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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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Two Books Featuring a Joe

This week I indulged myself by listening to two audiobooks I picked up at the library. They were both thrillers which is good escapism for me. So as not to feel too guilty about my indulgence, I managed to clean out some dresser drawers and a few shelves while I listened. (Goodwill and the library were happy too.)

In Good Faith

The first book was In Good Faith by Scott Pratt. This is the second book in the Joe Dillard series. (My review for the first book is here: XX) I like the setting, east Tennese, and Joe Dillard, the main character. He’s one of those basic good guys who tries to hold on to his principles in the midst of people and situations where the easiest thing to do is give up.

After ten years as a defense attorney, Joe Dillard retired. He was too young to sit and do nothing, so he went to work for what was previously his opposition — the district attorney’s office. The day before he is to start he is given a gruesome case. Satin-worshippers have killed a family of four and a few days later they kill a high-school principal.

It doesn’t take long before investigators apprehend the two teenage boys who did the killings. The tough part for Joe Dillard is being able to prosecute the young woman who controls the teenagers. This is a fast-paced, some-what complicated, always tense case. In addition, Joe has to deal with all the politics of a new job.

I highly recommend this legal thriller.

________________________________

The other book I listened to was Supreme Justice by Max Allan Collins. This book started off with what seemed like a Supreme Justicegood plot. (It reminded me of John Grisham’s Pelican Brief, but only at the beginning.)

A Supreme Court Justices has been killed during an armed robbery attempt. Joe Reader, a former Secret Service agent turned CEO of a high tech security company, sees the footage of the crime and calls it murder.

Joe is an expert in reading body language.When he sees the body clues of the killer and the justice, others are convinced as well. Joe is called in to advise the task force. One of his good friends is leading the task force. When a second Justice is murdered, Joe and the others on the task force know they must catch the killer soon before the whole court is wiped out.

I liked, not loved, this story, up until the ending. It didn’t compute for me. The killer was not who I figured it would be. To me, it just didn’t make sense the way the author intended. I know it sounds crazy, but I liked it up until then.

There is one thing I really enjoyed in this novel: the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. They were quotes from mostly Supreme Court Justices, although John Kennedy was quoted twice. Here’s a sample:

“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have the right to do and what is the right thing to do.”   Potter Stewart, Associate Justice 1958 to 1981

Out of these two books, both featuring a Joe, I can only recommend one — In Good Faith by Scott Pratt. It was good enough for me to go on to Book #3 — Injustice For All.

2015 Award Winner: The Crossover

The Crossover2Author: Kwame Alexander

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction (Ages 9 to 12)

Award: Newbery Medal Winner for 2015

Twelve-year-old twins Josh and J.B. not only love the game of basketball, they’re very good players. They come by it naturally as their father was a championship-level, professional player. Dad and mom, a vice-principal at their school, have done a good job in raising the boys. They are both good kids.

Josh is the narrator of the story. He’s a likable kid, and I enjoyed seeing his world through his unique lens. Basketball is his number one passion, but he also does his homework, works hard in school and helps around the house. Several things are going on that will challenge Josh, such as a rift with his brother, one of them has a girlfriend, and Dad has a serious health issue.

When I say that Josh has a unique lens, I’m talking about the way he sees the events in his life and in how he tells his story. The book is written in verse and poetry — free verse, rap and hip-hop. Here’s an example:

Mom says,
Your dad’s old school,
like an ol’ Chevette.
Your’re fresh and new,
like a red Corvette.
Your game so sweet, it’s a crepes suzette.
Each time you play
it’s A L L L L L L L L L L L L L net.

If anyone else called me
fresh and sweet,
I’d burn mad as a flame.
But I know she’s only talking about my game.
See, when I play ball,
I’m on fire.
When I shoot,
I inspire.
The hoop’s for sale,
and I’m the buyer.

This is nothing but pure genius! Imagine you are a reluctant young reader and someone puts this book into your hands. First you are shocked that a basketball story can be told using rap or hip-hop. Then you are amazed that the boys in the story are so deep. They share emotions that most don’t.

I hope I was able to convey how much I loved The Crossover. Although this book was written for middle-graders, I think most people over the age of 12 will like it. Highly recommended.

I read this book via audio. It was narrated perfectly by Corey Allen. He sounded exactly like a 12-going-on-13 boy. That’s my highest compliment.

Wondrous Words #291

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 wasn’t lucky enough to find even one new word this week in my reading. Fortunately, I found a couple  of words on my Word-A-Day calendar. I found two great adjectives that I believe I can use.

1.   dolorous:  “With his dolorous songs about hard-bitten people down on their luck, Johnny Cash garnered legions of fans across generations.”

Dolorous means feeling or expressing great sorrow or distress.

______________________________________

2.   addlepated:  “Her addlepated mind flitted butterfly-like from one often unrelated subject to another.”

Addlepated means mixed up, confused or having a muddled mind.

 

Okay, 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 Crossover

I’m reading The Crossover by Kwame Alexander for the second time. Yes, it’s that good! I’m not a big poetry person, but I absolutely love this book. I’m envisioning a reluctant 12-year-old reader boy with this. It’s perfect for young basketball fans. It’s the latest Newberry Award Winner (best books for children). Here’s how it begins:

Dribbling

At the top of the key, I’m
.   .   .   .    MOVING & GROOVING,
POPping and ROCKING
The Crossover2Why you BUMPING?
.   .   .   .     Why you LOCKING?
Man, take this THUMPING.
Be careful though,
‘cause now I’m CRUNKing
.    .   .   .    CrissCROSSING
FLOSSING
flipping
and my dipping will leave you.
S
.   L
.       I
.          P
.             P
.                 I
.                    N
.                         G on the floor, while I
SWOOP in
to the finish with a fierce finger roll . . . .
Straight in the hole:
Swooooooooooooosh.

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: Night Is the Hunter

Night is the HunterAuthor: Stephen Gore

Publisher: William Morrow 2015

Genre: Crime Fiction

Harlan Donnally is a former San Francisco homicide detective, now living in northern California in a small town near beautiful Mount Shasta. An old friend, Judge Ray McMullen has come to see him so he can fish — or so he says. Harlan knows the judge has something else going on in his head. It takes two days, but finally it pours out.

Judge McMullen is disturbed by a murder case that occurred twenty years ago. The convicted man, Israel Dominguez, was sentenced to death because, allegedly, during a gun fight between rival gang members, he shot and killed one of the gang leaders.

What’s really bothering Judge McMullen is that he doesn’t think he did the right thing. He feels he didn’t do anything except agree with the jury’s findings of guilt and sentencing recommendation of death. He remembers wishing he could advice the defense attorney on how to give his client a better defense. The judge is conflicted, but he’s pretty sure that, if Dominez really committed the crime, it was not equal to first degree murder.

The judge asks Donnelly to look into the case. Donnelly is still a first-rate detective and the judge knows he can trust Donnelly’s help. As Donnelly digs in, there are two things I notice: first, Donnelly is a really good in-depth investigator and second, the author must be a really good in-depth investigator. As I learned, Steven Core is a real-life investigator! It shows — big time — in this seriously good crime novel.

In addition to following a good investigation, I liked looking at the whole justice system through the example of this case. From the police investigation, to the prosecutor’s office, to the defense attorney, to the court, this case does not seem to have been handled competently or ethically. There was a strong bias against the defendant because he was a gang member. Although I know most gang members aren’t super-clean citizens, I’d like to think that at each point in the justice system, people would want to prove, without a doubt, that he did or did not do the deed. Does the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” still exist? In practice? Lots of issues here.

I found a very engaging letter from the author on Amazon’s page for this book. You can find it here: Night Is the Hunter. I’m sure it was meant to be read before the reader starts the novel, but I read it after. It offered me a little look into the mind of the author that was so enjoyable. Here’s a quote from the letter:

What I offer readers in exchange for their willingness to engage in this manner with the characters and their struggles are hard-won perspectives on the lives of those seeking justice, on the breadth of the law of murder, on prosecutorial ethics, on judicial obligations, on the practice of capital punishment and the psychological burdens borne by who participate in it. 

My final analysis: Night is the Hunter is a great story, tight plot, very good characters and an excellent look at issues. I want my book club to read this. In the meantime I’m going to read the other Harlan Donnelly books in the series.

I want to thank the publisher for my copy of the book. Thanks also 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 #290

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 love Masterpiece Theater and, like millions of other fans, I’ve enjoyed the latest season of Downton Abbey. I subscribe to the Masterpiece newsletter which keeps me up-to-date on all their excellent shows. A few weeks ago there was a slideshow in the newsletter about the various forms of love on this season’s Downton Abbey. It was there that I found a new-to-me word: frisson

Frisson“Rose and Atticus, in the throes of their new romance, are experiencing the frisson of attraction, the thrill of discovering new things about one another, and the excitement of imagining a life together.”

Frisson (frēˈsôN) is a noun meaning a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill.

The slideshow was excellent. It showed other forms of love on this year’s season. You can see the slideshow here: Downton Abbey

Okay, 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: Night is the Hunter: A Harlan Donnally Novel

I’m reading a very good crime novel. This is a new-to-me author but, so far, I’m enjoying it. It’s one of those that make me think deeply about the people/characters I’m meeting. Its also making me think about our entire criminal justice system. Here’s how the novel begins. See what you think.

Night is the HunterRay McMullin, standing waist deep in chest waders, leaning hard into the current, his rod bent against the steelhead’s run, wasn’t a fisherman.

It had been two days on the river and Harlan Donnally was still waiting for the aging judge to explain why he’d made the nine-hour drive up from San Francisco to the northwest corner of the state, had been willing to sleep on frozen ground and wake to sunless dawns and to stand shivering as he did now in a twisting breeze that whirled the drifting snow and swayed the redwoods lining the banks.

 

What do you think?
Would you keep reading?

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 of a Classic: Emma by Jane Austen


Emma.
Author
: Jane Austen

Published: 1815

Genre: Classic Romance

Format: Audiobook Narrated by Flo Gibson

Emma Wodehouse is the star of this novel. She’s a beautiful young woman who has been raised in an upper class home in England in the early seventeenth century. Emma is the mistress of the house as her mother is dead and her older sister is married and living in London.

Emma is not completely alone. In addition to caring for her older, hypochondriacal father, she visits the poor and sick in the community and has a regular list of neighbors she calls upon and who call on her. Calling on people is the social norm for this group.

As the novel opens, Emma’s longtime governess and friend, Miss Taylor, is now Mrs. Weston. Emma is happy for Miss Taylor, but sad for herself. Her friend will no longer be devoting all of her time to Emma. To compensate, Emma befriends Harriet Smith and she becomes her project. Emma is determined to raise Harriet up in society and specifically to marry “properly.”

Emma chooses the vicar, Mr. Elton, to be Harriet’s future groom. Emma is skilled at nudging and manipulating both parties toward each other. There is, however, a couple of problems with her plan. Mr. Elton misunderstands Emma’s interest, and deep in her heart Harriet loves another man. Emma’s manipulations hurt Harriet and eventually herself.

There are other interesting “goings on” in the community. There is a Miss Jane Fairfax who comes to visit her aunt, Miss Bates, after a very long absence. Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill, also visits after a long absence. And, Mr. Elton returns after four weeks with a very snooty wife. These changes are somewhat upsetting to Emma. Even her lifelong loyal friend, Mr. Knightly, is acting differently toward her.

Two people remain the same in Emma’s life: her father and her neighbor, the middle-aged spinster, Miss Bates. These two characters provide light humor to the story. Miss Bates constantly talks – about everything. She’s a great source of gossip, but she sees everything in a rosy, positive glow. Mr. Wodehouse, on the other hand, sees illness coming from everywhere, and not just bad weather. A baby coming to visit? Oh no, they carry too many diseases! Emma does a good job managing both of these people, with the exception of one incident.

Emma, the character, was thoroughly enjoyed observing. I didn’t like her as much at the beginning of the story as I did at the end. She grew up over the course of the novel. I think she became a better person. Emma, the novel, I also enjoyed, with the exception of the middle section. It seemed tedious with all the social chatter and machinations on the part of, primarily, the women. The novel is heavy with dialogue which I normally like. People in this book, however, talked on and on. I know its Middle English, but it was tedious.

That is my only criticism of Emma. I’m glad I read it. I also watched the movie version starring Kate Blanchett. She did a superb job of capturing Emma’s personality. I recommend both the book and the movie.

Wondrous Words #289

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.

In last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review there was an article about two books on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. It was an interesting review of the two books (article found here), but it also gave me two new-to-me words – both in one sentence.

He was a man of a thousand American parts — novelist, stand-up comic, travel writer, impresario, capitalist, full-time celebrity and coruscating social critic — whose ear for dialogue, nuance, slang and absurdity seldom failed him.

1.   impresario:  a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays, or operas.

2.  coruscating: flash or sparkle

Okay, 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: Emma by Jane Austin

I’m long overdue for a re-read of Emma. I just started it over the weekend and, of course, I’m enjoying it. Anyone have fond memories of Emma?

EmmaEmma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father and had, in consequence of her sister’s marriage, been mistress of his home from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

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