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text 2018-04-21 10:20
The Flat Book Society: 10 days to go before May's read begins!
A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup

Just a reminder that our read of A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup begins on Tuesday, May 1st.

 

While it's obvious that those that love Agatha Christie's books are going to be drawn to this book, don't be fooled into thinking it isn't really a science book.  The science is real and though the author discusses these poisons in the context of AC's usage of them in books, she does not skimp on the chemistry.  

 

As Boomsbury describes it:

Fourteen Agatha Christie novels. Fourteen poisons. Just because it's fiction doesn’t mean it's all made-up ...

Agatha Christie used poison to kill her characters more often than any other crime fiction writer. The poison was a central part of the novel, and her choice of deadly substances was far from random; the chemical and physiological characteristics of each poison provide vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. Christie demonstrated her extensive chemical knowledge (much of it gleaned by working in a pharmacy during both world wars) in many of her novels, but this is rarely appreciated by the reader.

Written by former research chemist Kathryn Harkup, each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison used by the murderer. Fact- and fun-packed, A is for Arsenic looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body, and the feasibility of obtaining, administering, and detecting these poisons, both when Christie was writing and today.

 

There are even a few diagrams and equations - but not too many.

 

Anyone is free to join us, as always.  Huggins loves a good crowd and a good discussion over the relative merits of cyanide over strychnine.

 

Looking forward to May day!

 

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review 2018-04-21 03:17
ARC Review: Somewhere Over Lorain Road by Bud Gundy
Somewhere Over Lorain Road - Bud Gundy
Please don't let the cover confuse you into thinking this is purely an M/M romance. It's not. While there is a love story inside, this book is at its core a mystery with gay characters. It's a book about secrets, and unsolved murders, and old wounds, and family pain. It's about coming home to help your aging mother take care of your father in his last days, it's about giving an old man his dying wish. It's about terrible, horrible secrets kept for 40 years, and confronting the ghosts of your past.

Don Esker has come home to North Homestead, Ohio, where his father lies dying, and his mother and older brothers need help with the palliative care. Don has done well for himself in San Francisco, working in marketing, and is in a position where he can work from anywhere. Coming home isn't easy, as the family name is still talked about in hushed voices in connection to an unsolved crime that happened 40 years ago in 1975, when a little boy, the neighbor's and Sheriff's son, mysteriously disappeared, and two other little boys were found brutally murdered. Don's father was a suspect in the disappearance of the first boy, if only for one evening, and while he was never charged with anything, his good name has never been fully cleared. The suspicion alone shattered Don's family, and when he came out as gay, staying in town became impossible for him. Small towns and small-minded people will not forgive and not forget, and the townsfolk certainly wouldn't accept a gay man. 

In a lucid moment, Don's father asks for just one thing before he dies - to have his name cleared once and for all. Don, obliging son, begins a journey that not only brings him to Bruce, the love interest, but also face to face with his childhood friend, the brother of the missing boy, who still lives with his father, the ex-Sheriff across the street from the Esker home. It forces him to confront things of his past. Thick as thieves when they were young, Don and his friend haven't spoken in many years, longer than Don has been gone from North Homestead. There is history there. And hurt, anger, and hate. 

As the story unfolds, we are given pieces of the past, set in the 70s and 80s. There's an incident with an old fridge. There's the moment in which Mr. Esker is hauled from his home to answer questions about the disappearance of the neighbor's son. There's the moment in which Don's brother... no, I won't spoil this for you. Just do yourself a favor and read this book.

There is a moment when I knew, just KNEW, who the culprit was, thought I knew who had committed these crimes. 

And there is a moment when the truth comes out, and I was proven wrong. Except, not entirely. 

The romance between Don and Bruce doesn't really begin until the 2nd half of this book, and it's never in the forefront of the tale. There are no explicit scenes, and there didn't need to be any. It unfolds quietly, organically, and peacefully, just as it should have. These are grown, mature men, and there are no games to be played. No contrived misunderstandings. A love story. Simple. Quiet. 

Obviously, Don is not a skilled investigator, and it's often just sheer luck that he is able to find a piece he needs to solve the decades-old crime. He fumbles more often than not, which is to be expected, but he does persevere. 

The mystery is eventually solved. The truth comes out, as it always will, no matter how much time passes. I wasn't prepared for this truth. I wasn't expecting this truth. Though, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go that route, and I must applaud the author for taking this road. It humanized the perpetrator, and though it doesn't offer forgiveness, it offers a believable motive. It does also shine a bright light on deep dysfunction within a family, on emotional and psychological and physical abuse. Facades crumble under such light. Cracks appear. Truth will out.

This book, with its tight narration and unexpected turn of events, kept me glued to its pages until the very last one. It's riveting - a page turner, and masterfully written. 

Give this a try, I beg you. This isn't a romance. It's a mystery with a gay MC. It's a story about family. But it is also a love story. Absolutely worth your time.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher via Netgalley. A positive review was not promised in return. **
 
 

 

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text 2018-04-21 02:30
Oh my goodness, my ironwood!!!

I first wrote about my ironwood tree last fall, after it had been trimmed by the landscapers prior to the November Studio Tour.

 

Now it's spring.  We had very little rain over the winter, and that has affected the blooming of flowers.  Usually we have a bright blue ribbon of lupines along the side of Highway 60 between Apache Junction and Gold Canyon, along with big sprays of yellow brittlebush and orange globe mallow.  We had virtually no flowers at all.

 

Even the spectacular yellow of the palo verde trees out in the desert was muted.  It's usually as bright as fireworks, with every single tree just a cloud of the most yellowy yellow imaginable.  They're blooming, but not spectacularly.

 

 

That's the neighbor's tree across the street.

 

 

The ironwoods bloom later than just about all the other trees.  I noticed one of them along the highway was showing that lovely soft lavender of a full bloom the other day, though most of the others in the desert still weren't.  And I knew my ironwood hadn't shown its few little blossoms until much much later last year, like late May or early June.  Right now we're only in the middle of April.

 

Therefore, I hadn't even looked at my tree yet this year.

 

Until today.

 

I let the dogs out after they had their supper, and for some reason or other Moby decided he wanted to come in the front door.  The sun was at the right angle to cast the ironwood tree in an odd light.  It looked . . . funny.  It looked like the leaves, which are normally a dusty, slightly bluish green, were dustier than usual.

 

Could it possibly be flower buds?  Could it?

 

I scrambled to find some shoes and then grabbed the camera.

 

 

Yep, it's covered with buds!!!  My ironwood tree is gonna BLOOOOOOM!!!!!

 

 

Each of those buds is about 1/4 inch (0.7 cm) long.  They start out really, really tiny.  These below are just starting to form, and each bud is about 1/32 inch long!

 

 

The cinnamon dot cactus are still blooming, too, and a couple days ago I got a great shot of a bee in one.  Unfortunately, the bee refused to roll over so I could snap a picture of its bright yellow underside, but it's still cute.

 

 

Ironwood flowers capped off a productive afternoon for me.  I spent much of the morning sorting through more of the rocks in the workshop and gathered a collection to cut on the saw.  Even though the afternoon sun was pretty warm, the day remained cool enough that I put in a little over an hour on the saw and got some good slices.  I already have three of my four available tumbler barrels filled and tumbling with the summer's first batches of stones.  My plan is to get in another couple of hours tomorrow morning, which will probably be my last chance before the weather gets just too hot to work outside on the patio.

 

And this evening I'm going to read.  Yeah!

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review 2018-04-20 21:42
Historical Romance
The Husband Mission (The Spy Matchmaker ... The Husband Mission (The Spy Matchmaker Book 1) - Regina Scott

The Husband Mission by Regina Scott is a fabulous historical romance.  Ms. Scott has delivered a well-written book.  Alexander, Viscount Borin, thinks he'd make a fine spy.  Katherine and her helpers have targeted Alexander to become her sister's husband before her birthday so she doesn't lose her inheritance.  Alexander and Katherine's story is full of drama, secrets, humor, spice and outstanding characters.  I enjoyed reading The Husband Mission and look forward to reading more from Regina Scott soon.  The Husband Mission is book 1 of The Spy Matchmaker Series but can be read as a standalone.  This is a complete story, not a cliff-hanger.

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text 2018-04-20 19:08
Please Bring Poetry To My Mom's Bookclub
Tiny Footcrunch - David Wasserman

I wrote this post for my Tiny Footcrunch publisher (Unsolicited Press!) to post during National Poetry Month:

 

 

My mother was so excited when I told her Unsolicited Press was publishing my book of poetry - excited and proud and just over the moon in that special motherly way. She immediately started listing everyone we needed to tell. 

“Your father! Mama and Papa! Cousin Laura down in Tennessee!”

“And hey, Mom, you could even read it with your book club!” I chimed in.

Awkward silence. “Mmm, maybe . . . hey, let’s FaceTime your brother!”

Even with the most exuberant and joyful of parents behind it poetry couldn’t quite sneak into The Book Club. Perhaps it’s due to post-traumatic stress from high school english class, a fear of not understanding the work or just an unease about change. Whatever the case, poetry is not a staple of most book clubs.

To be fair, there are some dedicated poetry book clubs (including some online - do a quick search and you’ll find some fantastic choices!) but they are the exception, not the rule. So then, why and howshould you add poetry into your book club?

The why is easy. It will break up the routine of novels, allowing your members to experience something different and unique. Poetry is usually a shorter read (time for reflection notwithstanding) and, in this fast-paced world where everyone has a million things to do, your members might just feel relieved to ditch those 400 pages of prose. Remember those “choose your own adventure” books? Each book club member can bring a different book of poems or single poem to the meeting, either their choice or guided around a certain theme. Putting poetry on the plate makes for a more complete dish.

How is a little trickier. The discussions you have (sprinkled in around the gossip and wine, I know) can be guided or more organic. I will use my upcoming book, Tiny Footcrunch, as a template for some possible exchanges:

  • -Which one line did you get stuck in your head?
  • -What does the key on the cover symbolize to you? Why the yellow background?
  • -Pair a poem with a food or drink, and tell why it works!
  • -Pick a poem: what TV show does it binge watch?
  • -Which poems are in the wrong sections of the book? Where would you put them?
  • -Did a certain poem resonate with you? Why?
  • -Which poem would you love, marry, kill?


You get the idea. The questions range from the standard tell your favorite poem and why to something more fun like what television show a certain poem might enjoy. All of these aim to break up the mundane and everyday - the monotony - a book club might develop.
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So the next time it’s your turn to pick a book for book club, remember that a collection of poetry is out there waiting for you. 

Oh, and please recommend it to my mother’s book club.

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