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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Newberry Medal Winner 2011: Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Moon Over ManifestAccording to Ruth Graham in a recent Slate.com article, I should be embarrassed to be reading YA and/or children’s books. I don’t know Ms. X, but her bullying tactics mean nothing to me. I love reading good books no matter what the age of the intended reader. I especially love reading the same books my grandchildren read.

Today I’m featuring a book that the American Library Association believes was the top book for children in 2011. Guess what, Ms. Graham? The library lets anyone check out the books – even women in their seventies! Here’s Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool:

It’s 1936 and twelve-year-old Abilene finds herself in Manifest, Kansas for the summer. Abilene and her dad have moved around a lot, just trying to survive. With the Great Depression times are tough everywhere. But now, Abilene’s dad sends her to stay with his old friend Shady while he takes a railroad job. She’s not even sure he’ll come back for her at the end of the summer.

But, one night Abilene finds a cigar box hidden under a loose floorboard in her bedroom. Inside the box she finds some small mementos, a spy map, and a stack of old letters that mention a local spy named The Rattler. This is just what Abilene needed to spark her interest in the people of this hot and dusty little town.

Soon Abilene makes friends with Lettie and Ruthanne. The three girls are off on a secret mission to find the spy known as The Rattler. They know they are on the right track when a notice is attached to the tree house. It says: Leave Well Enough Alone. Of course, the girls are even more determined to solve this mystery.

Abilene is reluctant but willing to call upon Miss Sadie, the reclusive older woman who lives behind the wrought-iron gate that says “Road to Perdition.” The house looks very strange and Abilene is scared. She’s been told that Miss Sadie is a gypsy fortune-teller.

Abilene discovers that Miss Sadie is actually a diviner, a person who has the ability to read nature. It seems to Abilene that Miss Sadie can also read her mind. It is from Miss Sadie’s storytelling abilities that Abilene learns the meaning of the items in the hidden cigar box. The letters in the box, from Ned to Jinx, parallel the stories Miss Sadie tells.

From Miss Sadie’s stories, the clues, and a bit of sleuthing, Abilene and her friends are able to solve the mystery behind all the secrets in the letters, the mementos, and in the town of Manifest itself. By the end of the summer Abilene is able to come to terms with her own personal questions as well.

Chapters in Moon Over Manifest alternate between the happenings in 1936 and 1918. They are told from Abilene’s perspective as well as the narrative of Miss Sadie’s stories. Interspersed are columns from the local newspaper and letters from Ned to Jinx. The technique works well. It keeps the story moving quickly.

I don’t think it was meant to be humorous or nostalgic but that’s how I saw it. Middle readers, however, will probably see it as good historical fiction with a touch of mystery and adventure thrown in. My only negative was that part of the ending seemed just a little bit too pat. It’s a minor part and shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying this story.

Okay, tell me the truth. Do you read children’s and/or young adult books? If so, do you feel embarrassed by it?

Book Review: The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Food in Three Easy, Empowering Days

There’s something enticing about a book on health that promises a makeover in a few short days. I’m a sucker for it. When I saw the title for this book, The 3-Day Reset: Restore Your Cravings for Healthy Foods in Three Easy, Empowering Days, I wanted to read it.

On further inspection I learned that the book offered me a chance to work on some specific areas in my diet that I’ve been concerned about, namely salt, sugar, and beverages. The premise of the book is that if I concentrate for three days on changing how I consume one ingredient at a time, I could go on to a healthier lifestyle. I decided to try it. Before I tell you about my experience, let me share the book’s overall description:

3 Day Re-SetEating healthy can be a struggle. It’s hard to choose broccoli and brown rice instead of hot, cheesy pizza. And diets often ask you to cut out different foods all at once, leaving you feeling deprived.

In The 3-Day Reset, Pooja Mottl outlines 10 simple ways you can change your cravings and start eating whole, healthy, delicious foods—three days at a time. Each reset takes only 72 hours to complete, which means you’ll be able to stay focused on healthy eating from start to finish.

Resets include: sugar, wheat, salt, chocolate, yogurt, chicken, beverages, breakfast, salad, and takeout.

Accessible, fun, engaging, and packed with over 30 delicious recipes, pantry makeover lists, shopping guides, tidbits on food history, and other smart tools, The 3-Day Reset will set you on the course to healthy eating… and help you stay there for good.

One of the first things I had to learn is what WAMP stands for. There are sentences like this one that puzzled me until I finally learned the anagram: “Opt for dishes that are fresh and as WAMP as possible.” WAMP means: Whole And Minimally Processed foods are the best  ones for you. WAMP = Good.

Once I knew the guiding principle and breezed through the introductory chapters, I started in on the 3-Day Resets. Since my latest lab work at the doctor’s office showed my sodium level to be a bit high, I decided to start with salt. It’s not necessary to go through the chapter/resets in order. I skipped straight to the Salt Reset.

I actually learned quite a bit about salt. Did you know there is a ton of salt in what we eat at breakfast? Oatmeal, boxed cereals and bagels are all high in sodium. I didn’t know that. I was further surprised to learn salt is even in pudding mixes, jello, frosting and caramel. All the information in this section really got my attention.

After the shocking part, I learn the good alternatives for regular salt. For the Salt Reset there were a few easy changes I could make. Then I went on to the instructions for the three days. Following that, I found a shopping list and a few recipes that I could try during my reset. Finally, I put it all into practice for a little over three days.

I particularly liked the author’s directions for each of the three days. She offered suggestions for things to eat at each meal that would fit into my diet. For instance, she suggested breakfast consist of eggs and low-sodium toast rather than cereal or bagels. For lunch she suggested salads rather than sandwiches with processed meats.

My first 3-Day Reset with Salt went very well. I didn’t have any trouble. The same thing is true for the Sugar Reset. I found the author’s suggestions very helpful. My only concern is with the extra expense. For example, maple syrup crystals is one of the substitutes for refined sugar, and I found  it to be almost three times the cost of the plain old white stuff. On the other hand, could that be part of the cure? If the good stuff costs so much, maybe I won’t be eating much of any of it!

I also tried the Beverage Reset. I was not quite as successful here. I am a serious caffeine addict and three days wasn’t enough time for me to kick the habit. I did manage to cut back, but I probably need 33 days or a major intervention. On the other hand, do I really want to stop? (no)

Next I’m going to work on the Yogurt, the Salad, and the Chicken Resets. I want to learn some new ways of incorporating them in my diet. Overall, I thought the whole idea of concentrating on one food item at a time was a smart way to go. The author has designed the book to be informative and positive, not preachy or anything to make you feel bad about yourself. She simply offers easy and encouraging steps to take to make your life better. Give this one a try.

You can connect with the author, Pooja Mottl, at her website, 3dayreset,com and on Facebook.

I’d like to thank the publisher and TLC Book Tours for my copy of the book. A complete schedule of the tour is HERE.

I’m linking this post to Weekend Cooking, sponsored by Beth Fish Reads. Click the button to link to her blog.


Wondrous Words #258

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 have one new word to share this week. It’s monopsony. I discovered it while reading the monthly newsletter from The Poisoned Pen, the Phoenix area bookseller that specializes in mystery books. In the newsletter I came across this sentence:

“To read a terrific article with some numbers as well as analysis, click here.

And learn what a monopsony is.”

I was curious so I clicked the link and discovered a New York Times story about the conflict between Amazon and the Hachette publishing group. In the article there was an explanation by no other than my favorite Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor. When she was sitting on a lower court she said this about monopsony:

“ . . . monopsony is the “mirror image” of monopoly. Unlike a monopoly, which occurs when a seller of goods has the power to unlawfully raise prices of what it sells, a monopsony occurs when a buyer of goods has the power to unlawfully lower the prices of what it buys.

The rest of the article is very enlightening. If you have time, it’s worth reading. To see my book review of Sonia Sotomayor’s book My Beloved World, click here.

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: Moon Over Manifest

firstparagraph 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. As readers we are often captivated or turned away by that first paragraph or two. Let’s see what you think about the first paragraph of my current read.

I’m reading Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. It was the Newberry Medal winner in 2011. Althouh its meant for middle-schoolers, I’m loving it. Here’s how it begins:

Moon Over Manifest The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I knew only from stories. The one just outside of town with big blue letters: MANIFEST: A TOWN WITH A RICH PAST AND A BRIGHT FUTURE.

I thought about my daddy, Gideon Tucker. He does his best talking in stories, bur in recent weeks, those had become few and far between. So on the occasion when he’d say to me, “Abilene, did I ever tell you about the time . . ?” I’d get all quiet and listen real hard. Mostly he’d tell stories about Manifest, the town where he’d lived once upon a time.

What do you think?

Would you keep reading?


I’m On a Sewing Binge and I’m Listening to Great Audiobooks

The last three weeks I’ve been on a sewing binge and, for me, a sewing binge means audiobooks. What am I sewing? What am I listening to?

I’m primarily sewing things for an upcoming camping trip in the mountains. I made two sarapes, one for my husband and one for my youngest daughter. They are both made of fleece. I also made, out of fleece, a sleeping bag liner for myself. High mountain camping can be very cold, even in the middle of summer. Fleece fabric is lightweight yet warm enough to make the difference.

Audiobooks go so well with long hours of sewing. I put audios on my iPod for all sorts of mobile jobs like weekly housecleaning and laundry. With sewing, its a little bit different. There are times when I really need to focus on the task. At those times I push the pause button. When it comes to sewing the long seams, I push play. I love the combination of the sewing machine’s hum and the voice of a narrator reading a story just for me.

The first two weeks I read/listened to John Grisham’s latest novel, Sycamore Row. It was both comforting and fun listening to everyone speak in their beautiful Mississippi accents.The book has some of the same characters as in Grisham’s first big best seller, A Time to Kill. It’s also the same setting. I’ll tell you all about Sycamore Row in a week or so. (Right now I have to keep sewing.)

This last week I listened to two of Robert Parker’s “Old West” novels. Robert Parker is famous for his Spenser series and his Jesse Stone series. But, I like this little mini-series of four books centered around two characters that could only come out of the lawless Old West: Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch.

Everett Hitch, my favorite, is the narrator and commentator. He’s a West Point graduate who served in the army only five years. Since then, he’s roamed all around the west doing a variety of things. Lately, he’s been the “law” in small-town western tons.

We don’t know much about Virgil Cole’s earlier years. What we know now is that he is well known for his skill with the gun. But, Cole is more than that. He knows how to read people and situations and he can usually talk down an explosive situation.

AppaloosaIn Appaloosa Hitch and Cole come together in a town named Appaloosa. They have been hired by the town council to keep things calm. The previous marshall was shot when he tried to arrest the hired hans of a powerful rancher.

Cole and Hitch successfully arrest the rancher. He has a jury trial, is convicted and sentenced to hang. The rancher hires gunmen to break him free. A long scary chase through Indian territory follows. There’s a big shoot-out, another escape, and another big shoot-out. In the middle of all this there is a woman that Cole falls for, although he really shouldn’t.



ResolutionResolution continues the saga of Cole and Hitch. This one, however, gave me a bit to think about. Resolution is a town with no law whatsoever. The community makes a living off a lumber mill, a mine, and the homesteaders. There are two saloons in town that compete for business. One of the saloon owners, Wolfson, also owns the general store and the hotel. He hires Everett Hitch to keep order in his rowdy saloon. Hitch does just that and is soon settling disputes among all of the town’s residents.

Hitch left Cole back in Appaloosa, but he soon joins Hitch. It’s a good, thing because Wolfson (the saloon owner) finds himself in a fight with the other saloon owner in town. Thanks to Hitch and Cole, Wolfson eliminates the competition. Now he decides he wants to take over the land of the homesteaders, the mine and the lumber mill. Soon Cole and Hitch have to decide who’s side they are on and what is the honorable thing to do. They get a little help from reading Russeau’s The Social Contract.


These two books were excellent company as I sewed. Titus Welliver was the reader and did a superb job with the speech patterns and the accents. The stories also made me think about the basics of living together and why laws are important. (Especially Resolution.) I highly recommend these books for lovers of Westerns and lovers of Historical Fiction. You’ll like going back to those old days.

Published by Putnam Adult in 2005 and 2008.

Book Review: The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach

Art of FieldingThe Art of Fielding is a look at a year in the lives of a few people at a fictional college in Wisconsin. It’s centered around players on the baseball team, plus the college president and his daughter.

The story begins with the shortstop, Henry. Henry’s idol is a big-league shortstop who has set a record and has also written a book on the “art of fielding.” Henry lacks self-confidence. He doesn’t believe he’s a great player, but he loves the game and spends a lot of time practicing.

Henry is discovered by Mike Schwartz, a college jock who plays both football and baseball. Mike sees Henry’s talent and sincerely believes Henry is what the college team needs to be a winning team. Mike recruits Henry, and Henry comes to the college on a scholarship. Mike works like a coach to help Henry succeed.

Henry’s roommate is Owen, also a baseball player. Owen is a gorgeous gay guy and the object of lust by quite a few guys, although not his fellow baseball players. A big part of the story revolves around him.

The Art of Fielding is a book I never would have read except for the fact it was a book club choice. It wasn’t my choice, but others read my picks and so it’s only fair to read theirs. I’m not a baseball fan but I am a sports fan, so I figured I could handle it. And finally, I figured an in-depth look at the lives of a few college students would be interesting.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really like any of the characters. At the beginning of the book they seemed fairly typical of college students. But soon they all diminished in my eyes. They seemed to make stupid choices and I ended up just feeling sorry for them. The character that didn’t make sense to me was the college president. He was a smart guy but his lust for Owen made him do some stupid things.

If the author wrote a sequel showing me how they handled post-college life, I’d probably read it. Maybe this college year was just their year for making mistakes. I’d like to think they went on to lives that had purpose and meaning and involved giving to others.

I will say it was beautifully written. I just didn’t like the characters. Our book club members were split fifty-fifty. As for me, I can’t recommend it.

Published by Little Brown & Company, 2011

Wondrous Words #257

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 words this week come from two different sources. This first word is from the book Moving Target by J.A. Jance.

wunderkind: Lance was some kind of juvenile computer wunderkind who had gotten himself into major difficulties when he . . .

Wunderkind is a person who achieves great success when relatively young.


My next word came from our very own fellow Wondrous Word Wednesday participant, MaryAnn at Tribute Books Mama. In her Wondrous Word post last week she said her new words came from her current read, The Metaxy Project. What in the world is metaxy?

Metaxy is defined in Plato’s Symposium via the character of the priestess Diotima as the “in-between” or “middle ground.” The Metaxy Project by Layton Green is the title of a thriller that is part legal, a little paranormal, and a few other things as well. Thanks MaryAnn for the new word.

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 Art of Fielding

This week I’m featuring The Art of Fielding by  Chad Harbach.   It’s one I’m reading for book club. Here’s the first paragraph:

Art of FieldingSchwartz didn’t notice the kid during the game. Or rather, he noticed only what everyone else did—that he was the smallest player on the field, a scrawny novelty of a shortstop, quick of foot but weak with the bat. Only after the game ended, when the kid returned to the sun-scorched diamond to take extra grounders, did Schwartz see the grace that shaped Henry’s every move.

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 and TV Review: Walt Longmire is Back

Cold DishThe first time I read this book, I devoured it. I loved the setting and the main character, Sheriff Walt Longmire. I was excited when TNT picked up Craig Johnson’s novels and made them into a TV series called Longmire. So far, the TV series has kept close to the original books as far as characters, setting and style is concerned. They have, of course, had to create more stories.

The third season starts on Monday, June 2nd. I’m looking forward to it. To remind myself of why I like all these characters so much, I decided to go back and re-read the first book, Cold Dish. Re-reading let me see again the depth to the character of Walt Longmire. It reminded me of how much I love Henry Standing Bear, Walt’s oldest friend.

The title “Cold Dish” refers to the ancient quote: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.” In this story we look back at an event that occurred a couple of years earlier. Four teenage boys participated in a violent rape of a mentally retarded Indian girl. The boys were released on probation or only served very light sentences.

Injustice is still fresh in the minds of the community when one of the boys is murdered. Evidence at the crime scene suggests a member of the tribe did it. As Walt and his team investigate, another boy is killed. The pressure is on to find the killer before all four boys die.

Walt only has three deputies but, his best one is Vic. She is a ballistics specialist and former cop from big cities back east. In the book Vic is smart (and smart-mouthed) and knows a lot about being a professional law-efforcement officer. She is played perfectly by Katee Sackhoff on the TV series. The actress obviously read the books and understands what makes up the personality of Vic.

Vic and Henry are an enormous help to Walt in solving this mystery. But ultimately, it’s Walt who has a hunch about who the real killer is.

I like the TV series because it gives good visual images to the characters and the small town. But nothing beats the books! If you don’t read the books you miss the numerous jokes and sarcastic comments Walt Longmire throws out. You also miss how faithful Henry is to his friend when he is down. Henry helps many other people as well in quiet, non-showy ways. If anything, the TV series needs to give Henry more story time.

Craig Johson has written eleven Longmire novels. If you like the TV series, you’ll really love the books. Re-reading his first book was a good choice for me. It was fun, satisfying, and a good way to spend  time with some great characters. I even changed my rating this time around. Now I see it as a A/5-star book.

Two Books That Made Me Laugh

Last week, while at the library, I saw an audiobook display of humor books. I picked up a few and came home prepared to laugh. Here are two that appealed to me the most:

Author: Stephen Colbert
Publisher: Grand Central, 2012
Genre: Humor

I occasionally watch the Colbert Report on the Comedy Channel. Stephen Colbert plays the part of a super-conservative who rants against supposed injustices in America. He’s a genius at what he does. I know the big question now is how he will do when he replaces Dave Letterman. I assume he will play himself rather than the role he plays on his show.

Colbert is the narrator on this audiobook. He does an excellent job of reading the book. He gives it a personal feel when he clears his throat and makes little comments right to the audiobook audience. Below is the book description. This should give you a little taste of what the book is like.

America Again
Book store nation, in the history of mankind there has never been a greater country than America. You could say we’re the #1 nation at being the best at greatness.

But as perfect as America is in every single way, America is broken! And we can’t exchange it because we’re 236 years past the 30-day return window. Look around–we don’t make anything anymore, we’ve mortgaged our future to China, and the Apologist-in-Chief goes on world tours just to bow before foreign leaders. Worse, the L.A. Four Seasons Hotel doesn’t even have a dedicated phone button for the Spa. You have to dial an extension! Where did we lose our way?!

It’s high time we restored America to the greatness it never lost!

Luckily, AMERICA AGAIN will singlebookedly pull this country back from the brink. It features everything from chapters, to page numbers, to fonts. Covering subject’s ranging from healthcare (“I shudder to think where we’d be without the wide variety of prescription drugs to treat our maladies, such as think-shuddering”) to the economy (“Life is giving us lemons, and we’re shipping them to the Chinese to make our lemon-flavored leadonade”) to food (“Feel free to deep fry this book-it’s a rich source of fiber”), Stephen gives America the dose of truth it needs to get back on track.



Author: Jenny Lawson
Publisher: Amy Einhorn; Putnam, 2012

Jenny Lawson has a sqeaky, childish voice that, at first, put me off. Her liberal use of the f-word also put me off. But, for some reason, her story grew on me and I gave my heart to the little girl she’d been. To hear her tell it, she lead a very bizarre childhood. This book was laugh-out-loud-funny. This book is also perfect for audio. She talks directly to the audio audience, svn describing the pictures in the book. Here’s the book description:

Let's Pretend
Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 New York Times bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor. Chapters include: “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”; “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.” Pictures with captions (no one would believe these things without proof) accompany the text.(less)