Friday, June 29, 2012

Review of "Permanence" [56]

Permanence by Vincent Zandri
Bear Media; May 4, 2012
143 pages

The narrator of our book is a woman name Mary...a fact we do not find out until well into the story..…who is going every Friday to see a psychiatrist. She is seeing him to help her deal with the accidental drowning of her child, a two year old son named Sammy. A name that we do not find out until almost the end of the book. Since the child’s death several months ago Mary has lost almost everything in her life. Her only child is dead, her husband left her and she was fired from her travel agent job.

Now she just sits in her apartment, living off the life insurance, going out only to get food and to see Doctor, as she calls her psychiatrist, every Friday. Because not only is he her doctor, he is her lover.
Ok, creepy enough for you yet?
Oh, don’t worry, it will get even more interesting, in a grim way. Doctor tells her that he will be gone for several weeks, at a series of conferences in Italy. She is upset, not sure if she can make it through without the time they spend together. And then rather surprisingly, he invites her to come along, to Venice, Florence and Rome, with him. Of course, things are a little complicated when we find out that Mary is afraid of flying. In fact, even though she was a travel agent, she has never flown. But then Mary is afraid of many things…flying, elevators, dealing with a baby…the voices. Yes, voices. Mary is a very troubled young woman, perhaps way more than we first realized.

I am not quite sure how you would characterize this book. I read someone who said it was like watching a car wreck. You want to turn away. You know it is going to be bad, you know it is going to be ugly, and yet you can’t avert your eyes. I doubt most readers will be totally surprised where this book goes, what happens, what we find out, but the journey there is gripping. The imagery is memorable, if not always pleasant. I must say that those rats, running over the rocks along Florence’s Arno River, made an impression on me, if not a good impression. Water is a theme that appear again and again, the water that drowned her child, the rain, the rivers, the canals of Venice, let there is somehow nothing cleaning about this water.

…a perfect backdrop for this tale of death and madness.

My thanks to the The Partners in Crime Tour and the author for providing a copy for review.
Drop in to their site and check out a few more reviews on the tour!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...My Kitchen

Staying close to home today...

 always, for more Wordless Wednesday, 
check these out.

Review of "The Land of Decoration" [55]

The Land of Decoration: A Novel 
by Grace McCleen
Henry Holt and Co., ISBN-13: 978-0805094947
March 27, 2012, 320 pages

The real world that 10 year old Judith, the narrator of our book, lives in is not the most pleasant place. She is very lonely, separated from her classmates at school by the fundamentalist Christian sect that she and her father belong to. But she is distant from her father as well, an angry and frozen man who has retreated into himself after the death of his wife at Judith's birth.
"I don't know what Father's perfect day wold be like. I expect it would be full of Necessary Things like Bible study and preaching and Saving Electricity and Being Quiet and Wasting Not Wanting. In which case, he has his perfect day all the time.
Or perhaps his idea of a perfect day vanished a long time ago and he has forgotten how to imagine a new one."
So Judith has taken refuge in a world of her own creation, a little town she has built, perfect as she believes the world will be after Armageddon, which they believe is just around the corner. Is is an idealized version of her working class, rather depressed town that she has created from found objects and trash...
“There is a world in my room. It is made from things no one else wanted and it is made with things that were my mother’s, that she left to me, and it has taken most of my life to make.”

But even her Land of Decoration is not enough to comfort her after she become the intended victim of a bully at school, a boy that she..and we...believe will try to drown her in a toilet at school come Monday. So Judith goes to God and prays that He sends a huge snowstorm, so that school will be cancelled. She decorates her tiny town with fake snow and ice, believing it will bring about her wish. When she wakes up the next morning to see a record snowfall, as she believes her prayers have been answered and will continue to be answered, that she can actually effect reality, it sets off a chain effect of requests she makes to God. Or, as no doubt many will believe, the voice she hears that she believes is God. Regardless, it sets in motion a series of events that a ten year old could never foresee, and seems helpless to stop.

Is Judith really hearing God talk to her, really controlling events with her prayers or is it all just a coincidence? Or perhaps is she, as her new teacher seems to think, a budding schizophrenic, desperately in need of help?
And that is perhaps the most interesting part of this very interesting book, that the author never tips her hand, leaving the reader to interpret the events as Judith relates them on our own. There is a lot to think about here, about the nature of faith, about religion, about God, on the one hand and equally about being a parent, and being a family, about guilt and grief on the other. This would, I think, make a wonderful choice for a bookclub, with all sorts of issues to talk about.

It is a beautifully written book, with some breathtaking images and lovely language and yet it is also, at times, quite dark and disturbing. Whether it is a hopeful ending or a tragic one, again the reader will have to decide. I will go with hopeful, thank you. Because I want Judith to be all right, to be happy, to have a father who will finally protect her, who will finally wake up to what is going on.
Because beyond all the issues put forward in this story, at the heart of this book is the charming Judith and I dare any reader not to be pulling for her. We can't help but hope that somehow her world will not come to a terrible and sad end, destroyed as her little created world, her Land of Decoration, could so easily be. She is a very smart, a rather precocious child, but a 10 year old child all the same, whose world seems on the edge of spinning out of control, a child in desperate need of her father.

Highly recommended.

My thanks to Henry Holt and Company for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Musing Monday...Don't Worry, Be Happy! is suppose to be a lovely break in the heat today. Not that it has anything to do with it being Monday. It just makes me happy. So before we head out to start the day, let's check out this week's Musing Monday question from Miz B at Should Be Reading ..

This week’s musing asks…

Do you set goals for yourself, while reading? For example, “I want to get this book finished this weekend“, or “I will read __ pages today“, etc. Why, or why not?

For better or worse, I am not really a person who sets goals.
My reading, like most of my life, has no set schedule.
As usual, I blame..or work schedule.
One Monday I am working..the next Monday I am off.
Today, I slept all day..tomorrow I will sleep at night.
So my reading, like eating and sleep and doing the laundry is in a sort of free floating schedule. Which I guess is no schedule at all.

I have read one blogger who sets a certain amount of time that he reads every morning. So neat, so tidy, so organized. The idea appeals, but is impossible.
That would never work for me. One day I would be asleep, the next at my office.
Reading just has to fit into the plan for the day and the role reading plays in any day fluctuates drastically. If I think about it...and I have not until now...there is a certain pattern, following the four week pattern of my work schedule.

When I work days, I read very little, if at all. I go to work for 12 hours, come home, eat, care for the kitty, make lunch for the next day, maybe watch some mindless TV for an hour and go to sleep. On the other hand, when I work nights, I often read a great deal. At work. I will not state a definite number of hours, but it is a few.
Days off can range from reading all day, to not reading at all, depending on the Real Life demands of such annoying things as going to the supermarket, cleaning the house, hacking back the backyard jungle and such. Ya never know.
So the idea of saying "I must finish this book by today" or "I will read 100 pages today", just does not fit into my reading lifestyle. Ya get some time, ya read. No time, no reading.
And some days, you just ignore all your obligations and get lost in the wonderful world of a wonderful book.

That being said, I will admit that, since starting to blog, I do feel a certain book reading pressure. It is a vague, free floating sort of anxiety. If I were better organized, like if I had a real calendar of my reading 'obligations', it might not be so vague. It is one reason I don't do book challenges and few book tours.  But still, it is always in my mind that I have X number of library books, due back by a certain time, Library Thing Early Reviewer books to review, Amazon Vine books that must be read to keep my reviews over 80% or get thrown out, the odd book tour I have a schedule day for, the publication dates of review copies I have accepted. Yes, if I actually paid real attention to all that, I might feel rather pressured.
And I can not have that.
Because let's remember folks, reading is suppose to be fun!
So don't worry.

And now, to leave you with one of those tunes that will play in your head all day...

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Sgroppino.

It has been a bit warm this week.
Actually, it has been almost record breaking hot.
So we are going to take a frosty trip to Venice.
"But it is not frosty in Venice!" I hear you saying.
No, but it is the home of a frosty, tasty, refreshing drink that is perfect for a hot day.

You can have it is an aperitif, to get those taste buds all set for a meal.
Or you could have one as an intermezzo, a palate cleanser between courses.
Or you could have it as an after dinner drink, or even as dessert.
The choice is yours.


I tried to find something about the history of the drink, but was unsuccessful. All that seems agree upon is that it is very popular in Venice and the surrounding area.
Actually, it is very difficult to even get two recipes that are the same.
So we will go with this one. But it seems you can free to change things up and still call it a Sgroppino. Some use vodka...some limoncello. Lemon sorbet is most common, but I saw recipes with gelato, with lemon ice cream, with orange or blood orange sherbet. Some add sugar or simple syrup, which I just do not see the need for, even if you use all vodka instead of the sweeter limoncello. Prosecco is the norm for the sparking wine used, but anything with bubbles will work. Mint..or lemon zest or a slice of orange as a garnish will be nice.

The first time I made it, I used some limoncello and some plain vodka. After some thought...because a classic drink like this deserves thought..I changed it to all limoncello. For those not familiar with it, limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur make by soaking the peels of Sorrento lemons in grain alcohol and then adding simple syrup. It is traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestivo, lovely all alone.
And I used the traditional prosecco, a rather dry, not very expensive, low alcohol, sparkling white Italian wine. But for a slightly sweeter touch, Asti Spumante would be very nice too.
So, on to making the drink.

For 4-6 servings...

1 pint lemon sorbet
1/2 cup limoncello
1 cup prosecco.

Let the sorbet sit out at room temperature for a few minutes to get a little soft.
Put in a chilled bowl (you could use a blender,but it seems like overkill and may melt the sorbet too much) and then pour in the limoncello and mix with a whisk until blended and slushy. Add the prosecco and mix and immediately served, ideally in champagne flutes. Top with some zest or mint or a slice of lemon.

I saw recipes that measured the limoncello or vodka in tablespoons. Really, what are they thinking. But I guess that is up to you. And the amount of sparking wine you add will determine how thick the final drink is. If you want to eat it as a dessert, even with a spoon, just add a dash. But these measurement made a nice, pourable beverage.

Cin, Cin!


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, June 21, 2012

Review of "Skios" [54]

Skios by Michael Frayn
Metropolitan Books; ISBN-13: 978-0805095494
June 19, 2012, 272 pages

"The great master of farce turns to an exclusive island retreat for a comedy of mislaid identities, unruly passions, and demented, delicious disorder...

On the private Greek island of Skios, the high-paying guests of a world-renowned foundation prepare for the annual keynote address, to be given this year by Dr. Norman Wilfred, an eminent authority on the scientific organization of science. He turns out to be surprisingly youthful, handsome, and charming—quite unlike his reputation as dry and intimidating. Everyone is soon eating out of his hands. So, even sooner, is Nikki, the foundation's attractive and efficient organizer.

Meanwhile, in a remote villa at the other end of the island, Nikki's old friend Georgie has rashly agreed to spend a furtive horizontal weekend with a notorious schemer, who has characteristically failed to turn up. Trapped there with her instead is a pompous, balding individual called Dr. Norman Wilfred, who has lost his whereabouts, his luggage, his temper, and increasingly all sense of reality—indeed, everything he possesses other than the text of a well-traveled lecture on the scientific organization of science.

In a spiraling farce about upright academics, gilded captains of industry, ambitious climbers, and dotty philanthropists, Michael Frayn, the farceur "by whom all others must be measured" (CurtainUp), tells a story of personal and professional disintegration, probing his eternal theme of how we know what we know even as he delivers us to the outer limits of hilarity."

I admit I am not familiar with this author, with his books or plays. But I read a lot of great things about him, read him lauded as yes, "the great master of farce". And indeed, this is farce. But sadly for me, while it was a bit entertaining, it was not great, and oddly enough, I did not find it very funny. Maybe, as I have read others saying, it would have been better as a play, full of English actors who, I think, can play this sort of humor unlike no others. But on the printed page it fell flat, one improbable event after another improbable event, going nowhere in particular.

Mistaken identity, dead cell phones galore, language misunderstandings at every first the reader may buy into it, but there is a limit. Supposedly intelligent, successful people making silly assumptions and then just going with them is a little amusing at first but just grow silly after awhile.
OK, I will say, I loved the setting.
The foundation has built an idealized Greek village for their conference, with the brilliant blue sea in the background, and I would not mind pretending I belonged there to have a little vacation. For me, that will be the most memorable part of this story.

I had hoped, until the last page, that there would be some great event to top it all off. There were hints of mobsters and secret agents and funny doings with ancient Greek treasures, which yes, played a small part in the ending. But it seemed a long way to come for a story that just petered out.
Other reviews I have read of this book..I had to see if I was the only one not that amused...said that there were Frayn fans and this was, by far, not his best.
So is you are looking for a nice farce..and summer is, I think, ideal for a light and funny farce, perhaps check into some of his other books.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Animal Farm

Some animals..some real, some not.

A local heron...

A pig from Philly..

Some birds from Longwood, Delaware

Well, these shells from Mykonos once had animals in them..

This impressive fellow is from Disney World..

And finally, a Turkish kitty from Istanbul always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review of "The Paris Directive" [53]

The Paris Directive: A Novel 
by Gerald Jay
Nan A. Talese, ISBN 978-0385535489
June 19, 2012, 336 pages

Want some international intrigue..or how about a paid assassin? Or maybe a book set in Canada..and Paris..and Germany and in a small rural town in the Dordogne River region of France. Throw in some corporate espionage and a young American woman being hunted by a killer and then top it all off with a classic French detective in the vein of Poirot or Maigret, clever but bored, flawed but dogged.
Yes, in this book you can have all that and more. It almost sounds like overkill, too much to include in a believable plot, but somehow Gerald Jay (a pseudonym) is clever enough to pull it off smoothly and produce a quite entertaining book.

This is more a thriller than a mystery, in that we know from the first pages who the hired killer is, Klaus Reiner. Or at least, that is the name he is going by at the moment. We witness his execution of a blackmailer as he gives her just one sharp shove down an empty elevator shaft, so clean, so neat, just like he likes things. And then we are there as two former French agents hire him to kill a tourist who will be vacationing with his wife and friends in the fictional village of Taziac. He has a clever plan but things go a little wrong and he ends up having to kill all four, an American and a Canadian couple, in a particularly gruesome way, a crime too loud to be covered up quietly as he promised those who hired him.  So he needs to do some cleanup as well. He attempts to set up an Arab handyman for the crime..the man is an admitted thief and wife beater..and the regional police may have bought it, but when Inspector Mazarelle is brought in, it is a different story. Mazarelle was a very successful police inspector in Paris, but moved to Taziac so his dying wife could be at home for her last days. But she is now gone and the inspector is very, very bored with the petty crime of the area. This is the challenge he is looking for! Then to make the hitman's task ever harder, the daughter of the one couple, an ADA from NYC, arrives to identify her parents bodies and she too is after the identity of the real killer. So much for the killer to clean up now.

The real mystery, not clear at first in that pile of bodies at the vacation house, is who the intended victim actually is and who and why he was wanted dead. That's where all  that international intrigue comes in, with twists and turns, until all working itself out quite neatly at the end. A not double cross a hit man after you hire him. It will not work out well for you.

This is the first book in a series, with a sequel promised in the near future. And I tell you, when it comes out, I will be reading it. Mazarelle is at the heart of this book and he is a great character, with his big mustache, his taste for a nice cognac and a plate of his favorite duck confit in the evening and his kitty, who better hope he has one of his nine lives left. The setting, mainly in the French countryside is delightful, even with a few neo-Nazis running around and the plot moves along at a good, believable pace to an exciting climax just made for the big screen.

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

Monday, June 18, 2012

Musing Monday...I DO Judge a Book By It's Cover!

It's Monday,  so let's check out this week's question from Miz B at Should Be Reading.

This week’s musing…

"I read an article, this past week, about book covers, and the difference between print & digital covers; about how the digital covers have almost disappeared entirely, while publishers decide to just skip right to the content.

What do you think about this? Do you think the book cover is “dead”? Do you care whether the “covers” on digital books exist or not?

If you have the time, read the article and then share your thoughts!"

Oh, tell me it's not true!
I love my covers!
And yes, I admit it, I do judge a book, it least at that first look, by it's cover. Isn't that the point? You go into a bookstore and there are thousands of books. Why do you pick up this one instead of that one. Well, for me it comes down to three things. Author. Title. Cover.
If it is by and author I love that is enough right there. Karen Slaughter has a new book coming out this summer. If it had no title and no cover, I would buy it. And say am author I do not like...hmmm...maybe Dan Brown..had a book out with the most lovely cover, I would pass it by. It is beyond my believe I would like it. And so many books, so little time.
But a beautiful cover, an interesting cover will grab my attention. Sure, a seaside scene, a lighthouse and I will take a peak. On the other hand, a shirtless guy, moving along.
Yep, in most cases that cover art is what would first grab my attention. Sure, then I read the blurb, maybe read the first couple of pages. But that won't happen if I don't pick it up first.

But here is the problem and no doubt something that is contributing to the death of covers. I admit it. I shop for books almost exclusively online.
It is not my fault. Border's closed, out local chain bookstore closed. I have no choice. And online, cover are not much of an issue. But also, I am not browsing for books online. Does anyone really?
OK, I am not actually browsing at all. I go to buy a book knowing exactly what I want to buy.
I go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble knowing the book I want, just looking for the best deal. I read a review in the NY Times or on one of the many blogs I read and going to that web site is just to make the purchase.

But I will admit that covers still do make a difference when I read those reviews online. There are many blogs, many reviews and I can't read every one. So those three things, author, title and cover make a difference as to which I read and which I at best skim.

And that brings us to e-books and the role of covers. It is not a pretty subject.
If you have an e-ink reader at best you will get a B&W version of the 'real' cover, more likely some B&W generic patterned 'cover' with the title . Yes, with an I-pad or a color e-read you will get a look at the color cover, a tiny look at a tiny copy on your library page and maybe one glimpse when you first open the book on the device  e-book.  From there on, you will be taken right to were you left off. Efficient but lacking, colorless.

Because to me, a great cover is part of the book reading experience of a great book.
You pick up the book and see that nice cover, hopefully one that really speaks to what the book is. You open it and start to read and are transported, for a time, to another world, a world the author created, full of these new people and an interesting setting and a great story.
Sure e-books can do that but it just that little bit harder. There is a sameness to e-books. You don't see that cover again, the pages all look alike, same type, same pages. Same..same.

And that has lost us something.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Sunday with Larry

WHO are you???

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Review of "A Girl and Her Pig" [52]

A Girl and Her Pig by April Bloomfield
Ecco, ISBN 978-0062003966
April 10, 2012, 352 pages

Ok, take a look at the cover.
What is she holding?
Yes, that is a pig. A dead pig.
If what I have read and seen so far holds true, many people will never get past that cover.
I assume the issue is the pig. Not the girl.
The pig.

See, I read a recipe from this book, in fact the one I made here, Bloomfield's take on a classic Portuguese dish, on a food blog somewhere and thought it sounded interesting. So I went on line to read about this cookbook and this chef, who I was not familiar with, although it seems she is the owner of several successful restaurants and quite well known in foodie circle. Many of the recipes they mentioned sounded so interesting that I thought I might just have to give in and buy the book. But first, I went on to the Hated Amazon to read the reviews and saw something I had never seen before.
Almost every review fell into one of two groups.
5 stars..loved it
1 star...hated it

Ok, they did not really hate the book, or the recipes or the chef. They never actually opened the book. They hated the cover. They think it verges on the obscene. Perhaps the criminal. Because of the dead pig.
Ok, I admit it. I eat meat. I like meat. I particularly like pork. And folks, in case those like plastic trays in the supermarket made you forget, meat comes from animals.
Like that pleasant looking pig on the cover.

OK, so less move on from the cover. Because this book is so much more than the cover. Or a pig.
It is a delightful book, full of yes, great recipes in a whole range of categories but even more than that as well. First of all, it has some of the most beautiful photographs of food that I have ever seen in a cookbook, by David Loftus. And some delightful illustrations by Sun Young Park, climbing up the sides of pages, introducing each cute.

Speaking of chapters, this cookbook is also about a great deal more that meat, as that infamous pig might have you think. This is not a book about pork.
There are 16 chapters all together, starting at breakfast..I read one review that called her porridge recipe 'life changing' libations..I must say, a Gin Marie sounds interesting. In between, we have nibbles and soup, well-dressed greens and sweets. Yes, there are chapters on our meaty friends...meat without feet, birds, cow, a little lamb, swine and finally the 'not-so-nasty' bits. Oh yes, also veg (which contains more recipes than the chapter about the pig) and stocks and dressings and sauces and did I mention sweets? Sweets, many, like Banoffee Pie and Eton Mess (did I not once read that is Prince Williams favorite dessert) have a touch of her English homeland..
There is also a very entertaining introduction that tell a bit about Bloomfield's story and tells us her take on any number of ingredients and equipment. We also find out a good deal about Bloomfield from about a dozen little essay sprinkled throughout the book, telling fun stories about growing up in England, her family, how she became a chef (she really wanted to be a cop but missed the exam date), her early career, what makes a good pub, how to make a good cup of tea. And happily, every recipe starts with the chef giving a nice introduction to the dish, what she loves about it, how she came to make it, tips and hints and opinions. This is a very personal cookbook, one in which Bloomfield, who is a quite funny, quite likeable person, just jumps out on every page.
I am not one to sit down and read cookbooks, but for this one I made an exception.
And if you like food, and great cookbooks, so should you!


My Chicken Adobo
by April Bloomfield


1/4 cup canola oil
5 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken legs and thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 heads garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
1/2 large Spanish onion, peeled and cut into 8 wedges
1/2 cup thinly sliced skin-on ginger
10 whole black peppercorns
4 fresh or 2 dried bay leaves
1 1/2 cups unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce


Heat oil in a large Dutch-oven over high heat until it begins to smoke. Working in batches, add chicken, skin-side down, to pot and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer to plate and repeat process with remaining chicken.
Add garlic, onion, ginger, peppercorns, and bay leaves to Dutch-oven; cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Return chicken to Dutch-oven along with vinegar and soy sauce. Increase heat and bring liquid to a boil, stirring and scraping brown bits from bottom of the pan.
Cover and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is tender and easily pulls away from the bone, about 45 minutes. Serve.

Best served, as the author suggests, with some nice jasmine rice and just a bit of the very flavorful sauce.
Key to the dish is to brown the chicken well. I used only thighs because I am not really a fan of the drumstick. Time to get out the splatter guard if you have one. Do not rush this part, do not crowd the pan, be patient. Put some pieces in...wait at least 5 minutes, check, turn, continue 5 minutes more, check again.
Also, after browning the chicken, I had a lot of fat in the pot, from the skin no doubt, I pour most of it off, to serve another day, and then continued with the onions and garlic and ginger. Hmmm..that smells good.
I did peel the garlic (used one of those rubber tube garlic peeler things, otherwise I would have skipped it) and I did peeled the ginger.
Oh, and yes, at the end, I put the sauce through my fat know a cup where the fat goes to the top and your pour off from the bottom..great thing. But be sure you pick out and save all that now very soft, very sweet garlic.
So all in all, I made a  rustic dish just a bit more work, but I think with cause! And a very nice result.


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, June 14, 2012

Review of "The Rachel Scott Adventures" [50-51]

The Rachel Scott Adventures 
by Traci Hohenstein
Thomas and Mercer, ISBN 978-1612182933
January 31, 2012, 436 pages

Two books in one volume! A great thing..assuming they are worth reading. Well, are The Rachel Scott Adventures worth of your time? Well first, let's check out what the books are about.

The first book is called Asylum Harbor, in which we will meet the woman at the center of these books and learn her story. Rachel Scott was a very successful, wealthy business woman until her life underwent a life changing experience when her young daughter went missing. Years later, she is still looking for some clue as to what happen to Mallory but doing so led her to establish a non-profit organization, Florida Omni Search, that brings cutting edge technology and an army of volunteers to help law enforcement find other missing people.

In this book we follow the case of missing Amber Knowles, a beautiful young high school senior who disappeared while on a cruise to celebrate her  graduation with some friends. The cruise line says she likely accidentally fell overboard but some evidence points to something else, something more sinister, happening. When it turns out she is the daughter of the Florida governor, a huge spotlight is going to be brought to shine on what happened, including the involvement of Omni Search. As is so often true, the lovely surface of a luxury cruise ship and idyllic tropical islands may be hiding a much more ugly underside.

In the second book, Burn Out, a terrible distressed mother, calls upon Rachel to help find her daughter, a firefighter who went missing during a raging warehouse fire. Some people believe Lieutenant Samantha Collins may have run off, to escape the drug charges her husband is in jail for. But her mother knows she would never have willing left her children behind and that foul play must be involved. Rachel and her crew get involved and not only start to uncover some surprising facts about Samantha's disappearance but some clues that may at last begin to point to what happened to Rachel's own missing daughter Mallory.

Well, on these two, there is some good news and some bad news.
Let's start with the less than good. While these are not badly written, the writing is not the best either. The dialogue is often stilted and unnatural sounding. If anything, the writing is a little too simple, and repeats things endlessly. Authors, trust your readers. Say it once..and move on. No need to beat us over the head. And then there are the holes in the plots, questions the readers looking for answers will never get and more than one development that really stretches the story's credibility. OK, a little spoiler here...kidnapped sex slaves on a tropical island? Really?

But on the plus side, there are some positives here too. Rachel is a good character, effective, interesting, clever and sympathetic. The cast of secondary characters is a little undeveloped but holds some potential and the variety of interesting storylines that could be tied into Omni Search seems endless. Of the two books, I think the second, Burn Out, is the better. It is more realistic, less over the top and hopefully shows the direction future stories in the series should take.

The pair are a quick, easy read that moves fast. Maybe it would be the perfect thing for a long plane trip, the beach or the backyard hammock with a cool umbrella drink. But would I recommend you run out and grab it up? Not so much.

My thanks to Amazon Vine for providing a copy for review.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...All Aboard!

A few photos taken on some boat rides, here and there....

Off the coast of Nantucket

Kathleen Lake, Kluane National Park, Canada

Aboard the Margaret Todd, Maine

Venice, Italy

Nantucket Hi-Speed ferry always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Musing Monday...Brevity is the Soul of Wit

I have a cold.
I don't feel too good...aaaaaahhhhh choo.
Do I have your pity now?
Well good! Because it is time to check out this weeks Musing Monday question from Miz B at Should Be Reading ...

This week’s musing asks…
What is the longest book you have ever read? How long did it take you to read it?

Well, let's cast my mind back into the distant past, long before I lost all patience with Giant Books. Although some might argue with my choice, I would say the longest book I ever read was The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Of course, the question is whether or not that is actually one or three books. But since it has one title and each of the three parts is called a volume, I will stick with that answer. How long did it take to read? I have no idea. The first time I read it I was in my teens, the second time in my twenties, all well before I paid attention to such things as how many books I read in a month, a year.

And I will tell you, that will most likely be the longest book I ever read. Ever.
Because Giant books are one of my pet peeves.One of my many pet peeves.
If I were Empress of the World, a position that it seems unlikely at this point that I will ever hold, I would make a decree. No book over 400 pages.
If an author can not say it in 400 pages, write another book. A sequel.
Actually, I would probably prefer you just stuck with the one max. 400 page book, but if you must, write a second book. But you have to wait at least 6 months to publish it. A year would be better.
Yes, it may sound arbitrary, but then I am Empress of the World.

What is my problem with Giant Books? Number one, they are heavy. If you have an e-reader, OK, that is not an issue, but not everyone has an e-reader.
But more importantly, I am just not convinced there is any need for a book to be that long. 500...600...700 pages or more, I think it is either a bad writer, a self indulgent writer or a bad editor. Or a bit of all. The number of books I have read that could have benefited from the Big Red Pen gets longer all the time. Usually, it lags in the middle. Gets off to a good start and pulls itself together at the end but wanders around in the middle.
Like a lost puppy without the cute part.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Blurry Boys.

I have decided it might be impossible 
to get all three of the boys to sit still 
for a second to snap a pic..

Benny, sit still!

Sammy, stop moving....
It's like herding cats!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Weekend Cooking..A Review of "Dead and Berried" [49]

If you have a little look around here, you might notice I have a fondness for lighthouses and the sea and places like Maine..that has a lot of lighthouses and ocean. So it is no surprise that a series like this one by Karen McInerney, set on Cranberry Island, just off the coast of Maine's Acadia Nation Park would grab my attention. There is a lighthouse, which sadly is, I believe, a bit of literary license since there is no lighthouse on the island, rocky coast, all manner of little boats, lobsters, a charming B&B..and, OK, a few dead bodies. What is not to like?

A few weeks ago I read the first book in the series, Murder on the Rocks, which was quite entertaining and a fun little cozy. You can..and of course my review and then we will move on to the second book...Dead and Berried.

In this delicious follow-up to Murder on the Rocks, developers have returned to Cranberry Island. This time, they're planning to wipe out a natural cranberry bog, along with the island's namesake berries, to build a luxury subdivision. Natalie Barnes isn't sweet on the idea of commercial interests souring their cozy oasis, but the single innkeeper has other problems on her plate: a withering relationship with her best friend Charlene, the sudden appearance of her ex-fiancé with a tempting proposal, and eerie bumps in the night suggesting the Gray Whale Inn is haunted. Worst of all, there's a killer on the loose, picking off people like ripe fruit.

When Charlene's lover–the handsome chaplain with a stake in the development– is stabbed to death, Natalie promises to find the murderer for her grief stricken friend, who's also the number-one suspect.
All the positives from the first book are back. A great setting, good characters, a nice little murder mystery..and maybe one small issue. As the description says, Natalie's ex-fiance drops in to see her from Texas, and try to convince her to get back with him and move back to Texas with him. But she left him for good reason and honestly, the guy seems like a creep. So the idea that she would take him back is totally unbelievable.

But because all the positives, I will let that little matter go.
Because I also found that these books have a nice little addition, that I missed in the first book, probably because it was an e-book. For this discovery, I must really thank Peggy Ann's Post from a couple of weeks ago which pointed out what is in the very back of each book.
Throughout the story, Natalie shares with us all sorts of delicious things she is baking and the author is nice enough to share some of the recipes with us. So I will share one with you!

Peach Sunrise Coffee Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP baking power
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup milk

1/2 cup melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups peaches, thinly sliced

1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup raspberry preserves

In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Cut in butter with a fork.
In a separate bowl, beat together egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring until just mixed.
In a bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar and cinnamon and spread in the bottom of a greased 9-inch pan. Arrange peaches on top.
Spoon 1/2 the batter on top of the peaches and smooth. Combine the sour cream and the preserves and pour over the batter. Spoon the remaining batter over the preserves mixtures and smooth
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes when you remove from the oven and then invert on serving plate.


Quite quick and easy and very yummy, especially when still warm from the oven.
One thing I would do different. Spreading the batter over both the peaches and the preserve layer is not too easy, without disturbing the first layer. So I would try putting the batter in a zip-lock bag, cutting the corner off and piping the batter out. I think it would be a lot easier and not mess the layers up..not that it effected the taste one little bit.

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, June 8, 2012

Review of "A Land More Kind Than Home" [48]

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash
William Morrow, ISBN 978-0062088147
April 17, 2012, 320 pages.

On the surface, this small rural town of Marshall in western North Carolin seems almost perfect, a great place for a couple of young boys to grow up. But events are going to turn out sadly different for young Jess Hall and his older brother Christopher, who almost everyone calls Stump. Yes, Stump is mute but that make no difference to Jess, his best friend and protector. But Jess can't protect him from everything. He can't protect him from the Evil that lives hidden in plain view in their small town.

That evil exists in the lies that some people are living, deception that eats away at relationships, but most of all it lives in the person of the Reverend Carson Chambliss, pastor of the River Road Church of Christ in Signs Following. Since Chambliss took over the church things have changed. The windows were papered over so that outsiders could not look in the windows and some, like town midwife Adelaide Lyle, who is also the second of our narrators after Jess, no longer felt comfortable attending services there. Finally, we have our third narrator, Sheriff Clem Barefield, a good man but one who has never totally recovered from his own great loss years ago and not the only one haunted by the past. But is doesn't stop him from seeing that the good reverend is not the man he would have many believe.

Chambliss is terrible scared on the outside from a fire some years ago, and as we will see, horrible on the inside as well. But still, many find him a charismatic figure, a figure who will lead them to go along with a terrible act that will end up tearing this community apart. Some might be motivated by their faith, even if it is misguided, but Chambliss's motivation is quite different, much more personal..much more evil.

I first heard about this book from a glowing review by Sandy at You GOTTA Read This, five stars out of five. And she is right. This is a very good book. Since it is Wiley Cash's first book, one can not help but have great hope for what he will write in the future. Mr. Cash is from North Carolina and that is clear in how perfectly he captures the atmosphere of Marshall and it residents.

This book is part thriller, but much more than that it is a more personal tale about good and evil, love and hate, guilt and innocence. And in large part, I think it was quite successful..except for one thing that would keep me from giving it that 5th star, if I gave stars.
It is quite clear to the reader, as seem through the eyes of out three narrators, that Chambliss is a very bad man. Yet, he has a loyal congregation, who will do a great deal for him. But never once did I get any idea, not an inkling, of that personal charismatic power we are told he has. That he must have for the events of the story to really make sense. And that leads the reader to have to think that his followers are what, rubes, idiots? Or that we are missing something. For me, to see a hunt of that, would have taken the book over the top.

Still, it was a very good book, with a very good setting, great characters and a compelling story that will draw you in and make you hang on until the very last page. I would certainly recommend A Land More Kind Than Home, especially if you are a fan of Southern gothic.

For a touch of bluegrass music and a few more positive words about the book, you might like to check out this video...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor


From top of Cadillac Mountain


Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse

Egg Rock Light always, for more Wordless Wednesday, check these out.