Friday, December 09, 2016

The Packages Are Mailed Weekly Link Round-Up

It's that time of year: my knitted gifts are being given to their new owners. Last year, they were mailed to friends here in the U.S. This year, they all seem to be headed to family and friends in England. (Yikes-- Be prepared to get a second mortgage on your house to pay the postage!)

The scarf to the right is something that's staying here. As an experiment with a silk/flax blend yarn, it looks great with that sheen and color, but it's awfully scratchy. It didn't make the cut.

But my purple lace-and-sequin scarf earned me three big hugs from my hairdresser, and since her daughter likes to borrow all her scarves, I've already found patterns and the perfect yarn to use to make her some of her own.

There's something satisfying about making gifts to give to others. Whether I'm doing needlepoint or knitting, I'm always thinking good thoughts about the person I'm making the item for. It's probably because I grew up in a make-it-yourself family, but the idea that someone spent hours making something especially for me means a lot. Time is one of the most precious things we have to spend on this earth.

Speaking of time, it's time I headed out to the Link Corral. They're getting restless. Head 'em up! Moooooove 'em out!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄
  • Outlander has been named ahead of Trainspotting as Scotland's greatest screen adaptation.
  • A Syrian girl recently asked J.K. Rowling for a Harry Potter book. 
  • DNA tests as a way to combat bigotry? Biased strangers take a DNA test, and the results show why we shouldn't judge others on their looks. 
  • wants you to NOT judge a book by its cover.
  • How the world reads
  • From hate speech to fake news, the content crisis facing Mark Zuckerberg.
  • Hundreds of U.S. children's authors have signed a pledge to tackle racism and xenophobia
  • Book reviewing used to be a blood sport: the death of the hatchet job.

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Courtney Holmes is my kind of barber, and if you love books and reading, he's yours, too.
  • We may not know his name, but this elderly man in Germany has surprises growing in his garden
  • The search for the real woman who lived on the Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • Sylvia Melamed, dead at the age of 98, was an Auschwitz survivor who outsmarted Mengele.

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►I ♥ Lists & Quizzes◄

That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for you surfing pleasure.

Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Murder at the Mansion by Janet Finsilver

First Line: As I straightened out the Jeep after rounding a long curve, Redwood Cove popped into view.

Bed and breakfast manager Kelly Jackson has just returned to Redwood Cove on California's coast with all her belongings from her parents' ranch in Wyoming. With a big tourist rush expected for whale watching season and Redwood Cove undergoing renovation, she's asked to help out at nearby Redwood Heights, a Victorian estate owned by her boss's company. Tasked with doing inventory, she stumbles across the body of a guest named Sylvia Porter and finds herself searching for a killer with the aid of a group of senior citizens known as the Silver Sentinels.

I continue to enjoy Janet Finsilver's Kelly Jackson series that began with Murder at Redwood Cove. In this second installment, Kelly finds herself looking into the owners and the history of that grand old Victorian estate. The old mansion is filled to the rafters with secrets, and I loved watching Kelly discover each one. 

There are two more things I continue to enjoy about this series: the fact that Finsilver includes working dogs with unusual occupations in each book, and the group of senior citizens called the Silver Sentinels. Murder at the Mansion introduces readers to two beagles named Jack and Jill whose job most people would prefer to be neither seen nor heard. (No, I'm not spilling the beans!) As far as the Silver Sentinels go, these "old folks" are excellent when it comes to searching all sorts of dusty records and getting in touch with all their contacts to glean even more information. They're also top-notch babysitters and caring, generous friends. Finsilver's series is all the better for their presence. 

Kelly Jackson is a strong main character, and I certainly appreciate the fact that she doesn't panic in an emergency-- nor does she wait for someone else to come to her rescue. My kind of gal!

Weighing in at just under two hundred pages, reading Murder at the Mansion was an enjoyable experience. It's certainly nice to read a lean, tight mystery without a lot of filler that still shows progress with character development. I'm looking forward to March 2017 when the third book Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table will be available. 


Murder at the Mansion by Janet Finsilver
eISBN: 9781616509316
Lyrical Underground Books © 2016
eBook, 193 pages

Cozy Mystery, #2 Kelly Jackson mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.  


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

While Miz Kittling Knits: Deep Water

Now that it's actually cooled down here in Phoenix, I've found that my knitting speed has increased. In December, I've already begun making gifts for next year. 

Giving a handmade gift to someone last week generated a request that I'm working on right now. I'm really getting a kick out of using different types of yarn-- especially "luxury" yarn that's either a high class fiber like silk or cashmere, or a yarn with the added bling of sequins and/or glass beads. 

I have to shake my head and smile though. Of course, I'm enjoying working with luxury yarns-- they're expensive! Fortunately I've found a few places online where I can keep an eye peeled for good sales. (And I don't know whether or not I should admit this, but I've found a company that sells yarn made of yak hair. Why does this intrigue me so much?!?)

This time around, I'm going to show you the scarf I made for the woman who cuts our hair. The pattern is called Mae Geri, and it's a lace pattern.

"Mae Geri" on blocking boards.
I thought I'd show one photo of it when it was still pinned to the blocking boards so you could see the pattern from a different angle. The last two or three times we went for our haircuts, I was wearing a shirt that had some shade of purple in it, and every time I walked in, Tucker would tell me how much she liked my shirt. "Tucker likes purple," I thought to myself. Then I remembered a favorite yarn that I'd stocked up on, knowing that I would have a use for it one day: Patons Lace Sequin yarn in a color they call "Amethyst." Purple sequins are scattered throughout the yarn, but they do an excellent job of hiding in the photos!

I knew I wasn't taking a chance on the color, but I was in unknown territory, since I didn't know if Tucker liked wearing scarves or not. Well, the first thing she did when she pulled it out of the gift bag was to put it around her neck, and since I got three big hugs, I think the scarf was a hit!

When Tucker made the comment that she'd never get a chance to wear it once she took it home because her daughter loved scarves and always "appropriated" all of hers, I said, "I could always make her her own. What's her favorite color?" Come to find out, burgundy is Taylor's favorite color, and I have just the yarn for something special for her. I'm working on it now! This yarn is also a specialty-type yarn, but it's not expensive. It just has its own quirks that makes knitting with it interesting. As we always said back home, this yarn is "slicker than snot on a doorknob," so I really have to ensure that no stitches slip off the needles while I'm working with it. (I've always wanted to know the origin of that doorknob colloquialism....)

Now... what have I been watching while knitting with lace yarn and sequins?  It's a four-part Australian crime drama called "Deep Water" that I found on Acorn TV.  

Here's the synopsis of the program from IMDb:

"When the mutilated corpse of a young man is found in a beachfront apartment in Bondi, Tori Lustigman [Yael Stone] and Nick Manning [Noah Taylor] are assigned the case. Is this brutal murder a domestic, a robbery gone wrong, or a gay hate crime? As other ritualistic murders occur, they discover the killer is using THRUSTR to procure his victims. Any local using that app is now at risk and it's a race against the clock to catch the serial killer before he strikes again. 

With mounting evidence to suggest the perpetrator has killed before, Tori and Nick start digging through old investigations. The discovery is shocking. In the 80s and 90s they uncover up to 80 possible murders of gay men in NSW - unexplained deaths, 'suicides' and disappearances. Many of these killings were linked to gay bashings by youth gangs, a blood sport that went largely unpunished. As they meet more victims from the uninvestigated past crimes, they become convinced that the current killer is somehow connected. In reopening the cold cases the detectives reveal the hidden truth about the past murders and uncover critical evidence leading to the serial killer. In doing so they finally give closure to the victims' families by bringing the killers, both past and present, to justice.

The female detective (Tori) often went swimming out in the sea, and that always made me cringe. I have Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" and reports of shark attacks off the coast of Australia to thank for that.  I would also like to add that it's a good thing to watch programs filmed in another country. Why? Not only do you get to see some lovely scenery, you can also find out how the natives pronounce things. In watching "Deep Water," I learned that I've been mispronouncing the "Bondi" in Bondi Beach my whole life. It's not BON-dee, it's Bon-DYE. Live and learn!

Filming a scene on Bondi Beach.

"Deep Water" really held my interest throughout, especially since I didn't have the whodunit figured out at all. This investigation turned out to be very personal for Tori, so I got to watch her try to get her hands on the evidence that she needed without anyone finding out her connection to the case. Also interesting and infuriating were the people who tried to stop the cold case investigation, the old "why dig up the past?" batch of nonsense. This is some really good television that I'm very glad I decided to watch while creating a bit of lace. I hope you get a chance to watch "Deep Water," too.


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae

First Line: "And there's no need to cluck your tongue at my back, either," Christine said, not waiting for Janet to catch up.

Four women are pursuing their dreams in the Highlands of Scotland. It's a matter of weeks before the Inversgail Literature Festival, and Janet Marsh, her daughter Tallie, and their friends Christine and Summer want to make sure they are letter perfect in the running of their new bookshop, Yon Bonnie Books. Their tea room is also about ready to open, while the bed and breakfast will complete the picture at a later date. 

But all is not going smoothly. Janet wants to get moved into her new home, but one problem after another has prevented her from doing so. When she and her business partners go to the house, they find the body of investigative reporter Una Graham in the garden shed. They also find a cache of nasty letters that make them believe almost everyone in town would want Una dead. It's going to take a lot of sleuthing to find Una's killer so they can get back to minding their own business(es).

Author Molly MacRae has created quite the amateur sleuthing quartet for the start of her new Highland Bookshop series. Janet Marsh is a librarian, her thirty-eight-year-old daughter Tallie a lawyer, Tallie's college roommate Summer Jacobs is a journalist, and Christine Robertson is a social worker who's returned to her Scottish roots. Between them all, they have plenty of experience that will help them solve crimes. Their decision to come to the Highlands, settle down and open a bookshop, tea room, and bed and breakfast will be seen as vicarious wish fulfillment by many readers, and MacRae does address some of the differences in the way things are done between Scotland and the United States.

There is also an interesting secondary cast that I can't wait to see become more fully fleshed as the series continues-- like Constable Norman Hobbs, a man called Rab and his dog who are both good at disappearing, and an elderly woman the four women call Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle who spends a lot of time in Yon Bonnie Books. I also loved the mentions of groups like "Obsessive Outlanders" and "Born-Again Bravehearts." If only I liked the local librarian as much, but she's simply too good at foisting her work off on others for that to happen. 

Not everything was smooth sailing for me while reading Plaid and Plagiarism. The ladies do something that gets my dander up: they withhold evidence from the police. (Shame on them!) It's also a bit easy to deduce the identity of the killer, but with the book's Highland setting and the fine ensemble cast that the author has created, I am certainly looking forward to the next book in the series!

Plaid and Plagiarism by Molly MacRae
eISBN: 9781681772547
Pegasus Books © 2016
eBook, 336 pages

Cozy Mystery, #1 Highland Bookshop mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley  


Monday, December 05, 2016

Who Watcheth by Helene Tursten

First Line: With me they are safe.

A dead woman, strangled and covered in plastic, is found in a cemetery. Just days earlier the woman had received a flower, a photo of herself, and a nonsensical note. With neither clue nor motive, Detective Inspector Irene Huss and her colleagues in the Violent Crimes Unit in Göteborg, Sweden, have nothing to go on, and when similar murders occur, they are all desperate for a lead to find this killer. 

While all this is going on, strange things are happening at Irene's own home. Items are moved, things are damaged, and she receives a threatening package with no return address. Is Irene on the killer's list, or is she just being paranoid?

Helene Tursten's latest Irene Huss mystery is even leaner and meaner than previous novels. While changes continue to occur in the lives of empty nesters Irene and Krister, Irene is under a very real-- and very creepy-- threat. When no connections are found between the victims, it is steady, dogged police work that wins the day. Never give up. Keep knocking on doors. Keep asking questions. Keep going over and over the evidence for that one tiny clue that will break things wide open. There's something to be said for police officers in crime fiction who are lavishly endowed with intuition, but I also admire a never-say-die attitude and plenty of hard work. 

Tursten does an excellent job of ratcheting up the suspense in this very enjoyable police procedural, and Irene Huss continues to be one of my favorite characters. The author also addresses a couple of points that drive me crazy not only in crime fiction and film but in real life. Whether in a vehicle or on foot, you should always have good knowledge of your surroundings. Know the neighborhood in which you live. Don't travel the streets wearing earbuds or with your face buried in a cell phone. And for crying out loud, close your curtains when it gets dark! Don't provide any- and everyone with something they can't resist watching. I learned the hard way: no matter how uninteresting you may feel yourself to be, there is always someone who finds you fascinating. Tursten is well aware of these things, and she's used them to write an exciting tale that can make your skin crawl.

Who Watcheth by Helene Tursten
Translated from the Swedish by Marlaine Delargy
ISBN: 9781616954048
Soho Crime © 2016
Hardcover, 304 pages

Police Procedural, #9 Detective Inspector Irene Huss
Rating: A-
Source: the publisher  


At The Poisoned Pen with Marcia Clark!

Going to see Marcia Clark at The Poisoned Pen was the first time Denis and I had gone anywhere together since we'd returned from our trip to California. You know... that trip where any time we got close to Los Angeles, it rained. Guess what? It rained all the way to our favorite bookstore. If this keeps up, we're going to be able to hire out the Jeep to all the parched places here in the Southwest!

L to R: Marcia Clark and Barbara Peters

According to host Barbara Peters, "Marcia Clark for me spells trouble."  Before her last appearance, there was a gunman at the Los Angeles International Airport. While folks at The Poisoned Pen were getting updates from Marcia, reporters from CNN and the like were texting Clark wanting her to give them updates.  To continue this troubling theme, Barbara said, "When I pulled out of the driveway with the rain sheeting down I thought, 'Of course. It's Marcia!'

We were at The Poisoned Pen for the release of Clark's second Samantha Brinkman mystery, Moral Defense. In answer to a fan's question, Clark told us that she'd been a defense attorney as well as a prosecutor. It's a good change of pace for Clark to write from a defense attorney's perspective since they aren't "bound by as many restrictions as prosecutors are.

At this point, the interview wandered into strange territory, with Peters remarking that she hadn't realized that the television series The Blacklist was true until she'd read a certain article about the FBI in the newspaper. This then led to the two women talking about the 1952 election when Earl Warren was Dwight Eisenhower's only serious competition for the Republican nomination. It was rather obvious that a deal had been done after Eisenhower became president because Warren quickly became a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. What was so surprising was the fact that the conservative Warren became such an activist while serving.

Marcia Clark
Barbara asked Clark if it had ever happened that things you thought were going to go one way wound up going another? "Well... sure!" Clark replied, and we all knew what this was referring to. Barbara quickly nipped any future questions in the bud by saying, "For every O.J. question, I get to talk about the Cubs!" (This was just the day after their win in the World Series-- and Peters grew up in the Chicago area.) Marcia wholeheartedly endorsed the idea.

Talk then turned back to books. "All my life experiences are coming through in these stories," Marcia said. "In the Samantha Brinkman stories, I'm able to talk about social or legal issues that are very important to me. In Moral Defense I'm able to talk about child adoption as well as child abuse through a prism so that it isn't 'icky' if that makes sense."

These books also allow the author to write a darker, morally ambiguous character. Defense attorney Samantha Brinkman hates the police because they didn't do well by her when she was a child. She was raised by a single mother who was (and still is) a monster. In the first book, Blood Defense, she finds herself defending a police officer accused of a double homicide. Clark advised any of us who had yet to read Blood Defense to read it first because Moral Defense continues several threads that were set up in Blood Defense. Her Rachel Knight series has been written as standalones. 

Available Now!
TNT bought the option for Rachel Knight, but it didn't get picked up as a series. ABC has optioned the Brinkman books, and they're currently getting ready to film a pilot. Two screenwriters are working with Marcia to produce the scripts.

"Writing scripts is like writing haiku," Clark laughed. Fortunately her writing load has lessened a bit. "Putting out two books a year is craziness!" This woman still has a caseload as a lawyer, she's writing books, and she's writing the pilot for a television series. Whew! She did admit that she didn't have a personal life, and we could all see why.

Barbara herself could certainly relate. "Most of the time Rob comes home with the dogs just as I'm leaving to come here. We travel just so we can see each other.

Marcia and Barbara both believe that trial lawyers make better storytellers than judges do because judges have such a passive role. In fact, one of Marcia's fans described judges as "high-priced observers."

Clark "wanted to be a writer since the age of five, and crime fiction and Nancy Drew were my favorites. I just never thought I could make a living at it." When she got a chance to write scripts for a television show, she told us, "Script writing got me into novel writing."

Available Now!
A fan then spoke up, telling Marcia that she's been a prosecutor for ten years now because of Clark. Her concern? "TV leaves too much out. Can you keep it real?

"The parameters of television mean that you have to tell a man-bites-dog story. Something that's short and direct, but within those guidelines you can still tell the truth."

Another fan wanted to know about Clark's writing influences. "The writing styles of everyone I read influences me," Clark said. "I particularly like noir writers. And there's James Ellroy. Jim Thompson. Hammett. Chandler. Sara Waters."

And she has thought of writing a standalone from the point of view of a juror. 

The fans were very talkative this evening, which had a lot to do with how personable Clark is. Another asked her about the motivations of police officers and lawyers who write books. Are they doing it to have things finally come out right, or to tell the story they couldn't tell during the investigation or trial? Marcia said yes to both.

If you'd like to hear more about Marcia's writing process or the trademark battle Barbara had over the name of her bookstore, or a few other topics, I urge you to watch the entire program on The Poisoned Pen's Livestream channel. It was a fun, informative evening!

Friday, December 02, 2016

A Creeped Out Weekly Link Round-Up

I think Denis and I are on the same page, which isn't all that unusual. When we have time to watch television in the evenings on his days off now, we're watching "kinder, gentler" fare like "Finding Dory," and we're making our way through the Harry Potter films again. There's been too much going on within the past month or so that is anything but kind and gentle. We aren't going to hide our heads in the sand by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes you just have to unplug.

But something's been plugging into me, and it creeps me out. (No, that old pickup truck to the right didn't undergo a Stephen King-like possession.)

I do spend time on Facebook. I don't live there, but it's proven to be a good way to stay connected with my widely-spread-out family and friends. But Facebook isn't always my friend-- and I'm not just talking about the fake news you can find. I'm extremely careful about clicking on any links I find there, and I know there are some links that I have never clicked on... yet suddenly their advertising is showing up all over my news feed. Yes, they are websites I frequent away from Facebook, but I haven't "liked" their pages on that social media behemoth, so there should be no reason for them to follow me there.

It's a good thing that my online surfing and buying would bore most people to tears; otherwise, I really could work myself into a tizzy about all these merchants following me around on the internet. What they may not realize is that, not only am I a bit creeped out by their stalking, I'm also annoyed. When I'm annoyed with a company, I tend to stop giving them my hard-earned cash. And on that note, it's time to head on out to the link corral. They're gettin' restless!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • A baby possum and a zookeeper have developed quite the bromance.
  • A woman has an amazing cuddle session with a huge wolf
  • A humpback whale gives thanks to the divers who saved her.

►Fascinating Folk◄

►I ♥ Lists & Quizzes◄
  • How about some photos of gorgeous bookshelves? 
  • Here's a poll that I found interesting: If you know that a book is the first title in a series, do you read it, or do you wait for more in the series to be published? (I read it. Who's to say that I'll want to read the other books in the series after I've read book #1?)
  • Only an actual grammar genius will ace this quiz. Feeling lucky?
  • The U.S. National Archives has launched an animated GIF archive: see Whitman, Twain, Hemingway, and others in motion. 
  • Sixteen university campuses that might secretly be Hogwarts. 
  • Thirty-two beautiful book quotes to read when you're feeling lost.
That's all for this week! Don't forget to stop by next Friday when I'll be sharing a freshly selected batch of links for your surfing pleasure.
Have a great weekend, and read something fabulous!