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Dear Margot, Bethan writing

This story is set in Cambridge UK where we find that as it opens Katie is kidnapped. Katie is an angry teenager who stormed out of the house in the rain, and thus, according to many including the police, may have just run away. But we know better.

Margot, who writes the Dear Amy advice column for teenagers on the local newspaper and who teaches English at a private school, starts to receive letters. Letters written apparently by a child, posted the day before receipt, and yet the signature is of a girl, Bethan,  who disappeared 20 years before.

All this is set against a time in Margot’s life where she is emotionally at sea. Her marriage has crashed and her mental state is fragile. But for some reason she decides to investigate the letters and Bethan’s disappearance.

You feel strongly Margot’s despair and deep need to restablish a stable life after her crashed marriage.

As the story continues a sense of menace grows – well described from Margot’s perspective as a person with anxiety disorders – and thus how much does she imagine? And how much is real?

I received this free book in exchange for an honest review

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Is tenure worth a murder?

Written by an academic we can really felt drawn into the American way of university life.

To a British lecturer in a British university that is not Oxbridge, this way of life seems very remote from my own experience.

To begin with. This whole notion of tenure. Which I have commented on in the past. It is true that you often have to work part-time or on a temporary contract for the first year or two but then a permanent  position is usually offered assuming that you have 1. A PhD; 2. Scholarly articles published in ‘good’ journals; and 3. A teaching qualification.  So quite a lot of hoops to go through but nothing like the politics of a US university as indicated in this story.

In the university in the story, it required some 6-7 years with that university with a yearly evaluation to be passed at an excellent grade, before you could be considered for a tenured post.  The annual review includes a faculty vote as well as consideration of your research output and course evaluations. This all sounds very stressful to me and I doubt if this had been the case for me, that I would have wanted to be an academic…

I do however, get the issue of course proposals as discussed in the story. I myself proposed a number of modules and even degrees, that never happened because the Dean at that time deemed them not applicable to our current programmes. And that was very frustrating. And even when we had full degrees prepared it was difficult to get them through validation if internal politics was involved.

And then there are the research grant proposals and applications that far outnumber those actually granted. In fact in the US it is usually easier to obtain such monies than it is here in the UK – and this applies to the charity work I am undertaking now too… lots of effort but little reward on such grants!

Tenure is so difficult to obtain because once achieved you have usually no set retirement age and it is very difficult to sack you.  However, the reality is now very similar in the UK, as we no longer have a set retirement age – as long as your teaching is still required, you can continue working. You can be full-time, or as I did, go part-time, but as a fraction of my full-time contract and thus with all the rights of that contract.

And then there is how they are paid. Not saying that British academics are paid well in universities because they are not. They have had very few pay increases in the past years and are well behind what they should be paid for their qualifications and the time spent on training but at least in the UK they have 6 weeks paid holiday per year – if they can manage to take it – which I never did but that is another story – we also get paid sick leave and are paid during teaching breaks as we are expected to undertake research, paper writing, various academic tasks including marking, attending committees and so on – so we are paid during the long summer break(!); and also don’t forget the free medical care from the NHS…

So.

Overall, I found this an accurate if rather intense and exaggerated story of academic rivalries and internal politics.

But truthfully, the only murder in any of the universities I have worked at was when a student stalked a lecturer and eventually killed her. No murder for internal rivalries and jealousy!

Well written and keeps you guessing. Especially interesting if you are an academic or something about the life of course, but not a requirement to read this as all is explained in enough detail for you to understand the situation.

I received this free book in exchange for an honest review

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Taken now

This is book 2 in the Riley Paige series which I read immediately after book 1. Not quite as good and gripping as book 1 but still an extremely well written book.
This book concentrates more on Riley’s relationship with her daughter. 

It turns out that her daughter is very much a copy of her mother in a younger body. She has her mother’s determination and willingness to go the extra mile to get herself out of situations that she is unhappy with – whether it is living with her father or being left behind as her mother goes off to solve a new case. 

And as it turns out, this trait is not to her advantage as her mother’s work spills over into her private life.

 

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Murder on a Farm

Here we are in the rural hinterlands of Pennsylvania. A small rural town in a rural county and all that goes along with that. Gossip, infighting, outright deception, rivalries, and feuds that date back years and so on.

A lawyer comes home disillusioned with her life in the fast lane and decides to run the family farm as an organic undertaking and to take over her father’s shop and convert it into an organic outlet and cafe.

But.

She acquires a Great Pyrenee dog, which is usually used as livestock guardian. They are: Strong Willed, Gentle, Confident, Fearless, Patient, Affectionate. Normal 
Height: Male: 70–82 cm, Female: 65–74 cm
Weight: Male: 50–54 kg, Female: 36–41 kg

So a rather large dog with a shaggy coat that needs attention and likes to be with a family not living outside.Great_Pyrenees_Tavish

She gets involved with Community Supported Agriculture – this is associated mainly with organic farming and smaller farms who can offer a box scheme direct to the consumer rather going through a third party such as Abel and Cole (I use the in London as we have no farms within easy reach!)

According to the Urban Ecology Center, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is like having your own personal farmer. In a CSA, you become a member of a local farm by purchasing a “share”. In return, you receive weekly deliveries of fresh produce throughout the growing season, typically late May to November. Along with the produce, some farms also offer meat, eggs, and other extras along with weekly newsletters, recipes, U-picks and farm festivals. Some farms offer flowers and produce made from vegetables and fruit such as chutneys and jams as well.

So an easy way to buy your organic food needs at a good price, and the farmer has a guaranteed income. So a win-win situation for any farmer.

Organic seeds, in the book, are noted to have better natural resistance to harmful pests and also, of course, encourage a better range of beneficial insects. This just reinforces the good messages that come out in the book, despite the murder and other shenanigans that we find in the book.

I was recently asked at a garden panel I sat on, what I did about greenfly on my garden plants, and my answer was very little. A good ‘crop’ of greenfly meant more food for the ladybirds (ladybugs) and if there really were too many then a quick squirt of washing up liquid (diluted) or a brush with my fingers, did the trick...

Historical Societies and designation of historic buildings and what seems to be an American trait to dislike being constrained about what they can or cannot build, demolish, make changes to existing buildings. A change to the front porch in terms of windows and paint would need permission – and this is resented in the book... well come live in our flat! We live in a Conservation area and are very grateful to do so, and the residences acquire a price premium by being in this area... we have rules about what we can and cannot do even unto what fence, wall or hedge we can have in the front garden. And if your house was changed before the Conservation Area came into being and you want to make any changes now – say to replace the windows, you would need to put them back to what they should have been, even if that means sash windows! Extra cost it’s true but the houses were designed by architects to reflect a particular style – Art and Crafts – in our case, and very interesting they are too.
Did I like the book? Yes.

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No Spark?

Raleigh is a 14 year old girl, possibly with Aspergers, but who has a friend who may also have Aspergers or they are both somewhere on the spectrum.. but her friend definitely has OCD in a big way.

They at the extreme end of the socialisation spectrum and Raleigh has an obsession for Geology and goes into some very strange, and rather dangerous places to find samples of soil and rock to consider hypotheses.

Raleigh’s friend runs off and only Raleigh believes that in fact she was kidnapped as she recognises elements of her friend’s apparent behaviour that do nto chime with her OCD behaviour.

I anted to read this book bev]cause of the aspergers element which I thought was interesting and should help the plot as they tend to be obsessive about the smallest points and thus clues would not miss them.

But.

I tried twice. The first time I got to 15% and stopped.

The second time I got a little further – 35%. But again failed to drum up the enthusiasm to continue.

Perhaps I am the wrong audience?

 

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