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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: Madame President

Madame PresidentAuthor: Nicolle Wallace

Publisher: Atria Books, April 28, 2015

Genre: Literary Fiction

Nicolle Wallace is one of the co-hosts on TV’s The View. Ms. Wallace has also been a communications director for George W. Bush and an advisor to Sarah Pallin when she was running for the vice-presidency.

Obviously, Ms. Wallace knows a bit about the kind of people who inhabit Washington D.C. And, she knows how the White House works, or at least, how it did work.

Ms. Wallace has taken her knowledge and experience and created three novels set in the U.S. capital. Her latest book, Madame President, features the first female president, Charlotte Kramer.

There are quite a few other people in the story, but primarily its about the president and two other women: Melanie, a close friend who used to be her chief of staff, but is now the Secretary of Defense, and Dale, a former staffer who had an affair with the President’s husband, but is now the Press Secretary. (Yeah, you read that right.)

The plot revolves around what happened on one particular day. Dale (the Press Secretary) persuaded Charlotte to allow two CBS anchors unfettered access to the White House so they could do a “24 Hour Day in the Life.” Their goal was to show what the occupants and employees of the White House do on an average day.

An average day is not what they get. On this particular day, there are five terrorist attacks in five different American cities. Its similar to what happened on 9/11. The author was working in the White House on 9/11 so she used her experience in this story.

This book is getting a lot of attention, I guess, because of the position of the author. I found the plot idea a plausible one, but the characters didn’t measure up. Seriously, what woman would hire her husband’s former mistress for one of her key jobs? Or what president would appoint a young woman of say late thirties/early forties into as key a role as Secretary of Defense? Or, for that matter, what group of senators would confirm her to that post?

I was hoping for so much more from the premise of this book. I thoroughly enjoy the new CBS drama Madame Secretary. I was hoping for something like that. Every episode of that show has substance to it coming from headlines along with complex characters.

I’ve read reviews that compare this book to the TV series West Wing. I find that comparison wrong and, actually, insulting. I’ve binge-watched that seven-season series so many times that I feel I’m a semi-expert on the show. Trust me, Madame President is nothing like West Wing, except for where it takes place.

Skip this one.

Book Review and Tour: The Bone Tree by Greg Iles

Greg Iles fans: Good News! The Bone Tree begins exactly where Natchez Burning left off. That’s a big hoo-ray! The first book in this series was so intense that it was very difficult to wait this long for the second book. But, finally, it is now here. The Bone Tree is just as good as Natchez Burning. Here’s the publisher’s description of the story:

Bone TreeFormer prosecutor Penn Cage and his fiancée, reporter and publisher Caitlin Masters, have barely escaped with their lives after being attacked by wealthy businessman Brody Royal and his Double Eagles, a KKK sect with ties to some of Mississippi’s most powerful men. But the real danger has only begun as FBI Special Agent John Kaiser warns Penn that Brody wasn’t the true leader of the Double Eagles. The puppeteer who actually controls the terrorist group is a man far more fearsome: the chief of the state police’s Criminal Investigations Bureau, Forrest Knox.

The only way Penn can save his father, Dr. Tom Cage—who is fleeing a murder charge as well as corrupt cops bent on killing him—is either to make a devil’s bargain with Knox or destroy him. While Penn desperately pursues both options, Caitlin uncovers the real story behind a series of unsolved civil rights murders that may hold the key to the Double Eagles’ downfall. The trail leads her deep into the past, into the black backwaters of the Mississippi River, to a secret killing ground used by slave owners and the Klan for over two hundred years . . . a place of terrifying evil known only as “the bone tree.”

The term “blockbuster novel” is the way I’ve been describing this series to my book friends. The story is big in terms of scope, plot, characters, issues and, yes, pages (816). This is the kind of book I like to set aside a block of time to just enjoy. And enjoy it I did.

As you can tell from the description above, there is a lot of serious danger going on. Penn’s dad is being sought by so many people that, wherever he hides, I am always afraid for him. There are so many bad cops/state police around that it’s hard to know who to trust.

Another scary part is the alledged existence of the Bone Tree. It’s supposedly a big hollowed-out cypress tree in the swamp that contains bones/bodies of old civil rights workers, etc. Almost everyone says that’s just a legend, but Caitlin, the reporter/publisher, has talked with enough reliable sources that she is determined to find it. She has promised everyone important to her that she won’t go there unless it is with plenty of help. (Yeah, right!)

In the first novel there was a hint that the Double Eagles (old KKK guys) may have had something to do with the assasination of John F. Kennedy. This subject gets plenty of play in The Bone Tree. I found it very compelling. Maybe Oswald wasn’t the lone shooter after all.

There’s one more thing that made this so amazing: the bad guy, Forrest Knox, was truly Evil. He has carefully worked to be in charge of everything in his world. He has moles in every law enforcement group in the southern Mississippi/Louisiana area. He also has the ability to control many of the communication and technology outlets in the area. On top of all that he is carefully working on a plan to replace his boss so he can control all police in the state. This is one very scary guy.

I only have one suggestion for improvement. The publisher needs to add some serious editing help to the author’s books. He has a tendency to ramble when he’s talking issues. For instance, some of the parts where the characters are talking about the JFK assassination was repeated at least three times. Please. I got it the first time.

In spite of that one flaw, I really liked both of these novels. I will be anxiously, but patiently waiting for the third book. When I hear that book #3 is about to be published, I’ll again set aside plenty of time to enjoy my visit down in this fictional area of southern Mississippi. I do hope they hurry.

I strongly recommend you read the first book (Natchez Burning) before you read this one. However, if you start reading The Bone Tree first, I’m happy to say the author took a few pages to recap the story.

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: Greg Iles Tour

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Wondrous Words #298

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.

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I have only read a couple of chapters of The Sussex Downs Murder, but already I have discovered a few new-to-me words. First, just to be sure, I doublechecked the meaning of the word downs. As I thought, downs refers to gently rolling hills. Its a term most common in England.

In this next sentence there are two words with with short in them. I know that shorthorns are a type of cattle, but I didn’t know what shortturfed meant.

The upper arable land peterred out on to the shortturfed slopes of the down,

where John and William Rother, the present occupants, grazed their shorthorns.

Wow, this word was interesting! It was not in any of my dictionaries, but, when I hit Google with the word, it gave me lots of USES of the word but no definitions. I needed to understand what the word meant from the usage of the word. Here’s one of the uses I found most helpful: In The Geology of Sussex by Frederick Douglas:

The open, short-turfed Downs, treeless for the most part,

but wooded in dells, and traversed by the highly cultivated

alluvial bottoms of the Cuckmere, Ouse, Adur …

Okay, I understand. Did that help you?

First Paragraph: The Sussex Downs Murder

I just started reading a vintage mystery that has been re-discovered. The book is a British Library Crime Classic that is about to be re-published in the U.S. by Poisoned Pen Press. I like this old type of detective novel. Here’s how the story begins:

Sussex Downs MurderChapter One
The Opening of a Problem

Dominating that part of the Sussex Downs with which this story is concerned is Chanctonbury Ring. This oval cap of gigantic beeches may be seen, on fine days, from almost any point in the little parish of Washington. It is a typical village of two streets, two pubs, a couple of chandlers, a forge, an Olde Tea Shoppe, and a bus service. Although the parish is bisected by the main Worthing—Horsham road, it has managed to retain in the face of progress all those local peculiarities which have their roots in the old feudal system of government. There is still a genuine squire at the Manor House to whom the group of idlers outside the “Chancton Arms”, whatever their politics, instinctively touch their hats; whilst the well-being of the church rests in the conservative hands o the Reverend Gorringe, asa typical a parson as ever trod the pages of Trollope.

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.

firstparagraph

Book Review: Uncaged: The Singular Menace, Book 1

Uncaged

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Authors: John Sandford and Michele Cook

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014

Genre: YA Action/Thriller

You know John Sandford as the prolific author of the Lucas Davenport series as well as, my favorite, the Virgil Flowers series. Now Sandford has teamed up with Michele Cook to write a Young Adult Action/Thriller series. Uncaged is the first.

As the story opens, a group of teenagers is breaking into the Singular Corporation with the sole purpose of “uncaging” all the test animals that are used for the company’s experiments. Its a chaotic and disturbing scene as hundreds of animals and rodents are running everywhere.

One of the teenagers, Odin, a brilliant computer whiz, manages to also grab some important company flash drives. The teenagers manage to escape the building, but are now on the run for their lives.

Odin’s sister, Shay, is also bright. Shay and Odin are orphans staying at different foster homes, although they have remained close. When Shay hears Odin is on the run, she runs too. She has a hunch about where he is going. Shay worries about her big brother. He has a condition that keeps him from handling himself well in public and stressful situations.

The Singular Corporation has a group of security experts that reminded me of an evil gestapo-style group. They had every electronic surveillance tool and seemingly unlimited funds at their disposal. They were super sharp at figuring out where the kids were or likely to be.

Along the way Shay hooked up with another group of young people that I thought were pretty cool. A young man who had also been homeless became an artist, made some money, bought a hotel in Hollywood and opened the hotel to teens also homeless. The art work he did and the kids staying at the hotel was another fun part of the story.

Shay eventually hooks up with Odin, but, since the Singular people have been following Shay, they snatch Odin and stash him far away. Shay has no idea where he is. How she enlists help to find Odin and what she finds is crazy and scary. It’s a wild ride to the book’s conclusion.

Uncaged is much more explosive and edgier than Sandford’s other books. It moves very fast. The animal rights issues are seriously troubling. There is even hints that Singular is also experimenting on humans. The issues and the action makes me think this will appeal to Young Adult readers. After just one book I can promise you I’ll read the whole series.

Book Review: Losing Faith by Adam Mitzner

Losing FaithPublisher: Gallery Books, April 14, 2015

If you are one of those people who loves to hate lawyers, this book is for you. Losing Faith is filled with a whole slew of attorneys who demonstrate blatant unethical, manipulative and self-serving behaviors.

Aaron Littmann, the main character, seems to be one of the good guys. He’s the chairman of a very prestigious New York law firm. He’s married to a doctor and they have teenage twin daughters. Nice family, nice career, right? Right, except for this secret affair with a judge. A judge?

And then, one day a Russian mob boss/terrorist enters Aaron’s world. The Russian’s current lawyer tells Aaron the Russian wants Aaron to represent him. Aaron refuses, even when the Russian offers $100,000 just to meet with him. When the Russian says he has information he will expose about Aaron and the judge, Aaron agrees to meet with him.

The Russian is willing to expose the affair unless Aaron can convince the judge to rule in his favor. From this point on absolutely everything changes for all concerned. Legal machinations go into high gear. Every trick and devious strategy is used by nearly everyone in the case that develops from here.

Everything goes in high-gear from here and all the way to the surprising conclusion. I am stopping short with the details because I really do not want to spoil the story for you. It goes from one twist to the next turn with one legal trick after another.

I’ll confess to enjoying these legal maneuverings. There always seemed to be some way around what someone wanted to do or what the law required. It didn’t make any difference which side of the law they were on. Each person cared only about what would be an advantage for themselves.

“What a horrible world to live in!” was my thought as I finished the book. Notice I said “finished the book.” Yes, I could have quit at any point in the book, but I didn’t. Why? This living-on-the-edge world was so much different than my own. Isn’t that why I read in the first place? Of course it is. It’s probably why you read too. You’ll want to read Losing Faith.

Thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book. It was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

Wondrous Words #297

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 a couple of words from The Resilient Investor, a book my son co-wrote with his business partners.

1.  proferred:  Are the recommendations proffered by traditional investment books, magazines, and financial services firms the one and only valid methodology?

Proffered in this sentence is a verb meaning to hold out (something) to someone for acceptance. It is an offer: he proffered his resignation. Profer can also be a noun in a literary sense. In this case it means an offer or proposal.

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2.  Anthropocene: The lens of resilience makes us more cognizant that for better or worse we have entered the age of the Anthropocene—a new term for a geological age in which humans have become the dominant factor shaping the world.

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating.

First Paragraph: The Bone Tree

This week’s featured book is The Bone Tree by Greg Iles. This is the author’s second book in a trilogy set in Natchez, Mississippi. It features Penn Cage, a character who has been in a couple of Iles’ previous books. The books are long but soon good. Here’s how the book begins:

Bone TreeTonight death and time showed me their true faces. We spend our lives plodding blindly through the slaughterhouse gate between past and future. Every second is annihilation: the death of this moment, the birth of this moment. There is no “next” moment. There is only now.

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.

firstparagraph

My Brilliant Son’s Brilliant Book: The Resilient Investor: A Plan for Your Life, Not Just Your Money

I have found it hard to be objective when talking about my children. As much as I try, I can’t help but see them as good-looking, socially well-adjusted, brilliant, and so on. And now, here I am with a copy of my son’s recently published book, and I’m trying to write an objective review. Again — it’s impossible, because, of course, the book is Brilliant! I know, telling you that it’s Brilliant doesn’t help you understand. I think a better strategy is to simply tell you what the book is about.

Resiliant InvestorThe Resilient Investor was created as a guidebook for people who consciously think about what they are doing with their lives and their money. As the subtitle says, “A Plan for Your Life, Not Just Your Money.” The authors believe investing is not just about having more. Its about living a happy, fulfilling life. The book begins by reminding us of Aristotle who . . .

“ . . . described the point of a well-lived life, the goal we should be aiming for, as “blessedness.” For Aristotle blessedness meant enjoying family and friends, with a deep feeling of well-being and contentment.”

Our lives are about more than accumulating wealth. Do our investments of money and time reflect the values that are important to us? Do they lead to that state of blessedness?

The Resilient Investor offers an excellent tool to help readers examine our “blessedness.” It’s a nine-zoned chart or map called the Resilient Investor Map. (See below) The map is divided into the various aspects of our lives and our investments. On one side of the map is the three types of assets/returns: Financial, Tangible and Personal. Dividing the map across the top are the three core investment strategies: Close to Home, Sustainable Global Economy and Evolutionary. Each zone of the map is thoroughly explained and discussed through out the book.

The Resilient Investor Map (RIM)

RIM

As you read The Resilient Investor, you’ll want to examine your own life. Good news: the authors do not leave you alone. The book is meant to be interactive and to continue past the last page. A website, Resilient Investor, has been created with that in mind. There you will find a blank copy of the Resilient Investor Map. You can copy it to design and implement your own personal plan. In addition, the website links to the Resilient Investor blog with even more updated information.

As I read and worked my way through The Resilient Investor, I found myself thinking about the future. How prepared am I? Am I resilient in light of the various things that might happen? What strategies will I adopt? Like me, you may find that reading this book will make you change the way you think about investing and the future. And, that can be a very good thing.

Wow! Did I tell you the book is Brilliant?!

Wondrous Words #296

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.

Yesterday I finished read The Resilient Investor, a book written by my son and his two business partners/friends. I know you expect me to say  “Its brilliant!” so, of course, I won’t disappoint you. It is!

I’m going to tell you all about the book either tomorrow or Friday. One of the nice things, for those of us who call ourselves WORD LOVERS, is that there are some nice new words in the book.

Here’s one that grabbed me right away in the second paragraph:

prescient: “We would also wager that you would love to have a crystal ball that could tell you how the future will unfold, enabling you to make prescient decisions as you glide through life.”

Presient is an adjective and it means having or showing knowledge of events before they take place – a skill we would all love to have.

I’ll share more new words from the book next week. In the meantime, don’t forget to visit Kathy @ Bermuda Onion’s Weblog.

 

Okay, that’s it for me this week. I hope you found some words worth celebrating.