Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...We Start in Rome

I think I will have to give up on any pretense of wordlessness... 
Just returned from Italy, Rome, Florence and Venice, with a few side trips. Grab a glass of prosecco or some grappa and enjoy, as we start in... 


Our hotel in Rome, the Albergo del Senato, on the Piazza della Rotonda.
Beautiful, great staff, wonderful location, rooftop bar..excellent!

And right across the square, the Pantheon, built by the Emperor Hadrian in about 126 A.D.

The central opening , the oculus, is open to the sky. 
The Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome,

Then, just a few steps down the street, the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. 
The Pulcino della Minerva, the famous elephant sculpture by Bernini
serving as a base for one of Rome's 11 Egyptian obelisks. 

Inside, the Carafa Chapel, with late 15th-century frescoes by Filippino Lippi

...and a sculpture by Michelangelo, Christ Carrying the Cross.
I believe the 'drape' is not original.


Dinner at a nice restaurant across the street, then some gelato.
 Late at night, the piazza is finally empty, or fairly so,
 as I view the Pantheon from the window of my room. 
Goodnight, for now..

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

Super Storm Sandy

Well, they are calling Sandy a Super Storm, and that she is.
I say is, because she is not yet finished, moving inland to bring her rain and high winds to a huge part of the eastern part of the country. Why should we on the coast be the only ones?

I thought I would just drop a word to let ya all know Fat Giant Cat Larry and I am alive and well.
As you can see, since I am writing this, I actually still have electric and internet and did all night except for a very brief time or two. Amazing! That is because I rush to get my laundry from the trip done before the storm hit. But the day is not over yet and I do not assume I might not lose it yet. I have not gone outside yet to look for damage, but nothing big is down, no trees on my car or such and I hope the roof is ok, because let me tell ya, at about 11 PM to 3 AM the wind was scary loud.
And since I am on the mainland, and about 20 feet above sea level, as I discovered during our last storm, the flooding and terrible storm surge did not effect me. Even though they say the eye of the storm hit between Atlantic City and Ocean City...which is right where I am.

The barrier islands along the whole coast of NJ are another matter. So far, the damage looks bad, very bad, including a big hunk of the AC Boardwalk, which was washed away. Not the first time..but impressive. Whole towns are flooded, I can only imagine what the rest of the coast is like and I must say I am happy Gov. Christie is the man in charge of starting to deal with it.

But maybe the most damage may actually be north of us, in NY City and Connecticut and Rhode Island, where the flooding from the Raritan Bay and Long Island Sound is extensive. The worse damage to the NY subways ever. Tunnels flooded, electric out.
I remember my trip out to LI awhile ago, on my way to Nantucket, to Fire Island and Montauk in beautiful sunny weather. I can only wonder how they made out.

I had two beautiful weeks in Italy, perfect weather until the last day then the rain and chilly temperatures arrived in Venice and they started to suffer their own flooding, called the Acqua Alta, when the tides rises and low areas, like St. Marks Plaza and many, many other places flood. It happens almost every year and people and businesses are ready. Stores, hotel, houses, business, put up the special metal gates they have to protect their doorways. People pull on their rubber boots, platforms to walk on go up and life goes on.

If only Sandy's aftermath was go easy.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Musing Monday...The Hurricane Sandy Edition

Let's check out this weeks Musing Monday question, as always, from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing asks… Do you have people online that you often discuss the books you read with? Not just book groups, but individual readers who share the same taste in books? If so, what do you like best about this? If not, do you wish you did?

Well, my answer to this one is short and sweet.

Do I wish I did?

You know, there are so many books to read, once I write a review I tend to just move on to the next. I do sometimes think it would be fun to belong to a book club. But that is pretty much about the possible snacks. :-)
I must admit the only person I discuss books with it my sister-in-law. We share similar tastes in what we read and although she never comments on my reviews, she does read them and often reads the books herself afterwards, based on the reviews.

On an aside, did you miss me last week?
I was on vacation for the last two weeks in Italy and while I intended to get online and post a Musing Monday, somehow I got distracted! Imagine that!

But I am safely home now, just in time to miss the airport closings Hurricane Sandy is bringing to the East Coast and just in time to deal with a wee case of food poisoning (thank you US Airways) that totally took me out of commission yesterday.
Would anyone like to stop over at my house and unpack my suitcases and do some laundry??
Hurry, while I still have power.


Friday, October 26, 2012

Review of "Sad Desk Salad" [86]

Sad Desk Salad: A Novel by Jessica Grose
William Morrow Paperbacks, ISBN  978-0062188342
 October 2, 2012, 304 pages.

This is not quite the writing career that Alex Lyons foresaw for herself, but it could be worse. It has been worse.
And some might think it is an ideal job in some ways. As a write for Chick Habit, a popular woman's website, she gets to work from home, trolling the internet for several story ideas each day, hoping to get picked to write the coveted midday story, when female workers, tied to their desks eating their sad desk salads, will read it and get her the high number of views she need to compete. But all is not swell. The competition is fierce, and pretty catty, and from 6 a.m to 6 p.m she is almost a prisoner to her couch and laptop, afraid of missing the Big Story.

And then a gift drops in her lap. She get a link to a private YouTube video that seems to show the daughter of a famous politico doing some naughty things that will not get the sort of publicity her mom wants. Should Alex pursue it, even if it may ruin lives...but on the other hand will skyrocket her to new blogging heights?

And maybe ruin Alex's life in the process as well...

You know, sometimes you are just looking for something fun, something quick to read. And in large part, Sad Desk Salad fills that bill. It is, at times pretty funny and although most of us inhabit a very different little quarter of BlogLand, I think many of us will find the subject of a online obsession slightly familiar. And some of the characters are great, including her hoot of a mom, her sweet boyfriend and a couple of interesting co-workers.

My one big problem with the book was Alex herself.
Not the least of which is her hygiene. I have to say, this is the first time that was a huge issue for me in a book, but in this book it was.
Ok, if you work from home you don't have to get all dressed up. Or dressed at all.
But not to shower...to wear the same black mumu for days and days on end e,ven though she comments on it's dirtiness and odor. To almost brag that she or the boyfriend have not cleaned their bathroom for months! I am sorry Ms. Grose..but I found that gross and well, unnecessary. After awhile it was all I could think about as I read. Maybe because Alex tells us about it again and again.
Or so it seemed.

Then there is the fact that, as Alex tells us on several occasions, that she gets paid to be a bitch online. The problem is that in Real Life Alex is often a bit of a whiny bitch as well, not the most likable of people. Between her wardrobe, that bathroom and her personality, I do not see us being pals.

Still, if you are a fan of chick lit, you may well like this one. As a former editor for Jezebel and Slate, I have to assume many of the backstage details that Grose writes about are based on real experiences in the business, and that is fun for the reader. Overall, it is an interesting premise, pretty well done, funny in just enough places and all tied up with a nice neat bow at the end.
If you can get over that no showering thing. I really couldn't... ;-)

My thanks to William Morrow for providing me with a copy for review.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...A Taste of Italy

Just a taste until I get home and wade through my photos next week. You may notice a theme.. 

the Pantheon from my hotel room

A sepia Arno in Florence..across from our hotel.

Arriving by water taxi at our hotel in Venice

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

Review of "Whiplash River" [85]

Whiplash River by Lou Berney
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0062115287
July 10, 2012, 320 pages

"Having left his life of crime behind, former getaway driver Charles “Shake” Bouchon has finally realized the dream of owning his own restaurant in Belize. Unfortunately, to do so he’s had to go deep in debt to a murderous local drug lord names Baby Jesus. And when Shake thwarts an attempted hit on an elderly customer named Quinn, things go from bad to worse.

Next thing Shake knows, his restaurant’s gone up in flames and he’s on the run from Baby Jesus, two freelance assassins, and a beautiful but ferocious FBI agent. Out of options, Shake has to turn to the mysterious Quinn for help. Suddenly Shake’s up to his neck in a dangerous score that he’ll never pull off unless he can convince an even more dangerous ex-girlfriend to join him."

No, it is really not a good idea to borrow your startup money from a drug lord..especially when business sucks and then someone is shooting the customers and blowing the place up.
But it is great fun for the reader!

If ever there was a book that could be described as a madcap caper, Whiplash River is it, just a fun and funny read.
Each character is better than the next, from a pair of deeply in love and rather unlucky assassins, to Gina, the beautiful ex-girlfriend, who has been extraordinarily financially success in the straight life, but can't resist the idea of one more big score, to the mysterious Quinn, with a great plan that might get them all killed. And, of course, we have our 'hero' Shake, who you can help but like, even with his shady past..and present.  Hey, he wanted to do the right thing, giving up his life of crime as a getaway driver for the Albanian mob, he really did. But when that plan explodes, literally, what's a guy going to do? He and Gina make a lovely couple..if they can stay alive and out of jail.
Throw in a beautiful FBI agent, a Belize Mennonite village, the Sphinx, witty dialogue, a couple of unconventional romances and non-stop action and more than a few laughs and I think you will be a happy reader if you are in the market for a very funny thriller.

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

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Shrimp Fried Rice with Nam Prik Pao and Crispy Lemongrass

I saw this recipe online, at Serious Eats and though it cooked yummy. Yummy enough to try anyhoo. But...what about this one ingredient, Nam Prik Pao?
What is it and where  the heck do I get it?
Nam Prik Pao (น้ำพริกเผา) is one of the most — if not the most — versatile composite ingredients in Thai cooking that I can think of. It is intense and complex, but not in an in-your-face kind of way; it also features pretty much all of the tastes associated with traditional Thai food sans the usual herbs. Each spoonful packs so much flavor, and a little goes a long way.

Believe me when I say that I hate telling people what to do or what not to do. But in this case, I consider familiarity with Nam Prik Pao and how to use it to be necessary for, you see, this condiment permeates modern Thai cuisine. If you’re a Thai food enthusiast, or on your way to becoming one, and you haven’t made an acquaintance with this ingredient, please allow me the pleasure of introducing to you Nam Prik Pao, the “secret arsenal” of Thai restaurants worldwide, a pantry staple in Thai households, and your new best friend... from She Simmers

OK, I looked on Amazon and yes, I could get it there.
Really, what can you not find on Amazon?
But it seemed expensive and it was two jars. I can not imagine ever using 2 jars when I only needed 1/4 cup. So I Googled Asian Food markets in my area and there, just a couple of towns away, a 10 minute drive, was an Asian Supermarket with great write ups on Yelp. I had seem it, yes...in a rather down on it's luck shopping center...but had never been in there.

So off I went! Well, never have I been so overwhelmed and confused in a food store. How many fruits and vegetables I had never heard of. So many huge bags of different sorts of rice. So many things that I had no idea about.
Aisles...two whole big aisles... with hundreds and hundreds of jars of stuff that might be Nam Prik Pao. With labels in a number of Asian languages, none of which I speak. I looked for assistance, but ran into a language barrier there as well. But fear not! I did not give up. I looked and looked, searching for those words, Nam Prik Pao, somewhere on a label.
I found it!
Two or three brands in fact.
And I got the lemongrass.
And a few other interesting things.

Shrimp Fried Rice with Nam Prik Pao and Crispy Lemongrass


  • 4 stalks lemongrass
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil 
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined 
  • 1 carrot, very thinly sliced
  • 1 small onion, diced, 
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup Nam Prik Pao (see note below) 
  • 4 cups leftover cooked long-grain rice 
  • Fish sauce, to taste 
  • 2 TBS. cilantro

  • Procedures 

    With a sharp knife, trim off the ends of lemongrass stalks and slice them crosswise as thinly as possible. Stop when the purple rings inside the stalks disappear. Reserve woody parts of lemongrass for another use. Put lemongrass slices and oil in an 8-inch skillet or a 1-quart saucepan; set over low heat. Stir constantly until lemongrass turns light brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat immediately. The color of the lemongrass will deepen a bit more with the residual heat; at this point, fish out the lemongrass, reserve the oil, and set it aside.

    Heat a 12-inch skillet or wok over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the reserved lemongrass-infused oil to the skillet, add in the carrot, onion, pepper, scallions and saute 2-3 minutes, followed by shrimp; stir. Once shrimp starts to turn opaque, about 2 minutes, add rice and Nam Prik Pao; stir until rice kernels are thoroughly coated with Nam Prik Pao. 

    Season fried rice with fish sauce to taste. Top with chopped cilantro.

    Notes: Nam Prik Pao, also known as Thai chili jam, is available at most well-stocked Asian grocery stores and online. It also goes by "roasted chili paste" or "roasted chili paste in soybean oil."

    Although Nam Prik Pao is made with hot chilies, I did not really find it hot at all. Well, maybe just a tiny bit, bit more full of complex flavors than spicy. Interesting ingredient. I just have to wonder what all those other jars in the supermarket might hold.

    But look, I did find something interesting for dessert.
    At least I think it is for dessert...You always have room for Jell-IO!

    If you clicked over to the original recipe, you will notice I took a few liberties. The addition of the vegetables is my idea. Hey, it looks pretty and we all need out veggies! I added what I had on hand...I think I read somewhere that peas are a common addition to Thai fried rice. But I may be wrong! Anyhoo, you could add all sorts of vegetables that you like...celery, bok choy, tomato, garlic...no idea why I left that out..snow peas... Personally, I am off to look for more recipes with Nam Prik Pao, since I have that jar in the frig to use up.

    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, October 18, 2012

    Review of "Midwinter Blood"

    Midwinter Blood: A Thriller by Mons Kallentoft 
    Atria/Emily Bestler Books, ISBN 978-1451642476
    June 5, 2012, 464 pages

    When Inspector Malin Fors and her partner Zeke Martinsson are called to investigate a dead body, they come upon a murder scene that is about as bleak as bleak can be.
    In a snow covered field is a lone oak tree and hanging from the tree is the beaten and tortured, naked body of a very dead, very obese man. It is a murder that brings to mind the “midwinter blood” sacrifices of Viking times, a theory they actually consider for a time, because in this Internet age, all sorts of strange people get involved in all sort of strange rituals.

    But while the death of Bengt Andersson, an eccentric loner, may have it's roots in the past, it is not a past that goes back quite that far. Or one that is unrelated to some other horrible and violent crimes both past and present. That pure white winter landscape can hide some very dark deeds.

    There are some things I liked quite a bit about this book.
    I will admit I am a fan of these rather bleak Scandinavian mysteries, red blood against that pure white snow, the brutal cold.
    And the author, Mons Kallentoft has quite a reputation. Midwinter Blood is the first in a series he was written about Malin Fors and the books have been very popular in Sweden.
    Without question, the best thing about the book is Fors. As I have often said we love our flawed cops and Fors is indeed flawed. The divorced mother of a 13 year old daughter who lives with her, she appears on the edge of a very serious alcohol problem. Then there is the reporter she seems to hate, but not enough to stop sleeping with him, an ex-husband she can't quite cut herself off from and she is really a pretty lousy mother. Not that those things would necessarily stop us from liking our fictional cop!
    OK, that is the good news.

    Now the problems.
    This book is slow, at times painfully slow. Too slow. Big and sloooow.
    There is a much better 300 pages book hiding in this 450+ page one. 
    I will admit that I was forced to skim a bit to reach the end, a shameful thing. I was losing interest, but had to find out what happened. Which is still a good thing, I guess, that I cared.

    And then there is Bengt, the dead man. Yes, he is dead, but that does not stop him being one of the narrators of the book, observing and commenting on things as he watches them trying to solve his murder. It sounds a bit forced, and is sometimes confusing, but it could have worked. Except for the fact that the Bengt that is talking to us seems nothing like the Bengt whose life and history the police uncover. Odd. Maybe you get a lot more insightful once you are dead.

    As I said, this is the first in the series, written in 2007 but just translated into English this year. There are four additional books already written and I assume see will see them in the US market soon, as popular as these Scandinavian mysteries have become.
    But I am not sure I will be back for another.

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012

    Wordless Wednesday...From the Archives

    I am out of the country this week, looking for some new photos to take and share. 
    So today we will revisit a favorite place, the zoo. 
    Hopefully I will find a few things to photograph in Italy... ;-)


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

    Review of "Lake Country" [84]

    Lake Country by Sean Doolittle 
    Bantam, ISBN 9780345533920
    July 31, 2012, 336 pages

    Mike Barlowe knows his pal Darryl Potter is trouble these days but this time he has gone too far even for Darryl. They served in Iraq together and now they are home, battling their demons, PTSD and too much alcohol, so when Darryl gets himself in a lot of trouble, Mike feels obligated to try and save him from himself.

    Five years ago, a young local woman was killed when a driver, a successful architect named Wade Benson, fell asleep at the wheel of his car. Many, including Darryl, believe his sentence was too light. Especially since Darryl and Mike knew her brother, who was killed in Iraq. So Darryl decides to come up with his own punishment for Benson. The architect took someones daughter, so he will take Benson's daughter.
    He kidnaps the young woman, heading off to Minnesota’s Lake Country, having stolen some money on the way from the type of guy it is especially not smart to steal from. Soon he is followed by a murderous bounty hunter, the cops, a beautiful reporter..and of course his pal Mike. This is not going to turn out well. The only question is who will come out alive.

    I read a review that called Doolittle a "master of Midwestern noir" ...who knew there was such a thing. But the description fits this book. While in part rather funny,  especially since Mike is often quite amusing if in a sad sort of way, this book has a wide, dark streak running through it. You know before you are too deeply into the book that there is no way this is going to have a happy ending for everyone involved, and the characters are good enough that we are really care about that. They are not always pretty, and far from perfect, but Doolittle paints them so sympathetically that we wish somehow it could work out. Especially for Mike..
    "Five years, he kept thinking: that was all that stood between the Marine he saw in the picture and the sad sack he saw looking back at him from the dresser mirror on the other side of the room. Mike confronted his own reflection: a blotchy, stubbled wreck, sitting on the edge of an unmade bed, with a photograph in his hand. That’s you, he thought."
    This is not a mystery. We know pretty clearly who has done what and why and we know the ending will be messy. But it is a good thriller, fast paced, well written, especially recommended for those that like their stories a bit dark and their heroes more than a bit flawed.

    Monday, October 15, 2012

    Musing Monday...Arrivederci!

    This week’s musing — courtesy of http://cmashlovestoread.com — asks…

    Do you have a system as to which books to read from your “requested review pile? What is it? What about when there are too many to read in a certain time frame?

    Oh, if only...
    I am not the most organized of people and although I have tried various methods, none really work of me. I had calendars, I made notes of my Library Thing book list of publication dates and tries to use that as a guide, I marked the books with little tabs with their dates. Bottom line, I am too lazy, too disorganized to really keep up with any methods. And once you let it lapse a bit, the whole thing falls apart.

    So I have gone totally low tech.
    I keep a pile, an actual TBR pile and when I am picking a book to read I attempt to pick one that is coming out soon.
    But...I has received many books that are already out when I get them. Should they move to the top them? That does not seem fair.
    Then there is the issue of the Library Thing Early Reviewer books I have received. I will admit I have been very lucky for the last year or so with those and when I get one, it does right to the top of the pile. I have to read it, get my review on Library Thing and keep my chances up!
    Same thing with Amazon Vine. If you pick only books, you could get up to 4 books a month from Vine and you have to have 80% reviewed to be eligible to pick something next month. Meanwhile other books get neglected.

    Bottom line, I just do the best I can.
    Sometimes I ignore the pile because I have a non-requested book I just want to read.
    Because bottom line, reading must be fun!!

    Speaking of fun, I will be gone from BlogLand for the next two week.
    If the posts I scheduled post, you might not notice. Hopefully I will get the chance to fire up the iPad and check things from time to time. But I will be flying out this afternoon to Italy, so I may be distracted.

    I am leaving Larry in charge here at home. The Niece will be visiting him every day, to fill the feeding bowl and kiss his little kitty head.
    I just warn you, he may be mad, so if you see anything really odd posted...blame Larry!!

    Saturday, October 13, 2012

    Weekend Cooking..The Spice of Life!

    What is the shelf life of spices?
    Well, most likely shorter than most of us keep ours.

    I know I have a few in the cabinet that have been there longer than I can remember.
    But then my memory is not what it once was.

    Regardless, the other day I decides to clean out and organize my spice shelf.
    Another very exciting day in CaiteLand!

    For Christmas..not this last Christmas but the one before I think..the Sil gave me some of those pull out spice shelf thingies you see on the infomercials. Out everything came, and I was forced to take a look at them. Why do I have two whole jars of whole coriander? That seems excessive. Some others seemed a little aged, so I took to the Internet to get some ideas of who had to go.

    Well, who knew it, but McCormick, a big US spice company, actually puts 'best used by' dates on the bottom of their containers. But if they are other than McCormick, how to know? Well, I guess one should date them when you buy them.
    Like that will happen. But if you do... 

    • Herbs (basil, oregano, parsley): 1 to 3 years
    • Seasoning blends: 1 to 2 years
    Ground spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, turmeric): 2 to 3 years
    • Whole spices (cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks): 4 years
    • Seeds: 4 years (except for poppy and sesame seeds, which should be discarded after 2 years)
    • Extracts: 4 years (except for vanilla, which will last forever)

    I must say, I think those time are a bit generous. Not that I don't have ones older than that, but I think the faster you can use them, the better. I try, when I can, to buy whole spices and grind them as I use them. Nutmeg, I grate whole nuts on a micrograter. Grind pepper and coriander as needed, buy whole fennel and cumin seeds. And although it costs more, really, it makes sense to buy small containers except of the spices you use a lot of. And vanilla...since it seems to last forever! Maybe a gallon.

    Of course, spices don't really go bad, they just lose their flavor. You can still use them but they will just not be as flavorful. So I sniff them. If you are not met with a nice spicy smell, time to buy a new one maybe.
    Remember, the enemies of fresh spice flavor are heat, light, air, and moisture. So keep in airtight jars or cans, in a dark place and away from the heat of the stove.

    By the way, I love my shelf thingies...so nice and neat.

    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, October 12, 2012

    Review of "Missing" [83]

    Missing by Jane Casey 
    Ebury, ISBN 978-0091935993
    January 1, 2010, 496 pages

    Jenny Shepherd is twelve years old and missing...
    Her teacher, Sarah Finch, knows better than most that the chances of finding her alive are diminishing with every day she is gone. As a little girl her older brother had gone out to play one day and never returned. The strain of never knowing what has happened to Charlie had ripped Sarah's family apart.

    Now in her early twenties, she is back living at home, trapped with a mother who drinks too much and keeps her brother's bedroom as a shrine to his memory. Then, horrifically, it is Sarah who finds Jenny's body, beaten and abandoned in the woods near her home. As she's drawn into the police investigation and the heart of a media storm, Sarah's presence arouses suspicion too. But it not just the police who are watching her...
    When he was twelve years old, her brother went missing.
    Now, years later, a little girl, also 12 years old, goes missing. And Sarah knew the girl, in fact was one of her teachers at a private girl's school. She lives just a few minutes walk from the girl's family, in the same development. And then she is the one to find the girl's body in the woods the police had already searched. Gosh, it all sounds like just too much of a coincidence, doesn't it. And in lesser hands it might have read that way but Casey presents it all in a way that acknowledges all this and makes it sounds believable. This was Casey's debut novel and a few weaknesses show that but not enough to keep this from being a quite enjoyable read. It is fast paced, compelling you to read just a little more, making it a fast, if slightly long read.

    And Sarah is a good character, even if she does fall prey to one of my most dreaded flaws...the characters who is 'doing stupid things'. A murderer is on the loose. You get mugged, all you ID and keys stolen. Perhaps you should tell the cops. It might be connected...nah! Just put that foundation of the bruise and limp on...because it is the stupid thing to do. And the whole thing with her car...you will know what I mean if you read it...made no sense. Sadly, there were a few incidents like this. Happily there was an interesting enough plot and some good characters, including Sarah and the delightful Andy Blake to allow you to ignore these flaws.
    I read and very much liked another of Casey's books, The Burning, a couple of months ago. While I think it was an even better book than this one, Missing is still a well written, clever and entertaining mystery.

    Tuesday, October 9, 2012

    Wordless Wednesday...Beaches

    The weather is turning chilly...so how about one last trip to the beach?

    Cape May Point, NJ

    Nantucket, Mass.

    Cape May, NJ

    Nantucket, Mass.

    Margate, NJ

    Ocean City, NJ

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

    Review of "Talking to the Dead" [82]

    Talking to the Dead by Harry Bingham 
    Delacorte Press, ISBN 978-0345533739
    September 25, 2012, 372 pages.

    Fiona "Fi" Griffiths, a new detective with the Cardiff, Wales police department, is a bit of an enigma to her colleagues. She has a philosophy degree from Cambridge, a bit unusual for your average cop. She doesn't drink, not even coffee and is often oddly detached in her emotions. Then there are the missing two years in her resume, when everyone knows something happened to her, but no one can find out what it is.

    But no one can question that she is a good, if sometimes out of the box cop, very smart and intuitive and a bit ambitious. At least ambitious to follow the cases as she, rather than her superiors, see then, something that does not make her their favorite young detective. So she is upset that with a huge new case breaking, she is tied to doing research on another case that is about to come to trial. Her assigned work is researching the money trail of a man that embezzled a great deal of money from the local school board, but she is trying as hard as she can to get into the new investigation.

    The new case involves a woman, a prostitute, and her young child that were found dead, murdered, in a particularly horrible and brutal way. A dead prostitute is not that unusual, especially when at first they think is is just another drug overdose, but the obvious murder of the child takes it a while different way. And then there is the credit card found in the hovel the bodies are found in, a place they find the dead woman was hiding out in, the credit card of a millionaire that was supposedly killed in a private plane crash a few months ago. A millionaire who, it seems, is tied to the man who Fi is investigating. Fi can not get over the connection she feels to the case, especially to the little dead girl, a connection that becomes, especially to us the readers who see what is going on in Fi's mind, more than just a bit disturbing.

    The plot of this story, the mystery that Fi and the police gradually unravel, is quite interesting and with just that, it would be a pretty good book. There are lots of different threads, from a bunch of seeming different cases. But as we watch, it all get tied together and ends with a really great, thrilling conclusion, (at a lighthouse!!) Fi at the very center of pulling it all together. But what puts it over the top is the character of Fi and trying to figure out what is going on with her.

    Yes, her co-workers know she rarely socializes with them and never drinks. They know about those missing two years. But they have no idea about is that she can only sleep a few hours a night and spends many evenings and early mornings sitting on her back patio smoking pot and tending her pot plants in her wee greenhouse. We will let you read on your own about her, shall be say, odd view of the dead. They don't know that she has been studying martial arts since college as a way to try and control herself and her environment, something that is a real issue for her. And they have no idea..or so she thinks..about her budding romance with a fellow cop, who is going to have to be an extra understanding fellow to have Fi as a girlfriend.

    Fi has demons...and she does what she must to keep them as bay. But happily that also helps to make her a great cop, very in tune with the suffering of the victims. You will be trying to figure out the crime, but I am sure you will also be trying to figure out what is going on with Fi as well, a mystery that is much clearer by the end of the book but still interesting enough to keep you looking forward to future books in this new series.

    Highly recommended!

    My thanks to Amazon Vine and the published for providing a review copy of this book.

    Monday, October 8, 2012

    Musing Monday..The Sequel!

    To those of you in the USA, Happy Columbus Day!
    Now hit the sales.
    Right after we check out this week's Musing Monday....

    This week’s musing — courtesy of http://ladywithbooks.wordpress.com– asks… Do you have a favorite series? Do you have a favorite book out of that series?

    At first I thought,  "I am not a big series fan.." But, of course, as I mused..and I do muse about these questions...I realized that was a lie.
    I have always been a fan of series and I guess I always will.

    I have mentioned before that when I was a teenager, I was a big fan of Rex Stout's Nero Wolf series. I looked it up. There are 33 books and 39 short stories in the series, and while I may not have read them all, I bet I read most of them. And it was not the only series. Who was the detective that was always making sandwiches and eating them over the kitchen sink? Then there was Sherlock Holmes...Agatha Christie...and more..

    And then one of my all time favs...The whole Tolkien Middle Earth series. Start with The Hobbit, move on to The Lord of the Rings..wind up with Silmarillion and the other lesser..in terms of length, not quality..works.A delight for a lifetime!

    Present day, it is not different. I will happily read a free standing book, but many in my favorite genre. mysteries, thrillers, police procedurals and such, are parts of series, so series it is for me.
    The first that came to mind is those written by Karen Slaughter. Actually she writes several series, but since they overlap to a degree, I consider them one Great Big series. And all great books!

    But what others?
    Who can remember?
    Well, happily, once again, my dear Library Thing came to the rescue. Did you know they have a way, just one of many way cool things you can do there, that you can bring up a list all the books in your library as part of a series? So cool...
    So I found I have many and I will just list a few of my tops loves..

    • All Creatures Great and Small- one I read years ago but still love.
    • Anna Pigeon Mysteries by Nevada Barr...love the different National Park settings.
    • Clare Ferguson by Julia Spencer-Fleming..Clare is a great character.
    • Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles by Tess Gerritsen..read my last review for more on that pair.
    • Odd Thomas by Dean Knootz..first 3-4 books were excellent. I am a Big Knootz fan.
    • Ruth Galloway by Elly Griffiths..Ruth is one of my favorite characters of all time.
    • Shetland Island Quartet by Ann Cleaves..love these books, love the setting. Love.

    Yes, these are just the top of the pile. I could really go on.
    And on.
    Seems I love good series a lot more than I thought!

    But I also have some issues with series. Often, I think they start out great and then something happens. Maybe I just get bored with them. Maybe they become too much of the same thing. Maybe the author get a bit complacent. Looking at that Library Thing list, I saw many where I read maybe two in a series and then no more and that is just a few of the reasons why.
    The best series, like Slaughter's, are willing to change things up and keep things fresh. The characters have to evolve. Big things have to happen. Yes, you have to be willing to do something like kill a main character off. That is one of the strengths of Slaughter's series, that the cast is big enough to do that, yet we still were involved enough with each of them to really be upset when it happens. I have read that her next book will have Lena Adams back. Hope that is true because the oh-so-damaged Lena is great!

    Still, maybe even the best series has a certain lifespan. And that bring up the bravest thing a good writer of a good series can do. Even if they have a successful series on their hand, even if the publisher is clamoring for one more, a really brave writer knows when it is time to wrap a series up and move on to something else. Go out when the series is on top and don't keep it going until even the loyalist fan give up on it. Wrap it up with a Big Bang! Create another one for us please, another great bunch of characters, another great setting, another great premise that lets you explore a whole new bunch of ideas! We, your fans, will still be there!

    Saturday, October 6, 2012

    Weekend Cooking..Chicken Cordon Bleu

    My mother used to make Chicken Cordon Bleu and it was very good.
    And later in life, I made it a few times, but to tell ya the truth, it was a pain in the neck to make.
    I do not enjoy pounding chicken, and then you had to roll it up with the ham and cheese and then somehow hold it together. You might tie them up or use toothpicks but either are a pain and the cheese oozes out anyhoo. Tell me, how are you suppose to bread the rolls with all that stuff on the outside?

    So, as I was looking through my new favorite cook book, The Complete Cook's Country TV Show Cookbook and saw a recipe that promised to be easier and better, well, I had to try it! And they were right..it was way easier and very, very good. As the Sil and Bro and Niece, who were my test subjects will attest to.

    Instead of all that pounding and rolling and tying, you just cut a pocket in the chicken breast and stuff it. How smart! Use a very sharp knife..and as I accidentally discovered, if the chicken is just a tiny bit frozen it is even easier. You want to cut as big a pocket as you can. Then lay out 2 oz. of ham slices..I overlapped mine, put the cheese on top..I used slices and not grated, roll it up, ham on the outside and stick in in the pocket. No need to close up the pocket really, although when you dip it in the egg and bread it, it pretty much closes it up. But since the ham holds the cheese in, it it not a big deal if it is a little open.

    Chicken Cordon Bleu

    25 Ritz crackers - about 3/4 of a sleeve
    4 slices hearty sandwich bread, torn into quarters
    6 T. unsalted butter, melted
    8  slices deli ham, 8 oz. in total
    8 oz. shredded Swiss cheese
    4 (8 oz) boneless chicken breasts
    Salt and pepper
    3 large eggs
    2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    1 cup all-purpose flour

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and adjust the oven racks to lowest and middle positions
    To make the bread crumbs, pulse crackers and bread in food processor until coarsely ground. Drizzle in butter and pulse to incorporate. Bake crumbs on a rimmed baking sheets on the middle rack, stirring occasionally, until light brown, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a shallow dish. Do not turn the oven off.

    Top each ham slice with 1/4 cup of Swiss cheese and roll tightly. Set aside. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Cut a deep pocket into the thickest part of the chicken breast, stuff with 2 ham-and-cheese rolls and press close. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Transfer the chicken to a plate and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 20 minutes.

    Beat eggs and mustard in a second shallow dish. Place flour in a third shallow dish. One at a time, coat the stuffed chicken breasts lightly with flour, then into the egg mixture, and dredge in the bread crumbs, pressing to adhere. (Breaded chicken can be refrigerated, covered, for one day if you'd like to make it ahead) 
    Transfer chicken to a baking sheet. Bake on the lowest rack until the bottom of the chicken is golden brown - about 10 minutes. Then move the baking sheet to the middle rack, lower the oven temperature to 400 degrees and continue to bake until the chicken is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 160 degrees, about 20-25 minutes.
    Transfer to a platter, tent with foil, and let rest for about 5 minutes. Serve.

    Doesn't that look tasty??
    As to my chances, yes, there were a couple.
    First, I made only one roll for each breast. 2 oz. ham...2 oz. cheese...roll, insert in pocket. Second, I had no bread, so I used Panko bread crumbs and it was excellent. I did toast them in the oven for a minute, with the crackers I had crushed in a ziplock bag and tossed with the butter. BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THEM. Just saying..not that I did it...lol..

    I also made a little white sauce with a little cheese in it to serve with them and the rice, because that is what my mommy always serve with them. Rice, peas, white sauce. And you can never have too much cheese.
    The coating was excellent, flavorful with that tiny bit of mustard (although I could not identify the mustard) and very crispy. The chicken was tender, even without the pounding, very juicy and I love the taste of the Swiss cheese with the ham and chicken. Yum!
    Easy, delicious and pretty quick.
    This one is a keeper in my book!

    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, October 4, 2012

    Review of "Last to Die" [81]

    Last To Die: A Rizzoli & Isles Novel by Tess Gerritsen 
    Ballantine Books, ISBN 978-0345515636
    August 28, 2012, 352 pages

    First his parents were killed.
    Then his foster parents and their other children were horribly murdered in their Boston home.
    Young Teddy Clock is the only survivor.

    When Jane Rizzoli arrives to investigate, with her friend and colleague, coroner Maura Isles already on the case, it seems like it might be a robbery. It is a beautiful home, full of priceless items and quickly the housekeeper's boyfriend, an illegal alien, becomes a suspect. Well, at least in the eyes of Jane's new boss who is very concerned with quickly solving a front page crime and looking good in front of the news cameras.

    But Jane is not convinced, especially when two very similar cases in other states come to her attention. First their parents were killed and then the folks they went to live with also died. And the other thing all three cases have in common is that the three children who survived two sets of murdered caregivers are now all students at the rather mysterious Evensong, a boarding school deep in the woods of Maine. We have heard of Evensong before and the rather creepy group that run it, the Mephisto Society, in a previous Gerritsen book. And by coincidence, Maura is on her way up there to visit the young man Julian who she also met in another earlier book and is now also a student there. All the children at the school are survivors of violent crime in their pasts, but it seems that these three particular children may still be targets of the killer.
    Strange, bad things are happening in those dark Maine woods and Maura and Jane will be right in the midst of it all.

    Let me say, first of all, that I am a big Gerritsen fan.
    I have read all her books, even the ones before the Rizzoli/Isles series and I have enjoyed them all. Some I loved and some I liked...and this one is in the 'liked' group. It is a good book, but not the best she has written.

    Rizzoli and Isles are both great characters and their friendship and working relationship, not without it's ups and downs, has always been interesting. Happily, nothing like the gal pal and way too joke filled one of the TV show loosely based on this series. But in this book their interplay seemed to play an oddly small role. And the little subplot of the adventures of the always interesting Rizzoli family was just dropped with no conclusion. Not to mention the almost total lack of mention of Jane's FBI husband, a character that always adds a great twist, a calm grounding element, to the stories. I love their relationship and Jane's interaction with their daughter and I missed that in this book.

    But most of all, while good, the plot was not up to the very clever and very intricate level of many of Gerritsen books. It was good but not with all the dark twists and turns Gerritsen usually includes, the dark twists and turns I love. And as much as I hate to say it, because there is nothing I dislike as much as a bloated book, it seems rather short.

    Let me just repeat, Gerritsen is a great writer and the Rizzoli/Isles series is a very good one. If you have never read it, really, you should. But I have to think that maybe it is time for Gerritsen to take a break from the girls and treat us to a another freestanding book. Fans will, I think, enjoy this one but new readers should start with the earlier books in the series and watch the characters develop.

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

    Tuesday, October 2, 2012

    Wordless Wednesday..Autumn

    A autumn trip to the garden center and a pumpkin sale









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