Author Archives: Robin

About Robin

I’m a wife, mother, grandma, retired teacher, gardener, knitter, and passionate reader. I live near Portland, Oregon, USA.

RIP XIII: The Keeper of Lost Causes

I read The Keeper of Lost Causes, by Jussi Adler-Olsen, a few weeks ago and it is one of those books that stays with you long after you finish it. The plot is complex, the characters very interesting, and the suspense keeps you turning pages long into the night.

When the story begins, Carl Mørck, a brilliant detective with an anti-social personality, is just coming back to work from medical leave after recovering from a tragic attack on his investigative team that resulted in the death of one of his partners, a crippling injury to his other partner, and a bullet wound that came very close to killing him. He recovered from the bullet wound, but he has not recovered from the emotional wounds.

Carl lay there a long time, as if he’d fainted, with his head full of desperate thoughts. They took his pulse and then drove off with him and his two partners. Only at the hospital did he open his eyes. They told him that his eyes had a dead look to them. They thought it was the shock, but it was from shame.

His return to the police department was not welcome. He was a difficult leader, a real loner, and nobody wanted to work with him. Fortunately, a new grant had just been given to the Chief to open up a new department that would investigate cold cases. It was to be called “Department Q” and Carl was given that job, with an office in the basement, and a huge backlog of unsolved cases, or “hopeless cases,” as the police chief called them.

The first case Carl chose to look at involved a popular politician who went missing five years earlier. Merete Lynggaard, had disappeared while on a ferry ride with her younger disabled brother. The case had been poorly investigated, no clues were found, the case had been shelved and everyone assumed she had fallen overboard and perished. She had not. She was still very much alive, but being held captive in very cruel conditions by an unknown assailant.

The course of solving this mystery was intricate and fascinating. Carl was given an assistant, Hafez el-Assad, a Syrian immigrant, to help him with the case. The two of them, both brilliant detectives, became quite an effective team. You got to know all the characters well enough to know why they each did what they did in the story. And it was one of those “unputdownable” books that kept you anxious and on alert until the very end.

Somewhere inside of him, where cause and effect were not weighed against each other, and where logic and explanations never challenged consciousness, in that place where thoughts could live freely and be played out against each other—right there in that spot, things fell into place, and he understood how it all fitted together.

This book is the first in a series by this author. I will definitely be reading more of them!


I read this book for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

Katherine Mansfield

Today is Katherine Mansfield’s birthday. She was born on this day in 1888 in Wellington, New Zealand, and died very young, at age 34. She wrote wonderful short stories, but years ago I read the book, Journal of Katherine Mansfield, and enjoyed it every bit as much as her stories. As I read through her journal, I copied down many quotes into my notebook (that was before computers!), and this is one of my favorites:

“Grownupedness”

Four o’clock. Is it light now at Four o’clock? I jump out of bed and run over to the window. It is half-light, neither black nor blue. The wing of the coast is violet; in the lilac sky there are dark banners and little black boats manned by black shadows put out on the purple water.

Oh! how often I have watched this hour when I was a girl! But then — I stayed at the window until I grew cold — until I was icy — thrilled by something — I did not know what. Now I fly back into bed, pulling up the clothes, tucking them into my neck. And suddenly, my feet find the hot water bottle. Heavens! it is still beautifully warm. That really is thrilling.

Katherine Mansfield having tea at her work table, at the Villa Isola Bella at Menton, in the south of France. (Photograph by Ida Baker, 1920)

Death in the Castle

The Classics Club issued a DARE for the month of October. Choose one book from my list of classics to be read in five years, and dare myself to read it.

“Simply read a CLASSIC book from your #CClist that you classify as thrilling, a mystery, or Gothic. It could even be a book or author that SCARES you (because of it’s length, it’s topic, it’s reputation etc).”

This sounded like a lot of fun to me, and it was a perfect blend with my RIP XIII challenge, as well as my 2018 TBR Pile challenge! So I chose to read Death in the Castle, by Pearl S. Buck, for both the Classics Club Dare 2.0 and for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

The old castle is a thousand years old, and although it has been in the family for generations, SIr Richard Sedgeley and his wife, Lady Mary, can no longer afford to keep it. The National Trust will only agree to take it over if they can turn it into a prison–not an acceptable option for the aging Sir Richard. However, a young and wealthy American is interested in it and wants to buy it. But he also wants to move the castle, stone by stone, to Connecticut! What a difficult dilemma for the aging owners of the castle!

He let the reins lie slack as he went and his eyes roved over the mellow landscape of field and forest. The afternoon light lengthened the shadows and deepened the gold of the willows and the green of growing wheat. In the distance the castle stood against the sunset in all its stately beauty. It was his home, his inheritance, and how could he give it up?

Lady Mary has always believed in “others who had lived in the castle and until now she had accepted the possibility of the persistence of the dead beyond life.” Not ghosts, but the life forces of those ancestors who lived there before her. And Lady Mary is quite sure that the Others can show her where some treasure is hidden so that they will have the money to save the castle.

“There’s no such thing as death, not really,” Lady Mary said. “It’s just a change to something—I’ve told you—another level of whatever it is that we call life. It’s only a transfer of energy. Can you understand? Please try, Kate! It would mean so much to me.

This was a story that involved mystery, intrigue, suspense. A gothic-type mystery is not the usual subject matter for a book by Pearl Buck, but it was, as always with her books, well-written and enjoyable to read. The suspense definitely worked for me because I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what would happen to the castle and the different characters. A fun read!

Books About Books

Isaac Israels – Girl Reading on Sofa, 1920

My early Saturday morning reading is fun! I am reading two books about books, and both came into my possession without any planning at all. My husband preordered one of the books as a lovely surprise for me, and it arrived in the mail this week. 1,000 Books to Read Before You Die: A Life-Changing List, by James Mustich,  weighs a ton and is filled with wonderful information about authors and books. It’s like an encyclopedia for readers, a wonderful resource to have and an enjoyable read! With 948 pages and small type, I don’t know when or if I will ever read it all the way through, but I will certainly use it a lot over the years, if I can wrestle it away from other family members!

The other book is from the library, found while perusing the shelves this week. A serendipitous find, considering that I didn’t know my husband had ordered the other book for me. This book is called Vintage Reading: From Plato to Bradbury, A Personal Tour of Some of the World’s Best Books, by Robert Kanigel. For many years, the author wrote a newspaper column for the Baltimore Sun called “Vintage Reads.” This book is an extension of those articles, and is full of fun and very readable essays on classics that appealed to him.

I love reading books about books, and these two are both fun reads and excellent resources!

RIP XIII: The Seer of Shadows

If you are interested in reading a good ghost story for the season then you must read The Seer of Shadows, by Avi. I know this book would have been a popular book to have on my classroom bookshelves for my 6th graders. My students always loved Avi’s books so I know this one would have been a popular choice for them to read. Eerie, fascinating, well-written and informative. It was easy to get caught in it and read it straight through.

From the  publisher, Harper Collins, 2008:

The time is 1872. The place is New York City. Horace Carpentine has been raised to believe in science and rationality. So as apprentice to Enoch Middleditch, a society photographer, he thinks of his trade as a scientific art. But when wealthy society matron Mrs. Frederick Von Macht orders a photographic portrait, strange things begin to happen.

Horace’s first real photographs reveal a frightful likeness:  it’s the image of the Von Machts’ dead daughter, Eleanora.

From the book:

It was like the process of developing a photograph I have described: as if the shadow were coming from some mystic depth, emerging from another world, taking, little by little, bodily shape and form until that shadow becomes . . . real. Exactly what I’d done for Eleanora’s spirit!

…The facts of the matter were perfectly clear—though surely not normal. My picture taking had summoned a ghost, and not just any ghost, but one bent on murder!

Avi is a wonderful writer and storyteller! This was a spooky and fun read for both middle grade readers…and us older folk!

Click here to visit Avi’s web site.

 

This was my fifth book read for Readers Imbibing Peril, XIII.

 

Reflections: September 2018

Reflections on the Columbia River, September 2018…

September was both a busy reading month and a busy family month! At the first of the month, I  happily joined the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge, hosted by Heather (@Capricious Reader) and Andi (@Estella’s Revenge) and got right to the job of reading from the list of genres that make up the focus of this challenge. It continues until the end of October, which is great because I’m really enjoying reading the books I chose.

I took a reading and blogging break in the middle of the month to travel to Salt Lake City for my mother’s Celebration of Life. It was a beautiful celebration of a life well-lived. My husband and I enjoyed the road trip, being with family, and spending time in the beautiful Rose Garden at Red Butte Garden where we have my parents’ memorial bench. Both my parents donated their bodies to the University of Utah Medical School, so the Garden and the bench are extra special to us, and the bench is a cherished place we visit a often as we can. The bench itself sits in the Rose Garden surrounded by beautiful roses, which they both loved, and is a happy, peaceful place for us to spend time.

My reading has been a great solace to me in the last two months. My extra hour of reading in the afternoon, dedicated to my Mom, has been wonderful! So despite the long-distance road trip, and all the planning that took up so much time, I was able to enjoy 7 books in September. It really should be 8 books, because I am almost finished with Rosamunde Pilcher’s, September, but, unfortunately, I won’t finish it before midnight tonight.

My September reads:

 

 

She lives in my heart and mind…

My mother’s Celebration of Life was held last Saturday and it was lovely. It turned out to be a perfect day weather-wise and the location in the Rose House at Red Butte Garden, looking out at the Rose Garden and my father’s memorial bench, was perfect, as well. My three brothers and I each spoke about her, and one of my sisters-in-law read some of my grandmother’s poetry. My oldest brother played “Amazing Grace” on his alto flute, and then we all visited with many friends and cousins, enjoying the beauty of the Garden, and saying goodbye, each in our own way, to this beautiful, amazing woman.  She wrote the words in the caption to the photo below, words about her own mother. They say it so well for me, too!

“She lives in my heart and mind. Not always consciously, but she is so much a part of me that I can feel her with me always…”

I’ve shared a lot with you about my mother and recently about losing her. She was an integral part of this blog right from the beginning in 2007, was my focused audience for much of my writing, and was also a contributor with her own book reviews. It was another way for us to share our passion for reading with each other, and with you. I still have things she wrote in the last few years with this blog in mind, so I will continue to occasionally post about her and share those book responses as I return to my full-time blogging.

You have all been so kind in your thoughts and comments to me during this time of loss and mourning and celebration of a life well-lived, and I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

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