Monday, August 31, 2015

Review: Lamb to the Slaughter: A Marjory Fleming Thriller

Lamb to the Slaughter: A Marjory Fleming Thriller Lamb to the Slaughter: A Marjory Fleming Thriller by Aline Templeton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A dead sheep is left in town, a prominent citizen is found dead on his doorstep, and then there's a third death. What do these deaths have in common beyond the fact that they all been blasted with a shotgun? Perhaps it's a protest against the proposed new supermarket. DI Marge Fleming is left with a somewhat diminished crew as Tam McNee is still on leave, recuperating from the devastating blow to his head. Her daughter Cat, has taken to hanging around with some unsavory teenage boys on motorbikes, who may or may not be guilty of harassing an elderly cottager. As usual, Fleming has to balance the demands of her job as head of CID with her personal life.

I didn't find this one as engaging as the first two in the series; Marjorie's character seemed a bit distant. Plus most of the suspects were less than likable. I will continue reading the series, however, for at least one more installment.

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Sunday, August 30, 2015

Review: The Various Haunts of Men: A Simon Serrailler Mystery

The Various Haunts of Men: A Simon Serrailler Mystery The Various Haunts of Men: A Simon Serrailler Mystery by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I did NOT see the ending. I was also surprised that a book advertised as a "Simon Serrailler" mystery featured so little of him. The novel instead focused on Freya Graffham, a new transfer to Serrailler's team at the Lafferton CID. Several women, and a dog, have gone missing over a relatively short period of time, and although nothing appears to connect the victims, Graffham is convinced that the disappearances are connected. She and her partner, DC Nathan Coates, are given permission to investigate. Their investigation takes them into the New Age businesses centered in the nearby village in Starly. Along the way, Graffham, who is recovering from a divorce, begins to make a new life for herself. She joins the cathedral choir, and makes a number of new friends, including Serrailler's sister Dr. Cat Deerbon. I really liked the female characters in the book, and I also enjoyed Nathan Coates. Serrailler, not so much. He came off as a cold, flat paragon. Hill did a great job building suspense and creepiness too. I will read more in this series.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Review: A Pattern of Lies

A Pattern of Lies A Pattern of Lies by Charles Todd
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Once again Sister Bess Crawford, WWI nurse, investigates a mystery. This time, she's helping an army officer prove his father's innocence in a horrific gunpowder factory explosion. The Ashtons live in a small village near the coast in Kent, and Philip Ashton, mill owner, is arrested on suspicion of causing the explosion two years in the past which killed and injured a great many villagers. The town, including the police, is convinced that he is responsible, and his whole family is shunned and subjected to harassment. Bess is equally convinced that he is innocent and she uses her status as a nursing sister at the front, and her Army contacts via her father, to help figure out what really happened.

While I enjoy this series, I am finding Bess to be a flattish character. She has a strong sense of justice, a determined outlook, and an inquisitive nature. The series starts at the beginning of the war, and by now, the Armistice approaching. The world has changed, but Bess hasn't. Although the story is told from her perspective, there's no sense of what she's really thinking or feeling, at any time. She has no personal relationships beyond her family ties, and no sense of personal conflict that make characters interesting. I will continue to read this series, but would like to see some change in Bess.

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Wednesday's Wanderings

I woke up at 6:05 am and realized that I needed to hustle in order to make the 7 am water aerobics class I've been attending.  7 am??? Am I nuts??  Maybe.  The good thing is that because I also needed to have a bloodwork done today and I had to fast, it wasn't too hard to get to the pool on time.  After class, I headed to the lab for the bloodwork.  When I went in, there were 4 people ahead of me.  As I sat waiting, 5 more people came in.  The last of the 1st 4 went in for his work, and when the tech came out, she called the person who came in after me.  Then they called the next person after that one, and then the 3rd person.  At that point, I went up to the window to inquire how much longer the wait would be (it had been almost half an hour).  Shock and consternation on the part of the lab's receptionist!!  Apparently, my name had been crossed off as being done.  I appreciate the fact that they were sincerely apologetic, and I got in next.  And wonder of wonders, the lab tech drew blood on the first try which rarely happens.

After that,  I headed to a local bagel shop and enjoyed a really delicious egg, cheese, and tomato sandwich on a toasted everything bagel.  Yummy!  They had free wireless too, so I had a nice leisurely breakfast.  Next, I headed about 15 miles away to our "local" JCPenney's to return an item.  Of course I had to check out the sales, and ended up spending some money on several cute season-spanning tops, a pair of fall pants (30% off!), and a long neutral season-spanning cardigan.

Finally got home at noon.  This afternoon is pretty open.  I have to call my internet provider to demand a credit for the 10 days I was without internet, and I need to get some laundry done.  Housework is also looming, but I will probably leave that until tomorrow.

I am getting used to this retirement gig!

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Real" Retirement and a Summery Summary

Today is the day that all the district teachers start back to work.  And I'm not there!  Although I officially retired as of June 30, it didn't feel any different since I'm accustomed to the 8 weeks of a more leisurely pace.  So I'm considering today, the first day of retirement!  I got up at 5:30 am to head to a water aerobics class with my husband.  We've been going to a 7 am class, 3 days a week.  While I don't like getting up early, I AM awake after 23 years of an early start.  Plus he usually leaves for work about 5:30, so it is hard to sleep.  And I get back home about 8:15, and then have the whole day to do whatever.

It's been a busy summer.  We've had a few final touches put on the house --- things like shelving, extra towel racks, finishing the painting of the interior garage walls.  We've also been sprucing up the old house in an attempt to get it sold as soon as possible.  It took me a couple of weeks to find homes for the stuff I brought home for school too.

We also went to Great Britain for 10 days the first part of August.  We've gone before, but this time we took some friends with us who had never been to Europe.  Although we traveled pretty much the same route we took the first time we went, we went in the opposite direction and got to explore some new sights.  We also had tickets to the Military Tattoo in Edinborough which was amazing.  Some of the new sights we visited were Kensington Gardens, Hampton Court, Stonehenge, and Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott.    We also went to Bath, the Lake District (best gingerbread ever in Grasmere), Gretna Green, York, Cambridge, and London of course.

Kensington Palace:

Hampton Court pictures:

The day we went to Stonehenge was perfect --- blustery with threatening clouds which set a great ambience.

We did go to Bath again. Another place where there's plenty to see!

  Another highlight was a narrowboat cruise in Wales.

Another new stop for us was Chester, one of the oldest standing walled medieval cities.

Its cathedral has terrifically intricate wood carvings in the choir stall, and gorgeous tiled floors.  I took a ton of wood carving pics, but it was too dark for most of them to come out well.  

Edinborough was packed with people for the tattoo and for the Fringe Festival.  They close off a portion of the Royal Mile, the main road in Old Town that goes from Holyrood Castle to the Castle where the Tattoo is held nightly for 3 weeks.  At times it was hard to walk with all the people.  And of course, it's all uphill!

The tattoo is an amazing spectacle.  It lasts about 2 hours.  There are bands, mostly military,  from all over the UK and the world, as well as dancers, other musicians, and singers.  The word tattoo derives from the Dutch, and originally was a musical signal from an army barracks that the barkeepers in town could hear.  It signaled that the bars had to close and all the military men had to return to their barracks.   Aside from the bagpipes and drums, we also were gifted with performances from the US Air Force Drill Team, the US Citadel band, a military band from China, dancers from India, fiddlers from the Shetland Islands, and some incredible Chinese dancers.

And from Abbottsford, home of Sir Walter Scott:

A few shots from York Minster, in York.  This was a repeat visit, but there's so much to see here.


And a few shots around London:

These are only a fraction of the pictures I took!  

So my"Summer Vacation" was grand.  Now for an enjoyable retirement!!  (So far on day 1, I did my water aerobics class, went grocery shopping,  had lunch, and  am now headed out for my annual  physical.  Then to a local farm to pick up my CSA share.  Phew!)