Saturday, February 28, 2009

My 1st Blogging Award

WOW, Dorte is so kind. She awarded me the "Your Blog is Fabulous" Award!

Dorte, is a fellow book lover in Denmark. So I guess I can say I am an international winner...LOL. Thank you so much for your kindness. Now I truly must do better.

Believe it or not, I think about the blog everyday. Most mornings on my way to work, I think "today I will just do a quick post on XYZ. "The next thing I know I am in the car the next morning, fussing with myself about the fact, I did not post anything the day before. I am seriously considering the idea of buying a bluetooth just so I won't look so odd arguing with myself in the car, but I digress.

I am asked to award another newbie blogger, however all of the wonderful folks I read are experienced pros. So I will pass on the honor to encourage another newbie as soon as I can.

Thanks again Dorte.

No, I'm Not Compulsive

I have no idea why anyone would think I am compulsive!

Just because my GoodReads to read list is at 200, does not make me compulsive.

Just because I, who has never grown a vegetable in my life and recently went an entire week not eating any veggies [unless french fries count] spent over $40 today [$19 last week] on seeds, starter trays, potting soil and liquid seaweed - that does not make me compulsive.
It is unfair to suggest I am compuslive because my Google Reader is tracking 897 blogs. And there is nothing wrong with the fact they are categorized.

I do not consider myself to suffer from any sort of compulsive behavior disorder. I prefer to think of myself as a fascinating, dynamic woman with a wide assortment of interests.
You agree don't you?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Long-Legged Fly by James Sallis

The Long-Legged Fly, originally published in 2000, introduced James Sallis’s detective Lew Griffin. The book feels more like a short story collection than a novel, as the focus is not a single mystery. Instead, the common thread is Griffin himself. Although he frequently finds missing persons, Griffin struggles to find himself.

The book traces his life and career over a twenty-six year period (1964-1990) as Griffin shifts from women, crimes and sanity. The last chapter is perhaps the most haunting and enigmatic. It involves Griffin’s search for his grown son, who failed to return to America from Europe as planned.

Narrator G. Lamont Thomas expertly draws the listener into the sultry and somber atmosphere created by Sallis. The combination of Thomas’ voice and Sallis words easily encompasses you in a melancholy world, where all to frequent there are not happy ever after endings.

The talent of the narrator was a key reason I enjoyed this book. It was a rainy week when I listened to the audiobook. The combination of cloudy days, and Thomas’ narration left me wondering, if the sun would ever come out again.

The Long-Legged Fly is perhaps not a great mystery story but it is a well written examination of the title character’s life and dark world. I give the book a solid three stars.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Welcoming New Friends

2009 is proving to be a year where I try to reach out and get in touch with the things that have brought me joy in the past. First it was reading, after spending 2008 reading maybe five books, I nearly matched that total in January alone.

Something else I have loved is probably best described as garden watching, because I have great plans to garden, I normally start out well and lose steam as the Texas heat soars. Today I discovered a great wealth of photos and more important information on gardening across the blogsphere.

Now I have a flower bed in my front yard, that includes four roses that thrive despite my neglect. A recent flowerbed clean out by someone who was being helpful but not too knowledgeable took out a few of other items that grew so I have really blank palate.

So, this week I will order those seeds, stop by the nursery and recruit the assistance of my neighbor to create those beds in my backyard. I look forward to inspiration from the experienced folk out there!

First question: I am looking for a flowering, SCENTED vine to grow on my gate. I know I could do honeysuckle but looking for other ideas to consider. I bought a jasmine last year, which has grown a little bit but I have to admit I never smell it.

I live in Dallas, TX which is Zone 7 I believe. Any suggestions?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Life's Bookmarks

There are moments in the life of a person they never forget. Not due to a particular event within the moment itself, rather the moment becomes a bookmark in your life. A door closes and the next chapter in your life begins. Yet in that moment you did not realize you would never be the same again.

I am reading a wonderful book, in fact the New York Times included Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson one of Top 10 Best Books of the year. I think books that we love do one of two things very well: show us a face of the world we never knew (or perhaps create a new one) or illustrates our commonality by letting us see reflections of our experiences in the lives of others.

In the story the father gives instructions to his son about to embark on his trip home and says he’ll “be right behind” him. Leading the son, in hindsight, to remember the moment and think:

“…and the vital question I have put to myself again and again during the time that followed is whether something happened he could not control, or whether he knew already then that he would never follow me. That this was the last time we saw each other.”

Those words caused me to remember the last time I saw each of my parents and consider how unremarkable each moment was, that if it were not for the fact of their passing, I would never remember. Yet the fact my father stood in the kitchen the night before he died making tuna fish sandwiches is something I remember clearly 26 years later. I remember lying in bed quietly the next morning listening to him shave and brush his teeth, dress and leave for his doctor’s appointment. I was being moody and did not want to talk so I never got up and said “good morning” or “have a nice day.” Only to come home after school with people at my house and my mother crying because my father had suffered a massive heart attack and died at the hospital.

My mother died three years ago and although she had been ill for years, there were no signs that her passing was imminent. I tucked her in for an afternoon nap while I went to the birthday party of a friend’s five year son. We joked and talked about plans for her to get out more visiting the senior center. I remember her so clearly saying, “I believe I’d like that.” When I returned home a few hours later she had passed away. I remember more from our conversation throughout that day than I do from the many we shared during our 40 years together.

The moment is a bookmark in my life.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Quiche of Death

M.C. Beaton’s Quiche of Death not only introduced her now beloved heroine Agatha Raisin but it also kicked off my 2009 reading year. It did both with a bang.

For over eighty years readers and TV fans have shown a love for the idea of a spunky mature woman solving murders between baking pies for the church social or county fair. From Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple (1927 – 1976) to Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher on CBS’s Murder She Wrote (1984-1996) fans eagerly awaited the next book or episode featuring their favorite unofficial detective. Perhaps it is the charm of the ladies, and their ability to outwit the “professionals” who continually underestimated the silver hair sleuths.

Now the female crime solver arena is a little more crowded. Readers enjoy such tough cookies like JD Robb’s Eve Dallas to likeable, though perhaps not the best crime fighter, Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum.

The series was launched in 1992 with Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M. C. Beaton. The books are a part of the “cozy mystery” genre. Cozy mysteries are described as:

“The cozy mystery usually takes place in a small town or village. The small size of the setting makes it believable that all the suspects know each other. The amateur sleuth is usually a very likeable person who is able to get the community members to talk freely (i.e. gossip) about each other. There is usually at least one very knowledgeable and nosy (and of course, very reliable!) character in the book who is able to fill in all of the blanks, thus enabling the amateur sleuth to solve the case.”

Agatha has finished a career in advertising and plans to retire to Carsley, a picture perfect village. Everything is carefully planned, boxed and shipped but after spending a lifetime pushing press and the clients around Agatha has no idea how to unwind and enjoy retirement. She immediately hatches a plan to win friends, by cheating in the local quiche contest. But as Agatha’s luck would have it, the judge dies after eating her quiche. Naturally she is humiliated when she must disclose to the police that she lied about baking her own quiche. You can imagine how long that little secret stayed between Agatha and the police in the picturesque village. So, Agatha realizes to regain any dignity she must find the killer.

The mystery aspect of the book is entertaining, once they finally settle down to it. However the first half of the book focuses more on establishing the characters and setting for this series which with the debut of a new title in May 2009 includes nineteen books.

An aspect of the book I really found interesting was Agatha’s inner turmoil when she reflects on how little she has to show for a lifetime focused on career, not people. Beaton does a great job of tackling this topic and I was surprised to find myself thinking about such a weighty topic in what I thought was simply a lighthearted book. Agatha is a woman readers can relate to because yes she is smart but she is also rude, vulnerable, overbearing when in control but frightened and lonely at heart.

Eventually Agatha gets her bearings in her new home and finds her killer. I enjoyed this book so much, I immediately read book two in the series: The Vicious Vet.

I highly recommend the Quiche of Death with 3.5 stars I and look forward to reading all nineteen books, probably this year.
By the way, in the UK the books are referred to as Agatha Raisin and The Quiche of Death, etc. The cover at the top of this post is from the UK edition and the cover on the Amazon link below is the US version.


Monday Musings....on Bookmarks

Just One More Page is hosting Monday Musings and she is asking do we use bookmarks: What do you use to mark your place while reading? Do you have a definite preference? Do you use bookmarks, paper, or (gasp) turn down the pages? If you use bookmarks, do you have a favourite one?

Personally I NEVER dogear a book, I will try to remember the page number first. I like bookmarks and back in the day I had several. Now I can't seem to find them or new ones that I really like. Barnes & Noble is trying to push us to the magntic type but I want the good old fashion cardboard or plastic decorative type. When I cannot find one I generally use a biz card or something stiff I have picked up along the way. Currently I am using a freebie bookmark from the coffee bar at Barnes & Noble but really want something pretty.
What about you?