Welcome to the

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

About Me

My photo
Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sometimes the Title Says It All!

Crimes of MemoryCrimes of Memory by L.J. Sellers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although the back cover said Detective Jackson discovers a shocking link between the murder of a homeless ex-con and the bombing of a water bottling plant by an environmental group, this link is not revealed to the reader until the last fifteen pages or so. As a result the book consists of parallel investigations--one led by Jackson, with very little progress, the other led by the sex-changed FBI agent, Carla River. While the stories were interesting and worth reading, there were several themes which contributed nothing to the cases: Jackson's impotence with his girlfriend, whom neither he nor the reader encountered very much; River's sexual arousal by the handy man she's hired to refurbish her house; the revelation that the FBI undercover agent, Dallas, enjoys sex with strangers but not with men she cares about--none of whom we ever meet, stranger or beloved.

Needless to say, with these clues, it was not hard to realize that somehow the crimes, if connected at all, would be connected through some sexual event. Perhaps I should have paid closer attention to the title of the book, which was a first reads giveaway.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Icelandic Mystery!

Black Skies: An Inspector Erlendur NovelBlack Skies: An Inspector Erlendur Novel by Arnaldur Indriðason
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first books I read by a Scandinavian author were the Steig Larson trilogy. This led me to see the Scandinavian movie versions, on to the Masterpiece Wallendar series, then to the original European series which carried me to several other Scandinavian TV crime series complete with subtitles. I have since become a fan of the genre and this book, which I won in a Goodreads giveaway, in no way disappointed.

The action is subdued in tone--there are several deaths but the actual details of the attacks are minimal. While one of the deaths is believed to have resulted from a blackmail attempt on a rising politico and her husband by the couple who arranged wife swapping parties which they attended, there is no gratuitous sex scenes. There are actually three different crimes being investigated, four if you count the pilfering of an old lady's newspaper from her mailbox, but they seem to be totally unconnected.

The main character is Sigurdur Oli, a member of the Icelandic police force, whose lengthy live-in relationship has ended although, oblivious as he is to his lack of warmth and affection for others, he is hoping to resuscitate. He doesn't see how he or his mother contributed to the break-up and seems only mildly disturbed by his girlfriend's new relationship. This coldness and distance makes him a good investigator and the reader is carried along through the permutations that lead to the solving of mysteries with a really surprising ending.

The lack of crazy car chases, bullets flying, impossibly acrobatic sex scenes, and blood and gore produced a very satisfying cerebral crime story that seemed to be more realistic than most others. I only wish that Sigurdur Oli had a shorter name, although one would never think of him as Siggi. Looking forward to checking out a few more in this series.

View all my reviews

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mid-October Part IV

Nov 5, 2013 Office in Nashville Townhouse 12:25 pm CST After having spent a long, hot day at the Hermitage the next week or so was spent on more mundane pursuits such as shopping, eating out, doing housework and reading. We also made a dash up to Bowling Green, Ky to our favorite BBQ place, the Smoky Pig and, of course, made the trek to Grinder's Switch to attend the Radio Hour, have lunch at Breece's Café and return by way of the Trace. Attempted once more to stop at the Loveless but it is always crowded and we just aren't the type to wait on line for much of anything. If ever you have occasion to eat at Breece's do NOT get a hot sandwich. The gravy is gelatinous and tastes like the flour used to thicken it--just awful. I lifted the top bread and ate the tasteless boiled beef inside with lots of salt and pepper. The chocolate silk pecan pie, on the other hand, is delicious! The week-end of October Oct 19 and 20 was a busy one. We had had rain it seems every other day and the temps were like a roller coaster. Oct 19 started out chilly and rain was predicted but we headed over to Long Hunter State Park anyway to attend the Tennessee PowWow. There is a wide open circular area surrounded by trees. In front of the tree line all the way around the circle were vendors of all sorts of Native American crafts. Much pottery, of course, as well as beaded jewelry. I saw a squash blossom necklace for $975 which I would have bought had I not already gotten one in New Mexico several years back. This was reversible--turquoise on one side and coral on the other. Just stunning. As we wandered around I there were speakers and musicians in the center of the circle entertaining the crowd. I heard a very pleasant male voice followed by beautiful violin music--as we wandered we came to a vendor of Arvel Bird CD's and I bought one. Another vendor from Rochester, Mn had lovely signed posters of various birds and animals. It was so hard to choose but I seem to always have a crow that greets me or finds me and stays around cawing at me. So, I've sort of taken the crow as my special wild bird and, though the Raven poster tempted me, I settled on the crow. Another corner was taken up by the Tennessee chapter of the Trail of Tears Society. I have been reading It's My Trail, Too off and on for several months now. It is a sort of journal of a man trying to walk the original trail since he has some Native blood and his family settled in Oklahoma after the relocation, as it is so inaptly called. It certainly was a relocation but not by any means voluntary. Oh, semantics. At any rate, I got talking to one of the gentlemen and he talked about the various actual trails that were used to cross Tennessee and the fact that part of one of them was to be marked and opened officially in Lawrenceburg in early November. He also gave me two of the National Park brochures relating to the Trail. By this time, we were chilled to the bone and starving so we purchased a smoked sausage and coffee to eat before finding a seat in the bleachers around the circle since the drumming and dancing competitions were about to begin. I had not yet realized that I could video with my camera and that sound would be recorded as well. Just as well or I'd have hours of singing and drumming--may I tell you--veins stuck out on the foreheads and throats of these chanting men. Unbelieveably strong and melodious voices and the drumming was so vigorous. How these fellows were able to keep it up for the six hours we were there and then the next day was amazing. The prizes for the various aspects of their performances were probably a major incentive. http://www.naiatn.org/powwow/drum-singing-contest.html Not to be outdone by audible talent, there was dancing competition also. It would be best for you to go to this page if interested in the various categories in both men, women, boys and girls competitions. Let me just say that, despite one little stretch of drizzle and really cold fall temperatures--more like home than Tennessee--, I insisted on staying for them all and it was beautiful. The costumes, the intricacy of steps, the headdresses and the elegance of some of the dancers was truly dazzling. What was even more dazzling was that the whole day with my two purchases, admission and lunch was under $50 ( $43,to be exact ) for the two of us. Non-stop professional quality entertainment with a crowd that had ample room with no poor seats--where does one get that these days? The next day was sunnier and warmer so we went around the corner--almost literally, it is so close--to the Tennessee Agricultural Center for the Music and Molasses Festival. I'm not sure we stayed an hour--one group sang " Will The Circle Be Unbroken" which ranks right up there with "Danny Boy" on my list of all-time least favorite songs. Then, they either didn't know anything else or felt an audience of about ten was too small, they picked up their instruments and trudged off somewhere--???. The vendors had nothing that wowed me and that is mostly what was there--vendors. The annual Crafts Festival at Sunapee in August is much better--bigger and better products. Did not see any molasses or any making of sorghum though we did see the horse walking round and round and there-by grinding up what looked like cane--though where that came from who knows. A few ladies in costume were using various looms and wheels to weave stuff for which the prices were ridiculous. There was someone half heartedly stirring stuff to make soap which sold for $4.50 a bar. Nice display of tractors and an interesting museum though most of the stuff I've seen in other Ag museums--Bill seemed to enjoy it so that was good. But after going to the Big E for quite a few years this seemed really mickey mouse. AND Corn dogs and other Cornbread covered mystery meat did not appeal. So it was back home to watch the Titans lose once more and order Pizza Hut in. It was a bit of a disappointing day--thought being Nashville it would be bigger somehow--but again, we had a nice stroll in the country, in the sunshine and it cost $10. Finished the day by ordering tickets for a cruise on Oct 25 on the Cumberland and tickets for the Bruce Monroe Light exhibit at Cheekwood on Oct 30. Will tell you all about it on the next installment. Enjoy the colorful pictures from this latest blog. Until next time, take care, KandB

If You Are Irish You'll Love This Book--You'll Love It Even If You're Not!

Fingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor: An Irish Country NovelFingal O'Reilly, Irish Doctor: An Irish Country Novel by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Being on vacation it has taken longer to read this book than would be the case had I not been gallivanting and just fitting it in during quiet moments. What an interesting approach to a story and one that works beautifully. Patrick Taylor, himself a doctor, indeed an Irish doctor transplanted to Canada, has told Fingal's story in chapters that alternate between the '30's in Dublin's tenements to the '60's ( which serves as the present ) in a small country village.

In the tenements the newly minted medical man is young, single, idealistic, enthusiastic--all the things we all are as we embark on our life's journey. Bright eyed and energetic with his mother's heart and love for those less fortunate, Fingal becomes a beloved member of the dirty, impoverished, disease-ridden area in which the irascible Dr Corrigan runs the dispensary in which the young doctor is given his first job. He even, over time acquires a nickname, Dr Big Felleh, and the the affection and admiration of the unmarried, childless mentor with whom he works.

The alternating chapters find a man thirty years older, recently married to what appears to have been an old girl friend, the one who got away, so to speak. He is still enthusiastic and caring but there is a maturity about him though no lack of caring about his patients and certainly the same belonging to his community of Balleybucklebo. His patients are less impoverished though not all are what one would call affluent. The respect and admiration, even affection, of his community is evident and obviously returned. It is he who runs a dispensary now and instead of a shared flat with a fellow medical man he owns a pleasant home in which he employs a delightful cook and maid, the wonderful Kinky, so. His assistant, a young man who cannot decide whether he wants to remain in General Medicine or specialize, has taken a leave to explore his options and Fingal has employed a young woman doctor, Jenny, to fill in.

The interwoven stories lead one easily from Dublin to Balleybucklebo. We learn how Kitty got away and how, eventually, she becomes his wife some 30 years later. There are changes in medicine during these thirty years, also. Antibiotics were not around during his early years of practice and as a modern reader sees people suffer with infection and death or near death situations it is impossible not to feel the helplessness Fingal experiences and his joy when he is able to turn around a case. As a woman the advancements made in female medicine is nothing short of miraculous and with Jenny I'm happy to have borne my child, at 43, in these days rather than when my Mom at 18 in 1919 lost a full term breech birth child. A delivery accident in which her baby's medulla was pierced in an effort to turn her around resulted in the infant's death within days.

It would seem that this book is the eighth in a series and that a ninth, according to Kinky, is in the works. Most of the time I'd be sorry not to have read the earlier installments but for some reason I'm glad this is the one with which I've started. When I read the others I will see Fingal in his early years and go with him down his path but unlike him I will know what the future holds--at least where he will be and with whom in the '60's. Don't we all wish we knew, sometimes,what the future holds? Kinky says the next book will even tell about Fingal's first marriage--since both he and Kitty did take different routes out of Dublin in the '30's. Can't wait--but, Dr Taylor, take your time--I have a little catching up to do!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Part III

October 31 2013 2:07 pm CST Office in Nashville townhouse. Hello all and Happy Halloween! I cannot believe my last blog was the 17th ! I will have so much catching up to do. Our sojourn is coming to a close. Becky and Bob arrive home on the 16th and we will head north on the 17th. They board their Carnival cruise across the wide Atlantic tomorrow in Rome, I think, but certainly somewhere in Italy. I was looking at the list of places I wanted to explore while here and have been amazed at how many we have gone to see. As usual our tastes are quite eclectic and our desire to connect with locals continues. We've become somewhat regulars at our local Applebee's and are greeted as such. It is our local Cheers--many of the same people are there when we stop in for wings and Yuengling drafts. Lloyd the young manager always comes to sit at the bar with me--he talks to Bill, too, but I think I'm a mother figure for him. He had been to Cheekwood and the Bruce Munro Light exhibit and whipped out his fancy cell phone to show me pictures when I said we had tickets to go. Another young man, originally from Alabama, also chats me up and this week he told us of the cotton harvest going on in Alabama right now and I think we will head down this week-end to see it. There is another regular, probably in his early 60's, who is originally from Las Vegas, NM so we talk about our travels there. He keeps shaking his head when I say we haven't gone up to Taos because of the snow--so maybe we'll have to give it a try this year--it is the only part of NM we haven't explored. Anyway, you get the picture. We also go over to Logan's on occasion since I love to make myself throw the peanut shells on the floor--it is a real challenge. The bartender there is from Indiana so he and Bill talk sports etc. We've also taken to weekly treks to Grinder's Switch for the radio hour before which we get donuts at the local bakery and after which we go to the local café for lunch but that is another day's blog. Other than our first excursion out there in Centerville, we have spent days exploring the shopping areas around here and becoming familiar with the roads and various ways to get places. I've set Greta Garmin to avoid Interstates so we've gone to Aldi's on Nolensville Pike, over to Thompson Lane to Ulta's, Michael's and Logans. We headed out the Franklin Pike again to Academy Sports where we both got ourselves some new walking/running shoes at a real discount. Kroger's has become our grocery of choice on Old Hickory Boulevard and Mapco the gas station of choice on Nolensville Pike. We don't need Greta anymore in the immediate vicinity. We also have days of reading on the deck and running the robot over the floors while the washer and dryer keep our laundry from piling up. We take turns cooking --depending on what we want to eat and who is in the mood to make it. All in all, some things are similar to living at home and others like our road trips. The one nice thing is that it is Fall here, though we've had two frosts one two consecutive mornings but by and large we are still in short sleeves or a very light long sleeved hoodie. Some evenings are so mild and breezy that we sit on the deck until 9 or 930. The bugs are gone, except the yellow jackets and the leaves are finally turning, though our tree line across the road is almost bare now. We still have a plant on the deck and it is flowering. I love it. Today, I'll pick up where I left off on Oct 5. You may recall that we had gone to Columbia and spent time exploring Polk's home. Other than a trip to Centerville and the local excursions just described we didn't do any major sightseeing again until October 10 when we spent the entire day at The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson, our 7th President. Betsy has no use for the man since he is responsible for the mass eviction of the local Native Americans in the brutal march that has become known as the Trail of Tears. Bill gave me the book American Lion for Christmas two years ago and I still haven't gotten around to reading it. It is during Jackson's administration that the Second Bank of the United States, a private institution and one that held Federal funds, lost its charter. Jackson felt that it favored affluent people at the cost of the common man and so withdrew all Federal funds from it and placed them in States banks. During this time tokens were issued as currency and one in particular shows Jackson, with sword raised high above his head, standing on a chest of coins and the motto reads " I take the responsibility!" Bill had one of these tokens placed in a gold bezel and put on a chain as his gift to Betsy on her 18th birthday. But back to our visit. The day was sunny without a cloud in the sky and though I dressed in the lightest blouse I owned it was hot as blazes. We decided to see everything available to us and so we purchased a ticket for the carriage ride, the tour of Tulip Grove and the tour of The Hermitage itself. The first order of business was walking to the mansion and behind it to take the 11 am carriage ride. The route to the Hermitage from the townhouse takes us past the airport and both the townhouse and the Hermitage are on flight paths into it. As we walked among the trees, planted by the ladies guild or some such and taken from each of the sights of battles in which Jackson served, huge jets would periodically go screaming overhead disturbing the quiet of this oasis so close to the developed urban areas that are Nashville suburbs. One of the shots in the album is sort of a where's Waldo shot--looking up through the canopy of one tree there is, almost hidden, one of the silver birds coming in for a landing. Many of the trees along what is called the War Road are long dead but there are still plenty to offer a bit of shade and respite from the heat. Around one curve framed by Eastern red cedars the stroller catches a glimpse of the façade of the Mansion. The walk does not follow exactly the original drive by which visitors of yore approached the home but the original gates are still off to one's right and the point at which the home is first espied is almost the same at which occupants of an arriving carriage would have first seen the entrance. The hurricane in 1998 wiped out most of the cedars that lined the original carriage road but the ones immediately in front of the home remain. It seems that Jackson wanted to obscure the fact that the façade was the only Greek Revival aspect of the home and that the sides and rear did not continue the motif. We bypassed the entry to the gardens, passed along the path before the mansion, around the left side and the unattached kitchen to the rear yard. Our cart awaited us with the driver Liddy and Percherons, Rachel and ?. There were only four of us for the trip so we were able to spread out and turn in all directions without disturbing anyone else. One of the first cabins we came upon is known as Alfred's cabin. Alfred was a slave on the plantation who remained after emancipation. In time he acquired Jackson's bed when the descendants were forced to sell. He served as a docent when the home was first opened to the public and he requested permission to be buried in the garden near the graves of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. As we slowly moved along the gravel path Liddy pointed out that the trees which we taking up a great deal of the landscape were not there in Jackson's time--all of the acreage, including the lovely park area through which we had strolled was planted in cotton, a small patch of which was planted for those of us unfamiliar with the crop to see. It was not yet ripe and ready for harvest. 1000 acres of cotton, as far as the eye could see! Jackson built a gin for his cotton and, for a fee, he ginned his neighbors' crops. Once baled, the cotton traveled by boat to New Orleans where it was sold to textile mills in Britain and New England, beneficiaries, too, of slavery. Coming out of the trees we reached a large open area with a strong flowing spring and the outlines of duplex housing for the field slaves. Here they lived and worked. They were allowed to hunt for food as well as receiving meat from the plantations larder and also tended gardens in which they grew vegetables. Fruit from the plantations trees and bushes were provided them as well. Artifacts have been found that indicate that there was also a system of barter among slaves of various plantations. Returning to the main house grounds we passed a cabin with two doors that was the second floor of the original home in which the Jackson's lived rot 13 years. The lower story was removed though no one seems to know why. Rachel had papered it with expensive French wall paper and had furnished it in style. When they built the big house they removed the first floor and converted the remaining second story into slave quarters. As we turned back into the wagon's tie up we passed another excavation, this one a triplex and the housing for some of the house slaves. We returned to the visitors' center to tour the museum before driving out Rachel's Lane to the Tulip Grove. One of the first displays is a blown out model of the cabin in which the Jackson's lived initially. Also a brief outline of the interactions between the " lords of the lash and the lords of the loom" and the place the Hermitage held in that union. As we walked about we found that the Jacksons like the Polks had no children of their own and, like the Polks, " adopted " a child from the family to be their son and heir. Rachel's brother had twin boys so one of them was named Andrew Jackson, Jr and became their son and heir. They also had an adopted son who was a Creek Indian found on the battlefield of New Orleans near his dead mother and sent home to the Hermitage by Jackson for Rachel to take under her care. That has always perplexed me--soon to force mothers and children to march to Oklahoma but so concerned about this one Creek? The family history as told in portraits became very confusing since it seems that every member of Rachel's family felt compelled to name a son Andrew Jackson somebody or other. Jackson himself had no family. His father died when he was young--his two brothers and mother died by the time he had fully grown. Rachel on the other hand seems to have more than enough kin to keep them happy and being childless they, like the Polks, always seemed to have nieces and nephews etc coming out of the woodwork. It is sad to note that shortly after being elected President, Jackson lost his wife and so after all the stress of scandal and war etc, she was not there to share his major triumph. Which brings me to the confusion--Rachel's niece, Emily, married her cousin ( Emily's, not Rachel's ) Andrew Jackson Donelson. The Donelsons went to Washington where Emily served as First Lady, in today's parlance, and AJD served as the President's secretary. It is they who built Tulip Grove. Emily died shortly after the construction of that mansion and AJD married another cousin, who was also Emily's cousin, Elizabeth Martin Randolph, the widow of Merriweather Lewis Randolph, Thomas Jefferson's grandson. Got that???? Meantime, AJ jr was back home taking care of the Hermitage--poorly it would seem--and raising children. One of whom Rachel was destined to be the last Jackson to live and become involved in the purchase and rehabilitation of a plantation and home gone to ruin. The South and its economy changed after the Civil War and the Hermitage was devastated as so many homes were by the changes. In addition, most of the men of the family died off leaving women to somehow hold on. The pictures and story of the decline are pretty self explanatory. Eventually, an old age home for Confederate veterans was built on the property. A Confederate cemetery was located nearby--up near Tulip Grove and the church that Rachel helped establish and attended. Eventually, an organization of prominent women managed to start the salvation of the Jackson home. Once exclusive in its membership it is now open to anyone, I read, with an amused eye. I just bet! Off we went to the car and a trip out to Tulip Grove. We were early so we roamed around the Church and I took pictures of the Tulip Poplar trees that are so prevalent here. Eventually, our young docent arrived and we had a tour of a rather bare building, the most impressive item of which was the lovely oval staircase that climbed three stories. Donelson himself had a rather impressive political career though he aligned himself with less than successful candidates. I'm sure his appointment as Ambassador by Polk was as much a result of his relationship to Jackson as to any real qualifications that set him above others for the post. Returning to the Visitors' Center we watched the video about Jackson and the Hermitage--most of the information we had already gleaned. Pretty tired of walking and very hot I decided to take advantage of the golf cart transport provided by a delightful security guard. She is from Texas and has worked here for three years and loves it. As I was the only one wanting a ride we had lots of time to chat. By this time it was about 330 and the wait to enter the house was very short. We sat on a bench in the shade as the period dressed docent repeated once more the story of the house and its reincarnations. Soon the door opened and we were taken through the lower rooms by yet another docent. Unfortunately, pictures are not allowed so I'll have to try to describe the rooms. We entered a narrow hall the walls of which are papered with papers that form a mural of Telemachus' search for his father on the Isle of Calypso, a section of the Odyssey. I must admit I didn't find it attractive but for the period in which the study of the Greek and Latin cultures was de rigueur I'm sure it was all the rage. Seems the kids enjoyed finding the various characters and locales. Well, heck, no computer games or internet. On the left of the central hallway are two doors each of which open into a parlor, both of which connect to each other. The rooms are furnished primarily with scattered small tables and chairs. Many of Jackson's momentoes are there including a sword presented to him by the State of Tennessee and a Italian marble bust of him. At the end of the hall is another elliptical staircase but we bypassed it to go round the back porch and into the lower hallway, where we were greeted by another docent. Here were found a very large room with bookcases and a huge chair and tables. Massive bound books of newspapers were stacked on the floor. Jackson subscribed to about five newspapers and read them each day and in time had each years output bound in a book. This was his library. Attached to this room, his bedroom with Rachel's portrait on the wall across from the foot of his bed. In his later years this pair of rooms is where he spent most of his time. Across the hall, a smaller room used as an office by Jr to run the business of the plantation. Then we climbed up to be greeted by another docent at the head of the stairs. Upstairs, six huge bedrooms--each holding two full sized four poster beds, wardrobes, and dressers. Larger than any rooms I've seen in any other plantation. Curtains enclosed each bed during the winter and gauzy mosquito netting enclosed them in summer. The upstairs floor plan is interesting. You go up a short flight and there are two bedrooms one on either side, up another short flight and two more, then down the other side into a large hall with a guillotine window at one end and large doors on the other and two bedrooms across from the stairs. Here are some seating couches and then the opening to the oval staircase and a return to the main hall. Once more we proceeded out to the entrance to the dining room which is, in the Southern style below the house where it is cooler. No curtains, they catch dust. Venetian blinds. Not carpet but a painted floor clothe and a huge dining room table. Very simple chairs and a sideboard. A few pieces of silver serving pieces that he bought from Commodore Stephen Decatur's widow. And then we left by the back door to see the kitchen that is in a building of its own. This was built after a fire almost destroyed the whole house in 1834. A smokehouse stands beside it. By this time, I was thoroughly tired and the day was almost over. I asked the docent at the front door to summon the cart and sat in the setting sun waiting. It wasn't until I got home that I realized we never went into the garden nor saw the grave of the Jacksons or Albert. Off we went past the airport and Barleycorns Liquor Barn to our townhouse and some chicken wings from Applebees. Completely tired but happy with comments about the beautiful day we'd enjoyed. Hopefully, you've enjoyed it,too. Until next time, take care KandB