R.I.P. Reading Challenge #1: Still Life, Lousie Penny

Still Life, Louise Penny

The first of my R.I.P. reading assignments!

I hadn’t read Louise Penny before, though I know she is quite popular and, indeed, now appears on bestseller lists. I can’t really say why I haven’t read her before now, except that I had the impression that she was a little…Cosy.

While I love a book that gives me a real sense of place, all the way down to clothes and food and drink and books and art and cafes, I simply can’t read a Cosy. I know there are exceptions, really I do, but it has seemed to me that quite a few of the Cosies are simply poorly written. I apologize if I’m offending your favorite read—perhaps I haven’t read your favorites. I feel claustrophobic while reading a Cosy. There are usually fewer than ten main characters, which are not really fully developed, and the action takes place in even fewer locales.

(I say all this while thinking of books and authors that break those rules for me, such as Barbara Pym and Alexander McCall Smith.)

Anyway, I was a little apprehensive when starting the first in the Chief Inspector Gamache series, Still Life. And yes, it was a little Cosy. It fit my above criticisms of number of characters and locales, and it took a while for each individual character to come to life. As a first book in a series, that is understandable though not commendable.

But I did stick with it–though there was much more discussion about the finer points of archery than I had any interest in–and the stories and characters developed into richer portraits. By the end of the book I was reasonably satisfied, had enjoyed myself, and looked forward to the next in the series.

A few random thoughts:

Setting: I did enjoy the setting quite a lot. Is this the only mystery series to take place in Quebec? The Quebecois issues and attitudes were interesting and added a nice and more dramatic aspect to the story. I do like a setting that has weather of some sort, and there was a lovely storm at the end. I am hoping that a bit more of Montreal will be included in other books in the series. The very small town of Three Pines is a bit Cosy-Claustrophobic, though.

Books and Food: As I said, food does contribute to a sense of place. Just as I am always curious to know what people (even fictional ones) are reading, I’m curious about what they are eating, especially if they are outside the U.S., or in a very ethnic area. The food issue was nicely handled, making me hungry and curious rather than feeling like I was being beaten over the head with Food Mystery! And Food Mystery Puns! There is a very nice and interesting bookshop that is thoughtful and not Cosy, with an interesting owner.

The Mystery: Not bad. I felt it was believable at the end, if only (PARTIAL SPOILER ALERT) because I’ve had experience with sociopaths, and they CAN fool just about everyone.

The Big Cheese: I did like and appreciate Chief Inspector Gamache, and am curious to see how his character develops. I also want to know more about his wife!

Also: I enjoyed the art aspect—three of the main characters are artists, and I especially appreciated the Big Reveal of the murder victim’s Big Secret Art Projects.

Overall grade: ****
Four out of five stars




R.I.P Reading Challenge

I’ve never participated in a reading challenge before, and this month I’m planning on doing TWO!











First up:
R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX, hosted by Carl at StainlessSteelDroppings.

The challenge is to read books from the following categories (and you can choose to watch films and television, as well):

Dark Fantasy.

I will be attempting Peril the First, in which I am to read four books in the month of September. Should be a snap, right? We’ll see! I’m starting my reading list with the following:

  1. The Secret Place, by Tana French: I am so, so excited for her new book, releasing on September 2. Great timing!
  2. Spider Woman’s Daughter, by Anne Hillerman: Carrying on the Leaphorn and Chee novels by Tony Hillerman’s daughter.
  3. Starting two new (to me) series: Cold Dish, the Sheriff Longmire series by Craig Johnson
  4. Still Life, the Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

I will also participate in Peril on the Screen.

Unfortunately, Gracepoint (the US version of Broadchurch) won’t start till October 2.  And the new (YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!) Inspector Lewis episodes won’t air until October either. What to do?

  1. I do have the 4th and 5th seasons of Justified to catch up on.
  2. And I have the first season of The Equalizer on my Netflix queue, but since it’s marked Long Wait, I’m not sure about that one.
  3. I think I will move the 1982 Cat People film up to the top of my queue.
  4. Hey! The Blacklist returns on September 22! Unfortunately, no date yet for Hannibal.


The next reading challenge is the Mary Stewart Reading Week, hosted (I think) at Gudrun’s Tights. It runs from September 14 to the 21st. I’m not sure what I’ll read for that week yet. Perhaps The Gabriel Hounds.

Listing: The Original

Believe me, I am far from through when it comes to covering all my listing activities!

Original Notebook








This is one of my original journals and lists, or really, the most original that I still have. I started this I think about 2005. It’s a dreaming journal, with life lists (big and small goals):

Go to the Rose Bowl Flea Market
Rent a villa in Italy
Send thank-you notes

Travel lists:

Original Int







Ways and where to live:

Try to live off-grid and eat locally
Smaller house
Straw-bale house
Oregon, Lake Tahoe, Flagstaff, Joshua Tree, Santa Fe, Chico, Vermont

And things to learn about:

Art history
Crochet and knit
Read tarot cards

I haven’t been too active in this one for a few years, but I just dug it out and plan on catching up. BTW: colorful Sharpie pens used in this one.

Books on the Book List

I have so many books to be read written in my Book List, that they–or some of them–deserve their own post!

Currently reading:

Whose Body? The first Lord Peter Wimsey book











Recently added to the list–let me know if you’ve read any of them!

Mrs. Tim Carries On, D.E. Stevenson
Summerhills, D.E. Stevenson
Girls Standing on Lawns, Maira Kalman and Daniel Handler
Death in the Wasteland, George Bellairs
How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, Elizabeth Loupas
Euphoria, Lily King
Sister Golden Hair, Darcy Steinke
Lucky Us, Amy Bloom
Los Angeles Stories, Ry Cooder
Twilight in Italy, D.H. Lawrence
Sea and Sardinia, D.H. Lawrence
Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook
Homemade Winter, Yvette Van Boven
The Night Mail, Rudyard Kipling
Burmese Days, George Orwell
Why Don’t You?, Diana Vreeland
Tove Jansson: Life, Art, Words, Boel Westin
Carsick, John Waters
Sunshine on Scotland Street, Alexander McCall Smith
Geek Love, Katherine Dunn
The Farm, Tom Rob Smith
Not My Father’s Son, Alan Cumming
Entertaining Without a Maid, Elizabeth Lounsbery
Delancey, Molly Wizenberg
Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson
Bannock, Beans, and Black Tea, John Gallant
Delicious, Ruth Reichl

Just a small sampling!

Listing Again: The Book List

Mr. Night Sky opined that it might be interesting/illuminating for me to illustrate some of my various lists. I responded that some of my lists are so long, they could not be contained in a single blog post, and that most people would have fallen asleep well before getting to the end of even a single list. However, I will give it a stab, showing a glimpse into some lists, a tantalizing hint, if you will. Or won’t.

My Book List
This list is one I started I think about 2009. I’ve almost filled this entire spiral-bound blank book primarily of books to read, or at least to attempt to read. Books that sound interesting and intriguing. There’s also a light sprinkling of quotations I wanted to remember, websites to remember to visit, and some movies and television shows (primarily British). If I’ve actually read, or made a good attempt at reading, a book, a check goes next to it. Some of these titles are problematical because they are out of print, some LONG out of print. There are also complete lists of series, book and television episodes, so I can be sure to read/watch them in order. And I use a special color-coordinated Sharpie.

Books NotebookBooks Notebook Int


I’m a lister.

One of the things I used to do in my “dark time” was to make lists. I’m a natural list maker anyway, and not much of a journal writer (except for this blog), so the lists were my way of both documenting AND looking forward to better days.

I had a list of books I read during that time, a list of books I wanted to read (I still do that one), a list of business ideas, a list of marketing ideas, and a list of catchphrases from my living environment. I listed websites to visit, movies to watch, and music to listen to. Today in addition to my list of books to read, my list of movies to watch is my Netflix queue, and my most important lists are work to do and food to cook.

But most important during that previous time was a list of goals for the future. Some were crazy (learn to speak Farsi!), some were ordinary (eat dinner at the table with my family), some were practical (sell car, French cooking), and some were aspirational (meditate, build a house). I had lists of places to travel (not that I will EVER get to all those places) and places to live (so hard to decide!). I just pulled out an old notebook this week and read through one of my lists of goals. Surprisingly, I had actually accomplished some of them.

Although some no longer appeal to me, or they fit a different life, I decided to revisit this idea, but change it up somehow. I’m not sure yet what that entails. Maybe a list in priorities: These are things I MUST do in the next several years; these are for this year; these are crazy daydreams.

I’m also fascinated by other people’s lists (am I missing a good list item?).

Who else does lists, and what are they? Inquiring minds!


Ten years ago this month, Mr. NightSky and I purchased a small hotel in Palm Springs. We had lofty goals, crashes of reality, and everything in between. One other thing we had, which we could not have predicted, was Louise.

It was the end of that first summer, the slow season, and we had taken the opportunity to run out for a quick dinner. Returning, we pulled into the hotel’s small parking lot, and saw a small dog loitering around. She was happy to come to us; in fact, she acted like she expected us. “Oh, good, you’re back!” She was cheerful, but looked a bit the worse for wear. We brought her into the office, gave her food and water, and made a bed for her there for the night.

The next day we took her photo and made flyers to post around the neighborhood. She had a small collar, but no tags. The little dog appeared to be part Pomeranian and part Shetland Sheepdog. Her nails were very overgrown, and she definitely needed dental work. But she was a cheery little thing. A couple of days went by with no response to flyers, newspaper ads, Craigslist, shelter inquiries, or wandering the neighborhood.

Finally a couple from the condo complex next door stopped by the office. They had seen the posters, but wanted to check to make sure it was the dog they were thinking of, and to talk to us about her. She was, and they did. It seems that their neighbor was probably her owner, and would keep her leashed on the balcony for a day or two or longer at a time. The couple who visited us had already been concerned about her welfare, and now begged us not to return her to her owners. We talked a lot about it, and finally said that if the owners didn’t come forward to us, we would keep her.

We named her Louise.

We took her to the vet, got a complete check-up, had some teeth removed, nails clipped, and groomed. The vet estimated her age to be 12 at that time. We thought with all that, we would probably only have her a couple of years. But she stayed with us for another seven! Already with some blindness, her eyesight continued to fail, but that never stopped her.

She was the official hotel mascot, by her own decision. The guest loved her, and would pack treats for her in their luggage, from as far away as Canada. She wasn’t pushy, but she would quietly join select people while they sunbathed by the pool, or while they read in the chair just outside their room. Often I would look out from the office, and there she’d be, lying on the ground next to a guest on a chaise.

Some guests even went the extra mile, like Uncle Bacon. Uncle Bacon was a summer visitor from England, and each morning would fry a few pieces of turkey bacon for Louise. She barely left Uncle Bacon’s front door the whole length of his stay. Of course, I warned him that her digestive system was hardly used to a steady diet of bacon, but he pooh-poohed me, and he suffered the consequences. Louise was crushed when he left. She would continue waiting outside his door, though other people–people who had no bacon–came to stay.

Kids loved her, especially when she had a puppy haircut during the summer–she actually looked like a puppy. Or a fox. Or a fox puppy.

Of course, anyone eating at one of the patio tables sparked her interest, but again, she wasn’t intrusive. She’d just casually stroll over, sit or lie down, and wait. They caved each and every time.

Louise loved her little adventures, too. I think that her prior escape had given her a taste for wandering, and we had to chase her down on more than one occasion. One evening we got a call from a hotel several hundred feet down the street (our hotel was on the main drag, a four-lane, 50-mile-an-hour highway).

“Do you have a dog named Louise?” the person at the hotel asked. “Because she’s here, in our bar.”

Now this hotel was down the road, and on the other side of the four-lane highway. And Louise was half-blind. And it was close to dark out. How on earth had she made it over there alive? She must have decided to celebrate by partying once she made it across.

Mr. NightSky drove over to pick her up. He walked into the bar, and there was Louise, up on a table, surrounded by admirers. “Oh, don’t be mad at her,” they chorused.

That Louise. We miss her still.