Friday, December 31, 2010

Murder in the Marais by Cara Black

Title: Murder in the Marais
Author: Cara Black
ISBN: 9781569472125
Publisher: Soho Crime, 2003
Paperback, 360 pages
Genre: Private Investigator, #1 Aimée Leduc mystery
Rating: B
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: Aimée Leduc felt his presence before she saw him.

Aimée Leduc lives in an inconvenient apartment in an ideal location (an island in the River Seine in Paris), and she's a private investigator specializing in computer forensics. She has an apparently mundane task: decipher an encrypted photograph from the 1940s and deliver it to an old woman living in the Marais, the historic Jewish quarter of Paris. When Aimée tries to deliver the photo, she finds the woman dead, a swastika carved in her forehead.

With the help of her partner, René, Aimée uncovers clues relating to a German war veteran, the Jewish girl he saved from Auschwitz, and other shadowy figures. In order to understand the real motive behind the killing, Aimée has to question reluctant older residents of the Marais and to go undercover in an Aryan supremacist group.

I loved reading this book for its bringing Paris to life, and for Black's inclusion of fascinating tidbits like this:

He referred to white and brown sugar, the metaphor for right-wing conservatives and leftist socialists. She knew that in many households political leanings were identified by the kind of sugar sitting in sugar bowls.

The plot line involving World War II collaborators was fascinating, and although I didn't feel as though I had a very good sense of Aimée or her partner René, I look forward to learning more about them as I read more of this series.

Stewball by Peter Bowen

Title: Stewball
Author: Peter Bowen
ISBN: 9780312277307
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2005
Hardcover, 224 pages
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, #12 Gabriel Du Pré mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: Du Pré and Madelaine and Pallas were standing in the Billings Airport.

When Du Pré's Aunt Pauline asks him for help in finding her missing husband, Badger, Du Pré reluctantly agrees. The first thing he finds is Badger's body out in the middle of nowhere with a bullet hole in the base of his skull.

Since Badger was known to be mixed up in all sorts of things that agencies like the FBI would be interested in, Du Pré calls his FBI friend, Harvey Wallace, with the information. Before you know it, Du Pré has gone undercover with a pair of horses and a jockey in the world of illegal brush racing.

I enjoy the interactions of Du Pré, his partner of many years, Madelaine, and his children and grandchildren, and this book has plenty of that. When Stewball goes into the world of brush racing, it is as if the book has wings. Bowen could easily have included a hundred more pages about this and I would not have tired of it.

This is another strong entry in one of my favorite series, but I can't help being rather sad. There's only one book left, and then there will be no more new entertaining tales of this wonderful, colorful fiddle player.

The Patience of the Spider by Andrea Camilleri

Title: The Patience of the Spider
Author: Andrea Camilleri
Translator: Stephen Sartarelli
ISBN: 9780143112037
Publisher: Penguin, 2007
Paperback, 256 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #8 Inspector Montalbano mystery
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Barnes and Noble.

First Line: He jolted awake, sweaty and short of breath.

Still recuperating from the events which occurred in Rounding the Mark, Salvo Montalbano is called back to work when a young woman is kidnapped. The investigation has the added bonus of giving him something to think about other than his own mortality. Unable to let his colleagues handle the case themselves, Montalbano finds himself focusing on very subtle clues, such as the direction in which the kidnapped woman's motorbike is pointed, and it doesn't take him long to believe that this case has more to do with extortion than it does kidnapping.

Although I love this series and enjoyed the book, it is a weaker entry in the series. The plot machinations leading up to the identity of the kidnapper were rather transparent, and there was a bit too much of Montalbano's solo ponderings and not enough of his excellent (and hilarious) team. There was also a bit too much of Livia in this one. I don't appreciate Livia as much as others might; it seems she flies into town just to argue with Montalbano, and I've never been a fan of prima donnas and fighting.

Be that as it may, this is still one of my favorite mystery series, and I can't wait to read Montalbano's next adventure!

Wake by Lisa McMann

Title: Wake
Author: Lisa McMann
ISBN: 9781416974475
Publisher: Simon Pulse, 2008
Paperback, 224 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, #1 Wake trilogy
Rating: B
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: Janie Hannagan's math book slips from her fingers.

Seventeen-year-old Janie Hannagan lives on the fringe in more ways than one. Janie lives with her mom, an alcoholic, and at an early age, Janie learned that she was responsible for her own welfare. And if she's near anyone when she falls asleep, she gets sucked into their dreams. It's all to invasive-- and all too same old, same old. She's trying to save money for college and works at a nursing home. She likes working there; old people usually don't sleep soundly enough to dream.

She can't tell anyone about this ability that she can't control. They'd think she was a freak. So when she falls into a particularly gruesome nightmare in which she's a participant as well as a witness, she has no idea what she's going to do.

This book is fast-paced and almost immediately hooked me. Janie is a very sympathetic character, and it was easy to get emotionally involved as she tries so desperately to stay out of other peoples' dreams. I'm looking forward to following this series to see what happens to her next.

Getting Old Is Murder by Rita Lakin

Title: Getting Old Is Murder
Author: Rita Lakin 
ISBN: 9780440242581
Publisher: Dell, 2005
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery, #1 Gladdy Gold mystery
Rating: C
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: The poison was in the pot roast.

75-year-old Gladdy Gold of the Lanai Gardens in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, finds herself a self-professed private investigator when her friends begin dying in very similar ways. Her credentials? More than thirty years of reading mysteries. (Works for me....)

Gladdy and the rest of her friends squeeze sleuthing into their daily round of poolside chatter, early-bird specials, and grocery shopping while one of their neighbors in Lanai Gardens, Greta Kronk, seems to be going out of her way to become Suspect #1.

This book contains both a cast of characters, which I didn't refer to after an amusing initial reading, and a glossary of Yiddish terms, which I found to be very useful. The identity of the killer seemed rather obvious to me, and the humor often fell flat.

Humor is very subjective. You may think Gladdy and her friends going shopping and dining and purposely driving sales clerks and waiters crazy is hilarious. I don't. I've spent almost all my working life in customer service dealing with people like this. If it's not purposely done, it's all right and I don't turn a hair. If people who can't seem to find anything better to do with their free time purposely come in to create as many problems as possible, steam starts leaking out of my ears. See? I told you my reason was very subjective!

If Getting Old Is Murder sounds like your cup of tea, enjoy! As for me, if I want to read about Senior Citizen Sleuths, I'd rather read something like Mike Befeler's Retirement Homes Are Murder.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild

Title: King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa
Author: Adam Hochschild
ISBN: 9780618001903
Publisher: Mariner Books, 1999
Paperback, 400 pages
Genre: History
Rating: A
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: On January 28, 1841, a quarter-century after Tuckey's failed expedition, the man who would spectacularly accomplish what Tuckey tried to do was born in the small Welsh market town of Denbigh.

Over a century has passed since the events depicted in this book, and the first thing I learned was that-- somewhere along the line-- I had fallen prey to King Leopold II of Belgium's public relations team. For quite a long time, Leopold was known as a great humanitarian. The real King Leopold was quite horrifying.

In the 1880s while Europe carved Africa into colonies to harvest as much of the continent's natural resources as possible, King Leopold II (who scathingly referred to his own country as "small country, small people") was frantic not to be excluded from the feast. The vast colony he seized in 1885 as his private fiefdom included most of the unexplored basin of the Congo River.

Leopold then proceeded to put in place a reign of terror that would end in the deaths of four to eight million people-- a genocide of Holocaust proportions. Those indigenous peoples who survived went to work mining ore or harvesting rubber while Leopold squirreled away billions of dollars in hidden bank accounts around the world.

Although the king's ministers tried to keep a very tight lid on what was really going on in the Congo, the word began to get out and circulate to a wider and wider audience, due mainly to men willing to risk their jobs, their reputations and their lives in order to put an end to the atrocities. Their efforts to expose these crimes led to the first great human rights movement of the twentieth century.

The strength of Hochschild's book is that he uses the wealth of information that can be found in actual eyewitness accounts.  I have to admit that I had to read this book in short doses. Normally I am not squeamish, but as I read what Leopold sanctioned in order to reap untold wealth-- all the while painting himself as a great and wise humanitarian-- I became sickened.

There are those who may read of the genocides in Africa in recent decades and think, "So what? It's just one tribe wiping out another tribe. There are plenty more to take their places. It's not as though white people are being murdered." Once again, a piece of forgotten history shows us that the indigenous peoples of Africa learned all about genocide... from the "civilized" whites.

As painful as this book can be to read, I'm glad I read it-- and I hope you consider reading it as well.

No Badge, No Gun by Harold Adams

Title: No Badge, No Gun
Author: Harold Adams
ISBN: 9780802775757
Publisher: Walker & Company, 1999
Paperback, 202 pages
Genre: Historical Mysteries, #15 Carl Wilcox mystery
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: It was hot in Jonesville just before noon as I was finishing up a window sign and looking forward to getting out of the sun and into a café, when these two characters came around and moved close, watching me.

Those two characters just happen to be the local pastor and his nephew, and they'd like him to check into the rape and murder of the pastor's niece. Carl Wilcox, ex-con, part-time bum, and itinerant sign painter is beginning to get a reputation in small town South Dakota for being able to solve crimes. Since this is the Depression, Carl can't afford to pass up the money, even though he's not trained as a private investigator:

"How'd you get into detecting?"

"Fell in. Being an ex-con, I was a suspect in anything that went wrong wherever I went for a few years, and I started figuring out who done it a couple of times when it kept me from getting stuck, and then one day Corden needed a temporary cop the worst way, and as somebody said, they got the worst kind. That sort of set up my bona fides, and I've been milking it ever since."

While Wilcox paints signs and woos the local school teacher, his investigative methods mainly consist of questioning every person he can think of and seeing what turns up. What turns up are several prime suspects, and Carl soon has to narrow down the list.

Adams has a lean comfortable writing style that drew me right in. It's a deceptively simple style because whenever I stopped to ponder what I'd read, I would realize that I'd gleaned much more than I thought was there.

Even though this is the fifteenth book in the Carl Wilcox series, I didn't feel lost. This book stands very well on its own, but it's so good-- and doesn't have the usual P.I. clichés-- that I fully intend to look up other books in the series.

It's almost the absolute end of the year, and I've found yet another gem!

A Veiled Deception by Annette Blair

Title: A Veiled Deception
Author: Annette Blair
ISBN: 9780425226407
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, 2009
Mass Market Paperback, 256 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, #1 Vintage Magic mystery
Rating: B
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: My father would never have asked me to take a leave of absence from my job in New York City if he could have handled my sister's wedding and the "Jezebel" plotting to preempt it without me.

Madeira (Maddie) Cutler takes a leave of absence from her design job in a New York fashion house to go home to Connecticut to help with her younger sister's wedding. Sherry is looking forward to having Maddie design a spectacular wedding dress just for her, but at dinner they learn that the groom's mother has an heirloom dress and veil that she fully expects to be used. Not only that but a former girlfriend is draped all over the husband-to-be.

When the Jezebel later turns up dead, Sherry is the prime suspect, and Maddie isn't about to let something like that spoil her sister's wedding. What she knows that most other folks don't is that she's going to have a little extra help: Maddie not only can see the occasional ghost, she can touch fabrics and see things associated with the clothing's past.

This is a light, fun read-- perfect for curling up on a cold winter afternoon. I loved Maddie's fashion- and fabric-inspired way of cursing ("son of a stitch", "wooly knobby knits", etc.). It shows a lot more education and imagination than the usual profanities. I also loved the bits that dealt with design and vintage clothing.

The mystery was a bit weak; the killer seemed very obvious to me, but all the characters clucked and scratched everywhere in the barnyard but inside the hen house. Me? I was enjoying myself and more than content to watch them cluck and fuss. When I need something light and fun, I know that I'll be able to turn to this series for a pleasurable read.

Scene of the Blog Featuring Becky of One Literature Nut!

If you'd like to drool over recent photos taken in Hawaii while you're shivering in your snow-covered homes, head right on over to Becky's blog, One Literature Nut.

This Utah high school English teacher and book blogger extraordinaire spends part of her time in Hawaii, and those photos of hers certainly add zest to what is already a fun blog filled with an eclectic mix of books, films, television and chat.

If you haven't had the pleasure of seeing Becky's blog yet, please take the time to head on over to One Literature Nut-- and don't forget to say hello. (I won't be at all surprised if you find yourself subscribing!)

Before Becky shows all of us her blogging space, don't forget that you can click on each photo to view it full size.

Let me be up front in saying that I love technology. Combining my love of reading and books with the web is such a great opportunity!  However, I'm most often spending my time with things for work.  I'm a full-time English teacher, teaching World Literature, Popular Fiction, and AP Literature.  I also teach online classes for the state of Idaho.  Both are really great jobs, but really keep me busy.  Besides my work, I have spent the past three years in Hawaii, where my mother lives.  I can't take a picture there (sorry), but traveling back and forth between Utah and Hawaii made it necessary to have a good laptop.

Last year I bought my new townhome.  This was my first time buying a home, and although it may seem crazy, it was really exciting to finally have a home office. It's not much, but as you can see, I have a small work area in this upstairs room.  If I could take a panoramic pictures, you'd see that my office is filled with bookcases and books.  What makes an area more homey than shelves of books?

To be quite honest, this is my primary work space.  I often park  myself here on the couch to grade papers, to work online, to blog a little, and to watch some television.

I have my mom's cat, and he tends to like it when I work down here as well, since he can cuddle up beside me and take a nap.

That has to be the most laid back cat I've ever seen, Becky! I can also hear the rumble of purrs when his tummy is scratched.

With the proliferation of laptops, I think many people choose to be somewhere comfy where they feel closer to the people they care about and more plugged in to what's going on in their homes. When Scene of the Blog began, there were more photos of home offices and desks, but now the tide seems to have turned to comfy chairs and couches. Whatever works best is my motto!

Thanks so much for this glimpse into your creative spaces, Becky. We really appreciate it!

Who's going to be featured next Wednesday? Mark your calendars to stop by and find out!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holmes On the Range by Steve Hockensmith

Title: Holmes On the Range
Author: Steve Hockensmith
ISBN: 9780312358044
Publisher: Minotaur Books, 2007
Paperback, 304 pages
Genre: Humorous Mysteries, Historical Mysteries, #1 Holmes On the Range mystery
Rating: A
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: There are two things you can't escape out here in the West: dust and death.

When brothers Old Red (Gustav) and Big Red (Otto) Amlingmeyer sign on as ranch hands at a spread known for being secretive, the only things they're expecting are lots of hard work, plenty of bad pay, and a bit of free time to enjoy reading their favorite stories about Sherlock Holmes. When a couple of men turn up dead, Old Red sees it as the perfect opportunity to employ his "deductifyin'" skills, and he sets out to solve the case.  Although he doesn't like the looks of it one little bit, Big Red is along for the ride.

If you read a lot of crime fiction, you know that there are some prime directives. One of them has to do with the disposition of the corpse. This book is so good that I forgot all about that basic rule.

Author Hockensmith has come completely out of left field and scored a home run with this tale of two brothers in the Old West. Old Red was the oldest brother who worked hard to keep food on the table for his mother and younger siblings. As a younger brother, Big Red stayed home and had schooling. He knows how to read and write-- something his older brother never had the chance to learn. The stories of Sherlock Holmes fires the imagination of Old Red, and he believes that this is something he can do even if he doesn't have an education. If he can observe and deduce, he can be every bit as brilliant as the grand detective. Big Red has a rather jaundiced view of the whole thing:

"Damn it, Brother," I said. "You're a cowboy, not a detective."

Old Red didn't answer with words. He just turned and showed me that little wisp of a grin he slips under his mustache when he thinks he's being clever.

Oh? his smile said. A feller can't be both?

I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. Hockensmith has a unique voice and vision, and I can't wait to read the further deductifyin' adventures of Old Red and Big Red.

A Killer Plot by Ellery Adams

Title: A Killer Plot
Author: Ellery Adams
ISBN: 9780425235225
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, 2010
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, #1 Books By the Bay mystery
Rating: B
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: Two of Oyster bay's lifelong citizens were in line at the Stop 'n' Shop, gossiping over carts stuffed with frozen entrees, potato chips, boxes of Krispy Kremes, and liters of soda when Olivia Limoges breezed through the market's automatic doors.

Olivia is no stranger to gossip-- she's been its regular subject ever since she came back to town. Preferring her own company and that of her dog, Captain Haviland, to most townspeople, she works on her novel in solitude. Writer Camden Ford has to turn on all his charm, but he finally gets Olivia to agree to join the Bayside Book Writers group. Just when she seems on the verge of making new friends, people begin turning up dead with poems left by the bodies. Anyone with the gift of language becomes suspect, and it's up to Olivia to catch the killer before she meets a poem with her name on it.

There seems to be more and more cozy mystery series using the North Carolina coast as a setting, and I don't mind a bit. This first entry in the Books By the Bay series has so much to recommend it.

I loved Captain Haviland, the black standard poodle. So many people only know poodles from seeing them in the show ring, and I for one can testify that you don't have to keep them groomed in those ridiculous styles-- plus they're some of the most intelligent dogs on the planet. (Yes, I'm a former poodle owner!)

I also loved the new bookstore in town, Through the Wardrobe, and really enjoyed the secondary characters. Olivia proved to be a fascinating main character. She's used to having money and spending it, so it was interesting to see how she used it in her own small hometown which relies so heavily upon tourism. So much of the time she was very prickly and aloof which made it difficult to warm up to her, but she's an onion that has to be peeled back a layer at a time. The more she interacts with the other characters, the more approachable she's going to get.

I'm going to enjoy peeling back those layers as this series progresses!

Wordless Wednesday

Click to view full size. More Wordless Wednesday.

Angels Passing by Graham Hurley

Title: Angels Passing
Author: Graham Hurley
ISBN: 9780752849539
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group, 2006
Paperback, 424 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #3 D.I. Joe Faraday mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Bookcloseouts.

First Line: For months afterwards, awake and asleep, Faraday dwelt on that final second and a half.

D.I. Joe Faraday is investigating the death of Helen Bassam, a fourteen-year-old girl who fell to her death from a Portsmouth tower block. When the body of a drug dealer is found hanging from a tree, the head of the Major Crimes Squad pulls in all the manpower he can get his hands on, and Faraday is scrambling to hang onto what little he's got.

The case sends Faraday directly into Portsmouth's bleak underworld of wrecked families and children cast adrift. On the trail of a ten-year-old boy who may hold the key piece of evidence in Helen's death, Faraday finds himself in the middle of a crisis much closer to home.

Graham Hurley is one of the best writers of police procedurals in the world today. He brings "Pompey" (Portsmouth, England) to life from the industrial sector to the enclaves of the rich, from the slums to a wide variety of non-human wildlife.

Joe Faraday is a single father whose deaf son has been a challenge to raise. To de-stress from fatherhood and crime, he goes for long walks to watch birds. (Every good copper has to have at least one thing to help him cope, eh?) But Faraday and the reader is never far away from the crime, and in this case-- which deals so closely with broken homes and children living on the streets-- the crime is often heartbreaking.

Hurley's series is one of my favorites, not just for the strong plots, but for the strong sense of place and a cast of multi-faceted, evolving characters. One of these days I'm going to get my ex-Royal Navy husband (who was stationed in Portsmouth) to read one of these Joe Faraday novels. Something tells me he's going to enjoy them as much as I do.

Trying to Tidy Up

The surgery seemed to go well. I'm taking the word of others about it because I don't remember a thing. Anesthesia has shown tremendous improvement since the last time I had to use it-- back in 1960. One second I was on the table with someone placing a warm blanket over my top half while my doctor held my hand, and the very next second I was awake in the recovery room wondering when they were going to get the show on the road. No being woozy, no being nauseous. Whatever that sedative was, I think it's wonderful.

Now I'm waiting for the results from the latest round of tests, and I have some energy. Since I have tons of books I've read in the past month or so, I'm trying my best to do a quick tidy-up and get them all reviewed.

Hopefully you won't overdose on reviews this week, but I don't want to start 2011 with this shelf of unreviewed books staring balefully at me. I hate it when they do that!

Every Bitter Thing by Leighton Gage

Title: Every Bitter Thing
Author: Leighton Gage
ISBN: 9781569478455
Publisher: Soho Crime, 2010
Hardcover, 288 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #4 Chief Inspector Mario Silva mystery
Rating: B+
Source: the author

First Line: It was Norma Palhares who first steered her new husband toward the offshore oil platforms.

When the son of the Foreign Minister of Venezuela is found dead in his apartment in Brasilia, Chief Inspector Mario Silva of the Federal Police is brought in to investigate. As he and his men work deeper into the case, Silva discovers that there have been a series of murders throughout Brazil that all have the same MO, and the victims were all passengers on the same flight from Miami to São Paulo. What motive could possibly link all these murders?

I've said this before, but a little repetition never hurts: Leighton Gage writes  my top discovery series of 2010. It is rare to find a crime fiction series that's imbued with such a sense of place, a wonderful cast of characters, and involving plots.

In Every Bitter Thing, it is nice to be out of fishy smelling Manaus, deep in the Amazon basin, and into the cities of São Paulo and Brasilia. The plot takes charge of this fourth book, and although I did miss the oftentimes humorous interactions between Silva and his team, the emphasis on the lives of the victims and the identity of the killer was engrossing.

The only unpleasant thing about my reading experience is that I am now caught up with this series and have to wait impatiently for the next one to be published. Oh well....

Ghost Country by Patrick Lee

Title: Ghost Country
Author: Patrick Lee
ISBN: 9780061584442
Publisher: Harper, 2010
Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller, #2 Travis Chase
Rating: B-
Source: Amazon Vine

First Line: Fifty seconds before the first shots hit the motorcade, Paige Campbell was thinking about the fall of Rome.

A top secret anomaly has been passing strange and indecipherable technology to our world for decades. The latest device it's shared can let a person look into the future.

What Paige Campbell saw when she looked seventy years into the future scared the hell out of her. When she and her colleagues take their discovery to the President, they are attacked after leaving the meeting. Travis Chase must rescue Paige because Paige knows that in four short months the world will be a ghost country scattered with the bones of billions. They must do everything in their power to prevent this-- even if it means being lost on the wrong side of the future.

From the opening attack on the motorcade to the last page, Ghost Country is a fast-paced rollercoaster ride that doesn't let you go. Even though there were times that I felt out of synch with the relationship between the two main characters (not having read the first book in the series), the action more than made up for it.

I'll definitely be looking for more of Travis Chase's adventures.

The Drop Edge of Yonder by Donis Casey

Title: The Drop Edge of Yonder
Author: Donis Casey
ISBN: 9781590585993
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press, 2009
Paperback, 217 pages
Genre: Historical Mystery, Amateur Sleuth, #3 Alafair Tucker mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.

First Line: When I think about that day, Mama, here's what sticks in my mind.

One hot but pleasant evening in August 1914, a gunman ended a group's outing by killing Bill McBride, wounding Alafair Tucker's daughter, Mary, and kidnapping Bill's fiancee, Laura. Although the authorities are searching high and low for the bushwhacker, they can't seem to find him. As Mary recovers, a pall of sadness seems to hang over her, and her mother Alafair would do anything to put a smile on her daughter's face and to hear Mary's laughter.

Mary can't get rid of the idea that she has information that would help find her Uncle Bill's killer-- if only she could remember it-- but her head wound is slow to heal. She begins trying to find quiet spots away from everyone else, which drives her mother crazy. After all, the killer is still in the area.

Much of author Donis Casey's series (and her recipes) is based upon her own family history during the early days of Oklahoma. Life on a farm at the turn of the twentieth century is so wonderfully depicted that it reminds me of Sharyn McCrumb's Ballad novels set in Appalachia. The mother of twelve children, Alafair Tucker knows that the only reason why she's able to find the time to play detective is because the elder of her children are old enough to take care of their younger brothers and sisters as well as the house and the chores around the farm. Alafair is also lucky that the sheriff in Boynton has a relaxed and practical attitude towards her clue gathering:

"I don't know if it's just an accident or luck or what, but in the last couple of years, she's managed to find out things I couldn't that helped bring a couple of murderers to justice. I expect folks will tell her things they won't tell me, since she can't throw them in jail. But however she does it, I'm not too proud to stand back and see what she comes up with."

The mystery is a strong and interesting one in The Drop Edge of Yonder, especially since Alafair's daughter is in danger.  Each chapter begins with an excerpt from Mary's diary in which she writes everyday in an attempt to remember anything that may lead to the identity of her uncle's killer.

What impressed me the most in this book was the character of Alafair herself. While interacting with her daughter, Mary, and her youngest child, Grace, Alafair's behavior epitomizes the best in motherhood and can easily bring smiles or tears to a reader's face.

This series is one of my favorites, not only because of the plotting and characterization, but because the language and the setting reminds me of my own farming roots. If you're in the mood for an historical mystery series that sets you smack dab on farm wife/sleuth Alafair Tucker's porch for a chat and a glass of iced tea, look no further than Donis Casey's excellent books.

The Paint Color Test

Your Vision is Personal

More than anything else, you'd like to understand yourself better and find your purpose.

It's minds like yours that have produced the most insightful novels and mind blowing movies.

You have always been deep and philosophical. You find it difficult to take anything lightly.

You feel most alive at the quietest moments. There's something thrilling about being alone with your thoughts.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chapter & Hearse by Lorna Barrett

Title: Chapter & Hearse
Author: Lorna Barrett
ISBN: 9780425236017
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, 2010
Mass Market Paperback, 352 pages
Genre: Amateur Sleuth, Cozy Mystery, #4 Booktown Mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: The poster on the Cookery's display window had advertised the book signing for at least a month.

Tricia Miles's sister is embarking on a book signing tour for her just-published cookbook when a gas explosion demolishes Stoneham's history bookshop, killing the owner and injuring Bob Kelly, head of the Chamber of Commerce and Angelica's boyfriend. Tricia's never been all that fond of Bob, but when she finds out that he's keeping a very low profile after the tragedy, she knows it's time to do something.

This series continues to get better and better. No longer weighted down by the Wicked Witch of Stoneham, Sheriff Wendy, other characters have become strong and sassy. Tricia's sister, Angelica, has mellowed and isn't the parasite she was at the beginning. And even a dog lover like me can like Tricia's cat, Miss Marple, because she's just a cat. She doesn't talk, she doesn't spell help in the mashed potatoes, she doesn't cough up hairballs, and she doesn't twine around ankles to trip people up.

Tricia is stronger and no longer the complete doormat she was in the first two books. This is a series that can easily become a reading staple-- just like that favorite pair of jeans or that faded sweatshirt-- because the characters are known, loved, and constantly evolving.

Characters that feel like friends combined with interesting plots? The perfect way to spend an afternoon for just as long as Ms. Barrett wants to continue this series.

Material Evidence by Bill Kirton

Title: Material Evidence
Author: Bill Kirton
ISBN: 9781932859324
Publisher: Bywater Books, 2007
Paperback, 241 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 DCI Carston mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: "Forty-seven separate stab wounds," said Carston, "and that's only on page four."

Detective Chief Inspector Jack Carston is newly arrived from England in Cairnburgh, near Aberdeen, Scotland. He relishes being able to drive down virtually empty roads that have few houses.

When he's put in charge of the brutal murder of Stephanie Burnham, Carston finds that the case is a complete puzzle. Everything points to the husband being the murderer, but somehow the pieces just don't fit together. Each person Carston interviews seems to have a radically different opinion of the victim, and he knows that he's going to have to solve the riddle of Stephanie Burnham's personality before he can find her killer.

This book was a very enjoyable read. It was refreshing to read about a policeman in a happy, stable marriage who doesn't have any psychological trauma with which he's dealing. Carston and his wife have had their share of problems, but they've actually worked them out. I also appreciate Carston's common sense and snarky sense of humor:

As he flicked through the forms and memos, he toyed, not for the first time, with the idea of having a rubber stamp made which said "Considered, Reviewed, Acknowledged, Processed" on it with each initial letter a bold capital. He knew that most of the stuff was circulated to convince certain individuals of their own worth and was a waste of time, resources and mental energy. The implementation path of most of his circulars ran straight from his in-tray to the wastepaper basket.

Add to the cast of characters a good sense of pace and an excellent plot that kept me guessing and you'll see why I liked this book. The end result? Another mystery series of which I want to keep track. Oy vey....

Heartland by David Wiltse

Title: Heartland
Author: David Wiltse
ISBN: 9780312982874
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2002
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Thriller, #1 Billy Tree series
Rating: C+
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: "Some people trail squalor behind them," Walter Matuzak was saying, eyeing the building with disgust.

A botched Secret Service operation has left Billy Tree severely wounded and traumatized and his partner dead. The best thing for him to do is to go back home to small town Falls City, Nebraska to stay with his sister and recuperate.

He's not back home very long before he finds out that interesting things have been happening to his family, friends and former school mates, and when a shooting at the local high school leaves people dead and plenty of unanswered questions, Billy finds himself helping out the local sheriff in an attempt to find the killer.

Unfortunately this book seems to be a good idea with mediocre execution. Billy's overwhelming self-pity wears thin quickly, and his habit of using a phony Irish brogue during times of stress just seems silly after several other characters tell him it's a stupid affectation.

The rest of the characters are straight out of central casting, and although the action sequences make excellent use of the Nebraska landscape, the pacing seems off. In many ways the best part of the book was the ending, which takes place in a grain silo. Having grown up in central Illinois, my friends and I were told many times, "Stay out of the grain silo!" We didn't-- and one time we almost came to grief ourselves.

City dwellers beware: there are lots of scary things out in the country. As Billy Tree found out in Heartland, there are more things than grain silos to make your heart beat faster.

Red April by Santiago Roncagliolo

Title: Red April
Author: Santiago Roncagliolo
Translator: Edith Grossman
ISBN: 9780375425448
Publisher: Pantheon, 2009
Paperback, 288 pages
Genre: Political Thriller
Rating: DNF
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: On Wednesday, the eighth day of March, 2000, as he passed through the area surrounding his domicile in the locality of Quinna, Justino Mayta Carazo (31) discovered a body.

Felix Chacaltana Saldivar is an unambitious prosecutor living in Lima, Peru. Haunted by his mother, abandoned by his wife, Felix loves literature and devotes an entire room of his house (and a good percentage of his waking thoughts) to the spirit of his dead mother. For some reason known only to the gods he has been put in charge of a strange murder investigation, which twists and turns to its surprising conclusion.

Well... I'm going to assume it's a surprising conclusion because I just could not finish this book. One part of my brain loved the look into the politics and country of Peru and didn't want to stop reading. The other part of my brain was so disappointed by the main character and the writing style that I did stop.

I'll talk about the writing style first. I should know better than to get a book which contains the following words in its description: "stunning", "self-assured", "clarity of style", "complexity", "riveting", "profound", and "deft artistry".  99% of the time when I read the book, I'm simply stunned and let it go at that. There was a sly, arch tone to the writing that I found alternately confusing and annoying.

If I wanted to be blunt, I'd say that Felix Chacaltana Saldivar was too dumb to live. Evidently he's spent way too much time in that room talking to his dead mother. The room and the talking to the dead may be a cultural tradition, but he carried it to excess.

I reached the point of no return when Felix went to a village to investigate. He had an idea going in that the area was very unstable politically. When he got there, he was told that it, indeed, was a very dangerous place to be. So what does he proceed to do? He takes the moral high ground when questioning people, and he won't stop questioning why laws are not being enforced. Yes, I do have morals, and yes, I do believe in law enforcement-- but not when you're putting people's lives in danger. Felix, having the luck of the naive and stupid, can leave that village and return home. The villagers he questions must remain there and hope they live to see the sun rise in the morning.

Enough of my complaints. I've seen by several other reviews that other people have read and enjoyed Red April. Unless you're the type of reader who is annoyed by many of the same things I outlined above, you may well be one of them. I sincerely hope that you are.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cobwebs and Cream Teas by Mary Mackie

Title: Cobwebs and Cream Teas: A Year in the Life of a National Trust House
Author: Mary Mackie
ISBN: 9780752834108
Publisher: Orion Publishing, 2001
Paperback, 175 pages
Genre: Memoirs
Rating: B
Source: Purchased from Alibris.

First Line: Remembering our first encounter with Felbrigg Hall, I'm irresistibly reminded of all the horror movies I've ever seen.

Author Mary Mackie's husband feared being tied to a desk for the rest of his working life; their children had "grown and flown"; and as a freelance writer, Mary's work could be done anywhere. When the position of Houseman at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk, England became available, Mr. Mackie applied and was given the job. This slender volume recounts a part of their lives spent in this National Trust house.

I spent an enjoyable hour or two reading of the library in the house, the things the couple discovered while they worked there, and just the daily tasks that are expected of a Houseman (one of which involves walking fifteen miles on a slow afternoon-- without ever leaving the Hall).

Mackie has a light touch and a good sense of humor which combines well with the information she packs in this book. She continues her memoirs of life in this stately home in an additional two volumes-- Dry Rot and Daffodils and Frogspawn and Floor Polish-- and I look forward to reading both of these as well because I cannot resist sampling the histories of old houses, large and small.

Wordless Wednesday

Click to view full size. More Wordless Wednesday.

Vodka Doesn't Freeze by Leah Giarratano

Title: Vodka Doesn't Freeze
Author: Leah Giarratano
ISBN: 9781741668902
Publisher: Random House Australia, 2009
Paperback, 336 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Sergeant Jill Jackson mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

First Line: The razorblade just felt cold and clean as always; her blood warm and soothing.

As a twelve-year-old, Detective Sergeant Jill Jackson of the New South Wales Police was kidnapped and held in a basement for three days. For three endless days, she was abused by men who were never caught and punished for the crime. Now as an adult, she is extremely security conscious and has methods for dealing with recurring nightmares. It is no surprise that she has a deep and abiding hatred of pedophiles and those who procure children for them.

When the body of a man is discovered on a hill overlooking a children's pool, it's immediately clear to Jill that a pedophile has been stopped in his tracks. At first she feels ambivalent about pursuing the man's killer, but when others die-- all known child sex offenders-- Jill knows a serial killer is on the loose.

The further into the investigation she goes, Jill uncovers a long-established club of wealthy pedophiles who mistakenly believe that they are untouchable. As she unearths abusers and victims, she learns that the psychotherapist who's helped her is having her own difficulties-- and Jill's nightmares and panic attacks assume new levels of terror and strength.

If you're not up for the topic of child abuse, pedophiles, and a cast of characters well-populated by pond scum, you might want to give this one a miss. All this didn't deter me, and I found the author's expertise in the subject matter to be very interesting.

The one thing that ultimately did not ice the cake for me was the character of Jill Jackson herself. The woman is filled to the brim with neuroses and doesn't cope with them as well as she'd like to think. Too many things trigger her panic attacks, and she can rapidly turn into a gibbering mass of Jell-O, unable to function. Although catching pedophiles is her stated life's mission, I find it very difficult to believe that she passed all the tests required to become a police officer. (Yes, I know what happened to her when she was a child. It was horrible, and it's wonderful that she's fought back to become a functioning member of society. However... I would not want to be her partner.)

Although Vodka Doesn't Freeze has a lot to recommend it, in the end, I just couldn't buy into the main character. Of course-- your mileage may vary!

Dying Gasp by Leighton Gage

Title: Dying Gasp
Author: Leighton Gage
ISBN: 9781569476130
Publisher: Soho Crime, 2010
Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #3 Chief Inspector Mario Silva mystery
Rating: A
Source: contest prize

First Line: The bomb aboard the number nine tram claimed seventeen lives.

Normally a missing teenage girl doesn't raise many eyebrows, but when she's the granddaughter of a prominent politician, Chief Inspector Mario Silva's ambitious boss is practically jumping through hoops to earn Brownie points and keep the man happy.

The girl's disappearance is tied to kidnapping and the extremely lucrative international trade in underage girls, prostitution, and snuff films. Her trail leads Silva and his men to Manaus, deep in the Amazon basin in one of Brazil's poorest provinces. While the teenager fights against her fate, Silva and his team tries to find her before it's too late.

I am a mystery series junkie; I have no clue how many mystery series I follow, and the number would probably shock me. One thing I do know is that, since I began reading the Chief Inspector Mario Silva series, it has become one of my top ten favorites.

Gage's novels have introduced me to a part of the world about which I was ignorant, knowing more about its early history than what is going on there now. A strong sense of place is always present in my favorite series. Few writers capture this as well as Leighton Gage.

I am also a character-driven reader, and characters abound in these books, from Silva's bumbling boss, to Silva's crack team of investigators (especially Arnaldo whom I depend upon for much needed comic relief), to Silva himself-- a man who has no illusions about the corrupt system in which he works.

A strong point in Dying Gasp for me was the missing girl, Marta Malan. At first glance, she's a typical rich girl who believes she's just that much better than everyone else, but as she fights her captors in order to stay alive, my contempt for her underwent a sea change.

One of the characters from Buried Strangers appears in this third book in the series. An evil person with absolutely no concept of right or wrong, this character made my skin crawl, and her death seemed strangely anti-climactic in Dying Gasp. However, it did serve as a vivid contrast to young Marta's struggles.

I am going to be very sad when I've caught up with this series. What a drag, waiting for each new one to be published!

The Flower Test

You Are Real

No matter what, you are always yourself. You don't know how to be anyone else.

You are honest, authentic, and comfortable in your own skin. You embrace your faults.

You expect everyone else to be as transparent as you are, but you're not always so lucky.

You're in search of the good people in this world, and as you find them, you make friends for life.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cool in Tucson by Elizabeth Gunn

Title: Cool in Tucson
Author: Elizabeth Gunn
ISBN: 9781847510389
Publisher: Severn House, 2008
Paperback, 218 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, #1 Sarah Burke mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.

First Line: Didn't even plan it or nothin', Hector thought happily, heading east on I-10, and look how good it turned out.

After a nasty divorce, homicide detective Sarah Burke has been concentrating as much as she can on her job. She's ambitious and has her eye on her boss's job-- which may not be a good thing since her boss has been acting very strangely around her.

That all gets put in her rearview mirror when an early morning jogger trips over the body of a man who's been stabbed to death. Priority is placed on the identity of the victim, and when it's learned that he sold drugs, this fact almost raises more questions than it answers. You see, the victim was a very private, very clean living man who didn't drink, smoke, or partake of his product.

While trying to track down the killer, Sarah also has to deal with some personal issues in the form of a younger sister who goes in and out of substance abuse centers as though they all have revolving doors and her sister's neglected little daughter. All this pales into insignificance when Sarah's niece is kidnapped and Sarah learns that the kidnapping is linked to her murder case.

Reading this book was one of those serendipitous moments when everything fell into place: plot, characters, setting. I enjoyed the Tucson setting, although readers not familiar with the area may feel that Gunn names a few too many streets. Just when I thought I had the plot figured out, Gunn put an interesting spin on the murders that made the conclusion a surprise.

What really made the read for me were Gunn's characters: Hector, the gofer for the local druglord who wasn't nearly as smart as he thought he was; Sarah, working her way through minefields at home and at work; Sarah's sister Janine who never met an excuse she couldn't use to her own advantage; and rising head and shoulders above them all-- Sarah's ten-year-old niece Denny, a wise old soul who's had to learn how to get money for food, launder her clothes, get herself to school, and dodge her mother and the endless round of boyfriends when they're on their latest bender. All the characters-- even secondary ones--came to life for me as I read, but I wanted to grab Denny and take her home with me.

In Sarah Burke, Gunn has created a tough-yet-vulnerable female in the mold of characters brought to life by Muller, Grafton and Paretsky. After having such a wonderful reading experience with Cool in Tucson, I know I'll be looking for the rest of the books in this series.

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

Title: The Storm in the Barn
Author/Illustrator: Matt Phelan
ISBN: 9780763636180
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2009
Hardcover, 208 pages
Genre: KidLit, Graphic Novel
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: The dust can have it.

I have been fascinated with the Dust Bowl era in America since reading Timothy Egan's marvelous book, The Worst Hard Time. As a result, I find myself keeping an eye peeled for likely fiction and non-fiction written about the period.  When The Storm in the Barn appeared on one of my daily emails from Paperback Swap, I snapped it up without checking into it very much. I'm glad I didn't check the facts; otherwise, I wouldn't have requested this graphic novel.

The time is 1937 in a Kansas that's slowly being blown away in the unceasing winds. Jack Clark is eleven. Now that he's big enough to do chores around the farm, there isn't any farm left. His father thought of packing up and leaving, but their old vehicle won't start. Mr. Clark has a worthless farm, a worthless vehicle, a wife who's worn down from work and worry, a daughter who has dust pneumonia and likes to read the Wizard of Oz books-- and Jack, a scrawny, dreamy boy whom the town bullies love.

Jack is so dreamy that the doctor tells his parents that he has dust dementia, so when Jack sees a frightening, shadowy figure in a barn, he doesn't tell anyone about it. What's the use? No one's going to believe him anyway. But when push comes to shove, he's a little boy who wants desperately to help his family, and he decides to confront that big, scary shadow in the barn. You see... he's figured out what it is.

There is so little text in The Storm in the Barn that some readers may yearn for more. My own yearning lasted only the first few pages because I was completely drawn into Phelan's atmospheric drawings. The dust is ever-present, blurring the lines of the familiar and turning everyday things into hidden bogey men and coating the world in a thick layer of hopelessness. Through the dust, young Jack's burning desire to make a difference to his family shines like a beacon.

Phelan paints a worthy visual companion to other Dust Bowl literature, and I'm glad that his book is the first graphic novel I've read.

Carte Blanche by Carlo Lucarelli

Title: Carte Blanche
Author: Carlo Lucarelli
Translator: Michael Reynolds
ISBN: 9781933372150
Publisher: Europa Editions, 2006
Paperback, 108 pages
Genre: Police Procedural, Historical Mystery, #1 Commissario De Luca mystery
Rating: D+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.

First Line: The bomb exploded suddenly, with a ferocious blast, right as the funeral procession was crossing the street.

In the final year of World War II, as Mussolini's Italy is shattering to pieces, Commissario De Luca finds himself in charge of a murder investigation. The body of well-connected Fascist Rehinard Vittorio has been found stabbed to death and castrated-- and since he was also a drug dealer and philanderer, there is no lack of suspects in his death. The powers that be have promised De Luca their full cooperation... as long as De Luca arrests the "right" suspect.

The plot of this slender little volume moves at the speed of light and leaves precious little time for characterization. De Luca himself was the most sharply drawn, but even he would have been a bit fuzzy if I hadn't read the preface first.

The character of De Luca is based on an actual person who was a policeman in Italy for forty years-- from World War II to the 1980s. Lucarelli found the man to be fascinating:

...after having heard that man recount forty years of his life in the Italian political police, during which with every change of government he found himself having to tail, to spy on, and to arrest those who had previously been his bosses, the question came spontaneously to me: "Excuse me... who do you vote for?"

The man who inspired the character of De Luca always asserted that he was a policeman; politics simply weren't in his job description. Personally, I think he had to have had one of the most finely tuned senses of self preservation on record.

Although there is much to like in Carte Blanche, I found the problems to outweigh the pleasures. The brevity of the book does not lend itself to characterization or to a true sense of the time and place in which it occurs.  The bare bones plot reminds me of my shopping strategy during the holiday season: get in there, get it, and get out. (It also contained few surprises.)  It's likely that the book suffers when read by anyone who is not more fluent in Italian political history. The translation suffered occasionally when slang was involved.

That sounds like quite a bit of complaint for such a little book, and perhaps it is. The reason for it? The character of De Luca, the time period in which the book takes place, and Lucarelli's writing style itself all raised my expectations. After my reading experience with this first book in the trilogy I doubt that I will read the others. Of course... your mileage may vary!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Theft on Thursday by Ann Purser

Title: Theft on Thursday
Author: Ann Purser
ISBN: 0425207471
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, 2006
Mass Market Paperback, 288 pages
Genre: British Cozy, Amateur Sleuth, #4 Lois Meade
Rating: B-
Source: Paperback Swap

First Line: "She done 'im in," the old man said with relish.

It's been a few years since we last saw Lois Meade. Two of her children have flown the nest, and her musically-inclined son, Jamie, is ready to fly away to university himself. Lois's housecleaning business is going well, and she's seen very little of Detective Inspector Hunter Cowgill.

The biggest news in Long Farnden is the new vicar and his godson. The vicar came to his calling rather late and is having a difficult adjustment to the locals, and his godson, Sandy, is constantly on the prowl for a pretty girl.

All this fades to the background when Sandy, Lois's mother, and the verger all fall victim to a very nasty flu-- and Cowgill asks for Lois's help in gathering information on a group that seems to be a nightmarish blend of the Ku Klux Klan and Satanists.

Although I liked how the plot was constructed, this book fell a bit flat for me, and I think I can trace my dissatisfaction to the characters. For me, there just wasn't enough Lois and too much of characters I didn't care for: Sharon the naive gossip, Sandy the lech, the lady of the manor Mrs. T-J, and the rather indecisive vicar.

However, Theft on Thursday is still filled with what I love about this series: a wry sense of humor, the life of a middle class family in an English village, Lois dealing with her business and anything else that's thrown in her path. Even though the group of arson-loving KKK/Satanists show that city life all too often encroaches upon the countryside, Ann Purser's Lois Meade series is one of the best traditional British cozy mystery series to be found.

The Snow Globe by Sheila Roberts

Title: The Snow Globe
Author: Sheila Roberts
ISBN: 9780312594480
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, 2010
Hardcover, 176 pages
Genre: Contemporary/Holiday Fiction
Rating: B
Source: Publicist

First Line: Something drew Kiley Gray to the antique store.

Kiley Gray has always been a believer-- Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Prince Charming, Mr. Right-- no matter what, she believed. Now unemployed and no longer in a relationship after her fiance dumped her for her sister, more than anything, Kiley believes she needs a miracle.

When she finds an antique snow globe that's reputed to deal in miracles, she can't resist buying it. All that remains to be seen is whether or not the beautiful old object can deliver on that rumor.

Through the holiday season, the globe makes its way through Kiley (the believer) and her friends, Suzanne (the non-believer) and Allison (the I-want-to-believer), and all three women's lives are changed.

After reading and enjoying Roberts' On Strike for Christmas, I had high hopes for this book, and it delivered. A slim little volume, it reads very quickly yet will leave a smile on your face and in your heart after you turn the last page.

If you need last minute Christmas gifts, this would be an excellent choice.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekly Link Round-Up

I'm sitting here waiting for the right time to leave for a doctor's appointment, and I had the bright idea of actually doing some sort of link round-up this week. I think I can come up with a halfway interesting batch. Let's see that's been lurking in that folder....

Bookish Architecture & Furniture

Bookish Travel
  • Losing yourself in a Vietnamese book café.
  • Staying in Manhattan? Book a room at the Library Hotel.
  • This week's Tuesday quiz here on Kittling: Books told me that I should live in a Mediterranean home. Two others got the same answer, and we all think we should live on a Greek island. I'm thinking Santorini because I've found Atlantis Books. Go to the gallery page and click until you find a photo of the bookstore's terrace. Ahhhhhhhh!
  • Let's tour some very cool converted bookstores.

Those Pesky E-Readers

Books & Authors

Books in Fashion

A Serving of Harry Potter

Around the Water Cooler in the Book Blogosphere
  • Natalie of Book Line and Sinker has a post that will bring tears to your eyes: At a Loss for Words.

A Plethora of New-to-Me Book Blogs

Well, that's it. I had to finish up after I returned home. All my pre-op stuff is done; I've been stabbed with needles and had my "picture" taken. A soft, gentle rain has fallen during most of the day here in Phoenix. Perhaps the rarity of the weather made me decide to take on a huge shop at the Super Target where I used to work. I almost ran out of gas and needed one of those motorized carts that I've sworn never to use. Instead I sat on the barstool I was going to purchase for a few minutes and then carried on.

Hopefully these links will provide a little entertainment with your coffee and quiet time this weekend. Take a little bit of time for yourself before you head out to slay the holiday beast.

Next week is my surgery, so I'm not promising any link round-ups. If you do see one, you'll know everything went exceptionally well (or I'm on extremely wonderful pain meds)!