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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, April 30, 2016

Pekkala Must Determine the Meaning of a Painting of the Red Moth and Then Save the Amber Room From the Advancing Germans!

The Red Moth (Inspector Pekkala, #4)The Red Moth by Sam Eastland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Can Pekkala manage to save the Amber Room of the Catherine Palace before the oncoming German Army arrives? It is Hitler's aim to relocate the precious amber panels to the Konigsberg Castle until a special Gallery can be erected to house them. It is Stalin's aim to move them to Moscow and prevent Hitler's mission--not that he, Stalin, particularly cares about the artwork itself. He merely wished to thwart his enemy.

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Friday, April 29, 2016

The Travelers by Chris Pavone--A 433 Page Jigsaw Puzzle --A Real Page Turner

The TravelersThe Travelers by Chris Pavone

This is the third book I've read by Chris Pavone and each one gets more exciting. Travelers is the name of a print magazine which is in the process of being purchased by a multimillionaire investor who is planning to convert it to a more modern format. The Travelers are the journalists who travel the globe writing articles about various aspects of travel for American tourists.

Malcolm Somers and Gabriela Rivera are the editor and assistant editor who work out of the New York City home office. Obviously, there is some concern about the approach the new owner will take with the publication but there seems to be more than a publishers' anxiety in their and other department heads conversation at editorial meetings.

Will Rhodes is a newcomer to Travelers--he has been hired to replace a fellow, Jonathan, who has seemingly disappeared. No one seems to know where he has gone; his body never found. So, did he get murdered or did he decide to disappear himself? Strange but Malcolm has gotten himself a new, younger traveler to write articles about the food, culture, vineyards, lifestyle of far-flung tourist meccas. Will has gotten a more prestigious job with better pay and will be able to do the renovations on the brownstone he and his wife, Chloe, have inherited in Brooklyn.

At one point, Pavone describes Will as " bored " and " jaded", knowing he has an exciting job but isn't sure he has chosen the right career or the right wife. " He is 35 years old, halfway to dead"--what???? And he questions all the life decisions he's made to this point! Well, dear reader, let me tell you--he's about the make one that will get rid of all that boredom and fast. He is tempted in several locales around the world, where he seems to run into an attractive Australian blonde named Elle. Finally, he succumbs in Argentina and within minutes of consummating his indiscretion, Elle and a friend, Roger, let Will Rhodes know that there are real consequences for cheating on one's wife. He is informed that he will now provide them with information about any and all persons he encounters on his travels that have any type of power or prestige. He has no idea for whom he is now subcontracted but life becomes far more exciting and dangerous than ever before.

The book is written in a kaleidoscope of different locations and events that involve different characters in the book. It is not until almost three quarters of the way through that the connections among the characters and their activities begin to converge and clarify the various organizations and their operations that are involved. Is Will working for the CIA, as Elle has informed him? What is the true mission of Travelers, the magazine and how are Malcolm and Gabriela involved? What exactly does Chloe do for the magazine, now that Will is a world traveler and she has taken a position that keeps her in New York, when once, she, too, traveled?

The action, the locales, the characters all keep the reader involved and like Will, trying to figure out what is going on and who is who. There was only one place that I knew who the character was that, unidentified, committed a murder in Italy. Even though I knew who she was, I have no idea what subliminal clues gave her away and I certainly did not know who the guy was she killed, why she killed him or for whom she was working. So even this small glimmer of knowledge was not enough of a puzzle piece to provide a full picture. For, this book is like that, a huge jigsaw puzzle with the pieces all laid out on the table but none of them assembled until the very last pages. So, if you like puzzles, you'll love this book!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Headline: Girl Waits With Gun---really,Philadelphia Sun,Nov 3,1914!

Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1)Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although the blurb by Elizabeth Gilbert calls this " a smart, romping, hilarious novel", I will agree with the smart. At times it hardly romps though it does move relatively fast and only once did I laugh loudly and long; toward the end of the book.

Despite the, in my opinion, misleading endorsement on the front cover, directly above the lovely illustrated heroine, the story is well done and interesting. Based on the true story of a dye manufacturer's spoiled son and his careless collision of his automobile with the horse drawn carriage of the Kopp sisters on the streets of Patterson, NJ in 1913, it is an old-fashioned crime story using the newspaper accounts, letters and trial transcripts of the event.

Since this plot would be rather thin and could be covered in far less than the 400+ pages of the novel, Amy Stewart, the author has invented a secondary plot of a factory girl, taken advantage of by the aforementioned spoiled son, whose name by the way is Henry Kaufman. Lucy Blake gave birth to the child and kept him but when the dye workers went on strike she had to give him up temporarily to others and when the strike was broken the child had disappeared.

Constance Kopp, as the eldest of the three Kopp sisters takes it upon herself to write to Kaufman asking for the $ 50 dollars that it cost to have their carriage repaired. Kaufman ignores the letter and so Constance takes other measures, which leads to harassment by Kaufman and his unsavory cohorts. Against the better judgement of Norma, the second Kopp sister, Constance engages the help of the local sheriff, Bob Heath.

She also encounters Lucy Blake and becomes obsessed with finding Lucy's child, since she believes Kaufman and his sister, Murial Goldfarb are somehow responsible for the child's disappearance. Heath cannot help in the search because not only won't Lucy speak to him, but once her tenement is burned down she has disappeared, too.

The adventuresome and headstrong Constance makes forays into New York and meets a photographer who now works on police and private investigations. In the meantime, Norma, who is content to remain on their farm and work with her pigeons and avoid all involvement with the outside world is less than encouraging. The third sister, Fleurette, is a precocious 17 year old with a vivid imagination who is thrilled at all the activity and treats it as a great adventure.

All of the characters are very well developed, although I'm not sure about the relationship between Sheriff Heath and Constance. We find midway through the book that he is married but there are strange undercurrents in their interactions. Particularly amusing is James Ward, the family lawyer for the Kaufman family, although he is a minor character who only appears twice in the story--once almost without making an impression.

The time period is nicely depicted and I love the use of words that my Mom used to use and which I haven't heard in years and years, such as chiffonier.

All in all, not the run of the mill mystery--and certainly a fun read. This was a complimentary copy from BookBrowse in return for my participation in a readers' discussion that begins on May 10.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Who is the Beast in the Red Forest? Several Characters Fit the Bill!

The Beast in the Red Forest: An Inspector Pekkala Novel of SuspenseThe Beast in the Red Forest: An Inspector Pekkala Novel of Suspense by Sam Eastland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Usually really love the tales of Inspector Pekkala but found this one difficult to follow. After the Revolution and the rise of Stalin and the onset of WW II life in Russia was incredibly chaotic and this book reflects that. There were Czechs trying to get across the country to Vladivostok so they could get to their homeland without crossing Germany or Poland etc. although they did not play a big role in this story. There were all kinds of partisans--some supportive of the ruling Red Party, some trying to overthrow it--but none working together but rather fighting among themselves. There were the members of various sectors of the Red Army and Security services and there were invading German armies. Trying to keep all the factions straight at any given moment was confusing. By the time the middle of the book was reached things were finally making sense. Especially the memos scattered throughout the book dealing with an American and his family.

It seems there were Americans who left the US in an effort to escape the unemployment and hardships of the Depression. Some of them took their families and moved to the Soviet Union where they obtained jobs in manufacturing plants there. This particular man went to work for Ford and he and his family were provided with housing as part of his salary. At some point, he was arrested for unknown reasons and his family evicted from the company housing. The memos were from him to the American Embassy, from the American Embassy to the Soviet Gov't, from his wife to the Americans etc . These missives appeared randomly throughout the book and seemingly had no relationship to the story, other than the fact that Pekkala at some point was directed by Stalin to investigate and make his findings and recommendations to Stalin as soon as possible. This all took place before Pekkala disappeared two years prior.

Now, the main concern of this story is that Pekkala HAS been missing from Moscow for two years and he has not been in touch with either his boss, the bipolar madman, Stalin or with his devoted assistant Kirov, who misses him and wishes he were there to meet the girl Kirov is falling for, among other reasons. Stalin decides to send Kirov out to find Pekkala among the partisans in the Northern forest regions. What Kirov does not realize is that, once more, Stalin has decided to kill the Emerald Eye.

Off Kirov goes to the war torn area of destroyed villages and infighting partisans, where a Russian commissar in a new uniform emblazoned with the red stars of the Soviet may or may not survive. Once all the factions are sorted out the story of these men is, as usual, quite exciting and convoluted. Not the best of the Pekkala series so far, but still worth making the effort to stay til the surprising end.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Little Paris Bookshop

Jean Perdu is the protagonist is this reflection on life, loss, grief and renewal. I immediately, upon reading his name, even before entering his story, thought of him as Lost John, the English translation of his name. Initially, this seems to be quite apt. Jean Perdu is a man who lives alone--well, with two cats and lots of books--in a small apartment in Paris. It is sparsely furnished, since he has destroyed all its original furnishings. He owns a barge on Seine which he has converted into a bookshop and it is there and in the hallways of his apartment building that he has what little contact with humans he wants. He is 50 years old and while he is able to read into the hearts and minds of his customers he has all but shut down his own emotions and is deliberately remote from any human entanglement. Upon returning home one day he is informed by the concierge that a woman, recently divorced, has moved into the apartment across from his. Further, he is told she arrived with little but a few clothes and is in need of a table. Jean, to the readers' amazement, moves a large bookcase to reveal a room in his apartment that he has hidden and tried to forget. It is here that he lived and loved _____, as he refers to her, before she left him without warning, 21 years ago. He retrieves a table and chairs and takes them across the hall, but merely knocks on the door gently, since he hears muffled sobbing of the grieving woman within. A few hours later she appears with a letter she has found in the drawer of the table. It is from ___________ and Jean has never opened it. Catherine, the neighbor, invites him to dinner, which he must cook, since she does not know how, and insists that he open and read the letter. Expecting a Dear John letter with all the normal platitudes he is amazed to find that ________ left him because she was dying. She had returned to the South of France, where her home and husband were, and asks Jean to come to her. Obviously, this woman, Manon, has been dead for all of these years and Jean has symbolically died with her. Overcome with remorse, he boards his barge and unmoors it to cruise away from Paris and think. As he starts to float away, a young man, who has written a best selling novel and is now attempting to avoid all publicity, comes running along the bank, throws his belongings toward the barge and misses with soggy results, manages to board the boat himself and off these two, seemingly mismatched souls drift away. I'm not sure to whom this voyage will appeal. There are portions that speak to Max, the young author, and those of his age who have been somewhat successful but don't know what to do with the success. Who are unsure that they can match it again. Who aren't sure if they want to or if they want to attempt another path. Who are not in a relationship and haven't ever really been in one that is serious and seems to have a future. Obviously, the main story relates to Jean, who for all practical purposes has let the last 21 years pass in a fog, in a frozen emotional state, in a drawn out grief that he has tried to in turns overcome or ignore. He lost what he considered the love of his life, a woman who though single when they met, opted to marry her childhood sweetheart and then divide her life between them, loving them both, yet in the end, leaving one behind with no verbal explanation. During this voyage, that soon has its direction to the South of France, Jean makes the voyage of self analysis, evaluation of his relationship to Manon, his handling of her going and his future or what is left of it. Along the way, he meets a Sicilian chef, who joins the barge and who has been searching the rivers of France for a woman he has met in his youth and with whom he has spent only one day. As we cruise the rivers and canals of France we are introduced to the scenes, scents and sounds of the countryside outside of Paris and, once Caseo joins the entourage, the tastes of its cuisines. In time, an authoress in her 50's who has never found the man of her dreams, Samy, too joins the sailors. In the end, many of common events of life and death and how they affect people in different ways are explored. How individuals deal with Hesse's stages, right or wrong, are uncovered. Sometimes, it was hard to relate to the strands--for example, no way could I understand Manon's choices nor her husband's acceptance of them. Other times, the unwillingness to read the letter resonated--why go to the doctor about the spot on the leg--it probably is cancer, well, maybe not--so it will go away. Then, you go and it is nothing or worse, you let it go too long, and it IS cancer--why the heck not read the damned letter and get it done with? Then what do you do with the news? Do you just vegetate and wait it out? Like Jean, stop living and brood for years over the rejection or pick up the pieces and live--really live! Have an open heart and let new love move in or close the heart and become emotionally constipated? I found the book irritating and it made me impatient at times. Other times I felt profound sadness and then sometimes hope. In many cases there was happiness and gladness and warmth. Yet at times the remembrance of losses and the possibilities of future loss made me apprehensive and helpless. One thing that it was always was thought provoking. It also gave me a new simple freedom--I'd always been taught not to turn down the corners of pages in books and not to write in them. Well, this book has underlines, marginalia and dog eared pages so that I can review some of those things that made me think. And as a final touch the author provides a bibliography of books to use as antidotes to some of life's " small emotions" as well as some recipes to prepare to provide a bit of the warmth of Provencal in your Northern kitchen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Pekkala On the Trail of Tsarist Gold -Archive 17

Archive 17 (Inspector Pekkala #3)Archive 17 by Sam Eastland
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sam Eastland's Book 3 of the Pekkala Series. Once the Emerald Eye, the closest of Tzar Nicolai's Secret Agents, Inspector Pekkala now serves in the same capacity for Stalin. He had been sent to a Gulag in Siberia after the fall of the Romanovs but, in time, Stalin came to realize that the man's talents were wasted and that, if convinced, Pekkala could be useful to him.

In the first two books the Tzarist period was covered and the horrific imprisonment period was, as well. Still, with the flashbacks Pekkala experiences as he meets people from his past and revisits places, too, it really isn't necessary to have read them. Eastland has a rare ability among writers of series, he is able to fill in what has gone before without regurgitating the specifics of the prior books. It saves the reader of the series from rereading those but also brings the new reader up to date without his having to go back to them, if there is no desire to do so.

In this one, a convict has been murdered in Borodok, the Gulag in which Pekkala had been held captive. Stalin is interested in who has committed the murder, since the victim may have been killed by others in the Gulag who know the whereabouts of gold the Tzar had hidden before his demise. Russia is now on the verge of bankruptcy and Stalin would dearly love to recover it. To this end, Pekkala is sent back to Borodok disguised as a new prisoner. He is subjected to the same misery he had suffered during his original transport to Borodok and, once there, though at the behest of Stalin and protected by him, is once more at the mercy of the same superintendent who had banished him into the forests around Borodok as an isolated tree counter.

The descriptions of the Gulag and its prisoners are intense and the tension Pekkala experiences as he tries to investigate the murder while keeping his identity and mission secret among brutal guards, a spiteful Superintendent and suspicious men, who make up the remnants of the Tzar's gold moving and hiding squad keep the reader engrossed until the last sled ride across the taiga.

It is surely time to move on to the next installment of Pekkala's life, serving a man whose moods change faster than the weather and are just as unpredictable--in favor one minute, on a hit list the next. It will also be interesting to see how Pekkala and his protégé, Sgt Kirov, relate to each other now that they almost lost the friendship that has developed between them. WILL Pekkala show more patience, WILL Kirov be more attentive?

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Another Shinobi Mystery--Involving The Flask of the Drunken Master!

Flask of the Drunken Master: A Shinobi Mystery (Shinobi Mystery, #3)Flask of the Drunken Master: A Shinobi Mystery by Susan Spann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Father Mateo and Hiro out in the early morning to get noodles from Hiro's favorite street cart come across the discovery of a dead sake brewer in the alley outside the back door of another brewer, Ginjiro. Allowed to inspect the scene the two discover a broken sake flask bearing Ginjiro's seal and a man with a head violently bashed in. The police immediately arrest Ginjiro since the location and the broken flask both point to him as the murderer.

Neither Hiro nor Father Mateo think this immediate conclusion is necessarily the most logical. With the entreaty of Ginjiro's daughter to prove her father innocent, the Portuguese Jesuit and his samurai protector, in the guise of translator and scribe, set out to do just that. Many have motive to kill the man and, with just four days granted by the magistrate to investigate the murder, they have little time to waste as they search for a missing merchant, investigate the man's spendthrift son,visit with the man's partner and the man's wife, interview a vicious female samurai debt collector and a female moneylender, among others in the various neighborhoods of Kyoto.

Throughout their investigation, Hiro must follow the etiquette rules of his class and Japanese culture, which do not inhibit the Jesuit at all, much to Hiro's discomfort. Still, not being bound by such rigid behavior, Mateo is free to be impolite and is forgiven his faux pas because he is an uncultured foreigner. Still, there are moments when his unbridled questioning place the two sleuths in less than safe circumstances. Nevertheless, through stealth and cunning, they are able to solve, once more a baffling case.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Lady Emily and Colin Solve the Murder of the Counterfeit Heiress

The Counterfeit Heiress (Lady Emily, #9)The Counterfeit Heiress by Tasha Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another installment of Emily and Colin sleuthing through London and Paris for the murderer of a wanna-be actress turned midwife. Mary Darby appears at the costume ball of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire claiming to be renowned world traveler, Estella LaMar, who has not been in London for over 20 years. Emily's good friend, Cecile knew Estella when they were young women in Paris and immediately confronts Mary, who runs frantically from the Ball. She is soon located several blocks away brutally murdered.

Of course, at this point her true identity in unknown and becomes the first order of business for our married crime detectives. Although finding her murderer is their main goal, the location of the real Estella LaMar is important to the quest. Through alternating chapters the reader is kept one step ahead of Emily, Colin and their cohorts, Cecile and Jeremy in Estella's story as well as in step with their chief investigation. Both plots move ever closer together as the tale moves along rapidly to its conclusion.

Adding to the interest is the author's note in which she gives the sources of her story lines. They themselves are as interesting as the fictional tale she has woven from them.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

And So We Are Home Again

llo My Friends, The first week home showed me just how exhausting the respiratory infection and the road trip with it had been. The day after Easter I literally did not dress--after breakfast I ensconced myself in my wicker fan back chair in my flannel night gown and put my feet up on the foot stool and just read and napped all day. I'd received Erik Larson's Dead Wake from Book Browse while I was gone and was therefore obligated to join the discussion on their website that opened the week before. It was no hardship for me to read the book about the torpedo sinking of the Lusitania during WWI. I'd read a book about it before leaving on our trip and was looking forward to Larsen's account since he is one of my favorite authors. I'm afraid that for the next three days that is pretty much all I did as Bill puttered around, never able to sit still for a minute. The weather was heavenly and so being back home was not the normal jolt and I didn't find myself falling into my annual depressive I'm back in ugly Vt winter slump. It WAS disconcerting to sleep nine to ten hours a night and then find myself nodding off around 2 pm and sleeping almost until 430, but, though I felt just fine, it was obvious that I needed the rest. By the fourth day, I did rouse myself to set up the bill payments for April and to organize the foodstuffs we'd bought on the trip as well as gather the things I'd purchased for Barb so that we can run them down to her at some point. Also, I got the newspaper going again as well as the DVD part of Netflix. I got involved in the Book Browse discussion and set up my Gypsy with the Cricut site so that it is all up to date. I haven't synced it with my Cricut yet though I have downloaded the Craft Room software to both computers in anticipation of doing some scrapping soon. My Aunt called to tell me that they decided she has a combination of allergies and COPD--they wanted to put her on an inhaler--the one they advertise on TV but since they really didn't have a hard and fast diagnosis she said no way --she was also on four meds and said she had more chemicals in her body than she'd had in her whole 93 years and she wasn't adding any more. Wonder where I get my attitude toward meds?? LOL But as one of my doctors said last year, we are probably as healthy as we are because we don't take tons of medication. I totally agree. Anyway, she is feeling much better and said she is taking Claridon for allergies and feels infinitely better. She will stop it when she wants and take it again if allergies hit again. I agreed that I think whatever we had did get compounded by age related allergies and I plan on doing the same thing if eyes get itchy and nose gets stuffy again. Betsy came the day after Easter and we had boiled dinner--not our usual Easter ham but we were all happy to have dinner together. I gave her a pair of wonderful earrings from Perry Null as her Easter gift--she loves them.I'm always happy when I hit a home run. For the remainder of the week I continued to put things away, bit by bit and finished reading Enduring Courage about Eddie Richenbacker which I'd started before we left. Kind of dry but interesting history, primarily focused on his role as ace of aces during WW I. That one was a book from Goodreads for which I had to write a review. Lastly, I read Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H Levy which I obtained from Blogging for Books and for which I also wrote a review. It is the second in a series about a real woman who worked as a detective, sometimes for the Brooklyn Police Department in the late 19th Century before the five cities united to form New York City composed of five boroughs. I find this period in the City's history to be very interesting, especially since it is the City my grandmother knew and wasn't that much earlier than the days my parents were growing up there. It is interesting to remember their stories as I read about the time. At night, because there isn't much on TV, I caught up with my Netflix streaming, watching season 3 of Crossing Lines and 17 of Midsomer's Murders, as well as Vera on Acorn through my Amazon Prime account. Before I knew it we'd been home a week and Bill had gone to PC to get his schedule set up for this week. And before I knew it, Winter decided to return. It snowed with accumulation in the beginning of the week. The temps dropped to the 30's and 40's.One day it was so windy that the drafts came in through the windows and between the logs. I could not get warm even with the heat on, the wood stove going and sitting under my electric lap robe. The darkness at night started to get to me and I had to turn the porch light on to illuminate the tree line as well as relight one of the window candles from Christmas. My mood plummeted with the temperature and I fretted that the old depression was closing in on me again. It is seasonal and not ongoing but I swear I just want to get divorced and get in my car and flee--or slit my wrists, whichever is easier. I got out my coloring book and prisma pencils and colored to save my life. AND then the power went off!!! As I write this I'm smiling but believe me, when I am moving into that dark place, there are no smiles or laughter, just despair. I managed to fight it off, but the effort was so great. The turning point was the day before yesterday when I saw that I gained back four of the 20 pounds I lost on the trip. Yesterday was Bill's first day back to work. It was also the first day since we left for the trip that I was completely alone for a whole day! I was up at 530 but went back to bed at 830 after I finished the puzzle. I slept until 1030. When I woke, Attila was stretched out along my side and Shadow was curled up against my bent legs. I had turned on the quiet instrumental channel on the TV, low, to get back to sleep. I looked at them and said we are going to spend the day together guys. So I came downstairs and got three of the Elks mag and one of the NPCA mags and went back up to read. Took a break around 12 for a little snack and then returned. Got through all of them while the music played. Bill came home around 2 but I didn't let him know I was awake and just went on. Came down around 430. What a restorative day--even though it snowed again all afternoon and the plow scraped 113 with a horrible sound after dark. It was wonderful to be ALONE! I really hadn't thought about the fact I hadn't been for months!! The other day we ordered a new air conditioner--I hope it won't go in our room--I want real curtains on my bedroom windows and no bugs coming in around the A/C, since it never gets properly closed up around it. I also ordered some new books which came yesterday, too. Today, Bill's new springs for his pruner arrived. We thought we had to get new pruners for almost $50 until I found the springs online for $5 plus $3 shipping. Infinitely cheaper and he has already repaired them. So, it would appear I'm well and truly home. Back in the old rut but looking forward to better weather. It is raining today but slept until almost 830 and have gotten the blog all caught up. A couple more sets of pix to upload and send out and the trip is put to bed for this year. Hoping to get in some small Spring excursions up to Maine and over to New York. Then it is Summer and who knows what will happen. Hope you all have a terrific one. Take care The Summer Stay at Homes KandB

Travels through Missouri, into Kentucky and Ohio, New York and, Finally, Home!

Hello Fellow Vagabonds, Some of you have been wondering whether or not we made it back home in one piece and if we survived the Kill the Gringoes Disease. It is hard to believe that the last installment of this year's trip was posted on March 20 from Joplin Missouri! In some ways, having been home almost two weeks has made our trip seem more in the realm of dreams than reality. Yet, looking at our pictures brings most of the experience back into focus. We did, as planned spend the next day in Carthage, Mo. In our earliest trips we used to head West by way of St Louis and often stayed in either Springfield or Joplin and made a day trip to Carthage. It is a nice little town with a beautiful courthouse around which is a square of fun shops, one of which was operated by a fellow who taught fiber art classes at the local College. We haven't been back in probably four or five years and, since we were ambling our way home, we thought it might be fun to check out his shop once more. It has the delectable name of Odds and Things and we've loved browsing amongst the dusty stuff. Why we haven't learned that Monday has become almost universally the new 2nd day of the weekend, I cannot tell, but as luck would have it, " our shop" was closed. We did take the time to peruse the goods in another similar shop, the name of which escapes me now, which we have also prowled around in the past. There was a lot of Francoma Pottery and it amazed me that I could pick it out easily but not my red dish and, in actuality, no red pieces at all. ( I'm not having any luck on eBay, either!) Since my coughing spells were diminishing by this time, I was amazed to find that, while I wasn't light-headed exactly, the floors of the room seemed to have a similarity to the rolling decks of a boat at sea. I was weaker than I realized and we did not attempt any more shopping. As it was, it had been difficult to get going that morning and so it was closer to mid afternoon than I'd known. Bill picked up a few old license plates for one of his former students who now has a mechanic shop in town and does whatever work needs to be done on the two G's--3 and 5, which are the B's vehicles. Douglas Bristlecone is still taken care of by the Toyota dealers. We met a fellow who wants to get off the grid. He was very taken by a gas operated refrigerator and also an ice box in the store. He and Bill got talking about cutting blocks of ice and storing them in an ice house with sawdust for use in food preservation. He could not seem to grasp the connection between the sawdust and the ice and to be honest I kind of stopped listening after awhile. That is, after I told him to google the building of an ice house. I remember the ice man delivering ice in his heavy tongs to my Grandmother's apartment in the Bronx when I was a little girl. And we also had an icebox in the cabin on Carnegie Bay where we spent Dad's vacations in September when I was in grade school. My mother always called our refrigerators ice boxes and I did for years, too. I'd forgotten that until listening to this conversation. LOL Betsy wouldn't know what I was talking about if I called the fridge an icebox! As we As we parted from him a lady and her young daughter walked by--the lady was carrying a lb box of the most beautiful fresh strawberries--I asked where she got them--a local market --but we forgot to look for it after lunch at the Carthage Family Restaurant. I had no idea how hungry I was--I had a cup of homemade chicken noodle soup, followed by a pork chop with tator tots and coleslaw, two glasses of sweet tea AND a small bowl of delicious vanilla ice cream and a slice of homemade cherry pie!!!!! It was the BEST meal--so much better than Cobb's in Joplin. But, I realized that it was the first real meal I'd had since we left Bud and Gloria's in Belen. The whole time in Gallup I'd hardly eaten at all--mostly fresh fruit and microwave soup or horrible soup from Cracker Barrel, which I didn't finish. I ate at Cobb's but not much since, though home cooked, it wasn't a terrific cook doing it. In our past visits we'd gone to an Irish pub for lunch and had Guinness on tap with pub food. Don't even know if it is still there--since being ill, neither of us was drinking--not even a glass of wine. When taking four meds it just didn't seem prudent. As we headed down the street from the restaurant we passed a lovely old motel--stucco and painted white. It's signpost contained the exclamation--A Radio in Every Room! Will have to check that out more closely if we come this way again. The next day found us headed across Missouri to Poplar Bluff. It was a heavenly day of sunshine and an incredible East-West Road--four lanes with a sizeable median--Rte 60--and not a bit of traffic the whole way. It was amazing--such a wonderful highway--Interstate quality--and absolutely no one other than us using it for miles. We didn't want to go by way of St Louis, where snow was predicted and where traffic is heavy and we didn't want to go through the Ozarks as we'd done a couple of years ago because, while beautiful, the road is very twisting and narrow and Bill was still tiring easily. This route turned out to be perfect. I have no idea what the early flowering trees are in this area and I think there are several different species, but every house, every town park and Main street was landscaped with them--white flowered and beautiful. Where they existed in profusion the air was sweet with their scent. I think for all time this stretch of the trip will be remembered for them. That, and the fact that there was plenty of water everywhere--we'd followed a heavy two day rain storm -- and the end of daily running with the BNSF---which is one of the totems of the Midwest and Southwest for me. Speaking of that heavy rain--we usually return to Louisiana for a few days on our way home but there had been such incredible rain in Texas and Louisiana that the widespread flooding prevented our return this year. It is a true sign of how ill and tired we were--it really didn't matter to us that one of our favorite places had to be skipped. Eventually, we reached Dexter, Missouri, where we drove around looking for a restaurant that looked like it had more than catfish or fast food. We opted for the American Steakhouse. OMG, we had the buffet---no steak anywhere to be seen and local specialties, including ham hocks and beans, collard greens, soggy fried chicken, chicken fried steak and, of course, bisquits and gravy. I took a piece of chicken, some cole slaw and a bisquit--the chicken was awful, the cole slaw too vinegary and the bisquit dry and salty. The waitress came over and said isn't the food wonderful--I smiled with a mouthful of cole slaw and didn't respond. She said she gained 20 lbs when she first came to work there--WHAT did she find to eat that was palatable?? Think we'll skip Dexter in future! W had pushed on past Poplar Bluff to be closer to Kentucky and so we covered almost 300 miles. Pretty tiriing. But the reward was a wonderful full moon that cast its light into our bedroom window all night. The next day brought with it a " reward" of its own. I had remember Cairo from our visit a couple of years ago but I had managed to avoid one of the awful bridges on that trip--we had crosse the Ohio, I think, on a newer bridge that year. I can only plead illness for my poor navigation this time--talk about old, narrow, high, rusting bridges!!! And talk about no respite between them to speak of--even Bill, who isn't any fonder of heights than I but who usually handles them better, was not happy with these two! But, I'm getting ahead of myself. First there was the remainder of Missouri and some of its historical and agricultural sites to see. One of them was one of the largest grain stations we'd ever seen and Bill was right--the railroad tracks came right up to it. Then, since the agricultural fields were being worked it wasn't surprising to share the road with some of the machinery--and they grow them big out here!In the middle of nowhere a plot was cordoned off and a monument erected to memorialize a Sharecroppers' Strike in 1939. Looking around the empty fields with nary a building in site it was impossible to imagine a gathering of 1500 people camped out here. We continued along the top of a levee with spillways on either side until, behind the trees in front of us loomed the superstructure of the first bridge--nothing like time and distance over which to build apprehension. Then, of course, there are the rich agricultural fields well below the curving, rising approach to the ancient structure crossing the Mighty Mississippi! The tunnel like erector set cage rises as you pass through it until it reaches its apex and begins its descent to dry land. Even though one is still suspended at height above the deep River, there is still a sense that you are on your way to safety--UNTIL, you glance to the right and see ANOTHER of the same vintage at right angles to this one. You ask, with temerity, " are we crossing that one, too???" only to be told matter- of -factly " YES!" I begin to wonder if this 73 year old heart can take such intense stress over so long a period. I try to focus on the River we've just crossed and the lovely fields here on the Illinois side of the River before we make the right hand turn onto this next structure of torture as it crosses the Ohio. This is the familiar bridge--we approached it as that truck across the way is approaching it--it held us then, it will hold us again, RIGHT? God, how I HATE bridges. How did I ever grow up crossing the George Washington, the Brooklyn, The Manhattan, the Whitestone, The Tappan Zee???? I was in the back seat, that's how! To think I used to drive across bridges all my life and now I almost hyperventilate just approaching them. Well, I guess it is best to just enjoy the view of River traffic and not notice how narrow the bridge is and that trucks are coming at us from the other side. And then, shakily to note that within five minutes we have been in three states--Missouri, Illinois and are safely in Kentucky! Wycliffe is the home of some Mounds that always seem to be closed when we come through. I think it is what brings people here in the summer--that and the area's proximity to two of the major rivers of this country and while running alongside them it is easy to appreciate just how beautiful they are even on this cloudy, gray day. Once more we travel back roads and enjoy the sight of barns that Bill says are the typical Kentucky barn. There are more of the white flowered trees all along our route. We opt to follow a small gray road on the map that will take us across the Land Between the Lakes--it is an area that is actually between two more major waterways that have been dammed to form these " lakes"--the Cumberland and the Tennessee. The routes of these two are really interesting--they run almost parallel very close together and yet never meet. They flow around the City of Nashville and create islands of land between them all along their paths. Here, once more, we cross two ancient bridges, high above wide rivers. It is a day of bridges--two of which will probably be gone next time we come through since they are in the process of being replaced. This area is much more utilized as a recreational area than Cairo, Ill which is almost totally filled with empty buildings and storefronts and has obviously seen better days. The Land Between the Lakes must be " dry" since Higgins has signs saying first chance for liquor as we left and signs on the other side the road saying last chance for liquor. Nevertheless, I'd like to return and follow the Trace between the two rivers--it looks as though it would be beautiful country. On we continued through small Kentucky towns with lovely old buildings, past more open country until we came to an obelisk that we remembered from the year we followed the Ohio to Pennsylvania. It is a monument to Jefferson Davis--he has taught here as a young man and the monument marks the site of the school in which he taught. At an intersection where Owensboro was an option we remembered our stay there and the walk we took along the Ohio and the BBQ buffet that was so awful I got sick to my stomach. Fortunately, we were headed to Bowling Green where Smoky the Pig is located and we sure don't get sick on his BBQ! We got the food to go this time, since I felt too tired to sit in a restaurant to eat. Retired to our favorite Sleep Inn and were again bathed in the light of the silvery moon. The next day the rain that had threatened for two and a half days finally caught up with us. It seemed in our memory to be only the second time on this trip that we had inclement weather. We got onto I 65 --a very familiar road to us and headed North but instead of remaining on it to Cincinatti we left it at the Blue Grass Parkway and headed for Bourbon country. This is one of the most beautiful areas of Kentucky and one of my favorite areas on the East coast. It is horse country and the rail fences and open paddocks and horses and beautiful homes are just very relaxing to me. It is manicured and almost smells of money but I love its orderliness and lines. Coming into Bardstown you immediately see the huge rick houses of various distilleries. It is claimed that the water here with the limestone deposits it runs over and through is what produces the bourbons of the area. I have my favorites and one of them comes from Heaven Hill Distillery--Elijah Craig 24 year old single barrel--but they were out of it. We had finished my bottle this year with Dan Williams a friend and former colleague at Thetford Academy. I was anxious to replace it but I had to settle for 12 year old instead. Picked up a pork rub that looks interesting and some bourbon pecan brittle. From Heaven Hill we wandered back to the Blue Grass Parkway and over to Wild Turkey to pick up some Rare Breed. One of the master distillers was there signing labels--probably a Beam relative--they are scattered throughout all the distilleries in the area. Didn't linger since the rain was really picking up. Although my favorite bourbon is Buffalo Trace from Frankfort, we can get it at home and, though it would have been fun to see Freddy, it was out of our way and an unnecessary trip. That distillery also produces Blanton's, my absolute favorite and the one I treat myself to whenever I want to feel pampered. The new bottle awaits in the liquor cabinet. 62 West goes through real horse country but the rain prevented me from getting any really nice pix of the rolling land and its colors. It is off this road that Woodford Distillery is located with its beautiful gray fieldstone rick houses and its comfortable and elegant visitors' center is located. Neither the weather nor my strength were conducive for a visit, but I WILL get there one day. Barb and I visited on our last trip but arrived too late in the afternoon to tour the grounds.So we instead took off to a lovely back road 1681 that miraculously brought us into Lexington two blocks away from the Clarion where we had reservations. It has a terrific pub where I drank Buffalo Trace on one rock and had a delicious steak dinner. It was our first night out since Abilene Texas way back in February. We had a wonderful time chatting with another Freddy, the barkeep, and a fellow who travels the world as the man in charge of transportation for a family that owns and shows horses. He and we agreed that we could not understand why more people weren't for Kasich bemoaned the fact that the four front runners are all disasters waiting to happen! The next day was rainy too and we spent it making our way into Ohio. Since we were so close to Cincinnati where we usually stay we just continued across our last bridge from Covington, Ky into Cincinnati and on through Columbus. It was interstate driving and a road we travel every year. We didn't want to stay in Mansfield Ohio where there are two motels owned by the same people as well as an awful restaurant,an Grandfather's something or other. We have learned from two past visits that just about anyplace is better than there so we pushed through to Medina, just outside of Cleveland. The next day was more of the same familiar ground--along the high ground overlooking Lake Erie, to the New York border to Buffalo and then East to our stop in Rome. By this time, Bill was fully recovered and I was feeling very much improved though still had an occasional coughing spell but had stopped taking Mucinex or eating Ricola like they were going out of style. Not wanting to take a chance on making Barb sick we bypassed Saratoga on Easter Sunday and at Ballston Spa headed over to Malta at around 1130 and picked up the Northway. Through Ft Edward, Hudson Falls and Whitehall to Rutland. Texting with Betsy most of the way. Over Killington to White River and a stop at Betsy's place. Gave her some of the things we'd gotten for her and visited for about a half hour in the beautiful sunshine. Got home around 3pm and called Barb to let her know we were back safely. I had sent flowers to my Aunt for Easter and she had called on Sat to thank us. She, too, very sick with some sort of respiratory thing that wouldn't let go. They gave her a cat scan on Friday and so I shared that info too. A bit worried since she is 93 and, though very healthy, pneumonia at that age can be fatal. Spent the rest of the day sorting the mail and opening pacges. Also reuniting with the cats who seemed very happy to have us home. Especially Shadow, who just wouldn't let us out of his sight--would only go out if Bill was with him and followed us everywhere. Attila, who has been through this before, was very casual about the whole thing. But I found him staring at me with a smile on occasion! And so our fellow travelers, another trip comes to an end. It was different and sad to say we spent almost as much money as ever but mostly on long term stays in sick room motel rooms. We did get to spend a longer time with Bud and Gloria, which was a highlight. I got in some scrapping. The weather was beautiful for the journey and we had a nice visit to New Iberia. Got to see a different part of Texas and to revisit parts of Oklahoma and Missouri we haven't seen in years. Purchased beautiful things at Perry Null and Grandmother's Buttons. Spent time in a lovely if rainy part of Kentucky and drank some very fine Bourbon. And, though sicker than we've been in years, we managed to overcome it with no residual symptoms, which is perhaps the best outcome of all. Hopefully, our next adventure will be more like others we've embarked upon and less like this one. Until we take off once more, thank you all for coming along. I've loved our emails as always and thank you, too, for sending us get well wishes all along--they were very cheering when we were no where near family and friends. Thank goodness we get along fairly well with each other--lol. Signing off for this year, The Traveling vagabonds KandB

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Enduring Courage--Eddie Rickenbacker in WWI --Ace of Aces

Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of SpeedEnduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed by John F. Ross
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although this is about a remarkable man, much of his life is left unexplored. The bulk of the book deals with his time as a pilot in WWI and, while that is quite interesting, it took up too much of the work. The story of Rickenbacker and his fellow pilots is amazing but repetitive and being more or less a history text, slow reading.

His early life as a race car driver is just as interesting but much less explored. His life after WWI in which he became a business man, husband and father is again only slightly related. As a result, the book seemed unbalanced with much of his post-war life glossed over. As a result many questions about him remain unanswered by the book and therefore the reading of it is unsatisfactory. To truly gain insight into the man, further reading is necessary. As to the subtitle, The Dawn of the Age of Speed, this topic is very well related.

View all my reviews I received this copy from Goodreads in exchange for a reader's review.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mary Handley Puts Out the Fires in Brooklyn On Fire

Brooklyn on Fire (Mary Handley Mystery #2)Brooklyn on Fire by Lawrence H. Levy

The year is 1890 and we find Mary Handley, a year and a half removed from her solving of a highly publicized murder case, sitting in her new office in the rear of Lazlo's Books, reading the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. The news most prominently heralded is about the local baseball team, The Brooklyn Bridegrooms and the recent decision that a player is bound to the team on which heM plays. Mary is quite dismayed at the lack of news that a woman for the first time has been added to a President's staff. But, she is not surprised that a woman's achievement should be so overlooked. Mary herself has not been involved with the Brooklyn Police Department in any further investigations. Nevertheless, Mr. Lazlo has hired her to work in his store, thinking that her notoriety will bring in more customers. To this end he has provided her with a small office from which to work and her friend, Sarah, has given her the gift of business cards on which she is identified as a Consulting Detective, as Sherlock Holmes has described himself.

Mary does not know that an old reclusive woman has been brutally strangled and left in her messy apartment, filled with years of newspapers and other odds and ends. Within a few pages the reader is introduced to the murderer and several very prominent New Yorkers, including Collis Huntington and his wife, Arrabella. These and many other real life characters will soon involve Mary in several murders and their solutions. The first involvement occurs when a woman, purported to be from Richmond, Virginia arrives in Mary's office and hires her to determine the cause of death of her uncle, John Worsham. She is sure he was murdered and she wants to find out if that is so and also who was responsible for the murder. There are a few problems with the investigation--the victim has been dead for 25 years and his widow is none other than the present Mrs. Huntington, Arrabella.
Thus begins Mary's first case which takes her into the homes of several very prominent people and some less wholesome but still very influential and powerful people. As the tale progresses, the death of the recluse becomes important and Mary's brother Sean's investigation into it manages to get him arrested for the murder of his fiancé and Mary's best friend, Patti Cassiday.
The manipulations of the political boss of Brooklyn and Brooklyn's mayor also serve to muddy the waters as the politicians of New York attempt to consolidate the two cities. As more murders occur, Mary comes to believe that they are the result of her sleuthing and that she and her family have been made targets by whomever is arranging for them.
As another thread, Mary meets and becomes engaged to George Vanderbilt and finds herself exposed to some of the luxuries of great wealth. This is rather disconcerting to the daughter of an Irish immigrant butcher and she worries at her easy acceptance of them.
In the end, Mary with the help of her mentor, Captain Campbell, now the Superintendent of Police, manages to find all the pieces and put them together to solve the murders, and get Sean out of prison.

In all the excitement Lazlo's Books is burnt to the ground, but thanks to Lazlo's love of all things Benjamin Franklin, he had the building insured. As the story ends, Mary has been given space for gilt letters on the new front window, advertising the presence of her new much larger and more nicely appointed office. As we leave her, she is greeting not one but three new clients, who I am sure will provide us with more Mary Handley adventures to come.

I obtained this copy of Brooklyn on Fire from Blogging for Books in exchange for this review.

View all my reviews