24 July 2015

What Are You Up To This Weekend?

Hello there ~ I don't know about where you are, but here in Philadelphia it is a rare July day.  Temperature in the 80s.  Virtually no humidity.  Cooling off this evening down to the 60s, which is perfect for sleeping with the windows open.  If summer could be like this most of the time, I'd be on board.  But I plan to enjoy this as much as I can.  Tomorrow is supposed to be similar, so there's one more day to this lovely summer weather.

I took a day off today, and with the weather as it is, I can't believe that worked out!  Dug and I just got back from a lunch date.  We  went to a little cafe near our house and had a lovely lunch outside, in the shade.  There was a group of about 8 twenty-somethings at the table next to us, and they were in love with the Doodle Dog, and needless to say, he soaked up all of the attention like the happy love bug that he is.  Then after that, we went to the bakery next door and got a puppy treat for Dug, and some of their amazing Chocolate-Cherry Bread for us.

Later this afternoon, my niece Amanda and her husband Patrick will come up from Baltimore, and we'll head to dinner and then the a Diana Krall concert, at an outdoor venue here (again, who could have imagined we'd have a perfect weather evening for this towards the end of July?).  Then we'll meet them tomorrow morning before they head out for breakfast.  They have to leave early for another commitment later on Saturday.  We don't have any specific plans for the rest of Saturday, which is just fine with me.  Then The Tim works during the day on Sunday, and I'll do the usual exciting stuff - clean up, laundry, etc.

Not a bad weekend, right?

What about you?  Anything fun and/or exciting coming up?  Whatever you do or don't do, I hope you have a lovely weekend, and have a chance to relax!

14 July 2015

This. That. The Other Thing.

I'm still here.  The past couple of weeks have been busy, annoying, fun, lazy, and often hot and humid.  I have been uninspired in so many ways, that probably a lot of people I usually see in real life have been wondering where I am ...

Anyway, Happy Bastille Day!

I have always like Bastille Day, though I am not really too sure why.  Probably because I can't think of why I would disagree with this:
Tonight for dinner I made a [really] fake cassoulet - you know, more the spirit of the recipe than the law ... but it was yummy and there are leftovers for lunches, so though the French might say Zut alors!, I was pleased.  :-)

Our July 4th was a lot of fun.  I had assumed that - like other years - The Tim had to work on the holiday itself and/or on the weekend.  But it turned out that he was off the entire weekend, so Saturday morning we jumped into the car with Dug, and headed to Baltimore for an overnight visit.  My niece Amanda and her husband Pat were planning a party on their deck to watch the fireworks, and another niece and her family were gonna be there, as well as one of my sisters and her husband.  Plus other friends we knew.  The weather was perfect (no humidity - on July 4th!!!), and it was just a blast.  This guy had a particularly good time.

Then it was home to the usual - laundry, dr appts, and back to work.  Where people are being fired and are "resigning" left and right.  It's both demoralizing and stressful.  I just figure when I show up, if no one is escorting me out of the building and I'm still getting paid, I have my job for now.  And of course, those of us still there are just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Ugh.

Other than that, I have a little of my cleaning and my cooking/baking mojo back.  Nothing too major, since for the most part, it is now hot and humid and not conducive to much of that.  But besides my faux cassoulet tonight, I did make some feta salsa and a French chocolate silk pie to take to Baltimore, and they both went over very well.  When I told my sister that I was bringing the pie, she said (as a joke) that she would prefer if I brought "Freedom" pie.  So I told her that she was right, and so I would bring French Freedom Silk Pie ... I was quite pleased with my witty response, but The Tim just rolled his eyes ...

So that is what is new here lately.  I hope all of you are keeping cool, and having enough good stuff going on to outweigh any of the bad.

See you soon!

02 July 2015

2015 Second Quarter Book Report

Well, 2015 is halfway over, and that just seems weird to me.  Not for any particular reason, more that I hadn't given it a lot of thought until now.  This has been a weird time, this quarter.  Very stressful, but also very fun.  I have been all over the place mentally, but it's not like I'm being graded, so I'm not worried about it.

I did read a few things though, and so here are my reads from April, May, and June.

Rage Against the Dying, by Becky Masterman.  Brigid Quinn is a decommissioned FBI agent living in Tucson, Arizona, with her husband and their dogs.  She is starting a new life, having been let go from the agency after shooting a perp in the back.  Her husband doesn't have any idea of any details of her background, and how she worked on homicide.  One of the cases that still haunts her is the Route 66 killer, a serial killer whose last victim was a young female agent trained by Brigid.

When she hears that authorities have located a person of interest after all of these years, she gets back in touch he contacts.  They are happy for her interest, as they know of her past work on the case.  But when the young female agent working the case shows Brigid evidence that could prove they have arrested the wrong person, things begin to get complicated.  Suddenly, Brigid feels that she is being stalked, and just when the young agent she is helping seems to have found something to help the case, she disappears.

I don't want to say much more due to the complicated nature of the story, and because I don't want to give anyone spoilers if they decide to read this.  But I found the story really interesting, and Brigid to be a fascinating character, if not someone you could immediately warm up to.  The details of the serial killings are presented for informational purposes without being gratuitous or even as awful as they could be, so they carry along the story, allowing it to be more of a character study.

I would definitely give other books by this author a look, as I liked this one.

Carsick, by John Waters.  I gave this two stars because there were places where this made me laugh out loud.  But I also have to admit that I didn't finish it.  I like John Waters, but apparently in small doses. Plus, I am just really really really tired of the "f" word, and it is used SO much here, I just got tired of the whole thing.

The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins.  To be honest, I read the first 80 pages, and decided that I didn't like or care about any of the characters.  So I skimmed the rest, to see if it got any more interesting to me.  It didn't, and I liked the characters even less.  The mystery was interesting I guess, but feeling how I did about the people, I just didn't care in the end what happened to any of them.

Oh well.  On to the next book ...

Hotel du Lac, by Anita Brookner.  This is the first of Anita Brookner's books I have read, and I decided to try it after reading on someone's blog that they found her to be evocative of Barbara Pym.  You may or may not know I truly love Barbara Pym.

Anyway, this is the story of Edith Hope, who writes romance novels under a pseudonym (in the book, her pseudonym is described as a "more thrusting" name, which I LOVE).  She has - at least in the eyes of her friends - disgraced herself  in a relationship, and they convince her to travel to Switzerland to recover and regroup. She seems somewhat unwilling, but ends up at the Hotel du Lac.  It's the end of the tourist season, so only a few guests - mainly regulars - are there.  Edith finds that she is still surrounded by romance, intrigue, and gossip.  The other guests are a mix of different types, all of whom Edith observes through her own experiences and feelings.

I think Brookner's story here is evocative of Barbara Pym, and I did like the book.  I'm curious to read another one or two to see if she becomes one of my favorites.

Little Girl Lost, by Brian McGilloway.  This was the first book in a series featuring DS Lucy Black, a police officer who has returned home to Derry, Northern Ireland to care for her father who is suffering from Alzheimers Disease.  Lucy's parents were both police officers, though their marriage did not survive an attack on their home during The Troubles.

Lucy receives a call from one of the other detectives saying that a young girl wearing only pajamas was spotted by a passing truck driver in the woods near where Lucy lives.  They want her to head out immediately, since it will take them some time to get there in the blizzard conditions of that day.  Lucy finds the young girl, whom everyone suspected/hoped was a local girl who had been kidnapped.  Except this girl is not that girl.  But it turns out that she is a key piece in locating the kidnapped girl.

As things unfold, Lucy deals with family issues, learning more about what may have led to the attack on her childhood home, and how impossible it is for things to tie themselves up neatly with a bow.

I liked Lucy, and found this story interesting.  There were some very disturbing things as well as some sad events, but all within the framework of Lucy's experiences.  I will definitely read the next book in this series.

The Awakening of Miss Prim, by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera.  I really wanted to like this book, and I did finish reading it, but I can't say I liked it.  The story is about Prudencia Prim, a librarian (of course, with that name) who moves to a small European town to become a librarian for a prominent citizen, cataloging his library.  He has custody of a niece and a nephew, and also educates other children in the town in classical languages and literature.

The townspeople are all outcasts from the "modern" world by choice, and the place goes along at its own pace.  Upon Prudencia's arrival, a group of local women determine that they need to help her find a husband, and frankly, I felt that I knew how this would all end.

Disappointing at best.

The Shepherd's Life : A Tale of the Lake District, by James Rebanks.  So good, so informative, and so entertaining to a non-country person like me.  This book makes you realize the hard work that is involved in keeping sheep in a world that is no longer primarily agricultural, but also consumer-oriented.  It's also a story of a family, and how a life that had sustained them for so many years is forced to adapt to the world as it is today.

I see that this author has other books and I will definitely read those.

This was an audiobook that I listened to, and I think in some ways that made it seem more personal and immediate.  I recommend this to anyone who is interested in animals, farming, and the lives of others.

File M for Murder, by Miranda James.  I had just read a book that I didn't like, and was having a stressful week, so I decided I needed something that I would enjoy but that would not be heavy and "meaningful."  This book fit the bill.

In this installment of the series, Charlie Harris is thrilled when his daughter comes home to teach at Athena College for a semester - he seldom sees her now that she lives in California.  It turns out that her boyfriend, a famous playwright, is also teaching there for the semester.  When he is murdered, things get complicated for Charlie, Laura, and their entire family.  It's up to all of them - including Diesel, the Maine Coon cat - to try and find out what happened before one of them is hurt, or something worse.

I enjoyed this book.  It had enough going on to be entertaining, the mystery did not seem immediately solvable (at least not to me).  And of course, I like that Charlie is a librarian who gets to take his cat to work with him!  :-)

Friends in High Places, by Marne Davis Kellogg.  Kick Keswick is enjoying her life in Provence, a quiet and content existence, when she learns that there is trouble brewing at the auction house in London where she used to work.  When her husband Thomas is called away to investigate something for Scotland Yard, she returns to London to see what is going on.  From there, she is thrown back into the world of high end auctions and in this case, a set of particular jeweled Madonnas and a cursed ruby necklace.

Kick investigates as only she can, with her ability to change her looks and identity, her knowledge of gems and history, and her amazing lifestyle.  As usual, the book is a fun read, with exotic locales, amazing food and drink, and adventures that you know will turn out OK, but you are not sure how it will happen.

I enjoy this series, and hadn't read one for a while. I enjoyed hanging out with an old friend again.

Some Luck, by Jane Smiley.  I tried, I really did.  I read to page 86.  But I am not finishing this one.  I can't feel any kind of connection with any of the characters, and then I got to the part where the father in the story shot a dog and her puppies, because she was a stray and he and his wife were afraid they carried disease.

Yes, this happened in the 1920s, on a farm, etc., etc., but since I just wasn't feeling the love for this, that part sealed the deal.

This is the only Jane Smiley book I have ever picked up to read, and it was disappointing.  She has such a wonderful reputation and so many people love her work, I was looking forward to this.

Anyway, not happening - on to the next book.

Landline, by Rainbow Rowell.  Georgie McCool and her friend and writing partner Seth are finally getting the chance to pitch the sitcom they have been developing since college to a network.  They have just a few days to get four episodes ready to present to network brass, and it's their dream come true.  Both have been working on another show as writers, but doing their own thing has always been their dream.

The problem is, this is all happening right before Christmas, and Georgie, her husband Neal, and their two young daughters are supposed to be flying to Omaha to spend the holiday with Neal's mother and family.  Georgie is sure that Neal will understand her situation, and decide they should all stay in California.  The surprise is when Neal and the girls go to Omaha anyway.

At this point, Georgie is at a loss, and begins staying at her mother's house.  One night, using a yellow landline phone from her former teenage bedroom, she manages to get in touch with Neal (he finally picks up instead of his cell going right to voicemail), and they have a wonderful conversation.  Except Georgie becomes convinced that the phone is magic, connecting her to the past when she and Neal first got together.   She decides that if they can talk on that phone, they can avoid their future issues.

The book goes along with Georgie trying to fix things with Neal, decide if phone conversations are real or imagined, trying to work with Seth on their big break, and trying to convince her mother and younger sister that she is not getting a divorce.

This was a good book, and really entertaining in some spots.  It was good at pointing out the way that couples are around one another after they have been married for many years, and how sometimes something drastic needs to happen in order for them to remember why they are together in the first place.

I enjoyed the book, though I didn't love it.  But - I didn't hate it either.  It was worth the time spent reading.

Killer Hair, by Ellen Byerrum.  This is one of those books that was exactly what I needed when I read it.  Life was stressful, and I wanted to read something but nothing that required tons of attention and concentration.  This filled the bill and was entertaining as well.

Lacey Smithsonian (her grandfather changed the name from simply Smith) writes a fashion column for a relatively unknown Washington DC newspaper.  When a stylist at the salon she goes to is found dead, the police are content to think it's suicide, but Lacey's stylist Stella feels sure that the girl was murdered. She knows Lacey has some contacts, and asks her to investigate. Though reluctant at first, she starts to get more involved and pretty soon she discovers some interesting things going on with some of the people involved with the salon and its owners.

When another woman is killed in the same way, Lacey finds herself deeper into the mystery and the investigation.  She gets closer and closer to finding the killer, at great risk to herself.

I enjoyed this book, not just because it was an entertaining mystery, but because of the observations about life in DC and the people who live there.  I lived in DC for seven years, and knew exactly the types she was talking about, as well as the locations she described, even if they had fictional names.

If you want a quick, enjoyable read, you might enjoy this one.


So there you have it.  Have you read any of these?   What are your thoughts?  Let me know, and feel free to leave any recommendations in the comments.