Wednesday, December 4, 2019

An Open Book: December 2019

The cold, darker evenings have made snuggling up with a book my go-to entertainment of choice lately.  Some of the more memorable ones are below.

A Minute to Midnight by David Baldacci is the second in the Atlee Pine series. The FBI agent takes some mandated time off from her job to help deal with her unresolved anger at the abduction of her twin sister some thirty years ago. With her assistant, Carol, Atlee heads back to the scene of the crime, a rural small town in Georgia. While investigating the decades old crimes a series of new, ghastly murders take place. Are they related or just coincidence?

Gifts: Visible and Invisible by eight different authors is a collection of short stories that explore the true meaning of the Christmas and holiday season.  Each of the stories is entertaining and well written.  What a joy to read such positive and uplifting prose!

The Christmas List by Hillary Ibarra is a sweet story of a poor Tennessee family facing a austere Christmas.  Parents Jack and Karen Hoyle barely scrape by living off what they can earn harvesting a variety of items found in the mountain wilderness.  When an unexpected event limits their source of income, the holiday appears to be bleaker than anticipated.  This is a perfect read for this Advent season for both teens and adults alike.

Head on over to Carolyn's for more An Open Book.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

First Photo - December 2019

No profound thoughts today.  Not even any mildly pithy ones.  I'll leave all that to GKC.

Any one thinking of the Holy Child as born in December would mean by it exactly what we mean by it; that Christ is not merely a summer sun of the prosperous but a winter fire for the unfortunate.
– “The Streets of the City,” The New Jerusalem


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

An Open Book: November 2019

I have been reading a lot lately, closing in on doubling my GoodReads goal for the year.  Generally, what I have been reading has been entertaining, but, in all honesty, not very memorable.  I like mysteries and thrillers and, given that I've read almost ninety books this year, I have perused a lot of them.  So it was refreshing to come across a book that is not only interesting and well written, it has kept me thinking about it long after I finished it.  

All in Good Time by our linkup hostess, Carolyn Astfalk, is that book. Brian Perella is admittedly a serial dater.  Most women don't get past the first date, but those that do rarely develop into a real and serious relationship.  He's done with dating and lays it all out before the Lord.  When God seems to answer his prayer in an almost literal fashion, he seems to be afraid to believe that single mom Melanie Lombardi might feel the same way about him.

As Brian slowly pursues his relationship with Melanie he has to come to terms with a vice that has gripped him in the past, and if reignited, could impact their future.  This temptation is put to the test when he deals with a serious illness.

I have to admit, part of the story made me mad. It is something that I wrote about once before. Not to give anything away, I won't mention it here, but the main character's family felt the same way.  And that is part of the charm of this novel.  I was annoyed at Brian, but still felt for him.

Head on over to Carolyn's for more An Open Book.

Friday, November 1, 2019

First Photo - November 2019

Well, it's not the best picture I could have taken today, but I managed to remember to take it just before dusk. Things changed quickly this month.  Just a few days ago, many, if not most, of the trees had leaves.  I supposed the forty to fifty mile per hour winds yesterday may have had something to do with the barrenness.

Every saint is a man before he is a saint; and a saint may be made of every sort or kind of man.
Happy Feast of All Saints!


Monday, October 28, 2019


Two weeks ago we had to make the decision that every dog owner fears.  When we got home from church that Sunday, it was obvious Jack was in distress.  A year or so ago he was diagnosed with esophageal paralysis, but that didn't seem to slow him down.  It was, as is with many big dogs, the failure of his hips and back end.  We kept him as comfortable as possible until the vet could make his final house call on Tuesday morning.  

It's taken me two weeks to write this and I cry as I do.  Jack wasn't my first pet, but he was my first dog.  He had a personality as big as his size.  He was sweet and loving and attracted both people and other dogs.  People, including strangers, would stop their cars and get out to pet and love on him.  He was quirky and stubborn and mischievous and low key and lots of energy.

For twelve and a half years old, Jack entertained us, kept us company, made us get up in the morning and out in the snow.  At over a hundred pounds, he often thought he was a lap dog.  And who were we to argue?

Jack was our mascot at work.  His picture decorates our break room, posing with a baseball cap bearing the company's logo.  He didn't much care for Santa but had our friends trained to bring him toys whenever they visitied.

He loved snow and could lay in it for hours.  Rain, not so much.  He knew the difference between a ride and a trip.  The former was short and usually to the park.  The latter meant he would see one of his favorite furry friends, Sarah, down in Tennessee.  

When we told our neighbor across the street of Jack's passing, he gave us each a big hug and told us he understood.  He and his wife, both in their sixties, never had children either.  Because of that, he said, our pets take a more prominent role in our lives.  I think he was on to something with that thought.

We used to joke that with so many of our conversations revolving around Jack, what would talk about when he was gone.  I don't know.  It still hurts too much.

He is very much missed.

Pet blessing at church with his "cousin" Hershey.


Tuesday, October 1, 2019

First Photo - October 2019

The calendar might say October but the temperature is yelling mid-July, with a forecast of near ninety today.  I'm loving every minute of it!

There was something special about this summer.  We enjoyed our property, in many ways.  Working in it was theraputic.  Relaxing in it was peaceful.  Sharing it was joyful.  And, for all that, I am grateful.


Monday, September 16, 2019

First Photo - September 2019

 Yikes this is late!  The picture was taken on time, almost, but lazy me just never got around to posting it.

The dog days of summer may be over, but the froggy days of fall have just started.  We have been enjoying the patio and falls more than ever, and it seems the frogs are as well.  We have christened our water feature as the Five Frog Falls.  See if you can spot all of them in the first photo below.


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

An Open Book: July 2019

Well, I think you can tell it is summer by what I am reading.  Since the few television shows that I do watch are just showing reruns, if they are on at all, I seem to have substituted some easy reading in their place.  I have been binge reading a favorite author, Kendra Elliot, catching up on a couple of her other series I haven't yet read.  And, of course, there's always more Nero Wolfe to be read!

Not Quite Dead Enough by Rex Stout
Archie Goodwin is now a Major in the Army and they want him to enlist Nero Wolfe's help in finding the murderer of two of their own.  While this was a good story, it has probably my least favorite ending of any books in this series.  However, as all good Nero stories go, it was plum full of great descriptions and one-liners.

It was the first time I had ever seen the top mackaroo of United States Army Intelligence. He was in uniform and had two chins and a pair of eyes that wasted neither time nor space.

Then I sat on the step again. I looked at my watch and it was 10:40. An hour later I looked again and it was 10:55.

“Not without Major Goodwin. I use his memory. Also for years I’ve found his presence an irritant which stimulates my cells."

Wolfe was in his chair behind his desk, leaning back with his finger tips meeting at the spot where the ends of no one-yard tape measure would ever meet again.

The Silent Speaker
When a powerful government official, scheduled to speak to a group of millionaires, turns up dead, it is an event worthy of the notice of the great Nero Wolfe.   Balancing on the edge of financial ruin, the orchid-loving detective grudgingly accepts the case. Soon a second victim is found bludgeoned to death, a missing stenographer’s tape causes an uproar, and the dead man speaks, after a fashion.

And Be a Villain
When a guest on Madeline Fraser's radio talk show drops dead after drinking a glass of the sponsor's beverage, Nero is hired to determine who would want him dead.  When everyone connected with the case lies about the circumstances of the event, the detective also needs to determine what secret is worth killing for again.

As a result the eight o’clock temperature permits him to have his tray on a table near the window without bothering to put on a dressing gown. Seated there, his hair not yet combed, his feet bare, and all the yardage of his yellow pajamas dazzling in the morning sun, he is something to blink at, and it’s too bad that Fritz and I are the only ones who ever have the privilege.

The Callahan & McLane series 
Kendra Elliot writes engaging and suspenseful stories that keep the reader guessing as to "who done it" until the very end.  Throughout each story the characters and their relationships develop.  Unfortunately, it seems each book usually contains a sex scene that comes across as soft core porn and a somewhat liberal use of God's name taken in vain. Because of this, as good as they are, I can never give these books five, or even four, stars on Goodreads.

Eleven-year-old Henley is abducted on her way to the school bus stop and the FBI jumps in to lead the search.  Local detective Mason Callahan is the ex-husband of the missing girl's step-mother and volunteers to be the spokesperson for the family with the growing media presence.  As he works with Special Agent Ava McLane to help the family, he finds himself drawn to the woman.

When dead bodies are found hanging from area bridges, Mason Callahan and Ava McLane know they are after a serial killer.  While in the midst of a tense manhunt, Ava's mentally ill twin spins out of control.

Ava McLane is used to solving crimes, not being a witness to one.  As a series of mass shootings occur in the area, she teams up with her beau, Mason  Callahan, to hunt for a reason so many young men are turning to such devastating violence.

When Detective Mason Callahan is on a fishing trip with the guys, he wakes p one morning to find his friend and boss murdered outside their cabin.  As more law officers are murdered, he and his fiance, Ava, team up to discover what is going on.

Bone Secrets series

Many years ago a busload of school children vanished.  Two years later a sole survivor, Chris Jacobs, walks out of the forest.  Eighteen years later the remains of the rest of the children are found and the hunt for the kidnapper resumes.

Head on over to Carolyn's for more An Open Book.


Friday, August 2, 2019

First Photo - August 2019

I guess I'll call this my not-quite-first-photo since it was taken and posted a day late.  August snuck up on me.  I don't like that it is here already.  There is too much talk of back to school and fall like temperatures.  I want to yell "It's still summer!"  Can't we just enjoy the here and now without planning this month away?

Take time and enjoy the pretty things!

God is like the sun; you cannot look at it, but without it you cannot look at anything else.
- GK Chesterton


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

An Open Book: June 2019

As busy as June was, I still found time to read as much as I usually do.  I am thankful for that as I find reading very relaxing and calming.  If it is not, I am not reading the right books.

I think someone recommended Tortured Soul by Theresa Linden in their Open Book post a few months ago. To whomever that was - thank you!  Theresa Linden has written a thoroughly engaging novel that I had a hard time putting down.

Jeannie is forced to leave the only home she has ever known and shares with her brother and his family.  Learning to live in a new place and on her own for the first time has its challenges.  But when she starts having visits from a tortured soul, her family begins to question her sanity.  With the help of a new friend, she faces her fears and learns how she can help her spiritual visitor.

I won Next Girl to Die by Dea Poirier via a First Reads giveaway on the GoodReads website.  Detective Claire Calderwood has made a life for herself as a homicide detective in Detroit.  When murders similar to her sister's start happening in her hometown, she returns to the small island in Maine in hopes of solving not only the current murders but her sister Rachel's as well.   

No month would be complete without a couple of Nero Wolfe stories. I think this month gave me both my most favorite and least favorite books in the series so far.  

Black Orchids contains two stories in which the title flower plays at least somewhat of a role.  The first story has Nero making one of his few expeditions out of his Brownstone house.  A new, rare black orchid has piqued his curiosity and he must view it for himself.  While at the exposition center where the plant is on display, a murder takes place, seemingly in front of a large number of people without their knowledge.  Nero agrees to solve the case, for a price - the black orchids.

The second story is completely unrelated to the first with the exception of the black orchids making an appearance at the funeral of a party planner that has been murdered after coming to Nero for his assistance in finding who was blackmailing her.

While the stories were good, they weren't great as I have come to expect from Rex Stout's writing.  Even still, he did manage to come up with a few great quotes.

Fritz’s saucisse minuit would make Gandhi a gourmet. 

You bounce, Mr. Huddleston, from wrath to indignation, with amazing agility. 

Some Buried Caesar, on the other hand, was a fun read from start to finish.  Once again, Nero's love of orchids has enticed him to leave the sanctuary of his beloved Brownstone in New York.  On the way to an expo, the roadster Archie is driving experiences a problem and they come to a crashing halt on a country road.  While crossing a pasture to get to the nearest house, Nero and Archie encounter Caesar, a large, prize-winning bull that isn't exactly happy to see them.  While waiting for assistance at the farmhouse, someone is found dead in the pasture, looking like Caesar didn't like him either.

I like to stay at home, and when I am away I like to get back. 

“Confound it. Nothing. Return.” “Nothing at all I can do here?” “No. Come and help me admire stupidity.”

Not a word of honor. I don’t like the phrase. The word ‘honor’ has been employed too much by objectionable people and has been badly soiled. I give you my word.

Morning Glory and Always, both by Sarah Jio, are easy, entertaining reads.  Both books move seamlessly between the present and the past to give the reader a complete picture.  

In Always, Kailey is enjoying a romantic dinner with her fiance at one of Seattle's finest restaurants.  As she leaves the restaurant she encounters a homeless man whose identity shocks her.  She now has to reconcile her past life with the present, which is much harder than she thought.

In Morning Glory, Ada rents a houseboat in Seattle, fleeing a tragedy that had occurred back east.  When she opens a trunk left behind by a previous tenant, she finds a story she works to uncover. 

Head on over to Carolyn's for more An Open Book.