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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Monday, August 21, 2017

Who Killed the Normal School Language Teacher in Morningside Heights AND Why??

Murder in Morningside Heights (Gaslight Mystery, #19)Murder in Morningside Heights by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Learning the tricks of the trade--I knew who the murderer was within the first two chapters and saw all the clues as the book went on. Must admit, I wasn't sure just why it was done, especially the second time a lady was murdered, but, as usual the characters and the story based in turn of the century New York is so well written that there are enough questions to keep the reader engaged. I'm glad it looks like Sarah may be getting back to work with the delivery of babies. And even though some of the old characters, such as Mrs Ellsworth and Catherine do not appear as often, they aren't completely gone. Gino and Maeve's flirtation is a delight and makes up for the romantic tension between Malloy and Sarah that is now gone since they have married. All in all, life is moving on nicely in the Gaslight mysteries and the detecting of the bad guys or gals is just as delightful and interesting. As long as Miss Thompson stays with the Malloys etal, so will I!

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Wild Mountain--Interesting but Definitely Fiction

Wild MountainWild Mountain by Nancy Hayes Kilgore
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although Vermont is, comparatively, a small State it is quite different geographically and, in light of this book more importantly, very different demographically. While it is impossible to say that people like these don't exist in Vermont, the Subaru van drivers, BMW and Mini Cooper drivers, tend to be in various pockets throughout the State, primarily in the more affluent places. This story takes place in such an area--somewhere on the west side of the State, slightly slightly east of Route 100, which runs up the valley that includes Waitsfield, Warren and starts in Killington. It terminates up toward Montpelier, well described here, and Stowe. Lots of different types throughout this quadrant. So, if you don't know much about Vermont or have never been here, you can accept this story taking place in this small area.
There are some issues however when it comes to describing the " locals" Not all the men have raggedy beards to their belts, nor do they have hair to their waists. They do not all yell at their children or throw their phones against the wall. The women are not all either Earth mothers or women carrying squalling babies, each of them with straggly greasy unkempt hair. And, while Sarducci's is indeed a lovely Italian restaurant in Montpelier, it is a tradition only to non-locals, who are far more likely to be at the Wayside or even the old Justin Morgan Room on State Street.
There are the leftover commune dwellers, most of whom were not from Vermont, and back to nature types and they have become part of the tapestry that is modern Vermont. This book is more about them--though a couple of the main characters are purported to be old family residents. As to the covered bridge--they have a new bridge but it is not the original. True locals would have accepted nature having removed the old bridge and kept its memories and not have spent an outrageous amount of money to " replace " something that is irreplaceable. Sort of like the efforts, that quickly died, in New Hampshire when the " Old Man" rock formation finally fell to expanding ice and gravity and some folks wanted to create a " replacement". Some things just change with time, just like Vermont has done and though sometimes it doesn't seem like a good thing, it is also not something that can be stopped.
I received an ARC of this book from Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. It is an interesting book but don't take it as a definitive description of all of Vermont and its people.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession (Six Tudor Queens #2)Anne Boleyn: A King's Obsession by Alison Weir
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Considering the lack of sources for writing a novel about Anne Boleyn, the author has filled in the historical gaps with an interesting and fully developed character to follow. The earlier part of the book, Anne's youth in France and the later part of the book, once she and Henry are married were the most interesting. The interminable seven or so years that it took for Henry and his advisors to get to the point where he put Katherine aside and married Anne were just as interminable to read. That portion of the book became terribly repetitious, though it did serve to develop the feelings of frustration, hope followed by despair, followed by more frustration in the reader as it must have in the two main characters.
The moral quandary of replacing Katherine, a queen of over 20 years, with a younger, hopefully more fertile queen must have been difficult for many of the people involved. The attempts by Henry to overthrow all of the Church's precepts in an effort to secure a wife who would presumably be able to give him sons are thoroughly explored. The political, social and religious ramifications of his actions were very serious and the manipulations and behind the scenes scheming to prevent war or worse were intense. The book brings all of these things to light.
The years after the marriage of Anne and Henry which should finally have been a fulfilled love match with many children were anything but happy. The further complications of this ill-fated are laid out in great detail. At times, one could almost feel sorry for them but at others the selfishness on both their parts made them anything but sympathetic. Still, the death of Anne and the men accused with her, as well as the death of those who'd been sacrificed for not supporting Henry's union with her was nothing short of tragedy. All of this certainly changed the course of history and the changes reverberated for many, many years throughout the Western world.
If there is one criticism of this advance uncorrected proof from GoodReads on which I've based this review, it is that it was much too long and moved too slowly in many parts.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lady Emily and Hargreaves Return to Greece and Phillip Returns--Or Does He?

A Terrible Beauty: A Lady Emily MysteryA Terrible Beauty: A Lady Emily Mystery by Tasha Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My five star review is primarily for the setting and history contained in the story. Having been to Greece the description of the countryside and ancient places is so detailed and true to the place, it was like being transported back again. If I were to rate the book on story and plot I would give it between 3 and 4 stars, but, I've read the series from the beginning. It may be the resurrection of Phillip to those who have not been with Kalista, oops, I mean Lady Emily and Hargreaves from the beginning might not feel the full impact of Phillip's unexpected return from death in Africa. It would still be an enjoyable read but it would feel as though there were some inside facts which the new reader might sense but not fully grasp. The whole of Jeremy's story would be truly lost on them and trying to figure out Margaret's relationship would be even more problematic. Still, the characters are fully developed with their individual personalities well developed. The alternation of Phillip's return to life story and Emily and Hargreaves' annual return to Greece from England works really well. And, it truly isn't until the very end that the question of is he or is he not Phillip is answered and, I must confess, I wavered as much as the main characters but wasn't totally surprised ( nor were they, truth be told ) at the answer. Good read if new to the series, excellent read if a dyed in the wool follower.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Tea Planter's Wife

Gwen, a young, somewhat innocent English girl marries and older tea plantation owner and moves with him to Ceylon in 1925. He is a widower, whose wife died twelve years earlier though he does not share the circumstances under which she died. Life in Ceylon is exotic, mysterious, somewhat lonely and the relationships among the British, their workers and house servants is a bit confusing. But Gwen is madly in love with her husband, who now, in this new environment has become somewhat distant. Gwen, upon her arrival in Ceylon met a local artist, a Sinhalese, who seems charming, helpful and friendly but she soon becomes aware of her husband's intense dislike of the man, despite Laurence's unwillingness to clarify the source of his animosity. In addition to this tension, Gwen must overcome her suspicions of an affair between Laurence and an American beauty, Caroline, who makes no effort to hide her attraction to him. He in turn, though denying the relationship, seems to revel in the flirtation and attention. Add to this situation, the live-in presence of Laurence's younger sister, Verity, who considers herself mistress of the plantation and the manager of the estate, a gruff Scot named McGregor who thwarts Gwen at every turn as she attempts to show compassion and caring to the workers in the fields and the tension and anger builds. When Gwen becomes pregnant she is, at last, hopeful of changes in the situation. She has found a hidden grave of a young child and Laurence has opened up about his first marriage a bit. He has become more attentive. The house servants, especially the housekeeper, have become more cooperative and Gwen has become a little part of the British community. Her cousin has come for a visit, though she has returned to England and Laurence is determined that it is Verity who will be Gwen's companion and aide during her pregnancy and after the babies, she seems to be carrying twins, are born. So though some of the stress and tension has subsided, Verity continues to be a thorn in the side. Once the children are born, however, the situation only grows grimmer and Gwen is left to wonder if her marriage can be saved and if, indeed, Ceylon will remain her home. Though the story plot lines are intriguing and the stress and tension builds and the mysteries continue almost to the very end, the repetition of strife between the characters and the burden of the secrets they each conceal at times becomes as suffocating and irritating as the heat, humidity and rain of the weather and the incessant buzzing of the flying insects. Even the constant reminder of the beauty of the sunsets and the lake does little to move the story and at times it just plods along--to the point that I read ahead to find out how the whole thing ends--I became so impatient. I received a copy of this book from Blogging For Books in return for a review.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Slightly South of Simple--is Simply Boring

Slightly South of Simple (Peachtree Bluff #1)Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A good summer beach read--so you don't have to dwell too much on any of these characters. Just pure fantasy--a little tragedy that didn't really hit me deeply--but lots of monied women who don't need to work, or work at very glamorous jobs. Peachtree Bluff sounds pricey and the family, though old Southern gentry, can well afford it. Found the characters shallow and self-indulgent to say nothing of willing to do anything for what they want, without much regard for the feelings of any but themselves. Oh, the mother, grandmother and sisters are all very concerned about each other and their children, but the rest of the people who love them and who they purport to love fall outside the golden circle. Could not relate to any of them, although the NYC-country mindset is definitely one I've lived and can sympathize with Caroline's need for the city. I miss it, too. Probably will not bother with the sequels.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Who Killed the Scarecrow at the Harvest Festival and Stuffed His Mouth with a Pumpkin Muffin???

The Pumpkin Muffin Murder (A Fresh-Baked Mystery, #5)The Pumpkin Muffin Murder by Livia J. Washburn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Just an easy read for when your mind is tired but you want to relax with a fun book. Phyllis is a retired teacher who is also a widow whose son is grown and married and out of the house. She had decided to rent rooms in her house to two fellow, also retired teachers, Eve the manizer and Carolyn, an overbearing sort always competing with Phyllis for baking awards and cooking compliments. Sam, from another school district, has also joined the ladies and he and Phyllis are boyfriend and girlfriend though, at their age, they shrink from the terms.
In this, the fifth outing of mystery solving in Weatherford, Texas we find the community getting ready for the annual Harvest Festival. Phyllis is entering Pumpkin Muffins in the baking contest but, this time around, Carolyn is acting as a judge. While that situation in itself may have ended in a murder and may have been quite interesting the contest never came to be.
On the morning of the day, as contestants arrived with their baked goods, Carolyn and Phyllis notice that one of the scarecrows that are scattered around the park as decoration appears to have been moved onto the porch of the cabin serving as the venue. Always ready to set things straight, the ladies take it upon themselves to move the misplaced fellow, only to have him fall at their feet--not a straw filled men's outfit, but a dead body dressed as a scarecrow. One of the local real estate moguls lies there, his mouth seeming to be stuffed with a PUMPKIN MUFFIN!!!! The game as has been said before is afoot! Did his wife do him in? The local police chief and his head detective are sure of it--but not so fast--Phyllis doesn't believe this lovely teacher could kill her husband. And, as is her wont, she sets out to prove it.

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Monday, July 31, 2017

New Evanovich Series--Curious Minds--Knight and Moon #1

Curious Minds (Knight and Moon #1)Curious Minds by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Having grown a little tired of Stephanie Plum, I decided to try this new series by Evanovich. The story moves fast, Emmie Knight is a little spacey but interesting, though I think he could become quite irritating after awhile. Sort of like Bones who never seemed to get with the program--in time, the lack of social grace in such an intelligent character seems a bit far-fetched. For now, however, the repartee between him and Riley Moon is a cross between Hart to Hart and Nick and Nora Charles and fun. The mystery involving the Federal Reserve Bank and the gold of many nations was interesting and informative. Will definitely rejoin the couple on their next adventure. Whether this will become a must read series for me remains to be seen.

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Where the LIght Falls--A Novel of the French Revolution

Where the Light FallsWhere the Light Falls by Allison Pataki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an engrossing story--French Revolution devolving into the Reign of Terror. Simply horrifying. The rabble bound to have freedom, equality and fraternity are frightening enough but the men who managed to wrest power from the nobility are ruthless. For simply questioning the need to use the guillotine so universally one could find oneself summarily carted off to prison, given a joke for a trial and find yourself one of its next victims. It mattered not what the rank of the person nor the situation and company in which such doubts are expressed--none are safe. In reading of the threats and insidious betrayals of friends I could not help but think of the similar conditions in Russia during their revolution, of the rise of Hitler in Germany and many subsequent events in South and Central America and also in the Mideast. In one character's defense of the rampant death sentences, when another character compared the relatively bloodless success of the American revolutionaries, he said that the American's were not surrounded by other countries willing to invade them and to support resisters within. Therefore, he continued, it was essential to eliminate the enemies within totally so that they could not stop the Revolution when aided by these other monarchies which did not wish to see its success. An interesting point.
Yet, so many of those who were condemned to death were people whom the new leaders held personal animus toward or whose possessions were envied and therefore had to be taken from them. Into this maelstrom of chaos and revolt enter the characters who wish change in France and who are willing to help the cause but who are not leaders in it. The young idealistic lawyer from the South of France, Jean-Luc St Clair who moves to Paris with his wife, Marie and their young son, Mathieu. Jean-Luc finds a job with the government doing the inventory of the clothing, furniture etc taken from nobles' homes and from various Churches and convents. He also acts as lawyer in suits brought by common Citizens against members of the nobility. Not a very highly paid position but the young couple are glad to be of service and are barely noticed. That is, until Jean-Luc's trust in the law and justice cause him to take on a very dangerous case.
Then there is Andre Valiere and his brother, Remy. Both are soldiers in the French Army, where they hope they will be safe, since in actuality their surname is de Valiere and their father has already lost his head, having been a land rich noble from the North. His accuser, his former friend and fellow officer, General Murat and his prosecutor, Guilliame Lazare. Neither man will rest until they have been able to have Andre and Remy thrown in jail and eventually killed.
This cat and mouse game carries us through the rise of Bonaparte and his invasion of Egypt. It ends ironically with his own crowning as Emperor. The revolt started with the almost total eradication of those nobles who remained in France, the beheading of a King and his Queen, The Terror with its blade that ran the cobblestones of Place de la Revoltion red with blood and ended with yet another crowned head assuming control of a country whose people were somewhat freer but still starving, where neither equality nor fraternity reigned though now all were citizens or citizenesses rather than monsieurs or mesdames.

This is a review of an advanced uncorrected proof provided by Goodreads for that purpose.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A Dublin Student Doctor--Fingal Takes a Walk Down Memory Lane!

A Dublin Student Doctor (Irish Country #6)A Dublin Student Doctor by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finally, Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly has proposed to Kitty and she, after all these years has accepted. We readers know that as students the two had fallen in love but, with Fingal's procrastination and dedication to work over personal life, their romance had folded and each went on to separate lives. After a day at the races, as Fingal was taking Kitty home, they come upon a motorbike accident. Who but Donal Doherty is lying in the road regaining consciousness after a severe blow to the head. Fingal sends Kitty home with Barry Laverty and goes to the hospital with Donal, who requires surgery to relief the pressure of blood building in his bruised brain. The surgeon is none other than Dr Crombie with whom Fingal studied medicine in Dublin many years ago. Finding himself again with Crombie and in a hospital setting for several days, surrounded by med students and student nurses to say nothing of the true ward bosses, the ward Sisters, Fingal finds himself transported back to his own student days.

And so, we meet his family, Ma and Father, his brother, Lars and learn of his home life. His relationship with his parents and his struggle to convince his father that medicine is his choice of career despite his father's wishes for him to study nuclear physics. Once he manages to get into med school after a stint in the Royal Navy we are introduced to his best pals, Crombie, Charlie Greer and Bob Beresford. We follow the four through their five years of study. We meet Kitty, a student nurse and watch the development of their romance. Each of these characters are so well defined it is as if they step off the page or rather that we step into the page and hang out with them--doing rounds, treating patients, going to the pubs, to the tenements, taking exams.
They become our friends, too. The secondary characters are just as developed and complex and many of them have appeared in the earlier five books--some, like Fitzgerald as irritating and arrogant as always.

Though this book takes place, mostly in the '30's and during Fingal's young manhood, it fits perfectly into the series. It is like hearing stories about your parents' youth or the history of a new contemporary friend--interesting and gives insight into how they became the people you know in the present. Read the series from the beginning--the book that now and then appears to be out of sequence is background to the present and gives a sense of reality to the whole.


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Friday, June 9, 2017

Foreign Eclairs--Is this the end of Ollie and Gav in the White House?

Foreign Éclairs (A White House Chef Mystery #9)Foreign Éclairs by Julie Hyzy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considering this is a series about a White House chef, one would think the author would provide us a baker's dozen before ending it. Yet, rumor has it that this ninth installment is the end of the adventures of Head Chef, Ollie Paras. It is an exciting romp filled with assaults, tension, death and near death. Ollie is the target of a man, whose brother she has successfully managed to thwart in his terrorist activities. In the process, the brother died and another terrorist is incarcerated. The surviving brother, Kern, has family honor as well as personal reputation to avenge. He intends to do it by having Ollie killed as well as the President and his family. Gav has been infiltrating the man's terrorist group but once Ollie is mugged on her way home, his cover, since he is her husband, is blown. Now, he, too is in danger. DC police and the Secret Service, including the special White House contingent all get into the act to capture Kern and his flunkies and to protect those who have been targeted by them. Easier said then done which brings us to the author's method of ending Ollie's adventures. But, as any good author of mystery novels and movie and TV scripts know, it is always wise to give yourself an out, should you want to revive your characters and their plots. We may get our baker's dozen, yet. We can always hope.

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

So High a Blood The Story of Margaret Douglas, Niece of Henry VIII, Mother of Darnley

So High a Blood: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of LennoxSo High a Blood: The Life of Lady Margaret Douglas, Countess of Lennox by Morgan Ring
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Margaret Douglas, daughter of Henry VIII's sister. Born in Scotland into the Douglas family, she was brought to England at a young age and lived through all the tumult of Henry's marriages. She found herself in favor at times and at others was labeled, as her first cousins were on and off, a bastard. She was ignored and then she was considered a favorite in Henry's court. He treated her to many luxuries.yet there were times when she was a threat to the succession to the throne and as such found herself in the Tower.

All the players are here--Henry, Mary Tudor, with whom Margaret was quite close, Edward, Elizabeth--with whom she had her problems. Then there are the French, the Spanish, the Scots. Mary Stuart, Darnley--who was Margaret's son--and therein lies the story. Margaret was a Tudor--heir to the throne--she was a Douglas with claim to the throne of Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots was her niece and first cousin to Darnley. All of these people were Catholic but there was the whole upheaval of Protestantism and the suppression of Catholic practice. Margaret was an agile politician and manipulator, who spent at least three sessions of her life in the Tower. How she managed to keep her head, how her husband, Lennox kept his was fascinating. She was in the forefront of intrigue--sometimes in touch with the Spanish, other times in cahoots with the French--allies of Scotland, but not of England. She intended Darnley would marry Mary and he did but things went really badly there as history tells us. She had eight children--only two lived to adulthood and she and Lennox placed all their hopes and dreams in Darnley. Once he was killed ,Margaret and Lennox believed Mary was the leader in that murder, their sights moved to their grandson. James VI of Scotland, an infant, born Catholic, raised Protestant, would become the King of England, Scotland and Ireland though Margaret did not live to see her dreams fulfilled. She was so high a blood, a Tudor , with possible claim to the throne of England, who spent her life attempting to bring Scotland and England together under one Ruler and back in the good graces of Rome. At least part of her wish was fulfilled.
This is a review of the ARC provided by Goodreads and Bloomsbury.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Grace Takes Off--A Manor House Mystery

Grace Takes Off (Manor House Mystery, #4)Grace Takes Off by Julie Hyzy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Haven't read an installment of this series for awhile. Easy to get back into but it stands alone well, too. Grace and her Uncle have spent a couple of weeks in Italy on vacation and we join them on their last day. They are staying with a college friend of her uncle's. As they are shown the man's large art collections, it becomes clear to Uncle Bennett that a Picasso skull that he and his friend had located in the old days is not the original. He wants to wait until he arrives at home to check pictures taken in college to be sure before he mentions his suspicion. On the flight home, Bennett is almost poisoned by a groupie of the rock band whose flight they have joined. By the time they arrive in the States the stewardess and the groupie have both died. So, who is trying to kill Bennett and why? Is the skull a copy? If so, where did the original go? As usual Grace finds herself following leads --some down dead ends, others leading to even more confusing information. Still, by the end and its dramatic climax, all becomes clear and Grace relaxes at Hugo's with her roommates, with the case solved and the perps in custody. Naturally, this is too simple and in the final scene someone enters and joins their table as Grace scooches over to provide room How can a reader not like a book by an author who uses scooch, not once but several times, in her story?

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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Another Pleasant Visit to Ballybucklebo--for an Irish Country Courtship

An Irish Country CourtshipAn Irish Country Courtship by Patrick Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fifth book in the Irish Country series and, still, Patrick Taylor continues to entertain. While an elderly community member of Ballybucklebo passes on, young Dr Laverty helps a set of twins into the world. Both he and his mentor, Dr Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, find themselves in the throes of romantic turmoil, resolved at least for O'Reilly by the end of the story. Donal Donnelly and friends find themselves in a losing position having invested with Counsillor Bertie Bishop in an apparent dud racehorse. The same Bishop who almost shoots Kitty at a grouse shoot at the Lord's mansion. A younger version of Donal shows himself as adept at shady dealings as his elder and is found out by the wise O'Reilly. A middle aged spinster finds herself with a life-threatening condition as the result of a youth spent in India.

As usual, the reader finds that he/she is transported to the village and joins the daily life of its inhabitants with great ease and comfort. One shakes one's head at the foibles of some, laughs at others, commiserates with the lovelorn, worries about the ill, enjoys the comraderie of the Doctors and is, as usual, admiring of the long suffering Kinky Kinkaid, who finds that Kitty is an ally rather than a threat. All in all a lovely sojourn in the Irish hills of Ulster.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Gypsy Moth Summer--I Wouldn't Bother Reading It

The Gypsy Moth SummerThe Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The story takes place on an island --Avalon, the first symbolic trope of the novel--located off the coast of New York's Long Island--maybe another. The white daughter of a prominent executive of the main industrial and economic entity on the island--Grudder Aviation, manufacturer of war planes and polluter of the island--returns to claim her inheritance. She brings her Harvard educated husband, with an advanced degree in landscape architecture, and her two children with her to live in The Castle--royalty! He is in addition to being educated also black! Doesn't take long for the author to introduce all kinds of viewpoints, real and supposed, on race relations.
In addition to this woman, Leslie, her husband, Julius, her son, Brooks and little daughter, Eva, we are introduced to the coterie of men and women who were friends and of Leslie's parents and grandparents--all very shallow and all very proper and all very rich. All a big façade of perfection.
There are also the younger generation, the teens of the island--the rich pampered teens of the East end where the Castle is located; the poorer, though not necessarily poor, children of the blue collar workers at Grudder located on the West end where these kids live. Naturally, never the twain shall meet--although a West end guy married one of the East end princesses and produced the two main teen characters Maddie and Dominic, Dom for short. Their father, being of lesser stock is an abuser of wife and children--though we are soon to learn that the mother, who spends her days in a pill induced stupor, grew up with a father who also beat her mother--so, I guess, even some aristocrats are abusers.
Once upon a time, when choosing colleges, Marymount was on my list--Leslie would have been entering college about the time I graduated in '63. The description of her time at Marymount is total fiction and, if it is not, then I am truly happy I opted for Mt St Vincent, where I was not forced to live like a nun with required Mass attendance and prayer times. But, at any rate, Leslie was repressed as a young woman--is it any wonder she broke out of the mold she was expected to inhabit.
Back to the teens--Leslie brings the two groups together, allows them the run of the ballroom at the Castle and their story devolves into sex, drugs and rock and roll--or metal, or grunge or whatever it was they were blasting all the time all night into the dawn. Where were the parents of any of these kids? Nowhere to be found or else,if included in the narrative at all, they are drunks, pill poppers, wife beaters, cheating husbands.
So,has the author left anything out of this story --any of today's hot button issues? She's covered big industry--warmongers, of course and just barely disguised Grummond wanta be--who are knowingly polluting the environment, causing all kinds of cancers and miscarriages in the community. We have socio-economic divide--the haves to the East and the have-nots to the West. Racial prejudice and social snobbery; abusive husbands and fathers; neglectful parents and drug and alcohol abuse are all covered. There is Alzheimer's in the old man who owns the factory. Oh, yes, Dom is a homosexual. Not much else can happen on this little piece of real estate. But to make sure that the reader is thoroughly confused and repelled the whole story takes place within one summer --but what a summer--it is one with a huge infestation of Gypsy Moths and their eating, defecating and crawling everywhere is the background music of the piece. This too was terribly overdone--actually quite disgusting--more than the story, in fact.
It was hard to get into this book--it was superficial and too symbolic at every turn. None of the characters was appealing and none of them mattered enough to care that the ending was supposed to be tragic. That it seemed the author wanted the reader to care was a bit sad--she just filled it with too many things to care about and so none of it mattered. Like the islanders at the end of summer, it was just good that summer was over and so was the book.
I received an advanced uncorrected proof review copy from Book Browse.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

X-C 2017 Has Come to a Close and We've Been Home 2 1/2 Weeks Already!

Hi Trekkies--so what have we done since we returned? Not much and yet, a lot! I had called from Batavia to have our newspaper resumed on Sunday, April 2. Betsy was here by 10 am--hugs and kisses all around. Catch up on what life was like in Vt and the cold snowy winter while we were basking in warmth and sunshine. Seems our plow man was less efficient than he could be and, while Bets couldn't get up the driveway on Sunday either, the driveway had been a hot mess more often than not the whole time. Didn't make us happy to hear but we'll deal with it in a few weeks.( Paid the bill but haven't said anything to the plowman--they are hard to find for this driveway so Bill is going to let it go!) Gave Bets her mail, which she didn't even sort out the one time she picked it up while we were gone--lol . As a result, she got her birthday card, which I took great pains to mail from Tularosa so it would arrive on time. Her birthday is March 9! Guess I won't knock myself out next year. She and Bill made several trips getting stuff out of the car. Driveway too soft and unplowed to get up yet. After she left, I read the Sunday paper and did the puzzle while Bill headed to Price Chopper to get some food for the next few days. Hello again, Trekkers! It is now April 19 and much has happened in seventeen days since I started this summary blog. Beginning on Monday the 3rd, it was a week of getting things in order and enjoying the antics of the cats, especially Shadow, who is beside himself with glee having us back home. Fortunately, the bills get paid from the road so it isn't urgent to get through the mail, though that is always my first priority. There are always the bills for the plow guy and, if she has gotten it out in time, for the garbageman. Unfortunately, Jeff Fifield, who does our rubbish died shortly after we left on our trip. He is someone we've known forever and he and his wife, Leslie, are dear friends. Their son was in Betsy's class all through school and it is Leslie who gave us the two pennies I keep in our log book on all our trips. She gave them to me the first year we went cross country as good luck charms. We were really upset when Bets told us he had died, though he has been ill for quite awhile. As a result there was only the plowing and my eye doctor's bill to pay. Also in the mail was a book I'd received from Book Browse which I needed to review. Fortunately, it was a very good book and easily read--I finished it in one and a half days. So enjoyable I almost hated to go to sleep and wait for the next day to finish it. It was just published and available on Amazon for the first time today ( April 19) It is called If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. By the way, I review most books I read on my blog https://kt-themindtraveler.blogspot.com/ if you have an interest in them. In addition to paid bills, which I filed in the annual records, junk mail that I filed in the circular file or the shredding bag, and books, there were the AARP magazine and the AARP newspaper as well as a couple of copies of a new magazine I've subscribed to--Writer's Digest. I'm still hoping to figure out whether there is a book in these travel journals. Took me a couple of days to get through all of that, as well as close out our travel journal. We were gone 7 weeks and a day, covered 8145.1 miles, were as far south as Alabama, as far west as New Mexico and as far north as Colorado. We visited old favorites, such as Eunice for Mardi Gras and Lafayette/New Iberia Louisiana; Alamogordo and the White Sands and Bosque del Apache in New Mexico; Perry Null in Gallup, New Mexico and Grandmother's Buttons in St Francisville, Louisiana. Got reacquainted with Mme LeBiche at Konriko and bought another James Lee Burke at Books Along the Teche. We returned to the Mississippi River in Vidalia and spent a couple of days just gazing at it from our room overlooking it, Natchez across the way and the dual bridges that connect the two. Only once did we eat raw oysters at Shucks with the side of crawfish etouffee but we did enjoy a new restaurant in Breaux Bridge, Chez Jacqueline, after our annual Swamp Tour on Lake Martin. Banana Splits for breakfast at Borden's in Lafayette and King Cake from Mac's Grocery in Jeanerette. The trek across Texas is unavoidable but we've seen almost every corner of this big piece of land and while it is beautiful in places there aren't any other sites we want to see. Although I do want to get to Brownsville and St Padre Island one of these days. Would also like to return to Galveston without being sick, as I was the only time we went that way. Bought pistachios from Heart of the Desert Ranch in Alamogordo. Returned to visit our good friends, Gloria and Bud in Belen, New Mexico. As always overate and laughed a lot. Just a second home, a home away from home with friends who feel like family. We could not be in Oklahoma without stopping at Boise City for No Man's Land beef jerky and in Guymon to see if Eddie's Steakhouse was reopened--and, happily, it is!! In Kentucky, if near Louisville-Lexington area it is necessary to stop at least once at a bourbon distillery. This year we returned to Buffalo Trace, where I got my Freddy hug and bought a bottle of a new release. And if we are going to do that, then it is the Clarion in Lexington and the Pub for steak and bourbon. Visited with friends in the Smoky Mountains, Karen, my high school classmate and her husband,Bill on this our first visit to Smoky Mtn National Park. Happened across Bush's Baked Beans in the process. Went to the home of Andrew Johnson, president after Lincoln's assassination and in doing that we completed visiting the homes of all three presidents from Tennessee. We looked for bald eagles in Lake Gunnerston State Park in Alabama--a first. Found a brochure on Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman and spent a morning exploring the miniature world created by one of the priests who taught in their school. Another new experience. Went to Artesia from Roswell this year--a new path--and went over Cloudcroft--something I'd avoided for years but decided needed to be done--we've gone over the mountains to the Tularosa Basin on just about all the other roads. Turned out to be a lovely ride and we'll go that way again, I'm sure. In New Mexico we focused a bit more on places we hadn't been before like the Wolf Refuge near Gallup and the area around Farmington in the north. We actually stayed there twice --before and after going to Durango, Colorado and the half way climb to the ruins of Mesa Verde. Another first as was the trek into Chaco Canyon, which we've wanted to visit ever since we came west. Having spent so much time on these repeat visits and new experiences the turn to the East was upon us. We followed an entirely new path to reach Las Vegas, New Mexico on our way to Oklahoma. Found another new spot to visit--Fort Union. It is truly a ruin, having been partially razed by the government before the locals and the lady who wrote Land of Enchantment prevailed upon them to preserve the remains. I need to go back again, since, until I read her book back home once more, ( again, reviewed on my blog) I had no true idea of the importance of this Fort. It was the supply warehouse and arsenal for ALL of the forts west of Las Vegas/ Santa Fe and was the junction of the two Santa Fe Trail branches and therefore the site of rest and final departure of pioneers using the Trail east and west! What a shame so much of it has been lost to deliberated destruction and natural erosion and weathering. Took an entirely new path in Oklahoma, too and hit the Chisolm Trail and the Cherokee Trail Heritage Center --one of the nicest museums we've experienced in the West--though nothing can compare to the Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma City that we visited the year of the Cobalt disaster in Tulsa. We made our way once more to that huge piece of Western real estate and headed to Lavon, a suburb of Dallas, to visit Bill's frat brother, Jimmy Jack. Spent a night and then made our way back through Oklahoma to Missouri and Corder to visit one of his Peace Corps buddies, Paul and his wife, Jean. Another couple who are like old comfortable shoes--just easy to be around and visit with. Some people are just like that and we love them. Hope they will come East again sometime--it is so nice to see them and catch up. Once we get to the Midwest the days become long drives to cover the road home. We do take different roads than in past trips so that we see some new things--for example, Jefferson City, Mo is pretty small and easy to navigate for a capital city! Once in Kentucky, it is two days home, weather willing. Ohio, Pa ( a sliver ), New York and Vt. So, once the trip and the log were closed out, the time came for tackling the pile of suitcases and shopping bags on the living room floor. We don't buy a lot of souvenirs anymore, just a spoon or pin, postcards but we do pick up things for Betsy, Barb and Charlie--foodstuffs mostly and of course we pick up jerky, spices, nuts, candy, bourbon, oil etc for ourselves and all those things require sorting and storing. The last of the laundry needs doing, too. Bill returned to work at Price Chopper in the mornings on the 5th--just Wed-Fr but that took him out of the organizing picture a bit. He, of course, had outside things to do, although the snow, as deep as it was the first week home kind of prevented him from doing very much. By the 8th, one week home, half the snow on the south side of the house was melted off the slope and a vernal pond was beginning to form and the river began to back up. By the end of the first week most everything was taken care of. Attilla needed to go to the vet for his shots and I needed to order seresto collars for them both to get ahead of flea and tick season. I continued to keep up with my POD project and to keep track of the snowmelt and to read. I have set a goal of 80 books to be read this year and thus far I've read 12!! I am very far behind, although of the 12 read, six of them have been since I've returned home, one was read on the trip and I have three going right now. Still, there is much catching up to do! After I read them, usually, but not always, I do have to write a review because I won the book on the condition that I would. Last week, I spent forever trying to get flowers ordered for Easter for my Aunt and Sister--the foolish website was undergoing construction less than a week before the day and kept refusing my credit card--each time I had to redo the order with gift cards etc--I must have composed six different cards by the time I got the ones that eventually were the actual greetings! Not complaining, really. I LOVE picking out the perfect arrangement for my Aunt--I send her flowers every month. I know it gives her a lift and it does me, too, since I ADORE flowers so the shopping for them is a joy. I needed to order ink for the printer since I didn't bother before I left, thinking it would just dry out over the two months that Betsy wouldn't be using it. One of my projects was to get all the brochures in the expanding file that I will use if I ever scrap the photos from this trip--haven't done any of the trips so probably won't get to this one either. Sold a book on Amazon so had to get that out in the mail within the day. We were on the last book of household checks so needed to order them--always a lengthy procedure because I like pretty checks so have to peruse the offerings. I also set up a project to refresh our maps and visitors' guides from the lower 48. That meant going through the map bag and determining which were outdated and then going to the Dept of Tourism of each State that required updating and asking for a map and guide be sent to me. That took two days, but they are pouring in. Interestingly, RI is so broke they aren't publishing highway maps any more--haven't a clue about guides. Ct didn't seem to take the order--the link didn't seem to work. And Georgia requires a visit to the Dept of Transportation to get the map. Nevertheless, the new ones are arriving daily and it is fun to peruse the guide to see if there are new things to discover that aren't in cities or expensive resorts. By the 12th most of the snow was gone and the pond was huge. On a beautiful day, a pair of mallards enjoyed exploring it as a possible nesting site. I think they opted for the more permanent river at the edge of the field, though they may have chosen a more secluded shore of the pool--out of the prying eyes of the resident cats who watch alertly from that porch yonder! Before we knew it, Easter was upon us. Made the grocery list and Bill picked up the stuff. Cook's spiral cut ham, brussel sprouts--for the B's and Kathleen, kernel corn for me, baked potatoes, baked yam for me, olives from the deli. Pistachio-white chocolate chunk cookies for dessert from Heart of the Desert. Betsy's college classmate, Kathleen, who hails from Montana but now lives in Boston, came for dinner. I met her several times in Montana but Bill had not. She is a real sweetie and it was great to have her here. I know we'll be seeing more of her this summer--she is the girl some of you may remember Betsy going to visit on Brexit Day in London. Her London room-mates are coming over to visit--maybe I'll go to London and get some of those behind the scene tours Betsy enjoyed. Bets mentioned that perhaps we could put them up--we'll see what happens when they arrive--but we wouldn't mind. Anyway, Kathleen brought Mimosa makings and we girls sipped the day away --she brought Bill Narraganett--made in Rochester--lololol--I didn't know it was still being made ANYWHERE. So here we are, April 19th. I left the house for the first time since returning home. Oh, I've been out in the yard and on the porch but most days in a house dress or lounger and barefeet. Not only did I go out in a car, but I DROVE it myself. Betsy's car--my old red G-5--to the new Dartmouth Coach terminal to pick Betsy up. She returned to Boston with Kathleen for the Marathon, so took the bus home today. Left her car here so I could get her, since Bill's Marigold is having muffler problems and so Douglas Bristlecone left at 5 am this morning for Maine. It is Bill's pig dinner frat weekend. When he returns I may head over to Saratoga for a few days visit and to bring Barb and Charlie their goodies. If the weather is good, Barb and I will head down to Highland to see Aunt Shirley. In the meantime, I have set myself a project to do a thorough culling, sorting and cleaning of the mudroom. Got the two big drawers under the bay window done yesterday and a bunch of old baseball caps and mismatched winter gloves went out in the garbage. Made an inventory of what is in them for future reference, since they always seem to get tossed about by people digging and tossing to find something that may or may not be there. Will they use the lists? Probably not, but I can ask what they seek and tell them where it is--maybe! Bets balked at having to say yay or nay on a few items when she got back but I reminded her that she has complained that there is so much junk she is going to have to discard when we die. I, said I, am trying to help get rid of some of the junk before hand. She said nay on all of the items so out they go. And, so my dear Trekkies, here is the coda to X-C with KandB in 2017. The snow is all gone, things look drear and gray but I noticed buds on the trees along the Interstate--closer to the Ct--very swollen and the catkins on the poplars etc hanging down. It won't be long before they look like that here on the Pond Estate and once that happens, overnight it seems everything is busting out all over and Spring has caught up to us. This year, I've managed to avoid the post trip depression that usually overcomes me--except for just one day and it was very mild. I think that extra week away made a difference--six weeks just doesn't seem long enough. Of course, when January comes, I'll be chomping at the bit once more. Until then---signing off for this year. Hope you'll come along when we head out again. Enjoy the best part of the year--Spring, Summer and Fall--at least in Vermont and the Northeast! Affectionately, kanb

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dave Robicheaux In Crusader's Cross--Another Winner!

Crusader's Cross (Dave Robicheaux, #14)Crusader's Cross by James Lee Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As usual JLB creates an engrossing mystery that is convoluted and filled with questions. What ever happened to that prostitute who saved him and his brother, Jimmie, from sharks off the coast of Galveston Island in 1958? She was supposed to meet Jimmie at the bus station and take off with him to Mexico. Is she dead? Where's her body?

Who is killing and brutally disfiguring women--women who are middle class, good women--leaving them in the area of Iberia Parish but also in Baton Rouge. He's known as the Baton Rouge killer--but is he really from Robicheaux' area?

And should Dave really get mixed up with the Catholic nun who is ministering to the black community around Jeanerette? Why does the rich guy on the block, Valentine Chalon seem to want to destroy Dave's life and prevent him from investigating the serial killings. How is the Chalon family involved or are they?

Not to worry, Dave, Helen his boss on the New Iberia Police Force and Clete, his best buddy and probably the one who gets him into the most trouble outside of Dave's own self-destructive personality, manage to pull it all together. As usual, things are not what they seem and the ending ties all kinds of unexpected strands together. And, on a personal level, Dave seems to yet again be headed for some domestic bliss.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Land of Enchantment is As Enchanting Today As Ever!

Land of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe TrailLand of Enchantment: Memoirs of Marian Russell Along the Santa Fe Trail by Marian Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marian Russell, her mother and brother traveled the Santa Fe Trail many times during her youth. Her first trip on the trail was at the age of seven when her widowed mother decided to move with her children to the gold fields of California and reunite with her family who had gone before her to the Coast. Before she was able to get there she learned her family had died in illness and so she and the children stopped in Santa Fe. Through the years she took them back to Kansas for several years, but homesick for New Mexico and also loving the excitement of the trail she returned to the West. This pattern was to continue throughout her life but Marian married a young lieutenant stationed at Ft Union during one of the stays in the West and from then on she remained there.

In her memoirs, Marian tells of the Santa Fe Trail excursions and her fellow travelers. She speaks of her childhood in school in Santa Fe and in Kansas. She speaks of the " Mexicans" and the Indians, both friendly and savage. Then after marriage there is the time as the young wife of a Lieutenant protecting those who ventured into Indian territories, their leaving the military, starting a family, moving away from Forts into the small towns of New Mexico and finally the establishment of their final home near the Colorado town of Trinidad where the Trail turns southward through the Raton Pass.

Her memories are so vivid and well told that it is not hard to feel the same sensations, smell the same scents, see the same sunsets and sunrises and hear the same singing voices she experienced throughout her life in the unsettled West. She died in 1936 after being run over by an automobile in Trinidad. Though the world had changed very much by then--especially the Western US--her story comes to life through her words. Having been to the places she of which she speaks, it is easy to roll back through time and imagine the young Marian arriving at Ft Union at 7yrs old sitting on the springboard seat of a prairie schooner. Also it is not hard to imagine her love of the place, because it is truly still an enchanted and enchanting land.

And as an added bonus, her brief mention of the Maxfield Land Company and its interference in the Stonewall Valley of Colorado inspires further research into the history of the land.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova

The Shadow LandThe Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fast-paced and interesting the book takes place in post-Communist Bulgaria. There are several interwoven plots here, some of which were overlong. Basically, we are introduced to a young American woman, who has arrived in Sophia, Bulgaria to take a teaching position for a year or so. Her childhood and loss of a brother in his early teens is revealed to us so that we may understand her desire to visit this country and spend time exploring it. Her name is Alexandra Boyd. Not speaking the language well, she finds herself erroneously deposited at the door of one of the hotels in the city, rather than the hostel in which she has reservations. In the confusion of people coming and going, she bumps into a group of Bulgarians hurriedly leaving the hotel and entering a taxi which she herself had planned on taking. As they, being older and she, being polite, get into the cab with their bags and drive away, she realizes that one of their bags has gotten mixed in with hers. And thus the scene is set for the ensuing tale, in which Alexandra becomes acquainted with a local taxi driver, she calls Bobby, and their endless travels throughout the mountains and villages of Bulgaria in an attempt to locate this family. It turns out that the misplaced bag contains the cremains of a talented but relatively unknown violinist. The people who were carrying the urn were his son, his widow and an aged, wheelchair bound friend of the deceased.

At the outset, the pursuit of the family and the ensuing pursuit of Bobby and Alexandra by unknown people who vandalize their taxi and who also seem to be searching for the family, is intriguing. Who would want the ashes of a relatively obscure Bulgarian musician and why? Soon, however, when the search ranges many miles in various directions from Sophia and involves far too many relatives and acquaintances of the family, the mystery starts to raise plot questions that become distracting. Why would Bobby spend all this time aiding Alexandra, whom he calls Bird, in what appears to be a fruitless and unnecessary search? He tells her pretty early on that he is gay, probably in an attempt to assure her that he is not a threat to her, so there isn't a romantic angle. Why does she become so attached to him--maybe she sees in him the companion she lost when her brother died--that is at least plausible. But why is she so obsessed with the thought of the musician's son, whom she saw very briefly and fleetingly at the foot of the hotel steps?

By the time, the story gets around to the life of the musician, Stoyan Lazarov, the constant dead end trails of the search just about ends the desire to finish the overlong book. But, here the story becomes truly interesting--Stoyan's time in a Communist labor camp --the suffering, the abysmal conditions and the amazing methods the man uses to maintain his sanity and dignity as his body becomes more and more wasted is described in such excruciating detail that the reader's mind is battered with the cruelty of men on others while at the same time, amazed at the resiliency and strength of the victim. One cannot help but wonder how well he or she would survive physically, emotionally, mentally under the same conditions. This section of the book is the very best part and if the reader can get through the almost 300 pages to get there it is so worth it!

The end of the book is sort of a letdown--so far as the family, Alexandra and Bobby are concerned. I would have loved to have read the poem her wrote for her rather than just having it mentioned. And, Stoycho would have had a different end, too.

I received an ARC from Random House Readers' Circle in exchange for a review.

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Friday, April 7, 2017

Home At Last!

Howdy Trekkers! We have been home almost a week now but have been busy and not so busy most of the time. I'll start where we left off, which as you may recall was the lovely room at the Comfort Inn in Batavia, New York, where we waited out the anticipated snowfall in Eastern New York and New England. Jim Cantore, a former denizen of White River Junction, Vt and now one of the major reporters on the weather channel assured us that snow was falling and that Amsterdam, NY already had four inches on the evening of the 31st with more to come before fading away to the northeast mid day on the 1st. The first dawned gray and cloudy in Batavia with drizzle and no snow at all, so by 10 am we were making our way eastward on the NYS Thruway. Once more we followed the Mohawk River and Erie Canal past Rochester, Syracuse, Utica etc never encountering any snow falling --just rain--but noticing ever larger patches of snow and icy rock faces as we moved along. Having grown up in New York and travelled this road more times than I have fingers and toes, I didn't take very many pictures. I do enjoy the Federalist houses that are so typical of this and the Hudson River Valley--they show the historical age of this part of the country. They are unique though I've often wondered why those early settlers thought that flat roofs in this land of snowy winters were very practical. I would imagine leaky roofs were not uncommon in them. I noticed others, later??, had a small hump like a top-knot in the middle of the roof--an attempt to direct the water and melting snow to the level of least resistance--Downward to the ground--perhaps? My mind does wander when I'm looking out the window. As children, Barbara and I were encouraged to look out the window and observe the things we were passing. Both of us still do that and have been known to travel for hours without speaking--just observing--with an occasional outburst when something of particular interest has caught our eye--the funny part is that we often simultaneously notice and comment. This leads to laughter, sometimes off the path exploration and discussion. It is one of the things that makes our travels together so unique and fun. Bill is not as observant but he also is curious and we explore and discuss and have the same sort of fun. I'm really lucky I have the two of them to travel with. The rain, as you can see, ranged from drizzle to downpour with heavy ponderous clouds throughout. It amazes me to see the flocks of geese high in the sky on days like this--although I suppose the ground is pretty soggy so might as well fly as not--going to get wet in any case. They are pairing up, too and we saw pairs in sodden fields or right up on the edge of the road, where the land was somewhat drier--the water having once more sought its own level--downhill. Eventually, we arrived in Amsterdam, where there was fresh snow, though not as much as Mr Cantore had mentioned--perhaps it fell in another part of town or the rain had already melted much of it. By this time, I'd spoken to my sister several times on the phone--she was keeping us informed of the forecast for Killington. My friend, Joyce, had also been keeping us informed of Vt weather since she lives just over the ridge from us. And I'd asked my FB friends about travel on Killington---which marks me as a non-Vermonter--since old time Vermonters call it by its true name--Mendon Mtn for a town whose name is rarely mentioned anymore--having been overshadowed by the tourist skier who frequents Killington Ski Resort. LOL It is where I learned to downhill ski all those centuries ago and don't ever remember anyone mentioning Mendon, though you drive right through it--don't blink--to get to the slopes! At any rate, with all these people, who unlike Cantore, were right at the sight of the action, keeping us up to date, we decided not to stop at Barb's but to continue straight home. For the first time, in all our trips, I really was anxious to get to our house and see the boys. Usually, I like stopping at Barb's for a week to decompress before facing the lasting winter in Vermont, but this year I really wanted to get back. Maybe because we were gone a bit longer than usual? As we passed through Amsterdam I took some pictures of things other than the old mills that I usually photograph--there are some lovely old buildings in that industrial town. Between it and Ballston Spa there is lots of farmland and the fields were completely covered with snow--I could not fool myself any longer--Spring has not sprung here--no matter what the calendar says. We got onto the Northway and saw that winter has not been kind--the big Moreau exit sign was split right in half. It is in the town of Moreau that my parents had our house built and where I lived for the last two years of high school. This whole capital area was where I lived through college and grad school and first taught--all before I moved to Vermont in my late 20's. Really seems more like home than Vermont despite the years--funny, that. Again, having photographed the area so much through the years I didn't take any more pix til we were approaching Rutland on route 4. The clouds were so thick and the mountain fog rolling down the slopes so heavily that Killington was invisible until we found ourselves at the foot. As we passed Pico we saw that skiers were on one of the slopes, enjoying some sloppy spring sluicing. Then we were up over the peak and descending on the Eastern slope--obviously there was lots of snow on this side. The evergreens looked like Christmas trees so covered with blown snow that the rain had not yet been able to dislodge. I must admit they looked beautiful. Running along the Ompie it was neat to see the snow hanging on laden limbs waiting to fall on an unsuspecting driver headed toward the mountain. In the main stream bed the rocks had caps of snow that showed just how much had fallen overnight. The snowbanks of newly plowed roads and the driveways and walks newly shoveled by people who, I'm sure, were muttering curses on the joke Madam Nature decided to pull on this Fool's Day--all of these gave us clues to what we would find in Post Mills. On we drove through Bridgewater--yes, the cop was out, parked right up the road from Long Trail, which was packed. I'm not sure why being parked outside a bar isn't entrapment! Around the bends in the river and into Woodstock we came. How is it that I never noticed what appears to be a train depot in Woodstock?? Onto I 91 and the first pictures of the village of Post Mills--the flats, Sunshine Corner, The old mill site, Baker's with the Grange next door--the window from which the tenant asked our Missouri friends what they were doing there--gruffly, I might add--one of the differences of people here in comparison to people in the Midwest, west and southwest, Jane! The library, past 244, our house across the way, our road and Grumpy Attila and Jovial Shadow, after walking up the driveway--unplowed and unpassable! 388.8 miles--tired, cold and wearing sneakers in four inches of snow! But home at last. Called Betsy and Barb to let them know that we had landed safely 4:07 pm in 37 degree weather. I know that Bill had a hamburger for dinner but I have no recollection of what I ate. Mostly I just opened packages that had come while I was gone--a new book If We Were Villains, another paperback. put food away, played with the cats and watched TV, I guess. The house was in great shape which was nice. I went through what mail was here and threw a bunch of catalogues away. Other than that, just glad to be back! KandB

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Wicked Women of New Mexico--More Than Just Soiled Doves!

Wicked Women of New MexicoWicked Women of New Mexico by Donna Blake Birchell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of those books at the checkout counter at Lowe's Grocery in Alamogordo! Love to read about the earlier inhabitants of the places we visit and this was not a disappointment. Some of these women were absolutely amoral and fascinating. The West had its share of hard nosed men, but don't be fooled into thinking all the women were sweet church going schoolmarms just looking for a husband and a home. Some of them were as hard-drinking and hard living as any man who ever rode a horse and shot a six gun. Some were sweet to look at and sweet talking but all these ladies were tough and ready to get ahead. Just a fun book and interesting!

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Killer Crab Cakes--Something to Read When You Don't Want to Think Too Much

Killer Crab Cakes (A Fresh-Baked Mystery, #4)Killer Crab Cakes by Livia J. Washburn
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The usual fun romp with the retired teachers. This time they are on the Texas Gulf coast taking care of a BandB for a cousin. Naturally, someone is murdered--this time poisoned crab cakes does the fellow in. He is not a pleasant man, this guest who stays by himself and is rather brusque to his fellow guests, but when Sam pats him on the back down on the dock as he sits fishing, he falls face first into the Gulf. The handsome police chief and his daughter, the assistant chief have their hands full trying to get to the bottom of the mystery. We have a cook, the mostly likely since the crabcakes were made by her, her two daughters who help clean the place and her husband, who years ago served time in jail. But then there are the three couples who are also guests there. No one seems to have known this guy other than staying in the same guesthouse. Two of the couples are regulars who are friends and have been coming to the shore for years together. The third couple are young newly weds who appear to spend most of their time " napping." A few other possibilities show up in the course of the investigation--the victim's three grown children and a business man and his lawyer. These all did know the victim quite well and had differing relationships with him. A truly confusing situation, especially when, near the end of the book, yet another victim meets his demise. BUT, there seems to be absolutely no connection between the victims or their deaths. Oh, my--and there is a baking contest to get ready for besides. It all gets resolved in a neat little way and for once the ladies are not competing with each other!

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A Tragedy in Five Acts--If We Were Villains

If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Could not put this book down, literally inhaled it in one and a half days! Only took time out when it was impossible to stay awake. The prologue takes place in the visitors' room of a jail in Illinois. A retired policeman has come to visit an inmate, soon to be paroled, as he has for ten years, every two weeks. The inmate, 31 years old, has served the ten years for having murdered a fellow classmate at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a small but prestigious school devoted to the training of thespians, dancers, artists and writers. The inmate had been one of seven fourth year actors--the only seven left after four years of culling lesser talented would be Shakespearean performers. The visitor is the policeman who investigated the death of one of the others. He is not satisfied that this particular player is the one responsible and he has come for the last visit, hoping to convince the inmate to tell him the whole truth of the tragedy that befell the seven in the last year of their studies.

And so begins the telling, by Oliver Marks, of the lives of seven young people finishing the training that would, hopefully, lead them into successful lives and careers as Shakespearean stars. There are the three girls: Wren, as small and delicate as her name implies: Meredith, the red - headed, sexy, but insecure temptress; Filippa, the level-headed, unflappable but detached somehow dependable friend to all. And there are the four boys: Richard, the robust, tall, deep -voiced who is always the lead male in any of the plays they perform; Alexander, the pot smoking lesser player; James, the delicate, almost pretty gentle soul; and Oliver, James' room-mate, best friend and usually the best friend of the play's hero, as well.

We follow them through the course of the year, right to the death of one and the imprisonment of another, as Oliver takes the policeman, Joe Colborne, and us back ten years in time and back to Dellecher to relive the year and its events. Told in scenes in each act, it is as though the curtain has lifted and all the players have returned. What happens in this play is funny, heart-breaking, warm, sad, youthful, wistful and tragic--it is Shakespearean, it is true to life and yet, it is somehow not exactly real--the players are isolated from the reality of the outside world--but then, aren't all kids in school, until they graduate to the true everyday reality of the rest of the world?

I received an ARC of this book from BookBrowse in exchange for review.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 31, 2017

Almost Home!!!

Hi Trekkies--thought we'd be home today but Mother Nature decided to play late winter, early spring games with us. So, since I've just finished the bills for April and have gotten all the pictures thus far uploaded and sent to you, figured I'd catch you up on our final days on the road. I left you all as we checked into our motel in Boonville, Mo after several downpours and views of the most incredible cloudscapes I've ever seen. Hard to believe that was six days ago. For the most part our time was spent crossing the country on back roads, using Interstates only when there was no other choice. We left Boonville on the morning of Mar 26 with a final look at the last of the daffodils in front of our motel. We headed south to pick up Mo Rte 50 which runs pretty much East - West toward St Louis. We had debated heading farther south and crossing the Mississippi at a less crowded location and then working our way back north in Illinois. Upon further discussion we decided that since it was Sunday that the traffic would most likely be light and we'd save time, Our original aim was to get home on April 1 but now that we were getting so close we decided we could make it by today. Usually, I'm depressed these last few days and trying to do anything to delay the inevitable return to the frozen, dead looking northland of Vermont, but for some reason, this year, I'm actually looking forward to getting home and seeing Betsy and the cats. Although the day was heavily overcast, it didn't rain, though it seemed as though it should. The weather was actually unseasonably warm--high 50's. low 60's. Initially, the terrain was as flat and the roads as long as it had been for days. Soon it became rolling hills and still lots of beautiful fields waiting cultivation. Some had been tilled and the rich soil looked almost black, in other places the undisturbed fields sported the beautiful purple mats of henbit--a weed with very shallow root systems that love the richness of the unplanted fields. Although we could not see it we were travelling parallel to the Missouri River and soon reached the capital city, Jefferson City which sits majestically on its bluffs. Once through town we started to swing southeast away from the river and toward St Louis and the mighty big muddy. Once we'd passed through Linn and away from the river we entered a more forested, less farmed area of the State. Still we were in the land of alphabet soup, as I call it, with all the side roads either single or double letter designations. I've not noticed such road labels in any other State. Why there were even two that formed my monogram--KP! On we went through such nice little residential towns as Rosebud and Gerald. In time 50 ended by a " T " to I 44 which led us directly to St Louis. AND semis with some interesting loads. LOL Bill started to get a bit nervous with all the coming and going of vehicles going to Memphis or Chicago or St Louis. I urged him to imagine he was driving our Interstate near Manchester, NH and that I'd make believe the bridge, which makes me nervous, is the one in St Francisville. La. It also crosses the Mississippi but is much lower and shorter. Well, traffic turned out lighter than he expected and the bridge was much easier to cross than I'd anticipated. We were a bit south of the city center and so it isn't the major St Louis bridge. Phew--in minutes it was all behind us. And then we were in Illinois. Right on the other side of the bridge I took us on a narrow two lane--county road " J " --to connect to Illinois 64, which parallels Interstate 64. Paul and Jean had taken the interstate to get home after leaving the northeast last summer and Jean said it was a pretty ride from Louisville, Ky to St Louis. We try to avoid interstates but the State road covered the same area and though out of sight was close enough to access if we got tired of the back roads or felt we wanted to make up time. " J " ended at a t-intersection with 64 in Freeburg. Bill said which way and I said left--within seconds I saw we were headed West back toward St Louis--I'd forgotten we were headed North, not South on "J" so we had to turn right to head East. Oh, well, even the best navigators make mistakes sometimes--at least we got to see the whole of Freeburg! A few more Illinois towns, some small, others smaller, and we arrived at Mt Vernon for the night. Ate at Applebee's. Watched NCIS LA--nothing else particularly appealing. The next morning dawned overcast and threatening rain once more. Drove through Mt Vernon which has all this colorful squiggly stuff on the welcome sign and water tower and a strange sculpture at the railroad crossing but, though I google searched like crazy, could not find anything that would explain the apparently import of the logo. Once more we followed 64 eastward through more farmland,and small towns. Today's journey took us into Little Egypt and Wayne City, whose water tower declared it to be the Bean Capital of Little Egypt. It is much easier for me to give you a link for those who'd like to know the history of this geographical designation of this part of Illinois. Interesting, but easily skipped if you don't care--lol http://www.illinoishistory.com/egypt.htm Then we drove across the Wabash and into Indiana. Though we usually only eat breakfast and then supper when we stop for the evening, the breakfast at the Mt Vernon motel was inedible and the coffee was brown colored water. Worried that we were moving out of Sonic country I asked to stop at Sonic for my one Sonic fix of the trip. My eyes, as Mom used to say, were bigger than my belly!!! A SuperSonic double bacon cheeseburger, a small order of tater tots and a Sonic Blast--small thank goodness--Butterfinger, of course! Stuffed--but so good! I guess I should tell you about my gourmet requirements on our trip: One Johnny Carina's meal ( Alamogordo, this year ), one Buffalo Wild Wings ( actually twice this year--don't remember where), one Pizza Hut delivery ( went to the restaurant in Las Vegas, NM) and one Sonic Blast ( this was it ).. Other than those, I don't care where we eat. Don't want more than one of each --not a glutton--but they don't exist at home and they are yummy. Some more midAmerica towns with elegant Courthouses and pretty homes before entering a truly rural area. We descended off a plateau and the town of Bird's Eye into a narrow valley and rode along a railroad. We came to a sign that said welcome to St Anthony and St Marks but there were actually two little villages running right into each other. I thought there had to be some history to the combo welcome sign but the distinct individuality of the hamlets. Again, only St Anthony is listed on Google and no mention of St Marks. I'd love to know the story. Then we came to bluff area and noticed caves in the walls as we drove. There is a National Site Cave in Marengo, Indiana https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marengo_Cave These, however, were not anything I'd want to explore. We pulled over in what looked like a quarry and the whole wall was pocked with caves. Drove back along the road to look at the ones there--dark and hard to tell how far back they go, but this is obviously pretty sinkhole country. The road is probably on a system of caves. Eerie. I could not resist the turquoise and white chevy for Glen. I think that it is rigged with electric light along its sides which must illuminate it at night. That made me sad--but love the car. Once more we came to the Interstate and took it. We decided we'd stay in Jeffersonville on the outskirts of Louisville, Ky. Used navigation system to find the motel--thank goodness I didn't call to make a reservation. Madam Sultry Voice took us across the Ohio--God, another bridge!!--into Ky. We wondered about that since Jeffersonville is in Indiana. But, in short order, Madame Sulty was directing us across the Ohio once more---no,no,no--On to Lexington. Unfortunately, she is very persistent and every chance she got, she was having us make a legal U-turn. Bill, of course, is trying to drive in Louisville traffic and I'm desperately trying to figure out how to shut her up. I suspended navigation--that stopped her--but still needed to get rid of the destination. Eventually, don't ask me how, I found a delete destination and so I did. This added another hour or so to our day and by the time we arrived at the Clarion we were pretty pooped. Thank goodness I had eaten my Sonic because I was stuffed. Bill went to the bar and had a salad. Watched Criminal Minds and Designated Survivor--I think. We decided to stay another night in Lexington and so the next day we headed over to Frankfurt and Buffalo Trace Distillery. Bill had gotten a nice fleece vest there several years ago and wanted to get a new one. Unfortunately, they didn't have them anymore. I got my Freddie hug. Freddy is a gentleman who has been at the distillery for years. We've taken tours with him several times. He is just a delight and, as you can imagine, meets thousands of people each year. I KNOW there is no way he can possibly remember me but every year that I visit I make sure to say hello to him and he always greets me like I'm a long lost friend. Hugs me tightly and asks how are you baby--it is so good to see you. I told the tour group that I didn't know how they'd feel about the bourbon or the tour but that they would love this man. I truly do--he is just a wonderful person and it makes me happy to see him. Drove over through Versailles and back to the Clarion. Went to the pub for sirloin steak dinners and laughter and talk with the guys at the bar. A travelling loading dock door installer and repairman and his crew. A young local, married for ten days--we gave him a hard time--wife was home making tacos for dinner. He kept in touch with her and she seemed okay that he was staying out. I tried the new Trace Bourbon--Eagle Rare. Excellent. Watched NCIS, Bones finale :( and The Americans. Slept like a log! The next day--It was off toward Cincinnati. We've been along this route so often--I got bored and fell asleep after we entered Ohio and fell asleep until we reached Columbus. Around Dry Ridge Ky we were rolling along at 75, went around a curve and the traffic was stopped dead in its tracks. Three lanes of cars and semis--a wonder no one came around the bend and rear ended anyone. We crept along for six to seven miles and at one point we could see the empty road before us--and then two pace cars. The traffic headed south was moving just fine but we were being held back. After about six or seven miles Bill saw the lights on the pace cars go out and the traffic was released. No evidence of any accident or of the pace cars--so a mystery as to what was going on. From then on traffic moved fine until we came to the OHIO --again and crossed into Ohio State at Covington, Ky to Cincinnati, Ohio. No welcome to Ohio though! In the middle of the bridge the Interstates divide--as you go onto the bridge you have to make sure you've picked the right lane for your destination--for us it is the two right lanes for Columbus. I navigate Bill through the mess and relax once we are out of the yellow blob on the map. I dozed off as I said and woke up in time to navigate him through Columbus toward Cleveland. Though Mansfield would be a nice distance to call it a day, we have stayed there and eaten in the Dutchman Restaurant--several times, because we forgot how awful it was. The last couple of times we've remembered and push on to Medina--pronounced Medinah--like Dinah Shore. A wonderful deli right next door so we each had a pastami on rye with mustard. Yum, yum. Unfortunately, he doesn't open until 1030 am so no getting coldcuts to bring home. Another time. Yesterday morning out we headed hoping to make Syracuse and home today. Horribly dark in the morning--felt like evening instead of 10am. Along Lake Erie in fog and rain--heavy most of the time. Couldn't see the lake at all. Into Pa for a few miles and then into New York at Ripley and around Buffalo. Kind of bored so used my camera to make Impressionistic paintings of the passing scenes. Loved the rest area where they left the weigh station sign that said " OPeN" there. So in came the trucks in single file, went around the building in a circle and then make a 180 at the end of the circle right back onto the Thruway. All nice and slow like a procession of silvery trucks with colorful cabs. Inefficiency, but guess it slowed them down and released them en masse back into traffic. Arrived at Batavia around 230 and decided to stop. Applebees had piles of snow in the parking lot--temp in low 40's--it had been 34 near Erie, Pa. Lovely!! Watched the weather report last night and this morning and decided the motel here is cheaper than around Rutland, if we made it. Or Syracuse if we had to stop. Decided to stay. Rained all day here. I paid the bills. Looks like Killington may be a problem. But,if all goes well, we will head out tomorrow and be home in late afternoon. So, there it is---back in the deep freeze and gray days and snow and wintery mix and mud. But Spring will catch up within the month, I hope and another year in Vermont begins. Will do the summary from home and will answer your questions, Jane--haven't forgotten. Also, Amy. I know I haven't talked about Miami but I will. Wish us luck on the last leg, Trekkies and good night. KandB

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Traversin Missouri to See Friends

Ah, Two nights in Joplin and we feel quiet rested. Yesterday was a total rest day. I never got into street clothes--just reveled in the relaxation of sleeping in, taking a LONG shower, setting my hair, doing my nails and lazing around all day. Bill brought in Chili's chicken wings for dinner and I read almost a whole book. We had planned on going up to Carthage to roam the shops around the square and up to Lamar, the birthplace of Harry Truman but it rained all day--so it was perfect to stay in. This morning it was still raining but we went 200 miles north to Corder, Mo to visit with our friends, Paul and Jean. Paul and Bill were in Peace Corps together and their lives have many similarities--both married around the same time and had one daughter. Paul has been hands on in agriculture--growing thousands of acres of corn and soybeans and raising pigs. Their home is a lovely house in which Paul was raised set into the hills surrounded by their planted fields. No matter in which direction you look, the scene is just beautiful. As a matter of fact today's pictures focus primarily on the rolling hills, small towns, expansive cultivated fields and incredible storm clouds of Missouri. Our visit was so much fun--lots of laughter and catching up with fun ribbing about our political views and political situation we find ourselves in after an unreal election year. Travel and work and kids and a delicious lunch of a plethora of cold cuts and wonderful rolls from a deli near to us in Boonville but I bet they are closed tomorrow ( Sunday!). When we left Pioneer Road, we were almost immediately in the midst of a deluge preventing all visibility. After several miles of white knuckled driving the skies cleared and the roads were dry--but soon we found that we were to spend the next 50 miles going in and out of heavy down pours followed by almost no rain. I've never seen such banks of clouds or blackness of sky. Everywhere I looked was an even more jaw-dropping scenes. Got into Boonville and right next to our motel is a Russell Stover store. More jaw-dropping scenes of aisle upon aisle of candy. I hesitate to admit how much we spent on chocolate. Actually, I'm not telling. But, I really must close since an Easter egg is calling my name. Also we have to figure which way we are headed tomorrow. Sort of want to avoid St Louis but just don't know. All in all, a good day and now time to call it a day. So, to all a goodnight, until ...... KandB

Friday, March 24, 2017

Catching Up--NM to Ok to Tx to OK to Mo--in One Week!!

OMG, Trekkies! What a week this has been! Last I spoke to you, we were still in New Mexico on our way to Las Vegas, NM, I believe. As you can see we've covered a bit of ground since--mostly on the road but with a few interesting stops along the way. We did indeed head out on St Patrick's Day--in full green regalia--well, I was wearing my shamrock scarf, green fingernails ( which badly need redoing tonight ) and new shamrock earrings bought by my darling non-Irishman back in Louisiana at the Dirt Cheap store ( really its name!) I also wore my jade ring that I bought at Perry's last year. We headed East to Bloomfield for the umpteenth time and I took my final pix of the oddities along the road--pick-up trucks way up high, toting and electrified cross etc--as well as the beauties of fruit trees in bloom and the lovely San Juan River. We turned southward and drove down Cuba way past the entrance to Chaco and onward toward Albuquerque. As we headed out of Bloomfield we passed a pick-up filled with bales of hay, towing a trailer, also jammed with hay. There is a drought south of here and, as we found out many miles later, these guys travel a very long way to obtain hay. Is it only my family who makes a wish when passing a vehicle loaded with hay? I told Bill to make a wish and he said "why?" . Told him we were passing a truck of hay and he said he had only two wishes--one, that he did not have to unload the rig and two, that he didn't have to throw the bales into the loft! Oh, well, I made a wish ( and it pretty much came true.) Once more, I found the geological formations and the colors just so wonderful. I've decided, other than Louisiana, New Mexico and Arizona are my favorite places. They were my Mother's, too! As we moved southward we began,once more to enter and leave reservations of various Indian tribes. I must say, we certainly left them the worst of the land--thank goodness for casinos. I still don't know how any of them make a living--they must, like the residents of Canyon de Chelly only live here on week-ends and work somewhere else. There isn't enough food for any large ranching operation and the soil sure doesn't work for planting. It is beautiful but beauty doesn't fill stomachs. Still little towns cling to the foot of the mountains, protected from wind and weather and as close to the snow melt as can be. Water is the whole deal--if there is water, there is greenery and variety in the plants. No water, the landscape is dull and stunted. You can always tell, in many places, where the water flows--there will be a double line of trees or shrubs--one on either side of the stream or creek, which is sometimes only flowing underground there is so little water. While in Cuba buying gas, I got myself a small McDonald's Shamrock Shake--tasted like mint chocolate chip ice cream--yummy and GREEN! Lo and Behold, who should we come upon once we went back on the road? Hay, Man!! Left him in our dust so don't know how far south he carried his load. Soon, in the distance we could see the Sandia Mountains at the foot of which is found Albuquerque. Sandia in Spanish means watermelon and it is posited that the early Spanish named the mountains at sunset when they take on the hue of ripe watermelon. Works for me. As is the case of all major cities there are the 'burbs and here they consist of house upon house in gated communities--little enclaves separate from the native denizens. Without having to go into the city itself and entering at the northern edge we merged into the northbound I 25 and headed toward Santa Fe and Las Vegas. We could have cut straight across to Santa Fe from Cuba but it would have meant crossing those snow-clad mountains. We opted to take the long way round. I love that little church --it is a big fast surprise when going south since it is tucked against the hill just around a curve--you get a fleeting glance before you've gone down the road. Going north it peeks over the interlane barrier. In time, we arrived in Las Vegas ( fertile grassy plains or valleys ) and drove the lovely residential neighborhood off the main highway. The Spanish influence on the architecture is very strong as it is on the restaurants in town. Not wanting Mexican and there being little else we decided to have our one time Pizza Hut of the trip. After a very long day we retired to our room and enjoyed a beautiful sunset before watching TV and bed. The next day we took I 25 once more, going past Wagon Mound, which is one of the landmarks used by travelers along the Santa Fe Trail. There are two hill, opposite each other and for years I could not decide which was Wagon Mound but decided after looking at them from distance and all angles that the one on the East is it. It looks like a long covered wagon, even dipping a bit in the middle. But before reaching them this time, we got off at Waltrous and headed to Fort Union. Bill insisted we'd been there before but we had not. It was a supply fort for many of the forts of New Mexico and Arizona. Being on the Santa Fe Trail, it also served as a stop along the way. There isn't much left, since after it was abandoned they began to raze the buildings. Locals and former residents were able to stop the destruction, but since most of the buildings were adobe it became necessary to coat them with a brown material that resists the erosion of weathering. As a result there are scattered partial structures coated with brown goo. If nothing else the size of the installation has been preserved and some things, such as the stone walkway, are still intact as is the cell block from the otherwise missing jailhouse. The narrative here speaks of a vibrant, bustling community of many men and few women--wives of officers and an occasional wife of an enlisted man who worked for the fort as a laundress or cook. It so happens that for the past month or so I've been reading a book called Wicked Women of New Mexico. Imagine my surprise to find last night as I read the last chapter that Fort Union had a number of " launderesses" who actually were soiled doves who plied their more lucrative trade in the caves of the bluffs surrounding the Fort. Also that it was quite fortuitous that the hospital here was the best for miles around since there were so many cases of venereal disease--60 cases in 6 months. Also the soldiers were constantly AWOL and stealing food from the warehouses to trade for sex. None of this aspect of the installation was shared in the family friendly National Park story. I purchased the book by the Russell lady--she grew up in NM and married a soldier stationed at Fort Union. She returned in 1934 when she was 92--so saddened by the desolate ruin it had become. She died two months later. I've only scanned the book so far but it looks like an enjoyable well written memoir. While leaving we met a woman from Virginia who was stamping her large National Parks Passport book. I never got the big one and have pretty well finished my second small book. She said that she belongs to a stamp club and gave me the website link, which I've filed someplace. She travels all over the country with her two cats and her parrot. The big white rig next to our car is rigged like a living/bedroom with a small kitchen. The cats run loose in there and the parrot is in a huge cage. She sleeps and eats in it. Must have cost a pretty penny--she showed us pix--pretty impressive. Leaving the fort we saw ruts that remain from the wagons that passed over the SFTrail--though the Oregon Trail ruts in Nebraska are more impressive. We also came upon a herd of antelope leisurely grazing alongside the road. As content as the Angus steer across the road. Back to I 25 and up to Springer where we turned Eastward through Clayton and on into Oklahoma. Sadly, we bid good bye to New Mexico for another year. But, the Kiowa grasslands are beautiful and usually we see antelope here, too, but other than one in the middle of the road, there were no more for this year. Now we are in that part of Oklahoma known as NO Man's Land. For some reason when the borders of Ok, Ka, Tx and NM were laid out this strip of land did not fall within any of them. It is now made up of three counties of Ok and Beaver is the one that has been in the news this winter since there were and still are incredibly strong grass fires that have gobbled up much of the land and many of the homes of people there. Our two day trip over No Man's Land was quite odiferous. Our first stop was in Boise City at No Man's Land Jerky Co. Being a Saturday afternoon it was closed but we know Moore's grocery carries the stuff so we backtracked down the street after first greeting the local kitty who hangs out on the bench. Leaving Boise we continued East to Guymon. Now, those who have traveled with us before know about Eddie's Steakhouse. Eddie was a widower who ran the best steakhouse we've ever patronized and we have often planned on hitting Guymon on the way home for one of his prime ribs. Unforunately, two years ago Eddie became very ill and last year when we came to town the restaurant was closed and Eddie had died. He has two children--one of whom is a dentist around Dallas and the other equally well employed someplace else--California, maybe. At any rate, neither had an interest in returning to Guymon or running a restaurant so things were in limbo. We decided to check it out again and lo and behold, the kids decided to lease it to another restaurant owner in town. It has opened once more and the same chef and wait staff are there. We were delighted to renew our friendship with the two teachers who also work there. The salary situation is so sad--no raise in base pay for 8 years and one of the ladies has twenty years plus and has topped out at 43K! I retired almost 20 years ago at 46K. So sad. We visited for over an hour as well as eating dinner so by the time we returned to the room it was an hour of TV and sleep! After another stellar sunset that one only gets over the ocean or in the last of big skies. On Sunday we laid out a day of travel---heading to the end of No Man's Land and then crossing Oklahoma in a southeasterly direction. As we left Guymon we noticed the ranks of low metal buildings in a distance that we'd been told of the night before. Apparently, pigs are the big product here and they are raised indoors in these series of sextets or quintets of the metal buildings with grain feeders at both ends. When the wind is just right, there is no problem in identifying the use of these very uniformly situated groups. Worse than any cow manure ever. Right up there with chicken poop--gagging and throat burning, eye watering stench. Yet, along with them there are large fields of beautiful patterns of soil being prepared for sowing and cattle grazing. Not long after leaving the Strip, we were in the scorched earth area and a new odor assailed us--the smell of burnt grass. We were not even in the area of the worst fires and yet the damage was extensive. Here hay is being brought in because what animals have survived have nothing to eat. A whole new problem, inspecting for the introduction of invasive insects in the hay. So many ramifications to something reported simply as huge grass fires. Once out of the grasslands we entered the oil fields and wind farms and larger towns. The area was now water rich. Having just left two areas that were so arid, the profusion of plants and the number of ponds and rivers was incredibly noticeable. How difficult it must have been for the westward moving pioneers to leave this lushness behind for the dryness of the west and southwest. The number and size of herds of cattle also increased. When we came to Thomas--the home of the First Gentleman, Wade Christensen, I asked Bill who he was. Well, the other day, I picked up a new Oklahoma map and lo and behold he is the husband of the governor--who, as a true modern woman, does not use his name. Remember when Hilary demanded to be called Hilary RODHAM Clinton??? LOL On we continued, through one reservation after another of the many tribes found in Oklahoma. Finally we reached Chickasha and a small diner with a filthy bar but nice people. The barman was a young former marine, Mark, who asked where we were from. When we said Vermont--he said "where's that?"!!!!!!!!! I said Vermont, USA. He had not a clue and even after we told him, I know he really didn't get it. He said when he was a kid he used to think Washington DC and Washington State were the same place. OMG--no wonder there is no unity in this country--kids don't even know what makes up this country. Anyway, he was stationed in Korea and traveled to Hawaii. Says he isn't a native American but rather a Pacific Islander,yet later he claimed to be an Arbuckle/Turner of the Arbuckle Mountains/Turner Falls area of Oklahoma, which he assured us was a beautiful part of the State. As did the two women down the bar from us. We added it to our inventory of possible explorations. Having driven 300 miles I uploaded the pictures and decided I was too tired to do any blogging. Basically, the goal was to get closer to Texas and our visit to Bill's frat brother, Jimmy, who kept calling us to find out when we were going to be there. Ugh! Determined to slow down a bit and take in some of the sites of this area, where we had not traveled before, I said that I wanted to go to the Chisholm Trail Museum in Duncan. With an almost cloudless, clear blue sky for about the fourth day in a row we headed out south once more. The jets stand out for miles in these wide skies and where there are no clouds there are often contrails criss-crossing the sky as their planes criss-cross the country. We entered Outlaw Country which is also watermelon country though we are much too early. In one of the towns, all the trees along the residential section are painted with some sort of white substance--makes them look like they are wearing knee socks. Bill figures it is some kind of insect repellant. Arriving in Duncan we found all types of reminders, including a large mural, that informs the traveler that he has arrived in the Crape myrtle capital of Oklahoma! Even the street signs have a blossom on them. Apparently, this is also the home of Haliburton and there is a statue of the man himself sitting in an easy chair on the plaza of a riverside park. We made our way to the Chisholm Trail Heritage Center. One starts the visit with a 25 minute film which is a reenactment of a drive to Abilene, Ks complete with a crossing of a swollen river. Those of us sitting in the front were treated to the splash of water created by the maddened steer coming onto the bank on which we sat. That was a little surprising, though I didn't jump at all. But the best part was the wind and rain and lightening and thunder of a nighttime storm--we were blown and rained upon along with the characters in the film. A really neat approach. I even closed my eyes after awhile because the lightning and thunder seemed so real. Next there was a campfire chat with Chisholm and a first time wrangler on the drive. Animatronic characters-and Cookie behind the chuckwagon, out of sight but not sound, as he pulled the tooth of an ailing cowboy and added to the conversation. After that there were all kinds of hands on exhibits--Bill drove his herd so successfully through Indian encounters and weather events and swollen rivers that he sold them in Abilene for enough money that he would not have to work again and could buy a house in New Orleans. He lost few steer and no men. I lost a man in a river and several head though I bartered better with the Kiowa than he did. Nevertheless, my men and herd were tired enough that I went to a different railhead than Abilene. I managed okay and became a veteran trail boss but looks like I'm going to have to make a few more runs and make better choices if I ever expect to retire. There was a nice exhibit of the four groups of men involved in the workings of the Trail--the mayor of Abilene who has the quandary of trying to attract a high class of people to the town while managing to rein in the wild trail cowboys who have lots of money to spend, which the town really wants, but who have a tendency to go wild in their pursuit of booze and women. Then there is the cowboy who wants to strike it rich and stop having to spend so much of his year driving a bunch of nasty, unpredictable creatures over long miles of Indian infested, open country with wild weather patterns and rivers to cross. The Kiowa has had to learn that the land that was once his is now being trampled by more and more cattle drives. He either can raid them and then have to reassemble and corral these mad steer or he can charge a fee for the passage over the land. Better to get along and make some food out of it--barter for the best deal. And then there is the Buffalo soldier, trying to defend the settlers against the Indians and protect outliers etc. The second half of the building is a gallery that houses the collection of a prominent family in town. The collection is huge and it is beautiful. Of particular interest to me was the first painting--Maria Tallchief--a prima ballerina in the NYC ballet. I saw her dance on Ed Sullivan when I was a little girl and thought she was so elegant and regal. Her sister also danced in the corps. I laugh when I see the big fuss made over the black girl who is now a prima with them and is praised as the first minority star--guess Indians don't count as a minority at times. After getting our cultural fix we continued on down the road toward the Arbuckle Hills and Turner Falls. We now had truly entered catfish country--people down here love it--not me. The Arbuckle Hills are one of several clusters of pimples that erupt on the flat surface of Oklahoma. After 8000+ feet it felt like a kiddie roller coaster to go over them--but they are quite pretty. However, the Baptist Church has much of the area fenced off and the Creek that feeds Turner Falls is dry as a bone. Only the " blue hole" has water. Don't know why. Continued into Ardmore where Bill did the laundry--his turn--and I read. Too tired to blog on internet that really didn't work very well,. He went out to Applebees and brought me back a chicken oriental salad. The next day I had plotted out to get to see his Frat brother in Lavon, Texas without getting snarled up in Dallas traffic. On Tuesday we tooled through Ardmore and on into the cute town of Madill with a lovely fountain of little kids playing in a creek. The road markings were pretty poor here and we had a bit of a time finding our way out of Madill on the right route. Nice tour of the square all the way around to the sign that finally gave us the right direction. Soon we came to old Wallis Bridge across the Red River and into Texas. I always love the exhortation on their welcome signs " Drive Friendly-The Texas Way." They are the worst drivers--they tail gate, pass, sometimes three vehicles certainly two, over double solid lines with no oncoming vehicle visibility. What they don't do is honk horns at you. The speed limit in most places is 75, Bill is doing it, and they leave us in their dust. They are maniacs and the only drivers worse are the Massholes back home. They are all over NM, Co and Ok and as soon as we see a guy passing we KNOW it is a Texan and might even be a little old lady driving! Arrived in Lavon about 12:30 and sat around talking with Jimmy. The conversation ran the gamut of politics, religion, politics, Texas history and college exploits of the Brothers. Then there was the rehash of what everyone has done since college--LOTS of talk about guys I've never met and never will. Unfortunately, there wasn't a place I could excuse myself to go to read. Periodically, they'd go outside for a cigarette and I'd sit staring at the walls til they came back in. Boring. But since Jimmy doesn't cook and didn't want Bill to cook we went out to Chili's for dinner which broke the monotony. Jimmy said to be careful, it would be a redneck crowd--?? Well, they seemed totally normal to us. When Bill mentioned on the way home that the crowd seemed fine, Jimmy said it was a different crowd than usual. He also wanted to take us down to Fort Worth to go to a real honky-tonk. We demurred--60 miles of traffic one way--not fun for us. Got back to the house and Bill went to bed at 8:30. Much too early for me and no lamp other than the ceiling light in the room so I couldn't read. The best night of the week for TV and Jimmy didn't have one. I sat up and did the puzzle, while Jimmy went to his office and the computer surfing he does most of the time. He also stays in touch with Frat guys past and present--hence knows where everyone is and what they are up to. I retired at 930--still too early--and tossed and turned until 11 or so when I finally fell asleep. Bill was up at 6 the next morning, I got up at 9--Jimmy had been up but gone back to bed with a panic attack. He joined us around 10 and Bill made breakfast --he was the only one who ate. Jimmy and I had coffee. At 11:30 we were finally on our way back to Oklahoma. It is nice to see him, though stressful. Bill promised we'd stay only one night, thank goodness. He finds Jimmy stressful, too. Passed through the cute town of Bonham, Texas which is the home of Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House for as long as I can remember in my youth. We've passed his house going east -west through town on a past trip. Would have liked to have visited the site but it doesn't open until Memorial Day. Took a different route back to Oklahoma, passing over an even older bridge across the Red. This one had far more character. Interestingly, though there was a nice old cement welcome sign in the shape of Texas on the Texas side, there was absolutely no welcome sign in Oklahoma. The fields on the Oklahoma side have been planted and the young corn plants have started to sprout making nice young green stripes to alternate with the rich brown stripes of the soil. Spring is all around down here. The temperature had reached 92 a couple of days earlier--20 degrees warmer than usual--but in subsequent days the it has dropped to a more normal 70's. Came into Durant, the City of Magnolias and checked into the motel. Bill went out to Main Street Barbeque to eat and pick something up for me. I remained behind planning on catching up with pictures and the blog. He wasn't gone five minutes when I found that the TV didn't work and after a half hour of trying I gave up on the Internet. Called the main desk and Lisa came down to check things out. Someone had stolen the cable to the TV!!!! She had to call maintenance man to come back into work and replace it. While he was there he told me that they had reset the Internet--now it showed no available networks. He said that an Ethernet cable would probably work though the hotel didn't have any ( their little info book said they did! ) I carry an Ethernet cable with me but was too tired to try it. Bill came back with ribs, cole slaw and potato salad for me. I was sad I hadn't gone with him, since I wasn't going to get the blog done. The final aggravation came when the toilet stopped flushing!!! Also, tried the Ethernet connection the next morning and that didn't work either. Up at 730--dressed in the same clothes--packed everything up and went down to breakfast. Poor Lisa asked how everything was. I assured her that she and the maintenance man were in no way at fault for the situation and that when I wrote my review of the place they would both be praised for their attempts to help us--including Lisa offering to find us another room. If I'd known the plumbing was going to go, I'd have moved. Anyway, we were on the road by 830 and I set a course directly northeast to Joplin. The ONLY zig we took in the path was into Caddo, Ok which the manager at the Trail Center had said was an adorable town with an old Victorian Main St. The only unique aspect to the town was the arched welcome sign over the road in and the buffalo on the tops of the signs marking Buffalo Ave. LOL But, it was a fun little diversion from the night before. I took few pictures since we were on a four lane that passed lots of truck stops, gas stations and shopping malls. I even slept for about an hour. My only goal was to get the hell out of Oklahoma!! At the intersection with I 45 there is a huge Indian to greet those entering Oklahoma from Missouri. There are many tribes in Oklahoma, mostly in the Eastern side. They have their own nations and license plates. We spent a great deal of time several years ago exploring Choctaw and Cherokee sites. We had planned on going to another after visiting Jimmy but decided to save it for a future trip. Once in Joplin, I again attempted to get caught up on my blog. Bill went to Longhorn and brought me back some French onion soup and a half steak sandwich. Very good. I blogged for several hours and when I was ready to send the email, discovered that I'd been dumped off the Internet an hour earlier so no draft was kept. Although I highlighted and copied the blog, when I went to paste it, I found that it had not copied. I lost over an hours worth of typing that I've now recomposed at 830 am on Friday the 24th. It appears to have been saved as a draft so I will be able to send it on this morning. We had planned on going up to Lavar, the birthplace of Harry S Truman and on to Carthage to visit the square and have lunch at the café. Last night's weather report said high winds, and heavy rain today. It is already windy and the day is heavily overcast. There may be tornados. So, I think I'll go out to the bank with Bill, since he doesn't know how to us and ATM--really!--can't use a credit card at the gas station either. Amazing. Other than that I think I'll stay in and read my new book and otherwise just veg. Tomorrow we will go to Corder to visit with Paul and Jean Gross. Paul and Bill were in Peace Corps in Nepal together. We've visited them before and they came to see us over the summer. Looking forward to seeing them and maybe the pigs. After that, it is headed home for sure. We have to be there by April 1--so not too much time to linger. Always makes me sad but it ain't over yet!! LOL Amy, I know I have your emails--will reply later today. Gloria, glad Bud is feeling better. Sorry you had to delay Branson-had hoped maybe we would link up for lunch or something, but we will be close to home by the time you get here. Have fun. So, until I find a good Internet connection once more--we are here hoping not to come face to face with any tornadoes and looking forward to visiting with old friends. Take care, all KandB