Florida Roadtrip!

Have a trip to the shore planned?  How about a flight?  Or, maybe just a weekend all to yourself?  You might want to pick up Beach Town (2015) by Mary Kay Andrews.

It opens with Greer Hennessy, location scout, searching for palm trees on her drive through the Florida Panhandle.  All she has seen is high rises in the Panama Beach area.  Not what she has in mind, nor does her producer/director Bryce Levy.  He wants Old Florida.

She is to find a beach with old school motels, a dilapidated building, shrimp boats, and Spanish moss.  Somewhere south off Steinhatchee and west of Gainesville Greer pulls into a local BBQ.  After enjoying some tasty pulled port and a giant sweet tea, the counter guy suggested the town of Cypress Key sounds like what she needs.

Greer decides to give the town a look.  She turns off US 98 and heads down a county road with hopes Cypress Key is the perfect spot. Finding the perfect place is important.  Her last job ended up in flames, literally.  Plus, her best friend CeeJay who also works in the business as a makeup artist was instrumental in Greer landing this new job.

Her job involves way more than just finding the perfect location for the movie.  One of those problems can sometimes be the locals.  While excited to be a site for a big-time movie, with well-known stars in town, residents see their town with different eyes.  Not everyone is happy about the intrusion.

One of those folks is Eben Thibadeaux, Cypress Key’s major.  That great old building the ambitious director wants blow up is an old casino that is near and dear to many in the town.  Eb has plans in the works to have the historic building restored as a community center.  Local rich girl Vanessa Littrell has different ideas.

Eb and Greer do not hit it off on their first meeting. But, things heat up, cool down, and heat up throughout the book.  Both Eb and Greer are very likeable characters but both are stubborn and this creates problems.

Throw into the mix a young heart throb, the mayor’s teenage niece, locals who do cooperate, family dramas, plus hundreds of fans trying to catch a glimpse of the famous stars, and this turns into a pretty good and a fast read.

Some of the situations may be predictable but it was fun to read.  And I must add Andrews did a great job of describing driving at on Florida roads in the pouring rain.  Toss it in your beach bag and plan to relax.

Let’s continue the tour of the Sunshine State to Central Florida in Randy Wayne White’s Bone Valley (2014).  Those of you familiar with this area of Florida will surely recognize locales, roads, etc. that are mentioned in this novel.

Not until I moved to Florida did I ever imagine a black market for fossils and artifacts existed or that we lived near an area known as Bone Valley.  As described in Bone Deep, Florida’s Bone Valley is “sort of one-stop shopping” for fossils and stone tools from the Paleo era.  Turns out illegal fossil hunting is very real and can be quite lucrative.

Doc Ford is a marine biologist and sometime undercover agent.  He lives on Sanibel Island in a house on stilts where he runs a business that provides marine creatures to schools, etc. for environmental studies.  He is well known in the Sanibel Island area.  Even so he was a bit surprised when a man with Willie Nelson braids appeared at his door.

That man was Duncan Fallsdown, who likes to be called Dunk.  Fossils and artifacts are why Dunk, whose aunt is a member of the Crow Nation in Montana, has made the trip to Florida.  He has come to locate some carvings that look as he describes as having the likeness of an owl’s face carved on them. After further discussion, it becomes clear to Doc Ford that there must be a Tomlinson connection.

Sure enough, Tomlinson has his hand in Dunk’s visit.  If you have read any of the Doc Ford series you already know Tomlinson.  He is Ford’s best friend, sidekick, “a lecherous cannabis-growing anarchist turned Zen master who lives aboard the sailboat, an old Morgan, No Mas in faded script on the stern.”  And that readers still does not give an accurate description of the one and only Tomlinson.

Thus, begins the tale that involves not only fossils and artifacts, but also a brain damaged biker with a most unusual prosthetic hand, Toby the elephant, doc’s dog with no name that does not bark, some very wealthy people, a trophy wife, snakes, alligators, sinkholes, the Peace River, and rectangular lakes.  And, all that works believe it or not.

Any time you read a Doc Ford book, a history lesson will be woven into the storyline.  Always so interesting it makes you wish White had been your history teacher.  I found the part about the Spanish explorers especially interesting.

If you have been in Florida for any time at all, you have heard about the environmental issues concerning phosphate mining.  You surely know about sinkholes.  NB: Driving around Central Florida, rectangle lakes show up nicely on your GPS.

Randy Wayne White did a great job of mixing that information with the criminal activities involved.  His interesting and colorful characters made it all an entertaining and illuminating read. Bone Valley is a stand-alone book even if is #21 in the Doc Ford Series.

Tanglewood’s library has several White novels on the shelves.  Maybe his latest, Mangrove Lightning may appear on the shelves in the very near future.

One more quick book to tell you about, Oranges by John McPhee, is a small nonfiction classic that you should set aside a couple hours and read.  Living where we do, you know you are only a few minutes from an orange grove.  Many of you have orange trees in your yards.  But, what do you really know about oranges?

I never really thought much about oranges until my daughter in Virginia alerted me to to the book Oranges.  She found it interesting and thought I too would enjoy it.  She was right and now I want to share it with you.

Oranges was first published in 1967.  It was initially to be an article for The New Yorker.  A trip to Florida changed all that.  Start reading this 150-book written with a casual, storytelling style and you will look at oranges with all new eyes.

In seven short chapters, you will learn about the very interesting history of oranges.  You will find yourself looking for them in works of art.  Frozen concentrate…who hasn’t stirred up OJ from those cans?  Indian River oranges vs Ridge oranges.   Cold weather issues and harvesting.  We have all been touched by one or another of these topics.

Oranges… my friends…your bonus tip of the month.   It will be located in the Classics in Tanglewood’s library.

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