Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Potato Chip Puzzles by Eric Berlin ***

I'm going to attempt to read all the Mark Twain Award nominees again this year, & this is my first one! 
If you like solving all kinds of puzzles, then this may be the book for you.  Eric Berlin does a good job of injecting math, word, geometry, & other kinds of puzzles into this fairly entertaining book.
Winston Breen is a puzzle sleuth, so when he helps the principal of his junior high solve a puzzle they find out that there is going to be a puzzle-solving competition, & of course Winston will be on the team from his school.  The team of three students & one teacher must solve 6 different puzzles in order to win the prize:  $50,000 for their school.  But they're up against some of the best puzzle pros in the area.  Can they win?  And which team is cheating?
There was a lot of excitement in this book as the teams raced to solve the puzzles, but I was confused by the difficulty of some of them.  Some were so hard to me that it seemed like I'd never have solved them on my own (lucky for me the answers are in the back of the book!).  Yet I was surprised that the final puzzle wasn't as hard as I expected.  Also I thought there would be more of a twist in the story at the end, so I was mildly disappointed when I reached the end of the book. 
Overall, though, I think it's a great book for the puzzle-minded kid aged 8-14.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes ***

Tony is remembering his first girlfriend from back in the 60's.  He's retired now, divorced, & rather confused when he gets an inheritance from Veronica's mother.  Why would he get 500 pounds from his ex-girlfriend's mom 40 years later?  He soon finds out it has something to do with his friend Adrian. After Tony & Veronica broke up back then, she started dating Adrian.  A few months later, Adrian killed himself.  Is Tony remembering the past correctly?  And what is the past, if not what we remember? 
Overall, this was a great book.  The writing was excellent & it read quickly.  You tend to feel Tony's confusion along with him, & you can become very emotionally invested in the outcome.
That said, there are two things about this book I didn't like.  The first is something that has happened to anyone who reads. You've heard of a great book, everyone says it's the wonderful.  So you get it & read it.  And you just don't quite get it.
That happened to me with this book.  It has a twist at the ending & I understood that.  But there was an aspect of it that I just didn't grasp, & it's not because the author didn't supply it, it's because sometimes I just don't get the obvious.  I don't want to give away the ending, but it's so hard not to & properly discuss this book.  So I'm going to make an announcement:


OK, so in the end we find out that Adrian killed himself because he'd gotten Veronica's mother pregnant.  Alright, I get that.  But what I fail to grasp is why Tony has anything to do with that.  There's the implication that maybe he somehow encouraged it in his angry letter to Adrian when he found out he & Veronica were dating.  But I don't see how that has made him some sort of accomplice to the whole affair.  I just don't get it, so if you've read this book & you understand what the heck is going on, please leave a comment & tell me!
The second thing that upsets me is the portrayal of Adrian's son.  He obviously has a developmental disability of some sort, but lame approach is taken that this is a horrible tragedy.  I guess I'm tired of seeing people with those types of disabilities as being tragic figures.  They can be tragic, don't get me wrong, but not because of their disability.  The only tragedy that I saw was the fact that a young man would rather kill himself than deal with impregnating someone, even if it is his girlfriend's mom. 
And that brings me back to the first problem--why would she leave money to Tony? 
I think I better just leave it there & start reading a new book!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens *****

One of the main reasons I love this book is just because of it's title.  It says it all.  Who among us hasn't had great expectations when we were younger of what our lives would be like?  We were going to be different.  Individuals, living how we wanted, not like our parents.  Not stuck in some small town or small mindset, but living large.  I was young enough when I first read Great Expectations to realize that's how I felt, but old enough to hear the nasty voice of doubt whispering in my ear. Since then I've come to realize that giving a child the gift of great expectations is actually a curse--they'll be like Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up the hill but having it crush them at the bottom in the end.
Pip grows up in the country being brought up "by hand" by his shrewish older sister & her gentle husband.  Joe, Pip's brother-in-law, is actually Pip's greatest childhood friend.  Joe is a simple & ignorant blacksmith, but his kindness & care for others makes you realize how wise he actually is.  Joe & Pip simply live for the day that Pip will be apprenticed to Joe & then "what larks!" they will have together.  But a series of events that seem to be unrelated conspire to make Pip wish to be more than he ever thought he could be, & to then give him the means to that end.
Great Expectations is about the foolishness of youth & about growing up & leaving behind those that we love.  It's about the abandoning of the people that made you good in favor of those that you think will make you great.  And it's about the journey back home after being led far afield.
It's also a book about judgement.  I can't tell you how many times I've labeled people in my mind based on some small aspect of their character that I think I've had some sort of special insight into.  It's all rubbish.  The label always comes from within the labeler-- you see something of yourself you'd rather not like to admit to in someone else.  There are several quotes from this book that I like, but by far my favorite is one where Pip refers to his great friend Herbert:

We owed so much to Herbert's ever cheerful industry and readiness, that I often wondered how I had conceived that old idea of his inaptitude, until I was one day enlightened by the reflection, that perhaps the inaptitude had never been in him at all, but had been in me.

Thanks Mr. Dickens.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Thousands of Tiny Dots...

Just thought I'd pop on here & tell you all what I've been up to.  Haven't been reading anything new, unfortunately.  But I have been re-reading some of my favorite books.  Right now I'm tackling Great Expectations again.  I haven't read much of Dickens, but this is by far my favorite book by him.  I think it has a lot to do with my own great expectations, & how it seems like they just set us up to not appreciate all  the small things that happen to us that, when added together, make up a solid life.  When viewed in hindsight I think most of us would think a great many people have lived important lives in some way or another.  I often wonder, though, how many of those people thought they were supposed to achieve something large, or great, all at once in the course of their time on earth.  Only in retrospect can you look back & feel that you've lead a "good" life.  At least that's what I hope.  My expectations are still making my life difficult.  I hope that once I'm out of my 40's (& God help me, I've only just gotten into them!) I can maybe start to forgive myself for what I consider my lack of acheivement in my life.  I hope that I can start to see in a few years the solid wall of something built of the many little things that make up my daily life.
But for right now I'm still stuck not seeing the whole picture.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett ****

I'm a sucker for a good historical fiction novel, and this is one!  It follows 5 families (one Welsh, one Russian, one American, one Brit and one German) from the turn of the century to just after WWI, showing how their stories meet and part while they live in those turbulent times.  Now you know there are going to be a lot of characters when you have to have a list of them in the front of the book, but these are even organized by nationality and sometimes even by job.  And I'm so glad Ken Follett did that, because I'm one of those people that has a hard time remembering who's who. 
It's a big, sweeping book, and Follett is planing of following it with two more just like it, since it says on the front cover that this is book one of The Century Trilogy.  I think it's fascinating to see how war brings very different people together that would never have met and creates a new reality that our ancestors would be rather surprised to learn about (for example:  both of my husband's grandparents never would have met each other without WWII happening).  So I can't wait for the next book, which will undoubtedly deal with WWII and how the same characters and their children experience it. 
Thanks Ken Follett for another great read!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Paris Wife by Paula McLain ****

I needed a new book to read, something recent that looked good.  I can't remember where I saw this book listed, maybe on the New York Times bestsellers list, but the idea of reading a pseudo-memoir about Hemingway's first wife was intriguing. 

Hadley Richardson was from my hometown, St. Louis, and was considered a spinster at age 28 when she met Ernest Hemingway.  He was 21 and just starting his writing career, not yet the man he would later become.  They fell in love, married, and moved to Paris so Ernest could be where all the great writers of the age were:  Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, and more.  There they lived for several years in what for Hadley was marital bliss, but for Ernest became a tightening noose around his neck. 

I appreciated this book on several different levels, one of which was the character of Hadley herself.  I've seen that many people who've reviewed it thought that Hadley was a wimpy character, but I found her to be quite real.  She was the only person in a circle of very bright stars that wasn't a writer and wasn't trying to be famous in some way.  She was very ordinary, and as a rather ordinary person myself I liked her.  It was as though she were trying very hard to not be eaten alive by the people around her, and somehow she came out the other end intact. 

I would like to read The Sun Also Rises now since Hemingway's life while writing it was the model for this book.  And my husband's favorite Hemingway book, Islands in the Stream, would be good to read also--it has so much to do with Ernest looking back on his life and his wives with regret and longing.  And it's obvious that though she wasn't a flashy flapper, a love-starved socialite, or a petulant  beauty queen, Hadley in many ways was the love of his life and an anchor that he lost and never could find again.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I've been reading a lot of magazines lately and haven't felt up to finishing my current book, Say Her Name, yet.  It's a good book, but the author's grief is hard to handle all at once.  I've been taking breaks.  One break was June 25th. 
I work at a hospital that is part of a large system of Catholic health care providers, and one of the medical centers in our system was struck by an F5 tornado on May 22.  My mother-in-law happens to work at this medical center, and also happened to be working that Sunday evening when the tornado hit.  I'll refer readers to Dog's blog for the details of what she went through.  The destruction was massive and the last I heard 156 people died in Joplin, Missouri that day.
Stuck up here in St. Louis, we didn't know what to do for the people of Joplin.  Our family was lucky--no one was hurt and their homes were fine.  But seeing the destruction on tv was hard.  This is a town that Dog knew well.  He hadn't lived there, but had grown up in several of the towns and cities in the surrounding area. 
When my work started to organize employees to go help with the clean-up, I volunteered.  So on June 25 I boarded a chartered bus at my place of work along with about 40 of my fellow employees and took the drive to Joplin.
One word to describe what was seen--overwhelming.  There was so much gone.  Just flat out gone.  Even the trees were stripped of their leaves and bark.  I could have been told that a bomb had been dropped on Joplin and I would have believed it. 
We worked for only 1 1/2 hours on a small house near the hospital.  Our short work duration was due to us getting there late (not sure why) and then the heat being so bad that they stopped us at 3 instead of 4.  But I think we got some work done while we were there.
What we did was sort the damage out into piles.  There was the masonry pile, the metal pile, the electronics pile, and the personal belongings pile.  I regret now not taking pictures, but at the time that seemed like a very...disrespectful thing to do.  That's the only word I can think of to describe when you're literally picking up the pieces of someone's life.  I was able to guess at the sort of people that lived in this little house by what we found.  I'll list some of the things that struck me the hardest:
  • a frilly little girl's umbrella
  • the top of the stove
  • the back-drop for a small aquarium
  • Are You My Mother? (one of Puppy's favorites when he was younger)
  • a huge stuffed teddy bear
  • curtains from Target
  • a gallon of milk
  • an extra large box of off-brand snack crackers
  • a child's collection of plastic blocks with letters on them
  • a VHS tape of Fievel Goes West
  • a picture of two young women
The last item was given to an Americorps volunteer--they were in charge of any and all photos.  And those volunteers were some of the nicest people I've ever met.  They were all young folks, college aged I'd guess, and they kept thanking us over and over for helping them.  I was flabbergasted--they were the ones living down there in tents, doing some very hard work, both physically and emotionally.  It was so good to see them caring about the people of Joplin, and caring about us volunteers too.  They took good care of us, taking us right to where the work needed to be done and pressing water and Gator-Aide on us constantly. 
I want to go back sometime in September and maybe get some other people from my department to go with me.  I worried when driving down there that they wouldn't have much left for us to do.
There is more than enough.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell ****

First, I want to recommend a blog: Rolling Around In My Head. In general, it's a blog about the world of disabilities--having them, living with & loving people with them, working for people with them, embracing them. The reason I mention this is that the author of this blog, Dave Hingsburger, has a book club going that includes books that deal with-you guessed it-disabilities. Some of the best books I've read lately are the ones he picks. And like people who happen to have disabilities, these books aren't defined by the inclusion of disabilities. They're just great books.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is first and foremost about loss.  Jacob is a young clerk sent from Holland to Japan in the very late 1700's to work for the Dutch East India Company.  When he makes this journey he loses touch with his homeland and very importantly to him, his religion.  He and his sister have been raised by his uncle, a minister, so it is very hard for him to be in Japan without any outward signs of his faith--Christianity was punishable by death at the time in Japan.  Also comes a loss of belief in the honesty of mankind, when in his process of auditing the books at the Dutch installment of Dejima he finds that the corruption of money has gotten to every level of the "factory".  Loss touches every character that touches Jacob also--loss of love, loss of a child, loss of faith, loss of youth, loss of innocence.  Because of this overwhelming feeling of loss, this book can be rather heavy.  But you can't stop reading because you want the losses to be abated, or at least to be for a higher purpose.  Sometimes, though, loss is just loss.  There is a hole and it won't be filled.

I'm sure Dave chose this book because of one of the settings--a perverse temple that claimed to care for women who were too deformed and imperfect to be missed from "normal" society.  Women who could be used with impunity and no one would be the wiser; women who were actually grateful to be cared for there because the world outside had treated them so badly.  It took a very special woman to come in and care for these "nuns"--though society could call her "deformed" also, she was confident in her knowledge and in her compassion.  She made the hell of that temple bearable for her fellow nuns, until another loss by a person far away took away the prison walls. 
I wanted, as I think most humans do, for there to be a "happily-ever-after" to this story.  But in truth, how many of us get to have that kind of clean finality?  I wanted a fairy tale ending, but I got reality.  When I was younger I craved the starkness of truth in all I read and would ridicule the cutesy endings to many books.  As I've aged I've noticed a desire to see that clean finality now.  Is it perhaps because stark reality is all around us and it's only as we get older that we see it everywhere? 
A very fine book, and another great recommendation from Dave.  Thanks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown **

I was loaned this book by someone I work with, or else I probably wouldn't have read it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being a snob or anything, it's just that these kinds of books start to all seem the same. And since I've read The Da Vinci Code, I have to say that I was right.

I like The Da Vinci Code. It was fast paced, interesting, and the ending was great. Dan Brown wrote a great thriller when he wrote that one. So not surprisingly, he stayed with the same model when he wrote The Lost Symbol.

Here are some of the similarities: same main character, smart woman in distress that then helps the hero, classic architecture, big crazy scary guy that likes to kill, a secret that most people don't know but which is right under their noses.

Even with all those similarities, I was still flying through the book trying to find out how it ends. Well, it ended quite lamely. The ending was just not very good. It was anticlimactic and didn't make a lot of logical sense. For example, if you'd gotten your hand cut off and been tortured all day, wouldn't you want to take a nice rest around 2 AM? I know there are a lot of cool things you'd like to tell the hero, but you've had a rough day and to top it all off you found out a very disturbing bit of family info that would make most people collapse in pain and horror. But no. You'd like to take the hero on a little tour of Washington D.C. in the wee hours of the morning. Why not.

Also the massive revelation at the end of the whole sha-bang is just kinda...okay. I'm saying if I were the big scary guy that likes to kill and I was still running around at the end of the story, I'd be killing. Just cause I would have found out that none of this was really worth anything. And cause I'd like to kill.

So while this was an interesting and fast read, I don't recommend it very highly. I have only read these two Dan Brown books, though, so if his other writing gets off this same pattern I would be more than glad to give it a try. But if it uses the same format...I think I've already been there.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Found by Mararet Peterson Haddix ***

I'm going to reveal something about this book that you might not want to know if you haven't read it yet, so don't read any further if you don't like having your book spoiled!!


I used to really like time travel books--I have always been fascinated with the past and I'd love to be able to go back in time to see what life was really like, especially the clothes! But as I've gotten older I have a hard time dealing with the paradoxes that present themselves when you try to actually think of time as fluid. That's the only reason I haven't given this book 4 stars. I guess I'm just getting to where I don't want to have to get a headache when I read anymore!

A plane load of babies mysteriously appears 13 years ago, with no pilot or crew. The 36 babies are adopted out, with Jonah and his friend Chip being two of them. And now someone is coming back to find them all, but what are they going to do with them? Jonah, his sister Katherine, and Chip must try to figure out what's going on before they're stopped...or worse.

This was a great page-turning read, and if it wasn't for my brain not being able to grasp all the complexities of time travel I would have liked it even more. I'm not sure if I'm going to read the next book in the series or not...we shall see! But certainly do recommend this book if you like suspense and sci-fi.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Margret and Flynn by Kathleen Duey ****

I'll admit to my low expectations for this book. I'd prejudged it, simply because it seemed to be a stereotypical "girl and her horse" tale. And it is just that. But the story was much more arresting than I'd assumed and now I can certainly see why this was nominated for the Mark Twain Award.

Twelve-year-old Margret and her older sister Libby have been living a transient life ever since losing their parents many years ago. They would live with and help do the chores for different families and then move on when Libby sensed it was time to go--usually in the middle of the night during a full moon. But the girls have been living with lonely Mrs. Fredriksen in Colorado territory long enough for Margret to want to stay this time. Mrs. Fredriksen cares for the girls and wants them to live with her, but Libby's skittish ways are pushing them out again. Just in the nick of time a horse shows up after a terrible storm, and Margret must use her gentle nature to help heal the horse and make it shine in the 4th of July race, while also helping her sister to be healed as well.

Besides the main story line, I really enjoyed this book also because of the ending. I'll only say that it was more realistic than I thought it would be, which made it refreshing.

I recommend Margret and Flynn, even if you aren't a horsey-girl!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende ***

The only other book I've read by Isobel Allende before this was Daughter of Fortune, which I liked a great deal. She writes of strong women in her books, women who have to overcome severe adversity to find happiness. In general I like that theme, I'm sure most women do--we all feel that though our lives in developed countries are much easier now, we still have adversity we must overcome in order to find some meaning in our world.

For that reason I thought I'd like Island Beneath the Sea very much. It tells the story of Tete, a Haitian slave in the late 1700's (Haiti was called Saint Domingue at this time). Her life is the result of a rape on a slave ship, and her own mother rejected her at birth because of this. Raised as a house slave in a life of extreme hardship, she knows that it could be worse--she could be a field slave, who's lives were worth so little to their owners that they barely fed them, just worked them to death and then purchased more.

Tete's main challenge in her life is to stay alive and care for her children. She includes Maurice, her master's son by his wife, as her child and loves him as much as her own. Living through the slave uprising in Saint Domingue and later finding her own place in New Orleans society, Tete always keeps her pride and continues to love and care for those around her, despite the cruelty that is heaped on her.

I loved the descriptions of life at this time and in this place. Haiti has always fascinated me, and it's interesting to see the extreme violence that this impoverished country has sprung from. When you read about the evil that humans perpetrated on their fellow man in this place, whether it be the Arawak Indians or the slaves, it leaves you feeling like Haiti is a country that deserves to finally have some peace.

Despite my interest in the history of this story, I had a hard time with it only because it seemed like Tete was used as a vehicle to tell the history of this time and she was put in one situation after another just to enable it to be told. I know that's the whole point of historical fiction, but I guess I'm saying it was just a little too much for me. I would have liked to have heard more about Saint Domingue after to uprising, and some was told, but she was whisked away in the book to New Orleans so the author could then expound on that place. I think I would have liked this to be two books, or one book with two characters, one in Haiti and one in New Orleans.

Overall the book is very well written and I do recommend it. I just was a little blown away by how much history was packed into one character's life.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Scandalous by Karen Robards ***

Alright! I needed something new to get me going again, & evidently an historical romance is what I needed. I found this book sitting on the break room table at work & figured "why not?"

My maternal grandma always called these kind of books "Bodice Books", because either the picture on the front would show a gal whose ample bosoms were heaving against the restraining enclosure of her bodice, or something like that would be described between the covers at least three times.

For a Bodice Book, this one was pretty good. A young woman takes a chance on fooling society when she pretends her dead brother is still alive so she can marry off her gorgeous younger sister to a rich guy & they can all live happily ever after. Except some guy seems to be pretending to be her brother already...& of course the sparks fly between them. Forbidden romance, lusty glances, you know how it goes.

Look, I know this isn't great literature. But the bottom line is, I respect writing in all its forms. I wish I had the talent & nerve to write a few Bodice Books myself--it brings in decent earnings, you're getting published, & many many people get enjoyment from your writing. Honestly, what more could an author ask for?

And yes, I'll be reading the sequel. Maybe it'll be laying on the break room table at work when I go back Monday!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Chronicles of Clovis by Saki ****

I read the introduction by A.A. Milne to this short story collection just now, and I shouldn't have. Milne is such a great writer, it's hard for me to come up with a way to describe Saki without using his words now. I'll give it a go, but if you ever read this collection forgive me if I sound like Milne!

First I can say that Saki (H.H. Munro was his real name...hmm, these British gents back then liked to use initials instead of first names!) is one of the most sarcastic and bitter writers I've ever had the pleasure of enjoying! If one of his stories seems to be going along at a good, positive clip, you can be sure it's going to take a sharp turn soon towards irony. His recurring character in many of these stories is Clovis Sangrail, a 17 year old who has seen it all and knows how to use the people around him to make his life more amusing. The rest are about unrelated people and places, but they all have the touch of the dark side of life.

There are 29 short stories in this collection so I won't talk about all of them, but some of my favorites are "The Music on the Hill", "The Hounds of Fate", "The Remoulding of Groby Lington", "Tobermory", ... alright, I'll just talk about those four.

"The Music on the Hill" is the only story from this book that I've read before. It was part of a collection of short stories about weird and unusual phenomenon. It's actually why I thought that all Saki's stories would be like this, but they aren't. It's highly sarcastic, with a young couple living in their country home because the new wife thought it would be nice. It took a lot of persuading to get her husband to make the move, but now he seems to be reluctant to ever leave. There's an ominous feel about the place and the husband is acting strangely. So young wife decides to follow him one day, hears some odd piping music coming from the direction her husband went, and finds a small alter to Pan in the woods. Someone has put an offering of grapes on it, and in disgust she throws them away. The music stops, and her troubles begin.

"The Hounds of Fate" is one of those depressing little gems about how no matter how far you run, fate will track you down. It's well written and again rather eerie, though not as mystical as "The Music on the Hill".

For pure humor "The Remoulding of Groby Lington" is great. It's about a rather retiring man who has a pet parrot whose nephew brings to his attention that he's very similar to his pet. Then his brother brings home a pet monkey for Groby, and he turns from parrot to something else...

And "Tobermory" is just plain evil. It's about a cat who's been trained to speak English. Sounds great, eh? Well, that is until Tobermory starts blabbing about who he's seen doing what with whom...

All in all, a great collection. There are other stories I enjoyed also, but it's hard to go over them all here. Just take my word for it, they're worth the time!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Awakening by Kate Chopin ****

I've read somewhere that The Awakening is one of the first books about women's lib. I'd have to agree with that, though it doesn't have the positive connotations that later works would have. I do think that it is a very realistic portrayal of what you might call a mid-life crisis, though Edna, the main character, is only 29. I feel like I'm having one of those crises right now and I'm 40, but I've justified the similarities by saying to myself that people didn't live as long back then (1890's) so 29 might have been mid-life, and also that I'm hopelessly delayed in all things in general so this would be no exception.

Edna is, as I said above, 29 years old, married to a man that adores her and has two sons aged 5 and 7. Edna doesn't adore her husband, she just married him because he came along at the right time and was the right man to marry. They live in New Orleans but are on vacation on Grand Isle when the story opens. They are comfortably well off, with a nanny and servants. During the vacation Edna has an "awakening"-she suddenly feels the shackles of her life and wants to throw them off. This coincides with her relationship with a young man, Robert. They fall in love on the island but do not act upon it.

When Edna returns to New Orleans with her family she can't stand her existence anymore. She takes up painting and drawing again, old hobbies that she hadn't indulged in for years. Her husband leaves for an extended business trip to New York and while he is gone, she suddenly finds herself free. Her children visit her mother-in-law and her obligations are only to herself.

I'm sure this book has been analyzed to death and I know many people probably won't agree with me on my interpretation of it, but I thought the book was very good, even the ending. I won't give it away, just that it is true to the time and true to the character. It can't be put in the context of our current social situation--so much has changed in our world in just 120 years. I can empathize with Edna's ennui. I admire her ability to pull herself out of it, even if the struggle exhausts her.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne ****

I've resurfaced. To say I've had a heck of a time recently would be an understatement. I don't know if it's my age, my hormones, or just the time of year, but I was down in the dumps for the whole month of December & didn't know if I was going to be able to pull myself out. I've read that the early 40's are the most depressing time of most people's lives, so maybe this is just my new periodic normal. If it is, it sucks. I didn't read. Anything. Which shows how bad off I was. Even when I'm not actively reading a book I'm always reading something: a magazine, articles online, something. But not this time.

I'm glad to relate that I think I've snapped out of it. I hope like hell that I don't snap back into it, but I'm realistic if I'm anything. If you see a large break on here again, that's most probably what's going on. So bear with me, please.

On to the book--

I've been going through the Dover Publications catalog & looking at the books they offer in a new light. I had an AHA! moment & saw that most all of their items are copyright free. Which means something wonderful: Project Gutenberg. You see, I've got this doggone Kindle that I have a love/hate relationship with. I love the instant gratification of reading material, but hate the lack of sensory input, ie. the feel of the pages, the smell of the book, the heaviness or lightness of the tome. But when I get free ebooks from Gutenberg, well...I start loving the little devil again.

A.A. Milne, of Winne the Pooh fame, wrote a mystery book back in the 20's. And even though I kinda figured out what was going on before the amateur detective did in the book, I liked it. In fact, I liked it a lot.

The usual suspects are gathered at a British country estate in the roaring 20's for a lovely summer weekend. They do the usual stuff that those folk liked to do: golfing, playing on the bowling green (?), anyone for tennis, that kind of stuff. Oh yeah, & then a dead guy shows up & ruins the lovely weekend & I say!, let's figure out what happened, what?

There's all sorts of cool stuff like secret passages, a flamboyant actress, people doing mysterious things in a pond in the dead of night, & the really smart fella that just happens to show up just at the right time & figure the whole thing out. I'm amazed they didn't just kill off all those really smart fellas in England back in the day--they could have gotten away with so much crime without them!

It was a good book to get me out of my funk. If you get in a funk yourself & need a little nudge to get your ass back in gear, I suggest this chestnut. Jolly good show!