Independence Day Memories

Happy Independence Day! July Fourth is one of my favorite days of the year, ranking right up there with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. I love the patriotic music, reading of the Declaration of Independence, decorations, parades, twinkling sparklers, and spectacular fireworks. The Fourth holds many memories for me; I’d like to share my early remembrances of the day.

Many of my childhood July Fourths were spent at my paternal grandmother’s house in Greenwood Lake, New York. My family often took the forty-minute ride to visit Grandma at her two-bedroom home, which my grandparents bought in 1939 as a summer cottage (my grandmother turned it into her year-round residence after my grandfather died in 1958). I remember the New Year’s Days when we’d drive Grandma home after she spent the Christmas week with us. The October weekends when we’d do the fall cleanup of her yard and gutters. We’d stay the night, which was a real treat. I’d sleep in the kitchen, on a cot set up between the stove and sink (I’d love to tell you I woke in the morning to the aroma of cinnamon buns baking in the oven, but that perfect touch never happened). The house was so small, when my father’s brother, Marty, his wife, Lynn, and their five kids visited from Delaware every July Fourth week, my cousins Robin and Martin would pitch a tent in the backyard and sleep there every night.

On Independence Day, my parents, siblings, and I would arrive at the crowded house around lunchtime. After eating sandwiches and my grandmother’s potato salad, we’d pack into a couple of cars for the two-minute drive down to the marina where my uncle docked his boat. Once we were all aboard and settled, Uncle Marty would cruise through the arm of the lake at the mandated slow speed to avoid making waves. I vividly remember how long it seemed to take to get to the main part of Greenwood Lake and the moment when Uncle Marty could put the pedal to the metal and get the wind whipping through our hair. It only took two or three minutes to pass through the arm, but to a kid, it seemed like an eternity.

We’d motor around the lake for a couple of hours, always stopping at the sandbar for a swim. Then we’d head back to the house for a barbecue of hot dogs and hamburgers topped with slices of tomatoes from my grandmother’s garden and a Neapolitan ice cream dessert. After darkness fell, we’d return to the village for the fireworks show. Our family would join many others on a grassy incline beside the lake and watch the beautiful display light up the night sky and reflect in the tranquil water. A superb ending to a perfect day.

My dad had a favorite expression: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” It didn’t get any better than those July Fourths we celebrated at Greenwood Lake.

It was an idyllic place. An innocent time. A date that was special even before the red, white, and blue decorations, parades, and fireworks were added. I hope your memories of the Fourth of July are as sweet as mine, and I hope you are creating new ones today.

 

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A Perfect Day For Dads

Happy Father’s Day! Mother Nature has supplied a perfect day for the dads here in New York and I hope she did the same for you wherever you are celebrating on this Sunday. No matter what fun plans you have for the day – a round of golf, pool party, backyard barbecue- enjoy every moment with your loved ones. You deserve the spotlight shining on you!

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Cozy Reading For A Hot Summer

We’re closing in on the summer season, a time when many of us tuck a book or two into a suitcase and head out for a relaxing vacation. Others might stay home and enjoy a good book while stretched out on a chaise lounge on the deck or a float in the swimming pool. I have a list of books I’m looking forward to reading as I try to beat the heat of July and August. Here are a few new titles by my favorite authors.

Murder at the Mansion (A Victorian Village Mystery) by Sheila Connolly. It’s not often I get in on the ground floor of a cozy series, but I’m jumping into the first in Connolly’s new series with great anticipation. I’m a big fan of Connolly’s cozy work: the Museum Mysteries, County Cork Mysteries, Relatively Dead Mysteries, and Orchard Mysteries. Connolly is terrific at incorporating the history of her settings (Philadelphia, Ireland, and New England) into her storylines and taking readers on tours of local landmarks. I expect more of the same in this Baltimore-set series. Most of all, I know I’ll be treated to a well-plotted mystery with strong, intelligent female protagonists and a cast of endearing characters.

Claws of Death (A Cat Lady Mystery) by Linda Reilly. I read the first (Escape Claws) in Reilly’s series a few weeks ago and am glad I haven’t had to wait long for the second installment. Escape Claws introduced readers to Lara Caphart, an artist who returns to her hometown of Whisker Jog, New Hampshire after many years away and reunites with her aunt, Fran and best friend, Sherry. Yes, there are many cat characters, too, and one special feline in particular named Blue. The hint of romance in book one and murder mystery that kept me guessing until the killer was finally caught hooked me on the series. The plot for Claws of Death—an aging actress takes up residence in a mansion in Whisker Jog and becomes a suspect in a teacher’s murder—promises another involving mystery in this charming series.

Poisoned Pages (A Booktown Mystery) by Lorna Barrett. I discovered Barrett’s Booktown Mystery series about a year ago and have been catching up on its twelve installments since my introduction. I’ve been reading the books out of order, which is a mortal sin to many cozy readers, but the hopping around hasn’t affected my enjoyment of this New Hampshire-based series. The amateur sleuth is Tricia Miles, owner of the mystery bookstore Haven’t Got a Clue. She’s often joined on her adventures by her sister, Angelica, who is a successful businesswoman in their small town of Stoneham and a bestselling cookbook author. The pair has a realistic sibling relationship; they bicker and hold longtime resentments, but Tricia and Angelica are also deeply loyal to and supportive of each other. The likable supporting characters are well-developed and make the series a pleasure to visit again and again.

Claws for Alarm (A Gray Whale Inn Mystery) by Karen MacInerney. MacInerney’s Gray Whale Inn series helped introduce me to the cozy genre, so it has a special place in my writer’s heart. The series is set on the picturesque Cranberry Island in Maine and centers on Texas-transplant Natalie Barnes and her adventures as both innkeeper and amateur sleuth. MacInerney’s series is strong on romance, friendship, and intrigue and she always includes recipes for the tantalizing yummies Natalie bakes for her guests. There’s no need to book a reservation at the Gray Whale; there’s plenty of room for cozy readers. And who knows, you might fall in love and name Maine your vacation destination for next summer.

I also want to catch up on the latest from bestselling authors Cleo Coyle (A Shot in the Dark- A Coffeehouse Mystery), Adriana Trigiani (Kiss Carlo), Daniel Silva (The Other Woman), Stephen King (The Outsider), Nancy Atherton (Aunt Dimity and the King’s Ransom), and Alexander McCall Smith (The Quiet Side of Passion).

Though I have a lot of reading to do, I’m always eager to add to my reading list, so please share any recommendations you have!

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Memorial Day ’18

I wish you all a peaceful Memorial Day. Let us take time today to remember and honor the thousands of men and women who gave their lives in service to our country.

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Happy Mother’s Day & A New Review

Happy Mother’s Day! May all you mothers know how deeply loved and appreciated you are and may you enjoy every minute of this day with your families.

Yvonne at Socrates’ Book Reviews posted her review of Cast for Murder. Please take a few moments to visit her terrific blog and read the review and her thoughts on other recent releases. Thank you, Yvonne!

Have a terrific week, everyone!

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An In-Home Archaeological Expedition


I apologize for my absence from the blog. I’ve been on an archaeological dig. Well, sort of but not exactly. With my three siblings, I’ve been clearing out and packing up our parents’ house. We’ve swept dust off the relics of our lives, clutched them to our hearts, and taken a stroll down memory lane. We’ve found items we thought were already tossed in the garbage or donated to charity. Stuff that should have been thrown out or given away years ago. Records of our childhood achievements and milestones. Lots of photographs stored in shoe boxes and envelopes and hundreds of photo slides my dad loved slipping into his projector and showing on the living room wall. My dad’s shoe horns (I think he had more shoe horns than he had shoes) and a pair of x-rays of my mother’s lungs. Yes, x-rays. Mom didn’t have lung disease, so I’m guessing the scans were a routine part of an annual physical exam.

On some cleaning days I thought I was trapped in chapter twenty-six of J.K. Rowling’s  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Have you read the book? In that chapter, Harry, Hermione, and Ron break into the Gringotts bank vault of the dastardly Lestrange family and discover a curse has been cast over the vault to foil thieves. Everything the three friends touch multiplies into worthless replicas of the family treasures. In my version, it was glassware, cookie tins, and bed linens that magically appeared all over the house. Or at least seemed to materialize. Just when I thought all the wine glasses, cocktail tumblers, and everyday drinking glasses had been packed, my brother Bob went into the attic and emerged with boxes of drinking glasses we used in the 1970s and fancy cocktail glassware that probably last held booze in the 1960s. Those five thousand people Jesus fed with a few loaves of bread and fish? I’ve got drinking glasses for the entire crowd.

And why all the cookie tins? I confess I contributed to the accumulation. I need tins for the Christmas cookies I give to family every year and I apparently kept every metal container that crossed the threshold since 1983, even those that would hold only a half-dozen cookies. They all got thrown in a box in the attic and were promptly forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind.

The abundance of bed sheets, pillow cases, and blankets went to the local shelter for all the dogs and cats to have soft beds. I’m glad we had so many to give them.

This clean up has also put us in the position of having to toss or donate items that hold happy memories for us. My brothers are good at letting things go (except for a few special mementos) to a new home or the dumpster but my sister and I have a tighter grip on some of the stuff. I’m a sentimental fool and find myself unable to say goodbye to a few things.

For example, my father’s toolbox. Dad spent many hours in his basement workshop, fixing, building, painting, and shellacking to his heart’s content. His toolbox contains every implement he needed to complete his jobs. I so identify these tools and the green metal box with Dad that even now, twenty years after he passed away, I still hear his voice whenever I rummage for a screwdriver, wrench, or hammer.

“Make sure you put that back where you found it!”

“Be careful, that has a sharp edge!”

“That is not a toy!”

Ah, the memories. Neither brother will take the box (they have plenty of tools in their own workshops) and Dad’s smaller set suits me fine, but I just cannot let go of this box and its contents. Come on, it’s a talking toolbox, for crying out loud. How many people have one of those?

There are many other things I’ve kept, but don’t think I’ve boxed everything up to store in another basement or closet. I’ve tossed plenty that I first didn’t believe I could ever release. My tactic has been to leave the item on a table for a few days until I get sick of looking at it and question why I think it’s necessary to my life. Then I grab the object and race to the garbage can, add it to the refuse pile, and give it a “thank you for your service” salute.

How have you managed a whole-house clean out? Were you ruthless in tossing stuff, or did you cling to it saying, “Just what I’ve been looking for!” We’re not done yet, so any tips will be very appreciated.

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National Library Week!

It’s National Library Week and I’ve inadvertently been preparing for it with visits to hundreds of library websites.

Allow me to explain.

Librarians often learn of upcoming book releases through reviews in Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, or Kirkus Reviews. If a book receives a positive notice in one or more of these periodicals, the chance is excellent that book will be ordered and placed on a library’s New Release shelf for its patrons’ enjoyment. With the thousands of submissions reviewers receive each year, it’s easier for a book represented by a publisher to earn one of the few slots in a bi-weekly or monthly review column than it is for a self-published work submitted by its author.

Cast for Murder wasn’t selected for review by the journals, so I’ve had to come up with another way to make librarians aware of its release. A postcard mailing would be too expensive, as would advertising in one of the above mentioned publications. My choice is to build an email contact list of libraries that have one or both of the first two Veronica Walsh Mysteries, All Things Murder and Murder, by George, on their shelves. I’m tackling this task with the help of Worldcat.org, a website that lists every library (or library system) that has a specified book in its catalog. Over the last few weeks I’ve been going through Worldcat’s list and hundreds of library catalogs to build my contacts file.

My cyber tour of libraries has reminded me how important libraries are to the communities they serve and how similar they are, despite their geographic and demographic differences. A library offers much more than reading material to those of us who enjoy the pleasures of a great book. It is a place of learning for everyone: elementary school children struggling with reading (on more than one library site I saw photos of dogs participating in PAWS for Reading), high school students receiving tutoring in geometry or chemistry, and adults building their professional skills with lessons on Microsoft Suite. Mah Jongg classes are taught at my library and probably at many others. Libraries have book clubs for kids and grownups, genealogy programs to trace family roots, popular storytimes that enchant toddlers, resume advice for job hunters, and help on tax return filing for senior citizens. Plenty of libraries host weekly movie matinees, one-woman (or man) shows, and talks by local authors. They provide passes to local museums and hold food drives at Thanksgiving and toy collections for Christmas. You might even be able to get a flowering bush or tree at your neighborhood library; for the past few years my library has celebrated Arbor Day by giving 100 patrons seedlings to plant in their yards.

I’ve also noted on my tour the great beauty of America’s libraries. They come in all shapes and sizes, from charming old buildings to sleek modern facilities. Some libraries started off as churches or schools while others were specifically built to house books. Some are made of brick and others stone. There are the cozy libraries located on the tree-lined streets of New England villages and the sun-drenched buildings yards from the beaches of California and Florida (gives new meaning to “beach read,” doesn’t it?). A small-town library might consist of just two or three rooms while a library in Manhattan, Chicago, or L.A. might span a city block. I’m partial to the smaller libraries; they remind me of the tiny building that was home to my local library during my childhood. I researched many a science fair project and book report in that beloved space and still reminisce about those days whenever I pass by the building, even though it’s been renovated and has served as a plastic surgeon’s office for decades.

I know I can walk into any library in the U.S.A. and feel as welcome and comfortable as I do at the library I visit every Saturday. You would be given the same warm greeting, too. If you haven’t been to your local library in a while, go check it out this week and discover what it has to offer. I bet you’ll find at least one thing that turns you into a regular visitor. If you’re a frequent patron, pop in to celebrate the hardworking people who make your library such a special place.

Enjoy your visit and the week!

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Happy Holy Days

 

To everyone celebrating, I wish you a happy Passover and Easter. May your celebration be filled with the joy of family, friends, and the promises these holy days offer.

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Blog Tour- The Montana Bookaholic

Good evening! Katrina at The Montana Bookaholic just posted her review of Cast for Murder. Drop by and check it out plus Katrina’s reviews of other recent releases.

Thank you, Katrina!

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March Reading

Happy belated Saint Patrick’s Day! I hope everyone enjoyed the great Irish saint’s feast day.

I occasionally share with you book recommendations and learned on last month’s blog tour for Cast for Murder that readers like to know what’s on an author’s reading list. Here then are some titles I’ve recently enjoyed.

I just finished An Irish Country Practice, the latest in Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series. I love Taylor’s work and always read his newest offering around Saint Patrick’s Day. The series is set in the 1960’s in Ballybucklebo, a small village in Northern Ireland. In his last few books, Taylor alternated between the past and present of main character Fingal O’Reilly’s life. Though those stories were enjoyable (and rich in Irish history), I’m pleased An Irish Country Practice takes place fully in 1967 and involves many of the characters I’ve grown to love (that includes Arthur, O’Reilly’s Labrador retriever). There are joys and sorrows across the pages and, as always in this warmhearted series, the villagers come together to support each other. I highly recommend you check out this book and the entire series.

I also recently read what I call my Old Man Widower Trilogy (though none of the characters is really that old, at least to me). I started with Phaedra Patrick’s The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper. I loved this book. Arthur, almost seventy, is an Englishman who has been a widower for a year. He spends most of his time puttering around his house, talking to a plant he’s named Frederica, and missing his late wife, Miriam. After he finds a charm bracelet among Miriam’s possessions, a piece of jewelry Arthur has never seen, his curiosity launches him on a journey (including a misadventure with a tiger) to learn the secrets of Miriam’s past. Arthur learns much about himself, too, and the people closest to him. I cheered for and was inspired by him. It’s only March, but I bet this will be one of my favorite reads of the year.

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson features another Englishman, the sixty-eight-year-old Major Ernest Pettigrew. He has been a widower for six years and is mourning the recent passing of his brother when he suddenly finds himself attracted to shopkeeper Jasmina Ali. Though she is British-born, Jasmina isn’t fully accepted in the village because of her Pakistani heritage. The romance blooms slowly as the couple faces prejudice from both family and villagers, notably at an ill-advised party at the local country club. I rooted for Major Pettigrew and Jasmina as individuals and a couple, and wanted to punch several of the other characters for their offensive behavior. This is a charming, original love story, a tale that still lingers in my mind.

It took me a while to warm to A Man Called Ove and author Fredrik Backman’s writing style. Ove lacks the sweetness of Arthur Pepper and the appeal of Major Pettigrew. He’s gruff, stubborn, and impatient, traits that have alienated him from his neighbors and friends. Like his new neighbor Parvaneh, I hung in there with Ove and was rewarded with a lovely story about a man who has a generous heart. Ove takes care of those around him in his own way and wants no fanfare for it. I wasn’t so sure about this book at the start, but I’m all in now and eager to see the well-reviewed, award-winning film adaptation.

How about you? What books are currently on your nightstand? I love to receive book recommendations as much as I enjoy giving them.

Have a great week. Spring officially begins on Tuesday, though I think Mother Nature still has a bit of winter weather to dole out.

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