An Officer and a Spy – Robert Harris

I was interested in this because it was historical fiction.An Officer and a Spy

Stats: Audio – 16′, 13 discs. Narrator David Rintoul, print

Blurb: (Goodreads) Paris in 1895. Alfred Dreyfus, a young Jewish officer, has just been convicted of treason, sentenced to life imprisonment at Devil’s Island, and stripped of his rank in front of a baying crowd of twenty-thousand. Among the witnesses to his humiliation is Georges Picquart, the ambitious, intellectual, recently promoted head of the counterespionage agency that “proved” Dreyfus had passed secrets to the Germans. At first, Picquart firmly believes in Dreyfus’s guilt. But it is not long after Dreyfus is delivered to his desolate prison that Picquart stumbles on information that leads him to suspect that there is still a spy at large in the French military. As evidence of the most malignant deceit mounts and spirals inexorably toward the uppermost levels of government, Picquart is compelled to question not only the case against Dreyfus but also his most deeply held beliefs about his country, and about himself.

What I liked: The end was interesting. I didn’t know anything about this bit of French history, so it was interesting to learn about it and I can see how it would have been very noteworthy at the time, especially considering how it ends, which I won’t giveaway here. Harris does a good job making you feel the amazement and frustration the young Picquart must have felt with the situation. The man had amazing patience, since this all happened over a 10+ year period in his life when he went from the head of the French counterespionage agency to being sent on a suicide mission to try and silence him to getting arrested and put in jail. Harris doesn’t paint Alfred Dreyfus as a very giving man, but maybe some of this was just the time in history.

What I didn’t like: It took a lot of the book to lead up to the big trial. I suppose it had to be this way to get all the history behind it all, but because of the material covered, it was kind of dry at times. I would probably have stopped if I wasn’t listening to it. David Rintoul does a good job with the narration but his British accent confused me about where this was all taking place (France not England), so he either should have tried a French accent or they should have picked a French speaking narrator.

Rating: 3.5/5

Old Person’s Joke

My husband sent me this and it made me laugh, so I thought I’d share it:)

Do you have a grandpa or uncle like this?

old people joke

Published in: on May 19, 2016 at 11:26pm05  Comments (2)  
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The Moving Finger – Agatha Christie

The Moving Finger (Miss Marple, #4) I wanted a light read (listen) so I picked this up at the library. After reading it, I’m not sure where the title comes from, other than maybe the moving finger are the fingers of the townspeople pointing at different people related to who done it (?).

Stats: First published in 1943, I think it was Ms Christie’s 4th book. The audio version is 5 discs, 6′ 10″ worth, narrated by Martin Jarvis. Print is 299 pages

Blurb: The placid village of Lymstock seems the perfect place for Jerry Burton to recuperate from his accident under the care of his sister, Joanna. But soon a series of vicious poison-pen letters destroys the village’s quiet charm, eventually causing one recipient to commit suicide. The vicar, the doctor, the servants—all are on the verge of accusing one another when help arrives from an unexpected quarter. The vicar’s house guest happens to be none other than Jane Marple.

What I liked: Agatha was able to distract me – put up a good smoke screen as she describes in the story – to make me think of everyone but the true murder, so the ending was satisfying.

What I didn’t like: This is a Miss Marple mystery and the incomparable Marble didn’t show up until the end, which was unfortunate in my eyes. I enjoy Miss M.’s personality. This isn’t one of Christie’s best stories – the beginning drags and when listening to it, it’s hard to keep all the characters straight, but I’m not sure that is an issue for the written book (the way it was originally published). Martin Jarvis’ narration was well done.

Rating: 3.5/5

Raymond Elementary School Author Event Fun!

Had a great time in Jill Peterson’s two English classes on May 4th after they read Intrigue in Istanbul: An Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure.


IMG_20160504_122641342 (640x360)We talked about Turkey – where Agnes and her grandmother visit.
I look very official – don’t I?!
(Don’t always believe what you see.)

We do a little reading so I can illustrate how I use some of the photos they are seeing with my writing.

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Jill is such a wonderful teacher, I don’t understand how she keeps everything and everyone that makes their way to her desk, straight.

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The kids enjoyed the book – (here I sigh and wipe my brow) – and because they are all now official spies as is Agnes, I decided they needed a disguise.


The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake HouseThis was a new CD book in my local library, and it looked interesting so I picked it up. It’s a big one, so if you want to read it, be prepared!

Stats: The audio version is 18 discs – 21 hours and 24″, Read by Caroline Lee, print book published in Oct 2015,  593 pages.

Blurb: (Goodreads) Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

What I liked: I really like Morton’s style of writing – very flowing, a bit flowery but not over top. She was able to take you to the Edevane family summer cottage and really feel for the people involved. It is very well written. She knows how to construct a good sentence and leaves you hanging in just the right places, bouncing back and forth between the present and the past but…(I’ll get to that below).  It is a good story and enjoyable to listen to but…(I’ll get to that too).  I wonder if her other books are similar. Caroline Lee does a wonderful job of narrating. You got a hint of different voices at time, other times it more obvious, but enjoyable all the way through.

What I didn’t like: All those buts… There were places where she went over the top with describing the background information. For example, she created a scene – complete with dialogue – of when Alice’s mother met her father, as well as when her mother was a little girl. It was all well written, as I mentioned earlier, but it could have been handled in a much quicker and just as effective way. The biggest killer of this story came at the end. (I am hinting at the spoiler here so don’t read this next sentence if you don’t want the hint) I just couldn’t suspend disbelief when long lost people connect. I’d have overlooked all the extra material if she hadn’t done that last bit. Too tidy. Too unbelievable. The subplot of police officer Sparrow’s case is more believable.

Rating: 3.5/5 because of that bit at the end and the un-needed length.

Published in: on May 9, 2016 at 11:26pm05  Leave a Comment  
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Raymond School Presentation

Raymond schoolI’m looking forward to talking to two English 6th grade classes at Raymond Elementary School in Franksville, Wisconsin on Wednesday. Just finished my power-point of the wonderful places in Istanbul that Agnes visits in her quest. I hope the kids enjoy it and my mysterious surprise😉

Here is Jill Peterson’s class using my book – Intrigue in Istanbul: An Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure. How exciting!


My Prince Tribute

I meant to do this on my Old Tune Tuesday day, but forgot – I’m old, what do you expect.

I know this is not a quintessential Prince song, but his guitar playing is! God what a talent. You can tell he was having fun too:)  (What a showman – throwing his guitar up at the end, and that strut…)


Published in: on April 27, 2016 at 11:26pm04  Comments (2)  
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Fox Cities Book Festival – Author John Hildebrand

This weekend I volunteered at the Fox Cities Book Festival, a week long book festival around the Fox Valley. I was at the Menasha Public Library (Elisha D. Smith Public Library) – a very lovely library if you haven’t been there. It was my first time in Menasha or Neenah (the twin cities of Wisconsin) so it was my first time at that library.

I assisted for three different authors and I was so impressed by all three, that I bought each of their books – well, my mother bought one of them for me – the sweet thing that she is:)

I am going to introduce you to each author is separate posts.

The first author was John Hildebrand.

This is his bio: John Hildebrand is the author of four books—The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac, A Northern Front: New & Selected Essays, Mapping the Farm: The Chronicle of a Family, and Reading the River: A Voyage Down the Yukon—that often explore the relationships between a particular place and the people who live there. His work has appeared in such magazines as Harper’s, Audubon, Sports Illustrated and Outside. He is the recipient of the Norbert Blei/August Derleth Award for Nonfiction from the Council of Wisconsin Writers, a Minnesota Book Award, the BANTA Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, and the Chancellor’s Regional Literary Award from UW-Whitewater as well as fellowships from the Bush Foundation, the Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Breadloaf Writer’s Conference. He received an MFA from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and, except for brief stints in England and Alaska, spent his teaching career at the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire. His favorite mode of travel is canoe, and he is currently at work on a book about Wisconsin rivers.

This is the book he read from:

The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac  Blurb: (from Goodreads) In this remarkable book of days, John Hildebrand charts the overlapping rings–home, town, countryside–of life in the Midwest. Like E. B. White, Hildebrand locates the humor and drama in ordinary life: church suppers, Friday night football, outdoor weddings, garden compost, family reunions, roadside memorials, camouflage clothing. In these wry, sharply observed essays, the Midwest isn’t The Land Time Forgot but a more complicated (and vastly more interesting) place where the good life awaits once we figure exactly out what it means. From his home range in northwestern Wisconsin, Hildebrand attempts to do just that by boiling down a calendar year to its rich marrow of weather, animals, family, home–in other words, all the things that matter.

I was impressed by his prose and really enjoyed listening to him talk about his exploits, his love of Wisconsin and small towns. I’ll let you know how I liked the book after I’ve read it, but from the snippets he read, I think I’ll really enjoy it.


The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

I had heard that Joan Aiken was a famous author of children’s stories, so I thought I should read/listen to one of her famous stories. This one won a Lewis Carroll Award.

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles, #1)

Stats: First published in 1962, print 181 pages, audio 4 discs – 4′ 49″, this version was read by her daughter – Lissa Aiken

Blurb: Wicked wolves and a grim governess threaten Bonnie and her cousin Sylvia when Bonnie’s parents leave Willoughby Chase for a sea voyage. Left in the care of the cruel Miss Slighcarp, the girls can hardly believe what is happening to their once happy home. The servants are dismissed, the furniture is sold, and Bonnie and Sylvia are sent to a prison-like orphan school. It seems as if the endless hours of drudgery will never cease.
With the help of Simon the gooseboy and his flock, they escape. But how will they ever get Willoughby Chase free from the clutches of the evil Miss Slighcarp?

What I liked: The writing was quite good and after a time, when it really took off, it was an interesting story, even for an adult reading a MG book. Aiken also did a good job pulling you into the time that the story took place. One of the best things was the “cruel Miss Slighcarp.” She was a really bad, bad guy. this story was read by Joan’s daughter, Lissa and she did a nice job.

What I didn’t like: The beginning was slow and it took quite a while for it to pick up.

Rating: 3.5/5

Treasure Hunters – James Patterson


Treasure Hunters (Treasure Hunters, #1)By accident, I found out that James Patterson had his own MG (middle grade) publishing house. I thought – how cool is that! So I thought I’d read one of his MG books, since that is what I am currently writing. I listened to the audio version of this book. The audio jacket says it’s available from Little Brown and Co., which is a division of one of big publishing houses, so maybe I heard wrong about this being published by James Patterson himself.

Stats: 452 pages with the hardcover,  published in 2013,  Audio version is 5 discs with pdf of the illustrations on the 5th disc along with the audio – (I didn’t know you could have both on one disc!) and is 6 hours worth. Bryan Kennedy was the narrator.

Blurb: (Goodreads) The Kidd siblings have grown up diving down to shipwrecks and traveling the world, helping their famous parents recover everything from swords to gold doubloons from the bottom of the ocean. But after their parents disappear n the job, the kids are suddenly thrust into the biggest treasure hunt of their lives. They’ll have to work together to defeat dangerous pirates and dodge the hot pursuit of an evil treasure hunting rival, all while following cryptic clues to unravel the mystery of what really happened to their parents–and find out if they’re still alive.

What I liked: No a whole lot. The story moved right along – good for a young audience, and it was a very kid-friendly kind of story – not too deep, cool adventures, and lots of fun action but that’s about it. I’m thinking very young readers would like this.

What I didn’t like: The whole thing seemed to be dumbed down. I don’t like stories that are dumbed down for kids. I think kids are smarter than adults frequently give them credit for and writing something that pushing them a bit, makes them better readers. I also did not like at all (and I’m surprised I didn’t see more review comments about this) that Patterson has the kahunas to make fun of a character’s size, as in there is an overweight female character (one of the 4 main kids) in this story. I applaud that he made one the main characters a different size – not all kids (or adults) are the same size – but to actually say negative things about her size and to not just have the bad guys call her fat names, was really surprising and unnecessary. I think he also has one of the kids call one of the overweight adults a fat name too. Why aren’t more people irritated by this?! I know kids do this (and adults) but why would we want to perpetuate this behavior? Why would his editor or publisher let this go? Unless James was the final decider and he did what he wanted. I also didn’t like Bryan Kennedy’s rendition but I can see that kids would enjoy it. Again, it seemed a bit too dumbed down for my taste and I do enjoy kids stories, so it’s not just that.

Rating: 2/5 Only because I think kids would like it. I would not want me kid to read this. I would recommend adults read it first before deciding if they want their own kids to read it.


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