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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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First Paragraph: The Graveyard Book

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

I’m gradually working my way through all the Newberry Medal winners. I’m almost done listening to The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Its so good I don’t want it to end. Here’s the first paragraph:

GraveyardThere was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

The knife had a handle of polished black bone, and a blade finer and sharper than any razor. If it sliced you, you might not even know you had been cut, not immediately.

The knife had done almost everything it was brought to that house to do, and both the blade and the handle were wet.

The street door was still open, just a little, where the knife and the man who held it had slipped in, and wisps of nighttime mist slithered and twined into the house through the open door.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Book Review: The Rhyme of the Magpies

Author: Marty Wingate

Publisher: Alibi, June 2, 2015

Genre: Cozy Mystery / Series: Bird of a Feather Mystery

Today its my turn to host Marty Wingate on her TLC Book Tour. Her latest book, The Rhyme of the Magpie, is the first book in a new series. Let’s start with a description of the story:

Rhyme of the MagpieWith her personal life in disarray, Julia Lanchester feels she has no option but to quit her job on her father’s hit BBC Two nature show, A Bird in the Hand. Accepting a tourist management position in Smeaton-under-Lyme, a quaint village in the English countryside, Julia throws herself into her new life, delighting sightseers (and a local member of the gentry) with tales of ancient Romans and pillaging Vikings.

But the past is front and center when her father, Rupert, tracks her down in a moment of desperation. Julia refuses to hear him out; his quick remarriage after her mother’s death was one of the reasons Julia flew the coop. But later she gets a distressed call from her new stepmum: Rupert has gone missing. Julia decides to investigate—she owes him that much, at least—and her father’s new assistant, the infuriatingly dapper Michael Sedgwick, offers to help. Little does the unlikely pair realize that awaiting them is a tightly woven nest of lies and murder.

My Thoughts:

I started out believing this book to be a cozy mystery. That’s how its classified. I find that to be a disservice to this book. Cozies have a reputation for being lightweight reading, not serious stuff. In my opinion, The Rhyme of the Magpie offers the reader a look at a young woman consciously making needed changes in her life while struggling with relationship issues, a new romance, a controversy between business and environmental issues, and yes, a mystery that needs to be solved. If that were all happening in my life, I wouldn’t call it lightweight or cozy.

I liked and felt for the main character, Julia. There were times I wanted to step in and help her out. That should tell you that character development was not a problem in this book. Last year I read the author’s first book, The Garden Plot (click the title for my review). My only complaint was that I just didn’t like the main character; I couldn’t see her as real. I’m glad I tried this new Marty Wingate novel, as characters were not a problem this time.

Another thing I liked about this book is that the author includes subjects she has a passion for. In the previous series it was gardens and this new series it’s birds. I was fascinated by the author’s use of the ancient superstition about magpies. The superstition says that, when you see magpies, count them. The number you see can predict or effect the outcome of events in your life. For example, if you are pregnant and you see three magpies, that means you’re having a girl. Here’s how the rhyme goes:

“One for sorrow, two for joy;
Three for a girl, four for a boy;
Five for silver, six for gold;
Seven for a secret, never to be told;
Eight for a wish,
nine for a kiss;
Ten for a bird that’s best to miss.”

My overall reaction to this book was very positive. Fortunately, there are more books planned featuring birds. In fact, the next book is coming in December. I suggest you read this one first.

Marty Wingate ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

About the Author:
Marty Wingate is the author of The Garden Plot and The Red Book of Primrose House, and a regular contributor to Country Gardens as well as other magazines. She also leads gardening tours throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, France, and North America.

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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:  Marty Wingate Tour Schedule

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A Golden Age Mystery: The Sussex Downs Murder by John Bude

Sussex Downs MurderOriginally Published in 1936, Re-published by Poisoned Pen Press in 2015

There isn’t much I enjoy more than reading mysteries written during the Golden Age of Mystery, the time period between the two world wars. It’s the reason I’m so obsessed with Agatha Christie’s books. This time period is a less harried time, the plots are generally like a good puzzle, the characters are often quirky, and the descriptions of  the setting is usually very realistic and detailed. They almost always include a map of the area, so its almost like I’m traveling there.

So, I was very excited to learn that the Poisoned Pen Press has received permission to print the U.S. version of some little-known Golden Age works from the British Library’s Crime Classics. (Yes, Poisoned Pen Press is connected to the famous Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.) I decided I had to check them out. The Sussex Downs Murder is the one seeming to get all the buzz, so I thought I’d read it first and see what its all about,

Its the story of the disappearance of John Rother. He and his brother William own a farm in the beautiful area of Sussex in England. Together they manage the farm and several kilns which turn chalk into lime. John left one morning for a two-week vacation, but was never seen again. His car was discovered abandoned on a road going in the opposite direction. There was a bloody hat and other blood spatters in the car, but no John.

The police are involved in a general way — looking for a missing person. Superintendent Meredith is assigned the case. When human bones are found among the bags of lime that came from the farm, he begins a serious and methodical investigation of, what he now believes, is a case of murder. There are numerous suspects and Superintendent Meredith carefully and politely checks them all out. He, of course, is not above listening to local gossip. He’ll check out every possible clue.

I like Superintendent Meredith. His solid detective work paid off. He conscientiously plodded through, focusing on who had motive and how did the murder happen, turning over one clue after the another. He even went back and re-traced his steps when he hit a brick wall. He not only was tireless, but managed to stay upbeat about following all the leads. He’s a guy who loves being a good detective.

About the Author:

John Bude is the pen name for Ernest Elmore. He was quite the prolific author, writing thirty mysteries from 1935 to 1958. He was also active in the writing community. He was one of the founding members of the Crime Writers’ Association. There were two novels prior to The Sussex Downs Murder and they both featured Superintendent Meredith. Critics feel this third book was where the author really hit his stride.

Recommendation? Oh yes, definitely. Not only did I get quirky character, a complicated plot, and a good visit to Sussex Downs, but I had the chance to help Superintendent Meredith solve the case. He kept me with him the entire time. There is one more thing: The book cover is a beautiful piece of art, don’t you agree?

Wondrous Words #303

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.

 1.  While reading Madame Bovary (my review) by Gustave Flaubert I came across this big new word:

phrenological: “ . . . and he wept, his elbows on the table, sitting in his office chair, under the phrenological head.”

Phrenological is a noun that is chiefly historical. Its the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities.

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2.  Yesterday I was reading Beth Fish Reads‘ First Paragraph post. She was quoting from The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan when I found this word:

coracles:   ”  . . . the main boat with its bobbing trail of canvas-covered coracles following like ducklings, . . . “

Coracles is a small, round boat made of wickerwork covered with a watertight material, propelled with a paddle.

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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 Case of the Invisible Dog

firstparagraphEvery Tuesday I join Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea and friends to share the first paragraph (or two) of a book I’m reading or about to read. Feel free to join the fun.

I’m reading a cozy mystery that also happens to be fun and funny. It’s The Case of the Invisible Dog by Diane Stingley. Here’s how it begins:

Case of the Invisible DogHow did I end up working for Shirley Homes? One word: desperation.

Things didn’t work out with Wyne. He’d seemed so normal when we met–a regular, simple guy. I though he was my chance to get out of my cousin Anna’s house and try on a regular, simple life. To see if I could make it work; see if I could fit in. Wayne had a good job with a good company upgrading systems for new dish receivers. Made a decent salary. Had a nice truck. At least I think it was nice. It was big and shiny and had a lot of legroom.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?

Book Review: Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Let Me Die In His Footsteps

Publisher: Dutton, June 2, 2015

This novel is already creating a lot of buzz and I’m honored to be one of the stops on it’s TLC Book Tour. The buzz is well deserved as it truly is one of those books that makes you just keep turning the pages. Here’s what its all about:

Annie is special although she sees herself as different and not in a good way. She’s taller than the other girls, has blonde hair with black eyes, but worst of all, she has “know-how.” She can see and feel things that will happen in the future.

Annie is fifteen living in Kentucky in the 1950s. As the story opens she is about to turn fifteen and a half. Tradition in her community is that, if you look into a well at the exact hour you turn fifteen-and-a-half, you will see the image of your intended husband. Unfortunately, Annie does not see an image floating on the water, but she does discover a dead body.

The story alternates back twenty years to what happened to Aunt Juna and the Baines family. No one has told her, but Annie thinks her real mother might actually be Aunt Juna. No one talks about it, but Annie has the same black eyes and blond hair as Aunt Juna and Aunt Juna also had the “know-how.” Annie just hopes she doesn’t become as evil as everyone says Aunt Juna was.

Let Me Die In His Footsteps is an amazingly intense book. To me it was very atmospheric. There’s no woo-woo stuff or anything weird. It’s that I had a strong sense of the character’s internal life as well as their external. I could smell the lavender blossoms and the ripening tobacco plants and feel the dirt swishing through my toes. Yes, I was really there!

There are so many secrets and other questions to be answered that its hard to take a break while reading. I read this book off and on over the course of about four days, some in early morning and some late at night. I would definitely recommend reading this late at night. Better yet, read it while sitting on the front porch or in a hammock hung between two trees with only a flashlight to see by. If you can manage that, I’ll wish you plenty of fire-flys for company. Ahhh, a perfect summer read.

About the Author:

Lori Roy was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas where she graduated from Kansas State University. Her debut novel, BENT ROAD, published in 2011, was awarded the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author, named a 2011 New York Times Notable Crime Book and named a 2012 notable book by the state of Kansas. BENT ROAD has been optioned for film. Her second novel, UNTIL SHE COMES HOME, was named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, and was nominated for an Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Novel. Her upcoming novel, LET ME DIE IN HIS FOOTSTEPS, will be published June 2nd. Lori also serves as treasure for the Sisters in Crime organization and is a liaison to the Author Coalition. She currently lives with her family in west central Florida.

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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: Lori Roy Book Tour Schedule

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A Classic: Madame Bovary: A Tale of Provincial Life

Madame Bovary 2

Author: Gustave Flaubert

Translation by Lydia Davis

Originally published in 1857. This translation was published in 2010

Somehow I missed reading this book in either high school or college. Its a classic that’s been floating around me for quite some time. I finally pinned myself down and put it on this year’s must-read classics list. I read it in both print and audio.

I must say to begin with, it was nothing like what I thought it would be. I’ve heard the term “Madame Bovary” used to describe a party girl or someone living a licentious life style. Maybe, if Emma Bovary lived in Paris and had lots of money, she could have pulled it off.

But, Emma was a farm girl who married a doctor and lived in the country. Basically she was a very unhappy person who sought happiness in something new. First it was the convent, then marriage, motherhood, affairs with other men and the spending of exorbitant amounts of money she didn’t have. Of course, it doesn’t end well.

It sounds like a depressing story, doesn’t it? The story, and especially Emma, were depressing. However, (and its a big however) I enjoyed the book. I couldn’t stop reading. What made this so engaging for me was the descriptive writing of Gustave Flaubert. I felt I was right there in the room or the village or countryside — wherever the story was happening, I could see, smell, feel, touch and taste everything. All the details were amazing! And, he did all that with words.

I’m really sorry I didn’t read this book earlier in my reading life. The author’s use of his words may have spoiled me for other genres. I will recommend this book to you but not if you are young. I’m not recommending ir to my teenaged granddaughter, for instance. Someone more mature, plus someone who doesn’t suffer from melancholia. Definitely read this if you are love the expert use if words,

Wondrous Words #302

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 two new interesting words this week, but not in books.

1. This first word I heard while watching a news show:  gad-fly: “The candidate has been seen by most people as a gad-fly.”

Gad-fly has two meanings, but in this case a gad-fly is an annoying person, especially one who provokes others into action by criticism.

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2.  I was reading a book blogger’s description if a character and I saw this word:  bon mot: “ . . . failed actress, successful purveyor of bon mots.”

Bon mot (prounced ˌbôN ˈmō) is a witty remark

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: Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy

I just started reading this book as I sat down to do this post. As I copied the first paragraph I couldn’t help but keep going. I’m curious to see if it appeals to you the same way.

Let Me Die In His Footsteps1953—Annie

Annie Holleran hears him before she sees him. Even over the drone of the cicadas, she knows it’s Ryce Fulkerson, and he’s pedaling this way. That’s his bike, all right, creaking and whining. He’ll have turned off the main road and will be standing straight up as he uses all his weight, bobbing side to side, to pump those pedals and force that bike up and over the hill. In a few moments he’ll reach the top where the ground levels out, and that front tire of his will be wobbling and groaning and drawing a crooked line in the soft, dry dirt.

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: Bel Canto by Anne Patchett

Bel Canto.

Author: Anne Patchett

Publisher: Harper Collins 2001

Genre: Literary Fiction

My personal summary of Bel Canto:

Once upon a time the leaders of one of the countries in South America decide to throw a lavish dinner party for a wealthy Japanese businessman. They hope to impress him so much that he will locate one of his factories in their country. It was a very fancy party and all of the most important people were invited. That included the world’s most beloved opera singer. You see, the Japanese businessman was a great lover of opera.

The evening was going along splendidly with only a couple of missteps: The president of the country did not attend and then, a large band of terrorists crashed the party and took all the guests hostage. (The terrorists snuck in through the vents.)

The terrorists stated their demands. The opposition also made demands. After a few days the women and children were released with the exception of the opera singer. The stand-off continued for weeks. Soon there was very little distinction between terrorist and captive. The only joy anyone found was in the opera.

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Anne Patchett is undoubtedly a beautiful writer. After every few paragraphs I kept saying “lovely writing.” And indeed, there is no doubt, it is a beautifully written novel. But — the story didn’t measure up. It was too fanciful. I mean, seriously, sneaking in through the vents with no one noticing? The entire group dynamics breaking down over the voice of the opera singer?

In spite of all that bothered me, I continued reading and enjoying the story. I told myself this was meant to be like a fairy tale. There was something like a “once upon a time,” and there would be a “they lived happily ever after.”

And then I hit the ending. I won’t spoil it for you other than to say I was let down. It was as if the author was tired of the story; she snapped the book shut and said, “And they lived happily ever after.”

Maybe I no longer like fairy tales. Or it could be that I prefer stories that are more realistic. It could also be that I don’t get the whole opera thing. Whatever it is, Bel Canto disappointed me. Its a shame because I’ve been looking forward to reading an Anne Patchett novel. Perhaps I picked the wrong one. Several friends have suggested I read the author’s State of Wonder. I believe I will. In the meantime, I’m afraid I can’t recommend Bel Canto.