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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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First Paragraph: The Goldfinch

I’ve had The Goldfinch by Donna Tardt on my list for quite some time. To tell you the truth, I put off reading it because of it’s size. It’s 755 pages or 32.5 hours! A book club friend finally convinced me I would be missing a great book if I didn’t read it. She said, “Just get past the first 70 pages and you’ll be hooked.”  She was right, of course. Here’s the first paragraph:

Goldfinch
While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years. I’d been shut up in my hotel for more than a week, afraid to telephone anybody or go out; and my heart scrambled and floundered at even the most innocent noises: elevator bell, rattle of the minibar cart, even church clocks tolling the hour, de Westertoren, Krijtberg, a dark edge to the clangor, an inwrought fairy-tale sense of doom. By day I sat on the foot of the bed straining to puzzle out the Dutch-language news on television (which was hopeless, since I knew not a word of Dutch) and when I gave up, I sat by the window staring out at the canal with my camel’s-hair coat thrown over my cloths—for I’d left New York in a hurry and the things I’d brought weren’t warm enough, even indoors.

 

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: The Competition

The Competition

 

Author: Marcia Clark

Publisher: Mulholland  July 2014

Genre: Crime Novel

The Competition is Marcia Clark’s fourth novel in the Rachel Knight series. Fourth? Back in 2011 I read her first foray into the world of fiction, Guilt By Association. I liked it and told myself to watch for her next one. Well, while I wasn’t paying attention, she wrote three more books.

This fourth book is extremely good, but tough to read. Not because of the writing. That was good. It’s the subject matter. Believe it or not, but the main motivation for a massacre of high school students was to have a larger body count than the Columbine shooting.

I couldn’t help but be terrified as two masked killers entered the back of the high school gym during a pep rally and started shooting at the cheerleaders, students in the stands, and teachers trying to protect students. The two killers went through the gym, roamed the halls, and finally quit in the library with an apparent double suicide.

Special Trials prosecutor, Rachel Knight, and her best friend, Detective Bailey Keller. get the call within minutes of the shooting. If you’ve seen the TV reports of any of the school shootings, you know what they found when they arrived at the high school. The scene inside the school matches your worst nightmare.

There are many people working on this multiple crime. Rachel and Bailey are in charge of understanding who and why. However, within hours it’s clear that the two bodies they assumed were the killers who committed suicide, were actually two students who were also victims. The masks the killers wore were found outside in the dumpster. The two killers escaped.

Rachel and Bailey used their best detective skills to figure out who could have been responsible. Then they need to find them before it’s too late. They learn the killers are planning to go to a theater and beat the body count of the Colorado massacre. How Rachel and Bailey finess information out of students, teachers and parents is simply amazing. They don’t want to lead students down the wrong path and spread rumors about the wrong people. They also need to search bedrooms of two possible killers whose parents are positive their child could not possibly do something like this. Only a skilled prosecutor/investigator like Marcia Clark could share that with readers.

The one question every character in the story kept asking was “What kind of kid could do something like this?” I think that’s what motivated the author to write the story. No one understands these kinds of massacres. I won’t say this was a fun story to read, but it certainly was interesting and it did help me see the situation from the point of view of law enforcement. No way could I do their jobs, but I certainly am grateful for those that do.

Book Review: The Collector

The CollectorAuthor: Nora Roberts
Publisher: Putnam 2014
Genre: Romantic Suspence

Lila Emerson is an interesting and likable young woman. For one thing, she loves people. Within minutes of meeting a person they will find themselves telling Lila all about themselves. Lila isn’t nosey, she has a strong sense of curiosity. She really likes and understands people.

Lila writes young-adult fiction. Her writing career hasn’t quite taken off yet so, to pay the bills, she house-sits. Clients love her and she has many repeat customers. She takes care of their pets, plants and whatever else they need. She’s located primarily in New York City, but she’s taken jobs in Italy and a few other special places.

As the story opens, Lila is on a job in a New York high-rise. One of Lila’s foibles is her love of spying on the neighbors. She carries binoculars with her for that purpose. One night she witnesses a couple arguing in an apartment across the way. The next thing she knows the woman is launched through the window and falls fourteen floors to her death. Lila immediately calls 911.

Lila is interviewed by the police and she helps them figure out which apartment the woman fell from. When the police find the apartment, they also find a dead man. The police ask her to come down to the police station to help them further. It’s there that she meets “Ash”, Asher Archer, the older brother of the dead man.

From this point on the story is a non-stopper. Although the police believe it was a murder/suicide, Ash knows his brother would never hurt a woman and he was too egocentric to commit suicide. He asks Lila to help him.

Ash is a strong and caring man. (Of course, he’s good-looking and wealthy too. After all, this is a romance novel.) He’s the head of his complicated family even though his father is still alive. He’s also a well known artist. It takes some persistence, but Ash finally gets Lila to agree that he can paint her. They spend lots of time together and get to know each other.

Spending time together is what makes the killer put two and two together and, before the reader knows it, Lila’s life is in danger and then also Ash’s. The police look at things differently too and soon they all figure out the two murders have something to do with Ash’s brother’s job at an antique shop. Ash’s brother was always looking for the big score and they believe he found a valuable antique.

I won’t spoil the story for you by telling you what the big find was or who the killer is. I will say that the hunt for these things takes us to some great places around Manhattan as well as a trip to Tuscany. There are additional characters well worth knowing like Lila’s best friend and a friend of Ash’s. There are a couple of not-so-nice people too. The conclusion is pretty dramatic, to say the least.

2014 has been an amazing book year for me. I’ve read so many excellent novels. I will say that this story is up there with the best of them. Nora Roberts is an exception to the run-of-the-mill romance novelists. She is a first-rate storyteller

The Collector has romance, humor, a little bit of New York City, some scary parts, and an interesting mystery. There are a couple of short sex scenes that are easy to skip over if that bothers you. The best thing is meeting Lila Emerson. I loved her and her “I can take good care of myself” attitude.

Wondrous Words #272

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 think we all have favorite places we go to for book recommendations. One of my favorites is National Public Radio, best known as NPR. In case I miss a good interview or review, I subscribe to The Best of NPR Books.

Last week’s newsletter had a headline with a new-to-me word.

Virtual Reality, Corporeality Collide in Cronenberg’s First Novel

Corporeal (kôrˈpôrēəl) refers to a person’s body or a person having a body.

I only found one new word this week, but it’s a good one. 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 Collector

I’m taking a much-needed “romance break” with my favorite romance author – Nora Roberts. The main character is a blogger, professional home-sitter, and she writes teenage novels. Here’s the opening paragraph:

The CollectorShe thought they’d never leave. Clients, especially new ones, tended to fuss and delay, revolving on the same loop of instructions, contacts, comments before finally heading out the door. She sympathized because when they walked out the door they left their home, their belongings, and in this case their cat, in someone else’s hands.

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.

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Book Review: The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Brass VerdictPublisher: Little Brown and Co. 2008

I am a Michael Connelly fan, especially his Michael Haller/Lincoln Lawyer novels. I discovered there was one I missed — The Brass Verdict. This is the second book in the series, right after The Lincoln Lawyer.

In this story Mickey has just “inherited” the entire caseload of an old friend who has just been murdered. Although sad about the death of his friend, the inhetitance could be good news for Mickey. One of his new cases is a big one – one that could move Micky into the ranks of big-time defense attorneys. The head of one of Hollywood’s film studios has been charged with murdering his wife and her lover. The case is set to go to trial in a week and the client refuses to delay it.

Mickey has so much on his plate, but he balances it all and actually makes it happen. He is very skilled. One of the pro-bono cases that Mickey inherited begins to intermingle with the murder case and it makes for a complicated mystery. And it gets even more complicated when Harry Bosch enters the scene.

The author, Michael Connelly, has another long-time series starring LA police detective Harry Bosch. Harry makes his entrance in this novel as he investigates the murder of the attorney who “willed” his cases to Mickey. Harry is suspicious of Mickey at first because Mickey does stand to gain a lot by his friend’s death. Things get a little tense between these two and, since I’ve read the series past this one, I know the relationship is going to get really complicated.

Michael Connelly is an author that makes my head spin. In this book, watching as Mickey managed all the cases with lightening speed gave me mental whiplash. The author is not an attorney, but he thinks like one. From me, that’s a supreme compliment because I greatly admire the good smart ones.

I highly recommend anything written by Michael Connelly, but especially his Lincoln Lawyer novels. Here’s the entire list in order:  (Each title leads to my review.)
The Lincoln Lawyer (2005)
The Brass Verdict (2008)
The Reversal (2010)
The Fifth Witness (2011)
The Gods of Guilt  (2013)

Book Review: Looking For Salvation At the Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen
Author
: Susan Gregg Gilmore

Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books, 2008

Genre: Southern Literary Fiction

Format: Audiobook, Read by Tavia Gilbert

From the time she was a child, Catherine Grace Cline’s main goal in life was to get out of Ringgold, Georgia. It’s not that her life was horrible. It wasn’t. There was just something inside Catherine Grace that made her long for the world outside her small town.

When Catherine Grace was six and her sister, Martha Ann, was four, their mother drowned in a nearby river. Her death caused distress to the girls and their Baptist preacher father. To Catherine Grace it was a personal blow that affected how she looked at life.

In spite of that, the girls managed to grow and thrive, thanks to their wise and steady father and the help of a savvy, loving neighbor, Gloria Jean. They were also watched by nearly every person in their small town. Being the “preacher’s kids” was often a big responsibility.

It was both fun and interesting as Catherine Grace told us what it was like to grow up in Ringgold. Along the way we met many of the residents. They added so much color to the story. There was the guy who ate the most at church suppers, the super-pushy grandmother, the show-off girls, and the guy at the Dairy Queen, just to name a few. My favorite was Gloria Jean, the next door neighbor who loved the girls in the sweetest way. Every motherless girl should have a Gloria Jean.

Catherine Grace never lost her desire to leave town. She headed for Atlanta on her eighteenth birthday. She found a good job, a great place to live and new friends. And then — disaster struck and Catherine Grace had to go back to Ringgold. This leads to a dramatic and surprising finale.

This is the type of book best enjoyed via audio. The narrator on this one, Tavia Gilbert, read it in a beautiful Southern accent filled with the qualities that make the South unique. In other words, it was warm and inviting, honest and charming, and quirky in a way only those from the “deep South” understand. Looking For Salvation At the Dairy Queen should not be read; it should be experienced.

Wondrous Words #271

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. This week I found my new word while listening.

I was listening to an interview by Terri Gros with Maureen Corrigan – the wonderful book critic on NPR’s Fresh Air. This time Ms. Corrigan was talking about a book she has written, So We Read On. It’s about The Great Gatsby and it’s author F. Scott Fitzgerald. At the end of the interview Ms. Corrigan talked about how sad it was that Fitzgerald didn’t live long enough to see how admired his book became. This is not an exact quote, but here is the new-to-me word and the gist of what she was saying:

I do believe in meritocracy. I believe great books will find their audience.

According to the dictionary, meritocracy is the holding of power by people selected on the basis of their skill. This could be a government, a society or class of educated or skilled people. I like that, don’t you?

If you’d like to listen to the interview, you can find it here: So We Read On

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: Looking For Salvation At the Dairy Queen

I love a good novel set in the American South. Susan Gregg Gilmore is a new author for me, but I love her style. I’m reading Looking For Salvation At the Dairy Queen. Here’s how it begins:

Dairy QueenMy daddy always said that if the good Lord can take the time to care for something as small as a baby sparrow nesting in a tree, then surely He could take the time to listen to a little girl in Ringgold, Georgia. So every night before I went to bed I got down on my knees and begged the Lord to find me a way out of this town. And every morning, I woke up in the same old place.
 

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: This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration

More Diverse Universe

I’m participating in Aarti’s reading challenge called A More Diverse Universe 2014. The goal of the challenge is to read books by authors of color. The challenge is only for the last two weeks of September. I’ve already read The Buddha In the Attic by Julie Otsuka. I wanted to read one more and I had started reading A Rage In Harlem by Chester Himes when I saw this children’s book at the library. (I’ll get to Chester Himes later.)

This Is the RopeThis Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration is a book I wish I’d had five decades ago when I was teaching fifth grade in a segregated, all-black school. Back then our Scott Foresman reading books were filled with stories and pictures of all-white families. Even our persistent librarian couldn’t find suitable books. My students found it difficult to identify with the stories and it’s not hard to understand why they didn’t like to read.

There are so many ways I could have used this book with my class. First of all it’s an interesting story to read. It follows a rope that was found by a girl in South Carolina. She used it to jump rope, but then it was used by her family as they moved to New York City. Over the years the rope was used by the family to dry diapers, play games, tie up boxes when a daughter went off to college, or hang a sign for a family reunion.

This book could be used as the impetus for a personal family project. Where did your family come from (Geography, story writing)? Did anyone in your family participate in the Great Migration (history, research skills, story writing)? And so on and on. I can see how the excitement for learning could grow in a classroom starting with a simple, well-told book that includes full-page drawings in which all the people are African American.

Publishers: We need more books like this. Give today’s teachers and children books of substance that represent all ethnicities. Publishers have done a lot since “my day” but they need to expand it even more. Search hard for books by and about non-white authors. It’ll pay off when our children associate fun with reading.

This Is the Rope: A Story of the Great Migration was written by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, an imprint of Penguin Book Group. Good for you, Nancy Pausen.