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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

To Capture What We Cannot Keep--But Worth the Try

To Capture What We Cannot KeepTo Capture What We Cannot Keep by Beatrice Colin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Played out against the background of the building of the Eiffel Tower this is the story of a Scottish woman, widowed, impoverished and fallen out of society, who rather than accept the proposal of a man she cannot love accepts a job as chaperone for a well to do man's young nephew and young niece. He sends them off from Glasgow to Paris where he hopes that the young Alice will find an appropriate man to marry and young Jamie will find direction by observing the engineering feat that is the great lacy tower designed by the noted engineer Eiffel.
Things do not work out smoothly for Beatrice as she tries to keep the two youngsters corralled and reputable. Jamie is more interested in the delights of all sorts of gay Paree and Alice is entranced by the bohemian freedom of the place as she yet attempts to climb in society and maintain the necessary propriety. Cait becomes attracted to the engineer in charge of the construction, Emile, as he is attracted to her. Yet, they are not of the same class and since reputation is all in Parisian society he is unable to pursue the widow, his inferior, as she is unable to allow herself, as a widow to succumb to her attraction.
As the lives of these characters revolve around each other and the conventions of the times, the Tower rises bit by bit to its ultimate glorious completion. There are those who are fascinated and attracted by the erector set creation but there are those, too, who find it hideous to behold. As a matter of fact, on my visit 20 years ago, my hosts referred to it as the Awful Tower.
Colin clearly illustrates the double standard of the day in her characterization of the men and their sexual escapades as well as the resulting impact on the women with whom they are involved. She smoothly incorporates the innovations taking place in the arts as the Tower grows and the reaction of society to these as well.
The most moving section of the book for me, who is terrified of heights, was the description of Cait's climbing the stairs of the completed Tower, especially the last 1000+ steps to the highest platform. Colin, too, must fear heights to have so totally and accurately captured the terror and frozen panic experienced when one realizes just how high one is in the ascent. She's not too bad at capturing the almost exact feelings as Cait realizes how high she has risen in her feelings for Emile and just how dangerous that would be for her.
Not going to ruin the ending but it is worth the read. For such a short book, much has been explored.
This is a review of the copy I received from Book Browse in exchange for my participation in a book discussion on their website.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Blood Orange--A Deadly Weapon on Four Wheels

Blood Orange (China Bayles, #24)Blood Orange by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I cannot believe this is the 24th installment of China Bayles and I've read every one of them. I did sort of binge read three a few years ago and realized that isn't the way to go --at least for me. I got really tired of the character and her ditzy friend, Ruby. I let the series go for a year and now read the books several months apart. It makes it more like revisiting with friends who live a bit distant and not seen very often. Much more interesting that way--sort of catching up. This episode was particularly interesting--maybe because I'm an older citizen--really, older not like poor Mrs Mueller, who is described as an old woman because she is in her late 60's--REALLY???? Here we have Medicare fraud, hospice and some shady medical professionals. Also, though I've been to Texas many, many times I have not noticed a proliferation of orange vehicles. Will have to keep my eyes peeled this winter while visiting. Understand the connection to Long Horns but maybe the vehicles only come out for homecoming in the Fall. Anyway, the story, the recipes and blood oranges are all very delicious this time around. I'll be checking out #25 for my Texas travel.

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Friday, October 13, 2017

Next Year in Havana--For Some No Melting or Assimilation

Next Year in HavanaNext Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For Some No Melting or Assimilation
2017--Marisol Ferrera's grandmother has just died and left a request that Marisol return her ashes to Cuba, the place of her birth. Marisol has never set foot in Cuba but Elisa has filled her head with stories of Havana and the life led by the sugar plantation rich Perez family.
1958--19 year old Elisa Perez is an affluent debutante in Havana. She and her two older sisters rule the society of the Batista regime. But there is discontent among the poorer Cuban society and many young people are joining one revolutionary group or another. Fidel Castro is one of the most successful in gathering young men around him determined to overthrow Batista and spread the wealth of the many, like the Perez family, among the many more impoverished on the island.

1959--The Perez family leaves Havana for Florida. The story is told in alternating voices of Marisol in present day Cuba and Elisa in the days of revolution. Today's Cuba is much, much different than the place of her grandmother's stories. Indeed, it is much, much different than the people who followed Castro imagined it would be.

What was interesting to me was the sense that Marisol considers herself Cuban, though her father and she and her siblings were born in Florida. Spanish was her first language and in times of stress she thinks and prays in it. It is with amazement that she finds herself unable to relate to the actual place although she experiences a sense of homecoming upon first arriving at Jose Marti airport. I kept wondering where the melting pot of lore and the assimilation that I experienced as a granddaughter of German and Irish immigrants had gone.

My German forebears did not have to leave Germany--it was well before the rise of Hitler or even WW I. My Irish grandmother didn't have to leave Ireland--the famine did not happen during her lifetime. Yet, they would not teach their children their native languages, since English is spoken here. There were not lengthy stories of the old country and my parents had no longing to go to Europe and see the old home. I appreciate my German and Irish heritage but don't consider myself to be either. It would be nice to travel to those countries but I don't have a desire or need to see where they grew up. I found these same feelings to be true in the kids I grew up with who had the same heritage and even those of Italian and Puerto Rican backgrounds. So, is it because the Cuban immigrants felt forced from their homeland that they have never given up that expectation of next year in Havana--even those who had never, ever spent last year or any year there?

Though the story is fascinating, the characters all well drawn and inviting, the description of place in both eras colorful and beautiful, that inability to discern the lack of assimilation and melting into the American pot nagged throughout.

It would appear there is to be a follow up story of Elisa's sister, Beatriz. Unlike the gentle Elisa, she is quite the flashing eyed, daring older sister. I look forward to her tale.

This is a review of an ARC provided by Book Browse for an honest review.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Crisis Shot--Tess O'Rourke--From Long Beach PD to Rogue's Hollow Oregon

Crisis Shot (The Line of Duty #1)Crisis Shot by Janice Cantore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tess O' Rourke, a Long Beach, California Police Commander finds herself alone, in an alley, with a fellow policeman down, surrounded by a group of young guys. On of them is reaching into the fallen officers holster and then appears to have the gun pointed at the man's head, ready to shoot. Tess, fires, the boys disperse and a young 14 year old boy lies dead. In the aftermath, Tess and her action is investigated and she is absolved of any wrong doing. There is a blog author who immediately after the event begins posting his opinion of the shooting and the resulting findings in Tess' favor. Needless to say, although she acted without fault, public opinion is split, mostly negatively against her and the police. She is urged by the powers that be to either leave police work or find another job away from Long Beach. Confused, hurt and feeling sorrow over the death of a child, Tess begins to send out resumes. She feels betrayed, as well, being the daughter of a cop who lost his life in the line of duty, the granddaughter of another cop and she, herself a high ranking veteran of the force. She longs to stay in her home and on the force she has known her whole life. She is not getting many bites in her search, either, which is quite demoralizing but finally she is invited to a small town in Southern Oregon for an interview for the Chief's job.
She is hired, barely getting enough votes from the town council. Soon she finds herself investigating the murder of a young man and the disappearance of the wife of the local minister. The author is herself a former policewoman from the Long Beach force. Her abilities to observe the people and places around her are quite evident in her book. What she has in addition is the ability to put those observations in words that give the reader a highly developed mental image of her characters and setting . She also nails the interactions among the diverse people that make up any small town. While the book is considered to be Christian it is not unreasonable heavy handed in that regard. In a small town the church and its pastor are integral parts of the fabric of the community. Not all the community members are part of a church community and they aren't here either but more than in a big city the religious aspects are noticeable.
Perhaps the fact that the attraction between Tess and the sheriff's deputy, Logan is subtle and slow in developing is the result of this Christian bent but again, such a blossoming relationship, especially between two professionals in the same field, is realistic rather than " Christian " It is actually refreshing not to have them falling into bed immediately with hot and heavy sex. Perhaps, they may actually get to know each other as people and friends first.
Also, the action is slow and realistic, too. At first, it isn't clear if the two cases are related. What actually happened is difficult to ascertain, there is so little evidence and so few clues. This is not a TV catch the killer or killers in a great shoot out after a hair-raising chase or bullet ridden entrapment. It is cooperative, literal footwork and interrogation that brings the solution to the crimes. And it is through Tess' dogged determination to solve the cases that she also finds acceptance and more support in a community slow to back this tainted officer in her work.
A fast, satisfying, realistic police story with a dedicated, smart and sensitive female protagonist.
This is a review of and ARC provided me by Goodreads in exchange for an honest review.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

A Voyage Long and Strange--On the trail of the discoverers of the New World

A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New WorldA Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What does the average American know about the early settlers of North America, other than Columbus in 1492 and Pilgrims at Plimouth in 1602? That is the question Horwitz poses since he felt he knew almost nothing. Though the Spanish explorations of the South and Southwest were very familiar to me, both through my studies and travels, I picked the book up primarily because he chose to follow in the footsteps of some of them, literally and I wanted even more information. What I found was an author with a wonderful sense of humor who decided to predate Columbus in his search for early settlements and then to finish with the major English settlements along the East coast. A lover of McCullough and Larsen, I've now added Horwitz to my favorite authors of historical non-fiction.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

An Irish Country Wedding--Fingal and Mrs Kitty O'Reilly--At Last! Who Will Be Next???

An Irish Country Wedding (Irish Country, #7)An Irish Country Wedding by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another installment of this wonderful series set in the fictional country village of Ballybucklebo in the County of Ulster. Life continues for the inhabitants of Number One--Fingal has married the love of his youth and refound flame, Kitty O'Halloran, Barry seems to be recovering from his earlier heartbreak and has begun a relationship with the young teacher, Sue and Kinky, long a widow, after a scary health issue, seems to be encouraging the milkman. So romantically all is well with our family and chief characters. Within the village, life continues with some healing from prior health issues, some encountering new ones and others physically fine but making other decisions about the future. Bertie continues irascible and underhanded. Donal continues malaprop and slightly underhanded, Colin Brown continues impish with a ferret to boot. In other words, it is another happy visit to old friends and places. New faces are entering, too, as Barry prepares to leave after a year under Fingal's mentorship. He thinks he was to specialize and so is moving on for more training--will he return? The villagers, Fingal and Kinkie hope so. A young lady doctor has come to take his place--temporarily or permanently? Don't know but Jennifer seems to be able to handle herself well and is fitting in nicely so only time will tell. Looking forward to checking back in awhile to see how all is going. It is always grand to pour a pint and enjoy the company--or perhaps, a Jamiesons is more in order.

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Friday, September 1, 2017

Berlin is Rubble, Hitler is Mad, Stalin Decides to Aid British Intelligence--Call In Pekkala!

Berlin Red (Inspector Pekkala, #7)Berlin Red by Sam Eastland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Berlin is rubble, Hitler is living in an underground bunker and getting more and more deranged and paranoid. For the first time since trying to develop a controlled rocket launching system, it appears success has come. A rocket at its launch leaves a trail of vapor that looks like shimmering diamond dust and one of its designers becomes hopeful that perhaps the tide of defeat may yet be turned.
At the same time that word is being passed through the upper echelons of Nazi command, a British intelligence agent arrives at Stalin's office asking for assistance in locating and removing a British agent from Berlin. Stalin has just the man-Pekkala, The Emerald Eye. He is sure the Inspector will be willing to take on the task, since the agent in question is the long lost love of his life, Lilya. Stalin sends Kirov as well since Lilya has the plans for the rocket system and he would like them, too.
While Kirov and Pekkala are largely absent from the narrative, the tension and anxiety of Hitler's underlings, the Allied bombings and imminent invasion of Berlin and the shadowy activities of the various agents trying to make the best of a losing proposition are enough to keep the reader glued to the pages until the last --Kirov's report to Stalin.

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