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Monthly Archives: October 2018

Academic Curveball–knocking this cozy out of the park

Academic Curveball

by James J. Cudney

Academic CurveballAcademic Curveball is the first cozy mystery in the newly created Braxton Campus Mystery Series by James J. Cudney. Although not alone in having a male author and a male protagonist, this book is outside the norm for the typical cozy. He effectively flips the scenario from female main character, either supported or opposed by a male law enforcement figure, to a male character standing in opposition to a female sheriff. He also has a mixed relationship with his former best friend who is currently director of security at Braxton college.

Academic Curveball has a very complicated plot. The reader must attend closely to all potential clues as Kellan, assistant director of a TV reality show, evaluates them and follows the leads to discover the murderer in a case that involves secrets of all kinds from romantic to political. He does his amateur sleuthing while trying to reestablish family ties and old friendships, working his primary job, filling in for a murdered professor, and doing some long distance single parenting.

With interesting characters and tangled motives galore, Academic Curveball is set in a college town. His father is the president of the college and his mother is in charge of admissions. A favorite character for most readers will be sassy Nana D whose repartee with Kellan provides humor, but she is lively and sharp and should not be overlooked as fluff. There is a baseball theme along with focuses on politics, both in the town and at the college. Just when you think all the balls have been recovered, there is one last curveball that will surprise you and make you wish January and the publication of the second book in the series, Broken Heart Attack, would come quickly.

I would like to extend my thanks to author James J. Cudney and to Creativia for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #1 in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series

Publication: October 15, 2018—Creativia

Memorable Lines:

Nana D indicated she’d rather spend an afternoon with her mouth crammed full of lemon wedges, her fingers pricked by a thousand tiny needles, and her feet glued inside a bumblebee’s nest than attend another Braxton event for my father.

It would be an interesting discussion with my father when he graciously stepped off his high horse and spoke to me again.

Wisps of gray shot out in all directions underneath a furry blue hat three-sizes too big on her frail and wrinkled head.

Murder by Suggestion–murder is no joking matter

Murder by Suggestion

by Veronica Heley

Murder by SuggestionA group of neglected wives at the country club joke around about ways to kill off their husbands. They find it amusing until deaths start occurring. Who really wants these men dead and why? And why do the men respond to the jokes so passionately? Author Veronica Heley weaves a fascinating story in Murder by Suggestion as Ellie Quicke again finds herself in the middle of a mystery that brings uninvited houseguests and more than a little danger into her quiet and comfortable home. Her daughter Diana is at the center of the chaos, and she is responding to her problems with no grace and even less charm. It is all Ellie can do to not attack her own daughter in response to her insulting and outrageous behavior. Diana, never an easy person, seems outside the realm of reason until she discloses the cause of her extreme behavior.

Heley writes in such a way that as you finish one chapter you really must start the next. I love it when a book is that engaging. Another interesting aspect of this book is that the setting is almost entirely in Ellie’s home. The action comes to her: she talks to people and sorts out the who’s, how’s and why’s. Although there are a lot of major characters, it was easy for me to keep them straight along with their marital partners. All in all, another successful mystery in this excellent series.

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: #19 in the Ellie Quicke Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone

Publication:   October 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Dear Lord above. What a mess. I know you are here as well as in church. I haven’t time to tell you all that’s been happening. Oh, how stupid I am. You know, anyway, don’t you? Any words of wisdom for me?

“It may be raining outside. You’ve had a bad time today and the future is uncertain, but you are all here, safe and sound. Take the time to rest and recover. Be thankful for the meal. Let tomorrow bring what it will. Tonight you are among friends.”

Somehow or other she had to get to the bottom of this tangled skein of motives, or someone else would die.

Getting Old Can Hurt You–light, humorous, senior mystery

Getting Old Can Hurt You

 by Rita Lakin

Getting Old Can Hurt YouThis is my first opportunity to read a book in the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency Mystery Series. I found it amusing, but not hilarious. The main characters in Getting Old Can Hurt You by Rita Lakin are a group of seniors who consider themselves a detective gang under the leadership of Gladdy. Just as young people are not all alike, neither are these seniors. They run the gamut from down to earth to not quite all there. They are generally up for an adventure even if it is limited by arthritis, pee breaks, and walkers and canes.

A long-lost granddaughter arrives at the senior apartments looking for the grandmother she hates. It seems, however, that she has other plans in mind besides reconnecting with her grandmother. Having survived a difficult childhood, she travels across the country to solve her personal mystery, hiding the fact that she is being followed. Will Gladdy’s gang be able to help her? They are determined to try!

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #8 in the Gladdy Gold Detective Agency Mystery Series. I had no problem understanding the story as a standalone, but readers might enjoy it more with additional background on the characters.

Publication:  October 1, 2018—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

We know we’re all in the checkout line for the big deli in the sky, but until then we are totally involved in the Gladdy Gold detective agency. Our motto, “Never Trust Anyone Under Seventy-Five.” Senior Sleuths to Senior Citizen. Our slogan—“We Take Care of Our Own.”

Lola never says much when Hy’s around. There’s only room for one ego.

“When I got older I found my happy hobby. Stealing do-re-mi to help old folks who needed surgery.” Sophie adds, gushing, “You were so good at it. Loved the plastic gun in the pastrami sandwiches.” Izzy blushes, pleased with the compliment. He shrugs. “Jail time reformed me finally, and now you’re caught up. Here I am. I’m looking into another happy hobby.”

Treacherous is the Night–once a spy, always a spy?

Treacherous is the Night

by Anna Lee Huber

Treacherous is the NightAlthough the Great War is over, no one is over the Great War in Anna Lee Huber’s Treacherous is the Night. Every family has been affected by the huge number of fatalities and the return of badly wounded soldiers. Civilians carry the memories of deprivation and on the continent all live daily in the midst of destruction and rebuilding.  For Verity Kent, the end of the war means reunion with a husband long thought dead and the end of her dangerous stint as a spy. Verity is dragged back into the aftermath of the war when she is an unwilling participant in a séance that is an obvious hoax. 

Verity and her husband are trying to sort out their difficult relationship, but manage to put their struggle aside to solve the mystery, decipher codes, and discover who is lying. Huber does an excellent job of putting the reader in the timeframe right after the end of the war, and she reveals the horrors of war without being graphic. She portrays Verity as a woman restricted by the times she lives in, but capable and competent to achieve so much more than is expected from a woman in that period.

I enjoyed Treacherous is the Night and would like to read the first book in the series for more background and to experience Verity’s previous adventures.

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: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Verity Kent Series, but acceptable as a standalone.

Publication:   September 25, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

We might be incapable as of late at discussing anything of importance, but as well-educated upperclass Brits, we could always rely upon our proficiency at inane small talk. After all, we’d been drilled in it since the cradle.

But in my estimation, he was naught but an officious pig, no offense to the swine.

“…the truth is war is hell on everyone who falls near its angry maw. The actions you take thinking to spare the innocent or inexperienced can just as easily cause their destruction, simply because the world is turned so bloody upside down.”

Stowing Away with the Vikings–learn history from a graphic novel

Stowing Away with the Vikings

written by Linda Bailey

illustrated by Bill Slavin

Stowing Away with the VikingsAuthor Linda Bailey takes us back in time to the Age of the Vikings in her graphic novel Stowing Away with the Vikings. The Binkerton children have been avoiding the Good Times Travel Agency ever since their surprise trip to Ancient Egypt, but a hailstorm leads young Libby to shelter near the shop door, owner Julian T. Pettigrew offers a guidebook to the Vikings, and the rest, as they say, is history. Stowing Away with the Vikings is a delightful way to learn things about the Vikings that Hollywood will never tell you. Part fiction (the Binkerton storyline) and part nonfiction (clearly delineated explanations accompanying the storyline), this graphic novel is all fun and fascination. Bill Slavin’s pictures in comic style are perfect for entertaining, moving the story along, and illustrating the facts.

This book will delight children as they immerse themselves in history. Just as children reread comic books until the covers fall off, kids will want to reread this book absorbing the information about a culture that no longer exists but has affected our own. Although the author honestly discusses the violence of the Viking way of life, there is no depiction of murder. The Binkerton storyline contains a lot of humor that children and adults will appreciate. I learned a lot from this graphic novel and had a great time reading it. I recommend it for homes, classrooms, and libraries. 

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Comic & Graphic Novel

Notes: Grade level—3-7

  Age Range—8-12 years

The Time Travel Guides as a series is being republished by a new publisher. Upcoming books to be released are: On the Run in Ancient China and Game on in Ancient Greece

Publication:   October 2, 2018—Kids Can Press

Memorable Lines:

Does it seem a bit smoky in here? Hazy? Dark? Look around. There are no windows—just a hole in the thatched roof to let out the smoke. The only light comes from oil lamps. P.S. I hope you like fishy smells. The oil in those lamps comes from fish or whales.

Viking laws aren’t written down, so somebody has to remember them. That’s why they have the law-speaker, a man who memorizes all the laws and shouts them out loud for everyone to hear.

The word  “berserk” means bearskin. Berserkers are the most feared of all Viking warriors. Before going into battle, they get into a fighting rage. They howl like wolves. They leap like dogs. They grind their teeth and bite the edges of their shields…Have you ever heard the expression “going berserk”? Where do you think it came from?

My Real Name is Hanna–extremes of human behavior

My Real Name is Hanna

by Tara Lynn Masih

My Real Name is HannaMy Real Name is Hanna is the story of a Jewish girl and her family who live under horrible circumstances in Ukraine to escape death at the hand of the Nazis and others. This book by Tara Lynn Masih has much potential. Many parts of the survival tale are drawn from the story of a real family that had to live underground. The first part of the book bounces around a little and then settles down into a sequential tale. Although it is a sad story, I didn’t really find myself emotionally involved with any of the characters. Parts of the narrative got my attention, such as when family members were in danger. I wanted to see them survive, but mainly I wanted the book to be over.

The author uses words from other languages freely. I like the authenticity of that but I would have appreciated a glossary, and I think young people would find that helpful as well. The area the family lives in has been occupied by many countries so there are competing cultures and languages—Jewish, Polish, Ukrainian, Russian, and German.

I actually found the “Historical Notes” at the end of the book more interesting than the book itself. Unfortunately, the author includes her own political stance on current events in these historical notes. If she wants to put forth these ideas in her book, I would suggest she do it in an editorial type section separate from a discussion of the historical basis of the book. Like the author, I hope the day will come when we don’t need reminders of the Holocaust as cautionary tales against cruelty. I don’t think, however, that it is appropriate to use her historical notes as a platform for indoctrinating young people into her political views. The story should stand on its own merits, and young people are capable of reading the book and making their own moral conclusions.

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Teens

Notes: Interest Level—Ages 12 and up

Grade Level 10-12

Publication:   September 25, 2018—Mandel Vilar Press

Memorable Lines:

I see in my mind again those posters in the window, the big red letters, the lice, the blaming of Jews for the war. Someday, someone will betray us. For money, for food, for their own lives spared.

I can now hear what sounds like heavy boots approaching the house from down the lane, grinding the dirt and gravel with their murderous purpose.

When you’re hidden away, with no freedom, you crave news of the outside world as much as you crave food.

Academic Curveball: ARC – Read/Review Series Debut

Looking forward to reading this author’s first cozy mystery. The sample dialogue is great.

Premeditated Peppermint–another cooking reality show?

Premeditated Peppermint

by Amanda Flower

Premeditated PeppermintI passed on the first two books in this series as the idea of a cozy mystery themed around an Amish candy shop just didn’t sound like it had enough excitement and pizazz for me. Then I read a few books by this author, Amanda Flower, from a different series and realized I should give the Amish Candy Shop Series a try. I’m glad I did.

Bailey, an Englischer, moves from New York City to help her Amish grandmother with the family candy shop. As Bailey, her grandmother, and cousin Charlotte get ready to display their peppermint themed goodies at the town’s Christmas Market, Bailey’s former boyfriend Eric, a pastry chef, invades the town of Harvest with a television crew. His motives are mixed and at odds with the Amish beliefs and traditions. The quiet town is soon upended by a murder. Is the murderer a local or one of the big city imports?

In Premeditated Peppermint, as Bailey tries to solve the mystery, we meet an interesting group of locals. Aiden is a deputy sheriff and he and Bailey seem drawn to each other. His mother, Juliet, is a hoot as she divides her time and attention between her adorable pot-bellied pig Jethro and possibilities of a romance for the young couple. Margot is on the town council and manages to keep everyone stirred up with exciting plans to promote the town. Emily is a young Amish girl with family difficulties. The Keims have a Christmas tree farm. There are an assortment of other characters who fill out the story.

This is not a purely Amish story. The Amish customs are contrasted with those of their Englischer neighbors. There are even mixed families, and the problems that causes are evident. At appropriate times, there is snowfall and it is easy to visualize rural Ohio and sense the frigid temperatures. Although not a cliffhanger all the way through, it doesn’t need to be. There is plenty of interest in solving the crime and in the personal relationships to keep the story going. The ending surprised me.

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. #3 in the Amish Candy Shop Series, but I had no problem following the story as a standalone

  2. Recipe for Peppermint Bark included

Publication:  September 25, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

People in the big cities are craving a simpler country life even if they wouldn’t last more that three seconds outside their area code.

“It’s all here…The charming small town, the sense of community and family. Second chances at love. You know, the feel-good family stuff that TV watchers like to gobble up while ignoring their own families.”

“…there are Amish who get in trouble too, just like there are English who get in trouble. There is no cultural escape from trouble.”

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