Monday, September 28, 2015

Review: Murder at Mullings

Murder at Mullings Murder at Mullings by Dorothy Cannell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was surprised to discover that this is a recent novel; the style was much more that of a novel written in the 1920's or 1930's.

Florence Norris is sent into service in the early 1900's and works at Stodmarsh where she eventually becomes housekeeper. Lady Stodmarsh dies suddenly, under mysterious circumstances. However, although Florence has her suspicions, she has no proof. Lord Stodmarsh remarries, much to everyone's surprise and even dismay. When he dies, the new Lady Stodmarsh begins a new regime that incurs the hatred of the family. And then there is definite murder. Florence eventually takes her previous suspicions to the police, which helps them solve the current crimes.

I felt that this was a very slow-moving story, and while I liked the main characters, I felt that I kept at a distance from the story.

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Review: All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot See All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's hard to describe this book. It's the story of two people, Marie-Laure and Werner who are only children when WWII starts. Marie-Laure is blind, and lives with her father in Paris. Her father is a master locksmith who works at the national museum and is in charge of all the keys and locks in the museum. He's also a genius at making three dimensional wooden puzzles, and makes a model city for his daughter. Each birthday he presents her with one of his puzzles in which he's hidden her present. She needs to figure out how to open it in order to retrieve her gift. As the Germans approach Paris, he hides what might be a mythic valuable diamond in one of Marie-Laure's houses. They make their way as refugees to St. Malo to a relative's home where he is eventually arrested. Marie-Laure stays with her great uncle for the remainder of the war, until he too is arrested. She is trapped in her uncle's home when the Allies begin the bombardment of St. Malo. Concurrently, Werner is raised in an orphanage in Germany. Because of his mathematical genius, he is sent to an elite training school where he becomes a master at building radio transceivers and transponders. His schooling is cut short when his genius is recognized and he is assigned to a team whose task it is to locate enemy radio broadcasters. The paths of both of these characters eventually cross in St. Malo.

The real story however, is much more philosophical. How does each character respond to light or to the lack of light. Marie-Laure who can see no visible light, is filled with it through her other senses. Werner, whose light is in the beauty of mathematics and radio waves, is blinded by the power of Nazi propaganda and his desire to escape the poverty of his childhood.

The author tells the story through alternating points of view, and alternating past and present. Both characters are sympathetic and compelling. This is a book I will read again.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Review: Dead in the Water: A Marjory Fleming Thriller

Dead in the Water: A Marjory Fleming Thriller Dead in the Water: A Marjory Fleming Thriller by Aline Templeton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

DI Marjory Fleming has been asked to re-open a very cold case, one in which the investigation by now-Superintendent Bailey and her father was less than stellar. At the same time, tensions between the "townies" and a group of Polish workmen are rising and a popular TV show is filming in town. The star of the show had been accused of involvement with the cold case which doesn't help. In addition, the Fiscal, Sheila Milne, who dislikes Fleming, may have had a relationship with the show's star, and it appears that Milne has "fixed" a number of tickets for him. Once again, Fleming is forced to make some very difficult choices. Her decisions have dire consequences which impact an actor, her relationship with her colleagues, her family, and her career. Another good installment in this series.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Review: Who Do You Love

Who Do You Love Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What I like about this genre is that the endings are always predictable and satisfying. The enjoyable part of the book is the journey you go on to get to the ending.

Rachel is born with a congenital heart defect that defines her life. The daughter of a well-to-do Jewish couple, she's raised as a "Jewish princess" and enjoys the benefits of doting, if overprotective parents. Andy is the biracial son of a single mom. He grows up in a Philadelphia row house in a poor section of the city. He has anger management problems, but before this gets him too deep in trouble, he discovers his passion for running.

Rachel and Andy meet in a hospital when they are 8. They make an instant connection, but lose touch until late high school, when they both find each other again on a community service project. First love hits them both hard, until Andy sees a side of Rachel he hates. They continue to experience an on again/off again relationship throughout college. At a sorority party, Andy and Rachel break up, for good, or so they think. 9/11 brings them back to together for a while, but eventually they split up. You know that they will eventually wind up together, but it takes them several more crises to bring them together.

This was a pretty enjoyable way to spend a few hours.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Willy-Nilly Wednesday

1.  At water aerobics this early morning (7 am), I was greeted by the other regulars and I was asked how my Labor Day weekend was.  It struck me that this was something I've missed about my job --- the collegial check ins with each other when we return from weekends, or even the daily morning updates about families, spouses, etc.  I've been attending this class now for almost a month, and today was the first time that I felt that I'd become a "regular" instead of a newbie.

2.  We did have a great Labor Day weekend.  Elder Son came home Sat. morning to pick up some items he'd had shipped here (to save sales tax!) and to help me solve a pesky computer problem.  (I was secretly happy that he had the same issues I'd been having --- it wasn't an easy fix.)  We also upgraded my computer to Windows 10.  Then the 3 of us went to a local art show and out to lunch.  On Sunday, my husband and I headed a couple hours west to Bennington,VT to attend the VT Garlic Festival.  Who knew VT had a garlic festival?  We'd been to the Gilroy Garlic Festival in CA a couple of years ago, and decided to see what New England had to offer.  It was much bigger than we'd expected, and we spend several hours tasting all sorts of garlicky treats.

We also stopped at this place:

The Bennington Battle Monument 

We've driven past the monument many many times, but had never driven up the hill to actually look at it.    I figured it was time!

3.  It's been wicked hot and humid this past week --- temps in the 90's.  We've had almost 20 days of 90+ degree weather this summer.  Normal is about 10.    I'm very grateful for the luxury of air conditioning.

4.  I've been freezing basil from our CSA and from the pot on my deck.  I think I've got plenty put away.  I was going to make pesto, but had no pine nuts or even walnuts.   I also have frozen a number of Thai chili peppers and a few jalapeƱos.  My cherry tomatoes are very slow.  I think it's because of the torrential rain/drought/torrential rain/drought cycles we've endured this summer.  

5.  I've been reading quite a bit, and finally figured out how to get my book reviews back on the blog in a much less cumbersome method.  

6.  I am SICK of surveys and junk phone calls. Despite the fact that we've registered our phone number(s) with the, we still get them.  And one disadvantage to living in the "First in the nation" primary state are the uncountable political surveys!!  I got 3 calls yesterday afternoon in the space of an hour.

7.  I've also spent time on the phone the past few weeks --- dealing with customer service people regarding my internet service, an erroneous credit card charge, travel questions, and changing dr's appointments.  How did I ever manage to get these things done when I was working?

Review: Still Waters

Still Waters Still Waters by Viveca Sten
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a new author for me. The story is set in Sweden, on the island of Sandhamm. A stranger's body has washed up on shore. The police are ready to write it off as an accidental drowning, when the body of a visitor is discovered in her hotel bedroom. The two victims turn out to be cousins, so both deaths are treated as suspicious. The investigation is led by Thomas Andreasson, who has lived on the island. He is recovering from a painful divorce caused by the sudden death of his infant daughter. One of the main characters in the story is Nora Linde, Thomas' lifelong friend. She is married to a sailing enthusiast and she and her husband spend summers in her island home. She aids Thomas in the investigation even as she faces a decision about her career that threatens her marriage.

I usually steer clear of Scandinavian police procedurals. I don't know if the fact that they are usually translated into English puts distance between the reader and the characters in the book tha that make it difficult for me to get invested in either the story or the characters. I had an eaiser time with this one, but I connected more with Nora than with the lead detective. I was not happy that her story line was not resolved; perhaps it will be continued in future installments.

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Friday, September 4, 2015

Review: The Pure in Heart: A Simon Serrailler Mystery

The Pure in Heart: A Simon Serrailler Mystery The Pure in Heart: A Simon Serrailler Mystery by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Argh!! I really liked this second installment in the Simon Serrailler series, but the ending just left me hanging. I debated giving this book only 3 stars because of that, but it was so engrossing, I couldn't. Nine year old David Angus goes missing on his way to school, and there are no clues. Serrailler and his team are at a loss. Serrailler is confused by the death of Freya Graffham, one of his officers and seems to be mourning what might have been. At the same time, his younger sister Martha, institutionalized since birth, reaches a health crisis, and his casual girlfriend Diana Mason declares her love for him. This book is less about the mystery and much more about Serrailler's attempts to deal with the turmoil in his life. I like him better in this book, than I did in the first, and I really like how DS Nathan Coates' character is developing. I am beginning to think that this series will have a very long story arc, and I'm looking forward to its development.

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Review: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of memoirs, and they don't even have to be those of traditionally famous people. I also like to read books about people who undertake "against the odds" quests. I've even enjoyed books about hiking, and my idea of a hike is out to the mailbox. This book checked all boxes.

Cheryl Strayed is grieving the loss of her mother, and in fact, is grieving her life as the dirt-poor child of a single mother. She describes herself as having a hole in her heart that she's tried to fill with promiscuity and drugs. Her mother's death propels her away from her husband, who she describes as her best friend, into a short term relationship with heroin. After an intervention, Strayed makes a rash decision to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert to Washington. She has never been a hiker, and while she does research what she needs, she does little to prepare herself physically for the trek. This book traces her physical, emotional, and spiritual journey as she travels along the difficult trail. The journey becomes one of self-revelation and self-acceptance.

She's a good writer; I read the majority of this in one day, abandoning all chores. While she did describe some of the beauty she experienced along the trail, her descriptive emphasis was on the physical and emotional experience, and I appreciated how the physical scars paralleled her emotional scars.

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