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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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A Favorite Quote

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

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First Paragraph: An Innocent Client

A new year, a new book, a new series. I’m almost done reading An Innocent Client by Scott Pratt. I really like this one. I may have to keep reading the rest of the books in this series. An Innocent Client is book #1. Here’s how it starts:

Innocent ClientPart I
April 12
7:00 A.M.

It was my fortieth birthday, and the first thing I had to do was deal with Johnny Wayne Neal. The forensic psychiatrist I’d hired to examine him said Johnny Wayne was a narcissist, a pathological liar, and a sociopath, and those were his good qualities. He called Johnny Wayne an “irredeemable monster.” I’d asked the shrink not to write any of that down. I didn’t want the district attorney to see it. Monster or not, Johnny Wayne was still my client.

 

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 Valley of Amazement

Valley of AmazementAuthor: Amy Tan

Publisher: Ecco, November, 2013

Avid readers usually say they love to read because it takes them to places they’d never go in person. That is so true of The Valley of Amazement – at least for this avid reader. The story centers around a high-class courtesan house in Shanghai back in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. It all seemed so real that I’m sure Amy Tan must have done an enormous amount of research.

The Valley of Amazement is first told by Violet, who is the daughter of Lulu, the Madame of the house. Violet is a rather spoiled and willful child. She believes she’s better than everyone else because she is American. The truth is she’s only half American. Her mother is American and her father is an unknown-to-her Chinese man.

The first half of the story is quite interesting. It focuses on the women and the goings-on in this exclusive courtesan’s house. We don’t get all the details, but the reader gets to learn a great deal about the culture of the place. This time period is when China was experiencing political difficulties and it became difficult for Americans to stay there. Lulu and Violet are set to sail for San Francisco, but only Lulu leaves. They are both tricked and Violet is sold as a virgin courtesan and forced to work for another courtesan house.

In the second half of the book we learn of Lulu’s background and how she came to be in Shanhai and how she became a courtesan. The story also continues to follow Violet and switches back and forth between China and San Francisco. Eventually, there is also the story of Flora, Violet’s daughter.

There is no doubt in my mind that Amy Tan creates unique characters with great storylines. I’ve known that since The Joy Luck Club. She focuses on relationships between women, especially mothers and daughters. She adds other minor themes to her stories such as forgiveness, which always make me stop and think about my own experience. To top it off she writes in beautiful and elegant prose.

My only disappointment in The Valley of Amazement was that it was too long. It felt as if she were telling the same story in the second half as she told me in the first section. It definitely could have been condensed down to about 400 pages. Of course, it didn’t keep me from reading all 589 pages. After all, this is Amy Tan.

Will I read her next book? Of course I will. No one but Amy Tan can take me to another world where life doesn’t compare to my own experience, but at the same time make me feel a real kinship with the people in that new world.

I recommend.

Book Review: All That Glitters

All That GlittersPublisher: Alibi, 2015

A couple of months ago I read The Yankee Club (my review). It was set in New York city in the 1930s. Jake Donovan, a former detective, now a mystery writer, investigated the death of a good friend. While investigating he uncovered a conspiracy to overthrow FDR’s new government.

Now in All That Glitters, its a few months later and Jake is traveling with his girlfriend, Broadway actress Laura Wilson, to Hollywood. Laura has a contract with Carville Studios to star in a new movie.

The very night that Jake and Laura arrive in that glittering city, there is a Hollywood-style party. Lots of glamour everywhere and then – the son of the studio-head is murdered. Unfortunately, Jake is the main suspect since he had an argument with the man earlier.

Jake, of course, is innocent. Not to worry. Jake is very resourceful. I know he’ll get himself out of trouble and find the real killer. Watching Jake (and Laura) do all of that is loads of fun. Yes, a murder mystery can be very serious, but in this case there is lots of humor along the way. I love the inclusion of real-life celebrities in the story – one example being Louella Parsons, the legendary gossip columnist. I’ll admit to not liking this addition in the last book, but I was sold on it in All That Glitters.

Michael Murphy has a good thing going with this great new historical mystery series. After reading the first one, The Yankee Club, I really wanted more. The same is true of this second one. The books are short, fast-paced and a good look back and an interesting era and the people in it. The publisher, Alibi, is a new wing of Random House. They are specializing in quick-read, murder mysteries that are strictly e-books. I’ve read several Alibi books now and I will say it again:  Alibi (and Michael Murphy) has a good thing going.

Thanks to Alibi 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 #282

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.

On Tuesdays I like to play Diane’s fun meme called First Chapter First Paragraph. Each week a blogger shares the first paragraph of a book he/she is currently reading. It’s a great way to be introduced to a wide variety of books. While reading those paragraphs I occasionally find a new-to-me word or two.

1.  From the first paragraph of The Look of Love by Sarah Jio I found:

arrondissement: In the fashionable fifth arrondissement along the river Seine, Elodie stands beside her flower cart watching couples stroll arm in arm.

Arrondissement is an administrative district of certain large French cities, in particular Paris.

__________________________________

And, from the first paragraph of Finding Florida by T.D. Allman, this word popped out:

2.  mellifluous: As they drive along Matanzas Boulevard or power-boat along the Matanzas River, few understand that this mellifluous-sounding Spanish name means “slaughter” or “massacre.”

When talking about words or music mellifluous means “a pleasure to hear.”

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 Valley of Amazement

Amy Tan has been one of my favorite authors, ever since I read The Joy Luck Club. I’ve learned she also lives here in northern California. I hope some day to meet her. In the meantime, I’m reading her latest novel, The Valley of Amazement. Here’s how it begins:

Valley of AmazementHidden Jade Path

Shanghai

1905-1907

Violet

When I was seven, I knew exactly who I was: a thoroughly American girl in race, manners, and speech, whose mother, Lulu Minturn, was the only white woman who owned a first-class courtesan house in Shanghai.

 

.

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

The Holidays Are Over . . . What’s Next?

All year we anticipate this time of year that spreads from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. We seem to smile and laugh easily, we touch base with friends and family more often, and we see the world through a softer lens. It’s hard to let go of this time period, but we know we have to. We can only hold on through our memories.

 

Q and Lou on couch

Nothing quite as wonderful as giggling girls.

My husband and I spent a couple of weeks with our two granddaughters (and their parents) in Portland over the Christmas and New Year holidays. As you can see from the picture above, the girls are growing up. Lou, on the left, is now in the fourth grade and has become an Avid Reader. This past year she read the last four Harry Potter books, three Lemony Snickett books, and in addition, about fifteen single novels and several non-fiction books.

Q, on the right in the picture, is now a high-school sophmore. She continues to read incessantly, but has become an ardent writer of fan fiction. Her stories are very well-written, creative, with well-developed plots and characters. I like how she creates a new story of her own and links it to the original story. She makes it something new and fun. In the case of her stories about certain celebrities, Q creates a new, possible story-line for them. It’s great fun to read. I’d give you the links, but she’s not quite ready for prime time yet.

Our family is a reading one. We love to talk books and make recommendations. Each of my granddaughters has given me good book recommendations. I’m reading one from each girl right now.

I'll Give You the SunI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson is Q’s recommendation. It’s the story of identical twins, Noah and Jude, who are also the narrators. The story starts when they  are thirteen and the chapters alternate between the two. I’m only in the first few chapters, but they don’t seem to like each other much. I don’t like them either, but I will stick with the book. After all, this is the granddaughter that made me read The Fault In Our Stars, Eleanor and Park, and numerous other great books.

Pack of DorksLou recommended Pack of Dorks by Beth Vrabel. After barely one chapter, I am hooked. It’s a book that sounds as if it is truly written by a creative fourth grader. This is one of my favorite age groups, so I am not slamming the author. Nine or ten year-olds  see people and the events in their lives through both a factual and a fantastical filter. Simple events seem very dramatic and are either very serious or hilarious. The main character in the book is a typical fourth-grade girl who wants to fit in with the other girls. She gets manipulated by someone she considers a friend into being an outcast. She’s forced to hang out with the “dorks,” but discovers it might not be such a bad thing to be one of them.

On my own book-front, I’m also reading some interesting and enjoyable adult books. I like a good legal thriller and someone recommended the Joe Dillard series by Scott Pratt. I’m finishing up An Innocent Client right now and intend to read more in the series this year. For book-club I’m reading Amy Tan’s latest, Valley of Amazement. I’m only halfway through, but so far, it’s good. After that I have John Grisham’s latest book. (See right sidebar.)

Resiliant Investor

So far, the big news of the year in our family is the  publication of The Resilient Investor. This is a book our son has written together with his two business partners. It won’t be out until mid-February, but I’ve had a sneak peak at it and can tell you that  it’s really good. It’s about the best ways to invest all aspects of your life, not just your money. Of course, I’ll have a non-biased book review on my blog. Well, somewhat non-biased. I’m also hoping to wrangle an interview with one of the authors. (Wow, that will be a big coup for me!) Joking aside, it’s a solid, serious book that has been creating publishing conversations. I’m very proud.

Planning books to read in 2015 is about as far as my husband and I have moved in making plans for the year ahead. We’d like to travel and see some new places, but we haven’t really settled  on anything. Until we do, we are going to enjoy these great and joyful retirement life we’ve been given.

Tell me what you have planned for the year — the next few months?

My Favorite Books of 2014

ItsAWrap

In looking back over the past year, I decided it was a pretty good reading year. I lowered the number of books I wanted to read to 85 and it was a good move. It allowed me to spend time concentrating on quality stories. And now, as is my habit at the end of the year, I picked my favorite books for the year. Here they are;

 

By the BookBy the Book edited by Pamela Paul

One Summer
One Summer 1927 by Bill Bryson

Goldfinch
Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Evil Under the Sun
Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie

Bartender'sTale
The Bartender’s Tale by Ivan Doig

Maya's Notebook
Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende

Eleanor&Park
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Room With A View
A Room With a View by E.M. Forster

Book Thief
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Picking my favorite characters of the year is always hard. I love books with characters that feel like real people. It was hard choosing between Theo and Boris from Goldfinch, Tom and Rusty from The Bartender’s Tale, Maya Vidal from Maya’s Notebook or Eleanor and Park from the book by the same name. But I can now say that the characters that have stayed with me all year are from The Book Thief

Liesel and her buddy Rudy.

Characters from Book Thief

This picture is of actors Sophie Nelisse and Nico Liersch from imdb and the movie version of The Book Thief.

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you and  your family

a warm and happy Christmas

filled with love, laughter, good food, and

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

We are up north for the holidays. North as in Portland, Oregon. We’re take a couple of weeks with the granddaughters (and their parers) while everyone is on vacation. I’ll post my favorite books of 2014 next week. In the meantime, I trust your Christmas is full of pease and joy.

Book Review: A Quilt for Christmas

Quilt for ChristmasAuthor: Sandra Dallas

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, October 2014

I usually read several Christmas-themed books, but this year I only found one that fit my mood. This one isn’t actually about Christmas, but it is warm and loving and there is a Christmas quilt involved.

The year is 1864. Eliza Spooner and her two children are alone on their Kansas farm. Their husband and father is off with the Union army. Eliza is not the only one from their small community who has sacrificed the man of the family. All the women in Eliza’s quilt group are war widows.

The women in the quilt group have become very close, probably because of the stress and loneliness they all have in common. They all agree that Eliza is the best quilter. Eliza has always given special quilts as gifts on various occasions. As a Christmas gift for her husband, Eliza makes a patriotic quilt and mails it to her husband somewhere in Kentucky.

The fact that Eliza and the other women have time to make quilts astonishes me. It’s their responsibility to make sure everything gets done on the farm. There is no money to pay for the few men who are still around, so the women and children are forced to do whatever they can. Somehow Eliza manages to get the crops in. She also takes in a young woman, a friend and fellow quilter, along with the women’s baby daughter. A terrifying experience occurs when Eliza take in and hides a freed ex-slave who has a prize on her head. And then, there is a ex-soldier who fought for the “enemy.”

2 Civil War QuiltsI loved all the talk about the quilts. I don’t quilt much anymore, but I do love to look at them, listen to talk about them and do a little research. I looked for patriotic quilts made during this time period. The pictures above came from the Belfast Historical Society and Museum. The quilts were made in 1864, the same year as the book’s time period. The quilts were sent to a Union hospital.

The perspective of this book worked for me. My husband is a Civil War history “nut” so I hear a lot about the battles, etc. It was good to take a look at what happened back home where the women were left to handle all the things the men had been doing, plus their own duties. It was a harsh life and I certainly appreciate the sacrifices made by these women and children who kept everything going at home.

This was a lovely and well-written story. Of course, Sandra Dallas is a superb storyteller. If you haven’t read one of her stories, give this one a try.