Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Farmer's Market plus..

It's a beautiful day...let's go to the market.
And stop at the beach!





The Cape May Ferry heading into the Delaware Bay

The Cape May Lighthouse

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

Review of "XO" [63]

XO: A Kathryn Dance Novel 
by Jeffery Deaver
Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1439156377
June 12, 2012, 400 pages

California Bureau of Investigation's Kathryn Dance is on vacation, heading down to Fresno to pursue her hobby of "songcatching", recording local folk music, and also catching the concert of a friend, young country singer Kayleigh Towne. But shortly, it becomes very questionable that the concert will go on. One of Kayleigh's crew is killed in a horrible stage 'accident' which is, of course, no accident at all and the number one suspect is a man named Edwin Sharp who has been stalking Kayleigh and has also shown up in town for the concert. And the killing seems to have a connection to the words of one of Kayleigh's songs, "Your Shadow", which Edwin thinks was written just for him. But Edwin is one clever stalker...and perhaps murderer...staying just barely on the right side of legal and giving investigators quite a run for their money. He always seems to be one step ahead of the cops and it almost seems like he can read minds.

When a second body turns up, again tied to the song, police are even more sure it is Edwin...well, unless, as he suggests, he is being framed..or he wants them to think he is being framed and is really guilty...you get the idea.
Can local police, with the assistance of Dance, figure it all out before someone else, even Kayleigh herself, is a victim?

I read a glowing review of this book in the NY Times and have heard good things about Deaver's books in the past but never read one, so this seemed like the book to read!
How did that work out? Hmmmmm, OK, but not great.
So, where to start....

I actually like country music, so having that as a large element of the story was rather interesting. And you know I love a strong female lead character, so that should have been a plus but oddly did not pan out in this case. Dancer's name is in the title, so you might think she is at the center of the book, but there is something rather weak about her character, not enough to support this book. It does not help that she has to admit that her specialty, kinesics, the study of body language, is useless with Edwin. So the point of her being there is...what? And I will not even mention her personal life, where she, a supposedly smart woman, a trained investigator, makes a stupid assumption based on very limited information that has her doing something quite foolish...ok, yes, I did tell you after all, didn't I? And why the heck did she not have her gun with her or get one really quickly when the bodies started to drop. Oh, I hate characters that act in a stupid way.

But the major problem for me is probably our villain..or framed innocent man...Edwin. OK, he is weird but are we suppose to hate him..or feel sorry for him? Is he suppose to be creepy or just odd and misunderstood. It keeps changing back and forth and after a bit, I was not sure I cared that much. What was suppose to be a clever twist, on top of another clever twist, on top of another clever twist were not actually that clever, since I saw them coming a mile away. And the fact that there were a lot of pages left when the villain had supposedly been found. Bit of a giveaway, that.

And then there was the totally out of place sub-plot of a political assignation..what that was doing in this book made no sense. Editor please!Red pen!

OK, yes, I had a few problems with this one. I could go on. But really, it was not a bad book, more a very middling book, which is not what I hoped for from a best selling writer. Maybe if I had went in with lesser expectations I would have been a little happier with it. Maybe if I had checked the reviews on Amazon first, which are, to put it kindly, not great, not even good.
As it is, I really cannot see running out to get my hands on any of Deaver's other books. And that tells the tale.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Musing Monday...Questions, Questions, Questions!

This week’s musing asks…
What question(s) would you like to see asked in future Musing Mondays posts? I’m running out of ideas, and figured this might be the best way to get some more. ;)
The trick here will be to NOT answer anyone else’s questions just yet! LOL. You are only allowed to share questions, this week, but not answer them. ‘Kay? Go!

MizB, over at Should Be Reading is pulling a fast one this week. No Musing allowed indeed.

Oh, I hate this! I have a terrible imagination...what to do, what to do?
Gosh, how many question do you think I need to think of? One..two?
But honestly, the worse part of this 'question' is the prohibition from answering it. I think of a question, it starts rattling around in my brain and my opinion just bubbles up.
I might not have much imagination, but I have an opinion on just about everything and I ache, just ache, to share it.
But OK, I will play along
Questions, no answers.
Guess if you really love the question, you will just have to hope MizB uses it for a Musing Monday question in the near future!

  • So...If you were Book Czar of the world, is there one book you would like to require every kid to read?
  • Do you have a favorite place to read..a favorite chair, the bus, a hammock, a beach chair as the little waves tickle you toes, an umbrella drink in your hand.....? (Ooops, is that too close to an answer? I will try to do better)
  • If you had no other obligations, no need to work, no chores, to spouse or kids to care for, how many hours..or minutes...a day would you spend reading?
  • Do you have a Book Fantasy..to own a bookstore, work in a library, be an editor or publisher, to be an author with a NY Times best seller, a national tour and a book deal?...you get the idea. If you do, have you achieved it to any degree?
  • Do you have a favorite character from a book, maybe someone who seems oddly real to you, about whom you find yourself thinking, "Gee, I wonder what Mr/Ms ???? would do in this case?" Ooops, may be giving too much away again.  ;-)
OK, my imagination has reached it limit..my very limited limit.
How about you? Do you have some book related question that you are just dying to ask?
Well, if you do, go ahead and share!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bandit Sunday...All By Himself

What do you mean this is not my couch?
Can't you just let a guy play with a few of his toys in peace??
Gee wiz!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Southern Style Pickled Shrimp

Say what you will about the America South...and I would only say the very nicest things...but you must admit they are a culture that takes food and cooking seriously. And they are also a place that takes their steamy hot temperatures seriously. So when the mercury rises (for those of you old enough to remember when they use the deadly dangerous mercury) where to look for food ideas but Down South.Yes, we are having the oh, so easy shrimp again! But this week we are going to pickle them.

Now I must say, I never made Pickled Shrimp before, I never even tasted Pickled Shrimp before, but from what I read, they are one of those quintessential southern dishes, a popular summer appetizer, and they involved very little cooking, so they seemed a win, win.
And I was curious.

As I tend to do, I searched the Internet, reading recipe after recipe, taking something from Martha Stewart, something from Saveur, something from Southern Living and something from Sam Hoffer at My Carolina Kitchen.

You clean and cook the shrimp, this time in some Old Bay seasoning, and then, as Ms. Hoffer suggests, add the hot shrimp to the rest of the ingredients, to encourage them to absorb the flavorful liquid. Layer them in a container, cover and refrigerate overnight or up to several days, because they will just get more pickled and more tasty.
I did add one step...don't I always?
I heated the oil and added the spices to it and cooked them for a minute to two before adding the rest of the ingredients, to let them bloom, something many spices benefit from.

Southern Style Pickled Shrimp

2 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. celery seed
1 tsp. fennel seed
1/2 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbs. peppercorns, cracked
1 tsp. coriander seeds

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 vinegar
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
2-4 dried bay leaves

1/3 cup capers, with the liquid
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 lemons, thinly sliced

In a pot, heat the oil and then add the celery seed, fennel seed, coriander seed, red pepper flakes, peppercorns and garlic and cook for just a minute.
Take off the heat and add the sugar, salt, bay leaves, onion and sliced lemons and the lemon juice, capers and vinegar and stir well.

While that is sitting, prepare the shrimp.
Add the Old Bay to about 8 cups of boiling water, and then add the shrimp, cooking a couple of minutes, depending on size, until just done, pink and curled.
Add the hot shrimp to the spice/lemon/onion mixture and spoon into a container. A jar with a tight lid is good because you can turn it over to spread the goodness around evenly while they are pickling in the frig, where they should remain at least overnight before eating.

I think this is one of those recipes you can play around with, taking some of the ingredients and measurements as just a suggestion. I will tell you every recipe I say is different in some way. If you like them hot, add some little dried peppers or if you don't like things hot, leave out the peppers altogether.
I love capers, but if you don't, don't add them. A number of fresh herbs would be nice in there if you happen to have some on hand. You could add a couple of coins of fresh ginger or some dried mustard or some Worcestershire.
I think the lemons, the onions, the oil and vinegar, the salt are required and then go from there.

I understand these are traditionally served as appetizer, just picked up with a toothpick or served on a cracker, and that would be excellent. But I can see other uses for them. They would be lovely on a salad, wouldn't they, or made into a shrimp sandwich or a little taco? Or how about in some pasta salad? Yum!
Use your imagination!
Zip up your shrimp!

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 27, 2012

Review of "Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes" [62]

Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes: A Novel 
by Betsy Woodman
Holt Paperbacks, ISBN 978-0805093490
July 17, 2012, 336 pages.

Janet Laird, fondly known as Jana Bibi, is Scottish by heritage, but in her heart and on her passport she is Indian.
Her parents were in the civil service before Indian independence, she was born there, and except for a few unhappy years in Scotland after their death, she has lived all her life in her beloved India. She returned as the wife of a missionary, and after his death, supported herself and her son as a musician (seems to be more to that story) and a violin teacher. But her life is turned on it's head when she gets a letter informing her that she has inherited her grandfather's house in a faraway Indian hill station, Hamara Nagar, the historic Jolly Grant House. So she packs up her housekeeper Mary and one of the stars of the book, the charming and very talkative Mr. Ganguly, and off they head for a grand adventure. Happily we get to go along!

But not all is rosy. The house has been taken over by monkeys, but not to worry. All you have to do is hire the friendly local Gurkha to drive them off with the sound of his bagpipes. And then there is the matter of the dam that the government plans to build right where they stand, wiping out their village. So the locals hatch a plan to put the town on the map, make it famous and save it. Jana Bibi, reborn as the local fortune teller, is in the center of the plan to make it a tourist attraction. She is joined in the endeavor by her new friends, like Ramachandran, whose Treasure Emporium store will furnish her salon, Feroze Ali Khan of Royal Tailors who will make her costume, and Rambir, editor of the local newspaper who will publicize the new venture. And they are just a few of the wonderful characters we will meet in this delightful book, along with a cast of American, Europeans, Muslim and Hindu and Christian Indians, one very corrupt police chief and a convention of 'futurists'.
Everyone must rally together if the town is to be saved!

As I turned the last page, my opinion of this book was clear...it is utterly charming and a totally enjoyable read! Charming! I promise you will put this book down with a smile on your face.

The book touches on a few serious topics as well as the danger of the dam, such as the problems, the bloodshed, that arose from the road to Indian independence and the separation of India and Pakistan, the concerns for a child that does not want to follow their parents path in life...the disappearance of our dear parrot friend. But yes, you just know that somehow everything will turn out OK and we will have a happy ending. Perhaps everything is just a tiny bit idealized, but I guarantee you will be delightfully swept away with the exotic setting and the wonderful cast of characters in this book.

For a brief time, we get to share the fond memories the author has of her 10 years growing up in India and I must say I was happy to hear that this is the first book in a proposed series. I can not wait to see what adventures Jana Bibi, her new friends and especially that totally wonderful parrot, Mr. Ganguly, may get into.

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

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Giveaway! The Line Between Here and Gone

Did you read my recent review of The Line Between Here and Gone?

"The man she loved is gone forever. The child she lives for could be next. Each day is a struggle for Amanda Gleason's newborn son as he battles a rare immune deficiency. Justin's best chance for a cure lies with his father, who was brutally murdered before Amanda even realized she carried his child.

Or was he?

One emailed photo changes everything, planting a seed of doubt that Amanda latches on to for dear life: a recent photo of a man who looks exactly like Paul. Could Justin's father be alive? The mother in her is desperate to find out. But tracking down a ghost when every second counts is not for amateurs.

Forensic Instincts is the one team up for the challenge."

Well, if you didn't read my review, go ahead, read it now.
I'll wait....

Ok, sounds good, doesn't it?
I assume now you would just love to have your very own copy to read, right?
Well, two of you can do just that because, thanks to Erin at Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, I have two lovely copies to give away.

And by the way, the book is still on tour out there in Blogland and you can follow along.
Head over to the BookTrib and check it out. "We’ve organized another scavenger hunt blog tour to celebrate THE LINE BETWEEN HERE AND GONE. Click on the dates below to find that day’s excerpt. The additional links lead to even more reviews, author Q&A’s and giveaways!"
What, there are other Giveaways? What if you win two? Well, I guess you can have your own giveaway!

Here is today's little excerpt...
"But she battled her way through them. Because one thought eclipsed all the rest.

What could this mean for Justin?"

Wonder what that is about? Well, follow the links and check out the rest of the excerpts.
But of course, be sure you leave a comment right here first...WITH YOUR E-MAIL...and be entered for a chance to win.
The contest is open to readers in the USA and Canada.
It starts...hmmm...right now! And will end in one week, at the stroke of midnight on Thursday, 8/02.
Once again, Larry the Wonder Cat(he loves giving stuff away) and Random.org will be in charge of picking the winner.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Home Again, Home Again

To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.


...my house is just left of that steeple.

Poor feller has seen better days

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

Winners!! Winners!! Chicken Dinners!!

Finally, I was able to wake Larry the Wonder Cat up and with the assistance of Randon.org, he picked the two lucky winners.
They are...drumroll please......

Tina and Vonnie Rivera!

I will be e-mailing you for your mailing info and hopefully the publisher will have it on the way shortly so you can start enjoying it.

Musing Monday...A Post Pertaining to Periodicals

Get up!
It's Monday!
Time to start the week, so let's head over to Should Be Reading and check out this weeks question!

This week’s musing asks…
Do you read magazines? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

Do I read magazines you ask.
With all the books I have around here to read, why in the world would I get magazines as well?
That would just be madness, madness I tell ya!
So yes, of course I do!

I hesitate to list them all. I could look at the pile of TBR magazines that is on my kitchen counter next to (one of) the TBR book pile. But that would be too easy. In fact, I am fairly familiar with the pile because I sorted them the other day, by subject. Then I attacked one subject and read all the magazines in that sub-set before moving on to the next. I have a few more to go, but that is what days off are for. Or it that for reading books. Or doing laundry. Or going to the supermarket. Or trimming the hedges...

So back to the question...what magazines do I read?
National Geographic (great photos) is one of my favorites..even if I am a few months behind. Happily, their stories rarely go out of date, do they? And I can also read that one on my iPad, where they add additional material, just so it takes even longer! I also read Nat Geo Traveler. (great photos)..and Conde Naste Traveler. Hmmm...do I still get Travel and Leisure? Not sure about that one, but you still might see a theme. Yes, I like to travel and when I am not doing it, I still like to read about it.

I used to subscribe to a couple of food/cooking magazine, but I let them lapse and now get only America's Test Kitchen Cooks Illustrated, which is without question one of my favorites.
Then there are a couple of computer magazines, Smart Computing..not that it has made my computing any smarter...and PC World, because it is a PC world and I must know if any nice new 'toys' will be 
coming out.

Then there is my dream of living in Maine, which resulted in a subscription to Down East magazine. If I can't live there, at least I can 'visit' for a bit each month, and plan things to see and do on my next visit. I also read Yankee magazine..mainly for the Maine articles. Add Coastal Living to the list too...because I love the coast and would love to live even closer to it, like out the window close. Preferably in Maine.

For something a bit more offbeat, I subscribe to Eastern Fly Fishing, a magazine about fly fishing..mainly in the eastern part of the country. I don't actually fly fish. Actually, I have been fly fishing several times but would hesitate to call myself a fly fisher. Still, I love the magazine. Also perhaps a bit odd is my subscription to the American Rifleman, since I do not own a rifle. Yet. But it comes with my NRA membership, another story.

There are, believe it or not, more.
But I will not go on.
Madness, madness I tell ya!
Still, I am comforted by the knowledge that there used to be even more, but I have let a good number of subscriptions lapse over the years.  People magazine..gone. Newsweek...gone. Gardening magazine gone as well.
So I am doing better.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Gone Missing" Giveaway!

Check It Out!!
You can't win if you don't play!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Weekend Cooking...Jalapeño Corn Cakes with Shrimp and Avocado Salsa

I think that I first saw this dish in a review for a cookbook from last year, “Sara Foster’s Southern Kitchen”. To tell you the truth, I am not sure where I saw it recently. Of course, I didn't write it down..all I remembered were corn cakes and avocado..so to Google I went, and found several different takes on it.
Some milder, some spicier, but all basically very similar.

And then I added a little something extra. "Wouldn't some shrimp be nice?" I thought and I answered myself, "Yes, they would! Shrimp are always nice."
So, some shrimp it was.

Oh, the produce it so lovely this time of year. Fresh Jersey corn is in and lovely Jersey tomatoes and local peppers, oh my. I trip to the produce market is full of colorful gems and this recipe takes advantage of a number of them. It is perfect, with very small corn cakes as an appetizer, as a summer lunch, or as a fresh and summery side dish, maybe with some grilled fish or chicken.

Jalapeño Corn Cakes with Shrimp and Avocado Salsa
adapted from A Spicy Perspective

For the Jalapeno Corn Cakes:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow corn meal
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
2 cups corn, fresh or frozen
1/2 jalapeño, finely diced
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 buttermilk
3 Tb. melted butter

Combine all dry ingredients for the corn cakes, in a large bowl.
Whisk well, then add everything else, butter last, stirring continuously until smooth. Heat a skillet to medium-high.
Brush the skillet with oil or butter. Using a tablespoon scoop for small cakes or a larger scoop for bigger cakes, pour corn cake mixture in the skillet, cooking 1-2 minutes per side. Work in small batches.
If batter gets too thick as it sits, stir in a little more milk.

For the Shrimp with Avocado Salsa:

1 lb. shrimp, steamed and cut in bite sized pieces
2 large ripe avocados, chopped
1/2 small red pepper, diced
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2 tomatoes, diced
2 clove garlic, finely minced
3 Tbs. cilantro,chopped
1/2 jalapeño, diced
1 lime, juiced
1 1/2 white wine vinegar
2 Tb. olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Up to a day or two ahead, mix all the ingredients for the salsa except the shrimp and avocado. While the corn cakes are cooking, add the shrimp and avocado to the salsa.
Serve the corn cakes with a scoop of salsa on top, or pile them on a platter with the salsa 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 20, 2012

Review of "Fire Season" [61]

Fire Season: A Frank Coffin Mystery by Jon Loomis
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312668136
July 17, 2012, 320 pages

Acting chief of police Frank Coffin has a lot on his plate at the moment, so he is happy it is the beginning of the more quiet off season in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Oh, but it is not to be.
First, police are called to a horrible, senseless slaughter..of some pet seals at a local restaurant. And then the fires starts. At first, a few dumpsters are doused with gasoline and set ablaze, but very shortly things start to escalate. And then there is the severed head..well, let's just say I will never look at a lobster tank the same way again.
Meanwhile his mom is about to get thrown out of her nursing home and his pregnant girlfriend..she won't marry him, what can he do?...is having odd craving and not so odd but personally upsetting aversions. Oh, and did I mention that one of his deputies, who like many people in town is related to the chief, believes that he has been abducted by aliens and that they are going to return to get him at the Highland Lighthouse. Yes, there are lighthouses! And lots of drag queens, Eastern European mobsters, bloody power tools, flashing lights in the night skies, a parrot with an X-rated vocabulary and all manner of interesting things.

It is not easy to write a book that is at times laugh out loud funny and still present some serious issues and create a real sense of suspense and make it all work, but Loomis does just that in Fire Season. Yes, Frank's mom is a real card, but dealing with her Alzheimer's is a real and very sad challenge. The scenes with the volunteer firemen..did you know you can give mouth to mouth to a cat?..are funny, but the fact that a place like Provincetown is so financially strapped that volunteers are all they can afford is not so funny with an arsonist on the loose.

The author has created some great characters and with P'town as the setting, some of them are real 'characters' indeed. Frank is great as he deals with burden after burden and he assisted by the very able Sgt. Lola Winters and stymied at every turn by the previous Chief, Rodolfo Santos, aka Uncle Rudy. And did I mention the great dialogue? I love funny, witty dialogue and there is more than enough here to make me a happy reader.
Nantucket..but it's close!

Then there is the setting.
I have never been to P'town and only made one glancing trip to Cape Cod to catch the ferry to Nantucket, but some of the great descriptions of the area in this book have me wishing I could pack my bags and jump in the car. Mr. Loomis includes a number of real places in his story, from local restaurants to actual streets..I read the book with a map of Cape Cod up on my iPad so I could check...and did I mention the lighthouses? Waterfront vistas, beaches and mini-golf..perfect!

This is the third book in the Coffin mysteries but it totally stands alone, so fear not. After finishing this book in one day..rain can be a good thing..I have the first in the series on order!
A very enjoyable read.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Review of "Shine, Shine, Shine" [60]

Shine, Shine, Shine: A Novel by Lydia Netzer
St. Martin Press, ISBN 978-1250007070
July 17, 2012, 320 pages

OK, I am a day or two late but here is a quote from the author's blog from the 17th, the day of the book's release....
"My novel is released today. Let's pretend you've bought it. Let's pretend you're holding it in your hands. I know what it feels like.
The novel you are about to read has been with me for over a decade. Like all authors I’ve tried to put into it everything I have to say about life, just in case I never get a chance to do this book thing again. So what you’re holding is my best attempt at downloading everything I have in my head that matters."
So what is in Lydia's head?
Well, this is a book about your typical American family. There is Sunny, a beautiful, tall, thin blond and her equally tall and rather good looking husband, Maxon, who she met when they were just children in western Pennsylvania. Maxon is a very successful man now, and they live in a lovely home in suburban Virginia with their young son, surrounded by good friends.
But from there things go a little off.

Maxon is brilliant, a genius in fact, and quite an odd man, someone who has spent most of his life studying how to act like a human being. And Sunny is odd in her own way. You see, she has been totally bald, totally hairless, since birth, but since having her son and moving to Virginia she has, every day, donned one of her many lovely wig, glued on eyebrows and lashes and tried to 'pass' as normal. And their son, diagnosed as autistic (he takes after his dad no doubt!) has been given any number of drugs so he too can at least seemed more like other kids.

But one day, it all spins out of control. Sunny's mom is in the hospital, slowly, piece by piece, dying of cancer. Maxon, an astronaut, an expert in robotics, is on his way to the moon to help establish a colony of robots and his spaceship will soon be hit by a tiny meteorite that will spin them out of control. And Sunny will have a car accident in her mini-van. Don't worry, she is not hurt but her wig will go flying off for all her neighbors to see and Sunny has a sort of epiphany about what it is to be normal.

She decides that she will never again wear a wig, she will take her son off the drugs, Maxon will find his way home and they will repair their relationship after a terrible fight and she will say goodbye to her mother..oh, and did I mention she will be having her second baby any day now?
"Dark secrets, long-forgotten murders, and a blond wig all come tumbling to the light. And nothing will ever be the same.…"
And that just scratches the surface of what this book is about and the wonderful characters you will meet in it.
It's a love story and a tale of more than one murders. It is at times very funny and at times very dark. It is a book about childhood and about what it is to be a parent. It's a story about friendship and robots. It's a book about some odd people trying to be normal and ends up questioning what it even means to be normal and if any of us are.
At first I thought this was a rather odd book that I was not sure I liked...soon I knew it was a rather odd book that I just loved.
This is Netzer's debut novel, which is hard to believe, it is so very, very well written. I know she said she put everything in her head into this one, but I really hope that she can find a few more things to put into another book!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...My Day Off

Took my camera out for a ride in the area the other day.

Started with lunch...

And watched some folks playing in the bay.

...and saw another woman swimming by.

Then it was over the causeway, across the marsh,

Saw some pretty birds...

..and watched some fishermen off the stone jetty, 
as I sat by the pretty flowers.

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

Monday, July 16, 2012

Musing Monday...Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe..

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…
What are you currently reading? Is it any good? Would you recommend it?

Well, I need a new book to start the new week, because I just finished a book last night. Late last night in fact, because I stayed up too late, on a 'school' night, to finish it and will, no doubt be paid back with some sleepy time at work today. So if I just had to finish it, I must have liked the book, right?
Well, I did, pretty much.

It is called Hell or High Water and is written by Joy Castro.
I won't tell you too much about it because I hope to have a review up tomorrow or Thursday, but generally it is about a newspaper reporter in New Orleans who get an assignment to write about sexual offenders at the same time as several woman have been kidnapped and found dead..and sexually assaulted...in the city.

I will say that while I had an issue or two with the book, it did have a great ending..which is why I was up late. But for my final opinion, I need to muse about it a little bit. Which I know is a mistake. I would be best to write my review the minute I put down a book. I tell myself that I need to give it a little time, to let my opinion settle, but in reality I am just lazy. And, as I have mentioned, a world class procrastinator.
Rarely does my opinion change really, rarely do my insights deepen. I just hate to get started. Even though I know there is a danger that if I do not write it right away, I may never write it.

Let me ask you..do you who write reviews, on a blog or Amazon or Library Thing or Goodreads, review every book you read? And if not, how do you pick what will get the treatment and which will not?

I admit I do not. I review, I think on average, about 2 books a week but I usually read more than that. And I will also admit I have no plan as to what I review. But I do know that the longer I wait, the more I 'muse', the less likely that I will ever put pen to paper about it. So much for clarifying my thoughts!
I try to give any ARCs or review copies my best try. Especially if someone is e-mailing me asking how my review is goming.. ;-)
Unless it is really, really bad book. I hate to write a really bad review and usually do it only when it is a book that there is a lot of buzz about.
Odd? No!
I feel I should throw my negative opinion in the hat, warn you maybe, so you don't go out and buy a book just because everyone seems to be reading it. But I am much more likely to write a review about a book I love. It's like you just have to go out and tell your book loving friends about this great one you just finished.

Or sometimes I use that very scientific method.."Eeny, meeny, miny, moe...!"
What about you?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Weekend Cooking...the Big Boss Oil-less Fryer

I admit it.
I love being a part of Amazon Vine.

If you are not familiar with it, I will tell you a bit about how it works. You don't 'join'. You are sent an e-mail and asked if you want to be a part of it. Why? Is it based on the number of reviews you posted on Amazon or the number of reviews that got a good rating...who knows. Amazon is not saying.

Then every month, on the third Thursday, at 3p.m. eastern time you get your 'targeted' newsletter, from which you can pick two items. You will get them for free, in return for a review on Amazon. Oddly, my targeted newsletter thinks I have a baby, lots of baby stuff, but still...

So, last month I tried to sign on and the page got locked up. It happens. By the time I got in, the item I wanted, a handheld scanner, was gone. It happens. Very, very quickly.
So what was left?

Well, how about a Big Boss Oil-less Fryer ?
From the product description..."Using halogen, convection, and infrared heat sources, the Big Boss fryer eliminates the need for oil while preparing low-calorie versions of deep-fried treats, such as french fries, onion rings, and chicken wings. The triple-headed cooking process ensures interiors are juicy and moist while browning exteriors until they're as golden and crunchy as a crown covered in rice krispies. The included recipe book and cooking guide clue users into the nonfrying countertop fryer's many uses, and optional tools, such as grill racks and a mesh basket, allow for experimentations with new cooking techniques and meals."

"a crown covered in rice krispies..." Who write this stuff?
Well, I experimented a bit, just for you, my dear readers.
I cooked a chicken.
I cooked some frozen french fries.
How did they go?
Well, they went well, thank you.
For the chicken, I took a whole chicken, rubbed it inside and outside with a couple of teaspoons of the pictured rub, put it in the device and turned it on.
OK, first of all, it is bright. Like a spaceship hovering in the sky bright. Or so those UFO shows on TV say.
And, per the instructions, you have to turn the chicken over halfway through. In reviews, some people had a problem with that. I just grabbed it with a pair of tongs...flip. And in 45 minutes, I had one very nice chicken. Very crispy skin, very juicy meat.
Then, at the other end of the cooking spectrum, last night I made frozen french fries in it. Put them on the mesh rack, gave them a tiny spritz of oil (just for fun) with the enclosed sprayer, and in 15 minutes, hot and crispy fries. Cool. OK, actually very hot. ;-)
They say you can make fries, real fries like from a potato, but I didn't have one so I didn't try that.

So, should you buy one?
Well, there are some cons. It is big. Happily I found a place for it in my pantry. But it is big and awkward and unless you have a BIG kitchen, not something you would leave on the counter. To have to drag it out every time you use it is not the best situation.
It claims to be quicker than a regular oven, which I think is rather doubtful. And with things like fries, you can only put them in one layer, which limits it's capacity, indeed. One, two people for those fries, yes..a whole family, not so much.

I found it easy to clean. Put the rack in the dishwasher and washed the bowl by hand. It generates a lot less heat then putting on the oven, something I appreciate this time of year.
But what it really excels at is crispy. It does crispy very well.

They claim you can dehydrate in it.
They claim you can bake in it.
Reviews say it makes great burgers.
Well, we may see, in the future.

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 13, 2012

Giveaway of "Gone Missing"

Did you read my glowing review of this book just below?

Well, if not, stop right this minute and do so!
And then hurry back and leave a comment to be entered for a chance to win one of two copies I have to offer!
Open to US shipping address only.

The contest will start today and run until 7/23, at which point Larry the Wonder Cat, along with Random.org, will pick the two lucky winners!
Good luck!

Review of "Gone Missing" [59]

Gone Missing by Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books, ISBN 978-0312658564
June 19, 2012, 288 pages

About the book

Linda Castillo’s bestselling series has been called “gripping” [People] and “impossible to put down” [Bookpage] and the “teeth chattering suspense” [USA Today] continues with GONE MISSING—a deeply chilling novel about a rite of passage gone horribly wrong.
Rumspringa is the time when Amish teens are allowed to experience life without the rules. It’s an exciting time of personal discovery and growth before committing to the church. But when a young teen disappears without a trace, the carefree fun comes to an abrupt and sinister end, and fear spreads through the community like a contagion.
A missing child is a nightmare to all parents, and never more so than in the Amish community, where family ties run deep. When the search for the presumed runaway turns up a dead body, the case quickly becomes a murder investigation. And chief of Police Kate Burkholder knows that in order to solve this case she will have to call upon everything she has to give not only as a cop, but as a woman whose own Amish roots run deep.
Kate and state agent, John Tomasetti, delve into the lives of the missing teen and discover links to cold cases that may go back years. But will Kate piece together all the parts of this sinister puzzle in time to save the missing teen and the Amish community from a devastating fate? Or will she find herself locked in a fight to the death with a merciless killer?

About the author

New York Times bestselling author LINDA CASTILLO lives in Texas with her husband and is currently at work on her next book in this series, also set in Amish Country and featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder. Visit http://www.lindacastillo.com to learn more.

This is the fourth book in the Chief Kate Burkholder series..if you are fans of the previous ones, you will love this one as well. If you have not read the others...What Is Wrong With You?!

I have read a lot of series, and I can honestly say this is one of my very favorite. If you like a well written book, with a great plot, an interesting setting and engaging characters, including a strong, smart female lead, have I got a book for you.

The premise is that Kate was raised Amish in a north east Ohio community, left as a young person, at least in part because of a terrible act of violence that was committed against her, entered law enforcement and then, several years ago, returned to her home town to be chief of police.
She has her own issues in her life, and at the same time stands with one foot in the "English" community and at least part of the other in the Amish world of her family and childhood friends, an awkward situation. And while that is painful for her at times, raising a lot of bad memories, it is also very useful in any crimes involving the Amish, who are very distrustful of the English authorities. Kate is a very good character, very smart, very easy to sympathize with, even with her darker side, which is maybe not as evident in this book as in the previous one. All the more reason the read those too!
And her sort of boyfriend..it is a complicated relationship..John Tomasetti, is a great character as well. We learned more about him in the previous books, but don't worry, you will be told what you need in this one to make this a good standalone as well. To say the least, their relationship is a bit complicated.

And then of course we have the setting. Happily, in this book we travel for a time out of Kate's local town of Painters Mill to some other Ohio Amish communities, in her role as a consultant. This helps us in avoiding the "Cabot Cove' syndrome, of an unbelievable amount of crime in one little town, that I feared in the previous books might become an issue. But this crime, the missing children, still involves the Amish, a very interesting part of this series, as we get a glimpse into a group that we rarely get such an intimate view of. Not only will you be entertained but you will learn something.

The book has a very good, very believable, quite clever plot and Ms. Castillo is an excellent writer. Once you start reading..and I must say the book has a gripping beginning that will suck you in...you will be swept away in the story and it will be very hard to put down. And then it all leads up to an excellent ending, something the author really excels at, in this and the other books in the series. One of those books that, when you turn the last page, you will say "Wow. Oh wow!"
Did you get the idea that I liked it? Well, yes I did.

And since I am lucky enough, thanks to Big Honcho Media and the publisher, to be offering a giveaway of two copies of Gone Missing to a couple of lucky winners, be sure you enter the GIVEAWAY!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review of "The Last Policeman" [58]

The Last Policeman: A Novel by Ben Winters
Quirk Books, ISBN 978-1594745768
July 10, 2012, 288 pages

"What's the point in solving murders if we're all going to die? Detective Hank Palace has asked this question ever since asteroid 2011GV1 hovered into view. Several kilometers wide, it's on a collision course with planet Earth, with just six precious months until impact.

The Last Policeman presents a fascinating portrait of a pre-apocalyptic United States. Industry is grinding to a halt. Most people have abandoned their jobs. But not Hank Palace. As our story opens, he's investigating the latest suicide in a city that's full of suicides—only this one feels wrong. This one feels like homicide. And Palace is the only one who cares. What's the point in solving murders if we're all going to die?

The first in a trilogy, The Last Policeman offers a story we've never read before: A police procedural set on the brink of an apocalypse. What would any of us do, what would we really do, if our days were numbered?
Golly, a police procedural set on the brink of an apocalypse..don't hear that every day, do you?
I wondered, is it just a gimmick, another hanger on to the popularity of dystopian literature. Well, as is so often true, I was wrong.

The fact that it was picked as one of Amazon's best books of July 2012 was the first clue. Then there was Kirkus Reviews' very positive take on it, saying "the beauty is in the details rather than the plot’s grim main thrust."

Yes, that pre-apocalyptic thing is a little grim, always just at the edge of our vision as we follow what Hank thinks is a murder investigation. And what would be the motive to kill someone, not in an act of passion, but in a planned, coldblooded way, when so few things, like money or power, have much meaning as the days tick by. Hank, a very likable character, is just not willing to overlook what he feels is a crime, even if there will be no time for a trial, imprisonment, if a murderer is caught. So is there a point? Well, Hank thinks so and I think, so will the reader. As the author said in an interview,
"Well you know, he took an oath...it goes to the heart of what the book is about. All the promises and assurances we make to each other and ourselves, as a society-from wedding vows between people to mutual defense pacts between nations to the illusion that paper currency has value- how much is any of it really worth."
How much indeed?

But it is also a fascinating aspect, perhaps the most fascinating aspect, of the book. What would we do if we knew the world was going to end in a few months? Some run off to chase their bucket list. Others turn to crime and drugs and anarchy. Many despair and kill themselves. In Concord, New Hampshire, where the book is set, the chosen method of suicide, for some unknown reason, seems to be by hanging and finding another dead body, a rope, a belt, a cord around their neck, is no longer unusual.
But some, like Hank Palace, keep on doing the work, for as long as they can.

Some obligations, like family, never change. For Hank that means his sister Nico, always a bit of a black sheep and someone who may be, as things are starting to spin out of control, involved in something very shady, very dangerous. But how dangerous is anything if you are soon going to be dead?
The last scene, where he realizes that his may be the last time he ever sees her is so sad. But then, as he realizes, every day may be the last time he does any number of things. I must say, I am very eagerly awaiting the next book. Things are changing in this world Winter has created, and Hank is a fascinating person to be watching it with.
I tell you..I just can't wait.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wordless Wednesday...Let's Go To The Zoo!!

Pack a picnic, grab the camera, and let's go see the animals!


Victoria Crowned Pigeon



Bongo Antelopes


Wow, that was fun! See you next time!

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