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 Godforsaken Daughter

This week I am featuring The Godforsaken Daughter by Christina McKenna. The main character, Ruby, worked side by side with her father on their Irish dairy farm. She’s struggling to cope now that he’s gone. Here’s how the story begins:

Godforsaken DaughterRuby Clare sat in a velour recliner in the kitchen of Oaktree Farmhouse, knitting a tea cozy. A cupcake tea cozy.

Knitting steadied her. It was her therapy. Her meditation. Although Ruby didn’t know those labels, she knew the feeling. And she needed to hang onto that feeling more than ever these days; these grief-stricken days with her dear father gone. At his eternal rest these seven months, under a plaster angel and globe of plastic tulips in St. Timothy’s churchyard on the outskirts of Tailorstown. A mere twenty-minute walk from where his daughter sat.

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.


A Book Club Read: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn


Author: Betty Smith

Original Publisher: Harper & Brothers 1943

Genre: Classic/Historical Fiction

One of the book clubs I belong to has members who are all over the age of 65 and have widely diverse backgrounds. I’ve found them to be avid readers of, primarily, literary fiction both contemporary and historical.

We were in agreement that we wanted to read A Tree Grows In Brooklyn. For most of us this was a re-read. When we met this last week I discovered that every single person in the club loved this book. Believe me, that is quite rare. I love this club because there are so many viewpoints that it makes our discussions so interesting. Even though we all liked the book, we still had plenty to talk about.

Characters truly made this book a winner. First there is Francie. Everyone agreed Francie Nolan was an excellent character to build the story around. As the story begins, eleven-year-old Francie is sitting on the fire-escape of her Brooklyn tenement in 1912. We soon meet Francie’s brother, Neeley, her mother, Katie, and then her father, Johnny. As expected, they all play pivotal roles in Francie’s life.

And then there are Francie’s three aunts, her mother’s sisters. One in particular, Aunt Sissy, we really loved. Sissy had a heart of gold, but she was also a complex woman: illiterate, beautiful, with three marriages and many lovers. Sissy named them all John. Sissy also had what we now call street smarts. That and her own code of ethics made her a memorable character.

Although she plays a small part, another memorable character for me was Katie’s mother, an immigrant from Austria. She gave Katie some sage advice that helped the family. First, she advised Katie to nail a can to the closet floor and continuously feed it money. Secondly, she advised Katie to read chapters from the Bible and Shakespeare every single day to her children. And thirdly, she advised them to buy a piece of property no matter how small.

The person that Francie loved the most was her father, although we couldn’t figure out exactly why. Johnny was not a reliable wage-earner as he had a serious alcohol problem. He primarily worked as a singing waiter out of the union hall. The work was hit and miss so his wife, Katie had to work hard as the main breadwinner.

There are so many paths taken as Francie comes of age during this novel. Fortunately for Francie, she loved the library and loved to read. There weren’t a lot of role models for her to follow, but she had a wonderful and loving support system.

Every member of the book club was poled for criticisms of the novel. No one could think of one. This was my third time reading the book and I tried hard to be critical. I couldn’t. Maybe its the nostalgia the novel evokes. I don’t know. I do know I can recommend A Tree Grows In Brooklyn without reservation.

The title of the book serves as a metaphor for the story. A tree know as the Tree of Heaven was quite prolific in that area of Brooklyn. People tried all sorts of ways to kill the tree, but it would just keep on growing and, in fact, sprout new trees. Immigrant families were often the same. The Nolan family survived numerous setbacks and challenges that could have stopped them, but they persevered and eventually thrived. This is a story many Americans can identify with.

Book Review: Kill Shot by Nicole Christoff

Kill ShotPublished by Alibi, March 17, 2015

Jamie Sinclair is 38, single, the owner of her own security firm, and the daughter of a very powerful senator. The senator is not the best of fathers but, when he asks her to do him a favor, she just says yes.

What the senator wants is for Jamie to escort a State Department courier, Katie, to London and back. Katie is to deliver a diplomatic pouch. What is in the pouch is something extremely important to the United States, or so the senator says.

All goes well as the two women travel — up until they are outside London’s Heathrow airport. Someone Jamie calls “Gorilla” attempts to snatch the courier’s pouch, but Jamie is able to thwart him. And then, Jamie and Katie barely get across town and there is another, more serious attack on them. This time “Gorilla” fires a shot.

Luckily for the two women, “Gorilla” is killed before he can succeed in killing one of them. Jamie is able to see just a glimpse of the man who saved her life before he disappears in the crowd. Jamie believes it is the very handsome military policeman she has been seeing socially for the last year. But, how can that be? He doesn’t even know she’s on this trip.

Since there is now a dead body, the police are involved. They are suspicious and have lots of questions. Soon an old college friend, Phillip, is on the scene. Phillip somehow knows all about what’s been going on. He’s with the Foreign Office, but it all seems rather mysterious. Jamie gives him the slip, but he soon finds her again.

As things heat up, Jamie and Katie are on the run all over London. Jamie must protect Katie and the contents of the diplomatic pouch, as well as the people who are the reason for the diplomatic pouch. This is non-stop, excitement-laden story. I found myself clicking the pages, and not wanting to stop before the end.

I liked Jamie – the way she thought, the way she talked, and how she viewed her responsibilities. She was humorous while still being serious. I also liked seeing London through her eyes. Her designer name-dropping of furnishings, clothes, art-work was actually quite fun. I actually “saw” where this story was taking place.

I liked Kill Shot enough that I went back and got Kill List, the first story in this new Jamie Sinclair series. I liked it even better. Jamie Sinclair is a winning character. Give her a try.

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 #293

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 was reading a fascinating article in The Guardian online newspaper. It was about an exchange of letters between  Arthur Conan Doyle and the Strafforshire police constable. Doyle (the creator/author of Sherlock Holmes) believed the police fabricated evidence in a case in order to throw Doyle off course. Doyle was investigating a real case he was going to write about, but was stopped by this evidence. All of this came to light when a packet of letters between the constable and Doyle went up for auction.

Here’s the word I discovered in the article. I know I’ve heard this word before, but couldn’t come up with a definition.

discombobulating: “The notion that it was actually the chief constable is quite discombobulating,” said Barnes . . .

Discombobulate means to disconcert or confuse someone. I like the word. I think it would be so much fun to say, “Have I discombobulated you?” rather than “Have I confused you?” Don’t you agree?

If you are a mystery fan or a Sherlock Holmes fan, do read the article.

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: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

One of the book clubs I belong to is reading this twentieth-century classic by Betty Smith. I’m finding it just as enjoyable as I did when I first read it when I was 13. Have you ever read it?

ATreeGrowsSerene is a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York. Especially in the summer of 1942. Somber, as a word, was better. But it did not apply to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Prairie was lovely and Shenandoah had a beautiful sound, but you couldn’t fit those words into Brooklyn. Serene was the only word for it; especially on a Saturday afternoon in summer.


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.


Agatha Christie: The Moving Finger

Moving Finger2In the small village of Lymstock someone is writing very nasty poisoned pen letters. Nearly everyone has received one. As you can imagine, the whole village is gossiping about it. The person who gets the letter says there is no truth in the letter, but everyone says “where there is smoke, there is fire.” Naturally, its stirred up a hornet’s nest and they all want it stopped.

Jerry Burton and his sister Joanna have come to stay in Lymstock while Jerry recovers from a bad leg injury. The villagers begin friendly calls upon them and they soon feel they are part of village life. But, they too soon receive one of the poisoned pens. Jerry is such a curious and amicable guy that he has soon gathered together all the pertinent information. When the police become involved, they are grateful for all the details.

Then, tragically, a suicide occurs, supposedly because of the inflammatory information in a poisoned pen letter. When, a week later, a maid in the same house is discovered to have been murdered, everyone is terrified. Jerry continues to gather and share information with the police, and they welcome his help.

The vicar’s wife, however, takes things a step further. She calls in an expert, an old friend of hers, Miss Jane Marple. When asked why, the vicar’s wife says,

“That woman knows more about the different kinds of human wickedness than anyone I have ever known.”

Together with Jerry’s sleuthing and Miss Marple’s wicked-people skills, they soon solve the mystery and stop the poisoned pen or “moving finger.”

This was a very different Agatha Christie. Jerry as the narrator made the whole novel light and fun. Yes, there was serious crime involved, but there was also humor and romance, although they were both presented with a light hand. Miss Marple doesn’t show up until the last third of the book. Getting a look at what I take to be normal village life in the midst of a crisis was also quite enjoyable. I think Ms. Christie had a good time writing this story. It showed. I had a good time reading it and I’m glad the author let herself try something different.

The Moving Finger was first published by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1942. The book cover above was the original book jacket. The photo came from Wikipedia.

A Tour Book: A Dangerous Placed

Author: Jacqueline Winspear

Publisher: Harpers, March 17, 2015

Genre: Historical Mystery

I’m not sure why I have never read any of the books in the Maisie Dobbs series before, but here I am with the eleventh book. Several of my reading friends have told me I really should give the books a try. I know starting at number eleven isn’t the normal way, but I figured, if I liked Maisie Dobbs in number eleven, A Dangerous Place, I’d have ten good novels to go back and read. So — here’s what A Dangerous Place is all about:

First, who is Maisie Dobbs?

“Maisie Dobbs, Psychologist and Investigator, began her working life at the age of thirteen as a servant in a Belgravia mansion, only to be discovered reading in the library by her employer, Lady Rowan Compton. Fearing dismissal, Maisie is shocked when she discovers that her thirst for education is to be supported by Lady Rowan and a family friend, Dr. Maurice Blanche. But The Great War intervenes in Maisie’s plans, and soon after commencement of her studies at Girton College, Cambridge, Maisie enlists for nursing service overseas. Years later, in 1929, having apprenticed to the renowned Maurice Blanche, a man revered for his work with Scotland Yard, Maisie sets up her own business.” (from book description)

What’s happening in A Dangerous Place?

Dangerous PlaceMaisie is traveling back home to England from India. She’s feeling reluctant about going home, so she gets off the boat in Gibraltar. While there she discovers the dead body of a photographer.

Maisie decides to investigate after the police say the murder was done by “refugees” looking for money. Maisie investigates very methodically as well as intuitively. She is also a friendly interviewer and, one at a time, people talk to her and she gathers all the clues she needs to solve this murder.

Time and place are important in this novel. This is 1937 and Europe is in flux and uncertainty. Gibraltar sits in a strategic place. From there one can see what’s happening in the Mediterranean countries and the North Africa, Germany and the civil war in Spain. Without giving away the last half of the story, I’ll only say that this proximity to the other countries does play a big part in the novel.

What did I think of the book?

The thing I enjoyed most about A Dangerous Place was all the people I met. The boardinghouse proprietor, the cafe owner, the women mending fish-nets, even the Scotland Yard guy were all so clear and well-developed. And — Maisie herself was charming, intelligent, kind to others, savvy, intuitive, and complicated. She could well become one of my favorite fictional characters.

Although this was the eleventh book, I didn’t feel lost. There was enough introduction to Maisie that I understood what has happened to her. The bottom line? I liked Maisie Dobbs. I know there are ten other books to read, but I think it will be well worth it. Actually, I have already purchased book number one, so off I go! I hope you’ll come with me.


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

tlc tour host

Wondrous Words #292

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 was doing a little research on German history on Wikipedia when I discovered this word:

enfranchisement: “These included reform of community boundaries, the army, schools, universities, and taxes, as well as the enfranchisement of Jews.”

I was confused when I saw enfranchisement. I kept focusing on the center part of the word — franchise. All I kept thinking about a person who owns a McDonald’s franchise or an athlete who is considered a franchise player. I couldn’t figure out how this could be connected to historic German beliefs. I did a little sleuthing and found enfranchisement means to give the right to vote.

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: A Dangerous Place

I am excitedly reading A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear for a TLC Book Tour. I have been hoping to read this Maisie Dobbs series for a long time, and now I finally have the impetus to get me going. A Dangerous Place is actually the eleventh book in the series so, if I like it, you know I’ll have to go back and read all the books that came before this one. If you have read any of them, can you tell me this: Is this a series worth pursuing? Here’s how the story begins:

Dangerous Place .
Gibraltar, April 1937

Arturo Kenyon stood in the shadows of a whitewashed building opposite a small guesthouse known locally as Mrs. Bishop’s, though it had no sign to advertise the fact. He was waiting for a woman who had taken a room under the name of Miss M. Dobbs to emerge. Then he would follow her. She had, after all, been instrumental in not allowing the dust to settle on the death of one Sebastian Babayoff, a photographer of weddings and family events, and contributor of photographs to the odd tourist pamphlet. Not that there were the usual number of tourists in Gibraltar at that very moment.


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.


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.