Friday, May 26, 2017

The Where's a Brick Wall Weekly Link Round-Up

I told you all a few weeks ago that I had a suspicious spot on my latest mammogram and needed to have a biopsy. I wish I could tell you that I'd had the procedure done and everything is hunky dory, but I can't.

This is thanks in large part to my insurance company, a company that has seemed to go out of its way to hire unhelpful people for their customer service line. I was told that the facility that performed the mammogram wasn't covered under my insurance to perform the biopsy (which makes absolutely no sense to me). My attempt to find a facility that can perform the biopsy and is covered under my insurance has had me looking for that brick wall to slam my head against. Many times.

[Cutting out a lot here.] The last phone call I made to the insurance company had me asking the person on the other end if she was positive that the facility she'd given me the address and phone number to was a facility that performed biopsies. I asked her that three times. By this time I had someone at my oncologist's office giving me a hand, so I left a message for her with the facility's name, address, and phone number. She called me back, telling me that the place did blood draws, not biopsies. 

Where's that wall?

Bless Jamie's pea-pickin' heart, she's taken over trying to find some place that can get the job done. When I talked with her today, I could tell she felt my pain. Like me, she'd even spoken to a manager, and the manager could not help her. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, I'm happy to say-- thanks to Jamie.

Before I start searching for an insurance company who hires people who know what they're doing, I'm going to head on out to the corral; those links are mighty restless.  Head 'em up! Moooooooove 'em out!

►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Salt River Project employees rescued a baby otter from the Arizona Canal. Bet you thought we didn't have otters in Arizona....

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►I ♥ Lists◄

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!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

End of Watch by Stephen King

First Line: It's always darkest before the dawn.

For nearly six years, the "Mercedes Killer," Brady Hartsfield has been in a persistent vegetative state in the Lakes Region Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic. Checked on periodically to see if he's fit for trial, Hartsfield has pretty much been written off as a permanent vegetable. However, he's been filled with experimental drugs for quite a while now. The lights may appear to be off, but someone is most definitely home, and he's been spending his time planning. Yes, indeed-- Brady Hartsfield is about to embark on a brand-new reign of terror. Not only does he intend to bring death to thousands of innocents, Hartsfield is also wanting revenge, and retired police detective Bill Hodges is right at the top of that particular list.

End of Watch is a very fitting conclusion to Stephen King's masterful Bill Hodges trilogy. I enjoyed every single page of all three books. Super villain Brady Hartsfield is pumped full of pills, he's pumped full of hate, and he's pumped full of powers that he's never had before. If someone doesn't catch on quick, the damage he could do is well beyond all imagining. Who can possibly fight him? One rundown, old ex-cop named Bill Hodges who's just about reached the end of his trail. 

I don't think anyone can write about the fight between extraordinary evil and ordinary good better than King. For decades, this man has made us believe in the unbelievable. He's scared us spitless. He's made us cheer on his ordinary heroes. He's made us laugh. He's made us cry. He's made us want to join in the fight. End of Watch-- and the entire Hodges trilogy-- had me hook, line, and sinker. If you haven't read them, pick up Mr. Mercedes and board the Stephen King Rollercoaster. You'll be in for the ride of your life.

End of Watch by Stephen King
ISBN: 9781501134135
Pocket Books © 2017
Mass Market Paperback, 496 pages

Thriller, #3 Bill Hodges trilogy
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from The Poisoned Pen.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

An Important Family by Dorothy Eden

First Line: When she arrived on the doorstep, Kate couldn't bring herself to ring the doorbell.

There have been too many tragedies in young Kate O'Connor's life, and she relishes the chance to start over by immigrating to New Zealand as companion to Sir John Devenish's wife and daughter. Once the long sea journey has been endured, the wild landscape of Kate's new home exhilarates her, but her job becomes much harder. Sir John's womenfolk were not happy with the move from their comfortable, privileged life in London, and nothing they see in New Zealand makes them change their minds. The more recalcitrant the two women become, the more Kate learns about the Devenish family secrets.

I have to say that this is the first book by Dorothy Eden with which I've been disappointed. The story was saved only by the descriptions of the New Zealand landscape and weather and by how some of the other settlers had carved out lives for themselves. 

What withered my enthusiasm for this book on its tender young vine was the cast of characters. To be blunt, too many of the cast were either completely unlikable or thought solely with their reproductive organs... or both. Definitely not my kind of cast! Of course, since no two people ever read the same book, your mileage may vary-- and I certainly hope it does.

An Important Family by Dorothy Eden
eISBN: 9781480430105
Open Road Integrated Media © 2013
Originally published 1982
eBook, 288 pages

Historical Fiction, Standalone
Rating: C-
Source: Purchased from Amazon

I Have Oscar de Muriel Covered!

Sometimes I have a mind like a sieve, and this is one of them. A few weeks ago... hold on, I was just struck by a bolt of inspiration.... Hallelujah, I was able to jumpstart my memory!

Back when I posted my picks for new mysteries being released in April, Kate Lyons commented that Oscar de Muriel's A Fever of the Blood would make a good cover comparison post. When I checked, I knew precisely what she was talking about, and here we are.

As you'll see in a minute, the US and UK covers of de Muriel's book are very, very different. What am I doing? I'm going to shut up and let you start your comparison!

How's that for different? If you've been following my blog very long, you're going to know which cover I prefer just from your first look. I do not like covers where a woman has her back turned to prospective readers. This US cover suggests that at least part of the book takes place during a blizzard and that the time period is pre-1920s. Both are correct, but... yawn! I've seen so many similar covers that they all blend together into a mind-numbing blur.

On the other hand, the UK cover makes me smile and intrigues me all at the same time. This is most definitely not a mind-numbing blur of a cover. The artwork reminds me of the Dia de los Muertos art that I love so much. Its style also puts me right in the late nineteenth century and makes me think of fever dreams, of the macabre, of absinthe, and of madness. 

Yes, I really like the UK cover, and I'd choose it anyday over the US. But that's just me. What about all of you? Which cover do you prefer? US? UK? Like 'em both? Or does neither one float your boat? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Thanks, Kate, for pointing me in the direction of this week's Cover-Off!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Long Drop by Denise Mina

First Line: He knows too much to be an honest man but says he wants to help.

Husband and father William Watt is suspected of killing the women of his family, but he has a solid alibi. Watt is determined to clear his name in the 1950s Glasgow where he lives, so he spreads the word that he will pay for information about the murders. In walks career criminal Peter Manuel who has details of the deaths that only the murderer could possibly know. Watt agrees to meet him, and they spend twelve hours together, driving and drinking in Glasgow pubs.

The next time they meet is in the High Court where Peter Manuel is defending himself against the murder charges. Manuel proceeds to call Watt as a witness and grill him about their long night together.

Denise Mina has written a fictionalized account of a real life case. No one knows what happened the night that Watt and Manuel spent together, but what this talented writer has imagined certainly fills in the blanks well. Her depiction of the city of Glasgow in the 1950s is stunning. She serves up a vivid portrait of the city and its criminals before "the biggest urban redevelopment project in post-war Europe."

For those of you who like a big dollop of sunshine and smiles in your reading, you're not going to find it here. The Long Drop (think of the hangman) deals almost exclusively with criminals-- people who lie, cheat, steal, rape, and murder. The book can be quite grim, but it is a compelling tale of guilt and innocence. Peter Manuel is chilling. Whether he's a psychopath or a sociopath, it doesn't matter. He's bad news. Working with the trial transcripts, Mina is able to show Manuel's Achilles' heel, and that is the one bright spot in the book. Besides the depiction of Glasgow during this period, watching Manuel conduct his own defense during his murder trial is the best part of the book. I may not have been in the right mood for such a depressing book, but I would not have missed it for the world.

The Long Drop by Denise Mina
eISBN: 9780316380577
Little, Brown and Company © 2017
eBook, 241 pages

Historical Fiction, Standalone
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Popularity of Crows

I don't know what I was searching for when I stumbled across this, but I suddenly found myself hip deep in crows. 

I like crows for the most part. They are the most intelligent birds on this planet. While all the other birds have to work hard from sunup to sundown finding things to eat, crows can spend a good part of their day in play and strengthening their communities. Crows can make and use tools, you know. So... I like crows. But mostly at a distance. I think I have Alfred Hitchcock to blame for that. Who's watched the classic Hitchcock film The Birds and not looked out the window at the trees and the sky before going outside afterward? 

It should be no surprise to anyone that "Murder of Crows" is quite popular as a title for a mystery, but I was surprised that it's also popular for anything from teen dystopian novels to fantasy to the occult. 

These are a dozen covers of mysteries all titled A Murder of Crows. They certainly do differ in style, don't they? They range from historicals to spy thrillers to cozies, and everything in between. They also show a wide range of design, from the rather simplistic to the atmospheric. And not all of them actually show crows.

My two favorites are the top two. The first one shows a crow holding a bullet cartridge in its beak, and we all know that crows are attracted to shiny things, don't we? Yes, I think this first cover has the most realistic-looking crow.

The cover next to it I like because it gives me chills. Crows and other birds are known (thank you, Mr. Hitchcock) to peck out the eyes of animals and humans alike. The second cover shows a crow with what looks to me like pecked-out eyes. Turnabout is very fair play, don't you think?

The other cover that I want to make particular note of is two up from the bottom on the left. Kate Ayers' A Murder of Crows: Mysteries With a Wine List. Why do I want to mention it? Because I'd swear that's not a crow. It looks like a starling to me. Picky, aren't I?

Which crow covers catch your eye? Are there any that you like? Which ones? Are there any that offend your sensibilities? Let us know!

Were you surprised to see how popular that title is? I know-- questions, questions! But inquiring minds would love to know!

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Lights Aren't On But I'm Home Weekly Link Round-Up

Just as I started to write an email to a friend Wednesday afternoon, the power went off. That's an extremely rare occurrence in my part of Phoenix, and it's the first time it had done more than flicker since Denis immigrated here in 2001. It was out a good forty minutes, and it was eery how silent the house was.

Fortunately, I'd printed a few things before the blackout, so I spent the time looking at various maps of Santa Fe, New Mexico. This is the next trip Denis and I will be taking. Neither one of us has ever been there, and we're really looking forward to it.

Looking at maps and notes, I discovered that there's a yarn shop in the small shopping mall next to our hotel. (How did I manage that?) I'm adding things like the Museum of International Folk Art, the Folk Art Market, the Pecos National Historical Park, La Cieneguilla Petroglyph Site, and the Randall Davey Audubon Center and Sanctuary to my list. And... Las Vegas (where Longmire is filmed) is only about forty miles away. Something tells me that will make the list, too.

But enough of lists! I hear those links out in the corral. They're telling me they've been waiting long enough. Head 'em up! Mooove 'em out!


►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄

►The Happy Wanderer◄

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • The life of stagecoach agent, Wells Fargo operative, and deputy U.S. marshal Joseph W. Evans.  

►I ♥ Lists◄

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!

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben

First Line: Otto Burke, the Wizard of Schmooze, raised his game another level.

The blazing talent of rookie quarterback Christian Steele has both him and his sports agent Myron Bolitar poised on the very edge of the big time. All that fame and glory prepares to vanish when Steele gets a phone call from a former girlfriend everyone believed to be dead. In order to save a kid's career and his own, Bolitar finds himself up against the dark side of his business, trying to unravel tragedy, secrets, and lies.

You can't read crime fiction for as long as I have and not run into the name of Harlan Coben. What you can do is ignore your favorite authors and all your friends who share the same reading tastes and not read any of his books. Fortunately, I eventually wise up, and I'm glad I did. After devouring Deal Breaker, I now know that Myron Bolitar is my kind of character, and Harlan Coben is my kind of writer.

Coben took me right into the heart of a business that I knew very little about. Representing athletes and negotiating contracts can be cutthroat, and Coben makes this very clear. His main character is a testosterone-filled delight with a very interesting past that I refuse to tell you. If you want to know what it is, you're going to have to read the books yourself, just like me. The only thing that I will divulge is that Myron Bolitar is a man who will do the right thing-- even at great cost to himself. His secretary Esperanza tries to keep him out of trouble, but sometimes help is required, and that help comes in the form of his friend Win Lockwood, a man someone aptly describes as Myron's "psychotic Tonto." (The only thing that would make Lockwood scarier is if he were a bad guy.)

Coben has crafted a multi-layered mystery filled with lots of suspects and plenty of motives, and while I was falling under Myron's spell and trying to figure out whodunit, I was laughing out loud at all the wit. If you love absorbing mysteries with wonderful characters and a brilliant use of humor, do what I finally did: start reading Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar series.

Deal Breaker by Harlan Coben
ISBN: 9780440220442
Bantam Dell © 1995
Mass Market Paperback, 350 pages

Private Investigator, #1 Myron Bolitar mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Paperback Swap