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

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Close Case--The End of the Samantha Kinkade Trilogy

Close Case (Samantha Kincaid #3)Close Case by Alafair Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The last of the Samantha Kinkaid trilogy though with an open-ended finale there is always the possibility that Sam may some day reappear in the Burke collection. This is certainly the best of the three books--the author improved with each one. In this several seemingly unrelated crimes fall into Samantha's lap. The first is the brutal beating to death of the chief crime reporter for The Oregonian. Seems to be a random meth induced attack by a couple of teen hoodlums wanting to take guys Mercedes for a spin. In very quick time, the kids are arrested and, with a little extra pressure from a NYPD transplant, a confession is obtained. An eyewitness has made a statement and a bloody baseball bat is recovered from a dumpster close to one of the perps homes. A slam dunk for sure. Not so fast, guys!
The other is the strange case of a cop shooting an unarmed black woman whom he claims tried to run him over after a routine traffic stop. A political hot cake in these days but, once more, on the surface though some questions arise, it would appear the cop acted responsibly in self defense. Another slam dunk--right?
Well, if things were so easily solved there would be no story to fill over 300 enjoyable pages, filled with inconsistencies, second guesses, new evidence, and a young reporter hoping to make her chops by following up on cryptic notes left behind by the murdered investigative reporter. Through it all, Sam and her now live in boyfriend, the cop and childhood sweetheart, try to keep love alive as they find themselves on opposite sides when it comes to the investigation of his partner, Mike and his best friend, another cop whose wife had been having an affair with the reporter. Complications all around. But, as with all good stories, everything falls into place in the end even if not all the results are satisfactory.

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Friday, December 22, 2017

White Collar Crime in Oregon--Samantha Kinkaid on the Job

Missing Justice (Samantha Kincaid #2)Missing Justice by Alafair Burke
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Samantha has moved from the drug squad after her near death in her last case. She is now in Major Crimes and her first case is a doozy--a prominent judge goes missing. Her equally prominent doctor husband is at his wits end, sure she has been kidnapped but hopeful she is still alive. No such luck--her body is found with her head bashed in--moved from the crime scene to a construction site on the expanding edge of town. She appears to have been naked when killed and redressed after death. Has she been sexually assaulted? Who would have wanted her dead?

Sam's bosses are supportive but as usual she is a loner who investigates and asks permission later,which gets her into a bit of hot water. It is an especially sensitive case with many connected people as friends and relatives of the victim and her husband. Add to the mix the appearance of Sam's ex-husband as an attorney for the bereaved husband, her father's reluctance to have her exposing herself to possible damage in her career, and her boyfriend, Mike's presence on the police major crimes team.

A good story of small city politics and the justice system--confounding until the very last pages with a satisfactory outcome.

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Sunday, December 17, 2017

Lt Dallas, Eve on the Case--Judgement in Death--#11

Judgment in Death (In Death, #11)Judgment in Death by J.D. Robb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Purgatory--Roarke owned strip club---body viciously beaten to death with a baseball bat. Turns out the vic is a cop working a second job as a bartender so his wife can stay home with the kids. Background shows him to be a good cop--nothing extraordinary but nothing below average--just a good, by the book, family guy. So why is he dead? Why has he been beaten like this as though there was real anger in the attack? And how come the murderer was cool enough to clean up in the bar sink and confiscate all the security tapes? Yet, the place is trashed badly, too but nothing stolen? In short order the name Ricker pops up--a well-known crime lord who always seems to skate through no matter how tight the evidence. A connection??

Lt Dallas, Eve on the case along with Peabody, McNab and Feeney. An assortment of cops from the victims precinct as well as IA types trying to muddy the waters keep the action interesting. Our gal gets the bad guys but not before all kinds of mayhem, battles with Roarke and, of course, sexy make-up sessions. Just another day in future NYC!

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Friday, December 15, 2017

The Great Nadar

The Great Nadar: The Man Behind the CameraThe Great Nadar: The Man Behind the Camera by Adam Begley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Great Nadar--The Man Behind the Camera

That is the subtitle of the Great Nadar--The man behind the camera--but Gaspard-Felix Tournachon, born in Paris in 1820 to a book publisher from Lyon and his young mistress, became so much more. While it is true that photography may have been the profession in which he made his mark, Nadar, as he was known then, came to his renown through many paths. But I get ahead of myself in this review, since the book really begins with its interesting cover--a checkerboard of pictures of Nadar taken from many angles. He is a Frenchman but he does not look like a stereotypical Frenchman--he is not the dark, sensuous Louis Jordan nor is he the suave bon vivant, Maurice Chevalier. His hair appears much lighter than either of them, it is bobbed and curls under. He sports a bald spot not unlike a monk's tonsure and his has a Santa Clause moustache that curls just perfectly around a mouth, that even in repose seems to smile--as it does quite impishly in one of the shots. He appears to have a couple of hairy moles or growths on the side of his face near his jawline. All in all, a pleasant, inviting face that seems to gaze back at the camera with interest, as though studying the studier. Once into the book, we learn that Nadar did not become Nadar immediately--he actually was known as Felix within his family and in his early adulthood, when he decided to study medicine to support his widowed mother and younger brother, It was not until he left his medical studies, finding them much too constraining and structured, to pursue journalism that he entered the world of the Bohemians and became a starving artist that he was anointed with the nickname by some of his fellows. Initially, he found himself a caricaturist but in a short time found an interest in the more realistic portrayal of people by use of a camera. Throughout his life he rubbed elbows with the famous of Paris--artists, poets ,actors, politicians, novelists--with some he made friends early in life-some of them fellow bohemians--but others he encountered once he'd established himself as the foremost photographer of Paris. The book takes us through the early years and through the heyday on into his retirement. Along the way he supported, competed with, sued, reconciled and fought again with his younger brother, Adrien. He married a woman considerably younger than himself, Ernestine, whom he called, and others called, Madame Bonne. And she was--good to put up with his many impulsive interests that became obsessions and good for him, a settling influence on his mad pursuit of some of these interests. One of his most consuming pursuits was the development of a huge air balloon called Le Geant among other smaller versions. The descriptions of his flights in these balloons is as hair raising as the actual event must have been. He was a great proponent of air flight though he did not anticipate nor propose the concept of an airplane--he thought the lighter than air approach was the key to flight. He was a self-promoter with an ability to make lifelong friends, he was a defender of his name and brand against all comers, including his brother and, later in life, his son. He was grandiose and proposed a publication of a Livre d'or which would contain pictures and biographies of all the famous of France--he started the project but lacked the financial backing to complete it. Perhaps the most interesting part of the book is the final section which is a series of autographs in a studio livre d'or-- a guest book which Nadar asked various people whom he photographed to sign. The entries range from poetry to simple signatures, musical notation to pen and ink sketches. It is fascinating in both the type of entry and the authors who made them. A birds-eye view of Nadar's comtemporaries and friends. This tall, lanky, ever curious red head died fourteen months after his beloved Ernestine a few weeks before turning 90 in 1910. I received a copy of this book to review from Blogging for Books

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Hiro Brings Father Mateo Home to Iga Just In Time for Murder at Dinner

Betrayal at Iga (Shinobi Mystery #5)Betrayal at Iga by Susan Spann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When last we left Hiro and Fr Mateo the Shogan has died and various factions are trying to take over. For the safety of the Portuguese Jesuit the two men have taken refuge in the mountainous home of Hiro--his ninja clan in Iga Province. On the day of their arrival a contingent from a neighboring province has also arrived. Although it is not the ideal situation since each new arrival by tradition receives their own welcome dinner, Hartori Hanzo, Hiro's cousin and commander, has no choice but to welcome both parties at the same meal. It would appear that the other guests are four emissaries from Koga Province. Hanzo would like to convince Koga to unite with Iga to show strength in numbers as the Shoganate is settled. Naturally, as often happens to our heros, one of the Koga emissaries dies violently vomiting and struggling to breath during the second course of the dinner!

The remaining Koga immediately accuse the Iga of murdering him and declare it an act of war. Hanzo calms them enough to get their agreement to remain three days while Fr Mateo, not of Iga Province and not Japanese, and therefore neutral, investigates to determine the murderer. So many possible culprits, most of them assassins by training, all of them with either motive or the duty to obey the orders of one with a motive. Hiro's grandmother, mother, former childhood sweetheart, the three remaining Koga, Hanzo himself, any of them capable of the act.

I love the fact that Susan Spann writes so well that the solution is as perplexing for the reader as for the characters. But, in the end, after another two deaths and threats of more, the murderer is indeed identified. A resolution is reached in the negotiations for a pact between neighbors. And, Hanzo with great humor sends Hiro, Fr Mateo, Ana the housekeeper and Gato, the cat on to their next adventure. What he doesn't know is that he is sending the reader along, too--at least this one.

The hardest part is having to wait a year to catch up with them at the sacred Mount Koya.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lisbeth and Blonkquist After Larssen

The Girl in the Spider's Web (Millennium, #4)The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The story is interesting is a bit too techie technical for me. The characters are interesting but Lagercrantz doesn't seem to sure about the characterization so he doesn't have too much interaction between Salander and Michal except by text. The description of an autistic savant is compelling and interesting. The further explanation of Lisbeth's relationship to her sister is illuminating. All in all, if you don't think about Larssen to much while reading this book, it is satisfying. Don't compare it to the first three and it is a good read, if you compare too much you will be disappointed.

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Once the Holidays are Over it is back to trying to eat sensibly--I hope!

The Healthy Smoothie Bible: Lose Weight, Detoxify, Fight Disease, and Live LongThe Healthy Smoothie Bible: Lose Weight, Detoxify, Fight Disease, and Live Long by Farnoosh Brock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hard to review a self-help book about healthy eating but this is a good one. I'm already a smoothie lover but wanted the extra tips this book provides. Have not been disappointed--as a matter of fact, purchased her Healthy Juicer's Bible and a juicer, which has been on my wishlist for awhile. It, too, is an excellent book. Hopefully, I will be a good learner and benefit from my reading and purchases.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Souls of Air--Nursing Home Neglect/Abuse is Universal

Souls of AirSouls of Air by Mons Kallentoft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Two weeks ago today my 95 year old aunt who spent the last two years in a nursing home passed away. I had no idea what the subject of this latest Kallentoft installment of the Malin Fors series was, but the opening chapters were almost exactly the conversations I had with my aunt only a month ago. Her nursing home purchased by a new company, the staff reductions, the loss of long-time staff to other jobs that paid more, the degradation of care and the horror of unappetizing, cold or lukewarm meals slapped down on the pull over table. After hearing of these changes in a nursing home that had been warm and caring and cheerful filled my heart with grief. In retrospect, if her remaining time on this earth was to be in a warehouse situation, in a cheerless God's waiting room, then perhaps there is truth in things happen for a reason. Kind of eye opening to hear of these things in Sweden, one of the Scandinavian systems held up to us by some politicians as the epitome of perfect health care for all.
But, of course, this being a Malin Fors mystery there is a suspicious death in Linkoping's Cherub Nursing Home. Though it appears Konrad Karlsson committed suicide no one seems to believe he was unhappy or despondent nor that he had the strength to hang himself. Malin's daughter, Tove has been working the day shift at Cherub as a summer job and was particularly close to Konrad. She is therefore quite shaken by his death and seems to be showing early stages of following her Mother into alcoholism. Malin is at a loss how to deal with this since she feels 19 year old Tove will see any attempt at guidance as the pot calling the kettle black.
In addition, struggling with her own alcoholism, though on the wagon for a year , Malin is emotionally frozen. Her break-up with Peter, the doctor whom she thought would be her life partner, has left her numb and strangely devoid of any type of feeling for anything including her job, her life, her co-workers, her brother.....
Kallentoft continues keeping her co-workers as well as characters new to this case as well developed as real people. Their lives and relationships are described with depth and sensitivity, making the story engrossing and interesting. And as usual, Tove, Malin and others who appear in each of the stories, have made decisions and choices that leave the reader waiting for the next installment to see the consequences of these developments. Definitely, addictive this Swede and his books!

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

UP,UP and Away with the Wright Brothers

The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is there another author of historic biography who writes so smoothly and interestingly as McCullough. His books read as though he is sitting with you, sharing coffee and chatting away about these historical figures. This book is the same. Not only is the wonder of beginnings of aviation brought to life but so, too, are these two men, brothers, Orville and Wilbur. Right alongside them their sister, Katherine and their father, the Bishop Wright. Amazingly, their achievement--human flight --begins and is fulfilled over the course of only ten or so years!!!! They traveled to Europe as well as the East Coast of the United States, learning from others and experimenting with their ideas. Over time, once they proved that man could fly, others followed in their footsteps and competitions of elevation, speed and distance evolved. But, as the field became crowded, Wilbur found himself grounded, his time needed to run the business and fight lawsuits against fellow aviators who infringed on their patents. So stressful was this aspect of their work, he wore himself out and died in his 40's. Orville continued, with the help of Katherine, with the business and with the work. He attended memorials and awards that he would have liked to have avoided but felt he owed it to the memory of his brother. When Katherine, finally in her 50's decided to marry--he ended all involvement with her. Neither he nor Wilbur married.
The story is detailed in the great excitement of the times as people became enamored with the idea of flight--all over the world. The excitement is contagious and jumps off the page despite the readers' present day experience of same day flight to almost any part of the world at thousands of feet in the air and speeds exceeding hundreds of miles. A 22 minute flight of 20 or so miles up the Hudson at about 36 miles an hour, buffeted by the winds bouncing off the skyscrapers of 1908! is as exhilarating in its telling as it must have been to the spectators and the pilot who looped the loops and swung the turns at the time.
The book got misplaced and so it appears to have taken an awful long time to read it. In actuality, when found there were only 24 pages left to read!

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The Fifth Season--Swedish Forests Hold Deadly Secrets

The fifth season (Malin Fors, #5)The fifth season by Mons Kallentoft
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Powerful men, susceptible women, evil incarnate, horrific mutilation. Malin Fors and her team find themselves investigating the murder of several young women found in various locations in the forests of Sweden. Several other young women are in mental wards unable to communicate, attacked and mutilated in the same way. Are the cases connected? What, other than the form the attacks have taken and the discovery of these women alone in the forest, have the cases have in common, if anything. Initially, every lead ends in a dead end. Even when the team thinks they have found men who seem to have been involved, finding hard evidence is seemingly impossible. Cases have been closed without adequate investigation, expert testimony claims that, at least in one instance, the wounds could have been self-inflicted.
As Malin finally seems to be closing in on the murderers, key players turn up dead, too. Frustration and fatigue dog the police but in the end the case is solved and the pure evil involved leaves the reader as speechless as the surviving victims!

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Sunday, November 5, 2017

Water Angels--Malin Falls off the Wagon, Again!

Water AngelsWater Angels by Mons Kallentoft
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the sixth installment of the Malin Fors mysteries by Swedish author,Mons Kallentoft. As usual it is a page turner but with less violence than usual. Still, the story is as gripping and horrifying as the earlier stories, since the violence against Vietnamese adoptees is implied rather than described in detail. The story revolves around the violent murder of an affluent married couple in their hot tub and the kidnap of their adopted five year old Vietnamese daughter. There are no leads, no prints, no cartridges, nothing to give even a hint of who killed them or why. Yet, as the investigation unfolds the nefarious activities surrounding a very lucrative adoption racket are revealed. The more digging Malin and her fellow investigators do, the more it becomes evident that the root of the crime lies in Saigon.
As usual, Kallentoft also includes what is happening in the private lives of the police officers. This aspect of the book truly requires that the reader have followed them since the first book. It is not so integral that this book cannot stand alone but if one becomes interested in these people as men and women with more to their lives than the police work that takes up so much of each day, then to know them is to have read of them earlier.
Also, for the first time reader, it may be a bit disconcerting to find themselves privy to the thoughts of the dead and of the victim but it soon becomes a natural part of the story and actually, for me, and interesting aspect of the action.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

Vermont's Northeast Kingdom became Mosher's Kingdom County

Points NorthPoints North by Howard Frank Mosher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Living in Vermont just outside its Northeast Kingdom is what led me to Mosher's books. Having taught for almost 30 years in Vermont and knowing folks and scenes exactly like those he described kept me reading his books. Now, it is with sadness, that his last book has been read. Sadness because there will be no more but real joy because this one brought the same shakes of the head, knowing nods, laughter and sighs as all those that came before. If you haven't read him, start at the beginning and try, if possible, to make at least one trip to the Northeast Kingdom to see the place and talk with its people.
Once, looking for Lewis Pond, having driven over from Burlington, I stopped for gas in the Kingdom. The old bird who pumped the gas saw the car dealer's plaque and said, oh, a city girl! I laughed, inside thinking you don't know the half of it--grew up in NYC--Burlington, a city? Yeah! But smiling I asked --do you know how to get to Lewis Pond? Answer--Yup. After a few seconds I said, would you mind sharing? Nope, soon as I finish pumping this here gas. That's the Northeast Kingdom--head on up--or read Mosher--or both!

This is a review of an Advanced Uncorrected Proof, provided by Goodreads for a fair review.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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

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

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

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Blood Orange--A Deadly Weapon on Four Wheels

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

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

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Friday, October 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

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

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

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

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

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

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

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

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

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

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

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

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Friday, September 1, 2017

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

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

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

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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