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It seems over the holiday season I managed to read rather dark books. Certainly not books in keeping with any holiday spirit. The first book I thought would be funny, but instead I thought Worst, Person, Ever by Douglas Coupland was just plain silly and annoying. The main character was such pain. I kept hoping the book would get better but it didn't. It was a waste of time right up to the stupid ending.
Now to get to the darker books. I've read various books by Jim Thompson in the past and always meant to read more by this author. Finally I sat down with four of his books--A Hell of a Woman (which was a hell of a book); A Swell-Looking Babe (The character Dusty appears to be a young naive guy, supporting his dad and giving up his dream to become a doctor for his dad's sake. What a sweet guy! Or is he?); The Getaway (I really enjoyed this book. It was written before Hannibal Lechter was created, but there's definitely a similarity in personality. No, he is not a cannibal, but he is willing to do whatever must be done in his own interest. I wouldn't want to be his wife.); The Kill-off (This book is different from other books I've read by Thompson because it is told by multiply characters. This technique builds on the different perspectives, and still I was surprised by who the actual murderer was.)
I listened to the first Fifty Shades book on MP3 and over the holiday I listened to Fifty Shades Darker by E.L. James. I'm not sure whether I would have gotten through both books if I had read them. However, when I travel I like to listen to books, and I had Fifty Shades Darker on my computer, so I transferred it to my MP3 player. I still haven't figured out why Anastasia Steele wants Christian Grey. Yes, he has lots of money, but he seems so cut off from his emotions. But the pair is now on the way to the altar--except that someone wants Christian Grey dead. Will he survive? Would she be better off without him? I don't know; she seems to be getting quite used to his money. Maybe she should marry him in a hurry before the dastardly villain has the opportunity to rid her of her albatross. However, I am wondering about who the potential killer is. Hmmm. Since it is a triolgy the final answer would be in Fifty Shades Freed. I'm not learning anything new about deviant sex since I've already researched BDSM for my Sade books. Still it is tempting to read Fifty Shades Freed. It's an addiction--just don't ask me why. Read More 
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More Books

I said I would look for another Andrea Camilleri book and I didn't have to look far. Seems I had one sitting on a bookshelf at home. I feel so guilty because books sit on my shelves and I forget they are even there since there's always another new book that I must read or at least have on my shelf. I've fallen so far behind in my reading. (sigh)
The Terracotta Dog by Andrea Camilleri was as good as the first book I read. A complex mystery with a heavy dose of humor. In this book the crime takes place fifty years in the past, but Inspector Montalbano can't give up on solving the crime even though he believes the murderer is probably already dead.
Requiem For An Assassin by Barry Eisler is fast moving but I dread when John Rain goes through his verbal angst about the women he loves, loved, or lost. In this book his buddy is kidnapped and tortured (he really doesn't seem to hold out for very long--then again I'm sure I'd be talking before they even put the towel on my face.) Rain then goes about killing people to save his buddy, although Rain acknowledges that the bad guys aren't going to permit either Rain or his buddy to survive.
Death's Dark Shadow by Sally Spencer was a bit of a disappointment. I've always enjoyed Sally Spencer's series about Sam Blackstone and this was the first time I read her Paniatowski series (Charlie Woodend series.) The premise is based on an older woman of Spanish descent being killed in a small village in England. The plot involves the dark years of Franco in Spain. One of the characters flees Spain with the gold and doesn't do much to change his appearance which I found hard to believe. He is also killed by someone that is close to him. I found the murderers motive suspect given the relationship. I enjoyed the book while reading it, but when I had finished I had many doubts about the motives of the characters.
BTW I've just found out that Sally Spencer is the pseudoym for Alan Rustige. Seems the publisher thought the books would sell better to women and required that Rustige use a female name. Kind of what happens in the Romance genre. Leigh Greenwood is one of the few male romance authors who uses his own name and has his photo on his website. Read More 
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Catching Up

I know it's been a long time, but I've finally managed to take some time to bring you up to date. First of all the fiction I've read: Swamplandia by Karen Russell was a bit of a disappointment. It got many good reviews but somehow it left me feeling blah. It does have a child rape scene which made me uncomfortable and the writing dragged a bit for me.
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley--I love this series. It is about a precocious ten year old who solves crimes. No it is not a children's book. It is great adult fun solving murders and a bit of wonderful humor tossed in. I highly recommend this series.
Killing Rain and The Last Assasin both by Barry Eisler--Eisler is getting into romance and erotica in these books. Personally I think he spends too much time describing the sex. If I want erotica there is currently plenty out there.
The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri-- Good mystery book taking place in Italy. The book certainly does describe the Italian attitudes. I've lived in Italy and the book had me chuckling. The mystery is almost a sideline. This is the first book by Camilleri I've read and I will certainly look for his others.
The Prince by Machiavelli--I'm sure many years ago it was assigned to me in school as a must read, but I've just gotten around to reading the entire book. At my age I'm afraid it's a bit too late to plan on ruling the world. Ah! I could have been a contender.
The Discomfort Zone by Jonathan Franzen-- The memoir offers lots for geeks to relate to. Interesting take on growing up in the 60's and 70's. He suffered angst without any real family disasters. I guess I've read too many of those disaster autobiographies and I 've begun to expect tragedy in them.
The Fall of the Euro by Jens Nordvig and The Default Line by Faisal Islam--Since I live in Europe I'm quite interested in books discussing the European Union. The book I most enjoyed was The Default Line which gave some insights into global spread of inequality. Recently I read an article about a woman working for one of the fast food stores making $8.25 an hour for the past 10 years. She called the McDonald's employee hotline requesting assistance in putting more food on the table and in getting medical care. She was told to apply for SNAP and for Medicaid. No raise in salary was coming even after 10 years. Seems to me the Federal Government is giving welfare to companies that can certainly afford to pay their workers better. Check out youtube--the actual telephone conversation was recorded and uploaded to youtube by the advocacy group Low Pay is not OK.
My husband had the grafted bone removed from his mouth and he is more comfortable. The bone had been pinching his check. Of course now his mouth is a bit sore but in a few more days he should be feeling better. They took another biopsy to make sure there was no additional problem.
As for me--I was rushing to catch a bus and didn't want to stop to put on my backpack so I ended up tripping on the backpack's straps. My husband claimed I flew for six feet before landing first on my cheekbone and then on my forehead. My hands were useless since I was carrying bags. My husband asked whether I was all right. I gave the simple reply, "No." He than encouraged me to stand but I couldn't. Two strangers helped me to my feet and one took my backpack for me. I almost shouted at him to watch out for the straps,but I was in too much of a daze. they sat me down in a seat at the bus terminal and a few minutes later I was covered in vomit. It had fleetingly occured to me to find a restroom but I just couldn't move out of the seat. Husband had to get water and napkins for me to clean up. At this point I didn't think the bus driver would let me on. Instead we headed for Accident and Emergancy at the local hospital. Was there from noon until 8 P.M. Just as well since I needed a rest and they had immediately given me my own trolley. They x-rayed my neck since I was complaining of pain. Also gave me a CTscan of the brain since I had briefly blacked out. I'm proud to announce that my brain is normal, at least the physical condition of it is. I now have paper stitches on my forehead and a dreadful blackeye. The blackeye is getting better. Yesterday I couldn't open the eye but today I can and have a full view of the damage I done did to myself. Sigh. You can bet that I'll finally fix those loose straps. Matter of fact I think I'll do that now.  Read More 
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The Cancer Chronicles: Unlocking Medicine's Deepest Mystery by George Johnson

Since 2008 my husband has been fighting bouts of oral cancer so I could relate to much in this book. George Johnson's wife came down with metastatic cancer and it took over their lives. The writer traveled through the USA gathering every piece of information he could find on the disease. The book is packed with information on the current research. Cancer tumors have been discovered attached to dinosaur bones. Is this a disease that our own bodies produce? Is this a genetic flaw in our healing process? How much of a role does our enviroment play in the developing of cancers?

He also touches on how relationships change and evolve during the difficult treatments of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. He and his wife split up after she completes her treatments. It was his wife who made this choice.

The book is an intelligent and sensitive investigation of a dreaded disease.

It is difficult watching one's partner, child, loved one suffer through the disfiguring surgeries and treatments. In my husband's case he has lost half his tongue and all his teeth on one side of his mouth. They have removed lymph nodes and muscles from his neck taking his away the ability to drive. He can no longer eat normal food. He must puree his food and he has a tube that goes directly into his stomach through which he feeds himself. Life has drastically changed for both of us. We loved eating out but now it is impossible unless he limits himself to pureed soups and ice cream. The food he takes orally must be supplemented by prescriptions from the pharmacy, which can be injected via syringe into the tube in his stomach.

We are blessed by the fact that we have grown closer and still need and seek each other's company. However, I can understand how some relationships fall apart under the constant threat of this disease and the need to evaluate the life one is living. Read More 
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Rain Fall by Barry Eisler & Hard Rain by Barry Eisler

The first book in the Rain series is Rain Fall but typical of me I read the second one, Hard Rain, first. To be honest I don't know whether I would have read Hard Rain if I had read the books in the proper order.
For me Rain Fall was slow moving and the romance held greater priorty than the action. Hard Rain moves speedily along. Yes, a woman again enters the scene, but their relationship is suffering under the pressure of the fact that Rain killed her father. That could change any relationship even if father and daughter were not always close. Eisler's portrayal of Japan politics and culture is negative. I don't know enough about the Japanese politics to comment here; however, the way Tepco has been handling the Fukishima disaster lends credence to Eisler's take on Japan's corrupt politics. Rain's new relationship (the guy wastes no time) is tepid. Why would he bother considering meeting up with her in South America? But the action and intrigue in Hard Rain was fantastic. I definitely would recommend this book for thriller fans. Read More 
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The Naked Truth About Publishing by The Indie Voice

Recently I finished this wonderful book about self-publishing. It gives a good basic education not only for the neophyte but also for the published author who is transitioning into self-publishing. I've self-published my old books that were out of print and I had gotten the rights back. However, I've now started to publish new work with which I have not gotten the same level of professional guidance. I have beta-readers but miss the feed-back from the editor of my published books. One of course can purchase the assistance of editors but then one must be sure the person hired actually has the experience to make payment worthwhile. The writer needs the extra cash also. Now these ladies (The Indie Voice) basically work in romance (a hot category in e-publishing, although they also claim crime is hot) and appear to be raking in the bucks. Romance writers are hugely supportive of each other. I can't think of another genre that is as supportive. When I lived in the USA I belonged to Romance Writers of America and to the local chapter. Even though I didn't write romance the women were super helpful to me and invited me on signings with them. I truly miss those ladies who were incredible cheerleaders. By the time I got out of a meeting with them I was rushing home to write. A Big Thank You, Ladies. And thank you, Indie Ladies, for this inspiring book. Read More 
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I've just joined wattpad. I haven't put anything up. I've been looking around wattpad to see what's happening there. I've a number of stories (varying between one chapter to several chapters) and I must decide which to pursue. I know some readers are waiting for another Sade book (I've approximately three chapters toward that), some are interested in another book on Andrew Pittsburgh, but I've already started a different sci-fi book about growing new body parts. Another book is about sisters with a dark history. Also have a book about a sixty-year-old who decides it's time for payback on her old boyfriends. Then I have a story about a teen with a father who is a mortician and her mother happens to be a vampire. On and on it goes... I'm loaded with ideas, but can't concentrate on any one of them.

Gotta work this out! Read More 
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Good News!

I know I haven't been writing here for a while. Sorry. We were obsessed with the idea that John (my husband) may have another cancer. He has oral cancer and has had 5 separate tumors. In January the doctors removed all his teeth from one side of his mouth including the gums and the jaw bone. They replaced the jaw bone with a piece of fibula from his leg. He now has some difficulty walking, which is hard on him since he enjoyed walking down to the beach.

He was hospitalized for two months. A new out-of-control growth appeared and the doctors told us it was probably cancer. The surgeon took 4 biopsies. They came back clear of cancer. The surgeon was so surprised he requested a second pathologist to check the biopsies and was told there was no sign of cancer. (Whew!)

The surgeon thinks the problem is that the body isn't completely accepting the graft so John will return to the hospital in the fall to have the bone removed.

Since January John has been feeding himself through a tube in his stomach, but now they told him he can eat pureed food. Immediately after the hospital visit John and I stopped at the Writers Room and he had soup, ice cream, and milk to celebrate. I had poached cold salmon and two glasses of Prosecco. (One for each of us since with the cancer John has been told to have no alcohol.)

Hopefully now I will start catching up with my own novels and the reviews I've started to do. I've been given a number of new books to review and have to catch up.  Read More 
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My Venice and Other Essays by Donna Leon

I lived for a short time in Italy on the top floor of a fifteenth century building in Bergamo. We lived at the foot of the old city, with its elaborate churches, innumerable restaurants, and plenty of tourists. Our apartment faced the street giving us the full benefit of the street noise. At two or three in the morning the motorcycles and cars would sweep down the hill, some beeping horns to celebrate the terrific evening they had up in the old city. Trash was collected at 10 o’clock at night and the people below us would have song fests starting at midnight. Once we found a frog sitting in our bathtub. I hadn’t known frogs survived in the city; perhaps only in fifteenth century buildings. There was no elevator so we climbed to the top on stone steps on which we would occasionally find dead scorpions. They were small but frightening. Take note that I mentioned we lived in Italy a “short time.”

Donna Leon has a book of essays coming out December 3, 2013 called My Venice and Other Essays. I was excited to have the opportunity to read an advanced readers copy. I wanted to check my impressions of Italy with hers. Very different. She appears to love Italy—not that she doesn’t have a few strange tales to tell herself, but overall she is quite happy living there. Although she has her own story about garbage.

However, don’t expect a book solely about Italy. She also covers: Music, Mankind and Animals, Man, America, and Books.

I loved her essay on having lunch with Barbara Vine. Once I too sat in a restaurant talking shop with another author. We couldn’t figure out a good way to kill one of our characters and the harder we tried the louder we seemed to become. We had been so involved in our dilemma that it was only at the end of the meal we looked around and found several neighbors eyeing us. We got out long before the police came.

Donna Leon also gives some excellent advice on writing crime and in the last essay shows how important it is to think out our sentences carefully.

My Venice and Other Essays was a wonderful book with which I spent several hours feeling cosseted with an entertaining and talented writer. Read More 
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Blackstone and the Endgame by Sally Spencer

I was thrilled to be able to read the new Sally Spencer novel Blackstone and the Endgame as I've enjoyed other books by this author. The book lived up to most of my expectations, the dark humor, the twists and turns, the lively characters.

However, I suspect that Spencer heavily researched the book and didn't want to waste any of the research because "heavy sheepskin coat" and "felt boots" are translated into Russian in parentheses, which immediately pulled me out of the terrific story. It took merely a second or two to reorient myself, but still it was disturbing. I much prefer when she includes definitions within dialogue, as she does for the word "katorga." In non-fiction definitions in paraentheses are fine, but in fiction it doesn't look right. Also too many of the characters' dialogues had the tag "wondered", even when they didn't seem to be wondering.

Initailly the cliffhanger ending disappointed me; on the other hand, now I can't wait for the next book. Of course that was the point of the endin, wasn't it? Read More 
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