Archive | July 2016

Myrtle Mysteries: BBQ, Sweet Tea and Murder – Chapter 10

“Wait, what?  Laura threatened to kill Pop?”  Myrtle was having trouble grasping Rhonda’s assertion.

“That’s right.  Little Miss First Wife said she was going to kill him when he least expected it.”

“Okay, you’ve got our attention.  Now you really do have to tell us the full story.”  Vera turned towards Rhonda.

Rhonda, never afraid of attention, said, “If you really think I should.”  Myrtle nodded her assent.

“Here’s the story:

Laura thought she had him wrapped around her finger when they first got married but he told me he only married her because he had messed up with the one he really loved and knew he could never get her back.”

Myrtle gave a start as the words hit her.  Vera reached over to take her hand and squeezed.  They would talk about this later but needed to hear the full story for now.

Oblivious to anything except herself, Rhonda continued on, “When Pop found out she was pregnant with their son, he knew he was stuck so he tried to make the best of it.  At least she had something to occupy her time when Paul, Jr. was first born and she wasn’t out spending all of his money.  After a while she turned over his care to the nannies so she was back to her old habits of shopping and lunching with the gals every day.  Pop was working hard and trying to make his own way in the world but she didn’t want anything to do with work.

Pretty soon she was pregnant again with Elizabeth.  An heir and a spare as they say.  Pop was working more and more hours to support the family and her spending habits.  Pretty soon they spent almost no time together.  He said it really didn’t seem like she cared either way.  You girls knew Pop, though.  He was a passionate man.  He had needs.  The first affair he had was with his secretary.  How cliche.  They probably did it on his desk.”

Vera was struggling to maintain a calm facade.  Did Rhonda seriously just bad mouth a woman for having sex with her boss on a desk?  Hypocrite did the same thing.

“From what he told me he had many women after that.  Most were one night stands but a few were a little longer lasting as long as the women knew he wasn’t interested in a relationship.  It went on like this for years and while neither one of them were happy, both Pop and Laura just ignored their problems.  He started the restaurant in 1980 and said he felt happy there for the first time in years.  This made him realize what he was giving up by being so unhappy at home.

When Paul Jr was 12, Pop had finally reached his breaking point with Laura and her demands.  He told her he was leaving.  She tried the sweet act, cursing and begging.  Nothing worked and he finally left.  Can’t believe it took him that long.  Of course she got alimony and child support so she still lived pretty well.

You know by then he was already on Shelby’s trail and as soon as he could he married her.  What a mistake that was.  Geez.  Anyway, the restaurant was really taking off and he was doing so well financially.  When he and Shelby split no one was surprised and he just went back to his one night stands.”

Rhonda reached down for some sweet tea and gave the two friends a look.

“That’s all well and good Rhonda but we knew most of that.  You said you had a story about Laura threatening to kill Pop.”  Vera was ready to get out of the tiger’s den and was losing patience.

“I’m getting there.  Just thought you might want some background info.”

“We appreciate that but the day is getting short and we have a few other stops we have to make.  Would you mind telling us about the threat?”  Sometimes Myrtle was tired of being the voice of reason.  Why couldn’t she blow her top like Vera?

“Well, things were quiet for a while.  Pop was working and dating.  Working and dating.  He said it was a Saturday afternoon and things were pretty quiet at the restaurant.”  Rhonda paused and her brow wrinkled.

“What’s wrong, Rhonda?” Myrtle asked.

“You know.  I don’t think I should tell you this story.”  She was chewing her lip and looking away.  “Listen, Pop and I had our disagreements but deep down he was a good man.  He told me this in confidence and I shouldn’t have brought it up.  I can’t believe I did that.”

Vera was speechless.   She could see real tears in Rhonda’s eyes.  What in the world was going on?  She looked to Myrtle for guidance.

With a deep breath, Myrtle spoke softly to Rhonda, “If you don’t want to finish the story that is okay.  I’ve kept plenty of secrets for people in my life and I wouldn’t ask you to do anything  you don’t feel right about.  But, truth is that Pop is dead.  And if this could help the police figure out who did it then you should at least tell them.”

“Who did it?  They arrested someone.  Isn’t the case closed?”  Rhonda seemed genuinely confused.

“To be honest, I’m not sure whether they have the right man or not.  I hope they do but you never know.  If it’s someone else, the police could use help finding them.”  Myrtle sat back with her tea to give Rhonda some time to think.

“Say it isn’t the meth head who killed Pop.  Do you really think it would be Laura?”

“I have no idea.  We all went to high school together but the truth is that I don’t know her very well.”

“I can’t go to the police with this story.  They would laugh in my face saying I was just the jealous, vindictive ex-wife.  And, you know what, they’d probably be right.  I was just being spiteful even bringing it up to you.”

Myrtle made a motion to Vera that they should start to leave.  “I understand, Rhonda.  We don’t want to pressure you.  Do what you feel is right.”  The friends started to gather their things and get up.

“Wait.”  Rhonda said quietly.  “Wait.  I don’t know you ladies very well but you were friends with Pop right?”

“We were good friends a long time ago.  Both of us still cared for him,” said Myrtle while sitting back down.

“Can I tell you the rest of the story and you decide what to do with it from there?  Can I trust you with Pop’s secret?”

Vera and Myrtle looked at each other and in unison agreed, “Yes, of course.”

“Okay then.  That afternoon in the restaurant (he didn’t tell me the year) it was quiet.  He was in his office working when a woman came in.  It was one of his one night stands.  He said she was a sweet lady and he was sure she regretted what they had done.  She was married herself but bored.  It had been about 8 weeks since their night together and she was pregnant.  When she did the math, it was clear that Pop was the father, not her husband.  She had originally planned to keep it a secret and not tell Pop but felt he deserved to know he was having another child.  She begged him not to tell anyone.  Her plan was that her husband would always be the child’s father.  Pop reluctantly agreed to her plan but offered financial help.  She adamantly refused and said that it would make things too complicated.  When she left the office in tears, Pop was gutted.”

With so many revelations that day, Myrtle felt this one shouldn’t have surprised her but she felt as if she was breathing underwater.  What other secrets had Pop had?

“Pop never told me who the woman was, only that she as a good woman.  He said that she and her husband split up eventually and he did start sending money then.  They never spoke about it again and the daughter never knew.”

‘Daughter?’ thought Myrtle.  ‘Pop had another daughter.’

Vera cleared her throat and seemed to stall for a few seconds before speaking.  “Wow…hmmm…this is a lot to process but I still didn’t hear a threat from Laura.”

“I’m getting to that now.” Rhonda continued, “When that woman walked out of Pop’s office, he was sitting there with his head in his hands.  A few seconds later he heard a low laugh coming from his doorway.  ‘So you got one of your sluts pregnant, huh?’  Laura was standing there.  She had apparently come into the restaurant and when she heard Pop talking in the office, she stood out in the shadows and listened to everything that was said.”

“Don’t call her a slut.   She is a good woman and you would know that if you could recognize good in anyone.” 

“I don’t have to call her anything.  The whole town will know what she is soon.” 

“Pop was mortified.  He didn’t want this woman’s life ruined.  Thinking that he knew her so well, Pop offered Laura money to stay silent.  She wouldn’t agree to anything though.  She told him that he could pay her and she might keep their little secret.  I think she just wanted to torture him.  Anyway, at one point she realized that he would have another child who might get money from him.  That’s when she went from smug to threatening.  She told him that if her kids didn’t get every dime they wanted from him that she would tell everything.  Then she would kill him so they could split his money.  She left his office that day saying that she should do the world a favor and just kill him anyway when he least expected it.  He didn’t seem to take it seriously.  But who knows.”

Review: The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time #1) by Robert Jordan

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I finished reading The Eye of the World on Sunday and realized that it’s now Thursday with no review written.  You see the problem is work.  Busy, you know.  And any free time must be spent reading book two.  Yes, as soon as I finished this one, I immediately picked up book two.  Does that give you a clue as to what I thought of TEOTW?  That’s right.  5/5 stars.

Published in 1990, TEOTW has many, many well written reviews.  So I’m not going to spend a lot of time actually reviewing it.  It’s a great book.  That’s my review.  Instead, I’m going to talk a little about the fantasy genre.  One of the negative reviews I read called this series derivative.  Readers are entitled to their opinions.  But, I believe that if you call this derivative, you have to then say that about almost all modern fantasy series.  Here are a few elements found in TEOTW – tell me if they sound familiar?

  • Towers – seriously every fantasy series has towers in it.  I don’t need to give examples.
  • Fight between good versus evil.
  • The big evil must not be called by his name.  Youngsters, keep in mind that this was written well before Harry Potter.
  • A young man with special powers he hasn’t yet realized.
  • Main characters must go on a trek.
  • Reference to a hero of ages.
  • Magical swords.
  • Fae mythology.
  • Ways or secret portals that allow someone to travel long distances outside of normal space.
  • Followers of the big bad are hidden in normal society and have a special name.

I could go on and on but do you see what I’m saying?  I could choose any of these elements and name series after series that includes it in some form or fashion.  For me, the strength of a fantasy is how well they incorporate these standard ideas and make them their own.

And, Jordan was a master.

When did name-calling become acceptable behavior?

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Sorry, this post isn’t book related.  I’ve had ‘name-calling’ on my mind for a while but specifically for the last several weeks and today I reached my breaking point.

Several weeks ago I was walking a property with a customer.  As she and I turned a corner in the backyard, one of the neighbors came up to his fence and started yelling at her.  He was upset about, what I considered, several inconsequential things.  But, if he feels he needs to address something with his neighbor, fine.  I wasn’t a fan of his tone but my customer didn’t let it bother her so I ignored it.  THEN…now keep in mind that to this point she had not responded to him at all and had listened calmly…he called her a “fat assed bitch” among a few other choice words and told her not to give him that look.  He walked away muttering.  Some people may think I’m naive but I didn’t grow up in a world where men talked to women that way so it took me a few seconds to even process what had just happened.  My customer then turned to me and said that it was the first time they had ever spoken.  She was fine with moving on but I was shaken.  It wasn’t directed at me but I felt dirty having even witnessed it.

On social media we see name calling every day as a normal course of action.  How sad is it that we consider that “normal” now?  Yesterday Twitter exploded with racist and misogynist attacks on Leslie Jones, one of the stars of the new Ghostbusters films.  She was called horrid names that I won’t repeat…because people either didn’t like the movie or didn’t think it should have been remade with female leads.  Are you kidding me?  Male stars do not have to deal with this level of idiocy.  What has happened in our world that allows someone sitting at a keyboard to think it’s okay to talk that way to women?  (Notice that I didn’t say “some man”.  Some of the worst attacks on women come from other women which is another topic in itself.)

I’ve been clear that I hate politics and pretty much all politicians (there are exceptions where I see someone actually trying to do good but they are too few and too far between.)  Rather than debating issues, most of politics is now “I’m better than him/her” or just name calling.  Regularly, Hillary Clinton is called “Killary” on Facebook along with the old standards, bitch and c***.  Even more disturbing is the regular use of derogatory terms basically calling her a lesbian.  This is supposedly from ultra-conservatives who preach love and peace.  Really?  I’m sorry but Jesus isn’t okay with this.  I don’t remember the passage in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John that said it’s okay to call someone a c*** because you don’t like their politics.

Today the internet is abuzz about Melania Trump.  Again, I don’t care if you agree or disagree with her or her husband.  But, she is a human being.  And a woman.  A mother!  She has been called every name in the dictionary that could be an insult to women.  All of them are disturbing.  But you know what bothered me the most?  “Mail order bride”.  This gem is supposedly coming from liberals who preach that woman are equal and should be treated with respect.  Is that only when they agree with you?  Because I don’t think this is treating her with respect.  Criticize her speech, her politics or her choice in spouse.  But calling an immigrant who has come to this country a mail order bride and making fun of her accent is the height of hypocrisy.

If the best you can do when communicating with someone is to call them a name, then you might want to reconsider your argument.  We need to get back to having serious discussions and not act like chimps throwing poop at each other.

Review: The Nature of the Beast (Armand Gamache#11) by Louise Penny

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When reading a long running series, it’s unrealistic to expect that you will love each installment.  Considering that I’ve given 5-star ratings to 7 of the prior 10 Gamache novels, I was starting to believe that Penny had found some sort of magic formula.  If so, it ran low on fuel for me with The Nature of the Beast.  Don’t get me wrong; it’s still a ‘good’ book.  I just don’t feel it is up to the level of the series thus far.

I’m not going to summarize the plot as, quite honestly, the plot was part of my problem.  It’s too convoluted…which is a disappointment as usually Penny creates great storylines for her characters.  Additionally, I am not a fan of tying two seemingly unrelated plot lines together for the sake of the story.  Hence the convolution.

I also didn’t feel the emotional connection to the characters that I’ve come to love.  Clara? Meh.  Myrna?  All but non-existent.  Even Gamache.  Nothing…

Book 12 will be released next month and I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on it.  I’m sure I will fall back in love with Three Pines and all its’ wonderful inhabitants.

3/5 stars.

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic #1) by VE Schwab

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I love a good surprise and A Darker Shade of Magic did just that.  For a while, it was floating around my Goodreads feed and I saw many positive reviews.  But something about it didn’t appeal to me.  I’m not sure if it was the cover or the fact that some readers categorized it as YA.  (Nothing wrong with YA, I just haven’t been in the mood for it.  And, for the record, I don’t consider ADSOM YA at all.)  Then I saw a copy at the used bookstore and decided to give it a shot.  Boy was that the right decision.

This book is wonderful!  It’s a fantasy with a strong foundation of world-building but it is not so ‘fantasy’ that it turns non-fantasy readers off.  Come on, fantasy fans, you know what I mean.  (How many times can I say fantasy in the same paragraph? **whispers** fantasy.)  Some readers have to ease into this genre and a 1000 page Sanderson probably isn’t going to work for them.  However, this 398 page Schwab is just right.

There are four worlds and the only thing they have in common is each has a London.  Grey London has no magic.  White London has magic but is full of people fighting for power.  Black London no longer exists (maybe??)  And, Red London seems to have a balanced magic.  Only two people are able to travel between the Londons and one is Kell, who is from Red London and an adopted son to the king and queen.

The magical system, vivid location descriptions and fast paced story were all so well done.  Schwab also created several interesting characters – primarily Kell and Delilah, a Grey Londoner who gets sucked into a magical fight.

Very highly recommended, especially for those newer to the fantasy world.  I did feel a few of the elements had been done before but that is a very minor quibble.  4/5 stars.

Mini-Review: The Tuesday Club Murders (Miss Marple #2) by Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie was a genius.  Most of her novels are everything you could ask for in a mystery.  However, as I’ve stated before, short stories weren’t the best format for her and The Tuesday Club Murders is, I hate to say, a showcase in mediocrity.  (And, I guess it doesn’t help that I’m not a fan of Miss Marple either.)

For the first six stories or so, a group of people get together on Tuesday evening for dinner.  It’s a motley crew that includes Jane Marple.  They decide that they will have dinner each Tuesday and alternate sharing mysteries they’ve experienced so that the others have an opportunity to sift through the facts and solve the case.

The second collection of stories is based at one dinner party where they each share stories with the same goal as above.

This book isn’t bad; it just isn’t very GOOD.  I was able to ‘solve’ the cases way too easily in almost every story.  Which brings me to my biggest annoyance.  There really is nothing very special about Miss Marple that would allow her to be this super sleuth.  She just talks about being an expert on human nature because she lives in a small village and is able to watch (i.e. spy on) all of her neighbors.  When the dinner party participants start offering their solutions, she sits there and knits and says “ooh” or her cheeks turn slightly pink.  Invariably, someone asks her what she thinks and she says, “I was just thinking about so and so in the village and how ‘x’ happened.” This leads her to solve the case each time and the others are all so impressed.  Bah…

I will continue to read through the Miss Marple series to see if she starts to grow on me but so far we haven’t had an impressive start to our relationship.  2.5/5 stars.

Review: The Way of Kings (The Starlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson

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Saturday:

Husband: “What is that book about?”

Wife: “Well, I’ve only read 500 pages so I’m not sure yet.”

Husband rolls eyes and says: “500 pages and you don’t even know what it’s about?”

Tuesday:

Wife puts book down after finishing.

Husband: “Ok, now, what is that book about?”

Wife thinks for a few seconds then says: “Morality.  And a pending apocalypse.”

Husband shakes head and decides to just let it go.

 

The Way of Kings is the first in the Stormlight Archive.  Any of you that have read my reviews already know of my love for Sanderson’s Mistborn series.  I wasn’t sure what to expect of this 1000 page monstrosity.  Guess what?  It is in contention as my favorite read of all time.  What makes it so great?  Of course all the Sanderson norms – world-building, character development and excellent pacing.  But there is something else.  Something special that is almost intangible.  (I very much wanted to channel Obiwan as played by Ewan McGregor and say “elusive” in that accent but I digress.)  So, rather than spending a lot of time trying to describe and analyze, why don’t I just give you a few quotes?

“Money is behind every war…Religion is but an excuse. Or perhaps a justification.”

“People see in stories what they’re looking for, my young friend.”

“I told you, old friend…I said that honor of yours would get you killed someday.”

“Death is the end of all men!  What is the measure of him once he is gone?  The wealth he accumulated and left for his heirs to squabble over?  The glory he obtained, only to be passed on to those who slew him?  The lofty positions he held through happenstance?  No. We fight here because we understand.  The end is the same. It is the path that separates men.  When we taste the end, we will do so with our heads held high, eyes to the sun.” 

“I will protect those that cannot protect themselves.”

“Life before death. Strength before weakness. Journey before destination.”

This gets all the stars in the world plus about a million more.  Love it!