Saturday, August 29, 2015

Elizabeth and Fred

Tomorrow I should have a book review for you. And, Monday there's a terrific author interview. But, today I'm celebrating my niece, Elizabeth, and all her hard work with her Pygmy goats, but, especially my favorite, Fred. If you've been following my blog for most of the ten years, you may remember Elizabeth as the young girl who challenged me one year, saying she could read more books than me.

Elizabeth doesn't have as much time now to read over 150 books in a year. She took fourteen Pygmy goats to the Sandusky County Fair, and she, with some help from family and friends, had to transport those goats, feed them a couple times a day, clean out pens, and, of course, show them on Wednesday and Friday.

Friday was the most successful day, when she and her Pygmy goats competed in Open Classes, meaning people of all ages could show their goats. She had a few first place winners, including one class that consisted of three goats, all from the same sire. But, it was Fred, her first goat, and, as I said, the elder of the herd, who carried the day. Fred was first in his class, Wethers 3 years and over, and then he was Reserve Grand Champion Wether.

Congratulations, Elizabeth and Fred. And, congratulations to your family and friends who worked so hard to tend and show the goats.

Elizabeth showing Fred

Elizabeth when Fred was proclaimed the winner of his class

Me with Elizabeth and Fred, The Reserve Grand Champion Wether

Friday, August 28, 2015

Winners and Historical Mystery Giveaway

Congratulations to the winners of Les Roberts' The Ashtabula Hat Trick. The books were mailed to: Sally S. from Antioch, CA, Harvey D. from Winthrop, ME, Jeannette G. of Benicia, CA and Trish R. of Decatur, GA.

This week, I'm giving away two copies of one of the best historical mysteries I've read in quite some time. Nancy Herriman's No Comfort for the Lost is the first in a series set in San Francisco in the late 1860s. Celia Davies is a nurse, originally from England, who served in the Crimea and the American Civil War. Now in San Francisco, she operates a free clinic for those women who cannot afford other care, or who might not be offered other care. One of those in a Chinese prostitute trying to make a better life. But, before she can do that, she's murdered. And Celia's brother-in-law in a suspect. She teams up with Detective Nicholas Greaves who is willing to look for the killer, despite the opinions of his superiors. It's a search that takes them from Chinatown to the Barbary Coast and the homes of the wealthy and influential. And, it's a terrific mystery.

If you'd like to win a copy of No Comfort for the Lost, email me at Your subject line should read, "Win No Comfort for the Lost." Please include your name and mailing address. Entries from the U.S. only, please. The giveaway will end Thursday, Sept. 3 at 6 PM CT.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Pygmy Goats at the Fair

I haven't had time to finish a book in the last couple days, but I have spent time with some favorite animals. My niece is showing her Pygmy goats at the fair this week, so I'm cheering her on. Tomorrow, come back for the book winners and the next giveaway. In the meantime, check out the Pygmy goats.

Six of Elizabeth's Pygmy goats

Elizabeth showing Fred

Elizabeth and Fred
Do you remember Fred? Fred was Elizabeth's original Pygmy goat, and the mascot for the family's barbecue sauce. He's now the elder of a herd that numbers over fifteen

As I said, come back tomorrow for the giveaway winners and the next contest.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Voracious by Cara Nicoletti

Isn't it fascinating to discover what one reader gets out of a book when another misses it totally? I've read a number of the same books as author Cara Nicoletti has, but I never concentrated on the food in the books. She's a butcher, a former pastry chef, and the author of the literary recipe blog, Yummy Books. And, so many of her memories of books involve food as evidenced in her book, Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books.

Any reader will appreciate the preface of Nicoletti's book. She connects food and books, acknowledging a "profound connection between eating and reading". She says, "I fell in love with cooking through reading, and I learned quickly that being in the kitchen offered me the kind of peace that settling in with a good book did." Nicoletti connected with the characters in books through the food. And, now she has the opportunity to do that for readers, presenting recipes for the memorable food in her favorite books.

The author divides the book into three sections, books of Childhood, Adolescence and College Years, and Adult Years. It's the childhood books that brought back the most memories for me. Nicoletti introduces breakfast sausage with Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. There's Double Chocolate Walnut Sundae with Nancy Drew. And, of course, there's Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies for If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Nicoletti tells us the story from each book, the one that inspired the recipe. And, she exposes her own childhood fears, and later her teenage angst as she discusses the books.

From classics to contemporary fiction and mysteries, Cara Nicoletti proves to be a Voracious reader, as well as a passionate cook. While I found her anecdotes about her life and the stories about each literary piece to be fascinating, I skimmed the recipes. And, admittedly, there are some strange ones from books such as Lord of the Flies, some recipes that won't appeal to most readers. But, the subject itself is as attractive as artist Marion Bolognesi's appetizing illustrations in the book.

Cara Nicoletti's Voracious welcomes guests into her life, where she shares her love of books, and her love of food with all of us. It's comfortable, and comfort reading with the combination of eating and reading.

Cara Nicoletti's website is

Voracious by Cara Nicoletti. Little, Brown & Company. 2015. ISBN 9780316242998 (hardcover), 283p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Penguin's September Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime & Obsidian

Lots of Jinx today for those of you who only watch the videos for cat appearances (smile)

For the rest of you, here are the September cozy releases from Penguin's Berkley Prime Crime and Obsidian.

The Marsh Madness - Victoria Abbott (4th Book Collector Mystery)
The Darling Dahlias and the Silver Dollar Bush - Susan Wittig Albert (5th Darling Dahlias Mystery,  1st time in paperback)
The Darling Dahlias and the Eleven O'Clock Lady - Susan Wittig Albert (6th Darling Dahlias Mystery, hardcover)
All Sales Final - Josie Belle (5th Good Buy Girls Mystery)
Cinderella Six Feet Under - Maia Chance (2nd Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery)
Law and Author - Erika Chase (5th Ashton Corners Book Club Mystery)
Night of the White Buffalo - Margaret Coel (18th Wind River Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
The Man Who Fell from the Sky - Margaret Coel (19th Wind River Mystery, hardcover)
Once Upon a Grind - Cleo Coyle (14th Coffeehouse Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Black Cat Crossing - Kay Finch (1st Bad Luck Cat Mystery)
Death of a Blue Blood - Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain (42nd Murder, She Wrote Mystery, 1st time in paperback)
Trick or Deceit - Shelley Freydont (4th Celebration Bay Mystery)
Booked for Trouble - Eva Gates (2nd Lighthouse Library Mystery)
Basket Case - Nancy Haddock (1st Silver Six Crafty Mystery)
Knot the Usual Suspects - Molly MacRae (5th Haunted Yarn Shop Mystery)
Murder of an Open Book - Denise Swanson (18th Scumble River Mystery)

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

Every year it becomes harder to summarize Louise Penny's exceptional books. While How the Light Gets In may have represented a culmination of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache's fight against good and evil, even in retirement in Three Pines, he continues to take part in the ongoing battle. And, Gamache, representing Everyman, stands as witness to the knowledge that we all have the potential for evil, the potential for good, and, in The Nature of the Beast, the awareness of our own cowardice in the face of evil.

It's mid-September in Three Pines, when the weather is so beautiful it's hard to imagine that anything evil can invade the small community. But, Gamache and his wife, Reine-Marie are present at the bistro when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage runs in, shouting he found a winged monster in the woods, bigger than a house. But, Laurent had warned the villagers before, of an alien invasion, of a fire at his house. The boy's stories and hoaxes only grew more elaborate.

And, Gamache and Reine-Marie were in the bistro when Antoinette Lemaitre introduced the play she was directing at the local theater, a play called She Sat Down and Wept by an unknown playwright named John Fleming. It's only Gamache that recognizes that John Fleming may not be unknown in Canada.

So, when nine-year-old Laurent Lepage goes missing, the search reveals that the darkness had reached Three Pines. Poet Ruth Zardo is one of the first to acknowledge that monsters still threaten the world. It's a small circle of friends, acknowledging how the villagers are preparing pitchforks and torches, who call on Gamache. Bookstore owner, Myrna, sees it, and Clara calls. "Nature, she knew, abhorred a vacuum, and these people, faced with an information vacuum, had filled it with their fears. The line between fact and fiction, between real and imagined, was blurring. The tether holding people to civil behavior was fraying. They could see it, and hear it and feel it coming apart."

And, Gamache and the police who once formed his homicide team step in to do battle again, in the face of terrible evil. Penny seamlessly weaves together the multiple storylines, with the kind of climax she's known for, one that leaves the reader breathless. At the same time, she once again forces Armand Gamache to face his own fears and nightmares. His close friend, Therese Brunel, knows why Gamache retired early from the Sûreté de Québec. "He had finally staggered under the emotional burden. He'd had enough of corruption, of betrayal, of the back-stabbing and undermining and venal atmosphere. He'd had enough of death." But, Armand Gamache is our Everyman, the one who steps up in the face of his own fears. He's the man who knows that monsters exist, even in the Eastern Townships, even in Three Pines.

Louise Penny brings back characters from the past, introduces new ones, and leaves us with a new threat. As in all of her books, though, Gamache and his friends unite to face the shadows, the shadows of the past, and the shadows of threats. And, they use light and knowledge and literature to combat monsters, as people always have. Gamache is our Everyman in Louise Penny's new masterpiece, The Nature of the Beast.

Louise Penny's website is, and she can be found on Facebook.

The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny. Minotaur Books. 2015. ISBN 9781250022080 (hardcover), 376p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

If you follow my blog regularly, you know I read for entertainment, no matter what I'm reading. But, I picked up Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me because it appeared on a bookstore's list for the subject "Black Lives Matter." This forthright book is a letter from a journalist to his fifteen-year-old black son. It discusses racism, history, his own life, his fear, and his fear for his son.

Coates breaks the letter into three parts. First he defines those who think they've found the "Dream", found their aspirations to live a safe, secure life in what they think of as a "white" world. He contrasts that with his own life growing up in Baltimore, where he struggled daily to balance between the streets where boys confronted each other, sometimes with guns, and his school and family life. But, he said a black boy learns early that life is about survival and safety. And, he talks about America, built on the bodies of black people, built so that white people can live a dream, and blacks live in fear. And, even as he discusses that, he admits that the Irish, the Italians, the Catholics, the Jews were not always the "white people" living the Dream. But, unlike the black person, they weren't slaves in this country.

The second part of the book describes Coates' escape into the sheltered world of Howard University, where he met blacks of every hue and nationality. Even there, he was not meant for the prescribed courses of study, classroom work. Instead, he was the type of young man who questioned everything, and searched for books to assist with his quest, saying "I was made for the library, not the classroom." But, even that sheltered environment led young men and women to the world where police would accost them on the streets, in their cars, and not face punishment for their actions. It was the killing of a college friend that tore Coates apart. His friend, raised to believe in the Dream, was tracked through three cities and shot down. Even the college-educated, dreaming young people have to walk the streets in fear.

In the short final chapter, Coates discovers a world without fear, but it's in Paris. When he follows his wife there, he discovers a world where he can walk the streets without worrying about survival, and he takes his son there to share it with him. But, even then, he knows it's too late for him to live a life without fear. And, every day, he fears for his son, a young black man in America.

I'm the wrong person to write a criticism of Between the World and Me. I grew up with that Dream, in an all white community where everyone aspired to college and a solid middle-class life. And, I only know the fear of walking on a street at night as a woman. I don't know the all-consuming walk of survival, the fear of saying the wrong thing or making the wrong move. Ta-Nehisi Coates' letter to his son is a powerful indictment of a country living in fear, people fearing each other because of the color of their skin, or because of the power over them because of the color of their skin. It's sad, and tragic, that Coates and others cannot feel safe and at peace in this country.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Spiegal & Grau. 2015. ISBN 9780812993547 (hardcover), 152p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book