Thursday, August 28, 2014

Jack White at the Municipal

Vintage postcard showing Municipal Auditorium
Our summer musical experiences actually started in early summer when Jack White played Shreveport’s historic Municipal Auditorium.  Though he says the manager/lawyer types tried to dissuade him from playing this small venue in a mid-sized city, Jack White told the audience during the concert, he insisted on it being included.  And Shreveport loved Jack White!


I knew who Jack White was before we heard him in concert, because he seemed more intellectually curious and daring than many musicians-- truly interested in and appreciative of the historical roots of music.  Take for example, his 2004 collaboration with Loretta Lynn that netted them two Grammy awards!  While I remembered a few facts about him, I wouldn’t have called myself a big Jack White fan.
In the time leading up to the concert I spent a month in Virginia with my mother because she had a medical crisis.  I had to postpone my return to Louisiana several times.  Ricky kept sending me videos of Jack White, “On this video he is playing with the Buzzards.”  “Watch this one, he’s playing with the Peacocks.”  As I delayed my return home, Ricky was supportive.  “Stay as long as you need to,” he would say, “but try to be back by the Jack White concert.”

I made it home with some days to spare, and Jack White was a frequent supper table topic in the days before the concert.  “Some say he is playing with the Buzzards on this tour, some say it’s the Peacocks,” he would tell me.  Ricky watched lots of videos of Jack White on the internet in the days leading to the big night.  “He really puts on quite a show,” Ricky would tell me.
 
On the evening of the concert we arrived at the auditorium about 7:00 pm to find an orderly line winding down the block of people waiting to get into the venue.  We filed in with a much younger group of concert goers sporting multiple tattoos.  Ricky and I felt we were representing Baby Boomers.  We were “naked” without tattoos, but we were able to climb the flights of stairs to our seats in the second balcony without supplemental oxygen.  Our seats were straight on in front of the stage, albeit high up.  I was happy that our balcony seats didn’t have a drop-off over the rail in front of us as a couple of inebriated young women stumbled up and down the steps.  I would have been a nervous wreck.
After a lackluster set by a warm-up group, Jack White and his band, mostly male with a female fiddle player, took to the stage and took over the auditorium.  When the music started, my chest was vibrating from the sound waves that pulsated through the air straight toward us.  I couldn’t even fathom what the general admission audience was feeling as they crowded in front of the stage.  As a Boomer, I don’t exactly have perfect hearing.  I decided to preserve what was left of it.  I looked in my purse for tissues, which I then stuffed in my ears.  Ahhhh, I could now enjoy the music.  At one point, Ricky looked at me and asked, “Are my ears bleeding yet?” 

We loved the energy and virtuosity of the band and, in the process, gained a bit of street “cred” with the children of our friends.  I hope they never found out I had tissue stuffed in my ears the whole concert.  Ricky’s comment was, “They are even louder than The Who!”
The set list for Shreveport, according to  Setlist.  I can’t tell if it's accurate except I know he closed with Shreveport’s Leadbelly  song, Good Night, Irene.

Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) grave
photo from  Chris Jay's blog, "Three Places in Shreveport That I'd Take Jack White"

Encore:

Jack White requested that the audience refrain from taking photographs (which many people ignored) and said there would be multiple photos from the concert on his website for audience use.  These are a few of those photos.





 


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Being a Patron of the Arts

I belong to a writers’ group.  We are a diverse group creatively.  One member is working on a book about teaching, told through anecdotes about her experiences in education, but intended  to start a conversation with the reader, rather than provide hard-and-fast answers.  Another writes short stories full of mythological references and creatures that I have long forgotten from my college years as an English minor.  A third member is a poet and Haiku master; she writes consistently and tries to have 50 poems out to prospective publishers at any given time.  Another member, a young mother who homeschools her three children and writes a homeschooling blog,  is also very “crafty”—paper art and repurposing old furniture and other pieces.  A newer member is writing a novel loosely based on her teen-age years in Bulgaria. 

A few of us take a selfie one night
Then there is me.  I blog, but often inform the writing group when we state our weekly intentions, that I propose to be a “Patron of the Arts” during the upcoming week. By that, I usually mean go out and hear some good music.

Shreveport, Louisiana, has been home to many legendary musicians and serves as a mecca for great musical talent.  For my husband and me, venues to hear awesome music this summer have been just blocks away from our house.  The Fairfield Studio, a small recording studio in our neighborhood, hosts regular house concerts featuring singer/songwriters in an intimate setting.  The studio seats about 100 people, and there is no bad seat.  At intermission, there are  often CDs for sale, and a meal is served by a local restaurant, A Stone’s Throw.  If you eat, you are expected to make a contribution to pay for your meal.  Tickets for concerts are usually $20 each.


We have attended three house concerts this summer, and each has been unique.  The first of June we walked into the studio for a concert to be greeted personally by that night’s performer, 75-year-old Ronny Cox, the well-known character actor who is also a talented singer/songwriter/
musician.  Most people remember Ronny’s first movie role in Deliverance when he played the unfortunate Drew Ballinger who had the Dueling Banjos scene with the mountain boy. But he is so much more! Ronny has gone on to have a successful acting career; he has written a book and screenplays, but his lifelong love has been his music--“…nothing cuts through to the heart like music,” according to Ronny.
 
Ronny Cox
To read more about Ronny Cox and listen to some of his music
 http://www.ronnycox.com/

On the night we heard him, he greeted each of us as we walked in the door, shook our hands, said “I’m Ronny,” waited while we told him our name, then said, “I’m glad you’re here.”  He is a courteous and warm-hearted man.  Like the seasoned professional he is, he showed up on time, knew his lines and set out to entertain the audience. He played, along with two excellent musicians he is touring with, from an extensive playlist—some songs he wrote and some he covered from other songwriters.  Ricky and I ended up buying a CD he has of Mickey Newbury songs.
 
He interspersed his music with personal anecdotes.  He shared with us that he had been married for 46 years to his childhood sweetheart, Mary, the only girl he ever dated.  She died 7 years ago.  She was a gifted woman in her own right, earning a PhD in chemistry.  Ronny said the music helps him work through the grief process.  He now lives in the cabin behind the house he shared with Mary.  His son and family have moved into the big house.  He helps care for his granddaughter Catherine, and has written a song about her.  Even though Ricky and I have heard some Shreveport musicians play at Fairfield House Concerts,  hearing Ronny Cox’s mellow baritone and his heartfelt delivery made me determined to hear more performers.  
 
Our next opportunity came when a noted songwriter was scheduled at Fairfield Studios.  He had recently suffered a setback when his property was damaged in a flood, and that seemed to be impetus for the tour.  This man put out one widely acclaimed album in the seventies.  A guest we invited to this concert said a musician friend of hers described this musician to her, “He released one album and never had to do another one, because it was perfect.” 
 
A packed house awaited this talented man and his wife, also a singer/songwriter.  They were about 30 minutes late, and when he came on stage, he immediately asked his wife for a pain pill, then got some wine from someone in the audience.  It became apparent he may have other challenges besides his destroyed studio.  He forgot some lyrics to songs he wrote but performed others satisfactorily.  Many people left at intermission.  His wife played a brief set, and her songs are reminiscent of Joni Mitchell.  We liked her.  When the songwriter came out after intermission he fell getting on stage, but managed to finish the set.  It was sad.  We hope things look up for him soon.  Our friend who is a professional photographer stayed after the show to get a picture of him.  She said she might as well get her money’s worth. 
 
Attending a Laurie McClain concert is like a visit with a good friend, and her songs are like conversations.  We heard this Nashville-based singer/
songwriter at the Fairfield Studio this month.  Many of her songs are based on events in her life, and she says the songs often appear to her as if someone else has written them.  Laurie sang “He Smiled Like an Angel,” a song about her brother Danny who committed suicide.  She spoke about the hurt he left behind and said the death of Robin Williams had reawakened the pain of her family's loss.  In her song Danny appears to her in a dream and smiles like an angel.  She feels he is telling her that he is okay.
 

Laurie McClain
For more
about Laurie and to listen to some of her songs

 

Laurie wrote “Somewhere in Kentucky” about a time she was on tour with another act.  She became ill and had to ride home on a Greyhound bus.  Sick with the flu, she lay across two seats and stared at the sky for hours.  Somewhere in Kentucky she saw a UFO, strange lights in the sky that danced across the sky for some minutes.  She wrote this song about it.  In her concert, she passed around a bag of tiny glow-in- the-dark space creatures.  She told members of the audience to take one if they had seen UFOs.  Ricky took one.  He swore to me that he has seen a UFO, but since it was some years back, he admits it could have been the influence of some mind-altering substance. He felt it was still fair to take a space critter home with us, so the little fellow watches me now as I type, having taken up residence on my desk.
 
Laurie has many more songs worth listening to--both those she wrote and those she covers of other artists.  I like her song about a whirlwind romance, her "Utopian" songs, e.g. My Heaven, and one she sang about lightning bugs.  Click here to see a limited free playlist. 

Attending concerts at the Fairfield Studios is like sitting down with true wordsmiths and having them explain their process of creation.  For me, it is an awesome way to experience music.

 

 

 
 

 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

BookBub Book Reviews

I’ve read several e-books recently, and I find that BookBub is a good way to preview a variety of affordably priced books.  BookBub, actually a Cambridge, Massachusetts, start-up company called Pubmark, Inc. is designed to help publishers and authors sell their e-books online.  Co-founders, Josh Schanker and Nick Ciarelli, have no publishing experience, but are marketing entrepreneurs in the fields of technology and blogging. The two-year-old company emails a daily newsletter, BookBub, to those who sign up.  It informs the recipient of the daily deals, handpicked by BookBub staff, that are available for Kindle download. 

When you sign up for BookBub, you select the literary genres you prefer, and then you receive daily recommendations in these categories.  Publishers and authors like the BookBub service because it draws readers’ attention to their books--out of the 3,500 books released daily in the United States!  I like BookBub because it tells me about books I may never hear of otherwise and offers the down-loads free or at discounted prices.  The discounted prices are only available for a short period of time. To read more about BookBub, click here.

 
Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead
Sara Gran
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing, 2011 

Private Detective Claire DeWitt needs money so she agrees to return to Post-Katrina New Orleans to determine what has happened to her client’s uncle who disappeared during the storm.  While a lot of folks lost their lives and all bodies were not identified or found, this missing man was wealthy, lived in the French Quarter where it didn’t flood, and should not have been in harm’s way.   

Claire’s search soon takes her into the underbelly of New Orleans.  She befriends young drug dealers and street thugs, smokes marijuana laced with who knows what, and stays up all night passing a bottle back and forth with a homeless woman. It appears to me that Claire goes above and beyond the call of duty! 

Using her PI skills, plus “signs” from the Universe, she gets closer and closer to the truth.  There are those who want to stop her, her client fires her, she narrowly escapes with her life, but, in the end, she does unveil the truth.   

The characters are interesting, but not likable.  The book is gritty and surreal at the same time.  Many readers will either like the flawed, quirky DeWitt or be repulsed.  I fall somewhere in the middle.  I have a mild curiosity about the sequel and the development of the recurring characters, but I’m in no hurry to purchase it.
 

 
Author Julie Smith & some of her titles

Louisiana Lament: a Talba Wallis Mystery
Julie Smith
booksBnimble Publishing
(Originally published as a Forge Book:
Tom Doherty Associates, 2004)
 
You may sense a trend here in my interests as Louisiana Lament features another New Orleans Private Detective Talba Wallis and her partner Eddie Valentino.  New Orleans may be called the City that Care Forgot, or the Big Easy, but its residents have a lot of troubles in murder mysteries.  Talba’s half-sister, her father’s “outside” child, calls her in a panic and begs her to come to an address in the Garden District.  When Talba arrives, she finds the owner dead, and her half-sister is the most logical suspect in the eyes of the police.  Talba agrees to investigate the murder, initially on behalf of her sister and then Talba is employed by the victim’s son.

The motives and the plot didn’t make a lot of sense to me.  One component of the Talba Wallis mysteries’ is her other occupation, that of a slam poet called “The Baroness de Pontalba.”  Talba often refers to herself in the third person when she is responding to comments about her poetry, e.g.  “The Baroness thanks you.”  I cannot relate to this character.  I prefer Smith’s other mystery series featuring Skip Langdon who is a New Orleans police officer, or those with Rebecca Schwartz, a San Francisco lawyer. 
 
Adventures in Funeral Crashing
Milda Harris
Kindle download, 2010 
Kait Lenox, at age 16, marches to a different drummer.  Her hobby, indeed her obsession, is crashing funerals.  Not just the service, but the wake and the burial, if possible.  Why, any reader might ask, would a teen-ager do this?  Kait, an only child, lost her mother about a year ago.  Her father doesn’t know much about raising a teen-age daughter, but does his best.  In the meantime, Kait attends every funeral that she can.  She likes to hear the stories about the departed loved ones as mourners share stories of the persons when they were alive.  

Harris writes with a light touch, although Kait deals with high school bullying as her former best friend, Ariel Walker, apparently derives great pleasure in ridiculing her, preferably in front of others.  This is not a serious Young Adult novel.  It is escapist fare, with cliques of the most popular boy in school befriending the class' weird girl, Kait.  Every book doesn’t have to solve the world’s problems.  The characters are likable, the plot around the murder is weak, the motive for murder even weaker, but I can see where some young adolescents would find it entertaining. 


 
 




 
 

 

 
 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Fascination with Cuba

I’ve long been fascinated with Cuba from the tales of by-gone days when expat writers, e.g. Ernest Hemingway, lived there.  I've loved the black/white images of Cuba in a photography book I bought a few years ago—Walker Evans’ Havana 1933.  As I reread the narrative that accompanied Evans’ photographs, I learned that Evans spent three weeks in Havana taking photos to illustrate a book by a leftist author who was protesting American support for the Cuban dictator of that day.  It was a time of student unrest and police brutality, but the photos I remembered showed interesting buildings and the great cultural melting pot that is Cuba, depicted in people’s faces.  I probably just fell in love with Evans' photographs, just as I had years earlier in Now Let Us Praise Famous Men.  The following photos are not the necessarily the best in the book but provide some examples of Evans' Havana work.
 © Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Cuban Children
Havana, 1933
 
Walker Evans (1903–1975)
People in Downtown Havana
1933
Gelatin silver print
© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Lincoln Kirstein, 1952, 52.562.7

© Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Walker Evans (1903-1975)
Woman on the Street
Havana, 1933


Then in the 1990’s came the Buena Vista Social Club, first the album, then the documentary.  I loved the film, the vibrant and ageless sounds of the music.  The fact that this music and many of its aging musicians survived is testament to the resilience of the Cuban people. 

Thus, when I saw the book, Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana in the book store, I bought it, but I just now got around to reading it.

Cuba Diaries: An American Housewife in Havana
Isadora Tattlin
Broadway Books, 2002

Isadora Tattlin, the nom de plume of a diplomat’s wife from an unnamed country, lived with her family in Cuba in the early 1990’s and kept a diary of her experiences.  This book basically depicts the daily lives of a privileged family in an underprivileged country.  Tattlin’s primary job as a diplomat’s wife was caring for her two children and running her home with a lot of assistance from her Cuban household help.  Tattlin was obviously sympathetic to the plight of the Cuban people and paid her employees well, but the Cuban government took a large portion of their salaries. Foreigners in Cuba could also expect that some of their employees were reporting to the government about the household. 

Tattlin detailed complicated shopping excursions as she and her employees searched for necessary goods and foods unavailable to the average Cuban, or even to foreigners with money, unless they had contacts in the right places.  Everyone had to deal with complicated laws, which changed frequently, about who could sell products and who could shop in designated stores.  For example, state-run dipolmercado markets had exorbitant prices, often inferior products, accepted only dollars, and were for foreigners living in Cuba.  Agropecuarios or fruit, vegetable, lamb and pork farm-to-market stores accepted only pesos, but anyone could shop there.  Farmers were allowed to sell in the agropecuarios a certain percentage of what they raised, but it varied year-to-year whether these markets were allowed to open.  The state ran pesos-only bodegas were for Cubans only. Cubans were given ration books in order to buy staples from the bodegas, but the products were often unavailable. 
 
The diary described side trips the family made to other parts of Cuba, but the accommodations and food always seemed to be minimal.  Tattlin described restaurants without food with a few sad looking people sitting around, and beds with dirty sheets. 

The one thing that Tattlin seemed to love about Cuba was her house.  It was huge with garden areas for outdoor living, quite a contrast to many Cubans who were living in apartment buildings with no running water. They got their water from tank trucks, then had to carry it to their homes. 

This book was just as the title says—a diary.  There was no narrative structure in the book.  Tattlin described many daily experiences in detail and some entries were quite interesting and entertaining, while others were boring, just as life is.  Tattlin met some interesting characters in Cuba, and on one occasion she and her husband entertained Castro in their home.

The diaries weren’t what I had hoped they would be, or perhaps it was Cuba that wasn’t what I had wanted it to be.  I probably won't be traveling there any time soon.




 
 






 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Chili Queen

The Chili Queen
Sandra Dallas
(St. Martin’s Press, 2002)
 
Addie French, the owner and operator of the Chili Queen brothel, is the proverbial whore with a heart of gold.  It’s her kind-hearted nature that leads her to befriend Emma Roby whom meets on the train as they both travel to Nalgitas, New Mexico.  Addie is returning home after an assignation with a wealthy client, and Emma is basically a mail order bride, having corresponded with a rancher who is supposed to meet her in Nalgitas for the purpose of matrimony.  When Emma’s suitor fails to materialize, she shows up at the Chili Queen, looking for a place to stay thinking the Chili Queen is a boarding house.  Addie doesn’t have the heart to turn her away. 

The story revolves around the group of people thrown together at the Chili Queen by life’s circumstances, but Addie and Emma each will discover appearances can be deceiving.  The mishmash of folks staying at the Chili Queen  include Emma; Addie who gives up her bedroom to Emma so Emma won’t be sleeping on the same floor as the working prostitutes; Welcome, Addie’s black cook and wash woman, who keeps everyone in line; Ned Partner, a sometimes outlaw and Addie’s sometimes lover; and the two prostitutes, Belle Bassett and Tillie Jumps.  Later in the book, Emma’s brother John Roby, arrives at the Chili Queen completing the cast of characters.   

The Chili Queen, set in 1880’s New Mexico, is one part “The Sting” and one part Spanish picaresque novel, with a little bit of the vibe from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” thrown in, but what emerges is a unique and entertaining tale from author Sandra Dallas.  The story is told from different characters’ perspectives: Addie, then Ned, followed by Emma, and finally Welcome.  Each person’s story illuminates the truth a little more. 
My Colorado-based, sister-in-law has recommended Sandra Dallas’ books for years, and I now wonder what took me so long to follow up on her recommendations.  So far I’m just reading the Sandra Dallas books I’ve found on my book shelves.  Next up is Alice’s Tulips (2000).  Dallas is a former Denver bureau chief for Business Week magazine and lives in Denver and Georgetown, Colorado.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Spider Woman’s Daughter and Navajo Country

Navajo Police Officer Bernie Manuelito takes center stage in this continuation of the Jim Chee/Joe Leaphorn  series when she is the only eye witness to the shooting of retired Navajo police lieutenant Joe Leaphorn.  While she is required to take leave after the incident, her husband Sergeant Jim Chee is the officer in charge of the case, so she is able to remain involved in the investigation.  Together they must pursue a lot of leads, many of which lead them to dead ends.  This time they must solve the crime without the assistance of Joe Leaphorn who fights for his life in an Albuquerque hospital.

 
 Anne Hillerman, the daughter of Tony Hillerman, attempts to carry on the family legacy of her father's outstanding series set in Navajo country.  She has written a serviceable mystery, but it is missing the heart and soul of her father’s writing.  Tony Hillerman had the ability to immerse the reader in Navajo culture and the Western landscape.  Anne Hillerman’s characters don’t come off the page and live with you as they did when her father wrote the series.  Anne Hillerman was a reporter and non-fiction writer before she undertook this novel, so she may improve with practice and skilled editorial guidance. 
When I finished this mystery, I got out some of my books on the Navajo lands and realized how much I enjoyed my brief glimpse of the people and their homeland during my travels years ago.


I was hiking down a canyon in Navajo country when I came across a Navajo elder tending her sheep.  She saw me, then turned and walked away.  We waited until she disappeared before taking this photo of her hogan.

The land is one of the most powerful images in a Tony Hillerman mystery, but daughter Anne wasn’t able to make the area come alive for me.  Edward Abbey in Desert Solitaire describes the four corners region: “I sometimes choose to think…that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real.  Rock and sun.”

“From the ancient dwelling there came always a dignified, unobtrusive sadness; now stronger, now fainter….a voice out of the past, not very loud…went on saying a few simple things to the solitude eternally.”

                                    --Willa Cather, The Song of the Lark, 1915

Monday, August 4, 2014

More Summer Reading Book Reviews

I am constitutionally unable to stop writing book reviews, as I explained to my writing group recently.  My mother kept a small book where she wrote brief reviews of the books she read.  Just for herself, she said, so she could remember what she read.  I brought her Book Notes home with me a couple months ago because she looked at it and had no idea what it was or who wrote it, and I was afraid she would throw it away.  My husband and I customized the small notebook for her years ago.  Ricky used his old mechanical drawing equipment to label the cover and make alphabetical tabs for the pages. 

Mother's book review notebook
 While I don’t write reviews of every book I read, I have a hard time giving a book away until I duly acknowledge reading it via some sort of review.  Books don’t have to be great literature to entertain me—I guess that harkens back to my Nancy Drew days.  I’ve always analyzed and critiqued things.  When I was in middle school, I helped edit a church youth newsletter one summer.  I found samples of my articles once, and saw I reviewed books, movies, and horse shows with equal aplomb!

Thus, the following are a few of the light mysteries I’ve recently read.  I want to give these books away but can’t until I review them!

 
The Rocky Road to Romance
Janet Evanovich
(HarperTorch, 2004; originally published in 1991) 

Before her highly popular Stephanie Plum bounty hunter mystery series (Top Secret Twenty-One being the latest offering), Evanovich was a romance author.  I don’t know where I got this book, but I read it quickly one day when I saw it on my shelves.  Daisy Adams has a morning segment on radio station WZZZ featuring recipes for dogs, having written a successful book Bones for Bowser, but one morning she is elevated to the station’s traffic reporter when the regular reporter is injured in an accident with a garbage truck.  Station owner Steve Crow must quickly try to teach her the gist of her new job and finds himself falling in love with the overachieving Daisy.  Daisy is also a doctoral student, delivers newspapers, is caring for a teen-age brother, serves as a crossing guard for school children and volunteers at a nursing home.  When Daisy accidentally helps the police capture a drug king pin, her life is in danger.  Other colorful characters enter the scene, as the story unfolds in Evanovich’s signature humorous and breezy manner.  I can’t help myself.  I like Evanovich.

 

 The Secret Keeper
Kate Morton
(Atria Books, 2012) 

I’ve had this book for a couple of years but couldn’t make myself read it, though I liked Morton’s The Distant Hours well enough.  Since I’m reading books that I already own right now as part of a personal reading challenge, I pulled this one down to give it another try.  The book was reviewed extensively when it first was published, so I’ll make this brief.  Laurel Nicolson saw something violent and disturbing when she was 16 years old.  Decades later, she wants answers to the mystery surrounding the incident.  Her mother is dying, and Laurel, a famous actress, comes home to be near her mother and her siblings in the farm house where the children enjoyed an idyllic childhood.  Laurel also wants to resolve her own lingering questions and, in turn, uncover her mother’s mysterious past.  The story is told by multiple narrators, as it moves back and forth between the present and war torn London during the World War II blitz.  I found the book to be too long as Laurel laboriously unravels the old mystery, but I did like the surprise twist at the end.

 
The Spice Box
Lou Jane Temple
(Berkley Prime Crime, 2005) 

A historical mystery set in 1860’s New York City features Irish orphan and cook’s helper, Bridget Heaney.  Her first day on the job Bridget makes an unfortunate discovery—her employer’s son is dead and stuffed into a large box that is intended to store dough before the loaves of bread are ready for baking.  Bridget pitches in to help her employer solve the murderer because neither believes that the police are up to the task.  The information about foods prepared and served both upstairs and below stairs in the grand houses of mid-nineteenth century Manhattan is interesting.  The death of the son is resolved but not before others die.  The climax and denouement are satisfactory.  Bridget has a developing friendship with a young Irish reporter who helps her locate the younger sister who she feared was dead.  Author Lou Jane Temple is a chef, food writer and restaurant consultant.

  

 
Judgment Call
J.A. Jance
(William Morrow, 2012)
 
Prolific mystery writer J.A. Jance writes several successful series and one I’ve followed off and on features Arizona Sheriff Joanna Brady.  When Joanna’s daughter finds the body of her high school principal, it becomes personal for Brady who must first find out who the principal really was before she can discover who wanted her dead.  The motive for the murder and the manner of discovery of the principal’s whereabouts (despite her efforts to change her name and distance herself from her past) are far-fetched.   However, I like the recurring characters of this series and the western setting, plus Jance’s mysteries don’t drag, so it added up to enjoyable escapist summer reading for me.