The English Assassin by Daniel Silva

english assassinPublished by Signet, 2002 ****

As much as I’m enjoying this series so far, book 2 didn’t feel quite as fulfilling as the first. However, Gabriel Allon’s character is much more developed and his reluctance to get involved in Shamron’s schemes is completely justifiable. But once he is embroiled in the death of a Swiss banker, there’s no stopping him. I appreciated the intriguing insight into the world of Swiss banking and of course I love a good Nazi conspiracy tie-in. The neutral country’s role in WWII was really quite fascinating and made me curious about the vast unknown wealth secreted away in the vaults beneath Zurich. I just felt the conclusion was somewhat unresolved, though the final chapter was certainly satisfying. Regardless, it was still an enjoyable novel and I anticipate Allon’s next adventures.

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Trial of Lizzie Borden by Edmund Pearson

???????????????????????????????Special Edition published by the Notable Crimes Library, 1989; copyright 1937 ****

This was a fascinating and extremely thorough account of the Borden murders and the subsequent trial of the only suspect ever arrested: the infamous Lizzie Borden. I found the introduction as written by Pearson the most intriguing aspect, since it outlined known facts about the case and the circumstance surrounding it. The majority of the book is the transcript from Lizzie’s trial, and it is so incredibly detailed, it’s impossible not to gloss over some parts. There are exhaustive discussions about Lizzie’s clothing, the possible murder weapon, and citations of other notorious cases. The closing arguments are long-winded regurgitations of witness testimonies and evidence already presented. But as a piece of history printed verbatim, it’s an essential true crime book. It does not ascertain Lizzie’s guilt or innocence. There are certainly inconsistencies in her story/alibi/motive, but just as importantly, there was no proof that she was the culprit. Being previously unfamiliar with the case, I found it to be a good introduction to the whole affair. I’m still on the fence regarding whether she committed these crimes, so I look forward to reading more about the topic.

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Madison, WI

The Bestie Rach and I spent an amazing weekend in the beautiful capital of Wisconsin.  I was pleasantly surprised by what a cool city it was.  I wanted to share with you some of the fun bookish, culinary, and “cultural” experiences we had…

Thursday: Arrived late afternoon to a great view of the capital from our room. Proceeded to walk through the capital, then meandered around State Street, which is full of lovely little shops and tons of bars and restaurants.  Of course, book stores.

I bought a bookish button and a reading mudflap decal at A Room of One’s Own and a 1909 compilation of Robert Louis Stevenson at Paul’s.

We couldn’t have been in Madison at a more perfect time because it was the end of restaurant week.  Participating restaurants have 3-course meal specials for $25, so we ate a ridiculous amount of food without spending very much money.  Our first dinner was at Porta Bella and we had a table on their charming patio.  I had a blackberry/goat cheese/prosciutto salad to start, shrimp and scallops in a tomato vodka sauce over spinach fettuccine, and finished it with a decadent chocolate tartufo.  Rach had antipasto, sole stuffed with everything delicious (shrimp, scallops, blue crab) in white wine clam sauce, and topped it off with toasted almond cake.  We shared a local bottle of Wollersheim Prairie Fume.

DSCN2595After dinner we played trivia via Geeks Who Drink at the Buck & Badger.  We did terrible, especially in the sports segment.  It was hard!  We met a friend from college who proceeded to buy our drinks all night.  Cool that!  We drank more New Glarus Spotted Cow than should be allowed and had a blast with dueling pianos at The Ivory Room Piano Bar.

Friday:  We went to the Olbrich Botanical Gardens where we strolled all of the beautiful paths and loved to the Blooming Butterfly exhibit.  It was amazing.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

We also went to the observation deck of the capital building, then went to another restaurant week restaurant for dinner.  It was at an Irish pub called Brocach and we decided it was the best meal we had the whole trip.  I started with a jumbo lump crab cake with a spicy remoulade and Rach had the beer cheese dip with pretzel bread and carrots.  We both devoured the fish and chips, then I almost died when I had the Guinness Black and White Chocolate Mousse (with pretzels and berries) and Rach had blueberry cinnamon bread pudding.  These were the best mixed drinks we had all weekend, too.  Me: a gin cocktail called Sparkling Basil Lemonade.  Rach: Dublin Mule with ginger beer.  Then we each finished the meal with a gin and champagne concoction.

The biggest surprise of the weekend was stumbling upon a street festival.  We were like, Beer, Stage…  Um, ok, let’s hang out!  And who should headline?  CRACKER!  Freaking free Cracker concert a few blocks from where we were staying!  It was epic.  I drank quite a lot of Magic Hat.

DSCN2638Saturday:  We got up early (inhumane considering our condition) for the gigantic farmers market that was taking place right outside our window.  Massive this thing was.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  I bought garlic, radishes, tomatoes, corn, cherries, a cucumber, and sugar snap peas.  When we walked to lunch, we noticed a craft fair (how perfect) and I found the vendor of my heart.  The Bookish Life lady sold fabulous creations made from books.  I bought Alice in Wonderland pins, a gorgeous Alice bracelet and a Narnia ring.

???????????????????????????????We met a girlfriend from college for dinner at one of those local places you just have to try when you’re in town, State Street Brats.  Rach had a brat and I had a Pretzel Burger, soaked in cheddar, on pretzel bread, with actual crispy pretzels on top of the patty.  After dinner we sampled a few of the local watering holes including a bar called The Mad Hatter (too bad it kind of sucked, we only stayed long enough to have a $2 shot).

???????????????????????????????Everything else was just Bestie bonding, so I won’t bore you with the details…  But I do want to commend Madison for being such a cool city!  We felt like we really experienced it during our adventures and I would highly recommend it as a destination for a fun long weekend.  There is something for everyone, the people were incredibly friendly, it was super easy to get around, and it was relatively affordable.

And now, a statue of a dude reading a book on top of the capital building.

DSCN2601

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The Death Cure by James Dashner

death curePublished by Delacorte Books, October 2011 ***

Though I enjoyed this book more than the second in the trilogy, I wasn’t enamored with it. It delivered many answers to questions previously presented and there was a sense of resolution to the overall story. But I really wish I had learned more about Thomas’s past and his overall involvement in WICKED pre-maze. Some inferences were made to his role and his friendship with Therese, but it was somewhat unfulfilling. The aspect I liked most was the conclusion and the implications of how the survivors were going to go forward in a world bent on self-destruction. I think it redeemed itself by ending with a positive, hopeful note.

Reviews for The Maze Runner and The Scorch Trials

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Running from Demons by Megan Suthers

Disclaimer:  My cousin provided me with a rough copy of this book to edit for her before it went to her publisher.  It is currently available on Amazon for Kindle.  Please note, I am posting this review of the unedited version and hope to revisit it when the final, cleaned up version is available in print.

running from demonsPublished by Smashwords, June 2014 ***

Erika is running from her past and hiding out in a small town when the very things she was running from come crashing back into her life. But Erika is a character with many complexities. Though she would rather avoid a situation that puts her in danger, she knows she has to get involved to placate her personal demons.

As a debut novel, this certainly has potential. There is plenty of action and a complex plot that is very character driven. There are some very unlikeable characters here and many graphic depictions of violence. I was disturbed by how Erika was used and abused by the agency she was working for, the mafia, her father, and even her husband to a degree. I was just as frustrated with Erika for putting herself in compromising situations. Despite some technical flaws, I think this was a decent, if gritty novel.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the author.

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Currently

Recovering…  From a 5-hour drive home from Ohio. We spent a lovely weekend with my former boss on his farm in his brand new home.  It was divine being away from civilization for a couple of days.  I could get used to farm life. Below: the view from the back patio where we spent most of our time (that’s The Hubs driving our host around the old quarry on the ATV), and the back of the house with the patio and the softest, most plush lawn ever.  I fell asleep on it.  Quality nap-time grass.

Reading… Maggie’s Wars by Phil Pisani for an upcoming HF Virtual Tour.   It was a pleasant surprise when my copy came signed.

Also, I decided to take on a new project when my cousin asked me if I would edit her book.  I figured it would be great practice, so I’m going through it very carefully for her and sending her my edits.  I’m not a professional or anything, but I’m putting the English degree to use.  And it’s not a bad book!  A majority of what I’m doing is copy  editing and pointing out an occasional inconsistency.  It is definitely turning into a learning experience.  My cousin’s book, Running From Demons is already in e-format, but it will be available in print soon.

Cooking…  I pinned this recipe ages ago but only this weekend did I get a chance to try it and it will be my new go-to summer dinner:  garlic/butter/herb/lemon shrimp foil packets on the grill.  8 minutes, foolproof.  No more hotdogs for this girl! I’m keeping 2 pounds of shrimp in my freezer at all times.

Dreading…  This coming week is my first full work week in over a month.  It’s going to be very busy and very long.  I’ve been spoiled with so many long weekends, this will be a bit of a drag.

Anticipating…  In that same vein, this upcoming weekend is the first one since May that we have no plans whatsoever.  I’m looking forward to a weekend at home with no agenda, catching up on domestic tasks and some quality patio time.

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Edgar Allen Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins

edgar allen poePublished by New Harvest, August 2014 ****

This biography of an American icon gives a succinct account of the writer’s life. Poe’s abbreviated existence is presented with a straightforward narrative, highlighting all of his flaws, his vices, and his genius. Often misunderstood, this book illustrates how he struggled – with money, writing, addiction, and his reputation. It also offers background on his more obscure writings and his work as a critic, which often resulted in rivalries. Though dry at times, the book is still an essential portrait of Poe and his enduring legacy.

I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

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