education pathways

False Fire–no milquetoast in sight!

False Fire

by Veronica Heley

False FireThe author of False Fire, Veronica Heley, 83 years old and creator of over 70 books, just made my “go to” mystery writer list. The list is short; it starts and ends with Agatha Christie. At no point in reading False Fire did I want to put it down. There were no artificial hooks to keep me reading—it was the action of the plot. It just kept moving at such a rapid pace, starting with the first chapter, that I was compelled to devour the book.

The writing was well-done, and the characters were interesting. Heley has created a main character in Bea Abbot who is resourceful, observant, and intelligent. She runs the Abbot Agency—for domestics, not detectives. In False Fire, Bea is attending a dinner when a fire breaks out in the home, followed by an explosion and power outages. There is general mayhem and children to be rescued. Later Bea has to sort through the relationships of a very dysfunctional family to try to discover the arsonist. Was the crime, in fact, arson? There are many Britishisms but most are understandable within the context, and all add to the fun of reading a book by a British author.

I am so grateful to have found this prolific author. Although I enjoy the diversity of themes and ideas in cozy mysteries, I appreciate even more a mystery like this one that is hardcore in the sense that the focus is the developing plot. At the same time, there is not a detailed description of violence or sex. The language is always appropriate. While this is in no way a Christian book, the author’s faith is evident as she has her main character pray for help on several occasions. Both the main character and the mystery should be described as “strong”: no evidence of milquetoast in sight!

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #11 in the Abbot Agency series, but easily read like a standalone for me

Publication:   April 1, 2017—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

The other girl was a sweetie, but not exactly the Brain of Britain.

Bernice gave alternate mouthfuls to Teddy, who was assuming a careworn appearance. Much loving can do that to you.

The man plunged down the corridor, disappearing into tendrils of smoke which curled about the figure and obscured him from Bea’s view. She stumbled after him, straining her eyes to see through the mist, which thickened and darkened as they advanced.

Argyle Fox–what can the little fox play on a windy day?

Argyle Fox

by Marie Letourneau

Argyle FoxArgyle Fox is a cute children’s book about a little fox who wants to go outside to play on a windy day. He has fun, creative ideas for things to play, but other animals warn him that each activity can’t be done in the wind. Argyle Fox takes on various roles, such as spider and pirate, in his efforts at make believe, and the dialogue reflects these characters.

This story would make a good early childhood read aloud with lots of discussion opportunities. Argyle Fox has a simple, predictable story line that is reassuring to children, It encourages vocabulary development and creativity. The illustrations are fun and appropriate to the story. This picture book could be enjoyed in the classroom or at home.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: recommended for ages 3-7

Publication: March 14, 2017—Tanglewood Publishing

Suggested Discussion Questions (Things to talk about while reading this book):
1. What fun things did Argyle Fox want to play? Have you ever pretended or played those things?
2. What animal friends gave Argyle Fox advice about the wind? Can you find them in the book?
3. What do these words mean: burrow, castle duel, pirate, plank?
4. Can you act out the story with me?
5. What other things can you play in the wind?
6. What nice thing did Argyle Fox do for his friends?
7. What is argyle? (Search the Internet for “argyle pattern” to share some great examples and for younger children contrast argyle with dots, stripes, plaid, etc.)

Easter Pictures (Fotos de semana Santa)

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It only took TWO WEEKS (24/7) to synchronize all of my pictures with iCloud, but it did work as far as I can tell. While that was happening, I was afraid to touch my pictures. Now I am ready to share some more of Mexico, starting with this past weekend. A few of these pictures were taken previously, but I did take all of them in Mexico.

Saturday Night Empanadas–perfect with a game of Scrabble!

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Delicious Empanadas–Poblano and cheese; Beef and so much more!

The cross is a symbol of Jesus’ death, but Easter celebrates His resurrection!

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Cross in front of a house in my neighborhood

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Cropped, the stonework in the plaza of Erongarícuaro makes a beautiful cross

Perfect Blooms Just in Time for Easter

As Dark as My Fur–a disappointment for this reader

As Dark as My Fur

by Clea Simon

As Dark as My FurI looked forward to the novelty of a mystery narrated by a cat in As Dark as My Fur. I had read positive reviews and thought the cat’s perspective might add interest as well as a touch of humor. It didn’t contribute any amusement, but that was the author’s choice and is acceptable. The cat is, in fact, a man who has been murdered and reincarnated as a cat with only partial memories of his prior life.

The author, Clea Simon, has a remarkable command of the English language, excellent powers of description, and insightful views into the frustrations of being a cat. Unfortunately, she calls upon the latter strength over and over again at the expense of the plot. The average reader can easily grasp the difficulties of trying to communicate with a human from a cat’s body. The author belabors the point in every chapter. I easily put the book aside multiple times with no sense of loss. Finally, at the end of chapter thirty-one (88% through the book), the author inserted a hook that made me want to finish reading the book. Simultaneously, the plot pace picked up and I completed it. I was disappointed that the active mystery has resolution, but the main villain is not revealed.

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

Rating: 2/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: Blackie and Care #2

Publication:   April 1, 2017—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Silence elicits speech.

As I have noted, I am a cat. And while I may be frustrated by my inability to communicate directly, at least with the girl with whom I have forged a bond, I do enjoy my superior senses.

There is joy to be found in a bright morning, in the company of one who may be trusted.

Tightening the Threads–family secrets abound

Tightening the Threads

by Lea Wait

Tightening the ThreadsTightening the Threads is a very good cozy mystery, set in Maine and focusing on family relationships Most of the characters in the story are the product of dysfunctional to nonexistent relationships with their parents. Some emerge from childhood with pain and an inability to have meaningful connections. Others find solace and stability with extended family or build strong bonds with friends.

There are mysteries to be solved that tie into the relationship issues; these crimes center around the patriarch Ted Lawrence, son of famous artist Robert Lawrence. The novel shows us once more that money and fame do not necessarily insure happiness or wisdom.

This author obviously has an interest in needlework in general and needlepoint in particular as evidenced by her main characters belonging to a group called the Mainely Needlepointers. She displays her historical interest by starting each chapter with a quote from a child’s sampler as well as a description of the sampler and information about the creator as available. I enjoyed this book and am definitely interested in reading more by author Lea Wait.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #5 in the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.

Publication:   March 28, 2017–Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

During the ten years I’d lived in the almost perpetually neutral shades of Arizona, I’d missed seeing Maine hills glowing with gold and scarlet and orange in late September.

“Love you, too. As always, for always.”

“I think all families have mysteries, and secrets, and stories. I don’t think they’re all meant to be uncovered.”

Families weren’t simple. They weren’t like television show casts where everyone supported everyone else and laughed over dinner.

When the Grits Hit the Fan–cozy mystery with a touch of thriller

When the Grits Hit the Fan

by Maddie Day

When the Grits Hit the FanThere is a little initial background, setting the scene for small town Indiana with a country store/café, Pans ‘N Pancakes, that appeals to both tourists and locals. We meet many of the characters as described through the eyes of owner Robbie Jordan. Only a few chapters into When the Grits Hit the Fan, a crime is discovered. The storyline moves along well, as any good cozy mystery should, until about one-third of the way into the book. Then, hold on to your hat! The plot becomes twisted and tangled, the tension increases exponentially, and you won’t want to put this book down.

If you are a “foodie,” you will enjoy the culinary descriptions, but they at no time overpower the mystery. Recipes are a bonus at the end of the book, including one shared by Georgeanne Ross, the Original Grit Girl, whose ground corn products are highly sought out by chefs and restauranteurs across the country.

Interesting characters and setting, suspense, a little romance, food, and Indiana dialogue combine into a cozy mystery you won’t want to miss!

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This is the third book in the Country Store Mystery Series, but it worked well for me as a standalone. I am looking forward to the next book in the series, Biscuits and Slashed Browns, but I was unable to locate the anticipated publication date.

Publication:  March 28, 2017–Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

A lot of people my age mostly read on their tablets, but I liked the heft of a real book in my hands, another way I was an anachronism in my generation. The smell of the paper, the crack of the binding, even the cover art–all of it appealed to me.

As usually happened, the repetitive motion of physical work, whether removing rubble or preparing biscuit dough, freed up my mind to work through problems.

My California upbringing had not included the simple mesmerizing joy of watching white stuff fall from the sky. Whether a steady straight-down storm like this one or a howling blizzard, I never tired of gazing at it. And I’d seen all forms in my four years in Indiana. I put on the outside lights so the flakes glistened in the illumination like fairies dancing. A gust of wind made them twirl and swirl before returning to their steady descent.

Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder–a cozy teachers will love

Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder

by Sara Rosett

Mother's DayMother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder is a thematic shoe-in for me, and it surpassed my expectations. The setting is Georgia, but the author grew up in and currently lives in Texas. The action occurs at an elementary school which is the unlikely scene of a murder. Except for the murder and mayhem, this could have been the elementary school I taught at for a few years in Leander, Texas. The details are perfect for a middle class school where parent participation is high, students wear an assigned color T-shirt for field day, and the Teacher Appreciation Week is five days of food, small gifts, and recognition for hard-working, appreciated teachers.

The main character is Ellie Avery, an Air Force wife, mother of two children, part-time organizing consultant, and very active volunteer at her children’s neighborhood school. The amiable Ellie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. She tries not to actively involve herself, but others look to her for help because of previous associations with a murder. Later, someone takes the threat to her doorstep, potentially endangering Ellie and her children.

This mystery is a fun, “don’t put me down” kind of read. The plot has twists and turns that keep the reader engaged and wanting more. The characters are interesting and there is a subplot concerning a competing organizer in town which enhances the appeal. If you like cozy mysteries, you will love Mother’s Day, Muffins, and Murder.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes:  1. #10 in the Ellie Avery Mystery Series, also called the Mom Zone Series. I enjoyed it as a standalone.

2. The book also includes “Organizing Tips for PTA Moms” placed at the end of some chapters so as not to be intrusive into the storyline. They are practical and are approved by this former teacher who also volunteered with my school’s Parent/Teacher Organization.

Publication:  March 28, 2017–Kensington Books

Memorable Lines: 

“Yes, that is my favorite way to relax, supervising twenty-two eight-year-olds hyped up on sugar at eight in the morning.”

I wished the rest of the school year could be more like the end of the year. The end of the year–when the standardized tests were over–was when the kids got to do all the fun stuff, instead of studying for the standardized tests. Why couldn’t the kids do more hands-on activities like this throughout the year?

We rush through our days so quickly and have so many little rituals that we do, day in and day out, but then a moment like that last day of school comes along. It’s a milestone that makes a definite break in the continuum and emphasizes that one phase is ending and another beginning.

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