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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: A Quilt for Christmas

Quilt for ChristmasAuthor: Sandra Dallas

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, October 2014

I usually read several Christmas-themed books, but this year I only found one that fit my mood. This one isn’t actually about Christmas, but it is warm and loving and there is a Christmas quilt involved.

The year is 1864. Eliza Spooner and her two children are alone on their Kansas farm. Their husband and father is off with the Union army. Eliza is not the only one from their small community who has sacrificed the man of the family. All the women in Eliza’s quilt group are war widows.

The women in the quilt group have become very close, probably because of the stress and loneliness they all have in common. They all agree that Eliza is the best quilter. Eliza has always given special quilts as gifts on various occasions. As a Christmas gift for her husband, Eliza makes a patriotic quilt and mails it to her husband somewhere in Kentucky.

The fact that Eliza and the other women have time to make quilts astonishes me. It’s their responsibility to make sure everything gets done on the farm. There is no money to pay for the few men who are still around, so the women and children are forced to do whatever they can. Somehow Eliza manages to get the crops in. She also takes in a young woman, a friend and fellow quilter, along with the women’s baby daughter. A terrifying experience occurs when Eliza take in and hides a freed ex-slave who has a prize on her head. And then, there is a ex-soldier who fought for the “enemy.”

2 Civil War QuiltsI loved all the talk about the quilts. I don’t quilt much anymore, but I do love to look at them, listen to talk about them and do a little research. I looked for patriotic quilts made during this time period. The pictures above came from the Belfast Historical Society and Museum. The quilts were made in 1864, the same year as the book’s time period. The quilts were sent to a Union hospital.

The perspective of this book worked for me. My husband is a Civil War history “nut” so I hear a lot about the battles, etc. It was good to take a look at what happened back home where the women were left to handle all the things the men had been doing, plus their own duties. It was a harsh life and I certainly appreciate the sacrifices made by these women and children who kept everything going at home.

This was a lovely and well-written story. Of course, Sandra Dallas is a superb storyteller. If you haven’t read one of her stories, give this one a try.

Book Review: Four Mystery/Romances from Lisa Jackson

A few weeks ago Audible had this great sale on audiobooks and I grabbed quite a few. I’ve been wanting to read some of Lisa Jackson’s mystery novels. To tell you the truth, I just grabbed the first two in a series of four without even checking out the plot. I know, kind of a dumb thing to do. What happened was they turned out to be more romance than mystery. Not that I don’t enjoy a good romance story. I do, but it wasn’t the kind of romantic mystery I was hoping for.

The funny thing is that, on the whole, they were pretty good. I thought I’d read one now and the second one later on. The books were structured so that the mystery was introduced in the first book and I had to read the second book to find out what happened next. Then, of course, I couldn’t wait and went back to Audible and bought the other two. I couldn’t wait to get to the end.

4 McCaffertys

The story involves the McCafferty family. It started with one father and two mothers, all of whom are dead. The four remaining family members are all adults – three brothers and a younger sister. They all grew up on a ranch in Montana but are now scattered, busy with their own lives. What brings them all back together is an accident that nearly takes the life of Randi, the youngest sister.

The main thread throughout the story is the mystery of Randi’s accident and subsequent attempts on her life. Although she lives in Seattle, Randi is severely injured in a hit-and-run accident in Glacier Park. The accident prompts the birth of her unborn child. They are both rushed to the hospital in Randi’s former home town. She is in a coma and the baby has developed a bacterial infection.

Gradually, through the first three books, Randi and the baby recover, but the mysteries still exist: Who is the father of the baby, who wants to kill Randi and why? Each book has it’s own story featuring each one of the four McCafferty siblings. Here are the plot points for the four novels:

Thorne is a multi-millionarire, a lawyer and ceo of his own company. When he hears of his sister’s accident he rushes back to the ranch. At the hospital he meets the emergency room doctor, Nicole. The two of them had a fling back in high school, but went their separate ways. Now Nicole has a challenging career and a single mom to twin four-year-olds. The last thing she thinks she needs in another man in her life.

Matt owns his own ranch north of the family ranch. He wanted to prove to his father that he could be successful on his own. When Matt comes back home he becomes involved with Kelly, the detective working on his sister’s case. Kelly is dedicated to her job. No one in her family likes any one of the McCafferty family, so, of course she shouldn’t have anything to do with Matt.

Slade, the third son is a well-know adventurer. He’s skied from helicopters, done water-rafting, rodeo riding and so forth. Jamie is a former girlfriend who left town when he dumped her for another girl. Jamie left town, went to college and on to law school. Now she’s back in town to sell her grandmother’s farm. The sparks really fly back and forth between these two.

Randi, the youngest sister, is full of mystery. She refuses to share her secrets with anyone, particularly her brothers and Kurt Striker, the private investigator hired to help solve the mysteries and protect Randi. Randi is a reporter for a Seattle newspaper. She writes a syndicated column and has been working on a book.

By the end of the fourth novel, the mystery is solved and everyone lives happily ever after. These are romantic mysteries, after all. The books do not do well as stand alines. Also, they need to be read in order. One more warning: there are a few pages of sex, so be ready to hit fast forward or flip the pages ahead. (Unless, of course, you like that sort of thing in print.)

I still want to read a pure mystery by Lisa Jackson. I liked the way she wrote and the characters she created. I’ll be on the look-out for her best mystery. Anyone have a suggestion?

Wondrous Words #281

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 two more words from Personal by Lee Child. (To see my review, click the title.)

1.  pettifogging: “OK, so maybe some stupid temporary pettifogging regulation was technically against them at one point, but they were more important than that.”

Pettifogging is an adjective meaning meaning to place undue emphasis on petty details.

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2.  forestock: “A rifle that size has biped legs coming off the front of the forestock.

Rifle

I know nothing about guns or rifles, so I had to checked it out. My husband read this novel with me and he helped. I found that a stock is the wooden part of a rifle. The forestock is the front part of the stock where a rifleman puts one of his hands. The other hand is on the trigger. (The picture below is from Wikipedia.)

 

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Well, 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: A Quilt for Christmas

Today I’m featuring a Sandra Dallas book, A Quilt for Christmas. It’s a lovely civil war-era book that this author does so well. I’m sharing the first paragraph from the prologue:

Quilt for Christmas

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Prologue
November 20, 1864

It was a fine fall evening. The window carried the smell of rotting apples and woo smoke and a hint of frost that would likely come after midnight. The setting sun made the stubble in the fields shimmer like flakes of mica and sent rays of light through the cloud as if the Almighty Himself were casting down the fiery shafts. Far off were the night sounds of cattle lowing, and nearer, of chickens clucking. The wind swirled papery dead leaves across the porch.

 

 

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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

 

Reading Challenges: 2015

A Novel Challenge

This is the time of year when I spend a lot of time on the Novel Challenge blog. Participating in reading challenges is one of my favorite parts of book blogging. Challenges have led me to read books I might otherwise never consider. I’ve been pouring over all the posts at a Novel Challenge. First, I pick almost every challenge and then, when reality hits, I discard some of them. Finally I settle on what is both realistic and at the same time – a challenge.

Below are the challenges I’m accepting for 2015:

What's In a Name 8

 

1. This is year eight for What’s In a Name? challenge. Each year there are different categories to try to match my books to. Here are the categories (with examples) for 2015:

  • A word including ‘ing’ in it (The Time Of Singing, Dancing To The Flute, Lex Trent Fighting With Fire)
  • A colour (The Red Queen, White Truffles In Winter, On Gold Mountain)
  • A familial relation (Daughter Of Smoke And Bone, Dombey And Son, My Cousin Rachel) By all means include in-laws, step, and halves.
  • A body of water (The River Of No Return, Black Lake, Beside The Sea)
  • A city (Barcelona Shadows, Shanghai Girls, Under The Tripoli Sky)
  • An animal (Black Swan Rising, The Leopard Unleashed, The Horse And His Boy)

Newberry2015

 

2.  The Newberry Reading Challenge. I’ve been reading children’s books all my life. I’m working on a project to read all of the Newberry Medal Winners back to the beginning. My goal in 2015 is to read eight more winners. In the challenge;s rules, that’s a total of 24 points.

 

Finishing the Series

3.  Finish the Book Series. Oh yes, I do love to start a series, but I often let myself get waylaid when it comes to finishing them. I’m looking for this challenge to serve as an incentive for me. My goal is to complete three series.

 

Love Libraries 2015

4.  I Love Libraries Challenge. This is one challenge I join every year just because I really do love libraries. I don’t need the challenge to push me to use the library. In 2014 more than half the books I read came from the library. I like supporting the library any way I can and I hope you do too. In 2015 my goal is read at the Young Adult level or 24+ books.

 

Foodies Read 2015

 

5. Foodies Read Challenge is one I love. (I actually started this challenge a few years ago.)  Unfortunately, I didn’t do well on it in 2014, so I’m going to push myself harder and aim for the Pastry Chef level (4 to 8 books) in 2015. Wish me luck.

 

Reading England

6. Reading England Challenge is a new one for me this year. The goal of the challenge is to help a reader focus their reading choices on a certain number of English counties and the novels created there. I have several English novels on my to-read list, so I think it will be fun to focus on the county that matches my book. My goal is to reach Level two (4 to 6 books).

 

Cloak & Dagger

7.  Mystery/thriller novels are my favorites. I really don’t need a challenge to make me read them. I’m joining the Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge to keep track of them and hopefully discover some new-to-me books. Since my favorite detective is the ever-brilliant Miss Marple, I’m aiming for that level which equals 30+ mystery books.

 

Vintage Mystery BINGO 2015

8. I’m also going to play Vintage Mystery BINGO. I’m still working on my Agatha Christie Reading Challenge, but I want to also read other vintage mystery writers such as Ngaio Marsh, Wilkie Collins, Dorothy Parker, and more. My goal is to complete at least two rows on the Golden Age BINGO card. (Sorry for the small print. It appears in larger form on my 2015 Challenges page.

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Okay, this is it for now. I may add another special challenge or two later on. I’m still working on two perpetual or long term challenges: Agatha Christie and Classics Club. My progress on my 2015 challenges will be on my 2015 Challenge page after the first of the year. Agatha Christie and Classics Club already have their own separate pages.

I’m looking forward to a new year in reading. I know my challenges will add a lot of variety and pleasure to my reading. I hope 2015 will be a successful reading year for you as well.

Book Review and Tour: The Language of Hoffbeats

Hoffbeats.

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Jackie and Paula, a same-sex couple have three foster children – two teenagers, Star and Mando, and a young boy, Quinn, who they have adopted. The five of them, along with numerous cats and dogs, move to a small town. An unconventional family moving to a new place could be the catalyst for all sorts of problems. Put all that together with a neighbor, Clem, who seems very hateful, and it could be a disaster.

Clem is a caustic, bitter woman to her husband and everyone she meets. Children in town call her the “mean old lady.” Before the new family is even unpacked, Clem is already acting hateful.

Star is the couple’s newest foster child and my heart went out to her. She’s a troubled teenaged girl who holds herself off from people and is quick to anger. She’s is drawn to Comet, Clem’s horse. Star reognized the neglect in the horse and wants to help. Clem immediately forbids Star from trespassing on her property. Star still tries to help the horse, but only when Clem is not watching.

Jackie and Paula caution all three of the children to stay away from Clem’s place. They just want to avoid conflict and make a good adjustment to their new hometown. However, when Star and the horse disappear, the conflict and worry escalats up a higher level.

While reading the first part of this book I thought that, maybe, I’d made a mistake by picking this book. I really didn’t like any of the adult characters. As the story progressed, I became drawn in to the personalities and then I began to look at Clem in a more sympathetic way. I know that seldom is one person so negative just by themselves. Some event or events usually occur that cause negativity and that’s what happened to Clem.

Overall, I liked The Language of Hoffbeats, but I have to say I didn’t love it. You know that characters in a book are what matters to me. Somehow these characters were just a bit too pat. It’s still a good story, so don’t let me keep you from reading it.

Catherine HydeAbout the author:

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the bestselling author of twenty-four novels, including the 1999 smash hitPay It Forward,which has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and was made into a major motion picture starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Haley Joel Osment. In addition to her novels, Hyde is the author of more than fifty short stories and is founder and former president (2000–2009) of the Pay It Forward Foundation. During her years as a professional public speaker, she addressed the National Conference on Education, met with AmeriCorps members at the White House, and shared a dais with President Bill Clinton.

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: TLC Book Tours

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Wondrous Words #280

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 finally finished reading Personal by Lee Child. Here are a couple of words I discovered in the book:

1.  scrum: A long, long shot. But the glass had held, and the sound of the bullet’s impact against it had triggered an instant reaction, and the president had been buried under a scrum of security people.

Scrum is an informal term that is chiefly British. It means a disorderly crowd of people or things.

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2.  chromatograph: “They put the fragments in a gas chromatograph.”

A chromatograph is an apparatus that separates a mixture by passing it in a solution or suspension or as a vapor through a medium in which the components move at different rates. This is still way over my head. This comes under the heading of “one of those scientific thing-ys.”

Well, 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: Thorne by Lisa Jackson

I’m reading a set of four books by Lisa Jackson. It’s all about the McCafferty’s, a ranch family in Montana. The oldest brother, Thorne, is featured in the first book. Here’s how the prologue begins:

ThorneLast Summer

   “The truth of the matter, son, is that I’ve got a request for you,” John Randall McCafferty stated from his wheelchair. He’d asked Thorne to push him to the fence line some thirty yards from the front door of the ranch house he’d called home all his life.


    “I hate to ask what it is,” Thorne remarked.

 “It’s simple. I want you to marry. You’re thirty-nine, son, Matt’s thirty-seven and Slade—well he’s still a boy but he is thirty-six. None of you has married and I don’t have one grandchild—well at least none that I know of.” He frowned. “Even your sister hasn’t settlef town.

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: Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel

Personal
Author: Lee Child

Publisher: Delecorte Press, September 2014

Genre: Crime Fiction/Series

A long time ago I read a couple of books in the Jack Reacher series. I really liked them, but for some reason, I stopped reading them. Now my husband and son are reading them, starting back at the beginning. When I saw that Lee Child’s latest book seemed to have captured the attention of many readers (high on bestseller lists for months), I decided to reconnect.

This book is all about Jack Reacher and he is indeed an interesting character. He’s an ex-military man who rose to the level of Major. He was a part of the military police unit specializing in the toughest cases involving the Army’s Special Forces. He’s very smart, a graduate of West Point. He’s especially good at analyzing and predicting details in crime scenes. He also has good “human-sense” that’s helpful in analyzing people.

Reacher doesn’t live anywhere. He’s a drifter, traveling around the United States by bus or sometimes hitchhiking. He only carries around a toothbrush and some cash. Every few days he buys some cheap clothing and leaves the dirty stuff in a trash bin. He doesn’t sit idle. He helps investigate crimes and the army often calls upon him to give advice on sticky situations.

In Personal, the nineteenth book in the series, Reacher is asked by an old acquaintance, General O’Day, to help with an international situation. Someone took a shot at the president of France from an extremely long distance. There are less than five people in the world who could do that and one of them is an American. There is a fear that the attempt on the French president was just a warm-up to a bigger assassination involving multiple world leaders.

One of the possible assassins is someone Reacher used to know. He’s asked to find out if the shooter is the same guy and, if so, stop him. Reacher gets help from a young female CIA/State Department operative who turns out to be more helpful than Reacher expected. Together they travel from South Carolina to Arkansas, Paris and London.

The story is told in first person. It’s truly amazing to be inside Reacher’s head as he’s analyzing every single thing from who and why the assassins are involved to the presise angle a sniper needed to take if the wind is blowing slightly. In addition, I like the way it was written. The sentences are short, making them feel rapid-fire and powerful. Here’s an example:

But it worked the first time out. One day after the paper was printed. Which is why I felt lame later on.

It’s easy to read and easy to follow. Unfortunately, it also seems the story is over too soon. Not to worry, there are eighteen other Reacher adventures to find and read.

This combination mystery/thriller is excellent all the way through, with a surprising (for me) ending. Don’t miss this onde.

Book and a Movie: Persuasion by Jane Austen

PersuasionWhen I saw a dvd of the movie at the library, it reminded me that Persuasion is on my list to reread. It’s been at least thirty years since I last read this classic, but it’s a favorite of mine. The story of Anne Elliot has never left me.

Anne is the youngest daughter of an English baron. Anne’s father is a very vain man with mirrors all over his bedroom. He cares only about appearances and his place in society. Anne’s mother died many years ago, but her godmother, Lady Russell, has been a good friend and adviser to her. Anne has two sisters, but they don’t care about her at all unless they need her to do something for her.

Anne is different from the rest of her family. She has a pleasant and hopeful personality, helps others and quietly lives her life. Her only regret is that she hasn’t married and born children. Eight years ago she was engaged to marry Frederick Wentworth. Her father disapproved of him as he had no standing in society. Anne was persuaded by Lady Russell that they were not a good match. They parted and Wentworth went off to see as a naval officer.

Now things are different. Frederick has returned from the Napoleanic wars a rich man. As Captain Wentworth he is respected and admired by nearly everyone. However, when Anne and Frederick come together Anne realizes he is still angry at her. As the days pass Anne watches as he flirts with other women and considers marriage to one of them.

Movie PersuasionPersuasion is a lovely character study. Jane Austen certainly knew how to make her characters come alive. There all sorts of interesting characters woven into this story as well as a good number of side stories. There are times when the story gets a tiny bit tedious with too many explanations of minor details, but I just let them go. After all, this is Jane Austen.

The movie I watched was the 20007 one starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones. They both did a good job fulfilling my mental image of the characters and the time period. The story in the movie was a little different from the story in the book. I let it go too because the changes fit the drama necessary for a film. I loved the movie’s ending of Anne running back and forth on the streets of Bath which was not a part of the book.

If you have some time during the holidays, read the book and watch the movie. They make a lovely break from all the hustle.

Persuasion was first published in 1817.