Friday, October 23, 2020

An It's Going to Be Different Weekly Link Round-Up


I'm weird. I've never denied it. "Organized" is probably the most common word that's been used to describe me. I don't think it's in my DNA unless it skipped several generations because I've had to go through deceased loved ones' belongings. I mean, once you find 107 single socks stuffed in all sorts of nooks and crannies, you get the impression that the person who did it wasn't particularly organized... But I'm beginning to digress. I stumbled across a series called The Home Edit on Netflix, and it's almost perfect for me. Lots of purging and categorizing and containing and labeling... *sigh* Nirvana! The two organizing gurus have me changing my terminology, too. I've always called 'em "lazy Susans" even though I wondered who on earth the original Susan was and-- just how lazy was she? On The Home Edit, they're called "turntables"-- and they even have divided ones. Be still, my heart! I now have a divided turntable in the main bathroom and made my own dividers for the one I have by my chair in the family room. Now I'm fighting the urge to buy more, more, more. Get hold of yourself, Cathy!

Now... you may have noticed that I said that this program was almost perfect for me. Why isn't it? Because if I had a dollar for every time those two gurus used the word "like," I'd be able to buy up the world's supply of divided turntables. It's gotten so bad a couple of times that I watched with the sound turned off. Have any of you ever done that? It just, like, hurts my brain! Ow!

Before I mosey out to the link corral, I just wanted to mention that the upcoming holiday season is going to be so much different from what most of us are used to, and we should start planning accordingly. That especially goes for gifting. I came across something on Facebook that I will share with you here. Some of the things on the list may not apply depending on lockdown guidelines, but many of them do. Think outside the box this year. It could really make a difference in people's lives.

Enjoy the links!


►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
►Crafty Little Gems◄
►The Happy Wanderer◄
►Fascinating Folk◄
►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.

Stay safe! Stay healthy! And don't forget to curl up with a good book!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Spirit Woman by Margaret Coel

First Line: Father John O'Malley pulled up the collar of his jacket and dipped the brim of his cowboy hat against the hard wind whirling little pellets of snow into the air.

Legend has it that Sacajawea, the Native American woman who helped guide the Lewis and Clark expedition through the vast American wilderness, is buried on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming. A college professor and longtime friend of Arapaho attorney Vicky Holden has disappeared while searching for documented evidence of that legend. 

Holden and Father John O'Malley become increasingly concerned when her missing friend is linked to another female historian who also vanished on the reservation while researching Sacajawea twenty years ago. The answer to these disappearances may lie in the pages of Sacajawea's hidden memoirs, but someone is willing to do anything to ensure they're never found.


It's been much too long since I've picked up one of Margaret Coel's Wind River mysteries, and The Spirit Woman was such a pleasure to read. Coel always seems to find a fascinating aspect of Native American or Western history to build her stories upon, and this time it's Sacajawea, the remarkable teenager who, with a baby strapped to her back and dealing with an abusive husband, guided Lewis and Clark. Proving that Sacajawea survived and died in old age on the Wind River Reservation among her people would be a coup for any historian, but it can't be just any proof. Historians want written documented evidence. Oral histories will not do. Rumors of Sacajawea's written memoirs are a magnet for both female college professors who have disappeared on the reservation.

The subject of abusive relationships is a major theme in The Spirit Woman, but for those readers who may find the subject too distressing, rest assured that Coel never resorts to any sort of graphic violence. It's what living under such circumstances can do to women that is the author's focus, and she deftly weaves this into the story.  

The whodunit was easy for me to deduce, but then I don't read mysteries just to see how good I am at solving crimes. For me, characterization and setting mean even more, and Coel's series has both in abundance. There's the attraction between Father John O'Malley and attorney Vicky Holden. There's how residents of the reservation react to a historian nosing around and asking questions. But even more important, there's the fact that O'Malley's boss has decided that it's time for O'Malley to move on to a different parish. His replacement shows up almost before O'Malley has a chance to hang up the phone. John is highly respected on the reservation. How are the people going to react to his leaving? The actions of the elders should make you smile. 

One of the things that kept me glued to the pages was trying to figure out how O'Malley got to stay. Let's face it... this is the sixth book in a twenty-book series, and they're all called Wind River mysteries. Father John has to stay, right? I was happy to see that my solution wasn't the right one (not that it was violent or anything, just wrong).

This is a series to savor, particularly if you love intelligent writing. The characters and the setting sing. What readers can learn about reservation life and the West is fascinating. If you haven't sampled the Wind River mysteries, I highly recommend them. Due to character development, I would suggest that you begin with the first book, The Eagle Catcher. It will be the start of a beautiful reading relationship.

The Spirit Woman by Margaret Coel

ISBN: 0425180905

Berkley Prime Crime © 2000

Mass Market Paperback, 304 pages


Native American mystery, #6 Wind River mystery

Rating: B+

Source: Paperback Swap

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Some Favorite Childhood Books

Charlie Lovett's Escaping Dreamland had a great deal to do with the books we read in childhood that helped shape the people we are today. Reading that book made me think of my own childhood favorites, and my thoughts have been percolating away ever since so I thought I'd go down to my keeper shelves and bring back a few of those favorites that I've hung on to. Now it's time to share them with you. Perhaps seeing some of my favorites will bring back memories of your own. I know you've got them!

I actually remember the three little books that were the first ones I read all by myself, but I graduated very quickly to chapter books, so I won't include those three here. Besides, I couldn't find any pictures of the covers to show you. (Does that mean I'm getting old? Naaaaah!)

The first author whose books I read voraciously was Thornton W. Burgess. Most of his books were library books, but I do have a couple of my own.

Even as a young child, I knew that animals did not wear clothes and that they did not speak any language that you and I could understand, but Burgess had a knack for telling stories, and he imparted so much knowledge about the animals his tales were about!

I showed an interest in my grandmother's glorious flowerbeds from an early age, and she was only too eager to fan the flames, even going so far as to choose a book by a favorite author.

Just the sight of my grandmother's handwriting brings back so many memories!

Another early favorite book. Hitty was a doll, and the story is told in her voice. Mom would read her adventures to me, and I was very proud when I could finally read them for myself!

My grandparents weren't the only ones who encouraged my love of reading. Mom's handwriting takes me down Memory Lane, too.

I think Hitty was the first book that made me realize that inanimate objects could have stories, that almost all things have some sort of history, and because I read Hitty, I became interested in the stories objects could tell.

My next obsession was Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. For me, these were fantastic stories that fostered a love of history and biography.

Illustrations can be so important in children's books. I've included many from my favorite childhood books, but I do remember being proud of the fact that the Little House books didn't have quite so many, and that meant that I was really growing up!

But deep down, my favorite kind of books were books about animals, especially horses.

I absolutely loved Wesley Dennis' illustrations for Marguerite Henry's books!

C. W. Anderson's Blaze series was another favorite. I read a lot of books from the 1920s through the 1940s at the library because it took my mother time before there was a library board in our village that actually believed in spending money on books.

As far as horse books go, Walter Farley's books were my favorite. I'd read the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew (mostly The Hardy Boys), but I found myself returning over and over again to the adventures of the Black Stallion.

Another series I was obsessed with was the Childhood of Famous Americans series. I had to search high and low for the blue covers that I remembered as a child.

The other thing I remember so well about this series is its silhouette illustrations. I read every single book in this series that Mom bought for the library. The range of the biographies was impressive, but I was thrilled to see that diversity has finally given so much more depth to this series that's still going strong.

Well, those are my favorite books from my childhood. Now the question is... what are some of yours? Inquiring minds would love to know!

Monday, October 19, 2020

A Six Pack of Christie

I've found that I like to dabble in Agatha Christie's short story collection from time to time, usually after I've read a spate of books with "too much middle" as Barbara Peters would say. Having experienced that, it was time to join the Queen of Crime, and I read six of her short stories, written in 1924 and 1925. The following are short "impressions" that I had about each one.


Philomel Cottage
A nice little gem from the Queen of Crime. Alix has had a drab life, but things begin to look up when she inherits a little money. Then her long-time boyfriend gets cold feet. Out of the blue, Alix falls head over heels for Gerald Martin, marries him, and buys the perfect Philomel Cottage to move into. She begins to worry when she is plagued by a recurring dream that shows her former boyfriend standing over her husband's dead body. What follows has the trademark Christie misdirection that didn't lead me very far down the garden path, but I enjoyed it all the same. (B+)

The Mystery of the Blue Jar
I loved this one! Jack Hartington is a twenty-four-year-old golf fanatic whose job interferes with lowering his handicap. He gets up very early every morning to get in a few rounds of golf, but when he starts hearing a woman's voice shouting murder and calling for help, he begins to panic. Is he going mad? No one else hears it! He definitely needs assistance. This is one of those stories that you really can't say anything about in order not to give anything away; however, it is one of the few things written by Christie that I've read so far which made me crow with delight when I turned the last page. (A+)

Jane in Search of  a Job
Jane Cleveland applies for, and gets, a job that pays a very large sum of money for a few days work as a double for a grand duchess whose life is in danger. Jane keeps telling herself that there must be a catch, but she can't afford to pass up the money. Your enjoyment of the story will hinge on how much you like the twist at the end. Me? I was moderately amused. Wasn't it P.T. Barnum who said there's a sucker born every minute? Poor Jane Cleveland... (B-)

The Mystery of the Spanish Shawl
Anthony Eastwood has the perfect title for a mystery: "The Mystery of the Second Cucumber." Problem is, he simply can't follow up his perfect title with the perfect plot. That might change now that he's recuperating from a phone call and its aftermath. Christie certainly has fun with the gullible, but I found this offering to be a bit run-of-the-mill. (C+)

The Red Signal
Here Dame Agatha gets to play with seances, unrequited love, otherworldly messages of danger, and murder. Unfortunately, I didn't find this to be one of her best. (D+)

The Witness for the Prosecution
A short story from a master that has a nice little twist at the end. Is Leonard Vole innocent or guilty of murdering a rich old woman? This story makes me think of a Shakespeare quote: "What's in a name?" Christie basically gives it away with the names she uses for the alleged murderer and his wife. (A)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Win an Autographed Copy of Vaseem Khan's Midnight at Malabar House!



It's been a couple of months or so since my last giveaway, and I'm happy to announce that I have a few lined up (like Riley Sager's Home Before Dark and Craig Johnson's Next to Last Stand) to share with you all. First up is Vaseem Khan's Midnight at Malabar House. If you like historical mysteries set in 1950s Bombay, India, you can get in at the very beginning with this first Persis Wadia mystery. I can also tell you that if you've already read Sujata Massey's excellent Perveen Mistry historical series, this is one you should enjoy.

I've already provided a link to my review of Khan's book, but here's the synopsis:

"As India celebrates the arrival of a momentous new decade, Inspector Persis Wadia stands vigil in the basement of Malabar House, home to the city's most unwanted unit of police officers. Six months after joining the force she remains India's first female police detective, mistrusted, sidelined and now consigned to the midnight shift.
And so, when the phone rings to report the murder of prominent English diplomat Sir James Herriot, the country's most sensational case falls into her lap.

As 1950 dawns and India prepares to become the world's largest republic, Persis, accompanied by Scotland Yard criminalist Archie Blackfinch, finds herself investigating a case that is becoming more political by the second. Navigating a country and society in turmoil, Persis, smart, stubborn and untested in the crucible of male hostility that surrounds her, must find a way to solve the murder - whatever the cost."

~~~What You Will Win~~~

  • One autographed hardcover edition of Vaseem Khan's Midnight at Malabar House. It has a protective mylar cover on the dust jacket, and is fresh from The Poisoned Pen Bookstore. You can see it in the photo. (Pardon the reflection of Denis sitting at his monitor behind me!)


~~~The Rules~~~
  1. To be entered in the drawing, send an email to kittlingbooks(at)gmail(dot)com.
  2. The subject line of your email must read Malabar Giveaway.
  3. The body of your email must have your name and mailing address.
  4. Send your entries to me by noon, Sunday, October 25, 2020.
  5. Due to the high cost of postage, this giveaway is open to US residents only.


~~~The Small Print~~~

Very Important: If your emails are missing any of the required information, i.e., the correct subject line and your name and mailing address, you will not be entered to win. How do you know if you've been entered? If you have not received an email from me within 24 hours which says, "Your entry has been received. Good Luck!" you'll know something went wrong. That's okay. Try again!
The winner will be notified by email, and the announcement will be made here on Kittling: Books on Monday, October 26, 2020. The book will go out in the mail the very next day.

Now it's time to fill up my inbox with entries!


Friday, October 16, 2020

A Snap & Crackle Weekly Link Round-Up


It would seem that sometimes a person just has to do something stupid to keep herself humble. My time was this past Tuesday when a man came to give us an estimate on how much it would cost to cut down our huge deceased Aleppo pine. I often need an electric scooter to get around, and I got on "Esmeralda" to check something out on the property before the man arrived. (Hey, she's green, okay?) As I trundled through what I thought was a big shadow, I discovered part of it was a bog where one of Denis's irrigation hoses had sprung a big leak. I got well and truly stuck. And that's when Stupid struck. Evidently, I thought I was Superwoman and without thinking (doh!), I got off Esmeralda and tried to lift her front wheels out of the bog. My lower back did a superb imitation of two thirds of the Snap, Crackle & Pop trio. As a result, I've been taking it easy, putting cold packs to good use, and now have only the occasional twinge that reminds me of my stupidity. My dear friend who recently went through back surgery has most definitely been on my mind a lot!

In the meantime, I finally got something I've been awaiting impatiently...


Needless to say, my ballot's been completed and turned in. I hope you are all planning to vote because-- regardless what the ill-informed think-- each and every vote matters! Now I'm going to (carefully) make my way out to the corral. Head 'em up! Moooove 'em out!

►Books & Other Interesting Tidbits◄

►Channeling My Inner Indiana Jones◄
►Channeling My Inner Elly Mae Clampett◄
►The Happy Wanderer◄
►Fascinating Folk◄
►Crafty Little Gems◄
►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.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. And don't forget to curl up with a good book!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Beam of Light by Andrea Camilleri

First Line: Since the first light of dawn, the morning had shown itself to be erratic and whimsical.

The weather is causing the irascible Inspector Salvo Montalbano to have strange dreams, and his mood is further hampered by the appearance of a beguiling art gallery owner. In fact, he's so bewitched that his relationship with the fiery Livia may be in danger. Personal life aside, Montalbano has to deal with the assault and robbery of a merchant's young wife and a search for arms traffickers. It's no rest for the weary.


A Beam of Light is vintage Camilleri. From the inimitable Catarella's knowledge of Latin to Montalbano's "friendship" with a crab down at the end of the jetty, Camilleri knows how to make readers laugh. Food also plays a mouthwatering part in the proceedings. One of Montalbano's most important indulgences is food. The man breaks into a cold sweat when someone else chooses the restaurant. It's true!

But before you think everything is played for laughs, think again. The meaning of the book's title is so poignant that it may make a tear come to your eye. There are three cases that Montalbano and his team must solve, and-- as always-- it is so enjoyable to watch the inspector's mind work as he investigates and begins to put everything together.

I've been slowly savoring each book in this series, knowing that it would inevitably come to an end. If you haven't read a Montalbano mystery, grab one. The purist in me suggests that you start at the beginning with The Shape of Water, especially if you're in the market for a long-running, high-quality series that will keep you laughing, keep you guessing, and keep your mouth watering. Worried about books in translation? Don't be. Stephen Sartarelli is a master of his craft. You're in good hands with Camilleri and Sartarelli. Come on... take a trip to Sicily!

A Beam of Light by Andrea Camilleri

Translated from the Italian by Stephen Sartarelli.

ISBN: 9780143126430

Penguin © 2015

Paperback, 288 pages


Police Procedural, #19 Inspector Montalbano mystery

Rating: B+

Source: Paperback Swap

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Betel Nut Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

First Line: What we came to think of as the betel nut affair began in the middle of a tropical thunderstorm in December 1936.

The gossip mill in Singapore is all abuzz with the news of King Edward VIII's abdication to marry American divorcée Wallis Simpson, and as a Crown colony, it's no wonder that the city views the arrival of the Honorable Victor Glossop and his rich American widow Nicole Covington with a bit of suspicion. But the wedding certainly doesn't go according to plan when Glossop is found dead, his body covered in bizarre symbols and betel juice.

Chen Su Lin, now the secretarial assistant to Chief Inspector Le Froy in Singapore's newly formed detective unit, has dreams of becoming a journalist, so investigating murder amidst the rich and shameless suits her splendidly. Reluctantly becoming a chaperone to the temperamental (and self-proclaimed black widow) Nicole Covington, Su Lin is determined to get the truth out of her somehow, but as the observant young woman uncovers secrets and more deaths occur, she realizes that she may not be able to save her own life, let alone Nicole's.


The Betel Nut Tree Mystery is the second book in Ovidia Yu's highly enjoyable Crown Colony historical mystery series set in 1930s Singapore. Written as a memoir, Chen Su Lin recounts her adventures as a young woman who begins as a governess to the governor's children and now is the secretarial assistant in the newly formed detective unit of the police. I'm glad this is a memoir because one of the menacing elements in the book is the growing power of Japan in the area, a very real and present danger that the government of Singapore is ignoring, so it's very good to know that Su Lin survives that. 

The books are told in Su Lin's voice, and she draws me right into the story with her observations and wry humor. This young woman had polio as a child and as a result has one leg that's shorter than the other-- something that marks her as very bad luck to traditional Chinese. Fortunately, Ah Ma, Su Lin's grandmother, pays no attention to this and has made sure that Su Lin has gotten a good education. Su Lin originally thought her indomitable grandmother saved her just to be perverse, but she's slowly learning the truth as the series progresses. The Chen family in Singapore has many fingers in many pies, most of them illegal, and that not only adds spice to the story, but it also gives readers the Chinese viewpoint of what's happening in Singapore. It doesn't hurt that Su Lin can get help from them in an investigation from time to time either.

The author's portrait of rich, entitled Americans is brilliant and reminds me of some things that are happening today. What's even better, Ovidia Yu can take stereotypical portraits like that of Nicole Covington, spoiled brat extraordinaire, and Su Lin's best friend starstruck and romance hungry Parshanti, and give them depth, make them real. 

The mystery is a good one, although if you have a finely tuned slime meter like mine, you'll be able to deduce the killer's identity. That doesn't matter much, however. What does matter is that Ovidia Yu's Crown Colony historical series is equal parts fun and informative, with a main character who's so very easy to care about. Bring on book three!

The Betel Nut Tree Mystery by Ovidia Yu

eISBN: 9781472125231

Constable © 2018

eBook, 266 pages


Historical Mystery, #2 Crown Colony mystery

Rating: B+

Source: Purchased from Amazon.