Thursday, March 23, 2017

A New Voice in Literary Thriller

I’ve written extensively here about the genre of "literary thriller" and how books that bear that classification are my favorite goto reads. I love a suspense novel that is so well-written it could stand side by side next to any "literary" novel at any time of day. I have also written here about the late Ruth Rendell and how her "literary" mysteries and short stories were so influential in my own writing and early years as a mystery author. 

I am now discovering that there are a whole new generation of suspense writers who are taking up the torch and producing quality work that leaves you turning page after page (or pressing screen after screen) far into the night.

Today I would like to recommend one of these "new to me" authors: K. L. Slater. Her book Safe With Me is today's blog recommendation.

I love books with twisty-turny plots and well-developed  “strange and mad” characters—who you might not realize are “strange and mad” until quite near the end.

In Safe With Me we meet Anna, a solitary young woman who lives by herself in her family home and works as a mail carrier. She witnesses a road accident where a young man, Liam, on a motorcycle was injured badly. The story begins when she recognizes the driver of the car as the woman who destroyed her life so many years ago and contributed to her own little brother's death.

In true "Rendell” form, we get to know all of these characters through flashbacks, which don’t distract from the story, but add to it. That is an art, having flashbacks appear seamlessly through the story.

Is Anna sane? Or is she, perhaps, the crazy one? How about Liam? He seems so normal. Maybe he is, or maybe he isn’t. How about the neighbor, J
oan Peat, who has known Anna since she was a child. Maybe she’s the nuts one. And what about all that mail that Anna has to deliver? I don’t give spoilers here at all, but that little subplot had me nervously biting my nails. Because mail is important. And what if it was mine?

Just to give you a taste of what is to come, here is the first line of the book.

So, they’re tucked up in bed at last. 

You take a handful of matches and you light each one, 
watching the burn die to a powdery black dot.

Can’t you just see those matches one by one burning right down, almost scorching the fingers that hold them? And who is tucked up in bed at night? 


I was hooked.

Right now I’m reading another of her books, Blink, and enjoying it as much.

If you like well-written thrillers and wish there were more Ruth Rendell books to devour,  I highly recommend this British author.




I found this online article on why women read thrillers. I think I’m right up in that demographic. Even though this article is a couple of years old, I don’t see the psychological thriller genre falling off any time soon. I'll certainly keep reading them. They have always been my favorites—from Victoria Holt and Daphne du Maurier in my teens, to Ruth Rendell and PD James in my younger adult years to authors like K.L Slater and others today.

Next Time: "I Like It" takes a look at how ASL (American Sign Language) is changing my life.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

It's about time I read this author's work!

Before reading Five Quarters of the Orange, the novel I am recommending today, I was not familiar with this author’s work. I never even watched the multi-academy award winning movie Chocolat.

Watching the trailer I get a sense of what the movie is about—Woman comes to town. Woman takes over abandoned building. Woman turns it into a successful eatery. In the case of Chocolat, it’s a chocolate shop across from a church.

In Five Quarters of the Orange, it’s a crêperie. 

And, that’s where the similarities end. The trailer for Chocolat calls it a comedy. Five Quarters of the Orange is anything but. I would call it a tragedy cocooned in mystery. 

I guess it’s the mystery reader/writer in me, but I love stories which revolve around mysterious tragic secrets. For that reason, Five Quarters of the Orange does not disappoint.

Framboise, the main character in this book, was driven out with her family from their small French village during the war, following a tragedy. She returns fifty years later in disguise to try to rebuild her family’s abandoned farm. 

The book deftly moves between "past" and "present." During the “past” portions of the book, we get a glimpse of small town France during the German occupation. Framboise is nine then, and along with her older sister and brother and single mother they work on the farm, collecting eggs and and helping to make jams and other things to sell at the local market.

The river Loire plays an important role for the children. I
t’s their secret place, their swimming hole, their fishing place, a place where they store their “treasures,” and the place where "Old Mother" resides. She’s not anyone’s actual mother, but a huge pike, a fish that no one can catch. 

The story's mystery revolves around one particular German soldier who befriends the children. I won’t say more. Somehow I knew that the catching of Old Mother would usher in the deadly end of the book. And that it would involve him.

Fifty years later, the now widowed Framboise, under a new name and in disguise, returns to her childhood abandoned farm, the place where her family was cast out so many years ago. She has a copy of her mother’s recipe book which also includes scribbled margin notes by her mother which give Framboise a new and different look at the grim, sickly and stern mother she grew up with and never knew. Framboise wants to restore the place. And she does, finally opening up a successful crêperie. 

But the past can never be truly erased, can it?

Food is a constant throughout the book, and I hadn’t noticed this, but one reviewer mentioned that a lot of the characters are named after foods. Framboise being the main character and also there is Pistache, Noisette and Prune. (I admit I stumbled a bit on the name “Prune.” Who names a child Prune? Well, maybe in French it sounds different.)

The writing was superb. Every sentence sings.

Here is the first:

When my mother died she left the farm to my brother, Cassis, the fortune in the wine cellar, a jar containing a single black Périgord truffle, large as a tennis ball, suspended in sunflower oil, that when uncorked, still releases the rich dank perfume of the forest floor.

This beautiful prose progresses and and a story that captured my attention until the dark climax, which was worse than I had even guessed.


If you love extremely well-written historical fiction and demand a good plot at its core, I highly recommend Five Quarters of the Orange

I will read more of Joanne Harris, that's for sure.

In two weeks: Another thriller - Safe With Me by K. L. Slater

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sunday Songs

Another beautiful Sunday Song for you. 

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need comes from The Book Of Praise, my favorite hymnal of all times, the one used in the Presbyterian church. It's a beautiful song, one that I have also sung as a solo. 
Please click on the link here and listen along with the words, and be transported to some other place.



My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy's sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
His presence is my stay;
One word of His supporting grace
Drives all my fears away.
His hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
His oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

We all need a brain re-set right about now

You’ve had enough of the constant news. I know. I’m right there with you. Everything seems to be bad and getting worse. You’re sad and angry and deep down you’re even sort of scared. You’ve just read that the American dream is a myth and that certain lesser-known nations are threatening to arm wrestle anyone who comes near with their new nuclear muscles. You feel like whimpering in the corner and sucking on the ends of your sweater sleeves.

You know how every once in a while you have to shut down your phone and let all the applications and whathaveyous go back to reset? You might even need to do a total factory reset. It happens.

Sometimes, you need to do that with your brain. A walk in the woods might be the answer, or hunkering down with a good novel, or my favorite - kayaking on a gentle and beautiful and quiet stream.

But there is another way to reset your mind that won’t even take you away from your computer. Move your cursor over to a sleek, smart website called Atlas Obscura and hang out there for a little while. You'll learn things, interesting things. You'll smile, even laugh maybe. Or cry. You might cry. But what you won't do is think about the news.

Today, here on "I Like It," I am recommending a website of alternate and interesting facts about our world, our universe and the people who live here with us. It’s not one of those ad-heavy sites which appeal to our lower natures with stories about "celebrity plastic surgery mishaps" or “best clothing malfunctions.” No. Atlas Obscura is a serious place and a marvelous place, a place where you can lose yourself in strange little known facts as you click from one link to the next. And soon you’re lost and the real world out there is forgotten.

Do you know why people in the early 2000s starting painting the interiors of their homes beige, beige, and nothing but beige? Read about it here.

Maybe it’s because I’m a mystery writer but I have long been intrigued by Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum which is described as "America's most famous museum of medical oddities, and home to the remains of Einstein's Brain.”

The pictures at that site are worth the price of admission. But, it's more than pictures. You'll also learn about the strange and convoluted history behind the museum, and why it’s even there. It's still on my bucket list to visit, and now even more so.

I would maintain that Atlas Obscura, itself is like its own Mütter Museum

Do you like ghost towns? The site abounds with pictures and stories.

How about ghosts themselves? Again, take your pick.

How about a house made entirely of bottles? Put that in the Atlas Obscura search engine an you'll come up with a long list. Seems lots of people are building out of bottles these days.

Here’s one I visited back when we lived in western Canada See - I’m not the only one who can come up with alternative facts and interesting places to visit. And that's what the site gets you doing, thinking about all the creative people and oddities in the world, and the fun places that you have traveled to.

So, despite all the bad news, I can report that there are still dreamers and inventors, creators and poets. There are joys and oddities and fascinating histories. Animals? Looking for something other than your standard zoo animals? How about the practically impossible-to-kill microscopic 'water bears' Yes. There is such a thing. The photos alone are worth the trip to the site. 


Ever wonder why actors in old time movies seem to talk so differently than we do? Well, this is also explained is here, too. It offers quite a fascinating look into what we thought was important and upscale back then. 


Oh, and did you know that the Mall of America is looking for a Writer in residence? Ah, there’s a job I could apply for. Hmmm. 

Our world is indeed a wonderful place, full of nature and wonderments and good people who invent and create all sorts of machines and poetry and books and libraries and scientists and animals. Head on over to Atlas Obscura for a mind feast.

NEXT TIME  - Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

...And Peace to his people on earth.

Glory to God in the Highest...

My husband and I have been attending an Episcopalian/Anglican Church while we’re down here in Florida. And with that, learning an entire new and very beautiful liturgy. It took me three Sundays to figure out in which part of the Book of Common Prayer, the following hymn is located. I just figured everyone had this beautiful anthem memorized. Today, we were a little bit early to church, so I had a lovely chance to sit down and look through the Book of Common Prayer as well as the hymnal. And lo and behold, it was right there. 

I’m sharing it here today as my SUNDAY SONG because in song, it explains the entire Christian faith. Click here to hear it sung by a choir, and then follow along with the lyrics below.


Glory to God in the highest 

And peace to His people on earth

Lord God, Heavenly King, Almighty God and Father

We worship You

We give You thanks

We praise You for Your glory


Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father

Lord God, Lamb of God

You take away the sins of the world


Lord, have mercy on us

You are seated at the right hand of the Father

Receive our prayer


For You alone are the Holy One

For You alone are the Lord

For You alone are the Most High



Jesus Christ

With the Holy Spirit

In the glory of God the Father

Thursday, February 9, 2017

In Times Like These - Make Art

And in a recent Facebook post Canadian singer/songwriter Steve Bell encouraged his Facebook Followers to do just that. 

It is in times of uncertainty that artists should write songs, sing them, paint pictures, create stories, weave cloth, make pots and rugs and poems and gardens and loaves of bread. Show them that there is grace in the world. Show them that injustice can be overcome by beauty and creativity.

This week, long overdue in my roster of media to endorse, I am recommending Where The Good Way Lies, Steve Bell’s newest CD. His music has had an impact on my own spiritual journey (and if you are a follower of this blog, you know I am on a profound one.). I am an unashamed and self-proclaimed Steve Bell “groupie.” (I even have the t-shirt to prove it!)

My husband and I saw Steve Bell in concert for the first time some years ago at a Baptist Convention in the maritimes. There was something so simple, so plain, so true about him and his songs. At a time when I was hungering for authentic Christians, His honestly and realness spoke to me right away. He is also an amazing musician!

After his evening concert at that same convention, my husband and I bought every single one of his CDs from the table out back. (Well, how could we not? They were all on sale!)

As a writer, I am constantly striving to be authentic, to be real, to tell it like it is, as they say. And yet, there are voices urging me to do otherwise. Your stories should be about how people should act, not how they really do act. That makes no sense to me. That’s why I find Bell’s music and concerts so refreshing.

I’m not your typical music reviewer and this won’t be a typical music review. I don’t focus on the technical aspects of a recording. I can’t tell you who played bass and who was on vocals and why Choice A for backup vocals was better than Choice B. What I do, and what my blog above says I do, is share how the music moved me along on my journey. That’s what I share.

Here are a some of the songs from Where the Good Way Lies which I could listen to over and over. (And I do.)

One of my favorites is a simple song, the second to the last track - O Love Come to Us - something we need. Have a quick Youtube listen here:

Another is A Better Resurrection. I think we have all prayed:

My life is like a faded leaf. O Jesus Quicken Me.

Wait Alone in the Stillness could be torn right out of the headlines. To indeed prove that the more things change, the more they remain the same. The lyrics are straight from Psalm 62:

The enemies of love in vain rehearse
A plot to undermine the hope of nations
With tongues they bless
But with their hearts they curse
And lie in wait to bait love’s termination


The title track is an interesting one and fuses old with new, ancient music from First Nations, and modern hip hop. I know. I know. But give it a listen. It works, proving that no matter the skin we are in, or when we were born, we are all pretty much the same..

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his instrumental Freedom Road. A century ago the Shoal Lake indigenous peoples near where he lives in Manitoba, were left isolated when the city of Winnipeg constructed a water pipe, which left the Shoal Lake people with no clean water of their own. They needed a road. They were shut out, cut off from the rest of Canada, and under a boil water order for eighteen years.

I have a friend who calls Bell, “Canada’s Bono”, and he worked hard to urge the government to finally build this long awaited road.

Here's a news article explaining it all.

Bell has taken his own advice to make music during perilous times. And not, he adds, to be tempted by ‘celebrity’ but just to make art for its own sake.

And maybe that’s what we’re all supposed to do.


This just in! Where the Good Way Lies is up for a Juno Award nomination! This is a big deal in Canada! Congratulations Steve!

Next time: Something completely different, I will be recommend the fun and interesting website/media outlet - Atlas Obscura 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

A Reminder of Who We Are as Christians



Today I have chosen as my Sunday Song, the hymn, Today We Are All Called to Be. And today, this day, this Sunday, we need the words of this hymn more than ever. I need to be reminded of my calling as a Christian - to feed the hungry, rescue the poor, make farming tools out of spent ammunition, give welcome homes to the refugee and the immigrant, and care for the land.


Click on this link.
And then follow along with the words:

Today we are all called to be
Disciples of the Lord,
To help to set the captives free,
Make plow-shares out of swords
,
To feed the hungry, quench their thirst,
Make love and peace our fast,
To serve the poor and homeless first,
Our ease and comfort last.


God made the world and at its birth
Ordained our human race
To live as stewards of the earth,
Responding to God's grace.
But we are vain and sadly proud,
We sow not peace but strife,
Our discord spreads a deadly cloud
That threatens all of life.

Pray justice may come rolling down
As in a mighty stream,
With righteousness in field and town
To cleanse us and redeem.
For God is longing to restore
An earth where conflicts cease,
A world that was created for
A harmony of peace.

May we in service to our God

Act out the living word,
And walk the road the saints have trod
Till all have seen and heard.
As stewards of the earth may we
Give thanks in one accord
To God who calls us all to be disciples of the Lord.