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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A Favorite Quote

"I read so I can live more than one life in more than one place." - Anne Tyler

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A Golden Age Mystery: The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude

Sussex Downs MurderOriginally Published in 1936, Re-published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2015

There isn’t much I enjoy more than reading mysteries written during the Golden Age of Mystery, the time period between the two world wars. It’s the reason I’m so obsessed with Agatha Christie’s books. This time period is a less harried time, the plots are generally like a good puzzle, the characters are often quirky, and the descriptions of  the setting is usually very realistic and detailed. They almost always include a map of the area, so its almost like I’m traveling there.

So, I was very excited to learn that the Poisoned Pen Press has received permission to print the U.S. version of some little-known Golden Age works from the British Library’s Crime Classics. (Yes, Poisoned Pen Press is connected to the famous Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.) I decided I had to check them out. The Sussex Downs Murder is the one seeming to get all the buzz, so I thought I’d read it first and see what its all about,

Its the story of the disappearance of John Rother. He and his brother William own a farm in the beautiful area of Sussex in England. Together they manage the farm and several kilns which turn chalk into lime. John left one morning for a two-week vacation, but was never seen again. His car was discovered abandoned on a road going in the opposite direction. There was a bloody hat and other blood spatters in the car, but no John.

The police are involved in a general way — looking for a missing person. Superintendent Meredith is assigned the case. When human bones are found among the bags of lime that came from the farm, he begins a serious and methodical investigation of, what he now believes, is a case of murder. There are numerous suspects and Superintendent Meredith carefully and politely checks them all out. He, of course, is not above listening to local gossip. He’ll check out every possible clue.

I like Superintendent Meredith. His solid detective work paid off. He conscientiously plodded through, focusing on who had motive and how did the murder happen, turning over one clue after the another. He even went back and re-traced his steps when he hit a brick wall. He not only was tireless, but managed to stay upbeat about following all the leads. He’s a guy who loves being a good detective.

About the Author:

John Bude is the pen name for Ernest Elmore. He was quite the prolific author, writing thirty mysteries from 1935 to 1958. He was also active in the writing community. He was one of the founding members of the Crime Writers’ Association. There were two novels prior to The Sussex Downs Murder and they both featured Superintendent Meredith. Critics feel this third book was where the author really hit his stride.

Recommendation? Oh yes, definitely. Not only did I get quirky character, a complicated plot, and a good visit to Sussex Downs, but I had the chance to help Superintendent Meredith solve the case. He kept me with him the entire time. There is one more thing: The book cover is a beautiful piece of art, don’t you agree?

Wondrous Words #303

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.

 1.  While reading Madame Bovary (my review) by Gustave Flaubert I came across this big new word:

phrenological: “ . . . and he wept, his elbows on the table, sitting in his office chair, under the phrenological head.”

Phrenological is a noun that is chiefly historical. Its the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities.


2.  Yesterday I was reading Beth Fish Reads‘ First Paragraph post. She was quoting from The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan when I found this word:

coracles:   ”  . . . the main boat with its bobbing trail of canvas-covered coracles following like ducklings, . . . “

Coracles is a small, round boat made of wickerwork covered with a watertight material, propelled with a paddle.


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 Case of the Invisible Dog

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea and friends to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

I’m reading a cozy mystery that also happens to be fun and funny. It’s The Case of the Invisible Dog by Diane Stingley. Here’s how it begins:

Case of the Invisible DogHow did I end up working for Shirley Homes? One word: desperation.

Things didn’t work out with Wyne. He’d seemed so normal when we met–a regular, simple guy. I though he was my chance to get out of my cousin Anna’s house and try on a regular, simple life. To see if I could make it work; see if I could fit in. Wayne had a good job with a good company upgrading systems for new dish receivers. Made a decent salary. Had a nice truck. At least I think it was nice. It was big and shiny and had a lot of legroom.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Book Review: Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Let Me Die In His Footsteps

Publisher: Dutton, June 2, 2015

This novel is already creating a lot of buzz and I’m honored to be one of the stops on it’s TLC Book Tour. The buzz is well deserved as it truly is one of those books that makes you just keep turning the pages. Here’s what its all about:

Annie is special although she sees herself as different and not in a good way. She’s taller than the other girls, has blonde hair with black eyes, but worst of all, she has “know-how.” She can see and feel things that will happen in the future.

Annie is fifteen living in Kentucky in the 1950s. As the story opens she is about to turn fifteen and a half. Tradition in her community is that, if you look into a well at the exact hour you turn fifteen-and-a-half, you will see the image of your intended husband. Unfortunately, Annie does not see an image floating on the water, but she does discover a dead body.

The story alternates back twenty years to what happened to Aunt Juna and the Baines family. No one has told her, but Annie thinks her real mother might actually be Aunt Juna. No one talks about it, but Annie has the same black eyes and blond hair as Aunt Juna and Aunt Juna also had the “know-how.” Annie just hopes she doesn’t become as evil as everyone says Aunt Juna was.

Let Me Die In His Footsteps is an amazingly intense book. To me it was very atmospheric. There’s no woo-woo stuff or anything weird. It’s that I had a strong sense of the character’s internal life as well as their external. I could smell the lavender blossoms and the ripening tobacco plants and feel the dirt swishing through my toes. Yes, I was really there!

There are so many secrets and other questions to be answered that its hard to take a break while reading. I read this book off and on over the course of about four days, some in early morning and some late at night. I would definitely recommend reading this late at night. Better yet, read it while sitting on the front porch or in a hammock hung between two trees with only a flashlight to see by. If you can manage that, I’ll wish you plenty of fire-flys for company. Ahhh, a perfect summer read.

About the Author:

Lori Roy was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas where she graduated from Kansas State University. Her debut novel, BENT ROAD, published in 2011, was awarded the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, named a 2011 New York Times Notable Crime Book and named a 2012 notable book by the state of Kansas. BENT ROAD has been optioned for film. Her second novel, UNTIL SHE COMES HOME, was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and was nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Novel. Her upcoming novel, LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS, will be published June 2nd. Lori also serves as treasure for the Sisters in Crime organization and is a liaison to the Author Coalition. She currently lives with her family in west central Florida.


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: Lori Roy Book Tour Schedule

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A Classic: Madame Bovary: A Tale of Provincial Life

Madame Bovary 2

Author: Gustave Flaubert

Translation by Lydia Davis

Originally published in 1857. This translation was published in 2010

Somehow I missed reading this book in either high school or college. Its a classic that’s been floating around me for quite some time. I finally pinned myself down and put it on this year’s must-read classics list. I read it in both print and audio.

I must say to begin with, it was nothing like what I thought it would be. I’ve heard the term “Madame Bovary” used to describe a party girl or someone living a licentious life style. Maybe, if Emma Bovary lived in Paris and had lots of money, she could have pulled it off.

But, Emma was a farm girl who married a doctor and lived in the country. Basically she was a very unhappy person who sought happiness in something new. First it was the convent, then marriage, motherhood, affairs with other men and the spending of exorbitant amounts of money she didn’t have. Of course, it doesn’t end well.

It sounds like a depressing story, doesn’t it? The story, and especially Emma, were depressing. However, (and its a big however) I enjoyed the book. I couldn’t stop reading. What made this so engaging for me was the descriptive writing of Gustave Flaubert. I felt I was right there in the room or the village or countryside — wherever the story was happening, I could see, smell, feel, touch and taste everything. All the details were amazing! And, he did all that with words.

I’m really sorry I didn’t read this book earlier in my reading life. The author’s use of his words may have spoiled me for other genres. I will recommend this book to you but not if you are young. I’m not recommending ir to my teenaged granddaughter, for instance. Someone more mature, plus someone who doesn’t suffer from melancholia. Definitely read this if you are love the expert use if words,

Wondrous Words #302

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 found two new interesting words this week, but not in books.

1. This first word I heard while watching a news show:  gad-fly: “The candidate has been seen by most people as a gad-fly.”

Gad-fly has two meanings, but in this case a gad-fly is an annoying person, especially one who provokes others into action by criticism.


2.  I was reading a book blogger’s description if a character and I saw this word:  bon mot: “ . . . failed actress, successful purveyor of bon mots.”

Bon mot (prounced ˌbôN ˈmō) is a witty remark

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: Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy

I just started reading this book as I sat down to do this post. As I copied the first paragraph I couldn’t help but keep going. I’m curious to see if it appeals to you the same way.

Let Me Die In His Footsteps1953—Annie

Annie Holleran hears him before she sees him. Even over the drone of the cicadas, she knows it’s Ryce Fulkerson, and he’s pedaling this way. That’s his bike, all right, creaking and whining. He’ll have turned off the main road and will be standing straight up as he uses all his weight, bobbing side to side, to pump those pedals and force that bike up and over the hill. In a few moments he’ll reach the top where the ground levels out, and that front tire of his will be wobbling and groaning and drawing a crooked line in the soft, dry dirt.

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: Bel Canto by Anne Patchett

Bel Canto.

Author: Anne Patchett

Publisher: Harper Collins 2001

Genre: Literary Fiction

My personal summary of Bel Canto:

Once upon a time the leaders of one of the countries in South America decide to throw a lavish dinner party for a wealthy Japanese businessman. They hope to impress him so much that he will locate one of his factories in their country. It was a very fancy party and all of the most important people were invited. That included the world’s most beloved opera singer. You see, the Japanese businessman was a great lover of opera.

The evening was going along splendidly with only a couple of missteps: The president of the country did not attend and then, a large band of terrorists crashed the party and took all the guests hostage. (The terrorists snuck in through the vents.)

The terrorists stated their demands. The opposition also made demands. After a few days the women and children were released with the exception of the opera singer. The stand-off continued for weeks. Soon there was very little distinction between terrorist and captive. The only joy anyone found was in the opera.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Anne Patchett is undoubtedly a beautiful writer. After every few paragraphs I kept saying “lovely writing.” And indeed, there is no doubt, it is a beautifully written novel. But — the story didn’t measure up. It was too fanciful. I mean, seriously, sneaking in through the vents with no one noticing? The entire group dynamics breaking down over the voice of the opera singer?

In spite of all that bothered me, I continued reading and enjoying the story. I told myself this was meant to be like a fairy tale. There was something like a “once upon a time,” and there would be a “they lived happily ever after.”

And then I hit the ending. I won’t spoil it for you other than to say I was let down. It was as if the author was tired of the story; she snapped the book shut and said, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Maybe I no longer like fairy tales. Or it could be that I prefer stories that are more realistic. It could also be that I don’t get the whole opera thing. Whatever it is, Bel Canto disappointed me. Its a shame because I’ve been looking forward to reading an Anne Patchett novel. Perhaps I picked the wrong one. Several friends have suggested I read the author’s State of Wonder. I believe I will. In the meantime, I’m afraid I can’t recommend Bel Canto.

Book Review: Rules of Prey by John Sandford

Regular readers of Joyfully Retired know how much I love John Sandford’s Virgil Flowers series. But, I’ve only read one of Sandford’s “Prey” series, so I thought I’d go back and start at the beginning. The main character, Lucas Davenport, is Virgil Flowers’ boss and I thought it would be interesting to see the origin and development of Lucas.

Rules Of PreyI started with Rules of Prey, the first book in the series. Here we meet the somewhat flawed young detective. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I like this guy. Lucas seems different from my impression of him in the Virgil Flowers’ books. Of course, in the Virgil Flowers books he’s older, married, and quite respectable. Maybe Rules of Prey is Lucas’ young-and-the-world-be-damned version of himself. I’ll have to wait and see.

In this first book Lucas is a lieutenant-level homicide detective who doesn’t work well with a partner. He’s better on his own. He seems to be anti-police and anti-rules, well, other people’s rules. He will stay within the letter of the law, but on some things, just barely. Also, Lucas is a single guy who has no problem sleeping with two women at the same time, even if one of them is pregnant with his child.

What makes Lucas valuable to the police (and an outstanding character) is his intelligence. He is your basic super smart guy, but he’s also people smart. He understands how people think and act. He has a huge network of snitches and informants all over the place. In addition, Lucas is smart enough to have created and successfully sold some electronic role-playing war and strategy games.

Lucas’ gaming skills certainly helped in the case under investigation in this story. A guy they call Mad Dog is killing women just for the pleasure of it. He enjoys the gaming aspect of researching the right victim, plotting out and staging the crime. Mad Dog is also extremely smart. His signature is leaving a different note on each victim stating one of his “rules” for committing murder. He’s a good match for Lucas Davenport.

A couple of things kept me moving quickly through this story. One is that Mad Dog narrates part of the story. I, the reader, knew what was about to happen but, at the same time, I could see what was happening with Lucas and the police. Another thing I liked was all the quirky characters which included various members of the police and the always self-serving and not helpful media. I didn’t like any of them.

Overall, I enjoyed my introductory look at Lucas Davenport. I didn’t fall in love with him right away as I did with Virgil Flowers, but I did admire and respect his detective work. I suspect he’ll become more likeable as the series progresses. Rules of Prey was written in 1989 so Lucas has had more than twenty years to develop as a character.

At this point I’m not sure I want to stay with him all the way. After all, there are now twenty-five or so books. I have decided to at least read the next book in the series. I’m curious about what is going to happen with the baby. I wonder if it will soften Lucas a bit. We’ll see.

Warning: Lucas has quite the foul-mouth and loose morals so, if this offends you, I’d skip this book or be prepared to quickly skip pages.

Thanks to my local library for lending me this book.

Wondrous Words #301

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 only found one new word while reading this week. I found this word in my local newspaper. Its a word I should have known, considering where I live. You see, I live in Sonoma County, California, one of the U.S.’s major wine region. The newspaper article was talking about upcoming events.

viticulture:  “This summer, a host of speakers representing the worlds of viticulture, agriculture, visual arts, performing arts and architecture will share some of the many ways to consider “The Good Life” in this place we call home.”

Viticulture is a noun meaning the cultivation of grapevines or the study of grape cultivation. 

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.