It is time for another meeting of Juliette’s Book Club. Today our theme is PIE.
2020 has sucked in so many ways, starting with fires in Australia, and now fires in California with a pandemic, stupid nasty politics, and an assortment of other bullshit we’ve had to deal with. That includes crappy books. I can’t even count the number of books my husband and I have started in 2020 and not finished because they were THAT BAD. These included books by so called best selling authors.
On my way down to visit my daughter earlier this month I unfortunately left my book at the airport in the security area. Ugh. It was a good one too. Double Ugh.
Fortunately my child has the good fortune of living near a bookstore. There I picked up Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz.
I can’t put this book down. We have a WINNER. It is a book within a book, done inthe most brilliant and clever way. Magpie Murders is so much fun. I haven’t finished it yet so if you have don’t give away the ending. As you can see in the photo my bookmark is still in it.
Here is the official description:
When editor Susan Ryeland is given the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest novel, she has no reason to think it will be much different from any of his others. After working with the bestselling crime writer for years, she’s intimately familiar with his detective, Atticus Pünd, who solves mysteries disturbing sleepy English villages. An homage to queens of classic British crime such as Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers, Alan’s traditional formula has proved hugely successful. So successful that Susan must continue to put up with his troubling behavior if she wants to keep her job.
Conway’s latest tale has Atticus Pünd investigating a murder at Pye Hall, a local manor house. Yes, there are dead bodies and a host of intriguing suspects, but the more Susan reads, the more she’s convinced that there is another story hidden in the pages of the manuscript: one of real-life jealousy, greed, ruthless ambition, and murder.
Masterful, clever, and relentlessly suspenseful, Magpie Murders is a deviously dark take on vintage English crime fiction in which the reader becomes the detective.
Thank you Anthony Horowitz for writing a book I don’t have to throw in the recycle bin.
Halloween is almost here so once again I have to mention my favorite Halloween book Halloween Pie by Michael O. Tunnell and Kevin O’Malley.
When the kids were small we checked this out from the library all year long. Then one day we checked it out only to discover some little puke had ripped half of the pages (some completely gone) and used a purple crayon on the rest of the pages. Of course the adult who’d been in charge of the spawn didn’t tell the librarian about the destruction and offer to replace the book. At that point I got my own copy of the book.
This is a wonderful tale of a witch who baked a pie and all of the graveyard ghouls who said “GIVE ME SOME PIE.” There is even a recipe in the back so you can make your own Halloween Pie.
Everyone loves pie, or at least they should. Even Vampires who can’t tolerate sweets well love pie.
So with that introduction I’ll introduce you to the BEST cookbook ever:
BAKED, New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, with photographs by Tina Rupp.
I heard (don’t correct me if I’m wrong) that these were the guys who invented salted caramel.
Everything in this beautiful book is amazing. If you follow the instructions you will think you’re a Food TV Star. You’ll be doing the happy dance. Everyone around you will be doing the happy dance.
If you have just one book for baking BAKED is the one book to have. Trust me on this one.
Now I feel like I’ve gained 20 pounds just writing this post.
I’ll see you soon for another meeting of Juliette’s Book Club.
An angel came into my life today upon a cloud of pink bows, with ruby lips and chestnut curls. Her laugh is like tiny musical bells. Her eyes sparkle in the candlelight with joy that lights up the dark night sky.
August 5, 1889
We walked tonight along the parkway, her arm in mine. She has the knowledge of the ages, but the lighthearted composure of a young girl.
With any other woman I would have thought she was brazen and forward, but when she kissed me I felt as though the heavens would open up and swallow us in light.
August 8, 1889
Tonight we attended the Opera. She scanned the audience and smiled after waving to a friend. In her blue gown and pearls she was a rare flower in a sea of withering beauties. I am undone by her.
I declared my love tonight. Another kiss, but it was that of a woman’s passion and not that of a young innocent girl. We consummated our love in a fury of desire. Then I found myself alone, feeling weak, my neck ached and my head spun. Yet, I have never felt so good in all my life.
September 8, 1889
Today when I saw her it was as if she had put me in a trance. Ahhhh, another night of passion.
September 10, 1889
She laughs at the drop of a pin. It never takes much to amuse her. She told me she couldn’t be serious all the time. Her brother Valentine is much the same. He watches over her and I believe he knows but says nothing. I love her and like him tremendously but I wonder how he could be so dispassionate knowing how I use his sister. It is a guilt I am willing to live with.
September 11, 1889
I asked her to be my wife. I expected a resounding yes. I am wealthy and can give her any material comfort she wishes. My social connections are outstanding. My passion can match hers. She stroked my face with her hand and told me how handsome I am and how kind. The answer was no. My heart fell into darkness.
September 12, 1889
Two men came to my door asking if I knew Juliette. I was shocked to see them, dressed in long black coats with weapons at their sides. They told me such news that I could hardly believe them and almost ordered them out of my sight.
They said she was a demon from the depths of hell. They said I should take her to my bed one last time and then plunge a knife into her heart and cut off her head.
What Hell is this that they spoke of? They called her a Vampire. My angel.
September 13, 1889
I confronted her tonight. She stood in her dress decorated in pink and yellow roses. Her milk white shoulders waiting to be touched and her red lips waiting to be kissed. I thought she would cry at such horrible accusations. She only said “Don’t speak with those men again or I will leave your life forever.”
“Are you a creature from Hell?” I asked her.
She said “I am a child of darkness but I carry no evil in me. Do you not feel comfort and well being after you’re with me? Do you not feel safe? I will always keep you safe. I will always keep those who would harm you away. I will do that for you and for your family, if you promise not to speak of this again.”
September 17, 1943
After I married she never came back, but my children and their children had charmed lives with miraculous happenings. My dear wife expressed the same thoughts. From time to time I think I see my Juliette in the shadows and hear her laugh, and then chills go down my spine and I can’t help but smile.
~ Oscar Ambrose
Note from Juliette 9/17/2013: He was so sweet. I put down the journal and stroked the cat curled next to me. The sweet cat I named after the sweet man. My brother and I still watch over his family and keep them out of harm’s way. It is the least I can do.
I had a visitor this week. My brother Val and my dear ancient Tellias decided to go backpacking and dropped Eleora off to stay with me.
Tellias and Eleora are ancient. They look young but they’re extremely old. Nobody knew exactly how old Eleora is. The date changed over the years.
She was like the actress who had been born in 1948 but by the time she died Wikipedia listed her year of birth as 1959. As an aging sex symbol who had a long productive career with no leading roles nobody seemed to notice when she retired to her Long Beach cottage with her tribe of small dogs and assorted cats.
Her body was found by her son who was a product of the third of her five marriages. He hadn’t heard from his mother in a week so he went to check on her.
Hermes the black Manx cat was sitting on the front porch wearing the platinum and diamond tennis bracelet her fourth husband had given her after she kicked him out for cheating on her with a local state congresswoman. Hermes was frantically meowing to get in. On the porch was a dry water bowl and several packages from Fed-X and Amazon.
Inside he found his mother on the couch looking like she’d fallen asleep. The TV was still on. She’d been dead for three days. A bottle of high-end boutique vodka was on the table along with a small bowl of assorted opiate based painkillers. One the mantel next to the urn containing his elder sister’s ashes (from the first marriage) was a tiny bundle containing the remains of his mother’s last dog. It was a tiny teacup poodle names Chester, whom she always had dyed purple. On the table next to the vodka bottle was the receipt from the vet for the euthanasia services was from three days ago.
That meant Hermes had been outside alone without food for way too long. He fed the cat and made some phone calls.
After he called his brother (2ndmarriage) and remaining sister (4thmarriage) he called his father. Growing up he’d lived mostly with his dad but had still been close to his compulsive party girl mother.
He was thankful the cat had been outside and not left in to start eating his mother’s face. Horrible thoughts like that had always popped into his head at the most unfortunate times. He blamed that on his mother and her dramatic flair for the macabre.
After the coroner left, he put Hermes and his sister’s ashes in the car and drove home. He wouldn’t be coming back. His siblings could take care of the estate.
But I’m completely off subject. Nobody knew how hold Eleora really was. Well over 2,100 years but she was always vague. I think she doesn’t know and either doesn’t care or is just embarrassed she doesn’t have an exact date. Where she was born, and when she was born, nobody had calendars. She never aged so age wasn’t a concern, until she met Tellias who came from the Roman Empire where people had a written language, a calendar and even running water.
Eleora also wasn’t like the actress I mentioned, at least personality wise. She was a flirt, but she and Tellias had been together for two millenniums. They were faithful and steady, or at least as steady as two ancient Vampires could be.
When they dropped her off Eleora was wearing a big green sweater over an orange satin blouse, and a green and blue plaid wool skirt.
“What in the world are you wearing?” I had to ask.
“I’m not sure. It was in my closet,” she said.
“It’s supposed to be over 90 today.”
She just looked at me then looked away not saying anything. I checked in her bag. Inside was a large pink sweatshirt, a lace party dress from eons ago, and a worn out house robe, and a pair of rubber rain boots. I didn’t even ask who packed for her.
An odor like rotted flesh with a sharp metallic after smell invaded my nose. Oh my God it was Eleora.
“When was the last time you took a shower? You smell like death.”
“I don’t smell anything,” she said.
She’d tied her hair, which was dirty, up on top of her head with a green ribbon.
“You smell like a Shadow Creeper. Damn it Eleora, you don’t live in a crypt or under the floorboards of some abandoned house. Let’s go up and get you in the shower.”
Like many seniors she has lost interest in personal hygiene or just doesn’t notice anymore. Time, especially in 2020, doesn’t matter.
It is bad enough with most people who don’t take care of themselves, but it can be especially bad with an old Vampire.
I reminded her to wash her hair with shampoo and not just put on conditioner. I also gave her a new bar of lavender soap and a washcloth. She is about the same size as my daughter so I found a sundress in Clara’s closet that she’d left on her last visit and a light sweater out of my closet. Eleora won’t wear pants so our choices were limited.
After the shower I fixed her a smoothie made of almond milk, blood, a bit of peanut butter and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast.
Eleora looked pretty in the flowered sundress. She might be ancient but she and Tellias look like college students, but act like really old people.
I had to attend several Zoom meetings, but Eleora didn’t understand I wasn’t going anywhere. Thank goodness for the mute buttons for sound and video.
“I’ll just stay here with the dog while you go to your meeting. Get me a cup of coffee before you go.”
“I’m not leaving,” I said, “the meeting is here, on my computer, like when we talked to Clara earlier.”
“Get me a glass of water too. Turn on that show I’ve been watching.”
“What is it called?”
“I don’t know.”
“What is it about?”
“It’s a Western.”
“OK. That narrows it down. You don’t remember the name?”
We went through the line ups with all of the on demand stations, Prime and Netflix. We finally turned on Cheyenne. That was good for an hour.
Today Eleora wasn’t interested in reading. We went out on the deck and she talked about when she and Tellias went to a play followed by a public hanging. That was sometime in the 15thCentury. She didn’t remember much except that a dog walked up on the stage during the play. The man was being hanged for murdering his entire family. Then she told me about how they came to America on a big ship, which really wasn’t that big by today’s standards. It was awful due to the rats but Tellias sang to them and got them to invade the quarters of the first officer who apparently was a real prick.
After that she couldn’t remember or understand much of anything and took a long nap. When she woke up she’d sing me a song and ask when Tellias was going to come pick her up.
The next few days were much the same.
Then she asked when she would be able to go home. She was done with me. I’d hold her hand and tell her about my garden and my children. If I was able to I’d make her laugh. I’d get a smile out of her and she’d seem to be happy for a bit.
When Val and Tellias finally came back Eleora was quick to pack up and leave.
I remember when Eleora and I used to have adventures together. I remember when we’d be so busy doing things that we’d forget the passing of time. I remember when she could remember.
Even when we forget we always remember to love. The memories and synaspes are gone but the love is still there.
My thoughts today go out to all of the caretakers. It goes to those who forget. It goes to those who remember and treasure those memories. It goes out to all of those who love unconditionally.
Wear a mask
Check on those who are elderly, alone, or need extra help and support
When I was a child there were a lot of books with pretty pictures, but it has been in the past 50 years that the children’s book industry has blossomed into something truly magical and inspiring for both children and adults.
I’ll put links to Amazon and other sites on here, but I found out about most of these books by word of mouth or GOING TO MY LOCAL LIBRARY. Libraries ROCK – I urge you to GO to your local library and take advantage of all of the useful services they provide. You can also find many of the out of print books on eBay or used book stories (real life and online.)
Sammy the Seal by Sid Hoff
We found an old copy of this at our local library sale. What a find! Sammy the seal decides to go to school but finds it isn’t really the best…
My phone dinged with another text message. I really needed to mute the sound.
Jay: I am so sorry about Ryan.
Me: Thank you.
Jay: I saw your photo. Your still hot.
Me: You still can’t spell.
Another old boyfriend I’d have to block. They came out of the woodwork like rats, only they were middle aged men, all divorced, widowed, never married, and looking for any excuse to get laid.
The messages ranged from sappy memories of times that never meant much to me, dick pics, apologies, propositions, apologies for past bad behavior, and whiney threads of what could have been. I blocked them all.
Mike: If you need anything call me.
Me: Who is this?
Mike: Mike Johnson
Me: What are you doing now?
Mike: Thinking about you.
Me: I mean, are you working? Retired? Married? Single?
Mike: Semi retired. Semi single. Rich. Still have my hair. Still in the area. Still thinking of your hot body next to mine. I never forgot. Never.
Me: OK. Remember, you dumped me.
Mike: I was young and stupid. If you need anything, and I mean anything.
I blocked him. That made nine. There were more out there and I hoped they’d all keep their thoughts to themselves. I’d dated a lot before I met Ryan.
Them: I think about you all the time.
Ryan and I had thirty one years together, two wonderful children, and now I had to figure out what was next. Or maybe not.
It had been five months since Ryan passed. I wasn’t so numb anymore. The kids were grown and handling it ok. I couldn’t sit around feeling sorry for myself for breaking down. I had to be there for them and my grand kids. I didn’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for myself, and Ryan wouldn’t have wanted me to.
Then I received an email from someone I used to know.
Dear Colette, I was saddened to hear the news of Ryan’s passing. We had worked together on research projects for years and become friends. He spoke often of you and your children.
I didn’t get back to you because I also had Covid-19 and survived it.
It took a while for me to realize that Ryan’s Colette was you. I never told him I knew you.
I sat looking at the computer screen growing numb. The email was from Ian Locke, the one who got away. At least sort of got away. We parted ways because due to the old “wrong time, wrong place” type of situation.
Ian continued with sweet thoughts and good memories of my husband. It was exceptionally touching and weird. I never made the connection when Ryan spoke of Ian. They were never in the same city, and usually they were out in the field or in the lab, so we never met.
Then my phone vibrated and I answered the call. It was Ian.
His voice immediately brought me back to a time forty years ago when we were in college. We were just babies, or at least adults who didn’t know how to be adults yet. It was a time to experiment and flounder.
We talked a bit about Ryan and our children. We both had two. I had two girls. He had two boys. They were all doing great and in college. We spoke of our careers.
Then Ryan said, “I’m getting a divorce. I’ll sign the final papers next week.”
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“She had been cheating on me for years. When he passed away she wanted to patch things up but it was too late.”
Suddenly I wanted to throw up. I wasn’t so stupid that I didn’t know where this was going. I had no idea, but I wasn’t stupid.
“She gave Ryan Covid-19. She gave it to me. She and I survived it. I’m sorry. I am so angry. I lost my friend. I lost all sense of trust. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t even be telling you this.”
He shouldn’t have been telling me that.
I thought of the research trips. I thought of the times he had to stay a few extra days. I thought of him dying in our spare bedroom where he’d quarantined himself.
Ian continued. “Renee lost it when Ryan died. She was hysterical for weeks, then she finally told me about everything. I didn’t want to believe it but then I saw the texts, the emails, the photos. She said she was going to tell you. I told her no. She said she needed to tell you. What a cunt. I didn’t want you to hear it from her. I am so sorry Colette.”
“Ian,” I said. “I want to talk to you more. I want to see you, but I don’t know… could you call me back in a few weeks? Will you call me in a few weeks.”
“I’ll talk to you soon. It’s good to hear your voice. Call me later.”
I hung up.
I haven’t heard from Ian. It has only been a week. I did put my house up for sale. I’m looking for a beach house, closer to my kids.
Nobody knows about my conversation with Ian. I don’t plan on telling anyone.
2020 is almost done. Next year should be better. Maybe. Either way it will be a new beginning for me. I tell myself that. Maybe I’ll convince myself. Maybe.
For those who want something a little more cheerful read the following story. It is an oldie but a goodie. Have fun. Stay safe. WEAR YOUR MASK.
The Offer (a fairy tale with a wizard, a kitten and a mysterious stranger)
Miles was the official Royal Wizard to the Kingdom of the Moonbeam Mountains. What the fuck kind of name was that for a Kingdom?
“I will NEVER be as good as my dad.” he thought brooding in the dark under the night sky on the roof with a bottle of 80 proof Dragon Blood.
Sitting alone in his castle by the sea he thought of her, the princess who’d more or less left him for another man. Hell, he never had her. She’d always been in love with someone else. They’d been together for ten years. In ten years she’d told him a thousand times that she loved him but at the same time she was running a fantasy in her head about another guy.
For the past 6 years they’d lived with each other almost full-time. Their father’s were best friends. Hers was the King of the Northwestern Kingdom, his father was the Royal Wizard there and their mother’s were girlfriends. Everything was perfect, just like it was supposed to be. Every single year he’d proposed to her. Every single year she’d told him that she wanted to wait. Wait for what? Now he knew. She was waiting for another guy.
He called to have his horse ready and took off to the local pub. At least there he could keep his mind off of things.
Half way to the pub he stopped to pull his gloves out of his saddle bag. He heard a noise on the side of the road. A teeny tiny gray and white kitten ran towards him. It couldn’t have been more than six weeks old.
“Oh sweetie,” he whispered to the kitten, “I can’t leave you out here alone.” He tucked the tiny cat under his coat and continued on.
As he entered the village gate he could hear the band playing at the pub and already see friends lingering around the front door. “Deep breath Miles,” he thought to himself knowing everyone would ask about his princess. They knew he’d left her. They didn’t know why or for how long. He didn’t want to talk about it. Maybe he’d just put a spell on the place to make them all shut up about it, but ethics and his own code of decency stopped him from it. There is no crime in being curious.
After dropping his horse off in safe hands he greeted the people outside then went in. He could feel the small body purring inside of his coat. There was something about a cat that could make one forget everything. Cats were so pure and so decadent and so useless and so calming and so everything that made the universe worth living in. Cats represented all that was. Not good or bad just everything.
He caught his reflection in a window. Blonde hair, board shoulders, blue eyes, dimples on his boy-next-door cheeks and a scar across his neck that would tingle every time she kissed him, no matter what violent memories it brought him.
Everyone greeted him. Big points were scored with the ladies when he cradled the purring kitten in the crook of his arm. Damn that kitty was cute. She looked up at him and mewed a purr dripped sound that was absolutely toxic cute. He could never get enough of that feeling of pure joy and love.
After ordering a brew Miles did a few tricks for the patrons. They always asked and he was glad to give them some shows of blue sparks, wispy smoke dragons and fairies flying over their heads and levitating beer steins. It was all good fun. Fun was always good especially with the way he was feeling.
The fact that he’d been alone for a few months hadn’t gone unnoticed. He could hear the gossip behind his back. He could feel the single women watching him and wanting him. There was no reason for him to be alone at night but he wasn’t ready yet for company in his cold bed.
He heard a voice at his shoulder. “Missing your homeland Wizard?”
Miles turned around to see a tall exceptionally thin man standing at his shoulder. He wore a good suit and a sarcastic smile on his face.
The man continued to speak. “Do you miss a warm princess next to you in your cold bed? Do you wish your magic was more powerful? Do you wish you’d get the same respect and power as your father has? I can give you all of that.”
“It isn’t wise to attempt to provoke a wizard, even a piss poor attempt like yours. I don’t know you sir, but I’m here to enjoy an evening with friends. Now if you’ll excuse me and my cat we’ve got others to talk to,” Miles said to the tall thin man.
“Give me that kitten and I’ll grant you three wishes,” the stranger said in a voice so smooth it made Miles cringe.
“I don’t want your wishes and I’m sure as Hell not giving you my cat.”
At a large table he sat with friends, joking and listening to their stories, but his senses were wide open to any evil that lurked in the building. The tall thin stranger occupied himself with another group, but Miles could feel his presence.
The kitten purred and played with everyone at the table. There was nothing special or magic about her except that she was a cat. “Just a cat,” thought Miles, “nothing more.”
Hours later, after he’d had a successful evening with friends who’d done more than a good job of cheering him up and getting him out of his gloomy mood, Miles arrived home. His staff would be in bed so he put the horse to bed for the night, gathered the kitten back under his coat and headed for the front door. The moonlight made the dark pathway easy. He took a deep breath of the salt air and listened to the waves crashing on the beach below.
“Welcome to my castle by the sea dear kitten,” he told his small purring friend. “You look like a Lizzie to me. How about it? Do you like that name my dear?” The kitten meowed and purred.
Looking up he saw a figure on the cliff. It was the annoying thin stranger from the pub.
“Wizard, give me the cat and I will give you everything you desire. I can make your princess love you. I can make you famous. I can bring you riches.”
“Get off my property or I’ll…” he thought a moment for the bad things he could do then spoke. “What’s so special about the cat?”
“Your princess for the cat Miles. Say the word and you’ll have what your heart desires.”
“I don’t know who you are but I don’t want a woman who loves me because of a spell. I want her to love me for the right reason. I want her to fall for me in a nice long romantic way of her own accord. Love spells are bull shit. Every wizard with any talent knows that. And any man who knows what his heart desires and knows what true love feels like knows that.”
“Give me the cat.”
“Is she yours? Don’t lie to me man. I’ll know if you’re telling me a lie.”
The stranger halted a bit. “Well, no.”
“Then what is it? I don’t want any wishes and I don’t trust you with a helpless kitten. What do you really want? Is this some sort of test? Or are you just a creepy stalker? What is it? Tell me.”
“Do you love your princess?” The man asked him as if he was accusing Miles of cheating.
“Sure I do but, it’s none of your business.” None of anyone’s business that she was in love with someone else. “Get the Hell off of my property.” Miles blasted the ground in front of the man with a bolt of orange lightning. The man jumped back. “Go or the next one will hit you.”
The man was gone. Miles was alone in the kitchen with the kitten. “What was that about? Do you know?”
The kitten just purred.
Three wishes. He laughed out loud a bitter laugh. What would he need with three wishes. He’d worked hard for everything he had. He was proud of what he’d accomplished. Being a wizard, much less one in a foreign country, wasn’t always easy. People depended on him.
He thought of calling her, his princess, but he decided to let it go, at least for tonight. She had left him letters and messages but he couldn’t get past the pain of betrayal.
He wondered who the skinny guy was and why he wanted the cat. Three wishes. It wasn’t worth it. He’d never trade his soul or the tiny stray he’d found on the side of the road. After all, wasn’t it the same thing? He had shown compassion to a small beast. He’d shown his soul.
The kitten didn’t start to talk. He kissed the top of her tiny head but she didn’t turn into a princess.
Taking out a piece of paper and a pen he started to write.
Tonight a strange skinny man offered me three wishes in exchange for a small kitten I found on the side of the road. The man said he could make you love me. I wasn’t tempted by the offer. If you love me I want it to be honest and true for me. No magic. No games. No more lies.
He wadded up the letter and made it vanish with a flash of blue smoke. It was no use. Heading up the stairs with the kitten in his arms he stopped at the sound of someone knocking on the door. “Damn you, I do not want your wishes.”
Jerking open the door Miles yelled, “I’m not giving you my kitten.”
But standing at the door wasn’t the tall skinny man, it was his princess. He brought her in and told her the story of the strange skinny man and the kitten. She listened in wonder and then they both went upstairs.
And did they live happily ever after? Maybe. Only time, or maybe the cat will tell.