Review of Herb Books

Three Herb Books Reviewed

I love cooking with herbs. But I do not own a single culinary herb book. Most of my gardening books have a section on herbs or information on individual herbs. Additionally, I have four herb books mostly based on medicinal uses. They are all quite interesting to read but I have yet to fully utilize their information. I am going to talk about three of the herb books today.

Ortho’s All About Herbs

Maggie Oster is the author of Ortho’s All About Herbs. I own the 1999 edition and find it a compact reference guide. Even though it is condensed, only six pages devoted to culinary use of herbs and a similar number for medicinal use, the guide is chalk full of information. Not much white space is left on the page.

What I like best about this herb book is the table of Common Herbs and Their Uses on pages 8-11. A close second is the detailed index. Since it is a how-to book there are plenty of pages devoted to educating a novice. About half the book is devoted to individual plants. While Basil earns an entire page, most of the described herbs share space. Much like in a garden.

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs

National Geographic Guide to Medicinal Herbs: The World’s Most Effective Healing Plants was co-authored by Rebecca L. Johnson, Steven Foster, Tieraona Low Dog, M.D. and David Kiefer, M.D. This book is impressive. Gorgeous photography and beautiful illustrations accompany eight chapters of herbal information.

Since this herb book focuses on medicinal use, the plants are grouped by which part of the body they aid. For example, Chapter Four covers herbs useful for digestive ailments. However, each herb is only covered under one section. But the authors do indicate alternative therapeutic uses.

Readers may find it interesting to discover the inclusion of plants not considered herbs. Perhaps the inclusion of edibles such as tomatoes and various berries is the reasoning behind the long title. Whether herb or non-herb, the information contained is extensive.

Medicinal Plants At Home

The third book I want to share comes to us via Spain. Marìa Trànsito Lòpez Luengo and Carlota Màñez Arisò are the co-authors of the informative herb book Medicinal Plants at Home. I like how the authors organized the book.

First, there is an overall introduction. Then, the herbs are broken into groupings for subgroups of individuals, travelers, children, the elderly, etc. There is a short section on using herbs throughout the house and then the herbs are typed by how they affect the body. The authors discuss if the herbs are used for relaxation, anti-inflammatory purposes or as an immuno-stimulant.

Each herb is discussed and photographed. The authors indicate uses and include precautions and if/when the herb is contraindicated. Further, the plant is described and natural habitat disclosed. A recipe for each is included under the remedies section.

Herb Books for the Herb Garden

I am still expanding my herb garden. Currently, my herbs have more culinary applications than medicinal. While I have added both rose hips and lavender to my bath water, I have yet to make any teas or poultices. My horehound is a wonderful ground cover but I do not know how to turn it into a cough drop.

A fourth herb book is quite different and I am still reading it. Therefore The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Healing Remedies will be reviewed at a later date.

Modern medicine has replaced herbal medicine at the household level. I truly do not personally know anyone who mixes their own concoctions. My comfort level at this point in time is quite low with respect to preparing my own medicinal therapies. But, I am interested in adding herbal teas to my repertoire.

Enjoy the slide show.

 

 

 

 

 

Two-Sided Quilt

I have finally finished piecing both halves of the two-sided quilt. One side is a version of The Train Quilt and the other is a batik panel quilt featuring an elephant. Usually, panel quilts are quick and easy to make like I discuss in this post. But this particular design took a lot of effort.

Intricate Borders

Both sides of this quilt have intricate borders. I used a circus train motif for the Train Quilt. Instead of a coal car, I have a grain car. The passenger cars have clowns leaning out. Baby animals complete the motif. Best of all, pastel colored wheels and rails lend the baby element. Perfect for a soon-to-be one year old.

The middle border of the panel side looks quite complicated. Strip piecing made it a bit easier. But since it was the first time I had ever made this border there was still quite a learning curve. I used a pattern called Shaded Squares from The Border Workbook by Janet Kime.

Many of the fabrics used were batiks. I chose to vary the fabrics in the strips so that the border could compliment the stylized elephant on the panel. My aim was a watercolor effect. So, for example, in areas adjoining teals, there were several teal fabrics in the border.

Two-Sided Quilt for Longevity

I decided to make this reversible quilt so it can “grow” with the recipient. The Circus Train is great for a youngster. I can envision toy trains and cars rolling across the tracks. The colors are sweet and the fabrics include a few fun kid prints.

Once the youngster gets a little older, the two-sided quilt stays useful with the beauty of the flipside. The batiks used to accent the majestic elephant are perfect. The marbled colors are both striking and allow for a blending of colors that is pleasing to the eye. I picture a young teen curled up beneath the quilt reading on a snowy day.

One Last Hurdle

The two-sided quilt presents one last hurdle. I need to decide on a quilting design. Many times I use either a stitch in the ditch approach or one that highlights the main design. Neither will work in this case. So I need to come up with an overall quilt design. Fortunately I have an array of stencils to choose from. I will post more pictures after the quilting is done, but here are a few to enjoy now.

Long Road to Mercy Book Review

I recently read Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci. He is a veteran author known for his thrillers. The publishing date for Long Road to Mercy is 2018. But I did not buy/see it at the time. However, I enjoyed checking it out through my Libby App.

New Series, New Characters

Baldacci introduces a new series with Long Road to Mercy. The protagonist, Atlee Pine is a FBI agent based in the rural American town of Shattered Rock, Arizona. Pine is a loner in her mid-thirties with quite a back story. Her twin was kidnapped and never found at the age of six. While Long Road to Mercy begins and ends with this back story, the main plot revolves around government intrigue. The setting is split between the Grand Canyon and Washington, D.C.

Pine’s office consists of one staff member, Carol Blum. Blum is a key character in the book. Older than Agent Pine by about twenty years, Blum can recognize dedication when she sees it. She knows Pine is dedicated. So, Blum mentors FBI Agent Pine and serves as an admirable backup.

Sam Kettler is a National Service Park Ranger. He served in the Mid-east and has razor sharp skills. Kettler and Pine connect. Both are in top physical condition and both carry scars. Quite possibly the relationship will continue in future stories.

Long Road to Mercy Plot

Intrigue, espionage, and treason are at the heart of the novel. Primary action takes place deep in the Grand Canyon with Agent Pine and her assistant, Blum making a sneak trip to Washington D.C. in between. The storyline keeps the reader hooked. The protagonist digs deep to reach the bottom of the mystery.

There is a thinly veiled link to recent historical events in the United States, but the story is pure fiction. And that is a good thing. Because a similar scenario in true life would be devastating.

Novel Strengths

Baldacci has created complex and compelling characters. Both Pine and Blum are strong women and I like that. Sam Kettler is macho without the attitude. I also like that. The sequel to Long Road to Mercy is A Minute to Midnight. I have placed that novel on my To Be Read List.

Readers who enjoy action and don’t mind some violence will enjoy this novel. The main character is a strong female. David Baldacci is an expert at weaving stories of intrigue interspersed with moral conflict. I think the Atlee Pine series will develop quite a following. I know I enjoyed it.

 

 

Striking A Balance

Striking a balance is a key to life. One that seems to be sorely missing at this moment in time. In economics we call this balance an equilibrium. If you believe in the philosophy of Adam Smith you think a system which is out of whack will correct itself. Eventually. If you are a fan of John Maynard Keynes, your belief runs toward giving nature a helping hand through intervention. Usually government intervention.

To be honest, I tend to favor Smith over Keynes. (Although neither is my favorite.) The biggest problem with Smith is that nature can take a long while to correct itself. The biggest problem with Keynes is thinking man has the discipline, and the knowledge to strike and maintain a balance. Striking a balance is quite difficult. Maintaining one, perhaps impossible.

Debt

From time to time I link to the Debt Clock. I have already asked you to click here once this year but please do it again. The overall number is eye-popping. Over 25 trillion as I type this. But dig down deeper. Look at family savings, student and credit debt. Take a further look at household and national debt. Finally take a look at the M2 money creation.

The Federal Reserve is following a Keynesian path and pumping money into the monetary system. This chart from the St. Louis Federal Reserve office shows the steep increase in M2 since the start of the year. The Federal Reserve has deeply cut the interest rate on the funds loaned out. The rate currently stands at .25 down from 1.75 earlier this year.

From both the Debt Clock and the M2 chart one can discern the attempt at striking a balance the Federal Reserve is trying to make. It is not this action I disagree with. Instead I worry about the unwillingness for re-balance in good times. Why, were interest rates low to begin with when we were at all time market highs the first months of the year? Shouldn’t the rates have been at 3, 4, or even 5 %?

My fear is the inability of governmental entities in striking a balance. Keynes’ basic philosophy will work but only if humans can put aside for a rainy day. I have seen little of this in my lifetime.

Managing a Pandemic

Public service is difficult. I have had some personal experience on a local level and the job is tough. Making decisions for the public is not easy. A crisis makes it even harder. Dealing with Covid-19, while not unprecedented, is proving to be the greatest challenge many will ever face. This holds true on a personal as well as public level.

I think the problem will be most apparent in countries that have enjoyed more freedom for citizens. But I think people everywhere will struggle with striking a balance in fighting this pandemic. Individuals in countries that practice preparedness will do better than those who live in places where a just-in-time philosophy extends to households as well as production facilities.

There have been a multitude of agencies as well as people that have not responded as effectively as one would hope. Additionally, political leadership has not been on an even keel. But perhaps what disappoints me the most is the divisiveness of the human population. Although, I feel a little better about the split since reading Gina Kolata’s Flu. Apparently a similar split has happened in the past on the best way to deal with an epidemic.

Personal Responsibility in Striking a Balance

Nonetheless, I urge everyone out there to consider the needs of others. A person can look healthy and young on the outside, but suffer from lung conditions such as asthma or cystic fibrosis. Pacemakers are not just operating in the elderly. So for once I am asking you to “assume” something. Please assume anyone you meet, young or old, may have an underlying condition. Give people some space. Further, assume you could be asymptomatic, spreading disease unknowingly. And by all means, if you do have symptoms of Covid-19 take responsible actions.

Striking a balance between public health and public wealth is difficult. We all have a responsibility. As humans, we need to show respect for each other. At some point in the future we will reach an equilibrium. Let’s just hope we remember to repay the funding mechanisms. Otherwise, the difficulties of living through this pandemic will pale in comparison to a future of financial instability.

 

 

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It Book Review

Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It by Gina Kolata  is a well- researched tome. I spent about a week reading through the historical information in order to better understand the response to the Covid-19 pandemic we are currently facing.

Historical Account of Flu Through The Ages

Kolata begins with a prologue well worth reading. She follows this with an opening chapter on the Spanish Flu of 1918. The information presented is a basis for the main thread of virology research which takes place decades later and is the impetus of Kolata’s writing. This historical approach carries throughout Flu.

In order to give the reader perspective on pandemics, Kolata digs deep into history. An early (perhaps the earliest) record of epidemic exists through the writings of Thucydides from 431 B.C. in Athens, Greece. In addition to describing the illness, Thucydides comments on the reaction of the populace to the disease. The Greeks experienced medical doctors falling prey to the epidemic, people turning to religion for salvation and finally isolating themselves in their homes to avoid the illness.

This pattern repeats itself throughout the centuries. Kolata reports on the various pandemics including the Black Death and the flu of 1918. An eerily similar response occurs time and again. The population divides into two groups of thought. (Much like we are experiencing in 2020.)

Cross Species Flu

After providing an historical basis, Kolata switches to some of the unknowns of viral spread. Through the years, scientists tried to link all types of flu outbreaks to bacterium. Perhaps the presence of bacteria provided the quick spread. Others linked viruses to co-existing in animals. Pigs, ferrets and birds are just some examples.

The 1918 pandemic is often linked to swine and the author ties this strain to a chapter on the Swine Flu vaccine of 1976. Again, the comparison to the politics and scientific disagreements to current events is relevant for the reader.

Advances in Science

Much of Flu focuses on the work of scientists to determine the cause of the 1918 pandemic. I found the information interesting. But, to be honest I struggled to a certain extent with the jargon as well as the concepts presented. But biology was not my strong suit.

Kolata discusses multiple attempts to isolate the 1918 Influenza virus. As early as the 1950s, scientists attempted to retrieve the virus from frozen bodies. This effort was unsuccessful. However, the 1990s brought about additional attempts.

This portion of the text interested me the most from an economic standpoint. In the 1990s, multiple researchers again attempted to isolate the origins of the 1918 virus. Kolata relates several different approaches. One expedition took five years at a cost of half a million. It did not succeed. However, other sources had more success.

Flu was written prior to the reconstruction of the 1918 virus. Those of you interested in what has happened with this particular strain can click here for a CDC report.

Non-Fiction

Gina Kolata presents in Flu an excellent example of a well-researched non-fiction account of scientists searching to unravel the source of a pandemic.

Those of you who follow me know that I have been struggling of late to finish a variety of non-fiction books. Kolata’s book was the longest at almost 400 pages of text. Perhaps what sets Flu apart was the thorough research. Another possibility is the blend of science and history. Regardless, I read Flu in its entirety.

Although Flu was published in 2001, copies are still available to purchase. The book is also on Kindle and through the Libby app. I highly recommend this book for anyone with a science or history background. Furthermore, I think those with an interest in political science, economics, and anthropology will also find the subject matter of interest. Flu is not a quick read. The time spent is worthwhile. Someone on my Christmas list will get a copy in December of 2020.

 

April 2020 Wrap-Up

Fair warning: The topics in the April 2020 Wrap-Up are about as eclectic as they come. It has been a whirlwind stay-at-home month. I actually left my home four times. However, on two occasions I did not leave the vehicle. Both times we drove through for a take-out dinner.

Essential Trips

The other two times involved essential purchases. Both occurred the same week. The first was to a greenhouse nursery. The proprietor has a policy of appointment only and masks must be worn. I purchased about a dozen peppers. Even though I have a multitude of seedlings going, the peppers are necessary for my secret recipe salsa. And I have trouble getting peppers to grow from seed.

Then two days later I made the first trip to the grocery store in a month. What an experience! Now, the store has huge arrows on the floors directing the flow of traffic. Apparently, following the arrows is quite difficult for people to adjust to. Furthermore, only about half of the people wore the masks requested by the government.

I had heard tales in the media about shortages. Perhaps it was my lucky day, but there were only two items on my list unavailable; yeast and avocado. The milk was a little light and the expiration date quite close as well. Furthermore, a large amount of stock sat around the aisles waiting to fill shelf space. I just hope they had room for all of it!

Covid-19 Update

The latest case figures worldwide show over 3,000,000 cases with 214,583 deaths. Now many people will divide the number of deaths by the total cases. Easy math gives you the figure .07 (percent) of those infected have died. Not too worrying? Well, I am still worried because I do the math a little differently.

Of the 3,045,993 positive cases worldwide, only 1,006,102 are considered resolved. This terminology is important. A resolved case means an individual no longer has Covid-19. Obviously, there are two resolutions. The negative ending is reflected by the death count. Then, the remainder are those who battled Covid-19 and won.

However, using these figures in an easy math equation indicates a less satisfactory result. 214,583 divided by 1,006,102 equals .21 which gives one a rate of death triple of above. Furthermore, if this is extrapolated over the two million unresolved cases, the world could expect to lose about 640,000 lives to Covid-19—If and only if no one else tests positive.

Caveat for April 2020 Covid-19 Numbers

Please keep in mind a few things. First, not everyone will be tested. Therefore, one cannot say one-fifth of the population will die. The one in five number is only for confirmed, resolved cases. So, there is hope that better treatments may impact this number. However, my plan remains to avoid the virus.

Second, this calculation is based on worldwide numbers. Individual countries vary. If you would like to calculate your country both BNO News and Johns Hopkins University are compiling data. As of today, BNO News is still playing catch-up due to the death of a family member. But I like this online news agency out of the Netherlands because they started tracking stats very early on. The two organizations have different time zones so that also pushes the numbers apart. If you use JHU numbers, the ratio is .18. Rounding gives you the same one in five number.

April 2020 In the Garden

April 2020 showers were on the light side, so I have used soaker hoses to keep the garden alive. The temperatures have been about average. Although the weather forecast gave me a bit of a scare. Today an original temperature forecast of 96 degrees Fahrenheit and bright sun was slated. I am so glad the experts were wrong. At mid-afternoon it is 84 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy. Perfect weather for transplanting.

While I did not have the nice two hour drizzle that accompanied the pepper transplanting, today was ideal. The plants I placed in the garden today were chosen from the seedlings I have started indoors this spring. Transplants include peanuts, basil, artichoke and my hybrid tomato favorite Heirloom Marriage Genuwine. I love these tomatoes but I do think the name is a bit confusing. Hybrids are not heirlooms and thus I won’t save seed from these tomatoes.

Hardening Off

My other tomatoes are still hardening off on the front porch along with more artichoke, basil, and dill. The cucumbers and beans are just now sprouting. I will wait a week or so before transplanting. Even though we are not quite past our last freeze date, the long-term forecast looks safe.

The hardening process can be tricky. Each day, plants are left outside in a protected area to become accustomed to Mother Nature. The goal is to lengthen the exposure daily. However, a few days ago we had a Red Flag Advisory. Since the wind can do so much damage, I skipped a day in the hardening off process.

Transplants that do not receive this gradual adjustment to the outdoors are vulnerable to loss. I would hate to waste two months of nurturing. So I am not rushing the process. The photos are of seedlings nearing the end of the process and/or the seeds started outdoors but in containers for later transplant.

Raised Row Garden

The raised row garden continues to astound. Please read this review of a great method of gardening. I managed to keep Swiss Chard alive all winter with a fabric hoop covering. Unfortunately, the recent high wind ripped the covering. Making lemonade, I just relocated half to protect some young cabbage seedlings.

Landscape Blanket
Protecting Beet Seeds From Starlings

I believe some pesky starlings have been enjoying my sweet beet seeds. So, I have now replanted a variety of beets for the third time. A light landscaping blanket now covers the seeds.

Cherry Blossoms
Cherry Tree in Full Bloom

Garlic and onions in various stages of growth are sprinkled throughout the garden. I have placed a small amount of garlic under the almond tree to help deter borers. The tree flowered for the first time; Just a sprinkling of blossoms as compared to the fully loaded cherry tree.

Early Harvest

April 2020 included bringing crops to the table. We enjoyed carrots twice. First just cut and boiled and the second time in a stir fry. I sow the carrot seed in late fall and they are among the first green shoots in the garden. We are also enjoying asparagus, Swiss chard, green onions, mint and lettuces. Egg-white frittatas with home grown produce cannot be beat.

April 2020 Hobby Room

The top for the Train Quilt 2 is fully pieced and waiting to be sandwiched. I love the circus theme of the border. The pastel colors are perfect for the little miss who might receive this on her first birthday. Additionally, I have settled on a pattern for the new baby who might be here for the next Wrap-Up. Another great- nephew to spoil.

But the time in the hobby room was also practical. Dozens of masks were made and then mailed to family members. My offspring live in large cities. The hope is the masks are enjoying use. They were quite easy to make and I kept one for myself. As stay-at-home restrictions ease, I believe I will still wear a mask in crowded situations. At least in the short term.

  • Quilt strips before sewing in mauve, blue gray and off white
    Beginnings of a quilt

April 2020 In The Kitchen

Covid-19 has one beneficial side effect. We are enjoying amazing meals. Even before the virus struck, we cooked most of the time. But the stay-at-home orders have created an abundance of extra time in the day-or so it seems. The result is fantastic recipes discovered or just remembered. A highlight of April 2020 was making sugar cookies for Easter as part of the Easter delivery meal.

I am a little concerned about the local yeast shortage. But, if I run out of regular yeast, I will turn to making sourdough bread. Additionally, I am thankful that my bread-making skills have improved so dramatically over the last few years. Soft home-made sandwich is preferable to the bricks I turned out early on. Bread Illustrated remains as my go-to cook book for bread recipes.

Fresh Bread
Fresh Bread

April 2020 In the Library

Just a couple short months ago I asked my librarian about online library loans. Her response was to download the Libby app. I did and I couldn’t live without it! While best sellers usually mean a wait, we both have enjoyed reading the various Lorena McCourtney books. She is a champ at writing cozy mysteries.

However, I do have some non-fiction books on hand. I have started three and have yet to finish one. Perhaps they do not offer the escape from reality I need. At least one of them is riddled with inconsistencies so that is also a factor.  Depending on how long this isolation lasts, I may find a way to finish each of them.

Three books
Reading in Progress

No Travel

Seldom do I have a month where I do not travel at least to a neighboring state. But April 2020 was a month without any travel. I love my corner of the world. But I also like to travel. I had hoped to recognize my Dad’s battle with breast cancer with an in person attendance at the Kentucky Oaks. But the first weekend in May is upon us. No running for Oaks Lilies or Kentucky Derby Roses will occur this spring.

Very few planes fly overhead. The Amtrak does pass through twice a day, but I have no idea how full it is. April 2020 brought a cancellation of the Centennial Zonta International Convention. So I will not be traveling to Chicago this July. No travel and no plans.

Thank you to all that made it through this long post. No venturing outside has cut down on my interaction with people so I jumped at this opportunity. I wish all of you good health. Carpe diem!

Science and Politics Don’t Mix

The one take away from this Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 is science and politics don’t mix well together. In a rush to print, research papers are being presented without the time honored test of peer review. This is a critical flaw. A second even greater concern is the sound bites of politicians. Neither of these issues are helping society deal with this novel corona virus.

Good Science versus Bad

So, how does the layman determine the validity of scientific papers? Several clues help. First, how is the research released? Peer reviewed scientific research is the best. Such articles are examined thoroughly by individuals in the field of study.  So these are the articles to utilize. My personal favorites are The New England Journal of Medicine; Science; and Nature.

Articles found in such publications refer directly to the source. Additionally, attached links are provided to connect the reader to the actual research paper. Finally, methodology is explained and the outcomes include the statistical variances for error.

Secondly, beware of research which first appears as a headline in a newspaper. An example would be the recent release of the study by Stanford researchers on the incidence of Covid-19. The released study reports the virus is much wider spread than previously thought. However, a peer review of the study is not available. Thus the conclusions are premature. This is bad science.

The paper is flawed.   A better explanation of the errors than I can give can be found by clicking here. At best, the goal of the premature release is to provide hope for a frightened populace. At worst, it is a political ploy.

Lastly, look for secondary studies that independently confirm the original study. Often the scope of a first study has limits. Validation from larger later studies is important from a scientific standpoint.

Politicians and Pandemics

Science and politics don’t mix well under most conditions. But a pandemic can make things worse. Worldwide there are many elections in 2020. The Iranians experienced a low turnout of just over 42%. Officials attributed the reduced participation to the corona virus. Perhaps this is true. But it is also a possibility that the politicians are using the pandemic as an excuse.

On the other hand, Israel had a record turn-out for their election; the third in a year’s time. The Israeli’s had special voting stations available for citizens infected by the virus. Other countries facing elections this year should consider this model.

Science and Politics Don’t Mix Well in America

The political elections in the United States next fall are already impacting the scientific response to Covid-19. The White House holds daily press conferences on the pandemic. Ostensibly, this is critical information for the public. I believe they may have started out with this intent. However, I now think the gatherings are as much a campaign venue as an informational release.

Further danger arises from the political influences on science. Covid-19 is new. Therefore, scientists need to investigate without fear of funding loss or political gain. So, the science needs to remain separate. It is naturally human to want a fast fix. But that may not happen regardless of money or political desire.

As discussed above, the scientific studies need to be independent and then peer reviewed. Furthermore, secondary studies need to be completed. Politicians should not push for limited research. Anecdotal positive results are not conclusive. Thorough research is a priority.

Conversely, scientists need to concentrate on the science. Rushing studies will only backfire. As individuals, we may have our own political beliefs. But, researchers need to put politics aside. At this point in time, all possible treatments need to be vetted by studies. Science and politics don’t mix well and both sectors need to focus on their jobs.

Here are the relevant links to this post:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/17/antibody-study-suggests-coronavirus-is-far-more-widespread-than-previously-thought

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2214-z

https://www.nejm.org/

https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/iransource/factbox-the-outcome-of-irans-2020-parliamentary-elections/

https://www.jpost.com/israel-elections/israelis-go-to-polls-for-third-time-in-a-year-619439

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/04/how-does-coronavirus-kill-clinicians-trace-ferocious-rampage-through-body-brain-toes?fbclid=IwAR2OlkswmZl0O6e4lVL4sooo5OzcA1dsd-kElTc4NlwSkT9R8K3Hzig8nfU

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contagion Book Review

I am not sure how to characterize Contagion by Robin Cook. Certainly there is murder involved and quite a bit of mystery but it is not really a whodunit. Furthermore, there is suspense and action but Contagion is not quite a thriller either. Whatever the category, I found the novel quite entertaining. Cook achieved the pinnacle-he surprised me toward the end.

Contagion Protagonist

Dr. John Stapleton is the protagonist in Contagion. He is a New York City medical examiner and his life is devoted to his job. A private man, Stapleton begins to open up to Terese Hagen, who is on the fast track at an advertising agency. The two are drawn together as Stapleton investigates the sudden appearance of exotic viral deaths at a NYC hospital.

Stapleton is a compelling character. The reader emphasizes with the tragedy of his past. His present life is of interest as well. Few white doctors choose to live in Harlem.

Furthermore, the virulent cases are bringing Stapleton back to life. Hagen is not the only woman to stir his interest. The re-awakening to life continuing after the death of a loved one is uplifting.

Gang Interaction

A significant thread in the story revolves around Stapleton and two rival gangs in New York City. A hit is placed on the good doctor as he comes closer and closer to discovering the truth of the numerous deadly contagions. The interaction of the two gangs and how they solve their own dispute is both interesting as a social commentary as well as vital to the plot.

Cook’s exploration of racial interaction adds to the story. The complexity of personalities as well as repercussions from gang violence provide a juxtaposition to the other running themes in the plot. Inclusion of this sub-theme is pertinent and moves the story forward.

Cut-throat Competition

The storyline of Terese Hagen provides an interesting commentary on the cut-throat nature of advertising. She faces threats from within her company as well as from other organizations. The author certainly points out the conflict between genders re: promotion and advancement.

Hagen’s concern for the dangers facing Stapleton were, at times, mothering in nature. The way the two characters reluctantly opened up to each other seemed to foreshadow the future. But something lurking in the background is insidious.

Surprise Ending in Contagion

Robin Cook creates a final twist to throw the reader off kilter. The ending certainly showed just how warped people can become from life’s tragedies. However, Cook also weaves redemption into the tale.

I found Contagion interesting on many levels. The medical analyses certainly play a large part. But what made the story so fascinating and even rewarding were the actions in the many sub-plots. And of course, I always love surprises. I highly recommend Contagion to ease the stay-at-home blahs.

48 Hours Book Review

Solar picture

 

48 Hours by William R. Forstchen was another can’t put it down until finished book. Forstchen’s writing is compelling. He makes the reader think about the moral issues while weaving a fascinating tale. Furthermore, political nuances are incorporated throughout the novel.

The premise of 48 Hours is that the Earth is in line for an ELE (extinction level event) from a powerful solar flare. For those readers who have not tuned into the many Discovery Channel shows explaining CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) and other solar disturbances, Forstchen does an outstanding job weaving the science into his fictional story. He strikes a balance between education and entertainment.

48 Hours Settings

The author uses a dual setting in 48 Hours. The story opens up in Southwest Missouri. But an equally important thread takes place in Washington, D.C. with a second storyline. The two plots are stand alone, with a thin tie at the end.

Springfield, Mo.

The lead characters in Missouri are Darren and Darla Brooks. Both are in their second marriage with grown children. The blended family includes a sprinkling of grandchildren. They have ties to military. Darren served in the Mideast and Darla had recently sold a company supplying the military.

A previous CME from a few weeks ago is the current reality. A second hit is the basis of the plot. Darren is head of security for a cavernous underground site with sections either owned or leased by both governmental and private entities. This factor puts him at the center of the story.

Washington, D.C.

Dr. Richard Carrington V is the central character of the 48 Hours storyline based in the United States capitol. His interest in solar flares came naturally as the descendant of the first Richard Carrington. Both the solar event of 1859 and Carrington V are namesakes.

Moral Issue

Key to the novel is the various characters’ moral struggles brought on by the ELE. In a scenario where only one percent survive, who belongs in the continuity of mankind? Forstchen explores this concept, balancing altruistic efforts with the need to plan for future existence.

48 Hours contains individuals within the government and other positions of authority that “do the right thing.” But alas, they are more the exception than the rule. William R. Forstchen has once again written a fictional novel based in science that will give the reader pause. If there truly are a number of these underground facilities, how do we select in advance the survivors?

 

 

An Unusual Easter for the Year 2020

Easter basket with dyed eggs and plush bunnyThe year 2020 brings forth an unusual Easter. Here in the United States many locations have enacted a stay-at–home decree. The regulation and enforcement vary from state to state and even from town to town. Indeed, individual families also carry out differing practices.

In an agricultural based economy such as that found over the vast Great Plains, many people work in essential businesses. Animals need to be fed. Spring planting can’t be delayed. So all around my small town many are going about their work.

But, Covid-19 has brought about a disruption in life even here. Our churches are not congregating. Nor are our schools in session. Playground equipment at parks is cordoned off. Due to my status only the former directly affects me.

Unusual Easter 2020

Last Sunday, Palm Sunday ushered in an unusual Easter week. No church attendance meant no waving of the palms by the Sunday school classes at the start of church service. A tradition I loved as a Sunday school teacher.

Spring like weather brought forth tulips, hyacinths and even the hops. But no city wide Easter egg hunt and no Good Friday community service put on by our town’s ministerial alliance. So it was not too surprising that by the end of the week I became a bit blue.

Fortunately, Good Friday turned out to be good. And even though the spring shower formed to the East, the first rainbow of the season brought a fitting end to a day. Friday started out teary but changed to one of joyful preparation for an unusual Easter.

Family Togetherness at a Safe Distance

My niece lives a mile away, but due to this nasty virus afflicting the world and an abundance of caution I have seen her only once in the last few months. At that time a window separated us as she dropped off some farm fresh eggs in exchange for some Econogal’s Granola and strawberry-blueberry jam.

But we talk on the phone from time to time. This unusual Easter week more often because of her plan to share the holiday even though apart. She is putting a meal together to take to her grandmother. The food will be left on the porch much like the eggs. My contribution is dinner rolls from a Bread Illustrated recipe.

The trip will take three hours or so. The distance is about 100 miles one way. The extra time will be spent at a quick stop in a small town 30 miles from her parents. Again the visiting will be through a window-in this case a car window. Grandparents want to see their grandkids on holidays if at all possible.

Extra precautions due to Covid-19

This distancing may seem extreme. But, my mother-in-law is well into her 80s and we want her around for years to come. She is an incredible person still active in one facet of the family agribusiness. Furthermore, we want to keep my niece healthy. She is expecting another little one soon. You may remember the Train Quilt made for the younger of her two children. So extra precautions are in order this unusual Easter.

My official contribution is dinner rolls, but I have a few surprises as well. I have sugar cookie dough ready to roll out. My Easter cookie cutters have been dug out of the cookie cutter drawer. I have enough powdered sugar to make a buttercream icing and enough dye left over from the Easter egg dyeing to make colorful frosted cookies.

Truly I think dyeing the eggs lifted my spirits the most. However, I also enjoyed putting together surprise packages to keep my niece’s kids entertained on the drive they will undertake on an unusual Easter morning. For those of us that are Christians, Easter springs forth eternal life. I am grateful for the renewal each year.

During this terrible world-wide pandemic, find ways to celebrate life and living. We cannot predict the future. But we can live to the best of our ability in today’s uncertainty. There will be no large family gathering this Easter for us, but there will be lots of shared love.

Update on The Peanut Experiment

Back in early February I began the Peanut Experiment. Since I am not engaged in a science fair project, my notes and observations have not been detailed. But I do want to share highlights from the experiment. Since it is now almost two months later I feel an update on the experiment is in order.

Update on Peanut Plants

The original plantings included six non-soaked seeds and twelve soaked seeds. The soaked seeds were divided between good and bad quality. I fully expected the soaked seeks to do the best. After all we eat the seeds of the peanut plant and they do have a crunch.

Boy was I wrong! This update shares just how wrong I was. The initial phase of the experiment began February 11. Click here to view the blog post. My February 2020 Wrap-Up shared photos of the first sprouts. At that time it looked like the soaked peanut seeds had the advantage.

Success Rate

However, only one soaked seed ever sprouted. One out of twelve is not a good success rate, just 8 %. But on March 5th a second of the non-soaked seeds popped through the seed starter mixture followed by another on March 8th. By the 21st of March, no other peanuts had sprouted. So, I planted non-soaked seeds in the cells without growth.

As you can see from the photo update, the peanut seed pushes up through the soil surface. The first of these new seeds pushed through the soil a week ago. A few days ago, I gently tugged at the non-sprouted seed. Roots firmly held in place, so I decided to wait a little longer before writing an  update.

The wait proved warranted. Three new sprouts have sprung . Two more cells have indications that soil is being pushed up. The surface of the crust is breaking.  Each peanut seed is planted at a depth of 1 ½ inches. Thus, basically towards the bottom of the cell. Yet the seeds surface before the green sprout appears. The roots are quite strong. Since peanuts are legumes, this makes sense to me.

Tray with small sedlings
Green growth emerging from peanut seed
Tops of seeds pushing through soil

Transplant Update in a Month

Peanuts need warm air to thrive and are damaged by even a light frost. So, I will not transplant these peanuts until after Mother’s Day. (We have had snow on the ground to usher in Mother’s Day.) However, once I do pop these into my raised row garden, I will post another update. I am quite excited about possibly transplanting as many as ten peanut plants started by seed into my legume row. Rotating crops is a gardening priority. Soon these peanut seeds will follow the peas and precede the beans into the legime row.

Hide Away Book Review

Book Cover of Hide AwayHide Away by Iris Johansen is a fast paced thriller. The author excels at hooking the reader. Hide Away is a page turner. And then before you know it you are in the middle of the next chapter. And the next. Johansen fulfills the need of an addictive reader. The stories carry from one story to the next. The biggest trial is waiting for the next publication.

Eve Duncan

Hide Away is part of the Eve Duncan series. Duncan, the protagonist, faces new challenges in this installment of her saga. She needs to hide a child from a multitude of criminals. All while coming to terms with a major twist in her personal life.

The Eve Duncan series of books are entwined. There is a bit of a blur between beginnings and endings. Hide Away is directly linked to the precursor, Shadow Play. While reading the books in order is not a requirement, it may be helpful. Fortunately, the publication date is 2016 so once you finish Hide Away you can follow up with Night and Day. I say fortunately because Johansen not only has hooks between chapters, but cliffhangers to end books.

Hide Away Plot

From the opening scene in California to the Scotland Highlands, Eve and her young rescue Cara are on the run. The bad guys are tied to cartels. But the greatest villain of all is female with marital ties to a ruthless cartel leader and blood ties to the Russian Mob. Thus the plot has suspense, deceit and a thirst for blood pitted against empathy and courage.

A major sub-plot involves Eve’s adopted daughter Jane. The author weaves heartbreak and recovery into the story line with Jane’s back story. The setting, harsh, remote and mystical also gives substance to the plot.

My suggestion for readers interested in this fast paced novel is to first read Shadow Play. Like Eve and Jane I believe you will find the ending just like a beginning and be eager to follow Hide Away with Night and Day. The Eve Duncan series is captivating and just a bit addictive. Happy Reading!

March 2020 Wrap-Up

Flowering Pear Tree March 2020 has been a long month. Covid-19 is a pandemic and has caused widespread damage. Both lives and economies will be impacted in the near future. I cannot foresee the long term consequences, but there will naturally be repercussions. So, I spend a small amount of time daily looking to the future.

Socio-economic Impact of Black Swan Events

If you have not read The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, I highly recommend finding a copy. Even though the book was published over a decade ago, I think you will find it relevant. In simple terms a Black Swan event is one that is highly improbable.

Back in January, I took notice when the city of Wuhan was placed on lock-down. Even though the mortality numbers were not necessarily statistically significant, the sheer fact that a city of millions lost the freedom to move about created a concern in my mind. The few I discussed this with did not see such an event happening in a democratic country. New York City was often cited as a comparison. Even I had trouble picturing a quarantine covering the five boroughs. But, I did not rule it out. Unfortunately that has come to pass not only in New York City but in other cities I love such as Milan, Italy. Or in cities and countries I yearn to visit.

Now I have two immediate goals. The first is to stay healthy. Since I no longer work outside the home, I am somewhat hopeful. However, I live with someone working in an essential business. We are mitigating danger as much as possible.

Online Learning

The second goal is to analyze how society will change in response to Covid-19. Across the world students spent much if not all of March 2020 away from campuses and schoolrooms. I know this will have a long-term impact.  But I am not sure what that effect will be. So here are some possibilities.

I think at the college level and possibly at the high school level there will be a trend toward hybrid and online courses. Personally, I find hybrid learning an excellent method for adult learning. I have taught and taken courses using a hybrid method and find it preferable to a course totally online. However, I think a case for the merits of online learning will be presented by the educational response to Covid-19.

It is unknown how younger students will respond and that response is one I intend to study. One of my offspring works for Denver Public Schools (DPS) and has shared how they are handling the stay at home order. With a great effort, the school district scrambled and procured a Chrome book for each student.

Lesson plans revolve around established content. Classroom teachers have regular “office hours” so that students (and parents) can reach out to them. The individual teachers have leeway to expand on existing lessons. In addition to DPS curriculum, information on supplementary online learning resources is provided. I hope this is a success.

Self-regulating and Sick days

I am also interested in how sick days are handled going forward. Not all workers get sick days. I know as an adjunct instructor I had to make up any days missed due to illness. Most of the time the make-up days were poorly attended by the students. And students often came to class sick worried about getting behind. I taught adults. Sick kids are even more complex because of sick care issues.

In the case of Covid-19, there is a possibility that individuals may be asymptomatic and still spread the disease. Perhaps this is in part why voluntary social distancing is a failure in my part of the world. But there is danger in the inability to self-regulate. I fear the lack of self-control will increase big government. I prefer local control.

March 2020 Mental Relief

I found relief from the mental stresses of March 2020 in a number of ways. Since I am a reader I spent a lot of time with cozy mysteries and romances. I thoroughly enjoyed all five books in the Ivy Malone series by Lorena McCourtney. Other books enjoyed were penned by Nora Roberts, Iris Johansen and Janet Evanovich.

On the most depressing of days I turned to sitcom and old reruns. The Big Bang Theory almost always makes me laugh out loud. My husband and I also enjoy watching Magnum P.I., both the old and the new versions. So, even if Covid-19 continues a filming hiatus, I will have ample options.

March 2020 In the Garden

From time to time we have a very warm March followed by colder temperatures in April and May. This is one of those years. Both the pear and peach trees are already blooming. We will still have below freezing temperature nights and so the fruit production will be impacted.

Early season greens have made an appearance in the garden. We have enjoyed Swiss chard in our lunchtime smoothies. The lettuces are not far behind nor are the radishes and spinach. Additionally, I have started a variety of seeds indoors. Everything from artichokes to tomatoes are growing in pots throughout the house. I am still concerned that the pandemic will affect supply chains on a variety of levels. Starting the plants by seed will act as a back-up if I cannot buy bedding plants next month.

Quilting in March 2020

I am working on the final border of a Train Quilt. To be honest I am stuck. The current train cars will vary from the original pattern. I plan to make the train a circus train. However, I am having trouble blending the fabrics. Specifically, the clowns. They are primary colors and the overall design is more pastel. Also, the elephant and giraffe come from a baby fabric with a blue background versus the mauves and greens I am using. It will be interesting to see how I tie everything together.

Covid-19 Reports

I have readers across the globe. Please share any experiences you may have with this pandemic in the comment section. While I have personally met individuals battling this novel corona virus, no close friends or relatives have contracted Covid-19 so far. I sincerely hope this continues. Take care everyone and pay attention to your health!

Finally, those with interest in economics may find the following interesting:

https://www.permanentequity.com/writings/viral-prohibition-eminent-domain-and-the-path-ahead?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=prohibition_eminentd

Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Last week I asked my husband to stop by the grocery store and pick up some 1% milk. (Since I don’t work outside the home any more, I have been limiting my time in public places. I have been to the grocers just once in the last 30 days, trying to avoid Covid-19.) He complied with mixed results. I poured a glass of the milk and as soon as I took the first sip realized I was drinking buttermilk; 1% buttermilk. So, I have diligently tried to use up the half gallon in my cooking. Yesterday I concocted the following recipe for Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits.

Homemade biscuits have a much different texture than those found in the tins by Pillsbury. The outside has the slightest bit of crunch while the inside is soft with just the right amount of crumble. These Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits are delicious.

Creating Meals around Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Saturday morning we enjoyed them straight from the oven. Since it is the middle of Lent and I am not consuming sugar, I spread a tiny amount of butter on mine. My husband enjoyed his with some homemade jam.

Then the biscuits served as a base for the Saturday evening meal. Leftover roast ginger chicken topped the Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits. Then I poured freshly made white gravy over the dish.

One final meal centered on the batch of homemade biscuits. The last of the biscuits and the leftover gravy accompanied Sunday morning’s breakfast. I scrambled farm fresh eggs from my niece’s chickens.

Source of Flours

Long-time readers may recall I buy my flours from Heartland Mills Inc. located in Western Kansas. The mill ships their products internationally. Costs for shipping naturally varies by weight and destination.

Click here for a link to their website.

Recipe for Hearty Wheat Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients

1 Cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 Cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon 1% buttermilk

Directions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Sift dry ingredients together. Add the buttermilk and stir with fork until flours are incorporated. Turn out onto mixing board and gently knead. Pat dough out until about 1/2 inch thick and cut 2 inch circles. (I use the mouth of a jelly jar.) Place in a greased baking pan with sides touching. Bake for 15-17 minutes. Yields 15 biscuits.

Cutting Biscuits
Cutting Biscuits
Biscuits in pan
Place sides touching on greased pan.
Biscuit cut open
Ready to eat!

Random Thoughts on Stay at Home Orders

This past week, an unprecedented action of widespread lock down spread to the United States of America. Back in January, various members of my family shared their belief that a Wuhan style lock down could not occur in a free country. Yet cities, counties and entire states have enacted stay at home orders as a response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Furthermore, this stay at home action is found on multiple continents. The Statista website offers easy to read charts with Covid-19 data around the world. Click here for access to the secure site. Another informative chart for those interested in U.S.A. stats comes from the New York Times and can be found by clicking here.

Economic Impact of Stay at Home Orders

The volatile stock exchanges due to Covid-19 are a precursor to the total economic impact. Stay at home orders will accelerate the fallout. While I first wrote about the novel corona virus in the January 2020 Wrap-Up, I did not comment on the economic impact for another month. But, the February 2020 Wrap-Up focuses on supply chain problems as well as lost consumption.

Here in the United States, the virus is just ramping up. There are hot spots across the country where the health care system is under strain. However, to my knowledge the only impact felt by individual businesses is related to private or public action. For example, as reported by the Seattle Times, Boeing is halting operations at Puget Sound for two weeks. Thus, closures are proactive and temporary.

The stay at home orders come with an economic cost to business. Of most concern are the companies heavily leveraged. This existing debt burden will make it tougher to withstand a short term loss of income.

Essential Business

Public action from various governmental entities issuing stay at home orders include exemptions for essential services. My thoughts on this range from agreement to bemusement. Obviously, hospitals and other healthcare providers along with fire and police fill the need for an essential business. However, outside of the Sun Belt perhaps, I see no need for landscapers to be exempt from the stay at home orders.

Food manufacturers are also open. This is a bit of a two-edged sword. Our Just-in-Time attitude and desire for fresh meats and produce keep these businesses open. But what if the virus sweeps through the workers? Then, the devastation of this lingering illness will have a long-term impact.

I do not know how far ahead food manufacturers operate. However, I do know  local farmers store grains and seeds for months after harvest. Perhaps going forward the mills can stockpile the flours and oils. Perhaps they already do. If that is the case a voluntary shut down is preferable in my line of thinking.

Mandates versus Personal Responsibilities

I tend to be on the side of personal liberties. So company closures appeal to me more than government mandates. Unfortunately, individuals as well as companies vary in the ability to display and act upon social responsibility. This is why governments across the globe are issuing mandates.

But as individuals we can respond proactively. Cultural attitudes definitely play apart in whether or not masks are appropriate for non-healthcare workers. However, cleanliness and hand-washing transcends across societies. You Tube offers a number of videos from hand washing to cleaning grocery packaging. Watch this short video from Kenya on hand-washing.

The hand-washing efforts are second nature to me. Long ago, I participated in a 4-H program where an extension agent shook hands with each of us as we walked into the room. The handshake transferred a non-harmful chemical agent which then showed up in UV light. Even after a hand washing, traces remained on hands. Thus the need for thorough hand-washing.

According to a recent study released by the NIH, Covid-19 can survive in the air and on surfaces. Click here to access the press release. So, my search of You Tube yielded  videos relating to surface cleaning in connection to the virus. I found this one on handling groceries helpful. Click here for this explanation of the importance of cleaning packaging.

Amid

From a writer’s stand point, an interesting byproduct of the Covid-19 outbreak is the sudden use of the word amid. According to the online Oxford dictionary, the definition of the preposition amid is: surrounded by; in the middle of.  Amid is now  everywhere.  Is this true in all English speaking countries?

While the use of amid is an instant change brought on by the virus, I believe other changes will occur. It will be interesting to see how the online educational component influences the future. Remote work had a small role before the stay at home orders. This may change as well.

Extroverts versus Introverts

My final thoughts revolve around personalities. Whether social distancing is self-imposed or government ordered, I think introverts will fare better. The ability to self-entertain will be quite important for people of all ages. Individuals with one or more hobbies stand a better chance of getting through the next few months without going stir crazy or experiencing cabin fever.

Staying productive is important to me. Between gardening, quilting and reading I am coping with my self-imposed isolation. So far, 2020 is not turning out as I thought which is why only hindsight is 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Rise of Magicks Book Review

The third segment in the Chronicles of The One series by Nora Roberts is The Rise of Magicks. I was looking forward to reading it as I discussed in the review Of Blood and Bone because I thought more of Roberts traditional romance writing would be evident. Even though the story contained a romantic thread between two main characters, the romance is secondary to the story.

The Rise of Magicks Characters

This third story refocuses on a group approach albeit the center character remains Fallon Smith. But much like the first novel, Year One, The Rise of Magicks contains multiple characters and is sometimes a bit hard to follow the large cast. Much like the original offering, the story line in The Rise of Magicks concentrates on battles between the good and evil forces.

On top of the large number of characters from the original book and the second generation born to those individuals, additional characters are introduced in supporting roles. Keeping the story lines straight is easy if you have read all the books. Roberts also does a nice job of providing closure for the cast in Year One who were run out of New York City.

Romance

As stated above, romance develops between Fallon and Duncan. To be honest, I found the interaction to just be satisfactory. It was like an aside to the story. I am not sure the book was enriched by the interaction.

The young couple had a few ups and downs, but the emotional struggle was lacking. They seemed more like a couple of old marrieds versus two young adults falling in love for the first time.

Good Overcoming Evil

In the end, good triumphs over evil but not before loss of innocent lives. One of my favorite characters is lost in a battle. So, Roberts does tug at the heartstrings a bit.

But truth be told, I consider the middle book in the trilogy to be the best. I certainly encourage those who have begun the trilogy to finish with The Rise of Magicks. The tale is quite satisfactory. But I was not left wishing for another installment. All loose ends have been tied back together.

I was hoping for a good Nora Roberts romance. Not a book with romance on the side. Additionally, I really think the real life pandemic of Covid-19 has dampened the enjoyment of reading about fantasy pandemics. Perhaps reading The Rise of Magicks a year from now will be much more entertaining for you.

 

Getting Ready for Covid-19-Econogal’s Preparation

My loyal readers may be wondering about my lack of posts last week. I was getting ready for Covid-19. Actually, I was finalizing my preparation. Over twenty years ago a Mormon friend shared her philosophy of preparedness. She knew I was very active in my own church, but she wanted me to understand the self-reliance component.

I am so glad for Shalah. She moved from my small town over ten years ago. So if any of my local followers are still in touch, please thank her for me. Because of Shalah, I did not join the panicking crowds. While my preparations surely fall short by the standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, I am hopeful that I will be able to manage a few weeks of isolation if I need to quarantine. No last minute hoarding, no rush for tons of non-edible toilet paper. Just peace of mind.

Covid-19 Readiness

So I had also urged my loved ones to get ready both financially and personally for Covid-19. I am pleased many family members listened. And I have been busy checking in on the octogenarians in the family. The personal visit I made to one of my elders reassured me. Again, no hoarding. Perhaps because farm families always put a little back in case the next harvest is compromised. Or maybe the yearly chance of a High Plains blizzard is always possible. Preparation is second-nature. Regardless, I am thankful and hopeful we can isolate enough to make it through this Covid-19 outbreak.

It did not take much to convince my one offspring with family of his own. That happens once you have a little one to look out for. An overnight visit in early February sharing websites and Twitter accounts across the world convinced the young parents to go beyond the just-in-time supply chain for diapers and baby food. The gratitude I received from them is reciprocal. Since they listened and planned accordingly, they were able to stay away from the hoarding masses at the big box stores in the city. And I did not need to worry about them.

Financial Readiness

The markets across the world are taking a hit. Covid-19 is a lengthy illness even for those not hospitalized. One Twitter account I follow chronicles the progression of the disease in a family of five. For good, unsensationalized information read @richisalsohere the daily tweets are from an American living in Northern Italy.

His account illustrates how productivity and output are directly affected. There will be supply chain repercussions rippling around the world for months. The likelihood of a recession is great. Further, there is a possibility of a depression. Of course that will depend on a variety of factors.

In the two weeks since I wrote the February Wrap-Up where I discussed economic impacts of Covid-19, the U.S. markets have been extremely volatile. Losses, at least on paper, have been great. Much like the financial crisis of the oughts, the younger generations should be ok with a hold philosophy-I believe it is too late to sell.

It is also too early to buy. But I hope we are getting close. Timing the market is impossible.  Although the late Mark Haines did call the bottom in 2009. It may have been a lucky guess.

Buy What You Need

If you have extra dollars right now put them to good use. Buy some groceries-without hoarding. But buy what you eat and know how to cook. It is normal for us to cook from scratch. Even though cooking from the source vs. out of an instant box is not rocket science, it does take practice. For example beans need to soak overnight before cooking. Because we live in an area that grows pinto beans, this is second nature to us. But, the cooking process may be unfamiliar to those raised on canned goods.

If you need something, a new refrigerator, or new tires buy them now if you can pay for them without borrowing. Shop at odd hours. Get prescription refills. Online ordering may become difficult as transportation companies get overwhelmed and potentially understaffed.

Even though the Treasury Market does not anticipate higher interest rates or inflation, I think the long run calls for both. Just my opinion but I am very concerned about the national debt. Click here for the debt clock.

The worst case scenario would be a default. But truly that cannot be our first concern. We need to get through this Covid-19 disruption to life. So, those short on savings need to conserve as much as possible. Non-essentials will need to wait. Belt-tightening begins.

Covid-19 is Serious

I am most frustrated by those who do not take Covid-19 seriously. Perhaps it is normalcy bias. Perhaps the decade long span of prosperity has spoiled us. Maybe they believe preparation ahead of time is not needed in a land of plenty. Nonetheless, I think most are not ready.

This novel corona virus is not just another flu.

I give a lot of credit to the Chinese scientists and medical providers. They issued a warning at the very start of 2020. Additionally, the genetics of the virus were released. I first looked at the structure in January. To be honest it was and remains above my head. I could see the null set as well as the altered strands but that was the limit of my ability. I understand the virus is novel and thus best treatments are unknown. The links following will be of interest to those with a scientific bent.

Mental Preparation

I think the most important preparation at this point is mental. The medical professionals in America are preparing for 96 million cases of Covid-19 with approximately 500,000 deaths. This is a much lower percentage than that forecast by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And a higher percentage than that occurring in South Korea.

At this point we could veer in either direction. Isolation is difficult. A wide-spread outbreak is worse.

We need to practice social distancing. We need to avoid unnecessary travel. Finally, we need to prepare for long illnesses and the likelihood we will know at least one person who will not survive. I am not sure Americans are prepared for this, but we are moving in the right direction.

We need to stop complaining about cancelled sporting events, conferences and schools. Online learning will blossom. Hobbies need to come to the forefront and media streaming will replace movie theaters in the short term.

I respect the Love Not Fear movement, and I believe preparation is not equal to fear. In fact, individuals attuned to world events can spread the love by sharing such as the residents in Liverpool reported in this article. (Click here to read.) (And here) to read a report in America.

I cannot predict the long term repercussions. I think much depends on if we can self-discipline enough to sacrifice now. In our society of instant gratification that might be tough. One can hope though and I do have hope. In the meantime, I recommend the following:

On Twitter:

@richisalsohere

@onlyyoontv

@peakprosperity

@APHL

@ScottGottliebMD

 

On the Internet:

https://www.ejmo.org/pdf/2019%20Novel%20Coronavirus%20COVID19%20Outbreak%20A%20Review%20of%20the%20Current%20Literature-12220.pdf

 

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(20)30185-9/fulltext

 

https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.02.29.20027698v1.full.pdf

 

https://journals.lww.com/cmj/Documents/CMJ%202019%20novel%20coronavirus%20disease%20(COVID-19)%20collection.pdf

 

https://asm.org/Articles/2020/January/2019-Novel-Coronavirus-2019-nCoV-Update-Uncoating

 

https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.01.22.914952v2.full.pdf

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

 

 

The Third to Die Book Review

The Third to Die is the first in a new series by Allison Brennan. This thriller revolves around a newly created Mobile Response Team of the FBI. The premise is the group will travel across the United States aiding in high profile cases.

MRT for the Third to Die

The first assignment begins March 3. Every three years a psychopath begins a series of three murders on the third day of the third month. One death at a time. Three days a part. Thus the Mobile Response Team (MRT) has time to react.

FBI profiler Dr. Catherine Jones is a reluctant aid to SAC Matt Costa. But he persuades her to help from home since she originally identified the pattern. Matt Costa is a loner. He expects the best and wants to fill the team with the best, so the MRT is not fully staffed. Lucky for him, Kara Quinn, a L.A.P.D. undercover agent on vacation discovers the first of the victims. She too, is a loner.

The team works well with local agencies. Surprisingly, the multiple lone wolf personalities function well together. The goal is to catch the killer before he reaches his target of the third to die. Unfortunately the killer strikes again, and again. Brennan’s writing has you on the edge of your seat rooting for the Mobile Response Team.

Serial Killer

The most compelling part of the book was the back story of the villain. Over the course of the novel, the reader gets a glimpse of the killer’s mind. What makes him tick? Brennan creates an understanding of the motivation.

But understanding does not equate sympathy-at least for this reader. I wanted the good guys to catch the bad guy. It took some doing.

Allison Brennan

The Third to Die is the first book I have read that was written by Brennan. I like her style. She creates just enough back story to pique the mind. The secondary characters all have promise for greater roles in future stories. I can’t wait for the next one.

I highly recommend The Third to Die. The plot line is thrilling and the characters are compelling. If you like murder mysteries or agency thrillers, I think you should find a copy of The Third To Die. Fair warning: you might feel the need to have someone nearby during the scary parts!

 

 

February 2020 Wrap-Up

The February 2020 wrap-up has been difficult to start. Perhaps a bit of writer’s block. Certainly not from a lack of things to share. Both personal life and world news have been difficult to process. So at times like these, I keep busy.

The Peanut Experiment

Regular readers know of my latest garden experiment; starting peanut plants. Others can click here to read about it. The sprouting has begun-with a bit of a surprise. The first to pop out was from an un-soaked good seed. I certainly was excited even though it is a bit straggly. Then the second start, which was from a good soaked seed, put it to shame. Lots of tender green leafy parts. Much healthier looking.

I am anxious for more to sprout. In the meantime, I put out the first two rows of onion sets, two weeks apart. I have also planted a variety of cold hardy greens.

Un-soaked Peanut
Soaked Peanut Sprout

Hobby Room Update

The baby quilt is coming along. The first side is almost complete. But the borders have not even been cut out. A tune-up to my decades old machine has allowed me to embroider the birth information on various blocks.

So far no new painting has been started. Perhaps in March. While quilting soothes my soul, I am best at painting when things are calm. February events called for soothing and nurturing.

Economic Impact of COVID-19

In February 2020, the stock market finally took notice of the corona virus, now officially named COVID-19. The last week in February brought back memories of the 2008 financial meltdown. But the causes are so disparate, I am not expecting a similar V shaped curve. I hope I am wrong.

These are my thoughts-my opinions. The supply shock we see in various parts of the world is not equal to the cleansing of the derivatives market. February 2020 saw a complete halt to manufacturing in parts of China. Toward the end of the month, the disruption to production extended to other countries.

Even those countries which may somehow escape similar lost productivity from the virus will be impacted. We live in an interconnected world. The vast majority of the world’s population has access to goods originating in foreign countries. At the very least, the supply lines will hiccup.

But a supply shock is just one half of the equation.

Delayed Consumption or Lost Forever?

There are two parts to the break in the consumption chain. First, consider delayed purchases. For example, if I want to buy a specific item only made by one of the countries already hit hard– so hard the goods aren’t shipping out—I would just need patience. Sometime down the road shipments will re-start. Then I would buy, a delay but not a loss.

Another key part of the transportation component is tied up in the shipping itself. Shipping containers need product in them to make money. Thus companies don’t want containers to move empty. This holds true whether cargo is on a ship, plane, train or truck. If the containers are stuck on one side of the ocean (or continent) goods sit idle on the opposite shore. The end result is chaotic. Eventually the delivery of goods will occur.

But some consumption will be lost forever. For example, if I usually travel to Kentucky twice a year and I stay home this spring, the consumption will not likely be recouped. The potential earnings to motels, airlines and restaurants are lost forever. This applies to major sporting events as well as concerts, business meetings and once in a lifetime vacations.

Human Cost of Covid-19

The human cost from the virus cannot be equated to a price tag. Death cannot be undone. Life is precious.

Since my country is just now experiencing the virus, I do not have first- hand knowledge of any significant health concerns of those who survive. There has been limited information about the recovered patients. Can they go back to work right away? Are there lasting complications? Are the reports of second infections correct? Just a few of my many concerns

I worry about my family members that fall into the high risk categories. Naturally, my hope is that we all come through unscathed. Time will tell.

R.I.P. Uncle Rick

February 2020 marked the loss of my Dad’s older brother. I am grateful my Dad finished his radiation treatment for male breast cancer in mid-February. As told in a previous post, he drove up to see his brother the following day. I was fortunate to talk with Uncle Rick at that time. I cherish the memories.

Both brothers played college ball. While my Dad excelled at football, Uncle Rick was a stellar basketball player. He set many records at his state university. It helps to be tall. And quick.

I have a black and white photo of my oldest playing basketball. The resemblance to my uncle is uncanny. My kids loved their “Great” Uncle Rick. We miss him. Rest in Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

In Plain Sight Book Review

Sometimes the answer is in plain sight. Such is the case of the second Ivy Malone mystery novel of the same title. Lorena McCourtney follows her successful Invisible with this delightful sequel. Retiree Aunt Ivy goes into hiding in neighboring Arkansas to let the heat die down from her first caper.

In Plain Sight

McCourtney continues the theme of invisibility. For those who have not read Invisible, it is not invisibility such as a cloaking device, but more of a gray man-or woman in this case. The lead character is an innocuous little old lady that society looks right through. Instead of taking offense by this status, Ivy Malone uses it to her advantage as she follows her curiosity. Straight into trouble.

Once again, Ivy finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. But, unlike her first foray, she does not meet up with friendly law enforcement. Indeed, Ivy is a bit intimidated. But she handles interrogation with aplomp.

Supporting Characters

Two teenagers, a great-niece and her friend, lend interest to the story. McCourtney is outstanding with her characterizations. Both girls end up as key players in the plot. They are neither identical nor opposites. Instead the girls’ personalities lead realism to the fiction. The adult characters are also believable. And so are their actions. Thus Ivy is faced with multiple suspects.

Christian Fiction

The local library has an extensive Christian fiction section. But for some reason these books are filed in the regular mystery fiction section. Perhaps the deft writing of McCourtney keeps the Ivy Malone series in the mainstream category. The underlying subject matter may also play a determination.

In Plain Sight delves into both infidelity and parental abandonment. But also, forgiveness and God’s nurturing. Ivy Malone is a Christian both in word and deed. The series is uplifting without being too preachy. This is a good series for older teens as well as adult fans of mystery.

 

 

Stay Book Review

Stay by Catherine Ryan Hyde could be a novel that is off putting and even depressing. The subject matter is heavy. Two young teenagers growing up in dysfunctional homes. One lady, unwilling to face life due to a mistake many years before. Oddly, I found the story uplifting and the characters heartwarming. I attribute my response to the wonderful writing and message of the author.

The setting is small town America at the height of the Vietnam War. In a small town, everyone knows everything about everyone else. Or at least they think they do. Furthermore, forgiveness can be difficult. Small town folks can out-do elephants with their memories.

Cast of Characters

Young Lucas Painter escapes the constant bickering of his parents and his deep concern about his older brother making it home from Vietnam by running through the woods. His running companions are two large dogs that live with their owner.

Zoe Dinsmore is the fiftyish owner of the dogs. Her abode is a small shack hidden in the woods without a real road connecting to town. She has never put the pain of an accident behind her. Lucas saves her just in time.

Connor Barnes is Lucas’ best friend. His parents don’t fight. They just don’t speak. Together, Lucas and Zoe save Connor.

Dialogue to Remember

Meaningless dialogue in either fiction or life is just that, meaningless. But I did not find hollow words in Stay. Instead, there were multiple passages of note. Paragraphs of dialogue to be outlined for an English literature class. Words to remember. One of my favorite passages involves a conversation between Connor and Lucas. At fourteen, Connor has figured out the key to living. Something many never achieve.

(Connor): “It’s like…..,” he began. Then he faded, and I thought I might never know. “Zoe almost died. Well, you know that. You know it better than anybody. I guess she felt like nobody needed her around. But I do. I need her around. But she didn’t know it yet because she hadn’t even met me. But she was just about to meet me. All those years thinking nobody needed her or wanted her around, and she was just about to meet me and she didn’t know it. You get what I’m driving at?”

(Lucas): “I’m not sure,” I said.

(Connor): “Well…now I’m starting to think…you don’t know what might be coming next. And it might even be something nice. Something good, even though everything before it wasn’t good at all. You see where I’m going with this?”

(Lucas): You’re saying you have to stick around to see what happens next.”

I watched his face light up, and I knew I had hit it.

(Connor): “I knew you’d get it,” he said.

(Excerpt from Stay, Page 201.)

Stay is Lasting

The novel Stay is the first work that I have read by Catherine Ryan Hyde. But, it is not the first time she has made an impact on my life. Hyde is also the author of Pay It Forward. I neither read the book nor saw the subsequent movie, but for the past twenty years have taken the concept to heart.

While the title Stay will not make the impact of Pay It Forward on our language and culture, the novel has “staying” power. This book belongs in the curriculum of literature classes. There is a depth and wisdom and good. The characters struggle and grow and find not only the meaning of life, but the importance of living that life. I highly recommend Stay. We all need a Zoe in our lives. Maybe, just maybe, you are that Zoe someone needs.

 

 

Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden Book Review

I checked out Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden from the library late last week when we were in between cold fronts. The book was published in 1985 and has nary a photo as you might expect from an older publication. But the illustrations more than make up for a lack of photography.Page with emoji of gardener

For starters, Baker was way ahead of the curve when it came to personalizing the text. Thanks to the photo on the cover page, it was easy to see the resemblance of the gardener illustrated within. Thirty years before emoji’s became popular, Jerry Baker’s Fast Easy Vegetable Garden is strewn with these humorous illustrations. Furthermore, emoji’s for vegetables and garden critters also dot the pages.

Charts and Diagrams

On a more serious note, the gardening manual provides great charts throughout. In addition to the often found last and first freeze charts, Jerry Baker’s Fast Easy Vegetable Garden also has tables breaking down by percentage the amount of primary and secondary elements in the different types of manures, tankages, rock powders and vegetable waste.

Primary elements are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potash- Potassium (K) while the secondary elements are magnesium (MG), manganese (MN), and copper (CU).  There is also a short discussion on minor elements. In addition to the percentages found, Baker includes a discussion on the specific fertilizers.

Other charts differentiate between fast and slow growing plants and types of pests as well as beneficial insects. Baker includes a chart with vitamin content and calories of each type of vegetable. A few simple diagrams explain the importance of spacing and location of the vegetable garden.

Jerry Baker’s Top Tips

I do not consider myself a novice gardener nor a master gardener. Since I am somewhere in the middle there is still plenty to learn. Jerry Baker’s guide may be 35 year’s old, but I found it a valuable resource. In addition to the jargon glossary and the wonderful charts discussed above, the tips for starting seeds are great. Until just recently, I either planted seeds directly into the ground or bought plants.

Last year, I had some success growing from seed a type of tomato that the nurseries were no longer distributing. This year I plan to branch out as discussed in The Peanut Experiment. Jerry Baker’s Fast, Easy Vegetable Garden will be consulted frequently.

The book has a good question and answer section as well as a few recipes. The section on herbs is extensive. Also the one on container planting is quite thorough. This just over two hundred page book is so well written I read it in an afternoon. If your library does not have a copy, do a quick Internet search. There are plenty of used copies available for sale. This book is a winner.

Jerry Baker's Pages illustrating types of garden bugs

Valentine’s Day is Special

Valentine’s Day is special to me. Not for the flowers, or the cards or even the chocolate candy that my sweet tooth often craves. But for the birth of my father. If he did not exist then naturally I would not be here. Life is precious.

Mom and Dad

My parents, like many couples that have passed their 50th Anniversary have a special relationship. One cultivated by time. Shared accomplishments tempered by disappointments. Shared losses dulled by new joys. My hope is that her dementia does not cloud her understanding of today’s double celebration.

Growing up, Valentine’s Day meant a heart shaped birthday cake for Dad. Double chocolate with both cake and icing originating at one point in time from the cocoa bean. But at our house Betty Crocker did her share of the prep.

Valentine’s Day 2020

This year marks my Dad’s 81st celebration. I am not there in person but will be mindful of the love and guidance I have received over the years. Hopefully, his card has arrived. It is pretty darn hard to find those Birthday/Valentine’s Day combination cards.

Dad recently endured the last of his radiation treatments for the male breast cancer he is battling. The following day he made a five hour drive to see his brother who is also struggling with serious health issues. I talked with both men that day. Brotherly love emanated over the phone line. But I am sure the visit was bittersweet. It is hard to say goodbye.

Share the Love

The cynics I know view Valentine’s Day as a commercial holiday. They cringe at the expense. But, the day can be celebrated on a budget. Dining in can be more romantic then going to a restaurant.

Furthermore, not everything needs to be purchased. I still remember my 4-H group making Valentine’s cards for the residents in the nursing home. The cost was not great but the joy was priceless.

Valentine’s Day is special. Share the love with family and friends. Life is finite but love is always expanding. Happy birthday Dad and all the other Valentine’s babies out there. If you can’t have a heart shaped cake this year look for heart shaped cookies- I think I will go make a batch.

Double Valentine's Day Themed Wreaths on an entrance
Happy Valentine’s Day

The Peanut Experiment

There was a smattering of snow on the ground this morning. Just enough to know moisture fell overnight. But my peanut experiment was already started. So I will just carry on.

Why Peanuts?

The High Plains is known more for grains. Legumes planted in the area tend to be soy or pinto. Peanuts are not grown commercially in this area. But they can be grown in the home garden.

I first planted peanuts in 2018. A nursery in a nearby city of 30,000 had some peanut plants for sale. Impulse buying struck and a four pack of peanuts made it into the cart. They survived in the raised bed but only a handful of peanuts were harvested.

peanut in raised bed
2018 Peanut Plant

Last year, I returned to the nursery specifically looking for the plants. After finding them, I doubled the purchase amount. The plants joined the garden on Mother’s Day. A late frost a few days after nipped the garden and delayed the growth.

However, the end result was a positive one. The peanut harvest yielded over a pound of peanuts. Not bad for about six feet in a raised row. So this year, I am hoping for another successful season.

The Peanut Experiment

Peanuts need warm soil and a long growing season. Starting the seeds indoors should help me get a step up on the planting. Plus, I will know before May if my starts are viable. If I fail, I can always make the two hour trip to the nursery for the professionally grown bedding plants. (Yes, a two hour drive gets you to a “nearby” city.)

After last year’s harvest, the peanuts were hung to dry in the garage much like the garlic. I then sorted through the crop before storing in a recycled flour bag. Pods that looked iffy were pulled aside. My thought was to use those for seed.

The Method

Last night after extracting the peanuts from the culled shells, I questioned the viability of the seed. So, I pulled some of the good pods from storage. As you can see from the pictures, they look much better before soaking.

I then decided to create the peanut experiment. I divided the nice looking peanuts into two groups. One half was soaked overnight and one left dry. Further, all the poor looking peanuts were also soaked overnight. I was amazed at how much they plumped from the soaking.

I picked the best six from each group for planting. Each type is in a separate container and the containers are clearly labeled. Small pebbles were placed over the drainage holes. This keeps the soil from escaping during watering but allows for drainage.

The same seed starting soil is in each of the containers. The soil was moistened before the seeds were place about 1 ½ inches deep. Additional soil was scattered over the seed. It should be noted that I did not use an inoculant. I want a baseline to measure by. Inoculants can be beneficial, but that is another post!

During the day, the growing pots will be kept near a South facing window because I do not have “grow” lights. Last year, my started seeds were placed on boxes and the boxes stood beneath the LED light above the cook top overnight. Once seeds have sprouted, I may repeat this if the stems seem spindly. However, the larger seed pod makes me think this will not be needed.

Legumes and Soil Enrichment

In addition to enjoying the peanuts as a snack, growing legumes is good in the garden. To be honest, the harvested peanuts are secondary to using the plants as nitrogen fixers. Peas are also good for the soil, but they seldom last past late June as the heat becomes too much.

However, the peanuts thrive in the heat. Their pretty yellow flowers attract pollinating insects. Last but not least, they remind me of the Deep South.

Enjoy the slide show.

  • Peanuts in shell
    Culled Peanuts set aside for seed.
  • Shell peanuts for eating
    Peanuts originally saved to eat
  • Bag of Peanuts
    Bag of Peanuts
  • Shelled peanuts poor quality
    Shelled peanuts from culled group.
  • Peanuts soaking in measuring cup
    Peanuts soaking overnight
  • Shelled peanuts
    Shelled peanuts from edible group
  • non-soaked peanuts
    Non-soaked peanuts
  • Soaked peanuts
    Soaked peanuts from culled group
  • Edible soaked peanuts
    Soaked peanuts from edible group
  • Three groups of seed
    Comparison of soaked and non-soaked seeds
  • Pots Labled
    Pots Labled
  • Small rocks plugging holes in bottom of pots
    Rocks plugging holes in pots
  • Pots and rocks
    Getting ready to plant
  • Seed Starter Soil in Pots
    Adding Seed Starter Soil

Force of Nature Book Review

Jane Harper scores another win with Force of Nature. This second novel featuring Federal Agent Aaron Falk follows in the footsteps of The Dry. Plot twists keep the reader in suspense throughout. Best of all, Harper’s characters are so real and like-able, this reader was dismayed when the suspicion focused on one of the individual’s I most connected with among the potential culprits.

Remote Australia

The setting for Force of Nature is the Giralang Ranges, a remote area of Australia. Ten individuals from a company that Falk is investigating are on a corporate retreat. The group is divided evenly by gender and each team is sent on a different route. The purpose is to create a bond. But the women’s group is late to the rendezvous. Finally, four of the five women return, battered by the force of nature. Snake bit, concussed, bruised and stories that don’t quite add up equate a less than optimal outcome for the missing woman.

Of course, Falk and his partner Carmen Cooper rush to the scene when their inside informant is the one who turns up lost. The remoteness of the area along with the topography and vegetation of this fictional National Park make finding the missing woman difficult. Furthermore, the duo can’t be certain how their investigation of the company is involved.

Force of Nature

Jane Harper weaves a wonderful plot. Her pivoting between action and reflection is well done. Also, her sub-story of teen bullying and sexting adds just the right amount of uncertainty. Both kinship and friendship undergo excruciating stresses during this team building exercise when the women face the force of nature.

If you have not read any of Harper’s novels, I urge you to look for them. The writing is outstanding. I have yet to read her latest, but I am sure it will be every bit as suspenseful as Force of Nature. Jane Harper is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. I plan to read her next, The Lost Man, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy.