Book Review: The Charlemagne Pursuit

The Charlemagne Pursuit, by Steve Berry

This is another in the series following Cotton Malone, a former Justice Department agent, who owns a rare book shop in Copenhagen.  But somehow he keeps managing to get pulled back into the adventures he tried so hard to leave behind.

The Charlemagne Pursuit (Cotton Malone, #4)

Malone brings it upon himself this time, as conversations with his son lead him into a new desire to learn the truth behind his father’s death in 1971.  He knows that he died in a submarine accident in the North Atlantic, but what went wrong?  

Malone asks his former boss to get him a copy of the still classified file, which leads him on a pursuit he never expected.  His father, in fact, did not die in the North Atlantic, but instead while on a mission in Antarctica.  But why?

Malone learns that as he is trying to learn why his father died, there are powerful men who want to ensure that the secret never comes out.  His pursuit to find out the truth leads him to uncover the ancient secrets that his opponents don’t want him to know.  

As usual, this is a fast paced book with several twists and turns.  Unfortunately, I feel like this novel sort of fell flat on the believability index.  It was disappointing, because I never really bought it since the story is just a bit outside of the realm of reality.  That said, it was still an interesting read.  

3 stars.

Finally spring…

I swear, it has been the coldest, rainiest, gloomiest spring in the Pacific Northwest.  I heard somewhere that it has actually been the crummiest spring since 1990.

This weekend was actually the first weekend where the weather was sunny and nice enough for shorts!  I needed this!

This last week I have had a bit more time to spend with friends.  A week ago, I went to a cocktail and food pairing tasting at a local restaurant with my friend Shelley.  There were seven courses of mini-cocktails, paired with delicious food!  It was a bit of a splurge, but it was so much fun!

Then Wednesday night was steak night with Jena and Audrey – so delicious and great conversation!

And Friday, I got together with Shelley, Tiffany, Toni, Danielle and Barb!  Six of us for great conversations and amazing Italian food.  It was definitely more social outings than I have had in a week for quite awhile.  It was much needed.

Then I topped it off with morning walks on both days, and Mom and I went to the matinee showing of Downton Abbey today!  Wonderful movie – they did a great job with it!  What a great week!

Book Review: Bones

Bones, by Jonathan Kellerman

Bones is a murder mystery; the story of the search for the murderer of a woman with a bright future.  She is a musical prodigy, working as a tutor for a rich family whose son possesses the same bright talent.  She is discovered murdered in a bird marsh in Los Angeles.  The investigation uncovers several additional bodies buried in the marsh; they are all local prostitutes.

Bones (Alex Delaware, #23)

Detective Milo Sturgis calls in assistance from psychologist Alex Delaware; the different types of victims are providing a challenge.  Together, the two of them, along with assistance from a new detective in training, must find the killer.

It was an interesting murder mystery, full of twists and turns, where you never quite know who did it.

3 stars

Book Review: The Alexandria Link

The Alexandria Link, by Steve Berry, read by Scott Brick

This was another book in Steve Berry’s series featuring Cotton Malone, a retired Justice Department Agent who moved to Copenhagen to open a rare book shop.

The Alexandria Link (Cotton Malone, #2)

In The Alexandria Link, Cotton Malone is drawn into the chase when his son his kidnapped.  The kidnappers want information related to a previous case Malone worked on, and that only he possesses.  Making sure his son is safe will require him to revisit the previous case, and make sure what has been hidden remains that way.

And what is that secret information?  Well imagine for a moment that the Holy Land as named in the Bible is not actually in Israel and the region of Palestine?  What if Israel, as created after World War II, is not actually located where today’s version of the Bible says it is?  And along those lines, how would you prove it?

The adventure sends Cotton Malone on a search for the lost library of Alexandria, the huge research library of the ancient world, that was supposed to have been located in Alexandria, Egypt.  The library was said to have contained scrolls of the Old Testament prior to their translation into modern languages.  And those scrolls would hold the key to whether the location of the Holy Land, as described in the Bible, was within the modern state of Israel.

But why would that matter?  Because…  Modern day Christians, Jews and Muslims all make claim to the Holy Land.  But if it were in the wrong location, what do that do to the already tense situation?  Would an all out war ensue?

Berry’s writing style keeps the reader engaged throughout the whole book and his creative interweaving of history and hypothetical scenarios makes you think.  Plus, Scott Brick is one of the best narrators out there!

4 stars.

Don’t Worry, I’m Alive!

I’m here!  I’m not dead!  I know I’ve been quiet for the last few weeks, but I’m alive!

I’m in the middle of a stressful, trying time at work, and getting towards the end of a big project in my personal life.  It’s been a lot of work on both fronts, and I just haven’t had much time to sit down at a computer in my off hours.  But I’m here, and I’m ok, I promise! 

I’ve been neglecting my friends, and I haven’t even had the time to do my evening walks, so you know things are intense!

I’m trying to stay focused on the end goal amid the exhaustion and stress.  Soon, soon, soon, things will settle down a bit and I will have more time.  I’m looking forward to it! 

Meanwhile check out this beautiful sunset I caught last week from a park close to home. So pretty!

I hope you all are doing well! 

Circus Trip 2018: Marshall, Michigan

Days 70, Sunday, September 23, 2018
Marshall, Michigan

Sunday morning my parents and I had breakfast with my Aunt Elaine, Uncle Richard and cousin Stephanie, and then we were off to the other side of the state to visit my mom’s side of the family.  Mom’s family is much smaller, but I have an aunt, uncle and cousin (and a few other relatives outside of Michigan) who live in Galesburg, Michigan, a small town outside of Kalamazoo. 

We headed over to the other side of the state, but driving separately since my parents had their own rental car.  I stopped in Marshall, Michigan and did a little wandering and shopping.  Marshall is a cute little town with a historic downtown area with shops and antique stores (which unfortunately are mostly closed on Sundays), and several nicely painted murals on the buildings.  

And then my cousin Megan met me at Dark Horse Brewing Company.  If you feel like you have heard of it, you probably have.  They had a reality show there several years ago, but I’ve never actually seen the show.  Megan and I got a beer and a pretzel with beer cheese, and I got a t-shirt!

That evening was pretty quiet, just enjoying a dinner of pork tenderloin tacos with the family, and catching up.

Not every day on the road can be thrilling I guess!


Book Review: Bright Shiny Morning

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey

This was an unusual choice of audio books among my Dad’s collection, in that it was not a thriller.  Perhaps my mom chose it. I read James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces years ago before the controversy about him making up the story and then selling it as a memoir.  That hubbub seems to have died down.

Bright Shiny Morning

This novel, if you can call it that, details a series of stories about people in Los Angeles.  The down and out, the rich and famous, the ones who are trying to escape their pasts and build a new life.  The downtrodden and abused, the up and coming, the ones who have nothing but hope in LA. 

In between the characters’ stories, Frey details the history of Los Angeles, its fun facts, its troublesome violence, its natural disasters.  Honestly, no book has ever made me want to visit a place less than this book.  I’ve been to LA, and don’t really see the appeal, but this really solidified that I cannot understand why anyone would want to live there.  The only thing it has going for it is sun. 

Still I found myself interested in the stories, and intrigued by Frey’s unusual writing style, which frequently annoys readers based on his reviews.  The narrator, Ben Foster, is excellent.  He narrates with different accents, and changes his pitch, tone, speed and volume to vividly portray the stories in the book.  However, if you are looking for a happy ending, there doesn’t seem to be one in Los Angeles.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

4 stars. 

Daily Musings: Someday

I saw this meme the other day and it stuck with me.  You can “someday” your way out of a life.  Let that sink in – I’ll wait.

I’m sure we are all guilty of this.  I am.  You end up focusing on the “shoulds.”  I should work those extra hours at work.  I should put in the extra time and effort for that promotion.  You end up chasing the dreams of others, and not making time for your own.   

And then there are the, “I wish I had time” moments.  The vacations you never take because you don’t have time.  The Sunday Funday with friends you don’t do because you are supposed to be cleaning out the closet.  Insert the things that you forego and the excuses you make for it here.  We all have different ones.  I once told a friend, “you make time for the things you want to do.”  And then I’ve said the same thing periodically to the same friend for the last 22 years.  But the fact that I’m still saying it, obviously means it’s so hard to do it.  I’m not immune.

What are those things that you want to do?  What are those things you have been putting off until “someday”?  When is your someday?  Are you letting someday pass you by, getting further and further out of reach as you chase the here and now?

And if you are, and almost all of us are, why?  What’s your motivation?  Is it fear of change?  It is the desire to please someone else whose dreams don’t align with yours?  Is it a feeling that you aren’t good enough to make it happen?  What is holding you back?

I want to slow down.  I want more time for travel.  I want more time with family.  I want more time to read and look for rocks and wander.  And I want it to be someday already.

What’s the life you are “somedaying” your way out of?  And what are you going to do about it?

Book Review: Empire and Honor

Empire and Honor, by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV
So what would happen if in the waning days of World War II, some German officers and troops escaped from the crumbling Reich?  What if they made their way in German U-boats to a neutral country, where they could rebuild and try again?
Empire and Honor
Empire and Honor explores this very premise, that officers from the Third Reich made their way in U-boats to Argentina, with cash and uranium for nuclear weapons. And Americans working for a new intelligence agency are charged with finding these defectors.
I really wanted to like this book.  I enjoy World War II history, and am intrigued by the theories that there were German officers who escaped from Germany at the end of the war to make a new life, and wait for a new opportunity to bring the Reich to life again in Argentina.  The book started out so promising, with stories of the refugees trying to cross the German border at the end of the war.  With stories of the fledgling secret intelligence agency of the US Government.  With stories of the Germans who were helping the allies.  And stories of romance.
But ultimately this novel never got off the ground for me.  Stories ended in mid-air, never to be picked up again.  Characters were not distinguishable from each other.  Characters became focused on petty grievances instead of the big picture of saving humanity.  And how the hell did Juan Peron fit in?  Yes, the later President of Argentina.  The point of his character was vague, and his story line was one that dropped off mid-story.  It was confusing and annoying.
I ended up wondering why this audio book was 16 CDs, because it seemed like they could have wrapped it up in 4. 
2 stars. 

Daily Musings: Girl’s Days

Last weekend I spent the day with my oldest friend, Tiffany. 

Tiffany and I met when I was 7 years old and she was 5; her mom taught me how to ride horses.  I saw her one or two weeks a year for the first couple of years, and then once a week for lessons, and then as we got older we saw each other regularly for 4-H meetings and horse shows, county and state fairs, horse camping and various other horse activities.  It was a good way to grow up. 

It has been almost 40 years since we met and we are still friends.  We don’t see each other all the time, but we make it a point to get together for dinner or a girls day every few months.  And every time, we pick up where we left off without skipping a beat. 

We went south to have a late lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, the Train Wreck Bar & Grill.  The food is so good!  And the cocktails are excellent!  We sat for a couple hours, catching up and chatting. 

Afterwards, we went for a walk around Northern State Hospital.  Northern State was at one time one of Washington State’s largest asylums. It opened in 1912 and was in operation until 1973. 1,487 patients are buried on the grounds… The Spanish style architecture is beautiful, and we wandered around the buildings and peeked into the broken windows. At it’s height in the 1950s, over 2700 patients were there, committed for various reasons. 

According to histories, many severely mentally ill people were confined, but others were given quite a bit of freedom to roam the grounds, work in the various industries and sneak off into town.  Commitments were different back then, as husbands could have their wives committed for hysteria, and teenagers were sent there because they were troubled or difficult to deal with.  Sadly, lobotomies and electroshock therapies were performed there, and many patients were worse off after these treatments than before.

There are many rumors of Northern State being haunted, and I can understand why, with almost 1,500 people buried there.  When the facility closed, 204 containers of unmarked cremains were found as well, and buried in a nearby city cemetery.  There are probably more who died there, and their families had them buried somewhere else.  There was a palpable energy that makes your hair stand on end. I know we weren’t alone…

We explored only a tiny portion of the hospital grounds, and I would like to go back and see more.

Yesterday was a pretty nice day.  It would have been a good day for relaxing.  But no…  Yesterday I spent the day cleaning the deck.  It’s a tough job, but fortunately it is a once a year chore.  Thankfully my friend Shelley helped!

And it looks so good when it is done! 

I hope you are all well and enjoying the last of the weekend!