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Random words, pictures and thoughts of one who always wishes to be on the mind's road to discovery!

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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Reflections on Aging!

There was a post today on FB of an older woman, well she has almost white hair piled on the top of her head and held in place with chopstick-like embellishments. She is in a meditation pose and wears a lovely burnt orange sleeveless shell through which one can see she has a small bust, flat midriff and toned arms. She is serene and quiet. The quote surrounding the image is: " Don't regret getting older. It's a privilege denied to many." Well, I assume that pose every morning and evening. I meditate and feel calm and serene. I love meditating. My bust is heavier and sags. My midriff sometimes makes me look pregnant. My hair is long but my old brown color with help. Here is my post to that one--I may not look as good as she, but I feel as grateful as she. How very true. Not much about the aging process has bothered me except jowls and those prickly hairs that appear on my jawline. But they are cosmetic and I can live with them. I'm grateful for the fact that at 73 I still have all the parts I was born with except teeth I lost in a youthful car accident and the wisdom teeth I had extracted in my 50's. My eyesight isn't what it used to be but contacts take care of that. My hearing is not as sharp--kids could talk in my classroom now with my back turned and I don't think I'd be able to name the culprit without looking now--actually, if they whispered softly enough, I might not hear them at all. I don't move as fast as I did and climbing stairs is more painful but I can still do it. Still don't like the gray so I wash it away with my natural color--may go blonde if it gets gray enough--they say blondes have more fun. Grateful that I take no regular medications and hate taking any OTC's unless I feel like I'm dying. My most serious illnesses are the occasional cold or flu and, if I must, I'll take a prescription then! On those rare instances of insomnia I'm grateful for my vast library of books from which to choose until sleepiness overtakes me. And though I may not look like some of those pictures that are favorites of mine, that young woman is still inside and sometimes, when I look in the mirror she winks and smiles back at me, before we both head down to morning coffee. ( She usually skips down ahead of me) Often when I look at Betsy, I see her there, too. It is interesting that the comments and likes have come from teachers with whom I taught and who are of my age group and one former student. I'm going to share their comments, too: Nicely expressed. And if you are anything like me, sometimes you know the wink from the young woman in the mirror means she wishes she had the older woman's sense of perspective many years ago.--former colleague who is still teaching My response:Oh, don't get me started on that--although for the most part I don't regret the paths I took! And from a former biology student of mine: How lovely! I'm thinking maybe you would have made a nice English teacher as well as science! 😊 To which I responded: I almost majored in English and minored in Biology or vice versa. It was a hard choice for me. At the time I was quite irritated as only an honor student 16 year old can be when I was told if I majored in Bio I HAD to minor in Chem. Also that the required courses for an Eng/Bio combo would be difficult to achieve. In those days the goal was to get you graduated with a degree in four years. So I did the Bio/chem thing and actually, for my career choice it was truly the way to go. By the time I retired I taught as much biochemistry and chemistry as straight bio. I never examined the possibility of a scientific writer because I assumed they'd want a greater concentration in English than I'd have. BUT, that goes back to Joyce's comment--if I'd been older and could see that I could sell myself to periodicals as a strong science person with a good gras-p of writing I might have pitched myself successfully as a writer for a scientific journal or PR for drug companies. BUT, look at all the kids I would never have had the pleasure of teaching--I'm happy with my path--though some of them may not as pleased!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Red Icon --- The Secret of Its Mysterious Disappearance and Multiple Destructions

Red Icon (Inspector Pekkala, #6)Red Icon by Sam Eastland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An icon, The Shepard, is center stage in St George's Hall of the Winter Palace in summer, 1914. Gathered in the Hall are a huge crowd to watch Tsar Nicholas pray before this national treasure and object of great religious devotion. Though the artist is unknown, the icon has been handed down over hundreds of years among the Tsars and it is thought that so long as the icon is kept safe, Russia will remain safe. When not on public view it is kept in the Church of the Resurrection, the Tsar's private chapel on the estate of the summer residence.

As the war with Germany becomes more dangerous, the Tsarina convinces the Tsar to move the icon from the Chapel to the apartment of Rasputin for safe keeping. Pekkala is made aware of the transfer and Nicholas' reluctance to comply. It is not long in the hands of Rasputin before the precious icon is stolen while he is on one of his lengthy nocturnal absences. Strangely, the Tsar does not want to allow Pekkala to search for it and eventually, it seems, it falls into the hands of a deranged priest who destroys it.

Years later, during yet another war, two Soviet officers taking refuge in the cellar of a destroyed Church many miles from St Petersburg, inadvertently dislodge a weathered casket. One of them had used it as a step to see within the Church since they had hidden to avoid detection by German soldiers. In an effort to see if the coast was clear, the officer stepped onto the coffin and the aged wood collapsed allowing his leg to fall into the coffin and onto the remains within it. The corpse is of a priest who has within his clasped hands an oil cloth covered item which turns out to be the long lost Shepard.

Stalin sends for Pekkala and Kirov and gives them the mission to discover whether this is the true icon and how exactly it came to be in the hands of a priest so far away. In true Eastland fashion, the story unfolds with travels throughout Russia and encounters with various interesting characters, including a priest belonging to a sect that requires partial or total castration of its followers. There is a foray into Finland to find an elderly woman, a confidante of the late Tsarina. And there is the use of chemical weapons and their development by the Germans and the effort to keep the chemical breakthroughs secret from the Allies.

The story flies by and the mystery of the disappearing and reappearing icon has a twist that is totally unforeseen. A terrific read, as always

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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Bittersweet--Name of the Book and My Feelings About the Caliber of the Writing

Bittersweet: A China Bayles MysteryBittersweet: A China Bayles Mystery by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Wow, the 23rd installment of this series and I've read them all so far. There are several reasons why :
1. I love the information about herbs and their historical as well as current usage.
2. Although I haven't made any of the recipes given at the back of the book for food served in the current story, they all look delicious and use the herb that stars in that story.
3. We have traveled extensively along the Farm roads all over Texas, including the area around Kerrville, San Marcos, Austin etc and so it is easy to envision the settings as I read
4. Albert's recurring characters have become as familiar as neighbors or family and their lives have evolved and grown as people do in real life.
5. Her characters incidental to the normal cast of characters are interesting and the mysterious circumstances of the story are engrossing.
Why, then, when I've given most of her books a 4 or 5 star rating did I only give this one a 3? All of the five points above are as true for this book as the 22 that preceded it. However, though the mystery is nicely set up at the beginning, after the first chapter of so, the mystery is virtually ignored for almost the entire book, with only now and then an event that indicates something fishy is going on.
The bulk of the book is repetitive and overwhelmingly preachy. While Sam's illness is definitely problematic and China's worries about her mother's future if he doesn't recover or recover sufficiently to be able to handle his end of the business they are setting up are understandable and not unfamiliar to children of a certain age whose parents are aging and may need them, the constant harping on these facts became boring.
The second theme beaten to death is the truly upsetting problem of genetically altered deer raised on ranches for so called hunts that cost a fortune. I cannot agree with China and Mack, the game warden new to the character list, more ( and, of course, with Susan Wittig Albert , who is very much and environmentalist) but the heavy handedness with which, once more, this point is repeated and driven home seemed nothing more to me after awhile than filler rather than plot development.
Indeed, by the end of the book, when the situation that results in the murder of two interesting characters is finally fleshed out and resolved, I felt as though I'd slogged through an awful lot of pages that had nothing to do with it.
Don't get me wrong, the relationship between Mack and her new guy, the family dynamics of China's life, and the use of drones by law enforcement was all very interesting but didn't create a cozy mystery this time--mystery and solving it being the operable terms.
Also, I missed Ruby and Blackie and Smart Cookie and hate that the Whiz has only been a blink and you'll miss her character.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Murder on Amsterdam Avenue--The City My Grandmother Used to Tell Me About

Murder on Amsterdam Avenue: A Gaslight MysteryMurder on Amsterdam Avenue: A Gaslight Mystery by Victoria Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my favorite series--the characters are wonderful : Mrs Sarah Brandt, a doctor's widow, now a midwife, who is a daughter of the Dexter family, members of society. Frank Malloy, Irish cop--well, former cop--they tossed him off the force when he became a millionaire. Now he is a private investigator. Mrs Eldridge, the next door neighbor lady who is always ready with an interpretation of the signs and omens that appear in life. Maeve, the orphan girl that Mrs Brandt has taken into her home as a nanny to Catherine, the little orphan who refused to speak until she came to trust Sarah Brandt and who, in time, Sarah adopted. Gino Donatelli, the young Italian cop who resigned to go off to Cuba with the Rough Riders and who has now returned, unwilling to go back to the police force. Malloy takes him on as an assistant, since Gerald Oakes has just contacted Malloy to ask him to determine the cause of his son's, Charles', death.

It doesn't take long for the cause of the sudden demise of an otherwise healthy man's death was arsenic poisoning or that it was deliberately used by someone to kill him. So, as the construction of a partially finished home in which Malloy, his mother and his son, Brian are living and the wedding plans for Sarah and Malloy's marriage, all of them become embroiled is sorting out how the victim was poisoned and who wanted him dead. As the investigation progresses, a maid, who was at Charles' bedside when he died, and her minister's wife and daughters are also poisoned. Three more victims--again, how were they poisoned and why? The plot, as they say thickens, with secret upon secret revealed--each one causing suspicion to shift from player to player.

This is the 17th book in this series and I've read them all. I think I have found a key to solving these mysteries much earlier but don't want to share it and ruin the books for others. Still, I will have to recheck the prior 16 books and the next to see if my theory is correct. If so, the rest of the series will not be as engrossing. But for now, suffice it to say, the butler didn't do it.

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Death Come Quickly--and Herb Robert Has Always Been One of My Favs!!!

Death Come Quickly (China Bayles, #22)Death Come Quickly by Susan Wittig Albert
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cannot believe this is the 22nd book in the series and China is still one of my favorite herb shop owner-former lawyer-amateur sleuths. In this outing the fatal mugging of one of her friends, and a friend of Ruby's as well both shocks and saddens them. The victim had been the visual arts instructor at the local community college and, when one of the students whose video about a local cold case murder is robbed, China's suspicions are aroused. Could the murder of a divorced art gallery owner 15 years ago and the acquittal of the accused murderer have any connection to the mugging of the mentor and the robbing of one of the videos producers be connected?

In true Albert fashion the pieces begin to take shape amid the everyday life events of Pecan Springs, including the pregnancy of Smart Cookie and her husband, Blackie. The Whiz makes a cameo appearance as does an old China flame. Hubby continues to run his investigative business with Blackie and the kids are growing up--son off to college in the fall, daughter still raising chickens. All in all, it is life as usual in Pecan Springs and as usual Ruby and China are in the thick of things.

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