Monthly Archives: January 2015

Used Books & Elderberry Wine

wine & books

Hello, my name is Maryann and I’m a bibliophile…sounds better than book addict, doesn’t it? Most of you already know this because you are bibliophiles too. I love to read: Mystery, Fiction, History, if it catches my eye I’ll give it a chance to pull me in. Doesn’t have to be a new book or a bestseller either. I’ve discovered new friends in many places, including used book stores (knew that was coming, didn’t you). Our library has one on its lower level. There’s one (across Wright Street in in our next door neighbor, Urbana) with the intriguing name of Priceless Books. Their shelves are filled floor to ceiling with every type of book you can imagine. Carts too with “newer arrivals” and oversized pictorials. It is easy to lose an hour or so craning your neck to scan the upper reaches of the store or bending down (ignoring the creakiness in your knees) in search of a book by Richard Russo (my friend found one of his, autographed) or finding a Tom Clancy previously unread, or coming eye to eye with an older biography of someone important. Theodore Roosevelt, Alan Turing, Helen Keller. Hardcover or paperback, it’s like exploring someone’s library. Priceless also carries used CDs and DVDs; mostly jazz and the classics but with a few surprises as well. And it breaks down the orchestra by instrument; woodwinds, brass, you get the idea.

The library bookstore (Friends of the Library) is not as extensive in quantity but just as much fun to browse. You must know your alphabet and their system of classifying some fiction as mystery and vice versa (or you may never find Kent Krueger) but each section has frequent new additions. I find something I hadn’t seen before every time. And the prices are definitely right. Last week $7.00 bought me two hardcovers in great condition, one trade paperback (self-published by someone whose other books I’ve read and enjoyed) and a paperback mystery that I had somehow missed. Color me a happy shopper.

What does this have to do with elderberry wine you might ask? My last book search occurred after visiting a local winery. Wyldewood specializes in elderberry wine and it’s darn good. Two friends and I went there for a tasting not knowing much about berry wines and were happy to find we enjoyed the semi-dry and semi- sweet versions of elderberry, cherry (tart) and blackberry wines. These are not your grandmother’s cordials, although Mae would insist that…along with a wee dram of single malt…elderberry wine is good for your health. Really. It’s all about the antioxidants these days and evidently both scotch and berries are brimming over with them. Who knew? Did we walk out with wine? Indeed. The winery also has several grape wines made from regional varietals, also quite tasty. And did I mention the cordial and dessert wines suitable for sipping or pouring over ice cream or trifle?

Now, all you need to do is connect the dots. Cold winter evening, a comfy chair (and throw if you need one), a new (used) book to read, and a glass of the wine of your choice. Elderberry anyone?

PS. Next time out, I’m introducing you to one of my favorite characters. The language is a bit rough and the setting a bit gritty but this character is a major part of one of the books I’m working on and I think you’ll find him fascinating. Intrigued? I hope so!

snoopy reading


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Grand New Year, Same Old Me !

happy ny

I may be a bit late welcoming in 2015 but I have a good excuse. I’m still in 2014! I still have presents to mail, and my cards will be New Year’s cards instead of Happy Holiday ones…all because I spent most of the last four weeks in “I don’t know what this is but I’m coughing, sneezing, and simply exhausted” limbo. NOT the dreaded flu….and I’m finally on the mend thanks to my MD and an antibiotic to kick ass on the bacteria. But while I made it to work…more because I knew other people were calling off than any rational decision…I had to parcel out baking and shopping and wrapping and shipping to bursts of energy. I did some shopping online as well (I love bill to—ship to, yes I do) but my tree didn’t go up until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was quietly spent in my jammies.  So, here I am in January, getting the rest of the goodies ready to go and wondering if I sent in my deposit for the snow removal. It is what it is. And I’ll get caught up before February…then I can make my New Year’s Resolutions (another story altogether).

Despite all the angst above, I did reap one reward. I got to catch up on my reading. Or attempt to, anyway.  Being a bookseller has its advantages but also one drawback. I seem to have a To Be Read pile that never really stops growing. Still, I made a temporary dent in the pile. Steve Berry’s Columbus Affair AND an ARC of his newest, The Patriot Threat (the latest in the Cotton Malone series with an intriguing premise) as well as Julie Hyzy’s latest Manor House Mystery are now read. If you get the chance, check them out….find the first in the series if you like. They’re all worth a read.

I also got the latest Anthony Horowitz. I had enjoyed his first take on Sherlock Holmes, The House of Silk, and the title of his second venture into Sherlock’s world, Moriarty, was too tempting to pass up, especially since it begins approximately one week after the infamous events at Reichenbach Falls. A body has been recovered from the waters below the falls; everything indicates that it is the corpse of James Moriarty. The local constable is unsure of just how to proceed until an American appears. Frederick Chase, a Pinkerton operative, claims the body may hold a clue about the criminal overlord he has been pursuing from New York. A Scotland Yard Inspector Anthelny Jones also arrives, his interest purely in retrieving Moriarty’s remains. Chase tells Jones of his belief that Moriarty may have been planning to meet with Charles Devereux, New York’s king of crime and the two of them search the dead man. Jones, an admirer of Sherlock Holmes and his methods, discovers a secret pocket in which there is a coded message.  And the game is afoot.

Once decoded, the message sends Chase and Jones on a chase through London, discovering key people in Devereux’s scheme only to have them turn up dead. Jones’ office is bombed, causing the Inspector and Chase to become even more certain they are on the right track. Jones refuses to give up, despite his wife’s pleadings, as the two men get closer and closer to their prey.  Who is Devereux and what does he really want with London now that Moriarty is dead?

Anthony Horowitz spins this tale with all the assurance of someone who loves all things Holmesian and builds suspense at every turn. His characters are intriguing in themselves….why is the Pinkerton agency so determined to discover (and possibly dispatch) Devereux? Is Jones truly a student of Holmes or a man who wants to prove he too can solve the unsolvable? And just who can be trusted?  Twists and turns abound. And the reader dare not trust his own eyes. Even if you have not read House of Silk, Moriarty is a glorious way to introduce yourself to the work of Anthony Horowitz.

And how I must go do some errands and bake some cookies before the weather decides to join the party that is January.  Mae is busy with Carnival Season in New Orleans. I’m working on a mystery set in 1942….as well as my Carstairs stories. Who knows what the next week will bring?

Happy 2015!

happy ny

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