Saturday, December 30, 2017

December's Books

Not that anyone's been clamoring for more, but I hope to get back to more frequent and chattier posts after 2018 gets underway.  We're still in the middle of moving, painting and overseeing a few updates to the new house and decluttering the old one.  Next Sunday is our first and only open house for the sale.  Fingers crossed that someone falls in love with all the old woodwork, the swinging kitchen door with stained glass, and all the other little and big things.  We're hoping that someone will be as happy in this house as we hope to be in our new one.

Before I get to the books I read, I'm so sad to read that Sue Grafton has died.  I love the Kinsey Millhone books and was eagerly waiting for the 'Z' book.  Grafton's husband says that she didn't get to write 'Z', so, for some of us, the alphabet will forevermore be incomplete.  I heard Grafton interviewed several years ago and she seemed like someone who was down to earth and would be fun to know.  RIP.

I didn't have time to read much in December, but I took a break from cleaning today and finished two books.  Here's what I read in December:

I Know a Secret  -  Tess Gerritsen

Life from Scratch  -  Sasha Martin

Double, Double  -  Ellery Queen

Death Overdue  -  Mary Lou Kirwin

Poison in the Pen  -  Patricia Wentworth

Harcore Twenty-Four  -  Janet Evanovich

Anne of Avonlea  -  L. M. Montgomery

A Little Neighborhood Murder  -  A. J. Orde

One day soon, I hope to be lying on the sofa in my new library, listening to the birds and watching the trees sway in the wind.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November's Books

It's been so long since I posted on this blog that I barely remember how to do it!  Life hasn't let up.  In fact, it's gotten more chaotic.  This should be a happy time, but it's very stressful.  I abhor disorder.

We bought a house in an old neighborhood just outside of the small city I was born in.  It has many different styles of architecture and huge old trees.  It's picturesque and quiet and good friends live close by.  Family, too, is closer in some cases.

But before we move in, we want a few changes made.  We want to paint, clean, etc.  We haven't put our Philadelphia house on the market yet, so we've been gradually moving smaller things from Philly to Lancaster.  That will help with the final move and should declutter the house to make it ready to sell.  But it's all taking so long!

The workmen are just getting ready to start on the 'new' house (built in 1954) renovations and the old house (which is really old, having been built in about 1840) won't go on the market until after the first of the year.  My baby grand piano is being moved tomorrow.  The rest of the big furniture will stay in Philly until the house has been sold.  Everyone wants 'staging' these days.

I've had little time to read.  If I do have time, I spend it packing or feeling guilty that I'm not packing!  I hope that things get back to normal one day soon.  This is the list of books I finished in November.

The Dry  -  Jane Harper  This is a murder mystery that takes place in Australia during a drought.  Did the drought make the murderer do it?  The ending moves as quickly as wildfire.

Caroline Writers at Home  -  Meg Reid (Ed.)  Belle's post on her blog made me want to read this book.  It's essays by writers from or living in the Carolinas.  Most are about place, about home.  I enjoyed it and delved into it on and off for several weeks.

The Bookshelf on the Corner  -  Jenny Colgan  Another of Belle's recommendations.  This was a quick, light read.  A romance and an adventure story.  I saw the ending coming, but that didn't take away from the pleasure.

The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras & The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy  -  Michael Orenduff  Dare I say it?  Two more that Belle liked!  I really don't read everything she reads, but she reads many books that appeal to me.  The Pot Thief digs up old pots in Arizona and sells them in his shop.  He doesn't consider it stealing.  Sometimes he liberates pots from museums, where he doesn't think they belong.  I like the characters in the books.  I have trouble seeing the connection between what he's studying and how that affects his ability to solve mysteries.  I have one more to read in the Kindle 3-pack of Pot Thief books I bought.

At this point, I think I have to give Belle more credit for all the links I've provided to her blog.  She writes descriptive and short posts, just the way I like them.

The Woman in Cabin 10  -  Ruth Ware  Many people wrote about this book.  I seldom read new books, so I waited for a year or so before I cracked this one open.  Laura (Lo) Blacklock, a travel writer who drinks too much, is invited on the virgin voyage of a posh small cruise ship.  She borrows mascara (yuck!) from the women next door, in cabin 10.  During the night, she's awakened and hears a thud and a big splash.  She sees blood on the glass divider between her terrace and that of cabin 10.  She's sure that a crime has been committed, but the cabin is empty and no one admits to seeing the woman she met.

Y is for Yesterday  -  Sue Grafton  This is a new book that I couldn't wait for, so I got in line at the library and, eventually, it showed up.  I've read all the Kinsey Millhone mysteries and I can't think of one that truly disappointed.  I like Kinsey, her lifestyle, her neighbors, and her friends.  This mystery spans 10 years.  A young girl is murdered by one of her friends, manipulated by another of their friends.  The boy who shot her has just been released from prison and someone is trying to blackmail him with a film he and his friends made of them sexually abusing another of their friends.  With friends like these kids ....  Kinsey is hired to find the blackmailer.  Then the kid who shot the girl disappears.  That can't be good.  Meanwhile, Ned Lowe, the serial killer who tried to kill Kinsey in a previous book, returns to collect the mementos from his killings and to finish off Kinsey.  I won't spoil anything for you, but I will tell you that Ed, her neighbor Henry's cat, is rescued before anything too awful happens to him.  I was feeling very apprehensive for a while, but don't worry.

Maybe once life settles down, I'll get back to books that require a bit of concentration or that allow me to escape completely into their stories.  Fingers crossed that all goes well over the next couple of months.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Books of October

I'm surprised I read as many books as I did last month.  It took me a while to read some.  You do understand that I don't necessarily start and finish all these books in one month.  I'm a mood reader, so I typically read four or five books at one time.

The last week of the month was particularly stressful:  we bought a house and buried a good friend.  More later about one of those.  I'm still recovering from both.

In October, I read these books:

The Curse of the Bronze Lamp  -  Carter Dickson

     Yvette posted about this book and it sounded so good I had to have a copy.  It's hard to find, but I got a copy on-line.  I enjoyed every minute of it.  How can you go wrong with disappearing people, an Egyptian curse, and a creepy old mansion?

A Fine and Bitter Snow  -  Dana Stabenow

     I like the Kate Shugak mysteries and have read most of them.  In this one, two older women, friends of Kate's, are attacked in their remote cabin.  One dies, the other is in a coma.  There are secrets and one of those secrets has appeared for revenge.  As usual, an exciting read.
The Magyar Venus  -  Lyn Hamilton

     Lara McClintock, antiques dealer, runs into some old college friends.  They persuade her to join them at a party for the unveiling of the Magyar Venus.  Some of her friends question the authenticity of the statue and ask her to probe its provenance.  She tracks the statue's origin to Hungary and finds a sordid tale involving one of her friends.  Another interesting book.

The Outrage on Gallows Hill  -  George Bellairs

     I've only recently discovered this author, and this is the second book of his I've read.  I enjoyed them both.  Fortunately for me, he was prolific and I have tons of his Inspector Littlejohn books to look forward to.  Littlejohn goes to the village of Ravelstone to find out who killed Ronald Free.  Free was walking home after asking his girl to marry him.  She accepted, so he was walking on air when he was garroted.  Many people aren't who they seem, there are secrets to be revealed.  I enjoyed this mystery as much as the first one I read.  I like Bellairs' style and characters.

McNally's Dare  -  Vincent Lardo

     This is another of the Archy McNally mysteries, which were originally written by Lawrence Sanders.  After Sanders' death, Vincent Lardo wrote a few more.  I can tell the difference between the two.  The Lardo books lack something, although he tries hard to emulate Sanders.  A young man shows up to claim his inheritance from his late grandmother.  On her deathbed, she cryptically questions the young man's identity.  Archy will find out if he's the real deal.

Seriously ... I'm Kidding  -  Ellen Degeneres

     I like Ellen Degeneres and have been a fan since her stand up comedy days.  I thought this book was a memoir, but it's not.  It's a bunch of stuff that's supposed to be funny.  What I realized is that Degeneres's comedy is in her delivery.  I read stoically along until I tried imagining Degeneres delivering the lines in her unique style.  Then I laughed a few times.

The Cake and the Rain  -  Jimmy Webb

     And I don't give up on the occasional celebrity books.  This one was a memoir of the 1960s and 1970s.  It's autobiographical and it's gossipy.  If you recall from my last post, as a teenager, I was smitten by the actor Richard Harris.  Jimmy Webb did the infamous album McArthur Park with Harris.  I still have a copy of the album A Tramp Shining.  So there were stories about him, about John Lennon, who comes off badly, of Glen Campbell, Joni Mitchell, and other musicians.  It was a fun, although sometimes very unfunny, book.

Murders in Volume 2  -  Elizabeth Daly

     It might have been the mood I was in, the stress and grief, all the things that had to be done to purchase the house, the long trips to and from the funeral in just a day and a half, but I could not get into this book.  I've read other Daly books and thought I liked them, but this one was dull and confusing and I had difficulty finishing it.

November, with moving and things related to moving (changing banks, updating driver's licenses, etc.), is shaping up to be a too busy month.  I've already packed and moved several boxes of TBR books.  I kept a few out but will be reading mostly on my Kindle.  The move will take quite a few weeks because we're having a bit of work done on the new house and the contractors can't start until after Thanksgiving.  They say the work will take three weeks.  It's being managed by a friend of ours who is in the business, so I hope he can keep them on schedule.  We're having shelving installed in a room that will be my new library.  We're excited about moving out of the city.  We've been here too long and I'm eager to do things like garden and bird watch.  We'll also be moving close to three of my high school friends who've remained good friends over the years.  Two of them are musicians who play gigs in local venues.  We're looking forward to being their new groupies!  Am I tempting fate to hope for a happy, healthy, peaceful life in our new home?

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Well-Documented Life

This is the one that started it all.  On April 30, 1963, my parents and my sister gave me a diary.  I think it was a reward for not biting my nails or sucking my finger.  Or a bribe to get me to stop doing those things.  I was ten, going on eleven.

Reading it is a hoot.  My propensity for trying to make the world a better place, or at least one that is more to my liking, seems to have started early.  Note the exclamation marks.  I still use them too much.

I still hate it when a favorite product is no longer available.  I also still can't swallow pills larger than a Motrin caplet.  And I still contact companies, officials, presidents, Congresspeople, mayors, and presidents of companies when I have something to say to them.  I go straight to the top.

November 22, 1963, if a little dramatic:

I still have the song I wrote, very dirge-like, and, yes, lots of chords.  I can't understand why it didn't seal my future as a composer.  Or maybe it did.

Strangely, I mentioned swimming all over the place at a family friend's lake.  I can't swim today and don't recall ever swimming, really swimming, as a child.  I was afraid of the water after almost drowning once.  I imagine that I was walking in the shallow part, waving my arms in the water and professing to 'swim'.  Child Olympic swimmer to landlubber.

There was a gap of a few years after I filled the 1963 diary.  The two small diaries behind the blue one are for 1966 through 1968, an interesting time in my teenage angst-filled life.  I became a committed Anglophile.  I read and read and read.  I was madly in love with Richard Harris, the actor.  And a local boy who was a wrestler, a boy I never spoke to until he showed up years later with a friend at the apartment in Boston I shared with my future husband.  

After 1968, another gap of two years.  That's too bad.  I shed my goody-two-shoes-academic image by dating a hippy who'd been arrested for dealing drugs.  Then I dumped him and in a few months took up with my future husband.  I wish I had the details in a journal rather than just my memories, which I've found can be faulty.

I kept a very sporadic journal (by then I referred to them as 'journals', which sounded, and still sounds, more mature;  diaries are for babies.  And Pepys) for 1970 through 1972.  It's too bad I didn't write more during this time.  I was grasping the sexual revolution with both hands, trying any drugs someone handed to me, falling in love, or lust, okay, it turned out to be true love (still married after 43 years).  I was breaking the law, loving every terrifying minute of it, driving my poor parents mad, and following my heart to Boston.  These were the things I'd been reading about.  Now I was living them.  I was collecting experiences, fodder for my future as a writer, I thought.

I kept my journal in unattractive spiral notebooks and miscellaneous journals from 1974 until 1981.  My husband gave me a 5-year diary in 1974 for our first Christmas as a married couple.  They're not really satisfying because they only allow a few lines per day, but I loved that he got it for me.

The little red and black journals were bought at a store on Newbury Street in Boston.  For quite a few years, I could find new ones here and there.  I liked them a lot, although the paper wasn't the finest.  They were attractive and a convenient size.

In the red journals, in the 1980s, I recorded life in Boston, my work at investment companies, my two years as a bartender, a much needed job change after I got burnt out at the office.  What a cast of characters I met at the bar!  Uncle Louie, an ancient ex-vaudeville performer, Fank, the capital cop who sometimes dressed as the Lone Ranger only with real guns, Jennifer, the tall waitress who dated a jockey and then a comedian whose name you might recognize but who's dead now, Eveyln, whose father was Minister of Wildlife or something in Kenya and who had his own jet.  Yes, he did.  There was also the drama of our family of bartenders and waitresses, whose partners changed sometimes weekly.  

We travelled to the Caribbean in February and to Europe in the fall.  I recorded our trips and adventures.  We had good friends and lots of fun.  We bought a boat and sailed the New England coast.  But sailing bored me and occasionally made me sick, so I left the sailing to Jack and went back to my books.

I bought all eight of the flowered books at the same time.  I think they were from The Christmas Tree Shop in Marshfield, MA, where we lived in the 1990s until 2005.

In 1986, I became seriously addicted to writing in my journal.  I've kept them daily since then.  But why?  The entries are seldom earth shattering, often not even that interesting.  I rarely write about current events, just the things I did that day, things that happened in the neighborhood.  They got me out of a ticket for putting our trash out before 7 PM when I could show the judge the entry for the date of the alleged offense.  I wrote that we'd gone to see the comedian Steven Wright (he's our favorite and he used to drink at the same bar we did in Boston), got home late, and put the trash out around 11PM.  Ticket voided.

The black journals are mostly Moleskine, but, recently, I've discovered a brand called Eccolo World Traveler, which have sturdy but flexible faux leather covers.  I like them better than Moleskine.

Why am I compelled to document my life?  I have no children to pass them on to, children who would read them and realize that their mother was a wild and crazy girl at one time.  If I'd chosen to have children, I would have had a very different life.  In addition to the journals, I have two boxes of letters written between me and my mother after I moved to Boston and before dementia took her from me.

I'm glad I have my journals and letters.  In today's world of e-mail and IMing and Snapchat and Smartphones, people are leaving very little of themselves behind.  Unfortunately, via Twitter, etc., they're saying too much to too many people without too much thought.

What do I do with my journals?  Do I leave them to one of my nieces?  There are very few things in my life that I'm ashamed of, but there are things in my journals that might surprise my family.   Part of me wants them to know my secrets, another wonders if I should let them know.  I worry that they'd think 'that old lady did WHAT?!'  I could always have a huge bonfire or stipulate that they be consigned to one after I'm gone.  

If you keep a journal or diary and have been honest in it, what do you plan to do with yours?

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Reading Update

This post can double for my 'Books Read in September' post because it is, after all, September 30th today.  I'm currently about to finish a Carter Dickson book.  If I finish that today, I'll post about it, or not, separately.

I've been reading books I bought in Maine.  I read The Rubber Band by Rex Stout.  I love Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin.  There's something comforting about knowing what to expect.  I expect Wolfe to be in the orchid rooms at certain times, I expect Archie to be a smart ass, I expect Wolfe to drink lots of beer and eat good food.  This book did not disappoint.

Then there was A Motor-Flight Through France by Edith Wharton.  The title misled me.  I thought she was going to be in an airplane.  But a 'motor-flight' turned out to be a trip, trips, really, through France in a 'motor':  a car.  I suppose that this was almost equally as adventurous at the time, cars being very new.  Wharton, it turns out, loved touring in an automobile.  Her husband was with her and so was Henry James at times.  Can you imagine those conversations?!  Wharton knew a lot about architecture, especially of the churches and cathedrals they hunted for.  She spends little time describing the people of the different regions they drove through and stayed in, though.  I would have liked more of that.  But she describes the buildings and landscapes in detail.

Then I read A Catherine Aird mystery called A Most Contagious Game.  I can't remember much about it now except that I enjoyed it.  Really, one day soon I'll be able to read a book, wait a week, and read it again, thinking it's a new book!

I also read McNally's Gamble by Lawrence Sanders.  I like Archie McNally and the trouble he gets into.  I found out something interesting when I read McNally's Chance a short while later.  Lawrence Sanders only wrote the first seven of the McNally series.  After he died in 1998, Vincent Lardo wrote another six of them.  The problem was / is that the books are published with Sanders' name in big letters, leading readers, myself included, to think that Sanders had written them.  Somewhere, I read that readers sued the publishers for deception of some sort and were reimbursed in some amount.  Before I read this, I was thinking that McNally's Chance lacked something.  Then I found out that it wasn't written by Sanders but by Lardo.

Several bloggers has posted good things about George Bellairs.  I agree with them after reading Death in High Provence.  I've been collecting his e-books, many of which are available at affordable prices.  I like the fact that Inspector Littlejohn took his wife with him when he went to investigate the auto crash deaths in France of the brother and sister-in-law of a friend of his.  There's a mysterious castle / estate that belongs to a man who has the village and everyone else nearby under his thumb.  He's clearly the bad guy, or is he?  Littlejohn finds out which.  I'm going to follow Inspector
Littlejohn through more of his investigations.

I found another Kate Shugak mystery in Maine.  They're usually exciting, the kind of book you can't put down.  This one was not up to par, in my opinion.  Enough said.  I'll still try to find and read the few in the series I haven't read.

AND, I just finished Glass Houses, Louise Penny's latest Inspector Gamache book.  This one is much grimmer than the others.  Gamache is now head of the Surete and it looks like he's botching it.  Crime is worse and the police don't seem to be able to do anything about it.  Are they completely inept?  The criminals are beginning to think so.  There's also a creepy robed, hooded, masked figure, a 'cobrador', that stands silently on the green, freaking people out.  Why is he there?  The thing I find most disturbing is that Three Pines is at the center of the story, which begins with Gamache on trial for several crimes.  It's a fascinating book with a spectacular ending.  I don't know how she keeps on doing it, but Louise Penny does not disappoint me.

That's it for now.  Books are my refuge, but sometime life gets in the way, bars the door to the other worlds I often prefer to inhabit.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Books Bought in Maine

As I mentioned, while we were vacationing in Maine, I had the opportunity to visit five or six used bookstores.  I loved two of them, really liked one of them, and didn't like three of them.  My favorites were Two Brothers Books in Freeport, Mainely Murder Bookstore in Kennebunk, and a library bookstore in Brunswick.  The proprietors of Two Brothers and Mainely Murder were equally nice and welcoming.

So, here's what I bought.  Mostly paperback mysteries.  I couldn't resist the two old books I bought from the $1 shelves at Two Brothers.  One of those, whose title you can't see, is Bulfinch's Age of Fable or Beauties of Mythology.  There's just something about holding those old books with their lovely bindings.

I'm on an Archy McNally kick.  They're light, amusing mysteries.  I can imagine Michael Weatherly, of NCIS, playing Archy.  I bought three Rex Stout / Nero Wolfe books and five Michael Gilbert books.  I've only just discovered Michael Gilbert and have only read one of his books so far, which I posted about a few weeks ago.

I also bought two Dana Stabenow / Kate Shugak books.  I'm reading one now that's quite a disappointment.  Usually, her books are exciting, but this one, Killing Grounds, reads like a treatise on salmon fishing in Alaska.  No one get murdered until about 100 pages in.

A new author to me, recommended by one of the women at Mainely Murder, is Wallace Stroby.  I liked the story,  Kings of Midnight, but his use of sentence fragments drove me crazy.  Lyn Hamilton is another author I like and I found one of hers.  I was happy to find two Elizabeth Daly books at the library bookstore and a Cyril Hare at Mainely Murder.  I don't actually remember where I bought the Catherine Aird.

Of the books I bought, I've finished reading Rex Stout's The Rubber Band, McNally's Gamble, Kings of Midnight, and A Most Contagious Game.

We had a great vacation and I wish we were back in Cape Elizabeth!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and Used Book Stores

We've just had our first two-week vacation since 1988 and we loved it.  But being in the same cottage we rented in Cape Elizabeth last year, feeling that we were coming back to a place we love, made it harder to leave.  The cottage is on a point jutting into the ocean, on a dead end road with only dead end roads around it.  We never heard a car horn, a motorcycle, shouting, beer bottles breaking, car alarms, or anything to disrupt the sound of waves on the rocky shore.  Perfect.

A view of the cove and open ocean from the bedroom.

A view from the living room.  The ocean is visible at the end of the lane as that bright patch of blue.

A view of Two Lights lighthouse from the lane in front of the cottage.

The cove and a house I'd love to have (except that it's too big).

We saw a lot of wildlife on this visit.  One evening a doe and two fawns ran past the window and settled in to eat in the back yard.  Jack took this photo through the window (through the screen, unfortunately).  Another evening, two grey foxes chased each other through the yard and made their weird cries.  You can hear them here.  Creepy!

The following two photos are of Portland Head Light, a lighthouse painted by Edward Hopper and other artists. 

Prout's Neck is only a few minutes drive from the cottage.  We drove out there, but most of the roads are dead ends and private ways.  One of my favorite artists, Winslow Homer, had a house out there.  You can tour it, but you have to go in to Portland, get tickets at the art museum, and have them shuttle you back and forth for a tour of the house.  It's also not inexpensive.  We passed on it this year, maybe next year.

We spent most of our time reading (surprise, surprise, and even Jack read a book), walking, and sitting on a log at the cove.  We met a resident who introduced us to another resident, both very nice.  I'd love to buy a house there, but, apparently, once you're there, you don't leave.  There's nothing for sale along any of the roads on the point.  I'll be happy, I guess, as long as Holly keeps renting us her cottage.

I got a 'Maine Guide to Finding Old Books' pamphlet and visited five or six used bookstores.  Several were too stuffy but I loved three of them.  I'm not collecting books any more, so I prefer less expensive books I can read and pass on.  Two Brothers Books in Freeport was great, as was the proprietor and his two very fat cats.  Equally wonderful was Mainely Murder Bookstore in Kennebunk.  The two retired ladies who own the store were helpful and a hoot.  They're happy to run next door or into their house to look for books for you.  There was also a library bookstore that had two Elizabeth Daly mysteries.  I think it was in Brunswick.  It's not in the pamphlet;  I think I found it on-line.

It was a great trip, if a long drive (7 hours from Philadelphia if there's no traffic or accidents, which is impossible these days).  We thought that by staying two weeks, we'd get our fill of Cape Elizabeth, but it only made us want it more.  Cape Elizabeth vs. Philadelphia:  heaven and hell.

The moon was full while we were there.  Jack took these two final photos of the moon over the cove.

August Books

This is my list of books I finished reading in August.  I always imagine myself lying in a hammock under a shady tree, but I don't think I've ever done that.  I used to read outdoors when I was a kid, but now I'm too easily distracted.  I do most of my reading sitting / lying on the sofa.  This summer I did a lot of that with the air conditioning on.  I hate the heat, so I managed to only go out when it was absolutely necessary.

The Longer Bodies  -  Gladys Mitchell

Adventures of a Vegan Vampire  -  Cate Lawley

The Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk  -  Carolyn Keene

My Brother Michael  - Mary Stewart

The Monster of Grammont  -  George Goodchild

My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business  -  Dick Van Dyke

The Empty House  -  Michael Gilbert

X  -  Sue Grafton

Masquerade  -  Walter Satterthwait

The Redeemer  -  Jo Nesbo

Again, heavy on the mysteries.  I have a few non-mysteries in the works, but I have to admit that mysteries are just so easy to read and so satisfying.  I discovered a few new authors this month and hope to read more of their books.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Labor Day

American Wild Horse Campaign
Friend -
From our entire movement, I wanted to wish you and your family a happy Labor Day. Together, we celebrate the hard work of Americans who make this country great.
Please join us and share this graphic below on Facebook:
Today, we enjoy picnics, time with family and then end of summer. Tomorrow, we fight like hell to stop the slaughter of America's wild horses. I know you'll be with us.
Thank you,
Suzanne Roy

The American Wild Horse Campaign is dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

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Monday, August 14, 2017

The Empty House - Michael Gilbert

I think I need a new camera.  I spilled orange juice on it a couple of years ago, but I don't think that's why I get such blurry photos.  My husband says I move the camera when I click the button.  Maybe so.  Anyway, I apologize for the slightly blurry photo of The Empty House.  I'm not a photographer.

Look at that cover.  Doesn't it look like a flying car?  Maybe something from a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Dr. Who?  I'd been putting off reading The Empty House because I'm not much into science fiction, but Yvette at likes Michael and I like Yvette and most of the books and movies she recommends.

I started The Empty House on Saturday, was hooked after the first few pages (which also explained the flying car), and finished it on Sunday.  I will definitely be looking for more Michael Gilbert mysteries.

Peter Manciple, a young insurance adjuster, is sent to Devon to investigate the death of Dr. Wolfe, a scientist working on genetic research and bio weapons for the government.  His car went straight off a cliff into the ocean (hence the flying car on the cover).  Neither the car nor his body can be recovered from the dangerous area of the sea where it sank.

By the way, there's a very funny couple of pages near the beginning of the book, when Peter goes to visit Dr. Wolfe's sister.  She's got three dogs, and if you've ever had multiple pets, you'll be nodding your head and giggling from just before she answers the door until the door closes behind Peter.

Peter is suspicious of the accident.  Was it an accident?  Was it suicide?  Or murder?  An unusual clause in Wolfe's fairly new insurance policy seems to have been written just for this type of incident.  The government is covering up a lot of things in Devon.  Other scientists have disappeared or died.  Peter comes to realize that the village is one of those where no one is who they seem to be.  (Sort of like in Hot Fuzz, one of my favorite movies;  it's hilarious!  Or a village in an episode of The Avengers, not the superhero one, the one from the 1960s, with Emma Peel and John Steed.)

I can't tell you much more except that Peter realizes that he can trust almost no one.  He becomes a target when people think he knows more than he does.  He makes mistakes that get people killed or roughed up, but he comes to the right conclusion in the end.  There's a nice twist, but I won't tell you what it is.  Read it and enjoy it yourself.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Monster of Grammont - George Goodchild

I hadn't been to The Book Trader for months.  We thought we were moving, so I didn't want to get MORE books to move.  But the move fell through when the seller changed his mind and begged us to  release him from the contract.  What could we do?  It would be impossible to live in a house that had been reluctantly sold.  Sometimes it doesn't pay to be nice  -  unless this means that a more perfect property is coming our way.

Anyway, while browsing the wonderful mystery section of the store, I saw this old hardback.  (There was also an Edgar Wallace in the same Mystery League edition, which I went back and got the other day.)  I knew nothing about the author, and the title seemed a bit strange, but I got it anyway.  (The Book Trader is a credit exchange store.  I take books in, they give me store credit, and I 'buy' more books.)

The story takes place around 1920.  Julian Conrad and his young friend and business partner Ralph Wallace are touring France in Wallace's fast, new Bentley.  Conrad, known as Connie, spies a castle he recognizes from a rest cure he'd been forced to take there during WWI.  They happen on the owner, Monsieur Fallieres, and his daughter, Yolande.  Wallace and Connie are invited to lunch.

There are strange doings at the castle.  A huge monster in a monks' cloak haunts the place.  It smashes mirrors and throws dirt indoors.  It has also killed a servant.  Wallace and Connie stay to help solve the mystery.  There are more murders, Connie and Wallace are kidnapped, Yolande disappears.

Other people are looking for something in the castle, aided by Bertha, a servant in the castle who seems to be too refined for a servant.  Are they searching for treasure or something else?

I liked this book.  I learned some things about WWI and it eventually became a page turner.  In addition to the kidnappings and searches for 'the monster', there were several car chases.  Those races at 70, 80, 90 mph! were fun to read about.

Wikipedia has very little to say about George Goodchild.  He wrote about 200 books under several names.  He wrote novels, mysteries, plays, non-fiction, and more.  He was British, born in 1888 and died in 1969.  And that's about it.

It doesn't look like his works are in print.  I see used copies from $3.50 to much higher prices.  If you stumble on one of his books and it's not too dear, you might want to try it.  I'll be keeping my eyes open.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Adventures of a Vegan Vampire - Cate Lawley

This was a $0.99 book from Amazon that I couldn't resist.  I'm a vegan, but not a vampire, so just the title intrigued me.

Mallory Andrews, responsible and hard working, goes out for drinks with coworkers and wakes up very sick.  A hangover?  No, she's becoming a vampire.  She doesn't know that until she finds a doctor who will see her quickly and who tells her she's a vampire.  The doctor refers her to a group of people who will help her transition.  There have been several other women similarly afflicted but who have died, really died.

One of Mallory's problems is that now that she's a vampire, she can't stomach blood, meat, or dairy, literally can't stomach them.  She finds that she can keep vegan nutritional supplements down.  As she experiments with what she can and cannot eat, she discovers that she's become that strange creature:  a vegan vampire.

Alex, a charismatic wizard, helps her with the transition.  He and some others also help her figure out which vampire bit her.  They intend to mete out a suitable punishment:  execution.

This was a fairly quick and quite unusual read.  I liked the characters and the novelty of the plot.  There are several more in the series, so, if you're looking for something different, have at it.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

July Books Read

How's that for a creative title?  I thought about calling this post 'D'you Lie (get it? D'you lie' 'July') About the Books You Read?', but I thought that was a stretch.  I can hear you groaning!

But back to the job.  Here's my list of books I read last month:

The Chalk Pit  -  Elly Griffiths

The 13 Clocks  -  James Thurber

Love for Lydia  -  H. E. Bates

And Four to Go  -  Rex Stout

Because of the Lockwoods  -  Dorothy Whipple

The Bones in the Attic  -  Robert Barnard

The Catacomb Conspiracy  -  Margot Arnold

The Winner  -  David Baldacci

Anne of Green Gables  -  L. M. Montgomery

A few of the mysteries were disappointing.  I warned you that Love for Lydia was laid thick with an aura of disaster and pain.  I liked The Chalk Pit, as I've enjoyed all of the books in that series.  But, hands down, my favorite was Anne of Green Gables.  I highly recommend it for anyone needing a does of humor, tenderness, and hope.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Anne of Green Gables - L. M. Montgomery

It's been a difficult few weeks and I needed to be in a simpler time, so I sat down with Anne of Green Gables on my Kindle.  I seem to remember that my late mother loved this book.  I can see why.

Anne Shirley is a redheaded 11-year-old orphan when we meet her.  Brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla, have a small farm, called Green Gables, on Prince Edward Island, Canada.  They decide to adopt an orphan boy to help Matthew with the farm work.  Instead, when the orphan arrives, it's a girl.  Who won't stop talking!

She's so excited about coming to a real home.  She's excited about everything and full of wonder.  In the short ride from the station, she begins to captivate Matthew.  Marilla isn't happy and wants to return her and Anne is devastated.  But they decide to keep her.

Anne has a knack for mistakes:  putting liniment in a cake instead of vanilla (not really her fault since Marilla had put liniment in the empty vanilla bottle), or getting her best friend drunk because she mistook wine for cordial (also not her fault because Marilla had moved the cordial bottle).  It was her fault that she accidentally dyed her hair green.  But, as Anne says, she never makes the same mistake twice and she'll soon run out of mistakes and become a good girl.

Anne's imagination and delight and enthusiasm are contagious.  To me, anyway.  I found myself untypically trying to look on the bright side of things.  She doesn't miss the littlest flowers or insects.  She loves the sound of the wind in the trees and thinks it would be wonderful to be a bee living in a flower.  She imagines a haunted wood and scares herself and her best bosom friend forever, Diana, so badly that they can't walk through the wood, which they'd walked through almost every day, anymore.  She imagines castles and knights and all things romantic.

Anne grows from a freckle-faced child into a smart and lovely teenage girl.  Matthew and Marilla are proud of her.  She's won their complete and total love, even if Marilla is reluctant to show her.

If you need a break from the bad news of today, both worldwide and personal, go visit Anne at Green Gables.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Save Our Wild Horses

Right now, Washington is ablaze in controversy and partisan bickering. But behind it, too many are missing a critical story: if Congress signs off on the Bureau of Land Management's budget request, as many as 100,000 wild horses and burros will be slaughtered.
This isn't fear-mongering. It's what's at stake if we overturn the ban on horse slaughter. And if we're going to stop it, we need to get this story out there and make sure Congress and Americans at-large understand what could happen in just a matter of weeks.
Watch our latest web video and then share it on Facebook or Twitter with the hashtag #NoHorseSlaughter.
We need to turn up the volume. And fast. So please watch our video now and share it.
Thank you for being with us and America's wild horses,
-Suzanne Roy
P.S. Please also consider a donation as we intensify our campaigning in Washington and across the country.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Love for Lydia / H. E. Bates

In my opinion, this is a sad book about love.  It reminded me of some of the Thomas Hardy books I read in my teens:  no joy.  The writing is beautiful and descriptive.  Bates paints the colors, sounds, and smells of the small town of Evensford, England, so well that we can see, hear, and smell the world of Love for Lydia.

Juliana and Bertie Aspen are two aging sisters who live on the family estate with their brother Rollo.  They don't normally associate with the townspeople.  But their niece, Lydia, comes to live with them and they determine not to keep her isolated from other young people.  Richardson (I don't think we ever get his first name), the narrater, comes to the house to get a story about Lydia for the town newspaper.  Juliana and Bertie recruit him to spend time with Lydia.

Lydia and Richardson fall in love.  At least Richardson falls in love with Lydia.  She asks him if he'll love her even if she's bad to him.  He says yes, but she eventually tries his love to the extreme.  She goes from being a shy young girl to a flirtatious and unpredictable, fun loving young woman.  Richardson introduces her to his friends.  The men fall for Lydia as Lydia happily collects them all.

Tragedy lies ahead for several of the friends, and for Lydia, too.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

100,000 Wild Horses May Die

In order to save money that they've already wasted on cruel and ineffective roundups, the Bureau of Land Management is now asking Congress to lift the ban on killing healthy wild horses and burros under their 'protection'.  This cannot happen.  We cannot let this happen.
          If in addition to your Congresspeople you call the White House, remind them that President Trump promised to give government back to the people.  We are the people and we want our wild horses and burros protected, as they currently are under federal law.  Ask your Congresspeople to strongly oppose lifting the ban on killing healthy wild horses and burros.   It takes only a few minutes to call.  Participate in our democracy or it goes away.

          (The links below will give you a short 'speech' for talking to your Congresspeople.  Unfortunately, it will also give you links to my Congresspeople.  You'll have to look up your own Congresspeople  -  if you don't already have them on speed-dial like I do!)

1) The Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) 2018 budget asks Congress to lift a ban on destroying healthy mustangs and burros. 
2) If the ban is lifted, wild horses and burros in holding facilities will be killed or sold to slaughter. The remaining "excess" population will be slaughtered, possibly gunned-down in the wild. Up to 92,000 healthy horses will die.

If this sounds like the worst-case-scenario for our cause, it is. If Congress accepts the BLM's budget provision, we would see an unprecedented mass slaughter of healthy horses and burros. It would lead to horses being slaughtered for human consumption. It would destroy our nation's icons of freedom. It would be a tragedy. 
We're kicking off the first of two weeks of action to stop this nightmare from becoming reality. Today, we need you to contact your member of Congress.

Our leaders must hear us loud and clear: #NoHorseSlaughter. No way. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

The 13 Clocks / James Thurber

I needed a palate cleanser  -  and I also needed to read and get rid of a bunch of TBR books.  The 13 Clocks is only 124 pages long, with wide spacing and fairly large print.  And illustrations I like by Marc Simont.  This was the book to read today.

I've loved James Thurber since junior high.  I love his silliness, his sometimes bizarre illustrations and sense of humor.  He doesn't disappoint in The 13 Clocks.  It's a standard fairy tale:  a prince disguised as a minstrel wants to marry a princess locked in a castle by her evil guardian.  The guardian sets impossible tasks for her suitors and, when they fail, kills them.

Our prince is aided by a Golux, who may or may not be helpful.  Not everyone is who they seem to be.  The Golux helps the prince with his task:  to find 1,000 jewels and return with them when the clocks strike 5.  But the 13 clocks have all stopped at 10 minutes to 5, so they'll never strike 5.  Or will they?

Thurber loves to play with words, to make them up, to use them in rhymes.  He does all in The 13 Clocks.

As a bonus, below is the charming (and odd, really, a Santa frog?) and appropriate gift bookmark I found inside.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

What I Read in June, Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation So Far

I don't think many of us post about all the books we read.  Sometimes we don't want to write a bad review, so we skip that book.  Sometimes we just have nothing much to say about a book, even though we might have enjoyed it.  Here's my list of what I read in June.  Again, it's a list heavy in mysteries.  I should just accept that I'm a mystery junkie and always have been.

The Potter's Field  -  Andrea Camilleri

McNally's Luck  -  Lawrence Sanders

North and South  -  Elizabeth Gaskell

A Cat With the Blues  -  Lydia Anderson

The Travelling Hornplayer  -  Barbara Trapido

Toby's Folly  -  Margot Arnold

Manitou Canyon  -  William Kent Krueger

Knife Creek  -  Paul Doiron

The Lady of Sorrow  -  Anne Zouroudi

I finally got audio CDs for Don Quixote, which I'm hoping to finish one of these days.  I have a few other books partly read that I'd like to finish this summer.  But then there are all those unread books in my house and all those recommended on your blog posts!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Manitou Canyon (Krueger) / Knife Creek (Doiron)

I've been off in the woods for the past week.  No black flies or dangerous animals or crazy people (who seem to populate those remote places).  I've been in Maine and Minnesota, deep in the wilderness.

In Manitou Canyon, Cork O'Connor is hired to find a wealthy dam builder.  John Harris disappeared while on a camping trip with his grandchildren, Lindsay and Trevor.  Lindsay and Cork go back to the place where he disappeared.  They're captured by Harris's kidnappers.  Why do they want Harris and his grand-daughter?  Or is it Cork they want?  Much excitement ensues.

Up in Maine, Maine Game Warden Mike Bowditch and his girlfriend Stacey are asked to kill some wild boars who have worked their way north and are becoming a problem.  They find the boars, but they also find a dead baby.

Mike and the State Police investigate.  Mike finds the woman who had the baby, but she's being held captive by some very nasty people.  They're more than happy to kill to protect themselves.

I just realized that in both books, the protagonists are taken prisoner and almost killed.  Fortunately for readers who like either or both of the series, Mike and Cork are rescued and will, I hope, continue to entertain me in future mysteries.  These books are real page-turners, fast reads.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Mystery Plant

This past weekend, Jack and I visited a friend who lives in Western Massachusetts.  Last year she moved to an old house, built in 1804.  She inherited gardens and is delighting in the surprises that inherited gardens bring.

She and I have both been avid gardeners for many years, but she has a plant that neither of us can identify.  Gardeners out there, any ideas?  Pink orchidish flowers and rather glossy pinnate leaves.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Travelling Hornplayer - Barbara Trapido

I'll get to the book, but here's our patio squirrel Fluffy.  She came to us with half the fur on her back missing, so we called her Scruffy.  Now that it's grown back, we call her Fluffy, or Fluffernutter.  We feed her nuts, shelled hazelnuts being her favorite.  She takes two from our fingers, never biting, sometimes using her paws to steady our hands.   Sometimes she helps herself to nuts left on the table. 

When it's hot, like it is today (98F), there's nothing better for a little squirrel than to sprawl on the cool metal pipe or the shady flagstones of the patio.  We have a pie plate of water our for her and the birds.  This is the city, a dangerous place for a squirrel.  I know someday she won't come back, and we won't know what happened to her.  Until then, we're good friends.

Now, on to The Travelling Hornplayer.  If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know that I discovered Barbara Trapido late.  If you haven't read her books yet, get going!  I'm so impressed by her writing and her characters and their stories.  They're strange but familiar.

The Travelling Hornplayer weaves together the stories of the Goldman brothers, Roger and Jonathan and their families, people we met in Brother of the More Famous Jack.  Separate events and different people tie them and their families together, but they don't realize that at first.  

Jonathan and Katherine have a daughter called Stella.  She is challenged, as we say today, in many ways.  Her mother devotes herself to trying to help Stella read and do the things other children her age do.  Stella is dyslexic, but she is a wonderful singer, cellist, and a brilliant and intelligent  conversationalist.

There's Izzy, a student artist.  Unkempt but brilliant.  Stella gives him her heart and he breaks it.  There are ramifications, serious ones.

The book is lightness and dark.  Parts are laugh out loud funny, others are sad.  There are some detailed sex scenes and adult conversations and language.  I hope that won't put you off.

The last few pages are like The Old Woman and Her Pig, if you're familiar with that folktale.  They knit up the loose pieces as Jonathan finally understands why Lydia Dent ran into the street and was killed by a car.

It's hard to write about this book because so many unforeseen and startling things happen.  I don't want to ruin the surprises for anyone.  I highly recommend The Travelling Hornplayer and Barbara Trapido's other novels, some of which I haven't read yet.  I'm sure they'll be good, too, though.