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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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A Favorite Quote

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

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In the Big Woods

Woods

Joyfully Retired is off camping in the Big Woods.

We’ll be back when we run out of S’mores – unless Bigfoot gets us first.

I’ve packed enough books to last months.

Even Bigfoot likes a good story.

A Legal Thriller: Reasonable Fear: A Joe Dillard Novel

Reasonable FearThis year I discovered this Joe Dillard series, legal thrillers by Scott Pratt. After four books, I have to say I’m truly enjoying them. What I enjoy the most is seeing legal problems from a wide variety of viewpoints.

Joe is an attorney in Northeastern Tennessee. He used to be a defense attorney, but then switched to the prosecution side. Now he’s the District Attorney for his part of the state. As Joe and others know, the legal system is not always an ethical one. Fortunately for Joe, Sheriff Leon Bates is both a good friend and an honest man.

Leon and Joe make good partners for the community, but in Reasonable Fear they face an unbelievably evil foe. Their first clue of a problem was the dead body of a young blond woman floating in a nearby lake. Soon two more blondes were found in the water. Good detective work followed and soon they had a good idea of who was responsible.

Almost as soon as they figured out who the killer was, they were warned off by nearly every important person in the state, including the governor. But – that was like waving a red flag in front of a bull for Joe Dillard. Even when he and his entire family’s lives were violently threatened – Joe would not back down.

This was a none-stop, extremely intense story. It definitely earned it’s thriller category. In Joe’s younger days he had been an Army Ranger. There was one scene in this book that felt like it was set on a battlefield rather than his home. Intense is the word I keep using because it was.

As to the ending of the story, all I’ll say is that it surprised me. It changed my plans for reading this series. I had planned to read one book in the series every other month. Not now. I can’t wait two months to get book number five. Its not that major story-lines were left dangling. No, those we resolved. Its just that Joe dropped a bombshell on his family and his readers at the very end. I have to find Conflict of Interest - Book Five so I can keep reading. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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If you would like to check out my thoughts on the first three books, you’ll find them here:

 1.  An Innocent Client

2.  In Good Faith

3.  Injustice For All

A Summer Reading Classic: Coming Home by Rosamund Pilcher

Coming HomeFor years my summer reading always included a novel by Rosamunde Pilcher. Her character-rich stories always took me off to the English countryside to meet interesting people who would soon become my friends. Now that the author is no longer writing, I decided to go back and re-read one of my favorites.

Coming Home is big (977 pages), so I chose my re-read in the form of an abridged audiobook. Lucky for me, it was narrated beautifully by Lynn Redgrave. The abridged version didn’t bother me. I already know these people and the events of their lives. It felt as if I was visiting with Judith and we were reminiscing about the good old days.

When I first met Judith Dunbar she was about to leave home for boarding school. Her mother and sister were joining her father in Singapore. Judith would be alone if it weren’t for her Aunt X who will take her during school breaks. At school Judith was lonely and at odds until she made friends with fellow student Loveday Carey-Lewis. When Judith was invited home with Loveday, she was immediately welcomed into the entire extended family. Within this family Judith was introduced to the the aristocracy and wealth, as well as the values of family and loyalty.

Coming Home MovieComing Home is a subtle look at the question of where is home. As we examine Judith’s life from the middle 1930s through the end of World War II, we see a variety of answers to that question. Loved ones are separated by war and death but still manage to define home whenever they are together.

I discovered a movie based on this book, thanks to my local library. The photography of the English countryside was so beautiful. The young actress who played thirteen-year-old Judith was Keira Knightly (Pride and Prejudice). She was stunning in the role. Happily, the movie did a good job of mirroring the book.

If you’ve never read a Rosamunde Pilcher novel, you really should try one. Don’t let the length put you off. The stories are worth digging into. You could do the abridged version as I did this time, but really, only if you already an experienced Pilcher reader.

Book published by St. Martin’s Press 1988

Movie produced by Yorkshiree TV in 1999

Wondrous Words #305

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 words this week were found online.

1.  juxtaposition:  I was reading Martin Edward’s blog and saw this word.

“ . . . I wanted to try to create a story that could in some way be a juxtaposition of the Golden Age and the much newer Nordic Noir.”

Juxtaposition means the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

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2.  cruft:  On a Goodread’s book review I discovered this word.  The context doesn’t help and I was curious what word this man taught his four-year-old.

     “I taught him “cruft” yesterday.”

Cruft is a noun that comes from the computing world. It means badly designed, unnecessarily complicated, or unwanted code or software.

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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: Coming Home

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 a long-time fan of Rosamunde Pilcher. I love her portrayals of family relationships. In the past I always enjoyed reading one every summer. Now that she has retired, I’m “forced” to go back and re-read my favorites. Coming Home is one of those favorites. Here’s how it begins:

Coming HomeThe Porthkerris Council School stood half-way up the steep hill which climbed from the heart of the little town to the empty moors which lay beyond. It was a solid Victorian edifice, built of granite blocks, and had three entrances, marked Boys, Girls, and Infants, a legacy from the days when segregation of the sexes was mandatory. It was surrounded by a Tarmac playground and a tall wrought-iron fence, and presented a fairly forbidding face to the world. But on this late afternoon in December, it stood fairly ablaze with light, and from its open doors streamed a flood of excited children, laden with boot-bags, book0bags, balloons on strings, and small paper bags filled with sweets. They emerged in small groups, jostling and giggling and uttering shrieks of cheerful abuse at each other, before finally dispersing and setting off for home.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Book Review: The Graveyard Book

Graveyard.

Author: Neil Gaiman

Publisher: HarperCollins, 2008

Genre: Children/Middlegrade

FormatAudiobook Narrated by the author

Awards: Newberry Medel Winner 2009

I’m on a course to read all of the Newberry Medal winners that I missed over the last couple of busy decades. I must tell you that I put off reading this book earlier because, when I first started it, it made me a bit squeamish. I’m not a lover of ghost stories either. But, so many people love this book that I pushed myself forward. The library offered an audiobook version read by the author. This turned out to be the best way to experience this award-winning novel.

As the story opens, a killer is systematically killing the residents of a house. Mother, father and big sister have already been killed when the year-and-a-half-year old baby bounces out of his crib, down the stairs and out the door. Lucky little guy that he is, he manages to get inside a nearby graveyard. There the residents/ghosts of the graveyard agree to protect him and give him a home. A man named Silas, who is neither dead nor alive, promises to be his special guardian.

The boy is named Nobody (Bod, for short) because no one knows anything about him other than he is only safe within the graveyard. The boy grows past the toddler stage and on into boyhood. He learns the alphabet from letters on the tombstones, his numbers as well.

As you would expect, Bod is curious about life outside the graveyard. When he is about five he makes friends with a little girl whose mother brings her to the adjacent nature preserve. Its a short-lived friendship as his attempt to go to a regular school. Bod knows how dangerous it can be outside the graveyard. Jack, the man who killed his family, is still looking for Bod. Jack’s goal is to kill him.

As Bod gets closer to his fifteenth birthday, we see him as a nearly mature Bod. Its a good thing because Jack (and quite a few other Jacks) now know where he is. There is a well thought-out plan to lure him out to where they can kill him. The conlusion is as spine-tingling as the rest of the story and quite satisfying.

Neil GaimanMy own personal history was changed with this book. I am no longer an anti-ghost story person. I give all the credit to Neil Gaiman. He’s both a creative, gifted writer and a skilled genius-level narrator. His descriptions, his dialogue and plot development are so complete that he created this moving picture in my head. I loved all the voices in my ear as well. He brought a variety of English accents and loved his Scottish brogue.

There were times when the story scared me, made me say “Yuck!” right out loud, and gave me goosebumps. In spite of a lifetime of believing so, I did not have nightmares during or after this book experience. In fact, I have thought and talked about The Graveyard Book so much that my behavior my be considered obsessive. The bottom line is that this book is now on the list of best books of the year.

This book is for middle-graders — ten to twelve year olds. Parents and teachers will decide whether their child is ready. A long time ago I was a fifth-grade teacher and, as I read this book, I thought about those fifth-graders. I could see their faces, particularly their eyes, change as they listened. How much fun it would be to listen to this story together as a group. I’m sure this idea is not original with me. I believe there are many classrooms already doing this. Wouldn’t you love to be a part of that?

If you haven’t already, do read this book. To double your pleasure, let Neil Gaiman read it to you.

Book Tour: The Case of the Invisible Dog

Case of the Invisible Dog.

Author: Diane Stingley

Publisher: Alibi 2015

Genre: Cozy Mystery

In the start of a charmingly imaginative cozy series sure to delight fans of Carolyn Hart and Diane Mott Davidson, Diane Stingley introduces a blundering detective who believes herself to be the great-great-granddaughter of the legendary Sherlock Holmes.

After failing to launch her career as a Hollywood actress, Tammy Norman returns home to North Carolina, desperate for a regular paycheck and a new lease on life. So she accepts a position assisting Shirley Homes, an exceptionally odd personage who styles herself after her celebrated “ancestor”–right down to the ridiculous hat. Tammy isn’t sure how long she can go on indulging the delusional Shirley (who honestly believes Sherlock Holmes was a real person!), but with the prospect of unemployment looming, she decides to give it a shot.

Tammy’s impression of her eccentric boss does not improve when their first case involves midnight romps through strangers’ yards in pursuit of a phantom dog—that only their client can hear. But when the case takes a sudden and sinister turn, Tammy has to admit that Shirley Homes might actually be on to something. . . .

My Thoughts:

This was as fun and cozy as a Cozy Mystery can get. I can’t remember the last cozy I read that made me laugh and chuckle. Both the plot and the characters were creative, and they moved right along.

What was the most fun for me was the Shirley Homes and Sherlock Holmes connection. I should warn you, there is a little controversy on this score. Here’s where I stand on the issue: I’m with Shirley. Who says Sherlock Holmes didn’t really live? Some people may think its silly, but they just don’t understand. Sherlock is alive in many formats. (No offense, Shirley, but my favorite is Benedict Cumberbatch. Robert Downey, Jr. is good too.) I consider myself a serious Sherlock Holmes fan and I wasn’t put off. I don’t think you should be either.

I liked Tammy, the first-person narrator. She has a funny “I-tell-it-like-it-is” style of talking/writing that fit the story. She’s self-deprecating, but can point out the foibles in others as well. I do hope she’ll be in future books in the series. She’s working on being a good Watson.

In all the years I’ve been a tour host for TLC Book Tours, I don’t believe I’ve ever been the last stop on the tour. So, this book tour set a record. I’ve enjoyed following what everyone else thought about the book. If you’d like to check out other bloggers on the tour, you’ll find the schedule HERE.

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book and to TLC Book Tours for letting me be part of it all.

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Wondrous Words #304

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.

David Brooks has a new book out, The Road to Character. I was reading an interview with him  in Christianity Today, when I saw a couple of new-to-me words:

1. capacious: “Augustine is quite simply the most capacious mind and intelligent man I’ve ever encountered.”

Capacious (kəˈpāSHəs) is an adjective which means having a lot of space inside or roomy. Imagine that — A roomy mind! I’m going to be thinking about this idea for quite some time.

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2. rhetorician:  “He was a successful young rhetorician . . .” (He’s still talking about Augustine.)

Rhetorician (retəˈriSHən) is a noun meaning a speaker whose words are primarily intended to impress or persuade.

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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 Graveyard Book

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 gradually working my way through all the Newberry Medal winners. I’m almost done listening to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Its so good I don’t want it to end. Here’s the first paragraph:

GraveyardThere was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.

The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.

The street door was still open, just a little, where the knife and the man who held it had slipped in, and wisps of nighttime mist slithered and twined into the house through the open door.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Book Review: The Rhyme of the Magpies

Author: Marty Wingate

Publisher: Alibi, June 2, 2015

Genre: Cozy Mystery / Series: Bird of a Feather Mystery

Today its my turn to host Marty Wingate on her TLC Book Tour. Her latest book, The Rhyme of the Magpie, is the first book in a new series. Let’s start with a description of the story:

Rhyme of the MagpieWith her personal life in disarray, Julia Lanchester feels she has no option but to quit her job on her father’s hit BBC Two nature show, A Bird in the Hand. Accepting a tourist management position in Smeaton-under-Lyme, a quaint village in the English countryside, Julia throws herself into her new life, delighting sightseers (and a local member of the gentry) with tales of ancient Romans and pillaging Vikings.

But the past is front and center when her father, Rupert, tracks her down in a moment of desperation. Julia refuses to hear him out; his quick remarriage after her mother’s death was one of the reasons Julia flew the coop. But later she gets a distressed call from her new stepmum: Rupert has gone missing. Julia decides to investigate—she owes him that much, at least—and her father’s new assistant, the infuriatingly dapper Michael Sedgwick, offers to help. Little does the unlikely pair realize that awaiting them is a tightly woven nest of lies and murder.

My Thoughts:

I started out believing this book to be a cozy mystery. That’s how its classified. I find that to be a disservice to this book. Cozies have a reputation for being lightweight reading, not serious stuff. In my opinion, The Rhyme of the Magpie offers the reader a look at a young woman consciously making needed changes in her life while struggling with relationship issues, a new romance, a controversy between business and environmental issues, and yes, a mystery that needs to be solved. If that were all happening in my life, I wouldn’t call it lightweight or cozy.

I liked and felt for the main character, Julia. There were times I wanted to step in and help her out. That should tell you that character development was not a problem in this book. Last year I read the author’s first book, The Garden Plot (click the title for my review). My only complaint was that I just didn’t like the main character; I couldn’t see her as real. I’m glad I tried this new Marty Wingate novel, as characters were not a problem this time.

Another thing I liked about this book is that the author includes subjects she has a passion for. In the previous series it was gardens and this new series it’s birds. I was fascinated by the author’s use of the ancient superstition about magpies. The superstition says that, when you see magpies, count them. The number you see can predict or effect the outcome of events in your life. For example, if you are pregnant and you see three magpies, that means you’re having a girl. Here’s how the rhyme goes:

“One for sorrow, two for joy;
Three for a girl, four for a boy;
Five for silver, six for gold;
Seven for a secret, never to be told;
Eight for a wish,
nine for a kiss;
Ten for a bird that’s best to miss.”

My overall reaction to this book was very positive. Fortunately, there are more books planned featuring birds. In fact, the next book is coming in December. I suggest you read this one first.

Marty Wingate ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

About the Author:
Marty Wingate is the author of The Garden Plot and The Red Book of Primrose House, and a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America.

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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:  Marty Wingate Tour Schedule

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