Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Twitter Trio (2)

Here's episode two of my new weekend feature in which I let you know about interesting things I have learned via Twitter.

Found via @ruth_skerricks.

In this post on Ruth's blog Skerricks, she mentioned that Evernote is an application for collecting and sorting information. Now as a student of librarianship, lifelong learner, and lover of anything to do with finding and using information more effectively, I was intrigued. Ruth's post led me to this post on The Chronicle of Higher Education entitled "Take a Minute to Collect Your Thoughts". Written by Shawn Miller, this post is an account of how he uses Evernote to create a "personal database" to use for research, writing and generating ideas.

It seems to me that it might take a while to learn how to use Evernote, but it looks like it might be worth it.

2. Blogging Do's and Don'ts

@dsfunctionalmom shared this great post on Wednesday: "What NOT to do if you want people to actually read your blog!"

On a similar note, @bookladysblog wrote this guest post at The Book Case called "So, you wanna be a book blogger..."

3. Did you know that millions of women and girls in developing countries miss up to 50 days of school or work every year because they do not have access to affordable sanitary pads when they menstruate?

via @miafreedman

Watch this video:

Thursday, May 27, 2010

shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.

Borrowed from my local public library.

***** "You must read this book!"

From the back cover: "And then I opened my eyes and it was just Grace and me - nothing anywhere but Grace and me - she pressing her lips together as though she were keeping my kiss inside her, and me holding this moment that was as fragile as a bird in my hands."

I cannot express how much I love this book. I love, love, love this book. As I was reading it, I was grinning because I was enjoying it so much. As I got closer to the end, I rationed my reading so that it wouldn't have to end. When I closed the book at night, I lay in bed imagining what might happen next, or how it would feel to be Grace or Sam.

This book is heart-breaking, bitter-sweet, exhilarating!

This book is poetry.

This book is first love, love-at-first-sight and everlasting love.

This book is the feeling of isolation as you grow up and define yourself.

I didn't read a plot synopsis before reading this book, and I'm glad that I didn't because it allowed the story to unfold before me with no expectations. But in case you want to know a little bit of what it's about...

From the inside cover: "Grace has spent years watching the wolves behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf - her wolf - watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why..."

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

TTT - Healthy Habits

what habit of yours would you

most like to break?

Hmmmm...this is a hard one. I don't smoke, or swear, or bite my fingernails! I think, for me, the issue is really making new healthy new habits, rather than breaking old unhealthy ones.

I've already got two healthy habits that I'm really pleased with. The first is practising Tai Chi.

I began attending classes at the beginning of 2008, and immediately enjoyed it. After a term of introductory Shibashi lessons, I moved on to learning Levels 1-6 of Tai Chi.

Now that I've "graduated" from these classes, I attend Tai Chi Club every Wednesday. I also try to set aside 30 mins each day to practise. I find that when I do, it helps me remember to breathe, and makes me feel connected to the world around me. Tai Chi is good for wellbeing and relaxation and helps with lymphatic circulation, which is great for people like me who suffer from lymphodema.

My second "healthy habit" is journalling. No, I don't mean what I do here on my blog! I keep a notebook beside my bed, and in the morning or the evening I take some time to unload any worries or issues that are troubling me. It's an opportunity to practise positive self-talk and to work out what I really think and feel about things. I swear by it as a way to work through my problems.

So, what healthy habits would I like to add to my life? Well lately I've heard a bit about the idea that it's healthy to take about 10000 steps a day. I recently bought a pedometer, and I'm getting to know how many steps I take in a normal day so I can work out how I can increase them to meet my goal of 10000. Yesterday I hit around 5600 just doing housework at home, but today I'm only up to 2803, so I've got a way to go! I think I'm going to have to introduce going for an actual walk into my daily routine! Wish me luck!

If you'd like to join in the discussion, click on the button above which will take you to Shannon's NutHouse where she hosts Table Topics Tuesdays every week.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Last Writes by Laura Levine

Last Writes by Laura Levine.

Borrowed from my local public library.

*** "Fun!"

From the inside cover: "Jaine still hasn't found a good man - or a way to keep all those sugary snacks from going straight to her hips. But - with a little help from her best friend Kandi - she's finally landed a gig as a sitcom writer! True, Muffy 'n Me isn't going towin any Emmys. And her seedy office at Miracle Studios needs a little sprucing up, and a few dozen rat traps. But it sure beats writing boring brocures and run-of-the-mill resumes, so Jaine's not complaining. Until the plot thickens - with murder..."

Last Writes is the second book in Levine's Jaine Austen Mystery Series. You can read my review of This Pen for Hire here.

Jaine Austen is thrilled to find herself in the world of comedy television - the world of writers, actors, script re-writes, sets and read-throughs. She has been lucky enough to have her script - Cinderella Muffy - accepted, and is anxious that it be well-received. If it turns out that her episode is full of laughs she may even be offered a permanent job as a staff writer!

Unfortunately when actor Quinn Kirkland is poisoned on set during a live taping, Jaine's friend Kandi is taken off for questioning as the prime suspect. Not only was she seen in the prop room just before the poisoned prop donuts were sent to the stage, but she had been carrying on an affair with Quinn who had cheated on her with busty teenage actress Vanessa Dennis. Motive and opportunity! And so Jaine feels compelled to do some sleuthing to prove her friend's innocence.

I'm glad that I decided to continue with this series despite not being overly excited by This Pen for Hire. Levine has gained my respect by mixing it up a little, and not simply sticking with the same formula as last time. Although there are some familiar characters, such as Lance her nosy neighbour, and the lovable gang of senior citizens that Jaine teaches writing to, the setting is completely different. Levine is clever to take us out of Jaine's apartment and into the world to meet some new characters. I hope that future instalments of this series follow a similar path.

Levine also introduces a clever subplot involving her parents which is very reminiscient of Brigid's parents in Brigid Jones' Diary. Not original, but pleasantly entertaining none the less.

I don't really find the Jaine Austen Mysteries satisfying. I'm looking for a little more in the books that I read. A little more mystery, a little more romance (sadly lacking!), a little more thought-provoking, a little more challenging. I think of these books a little like junk food, only to be consumed sparingly because they don't really provide any nourishment.

If you need something for the bath, or a short trip on a plane, train or bus, then this is your book. And I really hope that Jaine gets lucky soon!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

I love my new Dress!

Check this out!

Dress from Target marked price $49.95 but bought for $34.40.
(I don't know - they must have been having a sale that I didn't know about?!)

I love my new dress, it's so comfy and I think it looks good! I did notice that it came in grey with red trim too... 

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Twitter Trio

I posted a while ago about how much I enjoy Twitter, how much information I'm discovering, how I like to pass on anything particularly interesting that I find, and how I find it difficult to keep up with the flow of information. Read the post here.

I have decided to attempt a regular weekend post featuring three interesting finds via Twitter, and I'm calling it The Twitter Trio.

1. AASL Blog Post

Found via @sandynay.

This is the official blog of the American Association of School Librarians. Written by Cassandra Barnett, the post discusses advocacy issues, and how teacher librarians must argue the importance of their role within the school. The post itself is interesting, but I'm particularly glad to have discovered the blog itself so I can add it to my Library and Education Blogs list.

2. The Blog of Tim Ferriss Post

Found via @miafreedman.

This is an inspiring article about accomplishing your objectives without reacting to every criticism you receive. I think that this is a great lesson for me, and I particularly like this bit: “Focus on impact, not approval. If you believe you can change the world, which I hope you do, do what you believe is right and expect resistance and expect attackers."

Move over powerpoint, Prezi is here. I have embedded an example below so you can appreciate the wonder that is Prezi. I have chosen the presentation "Math is not linear" because I am a maths teacher and I love what the creator, Alison Blank, has to say about the teaching and learning of mathematics.

See you next weekend for another exciting instalment of The Twitter Trio!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

By popular demand...

Here are some Australian Football actions photos.

For those of you unversed in Aussie Rules, I won't pretend to be able to explain it all here, but I will try and give you some of the basics. There are eighteen players per side, and it's played on a oval-shaped (rather than rectangular) field. The object of the game is to score goals by kicking the ball between the posts. To pass the ball up the field, you kick to your team-mates who attempt to catch the ball (this is called "taking a mark"). Anyone who takes a mark gets a free kick without interference, however, if the ball is not caught, it's a free-for-all to get the ball and pass it on as quickly as possible. (If you don't take a mark, then you're not allowed to "hold the ball". You must pass it on quickly before you are tackled by the opposition. If you don't relinquish the ball, and get tackled, then the other team gets the ball for a free kick.) There's lots of running around the field, hand passes as well as kicking, and lots of scrambling around on the ground when no mark is taken.

Here's Chris going up for a mark...

...and here he is having successfully taken one (notice the other guy must have mistimed his leap!).

Here's Josh going up for a mark in one of his games. (He's wearing number 40.)

Here's Chris about to kick...

...and here's Josh in full flight.

I hope you've enjoyed these photos and they've given you a better appreciation of Australian Rules Football!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Panic Zone by Rick Mofina

Title: The Panic Zone

Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: Mira
Pub Date: 06/29/2010
ISBN: 9780778327943
Author: Mofina, Rick
Category: FICTION - ADULT: Mystery, Detective, Suspense & Thrillers: Thrillers

"A grieving mother and a relentless reporter pursue a perfect killer.


A young mother is thrown clear of the devastating car crash. Dazed, she sees a figure pull her infant son from the flames. Or does she? The police believe it's a case of trauma playing cruel tricks on the mind, until the night the grief-stricken woman hears a voice through the phone: "Your baby is alive."


The heinous act kills ten people including two journalists with the World Press Alliance news agency. Jack Gannon's first international assignment is to find out whether his colleagues were innocent victims or targets who got too close to a huge story.


Doctors are desperate to identify the mysterious cause of a cruise ship passenger's agonizing death. They turn to the world's top scientists who fear that someone has resurrected their long-buried secret research. Research that is now being used as a deadly weapon.

With millions of lives at stake, experts work frantically against time. And as an anguished mother searches for her child and Jack Gannon pursues the truth, an unstoppable force hurls them all into the panic zone."

I received an ARC of The Panic Zone from the publisher via NetGalley. Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review, which is my personal opinion upon reading the galley.

The Panic Zone is a fabulous thriller. It has all the elements that I look for in a novel from this genre - a sympathetic hero who is facing almost-unbeatable odds, interesting subplots that weave together in unexpected ways, and an ever-increasing pace towards an explosive climax.

This book is a real page turner! Jack Gannon is an investigative reporter who finds that his determination to uncover the truth puts him in increasingly dangerous situations. As he travels the world in search of sources and information to get to the bottom of a bomb blast that killed two of his journalistic colleagues, he finds that the story is much, much bigger than he could have expected.

Add to this a mad scientist with plans for a drastic solution to over-population, a grieving mother who is sure that her baby is still alive, a terrorist plot, and a human-trafficking ring.

There's action aplenty, and yet I never found the plot confusing. The Panic Zone is a well-written, enjoyable and exciting read.

I highly recommend The Panic Zone as fabulous recreational reading for men and women that enjoy thrillers.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

TTT Speak the Truth in Love


is it harder for you to speak kindly or honestly?

Welcome to Table Topics Tuesday! It's hosted each week by Shannon at Welcome to the NutHouse! To participate, simply click on the button above.

This week's question is intriguing. I find it hard to write light-heartedly about this one. I've always believed that it's best to speak kindly and honestly, but it is very hard to accomplish.

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Is that always true?

"The truth hurts." Is it sometimes important to speak honestly, even if it doesn't seem kind?

I'll be very interested to read the other posts on this topic linked to Shannon's blog.

For me, it's easier to be kind than truthful. I'm sensitive, and I know how much words can hurt, so I try not to say things that are hurtful. But I don't always succeed. Sometimes I try to be clever and funny and don't think enough about how the other person might feel. I've put my foot in my mouth as much as the next person.

I'm not an argumentative person. I'm not likely to tell you that I think you're wrong, even if I do! I do have passionate opinions about various issues, but in a group situation I'm not going to cut you down and rip your opinion to shreds. I'll just listen quietly if I don't agree, until there is an opportunity for me to say something positive.

In close relationships, it's important to be honest. For me, I need to feel very safe with someone in order to open up and speak honestly. I can talk to my husband Chris about anything. I have a few other friends that I also share very honestly with. For other people that I don't feel as safe with, I tend to hold back.

Thanks Shannon, for the chance to psychoanalyse myself!

What about you? Is it easier for you to speak kindly or honestly?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Family Footy

Here's a picture of my hubby Chris ready for footy.

He plays Aussie Rules for the Central Coast Phoenix in the AFL Masters (over 35s) Competition. For my overseas readers - yes, that's really what they wear to play Australian Football - short shorts and a sleeveless "jumper" and no padding whatsoever. We breed them tough down here!

They play every second Sunday at 10am, and normally we just let him go and have a bit of "male bonding time" while we go to church. Today, however, we decided to make a family day of it. It's been a long time since I've watched Chris play footy, and I was proud to see that he still has the skills! I thought that Josh might enjoy seeing his Dad in action, and he did make a point of noting the number of goals that Chris kicked. Most of the time, however, he was running around kicking a ball with the other kids that had come along, or playing with the dogs that had been brought along. There was a lovely family atmosphere, and lots of cries of "Good one Dad!".

Alana spent her time reading Tommy Sullivan is a freak by Meg Cabot - she's a girl after my own heart!

As we were leaving, I ran in to a guy that I went to school with! How funny! He plays for the Phoenix and has two sons that play footy for one of junior clubs on the Central Coast. His older son plays in the U14s, his team plays against the team that Chris coaches. His younger son plays in the U10s in a team that plays against Josh's team. So I'll be sure to run into him again soon. What a small world it is!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld.

Bought with a gift card that I received for Mothers Day.

***** "Must read!"

From the back cover: "Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. In just a few weeks she'll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty, she'll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun. But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world - and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally's choice will change her world forever..."

Wow, it was a hard decision to choose a book to buy with my Mothers Day gift card! I agonised over the choice, but I'm glad I decided to go with Uglies. I really enjoyed it, and now I know that I have Pretties, Specials and Extras to read! Also, I've recommended it to my 12-year-old daughter Alana, and I'm sure that it will create many opportunities for discussion between us.

Uglies has a sci-fi element to it. It is set in the (near?) future, where scientific advances have allowed fully-recyclable cities to be self-sufficient and not put any strain on the environment. Within these cities, children learn about the "Rusties", a former civilisation that damaged the environment so much that made themselves extinct. The Rusties were a war-like people, where injustice abounded. Sound familiar?

Through social engineering, the world of Uglies has manage to eliminate all forms of injustice, right down to the fact that all sixteen-year-olds undergo an operation that renders them uniformly beautiful.

Tally is the youngest of her friends, left lonely in Uglyville awaiting her sixteenth birthday, when she will move to New Pretty Town and be reunited with them. But in her last few weeks of ugliness, everything she thought she knew is turned upside-down when she meets Shay. Shay shares a birthday with Tally, so is due to turn pretty on the same day, but she has some serious reservations about the operation. It seems to her that uglies look ok just as they are, and she's disturbed by the fact that all new "pretties" seem vacuous and boring. She has heard of a place that uglies run away to and never turn pretty, and she wants to go. 

I think that this book would be a great addition to a reading list or English curriculum for secondary students. It raises very important issues about body image, equality versus uniformity, and social engineering undertaken by "the powers that be".

I recommend this to anyone that enjoys young adult fiction and/or sci-fi, to teenage girls, and to the parents of teenage girls. I'm hoping that it will start a number of interesting conversations between me and Alana. One of the most important things for parents is to find "teachable moments" - opportunities to grasp as they arise to discuss important issues with our children. I think this book could open up quite a few of these moments.

Highly recommended.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Study Visit Day 4

Well, the study visit is finished, but I'm still processing everything that I experienced. I think it might be a few days before I can express what I've learned in any meaningful way.

Today we visited the State Library of NSW, and if you are able to, I advise you to visit. If that's not geographically feasible, why don't you check out the website.

Click here to visit the website.

That's it for me for now. If you go to the State Library website, make sure you look at "Discover Collections" (on the top menu). It has fascinating original historical documents that have been digitised.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sydney Study Visit Day 3

So...I didn't take any photos today, but I wish I had! Today I visited the Australian Museum Research Library, and there were a lot of photo-worthy moments. For a start, there are taxidermied animals and birds dotted about the library, even on the librarians' desks! Also, they have an extensive collection of scientific monographs going back to the 1800's, many of which have hand-coloured drawings of animals and birds. It makes this library very, very different to the others we have visited, with their emphasis on a move to electronic information.

During the afternoon I visited the Australian Film, Television and Radio School. We were shown a sound stage, a recording studio and a digital mixing theatre used for post production on feature films and documentaries. We were all sent home with DVDs of students' short films and other multimedia projects. The library houses a very specialised collection of scripts, DVDs - even press kits! 

I'm tired again, but still have one more day to get through :) 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Study Visit Day 2

Yay! I took one photo today! Admittedly, it was before the first session began, and once the actual day began I didn't have time to take any, but it is :)

I took this photo in the foyer of the UTS Library (University of Technology Sydney). I took it because I had never seen a vending machine like it before, and I thought it was cool. Maybe I'm just extremely naive and not very worldly wise, but I was pretty amazed to see a vending machine with notebooks, highlighter pens, staples and blank CD ROMs.

Today I visited UTS library and St Andrews Cathedral School library. Once again the tours and presentations gave me a lot of food for thought. Unfortunately I'm tired now and don't feel able to write a long post, but I'll catch you up when the week is over :)

Feel free to comment on vending-machines-you-have-seen! 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Study Visit Day 1

I really thought I would take lots of photos know the sort of thing...

"Here's me in Sydney on the study visit"..."Here's the group in front of such-and-such library"

Not so much...

Had a great day, but I was constantly on the go and didn't really get to the "photo opportunity" stage!

I had my first experience of "commuting" in a long time, driving to the train station and trying to find a parking spot in the designated commuter parking. Ughh! Then an hour and a quarter on the train and a short walk to the first venue of the day. And the same in reverse coming home. The good news - plenty of time for reading Uglies by Scott Westerfield. The bad news - I'm going to need another book!

I found our visit to Ultimo TAFE library quite inspiring. It's a large library, with a lot of staff who seem to be passionate about meeting the needs of the community of staff and students that they serve. Particularly interesting for me was information literacy workshops provided, including help with using the Australian Bureau of Statistics website (apparently a minefield!), advanced internet searching, and help setting up iGoogle and RSS feeds to suit individual information needs. As far as I can see, the library is a dynamic workspace with large tables for group work, wifi access throughout, and a collection tailored to meet the current needs of the (often industry-related) courses that are taught. The library also serves International students studying at the English centre with a designated collection of "easy readers" and "easy reader non-fiction" (equivalent to junior non-fiction).

Customs House public library was not so inspiring for me. Although the building has been redeveloped, and the library looks as up-market as they come, I'm not easily fooled by flashiness! The ground floor of the library is designed like a hotel lobby, there's a cafe, lounge chairs and a model of the city of Sydney under a glass floor (yes, you can walk on top of it!). It's noisy and the architecture is fabulous, but what's with having the cafe tables so close to the newspapers that they seem in constant danger of spillage??? I don't get the impression that meeting the information needs of the community is the highest priority. The fact that the library space doubles as a gallery with ever-changing exhibitions does however make it a very interesting public space.

Now I must rest up for Day 2!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sydney Study Visit

I'm so excited! From tomorrow until Friday I'll be completing my Study Visit, a required part of ETL507 "Professional Experience/Professional Portfolio" for my MEd (TL). I am attending a university-organised tour of various libraries and information agencies.

From my subject outline:

"Study visits are an excellent opportunity to see the information resources and services of a range of libraries and information agencies and to reflect on the diversity and commonalities in the goals of these organisations and the manner in which each works to fulfil these goals."

I'll be commuting via train to and from Sydney each day, then travelling by train, bus and foot to different venues with the CBD.

Libraries I'm visiting:
  1. Ultimo TAFE Library
  2. Customs House Library
  3. University of Technology Library
  4. St Andrews Cathedral School Library
  5. Australian Museum Research Library
  6. Australian Film TV & Radio School Library
  7. State Library of NSW
After the visit is finished, we must hand in two reports. From my subject outline:

"The reflection report gives you the opportunity to overview and discuss what you have gained as a developing information professional from the sites you visited during your study visit and from the overall experience. The evaluation report gives you the opportunity to assess the value of each site you visit."

I'll keep you updated during the week as to how I'm getting along. Wish me luck!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

Here's a photo of me with my gorgeous children Alana and Joshua, taken this morning when we got home from church.

What am I wearing? Well I'm glad you asked :)

I'm wearing a skirt that I picked up at Salvos Store for $2.50.

The top was a present a couple of years ago; I'm wearing black opaque tights and my Rivers black shoes.

This afternoon we're off to the shops so that I can spend a couple of gift cards that I received for Mother's Day. What a happy day when I have the opportunity to buy something just for me!

Wishing all my readers that are mothers a very happy day! I hope that your families let you know just how special you are.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why I love Twitter

I've been using Twitter for over a month now, and I'm finding it to be an excellent source of information on just about anything! I choose to follow an eclectic mix of fellow bloggers, celebrities, journalists, librarians, educators and organisations. Everyone from Smoochiefrog to Audrey Nay to No Country for Young Women to the United Nations to Mia Freedman. Some tweets entertain me, some allow me to engage in a conversation, and some contain links to information that is relevant to my daily life as a mum, teacher and student of librarianship.

I've also changed the website bookmarking tool that I use; I'm now using delicious rather than the favourites tab on internet explorer. Why? Delicious uses "tags" to organise my bookmarks rather than folders. This allows for overlap; the fact that some websites fit into more than one category. Also, I've discovered via Twitter, which automatically bookmarks the links in my tweets for me. There are a number of setting options, and I've chosen to make sure that anything that I retweet gets bookmarked. It's so easy! If a tweet comes through on my timeline with an interesting link, I retweet straight away. Not only am I passing on the link/information to my followers, I'm also automatically bookmarking the link for myself. Super!

The only problem that I'm having is keeping up with the flow of information! So far I'm following 111 tweeps, and I'm very careful about adding more and increasing the amount of information flowing my way! Here is a small selection from the vast amount of wonderful information relating to libraries, teacher librarians, using technology in learning, reading and publishing that I've collected so far. Of course I've found out a lot of other stuff too, but here I'm only including information that is particularly related to reading, learning and teaching.

Twitter4Librarians is a resource page designed to help librarians better use Twitter. I found it via @sandynay, who retweeted it from @infodivabronx.

Education and Second Life is a blog post by Judy at hey jude (@heyjudeonline on Twitter) that includes a video showing how Teen Second Life is being used in the classroom.

MAEVE Magazine is a free online magazine which sets out to provide an alternative to the mainstream women's mags. I found out about it via @JulesyParker who writes for MAEVE and blogs at Beautiful You.

Internet Safety is a blog post by Ruth at skerricks (@ruth_skerricks on Twitter) which discusses how to successfully teach students about internet safety and includes links to other articles and documents.

If you are a teacher or a librarian, or the mother of school age kids, you may find some of the above information interesting or useful. Even if you're not, I hope that this post inspires you to use Twitter to gather information that is meaningful to you.

Happy tweeting!

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Eye of the Virgin

Title: The Eye of the Virgin

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

Pub Date: 07/01/2010

ISBN: 9781590587607

Author: Frederick Ramsay
Category: FICTION - ADULT: Mystery, Detective, Suspense & Thrillers: Mystery & Detective

On the same evening that a body is found in Picketsville's urgent care clinic, a mysterious break-in occurs at the house of one of Callend University's faculty. Both seem to be connected to an icon, The Virgin of Tenderness, in the faculty member's possession. The fact that the body is that of the faculty member's ex-wife's lover who, more interestingly, seems to have entered the country under an assumed name, only complicates things for Sheriff Ike Schwartz.

Then, what appears to be outdated spycraft-a microdot-is found on the icon. In an era of sophisticated cyber-encrypted information transfer, the presence of this bit of CIA nostalgia brings in Charlie Garland and the forces from Langley.

Ike has no wish to engage with them or their problems. He has killers to apprehend and sets out to do his job in spite of the meddling by government agencies. That the bit of spycraft is something more than old time microphotography and it carried information that implicates the involvement of Israel's super secret Mossad only adds to an already messy set of problems. A dead CIA agent, a rogue handler, and a potential international incident are avoided outside the faculty member's house as the good, the bad, and the ugly are neatly sorted and carted away.

During the course of all this, Ruth's mother arrives for an extended visit, Ike and Ruth are officially engaged, and the Sutherlins-Billy, Frank, and Essie-like Dilsey Gibson, endure.

I received an ARC of The Eye of the Virgin from the publisher via NetGalley. Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review, which is my personal opinion upon reading the galley.
The Eye of the Virgin is the sixth book in Ramsay's Ike Schwartz Mysteries series. Ike is former CIA operative who is now Sheriff of a university town called Picketsville. Ike has a full and happy life, with  a Sheriff's Department to run and a feisty girlfriend to spar with. What appears at first to simply be a busy day at the office, with a break-in and a murder to investigate, quickly becomes a complex case involving the FBI, CIA, and even Mossad.
There is no need to have read the previous Ike Schwartz books to understand what is going on here. Ramsay has created an interesting genre; half cozy mystery and half international spy thriller. The cozy mystery half wins, with appealing, quirky characters and settings, and a gentle hero in Ike Schwartz. But the narrative is pushed along by the complicated plot involving double identities and operatives-gone-rogue. I enjoyed reading The Eye of the Virgin because it was dominated by the mystery itself, but I must admit that I got a little bit lost at times!
I enjoyed that fact that Ramsay has given his lead character, Ike, a wide range of interests. The passages in The Eye of the Virgin involving iconography were particularly interesting to me, adding another layer to the novel. Ramsay is himself a medical doctor, an ordained priest and an iconographer as well as an author! I suspect he has some measure of desire to add "small town sheriff" to that list, but is making do by living vicariously through Ike!
An enjoyable read for cozy mystery lovers who are looking for something with a bit more meat.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

More Fashion Finds

Yes, yes, I'm still broke! But I can still dream.

I'd really like a long sleeved top with shoulder puffs for winter. Better yet, I'd like to find one I really like, then get it in a few different colours. Something kinda like this...

Sorry, I know the photo isn't too great. Can you sorta get the idea?

And I would really like a jacket that has a lovely feminine, fitted shape. Like this one...

This picture is much better :)
Looks pretty, doesn't it?

I'd love to have the money to go in to any store and buy whatever took my fancy, but guess what? I'm rich in other ways. Look forward to seeing how I put together a winter wardrobe that I love, without spending money that I don't have.  

Any helpful tips will be received gratefully.