'I am simply a 'book drunkard.' Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.' L.M. Montgomery

'There are no faster or firmer friendships than those formed between people who love the same books.' Irving Stone



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Hive of Suspects by Sheila Pim

1952
When sudden death strikes in this Irish town, 
local beekeepers suspect a poisonous hive

   Jason Prendergast built his fortune taking minerals from the earth near the Irish town of Drumclash, but bees became the real passion of his life once the mines gave up the last of their riches. When he dies after dining on honey from one of his own hives, village beekeepers suspect local bees are feasting on poisonous plants and infecting hives with deadly nectar.
   Prendergast's solicitor, Edward Gildea, consults his fellow beekeepers who think rhododendrons the most likely source of the poison. Only why is it that only Jason Prendergast's hives were infected? And why should bees suddenly take a liking to this particular plant? The Civic Guard prefers to look for a human hand and suspicion falls upon those locals who stand to benefit from the old man's death, including several servants and an aged distant cousin who deliberately hacks her own rhododendron plants to bits in a crazed frenzy.
   The chief suspect, however, is Phoebe Prendergast, a niece who gave up a promising career on the stage to look after the old man. Gildea can't believe in Phoebe's guilt and conceals from the police the fact that Prendergast was about to add a codicil to his will, disinheriting her should she return to the stage-even after his death. Nor does Phoebe's odd behavior following the old man's death bode well for her innocence.
   The truth finally emerges during a wild chase in the abandoned mines deep under the earth of the green Irish hills near the old man's mansion. Once again, Sheila Him paints a vivid and affectionate portrait of life in a small Irish town in this 1952 novel, showing why contemporary critics called her "the Irish AngelaThirkell."

This is the fourth and last of Pim's garden mysteries. I have enjoyed every one of them! Each book has a garden theme and is set in a rural Irish village. Well plotted and characters I can like and engage with. The story takes right off and keeps your attention. She does a good job of making each suspect really viable so it's hard to put your finger on the culprit. If you get a chance to read her mysteries I highly recommend it!

In this one bee-keeping is integral to the story. Not only do you have fun with the mystery, you learn quite a bit about bees and the plants they use. Did you know that bees usually don't sting when they are swarming? Or that bumblebees have longer tongues than hive bees? Why should the honey become poisonous this year?

  'Edward had two possible answers to that. The first was that the climate of the Vale, so favorable that even tropical plants would grow there, was a perpetual temptation to gardeners to import ever more weird exotics. Somebody might be growing the so-called American yellow jasmine (not a true jasmine) Gelsemium sempervirens, or mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, both plants to which honey poisoning had been attributed. It might be the first year they had flowered, or they might only just have been discovered by the bees. Were this the case it would not be too difficult to trace the source of the trouble and root the plans out. But it does take a large spread of blossom to provide even a teaspoonful of honey. There would have to be Gelsemium or Kalmia by the acre. The Gildeas knew most of the great gardeners in the neighborhood, and if there were anything new on that scale they out to have heard about it.
   Edward was more inclined to blame the rhododendrons. They had been mentioned in Xenophon's account, he discovered, as well as that of Mr. Kingdon Ward. There were plenty of these about. The Gildeas had one in their own garden. The bushes were often buzzing with bumblebees, but the hive bees, according to Edward's own observation seldom visited them. The nectar was more troublesome for hive bees to reach; bumblebees have longer tongues. That might mean that the flowers were neglected as long as there were other sources of supply, but that for some reason this year, the bees, mysterious creatures that they are, had suddenly taken to them. Or could it be that repeated crossing with imported races, like bees of the yellow Italian strain, had evolved a longer-tongued breed, which could compete with the bumblebees, and that Mr. Prendergast's bees were driven from such a cross? Fascinated by the various possibilities, Edward was tending to lose himself in speculation, when his wife brought him down to earth.'

This book counts for Bev's Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt - Gold- Skull and also is book two in my Follow the Clues challenge also at Bev's ...
Bodies in a Bookshop (botanist amateur detectives) > Hive of Suspects (bees and bee-keepers)

Peggy Ann
 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Puzzle Time

I've been laid up with a wicked upper respiratory infection this week.  Feeling a little better today but I think it's settled in my chest now. I'm having a hard time breathing and it feels like a brick on my chest. If it doesn't go away soon I'll probably break down and go to the doctor. Yuck! I hate going to the doc. I've never had pneumonia so I don't what the symptoms are. I think my fever is gone. Any whoo, a quick post so you don't think I've disappeared again!

Finished Charles Wysocki's A Delightful Day on Sparkhawk Island last week...


and am nearing finish on his Lobster Shack...


I adore his puzzles and am collecting them. I find older, hard to find ones on eBay.

I have a vintage Scottish travel poster puzzle from Katrina to do still. Think that one will be next on my list. She says their pieces are different than ours so I'm looking forward to checking it out. And picked up a Ravensburger Puzzle of The Singing Butler at a thrift store. I love that painting!

Even if I can't breath I can work at the puzzle off and on! I was looking forward to winter to do puzzles but it's going to be in the upper 60's for the next two weeks! What's up with that? I'm just a northern girl at heart.

Peggy Ann

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

New Book Additions

Made a recent trip to Mr. Kay's Books. Found three Jane Langton's I have been looking for! I took a bag of my read books in for trade. They took about half of them. They are very choosy.


I've never heard of Mark Hebden before. These books are part of a series, Inspector Evariste Clovis Désiré Pel, a quirky French detective. France is not particularly a setting I seek out, but the books are lovely copies and they intrigue me. They aren't really old, 1979 and 1982. They are Walker British Mysteries. It looks like his daughter continued the series after his death. Have you heard of or read any Hebden? What did you think? Michael Gilbert is a new author for me too.

I got three books a while ago at a Goodwill store.

I was pleased with the Ellen Turngren book. I've not heard of her, but it's set in a farming community in Minnesota and I like that setting! It was written in 1961. She appears to have written three books. She is of Swedish descent and born and raised on a Minnesota farm. On the book jacket it says 'The story is told against a background of farming life so vividly portrayed in its sewing circles, church socials, gossip and county fairs that the reader can almost taste the goodness of it." Sounds delicious! Can't wait to read it and tell you all about it and Ms. Turngren.

Peggy Ann

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Last and First

The last book I read in 2016 was Murder for Christmas...

A CLASSIC MYSTERY FOR THE FESTIVE SEASON: MULLED WINE, MINCE PIES... AND MURDER

Mordecai Tremaine, former tobacconist and perennial lover of romance novels, has been invited to spend Christmas in the sleepy village of Sherbroome at the country retreat of one Benedict Grame.

Arriving on Christmas Eve, he finds that the revelries are in full flow - but so too are tensions amongst the assortment of guests.

Midnight strikes and the party-goers discover that it's not just presents nestling under the tree...there's a dead body too. A dead body that bears a striking resemblance to Father Christmas.

With the snow falling and the suspicions flying, it's up to Mordecai to sniff out the culprit - and prevent someone else from getting murder for Christmas.

This book was first published in 1949. Frances Duncan was the author of over twenty crime novels published between 1937 and 1959. Every year I say I'm going to read a Christmas mystery for Christmas and never get around to it. Finally I did! I picked this book up in Scotland last August.

It is a good solid mystery. I didn't figure it out thats for sure! I didn't warm up to any of the characters so it's a good thing the plot was good. I liked Denys and her boyfriend Roger, but they didn't really have a big enough play in the telling of the story to get to spend enough time with them. I'd like to come across more by this author. Have you read any of his books?

The first book of this year is Bodies in a Bookshop by R.T. Campbell

Botanist Max Boyle visits "a curious little shop in a side-street off the Tottenham Court Road" in London and is delighted with the bibliophile treasures he finds. He also stumbles across something less pleasant: in a back room, an unlit gas ring emits its noxious fumes and two corpses lie sprawled on the floor.

Boyles calls in 'the Bishop' - Chief Inspector Reginald F. Bishop of Scotland Yard - who in turn coaxes professor John Stubbs, a rotund old Scottish botanist and amateur criminologist, to lend his assistance. The salty old professor, quaffing pint after pint of good British beer, his pipe emitting clouds of foul smoke: the protesting Boyle, who would rather be basking in the sun on the Scilly Islands: and the polite, skeptical, world-weary Bishop soon delve beneath the tip of a sinister iceberg to discover skulduggery and dark deeds. Fueled as much by friction among themselves as by enthusiasm, the little crime-solving club threads a maze through London's book and print emporia, grappling with a puzzle that is likely to baffle even the most astute armchair detective.

Bodies in a Bookshop is filled with amusing sallies of wit, quaint and pungent observations, droll characters and rambles among many a volume of forgotten lore. Crisp dialogue keeps the plot moving at top speed. After forty years, Bodies in a Bookshop is as exuberantly readable as ever, a welcome and refreshing relief from so many of today's flat and colorless mystery puzzles.

This is my second book by R.T. Campbell (you can read my review of Unholy Dying here), and a gift from Joan @ Planet Joan! She's such a thoughtful person. After she read it she thought of me and mailed it right off. Thank you, Joan!

Once again the wonderful John Stubbs with all his eccentricities. The story is told by Max and he is very drool and serious compared to Stubbs flamboyant personality. As in the first book Stubbs car, a Bentley, is almost a character and his driving is outrageous. There is always little comments by Max when they jump in and take off to search out a clue...

  "I'll drive ye down." he announced, "that'll blow the depression out o' yer head."
  The Bishop shuddered, but apparently felt that he had nothing to live for anyhow and climbed in the Bentley. the journey passed without incident. We managed to negotiate Hyde Park Corner and finally found ourselves in the King's Road.

This mystery was extra special as it was set in a bookshop and a quite smart book theft ring was uncovered in the solving of the murders. Lots of talk about beautiful old copies of rare books...

I had never held a genuine Blake illuminated book in my hands before. It was certainly very beautiful. I could almost, for a moment, understand the temptation that would fall on a collector if the book was offered to him. It was such a beautiful piece of work that to have it in the house would be a continual pleasure.

A man after my own heart! Another grand romp and solid mystery.

This book counts for Read Scotland 2017 and Bev's Vintage Cover Scavenger Hunt 2017 - Gold era with a staircase on the cover and is the first book in my chain for Bev's Follow the Clues Challenge

Peggy Ann

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Where Have I Been?!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I've been missing in action around here. I don't really have an excuse. I seemed to have lost my umph for awhile there. I'm sorry. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and the new year has been off to a good start for you.

Christmas was quiet for us this year. I flew my handicapped brother in for Christmas. It was just the three of us. He came on the 20th and stayed until the 28th. It was his first visit since I moved away from him. Only his second time flying on a plane and he did it all by himself! Nerve wracking for me! Here's me and Donald before we left for the airport to take him home. That's his 'cheese' face!

We lack 4 days being a year apart in age! He loves it that for 4 days he's the same age as me! He was 3 months premature.

We had him fly into Charlotte NC, which is a 3 hour drive for us. He would have had an hour plus layover there to come on to Knoxville. I was afraid to leave him sitting in the busy airport all by himself for that long. Too many things could happen. It took us longer to drive to pick him up than it took him to fly down! It was a grand adventure for him and he loved it. The airlines were great and let us go through customs at both ends to see him to and from the gate. In this day of heightened security I didn't think that would be possible.

He was so tickled to get back to Tennessee. He lived in LaFollette years ago with my mom. He was excited to watch the news on the channels he use to watch and was disappointed that the newscasters are not the same. I use to get him and take him home with me for several weeks each year to give my mom a break. I was young, my kids were little and DK (Donald Kevin) was younger. It was no problem. Wow have things changed. I'm older, he's older and has several health issues. I had forgotten all the work it was to take care of him! Let's just say he is a full time job! Thank goodness he is so pleasant!

My house was not convenient for him showering. He had to go down the basement steps and the shower room is very large and roomy not good for a blind person! There are no side walls just shower curtains. I ended up just getting in with my clothes on and helping him. If I stood to the far end I didn't get wet. We have one bathroom, one toilet. He goes to the bathroom ALOT! He takes forever and he loves to crank the faucets on the sink so tight you can't get them on and he breaks them. Needless to say bossman worried himself to death about what he was doing in the bathroom all the time! Poor DK was probably glad to get home to pee in peace! He did mess up the hot water faucet :(

He wears a CPAP mask to sleep now and he can't put it on himself. Then he gets up once, sometimes twice a night, to go to the bathroom and I have to get up and put it back on him. Not to mention help him find his way back to bed as my house is new to him. He got turned around a lot going back and forth.

He is diabetic now and has issues with sores/cellulitis and when he gets them if you don't get right on it, he ends up in the hospital very sick. As soon as he got here he got a big blister on his toe, HOW??? and I went right into panic mode. I didn't know if his medical would cover him here. Then I discovered he had jock itch, again, that had to be taken care of. So We doctored, cut toe and finger nails, cut the hair out of his ears and nose and by the time he went home he was ship shape! And I was exhausted! There are definitely drawbacks to personal care homes.

I fixed all his favorites he never gets at the home. Pinto beans and cornbread, chili, beefaroni, tomato soup and grilled cheese for lunch and cream of wheat for breakfast. He doesn't have teeth anymore so we have to have soft stuff! He LOVES cream of wheat!

Donald lives in a good home, they are good to him, its like a big family there. He has lots of social opportunities there. I can't give him that here in TN. He would lose lots of benefits and his two social outings each week with Blind associations and his week of camp in the summer. He might not get as diligent attention as he would at home, but he is happy there and safe. He can't see the dust on his electronics or that his clothes are a mess in his drawers from him getting them out himself. I just have to let a few things go. He is loved and feels it and that is important. No one steals from him or abuses him. Everyone looks out for him. He has some independence there because they don't dote and fret over everything like I do. I think I would drive him nuts! I struggled with mixed emotions when he left, relief, sadness and guilt. But when I talked to him a day after he got home, he seemed so content and happy to be back in his routine and his own environment that I felt much better. We talk on the phone every Tuesday night. He seems content with that.

I just haven't felt up to being online and chit chatting since all that though. But I'm starting to feel more like myself and I'll be around more I think! I am playing around with the idea of moving to Wordpress. I was playing around with setting a blog up over there but didn't get too far as I haven't been online much. We'll see what happens.

Its been nice and mild weather here but tomorrow that is changing. A storm is coming in with very cold temps and some chance of a little snow! Here it is January and I've only worn my winter coat twice so I can't complain. Back up to 60 in a week though!

Lots to catch up on. See you later!

Peggy Ann

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Funeral Maker by Cathie Pelletier

Meet the residents of Mattagash, Maine, a dull backwater town rocked by scandal. seduction, mayhem, blackmail, and the only recorded case of beriberi on the entire North American continent! 
This is the story of the trials that beset the McKinnons, the first family of Mattagash, Maine, when they try to arrange a funeral for the family matriarch. At the heart of the novel are the three McKinnon sisters: Marge, the one who is dying; Pearl, the one who left town; Sicily, the one who stayed--and Sicily's fourteen-year-old daughter, Amy Joy, a bored and sexually promiscuous adolescent whose raging hormones lead her straight into the brawny arms of one Chester Lee Gifford, Mattagash's blackest sheep. One of the most highly acclaimed debuts in the last decade. 

The Funeral Makers is 'a crazy rollicking whoop of a book, written with a poets's sensibility and a deeply wacky down-home wisdom'    ~Lee Smith, author of Oral History

'Pelletier writes with skill and grace, with a beautiful ear for human speech, awry affection for human folly and a wise, warm heart for human sadness.'
~Michael Malone, author of Handling Sin

'Morbidly funny...satirizes, ridicules and maligns almost everything that's sacred about American life.'     ~John Blades, Chicago Tribune

I picked this book up at the Naples, Maine library book sale this last summer. I like quirky and this is the queen of quirky! At first I thought it might be too quirky for me, I kept thinking I should be reading a Christmas mystery right now. But without me even knowing it Pelletier was reeling me into these wacky people's lives and suddenly I couldn't put it down! How she was able to get me invested in these nutty peoples lives just goes to show what a good writer she is!

A scene from Thelma and Marvin Jr's 'family camping experience'...

  Hearing the faint gurgle, Thelma was the first to face the truth, coming suddenly awake and shouting to her husband, "Oh, my God! There's a flood! The river has flooded!"
  Junior Ivy was granted, for the second time in two days, an opportunity to save his entire family. He struggled to abandon the sleeping bag, managing to get one leg out, but catching the other pants leg in the sharp teeth of the zipper. Trying to leave the tent by means of one leg in a sleeping bag proved more difficult than vaulting drunkenly from the backseat of the Packard.
  Thelma continued to scream, accompanied by Regina, who was now convince that she had indeed peed in her pants and was confused over what she considered her mother's overreaction.
  "We'll drown!" Thelma prophesied. Regina covered her eyes and wept in embarrassment. She knew she had a bed-wetting problem, but had never thought of it as a danger to her family.
  Junior stood up, hoping it would enable him to free his leg. At that moment Thelma, in an extreme case of hydrophobia, lurched for the flap opening and knocked her husband to the ground.
  Junior pitched forward, pulling up the pegs of the tent and taking the unlucky structure with him into the blackness until he felt the ground stop him. Pain flickered in his right wrist, which had positioned itself in an unnatural angle in hopes of releasing the pants leg from the zipper and was not prepared for breaking a fall. The wrist snapped. Junior heard it. Knew what it meant. A broken right wrist to accompany his sprained left ankle. He held the right arm across his stomach to protect it as he worked clumsily with the left arm to free himself of the tent. Everyone was wide awake now and dealing with the situation with honesty.
  Regina, who had checked her panties and found them to be reasonably dry, felt an apology was in order. She skulked off to the camper, where Randy and Cynthia stood sleepy, but round eyed in the door.
  Because her husband had uprooted the tent, Thelma found herself on the open ground. The bedding was now being bombarded by rain, as well as the water running down the pathway. But there was no flood. She was quite sure of that now. She heard Junior moaning. The pole light the town had erected near the campsite provided little light in the downpour. Thelma could see what looked like a living mountain of canvas swaying to and fro in the wet night. 
  "Junior? Are you under there, honey?"
  "Oh, my wrist," moaned the hulk of canvas.
  "God! You look so funny!" Thelma burst out, when her eyes finally adjusted to the contours and discovered what must be Junior's form beneath. She was seized with laughter, uncommon in Thelma, who perceived excessive gaity as unladylike.
  A crude syllogism surfaced in Junior's mind. Major premise: He had broken his wrist when Thelma had stupidly shoved him in the dark and sent him sprawling with tent. Minor premise: He went sprawling because of his imbalance created by one pants leg being caught in the zipper, which happened because Thelma had shouted, "Flood!" Conclusion: Kill Thelma.
  Junior dove, tent and all, in the direction of Thelma's laughter, which had moved nearer to him. Thelma, who could see, stepped aside and let the bulky form hurl past her.She stopped laughing.
  "What are you trying to do?" she asked her husband. "Don't you want me to help you?"
  "I'm trying to kill you, Thelma," Junior shouted. "You can help if you want to."
  Hearing a savage, entirely primitive noise coming from the throat of the man she had married, Thelma ran for the camper, shoving the children back inside and locking the door.  Junior shed the tent and ran after her, forgetting about the symbiotic sleeping bag that still clung to him. He fell face first into the remains of what had been, before the rain, a pleasant morning campfire...

Morbidly funny really sums up this tale! But in all the silliness, Pelletier hits on serious issues and deep sadness in the characters. This is one that you will chew on well after you finish reading it. This is the first book in the four book series: Mattagash.

Peggy Ann

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