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Monthly Archives: September 2018

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Burning Ridge–searching for family

Burning Ridge

by Margaret Mizushima

Burning RidgeThe action starts in Burning Ridge in the first chapter where readers also get filled in on the series background and meet some of the characters. From a rough and tumble bar fight, this novel moves on to a bright and sunny horseback ride for Cole, the local veterinarian, and his daughters in the Colorado mountains. The family ride turns dark and the mystery begins.

Margaret Mizushima has written a K-9 police procedural. No cozy mystery, this work of fiction looks at an evil-plotting mind plagued by excesses of greed. Main characters Deputy Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo find themselves in danger as she tries to solve a horrific crime that turns personal. Many are involved in finding the murderer, and there are a variety of suspects. Get ready for a surprise ending. In the process of the investigation, Mattie discovers parts of her past that she never knew as well as secrets buried deep in her psyche. She learns to accept help and to expand her ideas of what constitutes a family.

Burning Ridge is a page turner as are the other books in this fast moving series. It contains lots of information about K-9 officers shared in a non-didactic fashion.

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, Thriller

Notes: 1. This is #4 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series. It is good as a standalone, but be aware that each book reveals a little more about Mattie’s past as she comes to grips with it.

2. This contains more upsetting violence than I usually read, but it is within the acceptable boundary for me. Everyone is different so be aware that it contains some torture.

Publication:   September 11, 2018—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

An occasional clump of young aspen shot up toward the cloudless blue sky. Spring leaves, bright green and as yet unblemished by summer dryness, quivered at the ends of branches, their spade-like shape seeming to catch even the slightest of breezes. “Look at the aspen leaves, girls. They’re dancing.”

Robo lay on his cushion, his eyes pinned on her every move. She’d learned from experience that her emotions went straight to her dog.

“Life can be full of regrets if you focus on them. We make decisions for whatever reasons we have in the moment, not because we have some superhuman vision of what will happen in the future.”

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Royally Dead–sewing, Scotland…and murder

Royally Dead

by Greta McKennan

Royally DeadDaria, a seamstress in little Laurel Springs, Pennsylvania, expanded her business to include historical sewing. As Royally Dead opens, she is at the First Annual Highland Games where she and her friend Letty, who owns an antique shop, are manning their booth to make sales, let people know about their businesses, and support the local community. The reader is introduced to a lot of interesting characters, and Daria and Letty get into  more than they bargained for as they witness a manly contestant who just can’t seem to stay out of trouble: flirting with an underage girl, arguing with a famous author, angering one of Daria’s roommates, and continuing a long-standing conflict with another contestant.

Greta McKennan’s Royally Dead is full of sewing, historical mysteries, and Scottish dancing woven throughout a good whodunit. Suspicion falls on four characters, all of whom have both motive and opportunity. So, in this cozy mystery we have four interesting stories playing out as Daria tries to help people and solve the murder. Her friend, Sean McCarthy, a congenial newspaper reporter, is always willing to help and accompanies her on many of her adventures. He affectionately refers to her as the “nosy seamstress.” 

There is lots of information about Scottish customs, clothing, and traditions, as well as history surrounding Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Battle of Culloden. Just as interesting, is the information about sewing and some of the difficulties inherent in hand sewing without a pattern. Also I was excited to pay a visit with Daria to the local museum to see a kilt worn in the battle in 1746 and a bridal gown from the 1750’s in an archival room in the basement of the museum.

This cozy mystery provides a good time right up to the end as the spotlight shines on various suspects. There are even some surprises as backgrounds and relationships come to light.

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: Royally Dead is #3 in the Stitch in Time Mystery Series. When the first two books in this series were published, I passed on the opportunity to read them as ARC’s. What a mistake! Although I had no problem reading Royally Dead as a standalone, I really liked the characters and would enjoy learning more about them in the previous two books. Author Greta McKennan achieved success in the difficult task of combining interesting characters with a good plot.

Publication:  September 11, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

…the old-fashioned handwriting was very hard to read. I was glad I had persisted in learning cursive writing in the third grade, even though my teacher had made it optional because he didn’t see much use for beautiful penmanship when a computer could do the trick. But my cursive training certainly helped me to read this historical document.

Aileen set down her glass and looked me in the eye. I tried to keep eye contact without flinching. After a couple of hours—or maybe just thirty seconds or so—she picked up her sandwich again.

If small-town life was like living in a fishbowl, living in Laurel Springs was like taking that fishbowl and setting it up on a table in the middle of the most popular restaurant in town on a Friday night.

Field of Bones: A Brady Novel of Suspense

Field of Bones: A Brady Novel of Suspense

by J.A. Jance

Field of BonesIt was all I could do to get through the first half of the book. Don’t get me wrong. Field of Bones, set in Arizona, fulfills its promise of being a suspenseful novel, and it is very well written. The characters are appropriately developed, and I certainly understand the appeal of Sheriff Joanna Brady, mother of three, as the main character of the series. She is a strong woman, but portrayed realistically, not as a superwoman. Part mystery, part thriller, part police procedural, and all suspense fiction, Field of Bones runs the full gamut.

The “but” you can hear coming is because of the topic: violent, horrible, sex slavery. It makes for a combo of “I can’t stop reading, leaving characters in this torturous situation” and “I can’t read anymore; it is just too painful.” Kudos to the author J.A. Dance for the skills to put me in this situation. At the same time, I have to say Jance does not include details of the violence, but offers enough information that anyone with an imagination will get the picture. Given the number of books she has published, I think a lot of people admire her storytelling talent. This book is just too terrifying for me, and I doubt I will read any more of her books.

Although some of the tension is relieved in the last half of the book, the story is far from over. At that point, I did enjoy watching how the professionals from various fields perform their duties and work to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

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

 

Rating: 5/5

Category: Fiction, Thriller, Suspense, Mystery

Notes: #18 in the Joanna Brady Mystery Series, but despite the number of books that preceded this one, I had no trouble following the personal interactions because they were limited compared to the suspenseful storyline.

Publication:   September 4, 2018—HarperCollins Publishers

Memorable Lines:

At the end of this long, difficult day, he was in over his head. She needed a kind way to encourage him without undermining his confidence.

The pressure Latisha applied during the required three-minute wait hurt like crazy, but Garth was grateful for that. You had to be alive to know that it hurt.

“…did you ever get around to having that baby? The last time I saw you, you were big as a barn.” Randy Trotter was a lot of things, but politically correct wasn’t one of them. He was known for putting his lizard-skin Tony Lamas in his mouth, sometimes both of them at once. 

The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America

The Class: A Life-Changing Teacher, His World-Changing Kids, and the Most Inventive Classroom in America

by Heather Won Tesoriero

The ClassHeather Won Tesoriero spent a year in Andy Bramante’s science research classroom. Andy, a former analytic chemist, left the corporate world to become a teacher, to make a difference. He and his students are award-winning, and The Class gives an in-depth look, not at what he does in his classroom as a model for cookie cutter programs across the nation, but at the teacher Andy and how he cares about his students and helps them be independent, creative thinkers in science and in their personal lives.

Andy’s students have to apply to be in his class which is centered around independent research and participation in multiple science fairs. Success in  the science fairs can result in prize monies and affect college admissions. Along the way, the students learn advanced science (often in multiple fields), self-discipline, how to use professional scientific instrumentation, research methodology, and presentation skills.

The students in The Class live in tony and highly competitive Greenwich, Connecticut. Most would be considered nerds and most, but certainly not all, are from upper-class families. Many are children of immigrants and those parents are highly motivated to see their children succeed. Many of these very intelligent teenagers are also talented in other areas such as athletics and music. They will all go to good colleges.

The Class is formatted according to the school year with chapters about various students and Andy as they move through the seasons. We read of the students’ personal struggles as teenagers as well as their attempts to find a topic for research and bring their project to fruition. It doesn’t take long to become engaged in their struggles and begin to root for a good outcome.

This book has widespread appeal partly because the author seems to be invested in the subjects of her writing and makes them come to life. I learned a lot about the current world of college admissions. I must admit that the science involved in many of the projects was beyond the scope of my science background, but was explained well. I recommend The Class and wish Andy and his students well in their future endeavors.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Nonfiction (Adult), Science

Notes: 1. Some casual swearing throughout the book by both teacher and students.

2. The author made several snide slurs about the current presidency. Those remarks seem unnecessary and politically motivated. They are supposed to reflect conversations she heard, but they certainly seemed couched in her language, especially a disparaging comment about the First Lady. A writer selects what to share from the many words and events that pass before her. I think in this case she should have asked herself two questions as she put pen to paper: Is it necessary to tell my story? Is it kind?

Publication:   September 4, 2018—Random House (Ballantine)

Memorable Lines:

Andy would have it no other way. To him, the whole reason he got into the teaching business was to work side by side with kids, to develop the relationships and let the science unfurl in all of its glorious unpredictability.

“All day, we’re telling the kids, do this, read this, use this—and if you don’t, you fail. They need a space where it’s okay to fail.” —Nancy Shwartz, Cos Cob school librarian and creator of Maker Space, a place at her school where creativity is prized

“We’ve moved from education, teaching people how to think, to training, teaching people how to bark on time. And highly structured curriculum and even scripted curriculum in some places—the teacher reads the lesson. Those are not places where someone is being educated. It can’t be… Which is more valuable to the person and to the society? I can memorize something and give it back to you in an orderly fashion, even in a comprehensively well-expressed fashion. Or I can think. To me, it’s not even a call.” —Thomas Forget, Ph.D., professor and Andy’s mentor

Rooted in Deceit–the value of a painting

Rooted in Deceit

by Wendy Tyson

Rooted in DeceitWendy Tyson’s Rooted in Deceit is another stellar cozy mystery in The Greenhouse Mystery Series. Megan is the owner of Washington Acre Farms, a farm that supplies organic produce for her own café and organic store in Winsome as well as several restaurants in Philadelphia. 

Tyson dumps the reader into the story immediately with four major plot pieces. Megan’s mini-enterprise is almost ready to expand as her crew puts the finishing touches on the long awaited pizza farm restaurant. Her father Eddie and his wife of two years, Sylvia, arrive from Milan on business, swirling up lots of emotions and relationship issues. They will be staying in nearby Dartville at Peaceful Summit Yoga Retreat Center and Spa which may be competition for Megan’s café. Thrown into this mix is an artist and middle school friend of Megan’s, Thana Moore, whose work will be on display at the center.

Before you know it, Megan is up to her eyeballs in a murder investigation, without the help of boyfriend, veterinarian Denver, who is called to Scotland when his sister is in a serious accident. Megan has to come to grips with her feelings about her own family past as well as middle school shenanigans that come back to bite her and her former friends.

You’ll enjoy watching the plot unfold as Megan follows various leads. Some go to dead ends and others branch off into new possibilities. There’s never a dull moment in Rooted in Deceit.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss 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: #4 in The Greenhouse Mystery Series, but works as a standalone

Publication:  September 4, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

The day was hot and humid, a soupy late August afternoon that teased a cooling rain but delivered little more than sweat and sunburn.

“You and I both know people do inconceivable things for rational reasons, and conceivable things for irrational reasons. Crime rarely makes sense.”

…the right choice wasn’t always obvious at the time you were forced to make it. Life got complicated.

Kindred Spirits–stolen art with deadly consequences

Kindred Spirits

by Jo Bannister

Kindred SpiritsGabriel Ash, formerly a security analyst with the British government, has recently been released from mental health care. He has opened a second hand book shop, Rambles with Books. He has also been reunited with his two sons after a four year separation as a result of his wife’s illegally taking the boys.  All should be relatively smooth sailing in the Ash household, but that is not the case. Ash’s good friend, Constable Hazel Best, drives to school to pick up the boys, and she sees them and their nanny being accosted in what appears to be a kidnapping attempt.

The plot of Kindred Spirits rapidly becomes complicated as the older boy, Gilbert, insists that only the nanny was being forced into the van. This fast-moving police procedural by Jo Bannister puts on display not only how the police investigate crimes, but also the behind-the-scenes politics. Neither Hazel nor Detective Inspector Dave Gorman are armchair detectives. The same can be said about Ash when those he cares about are personally threatened. All three are motivated by doing what is right. When an old case clashes with the events of a new case, they refuse to turn a blind eye. The results are dangerous, and you won’t want to stop reading until the mystery is resolved.

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, Police Procedural

Notes: #5 in the Hazel Best and Gabriel Ash Mystery Series. This was the first book in the series for me to read, and I had no problem catching up with the background.

Publication:   September 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Perhaps he was the last man in England—the last man in the civilized world—to enjoy the sensation, both sensual and intellectual, of paper pages curling away under his fingers. Of words, and the ideas they encoded, waiting for him to find them—and staying close at hand after he’d read them, in case he needed to flick back a page or two to check something.

She had less and less patience with hard feelings and petty jealousies. She did her job, and did it well; being liked was an optional extra. It wasn’t something that she’d ever struggled with before, but if it came to a choice between being popular and doing what she believed to be right, she had broad shoulders.

Gorman knew that Jerome Harbinger was sixty-eight. If he hadn’t known, he’d have thought he was ten years older than that. His craggy face was savaged by deep lines that had nothing to do with laughter and everything to do with bitter unhappiness.

Meet Me at the Farmers Market–fun event for kids

Meet Me at the Farmers Market

written by Lisa Pelto

illustrated by Paula S. Wallace

Meet Me at the Farmers MarketSophia is seven years old and one of her favorite things to do is to go to the local Farmers Market every weekend with her mom—regardless of the weather and even if they are on vacation. Meet Me at the Farmers Market has appealing, colorful line art created by Paula S. Wallace. Author Lisa Pelto has tapped into the current revived interest in buying local and organic and entertainingly walks children through what it is like to go to a farmers’ market. Sophia meets her friends there, and it is a community event complete with pets and musicians. There are fun things for kids like face painting, balloon animals, and delicious food snacks. Sophia and her mom buy fresh seasonal vegetables, eggs and meat.

This is a fast and easy read that children can enjoy as a read aloud and later read by themselves. It offers many possibilities for discussion about families, friends, community and eating clean and local.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Reading is Key Publishing  (Concierge Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Food

Notes: 

1. Age Range: 3-7 years

    Grades: K-3

2. I wonder if it is typical for animals (besides service animals) to be allowed at a Farmers Market.

Publication:   June 8, 2018—Reading is Key Publishing  (Concierge Marketing)

Memorable Lines:

Mom always tells Farmer Dan, “Your eggs are the freshest, and that’s no yolk!”  Farmer Dan says, “You crack me up! See you next week.”

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