Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: Anne Perry's Christmas Mysteries - A Christmas Guest & A Christmas Secret

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It’s been a few year since I’ve ready anything by Anne Perry, but I really enjoyed the first Christmas Mystery I read by her (featuring Vespasia Cumming-Gould from the Charlotte and Thomas Pitt mysteries) and I was in the mood for Christmas stories.  I got these two as a single Nook book because the two were cheaper together than the one I was interested in, A Christmas Secret, featuring Dominic, the brother-in-law from the first Thomas Pitt mystery.  

I thoroughly enjoyed both of these stories.  I read A Christmas Secret first and liked not only Dominic, but also his wife, Clarice.  The village was interesting.  I almost had it figured out by the end.  It left me wanting to re-read Burnswick Gardens, the book that introduced Clarice to Dominic.  It also left me wanting to see more of Dominic and Clarice in future stories. 

I was very pleasantly surprised by A Christmas Guest.  It featured Mariah Ellison, the Grandmother of Charlotte Pitt.  She has never been a favorite character as she is a sharp tongued old woman.  This story redeemed her somewhat and makes me a little curious if her change of heart (for lack of a better word) spills over into the Pitt mysteries written after this story (I’m a little behind on my Anne Perry’s).  

The mysteries themselves were a bit anti-climatic, but still very enjoyable.  I’d recommend these books to anyone who likes historical fiction and a nice little mystery.  These are basically stand-alone stories, so one does not need to have read any of the Charlotte and Thomas series to enjoy these mysteries.  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review - Blue Christmas by Mary Kay Andrews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the third in the “Savannah” books and was a thoroughly enjoyable read. It brings back Weezy and her crazy family, Weezy’s boyfriend Daniel, and introduces his crazy family, and of course, BeBe is back as well, along with Jethro, the dog, and new characters, Manny and Cookie.

The story revolves around a Christmas decorating contest that Weezy is determined to win. At the same time, she’s planning a Christmas dinner that will introduce her family to Daniel’s family for the first time. Amongst all of this are the antics of Jethro and a friendship of sorts with a homeless woman. The family dinner was hysterical. The decorating contest was fun. And, the friendship with the homeless woman in some ways just spoke to the spirit of Christmas.

My only complaint is that it seemed to just end. I'm hoping this somewhat abrupt ending means that there’s a fourth book in the future. I highly recommend this book, but read the other “Savannah” books first (Savannah Blues and Savannah Breeze).

Sunday, November 27, 2011


So, a while back I wrote about giving up frozen dinners and doing more cooking. However, I'm one person and I've never really cooked a huge variety of foods. Today, I did something different for me. I made Split Pea-Sweet Potato soup from a recipe on the Whole Foods site. I did halve the recipe and I used vegetable stock in place of half of the water. The rest remained the same. I'm happy to say I'm very pleased with my first soup attempt and will do this one again.

It didn't take that much to do, but I laughed a little at myself. I would choose the world's smallest kitchen to really start cooking in. Fortunately, the mess looked worse than it was and the clean up was quick and easy.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving - 2011

Happy Thanksgiving! For the second year, a friend and I ate Thanksgiving dinner at one of the nicer local restaurants. Last year was somewhat of a disappointment with what appeared to be almost a "line 'em up and knock 'em out" type of experience with a different local restaurant that's very good and very popular. They took reservations for certain times, put out a buffet and there you go. Good, but we sorta felt like we were on a conveyor belt and missed the peacefulness of a meal out in a nice restaurant.

This year, we tried a restaurant recommended by another friend and it was a great recommendation. The atmosphere was great. No buffet. Adding to the dining experience for me was dietary restrictions (low fat) due to surgery last week. (This was only my second true outing since the surgery, so that made for an extra nice day for me). The waiter was awesome when I explained my restrictions. He helped modify the traditional dinner to remove items that wouldn't work and even put my gravy on the side. All this rounded out by a small piece of pumpkin pie for dessert.

In the past, Thanksgiving has been a "me" day -- something I've always enjoyed and many years looked forward to. However, dinner out these past couple of years with my friend has been really enjoyable. Especially this year, with the surgery and having limited contact with people for the past week. Makes one realize just how much there is to be thankful for.

We rounded out the day with a short walk to take advantage of the nice weather and look at the houses in the neighborhood around the restaurant.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Book Review - A Killer's Christmas in Wales by Elizabeth J. Duncan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was looking for a Christmas mystery and came across this title. I found the Wales location and the introduction of a spa interesting. This is the third entry in the series; I haven’t read the first one and didn’t really feel that it mattered.

The mystery solver is Penny Brannigan, one of the owners of the future spa located in Llanelen, Wales. She’s likable as is her business partner, Victoria Hopkirk, and boyfriend, DCI Gareth Davies. The book opens with a mystery, the body of a young woman and dog found during the renovation of their future spa. It’s starts out as just background and pretty much stays there, however, she does play into the mystery a bit.

The story really revolves around Mrs. Lloyd and her infatuation with Harry Saunders, who is eventually murdered (something you sort of see coming). Shortly after Harry’s demise, another member of the village, a relative new comer, is also murdered. Throw in some petty thefts at the local second hand store and there is the mystery. Mrs. Lloyd and her house mate, Florence, through as series of bad decisions and circumstances come to be somewhat suspect in Harry’s murder. They ask Penny for help. Penny doesn’t just jump in and help, but she does offer to do what she can while encouraging the two ladies to take what they know to the police. As she was near the scene of the murder at the time that it occurred and because some things don’t really add up to her, she does offer to help where she can.

The mystery isn’t fast moving, but it’s enjoyable. I did figure out one of the relationships in this book, but I didn’t figure out who the killer was. In fact the story is set up so that you think it could be any number of people.

I enjoyed Penny’s relationship with her boyfriend and the fact that she was a very low key sleuth. She wasn’t all over the place, sneaking into rooms or around properties. She did sleuth, but it was all very natural and it wasn’t her overriding goal. She was curious and happened to pick up on things and in the end, she connected the dots. And, she called her cop boyfriend when she did rather than trying to round up the killer herself.

I liked the town, the people and the relationships. I also liked that various Welsh names were used, it was a welcome change of pace. And, as I did pick this up for a Christmas read, I enjoyed Christmas in this book. It wasn’t all about the gifts or the shopping. It was about church and dinner with friends... the things that truly matter.

The one thing that bothered me was that while the body of the woman was identified, her death wasn’t resolved. She disappeared many years ago, but her death and how she came to be buried in the spa was not explained. Future mystery maybe?

Not sure if I’ll read more in this series, but I might.

Book Review - Buzz Off by Hannah Reed

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I debated between 2 and 3 stars for this book, but because the mystery was basically well done, I gave it 3.

This mystery follows Story Fischer, recently divorced and living next door to her cad of an ex-husband, Clay. She’s recently opened a small market with an emphasis on honey products as she is into honey and learning about bee keeping. Her friend and teacher in the beekeeping business, Manny, dies at the beginning of the book, apparently from bee stings from his bees, and from there the mystery starts. Something just seems off to Story, like the fact that he died from yellow jacket stings, not bee stings. However, with no autopsy, the town is all aghast and raring to get rid of all bees. An entire town that comes across as small minded and uninformed, if not a tiny bit dumb. Next thing you know, Faye, Clay’s current girlfriend (apparently he really goes through them) shows up dead in Story’s kayak.

I was drawn to this mystery because of the beekeeping aspect and the mystery itself was well done. However, I didn’t really like any of the characters (except, Ben the dog) all that well, including Story, who apparently at one point in her life was a not so nice person, though to be fair, a lot of us aren’t at our peak in high school. Still, you’ve got a Sheriff who is apparently holding a grudge from high school and thus bullies Story still. Seriously, the head law enforcement officer, in this day and age, is a bully, though, he somewhat redeems himself at the end. Then, there is Story’s family, in particular her Mother. The whole relationship left me wondering what possessed her to move back to the small town she grew up in, given that there didn’t appear to be a completely decent person in the lot and Story herself mentions she has no friends. At least in most of the books of this genre there is a friend, even if it’s a cousin or other relation. Really, nothing like that here. Basically, a main character without anyone to support her.

The beekeeping aspect. Well, it was a disappointment as Story made so many stupid mistakes doing things with and around the bees, that I wondered if Manny was really the supreme beekeeper or if Story just wasn’t a good pupil.

The other thing that got tiring after a while with this book was the author's use of bullet lists. They are throughout the book for everything from conversation re-caps to information on the rustic roads of Wisconsin. Not sure if the author just didn’t like writing conversation or just thinks bullets are more concise. It didn’t really work for me.

Things resolve nicely in the end (with a bullet list, of course), but I don’t think I’ll be reading any other books in this series.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review - The Fixer Upper by Mary Kay Andrews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It’s the story of Dempsey Killebrew, a young woman caught up unwittingly in a political scandal. At the heart of the scandal is her boss, a man she all but idolizes and yes, has a crush on. Because she’s the fall guy, even though she doesn’t realize it, and needs to leave her home in DC for a bit, she first heads to her father’s home in Miami, then on to Guthrie, GA to fix up the house her father has just inherited from his uncle.

What she finds in Georgia is a squatter in the house, Ella Kate, who took care of the uncle and just never left, a house in need of major repair, and people who actually support her. It turns out that people to support her is what she needs. While she had friends in DC, her parents, in my opinion, are all but worthless. Her father is busy being a good dad to his second family while at the same time still tromping all over Dempsey and not being a father to her. He might be trying to make up for his shortcomings with Dempsey while raising her by being the textbook dad to his twin four year old boys, but he could be that dad to her now. Her mother, a hippy, isn’t much better and at one point goes all the way to Georgia because she’s sure Dempsey can’t handle this on her own.

In the end Dempsey does handle it on her own - the mess with the political scandal and the house and in the process finds a boyfriend and a town full of people that have faith in her.

Dempsey is naive, but she’s also young. She didn’t want to believe her boss was hanging her out to dry and that hurt her in the beginning. Having said that, the FBI agents just drove me bonkers in the beginning. I’ve never had to deal with the FBI in that capacity and I’d hope they don’t harass people that way, but maybe they do. In the end, they redeemed themselves somewhat. I wasn’t a big fan of Ella Kate’s, but, I think in the end she had her place. I really liked the Berryhill’s, both father and son. Loved the characters of Bobby Livesey and Jimmy Maynard. Basically, I liked all of Guthrie’s residents.

In a way it was sad to see Dempsey realize that her boss, a man she looked up to, was a bad guy. You’d think she’d know better, but she’s young and he played on her crush on him and then set her up. In the end though she got riled and turned the tables on him.

My only complaint is it seemed to end abruptly. You sorta know she’s in the clear, you sorta know who she’s with and that she’ll get married, you sorta know she’ll keep Birdsong and stay in Guthrie. But, it’s all sorta and not really wrapped up. Now, life is rarely wrapped up, but it just seemed to end. Maybe we’ll see more of Dempsey and the town of Guthrie, GA. I hope so.

This is one of my favorites by Mary Kay Andrews and I look forward to reading other books by her.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


I recently crossed the three year mark living in my apartment. This is a record of sorts for me. I've moved a lot and aside from my three and half year stint living in California's central coast, the longest I'd lived anywhere was Texas. But, in California, I lived in two different apartments, so there was a move while there. I lived in my first (and beloved) house in Texas for about six and half years. That's still my record. However, life changes and takes us to new and different places. So, three years in one apartment is kind of a record for me. While, I'm beginning to lust after having my own washer and dryer (even though the shared laundry is literally right next to my apartment) and am wishing for a slightly bigger, better laid out, more storage kitchen, I'm still very happy with where I live.

I'm also very happy with some of the perks. Heat (gas) is included. Huge plus in the winter. Water was included, but that will change when my lease is up and then I'll have a water charge. The city I live in has raised water/sewer rates - a lot - and the management is passing this cost on. I understand. I'm not happy with how, though, as they've decided to determine the surcharge by the number of bedrooms rather than by number of tenants. As one person in a two bedroom apartment, this bugs me. I have written a letter to provide feedback, but I expect it to have little or no impact. So, rent will definitely go up, but such is life, I guess.

There are some other perks. I live in a mid-rise building which has a smallish lobby with a table and two chairs. When someone moves and needs to find a home for stuff, they just leave it in the lobby. I've seen microwaves, patio chairs (nice ones), a chair and ottoman, and not too long ago a sofa. While I think this is cool, what really makes my day is the books. A resident reads a lot, so various books, hardback and paperback, show up on the table. I've recently picked up about five books to read. These, coupled with the ones I got when Border's was going out of business (so sad that), will keep me busy while I'm laid up next week. And, hopefully, help me meet my Goodreads reading goal for the year. And, yes, when I'm done with the books I pass them on, either the same way or to my Mom.

Book Review - Footsteps in the Dark by Georgette Heyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve read by Georgette Heyer. Three siblings, Peter, Celia and Margaret, inherit a former Priory and head there for a little vacation, along with Celia’s husband, Charles. Joining them is their Aunt, Mrs. Bosanquet. The Priory appeals to all of them, even though it lacks certain amenities, such as electricity. However, since they all like it, they settle in for a vacation. As they go out and about and meet various people from the village they begin to hear stories about the Monk - the ghost that supposedly haunts the Priory. At the same time, strange noises can be heard at the Priory and a skeleton is discovered. Yet, they decide to hang in there and figure out what’s it all about as they don’t really believe it’s a ghost.

It took a bit to get into the story as the writing style is “older” for lack of a better term. For example, the aunt was referred to as either Mrs. Bosanquet or Aunt Lillian - it wasn’t consistent. It also took me a bit of time to nail down the time period. That aside, I enjoyed the setting, both the Priory (secret passages and rooms to be discovered) and the village. I enjoyed the friendship between the siblings and between the brother and his brother-in-law. They all seemed to approach the problem at hand with rationality and practicality, not counting Mrs Bosanquet’s turn with a Ouija board, which was totally in line with her character.

The mystery was a bit light, but original. There was a side romance that went from 0 to 60 in one second, which I felt was a bit rushed, but it didn’t detract from the story.

Overall, while it wasn’t a spectacular story, I enjoyed the book and will read others by her.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review - Ghost a la Mode by Sue Ann Jaffarian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a plain out fun read. I was afraid it might be a little too Ghost Whispery, but it wasn’t. Emma is recently separated from her talk-show host husband and living with her parents in her childhood home. At the request of a friend, she attends a seance and discovers that she has the ability to see and communicate with ghosts. Well, at first, it’s the ghost of her great-great-great-grandmother. Later on she realizes she can see all ghosts.

Turns out Granny was murdered and has been waiting for a family member to help her. After a bit of denial about seeing ghosts, Emma decides she needs something to do (for lack of a better phrase) since with the end of her marriage and her daughter heading to college, home maker is probably not a good occupation going forward. So, she listens to Granny and sets out to Julian, CA, to see what she can find out.

This book has great characters, humor, a romance of sorts, and a little history (Julian is a real town). There are also two mysteries - Granny Apples murder and the present-day murder of a sleazy psychic in the Julian cemetery. Just so happens, Emma was one of the last people to see him alive. The mysteries themselves weren’t great and the motive was alluded to throughout, however, I didn’t figure out either of the killers. Even given that, I enjoyed the story, the characters and the settings and will definitely read other books in this series.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Book Review - The God of the Hive

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Overall, this book was okay, though I was a bit disappointed. It picks up where The Language of Bees left off. It zig zags back and forth between Russell, Holmes, Mycroft Holmes, the villain, and one chapter devoted to a character introduced in Bees. As if this wasn’t enough, it suddenly went from the crimes of a religious leader turned madman to some type of spy story motive. Turns out the lunatic religious leader was just a side story and the true bad guy is actually after Mycroft. I never did really get why.

Add to this, when Russell learns some of Mycroft secrets, which really shouldn’t have been all that big of a surprise, she’s suddenly comes to look upon Mycroft as some sort of bad guy. Really? What did she think Intelligence involved? She’s a smarter girl than that.

The reintroduction of a character from one of the Conan Doyle stories was refreshing. The character of Goodman was somewhat fun. However, there were side stories everywhere, again way to much flying detail, tons of detail regarding disguises, and other elements that just seemed to drag out the story. Add to this that I actually figured out the story with Mycroft and you’re basically told who the bad guy is in the beginning (but we get less detail about him and his motives than we do for some of the other secondary characters) and this was not all that much of a mystery.

I truly enjoy this series and think it’s one of the best mystery series going. This lacked a lot of what I have enjoyed in the previous books, especially the interaction between Holmes and Russell. Overall, this is not one of the better books in the series. However, if you’ve read The Language of Bees, I’d definitely recommend this one to round out the story.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Book Review - The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

The Language of Bees (Mary Russell, #9)The Language of Bees by Laurie R. King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the ninth book in the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series. While the previous book, Locked Rooms, focused on Mary’s past, this one circles around to Holmes' past. It introduces his son Damian (whose mother is Irene Adler), a man who has had his own share of problems and is maybe not of the same breed as Holmes, but not a bad guy either. In fact, a family man with a wife and daughter whom he is devoted to. He’s also an artist. We also get more of Mycroft in this book, which is a treat.

The mystery begins with the disappearance of Damian’s wife, Yolanda, and morphs into the hunt for a mad, would be cult leader. The story, while good, seemed a bit disjointed in the beginning. There’s a story line involving bees that I thought might play into the main story, but it didn’t. Not really. There were other events, found via perusal of the papers, that seemed strange to Russell, which did tie into the main mystery. Damian comes to Holmes for help in finding Yolanda and his daughter. Yolanda is known for her spiritual exploration and has taken trips in the past, but this time Damian doesn't know where she went. At first, Holmes helps Damian solo, but when Damian disappears, he and Russell team up, basically headquartering out of Mycroft's London townhouse.

The narrative jumped back and forth between Holmes and Russell, which is a little different from previous novels where we usually just get Russell’s viewpoint and Holmes’ movements and investigations as told to Russell. I didn’t mind it, though, and rather liked it. It was nice to not get Holmes movements second hand, so to speak. Holmes for obvious reasons doesn't really want to provide all details to the police which puts him somewhat on the opposite side of the police. In fact, the police are a bit contrary with Holmes, which seemed to go a bit against the original series, though this is set several years in the future.

I didn't care for Russell's almost derogatory comments about Watson (never have), but there were few of them. Russell has never held him in high regard as far his help to Holmes in the past and I've never really gotten that. Holmes relied on Watson quite a bit back in the day and knew he would would always come through.

There are a lot characters in this story, but the more I read, the more it all seemed to flow together. The pace picked as the book progressed, though I found the detail for the plane ride excruciating. I thought it would never end and really wished it would have sooner; it just went on for way longer than it needed too.

The end wasn’t really the end and that was a bit of disappointment. It was a set-up for the next book, The God of the Hive. This isn’t really a bad thing, just a teeny, tiny, little disappointment as there is no true resolution.

I enjoyed this book enough that I’m now reading The God of the Hive. I would definitely recommend this book for fans of the series. If your new to this series, I’d recommend starting with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

And, then a Hurricane!

Last Saturday Hurricane Irene blew her way through my town. Watching the news and hearing about the evacuations, especially those in my town made for a lively Friday afternoon. I was happy to find out that my apartment is not in a low lying area and I could stay, though I found out later that a friend and co-worker's house was and she stayed on a friend's couch.

Before the storm came, I made sure I did some grocery shopping and took care of things that I wouldn't be able to do over the weekend. I also did "storm" prep, which I'm not usually in the habit of doing. Batteries, water, food, etc. The most important, though, was getting my hair cut. A girl has to take care of the important stuff.

Saturday morning wasn't too bad, but I found myself watching the coverage on the local Fox station. I don't normally do that, but I was intrigued. I also found myself following Twitter feeds (love the Weather Channel and Weather Bug and I found some great local feeds to follow) for info on what was happening here and in the area. I was surprised that it didn't just drive me nuts. Alas, in the evening the winds did pick up as did the rain. The rain wasn't a problem, but that wind. Wow. It rattled the bedroom windows quite a bit, so I didn't really sleep a lot on Saturday night. I managed to get dinner, but the power flickered several times. After making it through all of Saturday and Saturday night and early Sunday, I lost power at 7:30 am Sunday morning.

By Sunday afternoon the weather was gorgeous and I was going stir crazy. Without power, I had no cable and my portable radio wasn't doing it's thing. I didn't realize how disconnected I would feel without some type of contact. I did do a bit on my cell phone, but I was trying to conserve since I didn't know when the power would come back and I'd be able to charge it. Finally, a friend and I headed for B&N to recharge our electronics and to some extent, to re-charge ourselves. We had sandwiches outside for dinner and just relaxed a bit.

I was one of the lucky ones in that I got power back early Sunday evening. My friend wasn't so lucky. She got power back Thursday. Fortunately, I was able to offer up my couch. Thank goodness we get along great! The apartment seemed a little empty after she left, but I know she's reveling in being back in own home. After all, who isn't happy to get back in their own house and sleep in their own bed? Even without a natural disaster, there's nothing quite like returning home from traveling and sleeping in one's own bed.

Watching the news and seeing the flooding in Vermont and New Jersey, I know that where I live, we got through it very well. While it's taken almost a week, just about everyone has power back. Life for us will get back to normal much quicker than those that are stranded or completely flooded out.

The weather this past week has been absolutely gorgeous -- and calm. Hard to believe that Hurricane Irene was only a week ago, though signs of her passing through can still be seen about town. Weather is strange sometimes.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

So... an earthquake!

All summer long, the bridge behind the building I work in as been under repair, which has involved putting a number of very large supports in the ground. This has created noise and some jarring, but nothing really unreasonable. At least not for me... I'm sure it's different for those closer to the crane and the pounding. Then they find that our building is sinking! Yep, and it too will need to be shored up a bit and that will create a bit more noise and a bit more pounding.

So, today when the building moved a bit, I thought this must be related to the reinforcement of the building. Then it moved a bit more. Then it started shaking and I thought the building was collapsing. Seriously, first thought was they must have goofed driving in the supports and the building was collapsing. Then I thought maybe earthquake and went to stand in the door. Next thing I know the building is being evacuated and we are moving not just out of the building but off of the terrace and down to firm ground. Because, it's an earthquake. Centered in Mineral, VA, but felt for hundreds of miles. 5.8 they say. My first earthquake and the strongest earthquake to hit the East Coast since 1944. The irony is I lived in CA for three and half years and never felt an earthquake. I know not much by West Coast standards, but it was still alarming to me.

They weren't sure about the safety of the building, but after about 30 minutes they let us back in to retrieve our things and sent us home. We are working tomorrow, but it will be clean-up duty and probably no A/C. The weather has cooled a bit, but it's a really big building with glass walls and without air circulating, it's going to be really stuffy. Vanity being what is, I can't imagine what my hair will look like after a day in constant humidity (it's curly and humidity, especially here, doesn't lead to good hair days).

I wondered what I would find at home. Nothing really bad, though a vase did break leaving glass everywhere. The cat is safe, but has only come out from under the bed briefly. I did tempt her with an treat of additional wet food tonight and she did eat some of that and did stay with me for a bit, but is now back under the bed. I'd told her if there was ever a weather emergency, to hide under the bed. Nice to know she listened to me. I'm guessing she'll come out when she's ready. Poor thing - it was probably kind of scary to be here with things falling off shelves and breaking. I'm just glad she was out of the room when the vase broke and didn't get cut on any of the glass.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Book Review - The Witness Wore Bay Blood by L.C. Evans

I finished two books while on "vacation." This is the second one finished, so I'm sharing the review.

The Witness Wore Blood BayThe Witness Wore Blood Bay by L.C. Evans

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the first book by L.C. Evans I’ve read and the second in the series. I enjoyed it and will probably read others in this series and/or by L.C. Evans.

This series revolves a bit around horses and horse shows and is set in a small Florida town. A member of the local horse club is accused of murdering a friend of her husband. The husband seems indifferent at best. While not wanting to be involved, Leigh McRae is asked by the accused, Candy, to help her out. After Candy reveals something no one else knows and realizing that no one is going to help Candy, Leigh decides to do a little poking around. Tagged on and around this is her cousin Sammi’s belief that her neighbor is poisoning neighborhood dogs.

The clues are all laid out. I knew there was a connection, but there were numerous false leads, but in the end it all tied together nicely.

A few things did annoy me. The attitude of the sheriff. While Leigh did present some pretty basic things it was apparent he had his person and would consider nothing else. I guess I prefer to have law enforcement be willing to help and investigate instead of being the enemy.

Her relationships with the men in her life. I haven’t read the first book, but Kenneth, her ex-husband, is not written in a manner that anyone would like him. I also didn’t care for her wishy washiness over marrying Adam, the perfect man she now has. No man is perfect. I couldn't tell if the author was trying to throw romance into mystery or not. If she was, it was subtle and didn’t really work for me.

I did really enjoy the relationship between Leigh and her cousin Sammi. I couldn’t tell if Leigh had many other friends other than acquaintances from the horse club, though she seemed to know and get along with plenty of people. She has a daughter, who is youngish (11), but is barely in the book. Not sure what I think about that, though for most of the book the daughter was at dressage camp.

I thought her job woes got a bit tiresome as did the constant reminders of how run down her house was. While these did wear a bit thin with me, they didn’t really detract from the book and I will most likely read other books in this series.

Overall, this was a good book and I’d recommend it.

View all my reviews

Yearly Illinois trip...

I got back a few days ago from my yearly trip to middle of nowhere So Illinois. Once again, I was struck by how absolutely peaceful this area is. The people are really nice and there is no traffic to speak of; the towns are very small. Everything moves at it's own pace and nothing seems rushed. Now, it could be because it was July not May this time, but it's always been like that when I was there.

This time I wound up flying and driving. I flew in to Shreveport to join up with my Mom and then drove from there (in her new Escape, which I definitely enjoyed driving) to IL. We overnighted in a really nice little hotel in Arkansas and arrived the following afternoon. Pleasant drive. Different scenery - mostly flat, nothing like the mountains I drove through last year, but still peaceful. We made the return trip in a day and I flew back out of Shreveport. Horrible flights from DFW to S'port and vice versa, but then I don't do bumpy well at all.

Once there we attended to a couple of things needed for the house. Turns out a water pipe burst when the water was turned back on. Apparently there had been a leak outside. Someone from the water department noticed it and cut the water off at the meter and put a lock on the meter! When the person who usually turns our water on and cranks up the air got the for usre, he, of course, couldn't turn on the water. So, he went to the city, which explained the problem. Apparently, after my dad passed away, they sorta lost track of us and didn't realize we came in once a year (we figured that explained why we hadn't gotten a water bill -- oops). The joy of a small town - they turned the water on, saying that we could pay the deposit when we got there, and replaced the meter with a newer one (apparently it was a little dated). We did wind up talking with the guy from the city who did this, in the street, while trying to find city hall, which was closed because of the holiday as the lady who ran the office took some vacation days. We were able to drop it off in a drop box. We were also tickled that he referred to the house as "Pete's house." You gotta love small towns. Course, it's also why I hesitate to live in a town that small as it would be like living in fishbowl -- everyone would know your business.

The plumber fixed the pipes and kindly mopped up everything. There was no sign of water when we got there and for that we were really grateful. Actually, we were super grateful to have water when we got there. All else went fine. We also took the final step of officially listing it for sale. Bittersweet, but houses need to be lived in and it's time.

While there I found myself somewhat longing for "my space." It's been a while since I've felt the urge to buy or have "my home" as I'm perfectly happy where I am and renting. Maybe it was the peacefulness of the setting or the fact that there are no apartments there. You either live in a house or a manufactured home or a trailer but not an apartment. However, once I got back to my apartment I realized again that home is where the cat and my stuff is. It can be a place or maybe a building but for me, 98 percent of the time, it's where I feed the cat and hang my hat.

I figure we have one more trip back when the house sells and that's when I'll say my final good-bye to the place. In the meantime, I'm happily back home and getting back to the non-vacation routine.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Reviews

I set a reading goal this year on Goodreads and also have a goal to write a review for each book that I read. So far, so good. I've decided to start sharing some of the reviews on this blog.

I mostly read Mysteries - Cozies and some historicals. However, I also have an eclectic taste in books and you'll see a variety of titles that aren't mysteries. Some chick lit, but no romance. If it appeals to me, I'll read it.

Hope you enjoy the reviews.

Book Review - Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews

Savannah BreezeSavannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved this book! It was great to get more of BeBe’s story (she was introduced in Savannah Blues) and see more of Weezy. I was a little leary in the beginning as I could see that Reddy was going to probably take advantage of BeBe. And, he did. In a big way. What I loved was that while he took BeBe for everything, she owned up to her part in letting it happen and took charge of getting her life back together. She reached out to friends and family, but did not take advantage. She took the one thing she had left, a run down motel called the Breeze Inn, and set out to make it work.

BeBe also set out to get back what Reddy took. This involved a road trip to Florida with quite the cast of characters in tow. Her Grandfather, who was a hoot and not nearly as oblivious as he came across, Harry, whom she met at the Breeze Inn and who isn’t as gruff as he wants people to think he is, and of course, Weezy. Some tenseness ensues as does some hilarity. It works out in the end, but refreshingly, BeBe grows from this experience and doesn’t quite head back to the perfect life she had before.

This could have been a story of desperation, but it wasn’t. It was about people, friendships, family and taking what life throws at you. It wasn’t simpering, but full of life. BeBe literally takes lemons and makes lemonade.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book (though suggest reading Savannah Blues first if you haven’t read that one) and look forward to reading other books by this author.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pet Peeves...

I live in a town that has a downtown that is incredibly touristy. For the most part, I enjoy this as it's also very quaint. However, it does bring with it it's share of things that drive me bonkers.

Bicyclist who ride in tandem or in the middle of the lane. Not just downtown but in the neighborhoods around downtown - where I live. The streets are basically all two lane and narrow at that. You can't pass. And, they poke, so one gets to just poke along behind them. I totally admire anyone who wants to bike where they go, especially in the cold and the heat. I don't admire someone who impedes my ability to get around because they hold up the flow of traffic. Not much I can do about it, though, except grumble the entire time I'm behind them.

Another pet peeve - clueless pedestrians. I don't mind jaywalkers, except we have plenty of legal cross-walks. I do mind people who pay no attention to the traffic around them or where they are going and just walk into the middle of the street. Yesterday a couple did this inside the circle downtown. I did not see them until I almost hit them. Once I'm in the circle, I have the right of way and the center of the circle is landscaped, so the visibility to the other side is limited. Now, folks blow through the yield signs (yield before entering the circle) all the time (another peeve), but yesterday it was all clear, so I entered and was ready to go and almost hit this couple. They barely looked at me, showed no remorse and acted as if they had the right of way. Which, I'm sorry, with no cross-walk in the middle of an active circle, they didn't. Nor did they even try to pick up the pace to get out of the way. A few weeks ago two couples literally stopped in the middle of the street, again no cross-walk in sight, trying to decide where they were going while I waited patiently for them to get out of the middle of the road. I'm not sure they ever realized they were just standing in the middle of the street.

I enjoy walking downtown and do so whenever I can. However, I'm very aware of rights of way and cross-walks and I always pay attention to my surroundings not to mention oncoming traffic. I'm not sure what has gotten into people that they longer pay attention to car traffic or pedestrian flow. However, I'm guessing most people don't even think about who has the right of way, they just assume it's the pedestrian and that isn't always the case.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Once again...

It's once again time to renew my lease. This will be my third lease renewal since moving to Maryland. I'm not sure whether I consider this a milestone or not. I've been here 2 1/2 years and really have no complaints if you take distance from family and how much of a pain in the butt it is to travel by air. I also have no true complaints about my apartment. Especially during this time of year, I realize I made a good decision renting here. Other apartments may do just as well, but truly this complex takes snow removal and de-icing of sidewalks and parking lots seriously. Last week we had sleet and ice. No delay to get into work. The sidewalks and parking lots at the complex were good. The roads were good. The parking lots at work were good. The sidewalks at work were solid ice. No cleaning had been done that I could tell. I did manage to get into the building without falling. A good amount of snow (3-5 inches) fell last night. We did have a two hour work delay this morning. When I left, the complex was clear. They had even cleaned between the cars in the parking lots. I still had to do a bit of work to clear the car, but the sidewalks and parking lot and even the streets were pretty much cleaned.

Side note regarding the weather: While I don't relish cleaning three inches of snow off of my car, with the Prius, if you get what's on the top of the car to a certain point, it all just slides down to the hood and off the car. That was nice. I also learned from last year's blizzards and got snow boots and a snow shovel. Loving the boots and while we haven't had a ton of snow, the shovel has come in handy.

Back to the apartment. They handled last springs bug problem well and have been kind enough to go ahead and order new mini-blinds for my bedroom even though they don't see a problem. Well, they don't close all the way. They do close, but not a solid close so cold air still gets in as does light. I face the street so this leaves me with random street light at night no matter what I do. This year I even got a window insulation kit and with the help of a friend, insulated the bedroom windows. It helps some, but when temperatures drop into the 20's or lower it still gets to be 58 or 59 in the bedroom at night. Fortunately, between a ton of blankets, newly rediscovered flannel sheets, and a fluffy kitty, I stay warm. It's that or leave the heat cranked up at night and I'm not really ready to do that, though I have adjusted it so it doesn't go much below 58. Good thing one sleeps better in a cooler room.

I've decided to go with the one year lease (18 month was not offered this time). It still goes up a bit, but not much. I also learned that with the new lease there is no pet rent, so the rent should be about $5 less overall, assuming I've done the math correctly (I get an employer discount as well which is not figured in the quoted rent amount in the lease renewal letter). So, the rent goes down a bit and kitty cat doesn't have to get a job, not that she ever looked, no matter how much prodding I did.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Baking and smoke alarms....

Recently, it's all about the food. About three months ago, I decided to give up frozen dinners. As a single girl, this was a major decision for me, as the frozen dinner had become a really easy go to dinner during the week. However, I was having various issues and one of the things I decided to really try and eliminate, or drastically cut down on, was preservatives. Frozen dinners often use them as well as a ton of sodium.

So far, it's been good. I thought I'd do a lot of freezing, but basically I do things that can be built upon, either for lunch or dinner during the week. I'm basically using leftovers in the planning. I've also switched from an egg breakfast that I ate for years (home cooked) to a greek yogurt with a morning snack of a home made muffin. Cooking wise, I've done a few things that have really pleased me, but in other ways I'm still learning how best to cook for one person, which means I'm learning a lot.

It's a joy to be baking again. Muffins are my passion and I've started to try my hand at scones. So far so good. However, my apartment complex upgraded the smoke alarm in the hall outside of my kitchen to a combo carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarm a few months ago. Apparently it's very heat sensitive. Running the oven at 450 degrees sets it off. Apparently 400 degrees does as well, as I discovered today while baking muffins. I'd even covered the thing with aluminum foil. Seems that's not good enough. I'll give it a go with a plastic bag as well when I do dinner tonight as that will require 450 degrees. It's nerve wracking. I know covering it isn't a good idea (of which it appears I fail at since it still went off), but I'd rather the thing not go off when I'm using the oven. Others in my apartment complex have the same problem and I believe some have simply disconnected them. I know this isn't ideal. A friend has strongly suggested I talk with the apartment management, but I don't think these things can be adjusted. I've done some research and am at a loss. I've cleaned the oven and checked everything I can think off. Running the fan doesn't help. It'll be okay for a while, then bam, the darn thing is going off. And, it's not like I'm going to give up using the oven. Until I can talk to management though, I'll experiment with ways to cover it up so kitty and I can keep our nerves in tact.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011

This past Christmas was probably the most disjointed one ever. Even with the craziness, though, it was a good one. I book my airline tickets about 3-4 months out. Late Christmas Eve I learned that Delta had canceled over 500 flights in and out of Atlanta on Christmas Day and mine was one of them. I called Orbitz (who I booked the ticket through) and they almost booked me on a later flight, then assured me that Delta was re-booking me. Delta did re-book me... for the following day. Which would have been okay if the storm front predicted for Atlanta wasn't also coming this way.

For whatever reason, I waited until Christmas Day to see how the weather here would do and I slept in. What I realized when I woke up is that Delta could have made their morning flights (and it appeared that my flight out of Atlanta that morning was on time, which just made me cranky). Realizing that I ran a very big risk of not flying out the next day, I canceled the Delta flight (at no charge, so I am very grateful to Delta for that and to the agents who helped me re-book) and booked on American. The cost was a bit higher, but I wanted to go ahead and fly out on Christmas Day; the little voice was telling me this was the thing to do. So, I did it. Friend WC kindly drove me to the airport. The airport was beyond quiet and the flights were good. While waiting for my connecting flight in Dallas, the shuttle service I use called and canceled my pick-up for the next day, validating my get out of town now feeling. I had canceled the second leg of the shuttle trip but had been unable to cancel online due to the changes to the reservation. At any rate, while I got in much later than I planned, I was in Louisiana on Christmas Day.

The few days there were good. Among other things, we sold my very first car... finally. It was a 1987 Honda Accord Hatchback. I loved that car, probably more than any other car I've had. And, I drove it for 10 years. However, it was time to let it go. We got a good offer for it and took it. The new owner - a young lady who will be starting community college in January. Her dad is a Honda fan and currently works at the dealership we originally bought the car at. I feel like it went to a good home and am glad that we own one less car.

Speaking of cars. Over the past couple of years, I've been monitoring the value of my car, a Toyota Matrix I've driven for 7 years and very much enjoyed. However, car prices are good and Toyota had good incentives. Add this to helping a friend car shop several months ago and I'd done most of the preliminary work. So, the Saturday before Christmas I test drove the Prius. And, I liked it. I hadn't planned on buying that day, but the trade-in on my car had gone down over the past couple of years (expected). Toyota gave me good value for the trade-in, as well as a good discount, in addition to the 0% financing. So, with a little bit of sadness mixed with excitement, I traded in the Matrix. I'm now the proud owner of a Toyota Prius III in Sandy Beach Metallic. I'd have preferred a light shade of blue or the red, but neither was available, so I decided to try a different car color. Not sure about a light interior, but so far I'm enjoying the car. I expected the gas milage to be lower in the winter due to the colder weather and running the heater, but right now I'm getting about 49 mpg and I haven't even used a quarter of tank. Stay tuned for how it goes with the car, because honestly, it just fascinates me.

The year ended on a sad note, with the death of my college roommate. However, overall, 2010 was basically a good year. I've got good vibes coming at me for 2011. I wish everyone nothing but the best in the coming year.