Sunday, September 21, 2014

Book Review - Mags And The AARP Gang by Nancy Lynn Jarvis

Mags And The AARP Gang
Nancy Lynn Jarvis
File Size: 2368 KB
Print Length: 266 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0983589127
Publisher: Good Read Publishers; 1 edition (November 14, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00A946G3C

Margaret Sybil Broadly Benson, known to her friends as Mags, is 83 years old, and she has a nice routine to her senior-style life. She visits with her friends, has lunch every day with Harvey, a special friend since the passing of her husband, and is content with her rather ordinary life until Harvey comes up with an idea to help the owner of the trailer park where Mags and her friends live.

Raymond owes the bank $170,000 and has received a foreclosure notice. This means everyone will ose their homes, which doesn't set well with Harvey or Mags. So Harvey suggests a plan he's devised to rob the very bank that holds the mortgage and give the money to Raymond. They enlist the help of a few other friends, go over and over the plan, and even practice what they will do, so they are confident that all will go well.

I won't give anything away, but the simple life Mags has enjoyed up to this point takes an abrupt about face. Nothing goes according to the plan, either before or during the heist and this motley crew of elder people must use every wit they have left to get through it all.

While a bit overwritten and too "cutesy" in places, this is a fun story, and who couldn't love an 83-year old woman who is clever, funny, and able to pull off a bank robbery.

One of the things I particularly liked about the book is how it celebrates aging in such a positive way. We are so far past the "rocking on the front porch" stereotype of people over 70, and that is a good thing.
Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years and is still licensed but she’s enjoying writing so much, she may never sell another house. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC. Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. “Mags and the AARP Gang” represents a new direction in her writing adventure. After four Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, Nancy put her characters, Regan, Tom, and Dave, on hiatus so she could let Mags and her gang, characters who had been forming in her mind for the past year, tell you their story.

Mags will be my guest this coming Wednesday, so I hope you can stop by to meet her. She is quite a lady.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Football Fever

This will not be my usual Friday fare. You may have guessed that already by the different title, and I was trying not to write about what is going on with some pro football players. Really I was. I didn't want to enter into the media coverage of the latest "bad boy" behavior in the NFL, but I was disgusted Wednesday evening when I heard of two more players who were arrested for assault, one of those charges involved assault of a child.So I just couldn't keep my keyboard quiet.
Here's the skinny. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested on aggravated assault charges, stemming from a domestic dispute. The alleged assault took place in July and involved the woman with whom he has an 18-month old child.

That arrest came not long after Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy and Minnesota Viking running back Adrian Peterson were placed on the NFL’s “exempt list.” Hardy was convicted in July for assaulting his former girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Peterson is charged with child abuse in Texas,  accused of beating his 4-year-old son last May. One news report indicates that he was investigated for abusing a different son in 2013.

Two weeks ago former Ravens running back Ray Rice was suspended indefinitely by the NFL and released by the team. This came after a video was found showing Rice assaulting the woman he was engaged to back in February in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino.

It's past time that we stopped spoiling athletes with so much money, deference, and hero-worship that they believe they can act like spoiled children and get away with any kind of behavior. I used to enjoy watching the game of football, back when it was somewhat of a gentleman's game and players for the most part were good guys on the field and off. Players weren't paid bonuses for taking out the opposition during a game, and they were dropped if they got into serious trouble. Not just suspended with pay. Dropped. As in football career over. As well it should be.

I know football fans will be booing me and this post. And that is fine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and choice of entertainment. But I do wish we could take a giant step back in time and raise the standards of behavior and not the salaries.

Now, so this is not all just a rant, here is a joke or two to get you through the weekend. Get ready, it's a real groaner.
      A frog goes into a bank and approaches the teller. He can see from her nameplate that her name is Patricia Whack.   
      "Miss Whack, I'd like to get a $30,000 loan to take a holiday."
      Patty looks at the frog in disbelief and asks his name. The frog says his name is Kermit Jagger, his dad is Mick Jagger, and that it's okay, he knows the bank manager.
      Patty explains that he will need to secure the loan with some collateral.
      The frog says, "Sure. I have this," and produces a tiny porcelain elephant, about an inch tall, bright pink and perfectly formed.
       Very confused, Patty explains that she'll have to consult with the bank manager and disappears into a back office.
       She finds the manager and says, "There's a frog called Kermit Jagger out there who claims to know you and wants to borrow $30,000. He wants to use this as collateral."
      She holds up the tiny pink elephant. "I mean, what in the world is this?
     The bank manager looks back at her and says...
    "It's a knickknack, Patty Whack. Give the frog a loan. His old man's a Rolling Stone."

Don't say I didn't warn you. (smile) Have a great weekend. I'm going to be jamming with a couple of my kids. I do love to dig out my guitar and play music with them. What do you have planned?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Autumn is Welcomed

I'm so pleased to have Slim Randles as my Wednesday's Guest this week. Instead of his usual humorous offering, he has a rather poetic piece about autumn. I guess since there is cowboy poetry, Slim won't be offended by me referring to this as poetic. Since he is helping us welcome in Autumn, I thought a typical fall drink of apple cider would be in order. Please do join me in welcoming Slim. Enjoy...

Courtesy of Love Your Reflection Blog with a recipe for hot apple cider.
It comes to us slowly and delicately, as all beautiful things should. It’s usually in the early morning. We can smell it. We can feel it. That little nip that teases us … autumn. Almost autumn.

Summer is heat and work and sweat and cold drinks of water and swimming and barbecues. But autumn is Fall … the pinnacle. This is when people have the county and state fairs, because the vegetables and animals are at their peak and ready to show. The heat drove some of us into the house this stifling summer and led us to make quilts, make furniture, can fruit. And now, if they’re good enough (and we know, if no one else does) they can go to the fair, too.

In the mountains, the deer and elk are at their finest, with antlers dark brown with the patina of age and wisdom and those tips white as ivory. Polished. This is the polished time.

We are all at some kind of pinnacle in autumn. We have worked through the heat and now we can plan to ratchet it back a bit. We can take our skills to the mountains for hunting and fishing, or just discover a new hobby there at the house that will keep hands and mind busy during the cold to come.

The children are off to school, preparing themselves so someday their autumns will be like this, sweet with fulfillment, honed to a point, seeping with satisfaction the way ours are.

Autumn … come and whisper to us in the morning. I’m almost here. Almost here. Almost here.
Slim writes the popular Home Country columns, which are syndicated in hundreds of newspapers. Some of those columns have been collected and published in his book, Home Country, and now you can listen to the “Home Country Hour” podcast on your computer or other electronic marvels, at

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Morning Musings

I hope everyone had a terrific weekend. Mine was spent at the East Texas Book Fest where I connected with some of my author friends, met some new ones, and chatted with visitors about how much fun it is to read. There is a real passion on both sides of the book, and I find it quite energizing to talk to someone who can get so lost in a good story that everything else is blotted out. That's the way it is for us who put the words on the paper. If we did not have that same passion for story, the words would be nothing but dark smudges on white paper.

There was a reception for the authors the evening before, which was a good excuse for wearing something nicer than my jeans and tee-shirt; my normal attire here at Grandma's Ranch.

What I'm Reading: Sarnia, historical fiction set first in London then on the isle of Guernsey. It is set in the Regency era, but has little of the lightheartedness of most Regency novels and is closer to a gothic. The book was written by a man using a feminine pen name, and I think he did a credible job writing from a female POV.

What I'm Dismayed About: Much is being said in the media about Texas Governor Rick Perry's new serious look. He has glasses with black frames that make him look more studious than country hick, and word is the new image is to help with another run at the presidency. Please, Mr. Perry, don't do it. Stay home and tend to Texas business and answer to your two felony indictments for abuse of power.

What I'm Happy About: My wonderful daughter-in-law, Corina, who is celebrating her birthday today. She has been such a wonderful gift to our family, the perfect partner for my son, Michael, and a terrific mom to their two girls. Happy birthday, Corina.

Now for a Joke or Two:  A nursery school teacher was delivering a van full of kids home one day when a fire truck zoomed past. Sitting in the front seat of the fire truck was a Dalmatian. The children started  discussing the dog's duties.

      "They use him to keep crowds back," said one.
      "No," said another, he's just for good luck.
      A third child brought the argument to a close.  "They use the dog's,"  she said firmly, "to find the fire hydrant."

A grumpy old gentleman in a crowded restaurant was compelled to sit, much against his will, next to the orchestra. He stared at the orchestra leader as a loud jazz selection came to an end. The annoyed patron snorted, and then asked, "Would you be so kind as to play something by request?"
      The leader bowed again and beamed. "Certainly," he replied, "anything you like, sir."
      "Then," snapped the patron, "please be good enough to play a game of checkers while I finish my meal."

So how was your weekend? Anything good happen you'd like to share?

Friday, September 12, 2014

September SinC-Up

Not my usual Friday fare as you can see.

I'm a member of Sisters in Crime (SinC) and heard about this fun blogging event from the national headquarters. Throughout the month of September bloggers will be doing a SinC-Up, and I decided to participate. The guidelines are simple, so if you would like to join in, write a blog post responding to one or more of the questions below, and at the end of the post, link to another author who blogs and who you think your readers will want to get to know. (Letting that blogger know would be a good idea, too!) Bloggers do not have to be members of Sisters in Crime to participate, and there is no sign-up or schedule to follow.

Here are some questions to choose from:
  • Which authors have inspired you?
  • Which male authors write great women characters? Which female authors write great male characters?
  • If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond?
  • What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging?
  • Do you listen to music while writing? What's on your playlist?
  • What books are on your nightstand right now?
  • If you were to mentor a new writer, what would you tell her about the writing business?
You don't need to answer them all - just whichever takes your fancy. We want this to be fun! And if you would rather not explain the process for joining the September SinC-Up in your post, you may link to which covers it all.

If you do, please mention and link to Sisters in Crime in your post. So that participants' posts can be publicized through our social media channels, we ask that you tweet your link using the hashtag #SinC-up or #SinCBlogHop and include @SINCnational (if you are on Twitter), or email directly with your link (if you are not on Twitter).

Okay that's the set up, and I am going to link to an author I have gotten to know online. Nancy J. Cohen writes the Bad Hair Day cozy mystery series that features an amateur sleuth. She also writes paranormal romances with a bit of sci-fi or fantasy thrown into the mix. I know books that have elements of several genres are popular among readers, so you might enjoy those. I'm not so fond of mixing like that, but I have enjoyed her cozy mysteries.

Now to answer some of the questions:

Which male authors write great women characters?  I think Craig Johnson does a terrific job with his female characters. I have loved the tough Victoria "Vic" Moretti in the books and the television series, "Longmire". While she has all the feminine qualities that show a bit of a soft side to her character, she is kick-ass tough and believable as a strong woman in law enforcement.

If someone said "Nothing against women writers, but all of my favorite crime fiction authors happen to be men," how would you respond? How many women crime writers have you read? There are a whole bunch of us who can hold our own against the guys, and sometimes women who write using a pen name that sounds masculine are mistaken for a man. When my mystery, Doubletake, was first published under the pen name Sutton Miller, a reviewer complimented Mr. Miller on a terrific thriller. Margaret Sutton and I appreciated the irony of that. 

What's the best part of the writing process for you? What's the most challenging? The best part of the writing process is when the characters are driving the story, and I am just along for the ride - and the typing. That creative highway is such a blast. The most challenging part of writing is the business side. There are very few writers I know who enjoy the marketing and promoting, and those who say they do? Well, I hate to say this about my friends, but I think they are lying just to appear all with it and all that.

What books are on my nightstand? Actually I have a stuffed rabbit and often a live cat on my nightstand so there is little room for anything else. The books waiting for me to read are on the desk in the bedroom or loaded into my Kindle. Yes, I do read quite a bit on the Kindle, especially books for review here on my blog. So, right now I'm reading Sarnia by Hilary Ford, a Victorian-era woman's novel. Interestingly enough, the author is really Sam Youd, so he is another male writer who can create believable women characters. On the desk is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which has been waiting since July for me to make time for it; Silent Prey by John Sandford, and Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein.

I'm heading out today to go to Tyler for the East Texas Book Fest.  Check it out on Saturday if you live near Tyler. Lots of events for the whole family to enjoy, and a good time to pick up gifts for readers. There is nothing I treasure more than an autographed book.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Remembering 9/11

With the passing of time, the urgency we all felt that awful September day seems to have waned somewhat. Now we are more focused on the inconveniences of air travel that event spawned than on what we as a nation and a people experienced in the first weeks and months following the terrorist attacks.

Not that we should keep the fear and anger foremost on our minds, as that terror-mindset just feeds the cause of the terrorists. That was pointed out in a recent column by Steve Blow in The Dallas Morning News last Sunday. He wrote about the hatred against Islam that is sometimes preached in the pulpit and on the airways, pointing out that most Muslims do not support terrorists, especially the most recent activity by ISIS in Iraq.

Steve quotes Robert Hunt, a professor at SMU's Perkins School of Theology, who wishes that the press would be more interested in spreading the news that many more Muslim nations are condemning the violence than the few who perpetuate terrorism. Unfortunately, the old newspaper adage still prevails, "If it bleeds it leads" and "The fact that Islamic society condemns ISIS isn't news. We only hear about Muslims at war because peace isn't news."

Hunt also offers this comment, "If we want to defeat terrorists, we have to refuse to be terrified. And we have to not spread their fear"

And in honor of this day I want to share this video of the Alan Jackson song, "Where Were You "When the World Stood Still?" I get goosebumps every time I hear it, mainly because the song encourages love, not fear and hate.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Special Wednesday's Guest

On this, the eve of remembering 9/11, I thought it appropriate to have a special guest today, Major Heather Penny. I read about this amazing woman last Sunday in Parade Magazine. In 2001 she was an F-16 pilot with the 121st Fighter Squadron of the D.C. Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

A fact not widely publicized that September day 13 years ago, is that she, along with others in her squad, took to the air, prepared to take down the United Flight 93 if so ordered.

The Secret Service had contacted the air base with orders for the Guard to get airborne, suspecting that there was a fourth plane somewhere headed to Washington. United Flight  93 had gone off radar and it was believed to be in the control of terrorists. While most of the squad were guarding the immediate area around the White House, Penny and her commander were on another mission. Find the United plane and bring it down.As Penny relates in the interview in Parade, "Because we'd just returned from a training mission in Nevada, there weren't any missiles or bombs or high-explosive bullets on the airplanes, and it was going to be a while before the weapons people could get the missiles built up."

This is a fully armed F-16
 That meant there would only be one way to take the plane down. Penny's commander, Col. Marc "Sass" Sasseville told her, "I'll take the cockpit." What he was saying was that he would ram the airliner.

"I knew I would take the tail," Penny says. "If you take the tail off an airplane it cannot fly."

They were unable to locate the United airplane and later learned about the passengers taking control and crashing the plane.  Penny considers those passengers as some of the heroes of that day, not her. "They averted further tragedy, confusion, and chaos and thwarted those who would do our nation harm."

The drama of that part of the day played out like the best of suspense fiction, but it wasn't fiction. What a tremendous amount of courage it took to force the terrorists to crash the plane in a rural area in Pennsylvania. Countless lives were saved by that act of bravery on the part of the 40 passengers and crew of Flight 93, and they were true heroes.

About her own act of bravery, Penny says that there was nothing special or unique about what she did, and was willing to do. "If I hadn't been there, another airman would have been, and just as honorably done their duty." 

That may be true, but the point is, it wasn't another airman who joined the commander and took to the sky that day with the intent of crashing into a rogue plane. It was Heather Penny, and I salute her as a special strong woman of courage. Raise a glass with me.

Here is Heather "Lucky" Penny's story in The Washington Post.
If you'd like a joke or two to get you over the hump, visit The Blood Red Pencil where I have some jokes for and about writers.