Friday, August 17, 2018

The Do I Race It or Talk to It? Weekly Link Round-Up

My experiences with technology might be a tad mixed from time to time, but-- on the whole-- I do like it. Especially when someone invents something that gets me out of doing some housework. I've always considered housework to be a waste of time. My grandmother, who caught the dust before it had a chance to land on her furniture, would spin in her grave if she could hear me now. Unless you live alone, chances are that you can spend a lot of time and elbow grease shining something to a fare-thee-well only to have someone come in less than five minutes later and dirty it up again.

When iRobot's Roomba came out, I perked right up, but I've learned that it's not always a good idea to get something the minute it comes on the market. So... last week our very own Roomba (which has been christened Gracie) came to live in Casa Kittling.

I quickly learned that when I turn Gracie on, she means business. I was trying to cook and was walking from the refrigerator to the sink when Gracie came in from the dining room. It didn't take me long to realize that Gracie will win if we're ever in a foot race. I guess I need some track shoes.

And I laughed when I received a text from Gracie telling me that she was stuck at the edge of a cliff and needed my help. (You have to step down into the craft room from the dining room, but I'd never called it a cliff before.) Denis and I have been very pleased with the work that Gracie does, but when Denis smiled at me and said, "Alexa, tell Gracie to start cleaning," the first thought in my mind was... am I ever going to get a word in edgewise with all these gizmos in the house?

I'm tired of doing the two-step around Gracie, so I'm heading out to the corral. Head 'em up! Moooooooooooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • An earthquake revealed a 12th-century temple hidden within an Aztec pyramid. 
  • The original Winnie-the-Pooh map sets a world record at auction.
  • Two men have been charged with stealing more than $8 million in rare books from a Pittsburgh Carnegie Library. 
  • Jamestown mystery: Whose bones have been uncovered? 
  • A noblewoman who was buried in her jewelry 1,800 years ago was found recently in Greece.
  • A 1,000-year-old handprint from "Europe's Lost People" has been discovered in Scotland.

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • This spectacular Canadian wildlife reserve is so remote, you can only get there five weeks a year.
  • The unexpected afterlife of ill-gotten wildlife goods.
  • New research suggests Dr. Seuss modeled the Lorax on this real-life monkey.
  • Indigenous peoples manage one-quarter of the globe, which is good news for conservation.
  • A woman found a mountain lion napping in her living room. (I bet she doesn't leave her doors open anymore!) 
  • Why a female duck was spotted with a huge brood of 76 ducklings.

►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, August 16, 2018

Death at the Black Bull by Frank Hayes

First Line: He sat on the tail of the old pickup, watching the dark as it crowded the western sky.

Nobody takes much notice when Buddy Hinton disappears. After all, he's just a good ole boy and probably went down to Mexico to have a little fun. But when Sheriff Virgil Dalton finds Buddy's body floating in one of his stock tanks, he knows this means Buddy really upset someone.

Townspeople like to think of Hayward as one of those dusty little towns where the old yellow dog sleeps in the middle of Main Street, but it hasn't been like that for a long time. It's going to take Virgil and his deputy, Jimmy, time to retrace the dead man's steps-- and they're going to have to remain one step ahead of a murderer who has no qualms about killing more people to keep a secret.

Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire is my favorite sheriff, so when I come across a new one, I have to see how he measures up to Walt. I think Walt and Virgil would get along just fine. Dalton calls himself a half-breed, he considers an old Mexican man who is the foreman on his ranch to be his second father, and his grandfather lives in a trailer way out in the back of beyond. He doesn't miss much. He doesn't say much. And he certainly gets the job done. He knows his town isn't the "old yellow dog" town anymore, and he doesn't back down when it comes to demanding the city fathers chase the moths out of their wallets to get him the help he needs.

Most importantly, the thing that won me over was how Dalton treats the people around him. He treats them with respect, and he doesn't ignore people everyone else has decided are "throwaways." A case in point is his deputy, Jimmy. Jimmy had an extremely abusive childhood, and most folks in town think he's not worth much... in fact he may even be a bit slow. But Virgil knows the life Jimmy has led, and he's spent time with the young man, listened to him, talked with him, and taught him things he needs to know. As a result, Jimmy could very well turn out to be an exemplary lawman. Dalton is in the Harry Bosch camp: everyone counts, or no one counts, and I like that.

Yes, as I read Death at the Black Bull, I fell for Virgil Dalton. I also fell for Frank Hayes' writing. The descriptions of the desert setting are evocative, and he's got a knack for making readers care about his characters. I spent most of the book wondering if the bad guy(s) would find Dalton's grandfather, if something would happen to the sheriff's beloved horse or to the old Mexican Cesar or to Jimmy. I seldom ever spend so much time feeling nervous while I'm reading a book.  But it was a good nervous. Know what I mean?

There's only one thing that made me roll my eyes, but I can't really say anything about it without giving away major plot points. I'll just let you wonder about it. I expected Death at the Black Bull to be good, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how good it really is. Now I have to get my hands on a copy of the next book in the series, Death on the High Lonesome. I'm looking forward to my next date with Virgil Dalton.

Death at the Black Bull by Frank Hayes
eISBN: 9780698155350
Berkley © 2014
eBook, 320 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Virgil Dalton mystery
Rating: A
Source: Amazon

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Death Around the Bend by T.E. Kinsey

First Line: "What do you think, Flo: the red scarf or the green?"

It's September 1909, and Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence, are staying at Lord Riddlethorpe's country estate for a week of motor racing and parties. The week of fun and frolic takes a wrong turn when one of the drivers dies in a crash during the very first race.

The local constabulary is quick to rule it an accident, but close inspection reveals that the dead man's car was sabotaged. Since Lady Hardcastle and Florence are getting a name for themselves when it comes to solving mysteries, Lord Riddlethorpe asks them to do a little investigating, but once they begin asking questions above stairs and below, there's more to this case than meets the eye.

This series is so much fun! If you're in the mood for a light-hearted, Downton Abbey-esque series that always has a good whodunit to solve, I recommend T.E. Kinsey's Lady Hardcastle mysteries. I was really looking forward to Death Around the Bend because I'd get to read about country house parties and the early days of auto racing. The added bonus is the presence of Lady Hardcastle's maid, Florence Armstrong, who lets readers meet the people downstairs as well as those who above who get to swan about in fancy clothes all day.

The mystery is a good one, although the misdirection was not completely successful. I knew Lady Hardcastle was barking up the wrong tree, and I was right, but the identity of the killer did surprise me. As the two intrepid sleuths worked through their long list of suspects, someone else dies, and they fear their investigation may turn into "detection by attrition."

As good as the mystery may be, it's the characters and the humor that I can't get enough of. The banter between Lady Hardcastle and Flo is brilliant, and I lost it when "a pas de deux through the servants' hall with a bewigged badger" was mentioned. Kinsey is also helpful for those of us who are not familiar with the correct pronunciation of the surname "Featherstonehaugh." Give up? You should pronounce it "Fanshaw." Those crazy Brits...

In the mood for a good puzzle to solve and some light-hearted fun? You can't go wrong with T.E. Kinsey's Lady Hardcastle mysteries. The first one is A Quiet Life in the Country, and each book in the series is a gem.

Death Around the Bend by T.E. Kinsey
eISBN: 9781503940109
Thomas & Mercer © 2017
eBook, 318 pages

Historical Mystery, #3 Lady Hardcastle mystery
Rating: A
Source: Purchased from Amazon. 

On My Radar: Elly Griffiths' The Stranger Diaries

I know that I'm not the only Elly Griffiths fan around here, so you can imagine my happy dance when I found out that she's got a new book coming out. No, it's not a Dr. Ruth Galloway mystery and it's not one of her Magic Men series either. It's something new, and I can't wait to read it.

Now... if you're the impatient sort like I am, note that this book will be available in the UK on November 1. If you can wait, it will be released in the US on March 5, 2019. Let me tell you more about it!

Available in the US March 5, 2019!
This is the US cover of Elly Griffiths' The Stranger Diaries, and here is its synopsis:

"A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr. Ruth Galloway mysteries: Susan Hill meets Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specializing in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare's life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer's works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn't hers..."

I really wish they had left out that reference to Gone Girl, but they didn't, so I'll just have to ignore it as useless marketing twaddle. I've always enjoyed a good Gothic thriller, and I'm sure Elly Griffiths has written a good'un.

How about you fellow Elly Griffiths fans-- are you looking forward to this as much as I am? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Don't Eat Me by Colin Cotterill

First Line: This whole thing started and finished with her.

Don't ask how, but Dr. Siri Paiboun, the seventy-five-year-old ex-national coroner of Laos, has managed to get his hands on a movie camera that just happened to fall off the back of a truck when the film crew for The Deerhunter was traveling to a new location. He's written a screenplay that is the Lao version of War and Peace, and he and his friend Civilai are about to start filming. Just as soon as they figure out how to turn on the camera.

But while Siri's sweating the details, he stops to help his friend Phosy who's recently been promoted to Chief Inspector. The skeleton of a woman appeared under the Anusawari Arch in the middle of the night. The case is unusual in that, although the woman died recently, her bones look as though something-- or someone-- had been gnawing on them. The information Phosy uncovers during his investigation could very well have dire consequences for his future and the future of his wife and child.

Once again Dr. Siri and his friends, dedicated communists all, fight a battle against murder, bureaucracy, and deeply rooted corruption. In many ways, readers can forget all about these characters being communists if they want to because Dr. Siri and the gang spend their days being good people who try their best to do the right thing. You can't ask for more from anybody now, can you?

Don't Eat Me has Colin Cotterill's trademark humor, especially in the scenes dealing with Siri, Civilai and their movie camera; however, there is a serious side, too. The seriousness comes wrapped in the mystery of the woman's skeleton when they have to deal with bureaucracy, the black market, and a system that is rotten with corruption. And when things get very dark, that's when something marvelous happens: the Noodle Revolt. The only thing I'll say about the Revolt is that it alone is worth the price of admission. (It's a two-hanky scene. At least.)

I love this series. I've loved it since the very first book, The Coroner's Lunch. Yes, it makes me laugh, and yes, it makes me think and learn, but most of all, through his wonderful characters, Colin Cotterill reminds me that all people have value-- and that the majority of us are good at heart. In this day and age, this is something we all need to be reminded of.

Don't Eat Me by Colin Cotterill
ISBN: 9781616959401
Soho Crime © 2018
Hardcover, 304 pages

Historical Mystery, #13 Dr. Siri mystery
Rating: A
Source: the publisher


Sunday, August 12, 2018

While Miz Kittling Knits: The Doctor Blake Mysteries

You might be under the impression that no knitting is being done in Casa Kittling this summer. Just because I haven't mentioned it doesn't mean it's not being done.

It's just now occurred to me that one of the reasons why so many generations of women in my family spent hours on the needle arts might have been to keep arthritis and rheumatism away. I well remember my great-grandmother's hands turned into almost useless claws by rheumatoid arthritis-- but she still managed to do her embroidery! I have a couple of finger joints that are a bit misshapen, and I've found knitting (more than needlepoint) to be very good for keeping my fingers limber. If more than a couple of days go by without me picking up my needles, I can feel it in my fingers. So... no matter the time of year, you'll find me knitting almost every evening. Knitting and watching something mysterious on the telly.

I put away the afghan I've been making for a friend. It's made in one humungous piece and will be eight feet long (the friend is six feet four) when finished. That monster is just too hot to work on during a desert summer! Instead, I've turned to smaller projects, most of which are for here in the house.

The lighting in the photo mutes the vibrancy of some of the colors I'm using, but I think it helps show the stitches on one project. On the bottom from left to right: a dishtowel for the kitchen, a hand towel for our bathroom, and a table runner for what I'm planning for Dia de los Muertos this year. The table runner, in particular, is bright red and orange and gold and purple, and the simple pattern ("Garter Stripes") I'm using makes it look like some handwoven cloth from Oaxaca, Mexico that I saw in a shop a few years ago.

The dishtowel (my third) is being made with the same Garter Stripes pattern, and all three are made with cotton yarn. The hand towel (my second) uses a pattern of knit, purl, and slip stitches.

That leaves the (actually) bright aqua scarf at the top. It's made from Caron Simply Soft 100% acrylic yarn, and I'm using a pattern called "Besotted." The cables form alternating columns of X's and O's which I hope you can see in the photo.

Now... what have I been watching while I've been knitting all these things? I decided to give a series a second chance, and I'm glad I did. I must not've been in the right mood for The Doctor Blake Mysteries when I watched the first episode a year or so ago, but now I'm wondering what was wrong with me. I'm really enjoying the series, although you're not going to see it in its entirety unless you have access to both Netflix and Britbox.

Dr. Lucien Blake left Australia as a young man and headed for Southeast Asia. In Singapore at the start of World War II, he spent three years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. Now he's back in Australia and has taken over his father's medical practice as well as his on-call role as police surgeon.

At the start of the series, Blake hasn't been back very long, and after what he's experienced, he finds it almost impossible to put up with those who (1) constantly watch him to see if he measures up to his father or (2) rich hypocrites who don't want their status quo disturbed or (3) those who want to cover up the truth. He shoots off his mouth before he has all the facts, and on occasion, I kept expecting those pompous jerks in Ballarat to run him out of town on a rail (with or without the tar and feathers).

But time wears away some of the sharp edges of his wartime experiences, and he settles down to doctoring and finding killers. Craig McLachlan is excellent as Blake, and he has a marvelous supporting cast. I was sad when I read that the Australian Broadcasting Corporation abruptly canceled the series. It seems that they're suffering from A&E Syndrome. Remember when A&E canceled Longmire, their highest-rated program because it didn't fit their demographics? Well, The Doctor Blake Mysteries is the ABC's highest-rated program. You have to wonder about these corporate executive types sometimes!

Friday, August 10, 2018

A Where's the Spycam? Weekly Link Round-Up

I'll admit it, "freely and unreservedly" (which John Cleese movie am I channeling here?)-- sometimes I'm not very mechanically inclined. Saying that reminds me of taking an aptitude test for my high school guidance counselor who was working on her Master's Degree. The results were a hoot. They all seemed to be either high up in the rafters or down in the sub-basement. I either really liked something, or I loathed it. Miss Young mentioned that the others she'd had take the test were all "middle ground." I imagine my results were a bit more interesting. My highest results? Either an officer in the armed forces (*snort*) or a criminal defense attorney (*eye roll*). My lowest? Mechanical aptitude.

The lack of interest in the mechanical has followed me to this day-- and it's gotten worse. Now I think many of those mechanical gizmos are spying on me. Why does no one ever phone or ring the doorbell until I've ensconced myself in the bathroom? Whoever installed the spycam above the door to the loo better hope I never find it!

This week I'm pretty sure I found another spycam. There's an app Denis and I use on our iPads to control the TV, DVD player, and Roku. For some reason, Netflix likes to make me froth at the mouth. There's a lag of several seconds (10-12!) between my pressing the button and the action being performed. It's maddening. So much so that I soon want to act-- and sound like-- a berserk chimpanzee. This week, I couldn't get the sound to work, although I tried the normal fix-its several times. While all those mechanical gizmos were grinding away, deciding whether or not to obey my command, I remembered that the power had gone off for a couple of seconds that morning so the Roku box may need to be reset. I put the iPad down, stood up, and hobbled over to the other end of the room to reset the box. Just as I put my hand on the Roku box, the grinding stopped, and everything started working properly. See?!? These things are watching me and laughing!

Whew! I'd better mosey on out to the corral and get a grip... Head 'em up! Mooooooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • The Pacific Northwest orca population has hit a 30-year low. 
  • How noisy males control the gnu's cycle.
  • This footage of jaguars in Panama could save their lives.
  • Eight endangered black rhinos have died in a sanctuary.
  • Tree shrews love hot peppers because they don't feel the burn.

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Florence Sabin pioneered her way in medical science, then made sure other women could do the same.
  • Why Diana Gabaldon believes Joaquín Murieta is the outlaw-hero we need. 
  • Yekaterina Budanova shot down Nazi pilots with great skill, but her feats are mostly forgotten today.

►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, August 09, 2018

Under the Covers with Kate Morton

It's been a while since I've taken a look at any book covers, so I thought I'd rectify the situation. A couple of weeks ago, I told you that I was looking forward to the release of Kate Morton's The Clockmaker's Daughter. Lo and behold, I've come across three covers for the book, so let's take a look at them right now!

Morton is a native of Australia, so I thought I'd show the Australian cover first. I like it a lot. I like the combination of colors, the flowers, and the inner workings of a clock. About the only thing that I don't care for is the font the author's name is in. I would choose a different one.

Next up is the UK cover which I do not care for at all. I'm not a huge fan of women's lit; I haven't been since I was a teenager, and I think the floral theme screams that there's a soap opera-type plot concealed within. If I didn't know anything about the books Morton has written, I would walk right on by this one in the library or the bookshop.

In many ways, this is my favorite of the three covers. The colors, the clock face, the fonts... I think they all combine to make a striking cover that would catch my eye and persuade me to pick it up.

It's probably a good time to come clean here. You see, my grandfather had a large collection of antique clocks, and I think that's why this particular cover appeals to me so much.

Now it's your turn! Which cover do you prefer? Australia? UK? USA? Inquiring minds would love to know!