Saturday, September 24, 2016

Review: Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener

Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very funny addition to the series. Agatha discovers that her idol has clay feet, and decides to stop seeing him as a potential romantic partner -- just as he decides that perhaps he's attracted to her. And of course, they manage to solve a murder.

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Review: A Great Reckoning

A Great Reckoning A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of her best! And definitely at the top of my list of books read this year. Not only is the plot well developed and perfectly resolved, but Penny has done a masterful job of completing the long story arcs that have infused the eleven previous novels. In addition we discover why Three Pines has disappeared from maps and what the three pines in the center of town represent. I hope that there are more books to come, but if not, this one would serve as an immensely satisfying conclusion.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Review: Murder with Macaroni and Cheese

Murder with Macaroni and Cheese Murder with Macaroni and Cheese by A.L. Herbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second in a series of books featuring restaurant owner and unofficial sleuth Mahalia Watkins and her "out there" cousin Wavonne. It's high school reunion time and Halia is catering her own reunion where she reconnects with classmates who were at the top of the social pyramid in high school. One of the women ends up dead, and although the police are inclined to think it was an accident, Halia thinks differently. Wavonne provides a great deal of humor (think Stephanie Plum's sidekick Lula, on steroids), and the food descriptions (and recipes) are hunger-inducing. A fun read!

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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Review: The Cavendon Luck: A Novel

The Cavendon Luck: A Novel The Cavendon Luck: A Novel by Barbara Taylor Bradford
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm not sure why I brought this one home from the library other than I'd read the first two books in the series. The story of the interwined Ingham and Swann families continues, this time focused on World War II. Just as with book 2, this read more like a summary, and moved very quickly over a 6 year period. At one point I had to stop and remind myself who was who -- so many characters. I think my answer to why I read it was that I had really liked the first book, and I had connected with the main characters. Now, not so much.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Review: Breaking Silence

Breaking Silence Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Linda Castillo's series features Kate Burkholder as chief of police of a small Ohio town where there is a large Amish presence. Burkholder herself grew up Amish, but left the sect in her late teens as the result of a devastating trauma. However, she still has Amish family nearby and she continues to struggle with her past decisions. In this outing, a family is traumatized when the parents and an uncle die in a farm's manure pit. At the same time, hate crimes against the Amish are escalating from serious mischief to injury and death. Is the farm accident really an accident, and if not, is it related to the hate crimes? This is a gritty and compelling read, and I couldn't put it down!

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Progress Report

I've been on a mission this summer to get into better shape.  So far, so good.  I'm down 32 pounds since June 1st!  People have definitely noticed, but it wasn't until this week that I realized just how much progress I've made.  I had noticed that I was constantly hitching up my formerly snug fitting size 3x capris, and that I was swimming in several 3x tops I'd purchased this past spring.  But when the weather started to feel fall-like, I tried on my size 30 jeans.  So large on me that my belly and hips couldn't hang on to them.  So I tried on an old pair of size 26 jeans that I'd tucked away in a corner of my closet.  They too were too roomy.  I could wear them in a pinch, but let's just say that I slipped them off easily without unbuttoning and unzipping.  When I got the most recent Lands End catalog, I fell in love with a winter coat, and started to think about buying a new one for this winter.  I pulled out my winter coat (purchased at least 5 year ago --no one can say I don't get my money's worth!) and tried it on.  Way too big!  So I ordered myself the coat in 24WP.  It arrived, and it was too big for me.  So Tuesday, a friend and I headed to the mall so I could return/exchange the coat at Sears instead of mailing it back.  They didn't have the coat available, but I tried on several other coats there to check the sizes out.  I ended up ordering the coat from the catalog in a 20!  (It's a swing coat, so it's roomy).  I also tried on jeans and came home with 2 pair in a 24.  They fit about as perfectly as regular length jeans can fit on a 5 ft 1" woman --- in other words I need to cut off about 4inches and then hem,so that they are the right length - 26.5 inches.  If all goes well, they will be too big by late winter, but that's perfectly fine with me.

So how am I doing it?  Exercise and counting calories. I go to water aerobics 3x each week.  It's a 40 minute class, and I make sure I work hard while I'm there.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, weather permitting, I take a brisk walk - at least 2 miles in length.  I also walk on either Saturday or Sunday, depending on our doings.  Occasionally I walk both days.  If the weather's uncooperative, I walk in front of my computer accompanied by a 2 mile walking video.  Today I walked 2.8 miles and according to MapMyWalk, I set a very fast for me pace - 18.22 minutes per mile.  I was pushing hard today, my usual pace is about 21 min per mile.  When I started walking I was averaging 28 min per mile.  Another little sign that I am in better shape include walking up 2.5 flights of stairs after my pool classes without being winded, or even breathing hard.  Last weekend I did a 2.2 mile walk that took me up a very steep and longish hill.  At the start of the summer, I had to stop numerous times to make it to the top.  This time, I was breathing a bit hard when I made it to the top of the hill, but that's it.    I am limiting my calories to 1500 per day and my carbs to about 120, and most days I actually eat a little less.  I don't feel too deprived, most of the time, and I have really learned to recognize hunger vs appetite. We eat out about once a week, and I've even gone out to lunch quite frequently this summer with friends.  I just really try to choose wisely from the menu, and/or plan ahead.  If I know I'm eating out, I will save my bread carbs for that meal instead of having a piece of wholegrain bread at breakfast.  But I do occasionally have a beer or cocktail, or even dessert (but never both!!)

My attitude has changed too. I am actually spending time thinking about new places to walk and, gasp! I've even started toying with the idea that maybe, just maybe, a hike up Mt. Monadnock might eventually be doable.  This weekend I'm hoping to take a short walk uphill to watch hawk migrations --- it's about a mile, up an 8% incline.  I said to a friend the other day, that I think I became a walker this summer despite myself.

So, that's an up-to-date progress report.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Review: Peshwari Nans: Beyond the bucket list

Peshwari Nans: Beyond the bucket list Peshwari Nans: Beyond the bucket list by Stephen Haughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book! Two 80-something sister embark on an epic road trip from London to India in a vintage car, driving almost 8000 miles. Along the way they find themselves making friends with Hell's Angels, an aging Polish Lothario, the Russian army, the Chinese authorities, and a host of others. The sisters become internet sensations and cultural icons without even trying. It's really funny too, and the author does a terrific job of creating sympathetic characters, placing them in improbable situations, and making it all seem plausible. I can just picture Esther and Minnie enjoying their tea alongside the Autobahn and along a mountain road in Tibet. And the episode with the Tibetan monks is priceless! I can even see this as a terrific movie starring the likes of Maggie Smith and Judi Densch!

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Review: The Risk of Darkness: A Simon Serrailler Mystery

The Risk of Darkness: A Simon Serrailler Mystery The Risk of Darkness: A Simon Serrailler Mystery by Susan Hill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In this installment, DCI Serrailler finally gets closure on a case that's haunted him. He also closes a door on a romantic relationship, and makes a decision about his future. My only complaint about this series is that the books end rather abruptly with unanswered questions. I realize that's probably a technique the author's using to keep the reader hooked on the series, but it feels a bit clumsy. Serrailler is complicated, and an interesting enough on his own character; that should be enough to hook a reader into reading more.

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