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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Wondrous Words #279

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.

While reading the book description for All the Light We Cannot See I found this word:

1.  agoraphobic: When the Germans occupy Paris, father and daughter flee to Saint-Malo on the Brittany coast, where Marie-Laure’s agoraphobic great uncle lives in a tall, narrow house by the sea wall.

I should have known this, but I didn’t. An agoraphobic is a person with an extreme or irrational fear of crowded spaces or enclosed public places.


In a news article in the NY TIMES last week I saw:

2.  locus:   “. . .  _____’s addiction rapidly turned a modest condominium in a pastoral neighborhood into a locus for Staten Island’s ravenous heroin demand.

Locus means a particular position, point, or place.

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 Language of Hoffbeats

I’m reading a newly-released book for a TLC Book Tour next week. It’s The Language of Hoffbeats. So far, I’m enjoying the story. Here’s the first two paragraphs:


We were more than halfway to this new town whose name I’d forgotten again, and something was brewing in the back of the van. Not with the kids. With the pets. Given the two choices, we were probably getting off easy.

First I tried ignoring it, but there was a clear escalation of minor hostilities involved. The cats were all tucked away in individual carriers, bu the dogs were loose, and carriers would not stop Peppy, the youngest dog, from harassing cats. Nothing would. Except maybe a county’s worth of distance.


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.



Amer Way of Eating

Subtitle: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table

Author: Tracie McMillan

Publisher: Scribner 2012

It’s that time of year when we think a lot about special food. Most of us will eat well at our holiday dinners. Unfortunately, there are many more in our country who struggle to eat healthy on limited wages. Tracie McMillan, an award-winning journalist, knows this intellectually as well as personally. She set about to see the business of food from where it is grown to where it is sold and served.

Tracie used her journalistic skills to go undercover as a farm worker, a clerk in the produce department at WalMart and as an expeditor for an Applebee’s restaurant. She didn’t tell any of the people she met who she was or what she was doing. She also attempted to live on the wages she earned while working those jobs.

None of the three jobs Tracie worked was an easy one, but the one that seemed most difficult was as a farm laborer in the fields of central California. She worked long hours in the hot sun for very low wages. Most of the workers are paid piece-work, although Tracie, primarily because she was white/legal, often was paid minimum wage. To accomplish this, the hours on her paycheck showed that she worked a lot less hours than she did just so it would equal the piece-rate amount.

The worst part of Tracie’s job at WalMart was learning about how poorly the produce was stored and handled. Much of it sat in storage long past the time when it was at it’s peak. After seeing how the food was handled in the fields, it was hard for her to see it treated in such an indifferent manner. She was also concerned that the managers, and the workers as a whole, knew very little about produce.

At Applebee’s, Tracie was responsible for getting the orders out smoothly and quickly from the kitchen and on to the servers. This job gave her the perfect look at how increasing numbers of people eat many of their meals. Since my husband and I eat at Applebee’s a couple times a month I was also interested in learning more. I was disappointed to learn that most of the food is prepared elsewhere, frozen and then delivered to the restaurant.

What I liked best about The American Way of Eating was Tracie’s experience at each job, particularly the stories of her fellow employees. What disappointed me was that Tracie didn’t offer suggestions toward improving the cost of healthy food for working class people. It’s not that I expected one person to come up with a solution. It’s something many of us need to work on. I was hoping for a look at possible solutions.

Overall, I’m glad Tracie McMillan brought my attention to this problem. I recommend you take a look at the problem as well.

First Paragraph: Persuasion by Jane Austen

I decided to reread this classic Jane Austen book. I can’t remember rereading it since my teen years. But Persuasion didn’t grab me at the beginning the way Pride and Prejudice did. See for yourself. Here’s the first and part of the second paragraph:

PersuasionSir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch Hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle hour, and consolation in a distressed one; there his faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents; there any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century; and there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed. This was the page at which the favorite volume always opened:

“Walter Elliot, born March 1, 1760, married, July 15, 1794, Elizabeth, daughter of James Stevenson, Esq. of South Park, in the county of Gloucester, by which lady (who died 1800) he has issue Elizabeth, born June 1, 1785, Anne . . . “

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: A Murder in Retrospect or The Five Little Pigs

Five Little Pigs


Author: Agatha Christie

Publisher: Dodd, Mead and Companuy, 1942

The Five Little Pigs was first published with the title of Murder In Retrospect. This title is, in my opinion, a better description of the story. A young woman, Carla, asks Herculee Poirot to investigate the murder of her father, an event that happened fourteen years ago. Her mother was convictd of the crime, but died in prison.

Carla was a young girl at the time and doesn’t remember what happened, but now that she is 21, she is given a letter written by her mother telling Carla that she did not kill her father.

So Hercule Poirot sets out to recreate in his mind all of the details of the day of the crime. He does this by interviewing the five remaining people who were present. Poirot calls them the five little pigs. He suspects that one of them is the real killer.

The five include the mistress of the man killed, the mother’s step-sister, two brothers, and the governess. Each of these “pigs” tells Poirot their version of the event which, surprisingly, matches rather well. There were only a couple of differences. In those differences is where the telling clues are found.

This was a fun mystery to read as I tried to pay attention to all the clues that Poirot unearthed. It paid off as I came to the same conclusion Poirot did. I also watched the movie with David Suchet playing Poirot. It’s so enjoyable to watch the costumes and the English countryside. It’s a great companion to the reading experience.

My recommendation: Read the book first and then watch the movie. There are only a couple of differences between the two. My library had both book and movie, so check your local library as well.

An Amazing Book Giveaway

TLC Book Tours has put together a book giveaway that is way over the top. They are giving away eleven books to one lucky person. And – many of the books are autographed. Here is what you could win:

Giveaway from TLC

 The winner will receive all the books seen here, from the following wonderful authors:

  1. A signed hardcover copy of PAINTING JULIANA by MarthaLouise Hunter
  2. A hardcover copy of THE MOON SISTERS by Therese Walsh
  3. A signed paperback copy of CATCHING AIR by Sarah Pekkanen
  4. A signed paperback copy of LOVE WATER MEMORY by Jennie Shortridge, Author
  5. A signed paperback copy of THE LOST ART OF MIXING by Erica Bauermeister – Author
  6. A signed paperback copy of WHAT IS FOUND, WHAT IS LOST by Anne Leigh Parrish
  7. A signed paperback copy of DREAMING IN ENGLISH by Laura Fitzgerald
  8. A paperback copy of FOG ISLAND MOUNTAINS by Michelle Bailat-Jones
  9. A paperback copy of SENSE & SENSIBILITY by Joanna Trollope
  10. A paperback copy of THE UNFINISHED CHILD by Theresa Shea The Unfinished Child
  11. A copy of SUNRISE SUNSET: 52 Weeks of Awe & Gratitude by Kim Weiss

To enter, simply go to the TLC’s FACEBOOK page and LIKE and SHARE the giveaway post. Winner will be selected by random draw. Open to US residents only.

Wodndrous Words #278

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’m sharing some new-to-me words I learned from the actress, screenwriter and children’s author, Emma Thompson. An interview with her was a part of a book I recently reviewed, By the Book. Here is some of what Ms. Thompson had to say:

1.  perspicacious (pərspiˈkāSHəs): When asked what book she might require a president to read, she recommended Walter Kelly”s cartoon strip of Pogo Possum. “Very perspicacious about politics.”

Perspicacious is not a word that rolls easily off my tongue as it does with Ms. Thompson. The word means having a ready insight into and understanding of things.


2.  secateurs (ˈsekəˌtərz): When asked what is the last book that made her furious, Ms. Thompson said it was The Elementary Particles by Michael Houellebecq. “. . . there’s a passage on cruelty which includes a granny, a little boy, and a pair of secateurs.”

Emma Thompson said she through the book across the room and against a wall. I understand why. Secrateurs is a pair of pruning clippers for use with one hand.


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 American Way of Eating

I’m featuring an excellent non-fiction book this week. It reminds me a lot of Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich. Does anyone remember that one? This is a nice undercover journalistic piece about how our food goes from the fields to the numerous middle-men to our tables. Here’s how it begins:

Amer Way of EatingThe first Brooklyn supermarket I ever walked into had a cockroach in the deli. Not one of those stealthy critters stealing along the crevices in the floor, or hanging out backstage in dry storage. No, this was a proud-to-be-here New York City road, crawling openly up the wall’s white tile before dropping, unceremoniously, onto the meat slicer below. I ddccid to skip the lunchmeat and headed for the produce aisle.

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 White Princess by Philippa Gregory

White PrincessPublisher: Simon and Schuster, August 2013

There is a whole army of readers who live for these historical-English-monarchy-style books. I’m not one of them. I don’t know why, I guess I just never got started. But, thanks to my book club friends, I can now say I have read one – The White Princess.

I’m going to tell you a little bit about the story, but I want you to understand that I am not an expert in this English history stuff – or even slightly knowledgeable. So, bear with me as I give you my version of what happened in England in the late 1400s, as learned while reading The White Princess:

Elizabeth, of the House of York, is the White Princess. She is the daughter of a former king, who is now dead. She fell in love with King Richard III, who she hoped to marry – as soon as his wife dies. But Richard III was killed by an army of men paid by people who want Henry Tudor to be the king.

Henry Tudor and his scheming mother take power, but they are not satisfied. The problem is that most of the people in the country don’t like Henry. Also he learns that a son of the previous king (Elizabeth’s brother) may still be alive. It’s rumored that he was whisked away as a boy and has been in hiding ever since.

This missing prince really bothers Henry a lot. To help cement his control, Henry (and his mother) decide that he must marry Elizabeth. He doesn’t really want to, nor does she want to marry him, but, to protect their individual families and for the good of the country, they agree to marry.

They beginbbb as a loveless marriage, but Elizabeth gradually grows to understand

By the Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life

By the Book

One of my weekly/bi-weekly pleasures is reading the Book Review section of the New York Times. A couple of years ago they added a new column that I love so much that it’s now the first thing I read. It’s called By the Book.

The column features an interview with one contemporary writer each week. They don’t ask the normal questions you read in other author interviews, such as the author’s education or writing style or what does his/her desk look like. They ask the writer about the books they love to read. The answers are as varied as the authors themselves. I love it because it tells me that my favorite authors are also readers, just like me.

I’m very excited that sixty-five of the writer’s columns have bee put together into this new book, By The Book: Writers on Literature and the Literary Life. It was edited by Pamela Paul and illustrate by Jillian Tamaki. Each one of the writers has his or her own chapter. Scattered throughout the book are summary sidebars containing questions and answers from even more writers that have been interviewed.

The interviewer does not always ask the same questions of every writer. I like that they mix it up. The questions range from the books the author is either currently reading to a childhood favorite to books that would surprise readers and so on. The interviewer tries to make it personal. For example, a mystery writer (Lee Child) was asked who his favorite mystery writers are.

The writers featured in this book vary in terms of the genre they represent. I think there might be slightly more literary writers than others, but it’s okay. I’ve been surprised at the inclusion of writers I don’t normally think of as writers. Included among the sixty-five are Sting, Caroline Kennedy, and Emma Thompson. Some of those I really enjoyed reading were those from Amy Tan, Dave Barry, Donna Tartt, James Patterson and David Sedaris.

I picked some questions and answers from a few of my favorites. This is just a ver tiny taste of the book. Each writer has ten or twelve question and answers. I picked just one.

Michael Connelly:
Q: You’ve said that your mother introduced you to crime novels. Which books got you hooked?
A: “She was into P.D. James and Agatha Christie, and I liked it, but I would not say I got hooked in until I started reading John D. MacDonald who was writing about the place where I was growing up.

Anna Quindlen:
Q: If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
A: The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam. Smart people make bad decisions about policy and then compound it by refusing to admit they were wrong. I wish George W. Bush had read it before invading Iraq.

Isabel Allende:
Q: Do you have a standby cookbook?
A: “I cook by memory and instinct, like I do most things in my life.”

Jeanette Walls:
Q: What book might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
A: “My vast collection of books on raising chickens. There’s more to it than you’d think.”

John Grisham:
Q: Who are your favorites among the competition?
A: When Presumed Innoent was published in 1987, I was struggling to finish my first novel. Scott Turow reenergized the legal suspense genre with that book, and it inspired me to keep plugging along. Scott is still the best lawyer novelist.”

Emma Thompson:
Q: What was the last truly great book you read?
A: “Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It was a marvel.

Warning: As you can see, the answers in these interviews can lead to an obsessively huge To-Be-Read List. When one of your favorite authors says she or he is reading a certain book, it’s only natural to want to read that book too. The illustrated drawings of each writer is also addicting. All sixty-five writers are pictures on the dust cover. Look at the top row above. Second from the write is another favorite of mine — Amy Tan.

I’ve had the book sitting out at my place for several weeks and already it’s created a stir. I do think this book should be added to the gift list for every avid reader. And while you’re at it, get one for yourself.

Thanks to Henry Holt and Company for my copy of By the Book, published October 28, 2014.