Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book Review: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

I keep saying that I'll pick back up my reading speed, but I continue to feel too worn down to focus as well or as much as I'd like.  I suppose the good side is that I have a "to read" pile and am not fretting about being book-less (an odd comment given the "library" in the basement....I do believe in re-reading, a position eased by a limited memory).  This one was slated for reading in the fall, but late is better than never!

Mystery isn't one of my most-loved genre, but I have a great fondness for novels with a sense of place and that is what drew me to this novel (provided by the kind folks at Harper).  The setting is Belle Vie, a former sugar cane plantation turned tourist attraction and event space in Louisiana.  Caren Gray traces her family back to field slaves, including one who stayed on after being freed following the Civil War and disappeared in a never-solved mystery.  Caren's late mother worked at Belle Vie and, along with her young daughter, Caren has returned to serve as the site's manager.  The novel opens as a body is found in one of the preserved slave cabins.  The victim is later identified as a migrant cane worker employed by a neighboring farm recently taken over by a large corporation.  Caren grows interested in finding the murderer, in part because the police are focusing on an employee that she believes is innocent, and also in uncovering more about her own roots.  In a side plot, Caren's ex-boyfriend arrives because of their shared concerns for their daughter's safety, pulling complex feelings to the surface, emotions heightened by his approaching wedding to another woman.

This novel earns 3.5 stars from me, a rating I am inclined to round down to make the "full star"-only sites happy.  Locke is clearly aiming for social commentary in the novel, both relating to our view of the past (emphasized by the play put on daily that shows slaves who love living and working on the plantation) and commenting on the current world of migrant farm work.  This gets a bit too heavy-handed and overt, she's trying to show rather than tell but it needs some work.  The mystery element was above-average, better than some typical detective stories and well-related to the other elements of the story.  The sense of place was a plus. It allowed me to visit a distinct region, but I still felt it had some room for improvement.  As for relationships, I wanted to see more of Caren's daughter and less of her ex.  It also felt like some characters were tossed in, there for color (that's not intended to refer to race) and not fully rounded.  Overall, the highlight of the book is Locke's talent for crafting language.  She writes beautifully.  I can't decide if this is praise or criticism, but my ultimate verdict is on The Cutting Season is that the language trumped the plot.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Rambler Raves (pssstt....i save the best for last)

Apologies for the silence...I really intended to step up my blogging efforts but that just hasn't happened.  I'm dealing with some uncertainty on the back front (that phrase amuse me) and the pain's been rough.  It often saps my mental capacity and it has been taking longer to do my ghost-writing law blog posts so I have been neglecting this little corner.  I'd say I intend to rectify that, but I'm nervous about even making promises to myself.

Anyway, a simpler post today, making good use of my beloved bullet points and sharing some of the things your Rambler is loving these days:
  • I have a love/hate relationship with my hair.  I got it cut recently and she took a bit more than usual and threw in a few more layers.  I'm finding it really tough to control and relying on my recently acquired flat iron when I need to look decent.  However, I'm loving Treseemme's Cashmere Touch Hyrdating Serum.  Left alone, my hair can feel kinda course and rough, but a few pumps of this product makes my hair feel nice and soft.
  • I'm a new convert to Greek Yogurt.  No real brand rave here, I pick a lower calorie version which isn't always truly the best health option, but I have become a fan of the thicker texture and added protein boost.
  • On a less healthy note, Jelly Belly Belly Flops rock.  They need to be ordered but they are still a major cost saver compared to the regular packs, especially given my addiction to them.  You get the leftovers that are misshapen or otherwise imperfect.  They warn that it may include some of the icky flavors from their specialty Harry Potter themed packs, but I've only had a few that tasted funky.  Most are from the typical 40 flavor pouches.
  • On the "stuff normal folks don't talk about" front, I am a horrible teeth grinder.  One dentist said I was "impressive" after I chewed right through two temporary crowns, one metal.  After chewing through an expensive dentist-ordered night guard, I tried drugstore types.  I never found the "boil" ones comfortable and chewed through them pretty quickly.  The Sleep Right Guard has been MUCH better and much more durable.  I did actually trim it a bit to make it better for my small mouth but will try their "slim" option next (lasts longer, but not forever...I've had mine about a year and expect I have a couple months left).  It is one of the pricier drugstore options, but it definitely saved me money over time.  They do offer replacement if you chew through it or have other issues w/in a three or six month time frame (depends on specific style).
  • I have an inability to not glance at clearance sections, including a small area in our local grocery store.  I picked up a Sweet Vanilla Fig body wash and lotion set for something like $6....the website lists it at $25.  Love the scent and the fact that it is from a small company that focuses on natural ingredients. 
  • I'm moving slowly, but I am still enjoying reading for Harper....hoping to have the final pages of a book done and a new review up soon.
  • And, the best rave of all, adapted from my recent Facebook status, posted during a mini-getaway with MM -- Best hotel upgrade yet... Checked in with a boyfriend,  checking out with a fiancĂ©!  Love you more, mister. I couldn't have even imagined finding a partner as wonderful as you. Thanks for giving me the honor of saying "YES! "

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Playin' With the Calendar -- January 32, 2013

The word "irony" is overused.  And this is not a true case of irony.  But I'm still tempted to call it ironic...  (P.S. I will come fix this soon.  I am writing as my sleepytime meds are starting to work...still awake, but prone to beinga bit :off:)

I'd just left Pain Shrink.  I'd pretty much used the whole hour just updating him on the mess that was January.  Actually, I started with a bit of the holidays since I'd seen him last before Christmas when MM and I went up to his mom and tried to make her a holiday despite her being in the rehab center following her triple bypass.  Pain Shrink remarked that he'd heard of plenty of bad months, but very few that had as many hits as January did for us (I'd actually cancelled a prior appt because we were out of town for one of the funerals). 

We actually booked an appointment in two weeks rather than the usual three or four since we hadn't gotten to cover much about pain (and January raised a lot of issues...plus the pain has been and remains pretty awful).  I decided, actually with his blessing, to stop for a bottle of wine.  I also realized I had forgotten to send an email and, at a light, pulled out a paper where I'd noted some mileage information on the car.  I wanted to send an email from my phone and to do so from the lot before I forgot.  I wanted to clarify that Betty (my 2000 Acura) was actually getting under 7,500 miles annually now that Fred (the Buick) is also in our household/on my plan. 

So, vented on January, prepped to send an email to my State Farm agent, and turned in to hit the wine store around 4:30 on Feb 1.  And, in what wasn't true "irony" but I still want to call ironic, my car got hit by a woman backing out of a spot.  Oddly, I'd noticed a guy a little further up and wasn't sure he was looking so I was going even slower than usual parking lot aisle speed.  I did not, however, see the woman on the passenger side until it was too late and she was coming at me. 

The woman was nice and apologized immediately (yes, they tell you not to do that, but frankly I appreciated it and we both knew it was clearly her fault).  Her car had a bit of damage.  Betty has a bit more...it is a bad enough dent that it became an outright hole in the front-most panel (just a bit off from the bumper) and a broken light.  The lady asked if I wanted to report it or deal with it privately.  I said I thought we needed to call the cops but that I didn't have the number and didn't want to call 911 if we could avoid it.  She had the number so placed the call.  Oddly, at that moment, my phone rang with MM's tone.  I told him I'd been in a nasty fender bender but was okay.  He asked where I was.  I said he didn't need to come but told him I was near the Wal-Mart (yes, it shares a lot with the wine store) .  He was actually right at the intersection/enterance to the store.  So he came, mostly just kept me company.  I did warn the other folks (female driver, male passenger) that my boyfriend was coming since he was nearby and said it wasn't at all b/c either of us was upset and they'd been perfectly nice...probably should have mentioned he'd be in uniform (looks like a general Air Force uniform, no real distinction for the Guard).

No one was hurt.  I did feel jolted a bit and ALL of me tightened so that includes the painful laces.  I made sure not to mention the preexisting medical mess....she didn't need worry about being dragged into some horrid fight (since I have no doubt some people would go after it all and try to blame the whole injury on her and find a coattail to ride on for paying for injury treatment.

Anyway, we waited.  Cop came and took my statement and then hers (without the other driver present so don't truly know what she said but she seemed to be an honest lady).  Told us to exchange info (we had already, it was too cold to stand outside so we did mostly wait in our cars but got the info done).  Basically said that we should call our insurance folks and they'll deal with the rest.  He noted some insurance companies tell the driver to obtain the police report....if you do that, they charge you 10-15 bucks.  The officer said he personally would argue that the insurance co should get it, more for the principle than for the $15.

So, yeah.  I did make a loop before continuing to the wine store....just felt weird to go right from the incident.  talked to my State Farm folks.  if she's honest, i don't even pay the $500 deductible.  And there is a shop that is on their Preferred List that also works for us.  I'll call tomorrow (Monday) ad then leave it to get an estimate.  Hopefully I won't need to be involved in any of the discussions of cost because the insurer get billed directly.  Likely going to do the rental car.  I pay 20%, they pay 80%, I'm allowed to do the intermediate but will go economy and it won't be a big cost for having access to a car (we have two others, Bill will be taking the Buick, I am NOT driving the Vette in the current weather). 

So, let's just decide that was January 32nd.  Saturday, a nice quiet home day, is the start of the new and improved month of February.