Monday, September 19, 2016

Mystery Readers - The Expats by Chris Pavone

The Mystery Readers group I belong to decided we’d all read the same book this month, and the choice was The Expats, a spy novel. I confess I enjoyed it very much, though I had to pay close attention to detail.

The primary character in the story is woman named Kate, who is married and has two sons. The setting, in the beginning, is Paris, current day and time. A woman calls out her name. Kate then described the woman and the surroundings, and at end the chapter reveals that this woman is a threat to her because her family has been living with false identities.

Then the story flashes back in time two years when the family was living in the U.S. and her husband says he has a new job that will require a move to Luxemburg. At that point the reader learns that Kate has kept information about her past from her husband, the fact that she has been working for the CIA.

The next section details her resignation from “the agency,” the family’s move to Europe, the people they meet, and the fact that her husband is evasive when she asks about the nature of his new job and his frequent trips to other cities.

Because of Kate’s background, and his frequent absences, she becomes bored with the life of a housewife. She begins to be suspicious of their new friends, their seemingly ordinary activities, and even her husband. Tension increases when she starts to dig for clues about what was really going on and culminates in a reveal that is bizarre and unexpected.

It took a very gifted writer to manage a twisted tale that shifts back and forth through time without leaving the reader confused. It’s a book I can recommend.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Tulare Kings Writers' Upcoming Meetings.

Tulare Kings Writers will meet in the Blue Room of the Tulare County Public Library, 200 West Oak Avenue in Visalia, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, August 20.

 Highlighting the meeting will be a presentation by Fresno-based author Cora J. Ramos, who will share her experience with small press publication. She a writer of short stories of mystery and suspense that have won awards and been included in the anthology Valley Fever: Where Murder is Contagious.

 Her first novel, Dance the Dream Awake, is a romantic suspense story with supernatural elements set in present day that dips into a past Mayan life lived in the Yucatan around 900 A.D. Her second novel, Haiku Dance, is a romance set in Heian, Japan of 980 A.D., when the pillow books (like Tales of Genji) were written by the first women authors. It was published in May.

Cora is a trained artist and loves to paint for her own pleasure and to help design her own book covers. She keeps journals of her dreams, poems, and inspirations for paintings and stories.

Bring your business cards, fliers, etc. for the networking part of the meeting.

 The following meeting, September 17, will feature a presentation by Marilyn Meredith on “Creating Memorable Characters.”
This meeting will be held at the Arts Consortium, 400 North Church Street in Visalia.
(Please note that the entrance is on School Avenue, and that this facility is different than Arts Visalia, the site of a few of our previous meetings.)
A representative of the Arts Consortium will be in attendance to talk about how writers’ can participate at Taste the Arts, which is scheduled for October 15. (Please visit for more information.)

We hope to see you on August 20. Happy writing!


Friday, May 20, 2016

E-book or Paper Book - The Great Debate

When Oprah Winfrey introduced the Kindle on her TV show, much to my surprise, my son ordered one for me. He knew I had shelves lined with bulky books and thought it would be a solution to my storage problem. As soon as I loaded my first book, I realized the advantage of its features, instant gratification being the first. The book was in my hands ready to read in a matter of seconds. Adjustable font size was the second thing I found delightful since I was beginning to struggle with the print in some paperback books. E-books cost less too.

I’ve always preferred reading in bed. I once observed I’d never need a sleeping pill. Just hand me a book and I’d soon be asleep, especially a textbook. I soon noticed the Kindle had another feature I liked. There was no need for me to fumble around to find a bookmark when I was ready to turn out the light; just flip the button and it would remember where I left off.

When I talked to some of my friends about the new technology, they groaned and said they still favored the feel of a real book in their hands. They argued that they often flipped the pages of their books back to refer to a page read earlier, something that was difficult with an e-reader. I had to confess they were right about that part. I also had to admit that I was unable to underline passages in an e-book.

So, have I switched totally to e-books? The answer is no. I still have shelves bulging with my favorites. I have some really old books I’d never give up. How could I toss an early edition of Gone With the Wind, or To Kill a Mockingbird? They are like old friends. Or that 1915 edition of Gray’s Anatomy that belonged to my mother. I even have a bookcase up in the attic where I store a few books I’ve promised myself I’ll read someday. There’s one about how Cortez conquered Mexico, and another about Livingston in darkest Africa.

I don’t believe that paper books will be abandoned soon. But e-books are here to stay also. I’ve read that at least 27% of Americans read on an electronic device, and the number is growing. I’ve also noticed that libraries still have a lot of people enjoying them. So let’s celebrate books, all kinds.

How about you, dear reader, what is your preference, e-book or paper?  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A K-9 team Solves This Murder Mystery

Killing Trail - Margaret Mizushima

I received this book at the December meeting of Mystery Readers with the assignment to report on it during the February meeting. It’s the first book I’ve read that featured a police service dog, and I have to say I enjoyed learning about how the dog was handled, and how he did his job.

Killing Trail features Mattie Cob, a deputy sheriff in Timber Creek, Colorado. Having a K-9 unit is a first for Timber Creek, and so she and the German Sheppard, Robo, are the source of a good deal of speculation by the towns people and envy by a few of her colleagues. Fresh from a twelve week training course at the K-9 Academy, they are called out to where the body of a girl has been discovered along with her injured dog. What follows is a police procedural with a lot of interviewing people who knew the victim and others who might have something to hide. Throw in a handsome veterinarian, and you have a little romance too. I’d say it’s a better than average first book, and I expect other books in the series will be even better.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Aunt Madge's Recipe from Birds of a Feather

Zucchini Stuffing Casserole

4 medium zucchini sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 cup shredded carrot
1/2 to 1 cup chopped onion   
6 tbsp. margarine
2 1/4 cups (1 package) Stovetop Stuffing or other herbed stuffing cubes
1 can Cream of Mushroom or Cream of Chicken soup
1/2 cup Sour Cream
1 cup  (or more) cooked chicken, cubed. (Optional)

Lightly cook zucchini in a little boiling water till tender, drain. Set aside.
In a large skillet, melt 4 tbsp. margarine and lightly sauté carrot and onion. Remove from heat.
Stir in 1 3/4 cup stuffing, the soup, sour cream and chicken. Gently fold in zucchini.
Turn into a 1 1/2 qt. baking casserole. Melt remaining margarine, add remaining stuffing - toss and sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes until lightly browned.
Maybe made a day before and refrigerated until baked.

This is a great side dish to serve in place of poultry stuffing. By eliminating the chicken you have  a vegetarian dish.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Birds of a Feather

Petite fours, lemon drops and a deadly stabbing normally don't go together, especially at a colonial high tea.
Private investigator, Deena Powers, is back in Four Creeks to attend the Annual Colonial Tea put on by her aunt’s chapter of Women of Colonial Heritage. When Aunt Madge’s closest friend is discovered with a knife in her back, Deena finds herself drawn into a tangled web of misappropriated chapter  funds, adultery and long-held secrets. An unlikely cast of characters become ensnarled in the investigation, leading Deena to discover that the sins of the past are never left behind, no matter how carefully the trail is covered up  Helping Lieutenant Avis “Buzz” Walker acquire vital evidence leads to rekindled feelings, but when a killer steps in, it might just be too late.
Available at and as an e-book on Kindle