Friday, December 29, 2017

Eating Like a Bird Weekly Link Round-Up

The holiday season is winding down, and I hope all of your wishes came true. Denis had a touch of food poisoning just before Christmas, but he's back to being his chipper self-- and his passengers at the airport loved the string of blinking Christmas lights he'd put on his red cowboy Santa hat.

This particular time of year has always been the Pig-Out Season for most folks. With two marvelous cooks (and bakers) in the family when I was growing up, it was impossible to resist all the goodies being churned out day in and day out. Now it's not such a problem because the cooking gene did not embed itself in my DNA. If you do little in the way of either cooking or baking and you don't buy much of the stuff either, it's not around the house to dance invitingly in front of your nose. Which leads me to this...

Here is a very short video of a covey of one of my favorite birds, Gambel's quail, feeding at the Patio Café at the Desert Botanical Garden. I hope the video cooperates because there's sound so you can hear them, too, if you are so inclined. But to get back on track... how did the phrase "eat like a bird" ever come to mean eating sparingly? Anyone who's watched birds for any length of time knows that they almost always have their beaks in the trough. You may not get much in one peck, but many pecks all day long equal a lot of food. Thankfully our feathered friends all have the metabolism to cope with their constant feeding.

Since I'm trying not to remember there's a leftover slice of pumpkin pie in the kitchen, I think I'll head on out to the corral to get all these links lined up for you. Head 'em up! Mooooove 'em out! And a Happy New Year to you all!

►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
  • An ancient temple built by the descendant of a vast biblical kingdom has been discovered by Israeli military drones.
  • Ancient Egyptian statues of the lion goddess Sekhmet have been discovered in the 3,500-year-old burial temple of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. 
  • The Bronze Age elite forged all their best weapons and jewelry from meteorites.
  • A colossal waterway system built by the 5,000-year-old Liangzhu civilization has been discovered by scientists in China.
  • George Washington's jewel-encrusted Revolutionary War medal has gone on display.

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄

►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, December 28, 2017

Cold Tuscan Stone by David P. Wagner

First Line: Fall's coldest day brought a damp chill that seeped through clothing and skin, but the bearded man was oblivious to the temperature.

Rome, Italy is a long way from Santa Fe, New Mexico, but Rick Montoya is enjoying life as a translator. When a friend from high school gets in touch, Rick learns that Beppo is now a senior member of the Italian Art Squad, and he wants Rick to do a little unofficial undercover work in Tuscany. Rick's never been to Tuscany, and since he's being armed with a list of galleries, suspects, and an expense account, he agrees to help his friend.

Posing as a buyer for a Santa Fe art gallery, the sun hasn't even set on his first day on the job when one of his contacts dies in a suspicious fall. These traffickers in priceless burial urns are taking no chances. The local police don't take well to interference from the Art Squad in Rome, and they think Rick is a hopeless amateur, so all Montoya can do is continue to interview all those on his suspect list-- and hope that he finds the thieves before anyone else dies.

Cold Tuscan Stone is a good set-up for Wagner's series. Montoya is a smart, likable main character-- and so is Italy. The cobbled streets of Volterra, Tuscany come to life under the author's pen as do the mouthwatering descriptions of food and the sharp insights into the Italian national character.

I've always enjoyed mysteries concerning art history, and the one here is good, but by book's end I felt that it was a bit lightweight. The foundation is good. All Wagner has to do is keep on building with quality materials, and he'll construct a really winning series. I look forward to that.

Cold Tuscan Stone by David P. Wagner
ISBN: 9781464201929
Poisoned Pen Press © 2013
Paperback, 250 pages

Amateur Sleuth, #1 Rick Montoya Italian mystery
Rating: B
Source: Paperback Swap 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Blood Memory Society by D.A. Field

First Line: Death and a dime bag.

Will Dunbar is just about to begin his dream job as head of the Reproductive Medicine Department at the Mayo Clinic when a former West Point classmate intervenes on a matter of national security. Dunbar's knowledge in the field of fertility and his desire to do what's best for his country are about to toss him headfirst into a secret government program, family secrets, international conspiracies, and untold danger.

When I heard that the fuel behind this book was the premise of inherited memory, I was afire to read it. I had my own brush with this type of memory, and when I learned that someone had written a book about a group of people who had retained about four centuries' worth of their ancestral memories, I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately, my anticipation was pretty much for naught.

By the second paragraph of Blood Memory Society, I was already mentally correcting the writing-- superfluous words, awkward word choices-- and my heart sank. Not enough was done with the premise of inherited memory other than throwing out a bit of science in an attempt to explain it and a scene in which Dunbar's sailing companion uses memories of an ancestor's skills to save their lives. Yes, someone is out to kill all those who possess this gift, but this just turns the book into a rather run-of-the-mill thriller as the reader is thrown into one chase-and-survival scenario after another.

Important discoveries are telegraphed so they are no longer surprising, and speaking of surprises, the bad guys aren't very shocking either. The author needs some more writing experience under his belt and a good editor because I've read that this is the first book in a series. A series will certainly give the author the space he needs to flesh out this fascinating concept, but I really don't know if I want to go along for the ride.

Blood Memory Society by D.A. Field
ISBN: 9780999051412
Giro di Mondo © 2017
Hardcover, 350 pages

Thriller, #1 Blood Memory Society
Rating: D
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.


January 2018 New Mystery Releases!

I'm running way behind schedule here on the blog due to the flu that Denis accidentally brought home from picking up our to-go order at a local restaurant. First it hit him, and just as he'd recovered, it slammed me. The poor man had to work Christmas day, but at least he felt well. I wouldn't've been fit company for man nor beast, but at least I did manage to keep a bit of food down. Anyway, that's why I'm behind and have no jolly lead-in to one of my favorite posts.

I've grouped my picks of January's new crime fiction by their release dates, and I hope I've chosen a title or two that tickles your fancy. After all, if you're like me you received some gift cards during the holidays and you feel the need... the need to buy BOOKS! Let's take a look at this list of mine!

=== January 2 ===

Title: An Aegean April
Author: Jeffrey Siger
Series: #9 in the Andreas Kaldis police procedural series set on the Greek island of Lesvos.
280 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "The beautiful Greek island of Lesvos, birthplace of the poet Sappho, and for centuries an agrarian paradise famed for anise-flavored ouzo and tasty sardines, sees its serenity turn into chaos as the world watches boatloads of refugees daily flee onto its shores from Turkey across the narrow Mytilini Strait.

Mihalis Volandes is one of Lesvos' elite, the patriarch of a storied shipping clan. He's weathered many changes in his long life, and when a government policy accelerates the surge of refugees onto his island, he rises to prominence in relief efforts he sees as growing increasingly ineffectual.

One evening, after working to stir up support for his breakthrough plan to strike at the heart of the lucrative refugee trafficking trade, he returns to his mansion in darkness - only to fall victim in his own garden to a swishing sword.

A refugee-turned-local-aid-worker is found at the scene, splattered with Volandes' blood, and swiftly arrested by island police. Case closed - or would be, if young Ali Sera were not working with SafePassage, an NGO (non-government organization), headed on Lesvos by American Dana McLaughlin. McLaughlin is having none of Ali's arrest. Within hours the phone rings in the Athens office of Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis, and she's requesting that Kaldis take over the investigation.

Volandes was a prominent citizen and the crime particularly gruesome. Could it be terrorism or something else? But whether Ali is guilty or framed, Andreas can't ignore a powerful motive for the murder. Volandes' daring plan, if implemented, would soon shut down the cash-generating refugee-trafficking pipeline between Turkey and Lesvos.

And so, we're off on a nail-biting ride with Kaldis and his team through Byzantine island politics, deteriorating diplomatic relations, and a world on fire with intrigues and more brutal deaths.

Title: Dial M for Mousse
Series: #3 in the Emergency Dessert Squad cozy series set in Ohio.
304 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "The Emergency Dessert Squad business is booming, with owner and baker Winnie Johnson working overtime to satisfy the emergency cravings of Silver Lake, Ohio. Her latest order, a plate of motivational desserts for an artists’ retreat, is just what she needs to keep her mind off her own relationship woes.

But Winnie’s problems seem like trifles when she discovers the body of retreat owner Sally Dearfield mere inches away from five oh-so-eccentric and viable suspects. Now, this baking detective must uncover the inspiration behind Sally’s murder before another creative genius is iced.

Title: The Bomb Maker
Author: Thomas Perry
Standalone thriller set in Los Angeles.
384 pages

Synopsis: "A bomb is more than a weapon. A bomb is an expression of the bomber’s predictions of human behavior―a performance designed to fool you into making one fatally wrong move. In The Bomb Maker, Thomas Perry introduces us to the dark corners of a mind intent on transforming a simple machine into an act of murder―and to those committed to preventing that outcome at any cost.

A threat is called into the LAPD Bomb Squad and when tragedy ensues, the fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company. Just returned from a tough job in Mexico, Stahl is at first reluctant to accept the offer, but his sense of duty to the technicians he trained is too strong to turn it down. On his first day back at the head of the squad, Stahl’s three-person team is dispatched to a suspected car bomb. And it quickly becomes clear to him that they are dealing with an unusual mastermind―one whose intended target seems to be the Bomb Squad itself.

As the shadowy organization sponsoring this campaign of violence puts increasing pressure on the bomb maker, and Stahl becomes dangerously entangled with a member of his own team, the fuse on this high-stakes plot only burns faster.

Title: The Pyramid of Mud
Author: Andrea Camilleri
Series: #22 in the Inspector Montalbano police procedural series set in Sicily.
272 pages

Synopsis: "On a gloomy morning in Vigàta, a call from Fazio rouses Inspector Montalbano from a nightmare. A man called Giugiù Nicotra has been found dead in the skeletal workings of a construction site, a place now entombed by a sea of mud from recent days of rain and floods. Shot in the back, he had fled into a water supply system tunnel. The investigation gets off to a slow start, but all the evidence points to the world of construction and public contracts, a world just as slimy and impenetrable as mud.

As he wades through a world in which construction firms and public officials thrive, Montalbano is obsessed by one thought: that by going to die in the tunnel, Nicotra had been trying to communicate something.

'The novels of Andrea Camilleri breathe out the sense of place, the sense of humor, and the sense of despair that fills the air of Sicily.' —Donna Leon

=== January 9 ===

Title: The Black Painting
Author: Neil Olson
Standalone art-history-inspired thriller set on the East Coast of the US.
320 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "There are four cousins in the Morse family: perfect Kenny, the preppy West Coast lawyer; James, the shy but brilliant medical student; his seductive, hard-drinking sister Audrey; and Teresa, youngest and most fragile, haunted by the fear that she has inherited the madness that possessed her father.

Their grandfather summons them to his mansion at Owl’s Point. None of them have visited the family estate since they were children, when a prized painting disappeared: a self-portrait by Goya, rumored to cause madness or death upon viewing. Afterward, the family split apart amid the accusations and suspicions that followed its theft.

Any hope that their grandfather planned to make amends evaporates when Teresa arrives to find the old man dead, his horrified gaze pinned upon the spot where the painting once hung. As the family gathers and suspicions mount, Teresa hopes to find the reasons behind her grandfather’s death and the painting’s loss. But to do so she must uncover ugly family secrets and confront those who would keep them hidden.

Title: The Widows of Malabar Hill
Author: Sujata Massey
Series: #1 in the Perveen Mistry historical series set in 1920s Bombay, India.
400 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Inspired in part by the woman who made history as India’s first female attorney, The Widows of Malabar Hill is a richly wrought story of multicultural 1920s Bombay as well as the debut of a sharp and promising new sleuth.

Perveen Mistry, the daughter of a respected Zoroastrian family, has just joined her father’s law firm, becoming one of the first female lawyers in India. Armed with a legal education from Oxford, Perveen also has a tragic personal history that makes women’s legal rights especially important to her.

Mistry Law has been appointed to execute the will of Mr. Omar Farid, a wealthy Muslim mill owner who has left three widows behind. But as Perveen examines the paperwork, she notices something strange: all three of the wives have signed over their full inheritance to a charity. What will they live on? Perveen is suspicious, especially since one of the widows has signed her form with an X—meaning she probably couldn’t even read the document. The Farid widows live in full purdah—in strict seclusion, never leaving the women’s quarters or speaking to any men. Are they being taken advantage of by an unscrupulous guardian? Perveen tries to investigate, and realizes her instincts were correct when tensions escalate to murder. Now it is her responsibility to figure out what really happened on Malabar Hill, and to ensure that no innocent women or children are in further danger.

Title: A Mortal Likeness
Series: #2 in the Victorian historical series set in 1880s London.
304 pages

Synopsis: "A photographer in 1889 London, Miss Sarah Bain runs a private detective agency with her friends, Lord Hugh Staunton and former street urchin Mick O’Reilly. Their sole credential is that they solved the Jack the Ripper case, a secret they can never tell because they did it outside the boundaries of the law. Their new big case arises when a wealthy banker, Sir Gerald Mariner, posts a handsome reward for finding his missing infant. All of London joins in the search. But Sarah has an advantage―a photograph she took during a routine surveillance job, which unexpectedly reveals a clue about the kidnapping.

After Sir Gerald hires Sarah, Hugh, and Mick to find his son, they move into his opulent mansion and discover a photograph of baby Robin. It eerily resembles postmortem photographs taken of deceased children posed to look as if they’re alive. Was the kidnapping real, or a cover-up for a murder? Is the perpetrator a stranger, or someone inside the troubled Mariner family? The case hits close to home for Sarah as it intertwines with her search for her father, who disappeared after he became the prime suspect in a murder twenty-three years ago. She finds herself on the wrong side of the law, which threatens her budding romance with Police Constable Barrett. But Sarah must uncover the truth about Robin’s kidnapping, and her own family, before her past catches up to her in A Mortal Likeness, the gripping follow-up to award-winning author Laura Joh Rowland’s The Ripper’s Shadow.

=== January 16 ===

Title: A Treacherous Curse
Series: #A3 in the Veronica Speedwell historical series set in 1880s London.
320 pages

Synopsis: "London, 1888. As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker. His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past. Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything...

Title: The Silent Room
Author: Mari Hannah
Series: #1 in the Matthew Ryan police procedural series set in Northumbria, England.
416 pages

Synopsis: "Detective Sergeant Matthew Ryan wants to clear the name of his former boss, who stands accused of official corruption. But before he can do so, his boss disappears. Did he escape from police custody, or was he kidnapped? Or did something even worse happen to him?

The Silent Room has everything a good thriller should have―compelling characters, a gripping plot and storyline, superb pacing, and a strong sense of place. In addition it has heart, something many thrillers sorely lack. Add some truly scary villains, vast uncertainty about whom to trust, and a loudly ticking clock, and we have ourselves a thriller that will grip readers from the first pages and never let go.

Title: The Night Market
A near-future standalone thriller.
304 pages

Synopsis: "It’s late Thursday night, and Inspector Ross Carver is at a crime scene in one of the city’s last luxury homes. The dead man on the floor is covered by an unknown substance that’s eating through his skin. Before Carver can identify it, six FBI agents burst in and remove him from the premises. He’s pushed into a disinfectant trailer, forced to drink a liquid that sends him into seizures, and then is shocked unconscious.

On Sunday he wakes in his bed to find his neighbor, Mia—who he’s barely ever spoken to—reading aloud to him. He can’t remember the crime scene or how he got home; he has no idea two days have passed. Mia says she saw him being carried into their building by plainclothes police officers, who told her he’d been poisoned. Carver doesn’t really know this woman and has no way of disproving her, but his gut says to keep her close.

A mind-bending masterfully plotted thriller that will captivate fans of Blake Crouch, China Miéville, and Lauren Beukes, The Night Market follows Carver as he works to find out what happened, soon realizing he’s entangled in a web of conspiracy that spans the nation. And that Mia may know a lot more than she lets on.

=== January 17 ===

Title: The Marshal and the Moonshiner
Series: #1 in the Nelson Lane Frontier historical series set in Wyoming and Oklahoma during the Great Depression.
251 pages

Synopsis: "Gangsters and hoodlums prey upon people’s weaknesses for a quick buck in an era that saw few bucks to spare, making criminals of everyday folks in the rural Great Depression. In a place as wild as the West ever was, in the heyday of the badmen and the lawmen, the law is in short supply. U.S. Marshal Nelson Lane chases a fleeing murder suspect from the frontier of the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming all the way to the big city of El Reno in Oklahoma―out of his element in both places and nearly everywhere in between. His only help is an Indian rookie deputy sheriff, and she is as wild as any other young woman in that time with access to booze and men: Not much help to a widower alcoholic struggling in recovery. While she might get Nelson killed unintentionally, a shady sheriff dealing in illicit booze, his henchman warning to him to leave, and run of the mill moonshiners just taking care of business are running him down and trying to kill him from all sides. When his persistence pays off and he finally catches up with the murderer, Nelson must find it in himself to look beyond the law and deliver the ultimate justice."

=== January 30 ===

Title: Into the Black Nowhere
Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: #2 in the UNSUB police procedural series set in Texas.
368 pages

Synopsis: "In southern Texas, on Saturday nights, women are disappearing. One vanishes from a movie theater. Another is ripped from her car at a stoplight. Another vanishes from her home while checking on her baby. Rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix, newly assigned to the FBI's elite Behavioral Analysis Unit, fears that a serial killer is roaming the dark roads outside Austin.

Caitlin and the FBI's serial crime unit discover the first victim's body in the woods. She's laid out in a bloodstained, white baby-doll nightgown. A second victim in a white nightie lies deeper in the forest's darkness. Both bodies are surrounded by Polaroid photos, stuck in the earth like headstones. Each photo pictures a woman in a white negligee, wrists slashed, suicide-style--posed like Snow White awaiting her prince's kiss.

To track the UNSUB, Caitlin must get inside his mind. How is he selecting these women? Working with a legendary FBI profiler, Caitlin searches for a homology--that elusive point where character and action come together. She profiles a confident, meticulous killer who convinces his victims to lower their guard until he can overpower and take them in plain sight. He then reduces them to objects in a twisted fantasy--dolls for him to possess, control, and ultimately destroy. Caitlin's profile leads the FBI to focus on one man: a charismatic, successful professional who easily gains people's trust. But with only circumstantial evidence linking him to the murders, the police allow him to escape. As Saturday night approaches, Caitlin and the FBI enter a desperate game of cat and mouse, racing to capture the cunning predator before he claims more victims.

Title: Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake
Author: Sarah Graves
Series: #1 in the Death by Chocolate cozy series set in Maine.
240 pages

*Upcoming review on Kittling: Books

Synopsis: "Life just got a little sweeter in the island fishing village of Eastport, Maine. Jacobia “Jake” Tiptree and her best friend Ellie are opening a waterfront bake shop, The Chocolate Moose, where their tasty treats pair perfectly with the salty ocean breeze. But while Jake has moved on from fixing up houses, she still can't resist the urge to snoop into the occasional murder.

Jake and Ellie have been through a lot together, from home repair to homicide investigation. So when they decide to open a chocolate-themed bakery, they figure it’ll be a piece of cake. With Ellie’s old family recipes luring in customers, they expect to make plenty of dough this Fourth of July weekend. Having family home for the holiday only sweetens the deal for Jake—until the ill wind of an early-season hurricane blows up her plans. When the storm hits, Jake’s grown son Sam is stranded in a Boston bus station, and her husband Wade is stuck on a cargo ship. But as bitter as the storm is, something even more sinister is brewing in the kitchen of The Chocolate Moose—where health inspector Matt Muldoon is found murdered.

Ellie never made a secret of her distaste for Matt, who had been raining on their parade with bogus talk of health code violations. Now, with no alibi for the night of the murder, she’s in a sticky situation with the police—and it’s up to Jake to catch the real killer and keep Ellie living in the land of the free.

January is a good month for new crime fiction, isn't it? I think the book I'm looking forward to most is Sujata Massey's The Widows of Malabar Hill. Which titles are you looking forward to? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Eighty Million Eyes by Ed McBain

First Line: The man was sitting on a bench in the reception room when Miles Vollner came back from lunch that Wednesday afternoon.

There are two investigations for the 87th Precinct, and one of them is a hot one. Stan Gifford, possibly the country's most beloved comedian, has died on-air in front of forty million television viewers, and it's up to Steve Carella to find the killer.

The second investigation involves Cindy Forrest, a young woman who's working to put herself through college. After an incident at her place of employment, the 87th Precinct's Bert Kling sees that Cindy is in grave danger, and his superior officer assigns him the task of being the young woman's bodyguard. There's only one problem: Cindy can't stand Bert Kling and doesn't want him anywhere near her.

In other words, it's just another day in the 87th Precinct.

Ed McBain has always been one of those crime fiction writers that I said I'd get around to reading "one of these days." Well, the day finally came, and now I know what everyone's been talking about. Eighty Million Eyes (forty million viewers times two eyes each...) is a lean, mean fighting machine. No fluff. No lengthy descriptive passages. No character contemplating his or her navel. Two major plots. No subplots. This could be the recipe for something excruciatingly boring for a reader like me who likes character-driven plots and strong settings, but it most certainly isn't because Ed McBain was a master of his craft.

Written in 1966, there are no gun-toting CSI folks spraying everything down in luminol or running DNA tests, but you'd be amazed at the amount of evidence that can be found by good, dedicated detectives with sharp eyes-- detectives who have to track down a payphone in order to call the precinct. I do enjoy the science in modern crime fiction, but reading something like this from back in "the Stone Age" can be quite refreshing.

This is around the twentieth book in this series, and although it's the first I've read, I didn't feel as though I'd been dropped on my head in the middle of the story. McBain's lean prose style brought this big city to life, I got to know some first-rate detectives, and I read a couple of scenes where my blood ran cold. This author pulls you right into the story. I want to thank the person who finally nudged me through the door of the 87th Precinct. As Arnie would say, "I'll be back!"

Eighty Million Eyes by Ed McBain
eISBN: 9781612181608
Thomas & Mercer © 2011
Originally published in 1966.
eBook, 202 pages

Police Procedural, #21 87th Precinct mystery
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.


Friday, December 22, 2017

A He Did What to That Cactus? Weekly Link Round-Up

It always bears repeating that when it comes to decorating for Christmas, Denis works on the outside, and I work on the inside. I do have to admit that I took the hedge clippers and other implements to the shrubbery out front so that Denis would be able to hang his lights, but I didn't lift a finger with the lights or anything else he did. Now...most of the outside decorating is strictly for evening enjoyment. (The new solar-powered Christmas lights are working beautifully, I might add.) I've always thought that the emphasis on darkness was a shame, so I invested in some daytime decorations for the front of the property, and Denis hauled out the ladder and put them up. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Yes, those are Santa hats on some of the arms of our night-blooming senita cactus. I've seen folks on Facebook laugh because southern Arizonans put Christmas lights on cacti, so I had to post this photo on my Facebook page to show everyone that it's not just lights that we use as decorations.

Someone asked how this could be done without the person doing it ending up covered in cactus spines. Yes, it does take manual dexterity, a good plan, and a bit of luck, but it also takes a tad of common sense: don't try this with a cactus that is covered with long, sharp spines. Denis did admit that a couple of the senita's arms didn't want to wear hats, and they bit him, but the bites were slight and forgotten about soon after they occurred (because the spines are few and very small).

Now that he's done, I'll mosey out to the link corral and enjoy his handiwork. Head 'em up! Mooooooove 'em out!

►Books, Movies & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄

►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
  • Mexico establishes the largest marine protected area in North America.
  • Super pictures capture this year's only visible Supermoon.

►Fascinating Folk◄
  • Our cloud names come from Luke Howard, an 18th-century amateur meteorologist.
  • Wilson A. Bentley, the man who revealed the hidden structure of falling snowflakes.

►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, December 21, 2017

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

First Line: For many years Henry Kitteridge was a pharmacist in the next town over, driving every morning on snowy roads, or rainy roads, or summertime roads, when the wild raspberries shot their new growth in brambles along the last section of town before he turned off to where the wider road led to the pharmacy.

In a series of thirteen vignettes, author Elizabeth Strout sets out to illuminate a small town in coastal Maine and one of its inhabitants, a retired schoolteacher named Olive Kitteridge.

Readers are the voyeurs in Olive Kitteridge. While we peep into the lives of a piano player in a lounge, a troubled teenage girl, and Olive's own husband and son (among others), we see people dealing with all sorts of problems... and we see that Olive is-- for the most part-- considered to be a rather unpleasant and unpredictable force of nature. But as our knowledge of the people of Crosby, Maine increases so does Olive's self-awareness. The lessons she learns are sometimes painful and always ruthlessly honest.

I loved how my understanding of the characters deepened with each new chapter. Initially seen in an unflattering light, some characters changed as the light shone upon them from different angles.

This is a little gem, although I can see some readers believing that nothing ever happens in it. I found this book to be mesmerizing and to contain one brilliant character study after another. Quiet, unassuming writing can sometimes wield great power and beauty, and this is exactly what I found in the pages of Olive Kitteridge.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
eISBN: 9781588366887
Random House © 2008
eBook, 271 pages

Fiction, Standalone
Rating: A+
Source: Purchased from Amazon.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Desert Remains by Steven Cooper

First Line: Her name is Elizabeth Spears.

The desert caves in the Phoenix metropolitan area are being filled with bodies. A psychopath is killing women and recording his crimes on the walls of the caves in which he leaves them. Everyone wants the case solved immediately (if not sooner), and with the body count rising and another detective wanting Alex Mills taken off the investigation, Mills turns to Gus Parker. He's worked with the "intuitive medium" before and knows that the man can have visions that point to real clues.

When Parker visits the crime scenes, he does have visions, but he doesn't know what they mean. As he works to interpret them, Gus finds himself hindered by a lovelorn stalker. Just what he needs when he knows that innocent people's lives are at stake.

After reading Steven Cooper's Desert Remains, I know I want more. Cooper's lyrical descriptions bring the desert around Phoenix to life, and he's got two main characters who deserve many more cases to solve. The sensitive and touching beginning shows us just what sort of a police officer Alex Mills is, and we go on to learn about his solid marriage and the trouble his teenage son gets into-- trouble that could have wide-ranging consequences both for himself and his father. The single Gus Parker provides us with a bit of comic relief here and there, and his psychic gifts are handled well-- especially since those gifts are not his full-time job. Both men are likable, hard-working, and dedicated, and their circles of family and friends make for a strong secondary cast.

I did find that the book wobbles once or twice. For some reason, a brief description of someone's behavior clued me into the killer's identity very early on, and I thought the lovelorn stalker subplot could have been left out entirely. I believe this subplot made the pace of the book uneven, and some editing to tighten everything up was needed as well.

But the story, the characters, and the setting are all there, and I'm really looking forward to the next book in this series. Bring it on!

Desert Remains by Steven Cooper
ISBN: 9781633883536
Seventh Street Books © 2017
Paperback, 400 pages

Police Procedural, #1 Gus Parker & Alex Mills mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Purchased at The Poisoned Pen.


Christmas 2017 at Casa Kittling

Due to increasing mobility issues, I can no longer say that I decorate in excess for Christmas. Do I miss it? Not really. I'd still do it if I had an army of minions to do my bidding, but I don't. What I am thankful for is that I did have several years in which I could indulge that part of myself.

If you're relatively new to Kittling: Books, run down the sidebar on the right to where it says "Looking for Something?" then choose "Christmas Decorations" from the drop-down menu. You'll be able to see what I'm talking about when I use the words "excess" and "indulge." You'll also be able to see how my decorating has changed over time, and how furniture and decorations move around the house. If you don't feel like doing that, here's a link to what I call my Christmas Forest.

Now, here's Casa Kittling gussied up for the holidays! (Want to see the photos in their original sizes? Click on any one of them and a new window will open automatically so that you may do so.)

Sitting on the bench at the front door looking at the living room.

An old, old fiber optic tree & two new snowmen.

At the front door.

China cabinet #1

Christmas china I've been collecting over the years. 1/3



At night, without the candles burning.

China cabinet #2

My mother made these carolers in the late 1960s.

At night.

Standing by the fireplace, looking at the living room.

A comfy place to sit and read.

The dining room.

A new sign, but this is the first time I've used this garland--and I've had it for years!

Murphy's Corner.

Looking in from the craft room.

Another set of carolers my mother made in the 1960s.

Decorate with things that make you happy. This little birdie makes me smile.

Many beloved friends have given me decorations over the years.

Kitchen and family room.

Two well-used recliners and a new wreath hanging above them.

Old snowman, new wreath. Combine the two for a smile.

The Hispanic snowman plays my favorite Christmas Song-- ¡Feliz Navidad!

The view from my "Christmas nest" where I sit and knit in the evenings.

Here's hoping that each and every one of you will have the best and brightest of holiday seasons!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Historically Dead by Greta McKennan

First Line: "What do you think? Do I look like an eighteenth-century lady?"

Seamstress Daria Dembrowski has landed an important job. The reality TV show My House in History has come to Laurel Springs, Pennsylvania, and two elderly sisters are on a mission to restore their colonial mansion to its original state. If the restoration is done right, the two could win a million dollars. Something like this means a lot of work for Daria, who specializes in historical textiles.

Daria loves the job although some of the folks on site are grumpy, but when Daria finds one of the researchers dead, the whole project could unravel-- and then the crimes begin to pile up.

Having grown up with a grandmother who was a whiz with needle and thread (and who made period clothes for her antique dolls), I'm happy to say that there was enough information on period sewing to keep me interested in Greta McKennan's Stitch in Time cozy series. Historically Dead is the second book, but I didn't feel as though I'd walked into the middle of a conversation, which is always a plus.

Daria is a talented and interesting main character who works amazingly well on very little sleep, doesn't own a car, and is in danger of wearing out the local bus system. She lives in an old Victorian house where she rents out rooms to her brother as well as to the lead singer of the Twisted Armpits-- a woman named Aileen whose food combinations should garner her a hit series on BARF TV.

McKennan has provided some excellent misdirection because I didn't have a clue about the identity of the killer, and I liked the resolution of the subplot involving a stolen Paul Revere platter. Where the book seriously stubbed its toe for me is with the entire My House in History scenario. It doesn't make sense. Untold amounts of money are being spent to remove decades (or centuries) of renovation to take the house back to its original appearance. This includes ripping out several fully grown Japanese maples and gutting the kitchen to put in a huge fireplace to cook the food... yet they didn't build an outhouse, tear out the laundry room, or erase the indoor bathrooms. This is a competition between several homeowners, so after spending all that money on the houses, the production company is going to turn around and pay the winner a million dollars? If that's true, there are hundreds of similar companies that would kill to have their advertising revenue.

If not for that particular stumbling block in which I could not persuade my disbelief to willingly keep suspending itself, I did enjoy the book. There's a good mystery in the pages of Historically Dead, and a very promising cast of characters.

Historically Dead by Greta McKennan
eISBN: 9781516101696
Lyrical Underground © 2017
eBook, 224 pages

Cozy Mystery, #2 Stitch in Time mystery
Rating: C+
Source: Net Galley

Monday, December 18, 2017

December at the Desert Botanical Garden

There's always something to see at the Desert Botanical Garden, no matter the time of year. Denis and I spent last Thursday afternoon there, and I thought I'd share some of the photos I took. If you'd like to see any of them in their original sizes, just click on one and a new window will open automatically so that you may do so. Enjoy!

Jun Kaneko sculpture at the entrance.

Christmas tree outside the Webster Center.

Some of our lunch companions at the Patio Café. I love Gambel's quail!

Jun Kaneko sculpture

Desert Marigolds

There's always something in bloom.

So many paths to wander....

Prickly pear fruits, beloved of critter and human alike.

Teddy Bear Cholla--NOT for Christmas decorating!

The "bags" you see lining the paths are luminarias.

Sculpture in a bed of barrel cacti.

There are many places to sit and enjoy the garden and its wildlife.

Cacti come in all shapes and sizes.

Poinsettias behind Jun Kaneko sculpture. Poinsettias grow here.

Agave growing a huge bloom stalk. Once it blooms, the plant will die.

A young cactus wren who's still a bit fuzzy.

Another lunch buddy who posed atop a rock for us when we left.

I hope you enjoyed meandering through the garden with me. I'm working on taking some videos of my strolls. If they pass my quality control, you might see some of them in the future.