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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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Book Review: Blue Heaven by C.J. Box

Blue HeavenMinotaur Books 2008

I just discovered C.J. Box’ books last year. This is already my third book. I really love the action, characters and the storylines. Best of all, they are set in the part of the U.S. that I love – the West, primarily Wyoming. So far, this one is my favorite, even though it’s set in Idaho.

The countryside in northern Idaho has changed. Ranching is no longer what it used to be, and outsiders are moving in and changing the culture. For some reason, many of the outsiders are former police officers from Los Angeles. And, they seem to have plenty of money.

Twelve-year-old Annie and her younger brother William were fishing in a backwoods stream when, unfortunately, they witnessed a murder. They followed their first instinct and ran. They are now on the run in the woods. Four men, the murderers, are attempting to find Annie and William. The children don’t know it yet, but those four men are former police officers. People they’ve been taught to trust are now the bad guys.

To make the search for the two children suit their purposes, the four former cops volunteer to lead the search. The inexperienced sheriff lets them. One of the four stays with the children’s mother so they can be there if the children should call her. She’s virtually a prisoner in her own house.

In the middle of the night the children make it to a barn where they can rest and hide. They’re on the property of one of the oldest cattle ranches in the region. Jess Rawlins is the children’s hero, though they are very skeptical at first. They just don’t know who to trust.

Eventually, Jess wins them over and they begin working on a plan. Annie, by the way, is a smart and resourceful girl. The plan is to do all they can to keep the children safe, while at the same time notifying the right authorities who will believe their story about the retired cops.

This story had additional pieces to it having to do with the banker, the new sheriff, Jess Raslins’ ex-wife and son, the investigation of a robbery, and so much more than there is room to explain here. In spite of all those pieces, this is a very fast-paced novel. It all takes place in a little over two days.

If you like a page turning story set in the modern West, this book is for you. I highly recommend it.

A Look At Judi Dench: Jane Eyre

2014 is my year to focus on Judi Dench’s movies. I’ve challenged myself to watch and review one a month. I was inspired by the actress’ performance in Philomena. I enjoyed it so much that it made me want to go back and sample as many of her best movies.

Judi In Jane EyreI decided to follow up the reading of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte by watching Judi Dench in one of the many movie adaptations. Ms. Dench plays the role of Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper at Thornfield Hall.

In the book, Mrs. Fairfax was just one of the many characters in the novel. In this movie Mrs. Fairfax/Judi Dench is a warm and comforting person. When Jane first arrives at Thornfield Hall, the only people there are Mrs. Fairfax, the servants, and Adele, the young girl Jane is to teach. So, Mrs. Fairfax is the one to welcome and take care of Jane. Mrs. Fairfax is also a bit gossipy so Jane learns about Thornfield Hall and about some of the neighbors.

Mrs. Fairfax is the one who cautions Jane prior to almost marrying Mr. Rochester. She is also the one to greet Jane as she returns to Thornfield at the end of the story. Judi Dench plays the loving, helpful elderly woman to a T. I imagine Judi Dench to be also warm and inviting in real life.

The movie version I watched was released in 2011 and directed by Cary Fuykunaga. The other stars in the movie were Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre) and Michael Fassbender (Mr. Rochester). The film was produced by Universal Films.

I like the way they mixed up the story. They started with Jane’s collapse on the doorstep of the Rivers family home. As Diana, Mary and John nursed her back to health, Jane thinks back to her life with her aunt, Mrs. Reed, and then her time at Lowood School. Finally, the story of her time at Thornfield Hall, meeting Mr. Rochester and all the subsequent events. It then focuses back on her time with the Rivers and teaching at the girl’s school. And then, finally, the conclusion of the story – the return to Thornfield Hall.

Jane & Mr RochesterThis was a well done movie. The photography was beautiful as you can see above. The visuals rounded out my reading of the story and gave me faces to go with the characters. My dvd came from the library. I was pleased to see its popularity. The library system had thirteen copies and lots of requests. Its so nice to see that the classics are still in demand.

Book Club Review: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane EyrePublished in 1847 as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography

Smith, Elder & Co. of London

Published a year later by Harper Brothers of New York

One of the book clubs I belong to read Jane Eyre in February because, well, it’s “love month.” However, once we all read the book and got together to talk about it, we barely mentioned the “love” angle. There were so many themes to talk about in Jane Eyre that we had one of our best ninety-minute discussions ever. In case you have forgotten the story-line or you are one of the two remaining women in the world who hasn’t read the book, here’s the basic plot:

When we first meet her, Jane Eyre is an orphaned girl of about ten living in England in the mid-nineteenth century. She is living with the widow and three children of her maternal uncle. None of these people care much for Jane and, in fact, the children are allowed to treat her in an abusive manner. There is one nanny who is somewhat nice to her, though there seems little love and affection.

Jane is sent away to a charity style boarding school. The school is managed by a man who believes its necessary to punish the poor. There is very little food, clothing, heat in the winter, and extremely tough punishments. Eventually, there are some reforms and Jane survives and goes on to become a teacher.

Jane longs to see some of the “outside world” so she takes a position as a governess to the ward of a wealthy man, Mr. Rochester. And, Mr. Rochester is the one who makes Jane’s heart come to life. There is lots of romantic tension – lots of does he or doesn’t he return her love.

Spoiler Alert: At this point you may want to skip down a paragraph as here is where I share some shocking news: they are both in love! Yes, that was sarcasm. This novel is the template for most romance novels that have followed. In this story, however, Mr. Rochester already has a secret wife. (She’s the crazy woman locked up in the attic.) When Mr. Rochester asks Jane to marry him, he chooses not to reveal that secret. But Jane will find out, just in time. Jane runs away from Mr. Rochester and there’s another whole section of the book about the next phase of Jane’s life.

This classic story was read by all but one member of our club in their teens or early twenties. For most of us this second reading came forty or more years later. This time around our experience was different.

The first time I read this story I was a freshman in college and it was all about the romance. I saw it then as a beautifully dramatic love story. I’ve carried that memory with me. This time the romance was secondary for me and the other members, including the one member who read it for the first time in February.

Our discussion of the book included the numerous characters, the plot and the time period of the novel. And then, as is our habit, the majority of our discussion focused on the issues in the book. We all thought it strange that we hadn’t paid attention to these things the first time around, even though back in the early 1960s we were involved in a variety of social/political issues. It must have been all about the romance.

The issues included in Jane Eyre gave us a chance to look at “then and now.” Take a look at a few and you’ll see what I mean:

  • the treatment of orphaned children – who cared for them, how were they treated?
  • the education of poor or lower class children
  • attitudes toward the poor
  • the focus of religion and morals in the lives of ordinary people (all classes)
  • the treatment of the mentally ill
  • the treatment of women (an on-going discussion in our group)

Believe it or not, but Jane Eyre gave us one of the best book club meetings we’ve had. We talked about the book for a solid ninety minutes. There were even side discussions afterward. It was a good review of how times have changed from today compared to the mid-nineteenth century. It also served as a review for members in a personal way – how much have we changed between today and when we first read this book. Overall, I/we recommend Jane Eyre as a great novel for book clubs.

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Reading this book qualifies for the following challenges:

  • Classic Club
  • Women Authors
  • Lucky 14
  • # of books read

 

Wondrous Words #245

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 words in two different sources.

First, while reading Poisoned Pen’s Newsletter,  (a bookstore’s newsletter focused on the mystery and thriller genre) I found this new-to-me word in a short review about Denise Mina’s latest book, The Red Road.

recidivist: Morrow is called to testify against Michael Brown, a recidivist offender whose prints have been found on confiscated guns.

In this sentence recidivist refers to a convicted criminal who reoffends, especially repeatedly.

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 I found my second word, actually two words together, on Amazon in a book description for The Secret Life of Pronouns by James W. Pennebaker. Now here’s a book for word-nerds.

computational linguistics: In The Secret Life of Pronouns, social psychologist and language expert James W. Pennebaker uses his groundbreaking research in computational linguistics - in essence, counting the frequency of words we use – to show that our language carries secrets about our feelings, our self-concept, and our social intelligence.

Computational linguistics is the branch of linguistics in which the techniques of computer science are applied to the analysis and synthesis of language and speech.

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: Jane Eyre

One of my book clubs likes to mix the classics in with newer books. We decided to read Jane Eyre, an old favorite. I like an old classic like this during winter time. Good to snuggle into. Here’s the first paragraph:

Jane EyreThere was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafess shrubbery an hour in the morning, but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so somber, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.

I was glad of it: I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.

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 Accident by Chris Pavone

AccidentCrown Publishing, March 11, 2014

I was really excited to be included in the TLC Book Tour for this new Chris Pavone book. And then, when I learned the plot revolved around the publishing industry, I was really over the moon. The author worked for over twenty years in publishing so I knew he would bring some of his personal experience to the book. And, he did. First, let me tell you about the story – from the publisher’s description:

In New York, in the early dawn hours, literary agent Isabel Reed is reading frantically, turning the pages breathlessly. The manuscript—printed out, hand-delivered and totally anonymous—is full of shocking revelations that could bring down one of the most powerful men in the world, and initiate a tremendous scandal implicating multiple American presidents and CIA directors. This is what Isabel has been waiting for: a book that will help her move on from a painful past, a book that could reinvigorate her career . . . a book that will change the world.

In Copenhagen, CIA agent Hayden Gray has been steadfastly monitoring the dangers that abound in Europe. His latest task is to track a manuscript—the same manuscript that Isabel is reading. As he ensures that The Accident remains unpublished, he’s drawn into an elite circle where politics, media, and business collide. On the one hand, the powerful mogul who has unlimited resources to get what he wants. On the other, a group of book professionals—an eager assistant, a flailing editor, an ambitious rights director, and a desperate publisher—who all see their separate salvations in this project. And in between, the author himself, hiding behind shadowy anonymity in what he hopes is safe, quiet Zurich.

In this tangled web, no one knows who holds all the cards, and the stakes couldn’t be higher: an empire could crumble, careers could be launched or ruined, secrets could be unearthed, and innocent people could—and do—die.

My Thoughts:

This book is a Triller with a capital T. Thrillers should make your heart rate go up and your body tense. They should force you to keep reading no matter what time it is. And, even if you should fall asleep, they should wake you up with scary dreams that make you turn on the light by your bed and keep reading. The Accident is all of that.

The story takes place over a period of twenty-four hours. There’s a sense of “hurry up” from chapter one on, although the author is so skilled in giving the reader details about both the characters and their settings. From the very beginning I had the sense that the focus of the story, the anonymously written manuscript, was important on a world-wide scale and that people could possibly die because of it’s contents. That made for loads of tension all the way through.

A real bonus for me was an inside look at the publishing industry. I choose to believe it was based on how things really work in that business. The in-house fighting and the big egos sounded similar to businesses I’ve worked in. It was just too real. Kudos also to the author for creating a smart, strong woman as his main character.

I normally have great restraint when  it comes to pacing my reading. In The Accident I had no control. It was so compelling that I just kept going. That quality is on my list for Top Books. This book is going to have no trouble making lots of people lose hours and hours of sleep. Read it. I dare you.

Chris PavoneAbout the Author:

Chris Pavone is the author of the New York Times-bestselling The Expats, winner of the Edgar Award. He was a book editor for nearly two decades and lives in New York City with his family.

Visit the author’s website at www.chrispavone.com.

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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: Chris Pavone Tour

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Book Review: Moving Target by J.A. Jance

Moving TargetPublisher: Simon & Schustee, Feb. 18, 2014

Fellow bloggers, particularly Barbara at Views From the Countryside, have been singing the praises of J.A. Jance. They love her mysteries, especially those in series format. I promised myself I would read one in 2014. Then I learned that Ms. Jance was about to publish her 50th novel. What an amazing accomplishment! When the publisher offered a review copy, I knew I had to read this one.

Moving Target is Book #9 in the author’s Ali Reynolds series. It’s an ambitious novel. There are two fairly complicated mysteries, one in England and one in Texas. Fortunately, there are two strong characters to handle the two mysteries.

Ali Reynolds has traveled with her eighty-plus year old friend/property manager to England. Leland hasn’t seen his family in decades after a fall-out with his father. Now Lance is hesitatingly returning for a family reunion. Ali is along for moral support. Ali also learns that Leland’s father died mysteriously. At one time Leland was suspected of murdering him. Now Leland wants closure and he urges Ali to help him dig into the case.

Meanwhile Ali’s fiancé B. (that’s what he goes by) is looking into the “accident” of a high school-aged young man he had helped put in jail. The young man, Lance, is a genius-level computer hacker. B. had helped track Lance down after he hacked into his school system as a protest.

When Lance is seriously burned and his legs broken, the authorities believe it was a suicide attempt. B. disagreed. He suspects a murder attempt. The question is why. Why would someone want Lance dead? B. feels responsible and personally connected. He wants to figure out what really happened and why.

The characters and the details are what makes the difference in this story. It was so well written and the author did such a great job of juggling both mysteries. While I was reading the first few chapters I thought it was going too slow, but, as I went on, I was glad the author set the stage for me. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the previous eight books. Number 9 stood alone on it’s own quite nicely.

Thanks to Barbara and all the bloggers who have recommended J.A. Jance. Now I’ll join their ranks and recommend her to you.

Wondrous Words #244

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 a couple of new words while looking up a new food. First I found this:

1.  carpaccio:  Though the menu is large, stick with the steaks and the beef carpaccio at this sleek, airy restaurant.

Carpaccio (Italians pronounce it kar-patt-o) is an Italian dish made of thinly sliced raw meats or fish served with a sauce.

Carpacco

Photo Credit

And then, I was searching through the internet for some pictures and recipes for carpaccio. I came across some reviews for restaurants that serve this dish. I found a word in one of the reviews that seemed familiar but the definition was unknown to me.

2. eponymous:  Their eponymous dish, carpaccio, is simply unsurpassed.

It seems that an eponymous dish is one that is named after a particular person. Carpaccio was named ”after Vitorre Carpaccio, the Venetian painter known for the characteristic red and white tones of his work.”  (from Wikipedia)

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 Accident

I’m reading a new thriller for a TLC Book Tour. I’m excited about sharing this first paragraph with you. I think this is how a thriller should start:

AccidentPrologue

He awakens suddenly, in terror. He spins his head around the spare room, searching the darkest shadows in the blue wash of moonlight, sitting bolt upright, head cocked, alert for noise. He reaches his hand across his body, and grabs the gun.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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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Update: The Triple Dog Dare Challenge

Triple Dog DareIn the past I’ve observed fellow book bloggers participating in this challenge. I’ve never joined before because I never thought I had enough resolve to stick with it. After all, no new books for three months seemed quite daunting.

But – I really needed something to push me into reading some of those books that have been hanging around for too long. The Triple Dog Dare was just what I needed.

It has been something of a shock to find that I could stick with the challenge. Yes, every single book I’ve read has been in my possession prior to January 1st. Even the debut and/or new novels that came from publishers arrived before the challenge began.

The good part of the challenge is that its made me think seriously about purchasing any new book. I have purchased a few books but, those few were ones I thought I absolutely had to read versus books that would be nice to read.

I’ve only noticed a couple of negative sides to the challenge. One is that I’ve had to say no to some great books for review. But then, I promised myself they would still be available after April 1st. The other negative was that I joined the Newberry Medal Winners Challenge just before the end of the year. I haven’t been able to get and read any of those books. Again I tell myself – after April 1st.

I’m feeling pretty confident about my ability to make it through the month of March. I’m getting caught up on some of my classics such as Jane Eyre and other books on my to-read list. Its made for a very comfy winter reading experience. I may have to put myself on this reading diet again next year. It does seem quite healthy.

If you’d like more information, you can find the Triple Dog Dare Challenge, hosted by James, here: Triple Dog Dare Challenge  James has moved to a new blog. You can now find him at James Reads Books.