Wondrous Words #313

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 like it when I discover a new word in a totally unexpected place. This past week it was on my telephone. (Yes, it is a smart one.)

Burrata 2One of the bookclubs I belong to was meeting at a new-to-me restaurant. When I went to check the directions I saw a little review for the restaurant. The review said this:

“Nice outside seating and great burrata.”

I was curious enough to look it up before I got to the restaurant. I learned burrata is a semisoft white Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream. Mmm, you can be sure that when I got to the restaurant, I checked the menu. It showed a whole dish called Burrata. I had to order it.

To the right is the picture I snapped (yes, with that same smart telephone) of my plate. Let me describe the dish. First there was a light layer of greens and some prosciutto slices off to the side. Then a dollop of the warm burrata on top. A couple of sliced cherry tomatoes gave it some color. A light drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette was sprinkled over it all. A few slices of their home-baked bread was on the side.  I put some of each element on the toasted bread and took a bite. It was yummy. It made the perfect bite. Just right to talk about books.

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 Nature of the Beast

Every person I know who is a Louise Penny fan, waits for right now. Right now is when the author’s latest novel is released. I am a fan – one of those who gets the author’s newsletter, follows her on Facebook, and pre-orders her novel the minute it is announced. And now I share with you the start of this year’s edition, The Nature of the Beast:

Nature of the BeastRunning, running, stumbling, running.

Arm up against the wiry branches whipping his face. He didn’t see the root, He fell, hand splayed into the moss and mud. His assault rifle dropped and bounced and rolled from sight. Eyes wide, frantic now, Laurent Lepage scanned the forest floor and swept his hands through the dead and decaying leaves.

He could hear the footsteps behind him. Boots on the ground. Pounding. He could almost feel the earth heaving as they got closer, while he, on all fours, plowed the leaves aside.

“Com on, come on.” he pleaded.

What do you thin

Would you keep reading?

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.

Book Review: The Summer’s End by Mary Alice Monroe

Summer's EndSpecial note: That is the author’s daughter on the cover.

Publisher: Gallery Books, 2015

As I said the other day, I love to pick a book each year that epitomizes my feelings about the end of summer. You know the feeling – the one where you’re sad that summer is over, but you’re excited about what the future holds. This year’s pick, The Summer’s End, has that same bittersweet feeling. Firs, let me share the publisher’s blurb about the story:

It is summer’s end and Sea Breeze, the family’s beloved estate on Sullivan’s Island, must be sold. It is an emotional time of transition as Mamaw and the three sisters each must face loss and find a new place in the world.

Harper, the youngest sister, arrived at Sea Breeze intending to stay only a weekend, but a rift with her wealthy, influential mother left her without direction or a home. During this remarkable summer, free from her mother’s tyranny and with the help of her half sisters, Harper discovered her talents and independent spirit.

I was sympathetic with the character of Harper. She’s survived one of the bitchiest fictional mothers I’ve met in a long time. As the story opens Harper is still struggling to get out from under her mother’s control. Her mother sees Harper only in terms of how Harper can make her look good and satisfy her goals. She has succeeded through guilt and manipulation. Spending various summers with her father’s family (in particular her grandmother) has given Harper a balanced view of life. She does see her mother for what she is.

Harper’s grandmother, Mamaw, believes this is her last chance to pull her three granddaughters together for one last summer. She is going to have to sell her island estate. Mamaw wants one more opportunity to help the three young women find their way and to bond with each other.

Harper finds the summer is just what she needed. She starts writing a novel even though her mother believes she has no talent. One more good thing happens for Harper: a tall, good-looking man shows up to help with a kitchen remodel. Harper and Taylor are immediately interested in each other. I like how they slowly let their love develop.

I also liked some of the other issues raised in the story: the handling of grief and the subject of making pets of wild animals. This is a strong story that includes a nice romance.

The Summer’s End is the final book in the Lowcountry Summer trilogy. The first two books feature Harper’s two older sisters and I’m sorry I didn’t read them first. The Summer’s End made for a good stand-alone as I was able to catch on to what had already happened. If you haven’t read any of these books, I suggest you start at thee beginning. They are so enjoyable that you really shouldn’t miss any of the action.

I want to thank Kathy at Bermuda Onion for suggesting Mary Alice Monroe. I had a extra treat when I checked the audiobook out from the library. The narrator/reader was Mary Alice Monroe herself. Her reading, with her beautiful southern accent and just the right inflections, helped me “read” the book just the way she wrote it. Can you get it any better than that?

Wondrous Words #312

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.

Sometimes being retired means that I have tons more time to wander all around the internet reading all sorts of interesting, although not very useful, things. Occasionally, like this time, I found a new-to-me word that I thought I’d share with you. I found this one on the Huffington Post:

demagogue: “Donald Trump is many things — a demagogue and a pompous blowhard, a braggart and a race baiter–but in the end, he’s nobody’s fool, except perhaps his own.”

A demagogue is a a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument. The word originated in ancient Greece and Rome for a leader or orator who espoused the cause of the common people.


Sorry, only one word 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: Summer’s End

Bittersweet – the feeling of pleasure tinged with sadness – is what I feel at the end of summer. I’ve always tried to read a book that reflects that feeling. This year I found one that fits perfectly, not only in the title, but in the themes in the novel as well.  Summer’s End by Mary Alice Monro has me, so far,  completely enthralled. Here’s the first paragraph:

Summer's EndThe dawn of another summer day. Mamaw tightened the soft cashmere throw around her thin shoulders. Slivers of light pierced the velvety blackness over the Cove, and pewter-colored shadows danced on the spiky marsh grass like ethereal ghosts.

Mamaw sat huddled on an oversize, black wicker chair on her back porch, her legs tucked beneath her. The fog was moist on her face and the predawn chill seemed to penetrate straight to her bones. She couldn’t seem to get warm with Lucille gone. Since her dear friend’s death, many nights she’d awakened from a fitful sleep and come outdoors hoping the fresh air would settle her. She’d found scant warmth or peace in the chill of predawn. In the distance, the Atlantic Ocean, her mercurial friend, roared like a hungry beast. The waves were devouring the dunes in a relentless rhythm. Echoes reverberated over Sullivan’s Island.


What do you think?

Would you keep reading?


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.

Book Review: The Reinvention of Albert Paugh

Reinvention of Albert Paugh.
Author: Jean Davies Okimoto

Publisher: Endicott and Hugh Books, 2015

Not every retiree calls themselves Joyfully Retired. Some people, like Albert Paugh, retire and then regret it. In Albert’s case, retirement was something he was forced to do. He’d had a heart attack and surgery, his wife panicked and made him retire. But Al had established his own veterinary practice. It was something he was very proud of, not something he wanted to leave.

Now, months after the sale, Al finds himself making a daily trip back toward his old clinic. He crouches down in his car and spies on the new owner. He spots the new guy doing things he would never do. Al has big regrets about his decision to leave the clinic.

On top of that now Albert’s marriage is over. He has to sell his house and move. This puts Albert alone for the first time in decades. This accumulation of events could push Al into a deep depression, but fortunately for Albert, he has some great friends and neighbors and a wonderful companion in his loyal, fun-loving dog, Bert. Albert learns that it’s not too late to “reinvent” himself.

Traveling beside Albert as he reinvents himself was a fun and interesting experience. He has a good group of friends accompanying him, some of whom I’d met before in the two previous Vashon Island books. A nice surprise for me, I loved Albert’s dog. I’m not a big dog person, but I think I could be one if I had Bert. He was the best non-speaking character in the story! (Actually, he communicates beautifully without words.)

Almost every retired person I know has a well-developed philosophy about retirement. It is one of our favorite topics. We observe our fellow retirees, we analyze them and then spend hours kibitzing about them (and, of course, with them -ha).

Some retirees jump right in and embrace their retirement with gusto. They behave as if they are on repeated two-week vacations. But, there are many more who feel somewhat adrift. After all, their identity, their job has just gone away. Who are they now? Many retirees find they, just like Albert, must re-identify or reinvent themselves. It’s my opinion that they don’t successfully do it alone. It takes friends, family and, in the case of retirees who move away from “home,” a new community of friends and family to make it happen.

Jean Davies OkimotoI’m so glad Jean Davies Okimoto has written novels that include this subject. I guess I should also say thanks to her publisher. Just because we turn retirement age doesn’t mean we stopped living or doing interesting things. There are stories galore out here in the retirement world that are waiting to be written. As Albert discovered, even romance is alive and well among retirees.

I am a fan of Jean Davies Okimoto’s writings. I was very honored when she asked me to read and review her new book. The minute I received it I started reading and, of course, I love it. Then I started reading it again. Albert Paugh climbed into my head and then my heart. I have already recommended The Reinvention of Albert Paugh to my retired friends that I meet face to face, and now I suggest you read it too. You might also like the author’s two previous books also set on Vashon Island, You can read what I thought of them here:

Walter’s Muse

The Love Ceiling


Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be a part of this. To see other stops on the book tour, visit the schedule here: Jean Davies Okimoto Tour

tlc tour host

The Best Audiobok Of the Year (So Far): Dancing At the Rascal Fair

Rascal FairAuthor: Ivan Doig

Publisher: Scribner/Simon & Schuster, 1987

Format: Audiobook Narrated by Robert Ian McKenzie (20 Hours)

I absolutely love this writer and the Western characters he creates. I swear he is telling us about real people and – I know them! I’ve read a number of his books now so I know he’s that good. What took me over the top with Dancing At the Rascal Fair was Robert Ian McKenzie, the audiobook’s narrator. He truly became the body and soul of Angus McCaskill.

Angus McCaskill was only 19 when he and his friend Rob Barclay left Scotland for the United States in the 1880s. Rob had an uncle who had settled in Montana and sent money home every Christmas, implying a rich life. The two young men knew hard work, but they dreamed of the free land offered near Rob’s uncle. Off they went.

It was a great adventure crossing the ocean, most of the continent and then trying to pinpoint Uncle Lucas in that vast territory of Montana. Eventually they do find the uncle and he stakes them both to a homestead ranch raising sheep. The two begin building their barns and homes and learn what it takes to raise lambs in a country of volatile weather.

Angus and Rob also met the neighbors who had arrived before them. One of the neighbors heard that Angus had helped out in a school back in Scotland, so he was tagged to be a member of the newly created School Board. The growing community needed educational guidance, not to mention a school building and a teacher. Angus supplements his homesteading income for years by being the community’s schoolmaster.

An additional life-changing event happens when Angus met Anna, the neighboring county’s schoolteacher. It was instant love for Angus and he carefully began to court her. Unfortunately for Angus, Anna chose to marry another man. Angus was devastated, but he continued to love Anna his entire life, even though he married someone else. Angus’ love for Anna will build wedges between Angus and those he loves most.

DancingDancing At the Rascal Fair is a wide sweeping look at life in the early Western communities. It spans, approximately, the years from 1889 to 1919. It’s inevitable that events outside Montana will impact them. The great influenza, World War I, the rush of even more homesteaders and the creation of the national Forest Service was felt by all in this novel.

Doig’s use of dialogue, regional and time period phrases made this novel a word-rich experience. His descriptions of the landscape also took me there. Best of all, he allowed Angus McCaskill to be the narrator so I, the reader, knew what Angus really thought of the people he met as well as how he judged his own conduct.

I particularly enjoyed being inside the one-room schoolhouse, looking out at the land from the top of a mountain, and nearly freezing to death in a blinding snow storm. (All this from the safety of my comfortable California home! Isn’t reading wonderful?) I can’t recommend this book to enough people. It’s so good. If you don’t read any other of Ivan Doig’s books, read this one. (Actually, listen to it. Robert Ian McKenzie can roll his r’s like the best Scotsman.)


Ivan Doig just passed away this past Spring. He left an incredible body of work that will still be read decades from now as people attempt to understand the immigrants who homesteaded America. Just before his death he completed his final novel, Last Bus to Wisdom. You can find an excellent review of that book and a tribute to Mr. Doig here at The New York Times.

Wondrous Words #311

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’ve been following all the talk and writings about a new book out this month. It’s Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. It’s creating quite a stir. I found a couple of words while reading about the author’s writings.

In an interview on NPR’s Code Switch I read this:

suss: To that end, here are three handy tips to help you suss out folks who haven’t actually read [the book] themselves.

Suss means realize; grasp. (She sussed out right away that there was something fishy going on.) The origin of the word is set in the 1930s as an abbreviation for suspect, suspicion


Then I saw an Atlantic Monthly article and found this new word:

kletocracy: In the 1920s, Jim Crow Mississippi was, in all facets of society, a kleptocracy.

Kleptocracy is a noun meaning a ruler who uses political power to steal his or her country’s resources.


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 Reinvention of Albert Paugh

I like the stories Jean Davies Okimoto creates. She has a new novel out about a recently retired veterinarian. The behavior of Albert is not that different from lots of other recently retired people. Here’s a hint of it in the very  first paragraph:

Reinvention of Albert Paugh.
Al didn’t quite know how he got sidetracked. He’d never thought of himself as an impulsive person, it was rare that he did anything without thinking it through and he certainly had every intention of taking Bert, his chocolate Lab, to Point Robinson. It was a beautiful fall day and Bert was eager to get to the beach where he loved to swim and retrieve his rubber frog. Of course, Al was supposed to get exerise, too. But instead of going to the beach like he’d told Eleanor he’d be doing—the past eight months he’d been very dutiful about always letting his wife know his whereabouts—somehow, he inexplicably ended up going in the opposite direction. He drove to town and turned off on a side street, Ober Lane, and that’s where he stopped and parked his truck. Changing his destination had not been the result of a deliberate, rational process. It felt more to Al as though he’d been transported magically like Dorothy when she was whooshed away from Kansas, except that he was Albvert J. Paugh, D.V.M. and he’d landed around the corner from the Island Animal Clinic, his former place of employment which was not Oz.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?


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.


Book Review: The Other Woman

Other WomanAuthor: Hank Phillippi

Publisher: Forge Books 2012

Genre: Mystery

Jane is a journalist, newly working for a Boston newspaper. She was a TV journalist until she refused to reveal a source. The TV station fired her and everywhere she goes people seem to believe she did something wrong. In spite of that Jane is a true journalist – a hint of a good story and she digs in for the truth.

There’s a senate race going on in Massachusetts. Jane isn’t assign the best stories. Instead she’s given a puff piece on a candidate’s wife. It’s not what she wants or is good at, but she’s grateful for this new job.

When Jane meets the wife, her instincts tell her something is wrong. Jane’s instincts are also aroused when she continues to see the same gorgeous woman at every political event of this senatorial candidate. Who is she? Is she just a political junkie or could she be the candidate’s “other woman?”

Meanwhile Jane’s good friend, Jake Brogan, a Boston police detective, is in the midst of a possible serial killer case. It’s actually the media that believes this is a serial killing. Jake isn’t convinced. The dead bodies are near bridges, but since Boston has a lot of bridges, Jake thinks it’s just a coincidence, or possibly a copycat.

Jane and Brogan are good friends, but they also have feelings for each other. They are resisting those feelings because they fear working together will hurt their careers because of a conflict of interest. They are, however, good at working together because they tend to analyze situations in a similar way and they both have good people instincts.

No doubt about it, I loved this book. That’s a good thing because I already bought the second and third books in the series. I didn’t wait because I knew Hank Phillippi Ryan would come through with story I’d like.

Highly recommended.