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.
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…
Hollywood Forever is in the shadow of the famous Hollywood sign, and neighbor to Paramount Studio. It is a beautiful place filled with interesting graves, famous graves, beautiful stained glass, and a lot of surprises. The surprises include a colony of cats and peacocks.
Unfortunately today was HOT, and a movie was being filmed, plus there were several funerals so we didn’t get to tour the entire grounds. What we saw was super interesting. Due to the pandemic it was also lacking in tourists today.
This week I’m in Southern California visiting my kids.
When your kids are grown shopping trips are different. Today we went out to get gardening supplies, ant bait, a cork screw, an air mattress someone can actually sleep on, sheets, drinking glasses, a lamp, and a front door mat.
Last night we, went for a long walk and saw tiny wild cottontail bunnies in the park near my daughter’s apartment complex. The wonder and cuteness overload was still there, maybe even more so.
Tuesday night my kids Clara, Garret and I, went to the beach. Only a few locals were out. The smoke in the air gave off a strange pink glow. Beach fires glowed in the distance.
We talked about how their father is handling the 21st Century. We spoke of the fires. We talked about the insane political situation of our country and the pandemic. We talked about our favorite beaches and trips we’ve made together in the past. We updated each other on friends and family. We laughed about a lot of things. That was the best part. We just let go and laughed at stories old and new.
It is amazing that when we are with those we love, and I mean real love, we just fall into a comfortable pattern no matter how long we are apart.
That can be with family or friends. We just take up from where we left off.
Forget romance and falling in love. That is fine and well, but it is those long term relationships with kids, dear friends, and hopefully family, that keep the soul alive. Those shared memories, and the ability to make new ones is something that we take for granted. Those positive relationships are precious and to be treasured and savored.
So dear reader, you know what to do:
Wear a mask
Don’t be a dick
Pet a dog or cat
Keep your bird feeders full
Kiss a Vampire
Check in on those who might be alone or need extra help
The sky is red with smoke and fire. There is a demon wind blowing as if it wants to take the roof off of the house.
“There are too many fires,” I told my friend Randolpho. “It is like Hell has come up from the bowels of the Earth.”
“This is 2020. Welcome to the new normal. I hear there is a big fire by the airport and on some of the river levies. Add those to the fires already going on including that fire started by those fools having a gender reveal party.”
“Gender reveal party?” I asked. “What do you mean by gender reveal and why is there a party?”
“Before babies are born some people get overly excited and throw a gender reveal party. You know, to announce if they are having a boy or a girl.”
“That is ridiculous. How do they know if it is a boy or a girl? Even a witch will not be able to tell you that with a hundred percent certainty.”
“Ultra sound, or amnio. Oh my God. You don’t know about those things. Let me show you.”
Randolpho pulled out his phone and went on the Internet, where almost all information can be found.
“Ultra sound is a way to see a baby before it is born to make sure it is developing right. ”
I looked at a photo of a tiny human being. There was a face and this one was obviously male.
“But how is this done? The baby is inside of the mother. It would die if they cut her open.”
“They don’t cut her open. Get a clue Vlad. The technician takes sort a wand and rubs it over the mother’s pregnant belly. Then an image of the baby appears on a computer screen. Then the image can be printed out.
“This is amazing. If I had not seen it for myself I would not have believed it. Then what is amnio?”
“Amniocentesis is a procedure in which amniotic fluid is removed from the uterus for testing or treatment. Amniotic fluid is the fluid that surrounds and protects a baby during pregnancy.
A large needle is inserted into the mother amniotic fluid around the baby is extracted. One can tell then not only the gender but if there are any genetic issues the parents should be aware of.”
“For example if a child will have Down’s Syndrome.”
“What is that?”
“Remember Maria? The small girl who liked to wear crowns of flowers and always had a song and a smile. She had Down’s Syndrome.”
I remembered the young Vampire maiden. She was one of my mother’s ladies. Once a cocky young Vampire called Vink called Maria an idiot and belittled her in front of the entire Vampire court because she did not understand his stories. He thought the stories were humorous. They were not.
My mother had Vink thrown into the dungeon for a week for his meanness.
Even being a Vampire Maria passed on the next winter. We were all sad. Everyone loved Maria. Vink continued to be a fool and was banished from the court.
“Now there are people like Maria who graduate from High School and some even graduate from college.”
I thought about this for a while. There is so much I need to learn.
“Do you ever want to have kids Vlad?” Randolpho asked. I thought that was odd. We have known each other for over 670 years and we have never discussed it.
The subject made me feel somewhat uncomfortable. I told Randolpho he needed to change the subject.
Later I tried to sleep but could only think of babies crying and keeping me awake. I thought about a baby laughing and broke out in a cold sweat, then coughed from the smoke.
The smoke is thicker today. My mind is still on children. I am in Hell.
I poured a glass of chilled blood and put a piece of fresh mint on top of it. Mint is something we did not have when I was Vampire King. After being locked in a crypt for three hundred years I have discovered many new things such as mint, chilled drinks, and viewing babies inside of their mothers. I might have missed the 18th, 19th, and 20thCenturies, but here I am in 2020.
Once when I was much younger, when I was Vampire King I went on a journey to being a group of young orphan Vampire children back to my castle. My wife had just abandoned me and I had the need to, what term do they use so often now, get away. I had to get away.
After riding for a week with some of my finest Vampire soldiers, I met my contact at an ancient castle by the edge of a large lake. The Vampire in charge approached me. He was slightly taller than I am, making him around six feet tall. His appearance was striking, not just because of his height but also because of his fashion. He was dressed all in black with dark glossy brown hair about his shoulders. He wore no wig as many men did at that time but like me, he wore his own hair. His eyes were deep golden brown surrounded by thick lashes, and a face spotted with light facial hair on his jaw line and a hint of a mustache growing in. His clothing and boots were all black except for a purple sash around his waist and a green feather in his hat.
He introduced himself as Toby Rose, the Captain of the group, and the Captain of the ship that had brought the children from England. I immediately liked him.
Toby Rose spoke the old Vampire language with an English accent. The women at the castle thought he was charming. Their attentions lingered more on him that on me – which was something new for I was always the one woman kept their eyes on.
Later as we walked along the edge of the lake Toby told me he had heard my wife had left. We looked towards the castle and saw a group of women walking along the road.
“They are beautiful,” said Toby Rose.
“Yes, they are,” I replied. They were beautiful but I was not in mood for strange women.
“I love women. I love the way they feel with their warm skin, and soft lips. I love knowing how easy it is for me to please them. The are always surprised by me in the best of ways. I also love men. I do believe I love being with a man the best. I love their strong arms, and the way a man moves and smells. I love the feel of a chest covered with hair, and the brush of stubble on my neck when he kisses me.” Then he laughed a low quiet laugh. “I love to feel their stubble everywhere if you know what I mean.”
Toby Rose was quite forward. I was curious and asked him, “When did you know you desired both men and women.”
“I have always liked everyone,” he said with a laugh. “My father always told me you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. He was a wise man, my father was.”
I was somewhat surprised Toby Rose was so open with me in a time when those who expressed their sexuality so openly were often hung or burned alive. On the other hand we were Vampires, open to all desires and all ways of life. We rarely judged.
In fact, when my sister was born a cousin mocked my parents because my mother had given birth to a girl. We had no gender reveal at the time. My father became angry, pinned his cousin down and cut one of his balls off. Then he put it into a jar and placed it in my sister’s nursery.
“Now my daughter has as many balls as you do,” my father said to his cousin.
My father would do things like that. I did not tell Toby Rose about that memory.
As we walked along the riverbank we spoke of the children we had rescued. We spoke of our lives and what we wanted. Toby gave me gentle words about the departure of my cheating whore of a wife, which made me feel better.
“You hungry?” Toby Rose asked.
So we went for a hunt. After we were full of warm blood and the thrill of hunting together we joined the rest of our party along with our hosts in the castle.
Everyone spoke of Toby Rose. All of the women wanted him. All of the men wanted to be like him. He was a fierce fighter, and a lover who never shared secrets. He was a leader. He was a mentor and a teacher. Toby Rose was an amazing man and an amazing Vampire.
I noticed women, as always would look at me with longing, but they boldly approached Toby Rose to let him know that they wanted him to come to them later.
Later as I was alone in my chamber, getting ready to retire, there was a knock on my door. I opened it and let in Toby Rose, who was wearing nothing but an oversized robe.
“I want you Vlad,” Toby Rose whispered, as he put his hand on my hip and stepped close.
“Toby, I am not ready for this. I do not know if I will ever be ready,” I told him.
Toby Rose kissed my neck scraping fangs across it making me close my eyes and wonder what indeed was happening. Then Toby Rose took my hand and put it under his robe. “I’m ready. I have never been more ready.”
“Toby Rose!” I said.
Toby Rose’s robe dropped to the ground and I found out that Toby Rose was a woman.
I have to admit it was one of the best nights of my life.
That is my gender reveal story.
About a year ago I tried to find out what happened to Toby Rose. Nobody knows. She might be an old Vampire content living a quiet life. She might be dead. Or she might be locked in a crypt somewhere, a prisoner of the dark. I do not know.
My love Gillian is now sleeping in my bed as I write this. I have never told her of Toby Rose, or about any of my other lovers, nor has she told me about hers.
Even after hundreds of years some things never change. Like all self respecting Vampires we never kiss and tell.
Right before the lockdown I was visiting with my Uncle Rico in Laguna Beach. While there I met an interesting house guest.
He said his name was Fred. He was tall with auburn hair and ears that stuck out a bit more than normal. He was THAT Fred.
When his plane crashed he wasn’t surprised. When a small boat picked him up he was more than surprised. Fred had fully expected to drown or be eaten by sharks. His injuries would kill him. He knew it. His rescuers didn’t speak English but after God only knows how long they brought him to an island where there was someone who did.
He was asked, “Do you want to live forever and be part of one of the greatest mysteries on Earth, or do you want to die and be part of one of the greatest mysteries on Earth?”
“What’s the catch?” Fred asked.
Fred said his new English speaking friend smiled in that way people do when they’re about to drop a bomb on you.”
“I watched her die,” Fred continued. “It took me years to stop thinking about it every single day. They’ll never find her body. Come to think of it they’ll never find mine.”
He smiled in a sad sort of way. “That was a long time ago. It doesn’t have to define who I am now.”
I thought about this because I was thinking about my kids in these weird times. There will be unexpected choices. Things won’t always be in their control. It is how we react that matters. It is how we learn from our experiences that matter.
Of course it is always a good thing to have a little bit of mystery. Uncle Rico and I come by it naturally because, as you know, we’re Vampires, but a little mystery is something everyone should have.
You don’t have to be an open book. Rather be a page turner with a good twist or a cliffhanger.
I’ll have to admit it was a good thing Rico was on that Island way out in the Pacific Ocean way back in 1937.
Wear a mask
Hug your dog
Talk to your kids
Check in on those who might need extra help or might be lonely