What Am I Reading? Charm City by Laura Lippman

I’ve been wanting to dabble in the Tess Monaghan mystery series for quite a while. I grabbed Charm City when I saw it at a book sale. I’m about a third of the way in and I really like Tess. She’s an interesting combination of lovable and heartwarming and “bad-ass girl.” Here’s how the book begins:

Charm CityNothing wet was falling from the sky. No snow, no ice, no hail, no rain changing to sleet, no sleet changing to rain. And that was reason enough, Tess Monaghan decided, to feel celebratory. She would walk home from work instead of taking her usual bus, maybe stop at Bertha’s and squinch up her nose at the tourists eating mussels, or nurse something warm and alcoholic at Henniger’s. A March Monday night in Baltimore would never be Mardi Gras, or even Lundi Gras, but it would have its moments, for savvy natives inclined to seek them out. Tess was inclined. For the first time in more than two years, she had a full-time job and a full-time boyfriend. Her life might not have the party-all-the-time euphoria of a beer commercial, but it was definitely edging into international Coffee Territory.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first paragraph of a book currently being read. Feel free to join the fun.

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How Do You Like Your Biscuits?

I know that in Great Britain biscuits are what we in the US call cookies. Over here biscuits are a versatile quick bread served at many American tables. I have American biscuits on Biscuit Club Sandwichmy mind today. Actually, biscuits are always on my mind whenever I’m visiting my eldest daughter in Portland, Oregon. Not only does my daughter make wonderful biscuits, but whenever I am here we always visit Pine State Biscuit.

Yes, I’m up here visiting my daughter and her family. As usual, we made our pilgrimage to this mecca of biscuit baking. Pine State Biscuits is a small chain of restaurants where the menu is focused around the breaded treat. Biscuits don’t sit on the side of the plate. They are the main feature in a variety of dishes and served all day long.

Yesterday when we visited I was thinking about all the different things people put on top of their biscuits. I ordered a plain biscuit and a few toppings. My husband, who grew up with biscuits at breakfast time, likes his biscuits with butter and honey. I like mine with jam. Here in Oregon that would be marionberry jam. (Marionberry is a blackberry developed by the USDA and Oregon State University.)

Biscuit w: toppingsI also tried my biscuit with apple butter (a spicy, textured accompaniment to the biscuit) and gravy. Biscuits and Gravy are a staple at many restaurants, but here at Pine State you can have them with their own homemade sausage gravy or mushroom gravy. They both have a kick to them. They are not like the bland biscuits and gravy you get at most diners. The other interesting topping I tried is their house-made pimento cheese. I usually love pimento cheese, and their’s is delicious. I just didn’t like it with my biscuit.

Overall, I enjoyed my sampling of the various toppings on that yummy biscuit. I will have to say, however, that I also love the restaurant’s various creations such as the club sandwich you see in the photo at the top of the page. You can’t see it, but there’s a slice of bacon just above the bottom half of the biscuit. Next is a slice of crisply fried chicken and then lettuce, tomato and as much bleu-cheese dressing as desired. And that is a great way to top a biscuit. What do you like on your biscuits?

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I’m linking this post to Weekend Cooking. You can find more Weekend Cooking  posts at Beth Fish Reads.

weekendckng2

Posted in Food Talk, Weekend Cooking | 13 Comments

Meet Stone Barrington

Scandalous BehaviorI discovered Scandalous Behavior at the library. I brought it home, started reading and immediately became fascinated by the main character in an odd way. His name is Stone Barrington. He’s extremely rich – rich enough that, after having been shown an estate for sale in England, he whipped out his checkbook and bought it.

One of the perks of the estate is that it has its own private air strip. How nice. Barrington can now fly his private jet in and out of his own estate without bothering with things like baggage claim or customs. (The customs people come to him.) So, he’s a pilot who owns his own jet. In addition he owns several homes and apartments and various companies.

Barrington is the head of his own law firm in New York. Back in his earlier life, from what I can tell, he graduated from law school, but became a cop rather than take the bar exam. I’ve also learned he’s been an investigator and has done some international intelligence work. He also has friends in high places such as in British Intelligence and the FBI.

Barrington is what they used to call a “ladies man.” He seems to have a variety of women in his bed – not all at once. Although I don’t like his attitude and behavior toward women, he reminds me of James Bond. – the Sean Connery version of James Bond. I don’t admire his behavior, but its fun seeing what the man will do next.

How did this guy go from cop to jet-flying millionaire?

New York DeadSince Scandalous Behavior was book number 36 in the series, I decided to go back to the beginning. New York Dead is book one. Right from the beginning I met Barrington, the police detective, who witnessed the “fall” of a woman from a 12-story building. Did she fall or jump or was she pushed or thrown? Barrington is on the case. There are a couple of twists to the story: the woman disappeared somehow after being put into the ambulance. Also, the woman was a well-known anchor on a local news show.

It’s interesting to follow Barrington’s style as he maneuvers through town trying to gather facts. He’s not as flashy as James Bond, but is working on becoming very suave. We also meet his partner Dino who will turn out to be a life-long friend. He was part of the story in book number 36.

I honestly can’t tell you why I liked these two books and Stone Barrington. I just did. Am I going to read the other 34? Probably not all of them. I think I’ll skip through the list and sample a few here and there until my curiosity about this character is satisfied. The library has them all, the librarian tells me. “They’re very popular with men.”

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Wondrous Words #352

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.

My two new words this week come courtesy of author Scott Turow. He wrote an excellent book review in the New York Times about Laura Lippman’s latest book, Wilde Lake. Here they are:

1.  elegiac: “Wilde Lake” is engrossing, suspenseful and substantial, it’s wit easing a sober, somewhat elegiac air.

Elegiac (eləˈjīək or eˈlējēˌak) is an adjective meaning something has a mournful quality or is wistfully mournful.

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2.  verisimilitude: My own interpretation is that all novels are hobbled at their end by a fundamental problem of verisimilitude: Life goes on, but a novel does not.

Verisimilitude (verəsəˈmiliˌt(y)o͞od|)  is a noun meaning the appearance of being true or real.

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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.

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What Am I Reading? New York Dead by Stuart Woods

For some reason, I’m reading a lot of series books lately. I blame the library for this. They always have an enticing display of the latest books. I grab one, take it home, start reading and then discover it’s the latest book in a series with a  bazillion books ahead of it. In the case of this Stuart Woods book, I really liked #36 and decided to go back and see how it all began. Here’s the first paragraph:

New York DeadChapter 1

Elaine was late. The place had exhausted its second wind, and half the customers had gone; otherwise she would not have given Stone Barrington quite so good a table—number 4, along the wall to your right as you enter. Stone knew Elaine, had known her for years, but he was not what you would call a regular—not what Elaine would call a regular.

He rested his left leg on a chair and unconsciously massaged the knee. Elaine got down from her stool at the cash register, walked over, and pulled up a chair.

“So?”

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first paragraph of a book currently being read. Feel free to join the fun.

Posted in First Paragraph | 8 Comments

Book Review: Blood Defense by Marcia Clark

Blood DefenseI started reading Marcia Clak’s books because I enjoy legal dramas. I didn’t make the connection between her and the O.J. Simpson trial until after I read the first book (Guilt By Association). I didn’t watch that infamous trial for the same reason I never saw the Oprah Winfrey show: I spent my days in an offic – working. I knew from the nightly news that the former football star was accused of murder, but I didn’t pay attention to who the attorneys were.

I’m glad I didn’t recognize Marcia Clark’s name beccause my mind may have been prejudiced against a celebrity lawyer. Instead, I saw her as a super-good writer who has a depth of knowledge and experience with the justice system and a wide variety of people.

Blood Defense is Marcia Clark’s fifth novel and the start of a new series. In this new series the lawyer, Samantha Brinkman, is on the defense side of the courtroom. She’s single, early-thirties, savvy enough with the LA court system to do okay, but still hungry enough to scout out the high profile, big dollar cases.

Samantha has two great assistants helping her. There’s Michelle who’s a one-woman-band serving as paralegal, financial manager, public relations operative and an all-round good snoop and advice give. Samantha’s second and most recent hire is Alex. He’s a young, super-smart, highly skilled hacker who got caught. Samantha defended him, helped him work out a deal with the court and then put him to work as her Investigator. He’s also a good source of humor for the reader.

Samantha is thrilled, although somewhat surprised, when she is asked to take the case of a LAPD detective charged with double homicide. Samantha has never been fond of the police, but Samantha and her team are excited about this case because it looks like that high-profile case they’ve been looking for. The victims were a popular TV star and her roommate. The news reporters are already circling. This could be the break the struggling law firm needs.

The story is filled with secrets and surprises, good courtroom drama, smart and tenacious investigation, as well as moments of humor and shock. Best of all, the story kept me going to the end when – ta da – Marcia Clark turned the whole story around and ended it in a way I did not anticipate. I sat still for a few minutes and said “What? Why didn’t I see that coming?” Now that is the way to tell a mystery story. And, that’s why I’m looking forward to Marcia Clark’s next book in this series.

I received this book from Amazon’s First program. I partnered it with the audiobook version beautifully done by Tavia Gilbert.

For more about Marcia Clark’s books, visit her website here:  Marcia Clark

Posted in B+, Mysteries | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Wondrous Words #351

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’m sharing two new-to-me words. I found the first one while reading a book review on Ti’s Book Chatter blog. The book was Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss.

1.  synesthetic: “James is synesthetic.”

Synesthetic is the adjective form of synesthesia. There are a couple of meanings, but in this case synesthesia is a rhetorical device or figure of speech where one sense is described in terms of another. This may often take the form of a simile.

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This word I saw on an NPR newsletter about the California primary:

2.  beaucoup: With all its charms and beaucoup delegates, California has descended to the status of bit player — or worse yet, an afterthought — in the selection process of the major party. Nominees.

Beaucoup (ˈbo͞oˌko͞o) is a French word meaning many or much.

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That’s all 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.

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What Am I Reading? Blood Defense

I’m reading Marcia Clark’s latest novel and I’m finding it as gripping as ever. This is the first book in a brand new series for the author. It features Samantha Brinkmann, a defense attorney.  Don’t let the title scare you. It’s not overly gory.

Here’s how the story begins:

Blood DefenseONE

I raced into the studio and hopped into the empty chair in front of Bonnie, the makeup wizard. I had just five minutes till airtime. She gave e an exasperated look as she whipped the red nylon cape around me.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

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firstparagraphEvery Tuesday Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first paragraph of a book currently being read. Feel free to join the fun.

Posted in First Paragraph | 15 Comments

Hot Air Highway

We live in northern California – Sonoma County to be exact. It’s a beautiful area surrounded by hills/mountains. The ground is covered with acres and acres of lush vineyards. The night sky is usually filled with a beautiful array of stars. If all that weren’t enough, we also have another bonus: an occasional parade of hot air balloons.

IMG_0933.JPGIt seems we are living along a hot-air balloon highway.

It’s common to look up above the house and see a cheerful balloon floating by.

IMG_0934.JPGEarly on Spring or early Summer mornings are the best times to see this parade going by.

I don’t know all the details, but its something about the “draft.”

IMG_0932.JPGThey’re often close enough to exchange waves and, sometimes, a hello or two.

IMG_0931.JPGThe special designs always get our attention.

IMG_0936.JPGIt never gets old. We get excited and rush about for every one.

I hope this “parade” made you smile too.

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I’m linking this post with others who participate at Saturday Snapshot located at West Metro Mommy Reads. For more information, visit her website.

Saturday Snapshot

Posted in Photos | 6 Comments

Read Under Protest: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set A WatchmanI originally said I would not read this book. For me it was a matter of principle. I don’t believe the author wanted this book published. Over and over during her lifetime she said she would not write/publish another book. She would let To Kill a Mockingbird be her definitive literary accomplishment.

Then suddenly, after her sister, who served as her attorney and agent, died the new agent found this other book that had been mysteriously hidden for decades. The new agent somehow convinced Ms. Lee to publish the book. The author, in her late 80s, was both deaf and blind. How did they honestly communicate with her? To me it smells of publishing greed.

As I said, I didn’t want anything to do with the new book, but members of my book club, whom I respect, wanted to see what it was all about. I borrowed a copy from the library and dug into it, reluctantly.

The publisher, or others who want to make money off the book, say Go Set a Watchman is a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. No way. This is the draft novel that Harper Lee wrote back in the 1960s. She gave this book to her original editor who suggested she make the changes that resulted in Mockingbird. It may appear that way because in this book Scout is now a young woman. She’s been living in New York and has come home for vacation. Scout reconnects with her family and some of the people in Monroeville.

I actually liked the first part of the book. There’s no doubt that Harper Lee is the creative force behind Scout. I liked the grown-up version of her. She’s sort of what I thought she’d be like when she grew up. She made me smile and laugh out loud and, yes, shake my head. I liked Henry and that little bit of romance. And, I liked seeing the small southern town through Scout’s big-city eyes.

That’s it as to what I liked in this book. When I hit the second half of the book, that was it for me. Now Scout and I are forced to believe that every person in life has a place, depending on their race. There is no good reason to progress beyond those pre-set positions or boundaries.

Atticus is now revealed as not just a racist, but as one of the area’s leaders willing to do whatever necessary to stop progress. Even Calpurnia (the black housekeeper who helped raise Scout and Jim) is cold toward Scout! How could these people suddenly change their values and personalities in such a  short time? I know they are fictional characters, but are they really?

The beauty and genius of To Kill a Mockingbird was that Scout, Atticus, Jim, Calpurnia and even Boo-Radley did come alive for all of us. Both the book and the film gave us hope. We saw a world in which human decency, intelligence, common sense and the whole assortment of good virtues could prevail. Life does not have to be divvied up on the basis of hatred. And, we saw in the midst of all the hatred there are courageous, honest people willing to do the right thing. Atticus Finch has always been one of our heroes. Go Set a Watchman took away our hero.

Don’t read this book. Or, at the very least, just read the first half for a little visit with Scout.

Note on the Audiobook: The saving grace of this whole experience was having Reese Witherspoon read the book to me. She did a beautiful job.

Posted in Audiobooks, Library Challenge | Tagged , | 3 Comments