Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lingering at the Beach

Life seems strange to me at times, or at least mildly interesting, in the juxtaposition of realities--there's the world of books that I inhabit intensively when I read and the daily currents of my very ordinary life.  Tonight I resided part of the evening in a mouldy castle with a young heroine and ghosts of memories, a gothic world I don't often seek out.  I'm not totally comfortable there, me with my healthy sense of normalcy. 

I often feel strangely disoriented when I step out of an alternate reality in the cottage where I've been reading into the kitchen of our main house, where tonight I absentmindedly nibble a newly ripe grape tomato from the Early Head Start garden, experiencing the crunch of the outside skin followed by the sweet juiciness of the tomato's pulp.  My mind moves on to thoughts of making okra, tomatoes and corn tomorrow, using the fruits of the garden.  I wonder about what new zucchini dish to try next, then fret momentarily about getting the house clean enough for some young friends from New Orleans to shoot scenes for a Louisiana Film Prize film here over the Fourth of July. 

Last weekend I rarely emerged from my fictional world when I holed up and read four books, one right after the other.  In this alternate Universe, before I arrived at the castle, I was at the beach:

An Appetite for Murder: a Key West Food Critic Mystery, by Lucy Burdette. New York: New American Library (a division of Penguin Group). 2012

Hayley Snow wants to remain in Key West where she currently resides in a small bedroom on the house boat of her former college roommate, but she needs a job.  Hayley moved to Key West to live with a new man in her life, but after a few months, he has dumped her.  Hayley is dismayed to discover the new woman in her ex's life, Kristin Faulkner, is also the person who would be her boss at the Key West style magazine where Hayley has applied to be the food critic.  When Kristin is murdered, Hayley becomes a prime suspect, and she must clear her name if she has a chance of landing her dream job. 

Hayley, as amateur detective, turns out to be a trouble magnet, but her exploits are entertaining for me, the perfect genre mystery--strong setting; interesting, idiosyncratic heroine; and fast moving plot.  I really enjoyed this mystery and look forward to the next book in this new series, Death in Four Courses, coming in September.  This book was a Kindle download for our Florida vacation, but I never got around to reading it at the beach.  It was perhaps even more enjoyable to visit this wet corner of Florida after our return to hot, parched Louisiana.
Author Robert Isleib aka Lucy Burdette
This mystery was doubly fun because it also counts toward the Foodie Reads 2 Reading Challenge.  The book is full of food facts, with a few recipes included at the end of the Kindle version.

Author Lucy Burdette is the pen name for clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib who writes two other mystery series under her own name--the Advice Column Mystery series and Golf Lover's Mystery series.  Isleib has been nominated for various awards for mystery authors and is a past-president of Sisters in Crime.

A Year by the Sea: Thoughts of an Unfinished Woman, by Joan Anderson. New York: Doubleday. 1999.

My next trip to the beach was with author Joan Anderson as I read her non-fiction account of a year spent alone in her family's rustic Cape Cod cottage, where she searches for answers about her life and her marriage. This journey of self-discovery is interesting to me because of the setting, the people she meets and the jobs she holds.  The book, another Kindle download, is adequately written but doesn't contain the beauty of writing and depth of self-reflection of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea, for example.

Anderson, according to her blog, began her writing career as a stringer for Gannett newspaper chain, moved on to creating essays for children's photo books, and finally to the genre of memoir writing and a career helping other women "find themselves" through retreats she leads for women at Cape Cod or other locales in across the country.  Anderson apparently gained fame and popularity through appearances on Oprah and other television shows.  Anderson has written five memoirs in all.  While I don't rule out reading another of her books, I wouldn't seek them out.

Author Joan Anderson

After my extended visit to the beach, I head back to Indian territory with Walt Longmire, plus a new mystery series set on Indian reservation.  More about that tomorrow....


  1. You've been busy with the garden, cooking, and reading this summer. Quite a variety of books, too. Of course, few can compete with Anne Morrow Lindbergh's beautifully personal language. It has been many years since I read A Gift from the Sea and one other of her books taken from her diaries and letters, but she and Gladys Tabor had such an amazing way of creating scenes and thoughts you can step right into.

    1. Yes, Jenny, and when you add in working fulltime and its polar opposite, vacationing, it has started off to be a busy summer! I try to keep up with my blog and my blog reading. It's been a long time since I read A Gift from the Sea but I downloaded it onto my Kindle while I was at the beach for inspiration, I guess. I don't recall ever reading Gladys Tabor, so I'll have to check her books out. Hope you are having a good summer. I haven't forgotten about lunch. Ricky and I are heading out of town to South Louisiana for his birthday, combining business and pleasure for me.

  2. Taber taught at Randolph-Macon Women's College and Columbia Univ. during the 1920's. She published weekly columns called "Butternut Wisdom" in Family Circle in the 1960's. My mother loved the columns and her books which are beautifully written accounts of life at Stillmeadow, the family farm in Conn.

    Hope you and Ricky have a great trip!