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: Wings In the Dark

Wings In the Dark
: Michael Murphy

Publisher: Alibi

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction

My Reason For Reading This Book:

I’ve read the first two books in this great new mystery series and I had to keep going. The two main characters are worth spending time with. They are former private investigator and mystery writer, Jake Donavan, and Broadway and Hollywood actress, Laura Wilson. The stories are set in the 1930s. Each book has featured the fictional side of real (and famous) people.

What the Book Is About:

It’s 1935. Jake and Laura are finally married and are now on their honeymoon in Hawaii. They are trying hard to keep a low profile and just enjoy their tropical paradise, and each other.

But also on the island is their friend Amelia Earhart. Amelia doesn’t want to bother them because she is busy getting ready for her big flight from Hawaii to the Pacific coast. It’s never been done before. And then, a local businessman is killed right near Amelia’s plane.

Amelia is accused of murder which could mean all sorts of bad consequences. Amelia needs Jake and Laura’s help. The two detectives ferret out the clues and meet some interesting people along the way, including George Patton.

What I Thought:

Michael Murphy does not disappoint in this third installment. He’s very thorough in his research, which I really appreciate in an historical mystery. He also knows how to keep the dialogue flowing and how to keep everything lighthearted. This is not a heavy-handed mystery. It’s meant to be light and full of fun. It’s just right for a sit-on-the-porch-it’s-raining kind of summer day. Give it a try.

Here are the first two books in the series links to my reviews:

The Yankee Club

All That Glitters

Wondrous Words #308

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.

Inspector LewisI like to watch PBS’s Masterpiece Mystery. One of their series I like a lot is Inspectoe Lewis. Our library has added the entire series to their collection, so I decided to go back and gradually watch the whole series from the pilot and series 1 up to the present.  (It really is great to be retied.)

In series 1 there is a title for one of episodes that was foreign  to me:  Expiation

Expiation is a noun meaning the act of making amends or reparation for guilt or wrongdoing; atonement.

The word certainly fit the storyline of this episode. A woman is found hanging in her home, apparently a suicide. But, Inspector Lewis and his sidekick, Hathaway suspect murder. The woman’s background and that of her husband and close friends will make anyone’s mouth drop open. Making amends, or expiation, is what this story is all about.


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 Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

I think most people have fond memories of reading Mark Twain’s classic tale. It has been decades, however, since I last read it and had forgotten most of it. I picked it up this past weekend and started reading. It shocked me with it’s crude language and frequent use of the “n” word. It starts off fairly tame so, here, see what you think:

Huck FinnChapter I.
You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but that ain’t no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt Polly — Tom’s Aunt Polly she is — and Mary, and the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book, which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as I said before.

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: Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani

Big Stone GapPublisher: Random House 2000

A few years back everybody was reading Adriana Trigiani – except me. Somehow I didn’t feel the call. And then, a library display caught my eye. The books looked like good summer reading material. I decided I would try her debut novel, Big Stone Gap. I chose the audio version because it was the author herself reading the story.

Right away I loved the main character, Ave Maria (pronounced ä vā. She’s very particular about that.) Here are the first few sentences so you can see what I mean:

“This will be a good weekend for reading. I picked up a dozen Vernie Crabbtree’s killer chocolate chip cookies at the French Club bake sale yesterday. (I don’t know what she puts in them, but they’re chewy and crispy at the same time.) Those, a pot of coffee, and a good book are all I will need for the rainy weekend rolling in.”

Ave Maria is a book-lover! My kind of woman. Some other things to know about Ave Maria is that she is thirty-five, single, a pharmacist (she owns the pharmacy), her best friend is Theodore (a teacher at the high school), and she has the ability to read faces. (A Chinese art called siang mien she learned from a book.). In addition to all that, she has a heart of gold and is loyal to her friends. The only negative about Ave Maria is that she’s a bit naive when it comes to men.

As we first meet Ave Maria, we learn that her mother died a few months back. (Her father died over a decade ago.) Although Ave Maria has a good life in her small mountain town, she feels unsettled for some reason. She misses her mother, but it’s more than that. Before our visit with Ave Maria ends, we’ll see Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner visit Big Stone Gap, Ave Maria will make a surprising Italian connection, and there will be three marriage proposals in town.

Big Stone Gap was a nice, comfortable summer read. It had both laugh-out-loud moments and times when I shed some tears. It was a solid story that was very satisfying. The author’s reading of her novel on the audio version was very good with great mountain accents.

Ms. Trigiani wrote this book as the first book in a trilogy. Later she added a fourth book and then, last year the author produced a movie version starring Ashley Judd as Ave Maria. I haven’t seen it yet, but will soon.

If you weren’t among the many people who already read this book, I suggest you find a copy. You’ll like it.

Book Review: The Widow’s Son

Widow's Son
: Thomas Shawver

Publisher: Alibi July 2015

Genre: Mystery

My Reason For Reading This Book:

I read the first two books in the series and enjoyed them. I like the main character, Michael Bevan. He’s very flawed which makes him seem more realistic. Michael always wants to take a short-cut to success, so he’s willing to bend the rules a bit and skip a few steps in the process. I’ve known people like this. They make me shake my head sometimes, but they take chances that are interesting and often lead to amazing consequences.

What the Book Is About:
Michael wants to get into this super-snobby antique book sellers group and, of course, he’s willing to bend the rules a bit to do it. He happens upon a very rare book written by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. Its worth a lot of money.

Michael also learns of this very old conspiracy to kill every descendent of every man responsible for killing Joseph Smith. Each man within the original conspiracy was to train his children to kill any descendent of the man originally assigned to him. Michael learns of this conspiracy from a client, Emery Stagg, a direct descendent of one of the original conspirators. Instead of killing the young woman he is supposed to kill, he falls in love with her and wants to save her. He looks to Michael for help because his family is intent on killing the woman and Emery for being a traitor.

What I Thought:

Any book about books can’t be all bad, can it? Of course not. This Rare Books Mystery series has been fun up to this point. Michael is his own worst enemy so he’s fun to follow. The only problem is that by the time I finished this book, I felt like I was done with the whole series. I’m not exactly sure why. The writing is still good, as are the characters. I liked the conspiracy part of the book as it seemed believable. I’m just not that interested in going on more adventures with Michael. The next book needs to be shaken up a bit, a little more creativity.

What I’m saying is this: The first three books were good. Go ahead and read them. When the next book comes out I’ll read the first chapter and then decide as whether I’ll keep going or not. That’s about as honest as I can be.

Wondrous Words #307

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.

Last week in an interview on NPR’s Terry Gross show, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates was talking about his new book, Between the World and Me. As always, it was a very interesting interview. I heard the writer use a word that I’ve heard before, but never stopped to figure out what it really means. I decided the time had come to look it up. The word was:

draconian:   “We’ve spent the last roughly half a century or so growing increasingly Draconian . . . ”

Draconian (drəˈkōnēən) is an adjective that applies to laws or their application, and means excessively harsh and severe.

There’s a little history here that helped it make sense to me. In the 7th century (bc), there was a legislator in Athens named Dracco. He codified or systematically arrange the Athenian laws so that they were was notorious for their severity; for instance, the death penalty was imposed even for trivial crimes.

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 Widow’s Son

This week I’m featuring the first two paragraphs of a new novel I’m reading for a book tour. I read the author’s previous book earlier this year and enjoyed it. I was sure this one would also be good. The Widow’s Son by Thomas Shawver is a good historical mystery.

Widow's SonChapter 1

Exit 214 onto I-80. Twelve years in that 8’ x 14’ cell behind me. Never want to see them red bluffs again. Bus ain’t bad now that I got that monkey mouth bedhind me to shut up. Thirteen hours to K.C. countin’ piss and eat stops. Good barbeque I hear. What else? Hell if I know. Gotta be better than Rawlins. Best get some sleep.

“Who was the deceased?” the investigator from the coroner’s office asked as the Fire Department EMTs packed up their respirator. “And why is he dressed in that getup?


What do o=you think?

Would you keep reading?


Every 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.


Two “English” Books: English Creek and The English Girl

Two of the books I read this past month have the word “English” in their titles. English was also important within the stories.

English CreekIn English Creek by Ivan Doig (Scribner 2005), it’s all about a whole forestry division in northeastern Montana during the 1930s. Fourteen-year-old Jick McCaskill’s father was a Forest Ranger responsible for this part of the state. Nick accompanies his father on the first trek of the summer to inspect as much of the territory as possible.

As young Jick learns, the job includes more than just watching over the trees. They count sheep and cattle in this high country, note the depth of the rivers, and touch base with the various people who inhabit the high country. Before the summer is over Jick will see and do things he’s never experienced before, including helping to feed fire-fighters battling a dangerous forest fire.

This was an excellent and satisfying story. Althouh the narrator is only fourteen, it’s not a young-adult book. It’s written for adults. It has that innocent feel to it that often comes with stories of the 1930s. Life has come down to bare bones as far as material goods are concerned, but rich in all the other things that make life enjoyable. This is the first book in a trilogy centered around the McCaskill family. I’m looking forward to Book 2: Dancing At the Rascal Fair.


English GirlEnglish in this next book refers to The English Girl by Daniel Silva (Harper 2013). On Corsica someone has kidnapped an English girl and is holding her for a huge ransom. Why is she so valuable? It turns out she is the mistress of the prime minister of England. If he doesn’t pay the ransom, it could mean the end of his career and possibly his government.

The man in charge of the Intelligence Services calls upon an old friend within the Israeli Mossad, Gabriel Allon. He trusts Gabriel’s skills, intelligence and discretion to find and get the young woman back.

Gabriel begins his search in Corsica, where he meets an old-world don and begins to realize that this is more than a simple kidnapping. His search will take him to Frane, Russia and England. He realizes that finding out who the “girl” really is becomes as important as finding her.

Gabriel Allon is a great main character. He’s a master spy with great detective skills as well as a man who restores damaged art. I had no idea he is the star of a whole series of books. This one turned out to be number 13. I didn’t feel as if I had missed any content by starting so late into the series. The book certainly was able to stand on its own. I’ll definitely read more.

I highly recommend both of these books.

Wondrous Words #306

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. Lucky for me, I find new-to-me words all over the place.

This week I was looking for a recipe for a good pasta salad. I found both a good recipe and a new word. Here’s the sentence and the new word:

Pasta Saladriffs:  “Ripe for riffs, the salad is also delicious with cheese-filled tortellini.”

I know the word riffs as it applies to music. I often hear the short, repeated phrases in guitar music. But how does riff apply in a salad recipe?

Thanks to the Urban Dictionary, I learned riff also refers to a monologue or short improvisation, especially a humorous one. I’m going on my own here, but I think the recipe writer was using riff to say the salad could be made in a variety of ways. In other words, you could improvise, do an improv, with a variety of ingredients.

What do you think? Am I stretching the definition? 

Have you ever used/heard the word before?


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: English Creek

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 English Creek by Ivan Doig. It’s affording me the chance to spend a summer in Montana. Here’s how the story  starts:

English CreekThat month of June swam into the Two Medicine country. In my life until then I had never seen the sidehills come so green, the coulees stay so spongy with runoff. A right amount of wet evidently could sweeten the universe. Already my father on his first high patrols had encountered cow elk drifting up and across the Continental Divide to their calving grounds on the west side. They, and the grass ad the wild hay meadows and the benchland alfalfa, all were a good three weeks ahead of season. Which of course accounted for the fresh mood everywhere across the Two. As is always said, spring rain in range country is as if halves of ten-dollar bills are being handed around, with the other halves promised at shipping time. And so in the English Creek sheepmen, what few cowmen were left along Noon Creek and elsewhere, the out-east farmers, the storekepers of Gros Ventre, our Forest Service peopl, in just everyone that start of June, hope was up and would stay strong as long as the grass did.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?