Ethel, You Slut! Wednesday, May 27 2009 

One of Auntie M’s favorite spring things is the birds that live here.  I enjoy watching birds in nature, although I would never want one in a cage in my house, but love to see them flying and feeding their babies.  I filled the hummingbird feeders two days ago and saw they were already empty today.

Right now we have blue birds nesting along with the chatty purple martins in their apartment houses, pilated woodpeckers with their unusual crest pecking away at a high pine tree, and jaunty red-winged blackbirds eating out of our feeder.   The cardinals are here and there, and the quail, too.

But the ducks, Fred and Ethel, ,who live on our pond and frequent our walkway along the river are the bane of our Spinone Radar’s existence.   A true bird hound, he lives to point and skulk up to them, then burst upon them, scaring them into the river.  He will dart into the river and swim them far away from our dock.  NO duck poop allowed here, says the balloon over his head.

On occasion a second male we call Desi will join them, the trio waddling along the concrete cap on our bulkheading, Fred squawking whenever Desi gets too close to Ethel.   This was the original menage a  trois.

Today Radar was slumbering peacefully on our porch when the high alert came on.  I was folding wash and watching him as he picked up his head, his large nose and flews going in and out as the duck scent reached him.  He wheeled his head around and stood at attention, which quickly became a point.  But today he, well, he moaned. Which quickly became a low hound howl.

I went onto the porch to see the cause of his distress.  There in all her glory was Ethel, proudly waddling along the bulkheading with Fred, along with–not just Desi, but three MORE new males, all lined up and following her placidly.  She honked repeatedly, cussing them out she looked over her shoulder and their line faltered.

How she attracted these males–all widowers?– is a mystery.  Of course, Radar slunk down the stairs and interrupted their promenade, sending all six ducks into the river, and followed that up by swimming them down to a neighbor’s dock.  Where she is probably sunning herself now, surrounded by the glory of all of that male attention.

Guess I’ll have to come up with three more male names.

The Calling Sunday, May 24 2009 

For those of you who haven’t been to DearReader.com yet, head on over. This neat site gives you categories to choose your from, then each week the openers of the book of the week.  I would never have found Inger Ash Wolfe’s The Calling if not for this site.

The first mystery in this novel is that of the author.  The end page, sans photo, merely says: “Inger Ash Wolfe is the pseudonym for a North American literary novelist.”  Articles and blogs abound about the identity of this author, ranging from Margaret Atwood to Ian Rankin.  One email interview with the author explains her wanting to write crime suspense to stand alone without comparison to her other novels.  She explains she feels the old argument about genre fiction as the stepchild of literary fiction is ‘mostly illusory’ and this novel shows she is right.

Whether or not that mystery will be solved soon, rest assured that The Calling is crime suspense at its finest.  I can’t really call it a mystery, for we are aware of the murderer from the outset.  We think we know who he is; it is the why of his serial murder spree that must be nailed down.  His methods are at odds from traditional serial killers, making him difficult to trace.  An escalation in the crimes is what leads to their connection.

Set in the rural area north of Toronto, the small town of Port Dundas has never quite seen a crime to match that of the murder of cancer victim Delia Chandler and it falls into the lap of  61 year old Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef, a cranky, overweight detective we love at first sight.  Hazel is nursing a bad back that needs surgery, taking painkillers and trying to find food beyond the egg white omelets her mother cooks for her.  Divorced after 36 years of marriage, children grown and away, Hazel’s company these days is this widowed ex-mayor of the town, a formidable woman in her own right.

What I loved about this book was the voice Wolfe gives to her characters, large and small, averting the usual conventions of the genre without obliterating any of the suspense.  It makes for an original and riveting read, one I couldn’t put down.

I am happy to report word has it that Wolfe has finished Hazel’s second novel and I, for one, will be on the lookout for it.  Highly recommended.

The Dark and the Light Wednesday, May 20 2009 

Auntie M found herself running to The Emerald City in a horrendous rainstorm the other day. (If anyone can ‘run’ to Greenville, NC, 1 hr 45 mins from us.)  My goal was a new twin mattress for the hospital bed for Doc from Sam’s, inexpensive but definitely a comfort level above the one he’s on.

I listened on the way in to the offerings on NPR; after Car Talk and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, I heard a great interview with Kenneth Branagh about his role as Kurt Wallender, the Swedish detective, in the Mystery series currently playing on our PBS station.  He filled out background of his approach to the role, which I appreciated when I saw the next installment later that evening. (He also mentioned he is now working on the next three in the series for those of you have become addicted to the brooding Swede and the sepia landscape.)

But on the way home, the offerings were slim and I hit the CD button.  Now I must mention I was driving Doc’s rather long, enclosed pickup truck so I could cart the mattress home.  So it would be his choice of music I listened to.  After surfing through the six slots, he only had one filled.  Leonard Cohen filled the cab, one of Doc’s favorites.  Maybe it’s because they share a birthday that he feels a kinship with LC, but he owns every one his recordings, plus two books he’s written.  I personally think it’s because they are both depressives–ever really listen to his lyrics, lovely as they are?  I’m the eternal optimist, the glass half-full person, but Doc needs the occasional elbowing to be up. We are the truism of opposites attracting.

The first time I really became aware of LC, Doc and I were in Quebec.  We’d traveled to Montreal for a medical conference and continued to the Old City for four days of vacation afterward as it was my birthday.  It was very special because although we had been seeing each other for months, we had done so discreetly outside the hospital where we both worked.  This was our first public appearance together in front of his colleagues, many of whom had driven up the Northway from Long Island, as we had, to attend this popular convention.  I don’t think we’d really fooled anyone in our reticence, but I was warmly welcomed at the convention and we left for our time alone in Quebec on a romantic high.

I remember being entranced with the old world charm of the Chateau Frontenac and the city itself.  We ate dinner there on my birthday in their elegant restaurant while a harpist played softly (my favorite instrument and the one I wished I knew how to play).  As the waiter brought our dessert, he placed a plate in front of me with a small silver case.  Inside were a pair of tiny vintage diamond earrings Doc surprised me with–you can believe I was over the moon.

The next day, wearing my new sparklers proudly, it snowed heavily and after a walk had turned out noses to icicles, we found ourselves lingering over huge steaming bowls of chocolat chaud, talking about our future, our three sons and how they were reacting to our new relationship, and listening to the background music.  A gravel-voiced man sang in English, and as the tape repeated itself, I realized his lyrics were very poetic.  I’d only known LC as the writer of Judy Collins famous song “Suzanne,” so to hear him ‘singing’ his own songs was intriguing.  I don’t think I noticed then how depressive most of them were; I was too in love with the man beside me and the moment.

Fast forward twenty some odd (and married for 18) years later, and this CD brought back that memory.  Forget that we have had our disappointments and our losses, our heartache and our pain.  Who in a marriage of any length hasn’t?  What we still have is an enormous love and respect for each other that has weathered the storms we’ve faced together.   That afternoon of romance and a new future stretching out before us, the hopes and dreams we shared, all are caught up for me whenever I hear Leonard Cohen.  And I realized it must be that way for Doc, too, as he had chosen to keep LC in his only filled slot.

Posed for Murder Tuesday, May 19 2009 

I  read Meredith Cole’s Posed for Murder out of sheer curiosity.  She was the winner of the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition sponsored through St. Martin’s Press-Minotaur Books.  I’d entered one of my own and it didn’t make the cut, so I wanted to see what did.

At first the premise was kind of creepy: a young NY photographer has mounted her first big gallery show, based on unsolved murders.  She’s used friends to recreate the settings and toned them out to black and white images.  Her aim is to draw attention to the nameless victims.

Then I remembered the recent MFA graduation I’d attended of one of my Screw Iowa Writers Group members.  Whilst Mariana’s English mystery was very readable and entertaining, one of her fellow students had done his thesis as a series of poems based on murders, the victims sometimes recounting their last moments.  Now THAT was creepy.

Once I launched into the novel, it got more interesting, as the protagonist Lydia McKenzie describes the different vibes in her Brooklyn neighborhood, and one of Lydia’s friends and models for a photo is murdered–and found in just the same pose as is hanging on the gallery wall.

Lydia gets involved after being questioned and suspected by the detectives on the case.  A nice side bit is her interest in vintage clothing.  And is there a glimmer of romance with the male detective?  We’ll see in the next volume, as this is surely the start of a series.

Great summer reading, fast and enjoyable.

Mrs. Fixit and other Stuff Friday, May 15 2009 

Since Doc has been down, Auntie M has been dealing with most of those household chores he does that I never give a second thought.  Like changing the filters on our water system.

Having a well means that our drinking water tastes like the salt we use in its first filter–its potable but doesn’t taste so good.  And as for using it for tea, coffee or anything other than pasta water, definitely not so good.  Ditto our ice maker.

The filtration system that makes it taste good to drink has been down this entire week.  The filters needed to be changed.  How difficult could this be?  Wednesday afternoon, I head up to the attic with Doc’s directions written down. I go through the steps.  I purge and empty and screw in new filters.  Done.  Wait two hours.  Make dinner.  Check the system.  No water.

Thursday, after a repeated consultation, I go upstairs this time armed with a two-way radio.  From his hospital bed downstairs Doc talks me through it.  Done.  Wait two hours.  No water.  This time I noticed an unplugged plug, but he assures it should be unplugged.

Today, armed with the radios again and the instruction booklet (yes, he had it all the time) I go upstairs.  I consult the book.  I look at the machinery before me.  And immediately see the problem I’ve been having: remember that unplugged plug that wasn’t necessary?  This is true, but that is because THAT goes to the ‘older’ system, which is the one I have been changing the filters on for the past two days.  It is no longer in use. I did NOT know there is a ‘newer’ system, in a different case, sitting on the floor in an enclosed innocuous plastic case, beneath the old one.  AHA!

With the instruction booklet in hand, I now follow the steps ON THE CORRECT APPLIANCE.  They are clear and show diagrams and pictures.  They do NOT mention that you can catch your pinky finger and almost decapitate it, but nonetheless,  and despite a minor flood, voila! two hours later, pure, tasty water.  Ice maker turned back on.  Clear water for cooking dinner tonight.

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

In other news, Auntie M hit a wall earlier this week.   I got up and told Doc I just didn’t feel right–But couldn’t explain why.  Trying hard to finish a scene so I could get my pages out to my Screw Iowa buddies for reading before our June workshop, I gave Doc lunch, went back to the computer, and my eyes felt like they were going to fall out of my head.  My head spun, which made me nauseated. I had to sleep, at just that minute.   I told Doc I was just going to “lie down for a bit.”  Six hours later when I surfaced, he’d called Mom to come out and handle dinner so I could stay in bed.

So I did.  That night and into the next day, I slept and she brought me tea and English muffins, took care of Doc, and generally let me get over whatever hit me.  By the next night I was feeling better, and when she left the next morning,  I thanked her profusely.  Really, she gets to me sometimes, but she really knows how to pitch in when I need her.

Just as she was leaving I bent over to pick up her bag, giving her a good broadside view of my fat ass bottom.  I kissed her thanked her again.  Couldn’t have done it without her.  She smiled and gave me this parting shot: “Your pants are stuck in your crack.”

Gotta love that woman!

The Anniversary Tuesday, May 5 2009 

Yesterday day was Auntie M and Doc’s wedding anniversary–18 years official + 5 living together = 23 years we’ve been merging our lives.

We’re having a low fence built around our hot tub to keep dogs and Grands out, so that is our gift.  But I did have a card for him.  Being bedridden didn’t allow for shopping, so I wasn’t expecting one from him.

Doc has been battling a bad GI bug; no stamina and low resistance after the last 4 1/2 months left him unable to fight this off.  He lost 13 pounds in ten days (no, I don’t know why this is that men can lose weight so quickly.  It is totally unfair).  But he decided to soldier on and wanted to go to Physical Therapy, despite stomach pains and general weakness.  I can’t talk him out of it.   So here is how our anniversary went:

We leave house a bit later than usual in the morning as Doc is in slo-mo.  Get to post office, nine miles away, and he remembers we need to do some banking.  Did he tell me this before we left home?  No.  And I’ve left the checkbook home.  Back home and restart out.

We’re close to the hospital in town when he tells me to hurry a bit, he needs to get to the bathroom. We make it in time, but the therapist takes one look at his gaunt face and hollow eyes and says, “No PT for you today.  You need to see the doctor.”

Now our doctor’s office is literally across the street from the hospital, so I get him from the bathroom and push the wheelchair across the street and up the ramp. This is no mean feat as most of this road is gravel.  Our doc’s office is slammed.  And it’s close to closing time for lunch.  His nurse comes out and tells us our doctor wants us to go to the ER and get some IV fluids and he’ll see us there.

Back down the ramp, across the road, push the wheelchair up another ramp and into the ER, where the nurses know us and joke they are going to name a room after Doc.  Once he gets set up and the IV in, gets snuggled under a warm blanket, he relaxes and I see how pale his face is.  He needs these fluids.  Our doc comes in and tells him he’ll need a second liter and then we can go home.  His blood tests are good, just show the dehydration, and the test for an ulcer is negative.  Doc apologizes for ruining our day. I tell him as long as we are together, it doesn’t matter.  I almost mean it.

Doc sends me to get some lunch with my mom, who lives in town and frequently stops in at PT to say hello.  They, of course, sent her to the ER.  On our way back from eating a quick burger, she has me stop at her house to pick up the dozen pink roses she bought for our big day.  They are really pretty and perk me up.  When I get back to the ER, I open all the windows so the roses won’t die, as it’s warm and in the 80’s.

Two hours later, the second liter is running. (You can’t jam this stuff in  or you overload the patient’s heart, not a good thing.)  We joke about spending our anniversary in the ER.  Doc has eaten a decent lunch after they gave him meds for the stomach pains and dozes off.  I hear a loud noise from outside as the lights flicker and go out.  In a minute the generator starts and we have lights again, but a raging thunderstorm with pea-sized hail is going on outside.

This is what the locals in NC call a ‘frog guzzler’ a real soaker with rain so fast and furious you can’t see the cars in the parking lot.  The same lot where my truck is parked. With its windows open for the roses.  . .

An hour later we are good to go.  The hail has stopped, but it’s still raining a steady downpour.  I run to the vehicle swathed in plastic the ER nurses give me and have to wade through a puddle that soaks my Birki’s and wets my jeans halfway up my leg.  I use towels to try to dry the seats.  They bring Doc to the front door where an overhang gets him in without incident.  All set to go.

We stop at the pharmacy and I run inside to fill his scripts.  But wait, the lights in town are out, remember?  So the pharmacist can’t get online to do anything.  He is, however, a good friend and gives me a few of the stomach pills to hold us over.  Back through the rain to the truck.  I am so wet by now, my jeans have wicked the rain up to my knees and my shirt is soaked through.  “Nice bra,” Doc says, with a hint of amusement.  I squeeze water out of my wet hair.

We set off for home, only I hear a weird noise and go slowly in the shopping center lot.  Doc says the car is listing to one side a bit.  Then a dashboard light comes on.  “LOW TIRE PRESSURE.”   Ya think?   I get out in the rain and run around the side.  The front tire is flat as a pancake.  And it’s still raining.

We call the local tire place and fortunately, they have become friends over our 13 years down here.  The owner sends her son and another man to our rescue.  They change the tire in the pouring rain and I tip them gratefully.  The tire is ruined, a huge chunk of glass in it from in front of the pharmacy.  We’ll have to get a new one on our next trip to PT Weds.  But we are ready to go home.

When we finally get home, it’s starting to get dark.  We’ve been out of the house for nine hours, I’m soaked to the skin although now it’s starting to dry and get nice and clammy on the half hour ride home.  Doc restrains me from getting out of the car to get his walker, and hands me a card.

A card?  Where did he get a card?  He confesses he found it a few months ago and saved it in his desk for today.

I open it and the cover is a black and white phot0graph  (Doc knows I love B/W photo’s).

It shows the back of a tall gentleman (Doc is 6′ 4″) with white hair (yes) holding hands with a short (I”m 5′ 2″ on a good day) woman, kinda chunky (ditto).  They are naked, and they are running into the surf at the ocean.  They are about 80 years old.

The caption is a quote from someone named Jerome K. Jerome: “Nothing is more beautiful than the LOVE that has weathered the storms of  life.”

And in that moment I realize I really DID mean it.  And how lucky I am to have this man in my life.

And that it was really a very good anniversary, after all.

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down Monday, May 4 2009 

Auntie M’s Google Images is not responding due to our rain/thunderstorms in the SE today, so I can’t give you any cover images today of these two books.  But each will be easy for you to find on the shelves.

Nancy Atherton’s newest is Aunt Dimity Slay the Dragon.  Atherton’s cozy series, usually set in England, revolves around Lori Shepherd, her busy twins, hunky hubbie Bill, and the spinster ‘aunt’ who left Lori their adorable cottage, somewhere outside Oxford in the Cotswolds fictional village of Finch.

Aunt Dimity comes to Lori in a journal and provides her with a sounding board when she goes off on her hunches, solving mysteries real and imagined.  It’s been a fun series, quick reads I call ‘brain candy.’  Until this one . . .

IF you want to know  are intested in Renaissance Festivals, this is the book for you.   The details are many and educational if you’re interested in Everything You Wanted to Know About RenFests.   But I couldn’t help feeling as I was reading that it wasn’t up to the same standards as the past books.  The ‘mystery’ bit is long in coming, and is a sort of disappointment when it pans out.

I got the feeling Nancy Atherton, whom I usually adore, was pressed for a deadline or simply needs a break.  Maybe she needs to take Lori and Aunt Dimithy on a cruise?

On the other hand, Face of Betrayal was so fast paced I read it in one night and one afternoon.  Written with mystsery writer April Henry, former prosecutor Lis Wiehl has come up with a trio of ladies we hope to get to see more of over the next few books.

Reporter Cassidy Shaw, Federal Prosecutor Allison Pierce, and FBI Special Agent Nicole Hedges are the “Triple Threat” ladies who form this lively new series.  Their personal lives, religious views, and family situations are as different as can be, which adds to the interest.  In this first installment, set in Portland, a 17 year-old Senate page home for Christmas break disappears after taking her dog for a walk.

By showing the story from three diverse perspectives, and objectives, including the reporter who needs this story to climb the ladder, we are treated to the advancement of the story and varying ways of obtaining information.

We also get a look at the behind-the-scenes reality of these very different occupations, from the makeup consultant called in to show the changes needed for high definition TV coverage, to the functioning of a grand jury, to the boring grunt work that makes up any FBI investigation.  There’s a smattering of romance and sex, but not too heavy.  Just enough to keep it interesting.

I give this one a high thumbs up!

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

"I tramp a perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

My author site--news and other stuff about books and things

Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

Some Days You Do ...

Writers & Writing, my own & other people's; movies, art, music & the search for a perfect flat white - the bits & pieces of a writing life.

Gaslight Crime

Author and reviewer of period crime fiction

Crimezine

#1 for Crime

Mellotone70Up

John Harvey on Books & Writing - his own & other people 's - Art, Music, Movies, & the elusive search for the perfect Flat White.

A thrilling Murder-Mystery...

...now being made into a radio drama

BOOK SHELF

"Tell me and I forget-Show me and I remember-Involve me and I learn"

Past Offences: Classic crime, thrillers and mystery book reviews

The best mystery and crime fiction (up to 1987): Book and movie reviews

forensics4fiction

Forensics demystified for the fiction writer

milliewonka

Just another WordPress.com site

Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet!

Saving the planet one day at a time.