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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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Wondrous Words #277

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 have two words that I really like. I’ve been trying to use them in regular speech which isn’t easy. They are from my word-a-day calendar.

1. duende: “A dancer with duende goes beyond technical mastery to vent his or her feelings, achieving a powerful, compelling dance.” (A quote from the Brattleboro Reformer)

Duende (do͞oˈendā) is a noun with Spanish origins. It means the power to attract through personal magnetism and charm.

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2. ahimsa: “The young man has renounced his violent past and now adheres to the doctrine of ahimsa.

Ahimsa (əˈhimˌsä) is the Hindu and Buddist doctrine of refraining from harming any living being.

 

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: Personal: A Jack Reacher Novel

This week I’m featuring the latest Jack Reacher novel. It’s doing quite well on the best seller lists because it’s really quite good. Here’s the first paragraph.

PersonalEight days ago my life was an up and down affair. Some of it good. Some of it not so good. Most of it uneventful. Long slow periods of nothing much, with occasional bursts of something. Like the army itself. Which is how they found me. You can leave the army, but the army doesn’t leave you. Not always. Not completely.

They started looking two days after some guy took a shot at the president of France. I saw it in the paper. A long-range attempt with a rifle. In Paris. Nothing to do with me. I was six thousand miles away, in California, with a girl I met on a bus.

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.

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Book Review: Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray

Dangerous Denial

Publisher: Barking Rain Press April, 2014

Denying the past proves deadly for BK Hartshaw and Trevor Mayhew in this gripping noir novel where nothing is as it seems.
BK is a rising star at a public relations firm, and tonight’s charity ball should be a high point in her career. But a closely guarded secret threatens to destroy her chance for happiness with the only man she’s ever loved… a man who is also hiding a deadly secret.

Trevor has tried to put the past behind him, pretending it never happened. But the conniving father he’s been running from for years has finally found him—and is determined to settle the score once and for all.
BK and Trevor’s deeply buried secrets are about to catch up with them—and everyone they know and love. Who will pay the ultimate price for their dangerous denials?

My Thoughts:

Dangerous Denial follows the lives of BK and Trevor from childhood on. They both had sad, loveless and abusive childhoods. I always have a hard timing reading about this sort of thing. The author did a good job of makinng the bad guy a very real person. That was the tough part because he was so evil. It made me want to do evil back to him. Fortunately for me, this is a short book – 212 pages.

It felt as if there were two parts to the story. I thought it was interesting, but the best part was the second half. This is where all the twists and turns take place – all the good stuff that I can’t tell you about because it would be a major spoiler.  You’ll have to take my word for it that there was something worth hanging in there for. There was also a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, Dangerous Denial was a good story with realistic characters. It was a good start for a debut author.

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: Amy Ray Tour

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Wondrous Words #276

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 have two new words – one heard verbally and one in my reading.

1. I learned a new word in a life-long learning class I’m taking on the Antebellum South:

cooper: Our professor said, “Many advanced slaves learned valuable trade skills and became blacksmiths and coopers.”

I’ve known lots of people whose last name is Cooper. but I had never heard the word used to describe a group of people. A cooper is a person who makes or repairs casks and barrels.

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2.  This second word I learned while reading Certainty by Victor Bevine.

pogue: He’d heard many names for what he was since arriving in Newport – fairy, queer, pogue.

The character in the book is in the Navy during World War 1. From the context of the story I gathered he was referring to himself as a homosexual. I’d never heard the word pogue before, so I looked it up in Urban Dictionary, and Whoa! That led to a whole slew of interesting definitions. It turns out my hunch was right. The term pogue began as “US Army slang, a derogatory name for a non-combat soldier. The term carries with it an implication of unmanliness, homosexuality, etc.”

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: Dangerous Denial

I’m reading Dangerous Denial by Amy Ray for a book tour. I’ll be reviewing the book next Monday. So far, I’m really enjoying this very good mystery. Here’s how it begins:

Dangerous Denial

1977

The clicking of someone’s heels echoed in the hall. Lenny longed to be outside. He stared at the clock as the second hand swept around and around hypnotically.

“ . . . and the money came from a totally different person than fro where the protagonist thought. Who can tell me the source of the money?” The English teacher was droning on and on about the plot of Great Expectations.

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.

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Book Review: The Goldfinch

GoldfinchAuthor: Donna Tartt

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, October 2013

Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2014)

Format: E-reader (Kindle) and Audiobook (Narrated by David Pittu)

I’ll tell you right off the bat, I had trouble reading this book. Nearly everyone I know (online and off) told me I should read this book. So, of course, I bought it. I started reading and then I let various things get in the way. From time to time I read a few pages and then I would quit.

A friend told me to just get past the first 70 pages and I’d be hooked. So I read on. I read about a hundred or so pages and stopped. Then another hundred pages and I got stuck again.

At about a third of the way through I decided it would probably be better in audiobook format. So, I started all over again. It was better. I devoted a lot of time to The Goldfinch and then, at what would be about 150 pages before the end, I decided to give it up. (For those of you who have read  the story, it was at the part of the story where Theo is grown up and living in New York City. It seems as if he is making one stupid decision after another. I guess I lost patience with him.)

Then someone told me they were looking forward to reading what I thought of the book. Uh, well, I thought, maybe I better finish it. And I did. In case you haven’t read The Goldfinch, let me summarize it for you:

Theo Decker is a thirteen-year-old boy living with his very sweet mother in New York City. His parents are divorced and he seldom sees or hears from his father. Theo is not a genius, but he’s smart and does well in school. He has a few friends, but is probably considered a geek.

He gets in trouble at school and is suspended for a day. He is to bring his mother in that day for a conference with the headmaster. They are early for the meeting so his mother insists they take a look at an exhibit in a nearby art museum.

Just as Theo’s mother moves away to go to another room in the museum, a powerful bomb explodes and devastates nearly everything in the building. In the aftermath, Theo cannot find his mother. It looks as if everyone is dead. An old man calls to Theo. The  old man is dying, but he asks Theo to take a ring to a friend. He also urges Theo to take a painting, The Goldfinch.

Theo manages to get out of the museum and back to his apartment. For days he doesn’t leave the apartment, waiting for his mother to come home. It’s a time of terror and grieve for him and then it’s confirmed that his mother has been killed. After quite a long time, Social Services steps in and attempts to find Theo’s father. In the meantime, Theo stays with the wealthy family of a school friend.

Theo is able to take the ring he received from the old man to the person the old man named. He makes a good connection with Hobie, the partner of the old man. Hobie is a highly skilled restorer of antique furniture. Theo is very impressed with Hobie and is allowed to visit and observe. He is eager to learn, but then Theo’s father enters the picture.

Theo’s father is the poster child for slime-ball fathers. He’s a con-man and a leech. He only comes back into Theo’s life for the insurance money. He moves Theo to an isolated suburb of Las Vegas and Theo goes for long periods of time without seeing his father.

Theo is left to raise himself. And then, he meets Boris, another teenage boy who’s father is absent most of the time. Left on their own, they do really stupid stuff: drink, do drugs, petty theft and eat horribly. This section of the book broke my heart. These boys needed good mothers or at least decent fathers.

The story switched back to New York and we see Theo grow up and go into business. In spite of all that happens, Theo never turns in the painting he took from the museum. He keeps it hidden. That’s as far as I’ll go with the story. I don’t want to spoil the ending. I’ll just say that there is, finally, a satisfactory conclusion, one I didn’t see coming.

Now that the book is behind me, I can honestly say that I both loved and hated it. The characters of Theo and Boris were two of the best fictional people I’ve met in a long time. The author really made me feel their loneliness, pain, stupidity and, yes, occasional joy. My major complaint is that it prattled on and on in various parts of the story. It definitely could have been shortened by a good 200 pages. Nearly 800 pages or 33 hours of listening was way too much for me.

I’m not sorry I read The Goldfinch. Excellent writing, plot and character development. I’ll suggest you read it too. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you that you may have to push yourself to get through it.

Book Review: Certainty by Victor Bevine

Certainty Published by Lake Union Publising, October 21, 2014

I read Certainty as part of a TLC Book tour. I read the following summary of the book and knew I had to read it and participate in the tour:

Inspired by the scandalous true story that shocked a nation at the close of WWI.

With America’s entry into World War 1, the population of Newport, Rhode Island seems to double overnight as twenty-five thousand rowdy recruits descend on the Naval Training Station. Drinking, prostitution, and other depravities follow the sailors, transforming the upscale town into what many residents—including young lawyer William Bartlett, whose genteel family has lived in Newport for generations—consider to be a moral cesspool.
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When sailors accuse a beloved local clergyman of sexual impropriety, William feels compelled to fight back. He agrees to defend the minister against the shocking allegations, in the face of dire personal and professional consequences. But when the trial grows increasingly sensational, and when outrageous revelations echo all the way from Newport to the federal government, William must confront more than just the truth—he must confront the very nature of good and evil.

Lately I’ve been curious about what life was like during the 1920s and 1930s and I’ve been reading quite a few novels from that period. Fortunately for me, Certainty put me right there.

Often we think our current cultural and social issues are ours alone. But a look back, through the eyes of this novel, made me realize that, even nearly a hundred years ago, we were fighting most of our same issues. There were many complaining about the subjugation of women and extreme racial discrimination.

There was much less conversation about sexual equality back then, but as Certainty shows, there was one legal case that had an impact. Of course it took many decades before homosexuals and lesbians could behave normally, evan though that still isn’t a universal experience.

Reading and thinking about the issues was enjoyable, but I also liked the characters. The priest, Kent, is truly a man to be admired. As the attorney, William, first met him, he realized that Kent was a person who sincerely believed his mission in life was to help others. William was amazed at the priest’s honesty. Here’s part of their conversation. William asked,

“Do you truly believe, against all odds, that you’re making a difference by what you’re doing?”

Kent took a thoughtful pause. “My pride would like to answer, ‘yes.’ ” He sighed. “But the simple truth is that I haven’t the faintest idea.”

When the immorality charges come against the priest, he calls William first. Because William has such respect for Kent, he is more than willing to defend the man in spite of enormous pressure on him from his family and community.

I definitely recommend this well written, thought-provoking novel.

Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for my copy of the novel. If you’d like to read reviews of the book by other bloggers, visit the schedule here:  Certainty Tour

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Wondrous Words #275

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 found two new words, both of them adjectives.

1.  I found this new word while I was reading a review in the LA Times about the new CBS show Madame Secretary:

sardonic:   “. . . a world perhaps grown weary of broken heroes, twisted ambitions and a universally sardonic view of American government.”

Sardonic means grimly mocking or cynical.

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2.  The next new word I found while in a life-long learning class (OLLI) on the antebellum South.

liminal: The instructor was talking about the life of slaves in the early 1800s. He said that some slaves were liminal.

He was referring to children born of white plantation owner/fathers and black mothers. The  children didn’t belong to the world of the white plantation family nor to the world of the black slaves. They were liminal or in-between. The dictionary says they occupied a position on both sides of a situation.

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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 White Princess

I’ve said it more than once, when you belong to a book club, you often end up reading a book or two that you would never otherwise read. The White Princess fits into that category for me. I was the only member who had never  read a Philippa Gregory historical novel. I haven’t started yet, but I plan to start at the end of the week.

Here’s the first paragraph:

White PrincessI wish I could stop dreaming. I wish to God I could stop dreaming.

   I am so tired; all I want to do is sleep. I want to sleep all the day, from dawn until twilight that every evening comes a little earlier and a little more drearily. In the daytime, all I think about is sleeping. But in the night all I do is try to stay awake.

What do you think? Have you read this author before?
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.

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Book Review: The Whole Enchilada

Whole EnchiladaAuthor: Diane Mott Davidson

Publisher: William Morrow 2013

I began reading Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary mysteries way back in the early 1990s when a culinary mystery was quite unique. It was pure fun to see Goldy bumble her way through her growing catering business while at the same time solving the mysteries of murdered bodies that coincidentally showed up wherever she was catering an event. I also loved how her story developed with her young son, her best friend Marla and how she met and finaly married her police detective husband.

Now, after reading her seventeenth book, I’ve decided to call it quits. The Whole Enchilada was so jumbled up that it was sad to read. Goldy had been a good character. She should have been allowed to retire a couple of books ago.

In The Whole Enchilada Goldy tries to solve the mystery of the death of a good friend who dies right after eating a torte, a dish that everyone loved, but contained an ingredient that was poisonous to her friend.

Within days there was another murder, an attempted murder and Goldy herself was attacked. There were clues everywhere and Goldy bulldozes various people into telling her things under the guise of helping her dead friend. It wasn’t in the original Goldy’s personality and it just wasn’t realistic. Her husband, the detective, did hardly anything. Neither did the police officer who was guarding her and she went about town.

The worst thing of all was this: the recipes were a disappointment. The torte was the dish that contained the poison but, after all the talk about it, was not even included in the recipe section!

I’m not recommending the book. I’m also going to hang up my “Goldy apron” and move on to some other culinary mystery series. Anyone have a suggestion?