Evening in Reinland

I went to college many years ago and studied photography. I have used all sorts of different cameras and found that the best camera is the one that you have with you, and that the smaller the camera the more likely it is that you will have it with you. You can see evidence of this by looking at all the pictures that people take with their cell phones.

So I found a small camera that fits in my pocket. The problem with small cameras is that even though they are small enough to take with you, they are also small enough to lose. So a few weeks ago I was showing my in-laws some pictures that I had just taken, and then I set it down while we had coffee and promptly lost it. This meant that I couldn't share this photo with you until now.

looking east at night.

From the first time I took a picture at night I've always been facinated by the way long exposures make everything look magical. My newest digital camera is the first one that does a decent job of long exposures. I'll try to bring you a few more of these in the coming weeks.

 

What I'm Reading Now: 10 March 11 edition

 

Deadly Dues --Linda Kupecek (couldn’t get into it)
The third child -- Marge Piercy (couldn’t get into it)
Exposed (SEVENS: week 2)-- Scott Wallens (YA)
Pushed (SEVENS: week 3)-- Scott Wallens (YA)
A rush of blood-- Quintin Jardine
Lost and found--John Glatt (True Crime)
The Taken--Inger Ash Wolfe
Blood of the prodigal and Broken English-- P.L. Gaus
Broken circle: the dark legacy of Indian residential schools--Theodore Fontaine (memoir)
Agent X--Noah Boyd

The SEVENS series by Scott Wallens.
SEVENS is a series of (no surprise) seven books about seven teens. They were all friends when they were ten, but something happened then to tear them apart. Now their paths are crossing again. All of them have their problems, some of which are obvious at the outset: Peter, for one, is in a wheelchair as the result of a car accident. Other problems are revealed more slowly: Jane is overloaded with college preparations, and her parents have opposing expectations of her. Danny has bipolar disorder, and the medications he’s taking are making it impossible for him to do anything creative or even feel anything.
So far I’ve only read the first three books, although I expect to read the other four within the next couple of weeks. I can tell you a few things about the series so far. Each book focuses primarily on one teen, with scenes with some of the others appearing occasionally. The writing is realistic, and the plot lines are gripping. The something that happened when the teens were seven is being revealed in dribs and drabs,  and the connections between them today are growing believably. The one complaint I have is that all the adults so far are out of touch with the kids around them. I realize that’s the way it often feels when you’re seventeen, but surely there could be one sympathetic adult somewhere... But even with that, I can hardly wait to see how the various situations will resolve themselves.

The taken by Inger Ash Wolfe
I started reading this book before realizing it was the second in a series. (The first, The calling, is now in my must-read pile.) I’m not entirely sure if Wolfe is a Canadian writer, but The taken is set in Port Dundas, Ontario, a small town that sees minimal crime. Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef is recovering from back surgery in the home of her ex-husband and his new wife when two sport fishermen pull up what appears to be a headless body. Her interim replacement, DC James Wingate, points out that it’s too much of a coincidence that this discovery parallels the first chapter in a mystery serialized in the local paper... Someone is setting up clues for them to follow, with deadly results if they fail... and possibly even if they succeed.
Wolfe’s writing is excellent-- evocative, yet to the point. The trail is clever, and has the whiff of madness to it while staying believable. There are a few moments where I winced at the grimness of the images evoked, which I suspect was the intended reaction. Definitely a good read, and as I said, I’ve got the first one in the stack of must-reads beside the sofa.

 

What I’m Reading Now: 04Mar11 Edition

All right... since I last posted, I have read:
Lie after lie-- Lara Bricker (True Crime)
Disordered minds-- Minette Walters
Fatal error-- J.A. Jance
Cast a blue shadow--  P.L. Gaus
51/50: the magical adventures of a single life--  Kristen McGuinness (memoir--alcoholics, family relationships, dating)
Fever of the bone-- Val McDermid
Chalice--Robin McKinley (YA Fantasy)
The Bricklayer--Noah Boyd

It’s been a busy week, and we were out at the Arrogant Worms concert last night, which is why today’s blog post is late. It was well worth it, though-- the guys were in fabulous form, and I even got to heckle them, just the tiniest bit...

 

Fever of the bone, by Val McDermid (2010). You may or may not be familiar with the TV series Wire in the blood, but it’s based on characters by Val McDermid. Tony Hill is a profiler; Carole Jordan is a Detective Inspector. They work together, and  they’re friends, but there’s always something in the air that says there might be more--if they could ever get rid of their baggage, and each of them has a lot. Fever of the bone is the newest in the Hill/Jordan series, and it brings out some deeply-hidden backstory for Hill. It also provides a new and possibly
hopeless challenge for Jordan: a new superior who has no use for the priorities she and her team have, and certainly none for their practice of calling in outside consultant Hill. It’s almost a relief when a
major crime comes their way and takes the focus off them. But the crime becomes a series of crimes: children missing, then found (within hours or days) mutilated and dead.

Confession time: I have totally given up on one of McDermid’s series, the Lindsay Gordon series, as the main character grates on my nerves, and I was able to predict one of the plot twists thirty pages before Gordon did. The Kate Brannigan series is good fun, written with a light touch.  Jordan/Hill, though, is outright amazing. McDermid has a great sense of timing, and the plot twists here are unexpected and delightfully shocking. Why I would so enjoy one series and not the other, I can’t explain, but I recommend reading the Hill/Jordan series and avoiding Lindsay Gordon.

The bricklayer,by Noah Boyd (2010).  This was my find for the week-- I’ve been recommending Boyd to everyone I know who reads David Baldacci or Lee Child.  The bricklayer is a first novel, but you can’t tell-- Boyd has the pacing, suspense, and inventiveness of an experienced writer.
Steve Vail is the bricklayer. He used to be FBI, but he’s got a problem with authority and toeing the line, and bricklaying is more suited to his temperament. He’s about to be pulled back into the Bureau, though,because someone is blackmailing the FBI. The Pentad wants money, or they’ll kill someone prominent, and they want it on their terms, in absolute secrecy. The FBI wants the Pentad stopped before it costs them money and, oh yes, before they get the blame for some public figure’s death. They think that Steve Vail’s low profile and unconventional methods will get the job done. They may even be right...
The book is a thrill ride, and Vail is a very interesting character, somehow heroic and anti-heroic at the same time. I just picked up the
sequel,
Agent X. Guess what I’ll be reading this coming week... (And imagine my delight when I found out that the third Steve Vail thriller is slated for publication in July of this year.)
Yes. Read Noah Boyd. He’s that good.

What I’m reading now: Amish mystery edition

Apparently I’ve had a lot of time to read this week. Here’s the list:
Sworn to silence-- Linda Castillo (& Pray for Silence)
They fight like soldiers, they die like children-- Gen. Romeo Dallaire
The man who risked his partner-- Stephen R Donaldson
Chasing the night-- Iris Johansen
Trail of blood-- Lisa Black (also Takedown and Evidence of murder)
Burying Ariel--Gail Bowen
The girl in the green raincoat--Laura Lippman
A prayer for the night-- P.L. Gaus
Shattered--Scott Wallens

I’ve come across two authors in the last couple of weeks who write mysteries set in the Amish community.

Sworn to Silence and Pray for Silence by Linda Castillo (2009, 2010)
Police Chief Kate Burkholder used to be Amish, but now she’s under the bann. However, she’s come back to her home community of Painter Mills to make a life for herself.  Now she’s trying to solve a serial-killer murder while keeping a dark secret from her past in her past (Sworn to Silence).Then, ten months later, the slaying of an entire family brings back memories that threaten her ability to to do her job, and to hold on to her emotional equilibrium (Pray for Silence).
Castillo has written a number of books previously, mostly Harlequins and Berkley Sensation, and her skills in writing show. She shows both the Amish and the English communities in a balanced light, and as far as I can tell, her picture of Amish life is accurate. Excellent writing, great suspense, well-developed characters, and twisty plots have won me over-- I’m waiting for the next one (Breaking Silence), due out in June 2011.

A Prayer for the Night by PL Gaus (2005, reissued 2011)
I was intrigued to find two titles by PL Gaus on the new book shelf at the library. There are seven so far in this series (see www.plgaus.com for more information), with another coming out later this year. Gaus’s series is something of a gentler read than Castillo, but it’s every bit as compelling to read. The main characters are Pastor Caleb Troyer, Professor Michael Branden, and Sheriff Bruce Robertson, childhood friends who still depend on each other to help out. Troyer is a connection into the Amish world, and understands Pennsylvania Dutch, which can be helpful. Robertson is the law connection, and Branden provides a connection or two of his own, as well as a keen understanding of the world and human psychology.
In A Prayer for the Night, two Amish boys go missing, and after their friend Sara asks for Troyer’s help, she disappears, too. All three-- plus another six Amish youth-- are a part of a group going through Rumschpringe, the “wild days” Amish youth are permitted before making a final decision to commit to the church and community. Most Rumschpringe are more mild than wild-- occasional weekends wearing English clothes, going to movies, and visiting the odd bar-- but Sara and her friends are in way over their heads.
Gaus has serious credentials when it comes to the Amish culture, and it shows. The people and community are lovingly depicted, and the plot twists are all credible. I plan on reading the rest of the series.