Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Green

This week another color...Green.

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

Monday, November 28, 2011

Musing Monday..Would a Moonie Like a Book for Christmas?

Monday, so we must be Musing..what is this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading?...

This week’s musing asks...
Will you be buying books for the holidays, this year? If so, for whom, and why?
  • Maybe.
  • I can't say.
  • Because books are wonderful.
Look, how can I answer this question?
I can't tell you what I am buying for Christmas!
I could lie and say "No, I won't be buying and books for anyone this year."
Or I could tell the truth and maybe let someone who reads this blog and may, hypothetically, be the possible recipient of a book or two, know.
And that would not be right!

So let's look at the past.
Yes, I have given books before but really, they are not an ideal gift in my opinion. How can I say that, being as I love books? Well, they are a very personal item and something that is very hard to buy for someone else. Will they like it, will they hate it? So hard to say.
And what if they have read it already? Unless you really, really know what someone else has read it is a danger. And no one needs two copies of the same book. I can tell you that from personal experience, except in my case, I have bought the duplicates myself. Sad, but true. If they own Legos and you buy them more Legos, that is fine. It they have a sweater and you get them another, no problem. But if you get them another copy of "The da Vinci Code" no one is going to be happy.

Which raises a plea. Everyone in America should use Library Thing! Then, if I wanted to buy you a book, I could just go one there, check out your library and see if you have it.
Really, I would appreciate it.
Just a suggestion.

As to why I would buy someone a book...do you really have to ask?
I love books, I love getting lost in a book and I can think of fewer things more fun to share with someone else than the love of reading. I would like to share it with strangers, let along people I know and like, but I find if you try to give a book to someone on the street they think you are a Moonie or something (ok, who out there remembers the Moonies and those cool group weddings?) and run away.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sammy Sunday..The Post Thanksgiving Edition

I think I ate too much....blurb...   

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Weekend Cooking...Sweetzels Spiced Wafers

How do you know when fall has arrived?

Well the days start to get colder and shorter and of course, the leaves start to change color and then drop to the ground But if you live in the Philadelphia area, one sure sign of the arrival of the autumn season is the appearance of the iconic Sweetzels Spiced Wafer boxes in your grocery stores. Made in the little town of Skippack, PA, "Spiced Wafers have been tasty harbingers of Fall in Southeast Pennsylvania for over 90 years. Made using real ginger, Lancaster County molasses, allspice, cloves, cinnamon. and other natural ingredients, these cookies are born to be dunked." Well we will come Back to that dunking part later, but I do like these cookies. The mini Creme version is new as a last year I belive, and while good, I am a purist and prefer the plain Spiced Wafer. Very crisp (unless you intentionally allow them to get stale and sopt) and rather spicy, they just shout fall. Can you hear them?

Yes, they are a gingersnap, but with an extra bit of snap and spice and although they are for sale in a bit wider area these days..and even on Amazon, of course...to me they also shout Philly. And we in south Jersey who are in the greater Philly metro area.
Cheesesteaks and Sweetzels make it almost worthwhile to be that close. :-)

OK, I went in search of a recipe including Sweetzels and came upon this one some time ago. So long ago that I can't remember where I got it or the picture from. And I must admit I have not made it yet but it looks and sounds delicious and so seasonal. And it is vegan! And of course for you folks with no Sweetzels, you can use any crisp gingersnap.

Pumpkin Streusel Cake
adapted from Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
makes 16 servings
This vegan streusel cake bakes up very moist. Skip the streusel top, if you'd like something more pumpkin bread-like. 


7 Sweetzels gingersnaps, broken into pieces
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Pulse gingersnaps in a food processor until a flour-like consistency.
Mix pulsed gingersnaps and brown sugar together in a bowl. Sprinkle with canola oil, and mix until combined. Add pecans and mix.

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup soy milk
3/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons light molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Grease a 9x13-inch baking pan, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, soy, milk, oil, sugar, molasses and vanilla.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking poser, salt, and spices.
Adding half of the flour mixture at a time to the pumpkin mixture, gently mix the ingredients by hand, avoiding over mixing.
Pour batter into the prepared baking pan. Top evenly with the streusel mixture.
Bake for 45-50 minutes until done, or a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Of course, you can follow my example and eat them straight from the box with an ice cold glass of milk. Dunking is optional, although I really not approve of the habit. I like the cookies crisp and I HATE crumbs in my milk.
But dunk or not, you better hurry up because before you know it winter will be here and the brief Sweetzel season will be over, the cookies disappearing for another year.

Hmmm...I bet they freeze well..

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, November 25, 2011

A Review of "Though Not Dead" [79]

Though Not Dead: A Kate Shugak Novel by Dana Stabenow
Minotaur Press, ISBN 0312559119
February 1, 2011, 464 pages

The death of Sam Dementieff will have a big effect on the residents of Alaska’s largest national park, both Native residents as well as the community as a whole. But none are more affected than his niece Kate Shugak. He was her uncle, but was actually more like a father to her after her parents died. He taught her much of what she know, about the natural world of Alaska as well as about how to deal with what life brings you, a lesson that has served Kate well, in her previous job as an investigator for the state and now in her life as a private investigator.

Since he had no children of his own, it come as no surprise that he leave Kate his belongings, his cabin, his books, along with a few instructions. What is surprising is the mystery he has left her to solve, including a note to “find his father”. It seems that it was not the man married to his mother, but a con man who befriended the tribe during the Flu Epidemic of 1918 and then made off with priceless artifacts, including a Russian icon that was said to have healing properties. But as Kate starts to look into matters, she soon finds that she is not the only one interested, and it appears that others will not even stop at murder to solve it.

I have read several of the books in this series before, and while I enjoyed them, this one may very well be my favorite. All the things I have loved before are back and then some. The Alaska setting is a big plus for me and Kate always gets to spend a lot of time out in it’s wildest reaches, which is fascinating. And if you have read any of the previous books, many of our favorite characters are back. Kate is great as usual, smart, yet headstrong enough to get her into some perilous situations. Her boyfriend Trooper Jim is back as well, although early in the story he must fly home to California to attend the funeral of his father and discover that his dad left him a mystery to solve as well, one his mother would very much like to remain a secret. But I must say that her canine pal Mutt, a 140 pound beast, half wolf, half husky, may be my favorite character and maybe one of the best doggie characters I have ever met. Brave, smart, strong, scary enough looking to keep strangers at a distance...what more can you want if the bad guys are chasing you?

But what sets this book up a notch from others in the series are the flashbacks to a variety of times in Alaska’s past from the flu epidemic, to the deadly battles in the Aleutian Island during WWII, to the beginning of statehood. This personal view into the history of Alaska was fascinating. All this will tie in one way or another to the mystery Sam’s has left but I doubt you will be able to figure all of it out because it is a complicated..and interesting..story.

OK, one small complaint…you know I had to have one..lol
I was happy to see that there was both a map and a family tree in the beginning of the book, because there are a lot of interrelated characters in this book. Sadly, a number of them were missing for some unknown reason from the tree and at time I was a little confused. OK, not that unusual, but not ideal. I am not sure if that is a family tree used in other books in the series…Kate’s family often plays a part in these books…but it needs a bit of work. Not a critical matter but a bit annoying.
And OK, maybe there was just one too many head injuries that never seem to keep Kate down. I would have been in a hospital for a week after the first.

But all in all, these are minor issues that did not affect my enjoyment of a very good book. If you are a fan of the series, this is a must read. If you have not read any before, while it might not be ideal to start this far along and you may appreciate it more if you have read some of the earlier books, I think it is totally doable as a standalone. There is enough explanation to allow you to figure things out and I am sure once you read this one you will want to go back and check out some of the others.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

And while you are hopefully enjoying a nice dinner with friends and family, what you need to make the day just perfect is a song, so, for your listening pleasure...

A short ode to pumpkin pie...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Red

Last week it was blue..this week it is red...

The Margaret Todd

West Quoddy

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

A Review of "The Taste of Salt" [78]

The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate
Algonquin, ISBN 9781565129252
September 13, 2011, 288 pages

The world she grew up in and the life she dreamt about, a dream she has now actually achieved, are quite different.

Josie Henderson, along with her brother Tick and her parents, her mom a nurse and her dad, an auto worker, lived in Cleveland, Ohio where Lake Erie was a poor substitute in Josie's mind for the sea. Josie and her brother were both very smart, winning scholarships to a private high school and then she went on to study marine biology at Stanford. Her home life was not quite as successful. They were a blue collar, middle class African American family, a family whose life has been fractured by addiction. Her father is an alcoholic, although long sober, and he and his wife divorced when Josie was a teenager and her brother has sadly followed in his footsteps, an alcoholic and addict who has lost his marriage and his career.

Now Josie is married, in her late 30's and a marine biologist working at the prestigious Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts. And she is running as fast as she can from any connection to her family, which she fears will drag her down. She is running from her loving husband Daniel, carrying on an affair with the only other black scientist at Wood's Hole.
And it all comes to a head when Tick, once more fallen off the wagon and trying to turn his life around, shows up on his sister's doorstep, forcing Josie to confront the two parts of her life she has spent years trying to keep apart.

I must admit I read this book some time ago, weeks...months.
But I was at a bit of a loss as to what to write about it.
Bottom line, I wanted to like it more than I did.

On the plus side, I love the way Southgate writes, clean and direct. Her dialogue sounds so right, so true. And I though the story had great promise. The whole story of highs and lows of our family dynamics and how we all deal with our addictions. This successful black woman in a white male world, so fearful of how the 'secret' of her family would effect how others see her...
But there is the first problem, because I never believed for a minute that it would make much difference to most people, if they knew about her brother. There is a scene where she and her husband..that nice guy who loves her so much and she is screwing around on..and she is thinking if these people knew about her brother, the addict, it would somehow stereotype her, that black woman with the no good brother. And all I was thinking when I read it is that most likely everyone in that room would have the same issue in their own life, a daughter or father or parent with the same or similar issues. But she is so, so wrapped up in herself, she can't see that.
And we are to believe that she had such a terrible childhood, this life she must 'escape' from. Really? Yes, her father was a drunk, a quiet drunk, sitting in his chair, whose worse sin in her mind seems to be that when he was drinking he ignored her. She was not abused or neglected. They were not poor, she lacked for little. Private schools, a comfortable home to come back to every day, with food on the table...then Stanford..a dream job..oh yes, what a terrible life. Not!
No, I did not like Josie. I did not sympathize with her and I hated the way she treated her family. Her decision to cut herself off from them never felt justified.

On the other hand, I really liked her father. Yes, many years ago he was a drunk. His wife threw him out, he went to AA and except for one small fall has been sober for many years. He has overcome his own racial prejudices, has a steady relationship, uses his retirement time trying to help kids, has a good relationship with his ex-wife and tries to have one with his kids. Except his daughter will not answer the phone when she sees it is him. Oh, and did I mention he loves books and is a great reader? Well he is, while Josie does not read fiction.

I started to wonder if we were suppose to hate Josie! Really...does not read after growing up with that father who was always trying to pass on a great book to her? Gosh, I even felt more sympathy for her brother, the cocaine addict. Yes, there are many forms of addiction and Josie is in a way as much an addict as her father and brother and yet she is so totally unaware, so self righteous. Yes, if we are meant to dislike Josie, then the book succeeded. If not...and I think we are not meant to...well then the book ultimately failed for me.

But I do so love that cover!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Musing Monday...Thanks a Lot Guys.

Let me put on my thinking cap and check out this weeks Musing Monday from MizB at Should Be Reading ...

How do you decide to read a book by an author you haven’t read before? What sort of recommendations count most highly in making that decision?

Honestly, I have so many books to read by authors I know, it takes some motivation to pick upon something by an unknown writer.
But a strong recommendation and an interesting sounding plot can convince me.
Ok, maybe it is not really that hard.
Without question, the number one source of those recommendations would be my fellow bloggers.
And over time I have developed a small group of bloggers whose tastes I think are most like mine and whose opinions I take more seriously.
What did I do before I started blogging and reading blogs? Oh yes, I remember. I did not have hundreds of books in my To Be Read pile and had to actually 'find' a next book to read.
Yeah, thanks a lot guys.
A whole, huge TBR pile of thanks. ;-)

But a certain percentage of recommendations come from other sources still. The NY Times Book Reviews is one I still read and often pick up some interesting 'new-to-me' authors. On occasion, in the past, I used to find new authors in other publications..People magazine, Newsweek, the Philadelphia Inquirer...but to tell ya the truth I don't read any of those publications anymore. So many book, so little time. Who has time to read the news?!

There are a few new sources to make up for them, some I am sure a number of you are familiar with. Shelf Awareness, is one. I click on one of those ads,  maybe there is a little video, some blurbs from other authors and before you know it, I am hooked. Library Thing Early Reviewers is another. Ever month thousands of couple of a whole pile of books are offered. So of course, if you are going to request any, you have to read all the descriptions. At best, you may win one book, but now I have found so many more I wish I could read and a few I will just have to buy, usually by author that I did not know before.

So some of you may ask why am I even trying to get another book from Early Reviewers or an ARC offered on Shelf Awareness? Don't I have enough?
What does that have to do with anything??
Because I want the newest. I will admit it..it is so cool to be reading a book that is not even out yet, whether it is by an author I love or someone new and fresh to me
Because it is a sickness folks, an addiction.
But not that bad an addiction as addictions goes.

Or so I tell myself. :-)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekend Cooking...Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Autumn is upon us and shortly American will be celebrating Thanksgiving.
This Thursday in fact. But a few of us will be otherwise occupied Thursday...I will be working. So sad.
But I will have my little Thanksgiving. I will just have it today, Saturday. A small gathering, just myself, my brother and SIL.
And Sammy of course.
Oh, he is so cute.

There will be all the foods that we had on the table when I was a kid, because that is what you do on Thanksgiving. Turkey and stuffing, peas and mashed rutabagas, creamed cauliflower, and Pillsbury Crescent rolls.
And Brussels Sprouts!

My father was from Ireland and in Ireland many of the hearty vegetables are king..because there do not get a great deal of hot weather. Cabbage, potatoes, carrots, rutabagas and Brussels sprouts are popular, so they were often on our dinner table. Often.
But my brother did not eat vegetables. Well, corn and peas but that was it.
I well remember one night when I was about 5. We were having Brussels sprouts for dinner and, of course, the bro refused to eat his. So my father said we would not leave the table until he ate at least one.
My mother attempted a bribe. 25 cents to eat one. No way!
There were dramatics, there were raised voices and I thought we would be there until eternity.

The brother won and those Brussels sprouts lived to see another day.
We will see if he eats any of these today.
Maybe Sammy will have one.
Or maybe not.


from Katharine Marsh, of The Breslin, NYC

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to serve
2 medium white onions, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
Kosher salt
1 pound Brussels sprouts, tough outer leaves removed and trimmed
4 ounces slab bacon, cut into medium cubes (about 1/4 cup)
5 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 medium lemon
Flaky sea salt
Crushed red chile flakes

1. In a large skillet set over low heat, heat the olive oil. Add the
onions, a large pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until
the onions are sweet and caramelized, about 30 minutes. Remove
from the heat and set aside.

2. In a large stockpot, blanch the Brussels sprouts in salted, boiling
water until bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove
the Brussels sprouts from the water and set aside to cool. Cut
some of the larger Brussels sprouts in half but leave the smaller
ones whole.

3. In a medium skillet set over medium heat, cook the bacon,
stirring occasionally, until it is crisp on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Pour off the excess fat, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Add the halved
Brussels sprouts cut side down to the pan and cook without
stirring over medium heat until the sprouts are tender and nicely
caramelized. Add the remaining sprouts to the pan and cook until
browned, about 5 minutes more. Stir in the caramelized onions
and sage. Finish the dish with a few drops of freshly squeezed
lemon juice, sea salt, chile flakes and a drizzle of olive oil, all to
Serve immediately.


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, November 18, 2011

A Review of "Already Gone" [77]

Already Gone by John Rector
Thomas and Mercer, ISBN 978-1612180878
October 25, 2011, 316 pages

"Should I be worries about you Jake?
"No," I say. "I've got everything under control."
And like a fool, I believed it.

His childhood was less than ideal. His father was a criminal, dying in prison. Since one of his early memories is of his mother killing herself, he is left all alone when his father is arrested and, at the age of 12, goes to live with a friend of his father, a man named Gabby. Gabby is a gangster and owns a junkyard where it is said a lot more than just old cars are buried, if you get the idea. In a few years Jake finds himself getting in all sorts of trouble and ends up in a juvenile detention center...where his life is turned around by falling in love with books.
OK, you have to love that, right?

It is years later and Jake is living the quiet life he once dreamed of. He is married to Diane, an art buyer and working as a professor of literature at the local college. And then in one evening, his life begins to fall apart. Coming out of a local tavern where he was having a few drinks with some college colleagues, he is attacked by two heavily accented thugs as he goes to his car. They don't rob him, they don't steal his car...no, they cut off one of his fingers with a bolt cutter, his ring finger with his wedding ring still on it. Don't worry, they will send it back, the finger with the ring still on it, to him in a jar.

Jake would like to believe it was just a random attack, as difficult as that is to think. That it might be tied to his past, and especially to Gabby, is just too dangerous. But the cop investigating the crime seems to be leaning that way and implies that Jake knows more than he is saying. For his part, Jake would just like to forget the whole thing and move on with his life. But when Jake sees the two men who attacked him outside his campus office and then Diane disappears, he knows that can't happen. He will be forced to turn for help to a man he both fears and hates...and trusts more than just about anyone to deal with something like this. His world as he knew it is over and Jake may have to become like the people he ran from years ago, to get his wife back.

I have read one of Rector's previous two books, The Grove and enjoyed it a lot, so I was looking forward to his newest. And I was not disappointed!
Let me start by saying that I just love the way John Rector writes. You won't find any flowery descriptions here, no rambling introspection. No, his writing is direct and clean, as sharp and spare as the story. This book is action and twists and turns from the that first "snip" to an ending that is fantastic...with just a note of uncertainty to keep us hanging.

The only flaw and the only thing that would keep me from giving Already Gone five starts if I gave stars, is that, at times Jake is a bit too naive for his own good. I would think, I would hope, that a man with his background would be a little faster on the uptake and learn to keep his mouth shut sometimes. Of course, if he were a bit more cynical, he might not have ever got into the situation that he did. So I will forgive it.

This is a rather violent, action filled thriller that will take the reader on a great ride.

My thanks to Amazon Vine for a review copy of this book.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Review of "The Informationist" [76]

The Informationist: A Thriller by Taylor Stevens
Crown, ISBN 978-0307717092
March 8, 2011, 320 pages

Vanessa "Michael" Munroe has a very successful career gathering information.
If you are an individual, a corporation, or a government that needs information, she is the best you can hire. She can blend into another culture, pose as all sorts of different characters and get the real information, see the hidden connections that tie the facts together and come up with the information that those who hire her will use to base their decisions on. She has an incredible, natural ability with languages, is very clever and is darn handy with a knife when she has to be.

Finding missing people is not her usual job. But when she gets an offer, for a huge amount of money, to try and find the missing daughter of billionaire oilman Richard Burbank, she is intrigued. Emily disappeared four years ago while traveling as a tourist in Africa. He has hired team after team to try and find out what happen, if she is alive or dead, but each one came up clueless. Munroe is his last chance, he say, to find the truth of what happen.

For Munroe, the trip where the clues lead, to Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, will be a sort of a journey home. That is if she felt that she had a home. But it is the place she was born, to missionary parents, and it is the place she lived until nine years ago, when she killed a man and left the mercenary smuggler she had been working with. It is a past filled with terrible memories and a past that has left her with so many numerous scars, both physical and emotional, that at times she can barely keep the darkness and rage from overtaking her.
"Returning to the past was inevitable. Somehow in the last nine years she'd managed to stay upright on a tightrope stretched between brilliance and insanity, the blackness of the abyss always with her, leaving her sometimes wondering if letting go might in the end be easiest of all."
But soon after she gets there, things start to go very wrong. She finds herself drugged, shot and thrown off a boat and only because of her skills is able to narrowly survive. She finds herself alone and injured, in a wild and lawless nation, not knowing who betrayed her and who she can trust.
And what does a missing young American girl have to do with any of this.

If you read anything about this book, you can not miss the comparisons between Munroe and Lisbeth Salander. Yes, they are both androgynous, damaged young women with deadly skills and great intelligence. But this is no Larsson knockoff. No, Munroe is very much her own character. Her feelings and emotions, her anger, her fears seem so real that you can not help but think that they came from the actual emotions of the author, especially when you know the author's own story. Because I must admit that when I first read about this book, it was the author's story that I found as intriguing as the story outlined.
Stevens was raised in a cult, as she tell on her website...
"childhood and adolescence were spent begging on city streets from Zurich to Tokyo, preparing food and washing laundry for hundreds of people, and otherwise trying to survive dreary life as a worker bee child in a communal apocalyptic cult. My innocence and scholastic education stopped completely when I was twelve-years-old. Cut off from personal family, at times under the care of sadistic individuals and without access to books or television from the outside world, imagination became a survival mechanism...Along this journey I have seen the best and worst of humanity and don't have to look far to find the depth of soul and tormented conflict that drives my characters; I pull heavily from personal experience and the experience of the ones I love when creating the worlds they walk in."
That this is her first book, written with so little formal education, makes it even more remarkable. Because this is a very well written book. The dialogue is great, the characters are great and the plot, while yes, a bit over the top at times but hey folks, this is a thriller, will grab you and pull you to the last page and a surprising and satisfying ending.

Munroe is a great character. Maybe a bit too emotional for my taste because I like my borderline sociopaths to be a tiny bit more sociopathic. Oh please Ms. Stevens, do not make her too nice!! Keep the edge sharp! Still, I will be very interested to read Ms. Stevens next book, The Innocent, that will be out next year. I hope we have a lot more deep and dark secrets to find out about Vanessa and see what rip roaring adventure she will get us roped into next.
And you can not read this book but start to wonder who they will cast in the movie, because this would make one heck of a great movie!

My thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Looking Foward To This One?

looks pretty good.
not as good as the book maybe, but pretty good.
what to you think of the casting?
what do you think of the look of the film?
does it look as you picture it from the book?
well, we will see...

Wordless Wednesday...Blue

...from the floor of Saint Mark's Basilica

a Turkish tile

..a wall in an alley in Greece

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Review of "Bad Things Happen" [75]

Bad Things Happen: A Novel by Harry Dolan
Amy Einhorn Books, ISBN 978-0399155635
July 23, 2009, 352 pages.

"The shovel had to meet certain requirements. A pointed blade. A short handle, to make it maneuverable in a confined space."
Have you ever heard the saying that you can tell who are you true friends are because they are the one that you would call to help you bury the body. Well, "the man who calls himself David Loogan" and his boss Tom Kristoll must be grand pals, because it is David who gets the call to help deal with the body laying in Tom's study. He does not buy Tom's story about it being the body of a burglar and that he doesn't want the publicity that would come from calling the police. But who is David to press too hard. After all he has his own secrets, including the affair he is having with his friend's wife Laura.

David had not really been looking for a job. He was new to the college down of Ann Arbor and came upon a magazine, full of mystery stories, called Gray Streets. On a whim, he wrote a story and submitted it to the magazine anonymously. But he was not satisfied, did some editing and again submitted it anonymously. The third time he tried to drop off yet another newly edited version at night at the magazine's office, the owner, Tom, caught him and offered him a job as an editor, something he seems to have a talent for. He took the job, although he really didn't want to and he became friends with Tom and Laura, again without really trying and drifted into an affair when Laura pursued him. Things just seem to happen to David sometimes, and some of them are going to end very badly.

First, Tom's ends up dead, fallen from his office window in what police is murder made to looks, not too successfully, like suicide. Happily, David was a alibi, even if it is the dead man's wife. But he will not be the last to die and David, for reason that are not at first quite clear, feels a need try and help solve the mystery..always a dangerous thing to do, especially if like David you may have some secrets of your own.

I recently read a review of this book, I know not where. Which is sad, because I would like to thank that person for pointing this book out to me.
It was a great fun read, with a complicated plot that is always taking some twists and turns and dropping all sorts of red herrings. Even with all the deaths..and the bodies do start to pile up, this is not really a violent book. The murders had a bit of an Agatha Christie quality to them, although things to get a little hairy toward the end and the danger becomes more real and personal.

There are two things that I simply loved about this book. Great characters and great dialogue. The dialogue is real and believable and perhaps best of all, very witty at times. David is a clever fellow and he thinks and speaks like a clever fellow which is great fun for the reader.
Yes, David is a great character, but he is by no mean the only one, including the very talented police detective investigating the murder, Elizabeth Waishkey. Honorable mention goes to her daughter Sarah, a great character and a budding juggler. I will say, there are a good number of characters in this book, which can sometime be confusing, and it speaks to the author's skill that they are all very clear and distinct and well fleshed out. The proof of that is that I could remember who they all were without having to flip back in the pages.

A fun romp of a mystery, good story, good writing and great characters, a number of which, including David, Elizabeth and Sarah, appear in Mr. Dolan's second book, now out, called Very Bad Men.
You may guess what I will be read soon!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Musing Monday...I Ain't Getting Any Younger Ya Know.

What could this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading possibly be?...

Are you currently collecting any authors? Why?
Do you have all of their books? If not, why not?
Did you buy all the books in the collection at the same time, or did you buy a book here, a book there? Have you actually read all of the collection? If not, why not?

Well, collect might be the wrong word.
It implies a certain degree organization and planning that my reading lacks.
And collecting implies that I keep them and there are very few authors whose books I would keep all of. So many book...so little space.

Do I read all the books all the books by a certain author? Well, I will often read a bunch, but as I think about it, I probably rarely read them all. If I like a certain author after I read one of their books, usually I will shortly read a couple more. With most authors, honestly, that is enough. I get tired of them or the books are too much alike and I move on to something else.
Sadly, many successful authors seems to find a formula that sells and they keep it up and keep it and drive it into the ground. Even in a series, I want some change. I want the characters to grow, to have events that change them...even for some to unexpectedly die. I do not want a very obvious formula.

And I can think of another thing that made me give up on an author in the past. I was once a huge Dean Koontz fan. I read dozens of his books and I must give him credit for avoiding the formula trap. No, his books were all very different. But...he...his publisher...whoever, started reissuing his older books with new titles. I would see a "new" book of his, buy it and realize a few pages in that I had read this years ago. Second time that happen, I am sorry I moved on from the crazy, creepy books of Mr. Koontz.

And of course there are the authors who once I liked but who seem to have lost it. Most famous in that group is Patricia Cornwell. I thought her early books were very good, very entertaining, very well written. Then 10+ years ago her writing seem to go off a cliff..awful.After two awful ones that was the end of PC for me.
Another issue is sheer volume. You discover an author, read one book, and when you look for more, find out there are 10-15-20 earlier books in a series. Sorry, that is just to many to think about. A smaller series I would tackle, because if at all possible I like to read a series in order, but there is a limit to how many I will take on. I'm not getting any younger ya know.

Are there any authors I have read in total? Yes, a few. Three come to mind right away, Tess Gerritsen, Tolkien and Karin Slaughter. My that is an interesting group. With Gerritsen, I think I read her first Rizzoli and Iles book, loved it, and then went back and read the books she wrote before that series while waiting for the second  R&I to come out. I think if you are a Gerritsen fan you should go back and read those. No, as I have said before, I have not and will not be reading the romance books she first published. I have my limits. So my Gerritsen is not totally complete..but pretty Darn good.

Tolkien is another I think I have read all of. At least his fiction.I think he may have a bunch of scholarly books out there and no I have not read those. But his fiction I have read. Not just The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit but all the 'little' stuff. Tree and Leaf, Farmer Giles of Ham, The Silmarillion, Smith of Wootton Major and a few others little short works he wrote. But then everything he wrote was short compared to LoTR.
I think I have completed Tolkien.

The most recent time I set out to read all an author has written was with Karin Slaughter. I think, years ago, I read one of her books, in the middle of one of her series. That was a mistake because I think she is an author best read in order. Major things happen to characters, people died, major events happened and you have to follow that flow. Then, on that evil Barnes and Noble Nook, they was offering her first book, which I had not read...or read so long ago I forgot it...really cheap. I got it for the Nook and read it. I loved it, so I had to get the second to see what happened..then the third..and the fourth and within two weeks I had read them all. Darn that "way too easy to buy a book on" Nook. I even searched out a novella she wrote, Martin Misunderstood, and a book of short story by other writers that she edited.

Just waiting for her...and Ms. Gerritsen...to write their next one. I will read them.
Who knows. Maybe some day I will tire of them too. But not soon I think.
I guess I am done with Tolkien since I don't think will be writing anything else. 
Being dead and all.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekend Cooking...You Are Not My Old Friend!

..and I'm not Lovin It!

In the past, I have written that some of the foods I sample were all for you, my dear readers. The Coconut Chocolates, the Lobster Rolls, the Clam Chowder...the Beer.
OK, I may have been exaggerating a wee bit.
But this time, I am telling the truth!
I did this totally in the spirit of science.
This was a true experiment.
I did it just for you, my dear readers.
And I will not do it again.

See, I was reading an article on The Salt, NPR's Food blog. It was called From Nebraska Lab to McDonald's Tray: The McRib's Strange Journey.
Now, I rarely eat fast food, and I had never had a McRib.
But first, the recent McRib commercial got my attention. You know the one, where the couple is getting on the plane to go on their honeymoon and he gets a text that the McRib is back. Her comment "I married a 14 year old" is the punch line. But what really got my attention was the actress...she is the same girl that does the commercial for the Toyota Vensa where she says "I read an article...well, part of an article...online.." So True. Then she also does the commercial where she is shopping for jeans online and her mom says there is no needs.  She, the mom, has lots of old jeans in her old jean box she can have, nice and roomy!..funny.

So my point is, that is the only reason I heard the McRib commercial and knew it "was BACK!" And it is the reason I read about the "technology" that lead to the McRib's creation.
"The pork producers wanted to see more pork on the menu, and they were targeting McDonald's," Mandigo said.
Mandigo went to work in the lab and came up with a new take on an old-fashioned technology: sausage-making. Instead of just stuffing pork meat inside a casing, Mandigo used salt to extract proteins from the muscle. Those proteins become an emulsifier "to hold all the little pieces of meat together," he says.
...Mandigo's invention of what's called "restructured meats" was important enough to earn him induction into the Meat Industry Hall of Fame.

Restructured meat indeed. Like a flat, casing-less sausage made of "pork trimmings". Care to think about what those trimmings might be? Well, they include things like...
"tripe, heart and scalded stomach, which is then mixed with salt and water to extract proteins from the muscle. The proteins bind all the pork trimmings together so that it can be re-molded into any specific shape — in this case, a fake slab of ribs."

Then there is the story, which is true, that the McRib has 70 ingredients. OK, that is a bit misleading because most of them, 34, are in the "bun".
"The ingredients include such things as azodicarbonamide, ammonium sulfate and polysorbate. Azodicarbonamide is found in the McRib bun and is also used in the process to make foam plastic; much like what gym mats are made of. The use of this component is banned in other countries outside of America because of a belief that exposure to the substance may cause asthma. The U.S. limits the amount of it in flour products based on their findings in lab testings."

OK, I read that after I actually ate one.
I made the stop at Mickey D's just for this test.

What did I think of it?
It doesn't look that bad, does it.
Well, the onion was nice...and the pickles were OK. It was downhill from there. The bun..totally unmemorable. You have to wonder what all those ingredients are possibly for. The BBQ sauce would not have been bad if there was not so much of it, but then I may have been able to see the meat byproduct patty.And that might not have been a good thing.
The patty, had no real taste or texture and is as far from real pork as Ronald McDonald is from a creepy clown. Oh no...wait..they are actually the same thing! But this is so unlike pork that it could have been anything.
I have had a pork sandwich and this is not it.

I am not a vegan, not even a vegetarian. I do eat meat.
OK, I like meat. But even I have my limits.
And I have met them.
This is not meat..and I am not sure it was a bun.
Will I be having a McRib in the future?
Not even for you, my dear readers.

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, November 11, 2011

Reviews of "Promissory Payback"[73] and "Unrevealed" [74]

Promissory Payback by Laurel Dewey
The Story Plant, ISBN 978-1611880076
August 2, 2011, 80 pages

Someone hated Carolyn Handel.
They hated her a great deal and it is not at all hard to see why.

When she is found dead, murdered in her bedroom in a particularly violent and degrading way, that is clear. And once Detective Jane Perry begins to investigate the woman, it also become clear that Handel was a woman worthy of being hated. She took advantage of desperate people, scamming them out of their last cent. But someone has made her pay the ultimate price.
The problem may be that the list of suspects is just too long.
You know what they say...Karma can be a bitch.

Unrevealed: Four Jane Perry Stories by Laurel Dewey
The Story Plant, ISBN 978-1611880236
October 4, 2011, 96 pages

From the publisher's website...

ANONYMOUS: One of Jane's first AA meetings leads her to an encounter with a woman in need of her detection skills...and a secret she never expected to uncover.

YOU CAN'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER: Forced by her boss to speak at a high school career day, Jane meets a troubled boy and finds that his story is only the beginning of a much more revealing tale.

YOU'RE ONLY AS SICK AS YOUR SECRETS: An early-morning homicide call introduces Jane to a mystery as layered as it is unsuspected.

THINGS AREN'T ALWAYS WHAT THEY SEEM: Jane finds herself sharing a 2:00 am conversation at a downtown bar with an old acquaintance. Will the bloody night that proceeded this moment complicate Jane's intentions?

I always love to find another great character and these two short books, the novella Promissory Payback and the four short stories in Unrevealed, are a great introduction to yet another one, police Detective Jane Perry. Fans of Dewey's full length novels starring Perry will no doubt love these, but for the rest of us who are not familiar with her, these are a great introduction. No doubt, I will have to check out one of Dewey's novels in the near future. Perry is very smart, very believable and very human. With her cowboy boots, endless cigarettes in hand and drinking problem..well, she is a good character and a good detective! And if these are an indication of what the author can create in so few pages, I really have to see what she can do with a bit more space.

The first, Promissory Payback, is a good story. The plot is quite good and the secondary characters, including all those suspects, were very good. That the author was able to get so much in such a short book was surprising and enjoyable.

But I must admit, of the two, my favorite was Unrevealed, with it's four excellent short stories.
I may have mentioned it before, but I am a big fan of short stories. The skill to create a complete, satisfying story, with good characters and a great plot, especially in the mystery genre, in a short number of pages is a skill I really admire. Perry pulls it off four times in this book.

Each story is very different and very good. I have read 400 pages books where the characters were not as memorable and novels whose conclusions did not leave me nearly as surprised. It would be hard to pick a favorite of the four, but I must say the last one, Things Aren't Always What They Seem, is one of those  that had me saying "Wow" as I read the last page.
And I love when that happens.

Both are great reads when you want something short and quick, yet still well written and totally enjoyable.

My thanks to the Partner in Crime blog tours for providing me with copies of these books to review.
If you would like to check out some more stops of the tour, you can check out the links HERE.

And if you are interested in finding out more about the author Laurel Dewey and her three other Jane Perry novels, PROTECTOR, REDEMPTION, and REVELATIONS, and the another Jane Perry novelette, AN UNFINISHED DEATH , head over to her website.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Review of "The Stranger You Seek" [72]

The Stranger You Seek:A Novel by Amanda Kyle Williams
Bantam, ISBN 978-0553808070
August 30, 2011, 304 pages

Keye Street, the heroine of this book, will grab you from the very first page.

Sure, she is a kick-ass, take no hostages bail recovery agent, seeking out and bringing in those often very nasty and very desperate accused who want very much not to be found. But there is a lot more to her. She is Chinese-American, adopted by a very white bread couple (along with her gay African-American brother) after her Chinese grandparents were killed and she is an Atlanta native, born and bred, right down to the RC cola and MoonPies. She is also a damaged hero, the best kind, who lost her job as an FBI profiler and her marriage due to her alcoholism. Now four years later, she is sober..and at times hanging on by the skin of her teeth to her sobriety...she is making her living with this bail recovery job and private detective work, but she has not lost her profiling skills. When a serial killer appears in the oppressive summer heat of Atlanta and the fear is mounting, including some taunting letters to the police department, her old friend Lieutenant Aaron Rauser is not above asking for her help.
The papers have called me a monster. You’ve either concluded that I am a braggart as well as a sadist or that I have a deep and driving need to be caught and punished. And you must certainly be wondering if I am, in fact, the stranger you seek. Shall I convince you?
The killer, nicknamed the Wishbone Killer is going to be very hard to track down. He is killing men and women, people of all different races and economic backgrounds. But Keye is up to the challenge, especially when she is personally drawn into the killings, especially assisted as she is by an interesting group of friends that I hope we will see more of and learn more about in the next two promised book in this series, due out in 2012 and 2013.
And I found it amusing that the subject of blogging plays an important role in the story..who knew.

I thought the plot was very good and very believable as thrillers go. But the key to this book is...if you will forgive me...Keye. She is brave and fearless..sometimes so fearless as to be self destructive, and you know we love that in a good hero. She is flawed and believable, yet she is also smart..well, at least about most things. And she is often very funny, something I love in a psychological thriller. Even I can only take so much death and mayhem without a few lighter moments. I can not say I totally bought into a romance that developed..it seemed a bit off, but we will see how that goes in the next book. Because I can assure you I will be reading it. In several ways this book reminds me of the books of Karin Slaughter, and in my mind that is a great compliment.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book for review.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...The Other Side of Maine

As much as I love the ocean, 
there are other things in Maine. 

Beautiful fields..

...and mountains...

...and lakes.

..farms with barns...

..and more lakes!

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

A review of "The Accident" [71]

The Accident by Linwood Barclay
Bantam, ISBN 978-0553807189
August 9, 2011, 400 pages.

Glen Garber's life is starting to fall apart around him.
His contracting business is barely making it in this economy. And a fire at a house he was building may be found to be his fault and therefore not covered by his insurance. But he and his wife have been through difficult times before and dealt with them together. So she is going back to school, taking night classes in business and accounting, so she will be able to help out. And she also tells him she has a lead on another way she may be able to bring in some extra money.

But Glen had no idea how truly terrible things were very shortly going to become. When his wife is very late coming home from her night class, he pack their eight year old daughter into the car and sets out to look for her, hoping her will find her broken down on the side of the road with a dead cell phone. Instead he finds a terrible accident on a highway exit. A car was stopped going the wrong way on the exit, a car coming off hit it, killing the driver of the stopped car and two in the other car. And the driver of the stopped car was his wife, who police say was drunk, and passed out. And is now dead.

His daughter becomes the butt of jokes at school because of her drunk mother...the wife of the man and his son killed sue his for 15 million, saying he should have know his wife was a drunk and stopped her.
But that is the thing. She was not a big drinker and would never, ever has driven drunk. How could this terrible thing have happened then? How could he have been wrong about his wife?
And his life continues to unravel. A friend of his wife dies in another accident, one that is not looking like too much like an accident according to police. A mysterious, evil man is demanding the money he is owed, money Glen knows nothing about, someone takes a shot at his daughter's bedroom window. He starts to wonder if he can even trust his oldest friend, a man in the middle of some deep trouble himself and in desperate need of money.
Gosh, he thought things were bad before!

There is mush to like about this book. It is well written, even if I found the switch between first and third person a bit distracting. And the story is complex with a lot of twists and turns. I though I had the villain picked out..and I sort of did until one last twist at the end that had me saying "Wow..I did not see that coming."

But..and this is almost a deal breaker for me...while Glen is a fairly good character, he comes so very, very close to breaking my number one rule- of acting stupid. OK, your wife gets killed in a way that is totally opposed to the way she lived. Maybe. But then her friend, someone she had a bit of an involvement in a business with, a business that may have some mob ties, get killed too..and you don't consider something is off and that they may be connected until things go on and on for quite awhile. Let's just say he was way too slow on the uptake to make me happy. This guy is just way too nice and trusting for his own good. Or for the good of a good thriller.
I can forgive a lot, but not stupid.

I have read a couple of Mr. Barcley's book before and enjoyed them, but I can not say this is one of my favorites.

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book to review.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Musing Monday..Let me Just Look That Up!

If it's Monday, it's Musing.. from MizB at Should Be Reading ...

This week’s musing asks…

Other than for school, do you read books to learn how to do something? What was/were the topic(s)?

The question might be what have I not learned from books!

Of course, you must remember that there was a time when there was no internet. In fact, there was not even cable TV! Yes, shocking, but true!
So back in the dark, distant past, what were your options to learn how to do something? Well, you could have asked someone who already knew or you could try to figure it out from a book. Being as I am a shy, introverted person, you might guess which I picked.
Oh yes, my friends, the books.

My first big example of that was many decades ago. My mother owned a building. Thing temement, not Donald Trump. Our business was on the first floor and there were 3 apartments above, one of which we lived in. The other two were occupied by two older, bachelor men who had lived there from before we bought the building. Well, when one moved out, let’s just say it was going to need a bit of work before we could get a new tenant. It became my summer project while I was off from school.
I replaced the kitchen floor, painted the whole place and most dramatically, replaced the whole bathroom. I took it to the studs, sheet rocked it, put in a new subfloor, tiled the walls and floor, put in new fixtures…and I did the whole job by following a book. I had never done any of those things before. I remember the book...it was big and yellow with a shiny, hard cover and it was called The Reader’s Digest Complete Book of Home Repairs. Or something very close to that…

I would read the relevant chapter and then set about doing it. Read it carefully, think it out, make a plan…and it worked out pretty darn well. You could go look at it but the building later burned down. Years and years later and nothing to do with my renovations.

And I still have that book around here somewhere.

And if I do say so, that bathroom came out very nice.

I have always thought if you have a good book and read and follow it carefully, you can learn to do just about anything. I remember I learned to crochet from a book, make Pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs and plant a Square Foot garden, all from a book. Oh the list is endless, all from books. I have had any number of interests and hobbies in my life…I am a bit fickle that way…and I learned most if not all of them from books.
And I am pretty sure that after reading Moby Dick I could harpoon a whale.
OK, maybe not.

In my experience, I had a lot better experience learning to do things from books rather from that new thing, the World Wide Web. Maybe there is just too much competing information on the internet, too many ideas. I need one, definite way to follow when I have no idea what I am doing.