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Monthly Archives: May 2018

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Crime and Punctuation–super senior

Crime and Punctuation

by Kaitlyn Dunnett

Crime and PunctuationCrime and Punctuation features a retired Language Arts (English) teacher who decides to take up editing to fund the remodeling of the 110 year old home she lived in until she was seventeen. At age sixty-eight, newly widowed, Mikki returns from Maine to Lenape Hollow in New York’s Catskills and purchases the three story home of her childhood which has not been maintained properly.

Although Mikki intends for her business to mainly come through online sources, she is approached shortly after opening her enterprise by Tiffany, a young, enthusiastic, and well-funded new author. Mikki accepts her as a client and three days later there is a murder.

Lenape Hollow is a small town where news travels fast. Mikki finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation that involves old friends and enemies and brings up long forgotten memories. Tiffany’s book is fiction, but it is based on Mafia activity in the 1930’s. Her husband and his associates have been involved in some shady deals in the past and may be the models for some of the book’s unsavory characters. Crime and Punctuation is a good mystery with lots of suspects. It is not difficult to figure out who the murderer is, but it is fascinating to watch it play out. The book is well-paced and the main character Mikki is an interesting and likable character. Her honesty in her introspection is refreshing and not belabored. Mikki’s age is certainly older than the typical cozy mystery heroine, but that fact provides a different perspective that is interesting.

I have always enjoyed language, word study, and even grammar. Fresh out of college, I taught middle and high school English for a year while waiting for an elementary teaching position to open up. I was excited to teach, enjoyed the subject matter, and particularly related to the twelfth graders ready to embark on their next adventure in life. So in Mikki I find a kindred spirit with her references to the Oxford comma. Its use in Tiffany’s manuscript actually helped solve the case. On the other hand, I don’t think a reader needs to be obsessive about grammar to appreciate this latest mystery by Kaitlyn Dunnett.

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 in the Deadly Edits Mystery Series

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I can dress in my best, freshly pressed and pristine, and within five minutes, I look as if I’ve slept in my clothes. Don’t even talk to me about scarves! No matter how I tie them, they just hang there, limp and unflattering, feedbag instead of fashionable.

Thunderclouds scudded into Van Heusen’s face so fast that I expected it to start raining at any moment. My uneasiness about being alone with him returned just as quickly.

“Excuse me. Is Mr. Onslow available?” The redhead looked up, mouth opening in a startled, lipstick-circled O and heavily mascaraed eyes widening. I wondered if my question had been too complicated for her.

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Lowcountry Bookshop–good intentions

Lowcountry Bookshop

by Susan M. Boyer

Lowcountry BookshopIn Lowcountry Bookshop, Susan M. Boyer outdoes her last cozy mystery which I thought was  good. In this book Liz Talbot and her husband Nate, both private investigators, are hired anonymously through an attorney to prove the innocence of a very sweet mail carrier who stopped at the scene of a hit and run. The plot is very complex and involves a group of women who try to help victims of domestic violence.

Watching Liz and Nate go about their business of investigating the crime and the people involved is very interesting. They have tools, disguises, and methods that they use to pursue the truth regardless of where it leads them.

In the middle of some pretty intense scenarios, there is a little comic relief as Liz’s family deals with a situation involving a Bassett hound, a pig with a broken leg, three escape artist goats, and a backyard dug in preparation for a swimming pool. As you can imagine, “Mamma ain’t happy” and everyone knows it.

Set in the Charlestown area of South Carolina, Lowcountry Bookshop features heat, humidity, and Southern charm. This mystery will keep you on your toes as you follow its complexities and guess who did it and why—right up until the end.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: 1.  #7 in the Liz Talbot Mystery Series but works as a standalone

2.  Slight paranormal aspect: One character is a helpful guardian spirit. Frankly, she contributes little to the solving of the mystery and could easily be removed without harming the plot.

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Sunday morning arrived on air as thick as mamma’s gravy.

At five in the morning, it was already eighty-three degrees.

Everyone had baggage. Some of us had heavier bags than others.

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Plot–great plot and characters

Too Many Crooks Spoil the Plot

by Sarah Osborne

Too Many Crooks Spoil the PlotToo Many Crooks Spoil the Plot begins with “Nothing warned me that my world was about to tilt on its axis and never tilt back again,” a sentence full of promise for a good cozy mystery. Author Sarah Osborne manages to pack a lot of background into her opening chapter. We are introduced to the main character, Dr. Ditie Brown, a pediatrician who works in a refugee clinic, her two pets, and her brother Tommy. There are hints of family troubles. Ditie reunites with her old friend Ellie whose emotions bounce all over the place. She asks a huge favor: “Do you think the kids could stay with you for a few days?” Unfortunately someone was gunning for Ellie—literally.

The plot is quite complex with lots of threads that seemingly don’t connect…until they do. Meanwhile, who are the good guys and who are the bad  guys? What do Ellie’s children have that is worth killing for? Through all of this we watch Ditie, her friend Lurleen (with an interesting faux French background and accent), Detective Garrett, P.I. Dan, and Garrett’s mother, a retired cop, work diligently to solve the mystery and keep the children, Lucie and Jason, safe.

I see in Lucie a level of responsibility that a former student of mine had. In my student’s case, the mother was  an alcoholic and my first grader got herself and her kindergarten brother ready for school and on the bus each day. Therefore, I find realism in Lucie, a fictional child whose mother is erratic; Lucie has to step in and be the “adult” for her brother.

Initially I felt that the two romances in the books happen way too quickly. On the other hand, extreme circumstances can cause extreme emotional reactions. I quickly got over my hesitation with that aspect of the story and enjoyed watching the two couples grow in their relationships as the story progresses.

This book is a winner. I’m looking forward to the next cozy mystery in this series.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com 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: #1 in the Ditie Brown Mystery Series

Publication:   May 29, 2018—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

It’s not every dog that can smile, but when you find one who does, you know you have a treasure.

He could hide behind the lights, the glitter, so that no one, least of all his sister, ever knew who he really was.

I felt uneasy. The murders felt so neatly solved. It was just the murderers that didn’t quite fit.

39 Winks–cozy mystery with a scientific edge

39 Winks

by Kathleen Valenti

39 WinksIn the first book of this series, Protocol, Maggie O’Malley gets drawn into a complicated and deadly abuse of power in her job as a pharmaceutical researcher. I assumed that in the second book in the series she would continue her work in the pharmaceutical industry. The author explains what happened: “Blame for the downturn was laid not only at the feet of the guilty but the person who had revealed their culpability. Coworkers stopped collaborating. Managers ‘forgot’ to invite her to meetings. Invitations to after-work drinks dried up and blew away with the prairie wind. It was The Great Corporate Freeze Out.”

As 39 Winks opens, Maggie is working at a lingerie shop when she learns that her boyfriend’s Aunt Polly, found her husband murdered and is asking for Maggie. Meanwhile, Maggie finds herself jobless again as she stands up for a coworker. Free to help Aunt Polly, Maggie is thrown in the middle of an investigation that gets more and more complicated. I couldn’t imagine how the author would tie up all the loose ends, but she does it masterfully.  39 Winks is a really good cozy mystery. It involves many serious social issues as well as medical issues. Maggie’s pharmaceutical expertise, her common sense, and courage are all called into play. She also has help from her computer genius boyfriend Constantine. This is a mystery I did not want to put down.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series and not really dependent on reading  the first book in the series

Publication:   May 22, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

She’d built the Wall, the secret place at the back of her mind where she corralled uncomfortable feelings, when she was eleven. She fortified it at every opportunity. She knew it was getting crowded back there, that she was quite possibly a hoarder of denial. She shoved that knowledge behind the Wall, too.

A look of revulsion crossed her face. “Is that a mouse?” Constantine looked down. Miss Vanilla peered from her tiny fabric lanai, whiskers dancing. “Hamster,” he corrected, “but she thinks she’s a gerbil.” He winked. “We humor her.”

“Another report? What do they plan to do, fend off the bad guys with paper cuts?“

Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story

Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story

by Meredith Shafer

Mad CowDespite its subtitle, Meredith Shafer’s Mad Cow: A PTSD Love Story is not a mushy romance.  It is the hard-hitting tale of a woman who has lived in the trenches and struggled to scramble out for her own survival and that of her children and her husband nicknamed Mr. Wonderful in the book. “Mad Cow” does not refer to the feared Mad Cow disease; it is the nickname Meredith has given to the struggle her husband faces every day. He is a veteran retired on a medical disability and Mad Cow is a triangle of asthma, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury and all of the associated problems that often accompany these disorders including issues with depression and sobriety. 

Mad Cow is not a timeline biography, and it does not detail Mr. Wonderful’s war injuries or his specific medical issues. Instead, this memoir shares the struggles of this hot mess, circus-like, crazy family of six, led by a spunky mama and a wounded warrior as they navigate life, crises, and the VA medical system. We learn of financial struggles and family issues.  We discover how survival fueled by faith, trust, and God’s love becomes more important than a perfect house, after school activities, and productivity.

Meredith brings her background as a musician, lawyer, mom,  writer and speaker, a devotee of leopard, shoes, coffee and bling, and most especially a lover of Jesus to this book. She shares openly from her heart; there is no fakeness in this book. You will find humor scattered liberally throughout. There is one particularly funny chapter called “The Casita” which describes how the family of six lived temporarily in a 150 square foot house. Under the humor though is the pain of trying to save a husband who is past being able to save himself. Under the humor is a woman’s heart as she leans into her Father relying on Him to restore her family.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Memoir, Christian Nonfiction

Notes: You can find my review of Meredith Shafer’s first book, My Pink Champagne Life here

Publication:  2016

Memorable Lines: 

You can’t really go back, though. You can only move forward, which we are trying to do with generosity of spirit and good humor and grace, a whole truckload of grace. Wow, that’s hard.

I’ve decided that potty training a fiery redheaded she-child is kind of like training a wild tiger to dance to show tunes. It’s a delicate yet frightening process that requires infinite patience, a death wish, and multiple costume changes.

I guess thirty days off and three counseling appointments post deployment aren’t nearly enough. The military way, though it’s not written in any of their field manuals, is to soldier on. Self-medicate with alcohol if necessary as that is the acceptable method of of soldiering on.

Pairing a Deception–more than a taste of wine

Pairing a Deception

by Nadine Nettmann

Pairing a DeceptionHave you ever met a wine snob? You know, the person who likes to show off their knowledge of wines? Well, I am the exact opposite. If you ask me what my favorite wine is, I would be likely to reply with (cringe)…a color choice or a description of a cute label. Not bad considering I came to the game rather late in life.

Enter Nadine Nettman with her latest cozy mystery Pairing a Deception. Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier from California has all the knowledge needed to create an interesting mystery based on the amazing varieties of wines available at a food and wine festival.

The main character, Katie, is studying for her three day Advanced Sommelier exam, but decides to squeeze in a festival in Santa Barbara with her selfless boyfriend, Detective Dean. While there, Katie gets to practice blind wine tasting skills, share her enthusiasm for wines as an emergency substitute speaker, and investigate a murder. Katie has a background of karate as a child and attended the Police Academy. Skills learned in both venues come in handy when she discovers the murderer.

I thought I might be overwhelmed or bored with all the wine talk, but it seemed natural considering the setting. I learned a lot about wine, especially wine tastings, liked the main characters, and found the plot interesting. The ending was a surprise, but believable.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Sommelier Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone

Publication:   May 8, 2018—Midnight Ink

Memorable Lines:

The opportunity to taste the exact same grape grown in different areas, therefore each creating a unique wine, was one of the key elements I loved about wine and food festivals.

“We’d like to order wine. Which ones do you have?” “Oh, we have all the colors,” the waiter remarked. I paused, not sure how to respond.

I like helping people learn about wine and choosing the right one for their meal as I share the story of each bottle.

Flowers and Foul Play–a magical read!

Flowers and Foul Play

by Amanda Flower

Flowers and Foul PlayFlowers and Foul Play is an appropriately magical read. Fiona Knox receives a surprise inheritance when her Scottish godfather dies in the war in Afghanistan and wills everything to her including his land, cottage, and a walled garden with a reputation for being magical. It seems Fiona, a florist by trade, is somehow connected to the garden. Unfortunately, after her long flight from Tennessee to Scotland, she tours her garden and discovers a dead body.

Everything about the story is enjoyable. The plot has a lot of twists and turns. The characters are interesting, including the welcoming Lee who owns the Bellewick pub, Hamish, the elderly garden caretaker, and Chief Inspector Neil Craig  who is not only very competent, but also very handsome. Of course, everything is very Scottish and the setting makes this cozy mystery even more interesting. Author Amanda Flower throws in a huge mehir in the garden, tales of an ancestor’s shipwreck, and a local controversy over a real estate deal with environmental implications. The result is a book I didn’t want to put down until the mystery was solved.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com 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 in the Magic Garden Mystery Series

Publication:   May 8, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

“If you think this is a rough night in Scotland, you are in for a rude awakening my lass, a very rude awakening indeed. We have storms that come off the sea that will curl your toes and make seasoned Highlanders hide under their beds.”

It reminded me again how old everything in Scotland was. In Nashville, the city practically builds a force field around a house that was built in the 1800s, to protect it from wear and tear. But the 1800s weren’t even a blip on the timeline in a place like Bellewick, where most of the buildings dated back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

“I think that is what his death has taught me the most: don’t count on someday because someday will never come. Too many people put off fighting for what they want until what they think will be a better time—after they’re married, after the kids are grown, after retirement—but the truth is, there is never a better time for anything.”

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