education pathways


Professional Reader 80% Reviews Published 2016 NetGalley Challenge 25 Book Reviews



Shadow Dancing–society mom meets teenage prostitute

Shadow Dancing

by Julie Mulhern

Shadow DancingWould this book be THE ONE? Would the seventh book in the Country Club Murder series be the one that would let me down? Would that great sense of humor mixed into a fascinating mystery fall flat? Would the 70’s backdrop become cliché? Would I tire of Ellison’s love affair with Mr. Coffee or her battles with her imperious mother? The answer to all of these questions about Julie Mulhern’s Shadow Dancing is a resounding “NO!”.  I enjoyed the book all the way through and was sad when it came to an end.

As usual, the pace is perfect and the storyline is inventive. Mulhern’s use of descriptive language puts the reader in the scene as she transports Ellison through high society cocktail parties and into the danger of the night. This story focuses on homeless girls forced into prostitution and drug addiction; the seriousness of the theme gives an edge to the book with its fast-moving plot. Detective and boyfriend Anarchy Jones plays an important role in providing physical and emotional support for Ellison who finds herself in the role of protector as the murderer challenges her. This cozy mystery is full of surprises and suspense.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the Country Club Murder Series

Publication:   June 19, 2018—Henery  Press

Memorable Lines:

Aggie marched up to a second librarian—one who made the woman downstairs look like a congeniality winner in a beauty contest. The librarian on the second floor looked like the woman in American Gothic by Grand Wood: close-set eyes, marionette lines that dragged the corners of her lips into a frown, and a long, thin neck. The expression in those close-set eyes could have scared General Westmoreland into immediate surrender.

Winstead’s didn’t sell hamburgers; it sold steakburgers. The burgers were cooked to a deep shade of brown and flavored with salt and grease. They arrived at the table wrapped in wax paper sleeves and the first bite could change a life.

Outside, the night swirled with a heavy, cold mist. March deciding lion or lamb. The mist clung to my hair, and lashes, and coat. The click of my heels echoed on the pavement. The darkness breathed—thick and dangerous. I shivered.


Death and a Pot of Chowder–cozy with guns, lobsters, and a foodie

Death and a Pot of Chowder

by Cornelia Kidd

Death and a Pot of ChowderI know very little about Maine—small, cold, and famous for lobsters. All of that information is verified in Death and a Pot of Chowder, but I absorbed so much more about Maine by reading this cozy mystery by Cornelia Kidd. The characters are very interesting, especially the likable main character Anna Winslow. Having lost her job when her stepfather died, she is a stay-at-home mom to fourteen year old Jake and wife to Burt, a lobsterman. She enjoys her quiet life until she finds herself thrown in the middle of a murder investigation to clear Burt of charges at the same time she discovers she has a half-sister Ozzie, a young, ambitious, and talented chef.

I enjoyed the community of Quarry Island and references to Anne of Green Gables. I can identify with Anna turning to chocolate in times of stress! As an educator, I appreciate that the students on the island are cocooned a little as they attend school there through junior high and only travel to the mainland for high school. In such a setting I can conceive of the freedoms Jake and his friend Matt enjoy to roam the island.

The characters are not goody two-shoes, but most do have appeal as direct people who care about their neighbors. Anna is a strong woman, but also a woman who is willing to expand outside her current boundaries. She is open to new challenges and new relationships. I did wonder about her ties with her “stepfather” Seth. She was raised from birth as his child, but when she discovers that he is not her biological father, she never calls him “dad” again. Although I understand many children long for a relationship with their biological parents, it seems cold and out of character for her to emotionally discard him. As she was working for him as an office manager at the time of his death, I assume he did not respond by cutting ties with her. This is an interesting, but disappointing, twist to the story.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. # 1 in the Maine Murder Mystery Series.

  2. Recipes are found in the back of the book.

  3. As Izzie is interested in historical cookbooks, each chapter starts with a quote from a cookbook which also includes tips for managing a household.

Publication:   June 12, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

People joked that islanders had salt water in their veins. We were different, separate, and wary of off-islanders who commented on the beauty of the island, wondered at our isolation, and then left.

But first I was going to eat chocolate. If ever there was a day for chocolate, this was it.

I’d been like a mussel, glued to the rocks I’d always clung to. Now, everything had changed. I’d been tossed into the waves to survive. Would I find a new rock to cling to? Or be found by a laughing gull and dropped onto a ledge, smashed, and devoured.

As the Cookie Crumbles–food oriented cozy, but so much more

As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles

by Leslie Budewitz

As the Christmas Cookie CrumblesIt’s a tie! I can’t decide what I like best about Leslie Budewitz’s As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles: her winning way with words or her skill in creating an intricate plot. I felt a little funny as I crossed the Mexican desert in 90 degree temps on my trek north to the States as June began to press in. I was immersed in a cozy mystery with a Christmas backdrop complete with snow set in Jewel Bay, Montana, but that is what good fiction can do.

The main character is Erin, manager of the “Merc” aka Murphy’s Glacier Mercantile. She is weeks away from a wedding to fiancé Adam, a very likable guy. Erin has investigative skills that she truly enjoys exercising and which cause others to try to engage her in solving crimes based on her reputation. In this book she befriends a newly returned citizen of Jewel Bay, Merrily, who has relationship issues with her parents and is discovered dead on their property.

There are a lot of suspects for perpetrator of this crime, but the criminal can not be found until the past is revealed. Erin is indubitably nosy and that characteristic could help solve the crime and restore long broken relationships. It also could lead her into potentially deadly situations. Can she balance her curiosity with reason and avoid disaster?

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Midnight Ink for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  This book is good as a standalone. It is the second in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, but I didn’t feel like I had missed out on anything. There is also a “cast of characters” if you get confused. The book concludes with a recipe section.

Publication:  June 8, 2018—Midnight Ink

Memorable Lines:

As surely as you can count on holidays sparking family crises, you can count on cocoa.

In these days of space stations and hybrid cars, stagecoaches seem like figments of Western movie makers’ imaginations, but the valley is criss-crossed with roads named for long-ago stages. They remind me to slow down, and take the long view.

Adam went downstairs to hook up the TV. Going wireless involves a lot of cables.

Picked Off–vegan running a goat dairy

Picked Off

by Linda Lovely

Picked OffI enjoyed Picked Off, a cozy mystery by Linda Lovely, but I didn’t love it and I didn’t think it was as good as the first book in the series.

On the positive side, it has an interesting plot, likable characters and appropriate injections of humor. In fact, there is an exciting escape scene that is as funny as all get out! It’s worth reading the book just to experience that piece of writing. There are lots of fun, folksy figures of speech to roll off the tongue and stir the imagination. 

On the negative side, Brie, who is helping her Aunt Eva with Udderly Kidding Dairy, is as enmeshed as ever in her attractions to Paint and Andy who are best friends to each other. The irony of a vegan who runs a dairy farm and engages in cheese and meat curses is lost on no one and remains amusing in the second book. The romantic triangle, however, is losing its appeal. Brie, along with the author, appears stuck on the fence. My other criticism is that there were a few loose ends that did not get tied up. I am especially interested in the missing backpack containing evidential video footage. It seems to have dropped off the radar.

The basic plot is interesting: Carol Strong is campaigning for South Carolina governor and her son, football star Zack, is attacked during a Halloween themed rally for her benefit. There is more mayhem, lots of entanglements, and plenty of folks to accuse. Imagine trying to identify suspects when most guests are wearing masks.  Brie, her friend Mollye, and Aunt Eva find themselves overly and dangerously involved, but the reader benefits by enjoying the plot’s development.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Brie Hooker Mystery Series

Publication:  June 5, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

My nerves jangled. Who could blame me? Yesterday’s assault would have scared the beans out of a bowl of chili.

Eva returned around lunch time, exhausted. Airlines could assess a surcharge for the size of the bags under her eyes.

…we were more out of our depth than a vegan at a wienie roast.

Rockets’ Dead Glare–deadly blaze in South Cove

Rockets’ Dead Glare

by Lynn Cahoon

Rockets' Dead GlareI am not usually attracted to novellas, but I really enjoy Lynn Cahoon’s cozy mysteries so I decided to give Rockets’ Dead Glare a try and I’m glad I did. A short, but satisfying mystery with a different sort of resolution and a happy ending.

There are a number of suspects with good reasons to want to see Barry, South Cove’s volunteer fire chief, dead, but who would actually commit the horrifying deed? Two members of Barry’s volunteer fire department have shady backgrounds, but neither Jill, owner of the local coffeeshop and bookstore, nor her detective boyfriend Greg thinks either one is capable of murder. Who wanted Barry dead and how was the murder committed? Will the toxicology reports produce evidence? The answers lie in this outstanding novella.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This novella is part of the Tourist Trap Series, but works well as a standalone.

Publication:  June 5, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

The smell of french fries makes me happy. I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s the truth. I needed the salt, carbs, and fat today. Stress eating is my specialty.

And as I leaned into him, I realized it was a happy day. And for a second, I let the gratitude of the moment wash over me. Life right now was perfect and wonderful. Tomorrow’s problems could wait until tomorrow. Today I was happy.

A Literary Tea Party: Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere

A Literary Tea Party

by Alison Walsh

A Literary Tea Party2A Literary Tea Party, subtitled Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere, is a delightful book tantalizing the senses with beautiful color photos and delicious themed recipes. The Table of Contents categorizes the recipes into Savories, Bread and Muffins, Sweets, Homemade Tea Blends, and Tea Alternatives. Each recipe is then listed by its themed name and the book or author associated with it. For example, Savories includes Poetical Egg Salad Sandwich referring to Anne of Green Gables.

Although many of the books referenced are childhood favorites, this is not a children’s recipe book. The recipes are of various difficulty levels and although they generally are aimed at sophisticated tastes, the whole tea party atmosphere is so special it would entice children to sample something a little different. Most recipes include a photograph, a quote tying in the literary reference, a note about the recipe, a listing of ingredients, and clear directions followed by a serving note that again references the literary work. Sometimes important cooking notes are added and highlighted. For some recipes a tea pairing is included. There is also a section of the book which gathers five or six recipes together into a theme for a tea party. Some draw on recipes that refer to one book. Some refer to a theme such as murder and draw from a variety of authors.

The author, Alison Walsh, displays her creativity and artistic skills in the various dishes she shares as well as her photography. Walsh is a self-taught food blogger (Alison’s Wonderland Recipes) who also loves books. In the process of writing A Literary Tea Party, Walsh researched the science behind cooking and devoted herself to developing her culinary skills. The result is a beautiful book that any food lover or book lover would  appreciate; it is a magnificent combination of culinary and literary interests immersed in a refined, but fun, atmosphere only achievable in a tea party setting.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Skyhorse Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Cooking and Food

Publication:   June 5, 2018—Skyhorse Publishing

Memorable Lines:

Note that accompanied “Candied Nuts with Meadowcream” from The Legend of Luke: A Tale of Redwall by Brian Jacques: Most Redwall recipes are simple, rustic dishes, and dessert is no exception. In fact, sugar doesn’t even make an appearance in this recipe. Instead, lightly honeyed spiced walnuts are the star of this dish, accompanied by a generous helping of Redwall’s famous meadowcream. This dessert’s cozy flavors and homey feel make it a perfect Redwall dish!

Note that accompanied “Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Lavender Truffles” from “The Naval Treaty” by Arthur Conan Doyle: There’s nothing more British than Earl Grey tea or Sherlock Holmes, so why not bring them together? These dark chocolate truffles use cream steeped in tea to get that distinct Earl Grey flavor.

Note that accompanied “ Fairy Dust Star Cookies” from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie: This imaginative take on the linzer cookie features a raspberry jam center and silver sprinkles. Delicately sweet with an otherworldly twinkle, they’re a dessert even Tinker Bell couldn’t resist.

Burning Meredith–police procedural

Burning Meredith

by Elizabeth Gunn

Burning MeredithWith the interruptions common in daily life, I never finish a book in one sitting, and I rarely complete a book the same day I start it. Burning Meredith was an exception. I did stay up late to finish reading it because it was such a good mystery. Due to its focus on police investigative techniques, it is considered a police procedural by those who like to subdivide the genre.

Burning Meredith centers around a huge forest fire in the south-central Montana mountains, destroying many acres and threatening little Clark’s Fort. If it is possible for a bad thing to be good, then this forest fire was it. The disaster breathed new life into the little weekly Clark’s Fort Guardian and provided opportunities for young, local photo-journalist Stuart Campbell to shine. Not afraid of hard work and familiar with the mountains, he manages to put the Meredith Mountain area on the map nationally.

I like the journalist character, but I truly associate with retired teacher Alice Adams who works for the paper as an editor, initially only a few days a week. As she says, “After thirty-two years of catching kids passing crib notes, you didn’t just stop on a dime. Shouldn’t there be a twelve-step plan for this transition?” She is a respected fixture in the community, as she has taught English and social studies to several generations of Clark’s Fort middle schoolers. She encourages her nephew Stuart in his journalistic efforts, and she provides invaluable assistance in solving the mystery of an unidentified man whose body is found after the fire has been controlled.

There are two major threads to this plot; the author initially shares these in separate chapters as unrelated storylines. The reader gets caught up in the reporting of the fire, and then suddenly there is this other direction that appears like an itch waiting to be scratched. Author Elizabeth Gunn’s writing is excellent in terms of the general plot and how it plays out and also in her turn of phrase. Some of Gunn’s prose is so good that I found myself rereading parts just to enjoy her choice of words, her descriptive excellence, or her metaphors. Many mysteries do not allow for much in the way of character development or they expend too much energy on the characters at the expense of the plot. Gunn hits the mark with her writing style. Her main characters are developed and interesting; her minor characters provide a nice backdrop.

Elizabeth Gunn has two series of police procedurals. Will Burning Meredith begin a new series? I could find no indication that it would or wouldn’t, but my opinion is that this book is a good basis for one.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery, Police Procedural

Publication:   June 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Like a bonus for a job well done, Clark’s Fort got a second freaky dose of luck. A surprise deflection in the polar vortex brought cold, moist air and a drastic dip in air pressure down across Canada and pouring into Montana.

“As you well know, Clark’s Fort doesn’t generate much news.”  “For sure. My street gets so quiet on August afternoons, I swear I can hear the bluebirds planning their trip south.”

She gave him the English teacher look that had brought silence to rooms full of eighth-grade miscreants for a generation.

…when the weather warmed up the country roads became mud-holes even  more impassable than the snow-drifts had been. People still had to get around, so they chained up and churned out, making ruts you could lose a spring calf in.

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