Monday, November 30, 2015

Review: A Fete Worse Than Death

A Fete Worse Than Death A Fete Worse Than Death by Dolores Gordon-Smith
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Jack Haldean, former WW1 pilot, now writes detective stories, and has assisted Scotland Yard in their investigations. When an acquaintance is murdered at a local fete, Jack is invited to lend a hand. The case leads him to uncover blackmail and treason. This is the first of a series, which takes place in England shortly after WWI. The characters are likable and the plot was interesting enough to keep me reading although it wasn't too hard to figure out.

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Review: C is for Corpse

C is for Corpse C is for Corpse by Sue Grafton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Grafton is getting into her groove with this installment. Kinsey Milhone is hired by the victim of a horrific accident who is convinced that the accident was murder attempt. She no sooner begins to investigate when her client dies in a second automobile crash. Now she is convinced there's something fishy going on. She's also suspicious of her landlord's new girlfriend who seems to have something to hide.
This is a solid read, not too difficult to figure out, with likable characters.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Review: A Woman Betrayed

A Woman Betrayed A Woman Betrayed by Barbara Delinsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Laura Frye's world implodes when her husband of 20 years disappears. When an IRS agent shows up accusing him of tax fraud, Laura realizes that his disappearance isn't accidental. As with other Delinsky novels I've read, this is a story in which the protagonist is forced to reexamine past choices, and is given an opportunity to choose a different path. In this novel, the characters are likable and the ending is happy. I like the way Delinsky includes enough setting detail that shows she's familiar with the geographic area which helps make the novel more realistic, even if some of the plot elements are not.

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Monday, November 23, 2015

Soup Season

I love soup and confess to eating it for lunch at least 4 times each week.  Most of the soup I consume comes from a Progresso can, at least until soup season starts.  Once the weather gets chilly, I do make soup fairly frequently, but it's almost always some variation on cabbage soup or a "refrigerator" soup made from leftover veggies and salad fixings.  This soup season I wanted to branch out and try some other varieties.  I also told my husband to expect a weekly soup for dinner.

When we went to Indiana earlier this month we stopped at a restaurant in Ohio which had this delicious stuffed pepper soup.  So I found a number of recipes for it on Pinterest, and then created my own version two weeks ago.  It knocked our socks off!  I forgot to memorialize it with a photo.   All I did was brown extra lean hamburger and throw it into my crockpot along with 4 chopped bell peppers, 1 large chopped onion, 2 small cans of diced tomatoes, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 4 cups of beef broth, and a can of tomato paste. I added oregano, basil, and 2 bay leaves and cooked it on high for about 4 hours.  I made brown rice separately which I put into our bowls and then put the hot soup over the rice. Yummers!

This week I've got chicken and corn chowder simmering in the ole crockpot.

This is Pinterest recipe which you can find here:
Slow Cooker Chicken and Corn Chowder

I didn't use the bacon since my husband intensely dislikes bacon (I know, I know, how can he not like bacon??) and I used a can of cream-style corn for part of the corn since that's what was in the pantry.  I didn't have any cayenne either, but did have a sample size jar of Berbere Seasoning Blend from Penzey's.  It's main component is cayenne, so I put in about 1/2 tsp.  I might add a pinch more the next time I make the soup.  (I LOVE and purchase all my herbs and spices from them.)

I won't be making a turkey soup this week since we're not going to be home for the feast, which is the downside to going elsewhere for the holiday.  

We'll see what recipe catches my attention for next week's soup!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: The Zig Zag Girl

The Zig Zag Girl The Zig Zag Girl by Elly Griffiths
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

During WWII, Edgar Stephens was seconded to a special intelligence group stationed on Scotland's eastern coast. He and the group, dubbed the "Magic Men" were charged with creating a faked military base that would fool the Germans into thinking that a huge military offensive was about to be launched. Stephens found himself working with a group of professional magicians who understood how to create misdirection. Now the war is over, and all have gone their separate ways. Stephens is now a Detective Inspector in Brighton. When the severed body of a magician's assistant is brought to his attention, he renews his acquaintance with the world of theatrical magic. As his investigation progresses, it's clear that the Magic Men themselves are the targets.

I love Elly Griffiths' Ruth Galloway series so I was excited to find a new series. Unfortunately I was disappointed. I couldn't get engaged with any of the characters, and really wasn't interested in the plot. Griffiths was successful in creating seedy, depressing atmosphere, but I felt the characters were also depressed, down-on-their-luck men who felt like failures in life. I also figured out who the murderer was well before the end. Perhaps later installments will improve. There was a lot of "backstory" and what appeared to be groundsetting for future plots. I'm not sure how eager I will be to find out.

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

November Notes

You'd think I'd have all the time in the world to keep this blog up to date now that I'm retired.  Ha!

I do tend to fritter away a bit too many minutes playing Facebook games.  I play Candy Crush Soda, Words with Friends, Solitaire Castle, and my favorite, Mahjong Trails.  I have this internet routine on days that I don't have to be out the door (like to a 7 am water aerobics class):  Get myself my first (and usually only) cup of coffee and check my email.  Then I check FB.  I generally play whatever games of Words that are ready for my move, and then I go to my 5 tries at Candy Crush Soda.  Next is a survey of my daily blogs - Ravelry, Yarn Harlot, Pioneer Woman, and Big Mama.  Then I take a break and shower, eat breakfast, etc.  I come back to the computer and check to see if there's any new email, and then it's off to FB where I play my rounds of Mahjongg Trails.  I've been "off" Solitaire Castle lately, so I haven't been playing that.     On days that I go to the pool, I check email and FB, play WWF, and do the rest of the routine when I get back.  Not a very edifying start to the day, but hey, so what?

We went to Indiana for 5 days last week for a niece's wedding.  We drove the almost 2000 miles round trip - just my husband and I -- and returned still enjoying each other's company!  The wedding was lovely, and we enjoyed visiting with 2 of my sisters and their families.

I'm also attending a weekly book study at church.  We're reading a book called Real Good Church by Rev. Molly Baskette.  She writes about she and her congregation resurrected itself from a dying church to a vibrant healthy one.  My church is dying so we are looking for ways to save ourselves.  I am feeling good about getting involved with a small group at church again.  I still have no interest in going back to a leadership role at the church.  I'm trying to figure out why.  I also am struggling to attend services regularly despite the fact that the pastor's sermons are interesting and more importantly, challenging.

I have been reading a lot too, and knitting almost every day.   I've even gone back to regular library visits.  I can't believe that for the past 2 years I've solely relied on e-books that I've either borrowed electronically from the state library through Overdrive, or that I've purchased.  My husband was surprised the walls didn't collapse when I walked into the brick library in the center of town!  I used to go at least once a week, and then suddenly never.  I know that that started because they changed the hours, and I found it hard to get into the library at a convenient to me time.

Next week we're heading to CT for Thanksgiving with my cousins.  I'm looking forward to that.

A few pictures from the past few weeks.

In Columbus, Indiana at the wedding.

Chicken Noodle Soup (homemade!) at a diner in Troy, NY on the way back from the wedding.

Afinished cowl - Let It Go by Diane Augustin

A finished sweater - Mindy by Julia Farwell-Clay.

The start of the Biplex Cowl by Laura Nelkin

Review: The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O'Clock Lady

The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O'Clock Lady The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O'Clock Lady by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Another cozy read. I enjoyed the information about the CCC camps. My uncle was an "enrollee" in a camp located in West Virginia. AFter the war he made his career in lumber as a result of his experiences during his time in the CCC.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Review: The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush

The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book more than the previous Darling Dahlias book. Although the constant rehashing of backstories still annoys me, the cozy plot was more engaging than the last. These are nowhere as good as Alberts' China Bayles series, but you can be guaranteed a happy ending and some good recipes. And it is fun to spend a bit of time in the idyllic town of Darling.

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Review: Brush Back

Brush Back Brush Back by Sara Paretsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one kept me on the edge of my seat for most of the book! Frank Guzzo, VI Warshawski's first love, asks her to help him figure out if his mother Stella, who has recently been released from prison, was framed for murdering her daughter. V.I. wants no part of the investigation. Stella has always hated the Warshawski family, and even Frank blamed her family for his failure to impress major league baseball scouts. As is usual in this series, circumstances converge to draw V.I. deep into an investigation that involves not only the Guzzo family, but the Uzbeki Mob and Illinois politicians.

I liked the reflective tone VI took on as she tried to keep her niece Bernie out of harm's way. She's also beginning to question how long she can meet the physical demands of the job. Once again, there is a dark and gritty aspect to events, and VI is on the receiving end of quite a bit of violence.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Review: Critical Mass

Critical Mass Critical Mass by Putnam Adult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It's been a while since I've read this series-2013 was the last time to be exact! I just got the newest one from the library and realized I'd missed this one, so I read this first. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy the series. I read this in almost one sitting, (interrupted by having to cook dinner.) V.I. Warshawski's friend Lotty Herschel has asked her to look for Judy Binder, the daughter of a fellow Holocaust survivor. V.I. is stymied by the lack of cooperation from Judy's relatives, and discovers a greater mystery when Judy's son Martin is discovered to have gone missing. Meth addicts, nuclear physics, and high tech secrets become intertwined as V.I.'s investigation continues. The plot was exciting, and kept me reading.

As I was reading I realized how similar V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Milhone are. Both are single private investigators. Both live closely to elderly single men who look out for them and often get involved with their investigations. Both use running for exercise and for thinking. Both ignore sensible advice and go with their hearts which gets them into some dicey situations. There are differences of course, and overall, I think that the Warshawski plots are grittier and darker than the Milhone plots. I like both characters a lot, however, and will continue reading both.

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Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review: Death Come Quickly

Death Come Quickly Death Come Quickly by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this China Bayles installment, China finds herself trying to figure out how a college film project was the catalyst for the murder of a friend. The story was interesting enough to hold my attention, although I think by this point in the series, the author doesn't need to spend quite so much time with reminding readers of what's happened in previous books. What I like about the series are the interactions the characters have with each other. China and Ruby feel like my friends, and I love the way China and McQuaid's marriage is portrayed. I also like the recipes!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Review: The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star

The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star The Darling Dahlias and the Texas Star by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I don't expect a lot from this series, but it was the weakest one I've read so far. Far-fetched plot and too "cutesy."

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Review: Flesh and Bone

Flesh and Bone Flesh and Bone by Jefferson Bass
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A good book!! It kept me turning pages quickly. Dr. Bill Brockton, a forensic anthropologis, and Medical Examiner Jess Carter have worked together on a number of cases and are on the verge of developing a romantic relationship. Brockton is director of the University of Tennessee's "Body Farm" and is a professor at the college. He inadvertently upsets a student with his rant against creationism, and is about to be sued by the student's parents. Meanwhile, he and Carter are investigating the murder of a drag queen. One morning Brockton arrives at the Body Farm to discover a dead body that's not supposed to be there, and Brockton is accused as the killer.

I liked the characters, and the plot had several good twists. There were some gory bits, but nothing you can't skip over if you don't like those kinds of details.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Review: Bones Are Forever

Bones Are Forever Bones Are Forever by Kathy Reichs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first Kathy Reichs I've read in long time, and I enjoyed getting re-acquainted with the series. In this outing, Dr. Temperance Brennan is investigating the death of several infants found in an apartment. Brennan, and her erstwhile lover Ryan, head to Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories as they search for the woman suspected of murdering the infants. Brennan is joined by Oliver Hasty, a man she'd had an affair with when her marriage first dissolved, and of course there is tension between Ryan and Hasty. The investigation gets complicated with the addition of a possible turf war between some drug dealers and prostitution ringleaders, and the addition of several more dead bodies. I'd forgotten how complicated the original Temperance Brennan is, and how much I like this incarnation better than the TV version. The stories are better too.

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Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Review: The Dead of Winter

The Dead of Winter The Dead of Winter by Rennie Airth
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is another entry in the John Madden series. I found it way too slow-going for 95% of the book, with too much talking and not much action. It's also a weird premise: the "hero" investigator is a long-retired and revered detective who is still friends with the current crop of detectives. He's brought into the investigation as a courteous gesture since one of the victims worked on his farm. But for most of the book, Madden is back on his farm asking productive questions. And as in previous Madden novels, there's a dicey denouement with the villain. I liked the previous books better.

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