July 31, 2022

day 14 - Amsterdam 4.2

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Day 14.2 We then walked west along the Herengracht to the Willet-Holthuysen House Museum. The mansion was built for the mayor of Amsterdam around 1685. In 1895, its owner, Louisa Holthuysen, bequeathed the building and its contents, including the art collected by her and her husband, Abraham Willet, to the city of Amsterdam on condition that it became a museum bearing their names. The double mansion contains many period rooms, which were the perfect way for the couple to share their taste and wealth with others. Its beautiful salons are in the style of Louis XIV, and the garden is symmetrically designed as a French formal garden.
From there it was only a few blocks up the canal to the delightful Kattenkabinet, an art museum devoted to works depicting cats. The museum collection includes paintings, drawings, posters, sculptures and other works by Rembrandt, Toulouse-Lautrec, Corneille, Sal Meijer, Théophile Steinlen, and Jože Ciuha, among others. The museum is housed in a building in the grand Gouden Bocht ("Golden Bend") of the [[Herengract]] Herengracht. The owner’s family lives on the second floor of the building. There are live cats in the museum as well, but we only saw one. The website [https://www.kattenkabinet.nl] offers a virtual tour of the collection and an opportunity to buy replicas of the art. Did we stop in the gift shop? What do you think?
By then it was raining again, so we stopped in for dinner at Café Het Paleis, a casual retro-style canalside eatery, known for burgers, apple pie & hot chocolate. Instead of a burger, we had a hearty soup, plus salad and some excellent warm bread. But we did share some pie. We wanted to linger and people watch from the café’s perfect corner location next to a bridge over the canal, but we still had to pack. So it was back to the Hoxton for a good night’s sleep and a fond-farewell to Amsterdam the next morning.

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July 30, 2022

Day 14 - Amsterdam 4

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Day 14.1 Since we had our flight back to the US the following morning, Wednesday, April 6, was our last day in Europe. So we got up early to make the most of it. Again we tried to find a Pancake Amsterdam café with a short line, but gave up and headed for the Homomonument. This icon takes the shape of a pink cement triangle on the bank of the canal. Its three points are symbolic: one corner points towards the National War Memorial on Dam Square; another to the nearby site of the Anne Frank House; while the third corner points towards the headquarters of COC Amsterdam, the Dutch LGBTQ+ rights group. It remains the largest monument in the world dedicated to homosexuality and remembrance.
We never did find a Pancake Amsterdam cafe, but on the way to the Old Jewish Quarter (Jodenbuurt) was Sweet Bakery (see photo) which, along with their amazing pastries, served delicious waffles and crepes with several choices of coffee.
Energized with caffeine and sugar, we walked to the impressive Joods Historisch Museum [https://www.amsterdamsights.com/museums/jhm.html]. Outside is a cobblestone courtyard where more than a few stones have been replaced with Stolpersteine‚ stumbling stones, 4-inch concrete cubes bearing a metal plate inscribed with the name and life dates of victims of Nazi extermination placed at their last place of residency. Inside the museum, housed in a group of four historical Ashkenazi synagogues, is a permanent exhibition that features the role of religion (including a large beautifully restored sanctuary), the persecution of Jews during the Second World War, plus personal life stories and the mutual influence of Jewish and Dutch culture. Across the street is the magnificent 16th century Portuguese Synagogue, still in use by Sephardi Jews. Now there were two different gift shops to visit, which we didn’t leave emptyhanded.

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July 29, 2022

Day 13 - Amsterdam 3

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Day 13. April 5 was my husband Dave’s birthday. Eager to have breakfast at one of the famous Pancake Amsterdam’s eateries, we googled one only a short walk away from the Royal Palace, but when we got there the café line was out the door and the Palace was closed until June; although we could still admire its glorious [[Baroque]] baroque exterior. We thought we’d have pancakes at the next nearest one, on the way to the Maritime Museum [free with IaCC], but its line was even longer. So we ate at the museum’s small, but adequate, restaurant. The exhibits were much more than adequate, however. The Het Scheepvaartmuseum (National Maritime Museum) holds one of the world's largest nautical collections, including paintings, ship models, navigation instruments and sea charts. [[The]] There is even a full-sized replica of an East India Trader ship moored to the pier behind the museum that is open for exploration. And in a special storage shed, the Netherlands Royal Barge with its beautiful gold-leaf ornamented exterior.
From there we took the metro [also free with IaCC], to the Rijksmueseum, where I was astonished and impressed at how a new slavery exhibition explores the legacy of colonialism and misleading nature of the term “Dutch Golden Age”—a glittery phrase that obscures a dark truth: many of the republic’s wealthiest residents made their fortunes through the enslavement, sale and exploitation of African people. This is made clear in the new yellow wall texts which detail a painting’s subjects’ involvement in the slave trade. It was horrifying to learn that so many 17th century portraits, including some by Rembrandt and Vermeer, depicting wealthy elites who profited from this enslavement.
For Dave’s birthday dinner, we made reservations at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Vinkeles, located a few blocks away on Keizersgracht. I can’t recall exactly what we kind of fish we ate for the main course, but the handmade 3-flavor sorbet (I think they were lime, raspberry and carrot) was one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

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July 28, 2022

Day 11 - Keukenhof Gardens

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The next morning, April 4, it was still raining, but nothing was going to prevent us from seeing Keukenhof Gardens, whose world-renowned tulip display is only open to the general public for 8 weeks from mid-March to mid-May. One of the world's largest flower gardens, it covers an area of 32 hectares (79 acres) and is situated 44 km southwest of Amsterdam. According to the official website, approximately 7 million flower bulbs are planted in the gardens annually. For continuous bloom, three bulbs are planted together. The shallowest bulb will bloom first for three weeks, followed by the subsequent layers.

Keukenhof is famous for its many-colored tulips, but it also features other beautiful flowers, including hyacinths, daffodils, lilies, and irises. Weeks earlier, as soon as they were available online, I had bought combined bus-garden entree tickets (nonrefundable) to ensure our attendance. Once we arrived, I realized there were two advantages to visiting during the rain. 1] The overcast skies made the flowers look even more brightly colored, and 2] the park wasn’t nearly so crowded as it would have been on a clear day. Thankfully there were multiple large pavilions with more flowers to see indoors, including tropical orchids and cannas. One of them housed a casual restaurant, where we ate a hot lunch. When we’d finally seen the inside of each pavilion in addition to every other part of the garden, we boarded our bus back to Amsterdam. We still needed to take a tram to ‘De Negen Straatjes’ for our short walk to the Hoxton. By that time it was dark and we were exhausted, so when we saw a large grocery store on the corner, we decided to shop for dinner items as well as for other foodstuffs to have in the room for lunches and snacks. We had bought an I amsterdam City Card (IaCC) valid 48 hours for all sorts of discounts and freebies) earlier and planned to take a night canal cruise that evening, but between the rain and us being tired, that went by the wayside.

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July 27, 2022

Day 11 - Amsterdam 1

Day 11. Sunday morning April 3, the ship dropped anchor at the De Ruijterkade port in the heart of Amsterdam. After a filling breakfast, we took a taxi to the Hoxton Hotel, centrally located on the Herengracht canal. A few centuries ago, the five canal houses that make up the property used to be home to the Mayor of Amsterdam. Each room is unique, combining 17th century decor with a modern bathroom and discretely hidden refrigerator. Earlier, when I saw the weather report forecasting snow, I excitedly imagined snowflakes gently covering the charming streets with a blanket of white. But it was literally freezing, with a windy mixture of rain, sleet and snow pelting us (and our luggage) from all sides. Under better conditions we would have been eager to explore the surrounding neighborhood known as ‘De Negen Straatjes’ (The Nine Streets), whose picturesque streets connecting the Singel, Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht canals brim with quirky shops, stylish cafés, galleries and a great historical ambience. By the time we checked in and unpacked, we were hungry and, at our hotel’s recommendation, walked a few blocks to Restaurant ‘t Zwaantje, one of the few city eateries that serves authentic Dutch cuisine. I can’t recall what I ate, except that it was good. Now satiated, we walked back by way of the popular De Kaaskamer cheese shop, where we picked up an assortment for breakfast and later.

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July 26, 2022

Day 10 - Kinderdijk

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Day 10 - Kinderdijk. Sometime early morning on Saturday April 2, our ship crossed from Germany into Holland (The Netherlands). Our tour that afternoon was a bicycle ride along wide paved paths around the Kinderdijk windmills. The weather was cold, windy and wet, which explains why we were the only two bicyclists besides our guide, thus giving us a private, individualized tour. Our 30 km route took us along the River Lek, which dominates the flat polder landscape. Our guide explained how the many windmills we saw were built to pump excess water from the polders (low-lying land reclaimed from the sea or a river and protected by dikes, especially in the Netherlands), which lie 1.5 meters below sea level. Highlights of the route are nineteen 18th century historic windmills at Kinderdijk, one of which was open for us to explore its interior. An unexpected delight of springtime was the large number of water birds: ducks, geese, swans and coots, sitting on nests or trailed by a line of adorable swimming chicks.

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July 25, 2022

Day 9 - Koln (Cologne)9

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Day 9. April 1, Friday, the weather was cold and rainy. Not the best weather for a walking tour of Cologne/Köln, famous for the immense Gothic cathedral that holds over 20,000 people and took over 630 years to complete. Inside, the ornate gold chest that is said to house the relics [remains] of the Three Wise Men made Cologne one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Europe. For my husband and I, we’d seen our fill of fancy churches and boxes of so-called ancient bones, and had no intention of waiting outside in the freezing rain in a long line to pay for the privilege of visiting another. We were more impressed with the many blue and yellow flags flying in support of Ukraine.
Our main goals were to see the old Jewish Quarter and the Schokoladen Museum. The former was under renovation, hidden behind tarps, but the latter was a gem. The exhibits show the entire history of chocolate, from its beginnings with the Olmecs, Maya and Aztecs to contemporary products and production methods. We began in a 10-metre-high tropical greenhouse as we followed the journey of cocoa from its harvest, through the stock exchanges of world markets, to its transport into the chocolate factory. The museum produces its own chocolate, and glass-sided machines allowed us to follow the manufacturing process step by step. The heart of the Chocolate Museum is the exhibition “Brown gold – Sweet seduction,” where we got insight into the five-thousand-year history of cocoa, covering the mystical ceremonies of Central America, the luxury drink of the European aristocracy, and ultimately, a nostalgic journey through the chocolate advertising of the 20th century with its many eye-catching and entertaining promotional concepts, packaging and vending machines. Of course, like at any museum, we exited through the gift shop, but far from empty-handed. On our long walk to where our return bus would be waiting, it started to snow. Our guide had abandoned us to our own devices, but fortunately I remembered various landmarks we’d passed earlier. We arrived at the Edith Stein memorial before the bus did, giving us several long minutes of anxiety waiting for it.

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July 24, 2022

Day 8 - Koblentz

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Day 8. The next morning, Thursday March 31, our ship left Rudesheim to sail through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a 65 km gorge whose landscape is punctuated by more than 30 hilltop castles erected over 1000 years, each seemingly more fairytale-like than the last. The valley walls are terraced for vineyards, and at river level, railroads run between the picturesque villages below the castles. Passengers, including us, took breakfast and coffee on the outdoor dining areas to enjoy the views. The weather was cold and cloudy, but our photos came out better.
When we arrived in Koblentz after lunch, passengers were unable to disembark for an hour due to an unanticipated delay. I was already disappointed because the scenic cable car to hilltop Ehrenbreitstein Fortress didn’t start operating until April—the following day. So we paid for Viking’s optional tour, which turned out to be well worth the money. Our knowledgeable guide, dressed in period costume, took on the persona of John Humfrey, an English spy there in the early 19th century to report on the improved fortifications built by Prussians after the French blew the fortress up in 1801 to prevent its enemy from occupying a fully functional fortress just a few meters away from French territory on the left bank of the Rhine. Besides describing the architecture and history, John made the tour more entertaining by designating a few of our group, unknown to the rest of us, as French and Prussian counterspies, whom he eventually “shot” as he caught them in the act. Due to our initial delay, we didn’t get to see as much as in regular tours, but nobody complained when we returned to learn that a body had been discovered wedged under our ship’s dock and had to be recovered first.

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July 22, 2022

day 7.2 - Worms

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Once in Worms, our iPhones were unable to access Maps, which left us in the sorry situation of having to asking strangers where the Rashi Synagogue was. We received various directions, but this was the medieval part of town, where streets twisted and turned, while every block had a different name. Eventually we received a phone call (at least our iPhones worked for this) from our guide Manfred, who picked us up and drove us to the museum entrance. There we learned, to my great disappointment, that the synagogue, including the Rashi Chapel which held the ancient “Rashi Chair,” was closed for renovation. Desolate, I wandered through the museum barely reading the signs, until Manfred found us and gestured to follow him outside. There he triumphantly whispered that once he’d explained who I was and that we’d come all the way from California, we were permitted to enter. The museum director herself unlocked the doors and showed us around. Of course I knew that Rashi, born in 1040, had never taught in the chapel named for him, which was built in 1624. Nor would he, a pupil, been allowed to sit in the large chair reserved for the master. But this was where he studied 950 years ago, so I was thrilled.
At that point, it was almost 5 pm, and it was doubtful we’d get to the Jewish Cemetery, called Heiliger Sand (Holy Sand), before closing. Actually we didn’t, but Manfred again worked his magic and we were allowed to enter and stay while it was still light. What an amazing place! Heiliger Sand, with a tombstone from 1058/59 still legible, is oldest surviving Jewish cemetery in Europe. Covered with bright green grass and massive old trees, the grounds are enormous, with 1,300 tombstones in the older part, and more than 1,200 in the newer part (burials after 1911). Gravel paths wandered through the ancient graves, and walking there I felt that I was on holy ground. Two notable graves, obvious from the many stones piled around their tombstones, belong to the 13th century Tosafist Meir of Rothenberg and 14th century Talmudist, the Maharil.
Now we were running late, so Manfred was only able to drive us past the closed Mainz Jewish cemetery. Which truthfully couldn’t compare to Worms’ Heiliger Sand either in size or number of graves. He finally found a parking space near the Rhine in Rudesheim, which was a lengthy walk to where our riverboat was docked. But Manfred didn’t abandon us there; instead he walked with us along the riverbank until we reached the ship and didn’t leave until he saw us safely on board.

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Posted by maggie at 06:27 PM | Comments (0)

Day 7.1 - Speyer

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Day 7. Wednesday, March 30, was the day I most eagerly anticipated, when we would visit and explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Speyer, Worms and Mainz. Located one after another on the Rhine, the cluster of three medieval Jewish communities are known as the ShUM cities: Shpira (Sh), Warmaisa (W=U), and Magenza (M=Mainz). I particularly wanted to see Worms, at whose yeshiva Rashi studied in the 11th century. Yet getting there was complicated because our ship would dock at Speyer, about 45 km south of Worms, let passengers off for tours, then sail downstream to pick everyone up at Worms and continue 95 km to [[Rudensheim]]Rudesheim, where we would spend the night. But this was a bucket-list trip for me so we hired a guide to meet us in Worms and take us to its Jewish sites, then drive us to Mainz to visit theirs, ultimately dropping us off at the ship in [[Rudensheim]]Rudesheim in time for dinner.
We began with a 3-hour Speyer Walking Tour that concluded at the Jewish Quarter [https://jguideeurope.org/en/region/germany/the-rhineland-and-bavaria/speyer/], where we visited a modern museum that emptied into the restored Jewish medieval courtyard. The highlight was the mikveh, the oldest and best preserved in Europe. A barrel-vaulted staircase leads through a vestibule down a circular stone stairway to a [[quadratic]] square bathing shaft 32 feet below ground, with occasional niches where a woman could undress and leave her clothes. A two-part window opens the view into the bathing shaft, now covered by a glass structure to protect it (use of the bath can be arranged outside the official tourist opening times).

Posted by maggie at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2022

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Day 6. The next day, March 29, found us in Strasbourg, famous for architecture styles from the Medieval, Renaissance, Romantic and Art Nouveau eras. The old town is a maze of narrow streets and alleys where reflections of half-timbered houses with sloping roofs, reminiscent of those seen in fairytales, recur in the many waterways surrounding and running through the city. The weather was overcast, which accentuated the Cathedral’s ornate Gothic façade and provided perfect lighting for its more than 4,600 panels of stained-glass windows, most of which date from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. And if those weren’t amazing enough, the south transept houses one of the most famous features of the cathedral, the incredible astronomical clock. Animated characters launch into movement at different hours of the day. One angel sounds the bell while a second turns over an hourglass. Different characters, representing the ages of life (from a child to an old man) parade in front of Death. On the last level are the Apostles, passing in front of Christ. Just before it was time to return for lunch, our tour guide hurried us to the area to watch in awe as all these automata lurch into operation, one after another—which happens once daily at 12:30 pm.

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July 20, 2022

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Day 5. March 28, Monday, we docked at Breisac/Breisach in Germany. On a hill high above the small town towers the huge Stephansmünster, a 12th-century Romanesque-Gothic church. Off a road winding down behind the church stands The Blue House, an educational establishment dedicated to the history of the Jews of the Upper Rhine. The Breisach Jewish community, which dated back to the 14th century, was destroyed during Kristallnacht in 1938. The Blue House was closed the day we visited, but we did see the nearby empty Judenplatz (Jewish town square), now a memorial site. We also took a lovely walk along the Rhine that took us through several pretty parks and past a flock of swans in the water.

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July 19, 2022

Day 4 - Tinguey Museum

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Day 4. Sunday, March 27, in Basel. After a quick breakfast, we packed our suitcases and left them at the front desk while we walked down to the highly recommended Museum Tinguely. Located next to the Rhine, it contains a permanent exhibition of the works of Swiss artist Jean Tinguely. A variety of his kinetic art sculptures are on permanent display, each seemingly more amazing, and bizarre, than the next/previous/last? one. Most had moving parts and some were large enough that viewers could climb into and through them. We would have stayed longer, but we had to be back to collect our luggage in time to board our riverboat by 3 pm.

The Kara Longship was lovely. Pale Scandinavian wood furniture in our large room, featuring a counter with storage, including refrigerator, below and a mirror above that ran the length of the room. Plus a large closet opposite the bathroom door. Plenty of electrical outlets, include some with USB ports. There was also a balcony with two chairs and small tables where I sat occasionally. The bathroom was a pleasure; heated floor and a large walk-in shower. Dinner was excellent, and with only 130 passengers sharing the downstairs formal dining room or the more casual upstairs dining area that opened onto an outdoor terrace on the ship’s bow, we often ate with the same people. The ship departed Basel at 9 pm and we were in bed by 10.

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July 18, 2022

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Day 3. Saturday, March 26 in Basel. To my surprise, and relief, I slept well and woke up with plenty of time to enjoy the hotel’s excellent buffet breakfast. The Hyperion is a modern design, so our room consisted of three separate areas: the main chamber with bed, two chairs and a desk; a spacious dressing area with closet, large enclosed shower and a long counter with two sinks; plus a small room just inside the entry with the toilet and a tiny sink.

Our plan was to pack a lunch and walk 2.5 km to the Mittlere Brücke bridge, then cross over the Rhine River, and do a leisurely self-guided tour of Basel’s Old Town. Our walk was more leisurely than I intended because I hadn’t realized how many candy stores we’d pass selling a myriad of Swiss chocolates for Easter. However I restrained myself from buying any because I didn’t want to shlep around perishable candy for two weeks. Plus we had tickets for the Lindt Chocolate Museum/Factory in Cologne a week later, which surely had a gift shop. By the time we returned to our hotel for dinner, we’d covered seven miles of slippery cobblestone streets strolling along the Rhine and through the city. First we explored the red sandstone medieval Minster/cathedral, then visited the 500-year old Rathaus (town hall) and marketplatz. We got lost several times in the twisty streets trying to find a toilet, until eventually we found relief from hunger at a gelato store. By the time we returned to our hotel, I was exhausted and hungry, so we ate dinner at the nearby Markthalle food hall.

Posted by maggie at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2022

Day 1-2 of Europe trip

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Apologies for the delay, but book biz took precedence over blogging about my and my husband’s two week Spring vacation through Western Europe. From this point on, each new blog post will detail one day of our trip, continuing consecutively until our final flight. We didn’t take photos during our flight or in the airport, so I’m posting the first photo we took in Basel photo, one of many chocolate stores in Basel.
Day 1. Our trip started on March 24 with an overnight flight from LAX to London; actually things started two days earlier when we tested negative for Covid. March 25 was all travel, as we hung out at Heathrow Airport until we could board the plane that would take us to Basel, Switzerland. There we would spend a couple of days getting acclimated to the new time zone prior to boarding the Viking Longship Kara to take us down the Rhine River to Amsterdam. Unlike the dreaded red-eyes in the US, our 10-hour overseas flight gave us plenty of quiet time to sleep on the plane, resulting in minimal jetlag in Basel.
Day 2. We did run into one difficulty after arriving at the Basel Airport; actually the difficulty was in trying to leave the airport. Basel is located at the intersection of France, Switzerland and Germany with the confusing result that some airport doors exit in France while others exit in Switzerland. But we didn’t know this. So while we impatiently walked around outside the French exit near baggage claim, our car service, provided by Viking to drive us to our hotel, was waiting outside the Swiss exit wondering what had happened to us. Eventually we found the proper exit, finally arriving at the Hyperion Hotel just after midnight on March 26.

Posted by maggie at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2022

3-star review of "A Hiss Before Dying" by Rita Mae Brown

A Hiss Before Dying (Mrs. Murphy #26)A Hiss Before Dying by Rita Mae Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Hiss Before Dying was the only Mrs. Murphy mystery novel in the library so I borrowed it without realizing that it was #26 in the series, written in 2017, while I’d previously only read up to #5 [written in 1997]. Never mind that the original cat, Mrs. Murphy, should certainly be deceased by this time, but this was another dual plot mystery, one part set in the present and the other back in 1786, in alternating chapters. I appreciated that they were separate stories, (view spoiler) and actually liked the post-Revolution one better. I didn’t like knowing what became of the main characters twenty years later without have read the intervening books to see how that happened. Also the present-day mystery was too convoluted and involved too much politics. So the next Mrs. Murphy mystery I read will be #6, and I’ll try to be careful to read them in order from now on.
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Posted by maggie at 08:09 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2022

4-star review of "Pay Dirt" by Rita Mae Brown

Pay Dirt (Mrs. Murphy, #4)Pay Dirt by Rita Mae Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I liked Pay Dirt a lot more than the third/previous Mrs. Murphy mystery. Nothing from the previous century, no excuses for slavery or misogyny in those days. A modern crime committed by someone with computer expertise, but underneath lie the age-old motives of money and love. I liked how Harry was getting gently wooed by her ex-husband Fair, and the friend/rival relationship between Fair and Blair as they cooperate to prevent Harry from being killed. Again, I love the animal characters and how they interact. I had the murder's identity down to two people, and I was correct on one of the two. But unlike some of this novel's critics, I don't mind if I figure out who done it before the mystery is solved.
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Posted by maggie at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2022

Jewish Book Council gives away books

For all my book-loving friends in the NYC area, the Jewish Book Council, a not-for-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to pro­mot­ing books of Jew­ish inter­est, wants to give you books. A lot of books, actu­al­ly—as in, bring sev­er­al extra bags! JBC will open its doors and offer all of its left­over books to those quick enough to grab them. For $30 at the door or $25 pre-paid, you can sift through hun­dreds of great Jew­ish books, and help your­self to an arm­load (or two) of the best Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture in town! For details, here's the website

Posted by maggie at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2022

Goodreads review of "Tevye's Daughters"

Tevye's Daughters: Collected Stories of Sholom AleichemTevye's Daughters: Collected Stories of Sholom Aleichem by Sholom Aleichem
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure whether to give Tevye's Daughters: Collected Stories of Sholom Aleichem 1, 2 or no stars. I started reading it because the Jewish Book Group on Goodreads wanted a "comfort book" and this one got the most votes. I confess I didn't read all the stories in order; I started with the first three, the third featuring Tevye's daughters. The first two are about money: lacking it, various schemes to obtain it, what would happen if he had it, etc. Not particularly comforting tales.

Next came "Modern Children," the love story of Tzeitl and Motel, which I recognized immediately as being the inspiration for "Fiddler on the Roof." The plot is the same, the characters are the same, even much of the dialogue is the same--although there are many more of Tevye's incorrect Bible quotes. I quite enjoyed it, so I decided to skip the intervening stories/chapters and read "Hodel." The plot was similar to her romance in the movie, but darker. We never read for what crime her lover was arrested, where he is imprisoned, or what they'll do after/if he's actually released. But at the train station Hodel tells Tevye that they'll never see each other again and we get his interior monologue at how unhappy he'll be. To make this clear, the last line is, "Now let's talk about more cheerful things. What news is there of the cholera epidemic in Odessa?"

After this we read about "Chava," the brilliant daughter who runs away to the village priest, apparently in order to marry her goyish lover, Fyedka. Tevya's wife Golde is so devastated that she curls up into a ball on the bed, weeping. Does he comfort her? No, he only spouts more pseudo-Torah aphorisms, many of them misogynist. There is nothing like the movie's "Do You Love Me?" duet. Then there is the "Shprintze," a daughter who doesn't appear in "Fiddler on the Roof" (for obvious reasons when you get to the ending). At first it seems that she'll be the one to make Tevye's fortune, because a wealthy young Jewish man falls in love with her (and she with him) and they become engaged. But his family intervene, the wedding is off, and Shprintze drowns herself in the pond near Tevye's house. After which, readers get another of Tevye's one-sided conversations with The Almighty while Golde dies of grief.

As if that weren’t enough misery, Motel dies in his sleep, leaving Tzeitl and her many children to move in with poor Tevye in time for the village constable to ride up and tell them to sell their house, that all the Jews in the village must leave. Which they do, but only to another town a few miles away. On the road they meet Chava, who has left her husband behind and wants to go into exile with her family. Finally we get the story of Beilke, Tevye and Golde's youngest daughter, who cares for her father after her mother's death. Beilke accepts the proposal of wealthy war-profiteer Podhotzur, who is chosen for her by the matchmaker and showers her with gifts. Over the course of the story, Podhotzur goes broke, and the couple flee to America where they both end up working in sweatshops. What happens to Tevye and the remaining daughters? We never find out.
My conclusion: NOT my definition of a “comfort book.”
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Posted by maggie at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2022

F is for FugitiveF is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This time Kinsey, our hard-boiled Southern California detective, goes away from home, a nice change. Another change, for me, is that I identified the murderer before the big reveal. But as usual there are plenty of suspects, who have plenty of dirty little secrets that may, or may not, be motives for murder. As usual, we get lots of detailed descriptions of people, places, and landscape that bring the story to life. As usual, the character she's been hired to prove didn't commit the murder didn't do it. I didn't like all the slut shaming of the victim and her mother, but then I have to remember that she was killed in the 1960s. On the other side, most of the men were misogynist jerks. In conclusion, a well-plotted and well-characterized mystery with one of my favorite female PIs.
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Posted by maggie at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2022

4-star review of “E is for Evidence" by Sue Grafton

E is for EvidenceE is for Evidence by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was so eager to find out who done it that I speed-read the final chapters, only to not understand who the killer was or the killer's motive. So I had to reread the last five chapters slowly and carefully. Unlike book D, I felt no sympathy for the killer and was quite satisfied with the outcome. Conclusion: another well-written, well-plotted Kinsey Millhone mystery from Sue Grafton. Why only 4 stars, not 5? Mostly because there were so many possible culprits that I, and probably other readers, couldn't keep track of them all, that's too many. But also the ending (Spoiler Alert: Kinsey comes home and finds the killer lurking in her bathroom, the killer who's been obviously after her since the beginning and knows where she lives. So why hadn't she fortified her front door? Not even a deadbolt. Why no traps or alarms? She's a PI, for goodness sake!)
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Posted by maggie at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2022

4-star review of “D is for Deadbeat” by Sue Grafton

D Is For Deadbeat (Kinsey Millhone, #4)D Is For Deadbeat by Sue Grafton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't say I enjoyed this particular volume of Sue Grafton's alphabet mystery series, as well written as it is. This was a much darker story than usual for our detective Kinsey. Most of the characters were reprehensible and the background on the case was a very sad story. Kinsey has to deal with ex-cons, teenagers, siblings, multiple wives and a very angry daughter. She, and the reader, have to wait for a break in the case to move to the next clue. When this book was over, I think I felt as tired and emotionally drained as Kinsey did. All of the families investigated were sad in their own way, but one story in particular was very emotional. I was still shocked at the outcome of Kinsey’s investigations. I never dreamed it would end the way it did, although in retrospect, it doesn’t surprise me much. Still, this is probably Grafton's first book where I felt some sympathy for the killer. Yet, like with her others, I did appreciate the 1980s feel. No cell phones or internet; Kinsey relies on her intellect, her many contacts and good old-fashioned leg work.

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Posted by maggie at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)