Sunday, December 30, 2012


If you follow my blog, you know I read some quirky books now and then.   My interests are so eclectic that you just never know what will appeal to me.  This one I can't really explain very easily though.  I was a huge fan of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, yet I've never seen the movie where they starred as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Still, I am interested in outlaws of the Old West and wanted to know more about their real story.

The author of this little book is one of many people who have researched Butch Cassidy's real life story and tried to figure out whether he was killed in Bolivia or made it back to the U.S. and lived to be an old man in the State of Washington under the alias William T. Phillips.

There are photographs in the book and although they didn't look at all like Newman and Redford, it was fascinating to see the real men.  Their wives, legal or common law, are pictured too.  There are also facts about his early life.  He was born Leroy Parker, Jr. and used many aliases during his outlaw life.  He loved children.  People found him charming and anyone who got to know him loved him.  He never robbed an employer, no matter how easy it would have been.  

If you're looking for definitive answers, though, you'll be disappointed.  This book presents the different theories and the "proof" behind them.  I'm a born researcher so this really caught my interest.  I'm almost convinced that the two men killed in Bolivia were misidentified, and that Cassidy did live in the U.S. until he died between 1937 and 1941.  However, I'm not totally convinced and neither are most people who have looked into it.  Guess it's one of those mysteries that will never be solved.  I think Cassidy would get a kick out of that; he had a great sense of humor.

Source:  Win from LibraryThing
Recommended reading

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS by Harlow Giles Unger

Despite my lifelong love of American history and politics, I knew very little about John Quincy Adams.  Oh of course I knew that he was the first son of a president to become president himself and I knew that he died serving in the House of Representatives.  That last bit should have alerted me to the fact that this was a most unusual man; can you imagine any of the presidents in recent memory to serve afterward in the House?  Anyway, that little tidbit somehow just passed right over me.

Now I know that his real service to this country came before and after his undistinguished presidency.  He had a long career in the foreign service, learning as he traveled with his father throughout Europe on diplomatic missions.  His mother and father were very hard on him, making him study a classical education seriously and then restudy to enter Harvard.  He became a scholar and excellent diplomat, but wasn't able to reach down to the level of the common man.  Washington habitues thought of him as a snob and they weren't wrong.

I hadn't realized that alcoholism ran in his mother (Abigail's) family so many of the Adams sons were lost to that disease and were a constant thorn in the side of John Quincy.  He supported them and tried all his life to help them.  

Ironically, after his presidency he discovered that he actually liked campaigning and realized his true love of politics.  To his wife's despair, he threw himself into his work for the House and to the despair of his colleagues, he became passionate about bringing an end to slavery.  

As a child, John Quincy sat with his mother on a hill near their home and witnessed the Battle of Bunker Hill.  He died in 1860 shortly before the Civil War.  Imagine all that this one man who was so deeply involved with our government witnessed and took part in during his long life.  That and the highly readable prose of the author make this one fascinating look at our history and a man who led a life one can only dream about.  I won't overlook him again.

Source:  gift from a friend
Highly recommended reading

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas Now

Tomorrow I hope to review a wonderful new biography of John Quincy Adams that I've recently finished.  For today I'd just like to wish all of my readers a happy Christmas.  

We have a little bit of snow.  Not enough to make driving hazardous, just enough to be pretty.  It's cold, but then it's December in northeast PA.  Santa's reindeer left footprints all over our yard last night but I guess he decided we hadn't been good because he didn't leave any gifts.  Oh, except for the cookies I found in our grill on the patio.  Seriously!  A neighbor who is always very thoughtful, brought a huge container of cookies while we were gone yesterday and so the animals who wander around here wouldn't be tempted, she left them in the grill.  Thankfully, she called later to tell me about it.  I don't think it would ever have occurred to me to look in our grill for goodies.  :D

It's a lovely quiet day and that's exactly what we need.  I hope you are all having just the kind of day you like as well.  Until tomorrow . . .

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sad, Discouraging Times

I spoke too soon when I went on and on about how easy radiation therapy is.  Turns out it wipes me out as much as chemo did.  I come home from treatments each day about noon, sit down in my recliner, and sometimes that's about as far as I get.  Watery eyes have prevented me from reading much, so I nap and nap and eventually crawl out of the chair to get supper or go to bed. This is very discouraging.

However, my treatment Tuesday will put me halfway through the 22 treatments I'm to have.  That will lift my spirits for sure.  At least the tiredness is the only side effect of this part of my fight against cancer and for that I am very grateful.  I'm even getting my sense of taste back, after months of everything tasting like cardboard.  Since Dave's cousin sent me a box of See's chocolates, that's a very good thing.  He spoils me awfully, having sent chocolates and flowers earlier.

I suppose this weekend, especially today, I'm just generally sad because it's dreary and rainy here which makes my grief over the victims of the school shooting in Connecticut so much worse.  I have lived in Connecticut, not far from Newtown.  That little town is a Christmas-card pretty New England town where you think of involved, loving parents and their beautiful children.  It's a small town haven from the cities and people live there particularly in order to give their children the best possible childhood.  Now of course people will think of this tragedy when they think of Newtown, but those parents whose children survived the horror will be especially loving and again strive to give the kids the best possible childhood.  I wish them the best.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

About Me, Again

I see that I've been letting friends on Facebook know how the cancer battle goes, but haven't filled in Blogger friends for some time.  

The good news is that I've finished chemotherapy.  I didn't have the awful time of it that many others do, but still it's definitely not fun.  I absolutely despised the bad taste in the mouth, the painful mouth, the "chemo brain" that made me feel like I only had half a brain, the draining fatigue, my dying fingernails, and the occasional nausea and vomiting.  Nearly all of that is gone except for the fatigue and the yucky fingernail thing.

One VERY annoying side effect for the past month has been watery eyes.  When I try to read, it looks like the words are doing the breast stroke across the page.  I can't even see the players well at our basketball games.  I'll be overjoyed when this is gone.

However, radiation is going well.  It actually takes longer to undress, put on the gown, and then get dressed again than it does to have the treatment.  After having 4 dots tattooed on my chest and sides, I fail to see why anyone would elect to have a tattoo.  Ouch!   The treatment itself is painless, nothing touches me except the tech who positions me on the table, and I'm back out of there in minutes.  

It's so nice to begin to feel like myself again.  As the drugs leave my system, I can think and I don't sort of space out every once in a while.  I can figure things out.  It's great.  Now to get my physical strength back.  I'm tired of being weak and judging whether I can walk far enough to go into a store with Dave.  I'm tired of having him doing things for me; I actually want to go grocery shopping for myself!  As much as I've always hated grocery shopping, this is a big thing.  :)

I won't be done by the end of the year but it will be close.  Then I'm planning for a happy, healthy 2013 as a cancer survivor.  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Digging into Mount TBR with A MAP OF THE WORLD

Several years ago I noticed a copy of Jane Hamilton's A Map of the World and stuffed it into my bulging bag to purchase.  I recognized it as having been a big seller and remembered hearing of Hamilton as a wonderful literary writer.  Then the book sat on my shelf until recently when I had time between review books to explore a little.  I hadn't noticed it was also an Oprah pick or I might not have bought it to begin with.  I haven't had much luck with her book club choices.

As I opened the cover a couple weeks ago, I discovered a previous reader had left a post-it note:  "An awful lot of introspective and retrospective in the beginning.  Heats up a bit when trial and jail episodes are told."  It was signed with the reader's initials.  If that note hadn't been there, I think I would have given up on the story before I had gotten very far, but thanks to it I persevered.  

To say I liked A Map of the World would be going too far.  However, the story with all that introspection and retrospection made me think.  I did get involved with the characters and the concept of how we have a tenuous grasp at best on our own lives, and in the blink of an eye it can all come spiraling out of control.  A farm couple, Howard and Alice, struggling to make their living and working hard have two small daughters.  They are friends with a couple who also have two daughters and one day while all four girls are at the farm, the friends' youngest daughter wanders away and drowns in their pond.  Alice has a breakdown.

Alice has been working part-time as the elementary school nurse.  A boy she dislikes who has been abused at home makes some accusations out of spite, and now the whole world has gone crazy in Alice's mind.  Meanwhile, sensible, calm Howard can't seem to make sense of the world either.

This is no happily-ever-after story.  In fact, I found it depressing reading at a time when I should have been reading cheerful stories.  It's definitely food for thought though and I'm not sorry I stuck with it to the end.  The quality of Hamilton's writing cannot be denied and I think my literary education is better for having read this book.  

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


There was no way I would miss this wonderful novel. For one thing, book bloggers I trust loved it. Secondly, I spent a lovely day in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston long ago, before thieves made off with art worth about $500 million today, and I was completely taken with this sort of quirky museum founded by a sort of quirky rich lady.

The story wasn't quite what I expected but that's a good thing. It doesn't involve the thefts directly but that's always in the background informing the plot. This is about a struggling young artist who is brilliantly talented but has been caught up in unfortunate circumstances due to love gone wrong. Claire Roth is her name. She makes a living, such as it is, copying great paintings for a reproduction company.

Then Claire makes a Faustian bargain with an art gallery owner who promises to produce her first show. She believes fervently that what she is doing is legal but it sets her off on a search for a real Degas that she believes has been forged. The plot is complex and so is the art technique she eventually uses but it isn't at all difficult for this non-artist to follow. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about painting.

Highly recommended reading.
Source: Amazon Vine - thank you.

Friday, November 16, 2012


This is a delightful cozy mystery set in Seattle.  I hadn't read a cozy for ages but this one just hit the spot.  The plot centers around old Grace Episcopal Church and its rector, Father Robert Vickers.  It's spring and the dwindling congregation has gathered to bury the ashes of a parishioner in the side lawn that has been consecrated for this purpose.  As maintenance man Henry begins to dig the hole though, his shovel strikes a wooden case.  Also, the bell tower has begun to drop chunks of stone near the Memorial Garden.

The congregation of this beautiful old church is small, consisting mostly of elderly people, and they cannot afford to repair the bell tower.  One member is a developer and he has drawn up plans for a condo, coffee shop, etc. to be built on the grounds.  Of course that would be heresy to Vickers and the others who love the church.  The Bishop, a hilariously pompous character, would just sell the whole thing and send the members to other churches.

As is appropriate for a cozy, the characters in the book will have you chuckling.  Vickers, for instance, is a balding middle-aged man who wants to find someone who could love him.  The young organist, Daniel, is a brilliant musician with no social skills.  Deacon Mary is a selfless soul who runs the food pantry.

I recommend this short, lively read.
Source:  Partners in Crime Tours

Saturday, November 10, 2012

PLAY HIM AGAIN by Jeffrey Stone

I was offered this ebook by the author and, although I rarely do so, I accepted.  The synopsis appealed to me because it is set in 1928 Los Angeles and the hero is a rumrunner and would-be producer of talking movies.  

While I was reading the book, I just happened to see a program on TV about this era in L.A. which showed what's left of some of the speakeasies and tunnels where the booze was kept.  The mayor and much of the police force ran the racket so the mob never took over as happened in Chicago.  This enhanced my reading pleasure.

Matthew "Hud" Hudson is our hero, although a crook.  Ships bring booze from Canada and rumrunners like Hud offload it and smuggle it into L.A.  They make tons of money despite the fact that occasionally someone gets greedy and hijacks their booze.  It's during such a time that Hud's best lifelong friend is tortured and murdered.  He vows vegeance against Frank Minetti, the goon who was responsible.  

Meanwhile, Hud has fallen in love with a woman who isn't involved in the "business" and she isn't comfortable with what's going on.  Hud actually, in his own way, is an honorable man and his friends are loyal.  His real passion is for movies and he's been stashing his money away to get into the movie business, but plans to keep on rumrunning because it's so profitable.

Along the way we learn a lot about smuggling, cons, Chinatown gambling run by tongs, and the early movie business.  This is what lifts the book above an ordinary read to a satisfying one.  Thrills and chills plus 1928 L.A.  What more can you ask? 

I can happily recommend this book and I'm looking forward to the sequel.  It is available from Smashwords.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Under the Eye of God by Jerome Charyn

By this time, the day before the election, I think the majority of us have decided politics was invented to drive us all nuts.  The ads, the commercials, the robocalls, enough already.  I do hope everyone who can possibly get to the polls will vote tomorrow, so we can all get back to normal annoyances.

Meanwhile, if you're one of those people who suspects that politicians are all crooks with an axe to grind and that everything is a conspiracy, I have just the book for you.  I especially want to recommend Jerome Charyn's latest Isaac Sidel novel, Under the Eye of God, if "madcap" and "zany" are words that your favorite reads bring to mind.

Isaac Sidel is the former police commissioner of NYC who still carries a Glock in his pants, and he's currently mayor of the city of New York.  He also happens to be the current Vice President-elect of the U.S.  His running mate, J. Michael Storm, is a notorious womanizer with a photo of him, um, relieving himself in the Rose Garden making the rounds.  Needless to say, everyone wishes Sidel would be president, or at least remain mayor of NYC.  Those who know him well call him "the Don Quixote of Manhattan."  

Sidel was born in NYC, the son of a glove manufacturer who had a silent partner, David Pearl.  Pearl is a recluse who lives in a grand old building called the Ansonia, and Sidel is mesmerized by Pearl, the building, and the history of the building.  Unbeknownst to Sidel, Pearl has been maneuvering his career all his life, with the side advantage of allowing Pearl to take over the Bronx.  He wants to install some military complex there.  Confused yet?  I certainly am, and I've finished the book.

There is a bit of a plot here and there is definitely a love interest.  Sidel, also referred to lovingly as "the Big Guy," is wacko but he has a good heart.  Otherwise, I find it difficult to explain his story to you without spraining my brain severely.  Let's just say that it's a good book to read if politics has made you delirious, or if you just plain like confusing fun.

Source:  Tribute Book Tour

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

SEVEN DAYS by Deon Meyer

Deon Meyer is an author I've been anxious to read for quite some time and now thanks to Amazon Vine, I have.  He lives in South Africa and this book is set there, a place I've never been but now have some insight into because of this book.

Police Detective Benny Griessel is the hero of the story, although he would never think of himself in such terms.  He is a recovering alcoholic who is divorced, has trouble trying to relate to his teenage kids, has been transferred to another division perhaps as punishment for drinking, and is inclined to think of himself as a failure.  He is falling in love with a talented and beautiful singer, also an alcoholic who keeps falling off the wagon.  He tries to help her, then again feels like a failure because he can't tend to her and still keep up with his new assignment.

That assignment is the crux of the story.  A sniper in a white van shoots a policeman in the leg.  He has been sending emails to the police threatening to do so if they don't reveal their knowledge about who murdered a young businesswoman months earlier.  Actually the police are stumped; they have no idea who killed her.  Setting Griessel on the case, they heed the sniper's warning that he will shoot a cop every day for seven days unless they arrest the killer.  Talk about stress.

Reading Seven Days isn't easy like reading a light cozy.  This case is difficult and it isn't made easy for the reader either.  I was confused off and on but doggedly stuck with it because I just couldn't let it go without finding out who, and most importantly why.  The characterizations are so good that even though this is a different culture with unique customs, I felt like I got to know them all, even the sniper.  

This has made me want to travel to South Africa someday.  Well, I already wanted to since my husband's grandfather lived there for many years, but now I'm very curious about the country.  And I intend to read Meyer's other novels as well.

Recommended reading for police procedural lovers.
Source:  Amazon Vine

Friday, October 19, 2012


This little book was written by Catherine Doughty, MS, CCHI, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007.  The shocking diagnosis came when she was separated from her husband and planning a divorce, and also planning life as a single mom to her two children.  She was also pursuing more education to better her career prospects in hospital administration.  Such a diagnosis always comes at a bad time, but this was a particularly bad time.

Fortunately, her husband lived nearby and took care of the kids whenever necessary, and she had the resources to hire a nanny who also pitched in to help with Doughty's physical care when needed.  But it never rains but it pours.  In the midst of treatment Doughty lost her job when her department was eliminated in downsizing.  Could anything more happen to her?

The subtitle of the book, "Living Life Through the Prism of Uncertainty and Having a Good Time!, belies the many problems she endured.  She applied scientific methodology learned in her job to accumulate knowledge about her disease and treatments.  The book includes graphs and suggestions of how to apply this method to your personal journey through cancer, so it isn't restricted to breast cancer.  It's an organized way to handle the steep learning curve we all confront.  

Above all, Cat (as she likes to be called) wanted to look good and keep up with work, then job hunting, and not upset her children.  She had wigs before her hair fell out.  She never let herself think negatively.  She carefully researched and evaluated the risks and benefits of each step before going ahead.  She tried alternative ways of feeling good despite treatment.  

I must say that if your inner English teacher is alive and well, reading this book will take patience as you will frequently itch to correct grammar and punctuation.  If you can squelch Miss English Stickler, and just go with the flow, you'll admire Cat for her determination not only to survive cancer but also to have fun and look great doing so.  

My attitude in my own cancer fight differs from hers but there are points on which we totally agree.  One very important point she makes, for instance, is that you need to have someone on whom you can completely rely.  I'm lucky that my husband is that person, but if that isn't an option, you must find someone to have your back throughout.  When you don't feel well, for instance, someone else has to take charge.  When treatment isn't going well and no one is listening to you, your "rock" must make your voice heard.  And sometimes you simply need a shoulder to lean on.

You can learn more about Doughty and her book at  The book is available now.  She is a happy cancer survivor who loves to share what she has learned.

Source: Author through Tribute Book Tours
Recommended reading for anyone who has cancer  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Sorry for the Delay . . .

I haven't really fallen off the face of the earth.  I've just been having problems with watery eyes that prevent me from reading very much, and I'm pretty well flattened by chemo #4.  I find that each treatment brings new or worse symptoms, mainly fatigue that just won't let me do anything.  I know I'll feel better in a few days though, so I hope my readers will hang in there.  I promise there will soon be a review and maybe some other "stuff."

Thanks for sticking with me through this.  I really do appreciate it that I have so many readers.

Friday, October 5, 2012

LYON'S GATE by Catherine Coulter

This is a departure from my usual reading matter.  I had picked it up at a book sale long ago thinking that it might be a nice change for me.  Despite its being a romance, I did enjoy the characters and story enough to finish reading the book, but I won't be seeking out the rest of this Sherbrooke series.

The plot involves Jason Sherbrooke, unbelievably handsome Englishman with an identical twin.  He has been away in Baltimore, MD, for five years because of a crisis that happened in an earlier volume in the series.  When he returns to his family's estate, he sees a stud farm for sale nearby and he wants to buy it and settle down.  He is knowledgeable about horses, has the money to buy the place, and so there seem to be no obstacles in his way until . . .

Enter Hallie Carrick, a young, impetuous horse lover, who is determined to buy the place for herself.  Hallie is likable and will keep you laughing but her naivete is really too much of a stretch even for a romance novel.  This is a girl who has grown up on a horse farm and has no problem holding a nervous mare for mating, but doesn't have the slightest clue about sex between humans.  Speaking of which, the sex scenes are quite explicit.  Not shocking to me but maybe to others.  Just sayin'.

Anyway, Hallie is wealthy too and always gets her way so the battle to buy the property is on.  It ends up with the two of them each owning half the farm and sharing a house, along with a chaperone and servants who are funny characters in their own right.  The book will have you chuckling all the way through, perhaps even enough to endure the predictable story.

Source:  book sale
Only recommended for diehard Coulter fans

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


This is an e-book and regular readers know that I seldom read a book on my Kindle, but I downloaded this one because it sounded good.  In this case, it was worth the headache I got reading the screen.

Clare is the main character, a young woman who is a magazine writer and who has just buried the only mother she remembers.  Her "mother" had been undemonstrative and strict, determined to impress upon Clare that she needed to watch out for men and not trust anyone.  It's only after the funeral that she learns her "mother" wasn't actually her mother after all.  

At the time Clare is engaged to a man whose family isn't in favor of the marriage.  Her mother hadn't been thrilled about it either but Clare never understood why she objected.  Clare breaks the engagement feeling lost and wondering what in the world her background was that her mother prevented her from knowing about it.  So, she sets off from her home in Chicago to Grand Rapids, Minnesota where her mother was from.  Her best friend's family is from the same place, so they put her in touch with the librarian there who has a cottage for rent on the lake.

She also has an assignment to interview a writer in Grand Rapids who is known for avoiding interviews and being a bit rude to writers who seek him out.  However, pressure from Clare's boss results in a grudging agreement to meet Clare.  Then he gets involved in Clare's quest to find out the truth about her real parents; it appears that her father may have killed her mother.  Who wouldn't want to help her discover what really happened?

My favorite character was a scruffy, smelly dog named Waldo who seemed to always find the stinkiest old dead fish on the lakeside to roll in.  He assigns  himself to watch over Clare and thereby puts himself in danger.  

I did guess at part of the outcome but not how it would come about.  It kept me guessing about some things throughout.  Very well written, wonderful characters, small town folks covering up a long-ago mystery.  This was a treat.

Source:  Amazon free books
Recommended reading

Monday, October 1, 2012

Catching Up with my Battle

I had planned to review an e-book I finished yesterday and it's a good one, but since some people have been asking, I thought I would take today to let you know how it goes in my battle against lung cancer.

I'm halfway through my chemotherapy.  Next week I'll have round #4 of 6 (at 3 week intervals) so I feel like I'm getting somewhere.  The bad part is that I was sicker this time so I suspect that the drugs are having a cumulative effect on my body and each treatment gets a little bit more difficult.  I had more nausea and vomiting this time, but mainly I was just plain wiped out.  That doesn't do my muscles any good since the worse I feel, the more I sit and lie down.  Now I'm due for a pretty good week in which I'll eat better and get out to walk around the yard.

My main talent during this time appears to be my ability to sleep.  I swear I could sleep around the clock every day and still be tired.  I take a nap every afternoon, then sleep like a log all night long.  Well, of course, except that I don't have bugs under me.  :)

Dave thinks my nearly bald head is cute and hysterically funny.  He's constantly rubbing my head and grinning.  Thankfully, I'm not upset about my loss of hair because for one thing I know it's just temporary.  My mother lost all of her hair permanently due to a skin disease so she wore wigs for many years.  Maybe that's why I'm not thinking this is a big deal.  I'm signed up for a class on how to tie a scarf in an attractive manner since I'm a klutz at such things but for now when I go out, I wear a baseball cap, of which I have about a zillion.

Yesterday I was sick and tired of the bad taste (chemo mouth) which lasted longer this time so I bought a box of Popsicles.  Now that was genius.  A flavor like lemonade seemed to cut through the ick and tasted really good to me.  Glad I bought a big box.

The main lesson of my disease has been how good people are and how many friends I have.  I'm on the prayer list at two local churches, one protestant and the other Roman Catholic so I have the bases covered.  :)  People know I'm avoiding crowds because my immune system is compromised so they keep in touch in other ways.  My friends are true friends who are sticking with me through whatever comes my way.

Yesterday we had an excellent example of the kindness of strangers.  We were paying at a local pharmacy and since Dave didn't have coins, I was counting the coins in my purse and came up one cent short.  As I laughed and went to grab a larger coin, a young woman behind us ask, "Do you need help?"  She was holding out a $5 bill and sincerely wanted us to take it if we needed help paying the bill.  I thanked her profusely at the time and explained that we didn't need the money, but I'm still just floored at her generosity.  Life is good, you know?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A HOT COUNTRY by Robert Olen Butler

I have made a huge discovery.  Robert Olen Butler's debut crime novel.  He is already a Pulitzer Prize winner and a National Magazine Award winner.  He's written many novels, collections of short stories, and nonfiction, but I'm so happy he's turned to crime fiction in this period piece set in Mexico in 1914.  The atmosphere, the characters, all told me so much about a historical time and place I knew little about.

His hero is Christopher Marlowe Cobb, a journalist who is in Vera Cruz in 1914 when the Americans have occupied the city but there is a mysterious German ship in the harbor which is said to be full of munitions.  Cobb is the son of a famous actress and singer who raised him alone, and he has inherited enough of her acting talent in addition to his natural writing talent that he's an unusually effective journalist for a Chicago newspaper.

In Mexico, as he spends days and nights trying to figure out what the Germans are up to, he hires a local boy to keep watch for him, and his photographer/friend Bunky also helps him.  They discover a German man in a suit being rowed to shore in the middle of the night.  He goes to the German consulate.  Now to find out who he is and what he's here for.  Meanwhile, the Americans seem to be oblivious, concentrating on cleaning up the city by collecting garbage in their efforts to make the Mexicans like them - a lost cause.

Cobb meets a musician in a German band who is actually an American spy, and when the man is killed, Cobb finds himself in serious trouble.  He sets off to Pancho Villa's camp by train to put a stop to a nefarious plot against the U.S. and Mexico both.  There is a love interest as well but it plays a small part in the story as you follow Cobb's adventure.

Since Cobb is a thoughtful person and as a journalist a great observer, you get a beautiful picture of 1914 Mexico and some of the characters, like Pancho Villa, who were important in that time and place.  I was especially fond of the boy Cobb hired, a brave little boy trying to earn or steal money to feed his mother and siblings.  

Recommended reading.
Source:  Amazon Vine

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Google Reader - Why Are You Changing?

Grrrr!  This is not how I wanted my Sunday morning to go.  I click on Google Reader and discover everything has changed.  It was working perfectly and easily for me to read, so, Google, if it ain't broke, don't fix it!

Computer geeks seem to believe we all possess their short attention span.  They don't even know people like me exist apparently because if something is running well and a non-geek like me is happy with it, that's a sure signal for them to decide it's time to make it more complicated and harder to work with.  

I am NOT happy with Google Reader and therefore I am turning OFF my computer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Need a Laugh? Look to Sharyn McCrumb

As I've been dragging a little while going through chemo, I needed a book that would make me laugh out loud.  Right there in my box of goodies from friends and book sales I found Sharyn McCrumb's If I'd Killed Him When I Met Him.  This is an old one of hers, from 1995, and I had actually read it back then but boy did it fit the bill.

It's a book about marriage and murder, relationships between families and, um, between species.  

Elizabeth MacPherson is part-timing as an investigator for her brother's law firm.  Bill and his feminist partner A. P. Hill are the funniest pair of attorneys you'll ever meet.  Bill seems to collect oddball clients and A.P. Hill is trying her best to defend a woman who killed her ex-husband and his new bimbo wife and is proud as heck of it.

There are several relationships to explore in this book, some real, some not so much, and there's even an historical twist, a murder by arsenic - or is it?  

I always love McCrumb's books.  Her slightly skewed sense of humor appeals to me and I can always count on her to make me howl with laughter.  It worked again; I'm all cheered up and ready to tackle the chemo again.  Thanks, Sharyn.

Monday, September 17, 2012

SWEAT by Mark Gilleo

Thanks to Partners in Crime Tours, I've just read this new novel by Mark Gilleo and I'm glad to be able to bring it to your attention.  This is a novel with an agenda but it's one that most of us will agree with, and regardless, the plot will have you on the edge of your seat.  The characters are so well drawn that they all seem quite real.

The main character is Jake Patrick.  He'll be on my mind for a long time.  His father had left he and his mother years earlier.  Now Jake has dropped out of grad school for a year to care for his dying mother.  After her death, he's in, to put it mildly, a pickle.  No money, no prospects, lots of bills overdue.  With nowhere else to turn, he requests a summer job from his father, Peter Winthrop, a multimillionaire trader.  Winthrop is also unscrupulous, getting his millions with absolutely no regard for anyone but himself.  The original wheeler-dealer type.  But, he gives his son a job and takes him under his wing with an idea toward grooming him to take over the company someday.

Meanwhile, a powerful Chinese tycoon's son runs a sweatshop on Saipan, a U.S. Territory.  The seamstresses are held prisoner and abused.  Winthrop and U.S. Senator John Day visit there to film an idealized version of the shop and then the bigwigs are treated to dinner and "benefits" with two of the beautiful young seamstresses that evening.  The results of that evening will threaten to bring down both of them.

Jake is definitely the good guy here, and he has a window into what's really going on through his new job and the help of his father's secretary.  He also becomes the target of an assassin from China and due to his investigation into a murder in Washington, D.C.'s Chinatown, he is also in danger from that quarter.  The Chinatown subplot is another fascinating glimpse into another culture.  You'll be on pins and needles wondering if Jake will live through all the danger, but you'll also be cheering him on as he tries to do the right thing for the oppressed.

I loved this book.  Now I intend to read Gilleo's debut novel called Love Thy Neighbor.  Mark Gilleo is a real talent I'll be following for sure.

Source:  The Story Plant
Recommended reading

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Movie: "We Bought a Zoo"

We watched this movie on DVD last night.  I think it's my favorite Matt Damon movie ever.  I love him in this kind of role.  I didn't realize until the end, though, that the story is based on a memoir by Benjamin Mee about buying and saving a small zoo in England.  All they did was change the location to southern California.  

Matt Damon is Benjamin Mee, a widower of six months who still grieves and whose life seems to be meaningless without his wife.  He has a 14-year-old son who is acting out in his own grief and a 7-year- old daughter who also struggles without Mommy.  He has an inheritance which enables him to suddenly decide they need a change in scene, and when he and Rosie, his adorable daughter, are shown a "farmhouse" by their realtor, they want to buy it immediately.  Trouble is, the place includes a struggling zoo with many species of animals.  Oh well, they buy it anyway.

Some of the animals are stars of the movies in their own right, and as Benjamin tries to learn from the staff about those animals you have to laugh at his naivete.  But, he cares and so does the staff, and so does Rosie.  Eventually his son does too.  

There were parts of the movie that I scoffed at, such as the ridiculous inspector who can give or deny their license.  Mostly though, this is a warm-hearted movie with characters you care about and animals in need.  Both Dave and I just relaxed and went along with the story.

I recommend this one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NEON DRAGON by John F. Dobbyn

This e-book is one I had put off reading for a long time and I now wish I hadn't.  It is part of Dobbyn's Michael Knight series about a young attorney in Boston.  Knight works for a large law firm and comes under the guidance of a legendary lawyer named Devlin whom he comes to idolize.

Devlin had been falsely accused of jury fixing in a case many years earlier and although he had been cleared of that charge, it still made the rounds of the bars and clubs.  It had ruined his life. Now he sits in his office at the end of the hall scaring everyone to death, while Knight serves time as everyone's errand boy since he's the newbie.

Then there is a murder in Chinatown.  The victim is a revered member of the community; the man charged with that murder is a black student at Harvard.  Knight takes the case because after interviewing the young student, he truly believes he is innocent.  Devlin joins him on the case and the two of them set out on what seems like an impossible defense.

The scenes in Chinatown, Boston, and later in Canada, felt like I was traveling through the cities right along with Knight, a character I like very much.  As they try to solve their official case, Knight also takes on the seemingly impossible task of finding out what was behind the jury fixing charge.  How far up does the fault lie?  Who was out to get him and why?  Between the two investigations, I was surprised I didn't get lost, but it was all quite clear to me what was going on throughout.  That's no small feat in this story.

The reason I had put this one off is because it's an e-book on my Kindle and I'm not fond of that medium.  I have several books on my Kindle that look good but I would so much rather read a print book.  This is just my person foible though so I would hope Kindle users would choose to read Neon Dragon.

Recommended reading for mystery lovers

Saturday, September 8, 2012

An Introduction to Maeve Binchy

In all my hundreds of years of reading everything in sight, I had never read a Maeve Binchy.  I know it's unbelievable but there you are.  I had her in my mind, just never took the time.

Last week I was looking for a short read to fit in between books for promised reviews.  My box of books from friends yielded The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy, a short paperback perfect for the amount of time I had.  It turned out to be a little book of short stories, all related to travel in some way.

Short stories and I have been total strangers for many years.  I stopped reading them entirely during the period of time when they were more like scenes.  They had no beginning, middle or ending, nor did they seem to serve any purpose at all.  I was never satisfied with them, and felt they were a waste of my valuable reading time, so I just stopped.

Apparently short stories have changed somewhat in the meantime.  Although these Binchy stories are more like character studies, there is an actual plot.  I am in awe of Binchy's ability to make interesting characters come alive in a few paragraphs.  I'm still not sold on short stories, however, I can say I really enjoyed the people and each of the little stories here.

Monday, September 3, 2012

GONE by Randy Wayne White

This is my second Randy Wayne White novel and coincidentally it introduces a new series.  I'm anxious to go back through the Doc Ford series because I really enjoyed the characters and the mystery in the one I read, but this new one is a series I'm happy to in on the ground floor for.

The new heroine is Hannah Smith, a native of southern Florida whose family is as interesting as she is.  Hannah was taught everything about fishing and being a fishing guide by her Uncle Jake who has died and left her a legacy of knowledge and skills to keep her going.  She's 30 at this point, single, and still shy about a few acne scars hidden by her hair, but she's strong and is building a good business as a fishing guide to wealthy people.  Jake had also insisted she get a private investigator's license.  Now one of her clients wants her to use that license to find his missing niece.

Hannah's advantage in this search is that she knows so many people, and the ones she doesn't know remember her Uncle Jake with respect and friendship.  She also has a gay friend who is a body builder and he gets around too; he's as loyal to Hannah as a  hound dog.

The villain in the mix is known to us almost immediately but getting the goods on him involves Hannah in some pretty steamy and brutal stuff.  She's tough, but deep down good.  You count on her to do the right thing, no matter what.  This is one of the scariest villains I've read about in quite a while.  

You'll love some of the other characters in this book.  Her mother for instance is just plain batty, but Hannah blames her quirky behavior on a stroke she's had.  There are waterfront souls who are salt of the earth types.  Others may look down on them, but these are real people with good common sense who see things others overlook.

I'm looking forward to the next volume in the adventures of Hannah Smith, and hoping White doesn't drop Doc Ford entirely.

Source:  Won from LibraryThing
Recommended reading

Thursday, August 30, 2012

HEMINGWAY'S GIRL by Erika Robuck

Key West was a place dear to my heart in the 1950s and up to about 1962. When I revisited in the 1970s, it was a different place. That's why I was anxious to read this story set in 1935 Key West when Hemingway was in residence and the overseas highway was under construction.

The main character is Mariella Bennet whose Cuban mother was disowned by her family for marrying an American fisherman. As the story begins, Hal Bennet has died and Mariella's mother is so deep in grief that it is up to her three daughters to look after themselves. They are desperately poor so Mariella works odd jobs on the waterfront to feed her little sisters and her mother.

Then she meets Hemingway and is hired as a maid in the home where he lives with his second wife, Pauline, and their children. The house is described in perfect detail, and the characterization of both Papa and Pauline are excellent. Papa and Mariella are drawn to each other and Pauline feels threatened; as Mariella struggles to avoid crossing any lines.

Meanwhile, she has met a veteran of WW I, one of many who are working on the overseas highway. I knew there had been a terrible hurricane that killed many of those workers, and the scene in this book carried me away. It was the most powerful scene in the book.

I don't want to give away any more of this excellent story, but just know that this is a wonderful read. I highly recommend this book whether you know Key West or not. The characters and settings will draw you in just as they did me.

Source:  Amazon Vine

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Running of the Bulls in Pennsylvania?

Last week was the final week of the country fair in Harford, Pennsylvania.  Every year they have a special show, which this year was a rodeo.  One evening, as the bulls were being loaded onto their trailer, four of them escaped.  Three were caught quickly but the fourth went on a lively tour of the whole fair.

The place was packed on a warm, but not hot, summer evening.  Families enjoying rides, fair food, animal exhibits, music.  It was ideal, until people began screaming that there was a bull loose.  Well, I can imagine how frightened this animal was.  All these people screaming and running for cover, the loud speaker announcement that a bull was loose and everyone should seek shelter or leave the fairgrounds, kids screaming on the rides, loud music everywhere, and where to go in all the aisles and lights and noise.  The poor thing ran up and down aisles, past booths (one of which was full of decorative glassware), and everywhere looking like a trap.

At one point the bull went behind a candy stand where the people had parked their camper.  He gored a hole in the camper and wrecked their license plate, before he managed to get past the chain link fencing. 

Finally, some men directed the bull into an exhibition hall and slammed the door on him.  Cowboys backed the trailer up to the door and loaded him without further incident.

Several people were hurt in the melee, some when they dove for cover, but one lady in a scooter chair had to be flown to the hospital and later was sent home. Thankfully, she'll be okay.   I'm afraid I see lawsuits in the rodeo's future, but seems to me it was just an accident impossible to predict.

If you're ever in northeastern PA around the third week of August, you ought to stop in to see the Harford Fair.  It's one of the best little country fairs you could hope to find, and it isn't usually anywhere near this exciting.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

LAKE COUNTRY by Sean Doolittle

This is a story for anyone who has ever railed against the sentences pronounced on people convicted of a crime.  It begins as a successful architect with a lovely daughter, wife, and a beautiful home goes to prison for a weekend.  He had been sentenced to two days in jail for every year of his five-year probation.  This is his last weekend in jail for falling asleep at the wheel and killing a young woman driving the car he hit head on.  No alcohol, no drugs, just fell asleep.

Now you can understand how many people, particularly friends of the young woman's family, would be very upset at such a light sentence.  Considering the victim's older brother was killed in action in Iraq as well, it would make some people furious.  How could this injustice happen to such a nice woman as their mother?

The story is set in Minnesota (and I know a blogger there who would love this) with all the beautiful lakes and the good, down-to-earth residents of that state.  Two ex-Marines who knew the other brother are home and dealing unsuccessfully with PTSD and a battle against the bottle.  This is a set-up for yet another tragedy.  

I greatly enjoyed the characters in this book.  They all seemed quite real to me, especially the ex-Marines (I know, I know.  Once a Marine always a Marine) but also TV reporters, a barkeep, the family of the man who killed the girl, and the mother of the victim.  As one of the Marines tries to save his friend from committing a grave injustice, many of these characters are heading to the denouement among the lakes.  There's also a side story in which numbers-running loot is missing and the only character who seemed overdrawn in the meanness department is an enforcer looking to get the money back.

We know whodunit all the time, but how the situation will resolve becomes clear only as the story ends.  Very clever mystery with plenty of nail-biting tension.

Source:  Won from LibraryThing.
Recommended reading for mystery lovers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I hate to gush over a book but this is truly gush-worthy.  I have fallen head over heels in love with the hero's dog, a Great Dane named Spot.  Unlike some series where the hero has a pet, Spot doesn't solve crimes.  His owner, former cop and current P.I. Owen McKenna, is the crime solver.  Spot is simply a dog, a Harlequin otherwise known as "your largeness."  As a former owner of two fawn Danes, I can attest to the fact that Todd Borg obviously owns and loves a Great Dane because he has Great Danehood down pat.  

Now that we have the gushing over with, I totally enjoyed the mystery in this volume.  When twins Melissa and Jennifer Salazar were only six years old and out hiking with their very stern German gramma, Melissa somehow went over a cliff and died.  It has been considered a tragic accident until the brilliant Jennifer is 14 and tries to hire Owen to find out who murdered her sister.  She has always thought it was murder and now she's old enough to do something about it.  Although Owen can't be hired by a minor, he is intrigued by the story, particularly when he sees two people following Jennifer as she leaves his office.  He agrees to look into it unofficially.

Very soon he realizes that not only was Melissa's death probably a murder, Jennifer is apparently also in great danger because she's poking into it.  Owen's girlfriend Street watches over the girl, Spot too of course, as Owen sets off on an investigation that takes some wild twists and turns.  I suspected who murdered the girl but there were other aspects to the story that were surprising to me.  Regardless, I couldn't put the book down.

The other characters in the book are well-drawn and realistic.  I could picture each one easily.  I loved the setting too, mainly in the area of Lake Tahoe, a place I have never been but would love to visit. 

Highly recommended reading for crime lovers and dog lovers.
Source:  gift from friend who knows I love Great Danes. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012


I found this odd little book difficult to get into, perhaps because I was ill, or perhaps because I couldn't get over the desire to slap some sense into Harold Fry.  He's a mousy Englishman whose major desire is for no one to notice him.  He feels he has failed everyone he has ever known, has nothing to offer the world, and that most likely everyone else either despises him or feels sorry for him.

Harold and his wife Maureen have been sleeping in separate bedrooms for years, and she only speaks to him to complain about something petty.  In fact, a rare funny moment in the book is when Harold has gone on his pilgrimage and she doesn't want to do household chores anymore.  It's no fun, she thinks, without being able to slam down the basket and complain endlessly about how much work she has to do.

Their life changes drastically the day Harold receives a note from a woman he had worked with years earlier.   She is in a hospice 500 miles north of his home and wanted to thank him for his friendship before she died.  He remembers that they were indeed friends, and that she had done a huge favor for him for which he never adequately thanked her.  On his way to post a letter back to her, he decides he must go to her, that as long as he is walking toward her, she will live.  And so he sets out - without cell phone, enough money, decent walking shoes, anything.

As he walks, he remembers and he thinks.  We learn why he is who he is.  He learns about people he meets along the way, and to appreciate nature.  He becomes aware of plants and buys a guidebook to learn about them.  He watches the sky change and he walks in rain or dry.

Meanwhile, at home Maureen is so lonely without him she doesn't know what to do.  Finally she becomes friends with a widower across the street who is a great help to her.  He manages to take her out of her malaise a bit.

The whole story has wonderful messages, and the characters he meets are the kind of ordinary folks you might meet anywhere.  There's even a dog he calls Dog who travels part of the way with him and gives him the love he needs so desperately.  I still had the occasional desire to slap Harold silly, but for the most part I admired his dogged dedication to his quest.  I felt sad for him, Maureen, Queenie who is dying and many of the people who helped him.  It isn't an easy book to read, and yet I'm very glad I did read it.

Source:  Random House
Recommended reading

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Reading and Editing but Blogging, Not So Much

I really have been reading, although the past three days it's been slow.  I have a chemo headache that just won't let me enjoy reading at the moment.  I'll be glad when I feel better; this is the pits.

Meanwhile, I've been reading a very long book that I promised to critique for a new writer in NJ. It's fitting for me to do this since it is set where I went to prep school back in the Middle Ages.  My thoughts on it will only be for her, but if she does get it published, I'll share.

I'm also reading about Harold Fry's walking adventure.  Have you read this one?  It's downstairs, I'm upstairs, and I'm much too lazy to walk down and get the correct title.  It's about a shy, sheltered man who has led a life strictly confined to home and job.  Then he receives a letter from an old friend who is dying of cancer in a place about 500 miles north of Harold's home.  He decides to walk the 500 miles to see her, figuring as long as he walks, she lives.  A very strange book, but then I'm in a very strange situation at the moment so I guess it suits me.

At least I've been able to watch the Olympics without guilt.  That's about all I've had the strength and energy to do, but the games have been great.  I'm getting a kick out of the fact that William, Kate, and Harry have been attending so many events and thoroughly enjoying themselves.  And I must say having, supposedly, Queen Elizabeth II and Bond, James Bond parachute into the opening ceremonies was a touch of genius.  Otherwise the ceremony left me cold but that was super.

I'll be back just as soon as I get rid of this blankety-blank headache.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

STONE KISS by Faye Kellerman

This was my first Faye Kellerman mystery although I have read Jonathan Kellerman forever.  Unfortunately this might be my last of hers.  This is a good story with some good characters but it sort of left me cold.

It's one of the Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series, and Peter and Rina are the really well-drawn characters.  I did care what happened to them as I was reading, but with some of the others I just couldn't care less.

One of the best things about this novel is that it gave me a peek into a culture I know almost nothing about, Chasidic (I've always spelled it Hasidic) Jews.  Decker's half brother is a rabbi whose brother-in-law is Hasidic.  When the brother-in-law's teenage daughter goes missing, the rabbi calls Decker  in California in a panic, practically begging him to come to New York to help.  Decker's wife thinks they should go and by the way they could also see her grown sons while they are visiting.

In New York Decker is out of his element but he runs into an evil man with a good side (sort of like the prostitute with a heart of gold you know) who helps him.  The problem is that you never know whether this guy is truly helpful or is preparing to kill Decker.  The story is set partly in the city and partly in a fictional upstate NY town with a corrupt police chief.  Decker is in danger no matter where he is but keeps putting off a planned flight to Florida to visit his parents and brother because he just can't quit on the case, even when the Hasidic family lets him know he needs to leave.

There are some passages which stretched my tolerance for fortuitous appearances past its limit, and I thought too many characters were actually ordered from stock.  Nonetheless I can see why Faye Kellerman's novels are very popular and have countless fans.  It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Source:  swap with friend.  Recommended only for people who know and like this author.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Update on My Eventful Summer

This has been a busy, busy week but today I get to stay home and rest.  I have everything done, ready for my treatment to begin.  This coming Monday I see my oncologist and will learn when we start.  I'm very ready to get started; the sooner we start, the sooner we finish.

The verdict is that I will have chemo followed by radiation and I'm still hoping that I will be finished by the end of this year.  I'm determined that 2013 will be a stellar year for me after this 2012 bummer.

Our big book sale is today and tomorrow but once again I'll miss it.  I have so many unread books already, including new advance copies I've promised to review, that the last thing I need is more.  It's a great cause since we're raising money for a new library building but I have other things on my mind right now.   Hopefully the sale will raise as much money as it usually does.  They begin with thousands and thousands of books, but the tents get so hot and crowded that you really have to be a trooper, or dedicated book reader, to take it.

It is supposed to be 88 degrees today and humid.  Wonderful day to sit in front of the fan and watch the Olympics.  I'm reduced to reading during commercial breaks!  :

Meanwhile, I thank all of you for your good wishes and prayers.  Your support keeps me uplifted and optimistic.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Confession by John Grisham

It isn't often I have a chance to read John Grisham, but when I do, I really enjoy his books.  This one had me sitting on the edge of my seat since the clock was ticking as a crusading lawyer, a minister, and an ex-con tried desperately to keep Texas from executing an innocent man.

Both side of the  controversy are very well represented and the Texas propensity for executing criminals without too much public angst is featured prominently.  Given that the prisoner on death row is black and the town he comes from, as well as state officials, are predominantly run by white men, you also have a looming race riot.  The mother of the white victim has found her niche in life as she finds media attention and sympathy, until everyone tires of her turning on the waterworks constantly.  Donte Drumm, the one convicted of murdering her daughter, has been on death row for nine years so most people have had enough.  

Then an ex-con living in a halfway house in Kansas comes to talk to a Lutheran minister nearby and tells him that he is the actual killer.  His story sounds legitimate.  He also says he has a brain tumor and only a few months to live so he wants to confess and not let Texas execute the innocent man.  Too bad he is cooperative one minute and anything but cooperative the next.  The minister, a well-drawn character, is launched on a life-changing few days as the execution draws nearer and nearer.  He will never be the same.

There are repercussions for everyone involved in this case and although there are many characters, there is never any confusion about who is who, or who is on what side of the issue.  It's Grisham at his best in my opinion.  

Source:  gift.  Recommended reading.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Glass Guardian by Linda Gillard

I'm rather late to the party with this review.  I read it on my computer which is in the hottest room in the house so I've had to read it in small sessions.  Worth every drop of sweat though.  

What I love about Linda Gillard's writing is that she gently pulls me out of my comfort zone, and my reading world is broadened by the exposure.  Ordinarily I would never dream of reading a book where the hero is a ghost who died in WW I at the Battle of Loos in, I believe, 1915.  Thankfully since Gillard wrote it, I plunged right in quite happily and promptly fell in love with Hector the ghost.

Another thing I like about this writer is that she doesn't shy from a challenge.  The heroine of this tale has come to her late aunt's house on Isle of Skye to recover from her grief over the deaths of her partner and her beloved aunt.  She spent much time in that house as a child; at that time Hector appeared to her frequently and was her protector.  Now that she has returned as an adult, and is again in need of Hector, he appears again.  Now how do you write a love story, including sex, between a human and a ghost?  Look no further than The Glass Guardian to learn from a master how to write such scenes beautifully and believably, well close enough anyhow.

There is a bit of a mystery in that she finds evidence that her aunt, a composer, didn't actually compose one of her most famous pieces.  A Canadian scholar wants to come to Skye to research her works; should she allow him to come?

This is a gem of a book in which the house and garden are perfect settings for a unique story about a woman who learns about true love and what makes life worthwhile.

Source:  a gift.  Highly recommended reading.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Criminal by Karin Slaughter

I've been reading Karin Slaughter's books and enjoying them forever it seems.  Her newest, Criminal, is one that I found a little difficult to get into, but once I was caught up in the story I couldn't put it down.  The characters are so well depicted that I simply had to find out both their background and what was going to happen in the present day.  The story is set in Atlanta.

The background story is covered in sections from 1975 when women cops were a new phenomenon, and as such suffered endless rude comments and downright sexual assault from the men on the force.  Male cops routinely took credit for what women did with no fear of reprisals for any of their mistreatment of females.  Policewoman Amanda Wagner not only has the usual harrassment to put up with but also suffers from the fact that her father is a suspended VIP cop and member of the KKK.  She has to prove herself even more than the other women on the force.

The other major character is Will Trent, agent for the GBI, who grew up as an orphan, knowing that his father had killed his mother and other women in a particularly brutal fashion.  He finds out that his father has been released from prison, and now other young women are dying.  His angst over his background and current situation, as well as his budding romance with a doctor gets a little old but he is a sympathetic character and you just hope he will come out of it.   

Slaughter's books are definitely not for the squeamish.  There were a few passages that even made me squirm, although I'm usually able to read this kind of thing okay.  Having subscribed to her newsletter for some time now, I can imagine her glee at knowing she affects people's sensibilities so well.  She's quite a character, and that comes through in her writing.  Despite the subject matter, I laughed more than once.

Source:  Amazon Vine.  Recommended reading.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Rain, Lovely Rain

It began raining lightly last evening and although I don't know if it rained all night, it has rained since I woke up this morning.  No sudden downpours that just run off; this is light but steady rain that soaks in to our horribly dry land and restores it.  

With the rain have come cooler temperatures.  A couple days ago we roasted in temperatures above 90 degrees.  Today the high is supposed to be 70.  With that sudden change, I'm chilly and actually wearing a sweater!

Some of the chills could be from my current read:  Criminal, by Karin Slaughter.  She's scaring me half to death.  I'm nearly finished so a review will be posted soon.  And with this wonderful change in the weather I'm interested in reading something more serious.  Such fun to decide what to read next.  

Monday, July 16, 2012

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Can you believe this?  Hot, humid summer days and I'm reading Wuthering Heights?  It's true.  Just finished yesterday afternoon.  I'm very slowly getting through some of the classic novels I've wanted to read for most of my life, and for the most part I'm enjoying them.

Wuthering Heights, though, is a strange book with very strange characters.  I had to keep reminding myself when this was written because I just wanted to slap many of the characters, especially the two Catherines for being so headstrong and selfish.  As for Heathcliff's meanness and horrid personality, I still really don't understand fully, although his childhood explains a lot.

This is a depressing tale of the families who live near each other at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.  They vie with each other for the two Catherines and everyone is unhappy.    Wuthering Heights is dirty with vile inhabitants, Thrushcross Grange clean and ultra respectable.  One family rich, the other poor; one educated, the other not.  Complete opposites, and Heathcliff is determined to have everything.

This was Emily Bronte's only novel, and I think we should be thankful for that.  I'll admit I was interested enough in the outcome to keep reading right to the end, but I'm left with a feeling of having wasted my time.  Oh well, at least I can say I read it, can't I?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Brief Update

Just a little news about my ongoing health problems since readers have so kindly inquired.  My staples are out (whoopee!) and we're sort of back in the land of limbo.  Next step is an initial appointment with an oncologist in a couple weeks to discuss chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, I'm free to build my strength back up as I feel better each day.  My ribs still ache of course and I still tire very easily, but I'm improving.  I can even drive if I'm not too tired.

I want to thank everyone for your thoughts, prayers and good vibes.  I'm grateful to all of you.  Thankfully, the cancer is out of my body and I am going to survive this.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Black Notice by Patricia Cornwell

My friend periodically gives me bags full of books she's read and I found this one in the last batch.  It's been ages since I've read a Cornwell/Dr. Scarpetta book, just long enough for me to miss them and really enjoy this one.

The mystery in this case begins with a decomposing body found in a cargo container that docks in Richmond.  The murderer's trail will lead Scarpetta and Marino to France and back again and will be very difficult to solve.  Meanwhile, it has been one year since  her FBI lover Benton's death and she has kept herself too busy to grieve, but suddenly a final goodbye letter from him is delivered to her, and she is forced to face up to her grief.

In another storyline, her niece Lucy hasn't found a way to grieve Benton's death either and is courting danger as she usually turns to violence to solve problems.  And if that weren't enough, a sexy-looking cop with connections is taking over the police department and threatening to take over the medical examiner's office as well.  Her name is Bray, and she's determined to get rid of both Marino and Scarpetta.  You can imagine, if you're familiar with the character, how Marino reacts to this.  

Finally, is there a new love interest for Scarpetta?  Stay tuned.  I had almost forgotten how caught up in this series I can get.  I'm back on the Cornwell bandwagon again.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Highgate Rise by Anne Perry

Anne Perry is one of the authors I routinely look for at book sales, and so I read rather old titles such as this one from 1991.  I like her Thomas and Charlotte Pitt very much.  They are a loving couple who understand each other, and although Pitt is a cop and their income is low, Charlotte is originally from gentry and has family and friends from that class.  This gives them unusual access to people of all walks of life.  Charlotte "meddles" in Thomas' cases, but he values her input so unless she gets herself into a dangerous situation, he's fine with that.

This was definitely not my favorite novel in the series, but one wonderful thing about all of them is that the reader gets a bird's eye view of society customs, dress, and rigorous rules as well as the plight of the poor.  That's particularly true in this book where one character is determined to do something about the rich living off the exorbitant rents they receive from living quarters that are simply death traps.  The story begins with a huge house fire and that leads to descriptions of the uselessness of firefighting techniques of the time.  Vivid storytelling  of this kind is Perry's forte.

I grew impatient with the storylines in HIghgate Rise though.  Characters are questioned over and over by both Thomas and Charlotte, each character's personality and beliefs are gone over ad nauseum.  The story veers from one storyline to another and back again.  Although we do learn the identity of the killer in the end, there are multiple loose ends left which may or may not be tied up in following novels.  Since I read them out of order, I don't know.  I just felt like I'd been dropped off in the middle of London in the middle of the night without direction.

Not that this will stop me from searching for more unread titles by Perry.  Far from it.  I do enjoy most of her books and characters so I will continue to find them for a nice change of pace in my reading life.