Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review of "Venice Noir" [47]

Venice Noir
edited by Maxim Jakubowski
Akashic Books, ISBN 9781617750731
May 29, 2012, 288 pages

For many, including myself, Venice is a magical city, full of endless water vistas, amazing historic buildings and beautiful light. But the 14 stories in this collection present a vision of Venice that few visitors would think of, ranging from the disturbing to the really creepy. Noir indeed.

From the publisher description...

"VENICE IS ONE OF THE WORLD'S most famous cities and an obligatory tourist destination. Now, for the first time, we look beyond the teeming canals and the crumbling palazzos to see the darkness at the heart of La Serenissima, the reality behind the postcards, and a city historically associated with both commerce and death comes to life in tales of treachery, crime, and lost souls, inhabited by locals and visitors alike."

They are a mixed bag of stories, ranging from a few really excellent one, to a majority of quite good ones to on or two that left me shaking my head. I am a fan of short stories and at their best, which a few of these were, a clever writer can tell a very complete, very satisfying story in a small number of pages. I think there is something very enjoyable about that.

One of my favorite was The Comedy is Over by Francesco Ferrcin, about a young woman who had a very bad, very violent experience that caused her to undergo a spectacular change in her life. While I can not approve of what she did, there is something very understandable, even darkly admirable about it. Another favorite was the next story in the book, Commissario Clelia Vinci, by Barbara Baraldi, a rather bleak tale about revenge and despair, with a clever if dark twist at the end. And finally I will mention Lido Winter by Maxim Jakubowshi, who also edited the book, about a middle aged man on a vaporetto, the water buses, on his way to the island of Lido, admiring a young woman, a tourist who boards at San Marco. Oh, if he only knew who she was, would he be so friendly?

Yes, there were one or two that were much less successful for me, one with just a few too many rats, one that may make visitors think twice about where they stay. But all in all, it was a very good mix, underlining many of humanity's darker qualities. Lust, greed, fear, love that turns to hatred, and yes, a few lost souls are all here, set against a Venice that is often dark and decaying and not a little scary.

As you sail along the Grand Canal, you are stuck by Venice's timeless beauty, but do we ever know what is behind the beautiful, crumbling facades of those grand palazzos? Just step around a corner, into the maze of backstreets, endless small canals and countless bridges and you are in quite another world, the world of Venice Noir.

My thanks to the publisher and Library Thing Early Reviewers for providing a copy for review. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Wordless Wednesday..Doorways and Windows



  always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Review of "Dead Scared" [46]

Dead Scared by S.J.Bolton
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312600532
June 5, 2012, 384 pages

Up on the tower, it’s cold. The January chill comes drifting over
the Fens and wraps itself across the city like a paedophile’s hand
round that of a small, unresisting child. The woman isn’t dressed for
winter but seems to be unaware of the cold. She blinks and suddenly
those dead eyes have tears in them....

He feels the cold air just as he sees the door at the top. He’s out
on the roof before he has any idea what he’s going to do if he’s too
late and she’s already jumped. Or what the hell he’ll do if she hasn’t.
‘Lacey,’ he yells. ‘No!’

University students, especially at a place like Cambridge, are under a great deal of stress, away from home and often lonely, a great deal of pressure to succeed, so suicide is not unknown. But Doctor Evi Oliver, head to the student counseling department, suspect something else, something even more scary may be going on. The number of suicides, the large percentage of females victims, and the unusual methods they use, makes the Cambridge psychiatrist concerned enough to approach London police about her fears. She thinks that somehow, someone, is egging vulnerable young women on, taking advantage of their worse, most personal fears, to get them to commit this final, most drastic act.

As part of the investigation, DI Mark Joesbury recruits DC Lacey Flint to go undercover, pretending to be a new university student, moving into the room of the last..and barely surviving...victim, a girl who set fire to herself. But as readers of Bolton's last excellent book, Now You See Me, knows, Lacey, while a great investigator, is not without her our issues, her own fears, her own weaknesses. Not least of which is her unrequited love for Joesbury.
Playing the role of a vulnerable student is not that difficult, but when Lacey starts having the same violent dreams, the same lost hours, the same sort of night terrors that so many of the young woman reported before they killed themselves, we start to wonder if Lacey is the pursuer...or the next victim.

Yes, I was a fan of Bolton's previous book, her fourth, Now You See Me. While I am not a huge Jack the Ripper fan, a central aspect of that book, I still loved it. It is a book that was able to draw on the whole Ripper mythology and yet add a fresh and exciting twist. So when I saw that this one, Dead Scared, would continue the story of that books two main characters, Joesbury and Flint, I was excited. Would this one be as good? In a word..Yes! Yes, it is indeed.

Bolton creates a great plot here. Just when I though I knew what was going on, the story takes a big right turn and knocks all my suppositions right out the window. It is scary and at times rather dark, as a book that explores people's greatest fears should be, yet it is also smart and fast paced, with a strong dash of creepy thrown in. A very entertaining combination in my opinion.

And it contains a great dog, always a plus for me!
So many great characters... Joesbury and Flint, back from Now You See Me and Dr. Oliver, herself a very tormented woman, back from Bolton's third book Blood Harvest. Partially crippled in a terrible skiing accident, in constant pain, at times is it hard to know whether she is the book's heroine or another potential victim. And then we have a great supporting cast, many of whom are just weird enough to have us wondering if they are friend or foe. We will not be sure until we race to the end of the book. And race you will, because I will assure you, this one is a page turner!

For Bolton fans, another great book you will want to grab. For those unfamiliar with her books, a great standalone, a great introduction to the work of a very good writer of psychological thrillers.

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

Monday, May 28, 2012

Musing Monday...It's Only Words...

Happy Memorial Day! And Memorial Day is on a Monday,  so let's check out this week's question from Miz B at Should Be Reading ...

This week’s musing asks…
If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop and look it up right away?

As the Bee Gees said...
It's only words, and words are all
I have to take your heart away...

Well, I am not sure this sounds quite right, but I can not honestly remember the last time I ran across a word I did not know when reading.
Why is that?

Well, I guess there could be several reasons.
Maybe I just have a vast vocabulary. Honestly, I think I have a fairly good one, mainly from years and years of reading, but maybe not that great. But then, I do really well on the online game where you have to pick the right meaning of a word to earn grains of rice...I get bored with it before I fail. However, I will also admit to being a terrible speller. Not that you asked, but anyone who reads my blog may have noticed. And just think how bad it would be without SpellCheck ! I can look at a word and know it is wrong..but I don't know how to spell it correctly. Oh well.
Maybe I just read easy books that use little, easy words. Yes, it is true that I don't read the most challenging books these days, not like in my younger days, but I am reading mainstream books, meant for average readers.
Or maybe somewhere in the middle.
Actually I was just reading an e-book the other day and, pausing my finger a little too long in the wrong place, and found out (OK, I knew and forgot) that these e-readers and e-reader apps have a built in dictionary. How cool. That could be handy if I ever need it sometime! ;-)

What I will admit to looking up when reading are places. It is a little issue for me.
If a book mentions a town, I must go online and see if it is real and if it is, where is it. I love to look at a map and see the relation of various places mentioned in a book. I love a book that has a drawn map in the front, although, in a tiny e-book rant, I will say there are not very convenient to 'flip' back to in an e-book, not like in a real book.
Yes, I will admit I have a little thing for maps.

And family trees! I love a family tree in a book. But there is a danger with them too. I read a book awhile back...I forget what the book was...and it had a family tree in the front. But it turned out to be lousy one, incomplete and a little screwed up. That was very upsetting and I think I spent as much time trying to figure that family tree out as reading the book. Or at least it seemed that way.

Do people still use dictionaries?
I mean 'real' paper, book dictionaries, or they just Google everything?
I am sure I have one, somewhere on my book shelves...

In honor of the recent death of Robin Gibbs, let's end with one of the Bee Gees best...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

So So Sammy Sunday...True Love


On Mother's Day, Sammy and Bandit had a visit from their cousin, 
the Great Dame puppy, Mookie.
For Sammy, it is true love.
The doughnut is because Mookie had just had surgery..
she was 'fixed, 
which did not lessen her attraction in Sammy's eye.
But height is an issue..
and will only become more so because she is not yet half
Sammy, would you like a ladder?

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Pollo alla Trombino

I am an admitted fan of Lidia Bastianich, of her cookbooks and of her TV show. So while I have not seen her latest cookbook yet, I have seen her PBS series that goes along with it, Lidia's Italy in America.
"Lidia talks about growing up in Italy, her family’s struggle to come to America, her introduction to Italian-American food, and her subsequent rediscovery of authentic regional Italian cuisine. Bringing her story back to the US, Lidia’s latest book and public television series, Lidia’s Italy in America, pay homage the people and places that carry on the Italian-American spirit."
When I saw the episode for Philadelphia was on, you know I had to watch it! And I was glad that I did, because Lidia made this delicious chicken recipe from Ralph’s Italian Restaurant, a Philadelphia landmark opened in 1900 by Francesco Dispigno. Ralph's claims to be the oldest Italian restaurant in America still run by the same family and this dish has been on the menu as long as anyone can remember.

Pollo alla Trombino
serves: 4 to 6
  • 4  6 to 8-ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 8-ounces roasted red peppers, drained and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup grated provolone cheese
  • 2 tablespoons shredded fresh basil

Cut each chicken breast on a bias with a sharp chef’s knife, making two slices out of each breast. Pound a bit, if needed, to make them evenly thick. Season chicken all over with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spread flour on a  plate, then dredge chicken in flour and tap off excess. Melt the butter and the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip the pieces, and brown the other side, about 2 minutes more.

When the chicken is browned, remove the chicken to a plate for a moment and pour the tomatoes, roasted peppers, oregano, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt into skillet. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the separate ingredients come together as a sauce, about 5 minutes. Place the chicken back in the pan.
Sprinkle the dish with the cheese and shredded basil. Cover the skillet, and simmer just until the cheese melts and the chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes more.

If this is the sort of recipe in her new book, I really must get a copy of it!
This chicken is simple and delicious, last enough for a quick weeknight dinner, yet good enough to serve guests. I though that maybe there were not enough ingredients to be really interesting, but as is often true, I was wrong.
Still, I made few little changes to this one. I pounded the chicken a bit to make the pieces even, nice and thin, to cook nice and quick. I used canned diced tomatoes because fresh ones are not in season here yet and roasted peppers from my deli rather than the jarred ones Lidia used.
Oh and you may notice I added some asparagus...because I had some. Very nice addition I thought, but not necessary.
Either way, very tasty!


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, May 25, 2012

Hopper's Light

From the Metropolitan Museum of Art's description...

In "The Lighthouse at Two Lights" Hopper isolated the dramatic silhouette of the 120-foot-high lighthouse tower and adjoining Coast Guard station against the open expanse of blue sky. Set on a rocky promontory in Cape Elizabeth, Maine — though no water is visible in the painting — the architecture is bathed in bright sunlight offset by dark shadows. Since 1914 Hopper had regularly summered in Maine, and this picture is one of three oils and several watercolors that he did of this site during summer 1929. To Hopper, the lighthouse at Two Lights symbolized the solitary individual stoically facing the onslaught of change in an industrial society. The integrity and clarity of his work made Hopper a quiet force in American art for forty years and one of America's most popular artists.

Well, it is not quite the isolated place it was when Hopper painted it, but it is still a beautiful place. Sadly, the light and house are privately owned and not open to the public, so our views are limited.
But I did my best to get a photo or two.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review of "Murder on the Rocks" [45]

Murder on the Rocks: Gray Whale Mysteries # 1 
by Karen MacInerney
Midnight Ink, ISBN 978-0738709086
May 8, 2006, 282 pages.

Why do I do it to myself? Read book reviews that is. I have enough books to last me for the foreseeable future and yet I am always on the lookout for something that sound good. I blame Tina from Tutu's Two Cents! An island off the coast of Maine, lobster buoys bobbing all around, fog and nor'easters and wild roses...and the body of a greedy developer tossed onto the rocks. Really, how could I pass that one up?
Well, I did not and am glad I didn't!

In this, the first of the Gray Whale Mysteries (yes, two will be on the way then 3 and 4), we meet the charming new owner of the Gray Whale Inn, transplanted Texan Natalie Barnes. She is fulfilling a dream, buying the inn on the Cranberry Island, just off the coast of Mt.Desert Island, Maine but even a dream doesn't come without a few problems.

Meeting costs as she tries to build a business is worry enough, but now a developer, Bernard Katz, is trying to convince the locals to allow him to build a huge luxury resort on land right next to the inn. It will endanger the nesting terns, threatening the sleepy nature of the island and very well putting Nat out of business when she has barely gotten started. But big money talks to some looking to make a fast killing. Surprising, he get town officials to easily go along with his plans, angering many in the community, including Nat.

And when she finds his body, head bashed in and thrown off a rocky cliff, things go from bad to worse. The resort is still in the works but now the mainland cop sent to investigate seems to think that Nat is the number one suspect.
Well, I guess she will just have to do some investigating of her own to try and clear her name!

I will admit that I was totally won over by the setting. You could write a very bad book set on an island off the coast of Maine and I might like it. But on top of it this is quite a nice book too! Yes, that great locale, some good characters, many of whom we will see more of in future installments no doubt and a nice cozy little mystery. I must agree with Tina that on a few occasions you must suspend your disbelief...and inn on an island with all those storms and you don't have a back-up generator? Really? And the author committed one of my major pet peeves, naming characters with similar names, in this case Charlene and Claudette. Really, you could not have named one Betty..or Joan..or anything else. But the book is charming enough to make me pretty much just pass right over things like that. Yes, maybe Natalie should not be poking her nose into things with a murderer running around...but folks, this is a cozy, so that is sort of the point.

If you are looking for a fun, cozy mysteries series, great for a summer read, look no further!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Lanterns




 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review of "The Body in the Boudoir" [44]

The Body in the Boudoir: A Faith Fairchild Mystery 
by Katherine Hall Page
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0062065483
May 1, 2012, 272 pages.

I had heard about this series, but my recent experience with jumping into a well established series had not been too successful. And with 19 previous books with Faith Fairchild, well, I was concerned.
If you have read this whole series, I assume you will need little encouragement in picking up this latest one, but if you are new to these books, this is the perfect place to start, because the story told goes back to the beginning in 1990, when Faith, then a successful caterer in NYC, met her future husband Thomas Fairchild and started a very new chapter in her life.

From the publisher description...
It's 1990, and Faith Sibley is a single young woman leading a glamorous life in New York City. She has good friends, a cozy apartment, and her own flourishing catering business, Have Faith. Then, at a catering event, she meets the handsome, charming Reverend Thomas Fairchild. A daughter and granddaughter of clergymen, Faith has sworn to avoid a parish's fishbowl existence. But it's love at first sight, and before she knows it her life is changing drastically.

To begin with, she's beckoned north to chilly New England to visit her future residence and prospective in-laws, not all of whom welcome her with open arms. Thankfully, back home she has her adoring great-uncle Sky to rely on, even if his much younger wife has always struck Faith as slightly odd. For the ceremony Uncle Sky has offered up the use of his mansion on Long Island, which would be the perfect location if only the brickwork wasn't suspiciously falling off the roof.

Her path to the altar is made even rockier when Faith faces two other baffling mysteries. Her new assistant, Francesca, appears to be hiding a family secret with roots in Italy. Then Faith's sister, Hope, becomes a target. Who could be plotting to derail her high-stakes financial career?

In spite of being overwhelmed by her decision to leave her home in the Big Apple and the multitude of tasks involved in getting married, Faith has no doubts about being married to her beloved Tom. But someone out there is dead set on making sure that she doesn't reach the altar. Before it's too late, she needs to figure out who is trying to sabotage the wedding—by eliminating the bride!
Yes, not one but several interesting little mysteries for the readers..and figure out. As if a whirlwind romance, the decision to give up her business and take on the life of a minister's wife in a small New England and all the wedding plans are not stressful enough, it appears that someone is trying to kill the bride. Now that is stress!

Much of this book is set in Manhattan, the upper class NY of Faith's family, the Silbys, and I must say I found that aspect delightful. The wedding shower, the celebratory parties, a carriage ride in Central Park, private clubs and lovely food all around was all great fun between the more sinister happenings.When she and her mother and sister go shopping for a wedding dress, it is at Bergdorf’s bridal salon and when they stop for tea, it is at the Palm Court in the Plaza Hotel. What fun!
Did I mention the food? Well, since Faith is a caterer, it only makes sense that food will play a significant part of the story and the book will not disappoint, going so far as to share a few recipes that arise in the story in the back of the book. I will admit parts of this book made me quite hungry.

Good characters, interesting settings, including Thomas' parish in Massachusetts, upper class Manhattan and the old family estate in the coast of Long Island where the exciting conclusion takes place, add a great deal to an entertaining story. All in all, a good introduction to Faith and her cast of characters. I think fan of the series will want to grab this one up and those, like myself, new to it, will find much to enjoy.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lazy Larry Sunday

Larry wants to show you his new bed. 
Bigger, softer..and it has his name on it.
Larry seems to like it, wouldn't you say?

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Almond Horns

I think the first time I ever had an Almond Horn was at the Kringla Bakeri og Cafe at Epcot in Disney World. I can remember sitting there after Illuminations one night, waiting for the crowds to make there way out. On a chilly evening..and yes, I have experienced some chilly evenings at Disney World..there is nothing like a warm beverage, coffee, tea or hot chocolate, and a lovely, chewy Almond Horn.
Sadly, last time I was there the bakery had no Almond Horns.
What is the world coming to?


I was reminded of my fondness for this confection when the Niece and I were at the Reading Terminal Market recently. Termini Bakery there has all sorts of interesting and delicious looking things, but the Almond Horns have to rank near the top.
Shocking though was the price. One Almond Horn, granted a good size one, was $4!
So I decided to look into making my own, and I must say as cookies go, this is a simple one. And a great chance to use my lovely food processor, although you can use a mixer.
True, the ingredients, as few as they are, are not the cheapest. Almond paste..I used the Odense brand..and almonds, are a bit expensive. But at $4 each..well, think of all the money I saved! lol

I used the recipe off the Odense web site as well, with just a few changes. I added 1 tsp. of almond extract, as I saw many recipes did. And when I removed the dough from the food processor, I wrapped it in plastic and let it chill in the frig for awhile to make it more workable. It is still sticky, but doable when it is colder.

Almond Horn Cookies 
makes 12

  • 1 box Almond Paste, grated
  • 3/4 cup confectionery sugar
  • 1 large egg (room temperature), separated
  • 1 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup thinly sliced almonds, slightly crushed
  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate

    Line cookie sheet with parchment or foil. 
     In a food processor or with a mixer, combine Almond Paste and sugar. Mix until the texture of fine crumbs. Add egg white and flour, reserving yolk. Mix until dough becomes a smooth paste, it will be slightly sticky. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill 20 minutes in frig. 
    Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With floured hands roll dough into a 12 inch log. Divide into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls. Roll balls between palms into 3 inch logs, slightly tapered at ends. Spread almonds on a plate. Beat reserved egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of water. Dampen log with beaten yolk. Roll each log in almonds until coated, bending into crescents. Place crescents 2 inches apart on cookie sheet and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F.  
    Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until light golden in color. Cool sheet on wire rack for 5 minutes, and loosen crescents with a spatula. Slide parchment off of sheet and back onto wire rack to finish cooling cookies. Melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Dip cookie ends into melted chocolate. Place back on parchment until chocolate is dry. Layer 'Almond Horns' between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container.

An airtight container, really? How long do they think these are going to last.
I plan to take them over to the Bro and Sil's today. We are heading up to Villanova this morning for the Niece's college graduation.
I suspect the Almond Horns will make a nice breakfast treat.


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.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review of "The Unseen" [43]

The Unseen by Katherine Webb
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0062077882
May 22, 2012, 464 pages.

From the publisher's description...
From Katherine Webb, the author of the acclaimed international bestseller The Legacy, comes a compelling tale of love, deception, and illusion.

A vicar with a passion for nature, the Reverend Albert Canning leads a happy existence with his naive wife, Hester, in their sleepy Berkshire village in the year 1911. But as the English summer dawns, the Canning' lives are forever changed by two new arrivals: Cat, their new maid, a disaffected, free-spirited young woman sent down from London after entanglements with the law; and Robin Durrant, a leading expert in the occult, enticed by tales of elemental beings in the water meadows nearby.

This is a book about secrets and mysteries and any manner of unseen things and I dare say there is not a character in this book that does not have a secret.
The book begins with a present day mystery. Leah Hickson, a freelance journalist, is contacted by her ex-boyfriend Ryan who is working in Belgium for the War Graves Commission, a group who is tasked with identifying the many bodies of unknown soldiers that turn up every year. But this one is particularly interesting, well preserved in a bog, and he thinks that Leah might help by finding out who he is and what is the meaning of the two carefully protected letters that the dead man was carrying. And in the process gaining an interesting story for her to write.

Her investigation takes her back to England and the small village of Cold Ash Holt and to the residents of the rectory there a 100 years ago, the Reverend Canning and his wife Hester. 1911 was a stifling hot summer, and the presence of the reverend's guest, the young, handsome Mr. Durrant, a rising star in theosophical circles, will make things all the more uncomfortable. Well, for everyone but Mr. Canning, who seems oddly taken with the young man and his rather strange ideas.
Then we have Cat, a young servant girl who was just released from prison in London and taken in as a supposed act of charity by the rectory..and perhaps because they can get away with paying her so little. What her crime was and what she suffered in prison that effected her so much is not her own secret though, one truly surprising one that is not revealed until the last pages.
And then there is the murder, of course, and where there is a murder, there is a murderer...

I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons.
I liked how the book is set in these two time periods, the present day and a century ago, and while the historic one is perhaps the more important, both are very entertaining and weave together so well. And I must say that, especially coming off my marathon viewing of the second season of Downton Abbey, I find that period of British history, just before WWI very interesting. It was a time when the country was on the edge of great change, a breakdown of the servant class, the rise of the suffragette movement, the Great War, that would kill so many, just around the corner and all these play some part in this story.

OK, no book is perfect and yes, maybe this one dragged a bit in the last third. But it is a minor issue, because there is a lot to like about this book.
There is fraud and lust and obsession and fear and love and one tragically sad death by murder, all wrapped up in not one, but two good stories. Happily, stories that are neatly and satisfyingly tied up in the end, even if many readers might wish that things had turned out differently for at least one character. Some of the secrets may be figured out earlier in the book by the careful reader. And that is fine, because I am pretty sure there are a few you will not see coming but make perfect sense once you find them out. We will find out who that forgotten, dead soldier is and why he died with those two letters in his pocket. It is a great yarn, with some very good, very memorable characters, good and bad, and a lovely setting in the sleepy Berkshire countryside, past and present, and a good story to be told.

Recommended, for those that like a good mystery, Anglophiles, fans of pre-WWI England and anyone who just enjoys a well told story.

My thanks to William Morrow with providing a copy of this books for review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Always In My Mind..

Always in my mind...yes, Maine again.

Bug Light, Portland, Maine


Fort Point Light

Bernard, Maine    

Rockland, Maine always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Review of "A Winter Kill" [42]

A Winter Kill by Vicki Delany
Raven Books, ISBN 978-1554699568
April 1, 2012, 128 pages

Rookie police constable Nicole Patterson has only been on the job for about 6 months and most of the crime in the rural area outside Toronto where she works is predictable. Petty theft, bar fights, domestic disputes. But murder is another matter.

On patrol, she finds the body of a young woman in the snow, strangled to death by her scarf. She turns out to be a local high school student, known by sight to Patterson, who is a local girl, returned home after college. And while Patterson is far from being a detective who would investigate a crime like this, her local knowledge may prove invaluable..especially after it is found the murdered girl was four months pregnant.

This is a nice little read, with a good plot, an interesting main character in Patterson and well written. Well enough written that I will be investigating other books by Delany, including her Klondike Mystery series, her Constable Molly Smith series and a number of standalones. But the key to this book is little, weighing in at just over 100 pages, and a big fonted, small 100 pages at that. Actually this is much more a short story than a novel. But with this series, Orca/Raven's Rapid Reads, that is the point.
Orca Book Publishers is excited to introduce Rapid Reads, a line of short novels and non-fiction books for adult readers. In our increasingly fast-paced world we believe there is a need for well-written, well-told books that can be read in one sitting. Rapid Reads are intended for a diverse audience, including ESL students, reluctant readers, adults who struggle with literacy and anyone who wants an high-interest quick read.

Rapid Reads focus first and foremost on strong writing and storytelling. We are committed to providing books that will help adults achieve their literacy goals in an interesting and accessible way. Each novel in the Rapid Reads series is written between a 2.0 and 4.5 reading level. The plots are contemporary and entertaining, with adult language and themes.

Personally, I think it is a great idea. The story, the language, makes it a book for adults. There are topics introduced in this short volume, like teen pregnancy, growing up in a dysfunctional home, what a hostile place high school can be, that adults will find interesting. And it is really remarkable that it can be done so well it what is really just a short story.

Yet for someone who has literacy issues, someone that does not have English as their first language, as the publisher says "reluctant readers", this series of about 20 books, by a variety of authors, might be just the thing. The writing style is simple and direct, yet not obviously so. It might get those potential readers started in the idea of actually enjoying reading books and give a real sense of accomplishment at finishing a book. The fact that they are reading real books, with adult stories, not books written for kids, would make a huge difference. I am a big fan of the idea.

That being said, I have one major issue with this book.
The price.
At $9.95 for such a short, little paperback, I really think that is outrageous and can not but work to discourage the target audience.
Which is a great shame.
Still, an entertaining book, in a series based on a good idea.

My thanks to Amazon Vine with providing me with an Advanced Reading Copy of this book.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Musing Monday...A Quick Answer..A Little Rant

It's Monday, so let's see what this week's question from Miz B  at Should Be Reading is this week...

This week’s musing asks…
Do you tend to read to the end of a chapter or can you stop anywhere?

Well, as with so many things, it depends.
So, let me answer the question and then spin off into my own, distantly related point. Because I can. ;-)

If I am reading at home, with no great time restraint, except the many, many things that I should be doing besides reading, not that that ever stops me, I will usually stop at a new chapter. But at other times, like if I am reading at night or on the weekends at work, sometimes 'real life' intrudes. The phone rings, some annoying alarm goes off, something happens that I must deal with. Yes, so unfair, I know!

But as I mused about this, I realized the other big factor that determines if I stop at a new chapter or not is whether I am reading a 'real' book or an e-book. With a real book, I am more likely to stop at a chapter. Maybe because I find it easier to page ahead and see how much further I have to read until I hit that point. But I don't find that as easy in an e-book. Sure, I can flip ahead or even go to the contents and jump ahead and see how far that is, but to tell you the truth, I tend to get lost when I try that.

I use a Kindle app and a Nook app on my iPad and phone, and a regular Nook as well, and they use different ways to show the 'page' you are on. One is a percentage, one is a 'page' number, but the same page may actually cover several flicks of the finger...I don't know, but it is all a bit confusing. So much more often, I will just stop and of course, as one of the pluses of e-books, the next time you open it, you will be right back on the page where you left off. As I have said, when I stopped ranting about e-books, there are some pluses and minuses to e-books, and that is a plus.

Yes, I read e-books, and as I said, in fact I have several ways to do so, but I am not totally sold.


  • Can download a new book, anywhere, in minutes.
  • Convenient. With a smartphone, you always have a book in your pocket.
  • Lighter and easier to hold, especially with a BIG book.
  • Can change size of font, good if you have sight issues.
  • So tidy. No piles of books staring at you, waiting to be read.
  • Often almost expensive as a real book...for reasons I totally do not understand. Except they can.
  • For that price, you 'own' nothing really. Except the right to download a file
  • You can not give the book away, sell it or loan it, except in a very limited way. As they allow you.
  • You can not buy a much cheaper used copy as you can with real books
  • You forget what the heck you have on your e-reader, since you never see them
  • No pretty cover to see every time you pick up and open a book.
  • E-books can never give you the pleasure of wandering in a bookstore.

Just a few highlights of the high and low points of e-books and I am sure many of you have your own. Please, feel free to add your own in the comments. Certainly, e-books are part of our present and our future to a greater or lesser degree, however we feel about it. And while I have given up my ranting about the subject, I do still have my issues and you?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

So So Sleepy Sammy Sunday

Sometimes, I just need a little airing out....

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Ickle Me, Pickle Me!

"Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too"
by Shel Silverstein

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too,
Went for a ride in a flying shoe,
"What fun!"
"It's time we flew!"
Said Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle was captain, Pickle was crew,
And Tickle served coffee and mulligan stew
As higher
And higher And higher they flew,
Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too,
Over the sun and beyond the blue.
"Hold on!"
"Stay in!"
"I hope we do!"
Cried Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too
Never returned to the world they knew,
And nobody
knows what's
happened to
Dear Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too.

Well, the Niece had a hankering for pickles, and not just any pickles but the Hot Pickles from AJ's Pickle Patch at the Reading Terminal Market.

Since it is her birthday this weekend and her college graduation the following weekend, who am I to say no.?
Soon enough, she will be in the hard cruel world of the workplace, so let her enjoy her pickles while she can. 
And, ok,  I love any excuse for a trip to the Reading Terminal Market.
I have no scrapple left!

Barrels and barrels of pickles surround us.
New pickles, aged pickles.
Pickles tomatoes and pickled beets!
Butter pickles and kosher pickles.
A peck of pickled peppers perhaps.
And those Oh So Hot Hot pickles.
Sliced...which are extra hot or
whole, if you are a little afraid.
Would you like a pint...a quart...a gallon?
And of course, some of that 'juice', full of hot pepper flakes.

    The Pickle Lady warned us.
   "These hot pickles, they are hot."
    And she was right!
    Those pickles pack a punch.

    Look at them, so pretty on their
    pretty pickle plate.
    So what to do with these pickle?
    Well, the Niece enjoys just eating them
    alone as many slices as she can she can
    until her mouth bursts into flame.
    Personally, I prefer a milder pickle,
    a new pickle an aged pickle,
    that is not that aged a pickle as pickled pickles go.

But if you have a pickle spear, or a whole pickle that can be cut into spears, or some of those oh so cute gherkin pickles, you might make...

Pickles In A Blanket
  • Pickle spears
  • Softened cream cheese
  • Sliced ham
Spread a slice of ham with some softened cream cheese. Lay a pickle spear across the meat and roll up like a jelly role. Chill in the frig for a few minutes and then slice.
Ideally, remember to get some toothpicks and spear each with one for tidy serving.


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, May 11, 2012

A Review of "Blue Eyes" [41]

Blue Eyes by Jerome Charyn Road,
e-book ISBN 0747563594
April 10, 2012

Where would Manfred ‘Blue Eyes’ Coen have ended up as a young man if Coen’s mentor, then the NY City Police First Deputy, Isaac Sidel had not taken him under his wing? Singled out in the police academy to do an undercover assignment, he was soon on the fast track, moving up quickly in the department. But now Sidel has been forced to resign in a scandal and Coen is a cop without a home, being move from precinct to precinct, trusted by no one, resented by all.

But now there is a dirty, dangerous job that seems to have Coen's name all over it. It appears that someone may be kidnapping young girls and sending them into slavery in Mexico. And it appears that Coen's childhood friends, the Guzmann family from his old Bronx neighborhood, may be involved. Sidel is the one that first sniffed this out and if he can crack the ring open, Coen may have a chance to not only prove himself as a good cop but also to rehab the reputation of his mentor as well.
If he doesn't get killed first.

This book, written in 1973, was Charyn's first mystery and the first in what became know as the "Isaac Quartet", although the series finally ended up with 10 books. Charyn has gone on to write a great many other books, a wide variety of other books, including "The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson" in 2010. But now with the possibility that the Issac books will become the basis for Hard Apple, an adult animated series, Blue Eyes and the rest of the series, has been re-issues as e-books.

If you are a fan of gritty police procedurals, this is one you may want to pick up..or download as it were. This book is set in NY city of the 70's and it certainly has a very 70's feel. I will warn you, it is not the most PC of books but I think that rather than be offended by some of the language and characters, you consider the time and setting, an even more violent and dangerous city than it is today. I read that when writing this book, Charyn rode with his brother, who was a homicide detective in the Bronx, and the reality shines through the pages.

It is very well written, if in a style that took a little getting used to for this reader. And the intersecting storylines, along with a fascinating, sometimes bordering on the bizarre, often sleazy, cast of characters and a variety of setting, including a ping pong parlor, will keep you engaged.
And remember, if you love it, there are nine more e-books in the series, available to download.

My thanks to Tribute Books and the Tribute Books Blue Eyes Book Tour for a copy of this book to review. Head over and check out a few more reviews!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Review Of the Dexter Series [35-40]

What do you do if you find that your young son is killing small animals, burying them in the backyard? What do you do if you look into his eyes and what you see is very dark and scary..and yet you love him and do not want him to end up in prison forever?
Well, if you are a wise police officer who has seen some terrible things over your career, and the adopted father of young Dexter Morgan, you look for a way to make the best of the situation. You give him the Code of Harry to follow, to direct his desire, his need to kill. You try to direct it in way that you see as actually being a good thing and most of all a way to protect Dexter from getting caught. He can only kill those who deserve it, with a high standard of proof of their guilt. They must be guilty of doing very, very bad things, yet people who have often escaped the criminal justice system. Now they will suffer from Dexter's justice, when he and his Dark Passenger visit in the night and they very cleanly disappear, able to do no more harm.

The first book in the series is Darkly Dreaming Dexter and it is perhaps my favorite of the series. I think it is the one book that you must read in order, because it is here that we will find out most of Dexter's back story, meet his vice cop sister Deb, his pretend girlfriend Rita and, in his memories, his adopted father Harry who first guided him on the path he now follows. The author has a big job here. He must convince us to actually like a man who is a serial killer, who believes he is not fully human, to care about what happens to him and how he feels. Well, how he would feel if he actually could have feelings, which he does not believe he can. And the author totally succeeds. Dexter is smart and funny, very clever and this first adventure is quite good and a great introduction to the series.

In the next book, Dearly Devoted Dexter, the books begins with Dexter having just completed his 40th killing, carefully placing a drop of blood from his latest victim on a glass slide to add to his collection. Gruesome, we think, until we arrive at the scene of the crime Dexter is helping investigate. Oh, did I mention that Dexter works for the Miami police, as a blood splatter expert? What a perfect job for our Dexter. Well, police are called to a house by a neighbor because of the terrible noise coming from a house. It is the victim, screaming..well, as much as he can scream, because you see he, I will allow you to discover the condition they find him in, but let me just say, it was something I never considered possible and was quite disturbing, possibly as disturbing as anything in any of these rather dark books.

Next is Dexter in the Dark. Sadly, this is easiest my least favorite of the series, just way too over the top. Dexter's Dark Passenger disappears early in the book, seemingly scared off by the terrible, and very powerful evil that Dexter will confront. While we still have the always amusing Dexter to entertain us, his always miffed sister Deb as his foil and his accidental new family to keep thing lively, the central plot is just too melodramatic to be believable. That is saying something.
Really, you might just skip this one.

But do not give up, because in the fourth book,Dexter By Design , Lindsay is back on track. Dexter and his wife have just returned from their honeymoon...yes, Dexter can't believe it Paris and soon involved in a horrible and very bizarre series of crimes. Bodies, emptied out and artfully displayed with a variety of tourist related materials where their organs once were, start popping up all over Miami. Needless to say, this is not good for the tourist business. And even worse for Dexter is when his sister is critically wounded by a suspect and Dexter himself may become the murderer's next victim.

In Dexter is Delicious, our hero is undergoing some big changes at home, changes that are spilling over into his extracurricular, late night activities. In the last book, Dexter became an instant family man when he married Rita and became stepfather to her two young children, children who have more in common with Dexter than he ever could have thought. But now he and Rita have had a baby as well, and Dexter is amazed that he may actually be feeling something, love for this baby. He decides that he will become a man worthy of these children, ignoring his Dark Passenger. Well, we just know that is not going to work for long!
When he is called to help investigate the possible kidnapping of a teenage girl, he runs into a very dark underside of bright sunny Miami, a scene fulls of goths, pretend vampires and very real cannibals. Keep the title in Dexter really delicious? Oh my!

And last, but not least, we have Double Dexter. The book opens with Dexter and his Dark Passenger ridding the world of a child molester, doing what he does best. But then things start to go horrible wrong for him when he realizes someone has seem him 'taking care of business'. Not a good thing and he decides he must find this Witness and make sure he does not go to the police. Hmm...seems a bit of a violation of the Code of Happy if you ask me.
But from there things go even a bit more off track for Dexter, including a home life that is no longer the source of calm and great food that it once was. Food is Very, Very Important to Dexter and Rita is no longer cooking, it seems. And of course, once again his sister Deb is demanding Dexter's help is solving a series of bizarre and gruesome murders. Since the victims are cops, this one strikes a bit too close to home.

I was a bit of a fan of the TV series based on these books, so it was interesting to see how it compared. They are close in many ways and yet also with some significant differences. One of the biggest, and one thing I prefer about the books, is that originally Dexter's two stepchildren are not the normal, happily little kids in the Showtime series. Their father, Rita's ex-husband, was a very bad man that abused both Rita and the kids and created two dark little people, in desperate need of Dexter's experienced guidance. I love the extra layer that adds to the stories. I also like that in the books Dexter is even funny, more witty than on TV. Oddly, I do not think the books are are gruesome as the TV was, and that may not be a bad thing.
And I do love the Miami setting. It is perfect for these books, hot, sunny Florida contrasted with the dark, cold interior of Dexter's world.

But honestly, the plots in some of the books are quite uneven...and do not get me started on the whole Moloch plot of the third book. Really Mr. Lindsay, what were you thinking with that one? At his best, Dexter is very smart, very clever, totally twisted and often quite funny. Sadly, in a couple of the books he is replaced by an all too human, bumbling Dexter that is not as entertaining or as interesting. Dexter should be cool and calculating and never loose control, while his sister Deb is the flake and I am not a happy fan when that is not how things play out.

If you are a fan of the TV series and just enjoy a good story with a touch of gore and mayhem, I would totally recommend the first two books, Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter and the fourth and fifth are very good as well. The other two can be skipped with no loss.