Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wordless Wednesday..Ciao Bella Roma

Wow, I started looking at my photos from Rome again and 
saw so many I forgive me if I share a few more.
Hope none of these are repeats! :-)

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Musing Monday...

 These weeks go by so fast!
Yes, it is Monday, so let's get Musing!!
As always, hosted by MizB at  Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

There was an article in Shelf Awareness this week, in fact, a special addition with just this article on Saturday, that discussed an issue that caught my eye. It is something that book readers and book buyers should be aware of.
Did you see it?
It is about my old friends at the Great Evil Amazon and a little game they seems to be up to...

"Yesterday quietly began discounting many bestselling hardcover titles between 50% and 65%, levels we've never seen in the history of Amazon or in the bricks-and-mortar price wars of the past....
The discounts are far below the usual 40%-50% range sometimes offered by Amazon, warehouse clubs and other discounters and are more typical for remainders than frontlist hardcovers. In some cases, the hardcovers are priced below the Kindle editions.
... "It's an open declaration of war against the industry," said Jack McKeown, president of Books & Books Westhampton Beach, Westhampton Beach, N.Y. Like several people familiar with Amazon's move, he speculated that Amazon has been "emboldened" by the Justice Department's victory against five major publishers in the e-book agency model case as well as Wall Street's acceptance of continued losses by Amazon for now in the expectation of retail domination--and major profits--eventually."

Yes, they lose money in the last quarter and Wall Street is not concerned about their future.
Why is that?
It reminds me of the ploy of drug dealers. At first the drugs they sell you will be very cheap, free even, until you are roped in. And then once they got ya..and drove the competition off the street corner...then they hit ya with the real price.

Am I a hypocrite? Don't I buy from them?
Well, yes I do. But in my defense, I have little choice book wise. There are no independent bookstore around here, not even a Borders or a Barnes and Noble.  I do buy all my e-books from B&N online as a bit of a protest, even though I read all my e-books on my iPad now.
Price is important to me in everything I buy, and often Amazon is the cheapest.

But I will say it again...the growing place of Amazon in the book world is more than a little worrying. {Did I mention their buyout of Goodreads?} Hey, I don't mind them or any company doing well, but to now be in the position to be able to take a loss for a bit in order to undercut the competition, maybe drive them out of business... make me sit up and take notice.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Weekend Cooking...Let's Try a Shandy

Today, in honor of the new wee Prince George, we are going to have a toast to his good heath and exciting future.
But what to drink for the toast?
What we need is a nice summer drink that might be consumed in the UK.

And once again, I remember a beverage from one of Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks mysteries. No less than Adam Banks himself was stopping at a pub for some afternoon refreshment, as he frequently does, and he ordered a Shandy.

"What in the world is a shady?" I said.

Well, according to Wikipedia..."A shandy, or shandygaff, is beer mixed with a soft drink, carbonated lemonade, ginger beer, ginger ale, or apple juice. The proportions of the two ingredients are adjusted to taste, usually half-and-half."

I must say, as a person who likes beer, this sounded vile. But I needed to do my research! As always, just for you my dear readers.

So off I went to the liquor store to get some supplies for my test.
There are a large number of bottled shandys, so I bought a couple of them and then some regular beer..many sites suggest a white wheat beer to mix with lemonade to make a 'homemade' version. Then I threw a ringer in, with a beverage from the Evil Bud Beer Company, the Bud Light Lime-a-Rita, sort of a mixture of beer and margarita. Hmmm..

So, how did the taste test go? First, the bottled shandys.

The first one I tried was the Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy.
Their site describes it like this..."Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy is crisp wheat beer brewed with natural lemonade flavor which makes it a perfect summertime refresher for those sun-splashed summer days."
It does seem very popular by the amount the store had on hand, in bottle and cans. It did certainly taste like lemon, I will say that.
It smelled like beer and tasted like fake lemon. Odd.

Next I tried Tenacious Travelers Shandy which says it is "a ginger shandy—the perfect combination of spice and sweetness!"
OK, I think I missed the ginger part.
Tasted OK, but nothing to write home about.

So, lets try a homemade shandy! 1/2 lemonade...half beer. And by far the best. Lemony in a nice way and yet still a flavor of beer. So IMHO, if you want to explore the shandy world, make your own as the first try.
Quick, easy, cheap.

And finally, what of this Lime-a-Rita?
I will say, I expected to hate it.
And I did not.
It is tasty. Sweet. Not quite a margarita, not at all a beer, it's a malt beverage flavored to taste like a margarita.
If you like Mike's Hard lemonade you may like this. It is similar with a bit more fizz. not be fooled but the "Light" on the label. This is a sugar packed drink, contains 8% alcohol by volume with 220 calories and 29.1 grams of carbohydrates per 8oz serving.
So that 24oz can they sell would have 600 calories! And at 8% ABV, that is a lot of booze. 

So, what did I finally decided about this whole shandy issue?
Personally, I doubt I will drink any of them again.

When I want a beer, a want a beer.
When I want Lemonade, I want lemonade.
And when I want a delicious, icy cold Margarita..well, you get the idea!

Still, I do have three more cans of that Lime-a-Rita in the fridge..and I hate to waste...

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, July 25, 2013

Review of "The Ghost Trap" [56]

The Ghost Trap by K. Stephens 
Leapfrog Press, ISBN 978-0981514871
September 1, 2009, 327 pages

Many of us have slightly romantic ideas of Maine..and no, you are not going to take mine away from me.
But we know the reality, like the reality of every place, is a little different.

Lobstering is a hard life, a hard way to make a living. There is the weather, often harsh, the work, back breaking and dangerous. The prices may fall, or the lobsters disappear, but the bills are still due. The boat needs repairs, your friend gets arrested, the lifelong fights with your father go on and on. And there are the trap wars, going back generations, agreements about who can put their traps where, with those that try to push the limits ending up with their gear at the bottom of the ocean..or worse.

But this is Jamie Eugley's life, like his father and his father before him. He is a lobsterman and things are hard.
I will warn you, from the beginning you know this story can not have a happy ending.
Jamie has not only the daily grind of the work and the sometimes careful dance of dealing with his friends and family and his neighbors, but he also has taken on himself the burden of caring for his brain injured girlfriend Anja.

He feels responsible for the accident that caused her will be well into the book when we find out what happened and you can decide yourself how much guilt he should bear...and has taken care of her though the last three years of her painstakingly slow recovery. Perhaps a tiny part of him hopes that someday the beautiful young school teacher, the talented artist he was about to propose to will return, hidden now in the almost child-like Anja he cares for. Maybe the saddest part of the books are our views into Anja thoughts, her own glimpses of clarity, the relentless return of the fog that clouds her days.
Jamie is a loyal man, but as the pressures of work build, as he meets Happy Klein, a mate on a tourist schooner up from Key West for the summer, he dares to glimpse another future, away from his history, away from his responsibilities. But to grasp at it he will have to abandon who he believes he is...and who we come to believe he is.

But hold on, I don't want to paint too grim a picture here. At times the book is very funny, some of Jamie's friends quite amusing. It is a gritty life, with ways too many DUIs, maybe because the local bar is their one refuge but one and all, they are a great cast of characters. I particularly enjoyed the description of a trip up the coast a bit that Jamie takes with one of his friends to a party in Camden. It brilliantly shows us the differences in the worlds of the natives vs. the privileged summer folk, quite entertaining.
Stephens, for whom this is her debut novel, has a excellent ear and the dialogue, as in all of the book, is spot on.

These characters will be so real to you, the story so authentic, you will be on the edge of your seat hoping against hope that somehow it will all work our happily for everyone, yet knowing it can not.
Personally, I could not put it down, reading it straight through in one day. The ending is just a little heartbreaking, yes. But you will just have to know how it will all play out, so you will happily read on..and maybe shed a few tears at the ending.

Excellent book, highly recommended.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy in hope of a review.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Wordless Wednesday... Piazza della Rotonda.

To continue our trip back to Italy, 
a short stop at the Pantheon and the Piazza della Rotanda in Rome.

The Pantheon...built by the emperor Hadrian about 126 AD.

The Piazza della Rotonda, the Pantheon on the left, viewed from our hotel.

The piazza and the fountain, topped by an Egyptian obelisk, at night. always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Review of "The Highway" [55]

The Highway by C.J. Box
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312583200
July 30, 2013, 400 pages

There is a world out there, one which many of us never give a second thought to. It is the world of the long distance trucker...hour after hour, day after day, spent alone in the cab of their trucks, with stops for the essentials at the truck stops dotting our highways. Fuel, food, a shower, and for some, maybe some female companionship in the form of the prostitutes that prowl the idling trucks, the 'lot lizards'. But a few of these men are looking for something else at those stops, victims for their horrible crimes, victims no one will miss. And as the book opens we meet one particularry nasty example of these horrible men. He thinks of himself as the Lizard King, and he see himself as king of the road and king of the woman he drugs and kidnaps, abuses and finally kills.

Into this world, drives two sisters, 18 years old Danielle and her luckily more sensible sister 16 year old Gracie. They are supposing to be driving from home in Denver to visit their father in Omaha for thanksgiving, but Danielle has other plans. She is taking a detour to go visit her boyfriend Justin Hoyt in Montana, unknown to her parents, Justin or even her sister until it is too late. She ignored that 'check engine' light for hours, drove off the main highway to avoid a road blocked by an accident, and worse of all, attracted the attention of the Lizard King. When their car finally breaks down, in a canyon with no cell reception, their worse fear is that they will be late arriving at Justin's. then they see that big black peterbilt truck coming up the road, and at least the one of them with any sense knows things are about to get much much worse.

Justin's father, officer Cody Hoyt, is having a bad day too. His partner Cassie has been forced to spy on him and found evidence of wrongdoing that allowed the sheriff, never a fan, to fire him. Feeling very sorry for himself, several years of sobriety go down the drain that night, so when his son comes looking for his help to find the girls, he is not in the best of conditions. Still Cody not at his best is better than most, and with Cassie's help he is off on the their trail...and a horror he can only begins to imagine. Still, he had not been so hungover he might have been more alert to the danger he was walking into. When Cody too disappears, Cassie is on her own, to find the girl and to save her partner.

I have read a few of Box's other books, but they were the ones in his award winning Joe Pickett series and I did not read the previous Cody book, Back of Beyond. Once again we are out in the wild and rather empty west, but this time the view is much darker, much more gritty. It almost reminded me of an episode of the TV series criminal Minds, dark and scary and a bit gruesome. Here are not many people here to like, to identify with, because one is more evil and repulsive than the next. That is, with the exception of Cassie Dewell, a widow, a single mom, and a strong, smart woman working to overcome all the misogynistic men surrounding her, someone who I hope we will see again in the future. then there is Gracie, a great young girl, a great character with so e of the best dialogue of the book. Which is saying so etching because the dialogue in this book is very good. Grace under pressure indeed!

As I said, I will warn you, this is a dark book. No rainbows and puppies here, just some examples of the worse, more scary sort of people out there. What is maybe the scariest is that some of them are not people you might suspect. And all too believable. And I must say I will never pull into a truck stop on my of my road trips in quite the same frame of mind again. The talk about FBI xxxx who are looking into disappearing woman, looking for suspects among the nations road warriors was a little eye opening. But , that being said, it is not a violent book really. No most of the violence takes place off screen happily or I might have call it quits. Even I , an admitted serial killer fan, can only take so much and I have a bit of an issue with these books with victimized young women..happily, here the hero is also a woman, that equalizes things a bit. An intense, scary thriller, maybe not for the faint of heart, but if that is your cuppa tea, this one will certainly grab your attention.

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

Monday, July 22, 2013

Musing Monday...A Rose by Any Other Name

 Monday! Let's get going!
But be sure to check out the other Musing Monday posts at  Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

Well, I have nothing to rant about this week, so I will tell you about a few books I got my hands on recently...

Holy Orders by Benjamin Black
"When the body of his daughter’s friend is brought to his autopsy table, Quirke is plunged into a world of corruption that takes him to the darkest corners of the Irish Church and State.

So begins the latest Quirke case, a story set in Dublin at a moment when newspapers are censored, social conventions are strictly defined, and appalling crimes are hushed up. Why? Because in 1950s Ireland the Catholic Church controls the lives of nearly everyone. But when Quirke’s daughter Phoebe loses her close friend Jimmy Minor to murder, Quirke can no longer play by the Church’s rules. Along with Inspector Hackett, his sometime partner, Quirke investigates Jimmy’s death and learns just how far the Church and its supporters will go to protect their own interests."

I just know this one is going to get me
But still I requested it, so I will do my best to read it and stay calm.

Louisiana Fever by D.J. Donaldson
"Andy Broussard, the plump and proud New Orleans medical examiner, obviously loves food. Less apparent to the casual observer is his hatred of murderers. Together with his gorgeous sidekick, psychologist Kit Franklyn, the two make a powerful, although improbable, mystery solving duo.
When the beautiful Kit goes to meet an anonymous stranger—who’s been sending her roses—the man drops dead at her feet before she even could even get his name. Game on."

This one was offered to me and although I swore never to take another book from a publicist or author, I accepted this one...and am happy I did. I really must write the review, but I will just say I love books set in New Orleans. As you can see, this one has another coroner as the lead character. And a great character Broussard is.

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
"After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office.

Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man.
The Cuckoo's Calling is a 2013 crime fiction novel by J. K. Rowling, published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith."
I am sure most of you have heard about this last book. It seems Ms. Rowlings, she of Harry Potter fame, wrote a mystery under a pseudonym but got found out. Now the book is rocketing up the best seller list and I admit it, I was interested. Interested because it got good reviews before the true author was discovered.
So, yes, I had to buy it.

Of course, writing under a pseudonym has a long history in the world of literature, for a variety of reasons. The Bronte sisters and George Elliot are two of the most well known, in their cases to disguise their genders. But other have written to disguise their fame as well. Stephan King, who wrote a letter in USA Today in defense of what Rowlings did, wrote under another name. Sadly, he killed off his nom de plume Richard Bachman when he was uncovered, saying Poor Richard died of "cancer of the pseudonym".

Tell me, what do you think of this Rowling thing?
Was it all a ploy, the revelation set up to boost sales.
How cynical! No, I think she just wanted to write, as King said, "just for the joy of it", to see what people would honestly think of the book on its own, without the Famous name.
Well, either way, I will be reading it.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Weekend Cooking..A Mess, a Big Eton Mess!

I am really not a great dessert person, but I distinctly remember two I loved. Oddly, both were eaten in Ireland.
One was a Sticky Toffee Pudding that I had one chilly rainy day, all alone, in a restaurant in Dingle Town.
The second was a Pavlova that I had in a hotel restaurant in Waterford after touring the Waterford Crystal factory. I had never had it before but I was sold! It was a layer of baked meringue, a layer of whipped cream and then topped with fruit. Delicious and a rather common special dessert in Ireland, as I was to come to find out.

But the English have their own take on that combination, fruit, meringue and cream, which goes by the lovely name of a Mess. Oh Wiki, tell us about it....
"Eton mess is a traditional English dessert consisting of a mixture of strawberries, pieces of meringue and cream, which is traditionally served at Eton College's annual cricket game against the pupils of Harrow School. The dish has been known by this name since the 19th century. According to Recipes from the Dairy by Robin Weir, who spoke to Eton College's librarian, Eton mess was served in the 1930s in the school's "sock shop", and was originally made with either strawberries or bananas mixed with ice-cream or cream. Meringue was a later addition, and may have been an innovation by Michael Smith, the author of Fine English Cookery. An Eton mess can be made with many other types of summer fruit, but strawberries are regarded as more traditional."
The first time I ever heard of this dish was in an article about Prince William at the time of his marriage, how a so-called Eton Mess was one of his favorite desserts. In one ear..out the other...until I came to buy a big container of very ripe strawberries at Sam's Club this week and needed something to make. That very night I happened upon an article by David Levovitz about how he had all these cherries and decided to make a Mess, in his case a Cherry Mess. Then that very night I was reading a book, set in England, and the dessert at a banquet the hero attended was an Eton Mess.
It was kismet!! A Mess it would be!! But not too messy a Mess...

Finished meringues...

If you can buy pre-made meringues as many recipes call for, that's good. They are not available in my supermarket sadly, but they are easy enough to make.
I love David's addition of the candied almonds to the dish.
First, I love almonds.
Second they add a nice crunch.

Eton Mess
Adapted from David Levovitz's Cherry Mess

For the fruit
4 cups strawberries...or fruit of your choice
1 tablespoon sugar
A few drops almond extract

Hull and chop the strawberries and put into a bowl, add the sugar and leave to macerate while you whip the cream.

For the candied almonds
1 cup  sliced almonds
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoon water
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Spray or lightly coat a baking sheet with vegetable oil. Heat the water and sugar in a skillet until it starts to boil. Remove from heat and stir in the almonds and a pinch of salt, until well coated.

Scrape the almonds onto the baking sheet, break up any large clumps, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice during baking so they toast evenly. Remove from oven when golden brown and crisp, and let cool completely. Store in an air-tight container until ready to use. 

Almonds ready to go into the oven for a few minutes..

For the meringues
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon almond extract

Reduce the heat of the oven to 225ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a clean, dry bowl, or with a stand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed with a pinch of salt until they start to hold their shape. Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time, while continuing to whip, until it’s all incorporated and the meringue is stiff and shiny. Whip in the almond extract.

Divide the meringue into 6 mounds on the baking sheet, then flatten each one into a disk with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake the meringues for 1 1/2 hours, then turn off the oven and let the meringues continue to remain in the oven with the door closed, to dry out further, until they are cool.

For the whipped cream
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

In a chilled bowl, whip the cream until it holds its shape when the lift the whisk. Whip in the sugar until the whipped cream is thickened, but not too stiff.

The parts, ready to assemble.

To assemble the desserts...
Choose four wine glasses or other vessels. Spoon some of the fruit in the bottom of each glass with a little bit of the juices. Crumble 3 or 4 of the meringues into rough 1-inch pieces and fold them into the whipped cream – the cream should be pretty-well riddled with meringue pieces. Spoon some of that mixture over the fruit in the glasses and add a bit of candied almonds over the cream.

Continue to layer each glass with more fruit, a bit of their syrup, more cream with crumbled meringues in it, and a few candied almonds, however you wish, ending with a few berries and some of their syrup on top. Sprinkle each mess with a scattering of candied almonds and serve.

It seems like a rather long recipe, doesn't it, but each step is quite simple. And if you are serving for guests you can, if you wish, made all the parts... the fruit, the almonds, the whipped cream, the meringues... ahead, and just assemble right before serving. I must say, for me, the highlight of this dessert is those candied almonds. All the rest is very nice, especially the nice bits of the meringues in the whipped cream, but the little crunch of the nuts is excellent. An easy, delicious dessert and I suggest you make in in honor of the soon to be born new little British Prince or Princess!!

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, July 19, 2013

Review of "Countdown City" [54]

Countdown City: The Last Policeman Book II by Ben H. Winters
Quirk Books, ISBN 978-1594746260
July 16, 2013, 320 pages

If the world were going to end in a few weeks, 77 days to be precise, what would you do?
Run off and do something you always wanted to do like learn to surf or have an affair or see the Pacific Ocean?
Or end it yourself before the giant asteroid on it's inevitable path, hurtling toward Earth, has the chance to?
Or perhaps, like former police detective Hank Palace, your just try to keep on doing your job.

Former job, because in this new, shortly to end world the government doesn't see a role for solving crime. No, the only police left are the para-military, now under the auspices of the Justice Department who are just trying to keep, not too successfully, some degree of public order.

But when someone from Hanks past, his former childhood babysitter, comes to him, heartbroken, comes to him, he can not say no. Her husband, who promises to stay by her side until the end, has disappeared and Hank take the job and try and track him down.
"Brett Cavatone disappeared without a trace—an easy feat in a world with no phones, no cars, and no way to tell whether someone’s gone “bucket list” or just gone. With society falling to shambles, Hank pieces together what few clues he can, on a search that leads him from a college-campus-turned-anarchist-encampment to a crumbling coastal landscape where anti-immigrant militia fend off “impact zone” refugees."
Perhaps the highest praise I can give this book is for all the entertainment value of a good "whodunnit", I found this book quite disturbing. Yes, parts of it are grim, society breaking down, people attacking others, but not horrible in anyway. No, the scary part is how ordinary, how believable it all is. Food become scarce because no one is working on the farms, driving the truck. No one to come to your aid when someone is breaking into your house, except the gun you hid when the government tried to take them all away to preserve 'order'. No electricity, no phones, but the real fear, and rightfully so, is what will happen when the water from the taps stops flowing.
So why does Hank go off on this quest?
"Because a promise is a promise...and civilization is just a bunch of promises, that's all it is. A mortgage, a wedding vow, a promise to obey the law, a pledge to endorse it. And now the world is falling apart, the whole rickety world, and every broken promise is a small rock tossed at the wooden side of its tumbling form."
Hank will not be the one throwing rocks.

This is the second book in the promised Last Policeman trilogy and while I loved the first book, this one is every bit as good. Maybe even a little better because we get a bit more insight into Hank and Hank is the heart and soul of this book. Not that the other characters are not interesting, because they are, from Hank's sister, to his former co-workers, the elderly waitress at the diner they frequented, to the Utopian seeking mix at the local University of New Hampshire.

And I loved that two of the rare examples of order involved book lovers. First there are the librarians and volunteers that were keeping the local library open 24/7, a rare safe place among the chaos and second, the small group of university students who had moved into the college library, a pile of books beside them, just reading and reading and reading until the Big One hits. When society collapses, stick with the book lovers. Sounds pretty good to me!
This is a book that explores the 'big ideas', but doesn't hit you over the head going it.

And then there is Hank's dog, Houdini, happily his companion on his journey riding in a little trailer behind Hank's bike, with the bottles of water, energy bars and some bags of dog food. If the world is going to end, Big Fat Cat Larry I have to tell you I am getting a puppy dog to share the space in the trailer with you. And a Big Pile of Books.

Highly recommended!

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

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Wordless Wednesday...Ritorno a Venezia

Because of a special request from the Bro, we are taking a short trip back to Venice. 
Boy, that was a great trip...

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Review of "Tell Me" [53]

Tell Me by Lisa Jackson
Kensington House Pub Ltd, ISBN 978-0758258588
June 25, 2013, 336 pages

"The most hated woman in Savannah, Georgia, is about to be set free. Twenty years ago, Blondell O'Henry was convicted of murdering her eldest daughter and wounding her two other children. The prosecution argued that beautiful, selfish Blondell wanted to be rid of them to be with her lover. Now Blondell's son, Niall, has recanted his testimony and demolished the case in the process. Reporter Nikki Gillette is determined to get the true story, and not just for professional reasons. Blondell's murdered daughter, Amity, was Nikki's childhood friend. The night she died, Amity begged Nikki to meet with her, insisting she had a secret to tell, but Nikki didn't go...
And somehow, the events of that tragic night connect to Nikki's own fractured family. But now the killing has begun again. Is Amity's murderer still at large, or is this a new, darker danger? Soon Nikki will discover what really happened twenty years ago, but the answers may come too late to save her life..."
Ok, let me get right to the point.
Good book, worth reading, but not the author's best. If you are a fan of Jackson, no doubt you will want to read it, if only to see if her wedding to Detective Reed actually takes place. But if you are new to her books, I would not necessarily start here.

The good part.
Jackson is a good writer, the plot unfolds in a nice, interesting way, with lots of red herrings to keep the reader on their toes. And I like the main characters, Nikki and her fiance, Police Detective Pierce Reed. Of course, he is the detective charged with looking into the case again, seeing if evidence of Blondell's guilt or innocence may now be found that was not possible 20 years ago, things like DNA. And of course, Nikki will be trying her best, unsuccessfully, to get him to spill some information. Not that she should bother, because it seems she is making more headway than the police. At least if you consider the poison snake someone puts in her car to try and scare her off. Eeek!
Savannah is a great setting and I only wish we saw a bit more of it in this book. Really authors should take full advantage of the place a book is set in. Give is a little tour, a look at th highlights, a real feel for the place. It is often one of the great fun things of a book.
Finally, I did not figure out the villain, which is always a good thing.

But the bad..
First, there are just way, way too many characters, many of them not drawn clearly enough to be memorable. When I find myself flipping back, asking "Wait, is that her cousin, who got killed, or the ex-husband of her uncle client?" I know there are too many people here. Which led to the greatest problem. When the bad folks are revealed...and there is more than one, including one who even Nikki agrees she could not understand the motivation of...I was a bit confused as to who was who.That is not good.

The worst thing? Nikki breaks my cardinal rule of doing something dumb. More than once. One example...Ok, you are in a cabin, hiding from a bad person. They know you are there and looking for you. Where is your only protection, a stun gun? In your HAND? Oh no, that would be too sensible. No, you flee and then look for it in your bag or your pocket or wherever?? Nikki should have her reporter license taken away for that. Well, if they gave reporter licenses out.

Still, I sort of enjoy yelling at stupid things people do. So maybe that is not all bad.

A pretty good read if not Jackson best, another one of those fast, not too heavy beach or airport reads that will keep you entertained if not overwhelmed.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Musing Monday...First, Get a Book and a Knife..

And a stop over at  Should Be Reading to check out this weeks other Musings!

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!

• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

I have a little craft project, of a bookish nature, to present to you.
OK, I warn you that this post may cause some of you actual physical pain.
I know it did when the idea was first presented to me.

But then I got over it.
Pretty much.

The Niece texted me last week and asked if I had a few books I could give her to deface.
Yes, that is the word she used and it is accurate.
But see what you will get above?

Just a few books standing up, you say?

No, in fact, it is a clever storage device, perfect to hide, as the Niece needed to do, a router and all those nasty, ugly wires and blinking lights on a bookshelf.
Look, she even cut out a little door for the wires...cute.
Of course, you could use it to hide all sorts of other things on a bookshelf too.
And your cat might enjoy trying to get in there.

Yes, OK, it does require the destruction of a few books.
It also requires an Exacto knife and a hot glue gun.
Which does still make me a little weak.
And I do not mean the glue gun or the exacto knife.

But, if you have the stomach for it, for a more detailed explanation, HERE is the web site with some nice pics and step-by-step instructions.
You might notice, if you look closely that the Niece added some pieces between the books at the top to make it even a little more sturdy. And the little 'doorway'.
Love those hot glue guns!!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Weekend Cooking...The Better Burger

Gee, I hope I did not post this before, but if so, for me.
Because I love a good burger.

I don't eat that many of them, but when I have one, I want a good one!
No MickeyD!
No preformed supermarket burgers of questionable origins.

No, fresh ground chuck, seasoned to perfection, just the right size, cooked on a hot grill.

I love rare beef, but honestly, even if I ground the beef myself, I prefer to eat my burgers fairly well done.
But how to keep them from drying out, turning into a tough, hockey puck?
Well, my friends at America's Test Kitchen have an answer and now it is the only way I make burgers.

I replace the salt and pepper with...salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric, garlic..
The idea is to make a 'panade', a mixture of some fresh bread, a touch of milk, some seasonings, mush it all up into a paste and add the beef, mixing well. It is little enough that I promise you will not know it is in there, yet it is enough to keep the burger juicy no matter how well done it is.
And delicious.



  • 1 large slice high quality white sandwich bread, crust removed and discarded, bread chopped into 1/4-inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons steak sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds 80 percent lean ground chuck

Oh, my..that looks good!


  1. Mash bread and milk in large bowl with fork until homogeneous (you should have about 1/4 cup). Stir in salt, pepper, garlic, and steak sauce.
  2. Break up beef into small pieces over bread mixture. Using fork or hands, lightly mix together until mixture forms cohesive mass. Divide meat into 4 equal portions. Gently toss 1 portion of meat back and forth between hands to form loose ball. Gently flatten into 3/4-inch-thick patty that measures about 4 1/2 inches in diameter. Press center of patty down with fingertips until it is about 1/2 inch thick, creating slight depression in patty. Repeat with remaining portions of meat.
  3. Add meat patties, indentation side up, and cook until well-browned, about 3 minutes. Using wide spatula, flip burgers and continue cooking, about 3 minutes for medium-well or 4 minutes for well-done. Distribute equal portion of cheese (if using) on burgers about 2 minutes before they reach desired doneness. While burgers cook, toast buns. Serve on buns with desired toppings.

You can cook these in a skillet on the stove, which is good, but if possible they are even better on the grill.
Be sure to do that indent thing. When cooked, you will have a nice even, flat burger.

Toasted roll.
A little romaine lettuce.
Grilled onion.
Roasted peppers.
Pickles on the side.


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, July 12, 2013

Review of "The Philadelphia Quarry" [52]

The Philadelphia Quarry by Howard Owen
Permanent Press, ISBN 978-1579623357
July 15, 2013, 240 pages

I will admit, when I am hoping to win a book on Library Thing or get one from Amazon Vine, I first look for an author I know and like. But when that is not an option, I will take a change on the unknown. On in this case, get suckered in by the title. So let me be clear. There is no connection to the Pennsylvania city in this book.
Or just a very small one. The quarry where the girl was found tied up and raped 28 years ago once supplied stone use in building the city of brotherly love. But it is located in Richmond, Virginia. And I am fine with that.

The victim was the daughter of one of the city's rich and successful families. The accused and convicted man was a black teenager. He was caught at the quarry, swimming with friends who had broken in and then fled. But Richard was the slowest, got grabbed up by police and was identified by the rape victim.
Now, 28 years later, evidence not possible to test back then, in the form on DNA, has proven his innocence and he is released from prison. But the celebration by his family is short. A few days later, that rape victim from so long ago, Alicia Simpson, is dead, shot in her car on the way to the gym. And that newly released man, Richard Slade, with only his mother to alibi him, is suspect number one, soon back in jail, awaiting trial.

It seems cut and dry, especially if you don't look to deep. But Willie Black is paid to look long as he still has a job. He is a newspaper reporter for the local daily, an industry that has seen better days, with the Internet giving the news away for free. He drink too much, smokes too much, has three ex-wives and a big mouth. A big mouth and a curious interest in this case that is not making his bosses happy. Seems there are a couple of very rich, very powerful folks in Richmond that are happy to believe Slade is guilty, including people powerful enough to convinces the powers that be at the newspaper that there is no need for further investigation.
When Willie ignores orders, he is suspended.
Great, more time to concentrate on his story!
But the next person who wants to shut him up might not be so gentle.

I said at the beginning that the author of this book was unknown to me, and he was, even though he has written 10 books. The last one Oregon Hill, is also about Willie, newspaper man extraordinaire,  another of his dangerous adventures. I might just have to pick that up next, because I liked this book a lot and I like Willie a lot.
Oh, he is flawed, but he is smart and a bit funny, with a slightly buried sense of justice. And the cast of characters surrounding him are great, none better than his weed smoking mom, with her living in boyfriend who has a touch of dementia and a homeless man, Awesome, who lives part time in their quest room. Then there is Kate, the last ex-wife, for whom Willie still has a sweet hankering, not to mention the Slade family, who Willie discovers he is actually related to. Richard, the accused killer is actually his second cousin or something. Seems the father Willie never knew was a light skinned black man and Willie, unknown to him, has been 'passing' as white all his life. Live and learn!

I certainly can't accuse Owen of writing a book that is too long, since the galley weights in at just 222 pages. But it is not too short either. Enough room for some great character development, a good, solid plot and a great little twist at the end which I almost had figure out. Except for being wrong about the killer. And the rapist.

Good, solid book. Love the Richmond setting, the characters, the plot, very well written. What more can you ask?

My thanks to Library Thing and the publisher for proving a review copy.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review of "The Bat" [51]

The Bat by Jo Nesbo
Vintage, ISBN 978-0345807090
July 2, 2013, 384 pages

I have read, I believe, all of Jo Nesbo's Harry Hole series that has been translated. I am not totally sure honestly, at least in part because they were translated into English and published in the US out of order. Something I have complain about many times as readers here may know. So I was very happy to see that the first Harry Hole book, The Bat, was about to be released and was able to get my hands on a review copy.
So, first, how are we introduced to Harry?
A young Norwegian woman, a minor celebrity who went to Australia to do bar work, is found washed up from the sea at the foot of a cliff. All the evidence points to murder. Harry Hole, of Oslo Crime Squad, goes to Sydney to assist with the Australian police investigation. He is meant to act as an observer, and one of the reasons for him going is that his superior thinks he could do with a break. Not only from his alcohol problems. He was in a car which crashed and a colleague was killed. However, being a passive onlooker is not a role Harry plays naturally; he gets involved and in the end is drawn into the case, also on a personal level, as he falls for Birgitta – a friend of the dead girl.

Harry’s stay in Sydney leads him to seamy King’s Cross and the company of pimps, strippers, transvestites, pushers and backpackers. His mental and physical journey across the fascinating continent of Australia is set against the background of a traveling fun fair with boxers and the age-old tradition of clowns. The story seems to follow the – at times irrational – plot of an old aborigine tale about the Bat Man, a human-like creature with bat wings brought to life by crime. As the Bat Man awakens, Death appears in the lives of mortals.
Now, what did I think?
Ok, that whole issue about not publishing this one earlier?
Forget it, I was wrong.

Yes, a look at the young Harry, some stories about his sister, his family, were interesting. As was the story about how his drinking once cause the death of a co-worker, something that was covered up. But, really, except for a few facts that would have been nice to figure out about Harry earlier, like the right way to pronounce his last name, I could have skipped this one.

I will admit I am not a huge fan of Harry. But this Harry is even more annoying than usual, without some of his better qualities, his humor, his sensitivity, that come out in other books and almost makes his likable.
While I like a flawed hero as much as the next person, there is something about Harry and his alcoholism that really annoys me, in this book more than in the others. He has not been drinking for a long time as the story start. Then a man he has known for a week dies, and that sets him off on an unbelievable drunken spree. I just don't mean off the wagon. He is off the wagon, rolled in a ditch, fell off the cliff, washed away in a flood... Really, should this guy be a cop, if he falls apart over the death of a guy he liked, but barely knew?

The first half of the book is not bad, the plot fairly interesting as Harry starts to discover some facts about this girl's death that had not come out yet, make a few connections. And unlike some readers, I did not mind that the book was set in Australia, rather than in Harry's Norway home. Still, "the fascinating continent of Australia" they talk about..I would not go that far.
But then things went south. There were page after page that could, IMHO, been cut, adding little to the story. Aboriginal dreamtime story after Aboriginal dreamtime which, except for maybe one, had no connection to this story that I ever figured out. Honesty, by then it was all so convoluted, the plot, the characters, that I was losing interest in the who and the why of the killings.
And I hate clowns.
Beware any book with clowns.

If you are a huge fan of Nesbo, you will want to read this.
I know you will not be dissuaded. Just knock you expectations down a notch or two, not expecting quite what you liked in his later, better books.

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wordless Wednesday....Return to the Refuge

Back to the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge. 
Seems it is time for many of the young birds to make an appearance! 

Baby ducklings with mom.



Mommy, daddy and baby ospreys..check out the Osprey Cam

Can you still see me?"

Gosling with the folks.

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.