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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Wondrous Words #261

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.

A bonanza – I found two new words in one paragraph! I was reading JoAnn’s (Lakeside Musings) First Paragraph post. This is from Jeannette Haien’s new book The All of It.

Thomas Dunn, the head ghillie at the Castle, wasn’t telling Father Declan anything he didn’t already know: the river was too high and wild from all the rains, and the salmon, therefore, not moving, just lying on the bottom, not showing themselves at all, and the midges terrible, and only two days left to the season so of course all but the least desirable of the river-boats, number Four, was let already . . . 

A ghillie is a a man or boy who attends someone on a hunting or fishing expedition.

Midge was a nickname given to my mother. I had no idea it had a meaning beyond simply the name. But it turns out a midge is a small two-winged fly that is often seen in swarms near water or marshy areas. It also has an informal meaning which is a small person. I suspect my three uncles gave their baby sister this nickname because they thought both meanings fit.

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: Sycamore Row

I’m finishing up John Grisham’s latest legal thriller, Sycamore Row. It’s a visit back to some of  the characters and the countryside of Grisham’s earliest novel, A Time to Tell. I’m loving it. Here’s how it begins:

Sycamore RowThey found Seth Hubbard in the general area where he had promised to be, though not exactly in the condition expected. He was at the end of a rope, six feet off the ground and twisting slightly in the wind. A front was moving through and Seth was soaked when they found him, not that it mattered. Someone would point out that there was no mud on his shoes and no tracks below him, so therefore he was probably hanging and dead when the rain began. Why was that important? Ultimately, it was not.  

What do you think?
Would you keep going?

This post is linked to First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro sponored by Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea.


Book Review: The Code of the Hills

Author: Nancy Allen
Publisher: Harper Collins, April 15, 2014
Genre: Legal Mystery

Why I read this book: I like looking at issues through the double lens of the law and people who come up against the law. In the past I’ve spent a little bit of time in the Ozark hills and I’m acquainted with the culture there. I was curious to see if anything has changed.

Summary (from the publisher):

Code of the HillsTo uncover the truth, she’ll have to break the code of the hills …
In the Missouri Ozarks, some things aren’t talked about … even abuse. But prosecutor Elsie Arnold is determined to change that.

When she is assigned to prosecute a high-profile incest case in which a father is accused of abusing his three young daughters, Elsie is ready to become the Ozarks’ avenging angel.

But as Elsie sinks her teeth into the case, everything begins to turn sour. The star witness goes missing; the girls refuse to talk about their father, who terrorizes the courtroom from the moment he enters; and Elsie begins to suspect that their tough-as-nails mother has ulterior motives. To make matters worse, Elsie receives gruesome threats from local extremists, warning her to mind her own business.
While Elsie swears not to let a sex offender walk, she realizes the odds—and maybe the town—are against her, and her life begins to crumble. But amidst all of the conflict, the safety of three young girls hangs in the balance …

My Thoughts:

It took me quite a few chapters to get into this novel. The parts of the story about Elsie as a prosecutor and the cases involving children were very good. Elsie (and I think the author) has a passion for this side of the job. It showed the very nasty and frustrating side of prosecuting cases of incest and rape. My heart broke for the victims. I applaud the author for bringing these problems to the forefront.

I also liked the everyday look into the life of a small town prosecutor. It’s not all glamour or necessarily meaningful work. The author showed there are those days spent prosecuting traffic cases and other petty cases.

My problem with the book has to do with the main character, Elsie. On the one hand she’s a good prosecutor, even if she’s only been at it four years. But, when it came to her personal life, she acted like a fourteen-year-old. I thought she had very bad taste in men. She seemed to only like the good-looking guys without thinking about how they treated her.

This is Nancy Allen’s debut novel. She’s spent her career as a prosecuting attorney in the Ozarks. That gave her novel a nice note of authenticity.

Book Review: The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

Glassblower of Murano

Publisher: St. Martins Griffin, 2009

The Glassblower of Murano is a lovely historical fiction that tells two stories with great similarities. Set in Murano, a suburb of Venice, it intersperses the stories of a gifted glassblower, Corradino, in the seventeenth century with modern-day Leonora, an apprentice glassblower. Corradino is Leonora’s ancestor. She appears to have been gifted with his talent.

Leonora’s story isn’t as interesting as Corradino’s. She is a divorced woman who fled England to start a new life in Italy. When she gets a job at a Murano glassblowing factory she personally comes up against some controversy because of rumors that her ancestor gave the Murano glassblowing secrets to the French. (After all these years, there’s still bad feelings?) These rumors cause a co-worker at the glassblowing factory to sabotage Leonora’s work, so she attempts to find out the truth about Corrodino.

The high quality of the products produced by the glassblowing industry in the seventeenth century was exclusive to Italy and specifically Venice. It was fanatically guarded with governmental laws, etc. The workers were virtual slaves on the island of Murano. Spies from France tried to recruit Corrodino to travel to France to create special glass mirrors for King Louis XIV. The spies threatened him with death of both himself and a secret daughter. The question is: Did he do it or was there a way out?

As I said, I liked the old story of Corrodino best. It was much more dramatic and believable. There was a nice little romance for Leonora, but the rest of the modern story didn’t stack up for me. Overall, it was an okay read.

This was a book club selection and most members in the group liked it. As is our wont, we spent quite a bit of time on the social issues that came up in both stories. In particular, we talked most about the various aspects and evils of slavery – today and in the past.

I’ll recommend The Glassblower of Murano to readers who really like historical fiction as well as book clubs that love to discuss the issues raised in a story.

Wondrous Words #260

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 I read The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger. Its the kind of book that’s told through memos, letters, emails, and in this case, through legal papers. In other words, an epistolary novel. (If that’s a new-to-you word, feel free to take it for your own Wondrous Words Wednesday.) I learned quite a few new words while reading this book. I’ll share some today and more next week.  Here are a couple:

vituperative: ” . . . your client, Dr. Durkheim, had a bitter and vituperative argument with his wife . . .”

Vituperative means bitter and abusive.


dilatory: “My wife has been using devious, dishonest, underhanded, and dilatory tactics in order to bully me into settling.”

Dilatory has two meanings but in this sentence I believe the meaning to be this: intended to cause delay.

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 Glassblower of Murano

I’m reading an interesting novel that features Italian glass. The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato  alternates between current day glassblowers and those of a few centuries ago. So far, I’m really enjoying it. Here’s how it begins:

 Glassblower of MuranoAs Corradino Mankin looked on the lights of San Marco for the last time, Venice from the lagoon seemed to him a golden constellation in the dark blue velvet dusk. How many of those windowpanes, that adorned his city like costly gems, had he made with his own hands? Now they were stars lit to guide him at the end of the journey of his life. Guide him home at last.

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.


Book Review: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

Divorce PapersPublished by: Crown/Random House, 2014

An epistolary novel is a rare thing for me. I can only remember reading two other ones. I wanted to try The Divorce Papers because it seemed a little different, an interesting look behind the scenes, or should I say, in the locked file cabinets, at a law firm. It didn’t disappoint. Here’s the basic plot of the story:

Twenty-nine-year-old Sophie Diehl is happy toiling away as a criminal law associate at an old-line New England firm, where she very much appreciates that most of her clients are trapped behind bars. Everyone at Traynor, Hand knows she abhors face-to-face contact, but one week, with all the big partners out of town, Sophie is stuck handling the intake interview for the daughter of the firm’s most important client.
After eighteen years of marriage, Mayflower descendant Mia Meiklejohn Durkheim has just been served divorce papers in a humiliating scene at the popular local restaurant, Golightly’s. Mia is now locked and loaded to fight her eminent and ambitious husband, Dr. Daniel Durkheim, Chief of the Department of Pediatric Oncology at Mather Medical School, for custody of their ten-year-old daughter Jane. Mia also burns to take him down a peg.

Sophie warns Mia that she’s never handled a divorce case before, but Mia can’t be put off. The way she sees it, it’s her first divorce, too. For Sophie, the whole affair will spark a hard look at her own relationships—with her parents, colleagues, friends, lovers, and, most important, herself.

This was pure fun to read. It was as if I was snooping in all the memos, legal forms, emails, and confidential papers of a real client I might know from the media. I was privy to how much money the client’s husband made and, thanks to the smart lawyer, Sophie, I knew the strategy of how the wife was going to get the maximum out of her soon-to-be-ex-husband.

I liked the character of Sophie. She had a good heart. She didn’t have an agenda when it came to the opposition. She wasn’t out for revenge on behalf of her client. She sincerely tried to get an equitable division of the assets and an amiable agreement between husband, wife, and the child. Although Sophie was inexperienced when it came to divorces, she was smart enough to study the law and also ask for advice. Sophie was also tough and she had her own way of getting justice and the best possible outcome for her client.

It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it was quite humorous. I kept going from one document to the next. It was addictive and it satisfied my inner snoop.

This is the first novel for this lawyer turned novelist. I sure hope it won’t be her last book. I’d read more.

Book Review: The Bartender’s Tale

Author: Ivan Doig
Publisher: Riverhead, August 2012
Genre: Literature
Format: Audiobook, Narrated by David Aaron Baker

Ivan Doig is an extraordinary storyteller. He specializes in telling stories about the old days in Montana. In The Bartender’s Tale, the “old days” are the 1960s with references to earlier times. The main characters are Rusty, an inquisitive twelve-year-old who narrates the story, and his dad, Tom Harry.

Tom Harry owns the Medicine Lodge, the best saloon in this small town in northern Montana. Tom is a bartender with standards. He won’t let anyone drink to excess and he won’t allow fighting. He remembers everyone’s name and favorite drink as well as the tales they tell him in confidence. He’s skilled at managing people and a good business man as well.

Rusty and his dad are on their own. Rusty’s mom left when Rusty was a few months old. They’re doing okay. Rusty does chores in the bar but he’s not allowed to be in the bar during business hours. Rusty spends a lot of time in the bar’s back room where he can hear what’s going on through a vent that connects the two rooms. The back room is also notable because it’s loaded with items Tom has taken in as credit for drinks over the years. Some of it is bizarre and some is valuable.

The story revolves around the events of the summer Rusty turned twelve. He makes a new friend, Zoe, who has just moved to town with her parents who own the diner. They have a lot in common and a lot of free time. Also new in town is Del, a young man who works for the Library of Congress gathering up “oral histories.”  He asks for Tom’s help in collecting the histories, and Tom reluctantly agrees.

Two other people enter Tom and Rusty’s life that summer: Proxy, an old flame of Tom’s, and her daughter, Francine. Proxy tells Tom Francine is really his daughter and asks Tom to give her a job in the bar and teach her the business. Although Tom is skeptical, he agrees. Proxy goes back to Reno and Francine settles in to learn the job.

That summer brings about some very interesting event and changes. Because we see them through Rusty’s eyes, we see them innocently and what only twelve-year-olds believe is true. This is the storyteller’s genius. Doig allows the listener (reader) to imagine what else is going on in addition to what Rusty is telling us. We become so engaged in the story that we are taken back to that small town in Montana in 1960.

I truly loved this story. I smiled, laughed, nodded, looked up northern Montana on the map and read about some of the events in the area. In other words, I was totally engaged in this story. I had tears in my eyes when the book ended. I didn’t want to leave it. That is my highest form of recommendation to you.

I listened to the audio version, which in my opinion is the best way to experience this wonderful storyteller. The narrator was David Aaron Baker who did a superb job keeping all the characters straight and the accents and dialogue flowing.

Wondrous Words #259

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 first word came from a book review in Publisher’s Weekly for the book Appaloosa by Robert B. Parker.

trope: “What he does, and to a magnificent degree, is to invest classic tropes with vigor, through depth of character revealed by a glance, a gesture or even silence.”

There are two meanings for trope. In this case it means a significant or recurrent theme.


My second word is from the product description of Year Round Slow Cooking by Dina Cheney.

unctuous: If you’re watching your budget, they’re well worth the $30 they cost since they can turn the ch”eapest cuts of meat into unctuous, mouth-watering results worthy of a five-star restaurant.”

I looked up unctuous and I believe the author of the book description used the wrong word. Here is the definition of unctuous. See if you think it fits.

Unctuous is an adjective that means fatty, oily and smooth and greasy in texture or appearances. I don’t know about you but I don’t put a chuck roast in my slow cooker hoping for a greasy outcome. That just has to be a wrong word choice. What do you think?

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 Bartender’s Tale

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. As readers we are often captivated or turned away by that first paragraph or two. Let’s see what you think about the first paragraph of my current read.

Ivan Doig’s novels fill a special place in my reading heart. He’s a special storyteller and builds unique characters. I’m not sure it will show in this original paragraph, but take a look anyway. This is from A Bartender’s Tale.

My father was the best bartender who ever lived. No one really questioned that in a town like Gros Ventre, glad of any honor, or out in the lonely sheep camps and bunkhouse and other parched locations of the Two Medicine country, where the Medicine Lodge saloon was viewed as a nearly holy oasis. What else was as reliable in life as sauntering into the oldest enterprise for a hundred miles around and being met with just the right drink whisking along the polished wood of the prodigious bar, along with a greeting as dependable as the time of day? Not even heaven promised such service. Growing up in back of the joint, as my father always called it, I could practically hear in my sleep the toasts that celebrated the Medicine Lodge as an unbeatable place and Tom Harry as perfection of a certain kind behind the bar.

What do you think of this first paragraph?

Would you keep reading?