Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bandit Thursday...Who The Heck....



Who the heck is this white dog...
on my bed and on my Bandit Thursday??

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...Orient Point, NY

 



 



...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A review of "Blue Lightning" [72]

Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312384357
368 pages, September 28, 2010



The final book in the Shetland Quartet starts with our old friend, police Detective Jimmy Perez, taking his fiancee, the artist Fran, to his home on Fair Isle to meet his parents. No sooner have they arrived than the island is cut off, a not unusual occurrence, by a vicious fall storm. With the small planes unable to fly and the sea too rough for the mail boat to make the crossing to the Shetlands, no one can arrive or leave, perhaps for days. Day and night the rain and hale pelts down, the wind rages, enough to almost drive you mad...or to drive you to violence.

Jimmy parents have arranged a party for the couple, to celebrate their engagement and introduce Fran to the islanders. The party is held at the island's lighthouse, whose buildings have been repurposed as the renowned Fair Isle bird observatory. But after the party guests have left, the doors locked for the night, with only the small staff and a handful of visiting birders inside, a terrible murder takes place, the body bizarrely decorated with a crown of bird feathers. And of course, while Jimmy is on vacation, as the only law enforcement on hand and no chance of any help arriving, it falls upon his shoulders to attempt to solve the crime alone. When a second murder occurs and some of the evidence is pointing just a bit too close to home, the suspense ratchets up even more until the book races to a conclusion that is both totally satisfying and completely shocking.

If you have read my reviews of the previous three books in the series, Raven Black, White Nights and Red Bones, you will know what a fan I am of Ms. Cleeves' books. So while I totally enjoyed this book and sincerely recommend the entire series to you, it is with a degree of sadness that I read it because as I turned the last page...the last shocking pages...I knew a very good and enjoyable thing was over. Do I gush too much? Well, I have reason, so get over it.

What makes these books so good? Well, in just the way that some of the mysteries I have read recently have fallen short, this book and the others in the series succeed.
First of all, there is the author's ability to capture the setting, whether the Shetlands or, in this case, Fair Isle, so well and yet so seeming effortlessly. I have never been there and let I feel in a way that I have...and want to return. Yes, it is the sort of setting I love, cliffs and lighthouse and crashing waves but what I love the most is how well she captures the sense of the place. Of course, as I found from her web site, she speaks from actually experience.
"While she was cooking in the Bird Observatory on Fair Isle, she met her husband Tim, a visiting ornithologist. She was attracted less by the ornithology than the bottle of malt whisky she saw in his rucksack when she showed him his room. Soon after they married, Tim was appointed as warden of Hilbre, a tiny tidal island nature reserve in the Dee Estuary. They were the only residents, there was no mains electricity or water and access to the mainland was at low tide across the shore. If a person's not heavily into birds - and Ann isn't - there's not much to do on Hilbre and that was when she started writing."
Lucky for us, her fans.

Then there are the characters. It is not just the major characters that we have meet through the four books, Jimmy and his co-workers, Fran and her daughter, that are so well written that we feel we know them, it is every minor character as well. And once again, it is so skillfully done that we never see it happening. And of course, there is an excellent story, just a darn good mystery. This is a classic 'locked room' mystery. There are only a limited number of suspects...and I still did not figure it out. When it is explained, all the facts were there, all the little clues artfully weaved in, totally fair, and I had not figured it out...and I loved it. And finally, as is befitting of a series finale, there is a totally surprising and shocking ending that will leave fans...well...shocked. Shocked and surprised and sad and happy and entertained..and what more can you want from a book?

A warning...please DO NOT start with this book. No, my dear reader, for maximum enjoyment, start at the beginning and know that you will have three more very enjoyable books ahead of you to read, you lucky devils.



My very sincere thanks to Ann Cleeves for sending to me a lovely signed copy of the British edition of Blue Lightning, the one with a lighthouse on the cover. Unlike the American edition, released today, that for some senseless reason does not have a lighthouse on the cover. I think she took pity on me and my slight obsession and for that I am thankful.
But please, don't let that stop you! Once you turn to the first page it will make no difference.
But I still love my lighthouse.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Musing Monday...Share and Share Alike

This weeks Musing Monday question, from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading asks about book group suggestion. Gosh, I wish I had a real life book group...

If your book group asked you to bring two (2) suggestions for group reads to your next meeting, what two books would you suggest? Why?

Oh my, this is another one of those pick your favorite child questions, isn't it. A new book or an old...something on the N.Y. Times bestseller list or a classic?
The first book that came to mind was a classic, a book I love and really should find time to re-read, 'Death Comes for the Archbishop' by Willa Cather. In case you are not familiar with it, it is a book written in 1927, about a Catholic bishop traveling from Ohio to try and establish a diocese in the New Mexico territory and it is a great story with a wonderful cast of characters that he interacts with. It's a great personal story, a great story about the history of the west, a story about faith and friendship and a really good read. But what I really remember about the book is Cather's breathtaking descriptions of New Mexico. I have never been there, but because of this book, I want to get there someday. What can I say, I am a proponent for this book and if you have never read it, I think you should.

But if we are looking to something a bit more modern, two books that I read recently come to mind. For an excellent thriller, with a good story, good characters and a mind blowing twist at the end, I would go with Still Missing by Chevy Stevens. A good thriller but with enough depth to make for some good discussions. And what can I say, I love a good thriller.

And lastly, I will pick a book of local interest, Bayshore Summer: Finding Eden in a Most Unlikely Place by Peter Dunne. Yes, I will admit it, I try to make people, both those that live here and those from afar, more aware of some of the great things about NJ. This book, that shares some of the beauty and wildness that still exists in Cumberland County, along the Delaware Bay, is a book that does that. I must say, I am not sure I really want too many of my fellow NJites visiting there...that would sort of spoil the whole effect...but I like them too know it is there.

So there are three suggestions, a classic everyone should read and two present day books that should be getting more exposure and shared with anyone that wants a good read and a good discussion.



Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday, September 25, 2010

A review of "The Price of Life" [71]

The Price of Life by Greg McCarthy
Otherworld Publishing, ISBN 978-0982649442
July 1, 2010, 266 pages



Eight year old Jennifer Haller is dying of a brain tumor...and it didn't have to happen. If the neurologist her mother had taken her to for the headaches had ordered a CT scan, and the tumor had been diagnosed months ago, she would not be dying. If their insurance company had paid for the experimental laser surgery that was her only hope, she would not be dying. But neither had happen and so she will die.

Jennifer's father is a Marine, just returned from war with a terrible injury that cost him a leg. Her mother is overcome with grief, barely able to cope with day to day life since their daughter's death. Her parents want someone to pay, someone to acknowledge the mistakes and decisions that caused their daughter to die and so they decide to sue for malpractice and hire Fort Worth lawyer Grant Mercer to take their case. He wants them to understand that the case will not be easy and that even if they win, the award will be limited due to recent tort reform regarding malpractice cases passed in the legislature. But they say the money is of no consequence, they just want some sort of justice for their daughter.

A lobbyist is killed, then a Texan state senator, both tied to the recent tort reform legislation. When a third man, an insurance executive, is killed, Mercer thinks there may be ties to his case and it seems someone may be trying to exact their own form of justice.

When I read what this book was about, I thought it was a good idea that had the makings of a good story. Sadly for me, it was a good idea unrealized.

What was the problem? Well, I think it is imperative in a story like this that you identify with the characters, that you feel their pain if you will, and that is very difficult in this book. The lawyer is perhaps the most sympathetic, but we never really get to know him or the grieving parents well enough to care a great deal. Not enough to really feel for them. Yes, a dead daughter is a terrible thing...in an abstract way. The murder victims are nothing more than evil caricatures. Very wealthy men, drinking their single malt scotch, driving their very expensive cars and drying their hands on Egyptian cotton towels. Should we really care that they died...why?

Then there are the speeches. Yes, I get it...insurances companies are evil, lobbyists are evil, politicians are evil. The government lied to the soldiers they send to war, didn't care for them properly when they returned, psychically or mentally. I have said it before but I will repeat it. I have no problem with an author presenting a certain point of view, even if I might not agree. I do resent being hit over the head with it...again and again. Make a case, but don't lecture me. Subtly, not speeches.

And then finally, there is the fact that the murderer is quite obvious, even with the slight curve the author throws in at the end. A good mystery needs some misdirection, some red herrings and quite honestly, the suspect pool is so small, there is little surprise.
I finished the book, curious to see if I was right about the outcome, and not surprisingly, I was. And that was not really a satisfying thing.



My thanks to Jocelyn M. Kelley of Kelley & Hall for an ARC of this book.



Weekend Cooking- Roll that Lobster! Right This Way...

one....
I love lobster. I love the texture, I love the delicate flavor, I even love the 'work' of eating it. I start with the little feelers, any little bits and pieces, then eat one of the claws, half the tail meat, the other claw and finish with the remaining tail meat. All you need is some melted butter and a pile of napkins.

When a whole lobster is not available, the next best thing is a lobster roll. I have had awful ones and I have had great ones and the one I had in Nantucket recently was right up there with the best.
What makes a great lobster roll? Well, lobster and a roll. Keep it simple.
The lobster should be fresh and tender, not overcooked. A little bit of mayo, maybe a squeeze of lemon, a tiny bit of finely chopped celery for crunch. The roll should be a New England style top-split hot dog roll, buttered and toasted. Add lobster to roll...done.

two....

three!




This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...Mystic, CT

Sunrise...



Sunset


...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a review of "Cold Pursuit" [70]

Cold Pursuit by Carla Neggers
(Mira Books, ISBN 978-0-7783-2553-6)

Secret Service agent Jo Harper is back home in the mountains of Black Falls, Vermont on administrative leave after an embarrassing incident involving her protection of the Vice Presidents family. When she finds that she is not the only one who is home recovering, she is not thrilled. Her high school love, Elijah Cameron is back as well, recovering in his case from being critically wounded in Afghanistan. But while they dance around each other, more pressing issues arise that they may need to fight together.

In Washington D.C, a prominent ambassador is killed in what appears at first to be a traffic accident but shortly appears something more sinister. When his daughter, who is staying in Black Falls disappears Jo suspect foul play may be going on, and there is no one more suited to search Cameron Mountain and try to find what has happen to the girl.

“Nobody reads a mystery to get to the middle. They read it to get to the end. If it’s a letdown, they won’t buy anymore. The first page sells that book. The last page sells your next book.”~Mickey Spillane
I recently read this quote at Semicolon's 'Saturday Review of Books' and for me that sums up my final thought on this book. The ending...well, it did more than leave you hanging. That I could forgive, even as a setup for a sequel. As the book progressed, so many things did not seem to make sense, but I had hope that somehow it was all going to be brought together, somehow all my many, many questions would be answered. But this ending just answered nothing. So many things left unexplained, so many loose threads. So dissatisfying...


My thanks to Mira Press for a copy of this book.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Musing Monday...Stupid Is As Stupid Does.

Let's check out this week's Musing Monday question from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading

This week’s musing asks…
What makes you love / hate a character in a book?


I don't want to sound all superior here...but I hate, hate, hate stupid characters. Now, what makes a character stupid is a subjective thing I guess...but it's like that Supreme Court judge said about porn. I know it when I see it.

I can forgive a lot else in a character.
After all, no one is perfect.
They can be snobs, they can be weak or strong, they can be decidedly odd. They can be male or female, they can be someone whose life I could relate to or someone whose life is totally out of my experience. In fact, that can be all the more interesting and I can certainly 'forgive' it in a character. It might be better if they are not all whiny and 'nice' is easier to deal with than 'not nice' but that is not a deal breaker.

But when they do stupid things, stupid to the point that I am yelling at them as I read the book, I may just give up and not finish it.

What I love in a character? Well, that they be smart! lol


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sammy Sunday

I know how much you all Bandit Tuesday, really I do. And we all know how cute wee Bandit is. Could any other dog be half as cute? Well, meet Sammy!
When Bandit went back to college with the niece, the poor bro and sil were missing that doggie presence, even with weekend Bandit visits. So they went in search of a little doggie that might need a good home. And they found Sammy.

Sammy is a mix of something..several things maybe. Who knows. Some poodle certainly, as you can tell from all his tiny little white curls and no doubt other things. The vet says he is several years old but we can't be sure exactly how many. The poor fella was found far away, in Mississippi, as a stray and was lucky enough to find his way to a pet adoption agency in Pennsylvania where he won the doggie lottery and has found on an online search and was adopted.

He is housebroken, so he lived in a house at home point, hopefully was loved and cared for before things turned for the worse. But that is all in the past.
Now he will be loved and cared for. Have good healthy food and a comfy bed, walks to check out what is going on around the block, a grassy yard to lie on and wee Bandit to annoy him when he visits...lol

He has been to the vet...which he did not enjoy.
Tuesday, he is going for a grooming...which I doubt he will enjoy either. Lucky Auntie Caite gets to take him!
He loves to jump up and down and loves to watch doggies and kitties on TV. He does love hugs and kisses, both to receive and give and he loves to sleep real close to his new 'people'.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekend Cooking...Can You Have Too Much Bacon?


Yes, peanut brittle, flavored with bacon.
Interesting.
But actually rather tasty.


You may have noticed...or not...that I was missing the last week.
I took a rather last minute, unplanned trip, and bad blogger that I am, I left my wee blog unprepared. No posts scheduled except my Wordless Wednesday. Worse, I read nothing while I was gone. Took a book...never opened it. Bought a few books...because you know I am in desperate need of more books...lol
But found very nice bookstores.
I was out in Eastern Long Island, a quick trip through the Hamptons on the way to Montauk Point Lighthouse, then up to the north point of LI the next day, took the ferry to New London, drove to Cape Cod and ferried over for several days on Nantucket. Not much in the way of good food for me..that is another story...but some great pictures in the coming weeks...and weeks..of Wordless Wednesdays.
And some great lighthouses!
Ok, this had little to do with food, except that snack with bacon. But...I was away!



This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wordless Wednesday- Bridges






 









...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Musing Monday...Watch out Kitty!!

Let's find out what this week's Musing Monday question is, from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading
This week’s musing asks…
Where do you buy / get most of your books?

It has been awhile since I have mentioned the Towering To Be Read Pile, hasn't it.
My imaginary kitty, Kitty, cowering in the corner from fear it will fall.
I need no books.
I have enough right now, to last me at the rate I read, several years. 
But...it has only gotten worse since last we spoke of this matter. Because new books still come in and very few leave. I read a review of a delightful sounding book and I am weak and soon looking for a copy. 
Most, unless it is a very new release, I try to buy used from Amazon Marketplace or whatever it is called. $5 with shipping. But I have tried to help the situation in recent months fro using the library when at all possible. If they have a copy, that is my first go-to source these days.

It used to upset me that they wanted the books back.
These days I am happy to send it back.

I figure if it is wonderful and something I really, really want, then I could buy it.
Of course, sometimes I happen upon a book somewhere that I just can't pass up...

Have to go now...I have a ferry to catch!!



Saturday, September 11, 2010

9-11-2001

 Photo by Derek Jensen (Tysto), 2004-September-11

Nine years. It is hard to believe it has been nine years since a few men, motivated by a crazed ideology, took the lives of over 3000 people in New York City, Washington D.C and a farm field in Pennsylvania. I am sure most of you who live in the US will remember that day, what you were doing when you heard about the planes crashing, when you began to realize serious it was, how many were dead. And I am sure you have seen the lists of the names of those killed, an almost endless list.
So many people dead, but no one I knew. Or so I thought at first.

Maybe a week or two after the 11th, I happened upon a website of the small North Jersey high school I went to. Maybe 800 students in total, less than 200 in my graduating class. It was a school where everyone knew everyone else..and on that schools web site I found out that one of those many, many killed at the World Trade Center was one of our teachers, Susan Murry.

Of course, many of us remembered her before, when she was Miss Susan Dominick, before she met and married another teacher, Mr. Murray. It was an event that moved the romantic heart of many of my fellow students. Did I mention it was an all girls school? If I remember right, she left the school before my class graduated in 1978 and I had no idea what happened to her after that. Seems she stayed in North Jersey and at some point went to work at the firm of Marsh & McLennan, and was at the building, where the company had their headquarters, that morning with a co-worker for a meeting.

About the company, from Wikipedia...
..."Prior to the September 11 Attacks, the corporation held offices on 8 floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, between floors 93 and 100. When American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the building as part of the attacks, their offices composed the entire impact zone, which was between floors 93 and 99. No one present in the offices at the time survived the attack and the firm lost 295 employees and 60 consultants."
To sort of flip the words of Stalina million deaths is a statistic, a single death is a tragedy.
As horrible as it was before, actually knowing someone who was there, who died, was worse. To put a face on the senseless murder made it so much more real.
I could remember what she looked like all those years ago, young, seemingly always smiling, happy.
The weird part was it I realized the other day that nine years ago, when she was killed, she was 54.
I am 54 now..so when she was our teacher, she was only 9 years older than we were.

I certainly didn't know her well, just for that brief time, many years ago. I didn't suffer a terrible loss as tens of thousands did.  But she touched my life, and the life of many no doubt, as did every one of those thousands that were killed that terrible day. Mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, friends and co-workers. And teachers. 







Susan D. Murray, age 54

Place killed: World Trade Center.

Resident of Summit, N.J. (USA).

Marsh & McLennan Cos. employee.

Maiden name: Dominick

Friday, September 10, 2010

a review of "I'd Know You Anywhere" [69]

I'd Know You Anywhere: A Novel by Laura Lippman
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061706554
August 17, 2010, 384 pages



"Of course, you are older, a woman now. You’ve been a woman for a while, obviously. Still, I’d know you anywhere.” 


When Eliza Bennett opens a letter sent to her home and reads those words, her blood runs cold and her hands shake. Because the man that wrote them is from a different time in her life. A time when she was known as Elizabeth, a time when living a life not filled with fear ended. A time she calls, to the few in her world that know about it, "the summer she was fifteen."
The summer she was kidnapped, raped and held by a serial killer for 39 days.

That man's name is Walter Bowman and he is in prison, on Death Row awaiting his long delayed execution for the murder of another girl, one of an unknown number of young teenage girls he killed. He would see them walking down the road as he drove around on his days off from working in his father's garage. He liked them very young, teenagers, tall and "well developed" with blond hair. He would offer them a ride in his truck and it would be the last ride they ever took. But Elizabeth was different.

He did not choose her but rather, in a way, she choose him, stumbling upon him in the woods as he was burying the body of one of his victims. He took her prisoner, telling her over and over how he will go back and kill her entire family if she does not do as she is told, and she is so afraid that she does not try to escape. There are some, including the mother of the last murdered girl, that believe she was an accomplice rather than a victim. It was her testimony that convicted him, but he suggests that her memory may not be totally reliable..and she fear that he might be correct. She knows that with these communications, this letter and the letters that follow, he is trying to use her, to manipulate her...but she has to find out the truth.

These stand alone books of Ms. Lippman are often not traditional mysteries or even suspense novels. Rather their emphasis is on the psychology of the people involved and this book excels at that. Eliza has made a life for herself with a very good marriage, supportive parents and two typical, not perfect children. But deep down she is damaged. She never sleeps with the windows opened, she has nightmares populated with the ghosts of the dead girls and has wondered all these years, filled with guilt, why she was the one allowed to live. 
Walter is a cold blooded killer and the glimpses into his mind, so banal, are rather chilling while the anger of the dead girls mother is anything but cold. Running through the book is a discussion of the death penalty, which is chasing Walter down, from the different characters very different points of view, but happily in such a way that we never feel the author forcing her own opinion.

This is a good novel that fans of Lippman previous books and fans of  psychological thriller will certainly enjoy. Lippman is an excellent writer and the structure of the book, on the one hand telling the present day story in a straight chronological way, then interspersing flashbacks to that fateful summer, works very well. From that letter at the beginning, through the book, as the contact with Walter escalates, the sense of terror and dread builds, finally concluding in a satisfying ending that happily answers all our questions.


My thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers for my copy of this book

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bandit Thursday...Bandit Goes Swimming

Dear little Bandit is of mixed heritage. We think part poodle (the black fur, webbed toes) and part Bichon Frise (the white patches, upturned tail with straight hair). But who knows...either way both breeds are known to be good swimmers. But Bandit had never had the chance!


My brother, sister in law and I took him to the beach on Labor Day. Near us is a beach where doggies are allowed, to run and play in the water...and SWIM. Oddly enough it is called Dog Beach. They had taken him the week before, placed him in the water, hoping he would not sink, which, happily he did not. Instead, off he doggie paddled.
This time, he was a swimming fool.
Not quite Lab type swimming fool, but pretty darn good.
And he actually seemed to like it.
And I was there to capture a moment of it.




Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday...A Lesson











...as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.


a review of "What Alice Knew" [68]

 What Alice Knew: A Most Curious Tale of Henry James and Jack the Ripper
By Paula Marantz Cohen
Sourcebooks Landmark, ISBN 978-1402243554
September 7, 2010, 352 pages


The London of 1888 was an often brutal, violent place, but even still, the city was shocked by the terrible serial killer that appeared to be stalking their city..
"the cruel and repulsive Whitechapel murders, the devilish work of a creature...who calls himself Jack the Ripper."
The police have had no shortage of suspects, some following bizarre theories, but none has panned out, and now, a bit desperate for a solution, they take an unusual move and request the assistance of William James, an expert in the new science of psychology. At the time a professor at Harvard, he arrives in London to consult, but he is hardly without his own helpers there. London is the home of his brother, the author Henry James and their sister, the professional invalid..and essayist, Alice. Each will bring their own strengths to the investigation and will uncover some facts and ideas missed by the police. As Alice says,
""It occurred to me, as I read William's letter, that the solution to these horrific crimes requires the three of us. 'Tri-ocular vision' as I would call it" She paused, as if working out an equation. "Henry, to observe the social world where I sense the murderer lurks and to plumb his friends and acquaintances for gossip. William, to study the physical evidence through his contact with the police and to supply psychological analysis where needed."
"And you?" William ashed in amused wonder. "What will you do?"
"Me?" She leveled her intelligent gaze at her brothers. I will review what you
gather...and solve the case."
But in the process, will they be placing their own lives in danger from the Ripper?

The premise of the book is interesting and the appearance of any number of famous historical figures, all part of the social circle of the James siblings, is quite entertaining. From Oscar Wilde, Samuel Clemens and John Singer Sargent to one of the police detectives that was actually involved in the investigation, Inspector Abberline, any number of characters cross the pages. Our visits to a number of interesting landmarks of Victorian England, from the lavish dining rooms of the rich and famous to the horrible slums where the murder were taking place to the Broadmoor Asylum for the Criminally Insane, was perhaps one of my favorite part of the book, so very well portrayed by the author.  And the line of investigation the James siblings pursue is also interesting and believable and is, in fact, one others have followed.

On the more negative side, one problem I had with the book is that the lead character, William James, is not the most likable person. In his relationship with his siblings he is often a bit of a bully, and if you follow his ideas in the book, he is often following the wrong track, corrected by yes, What Alice Knew. Yes, maybe that is the point of the book, but still, when William was attacked...well, I would not have been too sad to see him as another victim of the Ripper. Gosh, is that a bit harsh? For that matter, the other two James siblings are not the most sympathetic characters either, so it was a bit hard to fins someone to pull for while reading the book.

The story gets off to a great start, slows quite a bit in the middle where we become a bit too involves in William's personal issues, and then races on to a surprising satisfactory conclusion. Surprising because, of course, the real identity of the Ripper was never found out for certain. Nevertheless, I think the author came up with a reasonable..and interesting...solution. Maybe not one experts on the subject will except..but interesting.

If you enjoy books about Jack the Ripper, books that explore Victorian London or just a good mystery, especially one populated with a number of real historical figures, this is a book you will want to check out.



For some additional reviews, check out...
Rundpinne
Book Girl of Mur-y Castell
Devourer of Books




My Thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for an ARC of this book.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Musing Monday...One More Minute Mr. Grim Reaper, I have to Finish This Chapter!

This week's question, as always from the mind of MizB at Should Be Reading. I used the B&W Musing Monday picture rather than the pretty green, happy one because folks, this is a bit of a serious question...

This week’s musing is about what’s most important to you!
I recently read this book called “One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life” by Kerry & Chris Shook. And, the book really made me think… It basically inspired today’s MM question:

If you knew you only had 30 days left to live, would books and reading still hold such a great priority in your life? Or, would you set aside your reading to do something else, spend more of your time elsewhere? What would you do, instead?

Oh my, such a  thoughtful question for a beautiful holiday weekend!
What would I do? Well, as I started to write this, the TV is on and that commercial from GE, with the head of GE and some other very rich, very successful guy are playing with radio controlled airplanes and he says something to the effect that if you are not having fun, you are in the wrong job.
So needless to say, I would not be going to work.
Not sure that I would quit..I might need my medical insurance.
I just would not show up. I figure it would take them more than a month to find me.

Oh sure, I know you are all going to say the whole spending more time with those near and dear to us. But really, is that all you are going to do? Make a pest of yourself, hanging around them 24/7/...30? Do they know you are going to die? They might kill you before the 30 days are up otherwise.
I speak only for myself of course.

Well, I for one would be on a plane ASAP to see a few places I have always wanted to see.
Just because.
The Grand Canyon for example..and I would go out on that glass shelf they built that sticks out over the canyon. If I didn't know I would die soon, I would be too scared to do it. I think a trip in a hot air balloon, maybe over beautiful Vermont would be on the list. Otherwise, I am too chicken.

Would I be reading? My first though was no! I would not have the time, I would not want to 'waste' the time. And while I certainly would cut back, without question, would I do not reading at all?? Really??
Now I am not so sure. I love to read, it is my great relaxing time waster hobby, and I might need a little relaxing with the Grim Reaper knocking at the door. And sort of to echo the GE man again, if it is not important to me now, for whatever reasons, should I be spending so much time doing it now?

Besides, I have a couple of series I want to finish!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Weekend Cooking...Magic Ice Cream!!

Ok, so maybe you read about the peach ice cream a couple of weeks ago. And you would love to make some ice cream, but you don't own an ice cream maker. Well, you can either go out and buy one...or you can make the Magic Easy Chocolate Ice Cream!
I saw a recipe for the vanilla in this weeks Cook's Illustrated newsletter and they mentioned that they had previously published a recipe for chocolate.
Did someone say CHOCOLATE??
I googled it, found the recipe on-line and gave it a try
.
It is very easy, quite quick and very tasty. Now, I will warn you if it starts to melt as you are eating it, it will begin to take on a more mousse consistency, which is not a bad thing, just a fact. It certainly didn't lessen my enjoyment...not one little bit. But frozen solid, it has a very smooth, ice cream like consistency and was very yummy. The only change I made to their recipe was to decrease the coffee from 1 tsp. to 1/2 tsp.

Easy Chocolate Ice Cream

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
1 tablespoon hot water
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch salt
1 1/4 cups cold whipping cream

In a small bowl, combine coffee powder and hot water. Let stand until coffee dissolves, about 5 minutes.
In a bowl, microwave chocolate, sweetened condensed milk, and the coffee mixture, stirring every 10 seconds, until chocolate is melted, approximately 1 minutes. Stir in vanilla extract and salt; let cool.
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whip cream to soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Whisk 1/4 of the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate mixture. Fold the remaining whipped cream into the chocolate mixture until incorporated.
 
Freeze in an airtight container until firm, at least 6 hours or up to 2 weeks.
NOTE: If you plan to store the ice cream for more than a few days, place plastic wrap directly on its surface before freezing.
Makes 1 quart ice cream

Cook's Country Test Kitchen Discoveries:
We used sweetened condensed milk in place of cream because it maintained its velvety texture in the freezer.
Instead of a double boiler, we kept things simple and used the microwave to melt the chocolate and combine the ingredients. For a fluffy, light texture similar to churned ice cream, we took a cue from the Italian dessert semifreddo and folded in whipped cream.
Bittersweet chocolate also worked well in maintaining the texture. To heighten chocolate flavor even more, we turned to instant coffee powder. The note of bitterness intensified the chocolate without making it taste like a cup of coffee. It also helped balance the sweetness of the condensed milk.
A pinch of salt and a little vanilla extract rounded out the flavors.

One other thing I wanted to offer. When you make this, you only use 1/2 of the can of sweetened condensed milk. So what to do with the rest? I would suggest...caramel sauce. Here is a simple way to make it, from the Eagle Brand's web site.

Homemade Caramel Sauce. 
HEAT oven to 425°F. Pour sweetened condensed milk into 9-inch pie plate. Cover with foil. Place pie plate in larger shallow pan. Fill larger pan with about 1/2-inch hot water to surround pie plate.
BAKE 1 hour or until thick and caramel-colored. Carefully remove from oven; remove pie plate from shallow pan. Whisk caramel until smooth. Cool 20 minutes before serving. Store any leftover caramel in refrigerator. Bring to room temperature or heat until warm to serve. 

That's it. Put the sweetened condensed milk in a container in a water bath in the oven...I hour later..caramel sauce.



This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


Friday, September 3, 2010

a review of "The Janus Stone" [67]

The Janus Stone: A Case for Investigator Ruth Galloway, Forensic ArchaeologistThe Janus Stone By Elly Griffiths
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN 978-0547237442
January 21, 2011, 336 pages



Some months ago I reviewed a book that I really enjoyed, The Crossing Places. It was the first mystery book by author Domenica de Rosa, writing under the name Elly Griffiths, and an excellent first step for her into the genre it was. I was certainly delighted to see that she had written a second book in the series, about to be published in Europe and Canada..not so happy to see it would not be published in the US until January 2011. But, in one of those happy book happenings, I was fortunate enough to get my hands, or at least my netbook, on an E-Book copy, and I enjoyed reading the book so much, I just had to share.
I really liked the first book...I loved this one!

The most excellent Dr. Ruth Galloway, an expert in forensic anthropology is back, as well as a number of the characters from the first book, but most especially her friend, DCI Harry Nelson. Once again there will be a murder from the past to investigate and a very present danger for some to avoid. Oh, Ruth is just a trouble magnet!

Archeologists doing some digging at the site of an impressive old manor house and former Catholic orphanage, being torn down to build condos, find the bones of a young girl. She is maybe 5 years old, buried under an archway on the site. Where she was buried, in a doorway, and the fact that her scull is missing, make them think at first that she might be an ancient Roman sacrifice to the god Janus, the god of comings and goings. But it is soon apparent that they are looking at bones that are only decades rather than centuries old and that represent secrets that some still alive today may be willing to kill to keep buried. Once again, Ruth will find herself at the very center of the mystery..and the danger.

And once again we will find ourselves in the wonderfully atmospheric setting of seaside Norwich, England, on the edge of the marshlands, so important in the first book, where Ruth lives in her tiny isolated cottage. Although the setting does not play the large role it did in the first book, it is still a great addition to the story. Several interesting, intersecting story lines, bits of great ancient mythology and archeological facts, family secrets, mysteries old and new and a few red herrings for good measure add to the delight of this fast paced, well written thriller. But perhaps what most sets this book a bit apart from many books in this genre is the excellent character of Ruth Galloway.

Ruth is maybe not your typical mystery heroine, being almost 40, single, overweight and decidedly not stylish. She is, however, smart and independent, an expert in her field, often quite funny and...very surprising...pregnant. Well, not a total surprise to her. She knows exactly when she got pregnant and she knows without question who the father is and she is well aware of the difficulties this may present. What is perhaps most surprising to her is the fact that while she never really desired to have children, now that she finds herself about to have a child, even at only a few months pregnant, she is totally in love with her child and will do anything to protect it's life...which may well be an issue. Because it seems that someone is out to do them both a great deal of harm.

I am very sorry that you can not run out and get a copy of this book right this minute.(well, as Kay pointed out in a comment, you can, in fact, order it, with free shipping from The Book Depository in the UK) But, put a little note in your brain, come January. And I will remind you then. In the meantime, you can indeed get your hands on a copy of the first book, The Crossing Places, and introduce yourself to these very good characters, a great setting and a very enjoyable mystery.


My thanks to netGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for a review copy of this book.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Bandit Thursday...Lazy Fetcher

video
Throw me the ball...throw me the ball..
OK, I am tired now. Let's have a beer!"