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The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn

>> Friday, March 30, 2012

The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn

The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn

Genre: Suspense Fiction
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 363
Source: provided by the publisher through NetGalley

The Short Version:
Police Dispatcher Ian Hunt is propelled into a frightening and sometimes grisly hunt when he answers a call and hears the voice of his daughter who was kidnapped seven years earlier.

Why I Read It:
The description of the book caught my attention right away and prompted me to try this new to me author.

The Book:
Bulls Mouth, Texas is a sleepy little town. Ian Hunt works as the dispatcher when he’s not playing solitaire at work or drinking when he’s not at work. One day he answers a 911 call and his world is changed. The caller is his fourteen year old daughter. It’s the daughter who was kidnapped seven years ago from her bedroom and hasn’t been seen since. Everyone it seems except Ian was sure Maggie was dead. His (now ex) wife insisted on having a funeral a few months earlier and burying an empty casket so she could feel some closure. Ian agreed to go through with it but never gave up hope that Maggie was alive.

And now she’s on the phone.

When the call is cut short by her kidnapper Maggie is gone again. The difference is that this time Ian is not going to give up until he has his daughter back.

My Thoughts:
This is most definitely not a book for the squeamish. Ian’s quest (for it becomes a quest) to get his daughter back takes many a grisly turn. Maggie’s kidnapper is brutal and Ian resorts to equal levels of brutality before the story is over.

The story is told from multiple viewpoints sometimes abruptly making the switch. The majority is told by Ian, Maggie or her kidnapper but there are sections where other characters pick up the narration. This made pieces of it less surprising because I knew what Maggie’s kidnapper was doing and planning while Ian was trying to figure it out. Nevertheless the tension remained high.

The long hot dry road trip that leads to the final showdown is one that I could visualize in my head because I’ve driven through east Texas in August. The whole book almost felt like the sepia toned portions of Steven Soderbergh’s movie Traffic and I could imagine this as a movie fairly easily.

I had a little bit of trouble with Maggie’s character because sometimes she seemed to act and think too young and other times too old. I was able to get past that however because I recently read Jaycee Dugard’s memoir of her 18 years in captivity. Dugard talked freely about the fact that in some ways she was wise beyond her years due to her experience and in many other ways she was still very childlike. I think reading that book helped with accepting Maggie’s actions, insights and behavior.

As Ian and Maggie’s kidnapper get closer to their showdown, the differences between them become less and less. The things that Ian is willing to do in order to get his daughter back are not that different than what her kidnapper is willing to do to get away.

I thought it was good but brutal. It’s not one I’d encourage anyone to read but fans of the darker and more twisted stuff might like this one.
4 stars Rating 4/5


Wordless Wednesday #128

>> Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Zihuatanejo, Mexico

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For more Wordless Wednesday, click here


April Photo Challenge

>> Tuesday, March 27, 2012

April Photo A Day

Somewhere in the middle of March I discovered the March Photo a Day Challenge hosted by Chantelle at Fat Mum Slim. I’m not sure when she first did this but it seems to have become a regular monthly thing beginning with January of 2012.

Every month Chantelle posts a list of subjects or prompts for each day of the month.

This was the list for March and the challenge instructions.

March Photo a Day
Here's how to play:

1. Use the list above as inspiration and take a photo everyday. For example for number one on the list, 'your view today' you'd take a shot of whatever it is that you can see today. This would be a wider shot of your office space, where you went for a walk, or whatever it is that you can see!

2. Share on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, your blog or where ever it is you want to share. If you're sharing on Instagram or Twitter use the hashtag #FEBphotoaday so everyone can find them. There's a great community around the photo sharing, so do share!

3. Check out everyone else's pictures. I do it before I go to bed each night and it's so fun to see how different everyone's photos are. There are people from every corner of the world playing.

I started seeing photos posted on Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram and got curious and was definitely interested once I figured out what the #marchphotoaday hashtag was all about. It definitely sounded like fun and something I wanted to try. I have been playing along unofficially since the middle of the month but not making any effort to post the photos anywhere but on Instagram.

Here are a few of the photos I took for March.
(as always - click on the photo to see a bigger version and then use the browser back button to return to this post)

45 minutes of an Abby nap
March 24th - An Animal
(45 minutes of an Abby nap)
March 23rd - Moon
Kitchen Sink
March 22nd - Kitchen Sink
March 20th - Before/After
March 17th - Green
March 16th - Sunglasses

Beginning April 1st I plan to participate fully. I will be posting the daily photos on my Tumblr blog which can be found at Whimpulsiveness There are always links to the most recent posts on that blog from here (look over there on the far right sidebar below the Powells logo where it says “Whimpulsiveness”. If you choose to subscribe directly to the Tumblr blog you can do so right here: Subscribe to my Tumbler Blog

I chose to post the photos on Tumblr for a couple of reasons. First of all I didn’t want to clutter up this blog with multiple posts per day, Secondly I’m going to do this with only photos from my phone because it’s easy to take and post them that way. It also takes the pressure to spend too much time perfecting a photo when I’m just using the phone.

Here is the list of prompts for April. Some will be easy, some are a bit more challenging.
April Photo a Day

I hope you’ll check out my results over at Whimpulsiveness and would love to see more people I know participate. If you want to join in the fun head on over to this post and sign up.


Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

>> Monday, March 26, 2012

Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear
Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

Genre: Mystery
Series: #9 in the Maisie Dobbs series
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 331
Source: provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
In this ninth book in the series Maisie Dobbs investigates a very personal case while at the same time she’s having difficulty sorting through her own emotions and motivations..

Why I Read It:
I was planning to read this anyway but when I had the opportunity to be a part of the TLC Blog tour I took about a nanosecond to say yes.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Maisie Dobbs—psychologist, investigator, and "one of the great fictional heroines, equal parts haunted and haunting" (Parade)—returns in a chilling adventure, the latest chapter in Jacqueline Winspear's bestselling series.

Early April 1933. To the costermongers of Covent Garden—sellers of fruit and vegetables on the streets of London—Eddie Pettit was a gentle soul with a near-magical gift for working with horses. When Eddie is killed in a violent accident, the grieving costers are deeply skeptical about the cause of his death. Who would want to kill Eddie—and why?

Maisie Dobbs' father, Frankie, had been a costermonger, so she had known the men since childhood. She remembers Eddie fondly and is determined to offer her help. But it soon becomes clear that powerful political and financial forces are equally determined to prevent her from learning the truth behind Eddie's death. Plunging into the investigation, Maisie begins her search for answers on the working-class streets of Lambeth where Eddie had lived and where she had grown up. The inquiry quickly leads her to a callous press baron; a has-been politician named Winston Churchill, lingering in the hinterlands of power; and, most surprisingly, to Douglas Partridge, the husband of her dearest friend, Priscilla. As Maisie uncovers lies and manipulation on a national scale, she must decide whether to risk it all to see justice done.

The story of a London affected by the march to another war years before the first shot is fired and of an innocent victim caught in the crossfire, Elegy for Eddie is Jacqueline Winspear's most poignant and powerful novel yet.

My Thoughts:
Once again I find myself finishing the latest book in this series and thinking that this is the best one yet. Jacqueline Winspear has continued to keep each book in the series different enough from the earlier books to avoid being labeled formulaic while at the same time retaining the things I enjoy about Maisie and the supporting characters.

I loved how this particular case took Maisie back to her roots as the daughter of a costermonger. Her own history with Eddie and the people who knew him makes this a highly personal case for her and it also allows her to gain the trust of the people who knew Eddie best. At the same time her current life among the upper class of London society also provides her with insight and inroads to learn more about the owner of the factory where Eddie was killed.

Maisie’s personal life is in many ways as much of a mess and mystery as the death of Eddie. Her relationship with James Compton is clearly at a crossroads and neither of them seems to be willing to begin what is certain to be difficult conversations. They find themselves going through the motions but not willing to confront the issue. I made me feel frustrated with both characters while reading this book but it fit as the path of their relationship progressed.

The historical setting of this series is my favorite part. I haven’t read that much of England between the world wars and this series sits squarely in the middle of that. The aftermath of World War I and its impact is still felt. Societal rules are changing as women don’t automatically have marriage as an expected life path due to the devastating loss of marriageable aged men in the war. At the same time events in Germany are beginning to become a concern.

If you haven't read any of the Maisie Dobbs series now and with this book would be an excellent place to start.

4.5 stars Rating 4.5/5

March is Maisie Month and this post is part of an extensive blog tour featuring all of the books in the Maisie Dobbs series. For more information click on either of these logos.

March is Maisie Month TLC Book Tours

This is the first tour stop for Elegy for Eddie. The remainder of the tour will be at these blogs:

Tuesday, March 27th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, March 28th: Devourer of Books
Wednesday, March 28th: cakes, tea and dreams
Thursday, March 29th: Iwriteinbooks’s blog
Friday, March 30th: Wordsmithonia


Weekend Update March 25, 2012

>> Sunday, March 25, 2012

Weekend Update

Since my last update:
I finished The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn. I’ll have that review posted later this week but the preview is that I liked it despite some brutality and will likely be looking for more from this author.

I started The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan. It starts out with 39 people in a lifeboat after a passenger ship sinks in 1914. It’s definitely interesting. Unfortunately I spent way too much time doing “stuff that was not reading’ yesterday and didn’t finish it like I’d hoped. Perhaps that’s on the agenda for today.

As for audio, I finished listening to Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and liked it quite a bit. I decided to start Dog Tags by David Rosenfelt. I enjoyed listening to Grover Gardner’s narration of New Tricks and I want to catch up with this series. An added bonus is that they’re quick and fun.  Coincidentally The Hubster finished the audiobook he was listening to this week and started New Tricks so we’re both listening to Grover Gardner but different books in the same series.

I’m glad that I’ve turned The Hubster into a routine audiobook listener. It’s a nice way for us to keep up with some of the series we both read.

Other than books and reading:
Abby survived her first trip to our vet. She explored the rubbish bin and got seriously irritated that there was so much poking with various instruments in various parts of her body involved. She finally jumped off the table and went back in her carrier and sat down.

Abby and Howie are getting along fine. I mentioned last week that the nightly two cat race across the kitchen floor for treats is becoming competitive. Here’s some video proof:

But Howie doesn't always win

We had more of that snow nonsense this week.
That was quite annoying.

But we had an absolutely beautiful afternoon yesterday.

It’s nice to see a sure sign of spring in the candytuft blooming by the front sidewalk.

Hope you’re having a great weekend.


Audiobook – Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

>> Friday, March 23, 2012

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 2011
Read by: Rebecca Lowman
Source: Library

The Short Version:
New York in 1938 is the background to a story of a year that changed the lives of Katey Kontent, her roommate and the handsome banker they met on New Year’s Eve.

Why I Read It:
A friend mentioned that she’d read this and liked it a lot. When I looked it up on the library website it sounded interesting and when I saw that the audio edition was available I knew I’d get to it sooner if I got the audio edition.

The Book:
On New Year’s Eve 1937 Katey Kontent and her boardinghouse roommate Eve Ross meet Theodore (Tinker) Grey in a Jazz club. Their chance meeting turns quickly into a friendship and surprising circumstances that will change all of their lives.

Although the story begins as the story of three people it soon becomes Katey’s story. She begins the year living in a boardinghouse and working in the secretarial pool of a high powered legal firm. As the year goes on, she changes jobs, encounters a wide variety of people from all social classes who have varying levels of impact on her life and future. Through her friendship with Tinker Grey she meets people she might never have encountered. Some of them turn out to be positive encounters and others bring more trouble than she expects.

The city of New York, the era of the late 1930’s, the social class structure and the people who inhabit its layers as well as the lasting impact of both conscious choices and fate are all a part of the year this book chronicles.

My Thoughts:
I’m actually glad that I decided to get this in audio format. Rebecca Lowman tells Katey’s story (the book is written in first person narrative) with a voice that fits perfectly in my opinion with Katey’s cool reserved personality but at the same time is able to express her quick wit and sense of adventure. It was a book that I enjoyed listening to because I was able to visualize much of it in my head. For most of the time that visualization was in the form of a 1940’s era black and white movie which was obviously influenced by the cover photo of the book.

Speaking of the cover, I thought it was great. It perfectly sets the tone for the book.

The book begins with a prologue set in 1966 when an older Katey is at an exhibit of 1930’s photographs and is reminded of the events of 1938. This leads into her telling her story and an epilogue fills in a bit of ‘what happened later’. As soon as I was finished with the last track I went back to the beginning and listened to the prologue again to hear it a second time with full knowledge of what Katey knew when she was at that exhibit.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It’s always interesting to me when a man writes a book from the point of view of a female main character. Towles manages to pull it off for the most part, but there are times when Katey is a little too cool, too smart, too attractive and too vulnerable all at the same time. I’m not sure I liked Katey as a character but I liked hearing her story.

I was a little disappointed in the way that some characters were dropped out of the story. I would like to hear the rest of Eve’s story from her own perspective but perhaps that’s another book.

4 stars Rating 4/5

SoundBytes is a weekly roundup of audio book reviews hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.


Wordless Wednesday #127

>> Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Zihuatanejo, Mexico

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For more Wordless Wednesday, click here


Judge & Jury by James Patterson and Andrew Gross

>> Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Judge & Jury by James Patterson and Andrew Gross

Judge & Jury by James Patterson and Andrew Gross

Genre: Suspense Fiction
Publisher: Warner Vision
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 416
Source: Purchased Used

The Short Version:
What starts out as a legal thriller becomes the story of a vigilante mission for revenge.

Why I Read It:
I had read several excellent books in a row but they were all rather sedately paced. I was in the mood for something fast-paced that I would breeze through quickly without having to think much. That’s the kind of mood that sends me upstairs to see what I have by James Patterson.

The Book:
From the publisher:

Failing to escape jury duty, aspiring actress Andie DeGrasse ends up as Juror #11 in a landmark case. In this new Trial of the Century, a Mafia don known as the Electrician is linked to hundreds of gruesome crimes. Tracking this ruthless killer for years, senior FBI agent Nick Pellisante fears that the defendant's power reaches far beyond the courtroom, even if the FBI's evidence is ironclad. Just as the jury finishes deliberations, the Electrician makes a devastating move that shocks the entire nation - and shatters Andie's world. Now she and Pellisante must hunt for the Electrician before he executes his most horrifying endgame.

My Thoughts:
This was exactly what I needed at just the right time. “Mental Popcorn” is a term I first saw on the Books on the Nightstand Goodreads Group. James Patterson’s books fit right into that category for me. They’re not something I want a steady diet of but when I’m in the right mood they’re exactly what I need.

This one is deceptively billed as a legal thriller. It starts out that way but most of the book doesn’t take place anywhere near a courtroom. It’s still a fun and fast-paced read. In typical Patterson plug and play style, the action is more interesting than the characters.

The good guys are easy enough to root for despite their detours from legalities. There are plenty of villains in this one and some are worse than others. It’s not hard to want the revenge seekers to succeed. Sure there are plenty of unbelievable coincidences but it was a fun break just when I needed it.

3 stars Rating 3/5


Weekend Update March 18, 2012

>> Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend Update

Since my last update:
I finished and loved Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear. My post about that one will be up next week since it’s part of a tour.

I’ve been on a streak of books that have been really good but all rather sedately paced. I wanted a change and I still had bits of Elegy for Eddie hanging around in my head. When I get in that kind of mood it’s time for a James Patterson book. I wanted something fast paced and more along the lines of ‘mental popcorn’ (a fabulous term I picked up from the Books on a Nightstand Goodreads group). I read Judge and Jury and it was exactly what I needed. When I finished that I started The Dispatcher by Ryan David Jahn. Wow – that one grabbed my attention in the first few pages. I didn’t have much reading time yesterday so today’s plan definitely includes time with this book.

I’m nearly done with listening to Rules of Civility by Amor Towles. I’ve liked this book but I think it’s going to be one of those that as soon as I finish I’ll flip back to the first cd and listen to the beginning again with full knowledge of what happened in the rest of the book.

I need to decide what’s up next for audiobook. I think it’s probably going to be Dog Tags by David Rosenfelt. I enjoyed listening to Grover Gardner’s narration of New Tricks and I want to catch up with this series. An added bonus is that they’re quick and fun.

Other than books and reading:
It’s always fun to go through my iphone photos from the week when I sit down to write these updates.

As expected there are many of Abby. She’s settling in just fine and she and Howie are getting along OK. They’re not really playing together yet but the nightly treat time has become a two cat race for the treats tossed on the kitchen floor. I need to try to get some video of that insanity.

She’s not supposed to be on this chair but she seems to think it’s an excellent place to watch the bird feeder outside that window.
Abby - Busted!

I’m ready for spring but the weather is just not cooperating. Winter seems to want to make an impression in the Pacific Northwest this year and is not letting go. This nonsense can stop any time.
snow in March?

Last weekend my brother came over for dinner and brought something for us to try. Amarula is a South African Cream liqueur that I’ve never had before. I would describe it as tasting like melted Häagen-Dazs Coffee ice cream. We had it over ice and it was quite tasty.

Hope you’re having a great weekend.


Confessions of a Serial Reader – The ones I've added in 2012

>> Friday, March 16, 2012

Confessions of a Serial Reader

This month I’m talking about the new series I’ve added to my FictFact tracking so far in 2012

I’ve mentioned it before but if you read a lot of series books you really should check out FictFact. It’s a great way to keep track of what you’ve read, what’s next and what new books are on the horizon. It’s a little scary to really see the number of series I’ve read or started but I love using FictFact to keep track.

I was on the site earlier this week updating a few books I’ve read and adding some new series I’ve started. I realized I’d added several in 2012 so far.

Newly added but not new to my series reading:

The Rob Ryan and Cassie Maddox series by Tana French
In the Woods by Tana French
I actually started this series a couple of years ago and the second book is sitting on my bookshelf. For some reason I never added it to my FictFact list until a few weeks ago. Now I need to get that second book read.

Newly added but started in 2011:

Both of these series have several books out in their original language but are just now getting translated and becoming available in the US.

The Department Q series by Jussi Adler-Olsen
The Keeper of Lost Causes by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Both The Hubster and I read and enjoyed this first book in the series and are eagerly awaiting the release date of the second book. Fun characters, interesting setting and interesting premise. We both keep saying “Assad has secrets!”

The Hanne Wilhelmsen series by Anne Holt
1222 by Anne Holt
Not only has this series been well established in its original language, the first to be translated and available here in the US is actually the eighth in the series. I enjoyed it and will be watching for more of this series to be translated and released. Hanne Wilhelmses is a bit of a crusty and cranky detective and the hints of her past in this eighth book have me interested in reading the others.

Newly added and started in 2012:

The Raylan Givens series by Elmore Leonard
Pronto by Elmore Leonard
The Hubster and I are avid fans of the TV series Justified which is based on the character of Raylan Givens so we wanted to read the books. We’ve both read and liked this first one and we’ll be reading the others.

The Frieda Klein series by Nicci French
Blue Monday by Nicci French
This is a new series and only this first one is out so far. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one. The main character is an intriguing psychologist and I’m hoping that some of the secondary characters in the first book will be recurring characters as the series progresses.

The Kate Conway series by Clare O'Donohue
Missing Persons by Clare O'Donohue
The second book in this series will be out soon and I’m already on the library waiting list for it. The main character is a TV producer who is a bit of an amateur sleuth. It’s a good and interesting mix for me.

What about you? Have you checked out FictFact yet? Have you added any new series to your reading list this year?


Wordless Wednesday #126

>> Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Baby sea turtle makes it to the ocean
Ixtapa, Mexico

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For more Wordless Wednesday, click here


A Good American by Alex George

>> Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Good American by Alex George
A Good American by Alex George

Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Publication Date: 2012
Pages: 381
Source: Copy provided by the publisher

The Short Version:
A completely charming and enchanting family saga full of characters whose stories will wrap themselves around your heart.

Why I Read It:
When I got the email from a publicist telling me about this book it took me only a few seconds to say yes. Then when it arrived I loved the cover and the look of the book. I was almost afraid to read it because of high expectations but I was not disappointed at all.

The Book:
When a book is complex I tend to default to the publisher’s synopsis out of fear of my own attempt spinning out of control or giving away too much.

It is 1904. When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother, where better to go than America, the land of the new? Originally set to board a boat to New York, at the last minute, they take one destined for New Orleans instead ("What's the difference? They're both new"), and later find themselves, more by chance than by design, in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together.

Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf.

A Good American is narrated by Frederick and Jette's grandson, James, who, in telling his ancestors' story, comes to realize he doesn't know his own story at all. From bare-knuckle prizefighting and Prohibition to sweet barbershop harmonies, the Kennedy assassination, and beyond, James's family is caught up in the sweep of history. Each new generation discovers afresh what it means to be an American. And, in the process, Frederick and Jette's progeny sometimes discover more about themselves than they had bargained for.

Poignant, funny, and heartbreaking, A Good American is a novel about being an outsider-in your country, in your hometown, and sometimes even in your own family. It is a universal story about our search for home.

My Thoughts:
Go. Now. Get this book and read it. Then pass it along to your best friend or better yet a family member.

This book completely charmed me within the first couple of chapters. I was glad I read it on a long plane ride so that I didn’t have to take many breaks in the first half. I love big multigenerational family sagas and this is one of the best I’ve read in ages. It spans four generations without ever becoming too long and drawn out. There is humor, sadness, love, anger, joy and always there is music.

Music is what brings Frederick and Jette together and music is an element that lives on in their family. The path that leads Frederick and Jette to Beatrice is one full of coincidences and fate that leads this young couple to the place their family will call home. As much as some of their descendents want to escape Beatrice, it continues to call them home.

Some of the characters that become part of the family history are a little bit beyond quirky but George makes it all work. It’s a story of a family and a story of America through much of the 20th century. It’s the story of the immigrants that populated this country and became the definition of A Good American.

5 stars Rating 5/5


Weekend Update March 11, 2012

>> Sunday, March 11, 2012

Weekend Update

Since my last update:

It’s felt like a busy week but clearly there hasn’t been a lot of either reading or driving time because I’m still reading and listening to the same books I was last Sunday.

I’m reading Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear. If my plan for today works out the way it currently exists in my head I’ll be able to finish this today. It’s the newest in a series I love and Jacqueline Winspear’s talent for improving the series with each book is continuing with this one.

I didn’t even leave the house on Monday or Tuesday so that limited my audiobook time since I tend to only listen when I’m in the car by myself. I’m making progress through Rules of Civility by Amor Towles and enjoying it quite a bit.

Other than books and reading:

As I mentioned last week, we have a new family member. Abby has had a good first week and she seems to be settling in just fine.
She likes the kitty condo in the den when I’m working from home. 

She and Howie really haven’t fought at all and other than a few growls the first day they’ve settled in to watching each other and getting closer and closer every day. They both want to play but so far not at the same time.

Her favorite toys are the sparkle balls and the grocery sack with a hole cut in the bottom.

My one fear is that I think Howie’s teaching her how to open the cabinets.

I stopped at the library this week and they have a new addition over in the Children’s section. Isn’t this great??
The Cat in the Hat at the Library

Hope you’re having a great weekend.


Baby Sea Turtles!!

>> Friday, March 9, 2012

This is a photo heavy post but it was an amazing experience so I'm going to share a bunch of them. Click on the photos to see them full size and then use your browser's back button to return to the post.

When we were on vacation in Mexico we happened to be lucky enough to participate in releasing baby sea turtles on the beach to make their way to the water.

and they're off . . .

The beach at the hotel where we stayed is a nesting ground for the endangered Olive Ridley Sea Turtle. They collect and protect the eggs until they hatch and then allow the hotel guests to release them to make their way to the ocean.

We were able to do this twice while we where there.

I was amazed at the strong instincts that allowed these little creatures to hit the beach and head straight for the water.

We all stayed out of their way and cheered them on. When the waves came in and tumbled them back up the beach they'd get themselved reoriented and head straight back for the water.

Both evenings everyone stayed and cheered them on until the very last baby turtle made it to the water.

The Hubster named this one Tomás the Turtle

It was truly an amazing experience and I was thrilled to be a part of it.


Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy

>> Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy

Hail to the Chef by Julie Hyzy

Genre: Cozy and Culinary Mystery
Series: #2 in the White House Chef series
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 306
Source: Library

The Short Version:
White House Executive Olivia (Ollie) Paras has enough to do with the holiday season at the White House, but when she adds looking into a suspicious death and keeping herself and the rest of the staff alive it gets pretty complicated.

Why I Read It:
I read and enjoyed the first book in this series after Jenn at Jenn’s Bookshelves convinced me to try it. When I was planning vacation books I quickly added this one to the stack to kick off my vacation reading.

The Book:
Ollie Paras and the staff of the White House begin the Holiday season with preparing a small Thanksgiving dinner gathering for The President, First Lady and a small group of guests. A suspicious device triggers an evacuation of the Executive Mansion and an investigation by the Secret Service. The dinner goes on, but not quite as planned. The First Lady is being pressured by her business partners to sell and her nephew has advised her against it. When the nephew is found dead of an apparent suicide the Thanksgiving Dinner is definitely not a happy celebration.

The Holiday season at the White House is a tremendous amount of work for the entire staff. Both public and private events require extensive planning, preparation and coordination. When the Secret Service reacts to the bomb scare with a round of required safety training for all staff members Ollie is less than pleased because it throws a wrench in her carefully planned schedule of preparations.

When a staff electrician dies in what is thought to be a horrible accident Ollie is not convinced that the circumstances have been fully and accurately investigated. She starts asking questions and soon finds herself in danger.

My Thoughts:
I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series and I think I liked this one even more. The set up from the first book is certainly not necessary to read this one and it can stand on its own quite well.

The setting makes this a fun series. The inner workings of the White House from the kitchen to the other parts of the non-political staff are a unique and interesting background. Although the politics are not at the forefront of the White House activities in these books, there is plenty of high level security intrigue and the crucial protocol and publicity issues. What I enjoyed about this installment of the series was the addition of the staff’s concern for the First Family as a family separate from their political world.

Ollie has some of the typical cozy mystery protagonist characteristics. She’s smart but tends to get in over her head a little too easily but she’s likeable and I enjoy her character. Some of the returning characters from the first book are nice to see. There’s a good mix of supporting characters and although some of the kitchen staff have less of a role in this book because of the expansion of the story to more of the staff and residents of the White House than in the first book.

It’s a cozy series but the setting is unique and interesting and allows for some stories that move beyond some of the typical cozy or culinary mystery books I’ve read in the past.

The recipes included in the back look great and I’m going to make a few notes about them before I return this one to the library.

4 stars Rating 4/5

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