BOOK REVIEW: The Relic by Robert Preston and Lincoln Child


Review by Ryder Islington

Every now and then you come across a book that gives you the creeps, but you can’t stop reading it. And so it is with The Relic. Set in New York, with characters you grow close to quickly, this story conjures a monster from the depths of the rain forest and looses it on the city. The story starts in Brazil, where a scientist from the New York Museum of Natural History is looking for artifacts.

The crate arrives. And the terror begins. Grisly murders occur, with no trace of the killer.
It’s one of those stories where the reader is on the edge of her seat, yelling at the character, “Don’t open that door!”

Could the man who went to the rain forest have transformed into a killer? Or was there something else in the crate? A variety of characters, including a newspaper reporter, a New York city detective, an elusive FBI agent, and a host of specialists who work in the library, people this thriller, and interact with every emotion as they try to stay alive, and find the beast who is ripping humans apart, head first.

I highly recommend this book for any reader of mysteries, thrillers or suspense novels. But beware. This is not a book for the squeamish. It’s not a bedtime story. It’s best read with the lights on, and your back against a wall.

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It’s Fat Tuesday!


I just want to start by saying if you live in a state or a city that doesn’t celebrate Mardi Gras, I’m sorry.

All over Louisiana, in small towns and big cities, there have been parades, parties and preparations. And Fat Tuesday is the culmination of the Mardi Gras season. I’ll never forget my first Mardi Gras. I had no idea! I moved to Louisiana not long after 9/11. I was here when Hurricane Katrina came through. I’ve seen a lot happen here, and in the world. But let me tell you, come hell or high water, Mardi Gras is celebrated.

My son gave my very close friends’ grand daughter (they live in Missouri)  beads for her birthday last year. No, wait. Listen. I’m not talking about a strand of beads. I’m not talking about a bag of strands. I’m talking about twenty-five pounds of beads! In every color, shape and size. Can you imagine how much fun she would have had collecting them herself?

I know there are news pieces and movies showing women baring their parts in order to get beads, but that’s just the excuse they use. Anyone standing along a parade route, and there are lots of parades, can get beads. Tons of them are thrown from floats. There are whole stores dedicated to the sale of Mardi Gras supplies.

There are parades in school. There are pet parades. There are parades of horses. And then there are  the float parades. And let me tell you about the floats. There are groups called krewes who finance the creation and operation of floats. Each krewe has a unique name. They have parties and all kinds of events. They collect money. They provide or lease a place where their float is kept all year. Where it is re-created and prepared anew each year. The floats are loaded with beads, plastic coins and cups and other party favors. Permits are obtained. Inspections are had. And then one day that float is brought out of that warehouse and the whole city gathers to celebrate.

There are four subjects you must be well-versed in if you’re going to live in Louisiana: football,  hunting, fishing, and Mardi Gras. If you don’t have an appreciation for at least a couple of these things, please find somewhere else to live, cause y’all ain’t gonna be happy here.

MEMORIES OF ME: The Bonneville Convertible


The eldest of my siblings is eleven years older than me. We call him ‘Bud.’ I think Bud was working as soon as he could walk, so when he was a teen, he bought himself a Bonneville. It wasn’t new, but it was the prettiest car I’d ever seen. When he brought it home, the white convertible top was down and the beautiful blue paint was waxed and perfect.

I asked Bud if he’d take me for a ride, and of course he did. Back then seat belts were not common. I don’t know if they were even made back then, and the front seat was a soft bench seat, allowing me to sit on m knees, arms wrapped around Bud’s neck, wind blowing in my almost white hair.

And where would a teenager with a new car go but to the A& W Root Beer stand. Bud was always a good-looking man. His hair was light brown with blond streaks, thick and straight, and the girls loved him. And of course he melted hearts when he brought his baby sister to the drive-in root beer stand and bought her a Junior Mug of Frosty Root Beer. He knew the way to my heart!

I miss that Bud. And that Bonneville. And that Root Beer! Now I live fifteen hundred miles from Bud. I drive a fuel-efficient mini-station-wagon, and rarely drink any kind of soda. But I can still taste the cold sweetness of that frosty mug. And I can still see the pride in Bud’s eyes as he drove his first car, and how pleased he was to be able to pull out his wallet and buy something with his own money.

Bud followed his dream and now owns his own construction company. He built himself a beautiful home, and has a big family. I often brag on him. I still love him, but my best memory of him is that day when he let me put my feet on the front seat of his new car and drove me through town wearing a smile. In my memory, that was his greatest success, fulfilling that first dream.

BOOK REVIEW: Deception Point by Dan Brown


Review by Ryder Islington

Intelligence analyst Rachel Sexton, and scholar Michael Tolland, join a team of experts in archeology, history, and other assorted fields, as they descend on the Artic to recover a rare object hidden beneath the ice. Recovery and authentication of the object would be a major feather in the cap of NASA, whose satellite first discovered it.

But Rachel and Michael face difficulties as those in charge continually argue over how to accomplish the task. The publicity seekers, the NASA scientists, and those in it for personal gain, all have their own ideas that promote their own agendas. And then evidence of fraud. Looks like maybe NASA was trying to save their agency by creating and planting something the world would want recovered. Too late Rachel and Michael realize they must tell the President what they’ve found. Now all they have to do is survive until they reach him.

The plot is strong and I like the characters. Like his other books, Deception Point is well researched and Mr. Brown puts you in the middle of the action. I had to read a little and then think about it. In the end, it is a great story. I love the plot twists. A perfect read for those who love international thrillers, political intrigue, and high-stakes drama.

Memories of Me: Dancing On The Tables


Though I’m the last of four kids, I often felt like an only child. The other three are seven, ten and eleven years older than me, so I was still at home when they married, had children, joined the military, etc.

My dad’s brother had eight kids. Oftentimes we would all travel together. My mom and dad, and sometimes at least my brother and I, plus my uncle, aunt and their eight kids. And sometimes we all lived together. There were six girls and two boys, and four of the girls were close to my age. The two older girls were teens when we were ranging from two to six years old.

I remember a particularly warm day, when we all lived in a two bedroom house and all the adults were gone. One of the older girls pulled out some records (I’m talking real records. 45’s and long plays) and started dancing. The living room was small, but the seven of us found places to dance. One on the coffee table. One on the end table. Several on the linoleum floor. The older girls taught us to do the twist and the bop, with a littleCharlestonthrown in. The music was loud and laughter filled the room. We younger ones were dressed in sunsuits and the older girls wore dresses and we were all barefoot. Don’t remember sunsuits? They were light cotton, one piece summer ‘suits’—very much like a bathing suit—with ties on the shoulders. I don’t remember them being dark or bright colored. Mine were pastels with flowers or dots, or whatever. They were as close to naked as a girl could get, with elastic around the legs and waist.

It’s not just the music and dancing and laughter I remember. Another thing that comes back to me is that the house was very clean. The floors shone with wax. The windows sparkled, and doilies lay on the backs of the couch and chairs. And when it was time for the adults to come home, the record player was turned off, the cushions fluffed and quiet reined. Imagine four adults, two or three teenaged boys, two teenaged girls, and a passel of younger kids in a two bedroom house. But that’s a whole other story.

We lived in that house for most of the summer. Twelve of us. But it wasn’t long before we were all packed up. Furniture sold. Heading for some other unsuspecting town where the men could make some money. I think that was the year that we had a big old Buick and a small fishing boat, and Uncle Earl had a station wagon and pulled a trailer. That’s a whole other story too.

BOOK REVIEW: Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon


Review by Ryder Islington

With the intrigue of the modern political thriller and battles to the death between kings and #Scottish clans, #Dragonfly In Amber is book two of the Outlander series. In 1968 Claire Randall Fraser returns to #, the place of the standing stones that transported her to 1743, and back again.

Determined to somehow tell her daughter the truth about who she really is, and what happened to Claire back in 1945, she finds herself in the company of Roger Wakefield, a man whose adoptive father was an historian obsessed with the clans of Scotland in the #1700’s. As Claire, her daughter Brianna, and Roger Wakefield travel through the hills and crags of Scotland, the story of Claire’s travel through time unfolds, revealing unbelievable, yet real scenes of history.

The characters are well drawn, evoking emotions in the reader as we get involved in their lives, desires, and painful histories. The description takes the reader on a journey through a land filled with beauty and into the lives of a people stubborn and superstitious. Dragonfly in Amber is a wonderful read for #history buffs, travelers, and those in love with romance. I would highly recommend it as a summer read, or during those times in the winter when the weather has stranded you next to a roaring fire.

Welcome Guest Blogger Mollie Cox Bryan


 I’m happy to introduce Mollie Cox Bryan as my guest blogger for this week. Mollie has a new book coming out: Scrapbook of Secrets: A Cumberland Creek Mystery. It sounds like a great read and Mollie has agreed to give away a copy to one of the commentors. I hope all of you will enjoy meeting Mollie and  her characters. 

Take it away Mollie!

   

Meet the Women of Cumberland Creek

   My first novel, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS: A CUMBERLAND CREEK MYSTERY has just been published by Kensington.  With publishing schedules being what they are, as I begin to promote this book, I’m expecting edits on the second book and am in the middle of the first draft of the third in the series. Seriously. Now, when I sit down to write, it feels like I’m visiting old friends. I’d like to introduce them to you. 

   My series revolves around a group of women in a small but growing Southern town. They get together to scrapbook, eat, and as it happens, to solve murders. 

   The story is told from three main characters points of view. They are surrounded by a secondary group of women and men. There’s also a third tier of characters I like to call my “walk-ons.” You’ll have to read the book to meet those folks. In the mean time here’s my three characters. 

Annie

Annie Chamovitz is 36-years-old and has “retired” from the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C., investigative journalism. She and her husband Mike moved to Cumberland Creek from Bethesda, Md., a tone suburb.  Her family is the only Jewish family in town.  When the book opens, she is a stay-at-home mom to Sam and Ben.  After being in Cumberland Creek about a year, she is finally invited to a weekly scrapbooking crop. She goes to the scrapbook gathering—reluctantly. Visions of frilly stickers and glitter paper dissuade her. Soon, she is part of the group, finding she loves the “puzzle” aspect to scrapbooking.  Soon enough, she also gets sucked back into freelance journalism.

My favorite quote from Annie:

“I don’t need my husband’s permission, Detective, just his support. This is the twenty-first century,” she said.

 Vera 

Vera Matthews has just turned forty. She is the owner of the only dancing school in town. She has never quite resolved her longing for the stage. So she delights in changing hair color and make-up palettes. She is married to her college sweetheart, Bill. She grew up in Cumberland Creek, went to college in NYC, and danced professionally for a brief period of time. Because she’s childless, she makes scrapbooks for her students and herself.

My favorite quote from Vera:

“I may be a bitch, but I work too hard for my money to go and have some pop psychologist to charge me to tell me about the psychological aspect to a hobby.  Some people just sap all the fun out of everything,” Vera said, taking a bite of the cake.

Beatrice Matthews

Beatrice Matthews is Vera’s eighty-year-old mother and is not a scrapbooker. She is a quantum physicist and has conversations with her dead husband, who appears in ghost form throughout the book—but only to her. She grew up on Jenkins Mountain, one of the many mountains surrounding the town of Cumberland Creek. At the beginning of the book, Bea is stabbed.

My favorite Beatrice quote: “You’re Daddy bought it for me and taught me how to use it. I feel safe with it here next to me in my nightstand. So over my dead body will I get rid of it.  In fact, you can bury me with my gun in one hand and a book in the other,” Beatrice said.

 

About the Book

Having traded in her career as a successful investigative journalist for the life of a stay-at-home mum in picturesque Cumberland Creek, Virginia, Annie can’t help but feel that something’s missing. But she finds solace in a local “crop circle” of scrapbookers united by chore-shy husbands, demanding children, and occasional fantasies of their former single lives. And when the quiet idyll of their small town is shattered by a young mother’s suicide, they band together to find out what went wrong…Annie resurrects her reporting skills and discovers that Maggie Rae was a closet scrapbooker who left behind more than a few secrets – and perhaps a few enemies. As they sift through Maggie Rae’s mysteriously discarded scrapbooks, Annie and her “crop” sisters begin to suspect that her suicide may have been murder. It seems that something sinister is lurking beneath the town’s beguilingly calm facade – like a killer with unfinished business…

Bio

Mollie Cox Bryan is a food writer and cookbook author with a penchant for murder.  Her stories have many forms: cookbooks, articles, essays, poetry and fiction.  Mollie grew up near Pittsburgh, Pa., and attended Point Park University, where she received a B.A. in Journalism and Communications. Her first real job out of college was as a paste-up artist at a small newspaper, where she was allowed to write “on her own time” and she did.

Mollie moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where she held a number of writing jobs, and has written about a diverse array of subjects, such as construction, mathematics education, and life insurance. While working in the editorial field, Mollie began taking poetry classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md. Soon, she was leading local poetry workshops and was selected to participate in the prestigious Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Workshop. Mollie still writes poetry— not as frequently— and believes that her study of poetry informs all of her writing.

In 1999, shortly after the birth of her first daughter, Emma, Mollie and her husband moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Va., where he took a job at the Frontier Culture Museum and she stayed at home to take care of Emma and start a freelancing career.

Website/blog: Http://www.molliecoxbryan.com

Twitter: @molliecoxbryan

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/molliecoxbryanauthor

Email: molliebryan@comcast.net

 

Published Books

Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies (Ten Speed/Random House, 2009) The Good Cook Book Club; named one of the best cookbooks of 2009 by Rose Kennedy of All Foods Considered.

Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley (Ten Speed Press, 2006)

Unsilenced: the Spirit of Women, Commune-A-Key, 1999.  A poetry and essay compilation.

Honey, I’m Sorry I Killed Your Aquasaurs (and other short essays on the parenting life) E-book on Amazon. This is a compilation of my newspaper column, Thoroughly Modern Mollie.

A few publications Mollie’s articles are published in:

 Grit, NPR’s Kitchen Window, The Christian Science Monitor, Taste of the South Magazine. Virginia Living. Relish,

Currently, Mollie is a restaurant reviewer for the Daily News Leader, Staunton, Va. and a frequent contributor for the local NPR-affiliate, WVTF.