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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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Wondrous Words #291

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 wasn’t lucky enough to find even one new word this week in my reading. Fortunately, I found a couple  of words on my Word-A-Day calendar. I found two great adjectives that I believe I can use.

1.   dolorous:  “With his dolorous songs about hard-bitten people down on their luck, Johnny Cash garnered legions of fans across generations.”

Dolorous means feeling or expressing great sorrow or distress.

______________________________________

2.   addlepated:  “Her addlepated mind flitted butterfly-like from one often unrelated subject to another.”

Addlepated means mixed up, confused or having a muddled mind.

 

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 Crossover

I’m reading The Crossover by Kwame Alexander for the second time. Yes, it’s that good! I’m not a big poetry person, but I absolutely love this book. I’m envisioning a reluctant 12-year-old reader boy with this. It’s perfect for young basketball fans. It’s the latest Newberry Award Winner (best books for children). Here’s how it begins:

Dribbling

At the top of the key, I’m
.   .   .   .    MOVING & GROOVING,
POPping and ROCKING
The Crossover2Why you BUMPING?
.   .   .   .     Why you LOCKING?
Man, take this THUMPING.
Be careful though,
‘cause now I’m CRUNKing
.    .   .   .    CrissCROSSING
FLOSSING
flipping
and my dipping will leave you.
S
.   L
.       I
.          P
.             P
.                 I
.                    N
.                         G on the floor, while I
SWOOP in
to the finish with a fierce finger roll . . . .
Straight in the hole:
Swooooooooooooosh.

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.

firstparagraph

Book Review: Night Is the Hunter

Night is the HunterAuthor: Stephen Gore

Publisher: William Morrow 2015

Genre: Crime Fiction

Harlan Donnally is a former San Francisco homicide detective, now living in northern California in a small town near beautiful Mount Shasta. An old friend, Judge Ray McMullen has come to see him so he can fish — or so he says. Harlan knows the judge has something else going on in his head. It takes two days, but finally it pours out.

Judge McMullen is disturbed by a murder case that occurred twenty years ago. The convicted man, Israel Dominguez, was sentenced to death because, allegedly, during a gun fight between rival gang members, he shot and killed one of the gang leaders.

What’s really bothering Judge McMullen is that he doesn’t think he did the right thing. He feels he didn’t do anything except agree with the jury’s findings of guilt and sentencing recommendation of death. He remembers wishing he could advice the defense attorney on how to give his client a better defense. The judge is conflicted, but he’s pretty sure that, if Dominez really committed the crime, it was not equal to first degree murder.

The judge asks Donnelly to look into the case. Donnelly is still a first-rate detective and the judge knows he can trust Donnelly’s help. As Donnelly digs in, there are two things I notice: first, Donnelly is a really good in-depth investigator and second, the author must be a really good in-depth investigator. As I learned, Steven Core is a real-life investigator! It shows — big time — in this seriously good crime novel.

In addition to following a good investigation, I liked looking at the whole justice system through the example of this case. From the police investigation, to the prosecutor’s office, to the defense attorney, to the court, this case does not seem to have been handled competently or ethically. There was a strong bias against the defendant because he was a gang member. Although I know most gang members aren’t super-clean citizens, I’d like to think that at each point in the justice system, people would want to prove, without a doubt, that he did or did not do the deed. Does the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” still exist? In practice? Lots of issues here.

I found a very engaging letter from the author on Amazon’s page for this book. You can find it here: Night Is the Hunter. I’m sure it was meant to be read before the reader starts the novel, but I read it after. It offered me a little look into the mind of the author that was so enjoyable. Here’s a quote from the letter:

What I offer readers in exchange for their willingness to engage in this manner with the characters and their struggles are hard-won perspectives on the lives of those seeking justice, on the breadth of the law of murder, on prosecutorial ethics, on judicial obligations, on the practice of capital punishment and the psychological burdens borne by who participate in it. 

My final analysis: Night is the Hunter is a great story, tight plot, very good characters and an excellent look at issues. I want my book club to read this. In the meantime I’m going to read the other Harlan Donnelly books in the series.

I want to thank the publisher for my copy of the book. Thanks also 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: TLC Book Tours

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Wondrous Words #290

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 love Masterpiece Theater and, like millions of other fans, I’ve enjoyed the latest season of Downton Abbey. I subscribe to the Masterpiece newsletter which keeps me up-to-date on all their excellent shows. A few weeks ago there was a slideshow in the newsletter about the various forms of love on this season’s Downton Abbey. It was there that I found a new-to-me word: frisson

Frisson“Rose and Atticus, in the throes of their new romance, are experiencing the frisson of attraction, the thrill of discovering new things about one another, and the excitement of imagining a life together.”

Frisson (frēˈsôN) is a noun meaning a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear; a thrill.

The slideshow was excellent. It showed other forms of love on this year’s season. You can see the slideshow here: Downton Abbey

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: Night is the Hunter: A Harlan Donnally Novel

I’m reading a very good crime novel. This is a new-to-me author but, so far, I’m enjoying it. It’s one of those that make me think deeply about the people/characters I’m meeting. Its also making me think about our entire criminal justice system. Here’s how the novel begins. See what you think.

Night is the HunterRay McMullin, standing waist deep in chest waders, leaning hard into the current, his rod bent against the steelhead’s run, wasn’t a fisherman.

It had been two days on the river and Harlan Donnally was still waiting for the aging judge to explain why he’d made the nine-hour drive up from San Francisco to the northwest corner of the state, had been willing to sleep on frozen ground and wake to sunless dawns and to stand shivering as he did now in a twisting breeze that whirled the drifting snow and swayed the redwoods lining the banks.

 

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.

firstparagraph

Book Review of a Classic: Emma by Jane Austen


Emma.
Author
: Jane Austen

Published: 1815

Genre: Classic Romance

Format: Audiobook Narrated by Flo Gibson

Emma Wodehouse is the star of this novel. She’s a beautiful young woman who has been raised in an upper class home in England in the early seventeenth century. Emma is the mistress of the house as her mother is dead and her older sister is married and living in London.

Emma is not completely alone. In addition to caring for her older, hypochondriacal father, she visits the poor and sick in the community and has a regular list of neighbors she calls upon and who call on her. Calling on people is the social norm for this group.

As the novel opens, Emma’s longtime governess and friend, Miss Taylor, is now Mrs. Weston. Emma is happy for Miss Taylor, but sad for herself. Her friend will no longer be devoting all of her time to Emma. To compensate, Emma befriends Harriet Smith and she becomes her project. Emma is determined to raise Harriet up in society and specifically to marry “properly.”

Emma chooses the vicar, Mr. Elton, to be Harriet’s future groom. Emma is skilled at nudging and manipulating both parties toward each other. There is, however, a couple of problems with her plan. Mr. Elton misunderstands Emma’s interest, and deep in her heart Harriet loves another man. Emma’s manipulations hurt Harriet and eventually herself.

There are other interesting “goings on” in the community. There is a Miss Jane Fairfax who comes to visit her aunt, Miss Bates, after a very long absence. Mr. Weston’s son, Frank Churchill, also visits after a long absence. And, Mr. Elton returns after four weeks with a very snooty wife. These changes are somewhat upsetting to Emma. Even her lifelong loyal friend, Mr. Knightly, is acting differently toward her.

Two people remain the same in Emma’s life: her father and her neighbor, the middle-aged spinster, Miss Bates. These two characters provide light humor to the story. Miss Bates constantly talks – about everything. She’s a great source of gossip, but she sees everything in a rosy, positive glow. Mr. Wodehouse, on the other hand, sees illness coming from everywhere, and not just bad weather. A baby coming to visit? Oh no, they carry too many diseases! Emma does a good job managing both of these people, with the exception of one incident.

Emma, the character, was thoroughly enjoyed observing. I didn’t like her as much at the beginning of the story as I did at the end. She grew up over the course of the novel. I think she became a better person. Emma, the novel, I also enjoyed, with the exception of the middle section. It seemed tedious with all the social chatter and machinations on the part of, primarily, the women. The novel is heavy with dialogue which I normally like. People in this book, however, talked on and on. I know its Middle English, but it was tedious.

That is my only criticism of Emma. I’m glad I read it. I also watched the movie version starring Kate Blanchett. She did a superb job of capturing Emma’s personality. I recommend both the book and the movie.

Wondrous Words #289

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.

In last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review there was an article about two books on Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. It was an interesting review of the two books (article found here), but it also gave me two new-to-me words – both in one sentence.

He was a man of a thousand American parts — novelist, stand-up comic, travel writer, impresario, capitalist, full-time celebrity and coruscating social critic — whose ear for dialogue, nuance, slang and absurdity seldom failed him.

1.   impresario:  a person who organizes and often finances concerts, plays, or operas.

2.  coruscating: flash or sparkle

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: Emma by Jane Austin

I’m long overdue for a re-read of Emma. I just started it over the weekend and, of course, I’m enjoying it. Anyone have fond memories of Emma?

EmmaEmma Woodhouse, handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence; and had lived nearly twenty-one years in the world with very little to distress or vex her.

She was the youngest of the two daughters of a most affectionate, indulgent father and had, in consequence of her sister’s marriage, been mistress of his home from a very early period. Her mother had died too long ago for her to have more than an indistinct remembrance of her caresses; and her place had been supplied by an excellent woman as governess, who had fallen little short of a mother in affection.

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.

firstparagraph

Agatha Christie: N or M?

N Or M?Publisher: Dodd Mead, 1941

As many of you know, I’m reading Agatha Christie’s novels from beginning to end. I’ve finally reached the books she published in the 1940s. To my surprise, N or M? features Tommy and Tuppence, a couple that haven’t appeared since the 1920s.

Twenty years ago they were young people just recovering from ravages of World War I. They married, solved crimes together, and went on to have a happy family life. Now, twenty years later, its 1940 and the war in England has begun. Both Tommy and Tuppence would like to be doing something, but aren’t allowed. They say Tommy is too old and that Tuppence is, well, a woman. Even though they once worked for British Intelligence, they are kept on the sidelines.

Finally, Tommy is asked to go undercover at a west coast hotel. British Intelligence wants him to figure out who in the area is actually working for German intelligence – the fifth column. Tommy is not allowed to bring Tuppence. He can’t even tell her where he is going or any of the other details.

Tuppence is not about to be left out. She very cleverly figures it out and actually gets to the hotel before Tommy does. Both of them are pretending to be someone else and, of course, cannot let on that they know each other. The hotel has some interesting people staying there. Some of them could possibly be spies. There are some locals who seem pretty suspicious as well.

Tommy and Tuppence do what they do best which is to observe the actions of people and figure out what doesn’t fit. They’re very good at people watching. They never believe people are who or what they say they are – except for a couple of times, which almost got Tommy killed.

The puzzle to be solved was a good one for a mystery reader. There were clues along the way, but unfortunately I ignored them. I had a hunch about who N was, but I completely missed the person who was M. Each of the two main characters were in some very dangerous situations. They lived, but it will be another 27 years before Ms. Christie brings them back for another adventure.

N or M? was different from most of Ms. Christie’s other novels. It was a nice change. I liked that it featured England during World War II. I also liked that it was mostly light-hearted. There was genuine humor in there, even if it was somewhat understated. I recommend you read this novel for a nice change of pace.

agatha_christie_rcIt has been five years since I first started  this challenge. N or M? is the 33rd novel I’ve read. I’ve also read 7 of her short story collections. That means I’m almost at the half-way point! I’ve decided to change my goal and read just the novels. Since there are 66 novels, my status is now 33/66 – still only half-way there. I hope it doesn’t take me another five years to finish my goal, but if it does, that’s okay. I have already read most of these books at an earlier time in my life. I enjoy them so much that it’s not a chore for me. Thanks for staying with me while I read and tell you about the books.

Book Review: The American Heiress

American Heiress

.
Author: Daisy Goodwin

Publisher: St. Martins Press, 2011

Genre: Fiction

Set around the turn of the twentieth century, the American heiress in this novel is Cora Nash, the daughter of an extremely wealthy, industrialist father and a social climbing mother.

The strongest influence on Cora is her obsessive mother. In today’s world the mother would probably be accused of child abuse. A steel rod in her daughter’s back every day for three hours? The girl couldn’t do anything that didn’t serve the advancement of her mother.

When Cora reached marriageable age she was taken to Europe. Her mother wanted a titled son-in-law to brag about. It did’t take long for Cora to meet and marry an eligible duke. Ivo, the duke Cora found, is the classic handsome, brooding bachelor duke of a crumbling English mansion. Ivo needed Cora’s money so, for him, it was a no-brainer.

There were plenty of things to complicate this romance. It started with the two mothers. I didn’t think it was possible to be as horrible as Cora’s mother, but Ivo’s mother succeeded. She was an evil witch. There were also all the normal misunderstandings that occur between a couple, but especially two people who hardly know each other.

I liked following the development of Cora from naive young woman to a bit more mature wife and mother. It was slow. It took until nearly the end of this almost 500 page novel to see it. For example, it took forever for Cora to understand how one of her so-called friends was attempting to sabotaged her and her marriage. Ivo (the duke) was not as well developed a character as Cora. For me, he was just okay.

The American Heiress wasn’t marketed as a romance novel, but it does have most of the elements of one. On the plus side, it isn’t filled with the petty squabbles that most romance novels depend upon. The novel is interesting and, in my opinion, falls more into the category of a literary fiction novel.

There were other elements to the novel that put it in the fiction category. For one, there was a small, yet good look at American and English society during that time period. Granted, it was a look at the super-rich and the old English royal system, but there was also a look at society through the eyes of Cora’s black personal maid. She experienced life differently in America and England.

There were obscene amounts of money spent on simple things like the 90 dresses for Cora’s trousseau – dresses only to be worn once. There were corsets purchased that would pay the salary of Cora’s maid for 20 years! Those obscenities disturbed me.

Overall, it was an interesting story to experience. It wasn’t something I could say I loved, but it was a good story.