Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Review of Laurie R. King's "A Letter Of Mary" (Mary Russell #3)

Review of A Letter Of Mary by Laurie R. King

*Contains spoilers

This is the third installment in the Mary Russell series, and as it is an improvement over its predecessor, it bolstered some of the faith I have in this series. It was not as good as the first book, but it gives me hope that the series is on the upswing.

In reading other reviews of this book, as well as the first two books, I've seen they are all over the map. Three primary issues seem to be dividing the field: the relationship between Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, King's feminism and religion, and King's writing. These are all the points I've hit on in my reviews, as well.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On The Road: Effigy Mounds National Monument

On The Road: Effigy Mounds National Monument

Effigy Mounds National Monument is located in northeastern Iowa. I wasn't really sure what this place was before I went, but I was near enough I couldn't pass up the opportunity. And I'm so glad I went! What an amazing place.

The Monument

This site is home to 206 prehistoric mounds. As little as a one hundred years ago, there were more than 10,000 mounds throughout northeastern Iowa, but today fewer than 1,000 remain. Many of the mounds were plowed over to make way for farmland, which necessitated the establishment of this monument.

The mounds are huge, 3-4 feet high and up to 212 feet long. These enormous structures would have required the cooperation and effort of the entire tribe to construct. They took the shape of many different animals including predominately bears and birds, but also turtles, lizards, and bison. Others are conical and linear shaped. 

Some of these mounds show evidence of fire pits, and many of them hold human remains. The Native Americans of this region began constructing these mounds about 1,400 years ago, and continued to do so until about 850 years ago, when American Indian culture underwent a major transition from a primarily nomadic, hunter/gatherer lifestyle to more permanent agricultural lifestyle. 

The Tour

There are quite a few hikes to do here. There are self-guided tours as well as ranger-led tours. One of the walkways is wheelchair accessible.

It rained the entire time I was here. And not just some Colorado-type, passing-through rain. This was an all out thunder storm. 

This was early in the hike, when the sun was still
peaking through in some places. That only lasted
about fifteen minutes, then it was pretty dark,
and the rain fell in sheets.
The ranger had the radar up when I arrived at the visitors center and she informed me the storm would only get worse. I'd come a very long way so I wanted to see something. I dragged Jack out, and we trekked through the rain (actually, Jack really doesn't mind the rain). The thick trees provided a bit of shelter, and we hiked about three miles, but then the lightening got worse and I had the sense I was pushing my luck. 

What I was able to see was very cool. The mounds are impressive. I think because of their size, and the fact that they are so ancient, yet they are still clearly visible. I mean, I'll patch a hole in the backyard and after the first rain the dirt settles and grounds sort of dips again. Not so with these mounds. 

The Park
You cannot tel from his photo, but this mound is huge--
and this is a small one. This one is in the shape of a bear.

This place is beautiful. I haven't spent much time in this part of the country, and I was struck by how green (and wet) everything was! And there were trees everywhere. I wish I could have seen more of this place without the rain; it would be a great place to just get lost and meander for a while, I think.

There is a visitors center with a bookstore and a museum. There are picnic areas and many hiking trails. Every park ranger I saw smiled, waved, chatted to me, and was very friendly. 


This is a free park. As such, they do not sell any kind of pass here. There is a donation box, however, and any money donated goes to the maintenance of the park. 

This is the Mississippi River. The park backs to it, and
there are several overlooks. On a clear day, I image
you could see quite a ways down the river.

There is no camping at this park. 


This is an amazing park. It would be a wonderful place to spend a day, or a couple of days. I highly recommend it to anyone who may be in the area, or those passing anywhere nearby. The mounds are almost unreal, and it's hard to imagine they are still clearly visible after more than a thousand years. Plus, it's beautiful. 
Soaking wet! And I was in the same state. 

Have you ever been to Effigy Mounds? What did you think of it? What was your experience? 

Other things you might like:

On The Road: Hovenweep National Monument
On The Road: Bandelier National Monument
On The Road: Sugarite Canyon State Park
On The Road: Fort Union National Monument
7 Ways To Make The Most Of Your Visit To A National Park Or Monument

Thursday, October 16, 2014

"The Major Leagues" Part 5

After checking in with no fewer than three people, Rutger was finally funneled into a concrete room with a bank of metal lockers lining one wall. He emptied his pockets into the locker and removed everything else he wasn’t permitted to bring in. Taking the key out of the locker, he went to the final checkpoint. He turned over his key to someone who placed it with his driver’s license, then waited while another guard patted him down one more time. He passed through a steel door into a room as cold as the last, with two rows of steel benches bolted to the floor. Predominately, they were occupied by women.
After ten minutes, another steel door opened, and a guard filled the doorway. He read four names from the clipboard he held then made check marks as each of the four people moved into what Rutger discovered was a concrete hallway. Rutger followed the three women ahead of him down the hallway, around a corner and out into what was called the “visitation area.” The guard, who had followed him, posted himself near the middle where he could see all four visitors and all four inmates.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On The Road: Crazy Horse Memorial

On The Road: Crazy Horse Memorial

Crazy Horse, Crazy Horse, Crazy Horse. I have to be careful what I write here. Please note, whatever follows is my opinion, and nothing more.

Crazy Horse Memorial is located in the Black Hills, four miles north of Custer, South Dakota. Crazy Horse Memorial is a private enterprise, owned and operated by the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, though it is open to the public. In addition to the mountain itself, there is an enormous, sprawling campus that consists of a huge visitors center, Native American museum, gift shop, restaurant, sculpture's museum, and a gift shop. And the university is here as well.

I get the feeling Crazy Horse Memorial began as a really organic dream and a sort of grassroots-type project. In the years--decades--since, it has morphed into something else entirely, something very commercial. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review of Laurie R. King's "A Monstrous Regiment Of Women" (Mary Russell #2)

Review of A Monstrous Regiment Of Women by Laurie R. King

*Contains spoilers

I confess I am feeling rather apathetic about this book, the second in the Mary Russell series. For reasons I cannot quite articulate, I find I believe in this series; I seem to sense some nuggets of quality and excitement. This second book does little to bolster my faith, however.

This book takes place five years after Mary Russell first encounters Sherlock Holmes. She's graduated Oxford and comes full into the massive fortune her father left her. This story is about Russell's involvement with the New Temple of God church and the investigation into the seemingly strange deaths of four of its members.

Friday, October 10, 2014

FAQ: On Hiatus

Frequently Asked Questions
On Hiatus

As the deadline for publication of the third book in the Zoe Grey series draws nearer, more and more of my time and attention are shifting that way. For that reason, I am suspending the Frequently Asked Questions series until after the holidays. 

I have many more great questions awaiting me, and I am excited to answer them. Be sure to look for the return of this series after the new year. 

Keep The Questions Coming

Even though the series is on hold, please continue to ask questions. I will answer them when the series returns starting in January.

Ask questions in the comments below, in an email to catherinenelsonbooks@gmail.com, on Facebook, or in the "Ask The Author" section of my author page at GoodReads.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

"The Major Leagues" Part 4

“I said I’d call you.”
Dana spotted Andrew Franklin speaking with the booking sergeant as she passed on her way to the elevator.
Andrew handed something to the gray-haired sergeant as he turned toward her.
“I’m not here about the story,” he said. “At least, not directly.”
Before she could speak, the door opened and Tim hustled in. Crossing directly to Andrew, he held something out to him.
“I found your wallet. It was in my car, under the seat.”
Andrew accepted it, looking carefully to Dana.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
Tim, noticing her too late, took a step away from Tim in such a way he would have been more subtle to skywrite his guilt.