Category Archives: picky

Reading: Plantation Shudders by Ellen Byron

29th January 2018

Magnolia Marie Crozat, Maggie for short, has returned from New York after heartbreak to help out with the family business. The Crozat plantation, now a bed and breakfast, is hurting for business, and with just her parents, grandmother, and a hired couple to work it, Maggie injects a bit of life into the place, offering a special to fill rooms for the end-of-summer festival. A full house has them all thrilled, until a storm leaves a pair of elderly honeymooners dead – one of natural causes and the other, not so much.

Maggie knows her own family can’t be involved (right?), but trying to determine what an Australian family, married hipsters, trio of frat boys, and/or plantation enthusiasts had to do with the death is tricky. The decades-old grudge between the police chief’s family and the Crozats doesn’t simplify matters, even when a new detective arrives on the case. Nepotism at work, Bo Durant is the police chief’s (attractive) cousin, but he seems fair, and together with Maggie, the two are determined to uncover the many secrets that threaten to incriminate the wrong people.

You guys know I love a good cozy mystery. I don’t always review them because they aren’t always worth it, but Plantation Shudders combined charm, good writing, and enough truth about the South to have me applauding. The Gulf Coast often gets described as sultry, but let’s be honest, there’s nothing sexy about sweating constantly and swatting mosquitoes. And tourist plantations or no, class issues are alive and well in communities like Pelican. Byron doesn’t shy away from any of these elements, which lent a much more authentic air to the first of this cozy series, a challenge compared to other cozies I’ve read.

The list of suspects grew until I was genuinely surprised by the culprit, a nice turn of events after reading several supposed mysteries and guessing early on “who dun it.” All in all, Plantation Shudders was a great light read, and I look forward to seeking out others in this series.

*But don’t take my word for it. Check out what others had to say about Plantation Shudders on Goodreads.

 

Fridays at Home: A Deep, Dark Secret

26th January 2018

When I bought my house nearly nine years ago, I was young and pretty broke. My house was old then and needed some love. I added duct work, a/c and heat (central air is a must in our area). I had the exterior painted. I did my own painting on the inside, but all along, I was hiding something.

The butler’s pantry. Yes, I have a butler’s pantry, which is ridiculous in a 114-year-old, 1700-square-foot house. This is a tiny, empty space that I’d gotten so used to I didn’t even notice it anymore. The previous owners had begun prepping the space to create a half bath, but they did an incredibly shoddy tile job, as you can see above, and that was about it. Years ago, I priced plumbing, finally picked my jaw up off the floor, and went on my merry way. I could live without a half bath. I was single and living alone. One bathroom was enough.

For years, I rarely had house guests. I *think* my aunts stayed once because I recall going out and buying a mattress specifically for their stay. However, once my now-husband moved in, we had his sister come and stay, and later, his mother. Having only one bathroom was extremely inconvenient, especially as it’s attached to our bedroom. Still, other needs came first. The house had to be painted again to protect the aged wood. The back door wasn’t working properly and had no steps once we ripped out a deck, etc., etc.

However, after the hurricane, my parents were with us for nearly six weeks. We also had some lovely people stay with us while they volunteered in the area, and then my mother-in-law and her husband stayed with us for two weekends. The half bath, which once seemed a luxury, became a necessity.

While we’re well on our way to completing this project, I thought I’d show you guys my inspiration board before delving into the details next week.

The space is approximately 4 feet by 5 feet, so a small toilet and pedestal sink are about all that will fit, but I thought, I’ve waited this long, why not go all out? I want to open the pocket door and just feel like this is a perfect little spot in the house.

I’m planning on wallpaper half up, paint half down. There is a massive window in the space, so even covered, there should be plenty of light even with all that black wallpaper. Two globe fixtures should brighten it up as well.

We’ve already:

  • had a plumber install new lines and tie into sewage
  • ripped up the tile and removed trim
  • framed a pony wall
  • installed the pocket door hardware
  • laid new tile
  • drywalled
  • added bead board
  • and installed the door

Now I need to get my rear in gear and wallpaper and paint so that we can hook up the sink and toilet. I cannot tell you how excited I am! Come back next Friday, and I’ll share progress photos.

 

Reading: Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier

24th January 2018

Mary Yellan is content with farm life up until the moment her mother dies, leaving her with a deathbed promise to sell the farm and seek out her Aunt Patience, a lively, pretty woman Mary recalls from a trip a decade earlier.

Though her aunt’s letter inviting her to come seems somewhat distant, Mary hopes for the best. Those hopes are dashed when the carriage driver warns her away from Jamaica Inn, an isolated, looming building on the English moors.

Arriving at Jamaica Inn does nothing to dispel Mary’s anxiety, as her boorish uncle, Joss Merlyn, offers none-too-pleasant a greeting, and Aunt Patience is a shell of the woman she was. Nervous and skittish, Aunt Patience tells Mary obvious lies before Uncle Joss comes in and tells Mary exactly what he expects: once in a while she’ll serve drinks in the attached bar, and if she hears a carriage outside, she must hide herself under her covers and put her fingers in her ears.

Undeterred, Mary makes the best of her situation, finding the moors bewitching, yet recognizing the hidden dangers they offer. She meets two men on the moors, the vicar from the next town, and Jem, her uncle’s brother. One an angel, the other a demon, Mary finds herself drawn to both as potential saviors from the deteriorating circumstances in which she finds herself.

Atmospheric and suspenseful, Jamaica Inn is a perfect tale for a wintry day, though I prefer Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. Daphne du Maurier knows how to create a setting, and the horror of certain events in the novel cannot be overstated; yet, the pacing and intended twist were not as impactful to me as I suspect they were meant to be. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Jamaica Inn and enjoyed adding another du Maurier to my shelves.

*Don’t take my word for it. See what others had to say about Jamaica Inn on Goodreads.

Reading: Sunday Silence by Nicci French

22nd January 2018

In the seventh, penultimate, book in this series, husband-wife writing team Nicci French begin Frieda Klein’s story where it left off in the heart-racing cliffhanger of Dark Saturday.

After defying the law to clear her name in the last installment, London psychologist Frieda is horrified to discover a body beneath the floor of her sanctuary, her home. After several years of trying to convince the police and the commissioner that a serial killer is still alive and toying with her, Frieda feels no satisfaction in their newfound agreement, especially as more bodies are discovered. Yet something feels different about the incidents that follow that threaten her inner circle, and Frieda realizes that Dean isn’t the only danger.

While full of the cast of characters – the ragtag friends and family of Frieda – readers of this series love, Sunday Silence falls short in delivering the taut, suspenseful narrative of the other books. The identity of the second killer is made clear early on, and the push to outwit him isn’t anything new.

Since the series began with Blue Monday, I was anticipating closure to the main story line in this book, and it didn’t come. Instead, the majority of the book focused on a much less interesting, less terrifying, less well developed character than I’ve come to expect. With the number of mysteries I read, I need more than a slightly odd, middle aged guy with a power complex to be the bad guy. Who is he? How did he arrive at the moment he commits a crime?

That said, the opening of this book offers a glimpse of the final showdown to the series, Day of the Dead, out July 2018, and I’m here for it.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out Goodreads to see what others thought of Sunday Silence.

P.S. While you can read these as standalone books, reading them in order is a much fuller experience.

Post-Harvey Thanks

13th September 2017

When various friends and family ask me why I don’t blog anymore, I always get wistful: “I miss it, I do; I just don’t have time for it anymore.” When my husband points out that, lately, in the evenings, I’m doing a variety of nothing when I could be blogging, I sigh and say, “I’m just so tired, but I miss my friends.” I’ve told him of our Bond watch parties, Literate Housewife. Of readalongs.

I’ve kept up with so many of you via Instagram, and, admittedly, I spend too much time on the site, eager to see the next something beautiful, something creative. I’ve felt, in many ways, stuck this past year – I’ve loved my job, but last January the extra work, committees and subcommittees and the people who run them, made me begin to hate coming to work.

Then, a few weeks ago, Harvey hit. At first, my area of southeast Texas was fine. I thought it was much ado about nothing and worried about Houston, which floods so horribly. A few days later, my parents were issued a mandatory evacuation notice, even though they’re mere miles from me. Thankfully, they came to my house, and we spent a few tense days eating anything and everything as we waited for the rain to stop. No reading. Not much TV. Lots of checking Facebook for updates. Lots of pacing, particularly once photos of their neighborhood began to trickle in, showing waterways where roads once were and kicking our imaginations into high gear. Still, I held out hope. There’s always one house in a neighborhood that’s high and dry – why not them? My dad retired a few weeks ago. My mom has struggled with her health since she was  young. Retired teachers don’t make much. I needed their home to be ok.

Their home wasn’t ok.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 11.33.15 AMThe rain stopped; other communities were able to get back into their homes and start cleaning out. My parents’ home was still underwater. My husband and I volunteered at a local donation station, packing boxes of goods for those who needed them and organizing the donations that kept coming from all across the state. We helped salvage precious items from his grandmother’s home, which also got water. We stayed busy. Then last Tuesday, the water receded enough that we were able to get into my parents’ neighborhood and survey the damage.

I posted photos on Instagram, and so many of you posted encouragement and sent love, and I truly felt encouraged and loved. I’m notoriously reticent, but the past few weeks have opened the floodgates, and I’ve been incredibly emotional. Friends showed up decked out in masks, boots, and gloves to help rid the house of the stinky, ruined personal belongings of my parents, and I sobbed. I sat on a Rubbermaid container lid, sifting through soaked, inky family photographs with another friend, and I couldn’t stop the tears.

Strangers have driven slowly through the neighborhood, passing out supplies and food because what you don’t realize as you’re working is just how hungry you are. And those supplies you thought you had too much of? You’ll need every glove, every contractor trash bag. But more than that, each smile and “I’m sorry” bolsters you.

harvey5harvey4harvey1People ask how my parents are, and they’re doing wonderfully. My dad has gone nearly every day to help neighbors muck out their own homes, even though his exhaustion shows on his face. My mom, whose health keeps her from doing the same, has had offers of laundry duty for the yards and yards of fabric that sat in floodwater (no dice; it shreds) and friends whisk her away for coffee.

harvey6The Raveys are helpers. We always have been. Being in the position to not just ask for help but to receive it? We’re blown away. Thank you, my sweet friends. Though many of us have never met or met only a time or two, you’ve made me feel your support across the miles. I couldn’t ask for better.

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