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Sunday, May 30, 2010


by Jennifer Crusie - to be released in September 2010

Andie Miller is currently engaged but shows up at her ex-husband's office to return his alimony checks. One thing leads to another and before you know it, Andie is headed to stay at a haunted house to care for her his two young cousins for a month. From the minute the book opens, you know that Andie and her ex, North Archer, have considerable feelings for each other.

This is so far afield from books I usually read. It's an expanded romance mixed in with ghosts, odd family members and other unusual supporting characters.

Not my taste and very predictable but actually fun to read.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

STORM PREY - Lucas Davenport Series No. 20

by John Sandford - available in hardcover

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Investigator Lucas Davenport teams up with Virgil Flowers in this latest from John Sandford. Lucas' wife, Weather, is a physician and is working with a medical team to separate conjoined twin girls. Unfortunately for Weather, while arriving early to work she unknowingly becomes the only witness to have seen a van full of men who just robbed the hospital pharmacy.

While Lucas and Virgil, along with the Minneapolis police, are working around the clock to try to catch the robbers and protect Weather, she continues on with the medical drama of separating the twins. The investigators' work is made that much harder because there's an inside man at the hospital aligned with the thieves.

Once again, Sandford engages the reader in a good, solid mystery.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

THE POCONOS, End of an Era

We went to SKYTOP LODGE in the Poconos for mother's day weekend. It was also our oldest son's 35th birthday so our son and daughter-in-law came along with us. Our youngest is finishing his second year of grad school at RISD and is doing the typical end of semester cramming, so he had to visit us by phone.

My husband's family has been going to Skytop for over forty years and once a year, for the past thirty-plus years, we try to follow this family tradition. We have photos of our children on the front porch when they were just little guys right through the current day; a photo montage of our sons' growth. Built in 1928, Skytop hasn't changed too much; it's still a grand old elegant throwback set on 5,500 acres with all manner of summer and winter sports. They always have live music on Saturday nights. This year they had a 16 piece orchestra in the PINE ROOM for the GRAND MARCH, which can only be described as a snake dance throughout the entire first floor of the lodge, both inside and out.

But this blog entry is really about the other part of the Poconos, from Stroudsburg to Canandensis. During World War II, many GI's took their leave with their girlfriends and families to the Poconos. Easy to get to by car, many returned in the 1940's after the war to honeymoon there and the Poconos became a world-renowned romantic destination.

When more people began flying to their favorite honeymoon spots in the 1960's, fewer visited the Poconos. During the 60's and 70's, Las Vegas hotel chains began buying property in the hopes that casino gambling would become a reality. To outsiders the romantic Pocono region became a caricature of itself with the advent of heart shaped or champagne glass tubs and circular beds; more of a bordello style than the ideal place to start your married life. When we passed through this honeymoon area on Route 447 North throughout the last thirty or so years, things were fairly stagnant as if the entire region was holding its breath and waiting for a new draw for vacationers.

With the current economic downturn, our ride up to Skytop was especially poignant this year. Restaurants and stores we previously visited on Rt. 447 and in the center of Canandensis were closed up, bearing "For Sale", "For Lease" and, never saw this one before, "For Trade" signs. The last of the funky '60s honeymoon resorts, PENN HILLS, went bankrupt this past year and was closed for back taxes.

Just looking at PENN HILLS in this condition brought tears to my eyes, imagining the many people who actually believed the hype and came to the Poconos for their dream honeymoon. You could almost feel the spirits of those World War II veterans bringing their own children back years later to see where Mom and Dad had begun their married life. Some of their grown children may have even followed in their parents' footsteps and had their own romantic Pocono weekends here.

Some things still remain. SKYTOP LODGE is still a magical place and the area is still beautiful with mountains and streams and wonderful foliage in the fall. But the era of the Poconos as a honeymoon destination is long past and, sadly, nothing has begun to replace it, leaving empty, boarded up buildings and the echos of those long ago happy couples just beginning their lives.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Five Minute Conversations - RUBY TUESDAY

Last week I went to Ruby Tuesday’s in Ledgewood for dinner with my friends, Candace and LouAnn.

We sat at the bar for dinner and there were only a few other people at the bar. One man was watching baseball and directly across from us was a couple having drinks. I guessed they were in their late 30s or early 40s. The woman and I glanced at each other at the same time and I nodded and smiled at her. Then I turned back to the conversation we were having with each other and with the restaurant manager, who Candace and LouAnn have become friendly with. While we were waiting for our order and the three of them were talking, I decided to go outside for a cigarette. Yes, don’t ask, I still smoke.

I was only outside for a minute before the woman across from us came out as well. I greeted her with, “Hi, how are you?” She stared directly into my eyes for the longest time and then said she was miserable. She noticed my wedding ring and asked how long I’ve been married. When I told her 29 years, she said she’s been married for 18 months and she just hopes they can make it to 29 years.

Her husband had invited her to go out for a drink so they could have a “life talk”. He wouldn’t take a table so they could have privacy, and instead insisted that they sit at the bar. Interesting, because if they had taken a table, he would have been forced to look at her during their discussion, but by sitting at the bar, they were next to each other.

She told me that they live nearby and that this is a second marriage for each of them. They have no children together and she has none from her previous marriage. He, however, has five children with his former spouse including triplets. She explained that she didn’t get an engagement ring when they decided to get married since she didn’t think it was important to spend the money that way.

She was visibly shaken and said she was really afraid for her marriage. Apparently, he’s not happy even though she feels everything is fine. They both work and while money is tight because of his financial obligation to his children, they’re doing fine; or so she thought. But he wouldn’t have this discussion at home, insisting that he wanted to sit in a quiet place where they’d have no distractions.

She looked me in the eye again and told me that I had beautiful blue eyes. Maybe my blue eyes are why people talk to me so intimately despite that fact that we don't know each other and will probably never meet up again. I expressed my sympathy, wished her well and then headed back inside to my friends. She came back into the restaurant a few minutes later and I tried not to look at her while she and her husband continued their “life discussion”. But you could see that it wasn’t going very well.

I quietly explained to Candace and Lou what had happened outside and they were both shocked that I got that much information from a compete stranger in just one cigarette’s worth of time.

We continued on with our meal and I couldn’t help but think of something my friend Sue said to me once. She said that we’re each the star in our own movie. It always stuck with me because we see things from our own point of view and have different thoughts going through our heads no matter where we are or who we’re with. Perhaps the reason that people approach me this way is because I’m able to turn off my own movie and watch theirs.

The couple got up to leave and the woman looked across the bar at me, gave a small nod and tried to smile as they walked away. I could only hope that her movie turned out the way she wanted it to.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


by Adam Ross - to be released in June 2010

David Pepin is a partner in a computer game software company. His life is as intricate as the M.C. Escher art that he loves. Married to Alice in a true love/hate relationship, he fantasizes about her demise. He's also writing a book about the murder of Alice Pepin. While the idea is a good one, the murky transition between the actual story and the one the character is writing is very difficult to follow. As indicated by the title, Alice succumbs to a deadly allergic reaction to peanuts she has ingested. The question is, was it suicide or murder?

As the detectives try to prove David's guilt we learn about their very troubled lives as well.

The most distressing aspect of this book is the passive-aggressive behavior on the part of the female characters. None of the characters in MR. PEANUT actually like their respective spouses or communicate with them and they are filled with hate and despair on a daily basis. In fact I have to say that there is not a single redeeming protagonist in the book.

I found the parallel universe presented in MR. PEANUT to be both confusing and depressing. You might want to skip this one.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


We spent the last couple of days in Stonington, Connecticut. When we woke up on Friday morning, I was thrilled to see that some flowers had actually bloomed despite the cold weather we've had this past week. The center peony in the picture is about 8 inches wide and smells wonderful!

Of course, I had forgotten to bring my camera with me, so I had to call my friend, Doug, to take the photo. Thanks, Doug!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


by Allison Winn Scotch - to be released in June 2010

Tilly Farmer is living her version of the American dream. She's still in the small town she grew up in and working as a guidance counselor at her old high school. She's married to her high school sweetheart and is trying to get pregnant. Except for her dysfunctional family, she thinks life is perfect.

But Tilly doesn't realize how much she has idealized her life until she meets an old school friend who is a psychic. Ashley gives her the "gift" of seeing into the future. Suddenly Tilly's entire world is turned upside down as she begins to really look at her life and the people she loves without her rose colored glasses.

THE ONE THAT I WANT is very predictable but it's a cute story.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A QUESTION OF BELIEF - Guido Brunetti Series No. 19

by Donna Leon - available in hardcover

A friend has delivered a folder to Commissario Guido Brunetti that shows that someone might be deliberately delaying court cases to effect the outcomes. Also, his colleague, Inspector Lorenzo Vianello, has brought concerns about his aunt's recent interest in psychics to Brunetti and asks for his help.

Even the energy for crime seems to be wilting under the heat of a typical Venice summer, but murder has abruptly disrupted Brunetti's vacation plans to escape the heat and leave the city before the annual influx of tourists.

Although they have very different writing styles and are set in different areas of Italy, Leon's books echo the same frustration with Italian politics and corruption as those written by another favorite Italian author of mine, Andrea Camilleri. Despite what the police think or may be able to prove, in Italy it doesn't always follow that any of the criminals will actually be prosecuted for their crimes.

If you haven't read any of the Brunetti books by Donna Leon, you should. They're intelligent and they give the reader a glimpse into the roles the government and the Church play in Italian life.

Monday, May 10, 2010


by Allison and Stephanie Mitcham
Illustrated by Peter and Naomi Mitcham
Hardcover available from

I don't normally read or review children's books but I met Stephanie Mitcham, co-author of THINK LIKE A GOAT?, while playing Scrabble on my computer at Pogo Games. We started talking and one thing led to another; I sent her Monarch bookmarks and she sent me her family's wonderful book.

The Mitchams take us on a journey with an eight year old boy named Jason who is spending two weeks at his Aunt's farm. His Aunt raises goats and sheep and helps Jason to understand the animals in their daily lives, even when dealing with predators.

Jason thinks his Aunt is being silly when she tells him to try to think like a goat, but I was surprised how much I began to THINK LIKE A GOAT? by the time I finished reading this lovely educational book.

A family affair, THINK LIKE A GOAT? was written by Stephanie and her mother and beautifully illustrated by her father and sister. Recommended for children and adults of any age; this is one you'll enjoy reading to your children or grandchildren.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Last Friday my friend Candace let me redeem my Christmas gift from last year; thank you, Candace! She took me to GLASSWORKS STUDIO in Morristown for the afternoon. It was a first for both of us and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Once we arrived we were instructed in the fine points of making fused glass objects. Armed with goggles, glass cutters and ideas, we settled down to work. Fully absorbed in what we were doing, we vaguely heard conversations around us. Candace made a glass platter and I decided to make a tray for MONARCH BOOK REVIEWS bookmarks.

It takes about a week to get the finished product back since it has to be fired. As you can see, it turned out really nice for a first effort! The owner, Stacey Schlosser, and her staff are very helpful, especially if you're a novice and not really a "crafty" person.

We spent some time chatting with Stacey before we left. She told us about a problem she had one summer when all of her kilns were down and she had a lot of large groups of children who had created their own masterpieces. She didn't know what she was going to do, so she contacted PEGGY KARR who is well known for her glassware and has a large production facility in Randolph. (I actually have a few PEGGY KARR bowls.) Ms. Karr was gracious enough to let Stacey bring everything that needed to be fired to her studio so none of the budding artists had to be disappointed.

All in all, visiting GLASSWORKS is a nice way to spend an afternoon and we definitely plan on going back.

If anyone would like a bookmark (they're nestled in the glass tray in the photo), just email your snail mail address to me. Let me know if you're in a book club so I can send you a few extra.

I hope you enjoy reading my CHATTER and FIVE MINUTE CONVERSATIONS as well as the book reviews. Send me an email and let me know what you think.

Wishing everyone a HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

THE NINTH STEP - A Jack Leightner Crime Novel

by Gabriel Cohen - to be released in June 2010

There are two concurrent stories in THE NINTH STEP. Det. Jack Leightner opens his front door to find himself facing the man who killed his 13 year old brother in 1965. Fantasizing about meeting his brother's killer for years, he discovers that it was more complicated than a simple street mugging. Along with this, Jack is called to the scene of a murder in a Coney Island deli where a man has been bludgeoned to death by another customer using a can of beans.

The first storyline just fizzles out and goes nowhere. The second becomes a discourse on the harsh treatment of middle eastern men post 9/11.

Overall this book was a disappointment and it won't send me searching for more Gabriel Cohen books.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


When you actually think about it, writers are a lot like magicians. Using just their imaginations and experiences, they take the simple tool of 26 alphabet letters and turn them into words and turn the words into stories.

All of us are touched each day in some way by words written by others. Whether it be fiction or nonfiction, writers can bring out every one of our emotions, they can educate us and also keep us informed. We can see beauty, find joy, feel hurt or even experience fear when reading newspaper articles. Nonfiction books can bring us closer to understanding our history, our world and other cultures as well as ourselves. Fiction can bring us joy, entertain, frighten or enlighten the reader.

While the same could be said of other creative people or professions, writers reach more of us every day than anyone else.

With just 26 letters and a thought, presto chango, the magic begins!