Friday, October 9, 2020

Happy October and maybe a little break...


Hello book friends and Happy October!  Above is a picture that I've shared before - from a trip my daughter and I took to Disneyworld about 8 or 9 years ago.  They do fall and Halloween decorating to the max.  Lots of fun to see, but not this year.  

A look at the beautiful leaves in full fall glory from a trip to New Mexico a couple of years ago.  Again, lots of fun to see, but not for a while to come.

And here's a look at an early morning spider in it's web - taken with the backdrop of my husband truck.  Seems very appropriate for October.  Many of our neighbors have their yards decorated with pumpkins and skeletons and graveyards and ghosts.  Not sure if trick-or-treating will happen, but people are decorating like crazy.  

I think I'm going to take a little break from posting, not that I've been posting much.  I have been reading a lot and will share a list of books below that I've completed since my last post.  I will still be commenting on your blogs, but I'm just not in the mood to do reviews.  I'll probably be back around in a few weeks.  

Here's what I've read:

The Widows by Jess Montgomery
Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Both the above were selections for our mystery group.  We had a nice discussion about them on Wednesday evening at our virtual meeting.  

Year One by Nora Roberts
Of Blood And Bone by Nora Roberts
The Rise Of Magicks by Nora Roberts

The above three books make up Nora Roberts' Chronicles of The One trilogy - fantasy and really quite a bit different from anything I've read by her.  Some didn't care of it.  I liked it enough to read all three.  Really out of her usual wheelhouse I'd say.

Die For Love by Elizabeth Peters
She's Not There by Joy Fielding
Strangers At The Gate by Catriona McPherson

These three were all re-reads that I thoroughly enjoyed again.

That's all I've got for now.  As I said, I'll probably not be posting for a few weeks, but I'll be around to say hello on your blogs.  Take care and wear your masks!  And Happy October and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

What I've been reading in September...

***Blogger and I are still learning to get along these days.  I accidentally 'published' this post, but it obviously wasn't ready for that.  Let's try this again...with more content.  Ha!


Hello book friends!  How have you been?  Hope all are well and staying buried in books and reading.  That's what I've been doing mostly and I've read some good books.  Several good books actually.  Let me share about them.

I got caught up on Kelley Armstrong's Rockton series, which has 5 books right now and will have #6 in February.  I read #3 This Fallen Prey, #4 Watcher in the Woods, and #5 Alone in the Wild.  I really like this series which is set in the wilds of Canada, off the grid, and features Casey Duncan, her significant other Eric Dalton, and others.  The reader learns more and more about Rockton and the people who live there and in the area.  Crazy stuff.

My next read was One By One, Ruth Ware's new book set in the French Alps.  Our mystery book group had read her previous book, The Turn of the Key, for September (which was about 50-50 thumbs up by our group).  I was excited to start this one because I suspected that her inspiration was Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.  The answer to that question was 'yes-ish'.  I did like this book.  It held my interest and made feel quite cold.  Set at a ski chalet in winter, a group from a start-up tech company comes for a work retreat and lots of things happen.  Scary things.  Dire things.  I won't tell too much, but I will say that I guessed how it might play out early on.  There were a few surprises, but not as many as I might have liked.  As I said, I liked it, but I think that Ware's first book, In a Dark, Dark Wood, remains my favorite. 

On to the new Louise Penny book, #16 in her mystery series, and one I was really anticipating (I'm always anticipating Louise's new books!).  Oh my word!  I loved this book.  I really did.  I can say that about all this author's writing, but some books are special favorites and I think All the Devils Are Here will qualify for that with me.  It is set almost entirely in Paris with the characters mostly being from Gamache's own family.  That is not a bad thing for me, but I know that some of this author's fans mostly prefer for the setting to remain in Canada and Three Pines.  However, in my opinion, it's good for Louise to take her characters out of the small village occasionally and some of my favorites are set in other spots.  I mentioned that I attended an event virtually where Penny spoke about her work and she said that when she's outside of Three Pines, she is able to reveal more about Gamache and whoever is with him because she doesn't have to update so much about the many characters that reside in Three Pines - or not update as much.  I can see that here.  

For me, this was a book about family - the Gamache family.  Many things are revealed that we might have guessed or that the author had hinted in the past.  Reine-Marie Gamache has a big role in this book as does Jean Guy.  Armand's growing-up years are mentioned and sorted through a bit.  His godfather appears.  And Daniel, the Gamache's son, is finally front and center, which he has not been through the whole series.  We learn a lot.  This story is about family and love and betrayal and lies and trust and discovering still more aspects of our protagonist, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache.  Highly recommended by me. 

The last book I'll talk about today is #5 in the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling), Troubled Blood.  I had been highly anticipating this book as I've really enjoyed the whole Strike series.  And I wasn't disappointed, though the reader might need to know that this book came in at 944 pages.  I didn't mind and actually did a read/listen and loved it.  Cormoran and Robin, his partner in the private detective firm, are asked to investigate a cold case disappearance of a woman by her daughter.  The woman, Dr. Margo Bamborough, has been missing for 40 years, so quite a 'cold' case.  Cormoran has never taken a cold case, but he and Robin and their other colleagues give it their best.  There are other cases as well, of course, and also a lot of family situations for both Robin and Cormoran.  We get to know their colleagues better and our protagonists better.  As I said, I really loved the book.  It wasn't particularly fast-paced for the most part, but I was OK with that.  Another highly recommended series.  

That's about all I have today.  I'm currently listening to The Widows by Jess Montgomery for our October mystery book group discussion.  I'm reading the first book in Nora Roberts' Chronicles of the One trilogy, Year One.  I'll share my thoughts about both of those in couple of weeks, along with whatever else has crossed my path.  Take care.  Wear your mask.  Enjoy your reading! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

In which I discuss my love of re-reading...yes, this is a rerun (mostly) but I'm curious about your thoughts here...

This is a post that I shared several years ago.  I'm still a re-reader and I'm curious about your habits in this regard, especially during this most unusual year.  Thanks for indulging me and commenting - ha!


As I begin this little discussion about my habit of re-reading books, I'm going to first share three quotes:

"Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread.   ~~Francois Mauriac~~

When you reread a classic, you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.     ~~Clifton Fadiman~~

To acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.     ~~W. Somerset Maugham~~

I want to talk a little bit about re-reading books.  Do you have this practice?  Do you go back to the books you read when you were younger and see if they hold up well?  Or do you finish a great book and turn back to the first page and begin again?  Or maybe you've enjoyed a book in print form and then later, you try it in audio format.

I will confess that I am a re-reader from way back.  I think I've shared that my parents did not indulge my wish to physically own books when I was growing up.  I had a few, a very few.  However, money was tight and they felt that the library could provide any books I might need or want.  Which was fine until we'd go and spend 2 weeks at my grandmother's house.  I'd take armloads of books that were checked out from the library, but I'd finish them - so, I'd start over and read them again.

In my teens, I'd read sweet love stories and scary ghost stories and pretty much anything that wasn't "assigned" by my English teacher - well, I did read my assignments but never twice.  In my 20's, I discovered that I loved going back to well-loved books from my teens and taking another look.  And I've continued that practice off and on up until now.

Why, you might ask?  Well, I know that I'll never get to read all the books that I want to read in my lifetime.  I know this.  However, sometimes I just need a story that I'm familiar with for the comfort value.  It's like a warm blanket or a cup of hot chocolate or a hug from my mother.  At tough times in my life, I find myself picking up books that I remember so well and also remembering how they made me feel.  Safe, secure, a refuge as Mr. Maugham states in the quote above.

I also use re-reading as a technique to bump myself out of a reading slump and have done this for years.  My favorite go-to books are varied.  Authors might include:  Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, Phyllis A. Whitney, Mary Stewart, Louise Penny, Debbie Macomber, Elizabeth Peters, Barbara Michaels, Nora Roberts or so many that I've talked about as favorites.

OK, now I want to hear your thoughts.  Do you read books for a second or third or endless amount of times?  Or are you a 'been there, done that' kind of reader?  I'd love to know and I'd also love to know a few of the books that you consider your favorites to visit again.  Who knows?  I might have forgotten one that I'd like to go back to for the second time.  And thanks for sharing!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

It's September and is it fall? Maybe fall-ish at some point and some reading...

Hello book friends!  I don't have a nice picture to share here this time.  Forgot to take one, but never fear.  I'll have one the next time.  Ha!  Actually, I tried to take a couple of the full moon early this morning, but they didn't please me.  So, it's September of this year of 2020.  Sometimes it feels that time is passing quickly, but mostly it just feel like a 'never-ending' year to me.  Ah well.  No complaining.  My new motto, along with 'avoid most of the news'.  Let's talk about what I've been reading.

First I'll share a little about our mystery book group's discussion of Ruth Ware's The Turn of the Key.  We met last night virtually and the opinions were about 50% (or maybe a little less) liked it well enough.  Probably 50% didn't care for it.  I will say that this book is creepy with the 'smart house' theme.  Also, not too many likable characters or maybe no likable characters.  And the ending is a more than a little ambiguous.  This group had read Ware's first book, In a Dark Dark Wood, a few years ago and that book remains my favorite of hers.  It seemed that she did take inspiration from Henry James and his The Turn of the Screw, but diverged from that story some.  Not sure too many in the group will seek out Ruth Ware's next book (to be published this next week), One By One, but because the inspiration seems to be Agatha Christie, I'll be checking it out.

As to other reading, I've read 4 more Memory Man books by David Baldacci.  Really liked all of them and will be watching for the next entry into that series.  The newest, #6, was published this spring, Walk the Wire.  I like Amos Decker, the main protagonist, and also his partner, Alex Jamison.  Walk the Wire takes place in North Dakota in a fracking town.  That's not all that is there and another Baldacci character makes an appearance.  I won't say which one it is because that might be too big of a spoiler.  I will say that I'm looking forward to his new Atlee Pine book, Daylight, which will be out in November.  I've noticed that since I've not read many books by this author, I have several series to sample if I so choose.  I love that! 

After I was caught up with the Memory Man, I decided to follow one of my usual summer reading 'rules' - read cold books in summer.  I had read Kelley Armstrong's first Rockton book, City of the Lost, a while back and enjoyed it.  I decided to reread that one and then continue with the books currently out in that series.  I'm now on #2, A Darkness Absolute, and loving the cold and the characters and the remote Canadian wilderness location.  In case you don't know about this series, Rockton is a small town where people who need to disappear apply to come.  Casey Duncan is a homicide detective who has that need and she arrives to become part of Rockton's very small law enforcement group.  Some of the people in Rockton are nice and some are not.  And then there is the wilderness location and the off-the-grid theme.  I'm finding these books hold my interest quite well.

I also attended a virtual event yesterday that featured Louise Penny talking about her new book, All the Devils Are Here.  The event was hosted by Murder By the Book, an independent mystery bookstore in Houston.  Store owner, McKenna Jordan, did a great job chatting with Louise and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about her writing process for this book and also how her life has been in the last few months.  Louise herself was in London and, having just arrived a few days ago, quaratined for now.  It was great that we could all 'attend' the event virtually.  One nice thing to come from this whole year - lots of author events that we can watch.  My copy of All the Devils Are Here is on my way from Murder By the Book and I will be reading it before long.  

That's about all I have.  Our weather here has been mega-humid and, though the rain chances are welcome, a promised cool front can't get here soon enough.  Maybe next week I'll be able to say that I've walked outside and not sweated a bucket - I hope so.  Take care and talk to you guys soon!   

Thursday, August 20, 2020

An anniversary and what I've been reading...


Hello everyone!  Hope you've all had a nice week or nice enough anyway.  We've been doing well here and managing through some awfully hot weather.  It's August though and that is not at all unexpected.  It was amazingly wonderful to step out early this morning for my walk and find the temps a bit below 70 degrees.  Wow!  We had a 'cool' front and I suspect this will be the only day with that lovely treat.  However, I'll take what I can get.  

My husband and I had our wedding anniversary earlier this week and we can't believe it's been 40 years.  Gosh, I'm old.  Ha!  The plan had been for a very nice trip, but that has been put off until next year and we'll hope to be able to enjoy it then.  We had a tasty meal and considered it a good enough celebration.  Otherwise, I've done all my regular things, had a couple of virtual meetings and read some good books.

I finished Sycamore Row by John Grisham and noted last week that it had been a really long while since I read any of his books.  Back long ago, I think my first book by this author was The Firm.  It was such a big seller.  I also read his debut book, A Time To Kill and liked it very much.  It was interesting that Grisham waited over 20 years to write again about Jake Brigance, his famous fictional defense attorney.  Sycamore Row was published in 2013, so it's not a new book.  The 3rd book featuring Jake Brigance, A Time For Mercy, is scheduled to be published in October.  

I attended our afternoon book group's virtual discussion of Sycamore Row and enjoyed hearing the thoughts of everyone that was able to attend.  This book features a man, Seth Hubbard, who is dying of lung cancer and who hangs himself after having left a new hand-written will.  In this will, he leaves almost all his estate to his maid, who is black.  His children are left nothing.  Jake Brigance is asked in a letter, also written by Hubbard, to be the attorney for the estate.  Lots of thought-provoking themes here and everyone seemed to like the book.  Many had read at least one book by the author, but there were a few who were new to his writing.  It was a good discussion.

I also read Memory Man by David Baldacci and the next book in the same series, The Last Mile.  Our mystery book group had read and discussed Memory Man last year, but I wasn't able to attend that meeting and put off reading it.  It was a good one to follow up the Grisham book and held my interest.  The 'Memory Man' is Amos Decker, a former NFL football player who gets injured severely in the first game (in fact, the first play) of his pro career.  His head injury causes him to have some curious brain changes - hyperthymesia and synesthesia.  The first condition means he can never forget anything, ever.  The second is that his senses experience life in a very specific way, especially with colors and numbers.  After Amos' injury and recovery, he becomes a police detective.  In the first book, Decker discovers his family has been murdered.  His life implodes for a long time, but eventually someone confesses to the crime and Decker is brought back in to assist in the investigation.  He comes to the attention of the FBI during this time and he's asked to be part of a special task force.

In the second book, The Last Mile, Decker and other members of the FBI task force unravel what happened when Melvin Mars' parents were killed.  Mars himself has been in prison for 20 years for the crime and is scheduled for execution. He's granted a reprieve and Decker and colleagues start at the beginning and gradually open up all kinds of secrets that someone doesn't want known.  Someone very powerful.  I really enjoyed both of these books and look forward to moving on in the series to #3, The Fix.

My latest book completed is Ruth Ware's The Turn of the Key.  My word, what a creepy book.  I'll wait and talk more about it in a couple of weeks.  It's the September selection for our mystery book group.  I do have thoughts about it and just want to say, I never want to live in a 'Smart House'.  Ever.  

Until next week, stay safe, wear your masks, enjoy your reading, and take care!      

Thursday, August 13, 2020

New doggy friends and a bit about reading...

 Hello book friends!  So nice to be here again this week with a few pictures and things to talk about.  Hope you are all well and safe and content (as much as you can be).  For those who have kids where school looms or has started, hope all goes well in that regard - whether it's in the school, at home with remote learning, or homeschooling.  Also, those who have had some extra challenges lately, know that I'm still thinking of you and keeping you in my prayers.  

My pictures this week are of two neighbors that I've met over the weeks and months that I've been out walking in the early mornings.  Actually, I've met or greeted or waved to a number of neighbors that I only vaguely knew.  These two though - they are dogs and such fun to see each morning.  Oh, and also their 'Dad' who walks them faithfully.


This is Snoopy and he is a very well behaved neighbor.  He sits or explores a bit when I am greeting his 'Dad' and 'Sister'.  Snoopy doesn't bark or jump, but he sometimes looks like he's thinking 'I thought we were walking...aren't we walking?' - ha!


This doggy neighbor is the active, jumping, greeting, straining-at-the-leash because she's so friendly and needs to know everyone - Eukie.  She's 7-months-old and is in training to learn to sit and behave when it's appropriate.  I wasn't able to get a picture of her face because she is constantly wriggling and wagging her tail and looking for the next sight to see.  You can tell from the blur of her head and tail what's going on.  She doesn't bark though.  

I've enjoyed getting to know these new-to-me neighbors and their 'Dad'.  After Eukie straining and straining morning after morning, he asked if I'd like to 'meet' her.  He and I were distanced, but Eukie and I were not - ha!  So now, every morning, we meet all over again.  I'm not much of a dog person, but Eukie reminds me of one of our granddogs, Cody.  I can just imagine what antics she and Cody could get up to.  


As to other stuff, like reading, I finished Sycamore Row by John Grisham.  I'll report next week on our afternoon book group's discussion of the book and what others thought of it.  It was longer than I expected.  I did a read/listen and the audio was over 20 hours long.  

Next, I started David Baldacci's Memory Man.  Our mystery group read and discussed this book a while back, but I was out of town and didn't read the book at that time.  I'm enjoying it now and will report on it next week as well.  Another long one.  I've been listening to Final Girls, a reread for me, and Riley Sager's first book.  I had commented to someone that I thought it was my favorite up to now of the Sager books I've read.  Decided I would listen to them all again.  Why not, right?

Not much else to tell.  Again, hope everyone is doing well.  See you next week!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Early morning skies and more new reading...

Good morning book friends!  I've got two early morning sky pictures to share with you today.  I'm really enjoying my early walks and trying to find beautiful things to capture on my phone.  These shots are what I have for this week.  I will say that I am still adjusting to Blogger's new way of composing posts.  It seems every time I work on one, something new has changed.  This week it was the placement of the pictures.  I know several of you have been frustrated with that.  Oh well.  I'll try to not let it bug me too much.  All is well at our house.  We got a little rain, which was much needed.  However, it is summer and we're moving into a drier period I'm afraid.  

My reading has been good and I managed a couple of books this week.  As I think I've shared, my audiobook listening has been books that I've already read in print.  I'm enjoying them, but am not feeling inclined to talk about them here.  The first book I finished this last week was Kate White's Have You Seen Me? - a standalone thriller.  I've read other books by Kate White and liked them.  This one was another that I liked, but didn't love.  I'm not sure what it is about her stories.  I do like them, but I probably wouldn't put them on any of my 'favorites' lists.  In this book, Ally Linden finds herself dripping wet at the door of her office and the company where she works - or so she thinks.  It turns out that Ally has not worked there for five years and she can't remember anything about the last couple of days.  Ally's quest to discover what's going on in her life now and what happened to cause her memory loss is the main focus.  Dissociative disorder plays a part, which I found very interesting.  There were lots of twists and turns, but it was a book that I finished and thought - well, that's done, what's next?

I also finished Jane Casey's newest Maeve Kerrigan book and I loved this one.  Well, I think I've loved all the books in this series.  The Cutting Place is the 9th book and we are again solving crimes with DS Maeve Kerrigan and DI Josh Derwent, plus other assorted characters that we've come to love or loathe.
Maeve finds herself investigating a gentlemen's club after a body is found in the river and the story is very timely in many ways.  Women and choices, men and choices, immigrants and choices, domestic violence and choices, friendship, family, ruthless behavior, kindness and love.  All these appear.  Did I say that I loved this book and I love this series?  If you've not ever tried Jane Casey's books, the first one is The Burning.  A highly recommended series.

Our mystery group had our August virtual meeting last night and we talked about David Baldacci's Long Road To Mercy.  Everyone seemed to like the book and several had gone ahead and read the second book in the series.  The third book will come out in November and I'll be watching for it.  We also shared news of upcoming books by authors that we've loved and shared favorite mystery authors with a couple of newer members that requested that.  Each of us was happy to 'help' them out and add to their TBR list.  Ha!   

I'm currently reading Sycamore Row by John Grisham for my afternoon book club's August meeting in a couple of weeks.  It's has been years and years since I read anything by Grisham.  Not sure why he fell off my 'must read' list, but he did.  This book is the second featuring Jake Brigance, the lawyer that's a main character in A Time To Kill.  I'm liking it so far.  And I'll be curious what others in this afternoon group think of the book.  They mostly like to read more issue-focused, literary, sort of 'depressing-all-the-time' types of books.  I don't say that to be negative, but what is a good match for a lot of the members isn't necessarily a good match for me.  We'll see how it goes.  

Take care everyone and have a good week!  Wear your masks!  Be sensible!  I'll see you soon!    

Thursday, July 30, 2020

New shoes and new reading...

Good morning book friends!  Hope you are all well and safe and wearing your masks.  I didn't really have a new picture to show this morning that included nature or cute creatures, so I decided to show my new walking shoes.  What do you think?  Ha!  I had walked until my previous pair was not as supportive as it could be and so I ordered new ones.  You may ask 'do they glow in the dark?' - it's possible!  I haven't tested that as yet, but they are certainly bright.  What I'm happy about is that they are comfortable and support my 'old' feet as I walk and walk and walk.  It's been quite warm, but I seem to be adjusting to early morning temps and humidity.  I sweat, yes, but I've decided that isn't a bad thing.

My reading has been going along well.  I've been listening to books that I've read before mostly, but that's been working in case I get distracted or have to take a picture of a fun creature.  Right now, I'm listening to Peter May's The Blackhouse, which I have loved in the past and am completely enjoying again.

I finished reading David Baldacci's second Atlee Pine book, A Minute To Midnight, and enjoyed it a lot.  Atlee and her assistant, Carol, go to her hometown to do further research on what exactly happened to Mercy, Atlee's twin sister.  When both girls were six, Mercy was taken, and no one knows the end of that story as yet.  While in Georgia, Atlee and Carol end up assisting the FBI and local law enforcement with identification and apprehension of a potential serial killer in the area.  The third book in the series,  Daylight, is scheduled to be published in November.  I'll be watching for it.

My next book was Michael Connelly's most recent Ballard/Bosch pairing, The Night Fire.  My husband and I had listened to about half of that book on our recent trip and will finish it on audio when we travel next.  However, who knows when that will be?  I couldn't wait, so I read the rest of it in print form.  I've only been reading Connelly's books since he created Renee Ballard (this is #3 of those), but I've watched all the Bosch seasons on TV, so I feel like I'm OK with knowing at least something about him.  The Night Fire begins with Bosch attending a funeral of one of his mentors at the LAPD, John Jack Thompson.  He finds that Thompson had taken a murder book home with him when he retired and the widow says that Thompson wanted Harry to have it.  Bosch asks Ballard to help him figure out some things and the two work together to solve not only this cold case, but a couple of other cases that might relate. 

The last book I finished this week was Katherine Center's new one, What You Wish For.  I read another book by this author last year, How To Walk Away.  I liked it quite a bit and decided to try this new one.  Center's books are full of 'heart' I think I would say.  They are funny and poignant and deal with some tough situations, but will make you laugh out loud at times too.  They have romance, but they also have sorrow and show a lot about how one might deal with adversity.  In this book, the theme is to 'choose joy, even in difficult times'.  I love that.  And it doesn't hurt that it's set on Galveston Island of Texas, includes a bit of history about Galveston, and features a school librarian as the main protagonist.  I thought this book was very good.  And I want to go back and read this author's backlist.

I'm glad that my reading has moved in a more positive direction.  Not necessarily with the themes being 'happy all the time', but just immersive and keeping my interest.  This morning I started Kate White's new book, Have You Seen Me?.  I'll talk about that one next week, hopefully.  Take care and I'll see you soon!            

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Early morning walks, some mystery reading, and virtual book groups...

Hello book friends!  Hope you are all well and safe and content and I feel like I say the same thing with every post - ha!  Oh, I should say that I hope you are reading just the right amount for you.  Not too much and not too little - just right.  All is good at our house.  And not much is different.  The picture above is one I took on a walk early in the morning - two does and their two fawns.  They stood still for me, but the minute I snapped the picture, all four took off into the woods.  Guess I was lucky.  Spring and summer include lots of fawns in our area and those cute little creatures are fun to look at, but one has to be careful driving as they tend to run out into the road just like little humans. 

I'm happy to say that my reading has been good in the last few days.  I finished Outsider by Linda Castillo.  This is the 12th book in her Kate Burkholder mystery series, set in the Amish country of Ohio.  I always enjoy a visit with Kate and her special someone, John Tomasetti.  This particular book gave the reader more insights into what happened to Kate when she left home in her late teens and eventually became a cop.  Kate is now the Chief of Police in Painters Mill, Ohio, her old hometown, but an old friend/colleague shows up and things get very dicey.  Both Kate and Tomasetti have some tough ethical decisions to make in Outsider.  Now to wait for the next book.  Sigh.

I also finished Long Road To Mercy by David Baldacci, which is our mystery group's discussion book for August.  It's the first book in his Atlee Pine series, which has the second already out and the third to be published this fall.  Atlee Pine is a FBI agent and she's 'watches over' The Grand Canyon from her single-agent office in Shattered Rock, Arizona.  Atlee is quite an interesting person and I also found this initial book quite interesting with lots of Grand Canyon info, among other things.  I did notice that reviews were mixed about some of the story line.  I liked it well enough to pick up the second book in the series, A Minute To Midnight, and start reading it next.  Agent Pine is a twin and when she and her identical twin, Mercy, were six years old, Mercy was kidnapped and Atlee was left without her 'other half'.  That particular story line is part of this book and also part of the second.  We'll see if it concludes in #2 or if it continues to #3. 

Otherwise, our mystery group met virtually a couple of weeks ago to talk about 'Award Winning and Nominated Mysteries for 2020'.  It was a good meeting and we seem to be managing well enough with this method.  Unfortunately, not all of our regulars are able to be with us but it's what we have for right now and at least the rest of this year.  We'll meet again in a couple of weeks to talk about the Baldacci book.  I also have attended the virtual meeting of my afternoon book group, though I decided not to read the assigned book right now.  It was The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai.  The discussion was very good though and I enjoyed listening to what other members experienced in their particular reading journey and what memories of life in the '70's and '80's and the initial time of the AIDS crisis it brought to mind.  Several told stories that included quite poignant times.  We all agreed that book groups do OK virtually, but we miss sitting in a circle in the same room and chatting.  One day, perhaps in 2021 - who knows?

That's about all I have for today.  Always enjoy hearing about what all of you have been doing, experiencing, reading, and thinking.  What would we do without our blogging friends?  Take care and I'll be around again soon.   

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

A Mystery Book Grab-bag...from the library of course...

Hey everyone!  Hope you are all well and coping and masking and being sensible and all those things!  I will admit that some days are easier than others, right?  Anyway, my topic today is the 'Grab-bag' that I requested from a local library.  It's not the Austin Public Library, but it's another where I normally volunteer to help with their new materials processing.  That's not possible right now, of course - the volunteering.  Anyway, I was conversing by email with one of the librarians and she thought I might like to try out their new 'Grab-bag' service.  Said that she knew I didn't need others picking books for me, but it might be fun.  And it was.

First of all, a patron needs to fill out a request document that has several queries.  Type of material (book, large-type, audio, video, etc.).  There's a 'wildcard' option to let the staff pick 5 things for you.  Otherwise, you tell them the genre where your interest lies - mystery, romance, non-fiction, cookbooks, sci-fi, fantasy, graphic novels - you get the idea.  There's also a question regarding what might disappoint you - a specific author or genre or books that are too long or too short or have profanity, etc.  Next is to let them know what you love by telling of specific authors or titles that you've already read and enjoyed.  And last, how many - 3-5, 5-7, 8-10.

I thought it did sound fun and decided to try it.  The questions did take a little thought, but I didn't want my answers, especially what I had enjoyed and already read, to take forever.  I also thought that I would love to be the person selecting the materials for a patron, based on their answers.  Wonder if they'd let me volunteer to do that?  Ha!  I sent in my form and a couple of days later was notified the books above were ready for pickup.  The staff only selects from materials currently available on the shelf.

As you can see, I got the books listed below:

Murder On the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Aunti Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano
Aunti Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna by Mario Giordano
No One Knows by J.T. Ellison
An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears
All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

They actually did pretty well.  I've only read the first one and the last one listed.  I told them I had read all of Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie, and liked historical mysteries and psychological thrillers.  I asked for no military-style thrillers and no cozies.  Forgot to say I'd read all of Agatha Christie.

Have you taken advantage of a 'Grab-bag' situation at your library?  Is your library doing something like this?  Have you read any of the books and loved them?  Do you think it would be fun to select books for a 'Grab-bag'?  I think I'll let my librarian friend know that whoever picked for me did a great job.

Take care and I'll be back around soon...

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

It's July! And my picture today is....masks!

Hello book friends!  No, I didn't disappear on you.  I'm back around to say 'Hi!' and also to share what we've been up to.  Don't get too excited - it's not much.  Ha!

We actually spent a week out in Ruidoso, New Mexico, taking care of some things and getting a bit of mountain air.  Not that life was much different for us there than it is here in Central Texas.  My husband wasn't working, but was on vacation, which was nice for him.  Lots of golf in the cool mornings.  While he was golfing, I was walking up and down the hills around and also enjoying the nice temperatures.  So different from home, though the altitude makes you work a bit harder when you are walking up a steep slope.  It was lovely though and I saw some nice mountain creatures on my walks - elk, deer, and bunnies.  I also saw two snakes and the black flies were annoying and biting.  I came home with itchy spots, but they will go away before long. 

I didn't take any pictures, but I'm sharing my mask collection with you above.  Cute, huh?  I actually have one more that's in my car - it has pine cones on the fabric.  So, while we were out of town and on the road, we were sensible and smart to wear our masks if we went into any store or restaurant.  We got take-out mostly and did all our other sensible things like hand washing and social distancing.  Actually, for the most part, life was the same as here at home.  It was really good for my husband though and he had a very relaxing time. 

Now we are at home and he's back to work here at home (and will be working from home for months to come).  This morning the temp was 80 degrees with 84% humidity at 6:30 a.m.  Kind of like being outside with a damp cloth on your face.  Needless to say, I went back to the rec center to walk on the track there - yes, I love air conditioning.  I will say that I am beginning to get used to a mask more than I was at first.  I think I'm better at adjusting it to work with my glasses (I hate when they fog up).  If I feel even slightly annoyed about it, I think of my daughter and her co-workers at the hospital and I know that my discomfort is not a big thing at all. 

I don't have much to talk about book wise, but I'm hoping to do a few reviews as I begin to read more books that are new to me.  I've been doing a lot of rereads in the past months and just haven't felt compelled to share, but today I started Linda Castillo's latest Kate Burkholder mystery, Outsider.  I love the series and have been waiting for this one.  I've got a few others that I'm excited to read and so, look for some book thoughts in upcoming days and weeks.  I've been reading your posts, but my commenting has been nil.  Hope to change that a bit in the future. 

Take care, please!  I know some of you have been dealing with some stressful situations in your lives and know that if that is the case, I've been thinking of you.  We will get through this - one day at a time.  One book at a time.  Big hugs to all!   

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

July is coming...and things that make you go 'hmmm'...

Hello book friends!  Hope all is well with you guys and you're managing with our very odd (and certainly frustrating at times) year.  Who would have thought that 2020 would be so strange in so many ways?  So, the picture above is from my backyard this morning at about 6:45.  I've shared photos of deer and smaller creatures here now and then.  I've mentioned that we've been 'visited' by feral hogs from time to time.  This 'visitation' is new.  I looked out the back windows as I walked from one part of the house to another and there they were....cows....8 of them.  Just hanging out.  Eating the grass, resting, pooping, and the 3 calves were partaking of their 'mom's' milk now and then.  We do live in a more rural setting outside of the Austin area, but it's a regular neighborhood.  There are ranches with cows near us and obviously there's a fence down somewhere.  These 'friends' have wandered around for a while and then disappeared into the 'woods' at the end of our street.  The local authorities showed up as well as some wildlife people and so, hopefully, the cows will make it home today sometime.  Ha!

Not much new to report here.  We've been sticking mostly close to home.  My husband is likely going to be working from home for many months to come.  I did have a second haircut yesterday and it worked much the same as the previous one.  We had our daughter and son-in-law over for some fajitas and queso last weekend and it was very nice to see them face-to-face.  We hadn't since early March.  It was a 'socially distanced' meal, but they stayed for a couple of hours afterwards chatting.  She's still very busy at work as babies will come on their own timeline.  Otherwise, we've walked, golfed, done virtual meetings, picked up 'curbside' dinner, and talked about what things might change permanently and what things might go back to 'normal' - whatever that is.  I am, of course, reading and going to book group meetings online.  Looks like those will continue through this whole year and maybe into next year.  Guess we'll adjust, right? 

Our mystery group will be discussing 'award nominated or winning mysteries' for July and then go on to David Baldacci's LONG ROAD TO MERCY for August.  The afternoon book group will be talking about Rebecca Makkai's THE GREAT BELIEVERS for July and August is 'to be determined'.  Have you read read either of those?  We'll see how I like them.  Otherwise, I've been considering doing some 'nostalgic' reading, otherwise known as reading favorite books again.  It's comfortable for me.  Take care everyone, hope your July 4th is good, and I'll be back around in a couple of weeks to update again.     

Friday, June 12, 2020

Summertime....and what's going on....

Hello bookish friends!  Did you know that it's June?  Bet you did.  Ah, summertime.  So, I'd love to be sitting in one of those chairs on a balcony in coastal Oregon right now, but I'm not.  We did have a trip to Oregon planned for July of this year, but we have postponed it.  Not completely sure what this summer will include after all.  However, I'm going to be reading (of course) and walking (naturally) and getting with friends and family a bit either virtually or actually in person (sensibly).

I have taken some 'new' steps in the last couple of weeks.  I've gone back to the rec center to walk on the indoor track.  It's quite warm outside and very, very muggy most days.  The rec center has opened with lots of new rules and a reservation system.  It's working well from what I can see.  I went back to a local library to renew my card and spent a little time selecting a few books in print.  I don't check out all that many actual print books (usually I do e-books), but I prefer them for graphic novels and sometimes this smaller library will have a popular book on the shelf when the Austin Public Library has a huge hold list for the e-book.  The library had rules (of course), but was very quiet and hardly anyone was there.  I enjoyed a few minutes to just wander and look at the shelves.

We've had one family birthday party in a backyard (it was hot, but OK) and we spent a few minutes yesterday with some old friends chatting.  My husband was helping them with a ceiling fan issue and we enjoyed seeing them and their son and daughter-in-law.  We're hoping to get to have a meal with our daughter and son-in-law in the next couple of weeks.  She's feeling about ready to be with family for a bit, but has been very conservative with that because of her job at the hospital.  She's said it was for our protection, for her protection, and for her patients.

Our virtual mystery group meeting this last Wednesday evening went well.  We discussed Where The Crawdads Sing and it was good to see and hear everyone's thoughts on that book.  Most liked it very much and I think everyone was glad they read it.  As there is no indication when we might be able to meet in person again, we're planning on our July meeting being handled the same way.

I'm not sure how often I'll be posting in upcoming days.  I'm not going to take an 'official' break, but I may be a bit (or more than a bit) sporadic in my posts.  We'll see.  I do enjoy getting around and reading what all of you have shared.  Hope each of you has a good weekend and rest of June.  As our country, our world, our society struggles with so many issues right now, I hope that we all are being kind, thoughtful, and treating others with love and respect.  Take care...

Friday, May 29, 2020

And another week goes by...June is almost here!

Hello book friends!  I thought I would post this great chalk art picture because it kind of said 'June and summer!' to me.  I took this last fall at the Kerrville Chalk Festival, which I wrote about here.  I had such a good time at that festival and hope to get to attend again.  This year?  Who knows?  However, I'm certain that it will come around again when the time is right. 

I don't have much to tell other than to relate that another week has gone by.  You knew that, right?  Ha!  I did get my haircut last Saturday and it went very well.  Masks were worn by both of us.  She didn't even need to shampoo my hair as I had just done that.  She sprayed it with water, cut it short (very short at my request), did not blow it dry, we chatted a little, I paid and made an appointment for 4 weeks from now, and I went home.  It was lovely. 

Otherwise, I've been continuing my walking and yoga.  I've actually improved my 'time per mile' quite a bit.  Didn't really try to do that, but it's a nice benefit from walking every single day.  I'm usually pretty drenched in sweat by the time I get home, even on the cooler mornings.  I did notice that my rec center is open by appointment for use of the walking track and workout equipment.  It just became available this week.  I won't be going in quite yet, but I might consider it as summer advances.  What I can't conceive is walking/jogging with a mask on - I'll have to think about that.  Maybe early mornings outside would be OK even if they are muggy and warm.

Our mystery book group is going virtual for now or we'll be attempting to do that in upcoming days.  We're having a trial run this week to see how it goes and then will do a discussion of Where The Crawdads Sing the next week.  As the host, I'm a little nervous about it, but my husband will be around to help me if I need him.  Quite a few of the group have indicated that they will try to attend (we're doing invitation only).  I've attended the afternoon book group that I'm part of virtually and it went well.  It's not the same as sitting in a circle and sharing, but it's about the best we can do right now.  Who knows when libraries will be allowing meetings again? 

Hope everyone is doing well and has a good weekend.  Take care!   

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

One last post with what blooms in spring around our house...because summer is on the way

Hey book friends!  Hope all of you are well and enjoying a nice spring - it is spring most everywhere isn't it?  Here in Central Texas, we are winding down the 'spring' stuff.  Summer is right around the corner and heat and humidity are making my early morning walks not quite as comfortable as they were.  It was 97 yesterday afternoon and, though the temps will be trending down for a few days, those upper '90's will be more usual now.  Memorial Day weekend is typically a hot one in our area and often a very stormy holiday time as well.  We've had massive flooding in some years and tornadoes and other weather things that occur when a bit of cooler air bumps up against hot and humid air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico.  Crash, boom - can you say thunderstorm?  We'll see how this year plays out.  Storms are possible.  In any case, I hope everyone will have a nice weekend.

What have I been doing differently?  Not much - ha!  I did go to the dentist this morning for a regular cleaning of my teeth.  The appointment was routine, but the steps that had to be followed at the dental office were multiple - but necessary.  Happily, all was well with my teeth and, though the hygienist used more 'old-fashioned' methods of cleaning, she was well protected and I felt very safe.  They were definitely taking hygiene seriously.  Maybe things will be a little more 'normal' when I go back in December.

I also have a hair appointment!  Wahoo!!  Now, I want to assure everyone that my hair stylist will also be taking things seriously and doing everything as carefully as she can.  She's also in a 'one-woman' shop.  Have you seen those places where hair stylists and other personal care workers can rent an individual salon?  That's what mine does.  I am her first appointment on Saturday and there are lots of rules, including wearing a mask and not blow-drying my hair.  It's so short that it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cut.  I won't be in there long and then she'll sanitize everything for her next client.  I'm going to tell her to whack it off very short, just in case the next time I can get in is longer than 4 weeks away.

Otherwise, life is about like normal or what has become normal.  I'll leave you with a few pictures of the spring 'colors' that are in my yard.  Many of them don't last all that long, so we have to enjoy them before they are gone.  And, no, I am not a gardener at all.  I have no idea what the names of the plants are, except the cactus.  Take care and maybe the next time I post, I might even talk a little about books!  What an idea!  Ha!


Thursday, May 14, 2020

A nice Mother's Day and a discussion of what societal behaviors might be different in the future...

Hello book friends!  In case you don't know, I do appreciate the updates and book reviews and pictures and memes and conversations that you all share each week.  I might not comment on everything, but I do enjoy hearing about life in other spots. 

I had a nice Mother's Day.  Got to talk with our daughter as she was on her way to work.  She used to do that all the time when she was in nursing school years ago and she's started calling to chat during that time period lately.  We've enjoyed it and I think she has too.  She and I discussed that we would have a nice lunch together one day.  I did open the door to find a big box that contained these flowers on my front porch a couple of days before Mother's Day.  So lovely and the colors were just so vivid and cheerful.  I think perhaps my son-in-law's mother probably found a similar gift as well.

My husband bought his mother an unusual gift and placed it on her front porch, while talking to her from way out in their yard - two big bags of nuts.  Ha!  She had told us that they were hard for her to find and a bit expensive, so he ordered her a bunch.  She won't need to get more for quite a while.  An unusual Mother's Day, but it was just fine. 


I've been trying to stay away from all the 'news' except for an early morning check-in.  Still, some strange stories and behaviors from people.  Today I saw an article that wondered whether 'buffets' at restaurants would be a thing of the past.  It started me thinking about things that have changed a bit and being curious about what might become the new 'normal' after this time (if there ever is an 'after this time').  Here's are some things I suspect will stick around:

1.  Many people, especially older people, have learned that certain aspects of technology are not as user-unfriendly as they thought.  They have taken the step to get apps and learn how to video chat and order much more from online sellers.

2.  Taking the leap into grocery delivery or curbside and learning the ins and outs of that.  I know that many have had substitutions and items that weren't available, etc., but our local big grocery, HEB, has been doing the delivery/curbside for almost 3 years.  I used the curbside when my husband had surgery a couple of years ago.  My account can be set to accept substitutions or reject them and other tweaks as well.  I imagine that many people will continue with grocery delivery/curbside, at least part of the time.

3.  Many restaurants are finding that they are able to manage take-out, even if they are an upscale steakhouse or seafood place or if they hadn't done it much in the past.  Many are adding a way to order online and also order for pickup/delivery at a later time in the day.  Paying online is becoming the norm.  I do wish that all of these would have a way to tip as well.  In these days, I'm a generous tipper. 

4.  The online and video chat thing is also transitioning to many other service providers and I bet that will stick around.  I also think many people are more likely to try e-books, videos online, audiobooks, etc.  And people have learned that you can order almost any product online.


As to what might not be as common in the future:

1.  Cruises - for me, I've never wanted to take a cruise and I don't see that changing.

2.  Buffet restaurants - those have been dwindling in recent years and I'll admit that I was never a big fan and won't want them in the future.  Remember the 'sneeze-guard' on salad bars.  Ick!

3.  Only working in an office or rather resistance by companies to have an option for people to work from home if their job involves sitting at a desk most of the time.  Same goes for schools, both K-12 and certainly at the college level.

4.  Shaking hands routinely or even giving hugs all the time.  Smiling and waving is the new hug! 

That might be all I can think of right now.  What do you imagine will be different or stay the same or never appear again?  I'm curious.  Hope you all have a good weekend!  We're supposed to get a bunch of rain - we need it, but....sigh.  Inside again.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Let's talk about early 20th century cooking and Donis Casey's Alafair Tucker mystery series...another 're-run'

Hello book friends!  Hope you are all well.  I'm doing another 're-run' of a post I wrote a long time ago.  Peach season will be coming in our area in a few weeks and so it got me thinking about peach ice cream.  Enjoy!


I've mentioned before how much I like Donis Casey's mystery series that is set in early 20th century Oklahoma.  It tells of Alafair Tucker, her husband, Shaw, and their 10 children and extended family.  Alafair is a busy, busy mother, but she also is an inquisitive soul and has a tendency to run across situations that include bodies - dead bodies.

This author has put a lot of wonderful historical detail in these books and includes descriptions of both the setting and culture of the time.  Oklahoma of the early 1900's was an interesting place - to me anyway.  My mother's family was from that part of the world and I spent quite a lot of time in my childhood on summer visits to my great-grandparents' home.  My grandmother and her sisters would gather and they and my great-grandfather would talk about 'old times'.  I was a little mouse in the corner, always with a book, quietly reading and listening.  So, I remember quite a lot about the things that they talked about and the stories they related.

As I read this mystery series, the setting is vivid and the descriptions of life, including what they ate and how they tended to chores is reminiscent of my grandmother's tales.  Donis Casey includes recipes at the end of each book, as well as 'how-to's' on some chores.  In the first book, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, the recipes include Josie's Peach Cobbler, Buttermilk Biscuits, Alafair's Meatloaf, and Pecan Pie.  There is also a description of 'The Drippings Jar' and how to make coffee.  The author reminds the reader to 'Be Forewarned:  These are not health foods.'  Ha!  Well, the people at that time worked awfully hard physically in their daily lives, and so I don't think they needed a Fitbit or Apple Watch to measure their steps or efforts.  I'm going to share how Alafair made coffee (I've already told all of you how much I love coffee).  And I'll tell you up front, I'm not changing over to this method - ever!

How To Make Coffee
      Alafair made coffee by putting 1/4 cup of ground coffee in the bottom of a tin coffee pot, filling the pot with water, and boiling it furiously for ten or fifteen minutes.  She knew the coffee was ready when a spoon stood up in the cup.  Coffee was usually drunk with two or three spoonfuls of sugar.  Cream was a matter of taste.  After drinking a cup of Alafair's coffee, one could go out and happily plow the south forty.  Sometimes one didn't even need a horse!

Honestly, my paternal grandmother made coffee just like that.  It was what she called 'stout' coffee.  And she would give me a tiny bit, with a lot of milk.

In the third book, The Drop Edge Of Yonder, we are treated to recipes for Fried Okra, Piccalilli (a sort of relish made with green tomatoes, onions and spices that my grandmother called Chow Chow), and Chicken and Dumplings.  We also learn how to iron a shirt.  Best of all, a recipe for Peach Ice Cream.  Here it is:

Peach Ice Cream

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups heavy cream

Puree four or five peaches, which Alafair would have made by mashing the flesh of the fruit through a sieve with the back of a large wooden spoon.  Sweeten the peaches with another 1/2 cup sugar if desired.

Mix sugar, salt, milk, and egg yolks in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until bubbles begin to appear around the edge of the pan.  Cool to room temperature.  Stir in the cream, vanilla, and peach puree.

Pour the ice cream mixture into the freezer can.  Fill the can only two-thirds full, to allow for expansion as the ice cream freezes.  Fit the can into the bucket, insert the dasher and put the lid on the can, then attach the crank.

Fill the freezer tub one-third full of ice, then alternate the rock salt and remaining ice, filling the bucket to the top of the can.  Use about four parts ice to one part salt.  Turn the dasher slowly until the ice partially melts and makes a brine.  Then crank rapidly until it's hard to turn the dasher.  How long this will take depends on the weather.  If you're lucky, the ice cream will set in ten minutes or so.  Or it may take half an hour.  Or it may not want to set properly at all.  It's all very mysterious.

So, do you have any memories of hand cranked ice cream?  My parents, my father in particular, loved homemade peach ice cream and we had it often.  By my time though, the freezer was an electric one.

If you're looking for a fun mystery series, pick up one of these and take yourself back a hundred years.  A fun summer pursuit that would only be improved by a dish of homemade peach ice cream!