Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Still on Santorini




 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bye Bye Irene!!

Hatteras Island, NC
Just to let you know that I and mine weathered Irene in good shape with minimal problems.

As I said, I spent the time over at my brother, not so much that it was safer but because I would not be alone and he has that Oh-So-Cute Sammy. Plus, as we found out Friday night, my sister in law, who had major surgery on her back Wednesday was going to be released from the hospital in Philly, solid neck brace and all, Saturday morning. So someone needed to be available to find her cold beverages and bendy straws!

Most of South Jersey, along the coast, made out pretty well. A lot of trees down, and I mean BIG trees and a LOT of power outages. I heard a guy from the public works department in the town I live in say his crew had removed 17 trees from roads so far that day and that does not touch the ones on private property. Firewood for everyone!!

The Bro's house was without power from about 8 PM Saturday to 3 pm on Sunday, due to a neighbors tree that went down on the only section of power lines that are not buried in his neighborhood. And I must say the tornado warnings that I was getting on my cell phone from the Weather Service Saturday night were rather scary. The first was for the town on the barrier island just east of us and was heading west. That is not good. I hear it did touched down there, but seems to have gotten lost on the way to the Bro's, thank heavens.

My house, when I went over to check on it, was without power. A small tree down in my backyard and a tiny bit of water in my basement from the incredible amount of rain, but nothing to worry about. I got power back sometimes yesterday and it was back when I check here again around noon. Thank goodness. Ice, a stove to make tea, TV...Internet! And a lot of downed branches and leaves...and more leaves. I have seen some damage along the coast north of us in Ocean county, closer to NYC, but not aware of much here.

Now the real damage in NJ and NY state and up to Vermont is flooding, terrible, record flooding from all the rain and runoff into the streams and rivers. Irene was just so big, hundreds of miles across, and slow and so full of water. Down here, our soil is very sandy and drains pretty well. Up in the center of the state, the soil gets more rock and clay and you get hills and mountains and some big rivers and that can add up to huge runoff and rising water.

So let's keep all those people in our minds and prayers, those that lost their lives and those that lost their homes and possessions and all that suffer so much disruption. Bye bye Irene!

Musing Monday...20 Questions on a Monday Morning

Hey folks! Ok, it is not actually 20 question but it is about as many as i can handle this morning. I have some Irene cleanup to be doing, but I will drop in for a minute to check out this week's Musing Monday from Should Be Reading!

This week’s musing is… a book meme!
What was the last book you…

• borrowed from the library?
• bought?
• cried over?
• disliked and couldn’t finish?
• read & loved?
• got for review? (or: got in the mail?)
• gave to someone else?
• stayed up too late reading?

Oh, it is times like this I love my Library Thing, because to tell you the truth, there is NO way I could even start to answer this question otherwise

borrowed from the library? Backseat Saint by Joshilyn Jackson. I borrowed it as an audio book, because while I am not a huge audio fan, I loved the other audio book read by the author that I borrowed. I really must get to that one.
bought? The Arranger by L.J. Sellers. Really enjoyed this book. I bought it as a Nook e-book, as i remember because it was really cheap on a special, but I must say it was very good.
cried over? Oh, that is a harder on. I have to back so, so far. I will admit I will cry over a Hallmark commercial but rarely with a book. It was Night Road by Kristin Hannah. Sure, maybe it was rather predicable but I cries like a baby.
disliked and couldn’t finish? Deadfolk by Charles William. I did not finish it and did not review it on my blog, but I did review it on Amazon, since it was a vine book. I believe I said there that i disliked it as much as i have ever disliked a book. The dialect was unreadable, the story, hasty and violent and pointless. Uuugh.
read & loved? Oh, that is hard. I have read many I like a lot and would recommend. But the last one that I gave 5 stars to on Library thing was Killer Move by Michael Marshall. Did I review it? I am not sure, because honestly I have read so so many books recently that I have not reviewed. But it was REALLY good, I know that.
got for review? (or: got in the mail?) A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny that I received for Amazon Vine
gave to someone else? Like loaned? Because I loan most of my 'real' books to my SIL and loaned her my Nook so she could read all the Karen Slaughter books I bought...and loved. Not sure what she is thinking of them yet but she has a bunch to read.
stayed up too late reading? That would be The Arranger again. Something I rarely do but I did with this one.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Irene is Coming to Pay a Visit!

Hey Folks!

Just to let ya know I may not be online for the near future because of this lady named Irene.

Seems she will be coming to visit my house later today and tomorrow and may not be the most polite guest, taking things like the electric with her when she best.
Hopefully she leave my house.
And intact would be real nice.
I actually live on the mainland, not one of the barrier islands along the Jersey coast, but still I am close enough  that I am in an evacuation zone.

So I will be at my brother..who does not live a whole lot
further inland but not in the evacuation zone.
And besides, he has that cute doggie Sammy there.
Actually, I am at work today until 6 p.m., when things will be starting to go downhill but hopefully we will be back in business in a couple of days.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...The Greek Island of Santorini

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Review of "The Arranger" [55]

The Arranger: A Futuristic Thriller by L.J. Sellers
Spellbinder press, ISBN 978-0983213857
August 1, 2011, 264 pages

It is the the not too distant future, 2023, and things are not looking to bright.

Wild weather, terrible storms, gas so expensive that few drive or fly, 20% unemployment, parks full of homeless people, few with med-cards that allow them to afford to get medical care.
But the issues with scarce medical care has created a new job opportunity for those with some skill and knowledge and that is how ex-police detective Lara Evans finds herself working as a free lance paramedic and find herself pulling up to the house of a man who has been shot.

Danger is always possible in her job but she does not expect to get shot at by the fleeing assailant. Nor to find that the man she patches up from the gunshot is the Federal Employment Commissioner, the man in charge of the very important competition, the Gauntlet, that she will be starting tomorrow. Lara will be leaving her home in Eugene, Oregon and flying to Washington DC to compete against 49 other competitor, one from each state. It is televised across the nation, with millions voting and a huge prize from a corporate sponsor that will bring much needed new jobs to the winner's state. Think of The Hunger Games for adults, but without all the death.
So when the commissioner begs Lara not to report the gunshot, claiming that he was shot by a jealous male lover, something that will ruin him if found out, she feels sorry for him. But when he says that he can make or break her in the competition, against her best instincts she decides to keep her mouth shut. A decision that will have consequences, deadly consequences.
When she arrives in DC and recognizes the man she saw fleeing shooting at one of the contestants briefing and then her roommate turns up dead, she finds herself not only the number one suspect but also believes she may be the shooter's next intended victim. Even if she has no idea why.

Wow, this is a book that needs more attention!

When I went to enter it on my Library Thing account I found I was the only one that owns this book among the members there. How can that be? And let me tell you, that just is not right because this is a very good, very entertaining book. Folks, you need to go out and buy a copy.

Lara is a great character, kick ass, smart and very capable but with a troubled past. What more can you want from a hero? Oh, did I mention that while she is the oldest competitor in the contest, starting with 50 to1 odds, she is soon winning one round after another and winning the voting TV audience to her side as well? The Gauntlet competition is interesting and very believable, and except for a few electric shocks, something I would not be surprise to see on TV next season...granted, with a little less at stake. And an unexpected little romance with a handsome cop shows Lara still has a vulnerable side, but is cynical enough about for her to stay in charcater.

The story is told from two points of view, Lara in the present and a homely, lonely young man named Paul Madsen, going back months, and at first, it is not clear how the stories are connected. But don't worry...soon it will start to all make sense and the technique works very well, very smoothly in this book. It is very well written and the chapters just flew by. The only small flaw, to my mind, was a rather sudden ending to the story, an ending that seemed rushed compare to the pace of the rest of the book. But the ending did leave me hopeful that there was a set up for some future installments with Lara and her friends back in Oregon, and that is a good thing.

Meanwhile, I may just have to check out some of Ms. Sellers' previous books, including her Detective Jackson series in which, I understand, Lara plays a minor role.

Highly recommended.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Musing Monday..Let Us Look To Aristotle!

Let's head over and check out this week's question from MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing asks…
Do you prefer character-driven stories, or plot-driven stories?

Must I choose one?
Because I am not sure I can.
For me, a good book is always a balance of the two.

I think good characters are essential. The reader has to identify with the characters or like them or be concerned about them...or why would I care what happens to them in the story?

But, there has to be a good story, or really, what is the point? I want to see those great character involved, acting, caught up in some great happenings! We are not that far removed from our ancestors gather around the hearth, listening with rapt attention to the Storyteller. It is all about a great story that captures our imagination, that draws us in.

A great plot + great characters = a great book.
Granted, the balance may shift a bit from genre to genre, from book to book.
I am a fan, a rather obsessive fan, of mysteries and thrillers. Certainly, that is a genre that by its very nature must be plot heavy. But a mystery without good, well developed characters, no matter how good the story, will always be mediocre at best. The plot may capture our interest, but we must feel some connection with the people involved to really bring the story alive and touch us.
However, sometimes even in a mystery, the author loses the balance. I think of a book I read recently that went on and on about the feeling and thoughts of the lead character. It was a pretty good plot but I was so tired of slogging though his internal conflicts that I was hard pressed to finish it.

As Aristotle said, virtue is found in balance and moderation!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Weekend Cooking... Spaghetti con Sugo di Vongole

My first meal in Venice, lunch the day we arrived, was one of my favorites of the whole trip, spaghetti with clam sauce. Of course, we started with a nice antipasti, lovely, paper thing slices of meats and cheese, and a little bowl of pickled vegetables. Some wine, some sparkling water, some bread..and then the lovely spaghetti, simple and delicious with dozen of tiny clam, garlic and some parsley. Excellent. And of course, the view as we sat at the restaurant on the Giudecca canal, feet from the water, did not hurt.

But now I am home and decided to see if I could recreate a version of the dish as good as the Venetian one. So, I turned to I would consider a good source for authentic Italian food, Lidia Bastianich. Especially when i saw her make her version on her TV show on PBS recently. She makes a couple of additions I would never have thought of, like the orange juice and the marinated artichoke hearts, but both worked out very well I thought. In the past, I have added some lemon juice, but the orange is better, adding a little citrus taste without being too strong for the delicate taste like lemon can be. And while I am not a huge fan of marinated artichoke hearts ordinarily, I loved the slightly salty marinate flavor and the nice texture.

Spaghetti con Sugo di Vongole   
serves 6

This is a very flavorful rendition of pasta and clam sauce, a bit more complex than the one Aunt Anna made for me on my first visit to Le Marche. It can also be made with other seafood, such as shrimps or calamari, in place of the clams-just keep in mind the varying cooking times of whatever shellfish you use. If you are not in the mood for seafood, omit it altogether and double the artichokes. And who is to say that you can't do this recipe with chicken breast? Just add slivers of breast meat before the artichokes, cook and stir for a few minutes, then proceed with the basic recipe.


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 plump garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • juice of 1 orange, freshly squeezed (about 1/4 cup)
  • 36 littleneck clams, scrubbed, rinsed, and drained
  • kosher salt, for the pasta cooking water
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Pour the olive oil into the saucepan, and set it over medium-high heat. Toss in the garlic slices, and heat and stir for a minute or so, until sizzling. Drop in the artichokes, stir, and season with the peperoncino and oregano. When the artichoke slices are sizzling, pour in the wine and orange juice, and heat to a boil.

Immediately dump in the clams, shake the pan to spread them evenly over the bottom, and put on the cover. Adjust the heat to keep the liquid at a steady simmer, and cook just until the clamshells open, 5 minutes or so. Remove open clams to a colander set in a bowl; cook any tightly closed clams a bit longer, about 3 minutes. When all the clams are out of the pan and draining, turn off the heat (and discard any shellfish that have not opened at all).

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil (6 quarts, with a tablespoon of kosher salt).

Shake the clams in the colander to collect all their juices in the bowl below, and pour this liquid back into the saucepan. Bring the clam juices to a boil over medium-high heat, and reduce to a thin sauce consistency (turn off the heat before it gets thick). Meanwhile, pluck the cooled clam meat from the shells, and chop it finely.

Now cook the spaghetti-if you're in a hurry, it can cook at the same time as you reduce the sauce and shuck and chop the clams. Have the clam cooking sauce barely simmering in the pan, and stir in the chopped clams just before the spaghetti is al dente.

Lift the cooked pasta from the pot, let it drain briefly, drop it into the saucepan, and toss well until all the strands are nicely coated with clam sauce. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley, toss again, and serve the pasta right away in warm bowls.

A couple of tips.
Before you drain the al dente pasta..and you want to drain it and add it to the sauce when just a little underdone, as it will finish in the a couple of cups of the pasta water in a bowl to thin out the sauce if needed.

And I also absolutely recommend that you steam the calms separately and then add them into the sauce. Lidia did it on the TV show and I am not sure why she did not suggest it here. Clams can be sandy inside and there is no way to know. So, I put a little bit of wine in the pan in which I would later make the sauce, brought it to a boil, threw in the clams, covered and cooked until they opened, starting at about 4 minutes and give them to about 7-8 minutes to open or discard. Happily only one did not open. Then, I remove them to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving all their liquid in the pan and then strained the liquid through a coffee filter. You could also use cheesecloth. There was a fair bit of sand, and you do not want that in the dish! I also chopped some of the clams but left about half whole, since they were nice and small, and left a few in the shells to serve, because I think they look nice.
Give the pan a quick rinse, continue on with the recipe, and you will soon be in Clam Heaven.

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, August 19, 2011

A Review of "Until Proven Guilty" [54]

Until Proven Guilty by J.A.Jance
Harper, ISBN 978-00619519
December 29, 2009,  336 Pages

"The little girl was a treasure who should have been cherished, not murdered. She was only five-too young to die-and Homicide Detective J.P. Beaumont of the Seattle Police Department isn′t going to rest until her killer pays dearly. But Beaumont′s own obsessions and demons could prove dangerous companions in a murky world of blind faith and religious fanaticism. And he is about to find out that he himself is the target of a twisted passion . . . and a love that can kill."

Awhile ago, I read the most recent book, the 20th, in the J.P.Beaumont and enjoyed it a good deal. So when I saw a really good deal on this book, the first in the series, 99 cents on Barnes an Noble for a Nookbook, I could not pass it up. Well, the results were mixed.

I liked the character of Beau in both books and we get, in this first book, to learn a good bit about his backstory. The problem is that this particular part of his backstory is quite bizarre. The first part, where the body of a young girl is found and police start their investigation, starting with the fundamentalist cult her mom is a part of, is good. We meet his new partner, Ron Peters, a guy that has his own trouble past, some other officers and the oh so sleazy newspaper man Maxwell Cole. Since Beau does not own a car, we also get an interesting walking tour of Seattle. I will admit that maybe one other reason I like this series is the northwest setting. Rainy day are always a plus in my book.

But then, at the girl's funeral, we meet the Woman in Red, Anne Corley in her red dress, with her red Porsche,  it is love at first sight and things take a huge turn for the improbable. You know what your mom said...if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Well, I guess Beau's mom never mentioned that to  him. Where there is smoke, there is is may cliches come to mind.

It is not a bad book, but honestly, if this was the first in the series that I read it may have been my last. Good doubt, one of the strengths of the series...a great setting, love that rain!...and a totally unbelievable plot. I will say that the ending wrapped everything up nicely and set up the future of the series nicely, but you have to hang on to get there.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Review of "A Hard Death" [53]

A Hard Death: A Novel by Jonathan Hayes
Harper, ISBN 978-0061691768
April 12, 2011, 432 pages

When disgraced pathologist Dr. Edward Jenner loses his medical license in his home of NYC, he is happy to receive the invitation from his old mentor to fill in during his vacation. The pay in Port Fontaine, Florida might not be much, but it's something. That is until he called to the site of a body found out in the glades, a body that appears to have been tortured before his death..and it turn out to be that same mentor, Dr. Martin Roburn. Things get even worse when he is called to another murder, in fact four decomposing bodies, of Mexican migrant workers, tied up in the trees on an island deep in the swamp, and there are signs the murders may be connected.

Before you can jump in the airboat, we are in the middle of a fast paced thriller involving drug cartels, the very wealthy local country club set, child sex trade, and a sick and violent conspiracy that will go to the very heart of the community. It soon becomes apparent to Jenner that there may be very few people he can trust and it will be a race to see who will get taken down first, them or him.

Jenner is a classic flawed, troubled hero, yet smart and with a deep sense of justice. Perhaps to fully understand him you should read the author's first book, Precious Blood, that had Jenner in NYC pursuing a serial killer. I didn't, but I think we receive enough information in this book for that not to be an issue.
Jenner, like so many of these flawed fellows. has a bad habit of going after the wrong woman, in this case a local rich girl, Maggie Craine. Her scene with her father by the pool was truly creepy and will leave you considering taking a shower. Meanwhile there is that nice park ranger Deb, who our good doc seems to ignore again and again. Will these guys never learn? But Jenner is not above talking on some danger, even the female variety, for a good cause.
A fast paced, totally entertaining thriller, as hot and dangerous as the steamy Everglade setting.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Ancient Ruins at Ephesus

The Library of Celsus

Swoosh..the Goddess Nike always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

A Review of "The Burning"[52]

The Burning by Jane Casey
Minotaur, ISBN 978-0312614171
336 pages, August 30, 2011

A serial killer is loose, terrorizing the women of London. There have been have been four victims so far, the women beat to death and then set on fire. The police have few clues, are being pressure to make an arrest by the public and the press.
And now there is a fifth victim!
Or is there?

On the surface, when the body of Rebecca Haworth, terribly burned. her scull crushed, is found, everyone assumes it is the work of the killer the papers have dubbed "The Burning Man". But DC Maeve Kerrigan is not totally convinced. There are a few inconsistencies from the other killings and she is afraid that they might have a copycat on their hands. A young woman in a mostly male police unit, her instincts are mostly dismissed by her colleagues, but her boss gives her the chance to investigate the fifth killing independently and see whether it is the work of their serial killer or not.
The story is told in alternating chapters told from the point of view of Maeve and Louise North, a barrister and Rebecca's best friend since college in Oxford. It is these two characters especially who are, to my mind the real strength of the story. 

Maeve is a great character and I can only hope that we will see more of her in the future. She is smart and funny, adept at handling the often sexist remarks of her fellow cops and used to being underestimate...well, until she solves the crime. This is very much a psychological mystery where the interest is learning about the characters and gradually learning their stories, including that of the victim Rebecca. On the surface, she seemed the perfect golden girl, successful, beautiful and popular, but let's say looks can be deceiving.And that deception may be the key to her death.

I had a small issue or two with the book. I like a mystery that plays fair, that is, gives you the information that would be required to figure it out and that was not totally true in this case. Some facts that the police had access to are not shared with us until near the last part of the book. Also, I think the story lagged a bit in the center, but a quite satisfying ending made me forget all about that.  This is the kind of book where you sort of miss the characters when the last page is turned, even one who turned out to have so many evil layers that you have no business feeling for them..but I did.
A good, solid, well written police procedural that I can certainly recommend

This book will be published August 30th.

My thanks to Library Thing Early Reviewers and the publisher for an Advanced Review Copy of this book.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Musing Monday..."Big As Trees...Brains Like Peas"

Another Monday, another question from the desk of MizB at Should Be Reading...

This week’s musing asks…
Do you like looking at other people’s bookshelves?

Oh, if only I could!
But to tell you the truth, I can't say I really know many people with bookcases of lovely books to peruse.
Or if they do, maybe they are not letting me into their houses! Gosh, I never considered that...

Seriously, we readers must remember we are in a minority book-wise. I won't quote those terrible statistics again. They are too depressing. But know that most people to not read books, yet alone own enough to fill a bookcase. Our worry about what to do with all our books, the decision whether to part with some or squeeze another bookcase into our house somewhere or live with the random piles doting the landscape is not an issue most people face.
Sad but true.

I think a bookcase can tell you a lot about a person. First, of course, that they own enough books to fill it up, already a wonderful thing! Another reader, one of the rare breed! But also you can see what sorts of books they love, especially what books they care enough about to keep. And then, how do they organize them? By subject, alphabetically, by color..or not at all. I think it is telling and interesting. And so much fun!

Now, one person who I know who reads as much as me, my sister-in-law, has no book cases full of books. It never really occurred to be before, but how can this be? I loan her a fair number of books and when she is done with them, they will sit in a box waiting for me to take them back. She seems to be the odd book lover that has no desire to actually keep any of the books she reads, something I can not relate to. And of course, she was the first person I know to get an e-reader, an Evil Kindle.I guess she can hand you her Kindle so you can look at what she owns,but really, is that in any way a similar experience?

OK, I have backed away, a bit, from my dismissive hatred of e-readers but that raises another issue. When all the books are digital, where will those lovely bookcases be found? Sure, you can make cyber book shelves, like the ones on Library Thing and Goodreads, but come on, it is not the same. No old book smell, no beautiful spines all lined up perfectly. You can't pick one up, feel the weigh of it, open it to read a page or two, getting lost, for just a moment, in another world...awww...wonderful.

Yeah, I know. I am a dinosaur.
A dinosaur who needs to build some more bookshelves.
And I am fine with that.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Weekend Cooking...A Toast!

I am not much of a drinker, especially for someone who grew up spending a lot of time in a bar. My family owned a bar in Newark NJ, which was a bit of an adventure. From the time that I was six, until my mom sold the place when I was in my early 20s, I probably spent part of every day there.
Well, except for those summer in Atlantic City that I know I have talked about!

Maybe that is part of why I am not a drinker.
All I know is one drink and I am acting silly.
Two and I am falling asleep.

But this week I had a drink or two and did not cook a thing, so I though I might share my most recent beverage of choice this week.
"Drambuie (pronounced /dræmˈbjuːi/ or /dræmˈbuːi/) is a honey- and herb-flavoured golden liqueur made from aged malt whisky, heather honey and a secret blend of herbs and spices. The flavour suggests saffron, honey, anise, nutmeg and herbs."

It is very much like Irish Mist, another liqueur you have probably never heard of. Again, herbs and spices, honey and, in this case, Irish whiskey rather than Scotch whiskey like Drambuie. Both are rather strong, about 80 proof and a little sweet. I am sure those herbs and spices are in there, but don't get the idea that it has a herby taste, because it does not. Now, to my taste, Drambuie is a bit smoother and a little sweeter than Irish Mist, which is why I like it.

You can drink it straight up, in a sniffer, as I did. Or you can have it on ice as I suspect Bandit would prefer. And it makes a fine ingredient for a number of mixed drinks, one of which I will share. It is made with Ginger Beer, which is not to be confused with Ginger Ale. It is an alcohol free soft drink, but with a spicy, pronounced ginger taste. If you like ginger, you will like ginger beer and with Drambuie, it make a pleasant, refreshing drink.

"A combination of Drambuie and ginger beer, each a fantastic compliment to the other; simplicity that satisfies."

The Jamaican Nail

2 oz Drambuie
6 oz Ginger Beer

- fill highball or tall glass with cracked ice
- pour in the Drambuie
- pour in the Ginger Beer
- stir gently (do not shake)
- add a wedge of lime for garnish

Ok, I made the one pictures in a short glass and cut the ingredients in half, but it is 9 a.m. in the morning! :-)

Now, the toast!

To my Aunt Grace, who died last Sunday.
Her death, as sad as it is, was not a surprise. She had been sick for quite awhile, on dialysis for a couple of years, on hospice care for the last few months. And I am thankful that she able to stay in her home and died peacefully in her sleep, sitting in her recliner chair. She had talked that last Friday with my brother about the possibility of stopping her dialysis, that she was so tired, and I am glad she did not have to make that decision.

But she knew the end was near I think.
She had already planned her funeral.
That same Friday, just two days before the end, she sat at her computer desk and wrote out her obituary. Then she wrote a list of people she wanted called to tell of her death. And when I went over on Monday to pick something to her to be dressed in at her funeral, there was a new, fitted navy jacket hanging on her closet door, as if waiting for me.
She was my mother's sister, the last of the six siblings, 85 years old.
She was born in Atlantic City, moving to Florida when she married and lived there about half her life, returning back north after her husband died. They had no children but is survived by a good number of loving nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews and a great-great nephew.

So, I raise my glass to you Aunt Grace!

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

May the Angels lead her into Paradise. 
May the Martyrs receive her at her coming 
and take her to Jerusalem, the Holy City. 
May the Choirs of the Angels receive her, 
and may she, with the once poor Lazarus, 
have rest everlasting. Amen.  

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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday...Mary's House in Ephesus

We are sailing back to Turkey, to the City of Ephesus, famous for two things, the ancient ruins and the house in which Mary, the mother of Jesus, spent her last years om earth. 

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

A Review of "Spycatcher" [51]

Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0062037671
August 9, 2011, 432 pages

It comes to the attention of MI5 and the CIA that the new Evil Empire, Iran, is planning a massive attack on either England or the USA. The Iranian agent in charge must be found and the plot stopped, or thousands will die. To find him, the two governments turn to Will Cochrane, code name Spartan. He is the only person who has ever successfully completed a super secret training mission to earn this title and, along with a small number of US special forces men, heads off to cities throughout Europe and the US chasing, down the monster who would set off this terrible act and, he hopes, set off a world war.

OK, I did not like this book for so many reasons.
They fooled me. I read the description that said that because this was written by an actual former MI5 agent, that this book would portray a realistic view of spy work. Well, in that the whole middle of the book was boring and repetitious, that may be true. Get on a to another a bunch of bad guys, kill bad to another city..
Oh, but that brings up another issue. In everyone of these incidents, Will seems to get injured. There are the three bullets to his stomach that opens the book, then the gunshot to his shoulder in another fights and the knife sized shards of glass in his legs. I could go on. But not to worry! Those three shots. One day in a secret medical facility and Will is good enough to get on a plane and start his new mission. True, he did feel a bit sick..after three bullets to his stomach! That bullet to the shoulder, which at first renders his arm useless...a soldier takes it out, after it bounces off his bone...and he is right as rain. Shards of glass in your legs. No problem, never mentioned again. It seems he has extraordinary healing powers...OK...

Except for a handful of lead characters, everyone is about as deep as a one line description, as thin as cardboard. The dialogue is wooden and unrealistic. Will's talks with his CIA handler are so unrealistic, so flowery, that they belong in a bad romance moves..and I mean bad. I can see the guy reading this, because I assume the target audience for a spy thriller like this is largely men, throwing the book across the room at this point.
Sadly, I could go on. Bad plot, bad dialogue, unrealistic or cardboard characters.
At best, if I had to describe this book in one word, it would be amateurish . 

I finished the book, sort of. Big skimming, because I was a bit curious how it would end. I should not have bothered.
Usually, I would not have reviewed the book because of that.
Then why am I this time?
Well, I see this book getting a lot of publicity, a lot of ad space. I have seem written, in a few places, that the publisher sees this as the first in a series starring Will Cochrane. If so, you might foresee that I will not be reading those. But you, my dear reader may see it out there, with the push it is getting and may be tempted to buy it with your hard earned money. I must suggest that you do not.
Ignore the blurb on the cover from Lee Child, an author I respect and enjoy, that calls this "one of the year's best thriller debuts". And ignore the author's interview on Amazon by Jeffrey Deaver.
Really guys..really..did you read the same book? I really have to wonder. I must say, I am not trusting your opinion anymore.
Note to self. Ignore blurbs.

This copy was provided by the publisher for review.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Musing Monday...Sitting By The Dock of The Bay..

This week’s musing asks…from Miz B at Should Be Reading

If you were (are) going on vacation, what books would you take with you?

I have said this before, to the disbelief of many readers, that I don't really read when I am on vacation.

Yes, I usually take a book or two with me, but it is not unusual to return having never opened them. What would I take? Most likely what I happened to be reading at the moment, so long as it was not too dull or too big. A tidy trade paperback or two would be nice.
Then I will place them in my suitcase, quite likely never to be touched again.

Why is this?
Why is it that I don't go to work without a book or two in my bag and yet can be gone for a week or two with nothing to read?
Well, part of it may be the sort of vacation that I usually take.
I don't want to sit on the beach, catching the rays, for hours on end. I have very fair skin and burn very easily. I am not sitting in an Adirondack chair on a porch or by the side of a lake. No, as lazy as I am...and I am quite a lazy person...when I am on vacation I want to be going places, seeing things, doing stuff!

A road trip is an idea vacation in my mind. Up early in the morning, going places, seeing the sights all day, until late into the evening, when at best I may read at a few brochures that I picked up before I fall into a sound sleep.

Have I ever mentioned that I love to see visit Giant Things?
One of my favorites is the world's largest basket, at the Longaberger headquarters in Newark, Ohio. Actually they have two there. A real giant basket and a giant basket shaped building. I drove hours out of my way to get there and it was totally worth it!
But there are so many still out there. The World's Largest Paint Can, in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and the World's Largest Rocking Chair, Belton, South Carolina...and somewhere a Giant Ball of Twine.
And let us not forget my local favorite, a Giant Elephant.
So many Giant things, so little time.

Now, if you are observant, you may say, 'But hey! You went on a cruise recently. Certainly you brought several books on a two week cruise?"
Well, yes and no. I meant too. I took along my Nook, but due to some technical difficulties (read 'I am an idiot.') my Nook was unreadable. But there was a library, quite a nice library, on the quite nice ship. So I checked out some books and placed them on my bedside table.
But there was not a great deal of free time. Almost every day we were at a new port, many with very early disembarkation times. And even when on the ship, there were lectures and cooking demonstrations and meal venues to plan and the pools and..BINGO!
So yes, I took out a couple of books out and over the period of two weeks I read.. One Book.

The worse part it that is probably the most I have ever read on a vacation!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend Cooking... Grilled Shrimp with Spicy Lemon Garlic Sauce

I love shrimp.
I like them steamed in some Old Bay, I like them fried, I like them in a Creole sauce. I like them 'nekked', just boiled and served with more cocktail sauce with extra horseradish.
But it is summer and we are trying to take the heat outside, so how about the grill?
But there are a few issues with shrimp on the barbie. Shrimp cook very quickly, so how do we get a little charcoal taste on the little sucker in that brief time with overcooking them? Well, my friends at America's Test Kitchen, Cooks Illustrated, have a few ideas that this recipe includes, a recipe that I have been making for years.

First, you put the shrimp on skewers and push them closely together. That lets you leave them on the girl for a little longer without overcooking them. You also rub them with a little oil and put a tiny sprinkle of sugar on one side to promote some caramelization..which add a nice taste. Do not worry, you will not taste the sugar at all, it is such a tiny bit.
And then, finally, you take them off the grill when they are barely cooked and finish them in the garlic, butter, lemon sauce, leaving them moist and tasty.

Charcoal Grilled Shrimp

1 1/2 pounds of extra large shrimp, peeled and   deveined
1/4 tsp. sugar
salt and pepper
1 tsp. oil
1 recipe Spicy Lemon-Garlic Sauce
Three 14 inch metal skewers

Pat shrimp dry with paper towels. Thread shrimp onto skewers, alternating direction of heads and tails so that they are closely pushed together. Brush each side with oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one side of the shrimp with sugar.

Light large charcoal chimney with about 6 qts. of charcoal and allow to burn until fully ignited and covered with a thin layer of ash. Empty into grill, placing all the coals on one side and leaving the other side empty. Place the disposable pan with the sauce over the hot side and cook as directed, then move to cooler side.
Place skewers with shrimp on hot side, sugared side down, and be sure the shrimp are closely pushed together. Cook for 4-5 minutes and then flip, cooking other side 1-2 minutes.
Using an oven mitt, pick up each skewer and using tongs, slide the shrimp off the skewer and into the pan containing the sauce. Toss and cook until fully cooked, about 30 seconds.
Remove from grill, add parsley,toss and serve.

Spicy Lemon-Garlic Sauce
(enough for 1 ½ lbs. shrimp)

4 Tbs. unsalted butter
4 Tbs. juice from two lemons
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes.
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/8 tsp. salt
disposable aluminum pan
1/3 cup chopped parsley

Put butter, juice, red pepper and garlic in the pan and place on the hot side of the grill, cooking until butter is melted and bubbly. Move to cooler side. When shrimp are grilled, place in the hot sauce and continue to cook for about 30 seconds. Remove the pan from grill, add parsley, toss, remove from sauce and serve.

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.