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Joyce McDonald

Joyce McDonald

After a courageous struggle with brain cancer, Joyce McDonald passed away on February 23, 2016 at the age of 68. Among numerous accolades and titles, her most prized accomplishment later in life was earning her black belt in Kung Fu. She was always a fighter but also knew when to surrender gracefully, and she went peacefully in her home surrounded by her immediate family. Joyce was born on February 1, 1948 in Dorris, California to Bessie and Ron McIntyre and older sister Jean. After moving to San Antonio, she attended Jefferson HS and later The University of Texas at Austin where she earned a B.A. in Russian and M.A. in Educational Psychology. She married fellow-Longhorn Robert L. McDonald on November 22, 1969. After college she worked as a high school teacher and counselor and later served the technology sector as a programmer, technical trainer, network administrator and documentation specialist. She and Robert lived in San Antonio and raised three children, Heather, Laura and Scott. Joyce is preceded in death by her mother, father, and sister. She is survived by her husband, Robert, three children--Heather Lotts (Gary Lotts), Laura McDonald (Mauricio Portasio) and Scott McDonald, and four grandchildren--Josie Lotts, Gavin Lotts, Braden Lotts & Mei McDonald.

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Review: "Talking About Detective Fiction" by Lady P. D. James


Lady James wrote this thoughtful and informative book at the request of the librarian of Oxford’s Bodelian Library. Talking about Detective Fiction introduces us to the works of Conan Doyle and Wilkie Collins along with Agatha Christie, Marjorie Allingham, Ngaio Marsh and, my favorite, Dorothy Sayers. She offers in detail some of the major contributions each writer has made to the genre of detective fiction. Moving on, she covers the contributions of some of Detective fiction’s seminal American writers, such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet who gave us the hardboiled detectives Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade. Continue reading .

Review: "Christopher and Columbus" by Elizabeth von Arnim


When Elizabeth von Arnim (AKA Alice Cholomondeley) published Christine in 1917, an outcry ensued, complainants claiming that the book was loaded with anti-German propaganda. If Von Arnim felt chastened by the perceived slight, she apparently set out to make amends when she wrote Christopher and Columbus. This book was published in 1919, two years after the publication of Christine. The story may also exhibit the yearning the author felt for her daughter, born of English mother and German father, who died in Germany as a teenager. Could she have been salving her grief by recreating that daughter times two? Continue reading .

"Charlotte Temple" by Susanna Rowson

First published in 1791, Charlotte Temple’s story starts out in England, where the fifteen-year-old Charlotte is attending boarding school. Charlotte’s innocence make her an easy target for her more worldly suitor, Montraville. At their supposed “last meeting” Montraville convinces Charlotte go with him to America. It is only when she arrives in America that Charlotte sees the full impact of the predicament she is in. Charlotte’s struggle to survive and the roles played by her three companions in furthering her misery comprise a morality tale with frightening consequences, both for Charlotte and the engineers of her downfall. Continue reading .

The Upas Tree: A Christmas Story for All the Year

The Upas Tree: A Christmas Story for All the Year

The Upas Tree, legend has it, is an African tree that alters the psyche when one sleeps under it, as protagonist Ronnie West did when doing experiential research for his next romance novel. As a result of this indiscretion, Ronnie became somewhat manic, confused, sleepless and, according to his wife, Helen, “utterly, preposterously, altogether selfish.” This strange tree and additional elements, such as 13 foot-tall African grasses, a purloined letter, a Cello with a life of its own and a mirror that doesn’t quite reflect what it observes, turn The Upas Tree into the strangest Christmas story I have yet read. Continue reading .

"The Third Miss Symons" by F.M. Mayor

The amazing thing about The Third Miss Symons is that author Mayor could write an attention-getting novel about a woman who did essentially nothing for 63 years. “Nothing” may be too strong a word; however, the heroine never married, never entered the workforce, and showed no concerted interest in academia or philanthropy. She traveled extensively; however her travels took more the form of wandering or avoidance rather than genuine interest in new places. Friends and relatives were happy to see her, but they were just as happy to see her go. And more than one relative breathed a sigh of relief when she declined their offer to come live with them. Continue reading .

"Christine" by Elizabeth von Arnim

Having so greatly enjoyed Elizabeth and Her German Garden, I volunteered to read Christine. The preface, however, indicated that the book was not Von Arnim’s work at all, but that of her daughter, being a collection of letters from Christine to her mother when the former was studying violin in Berlin in 1914. The preface indicates that Christine died before her mother received the last two letters. Thus, instead of enjoying Von Arnim’s usual wit, I would be reading a tragedy—not an appealing prospect. I, however, went on to read, and love, this story. Continue reading .

"The Circular Staircase" by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Perhaps Rachael Innes would not have taken a summer rental on a sprawling mansion by the sea if she had known it was haunted. By the time she had spent the second–mostly sleepless–night in “Sunnyside”, the house proved not only haunted but the site of a murder. To make matters worse, that very night she received news of a spectacular bank failure whose engineer might be under her roof.

Disembodied souls manage to fling golf clubs, cuff links, a revolver, and iron bars into the night; more bodies drop; and Rachael’s hope for a peaceful summer at the shore turned to chaos. Whether Rachael has nerves of steel or is just plain stubborn could be the subject of a dissertation. Continue reading .

"That Affair Next Door" by Anna Katharine Green

Returning from a trip abroad, the Van Burnam family enters their New York mansion to find a dead woman on the dining room floor. A curio cabinet has fallen on top of her, crushing her face, and law officers suspect that the victim is the wife of one of the Van Burnam sons. However, the son insists that he does not recognize the victim. How did this woman get into this locked house? Whose are those strange garments she is wearing? What is her hat doing in the closet and a strange, gaudy hat crushed underneath her? Why did the coroner insist that the woman was dead when the curio fell? Continue reading .

"The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow" by Anna Katharine Green

Anna Katharine Green was noted for her scientific approach to the murder mystery. In The Mystery of the Hasty Arrow she breaks more ground with her in-depth study of the psychological interplay between the murderer, the victim and the witnesses. Although more quietly paced, this mystery presents many elements of a current psychological thriller: blind ambition, narcissism, obsession and betrayal. Green adds a peculiar twist with the fact that two heartbroken relatives of the victim sacrifice virtually everything to protect the murderer. Continue reading .

"My Life in France" by Julia Child

Admitting my obvious indifference toward cooking, it would seem that the last thing I would want to do is read a memoir by Julia Child. Maybe I am a glutton for punishment, but I could not help buying My Life in France after seeing a picture of Julia Child’s kitchen faithfully re-created for the upcoming movie Julie & Julia. Paul Child’s grandnephew, Alex Prud’Homme collaborated with Julia Child when the latter was in her 90s, to bring this book to life. Together they managed to tell a relaxing, meandering story with the elegance and humor one would expect from Julia Child and the charming style one would expect from a professional writer like Alex Prud’Homme. Continue reading .

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