Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Another Day At The Shore

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Just One Minute...

Yes, it is an ad, but I think it is a great one.
A trip around the world in just one minute!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Musing Monday...Off With Their Heads!

It's Monday once again, so let's check out the Monday Musing
question,  as always from the mind of Miz B at Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing asks…

• Do you read books that are part of a series?
• Do you collect all the books in the series before starting? What if the series is brand new, and the only book that’s been published so far is Book one? As subsequent books in the series are published, do you go back and re-read the preceding books?

Yes, I have been known to read a series or two…or 20.
Ideally, I would read them in order, but if I get one as a review book and it is maybe 15th in the series..well, that is not going to happen. Especially if the author does not send me the previous 14. Then I might. OK, just a
But if it is a very good book, that should not be a deal we will discuss in a minute.

Do I collect them? No, not before starting to read one or after starting to read one.  No, at this point I really have to be very careful what books I decide to actually keep. See, I have just a few too many books around my house.A few hundred...maybe a thousand. If you find yourself in NJ, stop by with a box, maybe a hand truch, a wagon, fill it up and take some home!
So no, except for review books, I am really trying to stick to library books these days. Nice library books that go back there after I read it...or e-books, because while, yes, they too can ‘pile up’ you can’t see the piles, so they aren’t really there. Right?

If I start with a new series, do I reread the previous one before I start the newest? What, are you crazy? Are their people who actually have time for that? Well, no, I have lots of new books waiting for me and do not reread books these days. Each book is only getting one turn…then move on my little bookish friend. Next!

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with series.
Ideally they are great, but the reality is sometime different.
I love mysteries and a lot of mystery writers write series. And, yes, there are many that are very book, where I eagerly awit the next. One of my favorites, one that shows some of the finer points of a series, are the books of Karin Slaughter. As with any good series, any individual book can be read as a stand-alone, yet each also builds on the previous to keep the returning reader interested. It takes really skill as an author, I think, to be able to give the background information the new reader might need if they have not read the previous books and yet to do so concisely enough so as not to bore the reader who has read the others. Keeping that series reader in mind, the storyline, the characters, have to evolve. There has to be change, there has to be developments, new characters coming in and yes, some characters going away.

Sometimes that means someone must die!

I will not give any spoilers, but Slaughter takes the very brave step of killing off a very major character several books into the series. It is a real shocker when you read it, but it is the sort of step I think an author has to be willing to take if they want to keep things fresh and exciting and unexpected and have the readers buy the next one to see where things can possibly go now.

And that leads us to the ultimate brave step an author can take…finishing a series off.
If books are still selling and the publisher is happy, it may be very, very hard. But sometimes it is just time. Things have run their course.
Times to go out with a bang and start something new.
Off with their heads!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Rice Noodle Soup with Shrimp

Yes folks, another soup. I am on a soup kick.
Here is it another of my days off, and once again chilly and rainy.
Pouring rain and thunder.
It is also a Friday in Lent, so for me, a meat free day.
And dinner time is fast approaching.
In the spirit of Lent, let's see if we can keep it fairly simple and also, maybe, at the same time, use up some things hanging around in the frig before they get furry.

So, I have that frozen shrimp in the freezer and that package of brown rice noodle I got for review from Amazon Vine. Let's check the produce drawer in the frig..a red pepper, carrots and onions, some cilantro and some limes left over...oh, I think I see another soup in my future, but this time let's look East...'cause I have to use those rice noodles!

There are dozens and dozens of recipes for soup with rice noodles out there and once again I read a bunch of them and then took an idea from here and and an idea from there. And once again, I think the result was pretty darn good.
The broth has a bit of a sweet and sour taste, with the vinegar and lime juice on the one side and the touch of sugar on the other, a little salty from the fish sauce and soy and a little hot from the chili sauce..or a lot hot if so desired.
The vegetables you add are up to you. I love the texture of rehydrated mushrooms and the crisp bok choy, the finish of scallions and the cilantro add a nice fresh taste. A lot of recipes called for lemongrass, but that would have involved a trip to the Asian Market and I was in a bit of a rush because I had to get to the beer tasting at my local liquor store before it was over. But we will talk about that another day. So no lemongrass.
And of course the choice of noodles is up to you too. The rice noodle are very quick and easy, and gluten free....but personally I have never met a noodle I didn't like so use what you like.
When they are all listed like this, it seems like a lot of ingredients, but it really is a very fast, pretty easy recipe. So don't get scared away.

Rice Noodle Soup with Shrimp
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 red pepper, cut in matchsticks
1 carrot, cut in matchsticks 

4 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. chili sauce or 2 Thai chilies
1 tsp. sugar
Grated rind of one lime
Juice of one lime 

1 lb. raw shrimp, cleaned, peeled
2 cups snow peas
1/2 head bok choy, roughly chopped
1 oz. dried mushroom, rehydrate in boiling water
4-8 oz. rice noodle, pre-soaked as instructions on package direct.

1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1 small bunch scallions, finely sliced
dark sesame oil

In a large pot, heat the oil and add onion, garlic and ginger and saute. Add carrots, pepper and stock and let simmer. Meanwhile, mix the soy, vinegar, sugar, fish sauce, lime rind and juice and chili sauce in a small bowl to combine and then add to the stock and simmer for a few minutes.
Add the shrimp and the mushrooms and snow peas and let cook for a few minutes, depending on the size of the shrimp, then add the bok choy and noodles and cook until noodle are desired consistency, another minute or two.
Ladle in bowls and served with a drizzle of sesame oil, some sliced scallions and a little chopped cilantro.

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, February 24, 2012

A Review of " The Most Scenic Drives in America" [19]

The Most Scenic Drives in America, Newly Revised and Updated: 120 Spectacular Road Trips by the Editors of Reader's Digest
Reader's Digest, ISBN 978-1606523582
March 1, 2011, 400 pages

My dear readers, you may have noticed that I like to travel.
And I like to take picture of places I travel to.
I am happy to go by air or sea or train..but what I love most is a Road Trip.
Charge the GPS, fill the tank, pack some snacks, make sure the camera is ready, pick a direction and let's go!

Well, if you too love a great road trip and need some ideas for some future trips...or if you just want to sit on your couch and take a beautiful journey in your mind, the newly revised and update The Most Scenic Drives in America is a book I think that you will love. I know I do.

The book gives 120 different trips, divided into four major areas of the US, Western, Rocky Mountain, Central and Eastern, in each case also extending up into Canada to include some trips to visit our northern neighbors. For each, there is a very nice map, a great deal of useful information, beautiful photographs and links to the web sites of attractions and places that are discussed so you can go online and get additional information. Each point of interest along the trip in each drive is numbered, with a discussion of the must see sights. The length of each trip is given, with suggestions of when the best time to go is and other nearby attractions that you might want to visit while you are in the area.

Looking over the list, I figure that I have probably driven about 20 of the included drives, in Nova Scotia, New England, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, Maryland...oh, and New Jersey! So that only leave me about 100 to go and I wish I could just grab this book, take a few months off work and hit the road. But honestly, as great as my trips were, I wish I had a look at this book before I took them, because there are some things I missed. This book is just full of great ideas, and really, no matter where you live in the US, there is probably a route nearby for you to explore.

And did I mention the hundreds and hundreds of fabulous photographs? I must say, one thing I really enjoyed looking through this book was checking out the pictures from places I have been and comparing them to my own. Mine don't come off too badly but I picked up a lot of great ideas for the future.

Now, I do think I should mention that when you set out on any of these trips, you may need to gather some additional from those web sites the book gave you. It does not discuss where to stay, except in general terms, or some mentions of a few lodging that are sights in themselves and the same is true with places to eat. But I have no problem with that because that is not what this book is.
What it aims to do, to give us ideas of some fabulous places to visit and a lot of great information about planning those trips, it does a great job at. But even if you are not going to take any of these drives..even if you don't own a car!...this book will give you many enjoyable hours, just paging through, getting off the Interstate and checking out some of the most beautiful places in our country.

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

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Review of "No Mark Upon Her" [18]

No Mark Upon Her: A Novel by Deborah Crombie
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0061990618
February 7, 2012, 384 pages

"When a K9 search-and-rescue team discovers a woman's body tangled up with debris in the river, Scotland Yard superintendent Duncan Kincaid finds himself heading an investigation fraught with complications. The victim, Rebecca Meredith, was a talented but difficult woman with many admirers—and just as many enemies. An Olympic contender on the verge of a controversial comeback, she was also a high-ranking detective with the Met—a fact that raises a host of political and ethical issues in an already sensitive case.

To further complicate the situation, a separate investigation, led by Detective Inspector Gemma James, Kincaid's wife, soon reveals a disturbing—and possibly related—series of crimes, widening the field of suspects. But when someone tries to kill the search-and-rescue team member who found Rebecca's body, the case becomes even more complex and dangerous, involving powerful interests with tentacles that reach deep into the heart of the Met itself.

Surrounded by enemies with friendly faces, pressured to find answers quickly while protecting the Yard at all costs, his career and reputation on the line, Kincaid must race to catch the killer before more innocent lives are lost—including his own."

If you like smart mysteries, if you like English mysteries, if you like police procedurals, if you like a book with great characters..I have a book for you!

Ok, I will warn you that yes, this is part of a series, the latest in a 14 book series. And yes,while this one can totally stand alone, you will be tempted to go back and read some more in the series. Partly because one of the attractions of this book is the now husband and wife duo of Detective Inspector Gemma James and Superintendent Duncan Kincaid. They have a long history leading up to this point, with their blended family of one son on his part, one son on her part and a newly fostered daughter from another case and a number of dogs and their story will interest you. While the author does a great job of giving us the abridged history, they are so likable that the reader can not help but want to learn more about how they got to this point. And there are a number of fascinating minor characters who pop up in their personal lives that we would like to know more about and which do, no doubt, make appearances in those other books.
But enough pinning...because there is a very good book right here to explore.

The setting in Henley on the Thames and the major role that rowing plays in this book is a big plus in my book. Many of the high schools around here having very competitive rowing teams (that have competed in Henley) and I have watched them practice on the back bays since I was a kid..and it is a beautiful thing to watch. But to see the love/hate relationship the competitors have with the sport is fascinating too. It may be beautiful watching from the shore as the sculls seem to glide along, the perfect synchronization of the rowers, but from their seat it is a grueling, almost too painful, undertaking.
Then we have perhaps my two favorite characters, two rescue dogs name Tosh, a German Shepherd and Finn, a black Lab. Smart, handsome, brave, obedient, I am in love. Woof!

Ms. Crombie has given us a very good, very smart, very well paced plot all set against a background of prestigious rowing clubs and old prep school friendships.  Just when you think you may have things figured out, Gemma's investigation opens a whole new avenue, a whole new cast of suspects, and the possibility that a high level police cover up may be afoot. A cover-up with serious consequences to her and her husband's career if they continue, as of course they must, to seek justice for the murdered victim. Lots of red herrings, lot of twists and turns until the very last page..and then all the thread very nicely tied up so we can happily await the next installment.

And as a small aside, let me just say that I loved the drawn map, along with illustrations, that make up the endpages. It was so charming that I spent way to much time studying it.

My thanks to William Morrow and Library Early Reviewers  for providing a copy of this book to me for review.

for your added pleasure, the author, with a few comments about her latest..

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday..."America's Playground"

...a few from nearby Atlantic City, with it's World Famous Boardwalk, a great beach...and a few casinos.

From a distance...

Hail Caesar! always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Musing Monday..."I Forgot to Remember to Forget" [18]

Another gray day here, but no whining, because it is Monday and we have to check out the Musing Monday question, as always from the mind of Miz B at Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing asks… What is the last book that you learned something from? What book was it, and what did it teach you?

Well, most people probably assume if you are talking about learning something from a book, you must be talking about non-fiction. And I will admit, I have learned a lot of things from books in the past. I learned how to re-do a bathroom, I learned how to crochet and I am working on how to use Photoshop Elements..all from books. Countless things, learned from books, especially in a pre-Internet world. Yes, there was a time before the Internet..

But honestly, I rarely read non-fiction these days.
So are my opportunities to learn from a book limited?
I think not!

Because in my opinion, you can and should be learning something from just about every book you read!
Take a recent example, Available Dark. Certainly fiction, but still I learned many things I never knew, about Iceland, about Death Metal Music, about photography..about all sorts of things. Even a few I could have happily lived without
But my point is, just about every book is an opportunity to learn.
About a different place, a different time, a different place in society, a different set of is all there for us to learn about in books

I have, in books, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, lived in Ancient Rome, been chased by people out to kill me, I have never had tea on the lawn of and English manor house. In the span of my reading life, the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books I have read, I could not even begin to list all the things I have learned from books. Yes, it certainly is not the same experience as actually being there and actually doing those things, but still, especially in the hands of a skillful, talented writer, I strongly suggest that the experience, the chance to learn something, is very real.

Have any of you ever had this experience?
I was recently talking to a friend about something and I recalled, vaguely, an experience I had that applied to what we were talking about. And then, after a minute, I began to wonder if what I remembered was something I had personally experienced or was the vague memory from something I long ago read.
Is it that I am getting old or that my brain is full with all those many books and they are starting to spill out? I am not sure it really matters. All those books, all those things I read are part of me now.

Perhaps I need to start to remember to forget...wait, isn't that a song?

And because the Beatles are the greatest band of all time, certainly beating The Stones if you read my answers to Jenner's 11 questions last week, here is a forgotten Beatles song for your enjoyment.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Chicken Tortilla Soup

The other day, I was off work and thinking what I should post for my Weekend Cooking...and what I would have for dinner. It was a gray, chilly day, with a bit of drizzle falling on and off. Damp and chilly...
The perfect day for some nice soup.
But what kind?

Well, I was reading Zite ( one of my favorite iPad apps) and saw a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Soup. Oh, that would be nice.
Now, I have make Chicken Tortilla Soup in the past and I probably have a recipe, but I decided to Google it and after reading maybe a dozen recipes online, I set off to the supermarket with a plan in my mind. Take a bit from this recipe, a bit from that one. Whatever sounds good.
In fact, there are so many good things you might add to this soup the problem is knowing when to stop, before it become a mishmash.

Caite's Tortilla Soup

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 onion chopped, about a cup
1 red bell pepper, chopped, about a cup
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. canned chipolatas in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 can Rotel brand tomatoes with chilies
4 cups chicken stock
1 can black beans, rinsed
2 cooked boneless chicken breast halves, shredded
2 cups finely shredded cabbage.
2-3 Tbs. cornmeal, mixed in a little water

4 corn tortillas, cut into ¼ wide strips
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheese
chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, add the onion and bell pepper and saute for about a minute. Add the garlic and then the spices and let bloom in the oil.
Add the chipolatas and cook for another minute, then the Rotel tomatoes with all the liquid, the chicken stock and the black beans. Bring to a boil and then reduce and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the shredded chicken, then the cornmeal slurry and stir well until the soup begins to thicken a bit. Let cook for another 10 minutes. Just before serving add the cabbage and stir in until just wilted.

The tortilla can fry them in a pan in a little oil until crispy or bake them in the oven. I went with the fried.
To serve, ladle soup in a bowl, top with some diced avocado, cheese, fresh cilantro and some tortilla strips. Finish with a squeeze of lime.

It was, if I do say so myself, excellent.
Perfect for a damp, chilly day.
Very flavorful and a bit spicy, but not too much. If you like things spicy, add more chipolatas in adobo sauce and if you like things very mild, add less...but I would not do away with it all together. It is quite hearty, a meal in itself, with a nice little corn taste from the cornmeal used to thicken it and that nice cheese melting into the soup. Yet the last minute toppings of the cilantro and avocado and that bit of lime juice give it a fresh clean taste, with a little crunch from the cabbage and the tortilla strips.
And you know what? It is even better the next day, but tastes just as fresh when you top it with the cilantro, avocado and tortilla strips.

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, February 17, 2012

Reviews of "Generation Loss" [16] and "Available Dark" [17]

Generation Loss by Elizabeth Hand
Mariner Books, ISBN 978-0156031349
April 14, 2008, 300 pages

Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand
Minotaur, ISBN 978-0312585945
February 14, 2012, 256 pages

Awhile ago, I was wandering around the internet and came upon, on a favorite site, Criminal Elements, an excerpt of a soon to be released book by Elizabeth Hand . The book was called Available Dark and the first chapter or two were there for the reading. I read them and I was hooked. Since it was the second of Ms. Hand's books featuring this main character, Cass Neary, and this book was not yet available to purchase, I went and grabbed a copy of the first and then downloaded an e-copy of the second minutes after it became available.
Wow, I love these books.

I will warn you. They may not be to everyone's taste. They are violent, there is a lot of fascination with death and our heroine..well, she has some issues. I read a description of her that says that she is what Lizbeth Salander would be like in 30 years if she started using a lot of drugs.
But let's go to the author, for her own take on Cassandra "Scary" Neary..."Well, she's your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily-tattooed American female photographer." 6 foot tall, skeleton thin, dressed head to toe in black, rarely without some sort of 'substance' in her blood stream, she is not your typical heroine. No, she is very convincing scary.
And yet.... she has a certain charm that is difficult to pin down and things are never dull when she gets involved.

We first meet her in Generation Loss. She is a has-been, long past her 15 minutes of fame in the late 70's when she published a book of her photographs, centered around the drugs and darkness and death of the punk era. Yes, Cass has quite the interest in photographing death, the dead and the underside of society. But then punk moved on and Cass did not. In part, due to a vicious attack that she was the victim of years ago, in part, due to some suggested mental issues, and in no small part, due to her use of just about any drug she can scrape the money together to buy, her productive days are over. Or so she fears.

Eking out a living working in the Strand bookstore, stealing as many expensive photography books as she can, living in a beyond grungy, rent controlled apartment, things are looking bleak. But then, they have been bleak for a long, long time.

Then she gets a call from her friend/drug dealer. He has a job offer for her. To go to a small island off the coast of Maine and interview a reclusive, retired photographer named Aphrodite Kamestos, a woman whose own morbid vision was instrumental in Cass become a photographer. She has never given an interview before and he says she especially requested Cass. So off she heads to Maine, only to find things are quite different from what she expected. This is not the Maine of the tourist brochures, but a dark, cold, quite sinister place with disappearing pets and teenagers who may have run off..or not. On the island she finds the creepy remnants of a commune Aphrodite was a founding member of, and a number of ex-members still floating around.The old buildings, deep in the woods may have fallen apart and be covered in moss, but the ideals, taken to a whole new level are still alive in the hearts..the cold, dark, evil hearts of some. It seems the line between genius and madness may be very slim.

In Available Dark, Cass is home in NYC, just back from her 'adventure' in Maine, with a nice new scar to add to her collection. But the state police have some more questions about what happened and would like talk to her again, leaving messages on her machine, a prospect she would rather avoid. So, when she gets another job offer, in no small apart due to her name being in the newspaper from what happen up north..and that 'dead mask' photograph that she sold to a magazine and which is rather at odds with her story of what happened...the job sounds rather attractive.

A collector will pay her a large sum of money to fly to Helsinki to authenticate some photographs he plans to buy. They were taken by a once famous fashion photographer and are photographs that are right up Cass's alley. Her dark, death filled alley, since they turn out to be a series of photos of dead people, posed to replicate the 'Yuleboys' of Icelandic folklore, demonic figures with names like Door Slammer, Spoon Licker and Meat Hook. Wow, those Icelandic folk figures are not for the faint of heart. Actually they are meant for scare them into being good. It would have worked with me!

But soon the bodies are piling up..she almost being one of them...and Cass flees to Iceland, which she thinks will be safer, and to see if she can find an old boyfriend who she recently got a cryptic message from. But of course, things are not going to go that easy and Cass finds herself out of the frying fan, into the fire, a cold, deadly fire. She finds herself in the middle of ancient, deadly pagan myths and rituals, black metal music, and a bleak, dark, potentially deadly Icelandic winter. Again, this is not the Iceland you often read about, but a bleak, sad country, full of vacant buildings, in the midst of a financial collapse that has created a lot of very desperate people. And desperate people do desperate things.

As I said, these are books that might not be to everyone's taste. There is a lot of talk of death and drugs, presented in a rather offhanded manor, which some readers may find off putting. Which is a shame, because these are excellent books. Hand is a beautiful writer, her descriptions of the Maine and Icelandic landscape are sinister and scary and as fascinating as her heroine is. And Cass is fascinating and, in the author's hand, somehow likable. She is a screw-up, and she knows it, maybe having thrown away the talent she once had. But she has not lost her 'eye', especially for the damaged, and her take on the happenings in both books is unique, to say the least. I do not share, or even understand, the beauty Neary see in these photographs, full of death, but her explanations are raw and eloquent and almost convincing.  And she is witty, funny in her own dark way, and I love witty.

I have seen these two books called literary noir thrillers and I think that sums them up fairly well, even if it does not go far enough. They are dark and thrilling, full of very interesting observations about everything from photography to black metal music and written in a style that takes them up several notches from most mysteries.
I understand that Cass Neary will be back in a third book, hopefully soon, taking up where this one left off, with our troubled, damaged heroine fleeing to England.
I can not wait!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Chain Letter of Blogging

Every so often, one of these things hits BlogLand, like a nasty virus that will not go away. ;-)
A list of questions you must answer, revealing your innermost thoughts, and then pass on, with another list, to your favorite fellow bloggers and hope they will feel obligated to answer in turn.

But since Jenners of Life...With Books tagged me, and she lives close enough to show up at my door..and actually posted that she thought I would ignore it...I decided to answer the questions. I will show her!
And some of my answers are even true!
So, here are the ...

  1. You must post the rules.
  2. Answer the questions the tagger set for you in their post and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.
  3. Tag eleven people and link to them on your post.
  4. Let them know you’ve tagged them. 
And here are the questions Jenners wrote, along with my very thoughtful answers.

  1. What’s the most played song on your iPod? (or CD collection if you’re old school) Wow, when did CDs become old school? What does that make vinyl? I feel so old...what was the question? Oh yes. An Feochan by Altan
  2. What do you miss most about your childhood? Actually, I can't think of anything. I was a very anxious child and am glad it is behind me.
  3. What is your favorite poem? I will admit it. I am not a fan of poetry. Most of it, I just do not get it. What few poems I like are ones that play by the rules, the old rules, like iambic pentameter and rhyming. Which really limits things these days. My answer... Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost. Because it is the only poem I know by heart. And I find it rather bleak, yet cozy.
  4. Without thinking too much, what are 5 of your favorite books of all time? (Just list them as they come to you … don’t think!!!!!) Spending much of my day in a mindless state, the non-thinking part is easy. Now, the five 1. Lord of the Rings (yes, it is three books, but I am not above cheating) 2. Death Comes for the Archbishop 3.Catcher in the Rye (and no, I am not a serial killer) 4. Father Elijah:An Apocalypse by Michael D. O' Brian (I included the author because I am sure few of you have heard of it.) and 5...The Bible. OK, not really ONE book. And God, I am not just trying to suck up. But, believer or not, you can't deny it is just so full of fascinating stuff.
  5. What was the last book you read? Tell me about it in 5 words or less. Available Dark by Elizabeth Hand. 5 words...Charming druggie sociopath in Iceland. Really good book, if not for everyone. See the review of this one, and the previous in the series, Generation Loss, tomorrow. I hope.
  6. Can you define irony and give an example? (This is self-serving as I’m struggling to do this with my son. I will so steal your answers if appropriate.) Well, strictly, it is saying the exact opposite of what you mean. What you say and what you mean are intentionally at odds. Great fun, often goes over the intended receiver's head. Closely related to sarcasm, another one of my favs. I suspect if Jenners' son is not understanding irony, the babies may have been switched at birth
  7. If you were forced to change your name, what would you change it to? Bubbles O'Hara. Just because.
  8. What author/TV show/movie/book/celebrity, do you have absolutely despise and avoid at all costs? The Da Vinci Code. I actually read a bit of it...rubbish, pure rubbish and it's popularity leaves me dumbfounded. The popularity of this book is one of my favorite rants and a sign that civilization is on the verge of collapse. Off to continue stocking supplies in my air raid shelter now..
  9. What movie was actually better than the book is was based on? The Godfather
  10. Beatles or the Stones? Beatles, without question. No contest.
  11. What is your favorite quote? Illegitimi non carborundum. Ok, it is a fake Latin quote, but I still love the sentiment. I used it as my quote in my high school yearbook. You figure it out.

Now, about those rules.
I did follow the first, by posting the rules.
And I have no intention of following the rest.
I figure any blogger I know has already been tagged and will not appreciate being hit again. 11 times 11 times 11 times makes my head spin.
So, I am letting it rest in peace.
And hope you will not think badly of me. :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wordless Wednesday..Summer is Just Around the Corner

..and we are back in Ocean City, NJ again today. 
Mini Golf anyone??


Sadly, not a 'real' lighthouse..and those palm trees are plastic! always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

A Review of "Bleed For Me" [15]

Bleed For Me by Michael Robotham
Mulholland Books, ISBN 978-0316126380
February 27, 2012, 432 pages

I have been on a roll lately book wise, and I have another very good one to share with you.
This time we are in England, near the town of Bath, and are soon deep into the life of Joe O'Loughlin and his family, when his daughter's best friend turns up at the front door...

"When Sienna Hegarty turns up at his family home one night, covered in blood and frozen in shock, psychologist Joe O'Loughlin finds himself drawn deep into her world, trying to unearth the dark secrets her mind has buried. The police find a major piece of the puzzle at Sienna's house: her father, a retired cop, is face-down in a pool of his own blood, his throat slashed and his skull caved in. The blood covering Sienna was his. The 14-year-old can't remember what happened that night but, at the same time, Sienna doesn't mourn her father's death. What was going on behind closed doors in the Hegarty household? Is Sienna guilty of brutal murder? And what part has her charismatic teacher Gordon Ellis played in this blood-soaked event?"
Without question, it is soon clear that something very bad was going on the Hegarty home, even if the police are a bit reluctant to believe what starts to become apparent about a well respected co-worker. They are a family that just seems to have been overwhelmed with tragedy in the past and now it seems that their youngest may go to prison for murder, if O'Loughlin, a psychologist with a unique connection, can not help Sienna remember what really happened.

O'Loughlin is a wonderful character and a large part of what makes this book so very good. Yes, he is a psychologist, but he is also a troubled man. Diagnosed with Parkinson's and spending a large part of his day obsessively noting every tic and twitch, he is a very sad man, trapped in more than one way by his illness. He has given up his private practice, only teaching part time, and is also separated from his wife, on the verge of divorce.

But his being a psychologist is also a huge plus for the story, because through his eyes, we get to explore below the surface of so many people involved in the multiple treads of the book, including some very, very evil people. All the minor characters are excellent too, especially his friend, retired police detective Victor Ruiz and Detective Ronnie Cray. It would almost be easy to dislike his separated wife, Julianne, to blame her for leaving Joe when he is sick, but Robotham is not going to let us off that easy. Joe is not a perfect guy and sometimes they just want to slap him, and so might you, but in his heart he is a very decent man, in a very difficult situation, just trying to do his best, day by day.

The plot is very good, seeming to meander off at time, but all wrapping up in a very satisfying and believable way. The story is always very intelligent, very well paced and very well written.I don't want to give too much away, but this is certainly the type of book you may have a problem putting down, it just flows along so well and draws you in so completely.
This is the fourth book in the series, but don't let that stop you from reading this one for one minute. Everything you will need to know about the past is explained to us and while, once again, it may make you want to go back and read the previous ones, it is not at all necessary to love this one.
And I did!
If you like a great thriller, a great mystery, a well written novel with some great characters, you will enjoy this one.
Highly recommended.

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Musing Monday..."Reader, I married him."

Ok, I have not even told you the question, let alone the answer and here I have given the ending away. But I suspect, many of you know that quote and even if you don't, you may know the ending to the book that is my answer.
But first, the question, as always from the mind of Miz B at Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing asks…

What is your favorite romantic book –or book that includes a love story? (an adult romance, young adult, kids’ story, anything)

You know, sometimes I actually have to muse about the Musing question, to let my answer form in my brain. Yes, I know my answers don't seem that complicated, but in my simple mind, so things go.
But this time, the answer came to be at once.
Jame Eyre!
I assume the first time I read it, it was a school assignment, when I was in high school. And my dear reader, I was sold!
I don't read romances, never have. Actually, I am not too happy when a romance intrudes on my beloved mystery stories. But Jane Eyre...that is a great story, a great romance...a great book!
(and please, excuse the possible overuse of the exclamation mark in this post!)

This is, in my mind, the perfect example how often the classics are, for all the rest, just darn good stories and Jane Eyre is a darn good story, a darn good love story.  Then there is Mr. Rochester. Dark, mysterious, with a gruff exterior but a needy, lonely heart. And it did not hurt that he was rich!
Hey, I was a teenager but I wasn't a fool!
If you are going to fall in love with a man with so many issues, it doesn't hurt if he has a boatload of money.

But, of course, things aren't going to go that smooth. No, the path will be rocky and that is good. At least for the story. That pesky wife locked in the attic and other wee problems. But love will triumph. Or will it? Oh, the suspense.
Actually, I always thought that Jane would triumph, one way or the other, because she is the star of the show and if she was not the great, strong, resourceful young woman that she is, the book, especially the romance would not be what it is. Yes, it is a love story but it is also a story about a young woman growing up in difficult circumstances, to say the least, and succeeding. The whole orphan thing, succeeding even with her lowly beginning and then, the icing on the cake...True Love.

"My bride is here... because my equal is here, and my likeness."

They were friends first, equals, despite their places in the world, and then they fell in love.But things are not so simple and we knew there was more to the story. I mean, there were all those pages left! The interrupted wedding (oh, horror!) Jane fleeing, trying to start over. But true love wins. She returns, finds the house burned to the he dead? Is that it? No, we will have our happy ending after all. Sure, he is blind and scarred. But really girls, does that make him any less attractive? Of course not. He is now a tragic, handsome figure.
And he is still rich.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So So Lazy Sammy Sunday

"Just laying back, relaxing with my peeps...."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Nutella Ravioli..Redux

You may remember, a long time ago, I posted a recipe for Nutella Ravioli.
At the time the Niece had made them for a dinner, having found the recipe in a cookbook from the very talented Giada De Laurentiis.
They seem so simple, with just a couple of ingredients. And they take just a couple of minutes to make.
Can they really be any good?
Oh yes, my dear readers, they certainly can!

If you like chocolate and most certainly if you are a fan of the hazelnut chocolate spread that is Nutella, these are really something you have to try.

And then I saw a picture somewhere online of a slight variation made for Valentine Day.
Use a heart cutter ..a little powered sugar...maybe a little decoration and you have a perfect dessert for the heart filled day. Or just a delicious, easy little dessert or treat for any day. Different shapes or just make the original, folding the wonton skin in half and making triangle ones. Either way, a winner!

All you will need is a pack of wonton skins, available at most supermarkets, a jar of nutella, in the peanut butter aisle most likely, a beaten egg to seal the edges and some vegetable oil for frying.

Cut the skins to the desired shapes, here some cute hearts. Apply some Nutella, leaving a nice bit of edge to seal. Use you finger to apply some of the egg to the wonton edge, put on the top wonton and seal the edge well. I used a fork.
Fry in the oil, preheated to about 350 degrees.
Stand right there because they will be ready to flip in just a second.
Fry until brown on the other side, remove with a slotted spoon and pat dry on a paper towel.
Now, if you make a bunch, they say that they can be held in a 200 degree oven to keep warm.
I don't know about that.
Mine have never lasted that long.

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, February 10, 2012

A Review of "A Place to Die" [14]

A Place to Die: An Inspector Georg B├╝chner Mystery by Dorothy James
Xlibris Corporation, ISBN 978-1450082693
April 21, 2010, 436 pages

Here is your chance to get in on the first book in a series, and it looks like it will be a good one
Neither Eleanor or Franz Fabien are too thrilled to leave their home in New York to fly to Franz's home in Vienna to visit his mother. But she recently had to move into an assisted living facility and he feels it is his duty, even if they really do not get along and he tries to keep contact to a minimum. Haus im Wald seems like a pleasant enough place..well, until one of the residents, a rather dashing older man with an active social life, ends up bludgeoned to dead and police inspector Georg Buchner takes up temporary residence to solve the crime. But as even more people die both we and Buchner have to ask ourselves just how deep these mysteries may go.

There are a number of sub-plots that greatly add to the interest of the story. A number of the characters, not unusual considering the setting, spend a fair bit of time musing the subject of growing older. And again, considering the people involved and their age, the last generation that was alive during WWII and shortly after the war, the subject of living during the presence of the Nazi regime plays not a insignificant roll in the story.

But ultimately, this is a character driven book. This is not a cozy little mystery, full of sweet old people. No, the characters of A Place to Die are an interesting and complex group, with present day passions and secrets that reach back to the time of the Nazis. American Eleanor Fabian is at the center of the story and one of the few really likable people we meet. I think you will soon agree that she deserves a better life that being married to the quite annoying Franz. And then there is Inspector Buchner, who will make a great lead for a new series. He is smart and low key as he slowly and carefully untangles all the relationships and tries to make sense of each resident's version of what happen on the day the murder took place.

But each of the minor characters is great as well. We have the rather smarmy Dr. Hofer, a private physician to many of the residents, Frau Huber, the housekeeper, who, shall we say, like to take a hands on interest in seeing that everyone is satisfied with her care. We have the retired Lutheran religious sisters, Sister Agatha and Sister Barbara, who are the basis for more than a few rumors and, of course, Frau Hagen, a retired opera singer and the reason the murdered man had a Viagra prescription. These are just a few of a rather large cast, but each character is so well flesh out that the reader should have little problem keeping them all straight. And each is interesting in their own way..and a good suspect in the murder.
These folks may be old, but they are not dead yet.
Well..except for the ones that die.

Although the vast majority of the book takes place within the setting of the retirement home, that never seem to confine the story. Still short trips into the city are interesting and I hope we get to 'see' more of the area in the future. I am sure that can make for some fascinating backdrops for the next adventure with Georg Buchner. And I am happy to see, from reading an interview with the author, that Eleanor Fabian and her whiny husband will appear again in the next book.

Check out other great reviews, interviews with the author Dorothy James and guest posts at Tribute Books Blog Tour!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Ocean City, NJ on a Winter Day

Closed for the season..

...good night. always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

A Review of "Started Early, Took My Dog" [13]

Started Early, Took My Dog
by Kate Atkinson
Reagan Arthur Books, ISBN 978-0316066730
March 21, 2011, 384 pages

 I started Early—Took my Dog—
And visited the Sea—
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me—
Emily Dickinson

Our two main characters in this story, Jackson Brodie, back for his fourth appearance, and Tracy Waterhouse have a few things in common. Both are ex-cops, both are more than a little lonely and a bit at a loss as to what to do with themselves and other find themselves in Leeds on the edge of an adventure.

Jackson has taken a job, rather half heartedly, to try and find the birth family of a woman now living in New Zealand. But at the same time he is also keeping an eye open for clues to the location of his 'pretend' ex-wife who stole a great deal of money from him when she ran off.
Tracy's situation is even a little sadder. Never married, no children, few friends, her job was her life and now without it she is just beginning to sense the size of the void. She has taken a job as the head of security for a shopping mall, which gives her something to do...and lead her to the opportunity to make a purchase unlike anything she could ever have considered. In a instant, she makes a decision that will change her life.
For his part, Jackson also make an instantaneous decision and rescues a small dog being beaten by his owner. He happily gives the man a taste of his own medicine, and introduces who was perhaps my favorite character of this book, The Ambassador.  What a dog!

Not that the other characters are not good, because they are. I have not read the previous books in the series, but I don't think it is necessary. The author lets us know everything we need to about Taylor's past to understand what is going on. But I must say I was taken enough with him to want and go back and read the previous ones soon. And Tracy is great! No ones fool, more than willing and able to protect those she cares about and at time very funny. She and her sidekick, who I will let you meet for yourself, make a delightful pair, on a great, if rather dangerous, adventure.

The setup of the story, with a number of intertwining stories, both past and present, took me a little bit to get used to, but then became quite enjoyable. Ms. Atkinson is not beyond using a bit of misdirection and a little sleight of hand, so the reader has to stay or his or her toes as to not go down the wrong path, plot wise You may think you know where the story is going, only to have things turned about as we make another connection. There are a lot of clues, not a few red herrings and before you know it it will all start to tie together and it all adds up to a great read.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Musing Monday..Manning and Madonna

Wow, another Monday already? Let's see what  MizB at Should Be Reading is asking this week on Musing Monday...

This week’s musing asks…

Did you do any reading in lieu of watching the football game, yesterday, or were you foregoing reading to watch the game? If you read a book (or books) what did you choose?

I would not say I am a football fan.
I have, under pressure and the threat of not being allowed to share in the football food snacks, watched a few games this year. But then my boy Timmy Tebow was out of it and what little interest I had disappeared along with Tim. As did the snacks.

But the Super Bowl...that is different, right.
Even people you have little or no interest in football often watch the game.
Because, first of all, there are the commercials, several of which were pretty good this year.
And many people attend parties, with lots of football snacks.
And there was the Half Time Show, starring Madonna.
Is it just me, or did she look awfully tired. She is getting on in years. Then, she was swallowed up by the giant cloud of smoke. Fitting, since the Giants...WHO PLAY IN New Jersey, NOT New York...won.
Did I mention they play in NJ and, for the life of me, I do not understand why they are not the NJ Giants?

So, it seems I was watching the game, right?
Well, I was, but only because I was at work and I was reading a book on my Nook and I forgot to charge my Nook before I came to work and I did not have the charger with me and I was at work and by the time the game was starting the little battery thingie was showing red and then it died !!!
So, at first, I was reading A Place To Die.
And the battery died. {Darn Evil E-Books!}
So I watched the game.
And now I am going out to search my car and see if maybe I have a book in the back or under the seat. Or something..

Some of you may remember a time when I was prone to ranting about the Evil E-Books. That was before I bought a Nook..then a Color Nook..and got the iPad. Then I gave the ranting up.
However, say what you will about the merits and drawbacks of each format, but one thing for sure...I never had to stop reading a book, a REAL book, because the battery ran out!

Wait! I have my phone. I can read a book on my phone!
Not the one I was reading, because it is a file that I had to convert to a different format and now it appears as a file, not a book, on my Nook and nowhere else. Another problem I never had with a real book.

But I must say, I thought that opening of the half time show was really something. Even if poor Madonna had to be rolled on. Because she is getting on in years, ya know.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sammy So-So Super Bowl Sunday

Sadly, our Timmy is not playing, but we will watch if snacks will be provided!