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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At the Movies: Go See Robert Downey Jr. in The Judge

Judge 1I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m going to say it anyway. The Judge is Robert Downey Jr.’s best movie to date. I’ve enjoyed his performances in the Sherlock Holmes movies and my husband likes him as the Iron Man, but we both agree that, in The Judge, he is outstanding. Our opinion is contrary to many movie critics. I don’t know why. The two main actors, both Roberts (Robert Duvall and Robert Downey, Jr.) deliver performances that are both way above average.

What the Story is About:

Hank Palmer (Robert Downey, Jr.) is a highly successful defense attorney living in Chicago. He returns home to his small hometown in Indiana for his mother’s funeral. Hank hasn’t been home in a long time. He and his father (Robert Duvall) are always at odds with each other. (In my opinion, his father treats him differently, and not in a good way.)

Judge 3His father has been a judge for decades. Right after the funeral something happens to keep Hank in town. His father is accused of murder and he really needs a good defense attorney. The judge, however, is adamant that he does not want Hank to represent him, but Hank is so persistent and so good at his job that it finally becomes obvious to everyone that Hank has to do it.

Why I Liked the Movie:

The Judge had key elements that I like in a movie: great characters acted beautifully and an interesting story. The story was, in part, a good courtroom drama reminiscent of former movies made from John Grisham novels.

Judge 2It’s also a very good family drama. The family consists of Hank, his father the judge, his older brother Glenn (Vincent D’Onofrio) and younger brother Dale (Jeremy Strong). Their relationship is complicated. As a teenager, Glenn had a promising baseball career and then it was stopped by a car wreck. Now he runs a local tire store. Dale is retarded, but a sweet guy who takes his old movie camera everywhere he goes. I will not use the overworked term, “dis-functional family” to describe this family. They clash a lot, but there is a great deal of respect and love among them.

The personalities of the characters were well developed and each of the actors did a superb job of showing us that. I was, however, absolutely blown away by Robert Downey Jr. His rapid-fire delivery of his lines and his wide, wide range of emotions were jaw-dropping. As in a great novel, this actor made me believe I was watching a live person. He made me feel as if I was right there in Indiana with him.

Judge 4When you go to see the movie, look for a few of my favorite scenes. One was in a bar. Hank is with his brothers. A few guys are coming after them, wanting to fight. Hank is so good at reading people that he defeats them all with his words. I also like the scene with Hank and his daughter, such as when he lets her sit on his lap and “drive” the car. He’s so emotionally vulnerable, its beautiful. It’s hard to pick out favorite scenes because there are so many. Just go see The Judge. Uh, bring plenty of tissues.

Warning: I know I said this was partially a family drama, but wait. Before you make plans to take the kids to see this movie, let me tell you this is rated R for strong and crude language as well as drinking and references to drugs and there are sexual references.

A Classic: The Old Man and the Sea

Old Man & the SeaAuthor: Ernest Hemingway

Publisher: Charles Scribner, 1952

Format: Audiobook (Simon & Schuster) – Read by Donald Sutherland

My husband and I read this book back when we were first married. We were in our twenties and big Hemingway fans. We spent hours talking about the author, the book and the ideas expressed in it. I recall talking a lot about our philosophy of life and how we would act when we were old.

A lot of time and living has taken place since those days. Although Hemingway isn’t as popular now as he was back in the 50s and 60s, we’re still fans. I found an audiobook copy of The Old Man and the Sea and thought I would see how it stands up against our previous reading.

I’m happy to report it is still an excellent story. It’s the tale of an old fisherman, Santiago, who lives in Cuba. Santiago is poor and he fears his “luck” has run out. He’s been fishing for 84 days without catching a fish of substance.

As the story opens, Santiago is starting early because he has a hunch that today is the day. He’s positive he will catch the big one. And he does. He does it very skillfully and calls upon his decades of experience to land an enormous marlin.

The marlin is crafty and it takes great skill to finally wear him out. It also takes three days and numerous episodes of fighting off sharks that take big chunks out of the marlin. Fortunately, they don’t get Santiago or upend his boat. He makes it back to his fishing village and he regains the admiration of the village people.

Although it’s a simple story, there is so much meaning and philosophy of life that goes along with it. It’s the reason we have loved and remembered this book all these years. It’s probably why the book won the Pulitzer Prize for literature back in 1953. It’s considered Hemingway’s greatest works.

I recommend you listen to this book as read by Donald Sutherland. He made the story cone alive. I found our copy at our local library. 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Wondrous Words #273

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.

While reading The Competition by Marcia Clark, I found quite a few new-to-me words. Here are two of them. I’ll share a few more next week.

1.  maelstrom: When I reached six, Bailey turned south and headed us into the maelstrom that surround Fairmont High School.

Maelstrom has two meanings. Originally it meant a powerful whirlpool in the sea or a river. Now it also means a situation or state of confused movement or violent turmoil.


2.  lividity: We nodded. “I need to check lividity, get a better look at the wounds . . . “

I know livid to mean furiously angry. In this sentence the coroner is talking about things she needs to do to a dead body. I’m sure she’s not talking about checking the level of anger. When I checked, the dictionary, it said the origin of livid is late Middle English “in the sense of a bluish leaden color.” I believe the coroner is referring to the oolor on the skin.

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 Goldfinch

I’ve had The Goldfinch by Donna Tardt on my list for quite some time. To tell you the truth, I put off reading it because of it’s size. It’s 755 pages or 32.5 hours! A book club friend finally convinced me I would be missing a great book if I didn’t read it. She said, “Just get past the first 70 pages and you’ll be hooked.”  She was right, of course. Here’s the first paragraph:

While I was still in Amsterdam, I dreamed about my mother for the first time in years. I’d been shut up in my hotel for more than a week, afraid to telephone anybody or go out; and my heart scrambled and floundered at even the most innocent noises: elevator bell, rattle of the minibar cart, even church clocks tolling the hour, de Westertoren, Krijtberg, a dark edge to the clangor, an inwrought fairy-tale sense of doom. By day I sat on the foot of the bed straining to puzzle out the Dutch-language news on television (which was hopeless, since I knew not a word of Dutch) and when I gave up, I sat by the window staring out at the canal with my camel’s-hair coat thrown over my cloths—for I’d left New York in a hurry and the things I’d brought weren’t warm enough, even indoors.


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: The Competition

The Competition


Author: Marcia Clark

Publisher: Mulholland  July 2014

Genre: Crime Novel

The Competition is Marcia Clark’s fourth novel in the Rachel Knight series. Fourth? Back in 2011 I read her first foray into the world of fiction, Guilt By Association. I liked it and told myself to watch for her next one. Well, while I wasn’t paying attention, she wrote three more books.

This fourth book is extremely good, but tough to read. Not because of the writing. That was good. It’s the subject matter. Believe it or not, but the main motivation for a massacre of high school students was to have a larger body count than the Columbine shooting.

I couldn’t help but be terrified as two masked killers entered the back of the high school gym during a pep rally and started shooting at the cheerleaders, students in the stands, and teachers trying to protect students. The two killers went through the gym, roamed the halls, and finally quit in the library with an apparent double suicide.

Special Trials prosecutor, Rachel Knight, and her best friend, Detective Bailey Keller. get the call within minutes of the shooting. If you’ve seen the TV reports of any of the school shootings, you know what they found when they arrived at the high school. The scene inside the school matches your worst nightmare.

There are many people working on this multiple crime. Rachel and Bailey are in charge of understanding who and why. However, within hours it’s clear that the two bodies they assumed were the killers who committed suicide, were actually two students who were also victims. The masks the killers wore were found outside in the dumpster. The two killers escaped.

Rachel and Bailey used their best detective skills to figure out who could have been responsible. Then they need to find them before it’s too late. They learn the killers are planning to go to a theater and beat the body count of the Colorado massacre. How Rachel and Bailey finess information out of students, teachers and parents is simply amazing. They don’t want to lead students down the wrong path and spread rumors about the wrong people. They also need to search bedrooms of two possible killers whose parents are positive their child could not possibly do something like this. Only a skilled prosecutor/investigator like Marcia Clark could share that with readers.

The one question every character in the story kept asking was “What kind of kid could do something like this?” I think that’s what motivated the author to write the story. No one understands these kinds of massacres. I won’t say this was a fun story to read, but it certainly was interesting and it did help me see the situation from the point of view of law enforcement. No way could I do their jobs, but I certainly am grateful for those that do.

Book Review: The Collector

The CollectorAuthor: Nora Roberts
Publisher: Putnam 2014
Genre: Romantic Suspence

Lila Emerson is an interesting and likable young woman. For one thing, she loves people. Within minutes of meeting a person they will find themselves telling Lila all about themselves. Lila isn’t nosey, she has a strong sense of curiosity. She really likes and understands people.

Lila writes young-adult fiction. Her writing career hasn’t quite taken off yet so, to pay the bills, she house-sits. Clients love her and she has many repeat customers. She takes care of their pets, plants and whatever else they need. She’s located primarily in New York City, but she’s taken jobs in Italy and a few other special places.

As the story opens, Lila is on a job in a New York high-rise. One of Lila’s foibles is her love of spying on the neighbors. She carries binoculars with her for that purpose. One night she witnesses a couple arguing in an apartment across the way. The next thing she knows the woman is launched through the window and falls fourteen floors to her death. Lila immediately calls 911.

Lila is interviewed by the police and she helps them figure out which apartment the woman fell from. When the police find the apartment, they also find a dead man. The police ask her to come down to the police station to help them further. It’s there that she meets “Ash”, Asher Archer, the older brother of the dead man.

From this point on the story is a non-stopper. Although the police believe it was a murder/suicide, Ash knows his brother would never hurt a woman and he was too egocentric to commit suicide. He asks Lila to help him.

Ash is a strong and caring man. (Of course, he’s good-looking and wealthy too. After all, this is a romance novel.) He’s the head of his complicated family even though his father is still alive. He’s also a well known artist. It takes some persistence, but Ash finally gets Lila to agree that he can paint her. They spend lots of time together and get to know each other.

Spending time together is what makes the killer put two and two together and, before the reader knows it, Lila’s life is in danger and then also Ash’s. The police look at things differently too and soon they all figure out the two murders have something to do with Ash’s brother’s job at an antique shop. Ash’s brother was always looking for the big score and they believe he found a valuable antique.

I won’t spoil the story for you by telling you what the big find was or who the killer is. I will say that the hunt for these things takes us to some great places around Manhattan as well as a trip to Tuscany. There are additional characters well worth knowing like Lila’s best friend and a friend of Ash’s. There are a couple of not-so-nice people too. The conclusion is pretty dramatic, to say the least.

2014 has been an amazing book year for me. I’ve read so many excellent novels. I will say that this story is up there with the best of them. Nora Roberts is an exception to the run-of-the-mill romance novelists. She is a first-rate storyteller

The Collector has romance, humor, a little bit of New York City, some scary parts, and an interesting mystery. There are a couple of short sex scenes that are easy to skip over if that bothers you. The best thing is meeting Lila Emerson. I loved her and her “I can take good care of myself” attitude.

Wondrous Words #272

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 think we all have favorite places we go to for book recommendations. One of my favorites is National Public Radio, best known as NPR. In case I miss a good interview or review, I subscribe to The Best of NPR Books.

Last week’s newsletter had a headline with a new-to-me word.

Virtual Reality, Corporeality Collide in Cronenberg’s First Novel

Corporeal (kôrˈpôrēəl) refers to a person’s body or a person having a body.

I only found one new word this week, but it’s a good one. 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 Collector

I’m taking a much-needed “romance break” with my favorite romance author – Nora Roberts. The main character is a blogger, professional home-sitter, and she writes teenage novels. Here’s the opening paragraph:

The CollectorShe thought they’d never leave. Clients, especially new ones, tended to fuss and delay, revolving on the same loop of instructions, contacts, comments before finally heading out the door. She sympathized because when they walked out the door they left their home, their belongings, and in this case their cat, in someone else’s hands.

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: The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly

Brass VerdictPublisher: Little Brown and Co. 2008

I am a Michael Connelly fan, especially his Michael Haller/Lincoln Lawyer novels. I discovered there was one I missed — The Brass Verdict. This is the second book in the series, right after The Lincoln Lawyer.

In this story Mickey has just “inherited” the entire caseload of an old friend who has just been murdered. Although sad about the death of his friend, the inhetitance could be good news for Mickey. One of his new cases is a big one – one that could move Micky into the ranks of big-time defense attorneys. The head of one of Hollywood’s film studios has been charged with murdering his wife and her lover. The case is set to go to trial in a week and the client refuses to delay it.

Mickey has so much on his plate, but he balances it all and actually makes it happen. He is very skilled. One of the pro-bono cases that Mickey inherited begins to intermingle with the murder case and it makes for a complicated mystery. And it gets even more complicated when Harry Bosch enters the scene.

The author, Michael Connelly, has another long-time series starring LA police detective Harry Bosch. Harry makes his entrance in this novel as he investigates the murder of the attorney who “willed” his cases to Mickey. Harry is suspicious of Mickey at first because Mickey does stand to gain a lot by his friend’s death. Things get a little tense between these two and, since I’ve read the series past this one, I know the relationship is going to get really complicated.

Michael Connelly is an author that makes my head spin. In this book, watching as Mickey managed all the cases with lightening speed gave me mental whiplash. The author is not an attorney, but he thinks like one. From me, that’s a supreme compliment because I greatly admire the good smart ones.

I highly recommend anything written by Michael Connelly, but especially his Lincoln Lawyer novels. Here’s the entire list in order:  (Each title leads to my review.)
The Lincoln Lawyer (2005)
The Brass Verdict (2008)
The Reversal (2010)
The Fifth Witness (2011)
The Gods of Guilt  (2013)

Book Review: Looking For Salvation At the Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen
: Susan Gregg Gilmore

Publisher: Shaye Areheart Books, 2008

Genre: Southern Literary Fiction

Format: Audiobook, Read by Tavia Gilbert

From the time she was a child, Catherine Grace Cline’s main goal in life was to get out of Ringgold, Georgia. It’s not that her life was horrible. It wasn’t. There was just something inside Catherine Grace that made her long for the world outside her small town.

When Catherine Grace was six and her sister, Martha Ann, was four, their mother drowned in a nearby river. Her death caused distress to the girls and their Baptist preacher father. To Catherine Grace it was a personal blow that affected how she looked at life.

In spite of that, the girls managed to grow and thrive, thanks to their wise and steady father and the help of a savvy, loving neighbor, Gloria Jean. They were also watched by nearly every person in their small town. Being the “preacher’s kids” was often a big responsibility.

It was both fun and interesting as Catherine Grace told us what it was like to grow up in Ringgold. Along the way we met many of the residents. They added so much color to the story. There was the guy who ate the most at church suppers, the super-pushy grandmother, the show-off girls, and the guy at the Dairy Queen, just to name a few. My favorite was Gloria Jean, the next door neighbor who loved the girls in the sweetest way. Every motherless girl should have a Gloria Jean.

Catherine Grace never lost her desire to leave town. She headed for Atlanta on her eighteenth birthday. She found a good job, a great place to live and new friends. And then — disaster struck and Catherine Grace had to go back to Ringgold. This leads to a dramatic and surprising finale.

This is the type of book best enjoyed via audio. The narrator on this one, Tavia Gilbert, read it in a beautiful Southern accent filled with the qualities that make the South unique. In other words, it was warm and inviting, honest and charming, and quirky in a way only those from the “deep South” understand. Looking For Salvation At the Dairy Queen should not be read; it should be experienced.