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Hi! My name is Margot. My blog is about the things I love to do. That could be what I'm reading, places we visit, my family, food, or whatever else is happening. I hope you'll stay and visit a while. Contact me by email: joyfullyretired (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Wondrous Words #250

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 have two more words left over from Agatha Christie’s Murder Is Easy.

1.  pestilential: “Don’t think you’d have cared for him,” said Lord Whitfield. “Opinionated, pestilential, muddleheaded old fool.”

I thought pestilential was perhaps a form of the word pestilence – an epic disease, like the bubonic plague. That didn’t fit the sentence, so I looked it up. In informal usage, pestilential means annoying.

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2.  punctiliously:  “It’s very kind of you,” he answered punctiliously.

I thought maybe the meaning had something to do with punctuality, but no. Punctiliously refers to showing great attention to detail. It can also mean correct behavior.

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: Thursday at Noon

I’m listening to a really good political thriller, Thurday at Noon by William F. Brown. Look for my review on later this week. Here’s how the story begins:

Thursday At NoonPrologue

In 1962, two missile crises brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. In October, Kennedy and Khrushchev went eyeball-to-eyeball over Soviet missile bases in Cuba until, as Dean Rusk said, “the other fellow blinked.”  Four months earlier, however, a smaller yet far more deadly crisis played out thousands of miles away. It never made the six o’clock news or the front page of The New Your Times. Hints of that story are only now beginning to surface through the memoirs of the intelligence agents involved.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea asks us to share the first paragraph of a book we are reading. As you can see it’s called First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros. As readers we are often captivated or turned away by that first paragraph or two. Let’s see what you think about the first paragraph of my current read.

firstparagraph

Book Review: We Are Here by Michael Marshall

We Are HereMulholland Books, 2014

A friend and I were talking about how much we enjoy fast-paced thrillers now that we are in our seventies. We began exchanging our favorite authors and titles. We had a few authors/titles in common. One of them was Michael Connolly. My friend told me that if I liked Michael Connelly, I should try reading Michael Marshall. She suggested a trilogy that starts with The Straw Men. But, before I could start The Straw Men, the publisher offered me a copy of the author’s latest book, We Are Here. First let me share the summary of the book from the publisher’s description:

It should’ve been the greatest day in David’s life. A trip to New York, wife by his side, to visit his new publisher. Finally it looks as though the gods of fate are going to lift him from schoolteacher to writer. But on his way back to Penn Station, a chance encounter changes all of that. David bumps into a stranger who covertly follows him, and then, just before they board the train home, passes him by close enough to whisper: “Remember me.”

The stranger follows them back to where they live, and it isn’t long before David realizes that this man wants something from him…something very personal, that he may have no choice but to surrender.

My Thoughts:

This was a very intelligent and smartly written book. Maybe it was too smart. I didn’t get it. I followed as best as I could down one track after another.

As best as I can tell, there is a fringe group of people who are sort of invisible. That’s the link to the title of the book – they want us to know they are here. It was a little too creepy for me as well as confusing. Worst of all, none of the characters felt real.

I always feel bad when I don’t like a book someone has recommended so highly. I am going to try the author’s Straw Men and see if that one works for me. I’m sorry I can’t recommend We Are Here. It just didn’t work for me.

Have you read this book or anything by Michael Marshall? What was your experience?

Book Review: FanGirl by Rainbow Rowell

FanGirlSt. Marti’s Griffin, Sept 2013

When I find a top-notch book, one that moves me emotionally or makes me think or stays in my head for a long time, I want to find out what other books the author has written. I’m sure you do the same. Occasionally I’m disappointed, but not often. I find that good writers  have more than one good story inside them.

In February I told  you about my experience reading Eleanor and Park. It’s one of my favorite books of those I’ve read in the last few years. The characters of Park and Eleanor felt so real to me that I wanted to read Rainbow Rowell’s other books. She has two more: Attachments, an adult novel, and, this one, FanGirl, another young adult. I found it in audio at the library.

My granddaughter Q recommended it to me as she did Eleanor and Park. Q also explained what “fan fiction” is and told me of some  fan fiction she has written. I like the idea of continuing a favorite story and characters. I’d like to try it myself one of these days. But, let’s get back to FanGirl.

FanGirl is the story of Cath and her first year at the University of Nebraska. Up to this point in her life, Cath has done almost everything with her identical twin, Wren. Now things are different. Wren sees college as a time to experience new things on her own. That means parties, drinking, college men, etc. Wren makes friends easily so she jumps right in. She’s not challenged when it comes to social situations. Cath is the opposite. In fact, rather than eat her meals in the cafeteria by herself, Cath eats protein bars everyday for weeks.

When Wren wanted to live in a separate dorm from Cath, Cath tried to get a room by herself. Instead, she is paired with a roommate, Reagan, who also wanted a room by herself. At first, neither one wants to be with the other. Cath finds Reagan totally objectionable. Reagan always kicks open the door to their room, and talks and acts gruff and blustery. The two clash from the start. But Reagan is smart and has a heart. She takes pity on Cath and browbeats her into going to the cafeteria with her. Gradually, they form an odd friendship.

Reagan has a sort-of boyfriend, Levi, who hangs around their room a lot. When Cath comes back to the room, he is almost always sitting outside in the hallway, waiting. Cath finds herself spending more time with Levi than Reagan does. It’s impossible not to like Levi. Everyone does. But — he is Reagan’s boyfriend.

Although Cath has loads of challenges this first year, there is one positive thing in her life that Cath loves and is quite passionate about – writing fan fiction. She’s actually quite good at it. She’s been writing for several years now and has hundred of thousands of readers to attest to how good she is.

What Cath has been writing is the Simon Snow (think Harry Potter) fan fiction. She’s taken the characters from the novels and given them new lives and new adventures. There are passages from the Simon Snow novels and then passages from Cath’s version of Simon Snow. Cath’s are equal to the original writing, maybe even a little more creative.

There is no doubt, Cath is a good writer. She was allowed to take an advanced fiction class with a respected writer as the professor. When Cath turns in some of her fan fiction for an assignment, the professor doesn’t consider that real fiction. She says Cath is plagiarizing. This raises the whole subject of what actually constitutes fiction.

There is so much for the reader to think about in this book in addition to the fan fiction controversy. There’s the subject of homosexuality, excessive drinking, reading disorders, mothers who abandon their children, mental disease, forging one’s own identity as we move into adulthood and more.

Yes, a lot to think about, but more important to me is the story of these young people who I’m convinced are real people. There’s a beautiful story of first love interspersed in here, as well as a close-up look at the inner workings of a family that’s been abandoned by the mother. Over it all we see Cath as she moves closer to being an independent adult.

FanGirl – another winner by Rainbow Rowell. Thanks so much to Q for steering me to the author. Q’s mom, Candice, also just finished reading this book. As Candice said, this is another “Three-Generation-Read-It-And-Loved-It” book. Amazing, isn’t it? That should be recommendation enough.

Wondrous Words #249

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 two words this week come from Murder Is Easy by Agatha Christie.

1.  loquacious:  “. . . supposing that before Abercrombie had got so foolhardy as fairly to push his murders under the nose of the police, some dear loquacious old spinster had just simply guessed what he was up to . . .”

Loquacious means tending to talk a great deal.

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Menhirs2.  menhirs:  The rector had to remove some old granite menhirs that stood by the church because the people persisted in marching round them in some old ritual every time there was a death.

Menhirs is a tall upright stone of a kind erected in prehistoric times in western Europe. There are many in Ireland, England, and Western France. There are also some that were erected in historic times near monasteries. This is what Agatha Christie is referring to. (Information and photo from Wikipedia.)

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: FanGirl

I really enjoyed reading Eleanor and Park. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to read the other book Rainbow Rowell published last year, FanGirl. Here’s the first paragraph:

FanGirl
There was a boy in her room.

Cath looked up at the number painted on the door, then down at the room assignment in her hand.

It said Pound Hall, 913.

This was definitely room 913, but maybe it wasn’t Pound Hall—all these dormitories looked alike, like public housing towers for the elderly. Maybe Cath should try to catch her dad before he brought up the rest of her boxes.

“You must be Cather,” the boy said, grinning and holding out his hand.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea asks us to share the first paragraph of a book we are reading. As you can see it’s called First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros. As readers we are often captivated or turned away by that first paragraph or two. Let’s see what you think about the first paragraph of my current read.

firstparagraph

Newberry Medal Winner 2014: Flora and Ulysses

NewberryI’m finally ready to begin working on the Newberry Reading Challenge. Because of my Triple Dog Dare Challenge, I couldn’t read anything new for the first three months of the year. It had to be books already on my shelves.

Now that I’ve completed my challenge, I’m ready to catch up on these wonderful award-winning children’s books. My strategy is to begin the challenge with the winner of the 2014 award and move back as far as I can go. So, here we go with Flora and Ulysses, the 2014 winner.

Flora & Ulyssesby Kate DiCamillo

Illustrated by K.G. Campbell

Candlewick, Sept 2013

It’s summer vacation and Flora Belle Buckman is upstairs in her bedroom reading one of her favorite comic books when she hears a big ruckus outside. Looking out her window she sees her neighbor being terrorized by a huge vacuum-sweeper. As she watches, she observes the vacuum inhale a squirrel and spit it out again.

Flora thinks it might be dead, so she rushes outside and gives it mouth to mouth resuscitation. Miraculously, the squirrel comes back to life. Flora is convinced he is now a Super Hero. And, as his actions prove, he is! She names him Ulysses after the vacuum-cleaner. That is the beginning of a wonderful relationship. Flora loves being the sidekick to her very own Super Hero. As for Ulysses – he loves Flora, especially her round head and her warm heart.

This book was absolutely fun. I smiled through most of it and occasionally laughed out loud. There are so many things to like about the book. One of the most unique things is that it is a combination children’s book and graphic novel. It flows quite naturally from one to the other. I also liked how well the characters were developed. There were only six main characters, plus the squirrel, but each one was unique.

As I said, it was a fun novel. At first glance, it might seem silly, but, really, it had deep layers to it. Flora’s parents are divorced and Flora’s mother is not a sweet one. Flora dubs her the “archenemy,” as she hates the squirrel. A boy named William also has parental issues. The situations are handled nicely with no preachiness or sappy conclusions. The author respects the intelligence and sophistication of her readers in these situations.

The targeted age for this novel is 9 to 12 year-olds. I thought of my youngest granddaughter, Lou, as I read. Lou will be 9 this month, and I think she might enjoy Flora and Ulysses. She loves a book that makes her giggle. Lou also has a big vocabulary and she’ll love the big words that fit the story perfectly.

I recommend the book to both children and adults who can appreciate a good children’s book.

Book Review and Giveaway: Black Chalk by Christopher Yates

I’m proud to be a part of the TLC Book Tour for a new novel by Christoper J. Yates, Black Chalk. It’s different from what I usually read, but I found it exciting. I say exciting because it has the feel of a really good puzzle, similar to trying to find your way through a maze. Plus, it was a good mystery with a few pretty scary parts.  Before I go further, let me give you the book’s description from the publisher:

Black ChalkOne game. Six students. Five survivors.

It was only ever meant to be a game.

A game of consequences, of silly forfeits, childish dares. A game to be played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University. But then the game changed: the stakes grew higher and the dares more personal, more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results.

Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round.

The story continues with an unknown narrator describing his life right now. For fourteen years he has been a hermit in his own apartment. He has an elaborate set of mnemonics to remind himself to drink water, eat, clean himself, and wear clothing. You have the feeling he’s desperately trying to hold himself together mentally. I’m sure  he is one of the six gamers but, which one?

Then there is a look back at what happened fourteen years ago. The story also jumps back to present day and continues to go back and forth. In total there are six students involved in The Game at Pitt College at Oxford University. Although there are six, the story focuses on the two main characters, Chad and Jolyon (pronounced Jolly-on).

Each person has their own reason for joining in on The Game, but primarily its for fun and to feel a part of a group. It starts out as harmless pranks and dares. As they go along each dare requires the player to do something more serious. It reminded me of fraternity/sorority hazings.

As the game progresses it becomes too serious. As they say, there are deadly consequences. I won’t give you more details because I really want you to experience this book for yourself. There are so many twists and turns, it was amazing. I changed my mind several times about who the anonymous narrator was, and did not put everything together until the end. Really!

“Page Turner” may be an old-fashioned word but, it truly fits in this case. You may miss a little sleep or a few TV shows while reading this book. If mystery or psychological thrillers suit you, you won’t mind missing a little sleep. To decide if this is for you, I suggest you read the first two chapters (free) on the author’s website. (Warning: it’s what hooked me.)

Christopher YatesAbout the author:

Christopher J. Yates studied law at Wadham College, Oxford from 1990-93 and initially pursued a career in law before he began working in puzzles, representing the UK at the World Puzzle Championships. Since then he has worked as a freelance journalist, sub-editor and puzzles editor/compiler. In 2007 he moved to New York City with his wife, and currently lives in the East Village.

For a complete listing of the tour schedule for Black Chalk, you’ll find the schedule page here: TLC Book Tours

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GLOBAL GIVEAWAY!!

I seldom do giveaways, but I want you to read this book and here’s a chance to do so for free. I have one copy of Black Chalk to give away to one lucky reader. Best of all, it is open to all readers no matter where you live. Please use the comment section to let me know if you are  interested. Giveaway ends April 18th.

Triple Dog Dare: I Made It!

Triple Dog DareI just spent the last three months reacting to the Triple Dog Dare Challenge. Here’s what the dare looked like:

“I dare you to go three months without reading anything new!”

The hardest part of the whole experience was going into the library and passing the “New Books” shelf. If I picked up one of those I would have had to read it within three weeks. So, I just didn’t look.

The dare didn’t say I couldn’t buy new books, only that I couldn’t read new books.  I bought a few kindle books but put them in Archives right away. The dare wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I have lots of books on my To-Read list. Thanks to the Triple Dog Dare, it’s now 20 books lighter. Hoo-Ray! This book-diet was a very good idea for me. Now if I could get my food-diet to go as well.

Wondrous Words #248

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

I’m still focusing on words I found in The Accident by Chris Pavone. (Yes, I loved the book.)

1. ineluctable:  A few years ago, Jeff himself fell victim to the ineluctable trend, and grew a full beard, bushy as a whole but scraggly in spots.

Ineluctable means unable o be resisted or avoided.

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2. repp:  He considered himself in the full-wall mirror, a forty-sthing editor wearing the professorial outfit – gray slacks, herringbone jacket, blue shirt, repp tie, horn-rimmed glasses – that’s practically standard-issue to people with his type of job . . .

Repp or rep is a fabric with a ribbed surface, used in curtains and upholstery.

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.