Saturday, May 30, 2015

Thursday's Children by Nicci French

I suppose you've heard the little poem predicting your future based on the day of the week that you were born.  It says:

Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace;
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go;
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for its living;
But the child that is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonny and blithe, and good and gay.

I've really enjoyed reading the mystery series starring Dr. Frieda Klein.  Written by a husband and wife team that call themselves Nicci French, these are solid mysteries that carry the reader along the many walks and paths that the protagonist, Frieda, travels.  The title of 4th book in the series, Thursday's Children, seemed appropriate to describe Frieda herself - a woman who has far to go.  She has gone far away from the place she was born and raised, trained as a psychotherapist, crossed paths with damaged people, helped many of them, been involved with crime solving, been attacked, stalked, ridiculed, and shunned.  She has also been loved by her few friends and colleagues.  I've always known that this woman had some dreadful hurt in her past.  In Thursday's Children, we begin to see what Frieda walked away from and why.

Over a year has passed since the events of Waiting For Wednesday.  Life has continued and Frieda is back to seeing patients again.  She is contacted by someone from her past, a woman she knew when they were teenage girls in the small Suffolk coastal town where they grew up.  Maddie Capel's 15-year-old daughter, Becky, has been having all kinds of problems and Maddie asks Frieda to talk to the girl.  Becky is at first resistant, but soon she shares a horrific secret - she believes that she has been raped in her own bed by someone who whispered to her, "Don't think of telling anyone, sweetheart.  No one will believe you".  However, someone does believe her - Frieda sits numbly remembering a very similar incident from her own past - "No one will believe you".  The journey to discover the person who has attacked this young girl and perhaps Frieda herself takes Dr. Klein back to her home town.  She must face her teenage friends, her old teachers, and even her mother.  Frieda has been gone for over 20 years.  What can she find out after all this time?  Lots, it turns out.

Again, Dr. Frieda Klein is quite the favorite for me right now.  I've known from the beginning that she has dark places within her.  Her unnatural calm in the face of trauma has been honed because of events in her own life.  She does have feelings - deep feelings.  And, after meeting her mother in this book, well, I understand why she has needed to protect herself to a certain extent.  She goes the extra mile in some ways, but in others, she may seem callous.  If you've read these books, I'd love to know your opinion of her.  I find her fascinating.  And I love many of the secondary characters as well.  They won't let Frieda push them away and she has realized that and has come to depend on them over time.  This episode will cement further many of those ties.

Thursday's Children has not been published in US yet, so my copy was acquired from a used bookstore.  I am eagerly waiting on the next book, which I've preordered from the UK, Friday On My Mind.  It will be published in July.

I'll leave you once again with a quote.  Frieda is speaking to the teenage girl, Becky:
     'You're in control here.  It might not feel like it.  You can talk or be silent, you can leave whenever you want.  You can tell me things, and I'm not going to judge you or be shocked.  I'm here to help you to say things that you haven't been able to talk about.  Sometimes when you say things, acknowledge them, they become less frightening.'
     'Why?  They're just stupid words.  They can't change anything.'
     'It can be like shining a light into a dark corner.  Or perhaps it's more like staring long enough at the darkness so that you become accustomed to it and can make out the shapes it hides.  Fears that we don't have a name for have power over us.  Think of this time as an opportunity to gain some kind of control.'  

Friday, May 29, 2015

Ice Shear by M. P. Cooley

Ice Shear is the first book in a new mystery series written by M. P. Cooley.  It is this author's debut, and she has been nominated for at least 3 mystery awards for Best First Mystery, quite an accomplishment.  I read Ice Shear for my current mystery group meeting, where we will be reporting on award nominated/winning books for 2014/15.  I listened to it on audio with narration by Marguerite Gavin, who did a great job.  I was quite pleased with Ice Shear and actually quite cold throughout.  Let me tell you why.

Officer June Lyons works for the police department in Hopewell Falls, New York.  Daughter of the retired chief of police, she and her family moved back to upstate New York when her husband, Kevin, was very ill with cancer.  Both June and Kevin were FBI agents and went through training at Quantico together.  They had been based in California with June working mostly with gang crime and Kevin part of the cyber crime division.  After it became clear that Kevin would not recover, June moved back home so that she could care for Kevin and their small daughter, with her father's help.  She became a regular police officer with the Hopewell Falls police.  Kevin died and June has remained in her hometown, doing a job that she is overqualified for, but needing to be near family and provide stability for her 6-year-old.

On a routine night's patrol, June discovers a young woman impaled on an ice shear that had formed in the Mohawk River.  It turns out the dead woman is the daughter of the local Congresswoman.  Danielle had been a troubled young woman and she went to California to get away from her parents and attend college.  She returned home, married to the son of the main enforcer of the Abominations,  a violent motorcycle gang.  Before June knows it, everything has gotten complicated.  She's been an outsider with the local police and never quite fit in, but now, the FBI has come to assist in the murder investigation and the agent that arrives is someone both June and her husband knew well.  More discoveries are made - there's a meth lab located in a prime spot and a plan to distribute drugs throughout the area.  A biker gang rolls into town and the tension increases.  Who killed Danielle?  Who's involved in setting up the meth lab?  Pressure is being put on all of them by important people.  And then there is another murder.

I loved getting to know single mother, June (actually Juniper, but don't call her that), and her family and colleagues.  She's still recovering from her husband's death and misses him dreadfully.  She also misses the challenge of her FBI job, but feels that her daughter needs a regular life.  She's not sure her coworkers trust her very much and she's also not sure she can trust the FBI.  After all, she 'washed out', left, couldn't take it, regardless of what was going on in her personal life.  A woman who is still grieving, but trying her best to move forward.  This character has lots of room for growth.

The setting was vivid and described in detail, especially the winter weather.  Cold, cold, cold.  Brrr!  The details of this town that is down on it's luck, factories shuttered, and job opportunities scarce seemed quite authentic.  The crime solving was slower paced at first and then the action increased dramatically.  This was an interesting police procedural and a fine debut.  I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series. Flame Out, which was recently published.  I'll be reporting to my group that I highly recommend Ice Shear.  The award nominations are well deserved.  

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Waiting For Wednesday by Nicci French

May I just say that 2015 has been a great year so far for discovering new-to-me mystery series?  I am loving the Dr. Frieda Klein books, written by the husband and wife team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French aka Nicci French.  Waiting For Wednesday is the 3rd book in the series and I loved it.  As I wrote in my review of the previous book, Tuesday's Gone, my intention was to listen to this one on audio.  It was narrated by Beth Chalmers and she did a wonderful job.

Ruth Lennox has been murdered in the living room of her own home.  She's a normal wife and mother of 3 teenagers and DCI Malcolm Karlsson and his team can't seem to find any reason why she was killed.  Ruth was efficient and well organized.  Her house ran like clockwork - or did it?  Frieda is still recovering from the injuries and trauma she suffered at the end of the previous book.  She hasn't gone back to her practice and the police have cut their ties with her.  However, Karlsson asks her to walk through the victim's home, as a favor to him, and give her impressions.  Frieda muses that it's like a stage set for a play - where are the secrets?

Meanwhile, the 'official' police psychologist, Dr. Hal Bradshaw, has offered his opinion of the case and made Karlsson despise him even more.  Bradshaw, who has a definite grudge against Frieda, spends quite a bit of the book trying to make Frieda look bad to not only the police 'brass' but to the world in general through various means.  He really crosses a line.

There is another storyline meandering it's way through the book that relates to a retired investigative journalist who follow some leads concerning several missing women.  No one is interested in the journalist's story, but he persists and Frieda, who finds herself pursuing the same cold case, meets the man and joins forces.  All of Frieda's friends, many of whom we've met in the first two books, are worried about her.  She's become obsessed with her hunches and secretive about them.  What's wrong with Frieda?

Waiting For Wednesday has a lot going on - many threads that seems unrelated at first.  Also, Frieda, who really hasn't had time to heal and recover sufficiently, is beset by friends and family who need her to help them over and over.  Her home, which is her shelter, is 'invaded' by bathroom renovations, a teenage niece and her friends, old colleagues who stop by way too often, and even members of Karlsson's team.  I will admit that everyone seemed really selfish to me and uncaring about how all of this was affecting Frieda's life.  She, as usual, was calm, undemanding, guilt-ridden at times for things that were out of her control, and then finally more than a little strange.  I was worried for her too.

By the end, the action was breathless and that's all I'll say.  Will I read the next book?  Yes, I will.  Right away.  I managed to get Thursday's Children at a used bookstore, as it has not been published in the US yet.  Dr. Frieda Klein is becoming one of my favorite protagonists.  I still don't feel we know much about why she has this compulsion to rescue everyone, while remaining unnaturally calm herself.  One day, that calm is going to crack.  And maybe then we'll know.  I'll leave you with a quote that spoke to me:
Human beings have an ability to survive by burying the past, making themselves forget...But Frieda couldn't make herself believe that.  You had to face the truth, however painful, and move on from there.  Burying it didn't make it die, and in the end it would claw its way out of the earth and come for you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Pretty Girls

This is a weekly event that highlights a book we can't wait to be published.  It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Karin Slaughter is a favorite author of mine and she has been for quite some time.  Her books are not to everyone's taste.  Several members of my mystery book group are not fans, but some others are.  I think she's an author that you either really like or her books are not for you.  In any case, I'm always excited to see a new book with her name on it.  I love her Grant County books and I really, really love the Will Trent books.  Will, an investigator for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, has had a special place in my heart ever since I first read about him in Triptych.  All that being said, this year's book is a stand alone and will not include Will.  Sigh.  My choice for this week:

Publication Date:  September 29th 

Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia's teenaged sister, Julia, vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that's cruelly ripped open when Claire's husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tuesday - First Chapter - First Paragraph - The Crying Child

Each Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile By the Sea shares the first part of a book that she is reading or thinking about reading.  This week I'm sharing the first few paragraphs of The Crying Child by Barbara Michaels.  See what you think:


     From the air, the island doesn't look big enough to land a plane on.  It's a pretty sight, from above, calling to mind all sorts of poetic images--an agate, shining brown and green, flung down in folds of sea-blue satin; a blog of variegated Play-Doh, left in a basin of water by a forgetful child; an oval braided rug on a green glass floor.
     Or a hand, in a brown-and-green mitten.  The hand is clenched into a fist, with a thumblike promontory jutting out on one side.  Across the broad end there is a range of hills that might be knuckles; at the other end, the land narrows down into a wrist-shaped peninsula.  There are beaches there, like fur trim on the cuff of a mitten; the rest of the island is thick with foliage, somber green pines and fir trees for the most part.  The house is surprisingly distinct from above.  The lighter green of the lawns and the gray outline of roofs and chimneys stand out amid the darkness of the pines.  The only other distinctive landmark is the cluster of buildings that make up the village, along the thumb promontory, and its harbor, which is formed by the junction of thumb and hand.
     And that's where the figure of speech fails.  You could compare the house to an oddly shaped ring, up on the knuckles of the hand, but the village doesn't suggest any analogy.  A diseased imagination might think of sores or warts; but there never was anything festering about St. Ives.  It was just a charming Maine town, and not even the events of that spring could make it anything else.  There was no lurking horror in the village.  It was in the house.


Joanne McMullen's fears for her sister's sanity have brought her to remote King's Island, Maine. Mary's grief over the loss of her child is threatening to send her over the edge—and her insistence that she has heard an eerie, childlike wailing in the woods fuels Joanne's anxiety. And now Mary's taken to disappearing at midnight in search of the source of the heartrending moans. But it's not just her sister's encroaching madness that is chilling Joanne's blood—it's her own. Because suddenly, impossibly, she also hears the crying child.

What are your thoughts?  Would you keep reading?

Monday, May 25, 2015

Invisible City by Julia Dahl

Invisible City is the first book in the Rebekah Roberts mystery series.  It was written by Julia Dahl.  I listened to it on audio and it was narrated by Andi Arndt, who did an excellent job.  I really enjoyed this book.  It's been nominated for several mystery awards this year, all in the 'Best First Novel' category - the Anthony, the Barry, the Edgar, the Mary Higgins Clark Award, and the Thriller award.  You can find a listing of all these awards on the wonderful website, Stop You're Killing Me.  I read this book partly because my mystery book group is reading award nominated/winning books for June and this one qualifies completely!

Rebekah Roberts is a stringer for a New York tabloid newspaper.  She never knows where she will be sent by her editors, but she does know that she's expected to get the quotes and the facts.  On this day, Rebekah is sent to a crime scene where a dead woman has been discovered mostly buried under a pile of scrap metal.  The Brooklyn location is in the midst of the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic Jewish community.  Rebekah, who grew up in Florida and has not been in New York all that long, has a connection to this community that she has not shared with her editors.

Many years ago, Rebekah's mother, a Hasidic Jewish woman, met her father, a Christian, at a New York bookstore.  They fell in love and had Rebekah.  Very soon afterwards, Rebekah's mother left to return to her family and conservative religious life, never seeing her daughter again.  Rebekah wanted to come to New York to be a newspaper reporter, but she's also drawn to the idea of finding her mother's roots and perhaps even the woman herself.

As she pursues leads in her story, Rebekah is taken aback to find out that the murdered woman's case is not being investigated very carefully by the NYPD.  The relationship between the police and the closed conservative Hasidic community is complicated.  Crimes are often not reported or only reported to an internal security group.  Religious tradition maintains that an autopsy not be performed and burial happens extremely quickly.  Rebekah wonders how much evidence has been lost and so she asks more and more questions.  And she finds allies and enemies in her hunt.  Secrets are everywhere.  A murderer is aware of Rebekah and her questions; she's an outsider and not very welcome...and in danger.

I liked the character of Rebekah and her friends as well.  She's a character who is just beginning to find out how much she wants to know more of her mother's world.  She has anxiety that she deals with and a job that puts lots of stress on her.  I felt fairly anxious myself just listening to her deal with her editors and bosses.  I'll look forward to her character developing more as the series continues.  The crime and mystery itself was not terribly complicated, but there was a good amount of information about the very sheltered Hasidic community and the traditions and norms that the women especially have to deal with.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Run You Down, which will be published on June 30th.  All in all, a good start to a new series.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Let's talk about cupcakes and Jenn McKinlay's Cupcake Bakery Mysteries...

We've talked about coffee already.  Let's talk about cupcakes - I mean, who doesn't love cupcakes?  Just the right size.  Not too big, not too little.  Perfect!!  And have you noticed the boom in cupcake shops and flavors in the last few years?  How about a mystery series set in a cupcake shop?  Sound good?  Well, pull up a chair and let's talk murder and flavors.

First of all, I'll share that my daughter is a cupcake baker extraordinaire.  Seriously.  Not just Mom talk.  She's a labor and delivery nurse by profession, but she's a baker with a flair.  She's had a little bakery business in the past, but her hospital work has gotten too busy for much more than cupcakes for friends and family now.  I'll be sprinkling a few of her cupcakes here and there in this post.

Jenn McKinlay is an amazingly prolific author.  She has written 5 different mystery series.  She's a librarian.  She's got a husband and kids.  And she lives in Phoenix, Arizona and is a frequent guest at where?  You guessed it, The Poisoned Pen.  The only mystery series I've read of hers so far is her cupcake bakery series.  It's set in Old Town Scottsdale and stars two friends, Angie DeLaura and Melanie Cooper.  These ladies own Fairy Tale Cupcakes, partially because of help from another friend, Tate Harper.

In the first book, Sprinkle With Murder, Tate's fiance is murdered.  She was sort of a bridezilla and was actually found dead with one of Angie and Melanie's sample cupcakes.  Hijinks ensue and both the cupcake ladies are suspected of the crime.  Angie has several brothers and so family plays a part.  Angie, Melanie and Tate have been friends since they were kids.  Everyone has an opinion.  Oh, and there is also a 'crazy as a loon' woman who is their competition.  Always fun to see her.

There are now 7 books in this series that includes titles like Buttercream Bump Off and Red Velvet Revenge and Going, Going Ganache.  Can't you just taste the flavors?  So, if you're thinking that a little sweetness would go along well with your murder, you might try one of these books.  They are fun!

Just in case you were wondering about the cupcake flavors in the pictures.  The first one with the fondant flower and purple vanilla buttercream icing is a plain chocolate cake.  Daughter was very proud of the look of the icing and fondant.  The next ones down are Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes.  Then we have Butter Pecan Praline Cupcakes.  And the one just above is a Peppermint Hot Cocoa Cupcake.  Yummy, huh?  Do you like cupcakes?  What are your favorite flavors?

I'll be including this post as part of this week's Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Dismantling by Brian DeLeeuw

The Dismantling by Brian DeLeeuw is a book that's a bit out of my usual reading scope, but it worked for me regardless.  It tells of Simon Worth, a young man who has lost his way.  Simon has never gotten over his sister Amelia's accidental death and the guilt he feels for not saving her.  He drops out of med school after having what was essentially a breakdown in his anatomy class.  He's not sure where to turn as his school loans are vast and he doesn't want to ask his father for help.

One of his classmates, Katherine, tells him of a job that might be available with a company called Health Solutions.  The job would involve working with organ donations and helping to match individuals who need transplants with people who are willing to donate.  The only problem is that Health Solutions is a front for black market organ donations.  Simon needs the money though and he convinces himself that he will still be helping people.

Things are fine for a few months, but then Simon is involved in arranging for the company's first liver transplant.  Lenny Pellegrini, a former NFL football player, needs a new liver.  Nevermind that Lenny is an alcoholic and has other problems as well.  He can't get on the transplant list, but his friend is willing to foot the bill for a black market liver.  Simon finds a donor, a young woman named Maria Campos, who flies to New York from Los Angeles in order to facilitate the operation.  All seems like it's going well - and then it doesn't.  Everything falls apart and Simon and Maria are running for their lives.  Buying and selling human organs is highly illegal and someone has a lot of money at stake.

This book had a lot going on, a number of issues it touched on - maybe too many.  There were black market organ transplants - illegal certainly.  There was the question of how well the NFL has supported and taken care of players - ex-athletes with depression and debilitating problems because of past injuries and multiple concussions and also those players' subsequent abuse of alcohol and drugs.  There were teenagers who were abused or traumatized.  There were unhappy people around every corner and moral questions that each character faced and dealt with.

I found the book highly readable, but the characters not particularly likable.  I either despised them or was frustrated with them and their choices.  That being said, the story was fairly gripping and at under 300 pages, moved swiftly.  I'd probably try this author again.  I give this book an almost two thumbs up.

Thanks to Lisa at TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me The Dismantling.  You can see the rest of the tour here.  Brian DeLeeuw's website is here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Dead Sea Cipher by Elizabeth Peters

One more Elizabeth Peters book narrated by Grace Conlin and then I'll take a break.  The Dead Sea Cipher, written in 1970, was a reread that I first enjoyed in my 20's.  I actually remember the librarian that first told me about Elizabeth Peters.  I had already been enjoying this author's works under the name Barbara Michaels.  I had no idea that she had another persona.  I recall that very nice lady telling me that if I liked mysteries and funny mysteries at that, I should try Crocodile On The Sandbank, the first Amelia Peabody book.  And, she said, this author also writes some contemporary (or what was contemporary at that time) books that are just as witty and humorous.

As Die For Love poked gentle fun at romance writers and conferences, The Dead Sea Cipher is a spoof on spy novels, James Bond, and the like.  Plus archaeology - Biblical archaeology.  There are secrets and hidden clues, bus tours and shoppers who get kidnapped, fights and bodies and guns, and spies - yes, there are spies.  The setting is the Middle East - Beirut and Damascus, Jericho and Jerusalem.  The Dead Sea, the Jordan River, the Mount of Olives.

Dinah van der Lyn is a budding opera singer.  She has a new job to report to in Germany.  However, before she starts, she goes on a tour of Beirut, Jerusalem, and other significant Holy Land locations.  Her father is a minister and noted authority on Biblical archaeology and her mother was a rabbi's daughter.  She has been raised knowing something of these sites and she's on a trip that her father, in poor health, is no longer able to make.  Her first night in Beirut is an interesting one.  She overhears an argument between two men in the room next door.  There's a sound of fighting, shouting, a cry for help, and then silence.  After reporting the disturbance to a man that she thinks is the night manager of the hotel, Dinah goes back to her room.

All is not well though.  The next day Dinah is approached by another man, who asks her questions about the fight she reported.  Before she knows it, she's being watched, being questioned by the police, running for her life through hidden tunnels under ancient cities.  She's being shot at and questioned again.  Is everyone on her tour who they say they are?  What did the two men actually fight about?  Who is this sunburned stranger who keeps accosting her all along her tour?  And what about the other guy - the suave, James Bond-ish one?  Who is good and who is not?  And who do they all work for?

There's a conspiracy afoot and it concerns the Dead Sea Scrolls, a murder, and some secrets that even governments are trying to keep quiet.  And somehow, Dinah is right in the middle of the thing.  What happened to her nice, quiet trip?

Again, this book is a bit dated.  Lots of smoking.  Lots of beautiful Middle Eastern places that are probably not so beautiful now.  Conspiracies and rumors of things that other authors use in later, very popular books.  And the Beatles on cassette.  I love it, yet again.  I find Dinah funny and especially her sunburned stranger.  I'm still in that very nice librarian's debt for her suggestion so many years ago.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - Mrs. Roosevelt's Confidante

This is a weekly event that highlights a book we can't wait to be published.  It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Have you read any of the Maggie Hope mysteries?  Susan Elia MacNeal writes these and I've enjoyed each one I've read.  Of course, being me, I'm a little behind in the series.  Maybe 2 or 3 books behind.  Anyway, they are set in WWII times and the main protagonist is Maggie Hope.  The first book is Mr. Churchill's Secretary, which finds Maggie part of the pool of women who worked in the depths of London underground - part of the Prime Minister's staff.  This author has been nominated for several mystery awards, including the Edgar.  She's won a Barry award.  The upcoming book is the 5th in the series.  I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  October 27th

December 1941. Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill arrives in Washington, D.C., along with special agent Maggie Hope. Posing as his typist, she is accompanying the prime minister as he meets with President Roosevelt to negotiate the United States’ entry into World War II. When one of the First Lady’s aides is mysteriously murdered, Maggie is quickly drawn into Mrs. Roosevelt’s inner circle—as ER herself is implicated in the crime. Maggie knows she must keep the investigation quiet, so she employs her unparalleled skills at code breaking and espionage to figure out who would target Mrs. Roosevelt, and why. What Maggie uncovers is a shocking conspiracy that could jeopardize American support for the war and leave the fate of the world hanging dangerously in the balance.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Top 10 Tuesday Freebie Week - Let's take a vacation and visit some great Indie Bookstores!!

This is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where bloggers relate their "top ten" of a certain topic.  This week's topic - Freebie Week!!  Anything goes!  After sharing a bit about a mystery bookstore I love a few days ago, I decided that we should all take a tour of some great independent bookstores, located all over the US.  So, pack your bags and come along with me.  I'm including a US map below with our route marked.

We will leave Austin, Texas, my home town, and head west first.  Are you ready?  As my Dad would say, did you visit the 'necessary' room?  Here we go!  (Sorry I don't have any pictures except for the Poisoned Pen, but there will be a few videos.)

1. The Poisoned Pen Bookstore located in Scottsdale, Arizona - This is a bookstore that I've visited many times.  As you can see, I've included a picture above and below, I'm including a little video that was published just recently.  You get a tour!

2. Mysterious Galaxy located in San Diego, California - I have heard such good things about this bookstore that specializes in mysteries and sci fi.  It opened in 1993.  I have not visited, but would love to do so.

3. Powell's located in Portland, Oregon - Oh, my goodness - I love Powell's!!  We lived in Portland for 3 years and the first time I visited the downtown city block that houses Powell's, well...it...was...amazing!!  Never had I seen anything like it.  I could have moved in and stayed.  Established in 1971 - if you ever get to Portland, visit Powell's.  There are several locations, but the downtown store.  You gotta see it!

4. Elliott Bay Book Company located in Seattle, Washington - Even though we visited Seattle several times during our Pacific Northwest time, we never got to this bookstore.  Seattle has given us a lot and this bookstore is deservedly well known.  It began in 1973 in Pioneer Square and has since grown and moved more than once.

5. Tattered Cover Book Store located in Denver, Colorado - Another wonderful store that I would love to visit.  I've been to Denver several times, but not the Tattered Cover - yet.  My daughter brought me a mug back from a visit to a college friend.  I treasured that mug and still drink coffee out of it, even though my Tattered Cover markings have washed away.  The Tattered Cover was opened in 1971 and now has several locations throughout the Denver metro area.

6. Aunt Agatha's Mystery Bookstore located in Ann Arbor, Michigan - This lovely little mystery bookstore is another that I've not yet visited.  In fact, I've never been to Michigan.  But, if I ever get there, you can find me at Aunt Agatha's (isn't that a great name?).  Aunt Agatha's has been open for over 20 years and in 2014 won a Raven Award, presented by the Mystery Writers of America.  This award recognizes outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside of creative writing.

7. Parnassus Books located in Nashville, Tennessee -  This wonderful bookstore has not been open very long.  It came about after Nashville's last bookstore closed in 2011.  Can you imagine a city like Nashville with no bookstores?  One of the owners is writer Ann Patchett and I think it has been a great success.  I'd love to visit sometime and I suspect you would too.

8. Strand Bookstore located in New York City - Our oldest bookstore on our tour, Strand Bookstore was established in 1927.  It's still a family run independent bookstore and I'm sure everyone has heard it.  The slogan is '18 miles of books'.  Love it.  And would definitely love to visit one day.

9. Murder On The Beach located in Delray Beach, Florida - Another store that specializes in mystery books and author events.  Their website says they are the leader in signed books by Florida authors.  And, again, not a bookstore I've visited.  One day, one day.

10. Murder By The Book located in Houston, Texas - Slogan is 'Where a good crime is had by all!'.  And I hang my head in shame by sharing that I've also never visited Murder By The Book.  In my defense, it's been years since I've been to Houston.  This bookstore was established in 1980 and bought by the current owner in 2009.  I have heard wonderful, wonderful things about the author events, the store itself, the staff - really everything.  If you get to Houston and you like mysteries, go visit Murder By The Book.  It's not far from Rice University and The Galleria.

Extra:  BookPeople located in Austin, Texas -  And we are back around to my own home base.  BookPeople was established in 1970 here in Austin.  It is a lovely bookstore in downtown Austin and they host many, many events.  I don't live at all close anymore or I would likely be there much more often.  If you get to Austin, visit BookPeople.  You won't be sorry.

Hope you've enjoyed our little vacation tour of some wonderful independent bookstores.  I've included links to all their websites.  I suspect that all of them would sell you books online.  So, tell me your favorites in your area or share if you've visited any of these.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight

Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight was a book that seemed to take me forever to read.  I've been having a bit of an issue reading books in print - timewise.  Not sure what's going on with me, but in any case, I've been reading on this for over a week.  The story kept my interest, but I kept putting my Kindle down and doing other things.  I didn't dislike it at all, but somehow, not so much reading.  Just a bit before bedtime.  And then, finally, finally, I hit the spot - you know the one - where you cannot put it down.  And raced to the end.  So happy for that!

Last year, I read McCreight's first book, Reconstructing Amelia.  I was kind of on a 'teen girl as character' reading binge somehow.  I did like it a lot, and I was glad to see that this second book was published this year.

So, what's it about?  Well, Molly and her husband, Justin, live in Ridgedale, New Jersey with their little daughter.  They have come here from New York so that Justin can teach at a local university.  Molly, a lawyer by profession but now working as a freelance journalist for the local newspaper, is startled to be asked by her boss to cover a breaking story.  An infant girl's body has been discovered in the woods near the university campus.  No one knows who she is or how she came to be there.  All the other newspaper staff members are unavailable.  Could Molly cover this story?  The death of a baby is probably the worst thing that Molly could be asked to report on because she lost a child and experienced severe depression because of it.  Though this is a really tough situation, Molly agrees.  Who did the baby belong to?  How did she come to be in the woods?  Who was the mother, the father?  All questions that need to be answered.

Where They Found Her is told from several points of view.  Molly tells part of the story.  Sandy, a teen girl that lives in the area with her mother, Jenna, is the second narrator.  Jenna is a single mother and she and Sandy barely make ends meet, even with both of them working.  Jenna, who lived in Ridgedale growing up, has a part of the narration through diary entries.  The third narrator is Barbara, the police chief's wife.  Other aspects of the story come out through Molly's news articles and also some transcripts of her therapy appointments.

Ridgedale is an affluent community with white picket fences.  The secrets are everywhere, but well hidden.  In many houses, more goes on than anyone imagines and Molly must pick her way through the lies and half-lies in order to try to figure out what she needs to know.  The story moves at a good enough pace, but for quite a while it's tough to know how any of the strands the author gives us are related.  I kept thinking I knew and then I'd be wrong.  And then I'd have another idea and get shot down again.  I give the author credit for keeping me guessing, although there were indeed hints throughout.

The only quibble I might have is that when the various storylines begin to draw together, the pace moves very fast.  And then the end is there.  Boom.  Abrupt.  Maybe a little too abrupt for me.  It's a minor thing and was probably just how Kimberly McCreight planned it.  Would I read another book by her?  Absolutely.  Is this one recommended?  Yes.  Bring your puzzler mindset and see what you can figure out.

Sarah at Sarah's Book Shelves wrote a very nice spoiler-free review here back in April.  And then she also wrote another one that included a spoiler discussion here.  Feel free to join in!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Die For Love by Elizabeth Peters

Yes, this is another reread for me - this time on audio.  A much beloved (by me) book, Die For Love, was written by Elizabeth Peters in 1984.  The narrator is Grace Conlin, who does a fine job.  This is the 3rd book that features Jacqueline Kirby, librarian extraordinaire (and by that I mean, not your stereotypical librarian - and what is that even?) and intrepid sleuth.  If you have never met Jacqueline or Jake to her friends (never Jackie), you have missed out.  Such a great character.  Of course, this is the same author who gave us Amelia Peabody and Vicky Bliss.  And if you don't know those names, well, you should.

In Die For Love, this author gently pokes fun at the romance book industry.  And romance conferences as well.  Jacqueline is a college librarian, living in Nebraska.  She decides that she needs a break and so goes on a search of conferences that she could attend (the tax benefits) that are being held in a place she'd like to visit.  She decides to go to New York and the only conference is the Historical Romance Writer's Conference.  Jacqueline is not a reader of historical romances (at first) or a writer of same, but what does that matter?  She jumps on a flight heading east, along with two of the latest bestsellers in that genre, both written by a Valerie.

When she arrives at the conference, many things are prevalent - gushing women, authors dressed in the manner of their characters, vast amounts of pink, vast amounts of Valeries, Aunt Hattie (the most successful agent with the most successful authors - mostly Valeries), fan club members, protesters who think the books demeaning, a well-known gossip columnist named Dubretta, and someone with murder in their heart.  After a bit, Dubretta the columnist is dead, Jacqueline has seen two old acquaintances from her college days, her Nebraska 'gentleman friend' has arrived to surprise her, and she becomes involved in convincing the police, in the form of handsome Lieutenant O'Brien, that Dubretta was murdered and not just a heart attack victim.  And did I mention the Valeries?

One thing that Elizabeth Peters was a master of was creating smart, witty, attractive (in unconventional ways) heroines.  Each of them is unique, but they all share certain characteristics.  And Jacqueline comes with a PURSE.  Caps intended.  Jacqueline's purse is almost a character of it's own.  It's kind of like the bag that Mary Poppins carried - you know, the bottomless treasure trove.  The Kirby purse can be used in many helpful ways, such as a defensive weapon or a battering ram and it contains anything you might need - paper bags, silverware, thermos of coffee, notebooks, tissues, raincoats or boots, books - you get the idea.

Naturally, since the book was written in the '80's, it's a bit dated.  There is smoking everywhere.  Women wear pantyhose (thank goodness we don't have to do that anymore) and dresses and heels.  The humor is still good and the early '80's was the heyday of historical romance with those Fabio covers.  This book is a good laugh, even 30 years later.

If you have read an Amelia Peabody book and liked it, you might try Jacqueline Kirby.  And now, since I've decided to continue enjoying my Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters rereads for some time to come, I'm off to pick out the next one.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

In which the mystery book group meets Cormoran Strike in The Cuckoo's Calling....

This month's mystery book group meeting was a good one.  Sadly, we said goodbye to yet another member who is moving away, but we also had several new faces.  We're growing, which is a good thing in most ways.  It just makes some things a little more complicated.  All will be well though.  How can it not be when we get to talk mysteries to our heart's content once a month?

Our book for discussion this month was The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith - who is also known as J.K. Rowling.  I chose to listen to it on audio and the narrator was Robert Glenister.  I don't think I have heard this narrator before, but he did a good job.  My personal reaction to the book was positive.  Not the best book ever, but certainly an absorbing mystery.  And I felt that though the pace was a bit slow and there were lots of characters, as a first book in a series, some leeway should be given for getting the reader clued in.  The group as a whole was mostly positive, although we did have a few who expressed dislike or 'meh' opinions.  As discussion progressed, more people shared some annoyances.

Let's talk about the plot a bit.  This book is the first in the Cormoran Strike series.  Cormoran Strike is a private detective, formerly a military police investigator.  He has seen quite a bit of action in Afghanistan and indeed lost a leg in a fire fight.  He's come home and recovered physically, but he still struggles with memories.  A private detective, yes - a successful one - well, not so much.  As the story begins, he has only one client.  The other main protagonist is Robin, initially a temporary administrative assistant to Strike.  She shows up one morning for her assignment and finds that not only was Strike not expecting her (he forgot to cancel the temp agency contract), he is living in his office due to a recent breakup with his fiance.  Robin, who has secretly wanted to be a private eye since her girlhood, performs admirably when a new client arrives and Strike requires secretary stuff.

John Bristow, whose younger brother Strike knew as a kid, wants to hire him to investigate the death of his sister, Lulu Landry.  Lulu was a very famous fashion model, who supposedly jumped to her death from her penthouse apartment.  Bristow says he doesn't believe it was suicide, but no one else agrees.  He wants Strike to find out the 'real' truth.

 The group dove in with opinions about the plot, the relationship between Strike and Robin (very positive on that score), the pacing, the number of characters, J.K. Rowling's writing style in this book compared to her Harry Potter books, the ending, the clues throughout, Strike as a character, Robin as a character, the murderer (yes, it was murder), and other tangential issues.  Whew!  Conversation was brisk!  Many felt the book could have been shorter.  Some felt that it seemed like it was written for a TV episode (and there will be TV adaptation).  Many felt the give and take relationship between Strike and Robin was one of the best parts.  It had a humorous angle that reminded me of TV shows like Moonlighting (does anyone remember that one?).  I shared that I enjoyed getting to know more and more about Cormoran Strike himself as the book progressed, a man with many layers and quite intelligent.  Same goes for Robin.  All in all, we felt it was a promising beginning to the series and most said they would read the second book, The Silkworm.  We also heard that the 3rd in the series will be published in the fall.

I felt that for some of the group, our last discussion book, Natchez Burning, may have overshadowed their reading.  We talked a bit more about the next book in Greg Iles' trilogy, The Bone Tree, which has been published since our last meeting.  The pace of both those books is pretty frantic and the storyline quite gripping.  Almost any book would be seemingly 'slow' in comparison.

Personally, I give a thumbs up to The Cuckoo's Calling and I will be listening to The Silkworm in upcoming months.  While I don't think that J.K. Rowling's mystery writing is quite on par with her Harry Potter books, I'll be willing to give her some space to develop it.

Next month, our group will be reading books that have been nominated for mystery awards such as the Edgar or Agatha.  A list of these can be found on the Stop You're Killing Me website.  Each of us will read whichever book or books we choose and then we'll report back to the group about our experience.  We do this once a year and these meetings are always fun.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday - The Secret Chord

This is a weekly event that highlights a book we can't wait to be published.  It is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

I'm so excited to see that Geraldine Brooks has a new book coming out.  I have read several of her novels and discussed three of them with book groups.  All three had good discussion points, and I enjoyed the stories.  March gives a different angle on Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.  Year of Wonders is set in 17th century England and is a tale of the plague.  My favorite, up to this point, is People of the Book, a wonderful story of a very special book, The Sarajevo Haggadah.  And now, this Pulitzer Prize winning author give us a new take on the story of King David.  My choice for this week:

Publication Date:  October 6th   

Geraldine Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected.  We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Ten Authors I REALLY Want To Meet - or maybe authors I've already had the privilege to meet...

This is a weekly event hosted by The Broke and The Bookish where bloggers relate their "top ten" of a certain topic.  This week's topic - Ten Authors I REALLY Want To Meet.  Now you guys know that many times I tweak the topic a bit....and today is no exception.  I'm going to talk about 10 authors that I've already had the fun of meeting.  And I have pictures for some of them!

I haven't talked about the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona too much have I?  Well, if I have, I'm going to talk a little more about it.  I love this great independent store that specializes in mysteries.  However, that's not all they sell. No indeed.  I have attended several book events at The Poisoned Pen while on vacation.  It's kind of a tradition for my husband and I.  He loves the winter golf in Scottsdale and I love the author events.  We plan our trips around them.  Really.  Some of my pictures are from these and a few from other locations.  So, here are 10 authors that I've gotten to meet.

1.  Louise Penny - She writes the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache mystery series set in Three Pines, Quebec, Canada.  I've seen Louise on 3 occasions.  Always a huge pleasure.  This picture is from an event in Austin at BookPeople.

2.  Charles Todd - A mother/son team, Charles and Caroline Todd.  They write the Ian Rutledge mystery series and also the Bess Crawford series, both set in early 20th century England.  I really enjoyed hearing about their research at the event I attended.

3.  Thomas Perry -  This author has written several series, most well known - Jane Whitfield mystery series.  Jane is a Native American who helps people disappear.  Thomas Perry also writes standalone novels.  Again, a very interesting presentation at the Poisoned Pen.  He's pictured with Barbara Peters, the owner of the PP.

4.  Clive Cussler - Clive Cussler writes multiple series, among them the Dirk Pitt adventures.  He is also the author of the NUMA Files books, the Oregon Files series, the books starring Isaac Bell and the treasure hunters series featuring Sam and Remi Fargo.  Cussler now writes all of these with a co-author.  If you've ever seen one of his books (and I've only read the Dirk Pitt books), this author appears on the back with a classic car from his collection.  He lives in the Scottsdale area and that's where his cars live too.  My husband and I went to see Mr. Cussler and, to my husband's delight, he brought some of his cars.  So, no picture of the author, but here's one of the cars.

5.  Earlene Fowler - She writes the Bennie Harper mystery series, which I know I've mentioned before.  I saw Earlene and also Carolyn Hart at the Velma Teague Library in Glendale, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix.  At that time, Lesa Holstine of Lesa's Book Critiques was the manager of that library.  She was able to schedule many authors to appear while they were also in town for events at the PP.  Lesa now lives in Indiana and has a different sort of library job.  Earlene is on the left in the photo above.

6.  Carolyn Hart -   Carolyn writes the Annie and Max Darling mystery series, set in a mystery bookstore called Death on Demand.  Her 25th book in this series has just been published.  Amazing!  She also has written standalones and a couple of other series as well.  When I attended the event with Earlene and Carolyn, I felt like a total fangirl.  I had read both of these authors books for years and years.  It was like meeting royalty to me.  Carolyn is the lady on the right.

Yesterday, Cathy from Kittling: Books (which you should totally read if you love mysteries), shared her experience at a Poisoned Pen event this last weekend.  It was in honor of Carolyn Hart, but many other authors attended.  Here's the link.  Click over and take a look if you love mysteries and cozies or if you've ever read a Carolyn Hart book.

7.  Jane Cleland - Jane writes the Josie Prescott antique mystery series set in New Hampshire.  And, believe me, Jane knows her antiques.  Her event was very interesting indeed.  I always love the covers on her books.  I saw Jane and Rosemary Harris at the Velma Teague Library as well.  Told you they had lots of good events.  Jane is on the left above.

8.  Rosemary Harris -  This author writes a mystery series with protagonist Paula Holliday, who owns a landscaping/gardening business.  I remember that Rosemary was the first author I ever heard say to read a later book in the series and don't necessarily start with the first book because she, as the author, felt like her writing had improved.  I do think that is true in many cases, but it was the first time I'd heard an author say so.  Rosemary is on the right.

9.  Donis Casey -  I've written about Donis' early 20th century Oklahoma series, starring Alafair Tucker and family.  I love this series and have actually seen Donis twice at the PP.  No picture though.  Not sure why.  I've included a shot from her website.

10.  Lisa Lutz - Lisa has written the Izzy Spellman mystery series, a really funny bunch of books.  Izzy is part of a family of very different private detectives.  The first book is The Spellman Files.  I recommend it.  I think this series is at an end, but this author has other books that she's written and her new book, which is out today, is called How To Start A Fire.  Her presentation was very funny.  Again, no picture.  Got one from her website (photo credit - Morgan Dox).

So, as you can see, I love to attend author events.  One day, maybe next year, I'm planning on attending a mystery conference and there will be authors everywhere.  Left Coast Crime is in Phoenix next spring.  I'm already making my plans.

What authors would you like to meet?  Or have you met?  Tell!

Monday, May 11, 2015

House of Many Shadows by Barbara Michaels

Oh, how I enjoyed rereading this old favorite of mine.  House of Many Shadows was written by Barbara Michaels aka Elizabeth Peters aka Barbara Mertz in 1974.  I couldn't remember when I had last read this book, but I know I read it for the first time soon after it was published.  And I decided to reread it  when Katherine of I Wish I Lived In A Library told me it was her favorite go-to book when she was in a reading slump.

First, a little about Barbara Michaels.  She was actually Barbara Mertz, a highly educated woman with a PhD in Egyptology from the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.  She received that doctorate in 1952.  I suspect there were few other women receiving that same degree at that time.  She married and had two children, Elizabeth and Peter.  She wrote 30 books under the name Barbara Michaels.  These are more thriller type books, many with a supernatural element.  Her pseudonym of Elizabeth Peters had 38 mystery suspense books published.  And Dr. Mertz wrote nonfiction on archaeology.  She said she found the various personas irritating, but her publishers at the time wanted to distinguish between the types of books.  Barbara Mertz died in 2013.

House of Many Shadows falls into the category of romantic suspense, with a bit of the supernatural thrown in for good measure.  It's set in the Pennsylvania Dutch country.  Meg Rittenhouse has been ill and her distant cousin, Sylvia, has a big house full of antiques that she needs someone to organize and catalog.  Sylvia agrees to have Meg spend some time there in order to recover from her head injury, which has produced hallucinations, both visual and audio.  There is also a caretaker on the property, Andy Brenner.  Andy is Sylvia's stepson and he has also had some challenges.  Andy and Meg had known each other as children when Meg visited Sylvia and her husband, George, and Andy made Meg's life a trial.  Little boys and little girls - one teasing and tormenting the other.  That's what Meg remembers about Andy.

As the story develops, Meg starts working on her furniture challenge and all goes well for a bit.  Then she starts seeing things - ghostly things.  Actually, it only happens when she and Andy are together.  She's worried that she isn't recovering from her head injury, but soon finds out that Andy is seeing the same 'ghosts'.  And so begins their quest to find out what has happened at this location in years past.  There are some answers in the attic and some in the town.  However, there is also someone who has a grudge against both Meg and Andy and that person isn't going away.  Someone has died in this location and if they can't figure out the puzzle, another crime may be committed soon.

The story is a little dated, of course.  However, the humor was still present.  The banter between Meg and Andy was still fun.  The apparitions were still spooky, and I had a great time reacquainting myself with all the twists and turns.  I'm very glad I decided on a reread and now, I'm thinking of rereading more of this author's works.  Should I read Search the Shadows, set at the Oriental Institute in Chicago soon?  Or should I read The Crying Child, set on an island off the coast of Maine?  Have an opinion?  Well, we'll see what appeals to me next.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Trekkin' through the Texas Hill Country - Part 3 - the food....

Thank you for joining me for the last part of my Hill Country trek.  Thursday, I shared about the places here.  Yesterday, I shared about my love for wildflowers here.  Today, well, let's talk about some great food.

Before I show what we sampled at the bed and breakfast, I'll talk about lavender a bit.  Our first day and night was in Blanco, where they have a lavender festival in June.  I tried lavender lemonade with my lunch.  It was very interesting.  Had a definite floral flavor.  Paired with a great chicken salad sandwich.  And the next morning as we got coffee at a local shop, I noticed lavender lemon shortbread cookies.  I did not buy any, but I was tempted.

As I said in Thursday's post, we stayed at the Rose Hill Manor for two nights.  This bed and breakfast is several miles out in the country and, while there are several great restaurants in Fredericksburg, Rose Hill has it's own restaurant on the property.  When you reserve a room on a weekend night, you receive both breakfast and dinner.  And both of these are 3 course meals - yes, even the breakfast.  Here is what I had on Saturday for breakfast and for dinner.

Breakfast started with the chef's choice pastry - which was apple quick bread.  Some delicious coffee.  A bowl of seasonal fruit with a little yogurt and a little granola sprinkled on top.  The fruit was fresh and tasty and the bread was amazing.  I ate one of the slices and then asked if I could have a baggie or something to take the rest of it with me for later.

The waffle was a sweet potato waffle with walnuts and a vanilla bean syrup.  You had a choice of ham or sausage.  I did not finish the waffle, but what I had was yummy.  Also did not eat much of the ham - it was a little salty for me.  I've been trying to cut back on salt and it doesn't take long for your taste to alter in that regard.

My husband was playing golf that morning and he had to leave before the breakfast serving hour.  The staff gave him a picnic basket with the apple bread, another pastry of some kind, and the fruit - just so he didn't miss out.  His apple bread was warm, right out of the oven.  He was delighted.

Dinner is a 3 course prix fixe dinner each night.  The menu is set, although you can order a steak as a substitute if you wish.  We did not wish.  The first course was greens with an orange blossom vinaigrette, Maytag blue cheese, apples and toasted walnuts.  There was also a little square of cornbread with a nutmeg honey sauce.  I love this type of salad.  It was light and fresh.  The cornbread was a little sweet for me.  I've been trying to cut back on my sugar too and have also noticed a difference in taste in that regard as well.

The entree course was a crab cake and scallops over golden raisin couscous.  There was a lemon cream sauce and asparagus as well.  This was amazing.  The crab cake was rich and the couscous was tasty, but not too sweet.  And I love asparagus any time.  We practically licked our plates.  Well, we didn't, but we wanted to.

Dessert course was a mixed berry crisp with a scoop of housemade brown butter pecan ice cream.  It was lovely, but I was so full by that point, I just ate about half of it.  My husband thought that vanilla bean ice cream would have been a better pairing, but I noticed that he managed to eat all of his crisp and ice cream.

We waddled out of there, satisfied and beyond.  The wait staff told me that I could ask for any recipes that I wished for.  I've emailed for the crab cake recipe, but have not heard back yet.  Not sure I could duplicate it anyway, nor that I should.  It was a fitting ending to our trip and the next morning, Sunday, we headed home.

I'm linking this post with Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.  I think it definitely qualifies.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Trekkin' through the Texas Hill Country - Part 2 - the wildflowers...

Yesterday, I shared the first part of our Hill Country trip here.  Today, I'm going to show some pictures of flowers.  Some of these are planted and some grow wild.  We visited the Wildseed Farm between Stonewall and Fredericksburg.  It's a beautiful farm where wildflowers are grown and the seeds harvested for sale.  Of course, lots of other things are sold as well - decorative items, food, pottery and plants.  There is a butterfly garden and fields of flowers that you can walk through.  I enjoyed it so much.  I love the wildflowers that populate this state and have since I was a little girl.  I'm not very good with naming of all of them, but our roadsides are covered in the spring with blooms.  And the colors change depending on which flowers are blooming.  On this trip, most of the flowers were yellow and red.  Earlier, the bluebonnets were the most prevalent.

The last two pictures were taken in the butterfly garden.  The smell of the blossoms was wonderful.

And, yes, this would be me at the wildflower farm.  It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed seeing all the flower fields.

It's fitting that wildflowers fields are located near Stonewall and the LBJ Park area.  Lady Bird Johnson was a First Lady that was concerned with beautifying our country through flowers.  That may not seem like a very 'important' goal, but she felt that where flowers bloom, so does hope.  There is a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin and Texas highways still reap the benefits of her quest to beautify our roadsides with flowers.  There is a children's book about her, Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers: How A First Lady Changed America.

Tomorrow, I'll share part 3 of our trip - the lovely food that we had at the bed and breakfast.