What Am I Reading? Rock With Wings by Anne Hillman

I am an old Tony Hillman fan who was saddened when he died. I was so glad when Tony’s daughter, Anne Hillerman, decided to continue his novels featuring the Navajo police. Jim Chee, Bernadette Manuelito and Lieutenant Joe Leaphorn are very special characters.

I am now reading the author’s second book, Rock With Wings. It is so good. Here’s how the book begins:

Rock With Wings     Officer Bernadette Manuelito had been sitting in her unit by the side of the road for an hour, watching the last of the twilight fade and the pinpoint of stars appear in the blue-gray sky. In that time she had seen two vehicles, both with the classic yellow-and-red New Mexico plates with the Zia symbol in the center. The gray Subaru advanced at close to the speed limit, with no signs of driver impairment. The old green Buick cruised along more leisurely, with the windows rolled down and country music flowing into the night air. She knew the car and the driver and knew he was headed home after a long shift at the Four Corners Power Plant. If he’d had a beer or two, his driving didn’t show it.
     After that burst of activity, things slowed down.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

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Welcome Rain

I live in northern California and, as most of you know, this has been an area of record-setting drought. Finally, we have Rain and plenty of it. The photo below shows the front edge of our property. It’s what we call The Rain Garden. Seriously.

The Rain Garden is an eighteen-inch deep space that was planted with plants that can handle both the drought and the influx of water. But, because of this extreme drought, even drought-toleant plants have had a tough time. A Rain Garden needs some rain.

Rain GardenNow, as you can see, we finally have rain. Actually, we have more rain than the Rain Garden can handle. I took this picture last week, a few days after a very heavy rain. It over-flowed it’s banks and then some.

California is still not over the drought everywhere, but I can tell you that our county – Sonoma – looks to be in good shape. Our rivers and the reservoir are all at normal levels. We should get a little more rain and then there is also the snow in the mountains that will be melting in a few months. For right now, we are water happy.
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I’m linking this post with others who participate at Saturday Snapshot located at West Metro Mommy Reads. For more information, visit her website.

Saturday Snapshot

 

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Two More Agatha Christie Novels: Sparkling Cyanide and The Hollow

Back-to-back readings of Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries is something I’ve been doing since my teen years. Yes, my parents were concerned about my obsession with murder, but I was normal in every other way, so they left me alone. This past weekend I had a great time reading Sparkling Cyanide and so I just kept going with The Hollow. Here’s what I thought of these two books:

Sparkling CyanideSparkling Cyanide  (Dodd Mead 1945)

It’s the 1030s. A year earlier seven people attended a party in a very posh and ritzy nightclub in London. They were Rosemary and her husband, the husband’s secretary, Rosemary’s sister, Rosemary’s current lover and his wife, and one more man to even things out. At the party Rosemary dies from a supposed suicide – cyanide in champagne. The police agree it was a suicide. The Reader suspects murder.

The event is examined from the point of view of each person at the party. It’s the perfect technique to convince the Reader that each person could have killed Rosemary. But, which one and how did he or she do it?

Now it’s a year later and the husband, also suspecting murder, is throwing a second party at the same nightclub with the same guests. Can he recreate the scene and ferret out the killer?

This was so masterfully created that I doubt you will successfully figure this out. Honestly, this is probably Agatha’s best puzzle yet.

The HollowThe Hollow (Dodd Mead 1946)

This is one of Agatha Christie’s “country house” mysteries that she has become quite famous for. It’s also one of her mysteries where it’s important to look beyond the public face that most people show. The saying, “She’s smarter than she looks.” is key.

A group of people have been invited to the country home of Sir Henry and his wife Lucy for the weekend. The two neighboring cottages also have two important residents: Hercule Poirot and Veronica, a famous actress.

The party is going along just fine until one of guests is shot. Standing over the dead body is the man’s wife, holding a revolver. Another guest, the man’s mistress, grabs the revolver and throws it into the pool. All of this occurs just as Poirot is coming onto the scene. In the back of Poirot’s mind it seems to be staged.

As the police. with Poirot’s help, sort through what happened, they find a whole mess of secrets and very little evidence. Even the revolver the wife was holding wasn’t the gun that killed the man. Nearly everyone at the house-party had a motive to kill the man. In addition, the actress was also one of the man’s lovers.

The Hollow was easier to figure out than Sparkling Cyanide, although it was still fun to read. I watched a dvd of the BBC movie version after I finished the book. (David Suchet played Hercule Poirot.) That really enhanced my enjoyment of the story. They kept the movie true to the book, using most of the original dialogue.

A very satisfying back-to-back of Agatha Christie. I will have to do this again.

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Wondrous Words #334

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 was reading a review on Goodreads for Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. I came across this sentence in which a new-to-me word was used twice.

1.  encomium:  “A mystery, a 21st century encomium to what appears to be technology but is in fact an encomium to the human spirit, to the gift of language and for the love of the word.”

Encomium means a speech or piece of writing that praises someone or something highly.

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While reading the NYTimes last week on the standoff between Fox News and Donald Trump I encountered this new-to-me word/phrase:

2.  sine qua non:  ”Those ratings, of course, translate into revenue, giving Mr. Trump that sine qua non of all winning negotiators: leverage. “

Sine qua non (sini ˌkwä ˈnōn) is a noun meaning an essential condition; a thing that is absolutely necessary. Example: Grammar and usage are the sine qua non of language teaching and learning.

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.

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First Paragraph: Sparkling Cyanide by Agatha Christie

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 reading my thirty-sixth and thirty-seventh Agatha Christie novels. I’m only half-way through my goal of reading all of them in publication order.  but I am determined to read on through all of them. Sparkling Cyanide surprised me by being such a good old-fashioed “who-done-it.” Here’s how it begins:

Sparkling CyanideOne

Iris Marle

Iris Marle was thinking about her sister, Rosemary.
For nearly a year she had deliberately tried to put the thought of Rosemary away from her. She hadn’t wanted to remember.
It was too painful—too horrible!
The blue cyanosed face, the convulsed clutching fingers.
The contrast between that and the gay lovely Rosemary of the day before . . . Well, perhaps not exactly gay. She had had ‘flu—she had been depressed, run-down . . . All that had been brought out at the inquest. Iris herself had laid stress on it. It accounted, didn’t it, for Rosemary’s suicide?

 What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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Great Southern Storytelling: Ford County by John Grisham

Ford CountyPublisher: Doubleday, 2009
Audiobook: Narrated by the author – 8 hours, 42 minutes

I found this audio gem at the library about six months ago. I don’t know why it’s been sitting all this time untouched on my iPod. I got pushed, or I should say enticed, into reading this when another story I was listening to stopped and this one started up while my hands were deep in dirty dishwater. I didn’t stop, even after my dishes were clean. It grabbed me right away in the first story.

The first thing I liked about this audio was that it was read by the author, John Grisham. I know some people don’t like him anymore. I also agree that he doesn’t have an actor-level voice, but I thought he was perfect for this set of stories set a few decades ago in rural Mississippi. This is Grisham’s home base, the place he’s most comfortable. Although he’s a good writer of legal thrillers, at his best he’s a “storyteller of old.” This collection of stories shows off that talent.

The second thing that grabbed me right away was the characters in the first story – Blood Drive. I was taken immediately away from my own surroundings and transported to the rural south to meet people that bear a little resemblance to people I’ve known but can’t exactly recall meeting. Do you know what I mean? In this first story we meet, first, residents of a very small town where a young man working construction has been injured. Help in the form of blood donations is need. Two other young men volunteer and a third joins in. They must travel up to the big city – Memphis. This is a whole new world for these boys. They find themselves drinking beer in a strip club and other assorted activities. Very funny.

In Fetching Raymond we meet Raymond’s older brother who goes to great effort to borrow a van, pick up his younger brother and wheel-chair-bound mother. They drive south to the state prison. Throughout the drive we get to know these three people and also Raymond, the youngest son who is in prison. The story is told in a nice developing way so that its somewhat of a mystery as to why they are really going to the prison. It’s a sad but spellbinding story.

There are five more stories in Ford County each one more captivating than the previous one. The last two were, in my opinion, the best. Quiet Haven is the story of a man working in an average small town nursing home. His actions are very deliberate as he goes about getting the job, making friends, giving care, ferreting out the gossip, and so forth. The reader is not sure what’s really happening here until the end. I thought it was funny.

The last story, Funny Boy, was not funny. It was sad, moving, and made me mad. A man who escaped the small town of Clanton in his late teens has come home to die. It’s the mid-1980s and he has AIDS. No one wants to be near him, especially his family. He doesn’t want to be there either, but the expense of his medications has caused him to be nearly destitute. How all of this is arranged and handled makes for a head-shaking story.

I love the wonderful, rich heritage of southern storytelling. I think this fits in well with that tradition. Explaining the actions of the people in the story fell a little exaggerated, but not by much which is what I like about southern stories. All of the actions by these characters seemed quite possible and not the least exaggerated. With John Grisham’s experience in small town Mississippi I have a feeling that parts of the stories had probably come from real life. They certainly feel that way.

Please don’t skip these stories because you don’t like John Grisham anymore or because you don’t like short stories. Ford County is outside the realm of those two stereotypes. I highly recommend.

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Wondrous Words #333

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’m sure I’ve mentioned it a few times here that I love the New York Times Sunday Review of Books. It’s not just because I usually find new words. “I really like reading the articles.”  Last week while reading the  Review I found three words all within one book review. (Is it me or are  people who write about the current candidates for the Republican Party working super-hard to use new words?)

1. aberration: “The first is he’s more of an exclamation mark than an aberration.

Aberration means a departure from what is normal, usual, or expected, typically one that is unwelcome.

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2, intrangsigence: This is a political organization that, because of its intransigence

Intransigence means unwilling or refusing to change one’s views or to agree about something.

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3.  verities:  ” . . . moralists who want to restore ancient verities and . . . ”

Verities is a noun meaning a true principle or belief, especially one of fundamental importance.

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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.

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First Paragraph: Tony Hillerman’s Landscape

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 reading a book that was one of my Christmas gifts: Tony Hillerman’s Landscape by Anne Hillman. My family knows how much I have enjoyed Tony Hillerman’s books set in New Mexico and the Four Corners area. The book, written by his daughter Anne, is filled with amazing photos of the places where Hillerman’s stories took place. It’s made me want to read the books all over again. Here’s how this book begins:

Tony Hillerman's LandscapeChapter One
ON THE ROAD WITH CHEE AND LEAPHORN

A Daughter’s recollection

In June 2007, I had the pleasure of accompanying Tony Hillerman to two events. Dad was 82 at the time.

First, we went to a reunion of a group he fondly referred to as “ink stained wretches,” men with whom he had worked when he was editor of The [Santa Fe] New Mexican in the 1950s. (I’d been a reporter and editor at the same newspaper myself for 13 years.) As I negotiated the traffic between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, past casinos and new housing developments, Dad talked. In addition to spontaneous critiques of my driving, he reminisced about how the road and the sights along it had changed. He and Mom had been driving this highway for more than fifty years, beginning before engineers smoothed the curves, eased the steepness, and iultrimately transformed it into part of Interstate 25 that runs from the landscape of Sinister Pig near Las Cruces to the Colorado border.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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A Young Storyteller

Lou & Story CubesThis is Lou, my youngest granddaughter. She loves to read, write and tell stories. Lou is in the middle of playing one of her favorite games: Story Cubes. Look carefully at the objects in front of Lou in the picture. You see small dice-looking cubes. Here’s a close-up picture of Story Cubes:

Story CubesOn the surface of each cube is the picture of an object. When it’s your turn to play, you roll the cubes, look at all the objects, and make up a story based on them. It’s fun to play!

I’m mentioning this game to all my friends who love to read stories. Storytellers have to start somewhere. Who knows, we may some day be reading one of Lou’s published stories.

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I’m linking this post with others who participate at Saturday Snapshot located at West Metro Mommy Reads. For more information, visit her website.

Saturday Snapshot

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Book Review: Career of Evil

Career of EvilAuthor: Robert J. Galbraith/J.K. Rowling
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company, October 2015

On this third visit with detective Cormoran Strike and his secretary Robin Ellacott was, overall, a dark and gruesome one. It begins on a pleasant note, updating us on Cormoran and Robin. Cormorants paid for Robin to take a class on investigation and overall the business is doing well. Robin is in the final preparation for her wedding.

And then — an amputated leg is sent to the office which sets off a “series of unfortunate events.” Although the package is addressed to Robin, clues inside this box indicate that someone wants to ruin Cormoran. They work with the police to help them figure out where the leg came from. Because of the nature of the clues, Cormoran is convinced this is someone from his past. He begins, with Robin’s help, to track down four men from who are, in their own way, truly evil.

It’s an interesting journey following all the clues and twists and turns necessary to locate the four men who have, in a sense,disappeared. I liked how both Comoran and Robin got various people to talk with them and help them find the men as well as clear out an abundance of clues.

Most of the time the reader is following Cormoran and/or Robin. There are times, however, when it is the voice of the unknown evil guy and his thoughts are not good ones. As the story winds down and the various clues add up, I knew who this evil person was. I didn’t feel good about solving the mystery as I usually do when reading an Agatha Christie mystery. My emotions were different.  I felt horror and anger. How could people this evil be allowed to live in society and prey on women and children? (Yes, I know it was just fiction.)

Based on what I just said you may find this odd: It was a treat to read this novel. Really. It’s so well done in spite of the grisly nature of the crime. Some of the passages were so gruesome, but I found it impossible to stop reading. I really get why readers love J.K. Rowling. She is indeed a master storyteller. I’m hesitant, but I will recommend this series to you, if you can handle seeing the seamier side of life.

At the end of the novel is a little note from the author prior to her personal acknowledgments. Here’s how she feels about this novel.

“I can’t ever remember enjoying writing a novel more than Career of Evil. This is odd not only on account of the grisly subject matter, but also because I’ve rarely been busier over the last twelve months and have had to keep switching projects which is not my favorite way to work. Nevertheless, Robert Galbraith has always felt like my own private playground and he didn’t let me down on this occasion.”

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Cormoran Strike Series (Click title to read my review):
Cuckoo’s Calling
The Silkworm

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