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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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"I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place." - Anne Tyler

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Book Review: Certainty by Victor Bevine

Certainty Published by Lake Union Publising, October 21, 2014

I read Certainty as part of a TLC Book tour. I read the following summary of the book and knew I had to read it and participate in the tour:

Inspired by the scandalous true story that shocked a nation at the close of WWI.

With America’s entry into World War 1, the population of Newport, Rhode Island seems to double overnight as twenty-five thousand rowdy recruits descend on the Naval Training Station. Drinking, prostitution, and other depravities follow the sailors, transforming the upscale town into what many residents—including young lawyer William Bartlett, whose genteel family has lived in Newport for generations—consider to be a moral cesspool.
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When sailors accuse a beloved local clergyman of sexual impropriety, William feels compelled to fight back. He agrees to defend the minister against the shocking allegations, in the face of dire personal and professional consequences. But when the trial grows increasingly sensational, and when outrageous revelations echo all the way from Newport to the federal government, William must confront more than just the truth—he must confront the very nature of good and evil.

Lately I’ve been curious about what life was like during the 1920s and 1930s and I’ve been reading quite a few novels from that period. Fortunately for me, Certainty put me right there.

Often we think our current cultural and social issues are ours alone. But a look back, through the eyes of this novel, made me realize that, even nearly a hundred years ago, we were fighting most of our same issues. There were many complaining about the subjugation of women and extreme racial discrimination.

There was much less conversation about sexual equality back then, but as Certainty shows, there was one legal case that had an impact. Of course it took many decades before homosexuals and lesbians could behave normally, evan though that still isn’t a universal experience.

Reading and thinking about the issues was enjoyable, but I also liked the characters. The priest, Kent, is truly a man to be admired. As the attorney, William, first met him, he realized that Kent was a person who sincerely believed his mission in life was to help others. William was amazed at the priest’s honesty. Here’s part of their conversation. William asked,

“Do you truly believe, against all odds, that you’re making a difference by what you’re doing?”

Kent took a thoughtful pause. “My pride would like to answer, ‘yes.’ ” He sighed. “But the simple truth is that I haven’t the faintest idea.”

When the immorality charges come against the priest, he calls William first. Because William has such respect for Kent, he is more than willing to defend the man in spite of enormous pressure on him from his family and community.

I definitely recommend this well written, thought-provoking novel.

Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for my copy of the novel. If you’d like to read reviews of the book by other bloggers, visit the schedule here:  Certainty Tour

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Wondrous Words #275

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. This week I found two new words, both of them adjectives.

1.  I found this new word while I was reading a review in the LA Times about the new CBS show Madame Secretary:

sardonic:   “. . . a world perhaps grown weary of broken heroes, twisted ambitions and a universally sardonic view of American government.”

Sardonic means grimly mocking or cynical.

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2.  The next new word I found while in a life-long learning class (OLLI) on the antebellum South.

liminal: The instructor was talking about the life of slaves in the early 1800s. He said that some slaves were liminal.

He was referring to children born of white plantation owner/fathers and black mothers. The  children didn’t belong to the world of the white plantation family nor to the world of the black slaves. They were liminal or in-between. The dictionary says they occupied a position on both sides of a situation.

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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 White Princess

I’ve said it more than once, when you belong to a book club, you often end up reading a book or two that you would never otherwise read. The White Princess fits into that category for me. I was the only member who had never  read a Philippa Gregory historical novel. I haven’t started yet, but I plan to start at the end of the week.

Here’s the first paragraph:

White PrincessI wish I could stop dreaming. I wish to God I could stop dreaming.

   I am so tired; all I want to do is sleep. I want to sleep all the day, from dawn until twilight that every evening comes a little earlier and a little more drearily. In the daytime, all I think about is sleeping. But in the night all I do is try to stay awake.

What do you think? Have you read this author before?
Would you keep going?

Every Tuesday 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. Visit Diane to read more First Paragraphs.

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Book Review: The Whole Enchilada

Whole EnchiladaAuthor: Diane Mott Davidson

Publisher: William Morrow 2013

I began reading Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary mysteries way back in the early 1990s when a culinary mystery was quite unique. It was pure fun to see Goldy bumble her way through her growing catering business while at the same time solving the mysteries of murdered bodies that coincidentally showed up wherever she was catering an event. I also loved how her story developed with her young son, her best friend Marla and how she met and finaly married her police detective husband.

Now, after reading her seventeenth book, I’ve decided to call it quits. The Whole Enchilada was so jumbled up that it was sad to read. Goldy had been a good character. She should have been allowed to retire a couple of books ago.

In The Whole Enchilada Goldy tries to solve the mystery of the death of a good friend who dies right after eating a torte, a dish that everyone loved, but contained an ingredient that was poisonous to her friend.

Within days there was another murder, an attempted murder and Goldy herself was attacked. There were clues everywhere and Goldy bulldozes various people into telling her things under the guise of helping her dead friend. It wasn’t in the original Goldy’s personality and it just wasn’t realistic. Her husband, the detective, did hardly anything. Neither did the police officer who was guarding her and she went about town.

The worst thing of all was this: the recipes were a disappointment. The torte was the dish that contained the poison but, after all the talk about it, was not even included in the recipe section!

I’m not recommending the book. I’m also going to hang up my “Goldy apron” and move on to some other culinary mystery series. Anyone have a suggestion?

Book Review: One Minus One

One Minus One

 

Author: Ruth Doan MacDougal
Publisher: Putnam, 1971
Format: Audiobook, Read by Amy McFadden (5hours, 34 minutes)

One Minus One was a dip into the nostalgia pool. Back in the old days, magazines such as GoodHouekeeping, Redbook and Ladies Home Journal would run whole novels in the back of their magazines. I thought most of them were quite good, and one of the reasons I subscribed to them. Most were what is now called Women’s Fiction.

This story appeared in Redbook. It’s the story of thirty-year-old Emily who has just been divorced by her husband so he could marry another woman. To say the least, Emily is devastated. She and David had been together since she was fifteen. But, now she must find a job and get on with her life. At least that’s what everyone tells her.

Emily finds a position teaching English in a high school in the coastal area of New Hampshire. She makes a few new friends at the school and a new boy-friend who’s a morning disc-jockey.

When the boyfriend leaves her for another woman, Emily’s attitude surprised me. Her actions seem to say “Oh well, its no big deal.” Emily just can’t get over her ex-husband. She doesn’t want to get over him. Another man, her boss who has been in the background, finally makes his move near the end of the school year. As we said back then, “He’s a good catch!”

I really wouldn’t call this a romance novel. I’d call it a slice-of-life novel. It was a good look back at life in the 1960s: lots of cigarettes, the birth-control pill and sex-before-marriage, low salaries ($6,000/year for a teacher) and low prices (a two-bedroom apartment somewhere around $120/month). For someone who lived during this time-period, One Minus One was a fun reminder of day to day life back then.

The story didn’t end the way I thought it should, but on the other hand, stories back then often didn’t. Writers tried hard to do the unexpected. The writing is very good, there’s no denying that.

This is one of the legendary librarian Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust Discoveries. As usual, Ms. Pearl gives us a thorough introduction and great questions at the end. For more information about her book choices, visit this website: Nancy Pearl Presents Book Lust Discoveries

Wondrous Words #274

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.

Here are a couple more words from The Competition by Marcia Clark.

1.  purview: “After that I believe an officer was posted here to make sure nothing got disturbed. But that was out of my purview.”

I thought purview meant authority, but it didn’t quite fit. I was close, but purview actually means your scope of influence or concern or range of experience or thought.

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2.  parabolic: We need to keep the theory quiet until we’re absolutely sure. So watch out for those parabolic mics . . .”

There are a couple of meanings for parabolic, but since the detective is referring to microphones of the reporters, I think this is the appropriate definition:  things which have been kept secret; mysterious. In other words, those mysterious microphones will take your secrets and make them public.

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: One Minus One

This week I’m featuring one of Nancy Pearl’s favorite books: One Minus One by Ruth Doan MacDougal. I just started listening to it and, so far, so good. Here’s the first paragraph:

One Minus OneI said to the cocktail waitress, “Is there any way to get to Hull without going around that damn traffic circle?”

“Well, miss, there’s the old way through Portsmouth.”

I peered at my map in the gloom. “I know, Route One-A, but is it marked or does it let you end up lost in the middle of downtown?”

“Sorry, I guess I never noticed,” she said, and picked up my empty glass she’d replaced with a new gin and tonic, and moved briskly off.

What do you think?
Would you keep going?

Every Tuesday 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. Visit Diane to read more First Paragraphs.

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At the Movies: Go See Robert Downey Jr. in The Judge

Judge 1I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m going to say it anyway. The Judge is Robert Downey Jr.’s best movie to date. I’ve enjoyed his performances in the Sherlock Holmes movies and my husband likes him as the Iron Man, but we both agree that, in The Judge, he is outstanding. Our opinion is contrary to many movie critics. I don’t know why. The two main actors, both Roberts (Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr.) deliver performances that are both way above average.

What the Story is About:

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a highly successful defense attorney living in Chicago. He returns home to his small hometown in Indiana for his mother’s funeral. Hank hasn’t been home in a long time. He and his father (Robert Duvall) are always at odds with each other. (In my opinion, his father treats him differently, and not in a good way.)

Judge 3His father has been a judge for decades. Right after the funeral something happens to keep Hank in town. His father is accused of murder and he really needs a good defense attorney. The judge, however, is adamant that he does not want Hank to represent him, but Hank is so persistent and so good at his job that it finally becomes obvious to everyone that Hank has to do it.

Why I Liked the Movie:

The Judge had key elements that I like in a movie: great characters acted beautifully and an interesting story. The story was, in part, a good courtroom drama reminiscent of former movies made from John Grisham novels.

Judge 2It’s also a very good family drama. The family consists of Hank, his father the judge, his older brother Glenn (Vincent D’Onofrio) and younger brother Dale (Jeremy Strong). Their relationship is complicated. As a teenager, Glenn had a promising baseball career and then it was stopped by a car wreck. Now he runs a local tire store. Dale is retarded, but a sweet guy who takes his old movie camera everywhere he goes. I will not use the overworked term, “dis-functional family” to describe this family. They clash a lot, but there is a great deal of respect and love among them.

The personalities of the characters were well developed and each of the actors did a superb job of showing us that. I was, however, absolutely blown away by Robert Downey Jr. His rapid-fire delivery of his lines and his wide, wide range of emotions were jaw-dropping. As in a great novel, this actor made me believe I was watching a live person. He made me feel as if I was right there in Indiana with him.

Judge 4When you go to see the movie, look for a few of my favorite scenes. One was in a bar. Hank is with his brothers. A few guys are coming after them, wanting to fight. Hank is so good at reading people that he defeats them all with his words. I also like the scene with Hank and his daughter, such as when he lets her sit on his lap and “drive” the car. He’s so emotionally vulnerable, its beautiful. It’s hard to pick out favorite scenes because there are so many. Just go see The Judge. Uh, bring plenty of tissues.

Warning: I know I said this was partially a family drama, but wait. Before you make plans to take the kids to see this movie, let me tell you this is rated R for strong and crude language as well as drinking and references to drugs and there are sexual references.

A Classic: The Old Man and the Sea

Old Man & the SeaAuthor: Ernest Hemingway

Publisher: Charles Scribner, 1952

Format: Audiobook (Simon & Schuster) – Read by Donald Sutherland

My husband and I read this book back when we were first married. We were in our twenties and big Hemingway fans. We spent hours talking about the author, the book and the ideas expressed in it. I recall talking a lot about our philosophy of life and how we would act when we were old.

A lot of time and living has taken place since those days. Although Hemingway isn’t as popular now as he was back in the 50s and 60s, we’re still fans. I found an audiobook copy of The Old Man and the Sea and thought I would see how it stands up against our previous reading.

I’m happy to report it is still an excellent story. It’s the tale of an old fisherman, Santiago, who lives in Cuba. Santiago is poor and he fears his “luck” has run out. He’s been fishing for 84 days without catching a fish of substance.

As the story opens, Santiago is starting early because he has a hunch that today is the day. He’s positive he will catch the big one. And he does. He does it very skillfully and calls upon his decades of experience to land an enormous marlin.

The marlin is crafty and it takes great skill to finally wear him out. It also takes three days and numerous episodes of fighting off sharks that take big chunks out of the marlin. Fortunately, they don’t get Santiago or upend his boat. He makes it back to his fishing village and he regains the admiration of the village people.

Although it’s a simple story, there is so much meaning and philosophy of life that goes along with it. It’s the reason we have loved and remembered this book all these years. It’s probably why the book won the Pulitzer Prize for literature back in 1953. It’s considered Hemingway’s greatest works.

I recommend you listen to this book as read by Donald Sutherland. He made the story cone alive. I found our copy at our local library. 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Wondrous Words #273

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.

While reading The Competition by Marcia Clark, I found quite a few new-to-me words. Here are two of them. I’ll share a few more next week.

1.  maelstrom: When I reached six, Bailey turned south and headed us into the maelstrom that surround Fairmont High School.

Maelstrom has two meanings. Originally it meant a powerful whirlpool in the sea or a river. Now it also means a situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil.

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2.  lividity: We nodded. “I need to check lividity, get a better look at the wounds . . . “

I know livid to mean furiously angry. In this sentence the coroner is talking about things she needs to do to a dead body. I’m sure she’s not talking about checking the level of anger. When I checked, the dictionary, it said the origin of livid is late Middle English “in the sense of a bluish leaden color.” I believe the coroner is referring to the oolor on the skin.

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.