First Paragraph: The Wrong Girl

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

This week I’m featuring the second book in the Jane Ryland/Jake Brolin series written by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Actually, this one is an award-winning mystery that is, so far, really good. It won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Mystery. Here’s how it begins:

Wrong Girl

“Listen, Jane. I don’t think she’s my mother.”

Jane Ryland took the phone from her ear, peering at it as if it could somehow help Tuck’s incomprehensible tale make sense. Real mother? She didn’t know Tuck was adopted, let alone looking for her birth mother. Why would Tuck call her? And spill this soul-baring saga of abandonment, adoption agencies, then meeting some woman in Connecticut? Jane and Tuck were barely friends, let alone confidantes, especially after Tuck had—

The doorbell?

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?


Book Review: Their Eyes Were Watching

Diveese Universe 2015

The purpose of a More Diverse Universe Challenge is to draw attention to authors of color. For my first book in the 2015 challenge I’d like to highlight a woman from the Harlem Renaissance era:

Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston

Born in Alabama in 1891, Ms. Hurston attended Howard University where she was one of the founders of the university’s student newspaper. She also attended Barnard College and graduated with a degree in anthropology. Ms. Hurston’s career in anthropology was short-lived. She became known for her many folktales and literary writings. She published four novels and over fifty short stories as well as plays and essays.

Eyes Watching 1st Edition

Their Eyes Were Watching God is Zora Neale Hurston’s best known work. It was first published in 1937 and has been republished again and again. It’s the story of Janie Crawford, a woman in her mid-forties. It begins and ends in Eatonville, Florida, an all-black community. Janie is telling her friend Phoebe, her life story divided into three sections, her three marriages.

Janie’s first marriage, when she was a teenager, was arranged by her grandmother. Janie’s husband was an older man who needed a wife to help him on his farm. Janie had hoped for a love-filled marriage, but there was no love. After her grandmother’s death, Janie ran away with a man with big dreams and a way with words.

Her new husband, Jody Starks, takes her to Eatonville, an idea he is very excited about. The community has been founded and populated by African Americans only. When they arrive, Janie’s husband sees that the community isn’t living up to what he considers it’s real potential. Starks buys additional acreage, recruits more residents, starts a general store, becomes the mayor, and so forth. He is now running the town.

Unfortunately for Janie, this second marriage isn’t what Janie hoped for either. Her husband wants Janie to be just a show-piece for him. She’s left out of all the activity and has no social life. Janie is lonely and, again, without love.

After Starks’ death Janie was now a wealthy widow, pursued by many men. She wasn’t interested in any of them until a much younger man called Tea Cakes, comes along. They marry and move to the Everglad region. Finally, Janie marries for love, but life is not easy. I won’t spoil the ending of this story. I’ll only say that it’s very dramatic.

What makes this story so strong and so unique for me is the author’s portrayal of life exactly as it was in this culture and in this time period, the 1930s. There is no attempt to “white-wash” the life of these people. The author painted a picture of what each setting looked like and, with an abundance of dialogue in the vernacular of the times, how each character sounded.

The story was written so powerfully that I felt I was right there. I could see it all and hear everyone. Unfortunately, this is the greatest criticism Ms. Hurston received when it was published. Critics wanted her to portray African Americans in a positive way, one that would improve their image. In particular, they wanted black women to be seen as sexually repressed as they believed white women of the time were repressed. When the novel was first published it did not do well. However, over time it has come to be respected for it’s value in African American literature as well as Women’s literature.

Read Their Eyes Were Watching God in audiobook format. Because of all the dialogue as well as the descriptive language, it lends itself beautifully to the oral storytelling tradition. Actress Ruby Dee did an amazing job of capturing all the many characters and all the various accents, that I can’t imagine experiencing this book in any other format. Be sure to get the unabridged version as you’ll want to hear the whole story.

*Photo of Zora Neale Hurston and the First Edition came from Wikipedia.

Book Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

Cuckoo's CallingAuthor: Robert Galbraith (Pen name of J.K. Rowling)

Publisher: Mulholland Books 2013

Format: Audibook narrated by Robert Glenister

Why I Read This Book:

It was a book club selection, but I told myself I’d read only the first chapter. I really didn’t want to read it as I’m not a Harry Potter fan. Although the author is listed as Robert Galbraith, everyone knows it’s really J.K. Rowling’s work.

I am a loyal book club member however, so I gave it my one-chapter test. Well yes, you guessed it: I got involved in the story and kept on reading through to the end. What a lovely surprise! This was not a fantasy story at all. It’s an old-fashioned, good detective story – my favorite genre.

What the Book Is About:

Cormoran Strike is ex-military police, now working as a private investigator in London. Strike is what I would call “down on his luck.” He’s down to only one client, has a lot 0f debt, is out of shape physically, and has just been kicked out by his girlfriend. Again. He’s sleeping in his office and showering at a gym.

As the story opens we meet Robin Ellacott who has been assigned to work as Cormoran’s temporary secretary. Robin is a young woman who has come to London to be with her boyfriend. The night before she starts working they became engaged. Robin is thrilled with her ring and the whole idea of a wedding.

Robin was also thrilled with her new secretarial assignment. She’s always had a secret wish that one day she could be a detective. When Robin finds the office, and her new boss, aren’t exactly as organized as they should be, she doesn’t miss a beat. She is the soul of courteous professionalism when a new prospective client walks in the door.

The new client, John Bristow, wants Strike to find out who murdered his sister. The police have dismissed it as a suicide, but John believes she would never do that. John’s sister was a super famous model with loads of paparazzi following her everywhere. Police found nothing that would indicate foul play.

Cormoran, of course, accepts the job as John will pay him a lot of needed cash. But, it’s not an easy case to figure out. If it’s murder, there doesn’t seem to be much of a motive and seemingly no way it could have been possible for any one to do the killing. Corcoran is diligent however in his investigation and gets needed support from Robin.

My Thoughts:

The story is quite compelling from the very beginning. What hooked me right off the bat was the noir-detective feel it has to it. The character of Cormoran Strike was beautifully drawn. He’s somewhat Sam Spade-ish. He’s so at home with the seedier side of humanity and yet he has this honest core inside him that gives him a unique view of people and the world in general.

Getting to know Cormoran and Robin was alone worth reading the book. But, there was also a great story told here. I don’t know why I was surprised by that, as my granddaughters believe J.K. Rowling is one of the best storytellers ever. This was a very well written detective story with plenty of possible subjects, clues, nasty characters, and plenty of surprises right up to the very end. I had a hunch about the ending, but the author still managed a big surprise.

I’m so glad I read this book, even though I didn’t want to. Score one more win for book clubs. I’m actually very enthusiastic. Now I’m looking forward to the second book in the series. I’ve also pre-ordered her third book coming later this month.

Highly recommended

I Need a Challenge That Will Push Me

I’ve become lazy or bored or whatever about my blog lately. I’m having a hard time motivating myself. The thing is, I know that I’m a better blogger when I have a nice backlog of posts to fall back on when the rest of my life gets super-busy. It keeps me from getting that feeling of desperation. But, and it’s a big but, my backlog has vanished. I need a push, a good shove to get me going again.

Blog Ahead 2015And then I was over on Elizabeth’s blog and discovered that she had joined an October challenge that should give me that push I need: It’s the BLOG AHEAD 2015 CHALLENGE. The challenge is to blog ahead enough posts that will keep me going from now and on through the holidays. Yes! Just what I need.

The challenge will require that I focus on writing blog posts nearly every day. Here’s the math: I take the number of planned blog posts I have for October – 8 – and add that to 31. That equals 39 and is the number of blog posts I will write ahead from October 1 through October 31. For me that is over 1 blog post a day. This will really test my ability to be steadfast. Wish me luck. I’ll post my progress in my right sidebar.

If you need a little push on your blogging, join the Blog Ahead 2015 Challenge here: Herding Cats & Burning Soup

Wondrous Words #318

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

I only found one new word this past week. I found it while reading The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling).

piquancy: “The knowledge that he would be sharing his office again on Monday added  to Strike’s weekend solitude, rending it less irksome.

Piquancy is a noun with two meanings. It means a pleasantly sharp and appetizing flavor, but it also means the quality of being pleasantly stimulating or exciting.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

First Paragraph: The Cuckoo’s Calling

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea and friends to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

I’m reading a book I thought I’d never read, The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith, aka J.K. Rowling. I know I’m one of the few remaining people in the world who haven’t read the Harry Potter series, but its really not my thing. I was “challenged” into reading this book because I was promised a very good detective story. Believe it or not, I’m really enjoying it. My review will be up later in the week. Here’s the first paragraph:

Cuckoo's CallingPrologue

Is demum miser est, cuius nobiliteas miserias nobilitat.
Unhappy is he whose fame makes his misfortunes famous.

The buzz of the street was like the humming of flies. Photographers stood masse behind barriers patrolled by police, their long-snouted cameras poised, their breath rising like steam. Snow fell steadily on to hats and shoulders; gloved fingers wiped lenses clear. From time to time there came outbreaks of desultory clicking, as the watchers filled the waiting time by snapping the white canvas tent in the middle of the road, the entrance to the tall red-brick apartment block behind it, and the balcony on the top floor from which the body had fallen.


What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

I’m Joining Two New Challenges

I do love reading challenges as you can see in my right sidebar. Here are two challenges I’m joining during the month of October.

Diveese Universe 2015The goal of A More Diverse Universe Challenge is to celebrate and bring attention to books written by authors of color. This is a concern that has been close to my heart ever since those early years when I taught in a segregrated elementary school. Learning how to read was tough, but could have been helped had there been books with pictures and stories my children could have related to. Its only been within the past few decades that some publishers have taken a chance on these books. There are now quite a few excellent stories available for children and adults.

Brown Girl DreamingOne book I’m going to read was recommended by my eldest daughter. It is written so beautifully. It’s Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. I’m going ro listen and read it at the same time.

Their Eyes Were Watching GodI’m also going to read, actually listen to, a classic I’ve had on my list for a long time. It’s by Zora Neal Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God. It’s going to be a double treat because the story is narrated by the actress Ruby Dee. I should say it is “acted” by Ruby Dee. There is so much dialogue in the story and Ruby Dee makes each character come alive. Yes, I confess – I’ve already started listening to the first disc. I couldn’t help myself; it’s so good.

The More Diverse Universe Challenge is sponsored by Aarti at Book Lust and runs from October 4th through the 24th. Sign up HERE.

R.I.P 10

The other challenge I’m joining is the R.I.P Challenge. That stands for Readers Imbibing Peril. This is the tenth year for this challenge devoted to mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror and supernatural stories. The challenge started September 1st and will run through Halloween. I love good mysteries and, actually, I don’t need a challenge to encourage myself to read more. I look on this as more of a mystery-read-along. Here’s a few I’m planning to read:

Books for R.I.P. 10The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Murder and Other Natural Acts by Lida Sideris
The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspeare
The Hollow by Agatha Christie

R.I.P. FirstI have a few others books I hope to get to but I’ll keep my list to this five for now. Because I’m reading so many books I have a level within the challenge that I am aiming for. As seen above, I will be among the elite (or crazy or obsessed?) who read more than five books.

If you’d like to join in, visit the Estella Society HERE.

I hope you too will join in the October fun.

Book Review: Dance of the Bones

Dance of BonesPublisher: William Morrow, September, 2015

Why I Wanted To Read This Boook:

When asked to join the TLC Book Tour, I agreed immediately just because I wanted to read another book by the author. J.A. Jance has written over fifty books which includes four major series. With this new book, Dance of the Bones, J.A. Jance did a very creative thing for a series writer — she took the main character from one series and put him together with another major character from another series. They are J.P. Beaumont and Brandon Walker.

What the Book Is About:

Prospector Amos Warren and Big Bad John Lassiter, his young protégé, were as close as father and son until a violent argument tore them apart. The next day, Amos disappeared, never to be seen again. Years later, his bones were found in the desert. All signs pointed to John Lassiter, and Detective Brandon Walker made the arrest in the case.

Now, more than four decades later, the retired Walker is called in when TLC—The Last Chance, a group of retired cops, criminalists, medical examiners, and district attorneys who devote their time and experience to solving stone-cold homicide cases—looks into the killing. Lassiter can get out of jail now for time served if he’ll plead guilty to a lesser charge, but he refuses to cop to a crime he didn’t commit. Lassiter’s daughter, Amanda Wasser, wants Brandon and TLC to find Amos’s “real” killer and clear her father’s name.

Brandon Walker’s search to find the truth about Amos’s killer eventually leads sixteen hundred miles north to Seattle, to an unsolved murder that could be connected to the case. Thanks to a mutual friend, Brandon gets in touch with crack investigator J. P. Beaumont. With the Special Homicide Investigation Team disbanded and his wife away at a conference, the retired Beau has plenty of free time to help, even though he’s skeptical about Lassiter’s claims of innocence.

J. P. Beaumont and Brandon Walker’s meeting proves all too crucial, for soon these seasoned detectives must pool their personal and professional expertise when someone close to Brandon falls into the hands of a cold-blooded killer involved in a recent multiple homicide—who may also hold the key to the cold case.

My Thoughts:

The story is set in the Southwest, actually Arizona which I like. My first impression was that of a Tony Hillerman book. At the beginning of each chapter there was a portion of an old Indian folk tale. I loved it. It was a good match to the modern-day story.

Even though I knew who the “bad guy” was for quite a while during the story, it didn’t bother me. The real mystery was how the “bad guy” was going get caught. There were lots of twists and turns that made me stay with the story.

Another interesting part of the book for me was the fusion of the characters. I was not familiar with the author’s two series, but I had no trouble. Melding the characters from two different series was smooth and natural.

I will confess to wishing I’d read at least some of the previous books in the series because these were “good people.” My only complaint was that there were a lot of them. A list of the “cast of characters” at the beginning would have been nice. If the author put all of these characters together in another novel, I’d read it.


Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of it all. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: J.A. Jance Book Tour

tlc tour host

Wondrous Words #317

WWWEvery week word-lovers post new words they’ve discovered while reading. It’s called Wondrous Words Wednesday and was created by Kathy at Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

My youngest daughter sent me a word she found while reading Force of Nature by Suzanne Brockman.

1.  zaftig: “Who knew? Apparently there’s a place there for dancers who are zaftig.”

Zaftig means deliciously plump, or carrying your extra weight very well. (Urban Dictionary)


2. swanning: If I’d  gone to law school, all my student loans would have been paid off, and I’d be swanning in the trinity of the Christians: Dior, Lacroix, and Louboutin.

A swan is a large, long-necked bird, but swanning refers to movement of a person. It means to move about or go somewhere in a casual, relaxed way, typically perceived as irresponsible or ostentatious by others.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating. Feel free to join Wondrous Words Wednesday. Be sure to visit Kathy for the details.

First Paragraph: Dance of the Bones

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

I’m featuring a book that I just finished reading. The author, J.A. Jance, is a very prolific writer, although until now I have only read two of her books. In Dance of the Bones she combines characters from two different series. It’s quite good. Here’s how it starts:

Dance of Bones.

Soza Canyon, Arizona

Amos Warren walked with his shoulders stooped and with his eyes and mind focused on the uneven ground beneath his feet. The winter rains had been more than generous and this part of the Sonoran Desert, Soza Canyon on the far eastern edge of the Rincon Mountains, was alive with flowers. Scrawny, suntanned, and weathered, Amos was more than middle-aged but still remarkably fit. Even so, the sixty or seventy pounds he carried in the sturdy pack on his shoulders weighed him down and had him feeling his sixty-plus years.

He had started the day by picking up several top-notch arrowheads. He slipped them into the pockets of his jeans rather than risk damaging them as the load in the pack increased over the course of the day. The one he considered to be the best of the lot he hid away inside his wallet, congratulating himself on the fact that his day was off to such a great start. Over the could of the morning he located several geodes. The best of those was a bowling-ball-sized treasure that would fetch a pretty penny once it joined the growing collection of goods that he and his foster son, John Lassiter, would offer for sale at the next available gem and mineral show.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?