Ten Days in the Rear-view

I know I haven’t been posting for awhile, but when ten days have crept by since the date of my last post, it’s high time to cease this indulgence of “just don’t feel like it,” and write something.

It’s not that I haven’t felt like writing. As the various prompts have come in, I’ve mentally written different articles and stories, but so far these have remained cloudy images in my mind. Maybe soon I can get some of them down. Too often I’m fighting with a sense of futility, that nagging doubt of “Who cares?” that besets us all from time to time.

The weather has been very mild lately. The chill of early October has given way to temps of 10 (50F) to 20 (70F) which is what we’ve had today. Nice day for a walk. this afternoon Bob and I got our flu shots, so we should be protected from the flu this winter.

I’ve done some piecing blanket tops for the Sewing Circle this past week, and read some second-hand children’s books that I picked up at Value Village. Proof-reading them with the thought of donating some to our parochial school’s library. For those who are interested in good children’s books, we’ve found a couple by Alexander McCall Smith that are very suitable:
The Mystery of the Missing Lion (2013) and Akimbo and the Crocodile Man (1993)

For those who are interested in adult fiction with a Christian flavour, I can recommend Sweet Tea and Southern Grace by Glenda Manus. In this first book of the series the main character is a 45-year-old bachelor pastor in the South dealing with various issues in his parish. The story has some similarity to Jan Karon’s Mitford series, but a shorter read.

Fandango’s prompt for today is ABSTRACT.  I’m thinking now about Thankfulness, an abstract quality or emotion. We’re happy when good things come our way; we’re relieved when troubles don’t come our way. Then sometimes our thankfulness does a look-in-the-rear-view thing. My arms and hands, especially my thumb joints, have been affected by arthritis these past few days, which makes me thankful for all the times when they do function without pain.

When you stop to think of it, when we have arms and hands that work, fingers that obey the impulses our brain sends along, we have two invaluable pieces of equipment. How much do we think about that fact until this “standard human equipment” suddenly gives us grief?

Here’s another take on ABSTRACT. I came across this quote earlier today, it seemed rather profound, and I thought, “A perfect response to the prompt!”

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Qualifying factor:
The truth of this quote depends on what music you’re listening to.

Books: Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine

I downloaded an e-book from the local lending library a couple of days ago and read it yesterday evening. Now I want to tell you about it because I thought it was a really neat novella and well worth reading.

The title: Sweet, Thoughtful Valentine
Book #13 in the Isabel Dalhousie series

© 2016 by Alexander McCall Smith
Publisher: Penguin Random House

This is a unique story about ethics.

Isabel Dalhousie, a young wife in Edinburgh, owner and editor of the Review of Applied Ethics meets a friend at an art previewing prior next week’s auction. As they visit and look around at the upcoming sale items, Roz draws Isabel’s attention to one picture. She shares a bit of vital information about its value — and extracts from Isabel the promise that she’ll not tell a soul. Since the auctioneer obviously doesn’t realize the painting’s true worth, Roz plans to get it for a song, resell it, and make a small fortune.

The story’s maybe a bit wordy in places as Isabel muses over the ethics of this and other sticky situations she encounters during the week. She tries to sort out what she should do, if anything, with the help — or dissuasion — of her husband. He calls her his “sweet, thoughtful valentine” and wishes she would stay out of other people’s problems.

The art drama intensifies when she meets another friend by chance one day. Ruth’s in a financial bind, having to sell her home, also her mother’s belongs, to pay for her mother’s stay in a nursing home where she’s getting really good care. Ruth has sent a few of her mother’s paintings to an upcoming art sale. They likely won’t bring much, but…

The awful truth dawns — and Isabel is really in the treacle.

The writer has done a great job of squeezing poor Isabel between a rock and a hard place, between one friend and another, between promise and conscience. Will she practice the ethics she preaches or mind her own business? I found the solution intriguing  and unexpected.

This author has also written the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series, the 44 Scotland Street Series and the Portuguese Irregular Verbs Series and others.

Other Side of Nowhere

Book Review

THE OTHER SIDE OF NOWHERE
by Max Allen

In this book wildlife biologist and photographer Max Allen takes readers on a naturalist’s journey into the prairie, sagebrush, and sandstone cliffs around the Yampa River, a 250-mile long tributary that squiggles its way westward across northwestern Colorado to join the Green River in Utah.

According to the writer, the Yampa “is one of the very few rivers in the area remaining un-dammed and free flowing. The river offers many recreation opportunities from rafting to fishing, and of course wildlife watching and photography.”

Mr. Allen includes with his photographs descriptions about some of the settings where he took them, plus camera details. As he writes in his notes, most of the animals he’s photographed are not unique to that area, but he’s gotten some great shots of them living their “everyday lives.” For my part he could have included more about his own involvement in that region, too.

I found the book very well edited and would recommend it as a coffee-table book, gift for a nature-lover, and a nice addition to a reference library.

In the fall of 2015 I received a free copy from The Story Cartel in exchange for my honest review, then purchased my own copy. This Review is reblogged from Christine’s Reflections post, Dec 3, 2015.

Max Allen has since put out another photographic journey, also for sale on Amazon:
The Itinerant Photographer: Photographs from Five Years of Wandering with Wildlife and the Stories behind Them

Latest in the Inspector Graham Series

Yesterday I received an e-newsletter from author Alison Golden, announcing the release of the latest in her Inspector Graham series:
The Case of the Missing Letter.

In her e-newsletter Alison shares her challenge of balancing writing and cancer treatment:

We first started work on this book nearly two years ago. I had planned to publish it in September of last year. But then, as you may know, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There were times when I wondered if I would ever publish it.

When the worst of my chemo was over, I…began working on it very slowly, just a chapter a day. There are 34 chapters so just refreshing my memory took over a month. Gradually, as my strength returned, my speed picked up, and when my treatment was over, I made finishing it a priority.

This is because The Case of the Missing Letter is my love letter to you. Many of you have not only been patiently waiting for my next book, but your support was intrinsic to my recovery. I have dedicated this book to you.

Background to this series:
After the death of his young daughter, which lead to the breakup of his marriage, Inspector Graham gave up his London post in favour of a more peaceful setting, the Isle of Jersey. But soon after he arrives a murder takes place at the hotel where he’s lodging. He gets his new force on board in a search for the perpetrator. In the last book, The Case of the Broken Doll, Inspector Graham undertakes to solve a very cold case where a teen girl disappeared on her way to school ten years before.

One thing I really like about these books is the teamwork and camaraderie of the police department as they hunt for clues. There are no stereotype arrogant or obnoxious cops. DI Graham himself does some “in-your-face” demanding answers, but then he is the investigating officer and has the right to question suspects. I haven’t found much contrived melodrama in these stories, which is always a plus on my score-sheet.

Here’s the series to date:

#1 The Case of the Screaming Beauty (Prequel)
#2 The Case of the Hidden Flame
#3 The Case of the Fallen Hero
#4 The Case of the Broken Doll
#5 The Case of the Missing Letter

The Case of the Missing Letter is being offered at a special Launch price until midnight Feb 12th. I’m looking forward to getting a copy and reading it.

Alison Golden has written a milder cozy series involving the Reverend Annabelle Dixon, an Anglican priest in a small English village, also the more suspenseful Diana Hunter series.
Amazon Author Page
Alison’s website

The Heart Mender

First posted Dec 7, 2014:

I just read a terrific book and would like to tell you about it, in case you’re searching for a great read. It’s called The Heart Mender, written by Andy Andrews, a NY Times Best-Selling Author.

What happens when an old cape myrtle tree dies on the Alabama coast? Well, the owner of the property, writer Andy Andrews, chops it down because the tree is next to his house and its wood contains highly flammable oils. Then when he chops it down, his wife urges him to dig it up. And when his shovel hits something metallic — a gallon-size can — nestled among the tree roots…

Who could have buried it there? And how long ago? He opens it up and finds a couple of pictures, some ID.

One of the greatest joys a writer can have is to uncover something amazing, something perturbing, something that points to a story. Something he just can’t leave alone; he has to find out the facts. In the case of this particular writer, he digs and digs until he uncovers the whole amazing account.

What happens when a bitter young widow whose husband was killed in a Luftwaffe bombing raid in England stumbles onto a wounded German submarine officer on the beach in Alabama? She punches him in the face. Doesn’t matter if he’s been shot and is now half-dead. She punches him again and again, until she’s exhausted.

And thus begins a fascinating tale of healing, forgiveness and second chances.  (Triple-ply tissue alert.)

Book Review: Finding Sky

Book #1 in the Nicki Valentine Mystery Series
by Susan O’Brien
Published by Henery Press

I just finished reading this book and I’ll say it has a satisfying conclusion. This is the first book in a new series so the writer will gain confidence and in turn give her protagonist a little more confidence, in the next books.

I expect mysteries to be fairly fast-paced and suspenseful. This book isn’t. It’s more like chick-lit with a mystery element. Nicki Valentine tells us her story, explains her situation — a widow with two children — talks about her children’s personalities and behaviour, her fears and issues with safety, food, dirt, and germs. If you enjoy following friends’ day-to-day lives on Facebook, you’ll probably enjoy these open-hearted accounts of where they went, what they did, what they ate, games they played.

Nicki tells about her best friend and neighbor, Kenna, whose desire to have a baby adds the mystery angle to this tale. Andy and Kenna plan to adopt, but the eighteen-year-old mom-to-be has disappeared. Pregnant and alone, where did she go? Is she safe? Kidnapped by a teen gang? Kenna asks Nicki to help find this girl and we read of her efforts at interviews, stake-outs, and searches. Her search gets her involved with troubled teens and a gang member, understandably bringing yet more anxieties.

You see, Nicki is taking classes to become a private investigator. This is a huge stretch for her type. At the best of times she struggles with almost neurotic anxieties for herself and her children, has little self-confidence, and is rather a klutz. Her conscience prods her if she tells a lie in the course of investigating. Can she become a successful PI? She’s attracted to her hunky instructor but resists the attraction. Low self esteem kicks in. Why get her hopes up when he’d never be interested in her?

There’s a good story in here if you’re patient. I’m more a fan of classic mysteries where the sleuth is occupied with the whodunit puzzle rather than angst about herself and her abilities. But all this self-analysis is common in modern cozies. I found it easy to scroll through all the angst and day-to-day stuff and read the parts that actually deal with finding the missing girl. (Spoiler alert: Nicki does get her answers in the end.)

In my opinion the book could be cut by at least 30% — and I’d encourage the writer to get to know Miss Marple, who’s kind and clever, not always sure, but never floundering in self-reproach.

Nicki reminds me a lot of Salem Grimes, another new sleuth with a lot of down-to-earth issues and angst. She stars as The Trailer Park Princess, a series written by Kim Hunt Harris