Wicked Prey Monday, Jun 29 2009 

John Sandford is one of those writers whose books hit the road running and never look back.  I can devour one of his in an evening and a day, or two evenings.  The pacing is always frenetic, the characters absorbing, the danger palpable.  And all too believable.

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In Wicked Prey, 19th in the “Prey” series set in Minneapolis/St. Paul that is Sandford’s longest running of the several he writes, Lucas Davenport is getting ready to adopt his ward, Letty West.  Married to surgeon Weather, with whom he shares young son, Sam, family life is the most stable it has ever been for the intelligent and intuitive cop, whose many outings have taken him through several incarnations throughout the world of detecting, politics, bad guys and crime.

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This time the Republican Convention is is town, so the verisimiltude is apt.  Most of the available cops and agents are taken up providing security and watching that protesters don’t get out of hand.  There is plenty of Secret Service and FBI around, too, but not enough, it turns out, when it comes to foiling a crew of experienced professional thieves who are using the convention and its attendees to fund their retirements.

A young white supremacist loaded with heavy ammo hits town, and the plot is complicated by a wheelchair-bound pimp who blames Lucas for putting him there.  Aided by a young masochistic prostitute and a drug addict with a fried brain, he is determined to make Lucas suffer by kidnapping Letty and torturing her.

Are you hooked yet?  Sandford is a master at setting up all of his characters, showing us their distinct personalities and quirks.  There are twists, surprises, and one totally enterprising young woman.  This is quick, interesting reading at its best.

What Are We Doing? Thursday, Jun 25 2009 

Auntie M was watching some inane show one night with Doc when an ad came on, showing an attractive woman in a classy restaurant, eating dinner with the worst kind of date.  He arrived late, spoke on the cell phone, only talked to her to raise an eyebrow at her fattening dessert, and left her alone at the table with a quick kiss on the cheek and the parting words: “Happy Anniversary.”

That’s when it sinks in that this jerk is her husband.  She catches the eye of a VERY attractive man in the restaurant, who smiles at her, and then the voice over tells us: “Ashley Madison.com–for when you can’t get a divorce.”

I thought at first it was a joke.  Then we saw the ad a week later on a different channel.  So in the interests of keeping you all up to date on what is out there, I went to it, hoping it was not pornographic.  It wasn’t.

What it was, is a site where people who are tired of their spouses but have no intention of getting divorced can arrange mutually satisfactory affairs.  I was stunned.  There is actually someone out there making money on this idea.  And people are signing up for it in droves.

What a sad commentary about the state of marriage in our society.  Yes, I totally understand there are times when someone MUST stay married to someone they wish they hadn’t–been there, done that–but only for a few years until I made sure I could support myself and my son.  So I have tremendous empathy for women and men out there in lonely marriages, stuck with unsympathetic spouses, who don’t see a way out of their situations.

I guess what I’m ranting about is an organization taking advantage of their emotional low to make money on their heartache.  Or are they simply providing a much needed but not talked about service?  Am I being too sensitive?

Readers, what’s your take on this????

Money Can’t Buy It Sunday, Jun 21 2009 

When Annie Lennox wrote ( and sang) that song, she knew that love was at the heart of what drive us as humans.

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A recent article in “Real Simple” magazine had answers for their monthly question: “What is the best thing money can’t buy?”

Here are some of the answers from across the nation:

“A husband who truly listens.”

“When my teen son walked across a room just to give me a loving hug.”

“An unexpected apology from an old friend.”

“The unconditional love of our dogs.”

“Solitude.”

“Being born to parents who really loved their children”

The winner was Jennifer Lewis Meyer: “The kind of gut-busting, tears-streaming-down-your-face, bordering-on-hysteria laughter that still makes you giggle when you think of it days later.

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Auntie M could identify with Meyer.  I’m getting ready to leave for Utah next week for my yearly meeting with the four other women who keep me writing and keep me sane, the Screw Iowa Writers Group.  I expect there will be long discussions about the nature of our book and our website, hours of editing and advising each other on our manuscripts, great food, a bit of wine, and most importantly, that kind of stress-releasing laughter. That’s us on the back left of the desk in the photo below.

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When you read this, I will be in Utah that these women whose friendship I savor and depend on.

The article made me think of those special moments that we capture in our hearts: the days our children were born, proposals, loving moments from partner, etc.  We would all rate those high.  And the love of a good pet, too!  And then there are the unexpected moments that catch us off guard, but that we treasure and revisit in our memories, like snapshots.

Here’s one of mine:  Auntie M’s granddaughter, Rachel Elizabeth, at 6 years old, getting ready to go upstairs to bed at our house after a wonderful Christmas.  She stopped at the bottom of the stairs with her dad, turned her beaming smile on me and pronounced, “Nana, you’re the BEST!”

OK readers:  We know who you love, but what’s one outstanding memory money couldn’t buy?

Manna from Hades Thursday, Jun 18 2009 

Oregonian Carola Dunn is the author of the successful and fun Daisy Dalrymple cozy series, set in the 1920’s.  This is her first offering in what would seem to be a new series.

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Born and raised in England, Dunn takes us this time to the Cornish seaside where widow Eleanor Trewynn has retired to a small fishing village.  Her background in foreign travel to exotic parts of the world with her husband has exposed her to sights, food and customs that make her feel the the Cornwall town of Port Mabyn will be quiet.  Eleanor volunteers for the charity shop occupying the first floor of her cottage, the same organization she and her husband worked for so many years abroad before his death.

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Eleanor helps out by traipsing the countryside with her little terrier Teazle, collecting donations and practicing her Aikido.  One unexpected donation of jewels, coupled with the body of a youth found in the charity shop’s storeroom, leads to Eleanor’s unexpected close involvement in theft, murder, and a big dose of danger.

Helping her aunt is Eleanor’s niece, newly promoted DS Megan Pencarrow with the North Cornish police, completely hindered by her boss, the aptly named DI Scumble.  There are several interesting side characters we hope to see again.

Eleanor’s distracted memory can at times be tedious, and in the first part of the book the pacing lags as Dunn introduces her characters and defines their personalities, but it  picks up admirably as the plot twists and double crosses pile up to a satisfactory conclusion.  Good summer brain candy.

Life Sentences Monday, Jun 15 2009 

Laura Lippman is one of my favorite authors because she’s so darn consistent.  Whether it’s her Tess Monaghan series or her spectacular stand alones, her storytelling has only gotten finer the more she writes.  Last year’s What the Dead Know is one of my all-time favorite books, an almost perfect example of how to write a great story that will knock your readers socks off.

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That holds true for her newest stand alone, Life Sentences.  Cassandra Fallows has made a profitable living selling her own story.  Her two memoirs have left her financially comfortable; her first fictional novel, not so much.  Realizing non-fiction is her best format, searching for a new book idea, she comes across a real-life unsolved mystery surrounding a former high school friend accused of killing her infant son.

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Calliope has never spoken about the child in the seven years she’s been in prison for refusing to speak about his whereabouts.  Out now, living a proscribed life and taking care of her mother in a nursing home, she faces her remaining years in a time warp or boredom.

Enter Cassandra, determined to find the answer to her story, entwined with her own memories of Calliope and three other friends who formed their ‘group’ for several years in school.  She find their memories all have different takes while unraveling the threads of Calliope’s life, and taking a good, hard look at her own.

This is social realism at its best, as Lippman knows the Baltimore neighborhoods of all classes she writes about.  The plot twists and turns hit Cassandra, the white girl in the group, and point out the separation from her black friends that mostly escaped her in school.  It’s a tour de force from author who never disappoints.

Johnny D Tuesday, Jun 9 2009 

I’ve been Depped.  RUN to the nearest store that carries Vanity Fair mag and splurge on the current issue.

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Depp must be the winner of “most mag covers” but it was the interior shots and article itself which attracted Auntie M.

Shots of Depp in Cuba, prepping for his next movie role as a youthful Hunter S. Thompson, stretch across several pages.  Big sigh.  Story of Depp and a few friends relaxing for a week before on his boat and at his private Bahamian Island.

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Who knew the various beaches on his small cay are named for his children and partner?

Douglas Brinkley, a Thompson compatriot and author, reveals the Depp we really want to see: relaxed, without paparazzi, shirtless (another BIG SIGH–sorry, a wait while I wipe that bit of drool).  Who knew music was so important to Depp that he uses it as a kind of choreography, to keep a mood or to inspire one?  The story of the Keith Richards covers he listens to at one point is worth reading the article for alone.

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Yes, most of us who enjoy Depp for his many attributes probably know he is a world class guitarist.  And yes, we probably knew of his deep and total devotion to his roles and his ability to inhabit his characters.  That’s one of the reasons we love him.  So we want to hear it all from the perspective of a man who is heavily involved in this next movie, the man who carried out Thompson’s wishes to be cremated and shot into space (!).

We all have our favorite Depp roles, those that amuse us, make our hearts beat faster, or show us the depth and range of this amazingly talented (and deliciously sexy) man.

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Who can resist?

Pets and Your Garden Thursday, Jun 4 2009 

Not being able to have our usual garden this year, Eco Lassie has been following the garden exploits of the rest of you with great interest.  And that led to  remembering the time we had keeping our pets out of ours in previous years.

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There’s no question we love our pets and also no question that even the cutest of cats and dogs can trample, dig, crush, tear and leave their little presents in our nice rows of fresh veggies and flowers.  What to do that doesn’t mean using the very kind of commercial repellent we’ve been trying to avoid?

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* Try soaking cotton balls in citrus (or mint or menthol) essential oils and place around the garden perimeter.  Many pets are repelled by these scents.  You may have to change the balls weekly or after a heavy rain until your pet figures out the garden is a no-go area.

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*Use rose prunings, if you have them, around the base of larger established plants.  Paws, especially those sensitive cat pads, will not relish these thorny clippings and quickly find a new pathway.

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*The visual image of a barrier works wonders for cats and dogs.  Try using floating row covers, which some of you may already by using to prevent insects and birds from feasting on those tasty shoots of budding plants and flowers.  Planet Natural has the most reasonable I could find, at $10.50 for 5′ X 25′–and you can water and fertilize right through this light, breathable barrier without removing it.

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Of course, there ARE some benefits to having our pets near our gardens.   Cats will reduce the amount of mice, voles and moles if they are in your area; dogs scent and barking will keep deer and groundhogs at bay, or at the very least, in your neighbor’s yard!

Happy Gardening~

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Shatter Tuesday, Jun 2 2009 

Australian writer Michael Robotham has done it again, bringing a book’s characters and its plot to life.

The author of three other suspense novels, he introduced us to psychologist Joe O’Loughlin in Suspect, an intriguing novel that I highly recommended.  Newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s, father to two young children, O’Louglhin had to prove to detectives that he did not commit a murder he uncannily knows features of that no one, except the murderer, should know.

In Shatter, four years have passed.  Joe has moved his family out of London and suspended clinical practice.  He’s the house husband, only lecturing at a local Bath university twice a week, while his wife Julianne has become the breadwinner, traveling frequently.  Called to a bridge to try to stop a woman from jumping, he becomes haunted by the woman’s suicide, and cannot forget that she was crying into her cell phone before letting go.

When the woman’s daughter turns up on Joe’s doorstep, she insists that her mother was not suicidal, and would never have committed that act in that way as she was terrifed of heights.  Joe becomes caught up in discovering who was on the other end of the phone.  What evil mind could drive a woman to commit such a desperate act?  His drive to discover the psychopath capable of finding a person’s weakest point and worming his way inside their mind to break it apart will have profound impact on his own life and that of his family.

Robotham takes us along on a ride that is all too believeable.  His dialogue and characters are pitch perfect; Joe and his family and the other characters come alive on the page.  And the spectacular plot twists will keep you reading long after you should have shut the light.

One of the best I’ve read this year, from a master storyteller.

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The Life of Guppy

the care and feeding of our little fish

dru's book musings

Reading is a wonderful adventure!

JoHanna Massey

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” ― Carl Sagan

MiddleSisterReviews.com

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

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Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Make

make Your House a home

K.R. Morrison, Author

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Wicked Cozy Authors

Mysteries with a New England Accent

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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

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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

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