April 26, 2019

Looking Back - Patty Jane's House of Curl

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Patty Jane's House of Curl by Lorna Landvik
1995 Ivy Books
Finished in June 1998
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Patty Jane Dobbin should have known better than to marry a man as gorgeous as Thor Rolvaag, but she was too smitten to think twice. Yet nine months into their marriage, with a baby on the way, Thor is gone. It’s a good thing Patty Jane has her irrepressible sister, Harriet, to rely on. For it’s been said that a fine haircut can cure any number of ills, and before long the Minnesota sisters have opened a neighborhood beauty parlor complete with live harp music and an endless supply of delicious Norwegian baked goods. It’s a wonderful, warmhearted place where you can count on good friends, lots of laughter, tears, and comfort when you need it—and the unmistakable scent of somebody getting a permanent wave. . . .

My Original Notes (1998):

Pretty good! Reminded me of Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias. Funny & sad. Brought me to tears toward the end. Loved the epilogue. I'm ready to read more by Landvik!

My Current Thoughts:

I met the author in 1998 at a small book event in Cleveland. She was very personable and quite funny. Apparently, she had done some stand-up comedy in the past, which was pretty apparent as she talked to us about her life and her novel. I did go on to read more by her, but I haven't read this one a second time. Might need to make time to do so.

April 23, 2019

The Guilty Dead

The Guilty Dead by P.J. Tracy
Monkeewrench #9
2018 Crooked Lane
Finished on April 12, 2019
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)

Publisher's Blurb:

Dead men tell no tales…but their pasts can’t keep a secret.

Gregory Norwood is Minnesota’s most beloved philanthropist, and the story of his son’s overdose was splashed across the front page of all the papers. When a photojournalist sets out to get a candid shot of the highly successful businessman on the one year anniversary of his son’s death, he’s shocked to find Norwood dead with a smoking gun in his hand.

The city is devastated, and Minneapolis detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Rolseth are called in to handle the delicate case. It should be open and shut, but something is not right. Norwood's death is no suicide.

With no suspects and an increasing tangle of digital evidence that confounds the Minneapolis Police Department’s most seasoned cops, Magozzi calls on Grace MacBride, Monkeewrench Software’s founder and chief computer genius and the soon to be mother of their child together. She and her motley crew of partners begin to unravel connections between Norwood’s death and an even larger plot. Norwood wasn’t the first, won’t be the last, and by the end, may be just one of many to die.

The breakneck, high stakes race to find his killer and save the lives of hundreds make P. J. Tracy's The Guilty Dead her most outstanding novel yet.

I first encountered this mother-daughter writing duo in 2003 (pre-blogging days), rapidly devouring the first three mysteries of their Monkeewrench series as quickly as they were published. I've since written about Snow Blind, Shoot to Thrill and Off the Grid, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. When The Sixth Idea was released, I eagerly snatched a copy at my library and dove in as soon as I got home. I know there are many series in which one or two books fall short of their predecessors, but The Sixth Idea was a terrible disappointment. I've since learned that Patricia (Traci's mother) passed away in 2016 and was afraid this wonderful series would lose its magic. When I spotted The Guilty Dead on the New Release shelf at the library, I decided to give it a chance, thinking maybe the lackluster storyline of The Sixth Idea was simply an anomaly.

As with most of the books in this series, the mystery wasn't too terribly complicated or convoluted. There were a couple of clues, early on, that I picked up on and was able to figure out a few details about the case well before the detectives did. But as the case progressed and new evidence was revealed, Leo had that "ah ha!" moment of clarity, which not only helped with solving the case, but kicked the tension up several notches.
There were times when cases were solved slowly and methodically, with little fanfare; other times evidence and information coalesced into a burst of sudden revelation; but this was the first time in Magozzi's career that a slow-motion movie of the past twenty-four hours stuttered through his mind in blinding clarity until it reached a horrifying, impossible conclusion.
The Guilty Dead has redeemed my faith in this series and I'm anxious to go back and read Nothing Stays Buried (#8), which I somehow missed. Or maybe I prejudged it after my disappointment with The Sixth Idea. Who knows. I'm just happy that this latest release was entertaining and held my interest. It was fun to learn about some new events in the Monkeewrench team's lives and while it may not be quite as good as the earlier installments in the series, I'm back on board and look forward to the next release, Ice Cold Heart, which is due out in September.

Click on book titles to read my earlier reviews.

April 22, 2019

Mailbox Monday

I can't remember the last time I got this many books in the mail! I used to get a lot of ARCs when I was working at Barnes and Noble, so I very rarely requested any books from publishers. No longer working in a bookstore (or anywhere, for that matter), I couldn't resist when giveaways for these three popped up on Goodreads and Shelf Awareness. I'm a huge fan of Anna Quindlen and Erica Bauermeister, so I was thrilled to win copies of their new books. I've never read anything by Tracey Garvis Graves, but her novel sounded appealing, so I signed up for that giveaway, too. 

Nanaville by Anna Quindlen

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

We're currently on a 3-week camping trip and I've brought these three books along. I've already begun Nanaville, which is proving to be a quick, enjoyable read.

April 18, 2019

Texas Road Trip - Day 26 & 27

Saturday & Sunday, September 29 and 30, 2018
New Braunfels, Texas
Linda & Bob's Hacienda


We enjoyed another relaxing morning with our good friends before heading out to drop the RV off at the Ford dealership for its 7,500 mile service. We drove past this amazing gas station, which has 60 (!!) gas pumps and a 67,000 square-foot convenience store on an 18 acre site. We didn't need to get gas, so we didn't stop in to check it out, but as strange as it sounds, it's on my list for our next visit!

It's not Texas without Buc-ee's.
Look at all those gas lanes!

We all headed over to our other Nebraska friends' gorgeous new home for an afternoon out by their pool, enjoying great food and watching the Husker football game. It was wonderful catching up with Kim & Pat, whom we knew in Lincoln and who have since moved to Texas. If you're keeping track, that's three couples (all from our dinner group) who have moved from Lincoln to Texas!

A lovely afternoon at Kim & Pat's new home.
An amazing view from their patio and pool!


Rod's cold was worse, so he decided to stay back at our friends' while I joined the group for an outing in the Hill Country. Our first stop was at William Chris Vineyards in Hye. We enjoyed our tasting and I wound up buying two bottles of a red, as well as a bottle of an excellent port. It was lunchtime, so we headed over to the Hye Market (located in the town's historical post office), where I had a delicious pulled pork sandwich. 

After lunch we headed over to Garrison Brothers Distillery. We had a very informative tour, which included a tasting of the unaged bourbon (140 proof). I love bourbon, but not that strong! We were in Hye, Texas, which doesn't allow the purchase of alcohol on Sundays, so I left empty-handed. Probably not a bad thing since most of their bourbons are around $100 a bottle. 

From the distillery, we made our way to Luckenbach, which is a great place to relax with an ice cold beer while listening to live country music. I could have easily spent the entire day there, but it was getting late and we had to get back to the house and get Rod before we headed out again for dinner at the Gristmill in Gruene.

Texas Hill Country

First stop, William Chris Vineyards

Pat, Kim, Linda & Bob
Fun times with great friends!

Ready to switch from wine to bourbon!

So disappointed that Rod missed this due to a bad head cold!

Cheers, y'all!

 Let's go...

Gran and her sweet girl, Miss Millie.

Nothing better than being a grandparent!

Willie & Kris

Millie with her mama, Cami (also from Lincoln)

April 12, 2019

Looking Back - Couplehood

Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.

Couplehood by Paul Reiser
1994 Bantam
Finished in June 1998
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good!)

Publisher's Blurb:

In the tradition of the #1 best-seller SeinLanguage, Bantam Books proudly presents the first book by Paul Reiser, television's sharpest, funniest observer of love, marriage and other mysteries of life. A veteran comic performer, Reiser is best-known as the co-creator and star of the highly-rated NBC comedy, Mad About You, which Time magazine called "The season's best new sitcom"in its 1992 debut. Every Thursday night more than twenty million viewers watch as Paul Reiser reveals the most intimate and hilarious scenes of a marriage. Now for the first time, Reiser brings his trademark wit to the page in a book that will delight his eagerly-awaiting audience, and anyone else who has ever fallen in love--or tried not to. In Couplehood, a New York Times bestseller for more than 40 weeks, Reiser reflects on what it means to be half of a couple -- everything from the science of hand holding, to the technique of tag-team storytelling, to the politics of food and why it always seems to come down to chicken or fish.

My Original Notes (1998):

Hilarious! Laugh out loud humor. I loved it. Reminded me a lot of Mad About You. I could relate to so much of what Reiser said in this book. A perfect wedding or anniversary gift. [Really?] Can't wait to read Parenthood [also by Reiser]. 

My Current Thoughts:

I had this book on my shelf for many, many years and tried to read it again a few months ago, but it didn't hold my interest and wasn't nearly as funny as I remember. I wonder if I would feel the same about the TV series. My husband and I didn't watch a lot of sitcoms back in the '90s, but Mad About You was one we always tuned into. Paul and Jamie were so relatable and had such great chemistry together. They cracked me up!

While searching for images for this post, I found out that there might be a revival of the show in a limited series. I know I'll be watching!

April 6, 2019

A Month in Summary - March 2019

Nehalem, Oregon
March 2019

Once again, I had a great month of reading. Each and every book was a winner! I'm not doing too well with regard to reading from my own stacks, but it's not easy to ignore all those lovely books on the New Release shelves at the library. We didn't have nearly as much rain this month compared to last month, so I was able to get outside and do more walking than I did in February. I played a lot more Pickleball this month (3 times a week!) and really enjoy the workout, as well as the laughter shared with the group of women I play with. We continue to watch a lot of movies and TV shows, and wound up re-watching a few old favorites while we were on our first road trip of the year. We didn't go too far; just a little trip up the coast to one of our favorite state parks along the beach. I'm surprised that with all of the nice weather and a week away, we were able to complete three puzzles. The Van Gogh was the most challenging, but the other two were pretty quick and easy. I love the one with all of the book cover art. 

Books Read in March (click on titles for my review):

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny

Kitchen Yarns: Notes on Life, Love, and Food by Ann Hood

My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne

First Lines:

"All of them? Even the children?" The fireplace sputtered and crackled and swallowed his gasp. "Slaughtered?" (The Brutal Telling)

The first time I made pesto sauce, I used dried basil. Lots of it. Two entire containers of McCormick's dried basil, to be exact. This was 1982, and I wanted to impress my new boyfriend. Josh had just relocated to New York City from San Francisco. He made a mean cup of coffee by pressing the grounds through what looked like a sock. He put apples in coleslaw. He bought live soft-shell crabs in Chinatown, fried them in butter, and put them in a sandwich smeared with homemade mayonnaise. (Kitchen Yarns)

Every seven-year-old deserves a superhero. That's just how it is. Anyone who doesn't agree needs their head examined. 

That's what Elsa's granny says, at least.

Elsa is seven going on eight. She knows she isn't especially good at being seven. She knows she's different. Her headmaster says she needs to "fall into line" in order to achieve "a better fit with her peers." Other adults describe her as "very grown-up for her age." Elsa knows this is just another way of saying "massively annoying for her age," because they only tend to say this when she corrects them for mispronouncing "deja vu" or not being able to tell the difference between "me" and "I" at the end of a sentence. Smart-asses usually can't, hence the "grown-up for her age" comment, generally said with a strained smile at her parents. As if she has a mental impairment, as if Elsa has shown them up by not being totally thick just because she's seven. And that's why she doesn't have any friends except Granny. Because all the other seven-year-olds in her school are as idiotic as seven-year-olds tend to be, but Elsa is different. (My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry)

Even in Los Angeles, where there is no shortage of remarkable hairdos, Harry Peak attracted attention. "He was very blond. Very, very blond," his lawyer said to me, and then he fluttered his hand across his forehead, performing a pantomime of Peak's heavy swoop of bangs. Another lawyer, who questioned Peak in a deposition, remembered his hair very well. "He had a lot of it," she said. "And he was very definitely blond." An arson investigator I met described Peak entering the courtroom "with all that hair," as if his hair existed independently. (The Library Book)

From the moment I accepted the invitation, I was nervous about returning to Germany. It had been so many years since I'd last been there, after all, that it was difficult to know what memories might be stirred up by my return. 

It was the spring of 1988, the year the word "perestroika" entered the language, and I was seated in the bar of the Savoy Hotel on Fasanenstra├če, contemplating my sixty-sixth birthday, which was only a few weeks away. On the table before me, a bottle of Riesling had been decanted into a coupe glass that, a note in the menu revealed, had been modeled on the left breast of Marie-Antoinette. It was very good, one of the costlier wines on the hotel's expansive list, but I felt no guilt in ordering it for my publisher had assured me that they were content to cover all my expenses. (A Ladder to the Sky)

Movies & TV Series:

House, MD - I can't believe we're still watching this series, but we only watch a couple of episodes a night and not every night of the week. We're now into Season Six, so only a few more seasons to go.

A Star is Born - I know I'm in the minority, but I just didn't think this was as great as all the hype suggests. Lady Gaga was very good, though!

The Green Book - Good, but not great and certainly not THE best picture of 2019.

Castaway - Perhaps the third time we've seen this and it was just as good as the first viewing.

Apollo 13 - We've watched this two or three times and it's still good, but not as impressive as the first time we saw it on the big screen.

About Time - This is the second time I've watched this film and I still enjoyed it, although it is a bit sappy and manipulative. I do adore Bill Nighy and Rachel McAdams, though.


Finished in less than two weeks.

Finished in less than a week.

Finished in two days!

We took our first RV trip of the year and headed up to Nehalem Bay, which is one of our favorite Oregon State Parks. We camped for eight nights and had a wonderful time, in spite of a few days of solid rain. It was nice to go for walks on the beach, take a couple of bike rides, read both outside in the sunshine or inside when it rained, and relax by the campfire. We're already planning to take another trip in a couple of weeks. Here are just a few pictures from this trip. I plan to do an entire post on Nehalem sometime soon.