Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Mountains Wild

Taylor, Sarah Stewart. The Mountains Wild. New York: Minotaur Books, 2020.

Years ago I stumbled upon Taylor's short series featuring a "funerary art" expert. I loved the series and looked forward to another book by the author when I saw this one. Unfortunately it didn't work for me quite as well. I loved the characters, but the novel itself just didn't flow that smoothly. Police detective Maggie D'Arcy returns to Ireland to unofficially help Garda detective Roly Byrne investigate a new lead into her cousin's 23-year-old disappearance case. Maggie earned a reputation from some high profile cases. Even though she cannot officially investigate, Roly welcomes her insights into the case he'd worked on years before. The book is well-plotted and keeps the reader guessing with an unexpected twist in the end. I cannot put my finger on exactly what made the novel not flow well for me, but I kept putting it down after reading a few pages for several days. I did read the last half of the novel fairly quickly so the flow problem improved. The book did not contain chapters, but dates and other breaks provided readers with opportunities to easily know where to resume reading. I received an electronic advance copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Pandemic Experiences

Surgical face mask
NurseTogether / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Randy Seaver challenged bloggers to complete the first 10 prompts of Pauleen Cass' meme last week and the remainder this week. I didn't see the prompt last week, but I decided to complete all this week. I've been meaning to write about my pandemic experiences, and this is a good way to put it in writing.

1. What are you most grateful for during this COVID-19 crisis?

I'm glad to know that God is still in control. I'm also thankful for the companionship of my three cats.

2. What have you missed most during the full or partial lock-down?


3. Has your hobby sustained you during this time?

Sometimes yes; sometimes no. I've found it very difficult to concentrate long enough to really enjoy books. I started out doing some cross-stitch, and I found that very relaxing. I need to get back to it. As far as genealogy, I research for clients as well as for myself. I've enjoyed working a little on my own research and with DNA matches.

4. What changes have you seen in your life over May 2020?

I want to go back to March when this first began since I haven't written about the pandemic. Our spring break was "in the middle of winter" this year (February 29-March 8). My cats and I went to the Outer Banks. It was freezing, but that break ended up being a blessing because about a week later, students were sent home and the semester resumed online for them. The library staff worked in the office a few more days, but we were soon sent home to work from home. Only the director worked in the library to keep it open for the handful of students needing access to a computer. Only the main floor remained open, and hours were reduced. Tennessee began re-opening around the first of May, and we returned to work but on a staggered schedule. Each librarian would work two or three days in the library (depending on whether there was a holiday or scheduled closure that week) and two from home on the weeks they worked during the summer. I have now worked three of the four weeks I'm scheduled for summer. 

I was supposed to speak at the Tennessee Library Association conference in late March/early April. At first it was rescheduled for May, but it ended up being cancelled because of restrictions on gathering sizes. I was supposed to speak to a genealogical group in May and for a library in July. Both of those events have been tentatively rescheduled. I was supposed to speak at the National Genealogical Society's Family History Conference in Salt Lake City. My talks are now in the "in demand" portion of their replacement virtual event. I was supposed to co-present a workshop for the Association of Christian Librarians Conference. That workshop will not be part of the virtual offerings, but Mary Tatro and I put together a virtual advanced indexing presentation as part of the Christian Periodical Index Indexers Virtual Meeting which was held last week.

5. Have you been exercising more or less?

Overall, it's probably about the same or maybe a little more. I'm definitely doing more stretching because I can't get a massage, and the muscles need to be stretched. Some days I walk more; some days I walk less so it probably averages out.

6. Has the refrigerator been your friend or foe?

For the most part, it's been my friend. I enjoy cooking. I've tried not to purchase too many sweets at a time. I'm not eating large portions.

7. Have you been participating in virtual gatherings with friends or family?

No, but I've made lots of phone calls.

8. Have you taken up new hobbies during the lockdowns?

I wouldn't call it a new hobby, but a lot of web sites are offering some really cool virtual jigsaw puzzles, and I've worked a few of those.

9. Are you cooking or gardening more?

Yes to both. I'm often gone so much in summer that a garden isn't feasible. This year I ordered a couple of container gardens and planted herbs and produce. I harvested my first squash today. Several more are not far behind. The peppers and tomatoes will be coming in soon. The one thing that seems to be a failure is okra. I didn't really like the look of the plants I purchased, and I guess I should have skipped trying to plant them, but I wanted to try. 

10. Have you shopped more or less? Online or offline?

Honestly I'm afraid to go into stores because the few times I tried to stop after we reopened, people were ignoring the aisle arrows, social distancing protocols, and were not wearing masks. I'm generally ordering online with curbside pickup from either Walmart or Food City. If I need something at Ingles, I go early in the morning before it is crowded. I've ordered some cat supplies from Chewy, and I ordered one or two things that were hard to find locally from Amazon.

I've also been purchasing genealogy books since the repositories are closed. Most of the ones I'm ordering are for counties in my own research or counties where client research is taking me.

11. What have you found to be the strangest change to your life?

Worshiping online for church.

12. Have you found the changes and experience stressful/anxious/worrying?

Any time you incorporate more technology into your routine, there will be added stress. The most stressful part is seeing cases go up in your own county or nearby counties. I enjoy travel, and I'm really beginning to get cabin fever.

13. How have the closures affected your local community?

More restaurants offer curbside service. A lot of businesses are suffering because of lost income. Things are beginning to reopen, but a lot of us are not comfortable being in large crowds now because a vaccine won't be available for another year or so. I won't be dining in any time soon.

14. Have in-person meetings been replaced with virtual meetings via Zoom, Skype, etc.?

For me, we just didn't have a lot of meetings at work. We just got e-mail updates. The administrators met via Zoom. Two other librarians and myself worked virtual reference, and we used the chat feature in that application to communicate with each other when we weren't together. Several conferences have used a virtual format. I enjoyed the meetings where I got to see people, but I found the others more difficult to enjoy. I think I'm just happy to see anyone!

16. Do you enjoy the virtual meeting format?

It's good for awhile, but I prefer in-person.

17. Are you working from home instead of in your usual place of work?

I did for awhile. Now it is a combination (although I'm off most of the summer anyway). I don't know what it will look like in the fall.

18. Have your habits changed over the past months?

I'm really staying at home a lot. I was happy when I could finally get my hair colored. I'm overdue on the dental check-up, but I haven't reached the comfort level for that yet in light of an upsurge in cases locally.

19. Have you had to cancel travel plans for pleasure or family?

I did not get to go to Salt Lake City in May. I was looking forward to the conference, researching in the Family History Library, and sightseeing. I did not get to go to Wichita this month for the Association of Christian Librarians Conference. I was looking forward to visiting my great great grandfather's grave in a nearby town. I usually take a vacation right before school resumes in August, but that's up in the air right now.

20. Do you think you'll be able to travel in 2020?

I honestly don't know, but I'm hoping to be able to visit family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I'd like to be able to visit repositories during those trips, but if we get the predicted round 2 of COVID-19, the plans will be off.

21. Have you/others been wearing masks when out and about in your area?

I wear one if I'm in public--even just going through a drive-thru or picking up curbside. I don't wear one in the house with the cats. Unfortunately other people are not following the Tennessee Department of Health's suggestion that "My mask protect you. Your mask protects me. Let's protect each other."

22. Will you change your lifestyle after this experience?

I suspect everyone will alter their lifestyle to some extent after this. 

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

The Red, Red Snow

Ramsay, Caro. The Red, Red Snow. London: Severn House, 2020.

A family man's stabbing leaves Anderson and Costello and their teams baffled. The perpetrator left no clues. No motive emerges. No witnesses identified themselves. Two more bodies show up a week later at a cottage where the family intended to spend Christmas. Investigation uncovers dislike for these victims. The novel spends a little too much time discussing problems within the detectives' families and explored some things which needed omission to tighten the novel. Those who read previous series installments may appreciate some of the detectives' family problems more than I did. I did not feel I knew the detectives because I missed earlier installments. I may try the first couple of books in the series to see if I warm to the series. If so and I continue reading the series, I may revisit this installment to see if it improves with the background from earlier cases and without the distractions of reading in a time of COVID-19. I received an electronic copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Lifeline

Mayhew, Margaret. The Lifeline. London: Severn House, 2020.

Ruth Harvey runs a successful gardening business in the English village of Frog End. When a man dies in a greenhouse, Inspector Squibb shows up. Few people regard the Inspector favorably so they turn to the Colonel to discover the murderer. Charms of English village life abound in this sixth "Village Mystery." I now want to go back and read earlier installments so I understand the village a little better. This review is based on an advance electronic copy supplied through NetGalley with the expectation of an honest review.