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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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reading Challenge--I made it harder and got a B- !

Well, here it is the end of the 52 weeks. I'd set a goal of a book a week and exceeded that by August. Foolishly, with less than six months left I doubled my original goal. Now, I finish the year having read 83 books--80% of my goal. Well, in grade terms that is a solid B--well a B-,  and I will have to work harder in 2012 to achieve an A. Or, I could, as so many do in education to improve scores, lower my expectations. Say, maybe 75 books in the year. But, never having been a subscriber to that manipulation, no I shall challenge myself once more to 104 books in 2012.

PS--Oh,no, I only completed 79%  That is a C+ !!!!! Awful!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

One Tuesday, December 13, our daughter got a call at work telling her that a former roommate in Montana had dropped dead while snowboarding in Colorado the day before. 25 years old and his heart just stopped. She was devastated and called us crying heart wrenchingly.

We never met this boy but he was one of the first people she met when she started Freshman year at MSU in Bozeman. Within the first few weeks of school she emailed me pix of new friends and scenes. One was of her dancing and laughing hysterically with a husky blond boy with impossibly beautiful blue eyes. I wrote back and among my comments was how much I loved them. When we talked several days later she said he'd laughed when she told him since they were contact lenses.

By the end of Sophomore year she decided to move off campus and join him in the apartment he'd rented at the start of the year. She left her things there and came home for the summer but several times he called to chat and when she wasn't here he was happy to chat with me. He loved to cook, steaks in particular, so at Christmas I sent him some Elijah Craig marinade and basting sauce. He loved it. When she was getting her first cell phone he assured me that working at Verizon he would make sure she got a good and not horribly expensive plan. There was absolutely no romantic involvement between them but they were really close friends. Sometime during that year, another girl and her boyfriend moved in with them to further reduce the rent and expenses. The boyfriend was unemployed and non-contributing so eventually he was invited to leave. And then many months later some disagreement erupted among the remaining three and our daughter and the other girl departed to a new apartment and the friendship was ended.

She never shared with us what had happened only that she was never speaking to him again. I was sad because we were going to visit Bozeman and I'd hoped to meet him at last. Considering the rift and the fact that he was her friend, after all, we didn't press to meet him. Especially, not knowing the circumstances, the meeting may have been uncomfortable for him.  But friendships come and friendships go and it is part of life that some friends are lifelong and others are transitory, no matter how strong they may have once been.

Several years past, graduation came and went and she returned to Vermont for a year. Then she returned to Montana and they ran into each other and at least resumed speaking though the friendship never regained its former strength. At least the air was cleared and they were happy to see each other when their paths crossed. We never had contact with him again but were glad that such a happy go lucky guy had been returned to her circle, if only peripherally.  She returned once more to Vermont in October and this was the first she'd heard of him since then. His heart stopped while snowboarding in Colorado!  What a tragic end to such a young man. Even her parents grieve for the loss of one so young. At this time of year.

Thinking of his plans to go home to Montana, the gifts he may have bought for his family, those for him. All the holiday excitement and anticipation of family gathering. It is beyond the imagination. The devastation at a time meant to be joyful and happy. How sad for all concerned.

And then on Wednesday, Dec 14 and again today two articles in our paper about another 24 year old young man snowboarding in Colorado. He was making his runs at the same time our girl was receiving the bad news. Was he on the same slopes less than 24 hours later? Kevin Pierce, a boy from our area, returning to the snowboarding world two years almost to the day of having suffered a severe brain injury preparing for the Winter Olympics.  How bittersweet in light of our news.  How we wish our friend could have been there watching Kevin regain some of his ability. But then, maybe he was.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Cards and Other Correspondence

I'm pacing myself this season and may not have everything done by the big day. After almost 50 years of having my own home and, therefore, decorating, shopping, wrapping, getting dinner ready and writing cards pretty much single-handed, I've passed some of the chores on to the daughter and others I've scaled back. A LOT.  One  thing I've always enjoyed is sending and receiving beautiful Christmas cards.

I grew up in a family where birthdays were always remembered with a lovely card, almost always Hallmark, and definitely specific: To my Mom, For a Special Daughter, To the Best Sister Ever, etc, etc. I've continued that within my own small circle of three and to my one Aunt remaining of seven and my Sister. I had extended it to the in-laws but, except for one, it isn't anything they have the time or inclination to do.

But I digress. Today, I was home alone for much of the day. The daughter and husband having gone to do their shopping for me. So, I decided it was perfect time to do my favorite thing. I got out the special Snowman box in which I keep my cards, return labels and lists of what cards I sent to whom last year. I hate repeating them since I have a selection of beauties and I like to vary them. I write just a one line personal greeting and our name and off they go.

Cards go to relatives: the aforementioned Aunt and Sister and their children, one sister-in-law and her husband ( the other two and the brother-in-law don't send cards ), cousins on both sides of the family. One cousin beats me to it every year--she writes the cards on Thanksgiving Day and mails them on Friday. We've laughed about it for years--I've told her she will ALWAYS beat me--I like to write when I'm in more of the Christmas spirit. With hot chocolate and Bing Crosby crooning by my side.

Next come the friends: Some have been in my life for 40 years or more, others are more recent and a few are former students who have now grown up, started families of their own and call me by my first name, now. I use my address book to make sure I have all the kids names right ( I put their names in the space reserved for email addresses! ) and that I'm using the most current address. There is always a pang of sadness as I move from one letter to the next---the relatives and friends who are no longer with us and won't be sending a card this year. That list gets longer each year but the list of new friends and acquaintances also grows, though not at the same pace or number.

Today, though I knew last year that I needed more cards, I ran out at the G's. Darn! Like my Mom before me, I always buy Christmas cards in January, when they are half price. Buy them now and pay full price?? Well, yes, because I love to send cards and love to send beautiful ones. So off to the web. Neither the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, nor the Metropolitan in New York City had yet lowered their prices. Too many procrastinators out there--so they know these cards are still going to sell. Besides, there are always dummies who forgot to buy them cheaper last January,too, and they will run out. Well, I think not.

 So off I went to the Lang site. Ah, look---some cards already half price and 40% off the whole order besides!! Fill up that shopping cart, girl and so I did. Buying cards is almost as much fun as sending cards. Oh, the selections!! Snowmen galore, Santas of every shape and size from Woodland Santa to Peppermint Candy Santa, Country Scenes from Barnyard to Bringing Home the Tree, Snowy Driveways leading to Log Cabins, White Clapboards, Elegant Bricks, Angels, Nativities, Poinsettias, Kitties, Puppies, Candles, Churches, large and small!!!!  You go, Girl!  Fill up that Cart!!! And so I did. But then reason prevailed. Just how many more years will I be around to send Christmas cards?  And what about that deminishing recipient list? So, back to the cart and culling. Out went those that I really, really liked But Did NOT Love. Then on to checkout and payment. And waiting. Hopefully, they'll get here in time for me to mail the rest before the actual day.

After that flurry of excitement I found that Bing had finished and my hot chocolate was gone. With time on my hands I found myself thinking about Christmas cards and letter writing. Before the days of " free " long distance calling and email my family, friends and I were prolific letter writers.  Stationery was an important purchase and it was always selected so carefully. The color, the embossing or border, the weight and feel. There was always a box of white or beige linen texture for business letters.  I loved setting time aside to get out my stationery and sit down to write a long newsy letter to someone. My hand was usually cramped up but it felt so great to correspond.

Then the anticipation of the response would carry one through the next week or two. If the wait was any longer, patience would start to fray but oh, the joy of finding an envelope with the return address of someone dear. Sometimes, frenzied, the flap would be torn raggedly to get to the news immediately. Other times, the letter would be placed tantalizingly on the table or in one's purse ( does anyone carry them anymore??) to be read when there was time to leisurely peruse it. And then, as they say, the ball was in your court.

I wasn't always a prompt responder--though frequently I'd put pen to paper immediately upon finishing. Many times, though, my response began with a heartfelt apology for being so long in answering.

I wish I had some of the correspondence now, especially the letters I exchanged with my Mother. I have only one and it is a single page saying not very much. There were none of mine amongst her things. She knew she was dying of cancer and so she destroyed letters and pictures since she didn't think anyone else would want them. She chose to throw them away herself. I wish she'd told me--I would have loved to have them.

When I look at the sole note from her and see her familiar handwriting, it brings her back to my mind's eye and as I read her words I hear her voice in my head. There is a book about things that have been used as bookmarks and some of the things are letters. What a clever use for a special note. It would be so nice to have some of mine to show my daughter.

She has only written me, perhaps, three or four letters so far. She calls frequently and we used to IM when she was away in school. I wrote letters to her but she never answered them in writing. Friends email now all the time but never are there letters. Some friends don't send Christmas cards at all. For awhile I continued sending to them but somehow the lack of response in kind made it less enjoyable. A let down, if you will,like calling someone with the excitement of speaking to them and getting no answer, or worse, a generic machine message asking for your number and name. If I don't just hang up, I just say, hi, thought I'd chat for a bit and then hang up. Sometimes, if they aren't too busy, they call back. More often I get an email. Grrrr.

I can't decide what to do with the stationery in the desk drawer that is faded and dusty with age. All the cute note cards. The stationery folder that my Mom gave me, beautiful red leather, with the blotter that was my Gram's and the fountain pen. Parker, you know. Can you still get INK for that? Oh, well, at least at Christmas the excitement of a personal letter in the box returns. Sometimes it requires me to respond and sometimes it is a response. Either way, I love it.

The beautiful card, the handwriting, the gorgeous stamp and the feel of the envelope. And I imagine the sender sitting and writing just to me and my family and I am happy and thankful for that moment in time.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Louis Who??

Before Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIVBefore Versailles: A Novel of Louis XIV by Karleen Koen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a goodreads giveaway that took several months to arrive so the review is much later than the would normally be the case. I loved this book on so many levels. I'll start with the setting. Having gone to France about 20 years ago, it was a joy to revisit several majestic places through Koen's eyes. My guide, a friend, who is head of a school in Sevres, started out by taking me to Fountainebleau, which as I remember was huge but in sad need of repair--wings were totally devoid of any furnishings, the windows were filthy and bare and in places broken. I don't know how much of the then on-going renovation has been completed since then but even in its horrendous state it was an impressive place. I remember there were quite a few peacocks and peahens strutting among the ruins and I thought how they must have looked when the gardens and buildings were in their glory and the humans strutted right along with them. Our next stop was Vaux-le-Vicompte---what a jewel! Words cannot express, or at least mine cannot, the incredible beauty of the place and the impact it has in every way on the visitor. Koen's description of the awe in which the guests beheld it when Nicholas Fourget opened it to them is exactly the reaction today's guests have upon seeing it. My friend told me then the story of Louis' finance minister, his increasing power culminating in this masterpiece, and the reaction of Louis to this perceived threat to his own power. The arrest of Fourget was inevitable and the takeover of Vaux by Louis not unexpected. Finally,she took me to Versailles and Vaux, that magnificent statement of one man's power, became a mere country estate in comparison! All of this was reiterated in Koen's beautiful prose throughout her narrative, which covered merely four months in the life of the newly crowned King of France, Louis XIV.

These four months, however, are spent primarily at Fountainebleau. Vaux was under construction at the time and Versailles was merely a hunting lodge out beyond the forests that have for the most part disappeared today. The intrigues of court, the struggles of a new monarch,who is only 22 years old,to establish himself in the eyes of his court and even in his own eyes are compelling. Throw into the mix, a brother, who is, to say the least scandalous and several women of varying personal strengths and weaknesses, with whom Louis also must deal and the plot, as they say, thickens.

A subplot, a legend never fully authenticated, involving a boy in an iron mask, possibly a royal prince, has been treated in many other books and movies. Here the characters involved are more thoroughly limned--from the musketeer who cares for him, to the monks in whose monastery he is initially housed, and the mother who refuses to visit him. The story is as sad here as at any time it has been told. Could Louis have had an idiot brother,possibly a bastard brother, who was secreted away for whatever reason? A threat to Louis' own legitimacy and therefore a threat to the throne and he who held it? Or perhaps, merely an embarrassment to the royal blood? Who knows. But as I read this I could not help but think of the present Queen Elizabeth's uncle who was kept hidden, unvisited for the most part by his mother, the Queen and his father, the King, primarily because he was epileptic. How much more embarrassing must idiocy have been to the French royal family?

Lastly, though a Francophile, I often got Louis XIV and Louis XVI mixed up. I cannot explain it--they were certainly light years apart, chronologically and politically to say nothing of the times in which they lived or the way in which they died. After this book, that is not likely to happen again!

All in all a delightful, interesting read with settings and characters thoroughly developed. If there is any criticism at all, and it is a small one, I had to check back to the front a few times to ascertain who a certain character was when the formal title, rather than the actual name, was used. This happened most ofter when there was more than one formal title involved for the same person--another practice that continues amongst the royals today. Just so confusing--let's just call them all Mack!

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

More Action, Less Introspection, Please!

Fragile: A NovelFragile: A Novel by Lisa Unger
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book, along with a copy of The Night Strangers, was sent to me by the marketing manager of Crown Publishing. I had won the Goodreads giveaway for Before Versailles and after almost two months I had not received it. It was a pleasant surprise and a very generous gesture, especially since the original giveaway book arrived shortly thereafter. Theoretically, then, it probably isn't necessary to review the book but feel it is appropriate.

I faithfully read page by page to Ch 19, page 190, almost halfway through the book before, out of sheer boredom and impatience, I flipped to the back of the book to find out how it ended. The first chapters introduced the reader to a mishmash of characters, mostly the classmates of the main character, the Police Chief, and his wife, a psychotherapist in a small town, The Hollows, not far from New York City. I couldn't decide if it was in the Hudson River Valley, New Jersey or Connecticut--it was sort of a indistinct any small town, but not really. I've lived in several very small places in NYS and in Vt and could not get a feel for this fictional place, there was no atmosphere.

The characters, except, perhaps the teens were very one dimensional as well. Even the former school principal with whom I should have been able to relate, having been in secondary education all my life, was colorless.

The missing teen girl, sexually assaulted, was presented in triplicate and felt too contrived and artificial. I could not really feel an urgency or empathy to any of the situations. There were some twists and turns but again they seemed too drawn out. I did go back and finish the book but wasn't moved by any of the neatly resolved issues.

In fact, I'm still not sure what purpose Charlie and Wanda served in the story at all. Perhaps, Charlie was Unger's alter ego giving voice to her purpose in writing the book.

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Friday, November 11, 2011

Required: A Lapse of Logical Thinking

A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford MysteryA Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At the outset it is necessary to say that I have not read the first two Bess Crawford Mysteries so Bess' background and her relationship to Simon, who seems to appear anytime Bess is in dire straits, is not familiar to me. As a result I found the relationship confusing. But, even it I understood that aspect of the story, I would be hard-pressed to believe the whole basis of the book. That a war-time nursing sister would take in an abused woman in the middle of the night in London was a stretch for me, when the woman was a total stranger. But I put that aside and said to myself -- it is Christmas time, so therefore cold and dark and deserted and Bess is, after all, in the humanitarian business--so maybe. BUT, she then forgoes her visit to her worried parents on a holiday leave to travel with this stranger to the home of the woman's abusive spouse? And the spouse and his mother and grandmother and sister and brother-in-law to say nothing of the town's rector and doctor greet this stranger with open arms and reveal all kinds of family secrets seemingly easily was really stretching my ability to accept.

We are speaking upper society here, with a son who has supposedly swatted his wife in the face! A scandal if ever there was one. Nevermind, that Bess seems to have some pedigree of her own--she is a total stranger. This would never happen. Needless to say, having found this all very difficult to accept the multiple murders and the mystery of who dunnit was really secondary. About the only part that rang true for me was Bess' experiences in France, her meeting the Australian and maybe the nuns and the orphans for whom they were caring.

Since Charles Todd was lauded prominently on the dust cover as a New York Times Bestselling Author I stuck it out but won't run out to buy another of this authors' works any time soon. It wasn't horrible but it wasn't gripping either and I found I don't much care what happens to the characters.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Second Time is NOT the Charm!

Deadly Defiance (A Stan Turner Mystery, #10)Deadly Defiance by William Manchee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The opening sentence of this book was almost enough to make me put it aside. " One of the most difficult events in a parent's life is when....." A noun cannot be an adverb!! Occurs when perhaps but is NOT when. I battled this sentence structure for 30 years teaching and correcting term papers--but I guess I just have to accept it along with run-on sentences since Manchee and my students refuse to listen. If Mr Manchee would put a period instead of a comma everytime he wanted to use the word " so " and then black out " so " and start a new sentence his writing would be so much better. Also, during conversation it is totally unnecessary to insert, he said, she replied, he laughed, she giggled. And where are the editors? On one page two characters are speaking and all at once a third character replies--a dead one at that! I re-read the page twice to make sure it wasn't me--but no, glaringly, a dead person is given the response.

So, the book is not great literature and the editing is a disaster. Yet, although, certainly NOT the next Grisham, Manchee's book keeps you involved. Three mysteries going at once and all of them neatly tied up by the end. Most of the characters are pretty flat though Jodie comes across with some potential. Stan is a disaster, lackluster though supposedly attractive to women. Or at least, to Paula, who hops into bed with just about anyone for just about any reason. Bart is just there for dinner and backrubs apparently. Poor Rebeckah is just ill.

It was an okay foray--" read " one other that was a giveaway on MP3 and was glad to have won this one. I'm not a good candidate to review recorded books and said so in my review. Nevertheless, I cannot give this hard copy any greater words of praise. This is Manchee's 10th book in the series so somebody out there likes him. I won't be returning for any more installments, however.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Do You Remember the Horror of Jonestown?

A Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at JonestownA Thousand Lives: The Untold Story of Hope, Deception, and Survival at Jonestown by Julia Scheeres
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a GoodReads first reads giveaway. The writing style was easy enough to read, though the subject matter required breaking away periodically. I remember the murder-suicide event and at the time was overwhelmed by the number of people who were gulled by Jim Jones and who willingly took their own lives for him. The book in no way alleviated that awe though the biographical sketches of some of the followers clarified Jones' attraction. Many of these people were society's throw aways and in Jones they found a leader who seemingly cared for them and gave their lives meaning. Other of the followers were socialistic idealists who thought his message of equality and tolerance and communal living would lead to a new Utopia. It would have been helpful to have had more insight into the backgrounds of some of the top officials who found it so easy to abuse in the name of discipline their fellow Peoples Temple members and who were able to devise unbelieveable torture methods and suicide scenarios. I kept finding myself comparing these people to the educated experimenters of the Third Reich.

As a matter of fact, much like Hitler, Manson and others of that ilk, including Ida Amin, Jim Jones was a megalomaniac who lived well, used his position to have sex with whomever appealed to him and through drugs managed to lose all mental and emotional control of himself if not of his followers. This book in no way helped me to get my own mind around the type of person who falls prey to such a leader and find that these folks are missing some vital piece of humanity that allows them to become robotic followers, unable to function as loving parents, spouses or neighbors. It is frightening to know that there will always be men such as Jones and always be minions to do his bidding without thought.

Pictures of the places and people would have enhanced the story.

View all my reviews When I sent this review to Simon and Schuster, the editor replied with a link to the author's website, on which pictures of some of the followers could be found. http://www.juliascheeres.com

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Terrific Photography

Don't know what channel 5 is in Spain--I bet conservative--but I love the photo graph. The caption reads " a book commits suicide everytime you put on 5" There are several things here in the US that would cause a book to commit suicide-- Sarah Palin running for President; Obama being re-elected.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fall in Vermont

Filling up for Flight to Mexico
Back yard Flight
Mother Nature's Melodious Voice
And Glorious Palette

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Virtual Pen Week 2

There are two prompts this week: Write a story based on Picture No. 1 or alternatively describe a memorable first. Though I won't always follow both prompts each time, I decided to combine them since this chair often reminds me of the first time I held my new baby sister.

Sitting in a straight backed chair
Little legs dangling
Strappy shoes and socks above the floor
" Put out your arms "
Manicured hands lower the pink clad bundle
" Don't drop her "
Afraid to move
Green eyes meet curious blue
The bond is formed
As I watch her with wonder

Friday, September 16, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Picking Up the Virtual Pen Once More

School has started in most of Vermont by now, although some were delayed until after Labor Day ( as it was in my student and early teaching days ) as a result of the unusual visit by Irene. There is an organization here called the Vermont Young Writers' Project which is dedicated to instilling a love of writing and ongoing improvement in writing in the students K-12. Students throughout the State are encouraged to write in any genre by a series of prompts published each Fall in local newspapers. Teachers are encouraged to use these prompts and submit the kids' best work done either inside or outside the classroom for publication in the newspaper. Kids may submit their own work as well. I've read the products of these young writers, quite often with awe and admiration for their talent.

Since I haven't done any serious writing in awhile, other than reviewing books, the idea of using these prompts for my own inspiration appealed to me. The first, due tomorrow, is in general writing: pick the best of your summer's work in any genre. Well, since I haven't been writing much this summer that sort of poses the first of my problems-nothing in the old portfolio. Not that I'm going to submit anything--having long since left 12th grade very much in not only the dust, but also the very dim and dusty past! Not wanting to start the academic year by skipping the first assignment, it occured to me that perhaps a recap of a very, lazy uneventful summer might suffice.

Summer -- the actual first day of Summer--began with a party for one of my daughter's friends, Tiffany, who is in the Army and was home on leave from Fort Benning, Ga. Betsy, my daughter, had come home from Montana for a short visit earlier in the week so we'd had plenty of shared time before she would be out and about with Tiff for a few days. Their visits sort of overlapped like two elongated circles. Both sets of parents were happy about that since at this age we don't seem to be the first choice as hang-out pals for these gals. Can't understand that, really. We are so lively and witty--even if we do thing 9 PM is the middle of the night and finds us dozing off in the middle of conversation. At any rate, the party was great fun and it was good to see Tiff who is quite svelte and has incredible posture now, with an overlay of new found maturity and gravitas. She is also going to be shipped out to Iran soon which added to our pleasure in being able to spend time with her. Each morning I start my day now with a Hail Mary for her and one for Dan, the son of another friend who will be going to Afganistan within the week and for all of our service people in the world,wherever they may be.

While the kid was home we made use of her youth and enthusiasm ( NOT ) to move some of the furniture around in our rearrangement of the downstairs --my workroom in the cellar from which the futon was moved and the living room sideboard which moved upstairs to the bedroom the make way for the futon. Once she left on the 24th we were left to reorganize what we'd left. This worked rather well for the remainder of June--with clothes getting sorted to throw out, give away and launder and store among other such "try to get this place liveable again" activities.

The lovely sun lit days were not totally spent on housework we also found time to sit on the porch and enjoy the antics of our friendly chipmunks and red squirrel as well as all of the birds at the feeders. The flower boxes on the porch and the hanging pots with their young plants had started to fill out and the outdoor room began to take shape. The trees and mown lawn provided a glorious emerald green background that was only surpassed in beauty by the incredibly beautiful blue of an almost cloudless sky. And so the days moved lazily and slowly, almost without notice into July.

Last year I'd wanted to have a sangria and tapas party but the summer got away from me, as did Fall and then the holidays were upon us. This year I decided that would not happen again so I immediately drew up the guest list, sent invitations and planned the menu. Before I was married I hosted a huge party every season with a different ethnic theme. I did all the cooking but my guests were responsible for dessert and drinks. Dessert because my menu was many courses from appetizer, soup, salad and entree with sides. By the time I'd done all that cooking I had no interest in making dessert. Rarely did anyone bring any but there were always many libations, for the most part matching the theme. Unfortunately, I married a man who does not like to entertain and for the most part does not like to go to parties. My hostess with the mostest persona was put to rest. With the arrival of a child my energies were happily diverted. And with a full time teaching job, life was full enough without huge parties. Now, however, retired and the child half way across the country as a young adult, boredom was setting in and I needed an outlet. So, this year the tapas would appear and the sangria would flow all to the strains of Spanish music!

But first, we spent the Fourth of July visiting with relatives at camp in Irasburg, which was a great time. The Northeast Kingdom is by far the most beautiful part of this State and has, I think, the greatest concentration of many generational native Vermonters. Both facts which make it my favorite part of the State but too remote for me to ever want to live there.

At this point of the month we were to have company from Florida for a few days. I was so looking forward to meeting another of Bill's college buddies and his wife. But, almost at the last minute their plans changed and the summer trip they'd planned to New England had to be cancelled. Pat had a sudden bout of severe arthritis and the doctor told her the trip would be too much. All of us were truly disappointed since we'd planned since April for the visit. Hopefully, we'll be able to see them in Florida this winter.

July is the most glorious month for our flower gardens, the lilies are at their peak, the bluebells, delphiniums, mallow, roses, clematis--everywhere you look the raised beds are in bloom and the colors are vibrant. The honeysuckle vine is orange and the Hawaiin Wedding vine is covered in purples and white. Hawaiin blue eyes and all of the portulaca, impatiens, lobelia, candle plant, marigolds,variegated coleus, and petunias vie for attention in all corners of the porch. Much of my time was spent walking among them and lounging on the chaise reading in the sun.

Nevertheless, the planning for the party commenced and on July 19 off I went to shops throughout Lebanon New Hampshire picking up the items I'd need for the tapas. Being a Mediterranean country most of the items involved fresh vegetables and fruits and our refrigerator was full to bursting. Unfortunately, that evening while watching TV I decided I wanted a snack and so headed downstairs with the cat, Misty running alongside me as always--she's always up for a snack,too! I was hurrying to make it back before the commercial ended but for some reason she ran in front of me on the last two steps! Next thing I knew I was sitting in a very awkward position on the floor with my leg up under me. Talk about hurt. I must have yelled out because she disappeared and Bill came to the head of the stairs. I thought I was alright but when I tried to get up I couldn't seem to lift onto that foot. Bill came and got me upstairs--snack forgotten. We thought I'd sprained the leg but by the next morning the pain and swelling were bad enough we went to the hospital emergency room. Broken fibula, bruised wrist. Off for a fracture boot and home. I was so bummed! Wanted to call off the party but how to preserve all that food? Not possible. Doctor's office called and made an appointment to see an orthopedic PA on Monday the 25th. Party Sunday the 24th!

So after returning from the ER I cleaned the downstairs with Bill's help and boiled the eggs for deviled eggs. The next day after downing two ibuprophen I made the eggs, stuffed celery and a eggplant dip and called my sister and asked her to come to help me the next two days. She did and we had a ball creating a great antipasto dish of fresh marinated peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and cherry tomatoes. I served a sweet onion salad, steamed potatoes with chili sauce, honey and red pepper, chorizo in wine sauce, hot nuts, deep fried fish, guacomole, cheese and crackers, cream cheese and jezebel sauce, hummus and pita, ricotta with honey and chocolate teddy bear cookies. And lots and lots of Sangria. I wore a lovely caftan my daughter had given me and a good time was had by all.

On Monday I saw the PA who told me I would not be able to walk in a cast and that she really didn't want me walking in the boot either. Furthermore, I had to get a walker but she wouldn't authorize a sit down walker, the fracture didn't warrant it. And so the next six weeks found me coming downstairs in the morning, sitting with my leg elevated and iced, reading, reading, reading! Fortunately, I won lots of books from Goodreads during this period so I wasn't lacking for material of all sorts to read. Considering the swelling and pain and the fact that I really was to stay off my feet as much as possible we had to pass on the second annual family reunion. And so the month began with the disappointment of our friend's visit halting arthritis attack and ended with the disappointment of my reunion halting fibula fracture! Sigh!!!

August continued with me gimping around and gulping two ibuprophen before sleep each night so that the pain would not wake me and taking a couple each day. Mostly, I read, watched Netflix on the computer, talked on the phone, ate and slept. Somehow, it felt all wrong but there was severe pain most of the time and though I wanted to walk around the gardens and do things around the house I knew I had to stay off the leg. And ice it and elevate it.

Finally on the 8th I go to see the doctor. I had not slept well the night before and was not prepared for his finding. Even with the care I'd taken my talus and tibia had shifted and he recommended surgery to put in a pin to realign them and a plate for the fracture. He said I should do it immediately that week and then wear a cast for twelve weeks!!! I was angry and said so--the PA should have casted it in my opinion--I opted for the boot because I thought I could walk in it some but she should have, because of the incredible black and blue and swelling insisted on casting. He said that isn't usually done if the bone fracture is not displaced, which it wasn't. Nevertheless, I think she made the wrong call but how do I prove that??Also, if the little walking I did caused this relocation why didn't the fracture warrant a sit down walker?

At any rate, I refused surgery after discussing the ramifications: swelling ( I already have had problems with that foot swelling ), some pain--ibuprophen works for me, possibility of arthritis in time ( I'm already 68 and arthritis does not run in my family ), possibility of needing to brace the ankle with either an air splint--not likely--or a lace up canvas skin tone brace ( who will see that under the pants I usually wear?). All in all I'm not wearing a cast for 12 weeks-- I haven't the mental strength or patience for that discomfort. So, on went a lovely light blue cast for a week and a half. By this time a month had passed since breaking the leg. I cancelled my hair appointment with my regular girl since her shop is at the top of a very steep and long set of stairs! Fortunately, my neighbor is a hairdresser and she was able to take me in for a cut and color etc since I was not going to miss my cousin's daughter's wedding in Fishkill on the 19th!

On the 18th I returned for a new light blue cast and on the 19th dressed in the stretch jeans that were the only garment I could get on and off over the cast we headed out for the wedding. What an absolutely beautiful fun time. It rained so they had to move indoors from the garden where the ceremony began. I had not gone out there since I could not get my cast wet--so it was nice for me --and actually, as it turned out for all the guests --that they had to move indoors. No one could hear the minister or the bride and groom outside. Here we were much more intimately involved in the happy ceremony. It was like New Year's Eve--everything was so inclusive and celebratory--music and dancing--conversation, great food and a beautiful young couple whom I hope will always be as happy as they were that night.

And so life returned to the old routine--the pain had ceased once my leg was cast the first time but the swelling continued. By late afternoon the weight of the cast was almost unbearable and it was uncomfortable to sleep in but I was walking better and without pain sleeping better. The blueberries ripened in great abundance and we froze pints of them and ate others with whipped cream for breakfast. The cantaloupe melons, though small were sweet and juicy and they were breakfast other days. We had so many tomatoes ripen at the same time that we made homemade sauce and froze it for winter and had spagetti that night. The cukes were long gone as were the peas but the potatoes and onions and peppers kept coming and we continued eating salad at least once a day.

And then August 28 arrived. For days the weatherman warned that Hurricane Irene was probably going to be closer to the shore that usual and that we would surely feel her power--both in heavy rainfall and very high velocity winds. I have a dreadful fear of the dark and so I hoped that she would hit during the day and that the power, if it went out, would be restored fairly quickly.

The day started dark and gloomy and the wind was somewhat heavy but not frighteningly so. This we knew was not the storm but the air moving ahead of it--we were not due to be hit until around 2 in the afternoon. Eventually, it became very calm, not even a breeze. For most of the day we sat on the porch and read the Sunday papers and had our coffee and later our lunch. We listened to NPR as we do every Sunday on the porch. Around 1 or so the rain that had been falling intermittently, sometimes heavy, sometimes drizzly, started to come down in sheets. It was as though someone what standing on the roof with a fire hose opened on full and just running it over the porch. It was almost impossible to see across the fields. In a matter of an hour the river had risen to its banks and in less time than that it overflowed and just kept roaring down the fields--it formed three main channels and rose higher and higher--fast and muddy and spreading out, out, out over all our fields. At one point a deer jumped high out of the grass. I never can judge the height of that grass from the porch but that deer was invisible til she jumped--she was trying to get out of the water--fortunately she was on the edge of the water and was able to walk out of it onto the little knoll just off the porch. There are several here--our house is on one, then there is the tiny rise that we call Poison Ivy Hill for obvious reasons, and then a larger knoll across the field on which sits the fire training station. This is actually a ridge that runs parallel to the river and is not only higher but also serves as a wall preventing the river from reaching the fields behind it. So we were not worried, even when we saw our doe and her twins come out and act confused for a bit when they couldn't take their usual path throught the nursery. They did not take long to realize they needed to go up on the higher ground and they did.

Our neighbors who live on one of the fields moved their vehicles into our driveway and Bill went down to help them sand bag their house. Tori said watching the insects in a mass moving ahead of the water toward her home was very eerie. I'm glad I didn't see that-- I'm shivering as I write. Awful.The rain stopped about 8 pm and the water stopped rising. Their cellar was flooded but that happens to them every spring. The water stopped just short of their doorstep so the house wasn't damaged at all. The power went out just a few minutes before the end of Leverage---so around 10pm. I had the lights ready and we went to sleep--actually I read by flashlight for awhile. By 3 am the power was back.

Monday dawned sunny and clear--not a cloud in the sky and the river had returned to its bed. The fields had just a few puddles here and there but it seemed impossible to believe that they had been so flooded less than eight hours before.We took a drive over to Chelsea since the road between us usually floods--there was no flooding at all! It wasn't until later in the day we learned the true devastation that had taken place in Vermont. Two of the roads that we frequent when traveling to New York State totally impassable--one of them totally obliterated. If we wanted to go to that wedding now we'd have to go north to Plattsburg or south to the Mass Pike before we could cut west and then we have no idea what the roads there are like. 12 towns in Vermont were totally isolated with no water and no power. It is too hard to explain all the damage. It is like nothing we've experienced in Vermont since the floods of 1927 and the hurricane in 1935--neither of which I was here to see. There has been horrible localized flood damage in the Spring every year but nothing this widespread nor of such magnitude. Let us hope we don't see it again any time soon. How fortunate we are to be built high on a hill and that the strong winds that were predicted did not develop to add to the calamity. Here we are almost three weeks later and still people are shoveling mud from their homes, if they have them,or their businesses and tossing all their belongings. Incredible. Somehow a broken leg seems so insignificant.

For the next weeks at the end of August and the beginning of September the news on all fronts was the reporting of recovery and the remembrance of September 11. Without realizing why I began to get more and more depressed. Labor Day weekend passed in a blur--we stayed home. On Tuesday the 6th I went to get an eye exam and new glasses. At least my eyes are healthy--so getting out of the house I began to perk up again. I also realized that the best thing to do was to ignore all 9-11 stuff and focus on getting the leg out of the cast and starting to get around again.

On September 8 that happened. Free at last, free at last--no more cast! No more walker. The PA wanted me to wear the fracture boot outdoors but not around the house and to start building up the muscles again. Ankle rotations and alphabets etc. So far the stiffness is getting better but it is still a bit sore. There is swelling by the end of the day and I imagine that will last for about a year or so. Don't knpw if I'll be able to get a shoe on but I'll worry about that in time. For now, it is enough to have gotten rid of that cast. I was worried I'd gained back the weight I lost before the accident but am happy to say that I did not, despite the enforced inactivity. Didn't lose anything but nothing gained.

As I look at the calendar I see that there is only one more week to summer. My Aunt turns 89 on the Equinox. I pray I live as long and have as good health as she. We've been madly getting in the harvest. Onions all drying on the porch rafters, basil dried in the dryer, pesto made and frozen, peppers frozen. Some of the leaves have turned already and they are predicting frost tonight or tomorrow night. There is a definite chill in the air. And so life goes on and Nature's cycle continues no matter how much we'd like to hold back time.

It was a quiet summer but it was filled with sunshine and color and joy. On to the glory of foliage season and the start of the celebrations that will carry us to the end of 2011.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

None of the Love of the Lyrics

The Very Thought of YouThe Very Thought of You by Rosie Alison

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

There is a sentence toward the end of this book "the grief would not go, but sometimes he cherished it." Oh, there is plenty of grief to go around and each and everyone of the main characters more than cherished it. They allowed it to consume them and turn them into empty, cold husks incapable of interacting normally with anyone outside themselves, even those with whom they are most intimate.

The first of the three protagonists is Anna Sands, an eight year old evacuee from London to the grand Yorkshire mansion, Ashton Park. Her story is perhaps the one most difficult to which to give credence. Not wanting to ruin it for those who may read the book, suffice it to say, that, despite some fairly happy times in childhood, she seems not to show the resilience that most children have to trauma. Granted separation from parents and loss of her mother at an early age are pretty traumatic, there seems to have been no saving grace in her reunion with her father, who seems to get pretty short shrift in the story. To the point that his wife's infidelity in London while he fights in Africa is very superficially dealt with. But then, these characters are all superficial.

The other two characters of consequence are the lovely owners of Ashton Park--Thomas and Elizabeth Ashton. His supposed emotional crippling is the result of loss of his siblings at an early age and is physical crippling the result of a bout of polio which leaves him in a wheelchair, though not impotent. His wife, totally a cold fish from the start, who knows why, is crippled by her lack of a child. Hence the opening of the house to other people's children. These two deserve each other but as luck will have it others get caught up in their circle of misery and are damaged or destroyed by the experience.

Two other characters keep showing up intermittently for no apparent reason but the notes at the end tell us that Clifford Norton and his wife, Peter, are the only real personages in the tale. They are distant cousins of the author and "act as an occasional chorus on the wider world beyond Ashton Park." A world in which Hitler invades Poland, Paris falls,the death camps are liberated and later there is a civil war in Greece. None of these things seem to have any impact on these self-absorbed people on their lovely estate in the countryside.

I finished the book hoping that there would be some salvation or awakening in these people--but no, they continue to cherish the new grief that life has brought them. No one dies in this book--life leaks out of them or seeps out of them in the author's euphemous language--but it does seep slowly from the first page until at the end the biggest sorrow is the empty house. Now a museum, with guided tours through lifeless rooms and hallways, filled with ghosts. But, in my opinion, but for the laughing, running children evacuated there for such a short time, the house was always filled with ghosts. Soul less cold creatures --empty of all human feeling.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

The Killing Song is Intense and Suspenseful

The Killing SongThe Killing Song by P.J. Parrish

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A First Reads Giveaway I finished it in one and a half days it was that compelling. The first chapter didn't really grab me. Thought it would be just another routine find the killer of a young girl plot. Within pages, however, it became clear that the characters in this book, especially the killer, were complex and interesting. The writing style just kept leading you deeper and deeper into the mystery--glimpses of the murderer and his history making you want to learn ever more about him. The settings, too, kept me reading--from the nightlife of Miami to the streets and metro and catacombs of Paris, to the fading rock scenes of London, to the pastoral settings of urban parks and countryside Scotland. The brother of a murdered young girl and the female Parisian detective with whom he joins forces lead the reader ever closer to the madman who kills with the pick of a cello and leaves musical clues to prior murders behind. Gripping to the last coda.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Jeffrey Archer's New One Is A Rehash of Many Before It.

Only Time Will TellOnly Time Will Tell by Jeffrey Archer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

How many books have been written about the bastard son of a bastardly rich man? His mother is a poor woman alone. He faces all kinds of travails but in the end succeeds. Falls in love with his half-sister, unwittingly, of course,and fortuitously, a War is on the horizon so he can go off and leave it all behind. Except for the War and his assumption of a new identity in a new country all of the above facts are known within the first ten pages. Not a badly written book, innocuous, shop worn though its plot. Harmless, easy, if predictable read which, on its last page, throws in the hook that will allow for what I imagine will be a predictable sequel.

I almost didn't finish reading once I realized that I'd figured out the basic premise but several others advised me to continue because there would be interesting revelations and developments. Nope, turned out just as I expected.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

The Burning -- Riveting, Chilling

The BurningThe Burning by Jane Casey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A riveting procedural with a likeable DC Maeve Kerrigan at its center. A serial killer has bashed four women to death and then set their bodies aflame. The fifth victim is discovered and Maeve doesn't think she IS the killer's fifth--there are some similarities but the differences are jarring. Her boss takes her off the major case and assigns her this one. Casey does an excellent job of revealing the character and personality of the victim as well as members of her intimate circle. In the telling, Maeve is fleshed out as well. The two investigations run parallel but cross paths periodically, too, so that in the end both mysteries are solved. In particular, the summation provided by one of the killers at the end of the book is chilling. And to tie up any loose ends, the author uses press releases to reveal the fate of the bad guys. A well written page turner that chills with its cold-blooded characters.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Eleanor of Aquitaine was the equal of men!

To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of AquitaineTo Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Christy English

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is as lovely as the cover and is easy to read. Christy's strength is in description of countryside and characters. Eleanor's youth and strength come through very clearly as does the influence of the Church in Europe at the time. It was this corruption and interference on the part of the noble sons who made up the Cardinals and Popes of the time that led, eventually, to the Protestant revolutions in all there forms throughout Europe. Unfortunately, though William's training of Eleanor and her awareness of enemies in high places in France, Rome and the Levant are thoroughly stressed there is little depth or development of what exact machinations took place against her in these areas or her steps to protect herself other than passing out silver coins or bags of gold. This is not to say that this isn't an enjoyable book and one that is a good introduction to one of history's more interesting and strong ruling women. The Lion in Winter is a movie that fleshes her out a bit more and shows her ability to stand on the same level as her husband Henry II of England as well as her former husband, Louis of France more strongly.

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Can't Get Into Books on MP 3!

Black Monday: A Stan Turner MysteryBlack Monday: A Stan Turner Mystery by William Manchee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a limited edition MP3 version of the sixth in a series of Stan Turner mysteries. It took a long time to get through since my mind tends to wander during recorded books so they get " read " in dribs and drabs. To think I used to listen to the radio for hours as a kid and never missed a word!

Anyway, in addition to my wandering mind, the recording itself has some problems. There are only two narrators, Jeffrey Kafer, whose voice is very droning and lacking in expression, and Arika Escalona, who is very perky and probably a good voice for the attractive law partner, Paula Waters. They take turns reading the various chapters --unfortunately, that means that he takes on the voices of women in his chapters and she takes on the voices of men in hers and neither are very good at it. As a result it was most difficult to keep track of the various characters to say nothing of how irritating and tedious the numerous iterations of " he said " , " I said ", " she replied " became.

The cases the two persued were interesting and I think I'd have enjoyed the hard copy book. As already noted this is the sixth in the series so it is imagined that the attraction between the married Stan and the seductive Paula has been developed along the line. It comes to a head here--she's engaged, the boyfriend is nice but just can't arouse her the way Stan can. So a gratuitous semi-sex scene in the janitor's closet at her night before the wedding party is thrown. Then the next day, Stan, hung over from too many Bourbon and 7's--the man has absolutely no taste and I hope he drinks rot-gut bourbon--isn't really sure what happened. Hate blaming bad behavior on too much to drink--she's getting married tomorrow? and she's seducing a guy in a closet? And he's married and hopes Rebecca doesn't get where the lipstick on his collar--what a cliche--came from. Please, leave out the sex and seduction--it takes away from the story and is the weakest part of the writing. Hopefully, now that they are both married they can either work together professionally or they can break up the partnership and show some maturity in marriage.

This was a goodreads giveaway and I've since won #10 in the series. I'm looking forward to reading it. My review here is more on the quality of the format than the actual literary quality, which is at least average and appealing.

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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gets the Little Gray Cells Working

All Cry ChaosAll Cry Chaos by Leonard Rosen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First off it is important to note that I'm neither a mathematecian nor am I terriby adept in math. I am however a biologist and so this book and its study of patterns, including pictures, totally engrossed me. The mystery is very satisfying and one is immediately drawn to Inspector Poincare of Interpol and his various cohorts, including the young shoot from the hip Paolo Ludovici. The characters are well drawn, the travels to solve a very convoluted case very real and the mystery itself multi-layered. The descriptions of Quebec City and of Amsterdam are spot on. In particular, having just experienced the Doomsday event that didn't happen, the whole descriptive chapter at the end of the book, when all the threads come together in Amsterdam's Dam is particularly well written. A world-wide computer generated enlistment program has culminated in a countdown to the Rapture on August 15--the circus atmosphere is repulsive, amusing, astounding and sad. It is interesting that the date chosen by the author is the Catholic feast day of the Assumption of Mary ( the Blessed Virgin ) into Heaven. Coincidence? Or that the discussion in the high Alps between Poincare and a math prof who taught in the science center at Harvard should sound so much like Stephen Jay Gould's Punctuated Equilibrium theory of evolution. Another coincidence? Don't know but it was a very interesting book and I really liked it and will read it again--it is one of those.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Satisfying Summer's Read

Sea ChangeSea Change by Darlene Marshall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first reads historical romance is a great romp through the Caribbean in 1817. A young orphaned girl is posing as an apprentice surgeon on a Royal Naval ship on her way to Jamaica and life with her godfather, a doctor, who she hopes will allow her to assist him in his practice. During the delivery of the Captain's wife an American privateer boards the ship to take the doctor prisoner so that he will treat the American's injured brother. And so begins a delightful story in which the reader knows that Dr Charley Alcott is Charlotte but the handsome American and his crew do not. The humor of the situation is perfectly written and the change in the two characters is as perfect once the deception is uncovered. A bit of escape reading with lots of humor,action, sarcasm, warmth and finally romance. Terrific for a summer's day in the hammock.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lassie or Rinty? Lassie was Fiction--Rinty was Real!

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the LegendRin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend by Susan Orlean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ah Rusty and Rinty--yes, pals of my childhood--and the reason I was thrilled to win this book in a Goodreads firstreads giveaway. The story was interesting and well-written but about halfway through--around the time the TV show which most of us remember was taking off--I started to get bored. The information about Lee Duncan, the man who found the original Rin Tin Tin in France towards the end of WWI, became repetitive and boring. But then, the story of the dog was no longer the story of just one dog and in many ways not even the story of the Real Rinty.

Orlean does a fine job of describing the changing times in America from the euphoria and youth of a country just over a major war, through a depression, the transition from silent films to talkies to TV to whatever our entertainment forms are today. What left me at a loss was any real depth in the description of Lee Duncan and his life. What was his personality like--other than self-effacing and obsessed with a dog and its legacy? Who were his friends? How in heavens name did his wife, Eva, ever meet much less become such good friends with Helen Reddy that she, as a new widow, travelled the world with her? There is more information about Bert, the man behind the TV program, and Daphne, a Texas woman who apparently still breeds Rinty descendents, than about the man who started the whole legend by rescuing an orphaned French puppy.

I finished the book with a sense that, though it is almost 300 pages long, there are many, many loose ends. And though Orlean feels that she, too, has become part of the obsessive movement to assure that there is always a Rin Tin Tin, my feeling is that, unless Disney or some other major studio makes a new successful series of movies with the beloved character, Rin Tin Tin will go the way of StrongHeart--remembered by baby boomers but will die with them. Sad but the way of the world.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

A Cure to Die For--- A Bit of a Stretch

A Cure to Die For: A Medical ThrillerA Cure to Die For: A Medical Thriller by Stephen G. Mitchell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Being a pre-med student and a retired biology teacher the premise of this book really caught my interest. It was enjoyable because the characters were somewhat interesting and the locales, especially the Navajo Nation were familiar to me. There was alot of action what with the kidnappings and police and/or DEA raids and the various forays into the snowy Montana mountains or across the Midwest at night. There are three main characters who acquire others as the story moves along--some stay for the duration, some are ships passing in the night.

The idea of a cure-all drug was rather fascinating--especially since it is the product of a cannabis hybrid. What is the author trying to say here, I wonder? The fact that the pharmaceutical industry and the government would try to destroy it and the research that produced it is ludicrous. For we find that the drug is not really a cure as such but a substance that sends all sorts of disease into remission and without it the patient is lost once more. I just bet the drug companies would like to see that stamped out rather than fight to get the patent that would allow one of them to corner the market and charge an exhorbitant price for the prescription to say nothing of the taxes the government could levy on the manufacture of such a miracle drug.

And my science self had a real problem with the lack of testing to determine the true efficacy of the drug and to ascertain what the lengthy warnings of side effects would be to the patient.

If logic, then, can be suspended for a time this book is a good read with many twists and turns---not a thriller, not a mystery but surely an adventure. I don't think I'll ever drive by fields thick with high corn in Iowa again without wondering if there are other crops secretly planted between the rows--a take off on the three sisters. Nor will I venture into Window Rock again and park near the Council House without wondering if a Grow is being considered somewhere out in the far reaches of the Reservation.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

State of Mind

If age is just a state of mind then I am around 2000 years old today. Fell, avoiding the cat on the stairs last night, and figured my ankle was sprained. When I tried to get up from the floor I was totally unable to do it. Thank goodness for Bill--was able to winch me up and I went to bed and slept fine. This morning the pain in the ankle was unbearable and the 90+ heat was setting in. I needed Bill to help me up out of bed--incredibly painful and even help me get off the throne--exceedingly mortifying. God, am I so old already? Horribly scary to realize that I could have been stranded on the floor all day or the bathroom waiting for him to come home to help! What if I lived alone?

I hate taking medicine but knowing I HAD to get to the hospital to get an xray, which entailed going down the back stairs and getting out of the car twice, I gulped down two Advil. In about a half hour the pain subsided enough that I could get up and down alone and walk without yelping out loud. Were at the hospital by 930,where I walked until going to xray which was far off--so I took the offer of the wheelchair this time. I could feel the bones moving the way they do when you crack your knuckles. By 1030 I was waiting for the results of the xray. I knew it was broken but Bill thought it was just a bad sprain. Doc came into the room and said " Well, you did it!" I said " Broken?" He shook his head yes and I said" fibula?" and he said " yup the distal end" I knew it. So they put a flimsy air cast on, gave me crutches,which I cannot use, and a prescription for a walking brace. Asked if I needed anything stronger than Advil and I said no, that's fine.

Off to Keene Medical where the girl wasn't sure how much to inflate the cast. I'm not sure it is tight enough but at least it is supporting my leg when I try to put weight on it. Will have to read the directions. The Doctor from orthopaedics called when I got home and I have to return on Monday for a follow up. I am so exhausted and dying of the heat and feel as I said about 2000 years old.

Giving a party on Sunday--have to do all the cooking for it limping around. Family reunion next weekend and family wedding in August and me with a Frankenstein leg. It sucks getting old--I don't care what anyone says.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

When Is It Better to Go Than to Stay?

Coming Up for AirComing Up for Air by Patti Callahan Henry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a thought provoking book--I couldn't put it down. A mother dies unexpectedly and her 40 something daughter, who had a loving but strained relationship with her, finds her mother's journal. The revelations she finds there sends her on a journey--physical, and emotional-- to discover that part of her mother she had never known. Once the woman had been loving and open but to her daughter she had been restrained, constrained by the circumstances of her society and somewhat cold. The discovery of love betrayed and the way in which her mother shaped her life to deal with that betrayal causes the daughter to look more closely at her own marriage. What is love? Does it last forever? Can a true love be rejected and another substitute just as satisfactorily? What choices do we make in our lives and how do we live with those choices? Are there crossroads --such as this death and journal discovery--at which choices can be altered or accepted? These are just some of the questions that arise during the reading and others follow after the book is closed. I'm not sure I liked the pat ending to the book--it was possibly the only part that was unrealistic for me. The rest though probably occurs to women in mid

life more often than imagined.

The characters are well drawn--particularly the daughter and her husband--the others not as much. But then it is the daughter whose marriage is being impacted the most by the events of her mother's life, more so than by the interaction with the other characters.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Short Introduction to Al Capone

Al Capone: Chicago's King of CrimeAl Capone: Chicago's King of Crime by Nate Hendley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you don't know very much about Al Capone or the heyday of Chicago criminal activity this is an excellent overview. Easily read in one sitting and written in a clear factual manner, yet far from boring. There is no hyperbole or drama just a conversational saga of the mob scene and the corrupt graft taking legal and governmental attitude of Prohibition America. It is interesting to learn of the various personalities of these cruel, vicious, murderous men. One crime lord a florist who drew a line at being involved in prostitution; the Mafia's Sicilian only membership--Capone was Neapolitan!; the personalities that could carry out the Valentine's Day massacre and then play golf or attend family dinners; the politicians who sincerely tried to fight crime and yet socialized with its biggest leaders. Simply unbelieveable and yet historically true and not confined to Chicago or Cicero Illinois--New York City was equally corrupt. I kept waiting for the appearance of Elliot Ness and the Untouchables , but television and movies aside, he entered the Capone picture pretty late in Scarface Al's spree. Also, though he pulled some pretty incredible raids on Capone's installations and some fun irritating stunts on Alphonse, his actions were secondary in the Federal Governments efforts to bring Capone down on tax evasion charges.

In the beginning it was hard to keep all the actors straight with their Italian, Jewish and Irish names to say nothing of their colorful monikers but eventually they and the slang of the day attained a rhythm and familiarity and became easier to navigate. One thing I always enjoy are photos of the characters and events. Unfortunately, there are none here. Nevertheless, this is a good starting off place for anyone interested in the history of organized crime in the 20's-30's Chicago.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Writer to Join the Ranks of Grisham and Brown etal

Think of a Number (Dave Gurney, # 1)Think of a Number by John Verdon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another first reads giveaway and the first thriller by this author, thankfully not his last, with another to be published in August. Combine a retired, highly successful NYPD homicide detective with a poetic, strange tormentor who eventually kills and you have a plot filled with mystery and dead ends. Add to that an author whose narrative smoothly weaves the main story with the backgrounds of the two protagonists and you have a book that is difficult to put down. It resonated also because though this man is retired it is hard to give up the work. It is also hard for his wife to realize that her hopes for a retired husband will probably not bear fruit. That transition from an active rewarding job to retirement is every bit as difficult as embarking on one's first career--maybe more difficult.

The description of the Catskill town in which David and Madelaine Gurney have retired and its environs give richness to the tale. As an example, it has become " a center of gravity for flower children approaching senility " and " the people who came for country week-ends wore what Ralph Lauren told them people in the country wore." Upon returning from a meeting with an old college friend who has received strange notes in which he is asked to think of a number and then open a smaller note to find that the sender identifies it correctly, he finds that his wife's plate " with its apple core, grape stems,flecks of cheddar and bread crumbs" indicates that she has eaten lunch without waiting for him. Not only did the plot and the characters draw me in but the language and its use transported me into the story. John Verdon's name could easily become as familiar as Brown or Grisham in my opinion.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hey,Booklovers, Check This Out!!!!


Excellent Convoluted Whodunnit !!!

Dominance: A NovelDominance: A Novel by Will Lavender

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Do not look at the picture of the author of this book--it is too deceiving. That handsome boyish face hides a diabolic mind!

The premise of this novel is so simplistic. In 1982 a celebrated literature professor at a small Vermont college ( it overlooks Lake Champlain---not far from Orwell--hmmm and Route 2 ) is convicted of the axe murders of two of his former students. They were part of a group that were trying to unearth the actual identity of a reclusive author, Paul Fallows and were found with Fallows' books, among others, covering their bodies. Now in 1994, the professor Richard Aldiss has been given permission to teach a night course to nine carefully selected seniors--elite literature students. He gives them clues in various ways to once more identify Fallows and in so doing reveal the real murderer. Aldiss claims to be innocent of the murders. One of the nine, Alexandra Shipley, is successful and Aldiss is granted his freedom. On the notoriety of the case, Shipley, who was headed to Harvard as a grad student, is eventually given a prestigious professorship at Harvard. Her life, it would seem, though greatly impacted by the experience of the night class, is good.

Flash forward to the present: One of the nine, an NYPD detective has committed suicide in his squad car. Shortly thereafter, another, now himself a lit prof at the site of the night class, Jasper College, is murdered with an axe and body is covered with books including those two --he only wrote two--of Fallows'. Aldiss contacts Alex, tells her there is another Fallows' manuscript and enlists her aid in locating it and the new murderer. Simple whodunnit, right? Wrong!

The book moves back and forth from the present to 1994 back to the present. We see the nine as students on a quest and we meet them again as they reunite to mourn the death of their friend on the Jasper campus. The narrative keeps you riveted for nothing is given to you--you become a tenth player in the game called Procedure.... a role-playing game in which the characters of Fallows' books and the scenes from the book are played out. Only problem is--you never know when the game is happening. Who was/is Fallows? Did Aldiss kill those two girls? Is he the killer again? Why are the nine being eliminated--more do die? Just as the end seems to come, the plot takes a turn and you find the mystery, the 1994 mystery and the present mystery are NOT at an end. Even on the last page--though all the threads seem to have been tied up and the killers revealed---does not feel like the end. Is the game over?

One things for sure I'm glad I wasn't a lit major and that obsession over an author and manipulation by my profs weren't part of my studies. Darwin is mystery enough for me! I did know which of the nine had turned very early on but I'm not sure why--it was almost subconscious since the plot spirals just like Fallows' books and kept me looking for that rabbit hole that would lead to solution. It was an engrossing and mysterious ride and Will Lavender has been added to my list of intriguing authors!

My only criticism and I feel this way about the TV shows, NCIS, Bones, Rissolli and Isles etc. Doesn't anyone pay their electric bills? For that matter, doesn't anyone have electricity? I'm so tired of total darkness and flashlights in every scene! Doesn't freak me out or increase the tension--it just irritates the hell out of me! Very minor distraction, however.

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Karen B wrote: "Katherine, is Dominion as bloody violent as the cover looks? I am picturing a lot of people getting hacked up."

Actually, no, though the murders were axe murders and books were strewn onto the bodies, the actual crimes predate the action in the book. There are several that occur over the course of the narrative but Lavender uses psychology and mystery rather than gore to keep you reading.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Cat Who Remains

Good evening! I may have mentioned this before but Soot was a huntress--she learned not to bring home certain prey--the ones that Mom particularly found appealing--such as birds, squirrels, gray or red, and chipmunks. I have not noticed an increase in the avian visitors so I'm hoping that, in her old age, she gave up expending the energy to catch creatures that had a definite advantage--what's with that flying trick? However, since her demise on April 1 and the arrival of more of less nice weather our bird feeders, indeed our porch, seems to be overrun with the cute rodent creatures. Now, Soot had totally eradicated the chipmunks--after all, how hard is it to wipe out a population of little Alvins who foolishly dig their holes an easy jump off the porch--I mean right there--even I could have just stepped off and stepped on--really! She used to sit for hours just staring at the hole and when one of those little heads popped up before you could say " uh " Alvin was history! I wasn't happy but cats are hunters and if I'm going to have a cat it is going to be an outdoors normal creature or forget it.

Which brings me to this morning. Bill and I had slaved over the jungle of a lawn--40 days and nights of rain will create one even in Vermont! Okay, so I exaggerate but I don't want to tally the rainy days of this spring and, so far, summer for fear the actual count may do me in. I'd rather sort of joke about it and make like Noah--you know the famous two by two guy? Well, it seems we are in a two by two situation, though it may be worse. Without putting cute little bracelets on our rodent visitors' dainty wrists we don't know if we have just two red squirrels and two chipmunks or if there are considerably more but we only see two of each at any given time. Anyway, I digress. Bill and I decided to start today off with coffee on the porch. Mist who will only go outdoors under the most controlled situations deigned to join us. As long as we allow her to lie right in the middle of the table with the doors open to the living room she will relax. She will also venture out if we are visible indoors and again she doesn't get left on the wrong side of the screen door. Sometimes while we are at the table she will actually sprawl on the porch floor but only within inches of the open door!

So this morning, here we three were enjoying the new day and the early sunshine. Suddenly, there arrived a chipmunk in my lovely pink flowered pot. Misty arose and came to my side--her ears pricked forward, her haunches tightened to spring, the tip of her tail twitched back and forth. I told Bill in my best play calling voice of each change in stance and attitude. And then--she made some kind of a chirping sound and turned her back and walked away. Chippy, totally oblivious went on scavenging and departed. Red came to the hanging feeder and things settled down. Misty moved to the table.

Now, it is interesting the behavior of these two rather small and both red creatures with somewhat bushy tails ( of course, though they seem so similar, chippy DOES have those distinguishing stripes ). Red will sit for hours in the feeder and eat and eat and eat--yet at the end there are still some seeds for the birds. Chippy on the other hand is like a vacuum cleaner --he/she will take seeds and hulls and stuff those cheek pouches until you thing the skin would burst--the face actually becomes quite distorted and uncute. Once filled to capacity Chippy takes off to God knows where, unloads and returns for more. They keep it up until there is nothing left for Red or the birds--such gluttons!

So Misty had come to her favorite spot on the table between us and Chippy returned. She actually leaned toward Chippy but then turned to me as if to say, once Chippy had left yet again, " was I supposed to do something? " Sigh! No Misty, it's okay--just try to keep them out of the house--okay?