Come & Sit For A Spell

The hour is upon us.

This week’s theme, my dear bookworms, is:

Many years ago one of my college roommates who was/is also a good friend handed me her copy of The Witching Hour by Anne Rice. She is a huge Rice fan and was reading through all of her vampire books at the time. I had never read anything by Rice and I can’t remember why she recommended TWH to me, other than the fact that she loved that book.

I took that chunk of a book and started reading. The mass market edition, which is the edition I had, is over a thousand pages.

TWH was not only my first novel by Anne Rice, but it was my first novel about witches. Obviously I didn’t have any other witch novel to compare it to, but after reading it I can’t imagine a better book about witches to start with.

TWH begins the saga of The Mayfair witches. The story opens in present day San Francisco and effortlessly glides between 17th-century France, the coffee plantations of Port-such-Prince, New Orleans, and the Civil War South.

In present-day San Francisco, a neurosurgeon named Rowan Mayfair, rescues a man who has drowned. Aware she has some type of power, but unaware this power comes from being a descendant of an ancient line of witches, she brings him back to life (this isn’t a cheesy bring-back-to-life-romance story, I promise). This man, Michael Curry, having had a brief experience with death acquires a sensory power of sorts (also not cheesy) is drawn to Rowan.

Michael and Rowan’s story is followed as easily and as intensely as the one of the Mayfair Witch history. Ultimately the stories intertwine. If you like historical family sagas, I think you will greatly enjoy this book. Rice draws you in with such hypnotic visuals- at times they seem almost larger than life. As you learn more about each generation of witches, it becomes harder and harder to step away from this story and their world. Her words might just pull you right from where you are and into her world of witchcraft, spells and the sometimes seductive destruction of four centuries of witches.

It’s only when a story is accompanied with a delectable richness like that of velveteen that you know someone is truly a master at their craft.

Anne Rice is one such master.

The Mayfair witches and their story have stuck with me for over twenty years. Never would I have guessed that a book such as this would’ve entranced me so fully.

“I feel the darkness near me; I feel the light shining. And more keenly I feel the contrast between the two.“

Anne Rice, The Witching Hour

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Friday Night Frights

Friday is music to my ears!

It’s been a long week and I am glad to be sitting in this very spot (on my front porch) writing this post to all of you.

This blog is going in to its fifth month, which is hard for me to believe! I’m not sure what my expectations were when I started out. I knew, if anything, I wanted to be consistent with my posts and so far that has worked out. I’ve been thinking about what my next set of goals will be. I’m not in a hurry, just taking it a week at a time.

Today ends this week’s true crime theme.

{ A quick recap of this week’s books }

Monday: The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

Wednesday: My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLouche Williams

Thursday: We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver and A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold (SOSN)

In keeping with the theme of true crime and also with my normal Friday post of a book, a drink, and a dessert, I will get to the book without further ado.

The Book:

American Predator by Maureen Callahan,299 pages, Published by Viking, July 2019.

AP is about serial killer Israel Keyes. I had never even heard his name until a few months ago. He and his criminal history was touched on in The Killer Across the Table by John E. Douglas and Mark Olshaker, which is a great, great book.

I wasn’t sure when I’d get a chance to read AP because it was a newer book. My library still doesn’t have it available in Kindle format. So it wasn’t even on my radar to post for this week’s theme. Anyway, early last week I stopped in to my library, because I just often do (not because I need books or anything, I just love it there) and there sitting so beautifully on top of the non-fiction new release shelf was American Predator. I snatched that baby right up. It was like winning the lottery, except without the money part.

I couldn’t help but start reading it right away. It was hard to put this book down. Israel Keyes is a maniac, but a low key maniac. He was just brought to justice in 2012.

One of his MOs were “kill kits”, which he buried all over the U.S. These kits contained body disposal tools, guns, ammo, money, and other weird shit. Beside the fact the even “creating” a “kill kit” is weird shit in itself.

Before he was caught and over the course of roughly fourteen years Keyes would fly to a random city, rent a car to drive a thousand miles to the location of one of his “kill kits”, abduct someone in broad daylight, kill them and dispose of their body(s), then fly back home to his girlfriend and young daughter in Alaska.

It was only after he was caught in 2012, which he almost got away with, that his history of other killings came to light. He committed all of these murders undetected for over a decade.

It’s really interesting when something or someone like this comes to light. Most everyone has heard of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and BTK, but who the heck is Israel Keyes? How is this not all over the news? This book goes in to that, so I won’t spoil it for you.

When the author, Maureen Callahan first heard of this unheard of killer she was instantly intrigued. This project of learning how Keyes was ultimately caught by the FBI and what it means that a killer like Keyes even exists consumed Callahan for several years.

I won’t give you any more info, but if you enjoy true crime, GO. READ. THIS. BOOK (Stacy, I’m talking to you!) .

The Dessert:

These are Keto Pumpkin Cookies and this is my first time making them. I found this recipe on Pinterest and tweaked it a little. They are pretty dang good.

The recipe is below:

Set oven to 350 degrees

Cookies:

Mix 8oz (1 block) and 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick) in a bowl (I softened in the micro for a few sec). I also used a hand mixer.

Then add:

1/2 cup pure pumpkin puree

1/2 cup stevia

2 eggs

2/3 cup coconut flour

1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (which is just cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice all mixed together)

1/2 tsp salt

A splash or 3 of pumpkin pie praline sugar-free syrup (Jordan’s Skinny Syrups- I order them from skinnymixes.com or usually they are available at HomeGood stores)

A small handful of chopped walnuts

Mix all of this together. Spoon on to parchment paper-lined baking sheets and cook for 18 min.

Let them cool.

While they are cooking, you can prepare the icing.

Icing:

8 oz cream cheese

1/4 cup stevia

Softened cream cheese, then mix in stevia.

Spread on to cookies once they have cooled a bit. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice or with plain cinnamon.

Then, enjoy!

The Drink:

I think the name, 19 Crimes kind of says it all. But just in case, it’s a a red blend from California. I’ve tried this one, although it’s been awhile. It’s a delicious wine that pairs well with some bloody good Keto Pumpkin Cookies and a little bit of American Predator on the side.

Cheers!

PS. New theme coming up next week!

“I have been two people for the last fourteen years.” -Israel Keyes

Something Old, Something New: True Crime

It’s been a week or two since an installment of Something Old, Something New (SOSN) has been posted. The way this works is simple. Something Old is a book I’ve read and Something New is one I haven’t.

When I was selecting the books for my True Crime week, I came across two books that I felt would be perfect for this genre and SOSN.

With one slight caveat: my Something Old is fiction. But, my dear bookworms, it (sadly and most horrifyingly) could very well be non-fiction. So I went ahead and added it to the mix.

You can be the judge of whether you think it was an appropriate choice.

Something Old:

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver is a book I read several years ago and continues to remain on my top ten list of favorite books. No one had recommended this book to me, but rather I kept seeing it at my local used book shop. Every time I came across this book I would find myself thinking that it had a strange title. I can’t really explain why the title is strange to me, maybe because it seems so plain. I don’t know.

One day I finally grabbed it and stuck in my stack to buy. I didn’t read it right away either. I had never read anything by Lionel Shriver and totally assumed Lionel was a man (the only Lionel I had ever heard of has a last name of Richie), but he is actually a she. It doesn’t matter in the whole scheme of things, just a little food for thought (that, and you can correctly refer to LS as a she if this book were to ever come up in conversation. You’re welcome).

More time went by. One afternoon I was looking at stack of unread books and WNTTAK just kind of slightly screamed, Read me right now. Since I don’t like being screamed at, even when it’s silent screaming (fyi: only books know how to silently scream), I said, Ok, you’ve made your point, I’ll read you right now.

This book is a million things.

You know right from the start that Kevin is in prison because he has killed seven of his high-school classmates and two others right before his sixteenth birthday.

Much of this book is in the form of letters from Kevin’s mother Eva, to her estranged husband, Franklin.

The story opens in the present but revisits the past before Kevin’s birth and begins the rest of the story from that beginning. The rest of the book goes back and forth between those two time periods.

Eva is a complicated woman. I think many may not like her, and some may even vilify her. I found her quite genuine and honest with her feelings, and if for that reason alone, I like her. Even if she isn’t/wasn’t the most maternal, she never tries to hide that fact. She questioned having children from the very beginning and in my opinion was never a hundred percent for it. But having children is one of those things you can’t compromise on, you have them or you don’t. I do feel that she loved/loves Kevin, but people show love in different ways. Sometimes the recipient of that love doesn’t or can’t feel that love and of course there are bound to be consequences. But you can’t know-no one can know how each person will ultimately turn out. There isn’t only one right way to parent well. Eva openly wonders in these letters to Franklin if her thoughts regarding having/not having children were passed on to her child while she was pregnant, this having a negative effect on him.

This book is such a perfect example of nature versus nurture. Neither can be solely to blame. There are some disturbing things that Kevin does in the course of this story, when he is really young, that to me, seems like his evilness was there from the start. But if someone is more prone to be evil or act criminally does that mean nothing can change that? What do you think?

Something New:

My Something New is A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold. Her son Dylan Klebold, along with Eric Harris were the two boys responsible for the thirteen killings and wounding twenty-four people at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado in 1999 before killing themselves.

“For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?” (From back cover)

These are, unfortunately such pertinent books in today’s world. We live in a culture where school-aged children pick up weapons and take the lives of those around them in an instant.

Years and years ago, this didn’t happen in our schools, now it’s become almost a rampant epidemic. This isn’t a liberal or conservative issue and I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all solution.

Are the majority of morals that bad at home versus years ago? Are children not disciplined appropriately, we know they aren’t at school, because school teachers and administrator’s hands are tied, afraid they will be sued if a child is looked at the wrong way. Is it because so many children are being raised by grandparents who are tired and shouldn’t be saddled with this responsibility? Are these even the right questions to ask- I have no idea. And if these aren’t the right questions, what hope is there in finding the right answers?

My intentions are not to sound hopeless, but rather to continually ask questions in a world that is rapidly changing. How do we teach our children answers we don’t have as adults?

“In a country that doesn’t discriminate between fame and infamy, the latter presents itself as plainly more achievable.”

-Lionel Shriver, WNTTAK

“Children live in the same world we do. To kid ourselves that we can shelter them from it isn’t just naive it’s a vanity.”

-Lionel Shriver, WNTTAK

One Bad Apple

I guess it could start as a bruise. Maybe it was caused by a fall? Then it sits for awhile and you forget about it, if you even noticed it in the first place.

Maybe a bug got to it and made a little hole and then the hole got bigger.

Or maybe it was bad from the very beginning? Maybe the seed wasn’t quite right.

Whatever the reason of how it came to be this way doesn’t really matter. Really you don’t even realize anything is amiss because your mind is thinking of ten different things.

What matters is this:

When you go to take a bite, your teeth hit mush. Your whole mouth instantly revolts against the disgusting texture. The ten different things you were thinking of have disappeared from your mind. In fact, all you can think about is getting every last bit of the mush out of your mouth.

All because of one bad apple 🍎.

Maybe if you hadn’t been so busy you might’ve noticed that something looked off, that the apple didn’t look so good from the start.

But what about that apple that looks completely perfect? Maybe even the first few bites are fine. Then, even though it was there the whole time, you take a fourth bite and you realize it’s rotten to the core.

Sometimes people are like that too-rotten to the core.

Continuing with this week’s true crime is My Friend Anna – The True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLouche Williams.

This book was featured on a recent non-fiction list of new books to watch out for. When I first read what it was about I instantly thought of two books both featuring ingenious con-artists. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith and Catch Me If You Can by Frank Abagnale and Stan Redding.

Below is the Amazon synopsis:

Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams’s new friend Anna Delvey, a self-proclaimed German heiress, was worldly and ambitious. She was also generous—picking up the tab for lavish dinners at Le Coucou, infrared sauna sessions at HigherDOSE, drinks at the 11 Howard Library bar, and regular workout sessions with a celebrity personal trainer.

When Anna proposed an all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakech at the five-star La Mamounia hotel, Rachel jumped at the chance. But when Anna’s credit cards mysteriously stopped working, the dream vacation quickly took a dark turn. Anna asked Rachel to begin fronting costs—first for flights, then meals and shopping, and, finally, for their $7,500-per-night private villa. Before Rachel knew it, more than $62,000 had been charged to her credit cards. Anna swore she would reimburse Rachel the moment they returned to New York.

Back in Manhattan, the repayment never materialized, and a shocking pattern of deception emerged. Rachel learned that Anna had left a trail of deceit—and unpaid bills—wherever she’d been. Mortified, Rachel contacted the district attorney, and in a stunning turn of events, found herself helping to bring down one of the city’s most notorious con artists •

Horrible, but fascinating.

How does such a person so completely and quickly immerse themselves within the lives of others, without their motives being questioned?

It’s kind of like the apple. Maybe we see the apple out of the corner of our eye and grab it. Maybe it’s not even bit in to right away, but tossed in our bag for later. So it travels with us. Until that moment when we are ready for a break, for that apple we grabbed hours ago.

But it isn’t what it seemed. The snack is ruined. Granted, a con-artist is different and much worse than a rotten apple. However, both leave you with a horrible taste in your mouth that won’t quickly be forgotten.

So, pay attention. People and things are not always what they seem.

Did you happen to notice which apple was fake in the picture above? I’ve circled the bad apple below👇

“You can’t read all day (if you don’t start in the morning).” – Anonymous

Where Do Monsters Lurk?

My interest in true crime books goes way back. I’m thinking I was in junior high when I was introduced to this genre via a book written by Ann Rule.

To this day I have read all of her books or close to it. Sadly she passed away a few years ago so there will not be any new books. Ann Rule was a policewoman before she became an author, which only added to the authenticity of her writing. Although the subjects and associated people she wrote about were horrifying, her books were not gratuitously disgusting or over the top. Her books are well thought out and well researched. Rule’s presence within this genre is sadly missed.

Thinking about this week I wanted to cover a good variety of true crime books for you. Typically murder comes to mind when I think about this genre, but the word crime covers a multitude of acts. Learning about the inner-workings of the minds of criminals is fascinating to me. The age-old debate of nature vs. nurture will only continue to be examined. Are people born with certain genes that allow them to be more susceptible to committing these acts-or does an experience cause them to snap? Personally, I believe it’s both.

What do you think?

Today’s Book:

I read The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi a few years back. I can’t remember if it was recommended or if I just picked it up because it sounded interesting.

This story is an incredible one.

Imagine getting the chance to live in another country that you has always dreamed of. This is exactly the chance that Douglas Preston and his family were able to do when they moved from the U.S.A. to Florence, Italy.

After getting settled in their farmhouse in Florence, Preston gets the chance to meet up with the famous journalist, Mario Spezi.

As the two get to know each other Spezi shares some interesting information with Preston. The olive grove next to Preston’s new home was the scene of a horrible double murder. These murders were committed by the “most infamous figure in Italian history-the Monster of Florence (back cover).”

Preston is fascinated by this information. Of all places he and his family could have found a house- the one they choose has such a terrible story right next door.

He and Spezi begin their own investigation in to this monster who killed fourteen people, but was never caught.

This is the true story of their search to find and confront the man they believe is responsible for these crimes.

In the midst of their search, you learn about the city’s own bloody history. As the two men become more and more involved in this hunt, they actually become targets of a crazy police investigation.

If you enjoy true crime or even just have an interest in history, I think you will enjoy this book. It’s a little over three hundred pages, but is quite fast-paced.

This is a book I’ve kept after finishing for two reasons. I not only found it to be such a great read, but also I wanted to be reminded to recommend it to others who like this genre.

Oh-to answer the question asked in the title:

Where do monsters lurk?

Everywhere, my dears. So watch your step.

More to come this week!

“We all have a monster within; the difference is in degree, not in kind.”

-Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, The Monster of Florence

Words, Dessert, & Wine- That’s It

Oh man. Thank goodness it’s Friday.

How are you all? Long week, slow week, good week, bad week? Either way, it’s over and it’s time to celebrate Friday!

It’s the simple things, my dear bookworms, which delight me.

So, if you’ve been following the posts this week you know the theme has been books that terrify me. All five of Lisa Genova’s books fit this bill. They each scare me in some form or another because they are all based upon truth.

Yesterday was the final book in my American Horror Stories series, which featured Every Last Note by Genova.

Tonight I wanted to end the week with a book that has similar terrifying qualities- like Genova’s books. I read this book many year ago and it still gets under my skin. A movie based on the book came out several years ago and I haven’t seen it and I don’t want to. The book was more than enough.

Every Friday on this blog I post a book, a dessert, and wine. Today is no different, so let’s get started!

The Book:

My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult follows the Fitzgerald family. Sara and Brian have two children, Jesse and Kate. When Kate develops leukemia, everything changes. Sara and Brian feel their only chance at saving Kate is to conceive another child.

Anna is born and her life consists of one medical procedure after another in efforts to help save Kate. Of course there’s a million ethical questions and alarms that I’m sure are going off, but that’s not what bothers me most.

Dealing and caring for a horribly sick child is what bothers me. Bother isn’t even the right word. It’s unimaginable. It’s both sad and terrifying. Leaving that aside for a moment to then think about another child being subjected to test after test is awful still.

What would you do in this situation ? I’m asking you, because I have no idea what I’d do. I’m not judging anyone’s answer, because I’ve not walked in those shoes.

The whole situation is horribly gut wrenching.

Although this book, like Genova’s, can be difficult to read, I do recommend it. I have read many of Picoult’s books and they never fail to make me think deeply.

The Dessert:

This is the same Almond Butter blondie that I posted a few weeks back. They key ingredient is Trader Joe’s brand almond butter. It hadn’t cooled enough to cut in to pieces, but I thought it was beautiful enough to post right in the pan.

The Wine:

The wine is a Cabernet Sauvignon by Seven Daughters. It’s from California and it is a new wine for me. Wine always pairs well with dessert, so I’m not worried about this one 🍷

Well bookworms, I’m exhausted. I meant to get this post up earlier, but the day got away from me.

Stick around- next week’s theme is true crime and I have some good ones just waiting to share with you.

Cheers.

“If you have a sister and she dies, do you stop saying you have one? Or are you always a sister, even when the other half of the equation is gone?” -Jodi Picoult, My Sister’s Keeper

American Horror Stories: Part III

The best day (Friday) of the week is almost here.

Over the last few days I have posted books by Lisa Genova. As much as I love her books, if I think too much about them for extended periods of time, they really do scare me.

Health, or lack of it can be frightening. So many advancements have and are being made in the medical world, but there is still so far to go. Too many people are suffering from incurable diseases.

Today brings the spotlight to the fifth and most recently published book by Genova.

Every Note Played

Although I can relate more personally to Still Alice, which was featured in yesterday’s post, Every Note Played is not only her best book to date, but also her most terrifying.

I first received this book from Overdrive on my Kindle during the summer of 2018. I began reading it and about 20% in I had to stop.

I had no personal tie to this story and the disease it is about, but it was just too heavy for me at the time. Skip ahead to just a few months ago. I came across this book and thought, ok, I’m going to try again.

I finished it in record time and was horrified.

Every Note Played is about Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. After reading this, there are no words to describe how disgustingly terrible this disease is.

This story follows Richard, who is a concert pianist who has performed the world over. His fingers are, “finely calibrated instruments” (book flap) that allow him to play with incredible deft and precision.

Richard’s right arm begins to feel weird and then his fingers, hand, and arm become paralyzed.

He is diagnosed with ALS.

After this he begins playing music written for just one hand, although knowing his left arm will follow the same suit as his right.

During the beginning of this story you learn that Richard wasn’t/isn’t necessarily the most likable person. Since his divorce (way prior to the diagnosis)he has become a very arrogant womanizer. He and his ex-wife Karina have a grown daughter who is away at college.

As Richard’s illness progresses, his doctor attempts to prepare him for what the future holds. ALS takes away all muscle control, putting a person in to a completely paralyzed state from head to toe. ALS even takes your voice. His doctor recommends making voice recordings for those he holds dear. Initially he sort of brushes it off. Even with his right arm paralyzed, the realty of what he is ultimately going to face takes time to set in-yet time is what he doesn’t have.

He has to order a specialized wheelchair that he can control with his mouth way before he needs it, his home which has stairs has to be sold. His career is gone. The things he held dear are slipping away at record speed.

While this is going on you learn more about Karina, and although she holds a lot of anger towards Richard, she is also still heartbroken over the divorce.

When Richard’s condition worsens he can no longer live alone. He has a home care worker who comes every day (this character is amazing and brings another layer of wonder and amazingness to this story), but is still in need of someone to live with him full-time. This is when Karina, despite her anger steps in and moves in with Richard.

Their relationship is intense and is a beautiful part of this, at many times, ugly story. Moving in and helping Richard is not something Karina wants to do even though she feels sorry that he has ALS. It’s a rocky combination to say the least, but Richard and Katrina grow incredibly alongside each other and also within themselves despite this terrible disease. Their story, along with the other characters make this one incredible book.

This story, if I could only pick one of Genova’s books, is the one I would recommend most to you. I think what bothers me most about ALS is that the mind is still aware of everything versus something like Alzheimer’s where the mind goes first (usually).

This book will break your heart, I promise. But I also promise you will learn (if you didn’t already know) so much about ALS and that knowledge cannot help but make you a more compassionate human being.

This world needs many things, and of kindness and compassion, there will never be enough.

“Every note played is a life and a death.” – Lisa Genova, Every Note Played