30 January 2019

Neither Ravelling Nor Unravelling ... But Reading!

I've been reading the posts for Unraveled Wednesdays on Kat's blog, even though I've been reading but not knitting.  It's as much fun for me to see what everyone is reading as much as what everyone has been knitting.  I'm still not knitting, but I can share a recent read and a current one today.

This was one of those 99-cent deals for the Nook. 

It was very short (~95 pages) and very awful.  Even the main character having a dog couldn't save it. I only finished it because I could not for the life of me imagine how it was all going to be wrapped up in a way that made sense.  Not recommended.  (And it annoys me to no end that someone who spells her name as I do is such a bad writer.  I'm taking it quite personally.)

Fortunately, I had this book in the wings, and was able to start it a couple of days ago.  I'm really enjoying it, which is not a surprise, since I figured I'd like it.

I like the characters of Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin, and I will be curious to see not just how the case in the book works out, but how/if their working relationship is able to improve.

No knitting ... at least not yet, but we'll see what happens at Monday's appt with the surgeon.

Have a good one, and keep warm!

29 January 2019

Some Randomness for a Tuesday

I forgot to download photos from my camera, so you are getting this post right now instead of the one I was planning to write that had a particular photo for it.  No matter, you'll see it sooner or later.

In the meantime, I'm in the mood to write, but have nothing specific to write about so it's time for some random ramblings from my brain.

1.  One of the local TV stations had a meterologist who is also a big DIY person.  She is always referencing projects she's made/working on, and also posts the results on Instagram pretty frequently.  Lately, she has decided to create a YouTube channel, and the first one is for a yarn ball wreath.  Of course, not being a knitter, she had to buy the yarn to cover the balls, but I give her credit for sharing.  I think sharing your DIY projects would be a recipe for disaster for me, as mine do not always quite live up to my imaginings of them ...

2.  The other day, I overheard someone talking about how many days it was until the first day of summer (no I didn't make note of it because a) I don't care, and b) I try hard to live in the moment).  And I had a revelation.  When Christmas decorations are put out for sale in stores right after Labor Day, people begin to have conniptions about it.  However, when someone starts talking about the first day of summer in January, it's all good.  Puh-leeze.  Don't b*tch about one and say the other is different. 

3.  I am currently in a situation at work where two individual co-workers have decided that they are in charge of all of us, particularly me and my work.  Of course, they have no training or background in my work, but they know better.  I am keeping a file of all e-mails, etc. so that I can visit HR at some point.  It won't do any good, because our HR is technically in place, but in truth does nothing for anyone (mostly due to fear of legal reprisal), but I'll have the file should it become such a level of harrassment that I need to take it further.  Most of the time, people take my ability to work with anyone and be flexible as weakness.  However, they have no idea what they are walking themselves right into.  And I have never been one to care if someone liked me or not.  I can be civil and work with just about anyone.  But it doesn't mean I'm not paying attention.  And, as my mother used to say, I'm the sort of person who "would just as soon look at you as go to hell."  (No, I don't really understand it, but I get what it's saying, and to be honest, it's true.)

4.  The other day I was walking down the hall at work and a young boy was standing with his father/brother/caretaker looking at the mummy exhibit.  The adult was explaining how the mummification process works as best he could to the kid.  When he finished, the kid said, "That's a lot of work.  Just put me in the trash when I die."  Which amused me, but also made me think that would be a whole 'nother level of trouble if they followed his direction.  :-)

5.  I had a weird dream last night where Kym invited me to her house for cookies, but then when I got there, her husband said she had moved into a trailer in the back yard and was not talking to anyone.  So, Kym if you are reading this, and that ever happens, please leave some cookies with your husband so I can at least have one or two.  Oh, and maybe think about getting some help?  (WHY did I dream this????!!!  Maybe because I heard a news story about Kalamazoo, and I think she lives there?  Maybe *I'm* the one who needs help ... )

6.  We are leaving on Friday after work for an overnight visit to my niece and her husband in Baltimore.  Hamlet is going with us, and they are dying to meet him.  She sent me a note asking what his favorite treats and toys are, because "we want to be his most popular relatives."  You can see why they are popular with us, right???  ;-)

7.  My sister in California and I were talking on the phone the other day, and she was telling me that her 4-year old granddaughter Ari said she couldn't wait until she grew up so she could be rich.  Nancy asked her how she was going to be rich, and Ari said, "I'm going to marry money, and become a famous 'modeler' (read: model)."  She is the only 4-year-old I've ever heard of who used the phrase "marry money" - which is amusing, but also unsettling ...

8.  The Tim informed me the other day that the Eagles are not in the Super Bowl this year.  Is he on top of things or what???  (Go Rams!)

So there you go, news you can use.  Actually neither, if you think about it.  :-) 

24 January 2019

With All This Time to Think About Knitting ...

As you know - and are likely tired of hearing - I have not been able to knit for months, due to a broken wrist.  For the most part, I've done a lot more reading, but I miss being able to watch a TV show or movie and still work on something.  Or, knit and listen to a podcast or some music.  Hopefully when I visit the surgeon on February 4, she'll say I can start knitting again, but in the meantime, I've done LOTS of thinking about knitting!  

So I thought I'd share three of those thoughts with you today, as part of Three on Thursday, with Carole and others. 

1.  This weekend is Vogue Knitting Live in New York, and it sounds like so many people are planning to go, even if only to peruse the marketplace.  Which sounds like a lot of fun, since like most things, there are special yarn colorways dyed for the event, special project bags and giveaways, etc.  But one of the things I think would be the most fun would be meeting some people I know but really don't, or even just see what they look like in person.  Even in the case of designers or people who do video podcasts, I have a certain idea in my mind of what they are like.  So it's always fun to see if they look the way I think they do/should, and how they sound if you are talking to them one on one.  I remember the first time I got to meet Clara Parkes at a Maryland Sheep and Wool.  She was standing by herself in one of the barns, clearly waiting to meet up with someone.  I introduced myself and though I knew what she looked like from photos, she really did look like that, and she was genuinely what I had expected and hoped she would be.  She didn't know me at all, but was still as friendly as if we had been hanging out together all day.

2. I am liking some of the make-alongs that various podcasters are doing.  A whole (rather large) group is doing a New To You MAL, which I think is a great idea.  The primary requirement is that you try something that you have never done before.  From postings I've seen on Instagram, it looks like a wide variety of things are being included, from the very intricate and involved, to things that are not overly difficult, just new to some people.  I like that it is so inclusive.  And then New England Gal is doing a Finish That Stuff MAL, which is basically for people to work on things that may have been sitting around unfinished for too long.  (I think that nearly every knitter I know would qualify for that one!)  Needless to say, I'm not officially joining either of these (or most likely any others down the road), but I think that these two in particular are good ideas.

3.  Am I the only one who thinks that too many new patterns are coming out these days?  I'm kinda sorta joking, but seriously, it seems that every time you look at Ravelry, or a knit publication, or listen to a podcast, there are at least 50 new patterns a day!  Not that I like them all, or even want to ever knit them, but I'm suddenly feeling the information overload related to it.  Though I guess it's a good problem to have, right??

So there you go, right from my brain to your eyes.  I hope the rest of your day goes well.

18 January 2019

Another TGIF Post for You

Oh it's been a week, let me tell you.  But you know what?  It's Friday, and in my case at least, leading to a 3-day weekend, as we have MLK Day as a holiday.  I don't even care that it's supposed to rain like a flood on Sunday and then freeze overnight because of the polar vortex, because I don't have to even leave the house except to take Hamlet for walks.  Mind you, I do feel cheated because the flooding rain on Sunday was originally predicted to be snow.  But since it's a long weekend, I'm gonna let it pass ...

Anyway, I have decided that this is a perfect time for another TGIF post to make me re-orient my thoughts.

Thinking about - how if you are someone who loves winter, you are considered some kind of weirdo freak.  But if you love summer, you are "normal."  Who decided that?  No, never mind I really don't care, I will always take winter over summer.  Sorry normal people.

Grateful for - the words of Mary Oliver.  Her poetry may have been dismissed by critics, but for someone like me, who has an ambivalent at best feeling towards most poetry, it made me happy.  Because words and language are a deep and meaningful part of my soul and being.

Inspired by - all of the voices raised to challenge, inform, and share knowledge and experiences this week on Instagram and other places as a result of a blog post by a woman getting ready to take a life-changing trip.  I am guessing that this weeks' events gave "life-changing" a different meaning than she originally intended, but I am glad that people spoke up and out to let everyone else know the real state of things.  I have many opinions (because, well, I'm me), but in cases like this I do a truly poor job of making them coherent.  So I would just ask that you read, think, and learn from all of this.  And try as hard as you possibly can to do better.  I consciously try, and often fail because I haven't give things enough thought, or I just did not know something.  No one should stop learning, ever.

Fun things - I have no idea.  Doing nothing is fun, but so is a good book, a good cup of tea, an old movie (particularly one of the ones that just have you thinking, "What?"), and animals to cuddle.  Or baking gingerbread muffins on a cold day.  Just being, when you are fortunate enough to be able to do that because it's what you want to do.

I hope all of you have a lovely weekend, and a safe one.  Be kind to each other.  And remember that we are all just passing through.

Penn and Oden

14 January 2019

Once Again, My Mother Was Right

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you have been subjected to many of my mother's favorite sayings.  One of the ones we would hear most often growing up was "It's either an a** or an elbow with you, isn't it?"  This was said when for instance you just got over a cold and then sprained an ankle, or some combination like that. 

She was right.  

Of course, you all know of my long and varied times of getting over one illness or injury, just to have another show up.  It happens to everyone at one point or another, but in my most self-pitying moments, I feel like it only happens to me.  The day in October that I finally felt like I was truly recovered from pneumonia was the day I feel and broke my wrist.  A**, meet elbow.

At the moment, it's not *exactly* the same, but close enough.  When I fell and broke my wrist, I also broke two front teeth.  One had been previously broken a few years ago when I fell (I guess) and ended up with kidney cancer.  Last month, I was eating yogurt, and the temporary replacement that had been put on the one tooth in October came off.  Since I had maxed out my dental insurance, I was waiting until now for them to be able to do two crowns:  one for the broken tooth, and one for the implant in progress.  The dentist temporarily fixed the tooth, and all was well.  I have an appt this coming Thursday afternoon for the crown over the implant site.

And now that appt will also include temporarily fixing that same tooth, yet again.  Tonight I was eating soup and guess what?  Ugh.  I called to see if they wanted me to come in right away, or wait until Thursday.  (It will get a crown, but they can only do one at a time with my insurance and the implant is overdue.)  Which is fine, but it means that I have to spend a couple of very uncomfortable and self-conscious days until then.  And I have to give a tour on Wednesday at work, which makes it even more annoying.  Plus, the broken tooth keeps catching on my gum and that really hurts!

I know I'm lucky to have dental insurance, and the original crown on the tooth that broke off again would still be in place if I hadn't fallen in October, but really???  I'm so tired of all of this stuff, and I was just starting to feel like I was getting back to normal. 

An a** or an elbow.  Once again, my mother was right.  ;-)

11 January 2019

Furball Friday

When it's a very cold Friday, and you are a small, one-eyed kitty, sometimes curling up for a nap is the best idea.

It also works well if you are a large, 80-pound Golden Retriever.

Here's hoping your weekend will be cozy and relaxing!

10 January 2019

Those Kids Need to Get Off My Lawn

I started today in a good mood, honest.  Hamlet and I had a nice early morning walk, the kitties were cuddly before I left for work, and I fixed myself a nice cup of tea once I got here.  

Now it's lunchtime, and stabbiness has taken over.  I just realized that three things happened leading to the stabbiness, so I am sharing them with you for Three on Thursday, aren't you glad???

Event the First:  One of my co-workers eats at her desk all of the time, even though we are not supposed to do that.  It's annoying mainly because of the food smells when you are trying to work.  This morning she arrived and found evidence of a mouse having been in her desk.  She called the maitenance dept and they were out of snap traps, so put down a glue trap.  A mouse was almost immediately caught, and the poor creature was so distraught it broke my heart, and still makes me feel terrible to think what happened to it.  Then said co-worker cleaned out her desk drawers and HOLY CRAP she had a small grocery store snack aisle in there!

Stabbiness Level:  Blood Red

Event the Second:  One of our co-workers is out this entire week at a workshop.  She has several volunteers who come in, and she told them to come in anyway, because her assistant would set them up to work, etc.  Today's volunteer starts at 10 a.m. and showed up about ten minutes ahead of time, and of course the assistant had not even gotten to work yet (long story, we're not even going there).  I tried to help the volunteer, but couldn't really do much.  The assistant finally showed up about 10:10, and got the volunteer settled.  Then he came back into our office and was annoyed because she "showed up early."  It took every fiber in my being not to say that she probably showed up early because a) she takes public transportation, and b) she probably didn't want to be late.  And that maybe he should have made an effort to show up early ...

Stabbiness Level:  ____ Brown

Event the Third:  I started to watch a knitting podcast at lunchtime, and about five minutes in, the person's phone rang, and she stopped and said, "I just got a text - let me see what it's about."  She checked the text, typed out a response and then picked up again with what she had been saying.  If you know you are going to be recording, and you forgot to turn off your phone (which, I'm sorry come on), and you get a text/call/whatever, wouldn't you say "Excuse me" turn the phone off, and then continue??  Let's face it, if you are waiting for a text saying the brain transplant surgery was a success, maybe you shouldn't have started recording.

Stabbiness Level:  Annoyed Orange

And now that I have dragged you down with me, I wish you a good day and hope your day is going better and will continue to go better than mine has!  :-)

08 January 2019

2018 Knits

Before we get much more into the new year, I wanted to do a summary of what I made during 2018.  I'm pretty pleased with my total, especially when you consider that I couldn't even attempt to knit for the months of October, November, and December.  Realistically, if I hadn't broken my wrist, I think I could have gotten one or two more pairs of socks done - though it still would have been short of twelve pairs for the year!  No problem though, since for me, the Box o' Socks is for fun and a bit of challenge more than anything else.

Anyway, I'm happy with what I was able to accomplish.

Eight pairs of socks

A sweater for me

A sweater for my new great-nephew Oden, who was born in April

A patriotic dishcloth for the 4th of July

A pumpkin hat and an eggplant hat for dear friends, whose babies were originally due in October, but arrived towards the end of July (they are doing really well, btw).

Total:  13 items - I thought it was a lower number, so that's pretty exciting as far as I'm concerned!

05 January 2019

You *Can* Go Home Again ...

... if your name is Hamlet!

A week ago today, we had made plans to take Hamlet back to visit the family that he spent most of his life living and working with (the past 7 years or so).  It was the first visit since we adopted him in July, and both persons in the couple had been matched with new Seeing Eye Dogs since.

First, the cast of characters:

Hamlet - you know him!
Karma - a black Lab mix, and Hamlet's guide dog partner and companion before he was with us
Jeff - Hamlet's former owner, now matched up with:
Mike - a Golden Retriever/Lab mix
Sharon - Karma's former owner, now matched up with:
Oakley - a black Lab
Karen - Karma's new owner

We had a lovely day for our visit, so we got Hamlet into the car and headed over the bridge to New Jersey.  When we turned onto the street leading to the house where he used to live, Hamlet got really excited.  When we pulled up in front of the house, he started wagging his tail and whimpering. 

He could not wait to get out of the car, and ran right up to the front door.  Jeff opened the door, and Hamlet dashed inside.  Once inside, Jeff was really excited to see him, but the first thing Hamlet did was run around and gather all of the toys!  Then he realized Jeff was also there, and immediately sat on his lap.

Sharon was upstairs, as they were keeping Mike and Oakley up in their room, so they could introduce them slowly.  First, Mike and Hamlet got to meet.

That, of course was very exciting.  Before Sharon and Oakley came downstairs, Karen arrived with Karma, who could NOT wait to see Hamlet again!  (She had already met the other doggos.) 

Finally, Sharon and Oakley joined the group, and hilarity ensued!

Hamlet was also very happy to see Sharon, and had to go and shake hands with her.

There was a lot of running, chasing, playing, and "fighting," and a couple of times Hamlet disappeared upstairs!  (Jeff said he was probably checking to make sure everything was where he had left it, lol.)

Mike and Oakley "attacking" Karma

After a bit, things settled down, with all of the dogs getting quieter, and eventually all of them lined up and nearly asleep!  

Hamlet and Oakley

Hamlet made sure that he got lots of cuddle time with Jeff, supervised of course by Mike.

It was all really fun and really wonderful.  It was fun to see Sharon and Jeff, and meet Karen, who we had never met before.  We loved seeing Karma again, as she is just one of the sweetest pups, and a fan in particular of The Tim.  And getting to meet Oakley and Mike was such fun as well, as they are still somewhat puppy-ish (they are each about 2 years old), and busy as only young dogs can be.  We caught up with everyone's news and stories of their Christmas celebrations, and it was just enjoyable to know that all of the dogs had not just had a good time, but worn each other out!  We were all amused that Jeff's dog is named Mike, and decided he sounded like he was from South Philly, and that he "knows a guy" ... :-)

When it came time to leave, we were wondering what Hamlet would do.  In July, when we went to bring him home, he hid behind Jeff and whimpered, which was heartbreaking.  But when everyone was getting ready, Hamlet walked over to The Tim when he got out his leash, and seemed ready to leave, get back in the car, and come home.  Jeff said that means he has completely bonded with us, which of course is the ideal result.  Hamlet was pretty zonked on the ride home, and let me tell you, the excitement and fun of the whole day wore him out for a few days!

The cats found it interesting as well, since Hamlet returned home with many new and intriguing scents on him - they probably were wondering just where we'd taken him!

We made tentative plans for another get together in the spring, this time hopefully outside.  We told Hamlet he'd better start storing some energy now ... 

02 January 2019

Final Book Report of 2018: October, November, December

According to Goodreads, I read 60 books last year.  I stopped setting a goal there, because I preferred to see what I read when their is no "requirement."  Of course, Goodreads keeps asking me to set another one, and always suggests 12 books, which amuses me, but I guess if you are not a reader, that would be a stretch.

Anyway, all of that aside, here are the things I read during the last three months of 2018.

The Doctor's Wife Is Dead : The True Story of a Peculiar Marriage, a Suspicious Death, and the Murder Trial That Shocked Ireland, by Andrew Tierney.  I had seen a synopsis of this book and wanted to read it, but I never thought it would turn out to be so timely.  As I was reading this, the hearings were happening to determine whether or not Brett Kavanaugh would be made the next Supreme Court Justice, in spite of the testimony against him by Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford, who was assaulted by him as a teenager.  Results seem to indicate that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

But on to this particular book.  In the mid-1840s, a woman dies at home in Ireland.  When her body is moved from the house, there are women outside throwing rocks at the windows, yelling insults to the dead woman's husband.  Why?  Because it's well-known that he mistreated his wife, and many people in the village find her death suspicious.

Ellen Langley is the woman in question.  Her husband is a local doctor, and though they are not wealthy, they have a comfortable life - well, at least he does.  For reasons that are murky at best, the doctor not only seems to hate his wife, but actively makes her life miserable - neglecting her, starving her, not providing any real health care.  Eventually she dies, and her body is placed in the cheapest coffin possible, which is left in the garden for two days until it is moved to be placed in a pauper's grave.

Dr. Langley is tried for murder in the death of his wife.  Evidence is presented indicating that he more or less made her life miserable from the start, and actively tried to think of ways to get rid of her when he fell in love with a cousin of hers.  Letters written in his own hand are brought into evidence and read aloud at the hearing.  Other people in the small town in the Tipperary area testify to his terrible behavior and treatment of his wife, his desire to be rid of her, and certain questionable activities on his part.  All of this leads to his acquittal, in spite of all of the evidence to the contrary.  He goes on to live the rest of his life with another wife, children, and a respectable practice. 

The book is interesting because it shows the limited opportunties available to women who were not part of the wealthy class in Ireland during this time.  It is also a clear illustration of the difference between the wealthy English in Ireland and the local people struggling to make ends meet. 

A really good read, if frustrating and disheartening, especially at the time I was reading it.

Calypso, by David Sedaris.  I will admit to being predisposed to liking just about anything that David Sedaris writes.  He can capture the absurd and the poignant so easily - or at least it seems that way to the reader.

This was an audiobook, read by himself.  I have to say, I enjoyed it so much, hearing it actually in his voice!  The main reason it took me so long to complete it was because I tend to listen to audiobooks at work, when I am shelving books in the Stacks, and as a result, there can be days that go by when I have not had a chance to even listen for a minute.

In this set of stories, Sedaris once again involves the reader/listener in his life and his interactions with his partner, Hugh, and his incredibly funny family (OK, maybe they don't mean to be funny ...).  He has you laughing out loud one minute at the man who has an unfortunate accident on an airplane, and then ready to cry soon after, talking about his mother's descent into alcoholism.  You come to care about Carol the fox who he sees on walks in his English neighborhood, and then turn around and find it amusing when everyone tries to spy James Comey on vacation at the North Carolina beach house down the street from where the Sedaris family is staying. 

I think what I always like best - and what there is so much of in this particular book - is that David Sedaris loves his family deeply, but has no compunction about revealing their flaws, and his own in the mix.  I always feel like I have invited him over for the evening, and he is only telling these stories to me.  This is a lovely mix of stories and I strongly suggest you find a way to listen to them, not just read them.

Dear Mrs. Bird, by A.J. Pearce.  I added this book to my want-to-read shelf because it sounded entertaining, so when I saw it at the library, I grabbed it off the shelf!

The main characters are two young women, living in London during the thick of World War II.  Emmeline "Emmie" Lake has a brother serving in the army, while she does her part as a member of the volunteer fire brigade during overnight hours.  Marigold "Bunty" Tavistock is her best friend with a rather hush-hush job at the War Office.  Emmie's dream job is to become a war correspondent, so when she sees an ad for a part-time junior editor, she jumps at the opportunity.

As it turns out, the job is assisting Mrs Bird, an advice columnist for a woman's magazine.  She is a formidable presence, with a long list of Unpleasant topics she will not address - topics that Emmie soon realize many are dealing with during wartime.  Slowly she decides to begin sending responses to some of the inquiries privately, signing Mrs Bird's name.

But this book is so much more than that part of the story.  It turned out to be one of the most well-written books about life in this place and time that I have read.  Emmie, Bunty, and the characters in their world lived through so much more than just a story about friendship, romances, and war.  They seemed very real to me, and there is a critical event that occurs that had me literally holding my breathe from the description of the horror.

I finished this book two days ago, and am still thinking about it.

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, by Alan Bradley.  Flavia de Luce has been banished (her word) from her family home in England, and finds herself at Miss Bodycote's Female Academy in Toronto, Canada.  This is all part of the plan that her Aunt Felicity has for Flavia's mysterious future.

Of course, the minute she arrives, things start to happen, in the form of a body wrapped in a Union Jack falling from a chimney into her room!  Things only become more involved and more mysterious as time goes on, and Flavia faces challenges like never before, while also realizing that she actually misses her sisters, who only annoyed her before this.

Chemistry of course saves the day in the end - but not before what seems like a million twists and turns!

Survival of the Fritters, by Ginger Bolton.  Well, this was a fun book.  It was also well-done with a more complicated plot than I was expecting.

Emily Westhill is a widow and former 911 operator who know owns a popular donut shop with her father-in-law, the retired chief of police.  When one of her regulars misses a meeting with her knitting group at Emily's shop, everyone starts to worry.  When the woman is later found murdered in her home, it leads to suspicions and discoveries that go back years. 

An entertaining story of life in a small town, and how people you may have known your whole life can be different than they seem.

A Howl of Wolves, by Judith Flanders.  When Sam Clair and her boyfriend go to the theater, it's not necessarily because they are excited about the play being performed - a somewhat bloody story - but because Sam's upstairs neighbor and her son are both in the cast.  When the last scene happens, something seems off.  That's because what is supposed to be a dummy of someone murdered is instead the actual director of the play.

Things only get weirder and scarier in the time following.  As Sam tries to help her neighbors deal with the tragedy and figure out what happened, she is also trying very hard to give deserved recognition to one of her authors at the publisher where she works, but is challenged because the head of sales doesn't think a woman's book written by an older woman has enough to draw in booksellers.

I enjoyed this book.  I realized after I finished it that there was a previous title in the series I have not yet read, so I'll have to remedy that soon.

A Catered Murder, by Isis Crawford.  This is the first in a series of mysteries where I've read some of the later books, but it was fine on its own..

Bernie Simmons returns to Longely, NY from her glamorous life in Los Angeles after she comes home to find her boyfriend in bed with her best friend.  She finds her sister Libby busy preparing a big catering job for her high school class reunion.  Though it's summertime, the theme is Halloween, since they are honoring a classmate who has hit the big time with his novels about a vampire.  When that classmate dies after drinking water from a bottle provided by the caterers, things get serious fast.

While Libby and Bernie try to clear their names, and that of one of Libby's friends, they get some help from their father, the former police chief in the town who can still use some of his connections.  But mostly they have to sweeten the suspects with treats from their family bakery to get any useful information.

This was well-done, and I found the reveal of the murderer especially surprising.

A Double Life, by Flynn Berry.  When Claire, a doctor in London, receives a call that her father may have been spotted, her life takes a  course she has always somehow expected.  As a young child, her father brutally murdered their nanny, mistaking her for their mother, who was attacked but survived.  He then disappeared.  Claire has always been convinced that he was able to do so because of his class (he had a title) and his friends in that class who were willing to help him.  Claire, her mom, and her brother changed their names, and moved to a small town in Scotland to start over.

The man sighted at the beginning of the book turns out to be someone else, but we learn the story behind her parents' relationship, and her childhood.  She has on occasion actively searched for information/clues about her father, but this time she hopes to complete her search.

This was a good read, and well-written.  It was made all the more interesting to me because the core of the story is apparently based on the case of Lord Lucan in Britain, who disappeared after the murder of the nanny of his children in 1974.  Now I have to find out more about that, since I don't remember ever reading anything about it.

Miss Bunting, by Angela Thirkell.  I have to say up front that I a) have no idea why I had this book on my Nook, and b) didn't know who the author was.  But I saw that I had it, read about the author (who is often compared to Anthony Trollope), and figured what the heck?

Miss Bunting is an elderly, respected governess who is employed for a summer to work with Anne Fielding, a young woman of some means whose parents want her to get some extra help.  They spend the summer in a small village in England and the book is more about the village and the various events of the summer than it really is about Anne. 

Those who live in the Old Town are members of families who have impressive pedigrees.  They bemoan the fact that the New Town residents are tradesmen, and industrialists, without the proper manners and nuances of class.  The book basically takes the framework of Miss Bunting and Anne, and brings in others of the Old Town and New Town who enter and leave their universe during the summer of the book. 

This was an enjoyable read, to some extent a comedy of manners.  It was also interesting to read about the effects of World War II and increasing industrialization in the town.  The story is very indicative of how the society is starting to change, and the reactions of various characters, based largely on their position in society.

Angela Thirkell has apparently written a lot of books about life in the Barsetshire region.  Including one that takes place at Christmastime, so I see at least one more of her books in my future!

A Cast of Vultures, by Judith Flanders.  Someone is setting fires in Sam Clair's neighborhood, and the most recent one is just up the street from her flat.  The people who lived there were squatters, but had been there for so long, they were part of the fabric of the place.  There was a body found in the ashes, and at first it is assumed it is the body of the arsonist.

Meanwhile, Sam's friend Viv asks her to look into the disappearance of Viv's neighbor, a kind man who is a civil servant.

When the body in the ashes is discovered to be Viv's missing neighbor, and reports of him being a drug dealer surface, Sam decides that the stories are too different to make sense, and tries to figure out the truth.  Meanwhile, a pub down the street burns, and with all of the things going on, Sam starts to even worry about the people she knows being out to get her.

All of this, as well as her assistant at work finding that a book soon to be published cannot possibly contain true information, leaves Sam with more than enough to deal with. 

This is a well-done book, with the mystery being multi-layered, and even includes Sam being pursued by mysterious villains after hours in Kew Gardens! 

I'm caught up on this series now, and hope another book joins it soon.

The Story of a New Name, by Elena Ferrante.  This is the second book in this series, and picks up right after Lila's wedding, and while Elena is still in high school.  It ends just as Elena's first novel is being published when she has completed university studies at the age of 23.

I liked this book, though not as much as the first one.  I think mainly because the character of Lila is for me, very predictable based on how the whole story began.  She marries, decides she is not in love with her husband, who beats her, and things seem to go somewhat as I expected from there.  Meanwhile, Elena spends the bulk of the book being pulled back into Lila's orbit, while trying to establish her own identity.  It is frustrating to me, since Elena seems to believe that so much of what she is, has, and does, is immediately related to Lila.  And though a lot of that is true, it just got repetitive. 

It was also painful and frustrating to read about women whose entire raison d'etre was to become wives and mothers, completely at the mercy of the men in the society.  Not surprising, given the time and the place, but upsetting nonetheless.

I will definitely read the next in the series, as I find the books overall to be really interesting and for the most part, well-written.  I am also a sucker for stories that are sagas.

Live and Let Chai, by Bree Baker.  This was much better than I was expecting it to be.  It was a 99-center for my Nook a few months ago, and admittedly I bought it because it was only 99 cents ...

Everly Swan has returned to the southern beach town where she grew up after a bad breakup to pursue her dream of opening a tea shop.  Things are OK until one of the town councilmen dies, and it looks as if it was poisoned tea from Everly's shop. 

As she starts to investigate what really happened, we learn more about the small town and some of the characters.  There is of course the new detective in town who is handsome, blah blah blah, but at least in this book, there's not an overflow of romance.  The story moves along, and not until the end did I decide who I thought the killer was, so it stayed a mystery for me. 

Having said all of this, I'm not sure why "chai" is in the title, since I think it is only mentioned twice in the book as an offering at Everly's shop.

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories, by P.D. James.  To start, I am a BIG fan of P.D. James, and even got to meet her once at a booksigning where we discussed books and cats for a couple of minutes.  So needless to say, I was already inclined to like these stories.

I was not disappointed.  Each story is long enough to develop the plot and the characters, so you don't feel cheated.  They are enjoyable reads, and two of them even feature a young Adam Dalgliesh!  I took my tim reading these, because I knew that after I was finished, there were no new P.D. James books coming along.

As usual, she writes with great detail so that you can easily picture each place, each character, in your mind.  And some of the things that happen stay with you past the end of the story.  I can see re-reading this every few years and enjoying it just as much.

Winter Solstice, by Rosamund Pilcher.  This book is lovely.  Christmas-y and very lovely.  It's 400+ pages, but they go quickly, because you just want to keep reading!  As is the case with a lot of Rosamunde Pilcher's books, this is more about the characters than any elaborate plot.

The story starts out with Elfrida Phipps, a retired actress, adopting a dog that she names Horace, and moving to a small village to a lovely cottage to live the rest of her life.  There she meets Gloria and Oscar Blundell, and their young daughter Francesca.  The entire books moves on from there, and each chapter is told by/about a different character that is introduced in a way that seems random and throwaway until you get into the book more.  The bulk of the story takes place during the time leading up to Christmastime, in a small town in Scotland where Elfrida and Oscar (and Horace of course) find themselves after a drastic event in the town where they met.  As the story moves along, other characters join them until an eclectic group of unlikely mates seem to be the logical crux of the story. 

Pilcher writes the characters so well, you can picture each one, as well as the places they live, visit, and work.  Even the secondary characters stand out in this book.

Christmas Carol Murder, by Leslie Meier.  In this particular book in the series, Lucy Stone's kids are all more grown up (the youngest is in high school), so she has some teenage girl angst to deal with, but the primary story is about the fire that completely destroys a home of a local real estate agent, who was also known as a hoarder and an overall awful person.  He was also killed in the fire.  At first everyone just assumes that something happened to get all of the paper burning, and that it was just a terrible accident.

However, it turns out that things may not be as tragically innocent as they seem.

Lucy Stone, in the meantime, has been cast as Mrs. Cratchit in the local version of "A Christmas Carol," and some of her fellow cast members seem to be acting suspiciously.  So of course her radar is activated, and she starts asking around.

This was a good enough Christmastime book, though not one of the best.  Also, though he is improving, Lucy's husband Bill is still kind of a pain.  I could not put up with a lot of his issues, but a) he is a fictional character, and b) I'm not married to him anyway.

A Christmas Journey, by Anne Perry.  I have never read anything by Anne Perry, though I know of her through the movie "Heavenly Creatures" which is really good by the way.  However, I saw that she had written a series of Christmas books, so ... I had to look into it.

This is the first one, and at the beginning of the book, a group of society types have gathered for a house party at a place called Applecross, the setting during Victorian times.  The main character, Lady Vespasia Cumming-Gould is there as the person throwing the party is a good friend, and her husband is currently away.  When Isobel, a friend of Lady Vespasia, makes a snide comment in the group about a widow named Gwendolen, who is being courted by a young man Isobel also likes, Gwendolen leaves the room in tears.  But everyone is surprised when Gwendolen's body is pulled from the lake the next morning, apparently a suicide.

Through a series of events, Lady Vespasia and Isobel set out for Inverness, Scotland to deliver Gwendolen's last letter to her mother.  The journey is difficult enough, but then it turns out that the woman they need to see is not there, but has gone to an even more remote part of Scotland.  Since it is their duty to deliver the letter, they forge on, and once they find her, there are some surprising discoveries made there, and as they accompany her back to Applecross, arriving just a few days before Christmas.

This was a short novella - just shy of 70 pages - but a lot happens in the story, and though it is concise, it is packed with information and description.  I will likely read more of Perry's Christmas stories, since I enjoyed this one.

Holly and Homicide, by Leslie Caine.  I haven't read any of the previous books in this series, but I feel like that was not an issue.

Erin Gilbert and Steve Sullivan are business partners in a decorating company.  They are in Colorado, helping to restore a house that will become a B&B in a ski town whose residents are less than supportive. The B&B is schedule to open on Christmas Eve, and Erin and Steve are hoping to not just put the finishing touches on things, but make it all extremely festive as well.

The problems begin when the body of the real estate inspector is found on the property, and the local police chief feels that Erin is somehow involved, and does not seem overly invested in a professional investigation.  Add to that infighting among the owners, suspicious happenings around the house, and Erin's former boyfriend arriving and then being murdered, and a lot is happening.
this was interesting, and I was surprised to learn who the killer was.  I'm not exactly sure why this series is called "Domestic Bliss" though I guess maybe because they are interior decorators? 

Anyway, it was a good enough holiday read.


And there you go.  What have you read that you liked or didn't like, lately?  I've already finished my first book of 2019 (started in 2018), so I feel like I'm on my way for this year!

01 January 2019


Happy New Year to you and yours!  As always, a new year brings so many thoughts, plans, ideas, and hopes - it's truly a blank slate and a chance to start fresh.  No one starts the year hoping for the worst, so this is quite possibly the most positive day in any given year, if you think about it!

Here is my wish for all of you, in the form of an old Irish blessing.

May those who love you, love you;
And those who don't love you, may God turn their hearts.
And if He doesn't turn their hearts,
may He turn their ankles so you will know them by their limping. 

Enjoy the day!