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Thursday, October 24, 2019

A short fall break...



I'll be busy with a bunch of things for at least a couple of weeks.  I'll try to get back in the groove after a bit, hopefully before December.  We shall see...enjoy fall!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Kerrville Chalk Festival 2019



I mentioned in my post last week that when my husband and I visited Kerrville, TX recently, I was able to attend the Kerrville Chalk Festival 2019.  The festival was October 12th and 13th.  I stopped by early on Sunday morning and missed the crowds.  The pictures I'll share below have a lot of the artists in them and I also got to visit with a few of those talented individuals.  I was fascinated that such diverse and beautiful art could be created from chalk on a sidewalk.  I'll have a few comments below, but I encourage you to also take a look at the Festival website.  Lots more to see there.









As you can see, the artists have to kneel, crouch or sit on the ground to create their art.  Hard on the knees - most had foam kneelers or something like that to assist.  



If you make the photos larger, you can see the drawings or photos the artists were working from in several.  Some of them had grids to help them with perspective I suppose.  One painting had been completed halfway and the artist still had the whole second half to draw.  The completed part was on the right and the 'yet to come' part was the left.  I didn't get a shot of that one.



I spoke with this artist for a few minutes.  She told me that it was her first time to be part of the festival and she also said she had done her drawing freehand, while pointing out that many of the others had used that grid system that I mentioned above.  She lives in Kerrville and works as a commercial artist.



I also enjoyed a conversation with this artist.  I was interested to see the glove on her right hand as she smoothed the colors.  The sponsor above the chalk painting is James Avery Artisan Jewelry  I don't know how many are familiar with James Avery and his jewelry and stores.  He has been very popular in Central Texas for decades and there are stores in several states.  Mr. Avery started his business in Kerrville over 60 years ago.  The golf tournament that my husband was playing in was the James Avery Invitational.  
  




















I wanted to point out this chalk art especially.  It was created by Ever Galvez and if you look closely you can see that it is a bit 3-D.  Fascinating, right?  I'm so glad I was able to attend this most interesting event.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Fall musings...travels to Kerrville and what my reading might look like in upcoming weeks...


Hey book friends!  Well, my husband and I spent a few days last week in Kerrville, TX.  I've talked about that Hill Country location before.  Hubby plays in two different 3-day golf tournaments there each year - one in the hot summer and one in the fall.  And fall arrived with a 50-degree temperature drop between late Thursday and mid-day Friday - literally 50-degrees.  It was 94 on our way driving there and the outside temp was 48 by noon Friday (with wind chills in the high 30's).  Just a little cool, especially for the guys playing a 5-hour golf round.  When I picked him up Friday afternoon, he said he couldn't feel his fingertips.  It got better on Saturday and Sunday was very nice.  However, once those cold fronts start arriving, fall has truly begun.  Of course, it's in the 80's today again.

As he played golf, I had some fun times going to a couple of favorite book shops, attending the 'Kerrville Friends of the Library' monthly book sale, and also going to a very, very interesting festival, the Kerrville Chalk Festival.  I'll have a post about the Chalk Festival later in the week with lots of pictures, but I put the one above just for interest.  I really enjoyed looking at all the chalk art and talking with some of the artists.  I also enjoyed meeting a couple of the 'Friends of the Library' volunteers and talking with them about how their bookstore works, whether they could use volunteers at a later time, and again considering whether this Hill Country town might work for us in retirement.  Oh, and I bought books - you're surprised, right?

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I have a question for all of you.  Do you feel like that sometimes your reading has 'seasons'?  What I mean is that you read mainly one type or genre of book for a while or most of the time, but occasionally you find yourself turning to other types of reading.  As you all know, I mostly read crime novels, thrillers, and mysteries - usually tipped to the 'New Book' end of the scale.  Lately, I've mentioned that I have become a bit weary of the themes and plot devices used in a lot of newer books.  So many seem the same.  I feel myself wanting to turn to some older books, some rereads, even some non-fiction perhaps.  And those were the type of books that I was interested in when I was book shopping this weekend.

I don't know if those (especially the rereads) will be ones that others will be interested in hearing about here on my blog, but I am going to copy some of my blogging friends who have expressed opinions regarding their reading and blogging lately.  Cath mentioned recently that she thought it was time for 'blogging to adjust to her rather than the other way around' - I agree!  Sam told us that her way of dealing with 'wanting to read all the books' or getting a bit frantic about not finishing anything was to 'slow down and concentrate on one book' and ENJOY IT!  Whatever 'it' is.  I fully support that.  And Gayle (my dear friend Gayle who shares mystery book group with me) related that she took a bit of a break from mysteries but validated that they are her favorite place to read, with a little historical fiction thrown in.  Again, I completely understand and think that we all need to gravitate to the 'right book for us at the right time'.

My R.I.P. reading is coming to an end and I'll be sharing my wrap-up post for that event next week - a little early (it ends October 31st).  I don't know what all I'll be reading for fall, but I'll be around now and then to talk about it.  We've got a trip coming up, so I'll be in and out, but will always be reading your thoughts here and on your blogs.   

Thursday, October 10, 2019

She's Not There - Joy Fielding

She's Not There by Joy Fielding

First Paragraph(s):

It was barely eight A.M. and the phone was already ringing.  Caroline could make out the distinctive three-ring chime that signaled a long-distance call even with the bathroom door closed and the shower running.  She chose to ignore it, deciding it was probably a telemarketer or the press.  Either alternative was odious, but given a choice between the two, Caroline would have opted for the telemarketer.  Telemarketers were only after your money.  The press wanted your blood.
     Even after all this time.
     Fifteen years tomorrow.

My Thoughts:

Joy Fielding is an author that has been around for quite a long time, though I think this is the first one of her books that I've read.  I've certainly seen others around.  She's Not There tells the story of a family that suffers a loss when one of their young daughters goes missing while they were on an anniversary trip to Mexico.  A search is made and an investigation, but no leads are found and eventually life goes back to whatever 'normal' will look like for the next 15 years.  And then the mother gets a call from a young woman who suspects that she might be the missing daughter.

I enjoyed the story, though it was fairly predictable.  The action was swift and moved right along.  There were characters that one could like and characters that one could really, really dislike (like the grandmother of the missing child - what a witch!).  I was satisfied with the ending and was pleased that some of the characters grew a bit and changed before the story came to a close.  Would I read another book by the author?  Yes, I think I would.  Have you read any books by Joy Fielding that I should pick up?  Let me know.

Blurb:

 “I think my real name is Samantha. I think I’m your daughter.”

Caroline Shipley’s heart nearly stops when she hears those words from the voice on the other end of the phone. Instantly, she’s thrust fifteen years into the past, to a posh resort in Baja, Mexico—and the fateful night her world collapsed.

The trip is supposed to be a celebration. Caroline’s husband, Hunter, convinces her to leave their two young daughters, Michelle and Samantha, alone in their hotel suite while the couple enjoys an anniversary dinner in the restaurant downstairs. But returning afterward, Caroline and Hunter make a horrifying discovery: Two-year-old Samantha has vanished without a trace.

What follows are days, weeks, and years of anguish for Caroline. She’s tormented by media attention that has branded her a cold, incompetent mother, while she struggles to save her marriage. Caroline also has to deal with the demands of her needy elder daughter, Michelle, who is driven to cope in dangerous ways. Through it all, Caroline desperately clings to the hope that Samantha will someday be found—only to be stung again and again by cruel reality.

Plunged back into the still-raw heartbreak of her daughter’s disappearance, and the suspicions and inconsistencies surrounding a case long gone cold, Caroline doesn’t know whom or what to believe. The only thing she can be sure of is that someone is fiercely determined to hide the truth of what happened to Samantha.

Monday, October 7, 2019

State Of Lies - Siri Mitchell

State of Lies by Siri Mitchell

First Paragraph:

Sean was already pulling his shirt off over his head as he came into the bedroom.

My Thoughts:

State of Lies is not a debut book for Siri Mitchell, but it is her first suspense book.  She's written both contemporary and historical books up to now - mostly with a romance slant.  I liked the sound of the blurb and so gave this one a try.  It held my interest, which was good.  The main character is a quantum physicist and that was interesting and there were a few things that related back to her profession - not too many though.  There might have been a few too many moments where she was unaware of what her actions might cause.  And a few too many overly dramatic moments or dire situations for a smart scientist.  However, I'll cut the author a break.  As I said, her first suspense novel.  It was a timely story and it reminded me of another book I read in the last year - won't say which because it might be a spoiler.  My final thoughts are that this was a good enough book for me to finish, but I won't rush to read another by this author right away.  That being said, I haven't read any of her other books, so those might work better for the genre they fit into.  My reaction is not the same as other reviews I've read as this book has high praise from most.   

Blurb:

Georgie Brennan may be a world-class quantum physicist, but she grapples with life as a single mother after her husband is killed. When she receives a message from beyond the grave, it leads her to question the details of her husband’s death.

As she follows the clues he left behind, her discoveries increasingly implicate those closest to her. When her father is nominated as the new United States Secretary of Defense, she must uncover the truth before his confirmation hearing—even as the same people who killed her husband are now after her. Nothing is at is seems. Lies are truth; enemies are friends. Even her child is at risk. As every possibility but one disappears, Georgie may find herself to be the antithesis of everything she’s thought herself to be.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Cards On the Table - Agatha Christie

I told you guys that I knew that my R.I.P. reading would include at least one Agatha Christie book.  Well, it might contain more than one or even more than two or three.  I realized that it had been a long time since I read or listened to one of this favorite author's books.  I have many that I've read more than once and loved.  I've also enjoyed so many of the TV/movie adaptations.  I decided that reading the books themselves again would be a great thing to do and so I'm continuing to do so with ones that I already have in my Audible library. 

I also had already written my thoughts on this book over four years ago.  I decided to repost those here instead of 'reinventing the wheel'.  Hope you enjoy reading them and hope you might try a Christie book if you never have.  Here's what I said in 2015:

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Cards On The Table is one of my favorite Agatha Christie books.  I listened to it read by the wonderful Hugh Fraser, who played Captain Hastings in several of the TV adaptations.  Mr. Fraser does a good job of narrating this unusual tale in which Christie pits four 'sleuths' against four 'murderers'.

We begin our story as Hercule Poirot is attending an exhibition of snuff boxes with many London society people.  He meets an acquaintance, Mr. Shaitana, and has an interesting little discussion about collectibles and murderers.  Mr. Shaitana, who is famous for wonderful and interesting parties, invites Poirot to dinner and promises that the evening will showcase a 'collection' of a very different kind.

Poirot arrives for dinner and finds himself not the only guest that is connected with crime in some way.  There are four 'crime solvers' - Poirot, Superintendent Battle of Scotland Yard, Colonel Race - Secret Service or MI6 or whatever that branch is called in the 1930's, and also Mrs. Ariadne Oliver, crime fiction writer.  In a few minutes, the other guests arrive - Dr. Roberts, Mrs. Lorrimer, Miss Meredith, and Major Despard.  These people represent the other side of the coin.  Mr. Shaitana has hinted to Poirot that he collects 'murderers' - the ones that got away with it.

Dinner is served and afterwards, the guests divide up to play bridge - sleuths in one room and possible criminals in the other.  Mr. Shaitana sits in a chair by the fire and as the evening goes on, well, Mr. Shaitana is murdered.  Who did it and how can no one have seen?  Our task as readers is to go along with the investigation in which all of our crime solvers take a part.  They have to suss out not only the murderer of Mr. Shaitana, but also decide if his suspicions were correct.  Were their fellow guests murderers?

I listened to this book, but I have read Cards On The Table in print as well.  Christie uses the bridge scores to assist in solving the crime and the book shows those scores as a visual aid.  I know nothing about bridge, but it's not hard to follow Poirot as he questions people using the score sheets.  Each sleuth has their own method.  Battle appears slightly slow and dull, and he is anything but that.  Colonel Race is the one shown least, as befits a spy, I suppose.  I love Mrs. Oliver and love the books where she appears.  Her character is humorous and shrewder than one might expect.  It's not hard to surmise that the author put a bit of herself into the character.  I've always wondered if Christie liked apples as much as Mrs. Oliver.  She wrote in an introduction to the book:

     Spot the least likely person to have committed the crime and nine times out of ten your task is finished.
     Since I do not want my faithful readers to fling away this book in disgust, I prefer to warn them beforehand that this is not that kind of book.  There are only four starters and any one of them, given the right circumstances, might have committed the crime....The deduction, therefore must be entirely psychological...

So, if you'd like an Agatha Christie book that will keep you guessing, pick up Cards On The Table.  It a good 'un!

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Tell Me Everything - Cambria Brockman

Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman

First Paragraph(s):

This is the end of us.
     The voice in the back of my mind.
     Jump.
     I suck in a shallow breath; my chest rises.  The impending snowstorm gathers above us, the air cold on our bones.  Below us, stagnant black water whispers our names, excited to seep into our pores.  We pant, heavy and even, our hot breath billowing in tight clouds above our heads.  Even if we want to run, we can't.
     The chanting grows louder.  The six of us grab at each other's hands, clumsy and drunk, and bring our half-naked bodies together in unison.  Shoulder to shoulder.  The white hairs on my arms stand on end, reaching for the clouds.  Gemma and Khaled exhale, inhale--nervous, apprehensive.
     Jump.

My Thoughts:

Tell Me Everything is a debut novel by Cambria Brockman.  It's been compared to Donna Tartt's The Secret History, which I have not read as yet.  Yes, yes, I know that it is a favorite of many.  And I'll also add that, though I don't think the stories are mirrors of each other, I do think that reading this one will probably give me a push to finally try Donna Tartt's book.  This is the story of friends at college - six of them.  They are Malin, Ruby, Gemma, John, Max, and Khaled.  We experience the story from Malin's point of view and she is more than a bit different.  She's different inside to what she shows on the outside.  She's got secrets, but so do all the others. 

The tale is told back and forth in time, from Senior Day in January of their senior year to Freshman Year as they get acquainted and learn to be friends.  We also go back further to a time in Malin's early life that was quite dark.  I was fine with this way of telling us the story and I suspected some things (maybe most things), but didn't quite guess all.  I'm not going to say much else about the plot - would be hard without spoilers.  I enjoyed reading this book and I'll be watching for what might come next from this debut author.  And, like another reviewer who mentioned they were glad they weren't in college these days, me too!   

Blurb:

In her first weeks at Hawthorne College, Malin is swept up into a tight-knit circle that will stick together through all four years. There’s Gemma, an insecure theater major from London; John, a tall, handsome, wealthy New Englander; Max, John’s cousin, a shy pre-med major; Khaled, a wisecracking prince from Abu Dhabi; and Ruby, a beautiful art history major. But Malin isn’t like the rest of her friends. She’s an expert at hiding her troubled past. She acts as if she shares the preoccupations of those around her—dating, partying—all while using her extraordinary insight to detect their deepest vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

By Senior Day, on the cusp of graduation, Malin’s secrets—and those of her friends—are revealed. While she scrambles to maintain her artfully curated image, her missteps set in motion a devastating chain of events that ends in a murder. And as fragile relationships hang in the balance and close alliances shift, Malin must test the limits of what she’s capable of to stop the truth from coming out.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Death In the Clouds - Agatha Christie

Death In the Clouds by Agatha Christie

First Paragraph(s):

The September sun beat down hotly on Le Bourget aerodrome as the passengers crossed the ground and climbed into the air liner Prometheus, due to depart for Croydon in a few minutes' time. 
     Jane Grey was among the last to enter and take her seat, No. 16.  Some of the passengers had already passed through the centre door past the tiny pantry-kitchen and the two toilets to the front car.  Most people were already seated.  On the opposite side of the gangway there was a good deal of chatter--a rather shrill high-pitched woman's voice dominating it.  Jane's lips twisted slightly.  She knew that particular type of voice so well. 
     'My dear--it's extraordinary--no idea--Where, do you say?  Juan Le Pins?  Oh, yes.  No--Le Pinet--Yes, just the same old crowd--But of course let's sit together.  Oh, can't we?  Who--?  Oh, I see...'
     And then a man's voice--foreign, polite:
     'With the greatest of pleasure, Madame'.'
     Jane stole a glance out of the corner of her eye.
     A little elderly man with large moustaches and an egg-shaped head was politely moving himself and his belongings from the seat corresponding to Jane's on the opposite side of the gangway.

My Thoughts:

As part of my R.I.P. reading I knew I must listen or read at least one Agatha Christie book, and I selected one of my favorites, Death In the Clouds.  This was narrated wonderfully by Hugh Fraser, who played Captain Hastings in the TV adaptations of Christie's books opposite David Suchet as Poirot.  This book was originally published in 1935 and the air travel described was quite different in many ways to ours.  It was more luxurious and also less, of course.

In this book, our intrepid detective is not quite as attentive as usual owing to his stomach troubles or airsickness.  A woman dies during the flight from Paris to London, though she has been deceased for a while before anyone notices.  It turns out the lady was a well-known moneylender.  I love 'locked-room' mysteries and this one qualifies - only the passengers on the airplane could have killed the woman.  Or could she have died of natural causes?  Well, of course not.  What would be the need for Poirot in that case?  Lots of theories develop - stung by a wasp or poisoned by a thorn administered through a blowpipe?  Each of these seems impossible, though a blowpipe is found.  I enjoyed coming along for the ride as Hercule Poirot solves the case.  A definite 'comfort' read for me (and yes, comfort reads can contain a murder!) - ha!   

Blurb:

From seat No. 9, Hercule Poirot was ideally placed to observe his fellow air passengers on the short flight from Paris to London. Over to his right sat a pretty young woman, clearly infatuated with the man opposite; ahead, in seat No. 13, sat a countess with a poorly concealed cocaine habit; across the gangway in seat No. 8, a writer of detective fiction was being troubled by an aggressive wasp.

Yes, Poirot is almost ideally placed to take it all in, except what he did not yet realize was that behind him, in seat No. 2, sat the slumped, lifeless body of a woman. Murdered, and likely by someone in Poirot’s immediate proximity.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Cruel Acts - Jane Casey

Cruel Acts by Jane Casey

First Paragraph(s):

The house was dark.  PC Sandra West stared up at it and sighed.  The neighbours had called the police -- she checked her watch -- getting on for an hour earlier, to complain about the noise.  What noise, the operator asked.
     Screaming.
     An argument?
     More than likely.  It's not fair, the neighbour had said.  Not at two in the morning.  But what would you expect from people like that?
     People like what?

My Thoughts:

Cruel Acts is the 8th book in Jane Casey's crime series featuring DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent.  I've read and enjoyed them all, but it has been over two years (almost three) since I got to visit with these characters.  I was delighted to do so.  I will admit that I felt a little uncertain remembering exactly what happened in the previous book, but I got up to speed.  In this story, a man who had been previously convicted of two murders is released from prison because it's found that the jury was looking at social media and websites while the trial was going on.  They 'pre-decided' what they thought he had done based on his past.  And then to top it off, one of the jurors writes a book describing what they did and self-publishes it.  Leo Stone is released and the police have to begin again with the investigation, which is where Maeve and Josh come in.  Former characters appear, at least a little, including Maeve's former love, Rob.  Lots of twists and turns and a chance to see Maeve settle more into her DS status. 

I liked this book, though I don't think it will be my favorite.  Honestly, too much bickering and posturing between Maeve and Josh.  In fact, Maeve seems more than a little prickly and defensive much of the time with everyone.  Hopefully, she's just going through a stage.  Josh is always prickly, but kind at heart (if you look really deep sometimes - ha!).  I don't want to give too much away for those who have followed this series, so I'll not share any more about the plot.  Happily, another book will be coming out in the spring entitled The Cutting Place.  I'll be watching for it! 

Blurb:

Guilty?
A year ago, Leo Stone was convicted of murdering two women and sentenced to life in prison. Now he’s been freed on a technicality, and he’s protesting his innocence.

Not guilty?
DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent are determined to put Stone back behind bars where he belongs, but the more Maeve digs, the less convinced she is that he did it.

The wrong decision could be deadly…
Then another woman disappears in similar circumstances. Is there a copycat killer, or have they been wrong about Stone from the start?

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Quick update - 9.21.19


I'm just going to write a quick update on my week.  It has been a busy one and my fall allergies have started.  Haven't felt completely wonderful, so I'll be brief.
  


I finished the 4th Rachel Prince book, Dying To Cruise, and enjoyed it.  I think the 5th in the series will be out in a few months and I'll watch for that.



I listened to In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware on audio - narrated by Imogen Church.  Always a fun listen.  It starts with:

In a dark, dark wood there was a dark, dark house;
And in the dark, dark house there was a dark, dark room;
And in the dark, dark room there was a dark, dark cupboard;
And in the dark, dark cupboard there was.....a skeleton!



Next on my finished list is Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle.  Another listen narrated by Bernadette Dunne - for our October mystery book group meeting.  What a weird book!  I look forward to the discussion
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Then I did a read/listen of Lisa Unger's The Whispering Hollows, a novella set in The Hollows and featuring Eloise Montgomery who shows up in several of this author's books.  Eloise is a psychic that never wanted to be a psychic, but these three stories tell us of her life over 30 years - the tragic loss of her older daughter and husband in the first, the realization that her 9-year-old granddaughter also has abilities in the second, and a sort of 'changing of the guard' between Eloise and Finley, the granddaughter, in the third.  I liked all The Hollows books, which are not exactly a series but loosely connected.



The last book I finished was Lissa Marie Redmond's third Cold Case Investigation book, A Means to An End.  I read the first two series books earlier this year and liked them very much.  Redmond is a retired Buffalo PD cold case detective and she brings that knowledge and expertise to her third Lauren Riley book.  I get frustrated at times with Lauren, but I do like the tales.  And this was no exception.



Lastly, I attended my afternoon book group on Tuesday and participated in discussing Susan Orlean's The Library Book.  I had also listened to this one and it was read by the author.  She did an OK job, not great, but not too bad.  I enjoyed the book with the info about the fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986 and also the author's extra musings about libraries in general, her memories of libraries, and more history about the Los Angeles Library.  The discussion was good with most people liking the book.  A few thought it was way too dry and a bit fragmented.  One of the library staff also attended the meeting and told us about some new trends in libraries in general and in the Austin Public Library specifically.  That was quite interesting.  Most libraries these days are not exactly like the ones we grew up with.  And that's perfectly OK.

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I think I may start writing some reviews of books upcoming, so watch for that.  They will not be on a 'schedule', just as I finish the book and get them written.  Have a good weekend!