Sunday, March 30, 2014

False Prophet

Remember way last week when I told you about fellow blogger Donna Banta's book The Girls of Fourth Ward? Well I had already started the sequel, False Prophet. By the end of Sunday afternoon I had finished it and guess what? It was even better than the first! The fast paced action scenes, the strange rituals, and a few LOL moments made it difficult to put down. Not to say that I didn't have to put it down, because I still had to take bathroom breaks, do a few farm chores, and take a few minutes to be sociable, but other than that I just kept reading.

The book starts again in Abbotsville about a year and a half after The Girls From Fourth Ward ends. There has been another murder. Detective Ryan is called to the scene where he sees a body, face down, in a pool of blood. "His other hand was wedged beneath his chest, forcing an unnatural bulge. I pulled out a pair of latex gloves from my coat pocket. "Would you guys pick him up? I want to see what's underneath."
    Gatz and Mosely lifted in tandem. I squatted down and turned over a blood soaked leather volume. Gold embossed letters spelled The Book of Mormon.
    I shut my eyes and whispered, " Jesus Christ. Not again."
Later, sister Zimmerman who is at least nine months pregnant (glad I am not a woman) and questioning her Mormon ways, helps Detective Ryan go into the temple (he has already been loaned the special temple wardrobe in a suitcase from a gay ex-Mormon) to find more evidence for his investigation. His presence at the secret ceremony is awkward to say the least, as he has never gone through the wardrobe changes required and he ends up running, in his 'sacred outfit' like a halfback over "a low wall that overlooked what appeared to be a gentle slope of ivy. It was my best hope. I took the wall in a flying leap.
   Turned out the gentle slope was more like an ivy-covered cliff. I latched onto a sturdy vine, but it unraveled from the clump like the hem of a cheap sweater and then broke free, leaving me to tumble downhill like a dislodged stone. I landed in a gully, came to my knees, spit out a mouthful of ivy, swiped more leaves off my arms and shook like a wet dog to get to the rest."
There is a wedding scene later on that Ryan crashes in order to do some more questioning and put some more pieces together. The young woman getting married is one of the girls from the first book. Ryan thinks, "I craned my neck to get a look at the poor bastard she'd tricked into marrying her. The kid resembled a young George W. Bush, only sober."

I won't give away any more. Suffice it to say if you want a good mystery with familiar and unfamiliar scenes (unless you are knowledgeable about Mormons),  great plot twists and wonderful characters (some likeable and some not), you will like this book.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Is it Spring yet?

The quick answer is  no, not yet. Still just a little below zero in the morning and a few inches off fresh snow to make it feel like Winter Solstice instead of Spring Equinox. Granted, this is an unusual winter, but not unheard of, and we have definitely been here before. At least the blue sky and sunshine have given me some opportunities to start coming out of hibernation.

Even though the ride to work is still the ride to work, it is bringing a small promise of things to come. As soon as the ice melts.

   The little harbor in the little town is still locked up and there were people flying kites on it last week. Unfortunately, I didn't get any kite pictures, but the breakwall and lighthouse  are patiently waiting for the relentless waves of Superior to challenge their right to exist.

It is about two miles down the hill to the shore of Gitchigumee, so I don't see the details unless I just hang around the shore. There are still some old cabins and fish houses from days past that can be seen. Some are still occasionally occupied and others are completely abandoned. I have wanted to document this one before a big wave shatters it into a memory.

The Girls From Fourth Ward

Fellow blogger, Donna Banta, always has something to say. I have listened to her for several years and have been educated and entertained along the way. Her insight into human behavior and its quirks have given her a unique perspective that add to her story telling ability. That she is a former Mormon adds a window into another world most of us are unaware of. Even old Mitt Romney did not give us a clue as to what they are about. If he had, I doubt he would have gotten quite so far. The fact that Ms. Banta is no longer a Mormon would lead me to think she has a bias. Well, of course she does, but she has never shown any bitterness. That led me to read about other Mormons who are still practicing and many who are not. Donna doesn't insult Mormons or have the bitterness that some others do for ruining their lives, which is refreshing, but her humor and understanding make for a great read.
The Girls From Fourth Ward,  is a terrific whodunit set in the fictional town of Abbotsville which is also featured in her blog Ward Gossip. (This detective story came out almost two years ago and I had to apologize to Donna for just getting around to reading it last week. Two years ago was about the time I started reading mysteries and zeroed in on my fascination with Iceland.)

Bishop Loomis is  "confident of his own opinion, secure in his relationships, and proud of his work in the Kingdom of God." In the next moments he is shot and killed. Who could do such a thing and why? Detective Lieutenant Matt Ryan and his new partner Detective Sergeant Stella Romano have the task of finding out. They soon discover the world of "lemonade and brownies", the naivete,  and gender roles of the subculture of the Mormon church. What is it that would drive four young women to extremes just to get into BYU?

The families, individuals, and "the girls" are very realistically portrayed. I could swear I have met some people exactly like them in my own world. Spooky in some ways, but enormously entertaining.
It took me two days to read this because I have obligations around the farm, some animal, some human. I highly recommend this book.


 The same day I finished reading this I downloaded Donna's next book, False Prophet.

Click The Image Below To Order My Novels.

Due to the same constraints as before plus my day job, I only got 1/4 of the way through False Prophet on the first sitting. It picks up about a year later in Abbotsville and promises to be at least as good as the first. Donna has forced me to organize my day so that I can have blocks of reading time. You knew you could do that, didn't you Ms. Banta?


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Beware the Ides of March

According to Shakespeare this is the day your loyal friends might stab you in the back. Reminds me of the O'Jays back in '72.

Fortunately for me I never really had to deal with backstabbers as I tried to stay away from people like that. The reality is that by the middle of March things are usually looking up. The winter doldrums are fading in the lengthening daylight and attitudes are improving by leaps and bounds. It doesn't hurt to be lucky once in a while, either.

For example, the boss and I went down south to Duluth for a buying show put on by one of our main wholesalers. They have various drawings and giveaways and even a few direct cash rebates when you buy stuff to sell. The prices are about the best we'll see during the year, so it's a money maker for the owners and gets a better deal for our customers. Being a small lumber yard in the boondocks we don't qualify for a lot of goodies. This time though, we came back with enough cash to give everyone at work $100 and we also have a new large stainless steel grill to cook our lunches on. We also got a few more items like a cooler and some outdoor furniture which we will give away to our customers with a drawing in the near future. It was good that we brought the pickup truck to the show. We also had a 4 foot tall Pink Panther riding in between us on the way back. Quite a haul for a couple of bumpkins! Especially when people refer to the Twin Cities and we think they are talking about Beaver Bay and East Beaver Bay, populations 181 and 40 respectively.

Another lucky thing is morning rush hour traffic. Here I stopped to take a look at the ice to see if there was anything interesting and you can see the other two vehicles in the distance (click on the picture). So much for the traffic and the snow is starting to pull away from the road.

The local fauna is something we sometimes take for granted. I saw a dark spot on the ice and changed lenses on the camera to see what it was. Of course it saw me get out of the car and flew away so I grabbed a couple of quick pics just to see if I could follow an object doing about 50mph. Well, I sort of can, but I need to practice.

Then I got lucky one more time to find it down the road a bit in the top of a tall spruce tree. It's getting time for them to think of nesting.

One more bit of luck came last week when one of the cats was making noise while looking out at the bird feeder. This is not unusual, but what it was squeaking at was. Grabbed the camera for a quick shot from the inside of the house, but went with the autofocus (a mistake in judgement) as I knew I would only have a moment. I wouldn't normally keep or show an out of focus shot, but this is a bit of a rare sighting.

A sleepy Boreal Owl staying up past its bedtime.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Spring harbingers

When we put the horses in last night it was -12F (-24C) and the wind was picking up pushing the windchill to painful limits. When I woke up this morning (no, this is not the opening lyric of a blues song) the wind had done its job and driven the predawn temperature to -25F (-32C). It's friggin' March for god's sake! At least the wind had died down and the dog lasted for about two minutes before attempting to walk on some combination of three legs. Put the dog back in and went with Stitch to let the horses out of the barn. It was 0F (-17C) in the barn and their noses were a bit frosty, but the sun was coming up and would give them some comfort.

BUT, there was a definite harbinger of spring yesterday! I know, if there are no pics it didn't happen. Well, guess what? I grabbed a couple of quick shots just to prove it. The ravens are starting to build their nests and already looking for and finding insulation. Our mare, Vedas starts to shed about the first of the year and is now blowing her coat. The ravens know this after years of observation and decided to take advantage of the situation while keeping their feet warm at the same time.
I apologize for the picture quality as I didn't have a long lens and I was in a hurry, but you can get the basic gist of what was going on. So now we have  documented evidence of another symbiotic relationship between species. Not that I haven't seen horse hair in bird's nests, but this is the first time I have seen them take it directly from the horse with the horse's approval. ("My name is Vedas and I approve this evidence.")

The big lake has nearly frozen entirely which doesn't happen very often. This is what it looks like on the way to work.
I like the way the Mountain Ash berries stay so red. They are a food source for a lot of birds, but I have never tried one. At these temperatures I would probably break a tooth if I did.
A few days ago it warmed up enough to snow. When I got to work it looked like icing on a cake when I looked up at the hills across highway 61. The humidity had made things a bit frosty to add to the effect.
But all good things must come to an end. By the end of this week it might warm up to freezing and the melting process will begin. Will we have epic flooding or will it be a gradual melting, refreezing, more snowing, occasional raining kind of spring? I would guess the latter, but I'm not in charge so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.