyer from Kathy at along with a movie poster since the movie just arrived in theaters starring Matthew McConaughey. This casting seems right on to me, but I don't think I'll go out of my way to see the movie.

All in all, I liked this book. My problem with it was that I just couldn't stand the major character who I hesitate to call a hero. Mickey Haller is a defense attorney who owns four Lincoln Town Cars which he bought at once when he had a big-paying client. He uses one as an office, driven by a former client he helped big time, and when that Lincoln gets too much mileage on it, he sells it and uses the next one. At this point he has two left in the garage he has been loaned by the father of another client he helped. Meanwhile, his second ex-wife lives in a condo which she uses to be his office staff, answering the phone, sending correspondence, tracking down paperwork he needs, and sometimes showing up in court. They are friends, just can't stand to be married to each other. For one thing, he still loves his first ex-wife, the mother of his only child. That ex-wife is a prosecutor. If you think that causes a problem, you're right.

Haller's clients are invariably guilty and success for him is a deal that cuts down the prison time for them or even gets them off on probation, depending upon the crime of course. His greatest fear is that he'll get a client who is actually innocent and he won't realize it. Well, guess what - he thinks he has one finally and the guy is rich enough to pay staggering fees, but in truth . . . well, you'll have to read the book or see the movie to find out. Meanwhile, a former client sitting in prison really is innocent and Haller thought he had done him a big favor by getting him prison instead of execution. Oops! The plot is a good one.

Michael Connelly has created a believable, if unlikeable, character here. He does show that Haller normally does things legally and that he does have a heart, but the concentration is on how he can skirt the law to get the best deal for his clients. He comes off as an ambulance chaser to me. That's why I doubt if I'll see the movie even though I think McConaughey is probably well cast in the role.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bats in the Arena!

I don't know if you saw the clip on television of the bat who interrupted an NBA game in Houston the other night. It swooped over the court and then into the stands where it appeared to fly right into some poor lady's lap. Very funny, unless you happened to be that lady.

That reminded me of Hackmatack Theater in Maine, a summer theater in an old barn. The barn had been fixed up and was a lovely place to see a play or a musical on a summer evening. The only problem was that bats lived in the rafters and late in a quiet performance they would come out to fly around over the audience. You would hear gasps and then see people slowly sinking down into their seats as the bats swooped around overhead. It was very entertaining. Only during a loud musical, "Jesus Christ Superstar" for instance, did the bats fail to make an appearance.

When we lived in Maine we saw great amateur theater at Hackmatack, always got season tickets because we knew every performance would be worth attending. One night was especially electrifying when they performed "The Crucible," the play about the Salem witch trials. This is a dramatic play of course about a tragic miscarriage of justice in our history, and for much of the time the stage is almost dark except for one spotlight on one actress. The star actress the night we saw the play at one point was stage front in the spotlight when a bat came out to search for insects. We never knew if she saw the bat or not, but it kept flying around in circles which brought it ever closer to her; one would almost think its wings would brush her face.

As if we weren't already silenced by her monologue and the substance of the story, the bat had us all holding our breath. The actress never missed a beat. Hopefully she never knew the bat was there, but she stayed perfectly in character and delivered her monologue as though she were on a stage on Broadway.

We used to have bats here at our country house, outside thankfully, and we were happy to have them eating insects every evening. Then suddenly they disappeared. It wasn't for lack of food, that's for sure. I've read that the number of bats is on the decline because of a disease, so maybe that explains our loss, but I'd love to lure some bats to our property. The bugs love me - chemistry or something, I guess. Aren't I lucky? Don't ever move to the country if you attract bugs like I do!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bone Walker, An Anasazi Novel

Bone Walker: Book III of the Anasazi Mysteries

This was an unusual choice for me. I picked it up thinking it might be a mystery similar to a Tony Hillerman novel. Actually it is two separate storylines, one set in ancient times and the other in present day New Mexico. They play out over the same area, converging and parting, advancing to a combustion of both times and characters.

The authors, Kathleen O'Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear are anthropologists and archeologists, and their expertise is what makes this book work, also what made it interesting to me. There are witches in the story, and modern people as well as Anasazi who believe in the witches' powers. There are characters who admire the Indian culture and customs and others who only want to prey on them and steal their valued artifacts. And there is a love story, a relationship that builds from friends and colleagues to an emotional tie that won't be broken.

The Anasazi characters are a little difficult to figure out at first, but once the reader gets to know them, their unusual names aren't a problem. Most have names like Rain Crow or White Cone, Indian names such as we are used to hearing. However, the hero is Browser, one of the First People, and the woman who loves him is called Catkin. He is War Chief and she is his best warrior; perhaps explaining why it takes him so long to realize he loves her. I was drawn also to the relationship between Browser's old uncle and a strange, abused female child he befriends. He calls the child Bone Walker, discovering only at the end that her real name is Piper.

The modern hero is Dusty Stewart and his childhood abandonment by his parents figures largely in the story. His love interest is Dr. Maureen Cole who has been called in from Canada to help in a dig. The first murder victim happens to be the man who raised Dusty, someone everyone (except the murderer of course) loved. Both stories are engrossing and held my interest even though this is a large book and includes detailed description of this part of New Mexico.

I didn't realize until I finished the book that it is the third in a series, but I don't believe that had any effect at all upon my enjoyment of the book. I recommend this older book from 2001, especially to readers who like me love to learn about Indian culture and are fascinated by archeology. The wonderful characters are just the icing on a delicious cake.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I'm Back After a Weekend Off

I'm back from my little break. Everything I said was true about turning off the computer to get something accomplished, but also we went to Hartford, Conn. to the America East basketball tournament because our Binghamton Univ. was playing. We had a blast, stayed in a nice Marriott a short drive from the Univ. of Hartford campus, ate some good meals, and mostly watched hard fought games. Meanwhile, no one knew we were gone so I didn't have to worry about our house. (There have been break-ins in the area recently

Back when I played a little basketball at prep school in the Middle Ages we had to play girls' rules. What a rotten excuse for a game that was! Maybe it was just as well though because I don't think I would have been able to play the game the way it is now, even at 18 years old. Those young people play rough. At one point one of the men's games looked like it had turned into a rugby match. There were surprisingly few injuries, but one of our seniors, an excellent athlete, did injure his ankle, and the only senior on the women's team reinjured an ankle. Our teams played their hearts out; we were so proud of them. The men lost out in the quarterfinals, the women made it to the semifinals and then lost, but they had nothing to be ashamed of.

The only bad marks on the whole weekend were two instances of terrible behavior by fans. I had always heard that no one liked people from one particular school which has avid fans who travel all over following their team. Never understood it until this weekend when their fans behind us were vocal and nasty in their criticism of the referees. And the ones immediately behind us made obnoxious, rude, stupid racist remarks about our men's team. I was so steamed, but figured calling them on it would just make it worse.

The other problem was that fans of another school got totally out of control yelling nasty stuff at the refs, particularly honing in on one female ref. We have good conference refs who do their best by all teams. I understand people yelling at an occasional bad call or just out of frustration because their team is losing, but this was absolutely awful. Two of the women personally threatened that female ref, and it was serious enough that I surely hope she didn't leave the building without an escort. There's just no place for that kind of behavior; I imagine their athletes and school officials were ashamed of them and I wouldn't be surprised if the conference penalized the school for it.

Meanwhile, I'm reading a good book and just before we left I was near the end where it was really exciting, characters were in danger, and I was about to learn whodunit -- but I haven't had a chance to read since last Wed.!!!! Time to get off this blog and finish that book before I die of curiosity.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Break Time

After 1 1/2 years of blogging, I'm ready for a break. I also need a break from the time consumption of the computer so I'm turning it off for a few days. Here's hoping I'll actually accomplish something.

My husband, the Luddite of Pennsylvania, thinks the world is going to hell in a handbasket (he says handbag) and that the #1 reason why is computers. OK, I've taken enough grief from him about my time on the computer for a while and will take a well-deserved, I think, break from it.

Wish me luck!