Book Review — A Quiet Life in The Country

A Quiet Life in the Country

The Ama­zon write­up starts: Lady Emi­ly Hard­cas­tle is an eccen­tric wid­ow with a secret past. Flo­rence Arm­strong, her maid and con­fi­dante, is an expert in mar­tial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from Lon­don to the coun­try, hop­ing for a qui­et life.

Now, that para­graph sparked my inter­est  and I cer­tain­ly did enjoy the mys­tery. I espe­cial­ly liked the main char­ac­ters, two ladies, one the lady, and the oth­er her maid/servant/friend. While polite­ly, or sass­i­ly (is that a word?) charg­ing through the book, they man­age to move into a new home, meet the locals, and, par­ty, and quite inci­den­tal­ly, ah, but that would be telling it out of order.

First they was the body in the woods. Dead, of course. Then the police were com­plete­ly off track. What were Lady Hard­cas­tle and Flo to do?

As they inves­ti­gate fur­ther, into rur­al rival­ries and resent­ment, they dis­cov­er secrets and intrigue. Sus­pects abound. Before the caper is all over, the lady and Flo dis­cov­er one thing for sure. There is no such thing as a qui­et life in the coun­try.

I gave this five stars.

Favorite Authors

Yes, writ­ers have favorite authors. I prob­a­bly have too many to actu­al­ly list. Pos­si­bly, the most recent book I’ve read is my favorite.

Here’s a few favorites: Jinx Schwartz, Susan Meier, Don­na Andrews, Diane Vallere, Rhys Bowen, Kaye George, Tamar Myers, Dorothy Gilman (oh, that goes way back), Lois Win­ston, oh, there are just too many! Right now I’m read­ing a book by Joan­na Camp­bell Slan, Paper, Scis­sors, Death.  Maybe she’ll turn out to be my favorite author (today, any­way).

Most of those I list­ed are mys­tery writ­ers. I like books with a bit of his­to­ry, many that are con­sid­ered cozy, sev­er­al who are bit woo, woo (ghosts, future worlds, for instance), oh, and with ani­mals or boats, or.…  Anoth­er favorite author — must­n’t for­get Sharon Huss Roat — my daugh­ter who writes young adult.

Books are won­der­ful, don’t you think?

A bit of history — Ration Books

Rationing helped the war effort

In this time of coro­na virus and a dis­rupt­ed coun­try, I remem­ber anoth­er time of dis­rup­tion in the Unit­ed States, and the world. Since I’m old, I remem­ber World War II. I was a child, but I remem­ber ration books. The things rationed were to allow our coun­try to tool up to fight a war. We received the books in the mail, one book for each mem­ber of the fam­i­ly. In each book were tiny per­fo­rat­ed rec­tan­gles in a vari­ety of col­ors. We had no idea what would be rationed.

The told us by radio on a Sun­day morn­ing. (Stores were all closed, as usu­al.) Start­ing the next day, we would need a coupon as well as mon­ey to pur­chase cer­tain good. Canned veg­eta­bles, meat and but­ter, shoes, sug­ar, and gaso­line are the ones I remem­ber. The prod­ucts rationed were to save ship­ping space (sug­ar), met­al for build­ing ships (canned foods), meat, but­ter, and shoes to feed and clothe the sol­diers and sailors. Or, at least, that’s what we sur­mised.

Some prod­ucts were devel­oped to over­come such needs as shoes for a grow­ing child as, I seem to remem­ber the allot­ment was one pair a year. And, shoes were added to pro­vide a fash­ion change. They called them play shoes, and there was no leather in them, just plas­tic and cloth, rather like ten­nis shoes on steroids. Also, food providers devel­oped cake mix­es, and, I tell you, they were a sor­ry bunch of a waste of sug­ar. I remem­ber my moth­er try­ing one. Yuck. And, although, as a farm fam­i­ly we most­ly pro­duced our own food, rais­ing cat­tle, chick­ens, and veg­eta­bles and saved our meat coupons for but­ter, the city folks did­n’t have that advan­tage. Some­one devel­oped oleo mar­garine.

The gas for our cars was anoth­er thing. The speed lim­it was changed to 35 miles per hour to save our warn tires — as rub­ber went to the war effort as well. But farm­ers not only were gen­er­al­ly exempt­ed from the draft as the coun­try need­ed the food, but they had extra gas to run their trac­tors. My dad shook his head over the gov­ern­men­t’s sys­tem. They asked each farmer to record how much gas was used dur­ing the spring months then mul­ti­plied the allot­ment by four times that. Yep, spring is when the farmer runs his trac­tor the most, plow­ing and seed­ing his crop. He runs it also to har­vest accord­ing to what he grows. For us it was hay to feed the cows that pro­duced the milk.

I remem­ber one pair of my shoes. I was in the sixth grade and my moth­er decid­ed I was grown up enough for wom­en’s shoes. (Or, maybe my feet were too big.) Any­way, those shoes were a yel­low­ish col­or with Cuban heels. Now, pic­ture me play­ing soft­ball dur­ing recess, clunk­ing around in those shoes.

But, of course, I sur­vived. And so did our coun­try.

Pie in the Sky

Recent­ly I saw a car­toon that men­tioned “pie in the sky.” I’ve heard the expres­sion before. I decid­ed this would be my first blog entry in some­thing new—a once in a while series of mem­o­ries con­nect­ed to his­to­ry. Um, that sounds weird, does­n’t it? Maybe I’ll just start with an illus­tra­tion and con­tin­ue from there. Okay?

Now for the mem­o­ry of “pie in the sky.” Actu­al­ly, it’s my father’s mem­o­ry, one he shared with me when we were orga­niz­ing his sto­ry of work­ing for col­lege mon­ey.

In 1923, when he was nine­teen and liv­ing in Wash­ing­ton state, my dad got a job in Alas­ka. They sent him by boat, but not by first class. He and sev­er­al oth­er men had bunks in the hold, along with five cows. One of the oth­er men they called Baldy since he was par­tial­ly bald, and the old­est of the group—maybe twen­ty-nine or thir­ty. Anoth­er one they called Shorty.

Shorty was being sent to Alas­ka to spread the word about the Indus­tri­al Work­ers of the World. He gave quite a talk on Com­mu­nism, which was new to my dad.

When Shorty got through, Baldy had his say, which was, “Hooray for free speech. I believe in the IWW, free speech, and over­head sew­er sys­tems.”

Short­y’s response was to sing the fol­low­ing song.

A long-haired preach­er comes out every night.
And he tells us what is wrong and what is right.
He tells us when we’re flush, give our mon­ey to the Lord.
And he tells us when we’re on the bum.
Work and pray, live on hay.
You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.

My dad had the impres­sion that was an Indus­tri­al Work­ers of the World song, but Wikipedia has a bit dif­fer­ent sto­ry. Pos­si­bly the IWW appro­pri­at­ed the last two lines of the orig­i­nal song. But “pie in the sky” meant the same thing it does today.

Anoth­er thing that spurred this blog is my dad’s book, his mem­o­ry and my deci­sion to start post­ing my mem­o­ries. The book we put togeth­er is A Knuck­le­head in 1920/s Alas­ka, now avail­able as a paper­back and as an e‑book for all e‑book read­ers here.

Do you have a mem­o­ry about “pie in the sky” to share?

New Bonus Book

A New Bonus Book — for Norma’s Chat Members

I love my newslet­ter mem­bers. We have some love­ly chats. Recent­ly, they helped me design the cov­er for my lat­est book, a free-be for them and any­one who wants to join my chat group.

You can see from the cov­er what is includ­ed. But I’ll give you a hint about what is inside.

The two new short sto­ries are rep­re­sent­ed by the stone and the donuts. The amaz­ing his­to­ry (the War of 1812 on Chesa­peake Bay) is hint­ed at by the sail­ing ship. The gold nugget and the black cat? Oh, they are impor­tant in a cou­ple of my pub­lished books. I’ve includ­ed a brief men­tion of each book. (Try­ing to lure you into buy­ing one, of course.) A taste of each, you might say.

Speak­ing of taste, that’s for the kitchen hacks. Not recipes, but tasty ideas for straw­ber­ries, slop­py Joe sand­wich­es, and a super sauce. Yum.

The com­plete book is avail­able in three dif­fer­ent forms through this Book Fun­nel link. You will be asked for your e‑mail address to be signed up for my usu­al­ly month­ly newslet­ter. I always include oth­er author’s books (and some­times one of mine) on sale or free (usu­al­ly cozy mys­ter­ies). I include any writ­ing news, and try to enter­tain. (Well, try, any­way.) No spam, and no e‑mail address­es shared. If you are already a mem­ber, use the same email address so you won’t get dupli­cate newslet­ters. Enjoy!

 

 

A Memorial Day Reflection

A day of remembrance

My hus­band’s uncle died in World War II. My uncle served, but returned. My hus­band, broth­er, broth­er-in-law, and so many oth­ers we knew served in Korea, some my hus­band knew nev­er returned. And there have been oth­er bat­tles since then. Now, with­out the draft, it seems the same small per­cent­age of Amer­i­cans vol­un­teer to take on our bat­tles over and over, with each per­son return­ing to the front (wher­ev­er it is) repeat­ed­ly. No more is it the two or four year block of life removed from the draftee or vol­un­teer as in Korea. Or “the dura­tion” as in WW II. Now it seems a life-style of the select few. Which leaves a large por­tion of our cit­i­zens uncon­cerned about those fight­ing for free­dom around the world. Indeed, many of the young gen­er­a­tion seem unaware of the exis­tence of the rest of the world, except as a pos­si­ble place to vaca­tion.

I planned to see beau­ty in this day, but some­how, I’ve missed the con­nec­tion. Oh, there is beau­ty. Our tulip poplar tree in bloom. Pic­tures of our great-grand-chil­dren on Face­book. The orange I had for lunch. (Love­ly taste, too.) Most com­ments about this day might dis­play a flag or a mil­i­tary salute to vet­er­ans. I could do that as well, and it would be mean­ing­ful to me. But I’ll break with tra­di­tion and post the tree blos­som. Just for a moment, I’ll think beau­ty. But in the back of my thoughts will be that flag, those vet­er­ans, and why can’t it be dif­fer­ent?

Tomor­row, per­haps the sun will come out, and life will go on as before, as it did yes­ter­day.

New history mystery — on preorder

Killer Debt — Mystery on the battle line

Now that my blog is work­ing again, I can belat­ed­ly tell you about an his­toric mys­tery from one of my favorite authors. This month it’s on * pre-order * with an option of perks. (Since I’m so late, some of the perks are no longer avail­able.) But let’s for­get that and focus on the book. It will come out in May and is the newest in the Michael Stod­dard series. Stod­dard is an Eng­lish offi­cer under orders to pro­tect an Amer­i­can arriv­ing under white flag to con­sult with the British. His main adver­sary is anoth­er British offi­cer, as he also strives to keep an Amer­i­can lady safe. (Or, maybe I’m say­ing too much here? Can I men­tion that they real­ly do like each oth­er?)

Author Suzanne Adair brings our Amer­i­can his­to­ry to the pages, shin­ing a light on much that has been for­got­ten about our past. The sto­ry is fic­tion, but the his­to­ry under­ly­ing this mys­tery is real. What bet­ter way to dis­cov­er the for­got­ten past than in a thriller that por­trays colo­nial life as well as Eng­lish and Amer­i­can sen­ti­ments in our Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War? While you are on the site linked above, (set off by stars), check out the video telling more, the link to Suzanne read­ing chap­ter one, and a link to a PDF of the first chap­ter.

 

Kindle Scout book coming-Forgotten Body

Forgotten_ebook final coverNovem­ber 14, 2015, is the big day! I just got word this morn­ing (the 12th). My next mys­tery, For­got­ten Body, will be on Kin­dle Scout.

Okay, you want to know exact­ly what Kin­dle Scout is? It’s part­ly a choose-your-own-read, in that any­one can nom­i­nate books they would like to read. After giv­ing the read­ing pub­lic thir­ty days to choose a book, Ama­zon decides which ones they will pub­lish in e‑book form. (Part of their deci­sion is based on the book’s pop­u­lar­i­ty.) The best part for the read­er: You receive a free e‑book copy of each of the books you nom­i­nat­ed. Okay, that’s only true if they decide to pub­lish the book. (If not, they tell you where it is avail­able.) As a read­er, I’ve nom­i­nat­ed many books I’d like to read. (They allow three nom­i­na­tions at a time.) Sev­er­al have been pub­lished by Kin­dle Scout, so I’ve received free e‑books. They were all great reads. They earned four or five stars when I placed my reviews on Ama­zon and Goodreads. (Since I know those reviews help the author and the read­er, I try to review every book I read.)

Of course, there’s good news for the author too. The Kin­dle Scout pro­gram offers a favor­able con­tract with advance and roy­al­ties, as well as pub­lic­i­ty.

The Kin­dle Scout site for For­got­ten Body will include the one sen­tence teas­er, the blurb, and almost all of the first two chap­ters. It will even tell you some­thing about me and ask me ques­tions. (I answer, of course.) Mean­while, I’ll tell you For­got­ten Body is a sequel to Yes­ter­day’s Body. Jo Durbin, my ama­teur detec­tive will do her thing (along with that elu­sive, imag­i­nary cat) at a reen­act­ment of the War of 1812. On Sat­ur­day the 12th, the whole thing will go live here. So vis­it, and if you like what you see, nom­i­nate. If you have any ques­tions, ask here.

Five Stars for Deadly Occupation

10-19 Bloody OccupationDead­ly Occu­pa­tion is a just-pub­lished pre­quel to the oth­er Michael Stod­dard his­toric mys­ter­ies. Lieu­tenant Stod­dard is a British offi­cer sta­tioned in the Amer­i­can colonies dur­ing the Rev­o­lu­tion. As such, one might not think him a hero to a 2015 Amer­i­can read­er, but that is not a con­cern for this Amer­i­can read­er. I have read the oth­er mys­ter­ies in this series, and while I rec­og­nize char­ac­ters from those, this book gives back­grounds of char­ac­ters with­out spoil­ing or reveal­ing any­thing from oth­er books.

The Stod­dard books bring out the ambi­gu­i­ty in Amer­i­ca at that time. There were Amer­i­cans who pre­ferred British rule as well as those who did­n’t. (And there were nas­ties on each side, one revealed for sure.) Dead­ly Occu­pa­tion also illus­trates the ambi­gu­i­ties of his­to­ri­ans, for Suzanne Adair has delved into his­to­ry that is sel­dom report­ed. Makes for a (excuse me) damn good read!

Oth­er read­ers agree. Here’s a bit from one Ama­zon five-star review: “Michael Stod­dard is a young, 27-year-old, Lieu­tenant with a gift for solv­ing crimes, a chin full of blem­ish­es, and a murky past. In this nov­el, he choos­es an assis­tant, 18-year-old Nick Spry. Spry has his own tal­ents, an eye for detail and a relaxed way with peo­ple that encour­ages them to open up to him. He’s young, but he’s no one’s fool. They are an unlike­ly pair, yet they get results.

Whether sta­tioned in one loca­tion or on the move with the Reg­i­ment, the set­tings are well-craft­ed with his­tor­i­cal details that bring each scene to life. The sus­pects and char­ac­ters pop­u­lat­ing the nov­els are real­is­tic, with basic human moti­va­tions. They are col­or­ful, inter­est­ing, and many are seem­ing­ly drawn from authen­tic his­toric fig­ures.”

One place to order Dead­ly Occu­pa­tion is Ama­zon. (There are oth­ers as well.)