Book Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook


With Malice by Eileen Cook. Bonnier Publishing, June 2016

18-year-old Jill wakes up in a hospital with a badly broken leg and a huge gap in her memory. Her parents tell her that was in a car accident, and it happened on her much anticipated school sponsored trip to Italy. What they don’t tell her right away is that her best friend Simone died in the crash, and the Italian authorities believe that Jill planned to kill her friend.

Jill is devastated, and while she protests her innocence, she is tried in the court of public opinion and found guilty by most. Simone’s parents have turned against her, and everything she has ever done or said is dissected on social media. Many of her classmates and other students on the trip leap at the opportunity to be part of the drama, even to point of fudging the truth to sound more connected and important.

Not only is she trying to cope with all this, she also faces pressure from the hotshot lawyer her wealthy father hired to spin her image from potential murderer to potential victim. Jill is angry at this because it seems to presume her guilt, and truth should be enough–but is it? She struggles to regain her memory of the accident, but there is always the possibility that her brain may use suggestions to create false memories. Furthermore, the narrative is first person, underlining the potential unreliability of the narrator.

Cook not only gives the reader a detailed portrait of Jill but also presents a lot of information about Simone, who comes across as manipulative and sneaky. She lies glibly and often hides behind Jill, allowing her to take the blame. The revelations about Simone makes the girls’ relationship even more complex, and it is clear that they are in conflict on the trip. The plot is nail-bitingly suspenseful as the story cuts from Jill to associated police reports, e-mail messages, and social media posts, right up to the resolution. Readers who enjoy psychological suspense novels will want to add this to their to-read list.

[Received a copy of the title from in return for a review.]




I have decided to reactivate this website as primarily a book review site, with occasional forays into essays, including bibliographic essays.

Book Review: The Knowledgeable Knitter by Margaret Radcliffe. Storey Publishing, 2014,

knowledgable knitterThe Knowledgeable Knitter is an invaluable reference tool for knitters who have mastered the basics of knitting and  want to raise their skill levels and produce projects that look better, fit better, and wear better.

Radcliffe focuses on the steps of making a sweater, but much of the book would apply to any project. Starting with how to evaluate and choose a pattern, how to take measurements, how to choose yarn and needles through to finishing the garment, the author provides meticulous instruction at every step.

She anticipates questions, describes procedures and techniques thoroughly and clearly, and provides numerous examples and diagrams. The book is packed with appealing photographs, and the ones that illustrate a point she is making are clear and comprehensible, with yarn in a contrasting color demonstrating whatever technique she is showing. An appendix at the end further amplifies the text; its diagrams are among the clearest and most easily understood this reader, a visual learner, has ever seen.

Radcliffe writes with warmth and wit. The reader is drawn into the text from the beginning, and while a knitting reference book is usually not intended to be read like a novel, Radcliffe’s writing is engaging and entertaining enough to read whole sections at a sitting.

More than simply a reference source, The Knowledgeable Knitter invites the knitter to go beyond the execution of a pattern and think like a designer in order to adapt the project to suit her or him, not just replicate the pattern instructions. Knitters seeking to make the garments they create truly their own need to have this book not just on their shelves but close at hand.


Snow happens

I don’t understand why people complain about how awful snow is when it’s the appropriate time of the year for it to snow. I get it about shoveling and scary driving, but why does it seem to be a surprise? It often snows in January. In this area, though, we’ve had some pretty mild winters, so perhaps they deserve some slack, although the people who drive 15 miles an hour on a perfectly dry road because there are snow flurries ought to have their licenses suspended.

A supervisor I once knew grew up in the Midwest and drove in snow all the time. Deep snow. Uphill both ways. With bare tires. You know. So when people worried about getting home when it was snowing a bit heavily, she would laugh and mock them because it was nothing as far as she was concerned. Eventually, I pointed out to her that everyone else didn’t have the benefit of her experience and perhaps didn’t know how to drive in snow. Or, maybe they did know, but that didn’t guarantee their safety from all the other people out there who didn’t know but had to drive home.

I never learned how to behave. People don’t like it if you remove all occasion for superiority.

So yesterday’s snow wasn’t supposed to be much, according to a local meteorologist, but by 9:00, school districts were calling for two-hour delays which turned into closings this morning. Stephen left nearly 2 hours early to negotiate his way to work. I took pleasure in lounging in my pajamas a while. The down side, of course, is that the sidewalk had to be shoveled. H was recruited, and he complained bitterly because L couldn’t help her. She’s in an orthotic boot after ankle surgery. Shoveling is not in her cards at the moment. (She should be fine doing dishes. muwahahahaha!!!) 

He wasn’t outside long, but when I went out later, he hadn’t done a bad job. There was ice, though, a challenge beyond the scope of a plastic shovel. I chipped at it with my heel, then fetched some kosher salt to pour on it. It helped a little, so I can’t help but wonder why we don’t have rock salt. I imagine that Stephen felt we didn’t need it because we wouldn’t use it that much. I expect that I’ll go out and get a bag and secrete it away until it is needed.

It’s time to make pizza crust for dinner. It’s one of those things I find to be so satisfying on a wintry day.

For the time being

“But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and the Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid’s geometry
And Newton’s mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.”

From For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio by W.H. Auden

I always start the new year with a lot of good intentions, so many over the years that I qualify for the position of foreman on Hell’s road repair crew. I can’t hold up to strict expectations, I suppose. I overdo it, or I fall into a trap where I paralyze myself by thinking too much about it. Start counting calories, and all I obsess about is food, for example. I know from experience with food diaries in the past that when I eat normally, I don’t exceed 2000 calories. I just have to be conscious of when and why I eat. I have to be mindful.

So this year, I suppose, might be the year of living mindfully. Even that’s a little too über-cosmic for my taste, but that’s the closest I can get. Maybe it would be better to call it the year of living. That is to say, the year when I participate, not sit on the sidelines. The year where I speak my mind rather than think about it. The year when I do, not think about doing. I’ve been leading up to this sort of thing for a while, and that’s my reason for restarting this blog, which is not going to be focused on any one thing but rather be a reflection of the facets of my living.

This sounds very high-minded, still. But I want to be seen as a thoughtful, mindful person who keeps her promises (the secret of which, of course, is not to promise every thing) and who is a “can do” kind of person. I want to feel as if I’m really living, not just watching others live. I want to get things done. The only way the kitchen table will exist if I take care of it.