Raven Black

by Ann Cleeves   – first in the Shetland series

11266877Long a celebrated crime writer in Britain, Ann cleeves’ fame went international when she won the coveted Duncan Laurie Dagger for this amazing suspense novel. Like Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse or Peter Robinson’s Inspector Banks, Cleeves’ new detective, Inspector Jimmy Perez, is a very private and perceptive man whose bailiwick is a remote hamlet in the Shetland Islands.

It is a cold January morning and Shetland lies beneath a deep layer of snow. Trudging home, Fran Hunter’s eye is drawn to a splash of color on the frozen ground, ravens circling above. It is the strangled body of her teenage neighbor, Catherine Ross.

The locals on the quiet island stubbornly focus their gaze on one man – loner and simpleton Magnus Tait. But when detective Jimmy Perez and his colleagues from the mainland insist on opening out the investigation, a veil of suspicion and fear is thrown over the entire community. For the first time in years, Catherine’s neighbors nervously lock their doors, while a killer lives on in their midst.

MV5BZTViMGI2MjQtM2Y5Yi00OTYyLWE0OWQtNmU2NDNjYWM2MzY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjExMjk0ODk@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,707,1000_AL_After watching the ITV series Shetland  I finally decided I needed to read the books in order. Absolutely LOVED this book! The physical description of Perez in the book is nothing like Douglas Henshall, but that’s okay. I love Douglas as Perez so it didn’t matter.

Cleeves’ characterizations are amazing. Her characters are so well drawn and convincing. Especially the troubled ones. You are immediately drawn into their lives and when your done with the book you’ll be thinking about them and wishing you weren’t finished yet because you really need to involved in their world! And the sense of place is amazing!

This one had such an unexpected conclusion! I can’t wait to get the next one in the series and I think I’m going to go to Netflix and re-watch the episode Raven Black from this book. Thankfully my library system has all these books! I’m hooked, Ann Cleeves has to be one of my favorite writers now.


Atalaya Castle

Atalaya 2018
In 1930 Archer Huntington purchased Brookgreen (1760) and three adjoining plantations in South Carolina as a site for a winter home for he and his wife, Sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. She was known for her animal and garden sculptors. Archer was a millionaire philanthropist, son of a railroad tycoon. Anna and Archer met in 1921 and married in 1923. They were both born March 10th, exactly six years apart. They were 53 and 47 when they married, neither had been married before. They first came to Georgetown County in 1929 looking for property to build a winter home as Anna had been diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Her doctor told them New York City winters were bad for her. Tuberculosis is a chronic condition, but Anna’s illness was arrested and she was able to recuperate and enjoy a long life, creating new sculptures into her nineties. In addition to the house they built Brookgreen Botanical & Sculpture Gardens for Anna to exhibit her work. Today these gardens are open to the public and include many of her sculptures. We haven’t been there yet. Next trip down!
Atalaya 2018Atalaya (ah-ta-LIE-yah) a Spanish term for watchtower, was began in 1931, apparently without detailed written plans. Archer Huntington, a noted authority on Spanish culture, designed the house after the Moorish architecture of the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Workers alternated between construction on Atalaya and Brookgreen Gardens over a two to three year period. Mr. Huntington insisted that local labor be utilized in its construction to provide work opportunities for local residents during the Great Depression. Because of this project electricity was run to the town of Georgetown SC much earlier than it would have been and the residents of Georgetown were greatly impacted in many positive ways by the Huntingtons.

IMG_4316The outer walls of the building form a square, with the east side facing the ocean. Within the walled structure, there are two grassy open inner courtyards with a main entry court on the west side. The living quarters consist of 30 rooms around three sides of the perimeter. The one-story brick building is dominated by a square tower (the watchtower) that rises nearly 40 ft. from a covered walkway and bisects the inner court. It is functional in design, having once contained a 3,000-gallon cypress water tank. Water drawn form an artesian well was then pumped into a 10,000-gallon concrete intern where the sand settled. From there, it was pumped into the tower tank. The height of this tank gave the water enough pressure to flow through the house.

Atalaya 2018

Atalaya 2018The covered walkway of open brickwork is lined with archways and planters on both sides. Living facilities, including the dining room, sunroom, library and bedrooms, occupied the ocean-facing side of the house. The southern wing housed Mr. Huntington’s spacious study, his secretary’s office and Mrs. Huntington’s studio. The studio, with a 25-foot skylight, opened onto a small enclosed courtyard where she worked on her sculptures. Due to her passion for sculpting animals, Mrs. Huntington had facilities such as horse stables, a dog kennel and a bear pen included in the construction. The Huntingtons resided in the house during the colder months of the year, usually form November until March or April.
Atalaya 2018

Atalaya 2018

two shots of the indoor studio

Atalaya 2018

Outdoor studio


Bear pens

UntitledHeating was done entirely by using coal room heaters and wood-burning fireplaces. Ramps led from the courtyards up to each entry door, and wood was hauled in using small carts. Grillwork – designed by Mrs. Huntington – and shutters were installed on each window to protect against hurricane-force winds.

After Mr. Huntington’s death in 1955, most of the furnishing from the house where sent to the Huntington home in New York City. The equipment from Mrs. Huntington’s studio was transferred to the new studio at Brookgreen Gardens. The 2,500 acre tract, including Atalaya, was leased to the state by the Brookgreen Trustees in 1960. Mrs. Huntington died at her Connecticut home in 1973. In tribute to Mrs. Huntington, the annual Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival is held in the Castle during the fourth weekend of September. ~from brochure at castle

Because no architect was used and only inexperienced local help to build the house the foundation wasn’t laid properly. The bricks were laid right on the sand! There are many cracks in the walls and the building has shifted notably. Not to mention the damage done when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989 and the storm tides reached and filled the house with ocean! The docent told us the house was always damp and cold and roaring fires had to be going in all the rooms. Such a shame a gorgeous home like this and it was only really lived in for 25 years or so and is not habital now. Had it been built correctly it might still be livable. Another good hurricane and it probably won’t be open to the public any longer. Here are more pictures I took around the house. If you’d like to see an aerial view of it to get an idea of how it was laid out better check it out HERE and HERE.

Atalaya 2018

Archer’s fancy shower w/ 7 shower heads! 

Atalaya 2018

Atalaya 2018

Archer’s study

Atalaya 2018


Atalaya 2018 Atalaya 2018

Atalaya 2018

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a front ocean facing room

Atalaya 2018

at the bottom right corner if you zoom maybe you can see the floor buckled from the storm.

Atalaya 2018



inside hallway


Atalaya 2018

front room view. same room with buckled floor

Atalaya 2018

Can’t forget the LIBRARY!



Oyster shucking room


Path to the ocean


It was a very HOT day and I hope you wore your sunscreen! Now lets take a quick dip in the ocean. Last one in is a rotten egg!

Porch Talk

IMG_1073We spent last week in Myrtle Beach SC. Bossman loves to golf and there a bazillion golf courses there. I’m not a beachy person so it’s not really my favorite place, but there is a lovely little used book store in Pawley’s Island that I love to go to! I did some shopping at the outlet mall and got some incredible buys on the clearance racks and found a new favorite store, Chico’s! I’ve never shopped there before, just went in and right back out. They have strange sizing 000, 00, 0, 1, 1.5, 2…  I take a 0, zero! makes you feel really tiny. I found jeans with a wide elastic waist, no zipper,  no snap or button , no cutting me in two! No thick seam between the legs! Stylish, classy. I was in love! And the best part was I found three pair on a clearance rack. One was only $14.97 and the others were $27 all originally $70! I’ve been searching for something more comfortable yet not ‘old lady’ looking and I found it! Also got a couple nice thing at Dillard’s on the clearance. I am a clearance fiend!

So back to the book store…
Voyage into Violence by Richard and Francis Lockridge
The Woman at Belguardo by Margaret Erskine
The Three Evangelists by Fred Vargas
The Golden Ball and other stories by Agatha Christie
Dead March, A Civil War Mystery by Ann McMillan
The Escher Twist by Jane Langton
and a Rue Morgue book!: Penelope Passes by Joan Coggin
have all been added to my shelves!

It was rainy the first couple of days due to the tropical storm Alberto, but the week ended out with sunshine and way too hot temps and humidity! We played miniature golf a couple of times, there are so many lovely courses there! And We adventured out to a Middle Eastern restaurant, The Jerusalem Mediterranean Restaurant and Bar. It was beautiful inside and something very different for us. Such a wonderful menu of new experiences waiting for us. It was hard to choose.  So many lovely hibiscus plants all over with such a variety of colors! I’d love to have some here at home but I think I would have to bring them in for the winter. The highlight of the week though was finally getting to check out  Atalaya Castle in Huntington Beach State Park! It’s a neat old house built on the beach in 1933! Pictures and history coming soon!

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My good friend, Cheryl, from back home in Pennsylvania came in today for a week. She has never been to the Smoky Mountain National Park! We are so excited to show it to her and she gets to see the fireflies with us too! Saturday we are going to the Bluff Mountain Music Festival in Hot Springs NC. We go every summer. Traditional Mountain music. I did a post on it last year. I love watching the people do the Flat Foot dancing.

Our bathroom is finally done and I can take a shower upstairs now! It’s so nice. John put in a built in linen closet/shelving unit for us, floor to ceiling with the most beautiful wood grain. And we now have a lovely little access door to the plumbing in the wall for the bathtub! One thing off Bossman’s mind.

I’ve started a jigsaw puzzle on the basement table for the really hot days of summer. It’s a Ravensburger brand, Bizarre Bookshop 2 – 1000 pieces. It looks like it maybe more of a challenge than my Wysocki’s, but I’m determined! It might take all summer but it should be fun. Take a look at it here, You can zoom in and see all the fun little sillies!

I’ve started reading the Shetland series by Ann Cleeves, Raven Black. It’s really good right from the get-go. She does disturbed characters so well! I binged watched the Agatha Raisin TV series on Acorn while in Myrtle Beach. I loved it! Makes me want to go back and read all the books. Started watching an Australian show 800 Words now. Into the second series now, the third just came out a few days ago.

I made a Butterscotch Pie and a Blueberry Pie this morning in honor of our company coming. Divine is all I can say about these recipes! Check them out! I snuck in a pinch of nutmeg on the blueberry and it really set it off.

So what have you been up to lately? Any special plans for the summer? Gotta go, talk to you later!

Easy to Kill

by Agatha Christie

IMG_4175Someone was getting away with MURDER!
3 “accidental” deaths in a row. And only prim little Miss Lavinia Fullerton guessed they weren’t really accidents at all. She told Luke Fitzwilliam that Dr. Humbleby would be next. But she was wrong.

Hours later Miss Fullerton herself became victim number
Dr. Humbleby was number

So Fitzwilliam began his own one-man campaign to end a terrifying, ghoulish chain of murders. He knew he had taken on a dangerous, perhaps impossible, job. For Miss Fullerton had said that the killer “just the last person anyone would suspect.”

That’s why this homicidal maniac had found it so

Loved the plot to this one! Luke Fitzwilliam was retired from a police career in Asia. He meets Miss Fullerton on the train to London. She was on her way to Scotland Yard to stop a killer and when she is killed before she can get there he can’t get the story she told him or the look on her face off his mind so he had to go to Wychwood under Ashe and find the killer.

This is a Superintendent Battle book. I’ve never read one of them before. He doesn’t actually come into the story until the last two chapters though so I didn’t get to know him at all. It was published in 1939 in the UK under the title Murder is Easy and in the US under this title, Easy to Kill.

A good solid English countryside mystery by the master!