Showing posts from 2012

I am resolved

“ Tonight’s December thirty-first, Something is about to burst. The clock is crouching, dark and small, Like a time bomb in the hall. Hark, it's midnight, children dear. Duck! Here comes another year! —  Ogden Nash From  Collected Verse from 1929 on Yes, we've finally reached that fateful day, the day when the clock takes on the aura of a time bomb as it counts down the final hours of the old year and points toward the new year to come with all of its possibilities. It's a time for retrospection as we think of the year 2012, now almost finished. What did we accomplish this year? What did we fail to do that we should have done? What are our triumphs? What are our despairs? And, most importantly, how can we improve and get it all right in the bright, shiny new year just peeking over our windowsills? That's where resolutions come in, of course. As I think about what I would like to do to perfect myself in 2013, several things come to mind that I might resolve.

A poem for year's end

The Year Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1910) What can be said in New Year rhymes, That’s not been said a thousand times? The new years come, the old years go, We know we dream, we dream we know. We rise up laughing with the light, We lie down weeping with the night. We hug the world until it stings, We curse it then and sigh for wings. We live, we love, we woo, we wed, We wreathe our brides, we sheet our dead. We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear, And that’s the burden of the year.

The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny: A review

When reading a mystery series, I think it is a mistake to read the books out of sequence. But earlier this year my Mystery Book Club read Bury Your Dead , the sixth in Louise Penny's Armand Gamache series, and it was my introduction to this series. After finishing that book and loving it, I determined to read the series in order and I've been working my way through the books here at the end of the year.  Then I picked up The Brutal Telling , number five in the series, and made another mistake. I was reading the book on my Kindle and thought I had started number four. By the time I had realized my mistake, I was already involved in the story.  Now, I have to circle back and read number four.   Sigh . But having read Bury Your Dead earlier proved really problematic for reading this book because the final solution to this book's mystery is revealed there. And so, I read this book knowing all along who the murderer was. I knew so much more than the investigators and I ke

Winter birds: Pine Siskin


The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny: A review

Louise Penny's mysteries are very much in the tradition of Agatha Christie. Her Chief Inspector Gamache is almost a cross between Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple! He combines the brilliance of Poirot with the small village values of Miss Marple. He is unfailingly courteous to all, even to the murder suspects that he and his team investigate in their roles with the Homicide Division of the Surete du Quebec.  He has a soft spot for outsiders, for those whose value may not be recognized by others in the Surete or in society. Frequently, he makes them a part of his investigative team and his team has an almost 100% rate of solving crimes, thus proving Gamache's instincts are golden.  His inclusion of these outsiders always meets resistance from his second-in-command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, even though Jean Guy himself was once one of Gamache's "outsider projects." That could be said of most members of this highly successful investigative team. Once again that team is cal

A reader's dozen...well, fourteen, actually

'Tis the season for making lists. Everybody is going on record with a list of his/her favorite movies, television shows, songs, books, or whatever turns him/her on. Or, in some cases, it is the ten least favorite things, but, regardless of whether it's good or bad, it seems that one must make a list. Not wanting to be left out of the fun, I decided to make a list of my favorite books that I read this year. Instead of a "top ten," I thought I would do it a bit differently and pick one book from each month - it would be my favorite from that month, so I would wind up with a list of twelve. Sounds easy enough and most months were easy. But a couple of months proved problematic. I just couldn't pick between two favorites from those months. So, in the end, I had a list of fourteen favorites. And here they are, my favorites from each month with links to my reviews of them. January :   The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach I loved this book about baseball as li

Happy holidays!

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all and thank you for reading my blog this year.

The Fatal Grace by Louise Penny: A review

This was the perfect time to read this book. The action takes place around Christmas in Three Pines, the idyllic village in the mountains of Quebec.   It is a village where everything seems postcard perfect. As the snow falls, it could certainly serve as the scene on the front of a holiday card. There's only one tiny flaw in this otherwise perfect scene: The murder rate here seems astronomical! Part of the traditional Christmas celebration in Three Pines is the annual curling tournament that takes place on a nearby frozen lake. The whole village, including CC Poitiers and her mouse of a husband and her pathetic daughter, have turned out for the exhibition. Also present is CC's photographer (and lover) who has been hired to take pictures of her interacting with the locals for a project the would-be Martha Stewart clone is planning.  In the middle of the action, in the middle of the lake, in front of the whole village, CC is electrocuted. But no one will admit to having seen a

The snowy woods

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening BY  ROBERT FROST Whose woods these are I think I know.    His house is in the village though;    He will not see me stopping here    To watch his woods fill up with snow.    My little horse must think it queer    To stop without a farmhouse near    Between the woods and frozen lake    The darkest evening of the year.    He gives his harness bells a shake    To ask if there is some mistake.    The only other sound’s the sweep    Of easy wind and downy flake.    The woods are lovely, dark and deep.    But I have promises to keep,    And miles to go before I sleep,    And miles to go before I sleep.

The NRA exposed

Seriously, Wayne LaPierre? That's your contribution to the national discussion? The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun? How about just disarming them both? But, of course, that would make too much sense. The vice-president of the National Rifle Association had his week-long-awaited "news conference" yesterday at which he took no questions. He simply read a rambling, thoroughly unhinged statement in a quavery voice. It was a statement that blamed gun violence in America on everything except guns. Video games, violence in movies, song lyrics, people who want to control the easy accessibility of guns, the general culture and on and on. What he didn't say was that all those things he alluded to could apply to any other industrialized nation in the world and yet no other nation in the world has the problem with gun violence that we do. No other nation in the world has a Wayne LaPierre and an NRA. I think there may be a connection. Charles B

Are you surprised to still be here?

Happy! Are you surprised to still be here? The Maya, who were consummate astronomers and constructors of calendars, made what is known as the "long count" calendar which runs for a period of 5,125 years and then resets. This period of time is further divided into 13 Baktuns . (A Baktun lasts approximately 394 years.) Today is the day,, that those 5,125 years and 13 Baktuns end and the calendar resets. The Maya with their advanced civilization and culture maintain a somewhat mystical hold over the imaginations of many people - including, I admit, me - and that accounts, I think, for why this date has received such hyped attention and has been looked forward to for many months now by some with a mixture of excitement and dread. In addition, there are those who are simply fascinated with the idea of an apocalypse and seem to spend their lives looking for it and looking for signs of its coming. Naturally, they would grab hold of the date of the end of

Still Life by Louise Penny: A review

Earlier this year, the leader of my local Mystery Book Club introduced me to the work of Louise Penny. As our book club selection for that month, we read  Bury Your Dead . Wonderful book! I knew that I had to get to know that humane policeman, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surete du Quebec better. At my earliest opportunity, I would go back and start reading this award-winning series from the beginning. Well, my opportunity came this week when I picked up the first book in the series,   Still Life ,  to read. Immediately, I was propelled once again back into the idyllic village of Three Pines. The peace of the village had been shattered by the death of one its well-loved residents, Jane Neal. Her body was found in the woods on a Sunday morning. She had been pierced by an arrow straight through her heart. It was bow hunting season in the area and the villagers were convinced that Jane had been killed by accident by some careless bow hunter. But when Chief Inspector Gamache ar

Wordless Wednesday: Winter is coming


A Cold Day in Paradise by Steve Hamilton: A review

Alex McKnight had been a police officer on the mean streets of Detroit. Fourteen years earlier the streets had proved especially mean for Alex and his partner. They had confronted a psycho in his home and the man had killed Alex's partner, Franklin, and had shot Alex three times. Doctors had removed two of the bullets, but the third bullet, lodged close to his heart, had proved impossible to remove. Alex has lived with that metal reminder in his body for all the years since. The killer, a man named Maximilian Rose, was caught a year later and sent to prison where he has spent all the intervening years. After the incident, Alex left the police department on a three-quarters disability pension and returned to his home town of Paradise on the Upper Peninsula, on the shores of Lake Superior. There he took over management of a number of hunters' cabins that had belonged to his now deceased father. He took care of the cabins and lived nearby in the woods in a tiny cabin of his

What would Molly say?

At times of national angst, it is useful to consider what great philosophers have to say. Today we consider what that great Texas philosopher Molly Ivins had to say about guns in our society. ( With a tip of the hat to the Great State of Maine at Daily Kos for bringing this to my attention .) In truth, there is no rational argument for guns in this society. This is no longer a frontier nation in which people hunt their own food. It is a crowded, overwhelmingly urban country in which letting people have access to guns is a continuing disaster. Those who want guns---whether for target shooting, hunting or potting rattlesnakes (get a hoe)---should be subject to the same restrictions placed on gun owners in England---a nation in which liberty has survived nicely without an armed populace. […] Molly Ivins Michael Crichton makes an interesting argument about technology in his thriller "Jurassic Park." He points out that power without discipline is making this society


Hope      Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune--without the words, And never stops at all, And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm. I've heard it in the chillest land, And on the strangest sea; Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me. - Emily Dickinson 

Another day, another massacre

There really are no words to convey the horror. Another day, another massacre in the USA. This time most of the victims were children, babies really, barely even launched on the sea of life. The other victims were people who had dedicated their lives to helping children like them get launched. The sadness simply overwhelms me and, I am sure, most parents, who understand the images that the parents of those twenty children who died must live with for the rest of their lives. There is no way to mitigate the pain. The killing of so many innocents in one place at one time certainly gets our attention and grabs all the headlines for a few days, but the truth is that this many people die most days in this country as a result of being killed with a gun. Some 10,000 deaths per year occur in the United States because of gun violence. And what is our response? Why, to make guns more widely available and easily accessible , of course. The response of many of the gun nuts to yesterday's t

Creating Rain Gardens by Cleo Woelfle-Erskine and Apryl Uncapher: A review

In a world which is heating up and where long-lasting droughts are becoming more and more common, the value of the water provided free to us by Mother Nature cannot be overrated. And yet much - probably most - of that water is not utilized as it might be to enhance the environment. Often it simply runs off along gutters and down storm drains, picking up contaminants as it goes and sweeping them into lakes, streams, rivers, and, ultimately, oceans and creating a whole additional environmental problem.   It is easy for an individual gardener to feel overwhelmed by the environmental devastation facing Earth, to feel impotent about doing anything to effect a solution. But the waste of rainwater is most definitely something that we can and should do something about. In this book, Cleo Woelfle-Erskine and Apryl Uncapher explain to us with step-by-step instructions just how we can accomplish that. Capturing rainwater is a way to make your own garden practices more water-efficient and self-s

Slash and Burn by Colin Cotterill: A review

The 74-year-old Dr. Siri has been trying to retire for years, but his country, 1978 Laos after the Pathet Lao revolution, just won't let him go. Now, though, it seems as if he might actually be able to achieve his long-held dream of retirement to spend his final years relaxing with his new wife and famous noodle shop owner, Madame Daeng. He shouldn't be counting the days, however, because his country has just one last assignment for him. In 1968, there was a helicopter crash somewhere in the northeast of the country. The pilot was never found and is listed as MIA. It was an American helicopter from Air America, a CIA operation. Ten years later, the Americans are still seeking those lost in their Southeast Asian wars and, for some reason, they now seem focused on this one pilot. Could it be because his father is now a powerful United States senator? At any rate, an American delegation, including another senator, arrives to conduct the search for the pilot and they must, o