Friday, May 31, 2013

Death on Telegraph Hill by Shirley Tallman

Death on Telegraph Hill
Genre: Historical Mystery
Rating: 4 stars

This is the fifth in the Sarah Woolson mysteries, and was a long time in the waiting since the previous book was published 2 years before.  I'm used to only waiting a year for a book, so this one had me tapping my toe with impatience.

I finally got my hands on a copy of the book and dove back into 1880s San Francisco and the world of Sarah Woolson, one of three female attorneys in California.  Sarah has a hard time overcoming the popular notion that women should be in the home, married with children, and not doing "men's work" like being a lawyer.  While this irks Sarah, and me, it is how society thought then and for quite a while afterward.

In Death on Telegraph Hill, Sarah attends a reading of poetry by Irish writer Oscar Wilde with her brother, Samuel.  Afterwards, on their way back down the hill, a shot wrings out and her brother stumbles to the ground.  Luckily, her brother's wound is not life threatening, but when other people connected to that poetry reading and Telegraph Hill start ending up dead, Sarah starts nosing around to figure out who the culprit is.  She has reluctant help from her colleague, the besotted, loud, overbearing yet sweet Scot, Robert Campbell and the young hackney driver Eddie.  Sarah has also been hired to stop a bullring from being built in San Francisco and agrees to defend a friend wrongly accused of murder.

The "romance" between Sarah and Robert has been progressing slowly over the series.  In this book, Robert's intentions become clearer and clearer to everyone but Sarah, and the end of the book leaves us with a cliff hanger ending between them.  One thing I have to give Ms. Tallman credit for is being true to her heroine.  Sarah has resigned herself to the fact that she will not be a wife and mother because in that society, a single woman is barely tolerated in the working world.  A wife and mother would be anathema. Despite her feelings for Robert, confusing tho they may be, I just can't see her throwing her arms around him and having a HEA. She's way too logical to listen to her heart, so I can see the next book being rather awkward for her and Robert.  I am looking forward to finding out, tho!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Get Healthy Blog Hop - Insanity Work Out

When I read about the Get Healthy Blog Hop on Michael Di Gesu's blog, I had to join.  You see, two weeks ago, I decided to drink the kool-ade (and by kool-ade, I mean water) and do the Insanity workout. The system is expensive at $144.80 on Amazon, but lucky for me my friend owned it and let me borrow hers.

For those you who haven't spent hours watching the infomercial on the Insanity workout, here's a little bit about it.  It's a 60 day exercise program made up of 10 DVDs which you alternate through out your 2 months.  There is no special equipment required - just room enough to move. The fitness instructor is Sean T, who sometimes talks about himself in the third person, which is off-putting, but otherwise he's ok - not as annoying as some instructors. The system also includes a diet plan and a (disturbingly difficult) formula to calculate your caloric needs while on this program.  Surprisingly you must eat A LOT.  5 times a day, meals of around 300 calories (depending on your caloric needs) per meal.  Seriously, it's a lot to try and eat in one day.  In the first 4 weeks, you do 5 of the DVDs and in the second half of your 60 days, you do the other 5.

So day 1 of the Insanity tour is your Fit Test.  This is a series of 8 exercises you do for 1 minute each and you count the number of times you can do the move *with correct form*.  You do this every 2 weeks or so to show your progress.  The first time I did it, I was dying afterwards.  Dripping sweat head-to-toe, out of breath, but pleased with my results.  I was better than the guy but worse than the girl in the video.  So I figured I was average.  Warm up, cool down, exercises and water breaks all said added up to right around 30 minutes.  I could handle that!

Well, then day 2 came.  Cardio Power & Resistance.  It killed me.  It was 40 minutes of fast moving, barely enough time to catch your breath, HARD exercises.  I finished it, but I can't say I did it well.

Day 3 was Plyometrics Cardio Circuit, which is like interval training.  Only harder.  And insane.  My friend didn't give me this DVD, so I used Plyo disc from the month 2 set.  OMG HARD!  55 minutes of crazy hard jumping and squatting and more jumping...I was dead and had to keel over and stop the DVD with 20 minutes left to go.

Day 4 I was dead.  Dead tired.  I had no energy and was a walking zombie.  But I am nothing if not determined.  I was supposed to do Cardio Recovery, but the DVD labeled that actually played Cardio Power & Resistance and I was damned if I was doing that again!  I put in the Pure Cardio DVD (day 5's plan of action) and managed to rock it out.  It was very hard - no breaks here! - but I did my best and, as Sean T. says, "dug deeper".  I also managed to give myself shin splints.

Days 5, 6, and 7, I took off to rest my shins, which screamed in pain every time I took a step. 

Day 8, I was back into the swing of things and suddenly, the Plyo DVD wasn't so hard and I made it all the way through.   

So here I am, Day 17 and I completed my fit test for the second time last night.  I am amazed at the increase in my stamina and strength, so clearly this is working. I haven't lost weight (at all) but that is totally my fault. I mean, hello! Memorial Day weekend BBQs!  A girl only has so much will power.

I still have moments (ok, days) when I wonder why I'm doing this.  I keep my upcoming Costa Rica trip firmly in mind, but also the fact that, if nothing else, we learned in Legally Blonde that people who exercise don't kill their husbands.  They just don't.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Veteran's Day & Honor Flight

Today's Wordless Wednesday is, once again, not wordless.  Today I am sharing pictures of this past Saturday, when I had the honor and privilege to escort two amazing American heroes around the war monuments in Washington, DC through the Dayton Honor Flight program.  This programs flies veterans from the Dayton, OH area (there are honor flights all over the country, but I happen to work with Dayton) for the day to DC to tour their monuments erected in their honor.

The whole group of WWII, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans at the WWII memorial.

We started at the WWII memorial, then went to the changing of the guards at Arlington National Cemetery, did drive-bys of Iwo Jima and the Air Force memorials, then toured the Vietnam Wall and the Korean memorial.
Korean War Memorial

Meet Ed, left and Bear, right (that's me in the middle)

Ed joined the Army in 1944 at the young age of 18.  He was shipped off to the front lines of WWII - Versailles, France.  They were called 90 day-ers because that was their life expectancy.  He and one other lucky boy were reassigned to a different duty and were moved to the rear.  And they both lived.  Ed is one of the most friendly, warm, caring, cheerful individuals I've ever met.  And a flirt!  Whew!  He gave an interview of his experiences during the war, which I hope to post as soon as it's up and online.  A local high school recorded it and is creating a living memory so people can hear first hand accounts of the war.

Bear joined up at age 18, too.  He would have lied about his age and joined earlier, but his mother begged him not to.  He joined the Navy and sailed to every port in the Pacific with the exception of Central and South America.  His ship got within 40 miles of the island where the first A-Bomb was released.  While he was there they detonated some type of bomb.  Everyone on deck had to face away and close their eyes when it detonated.  Despite 40 miles and his eyes being closed, he could see the bones in his hand and feel heat on his back. Bear is quieter than Ed, but as sweet as can be and just as charming. 
Bear and Ed: brave Buckeyes (what you call someone from Ohio)

Spending the day with these two characters was the most wonderful way I could think to spend my Saturday and thank two brave and extraordinary men for their service. 

Echos of Dark and Light by Chris Shanley-Dillman

Echos of Dark and Light 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Adventure, Young Adult
Rating: 5 stars

When 17 year old tom-boy, Bobbi, learns that her older brother is MIA and assumed dead after the Battle of Gettysburg, she decides to cut her hair off and join the Yankee army posing as a boy to find him. Bobbi has never been very lady like, so acting like a boy isn't hard for her. She follows the army and is quickly taken on as their newest soldier. She must learn how to march, clean her weapon and learn the chain of command, all while convincing the other soldiers that she's a guy, just like them. Despite her best efforts to keep herself aloof, she ends up making friends with a handful of the soldier: Toby, a Texan who went against his family to fight for the Yankees, Preacher, a very religious man, Woody, who is as smart as a block of wood, and Kenny, who signed up with his twin brother. Bobbi has to deal with the horrors of war that she never took into consideration - terrible wounds, dead and dying men, hunger, exhaustion and coming to terms with killing someone else to save yourself.

I really loved this book. Bobbi was such a likeable character. She believed so strongly in her brother being alive that she would do anything for him. She was brave in the face of danger and loyal to her friends, almost to a fault. The guys she was friends with were great too - very individual and very real. You wanted to pet Woody on the head because he was so thick, and give Kenny a hug because he was so sweet. And Toby...well, he was just the best. Even the not-so-nice characters were realistic. You have bullies everywhere, even in war time, and her bullies seemed like some people I've known in my lifetime.

I think this book would be great for teens who are studying the Civil War to read. It's one thing to learn about war in a classroom, but somehow reading about it, even in fiction, really brings it to life.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Gaslight Mysteries: Murder in Chelsea

If you haven't picked up the Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson yet, I highly recommend that you do.  If you have and want a review of the latest book, skip to the bottom.  If not, here's a little description of what the series is about:

Set in turn of the century New York City, the stories revolve around Sarah Brandt, a young widow from an upper class family who eschewed that lifestyle to marry for love.  Her husband was murdered years before, but she carries on working as a a midwife and when her work gets her caught up in a murder, she does her best to help solve it.

Detective Frank Malloy is of Irish descent, which in late 1800s NYC means lower class.  The police are looked down upon as thugs since they frequently solve crimes based upon how much you bribe them to clear your name.  Malloy is different in that he has integrity, and while the bribes to bolster his meager salary, he actually looks for whodunnit.  He lives with his mother and his young son.  His wife died in childbirth and he blames the midwife for her death.  Needless to say, Sarah and Frank's first interactions aren't all that pleasant.  However, they learn to work together and to help each other solve the mystery.  They become friends and it eventually becomes obviously that they love each other, but perceived class restrictions keep them from one another.

The stories take place all over New York, and it's neat to learn how the neighborhoods first started out and what they've turned into today (if you're familiar with NYC).  It also involves a lot of New York history, which I'm not all that familiar with.  The Irish were looked down upon, but more so were the Italians, and the two did not like each other, and the Chinese...well, that's an even worse story.  The city's politics were determined by a thing called Tammany Hall (which according to the interwebs, was the Democrative Party in NYC that helped immigrants enter politics), which seems to have been very corrupt.  New York's aristocracy, called Knickerbockers (descendents of Dutch settlers of New York) had mansions on "Marble Row", which has long since been turned into sky scrapers, but used to house the creme de la creme of NY society.  Class segregation is a big theme in these books, particularly the difficulty to elevate oneself.  Basically you have to be born into a Knickerbocker family, or be filthy stinking rich.

The first book is called Murder on Astor Place

Now that I've helped you understand why I love the series so much and what's been happening over the course of 14 books, I give you my review of book #15, Murder in Chelsea

Murder in Chelsea
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4.5 Stars

When someone comes looking for Sarah Brandt's foster daughter at the mission where she was found, Sarah, Sgt Det Frank Malloy and her family set forth to find out if the real parents are worthy of the child. But when a murder crops up, they have to do everything they can to protect the little girl before she becomes the next victim.

I was waiting (quite impatiently) for my library to get the book for me, so I read it less than 24 hours.  Sarah and Frank usually only work together on mysteries, but since this involves Catherine, Sarah's foster daughter, the whole family (even her father) stepped in to keep Catherine safe. It was nice seeing Sarah's parents, the Deckers, interact with Malloy. Especially her father, since he's been so disapproving of Frank. I can't remember how the last book ended (it's been a year!) but they must have come to an understanding because Mr. Decker finally put Frank on equal footing.

This is the 15th book in this series, and if you are like me and have been waiting and waiting for something to happen to the couple, well, I think you'll be happy with the ending. I know I was! I'm looking forward to the next book - I hope Mrs. Ellsworth and Frank's mother figure into the story more. I enjoy Mrs. Ellsworth's craziness and Frank's mother's orneriness.  I gave this 4.5 stars instead of 5 because I could have done with a bit more romance there at the end.  But that's just me - I'm a hopeless romantic at heart.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Best First Lines

Sometimes an opening sentence to a book sets you up to the whole theme of the book.  I've read books where I've seen that first sentence and just knew that I would love it.  Of course, I have been wrong, but generally it's a good thing.

*Disclaimer - I totally stole this idea from Lisa Collicut

"Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again."
The very first book I can remember the first line from was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.  I was in eighth grade and I was transfixed immediately.  You know that somehow, the reader hasn't gone back and won't go back and you need to find out why.  It is haunting and lovely and still one of my favorites, all these years later.

"Few people would look kindly on my reasons for marrying Philip; neither love nor money nor his title induced me to accept his proposal." 
And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily, #1)
And Only To Decieve by Tasha Alexander. The cover had caught my eye, so I picked it up at the library and then went to my parent's house.  My mother was intrigued by it as I was, so we sat together, on that gorgeous summer day, and stayed inside and took turns reading the chapters out loud to one another. 

"To say I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate." 
Silent in the Grave (Lady Julia, #1)
I mean, how can you NOT want to read a book that starts out that way?  Silent In The Grave by Deanna Raybourn It also has the best follow up line: "Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor." I liked this book and it started me on the series which I quickly grew to love. 

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." 
 Pride and Prejudice
Well, duh!  Obviously he must be. :) How could I leave off one of the best books written and one of the best opening lines?  Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
is one of the most lovely books I've ever read, and if you haven't read it, you really should pick it up.

"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." 
Anna Karenina
I should have paid more attention when this line grabbed my attention.  The book was to be about an unhappy family, not a happy one. I knew Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy was supposed to be a love story, but I didn't realize it would be so depressing and so political.  To say I was incredibly mislead by that first sentence would be an understatement.  I was tricked into believing I would love the book, and let me tell you - I did not.  I hated every page and considered reading it to be a person challenge, my own Mt. Everest. I trudged along, 400 pages into it, when my coworker stopped by and told me the ending.  With that, I gave up. I did not finish and have no desire to ever go back to that book. But I'll give it credit - it has a catch first line.

"I am dead, but it's not so bad." 
Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies, #1)
I had seen the trailer for the movie for Warm Bodies and though it was beyond cute.  When I saw it was a book, by Isaac Marion, I had to read it.  I thought it was going to be funny - I had no idea how incredibly sweet it would be.  A modern day, happier-ending Romeo and Juliet.

So what books have you read and were totally caught up by the first sentence?  Or totally fooled by that first sentence?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Sometimes I'm Clueless

Ok, yes it's true.  Sometimes I'm clueless. 

As a relative "new-bee" to the blogging world, I am learning new things about blogging almost on a weekly basis.  Today's big AH-HA! moment was when I was just playing around Amazon and was looking at the reviews I've done and saw that I have a reviewer ranking!  I had no idea they ranked their reviewers as well as their books.  I am #82,062 on their top reviewer list.  Ok, so I have a lot of work cut out for me to get up to one of their coveted badges for top 1,000, 500, 100, 50, 10 and #1.  But I had no idea these were even options!

Which brings me to another thing I have been clueless about.  I almost never click on the bottom of the review where it asks me if the review was helpful or not.  If someone takes the time to write a review, and I bothered to read it, I should actually take the 10 seconds and click the "yes" or "no" button.  Sheesh!  Clueless!

So there you go, my book reviewer lesson of the day: Not only should I review things on Amazon, I should also give props to other people who do.

Happy Monday!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Author Appreciation Day Blog Hop Is Here!!!

Happy Author Appreciation Day!!!

I asked you all to join my blog hop and give a rating, review or dedicate a blog entry to an author whose book you love, but haven't rated/reviewed yet.  Have you signed up yet?  If not, you can do so here:

My choice for author appreciation is:

The Family Way (Molly Murphy, #12)
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Historical Mystery

Rhys Bowen for The Family Way.  This is in the Molly Murphy mystery series and I just love it.  Set in the early 1900 in NYC, Molly is pregnant with her first child and is bored out of her mind.  Used to being busy, and to solving crimes, she is finding her imposed "rest" before having the baby unbearable.  When a letter comes to her old detective agency asking help in locating a girl who came to NY from Ireland, Molly figures it can't hurt to look into it, but her husband, Daniel, asks her to stop.  When she escapes the oppressive heat of summer in New York for the suburbs, and her mother-in-law's house, and she just happens to hear the name of the last known employer of the missing girl. Molly's investigations lead her to a convent with a secret and murder.

I love the Molly Murphy series, but this one made me angry at Molly.  She was 7-8 months pregnant and put herself in a lot of unnecessary danger.  I understand that she enjoys solving mysteries, but to not tell anyone where you are going and to put your unborn child in such risk is beyond stupid.  I like the book and the mystery, but that just rubbed me wrong.  I also wish there had been more interaction with Daniel.  He and Molly always have such funny exchanges.

Regardless of my annoyance with Molly, I still loved the book and read it in 2 days.  Rhys Bowen writes such fun 'cozy mysteries' and I would highly recommend them - especially for a beach read.

You can get it here: Amazon 
Learn more about Rhys Bowen here: Goodreads

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Hey You Guys!!! Author Appreciation Day Is Tomorrow!

Why is it when I say "Hey You Guys", I instantly think of Sloth from The Goonies?

Anyway, tomorrow is the day!  It's the Author Appreciation Blog Hop!  Have you all picked a book or author to give some love to...and a rating/review?

In preparation, I thought I'd share one of my recent reads.  Ok, four, really.  But they're all a part of a series and I totally marathoned them.  Do you like the Sookie Stackhouse novels?  How about Stephanie Plum? If you answered yes, then allow me to introduce you to The Deadwood Mysteries.

Nearly Departed in Deadwood (Deadwood Mystery, #1)Optical Delusions in Deadwood (Deadwood Mystery, #2)Dead Case in Deadwood (Deadwood Mystery, #3)Better Off Dead In Deadwood (Deadwood Mystery # 4) Nearly Departed in Deadwood, Optical Delusions in Deadwood, Undead Case in Deadwood and Better off Dead in Deadwood by Ann Charles.

The books are about a single mom, Violet, who recently moved to the town of Deadwood and is trying to make her career selling real estate...and failing.  As she tries to save her career, she picks up a host of hilarious characters that "help" her.  Harvey, the horny, potty mouthed old man with a shotgun named Bessie, her best friend Natalie, the mysterious and sexy Doc, the disapproving Sheriff Cooper and her coworkers. Violet has the worst luck with clients and with houses and they all seem to involve ghosts, which of course, she doesn't believe in. 

These books are funny, sexy, easy to read and totally addicting.  While Violet's daughter and her coworker Ray are the worst characters (Ray on purpose, Addy just because she's a 10 year old bratty child), I totally enjoy all the colorful characters that make up these stories.

Check them out - the first two are only $.99 on Amazon and are totally worth the read!

So remember to sign up for the Blog Hop if you haven't already and use #huganauthor tomorrow and post some reviews!