Friday, February 28, 2014


Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 1 (audiobook) - Mark Twain  

I realize that an undertaking this ambitious requires the hard work and input of many people, but when was the last time you read a book where the acknowledgments and introduction was more than 58 pages long (hard copy)?

Twain's sharp wit shows up in places, but it mostly just rambles.

"Think twice about donating your papers to an institution of higher learning, Famous Writer: someday they may be used against you." 

Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2 (audiobook) - Mark Twain     

I feel like I just completed an Iron Man Triathlon Biathalon.

Though I am glad to have read these two books, I don't think I'll be signing up for the third installment if and when it makes its appearance.

100 Ways of Bringing Out Your Best (audiobook) - Roger Fritz  

“Attitude is the scale on which we balance our strengths and limitations. Outside circumstances are less important in the long run than our inner view of our selves.”

This book pretty much marches you through how to plan your path to your goals. It is, however geared toward corporate success.

Or maybe it was to learn form corporate success.

The Now Habit (audiobook) - Neil Fiore, Ph.D.    

Prioritizing your goals makes up the bulk of the book.

The author sets forth the types of people and issues that the book will address, then sets about explaining how, in detail.

A lot of "shoulds" are thrown about, as if it were simply that easy.

We Are Completely Beside Ourselves (audiobook) - Karen Joy Fowler   

“When I run the world, librarians will be exempt from tragedy. Even their smaller sorrows will last only for as long as you can take out a book.”

If nothing else, this book made me recognize that no matter what, my family will always be nirvana compared to this family.

But I got a great quote!

Rasputin's Revenge (ebook) - John Lescroart  


I'm not usually a fan of political intrigue or historical fiction, (both of which are apt descriptions of this story) but a murder mystery is a murder mystery, no matter how grand the plot.

Oh, then there are several of the most famous (infamous) characters ever penned. "Tell all the truth but tell it slant"

What the Dead Know (audiobook) - Laura Lippman  

“Reading was not a fallback position for her but an ideal state of being.”

I really wanted to love this book. How could I not love a book with quotes like this one?

I didn't. At all. The characters were not likeable, and the story is told from too many points of view. The narrative flow is sluggish and I had a hard time staying interested.

But isn't that quote great?

American Classics: A Celebration of the Short Story (audiobook) - Symphony Space, ed.   

This was an interesting mix of authors, some of which I might not have chosen had I been looking at novels.

The strength of the short story is its ability to entice the reader to try something new, something different, and just maybe be pleasantly surprised.

Sofie Metropolis (audiobook) - Tori Carrington   

"There are three things you need to learn in life, Sofie. First, how to dance like you're alone. Second, to love like you mean it. And, third, you need to learn to laugh at the rain. Learn how to do those three things, and you'll be happy, always."

The narration by Anna Fields was entertaining. The book (fist one in a(nother) series) was light weight as far as murder mysteries go, but enjoyable none-the-less, although I did, on occasion, want to slap Sofie upside the head.

The Black Mountain (audiobook) - Rex Stout

"I pay him the tribute of speaking of him and feeling about him precisely as I did when he lived; the insult would be to smear his corpse with the honey excreted by my fear of death."

In this outing Nero Wolfe actually leaves, not only his house, but the country!

A stolid bit of masterfully written noir on a rainy day is just the thing. That and a cup of tea. Oh, and some good biscuits. And chocolate. Don't forget the chocolate.

Before Midnight (audiobook) - Rex Stout

"I would appreciate it if they would call a halt on all their devoted efforts to find a way to abolish war or eliminate disease or run trains with atoms or extend the span of human life to a couple of centuries, and everybody concentrate for a while on how to wake me up in the morning without my resenting it. 

"It may be that a bevy of beautiful maidens in pure silk yellow very sheer gowns, barefooted, singing Oh, What a Beautiful Morning and scattering rose petals over me would do the trick, but I'd have to try it."                            (a sentiment I definitely share)

I think my favorite thing about the Nero Wolfe mysteries is how incredibly dense with detail and character they are. Also, it's a fair bet that if Archie Goodwin dislikes someone, you will too.

And Four to Go (audiobook) - Rex Stout  

"When you announce you have caught a fish, 
it helps to have the fish present in person."

Four excellent novellas make up this book. Three of the four are set at holidays, and all of them are great.

(Can you tell I'm a Nero Wolfe fan?)

The Black Echo (ebook) - Michael Connelly   

"The setting sun burned the sky pink and orange in the same bright hues as surfers' bathing suits. It was beautiful deception, Bosch thought, as he drove north on the Hollywood Freeway to home. Sunsets did that here. Made you forget it was the smog that made their colors so brilliant, that behind every pretty picture there could be an ugly story."

The first book in the Harry Bosch series, and it did not disappoint. I enjoyed it immensely, and anxiously await the next book in the series. (I'm on the waiting list at the library. Sigh.)

Baltimore Blues (audiobook) - Laura Lippman   

"I never thought I'd have to say this to another woman, but you just don't get it."

The aftermath of the tanking economy has been felt all over, and some of us have had to get creative about making ends meet.

Luckily, Tess Monaghan was not only good at it, she was able to parlay it into help for her friend.

Dirty Laundry (audiobook) - Tori Carrington  

"Tell you what. You do what ever it is you feel you have to do. I'll go upstairs. And you don't come back again until it's my personal Sheila you want to tinker around with. What do you think about that?"

I really did like the first book in the series, even if Sofie did tend to go on about her bad luck as she continued to act like a door mat.

But either this one is filled with more of the incessant whining, or I've just reached my limit. The plot was completely subsumed for me by the irritating characters and inanity.

                                     Sorry, Sophie.

The Lineup: Tell the Inside Story of Their Greatest Detectives (audiobook) - Otto Penzler     

"The average American reads five books a year. When you factor in students, who are assigned a fair number of books, plus those of us who read many more than five, there are a lot of folks out there pulling the average down. It would be enough to make you laugh if you don't weep to learn that 27% of the pollsters admitted that they hadn't read a single book in the year."

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." - Mark Twain (attrib)

This book was born of the need to find a creative way to save "The Mysterious Book Shop," from the ravages of today's all too common economic realities.

In a word, I loved it! Okay, that's three words. It is a fun idea, and the fact that it helped save a book store just adds to the enjoyment.

One pet peeve: of the twenty-one authors in the book, only four are women. I know for a fact that there are many more deserving female mystery writers available. Perhaps the imbalance can be put right moving forward, after all, I plan to actually buy this book - and I would but any subsequent offerings.

The Memory Doctor (audiobook) - Douglas Mason    

"To forget is normal. To forget that you forgot is not. In other words, as long as you keep remembering that you forgot, you're going to be okay."

"You aren't losing your mind; you just can't remember where you put the keys."

The authors begin with the basics on how the memory works, move into figuring your strengths and weaknesses, then offer practical exercises to strengthen the memory. There is also information on drugs and therapies in the hope that they might help the reader make complete and informed decisions.

I plan to buy this in paperback because I will be trying to make some of the exercises a part of my routine, and it will be nice to have it handy for reference. 

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (audiobook) - Maris Konnikova     

"You see, but you don't observe."

Mindfulness, aka metacognition, is the heart of this book. Examples from Conan Doyle's work and life are presented in light of the scientific method and illuminated as useful ways of thinking for us in the really real world. Did that make sense?

Just about every teacher has had to take umpteen courses on metacognition and critical thinking. How I would have loved a course on critical thinking with this book as the basis. Practicing mindfulness with Sherlock Holmes would have been fun.

Now if only Jonathan Kellerman could help me out on the treadmill.

Murder in the 11th House (audiobook) - Mitchell Scott Lewis     

"I always wanted to say that."

Political and preachy, but with an interesting mystery that needs solving. This book was a mixed bag.

I will need to read at least the next one to make up my mind about the series.

Mrs. Hudson's case (ebook) - Laurie R. king     

"And what call would a cat have for a needle and thread?” she demanded, unplacated. “Even if the beastie could work the latch on my sewing case."

A very short, quick read. Good, though it ends rather abruptly.

I thought it would be from Mrs. Hudson's pov, but it was not. That was a disappointment.

I Like You (audiobook) - Amy Sedaris    

"This audio program is my attempt to share with you something I take very seriously, entertaining in my home, my style. It may not be the proper way or the most traditional, or even legal, but it works for me."

This book made me feel like an incredibly competent party planner, and I haven't even used it yet.

I have no doubt now that if I ever actually have a party, it will be a rousing success!

How about a sample recipe:
Amy Sedaris' Cupcakes

1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter
1 ¾ cups of sugar

Beat well, then add:

2 large eggs
2 Teaspoons of pure vanilla
½ teaspoon of salt
2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder
2 ½ cups of flour
1 ¼ cups of milk

Beat well, fill cups, and bake at 375 degrees for 18-20 minutes. You should get 24. I get 18, 'cause I'm doing something wrong.


1 stick of unsalted butter
1 box of Domino confectionary sugar
¼ cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla

Whip for a while, color if you want.

The Black Ice - (ebook) - Michael Connelly   

"There is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself."
qtd. from: The Long Goodbye

There is something compelling about a strong protagonist, good at the job but slightly flawed. It makes me care and keeps me returning.

This book provided a complex plot with enough moving pieces to keep it interesting but nothing that seemed thrown in for filler (or distraction).

The Concrete Blonde - (ebook) - Michael Connelly   

“If the system turns away from the abuses inflicted on the guilty, then who can be next but the innocents?”

I think I have a new crush.

In many mysteries the personalities are the focus of the story. In the better mysteries, the plot itself is the focus and the characters simply augment it.

Nice Class of Corpse (ebook) - Simon Brett   

"And while some husbands leave their wives only pensions, annuities, and insurance policies, the late Mr. Pargeter had ensured that his should also have more practical means of protection."

Fun. Fun. Fun. This is how I want to age.

Who am I kidding? I'm already older than Mrs. Pargeter, and I'm more than twenty years younger than she.

Advent of Dying - Sister Carol Anne O'Marie   

"Why, for years you've been camouflaging the most spine-tingling mystery stories in your pious plastic prayer book cover."

"Funny, she mused, inside she still felt thirty. Actually, she felt eighteen, but, please God, she had acquired a little more sense."

Sister Mary Helen is quite feisty for a nun who has been in the convent for over fifty years, and quite persistent. (And as you might guess from the quotes I've chosen, I identify with her more than a little.)

Aimless Love (audiobook) - Billy Collins   

What I enjoy most about the poetry of Billy Collins is its, sometimes deceptive, simplicity. Then there is his humor, always a plus in my book.

His work is comforting in a way because of its familiarity, while it can challenge me out of my comfort zone at the same time, to embrace a new perspective.

I also liked listening to the audiobook. It's been a very long time since I've gotten to a poetry reading, and while Collins isn't the most animated reader, I still enjoyed it.

Here is the title poem from the book:

Aimless Love

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.
In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.
This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.
The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.
No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.
No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then
for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.
But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.
After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,
so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

And Be a Villain (audiobook) - Rex Stout   

"That unspeakable prepared biscuit flour! Fritz and I have tried it. Those things she calls Sweeties! Pfui! And that salad dressing abomination -- we have tried that too, in an emergency. What they do to stomachs heaven knows, but that woman is ingeniously and deliberately conspiring in the corruption of millions of palates. She should be stopped!"

Archie needs to get himself a hobby for those down times some investigations tend to have. Being a reader who always has a book handy, I can't imagine being bored.

I have just one reservation about this story. Moriarty plots are among the laziest of all the plot lines in mystery fiction, and they raise my hackles on principle. This is the first of three Nero Wolfe mysteries including Arnold Zeck - Wolfe's Moriarty.

I'll deal, I suppose, but . . .

The Sins of the Fathers (audiobook) - Lawrence Block

"Something I learned long ago. It is not necessary to know what a person is afraid of. It is enough to know the person is afraid."

Oooo ... noir.

Even the voice of the narrator, Alan Sklar, adds to the effect and conjures up the likes of Mike Hammer, Sam Spade, or Philip Marlowe.

The Missing Madonna - Sister Carol Anne O'Marie   

"Rumor had it, though, that when provoked, the genteel Mrs. Coughlin, who had outlived two husbands, could sing a song of swearwords guaranteed to make a stevedore blanch. Whenever she let one slip in front of the nuns, Mary Helen noted, she had the uncanny knack of making it sound like the height of refinement."

Like the nuns I've known in my life, Sister Mary Helen has a gentle, compassionate manner and a backbone of steel.

Wicked Autumn (audiobook) - G.M. Malliet

"Every year for decades there had been great excitement over the Largest Vegetable competition. 
'That would be my husband', was the standard comment."

Anglican priest and former MI-5 operative, in a small, remote, traditional English village, is an interesting mix, and not disappointing.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Quote of the Day

People think of education as something they can finish.
- Isaac Asimov

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How to Mix Literature and Math . . .

Book Riot is ready with more lessons.

What character is the result in the following equation?

Christopher Robin



Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Pet Peeve:

Why . . . when I enter the key words for a search into the Google search box, does it give me results for an entirely different search, then ask me if I actually wanted to search for that other thing?

Of course I wanted to search for that other thing,
or I wouldn't have asked.

Here, let me give you an example:

Given my love of reading and the contents of my blog, "bibliography of ______" is a common search.

Google, it seems, does not know what the word 'bibliography' means. It gives me hundreds of thousands of links to 'biographies' of my query, and even lists of books about them. But rarely does it include the works of said author.

It politely tells me that it had the prescience to looked up "biography of ______" instead, then gives me a link for "bibliography of ______" if I really want that.

Does Google have an algorithm whose entire purpose is to drive me crazy?

How about you? What are your Pet Peeves?

Book Riot Always Has Such Wonderful Dimples!



I mean articles!

{Photo Source: Book Riot}

Monday, February 24, 2014

Kilt Monday!

'Cause let's face it,
Mondays can be so rough, hard, difficult.

Sunday, February 23, 2014


- Robert Lowell

History has to live with what was here,
clutching and close to fumbling all we had--
it is so dull and gruesome how we die,
unlike writing, life never finishes.
Abel was finished; death is not remote,
a flash-in-the-pan electrifies the skeptic,
his cows crowding like skulls against high-voltage wire,
his baby crying all night like a new machine.
As in our Bibles, white-faced, predatory,
the beautiful, mist-drunken hunter's moon ascends--
a child could give it a face: two holes, two holes,
my eyes, my mouth, between them a skull's no-nose--
O there's a terrifying innocence in my face
drenched with the silver salvage of the mornfrost.

from: Selected Poems. Copyright 1976.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday Farmer's Market - Winter?

Created by Heather at Capricious Reader, and now hosted by Chris at Stuff as Dreams are Made on.

Is anybody in the mood for some flowers?
(As always, just click on the smaller photos to embiggen.)

A lot of the country is cold and wet right now, including many members of my own family. (Hi Sis.) Storm after miserable storm is taking a toll on both resources and psyche, but hang in and don't lose hope. Spring always follows the harshest winter. 

As proof I'd like to share the pretties in my garden right now. I hope you enjoy them.

This is my Sedum. It came through the winter beautifully, with only a touch of damage. You can just see the tiny yellow flowers beginning to open.

At the end of last summer I planted pansies. And as usual, they overwintered like champions and are full of huge blossoms. I planted some new ones on the other side of the garden a few weeks ago and they should be picking up soon.

The fruit trees are also starting to bloom. The funny thing is that they are blooming in sequence from the back yard to the front. I've also noticed that the blossoms are breaking out starting from the top of the fence line down, with those above the fence are lagging behind. My guess is that the heat generated between the house and the fence has something to do with it.

 This is one of the nectarines.

And this one is a pluot.

This little thing is growing at the base of the Asian pear.

As you may recall, my son's pups nearly girdled the poor tree, and though we hoped for the best, the tree didn't make it. Since fruit trees are grafted onto other stock, we will have to wait and see what is actually growing here.

But we're adventurous, so . . .

This little sweetheart is my new pussy willow.

I've never seen them like this. As you can see, there is a ton of pollen and the leaves are coming out.

My daffodils are blooming and have been for a couple of weeks now. Last year they all bloomed at once, but this year they are stretching it out and blooming a few at a time. Granted, they also started a month early.

Most of them are yellow . . .

 . . . but I have a few white ones too.
(Soon, anyway)

Of course, my tiny daffodils are blooming, too. These little sweethearts are only about eight inches high and the blooms are about the diameter of a nickle. They are usually the first spring blooms in the garden, but this year, for the first time, they were beaten by flowers that weren't even supposed to be blooming.

 Finally, my new little cape honeysuckle is blooming . . .

. . . and the hummingbirds love it.

Out of Water
- Marie Ponsot
A new embroidery of flowers, canary color,
                        dots the grass already dotty
                        with aster-white and clover.

I warn, “They won’t last, out of water.”
The children pick some anyway.

In or out of  water
children don’t last either.

I watch them as they pick.
Still free of  what’s next
            and what was yesterday
they pick today.

from: Springing: New and Selected Poems, Copyright 2002.

I hope you enjoyed my little midwinter garden tour (but please, don't tell the flowers what time of year it is).

Stay warm and dry, friends, and hug those closest to you.
(Whether you know them or not. Hey, it could be the beginning of a new friendship.)

A Certain Slant of Sunlight

- Ted Berrigan

In Africa the wine is cheap, and it is
on St. Mark's Place too, beneath a white moon.
I'll go there tomorrow, dark bulk hooded
against what is hurled down at me in my no hat
which is weather: the tall pretty girl in the print dress
under the fur collar of her cloth coat will be standing
by the wire fence where the wild flowers grow not too tall
her eyes will be deep brown and her hair styled 1941 American
will be too; but
I'll be shattered by then
But now I'm not and can also picture white clouds
impossibly high in blue sky over small boy heartbroken
to be dressed in black knickers, black coat, white shirt,
buster-brown collar, flowing black bow-tie
her hand lightly fallen on his shoulder, faded sunlight falling
across the picture, mother & son, 33 & 7, First Communion Day, 1941--
I'll go out for a drink with one of my demons tonight
they are dry in Colorado 1980 spring snow.

from: Selected Poems. Copyright 1994.

Friday, February 21, 2014


- Emma Lazarus

Late-born and woman-souled I dare not hope,
The freshness of the elder lays, the might
Of manly, modern passion shall alight
Upon my Muse's lips, nor may I cope
(Who veiled and screened by womanhood must grope)
With the world's strong-armed warriors and recite
The dangers, wounds, and triumphs of the fight;
Twanging the full-stringed lyre through all its scope.
But if thou ever in some lake-floored cave
O'erbrowed by rocks, a wild voice wooed and heard,
Answering at once from heaven and earth and wave,
Lending elf-music to thy harshest word,
Misprize thou not these echoes that belong
To one in love with solitude and song.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Series: I - The Early Years

While enjoying some of the wonderful book blogs out there, I've noticed that people tend to favor ether series or stand alone novels, seldom both. I'm partial to series, myself. How about you? I think it's the continuity I like: familiar old friends returning for a visit.

Murder mysteries, though not everyone's cup of tea, are my drug of choice, and I'm always on the hunt for a new series.

Some make me laugh out loud; some are cringe inducing. Some I have loved and read over and over again, while some just offered, something to read, and some ... well, you can't expect to love everything you read, now, can you?

One of the earliest series I can remember catching my imagination was that of Ellery Queen. After seeing the short lived TV series starring Jim Hutton when I was about 10, I was smitten. Ellery gave the reader every bit of evidence he himself had, so that we might try and solve the case too. (Unlike Agatha Christie)

I admit to an initial misconception that they were not actually fictional stories, but biographical. After all, they were stories written about Ellery Queen by Ellery Queen, were they not? (Frederic Dannay &  Manfred Lee) I did eventuality straighten that one out, but I never let go of my first mystery love.

Over the years I have read and then reread them all. My ancient, crumbling copies anchor a growing, changing library.

At about that same time, I discovered the Nancy Drew Mystery Series. Various authors wrote the books under the name of Carolyn Keene. Pictured is Millie Benson who wrote 23 of the 30 original books.

While Ellery Queen was not always readily available at my local library, Nancy Drew was. Both our school library and the public library displayed her prominently. Also, since any gift giving occasion in our house was a book giving occasion, it didn't take long to build a collection.

I occasionally regret giving that collection to my little sister. (Who am I kidding, I continually regret it!)

Nancy was smart, strong, independent, happy, and that definitely makes her a wonderful role model. My daughter read Nancy Drew, and my granddaughter will be reading them soon.

Families all over the world have traditions they pass on from one generation to the next. In our family, the most precious seem to involve books.

About the time I started Middle School I also began working my way through the Agatha Christie catalog, both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot.

Although I truly love her writing, I carry with me one giant pet peeve about Ms Christie.

She routinely relies on red herrings and withholding details to further her mysteries.

As a girl weaned on Ellery Queen, I found it all but intolerable.

Why, then, do I keep returning to her work?

Her characters. 

Both Miss Marple And Hercule Poirot are quirky and entertaining enough to offset my irritation, along with their many acquaintances.

Another early love was Ellis Peters' (Edith Pargeter) Brother Cadfael.

Half way through reading the books I stumbled upon the BBC broadcast of the series, staring Derek Jacobi in the title role.

I was thoroughly entranced by the gentle monk with the mysterious past, and captivated by his skills with herbs and early forensics.

This series is also an ongoing love and a periodic reread.

Girl Sleuth 
- Brenda Hillman
A brenda is missing—where is she?
Summon the seeds & weeds, the desert whooshes. Phone the finch
with the crowded beak;   a little pretenda
                is learning to read
in the afternoon near the cactus caves. Near oleander & pulpy
caves with the click-click of the wren & the shkrrrr of the thrasher,
               a skinny pretenda is learning
to read till the missing brenda
               is found. Drip of syllables like olives near the saguaro.
Nancy Drew will find the secret in raincoats & wednesdays
              & sticks. Nancy whose spine is yellow
              or blue will find the brenda in 1962,

Nancy                   who has no mother,
              who takes suggestions from her father & ignores them.
Gleam goes the wren ignoring the thorn. They cannot tell the difference.
Click of the smart dog’s nails on linoleum.
                                 Nancy bends over the clues,
of brenda’s locket & dress. Word by word
               between syllables a clue. Where has the summer gone, the autumn—
are they missing too? Maybe Nancy
                will parse the secret & read the book report on Nancy Drew:
“neat pretty sly cute.” Syllable by syllable
                & still no brenda!   Nancy
puts her hand to her forehead; is the missing
girl in the iron bird? is the clue to the girl in the locket?
from: Practical Waters, Copyright 2009.

Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes: well, he was also an early and ongoing part of my reading life.

I've read all the Holmes stories over and over, but for reasons that will become apparent at a later date, I will leave him out today.