Much Ado About Nutmeg
by Sarah Fox
The Golden Oldies Games have come to Wildwood Cove, and Marley, owner of the pancake house aptly named The Flip Side, anticipates and receives a bustling crowd as tourists and participants and their families converge on the beach town. Marley has excitement in her personal life too as she prepares for her wedding to Brett.
Sarah Fox’s Much Ado About Nutmeg has an interesting plot with several crimes and lots of suspects. Marley’s natural curiosity pulls her into investigating, mostly by interviewing, but that propensity draws her some potentially deadly attention. An enjoyable read, the book’s downside is a little too much description of Marley’s walk on the beach and to work, what she had to eat, and her attentions to her pets in her spare time.
This cozy mystery did not hold a lot of suspense, but its ending was a surprise. I’ll be back to discover how Marley’s life changes with marriage and if it dampens her enthusiasm for sleuthing.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #6 in the Pancake House Mystery Series, but the author provides background information so it is good as a standalone.
2. Recipes included for scones and waffles
Publication: January 14, 2020—Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)
I floated on my back for a few minutes, rising and falling with the waves. For the first time since I’d learned Yvonne was murdered, I relaxed and my racing thoughts slowed down. That was the magic of the ocean and Wildwood Beach. No other place brought me such peace.
Her determination was eerily familiar. I’d have as much luck keeping her out of the investigation as I would keeping myself out of it.
“We both know my reputation. I would have ended up looking into things even if you hadn’t asked me to. I’m drawn to mysteries like a moth to a flame.”
by Marie Benedict
I had to work hard as I read Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict to differentiate my feelings about Clementine Churchill as the wife of a historical figure, Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of England during World War II, and Clementine, a character of historical fiction fleshed out by the author based on background information. In this book, which was both interesting and informative, I struggled because I just didn’t like Clementine. The story of her fight to be a changing force in a time when women had no power seems genuine, but I just could not identify with her inner turmoils. Part of her stress is a result of the “poor little rich girl” syndrome. For example, she complains multiple times of the difficulties of trying to live the rich life style her husband’s rank and tastes demand while on a limited budget and with an inadequate number of domestic servants. My biggest moment of disgust was when, for her nerves, she has to get away from it all for an extended retreat by herself at a facility in France and bemoans the fact that she can only afford to take her personal maid with her to care for her needs. She has to leave the rest of the domestics at home to care for the house, Winston, and the children. I realize that as I am not part of the aristocracy, understanding her dilemma is a reach for me, but I find it ironic that Clementine focuses much of her time and energy on helping women who can’t take fifteen minutes to themselves much less several months. The part I can empathize with is her struggle to balance efforts to promote and aid her husband with her own self-efficacy and the responsibilities of her family. Her family, except for her youngest daughter Mary, turn out to be the losers in this battle.
Although not a page turner, Lady Clementine is well written and prompts me to want to read some nonfiction about the Churchills. There is no doubt that they played a pivotal role in the defeat of the Nazis in World War II. If I don’t find them very likable, despite the more intimate conversations between them as “Pug” and “Cat,” the fault may be that they are both politicians, but in different ways. Politicians, in general, are self-concerned, and Winston and Clementine live that out in the pages of this book. They do good works but are always concerned about how those works reflect back on them.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Historical Fiction
Publication: January 7, 2020—Sourcebooks Landmark
“Since I was a young boy, I’ve had the unerring sense that my future and that of Great Britain were inextricably intertwined. That I would be called upon to rescue our nation in a time of tremendous turmoil.”
My husband’s discerning eye perceives all but the threats standing right in front of him, and it seems that I may have to serve as the sentinel of his personal landscape and the gatekeeper of our shared ideals and our marriage.
If he had slapped me, I could not have been more wounded. He only thinks about my identity and my worth in terms of the possessive, in terms of what I mean and what I do for him. I realize for the first time how dependent I’ve been on Winston for his admiration and how reliant I am for his permission to assume my own power, even if it is power derived from his own. No longer.
A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter
by Melinda Curtis
When Aiden, known as “Spider” in his Hot Shot crew, has a little R & R in Las Vegas, he follows his usual pattern of “love ’em and leave ’em” with a beautiful woman. When Becca, whose biological clock is ticking, searches out the casinos and bars in the same city for a baby daddy, she thinks she has found the perfect voluntary and unwitting sperm donor in Aiden, a handsome and charming younger man. He need never know the consequences of his one night stand.
When Aiden and a very pregnant Becca meet up again, he doesn’t recognize her, and she absolutely does not want him to discover she is carrying a child he helped to create. Obviously their relationship is at the center of Melinda Curtis’ A Baby for the Mountain Firefighter, but there are other major threads woven into the plot. Aiden’s family life as a child was less than stellar and Becca, a Fire Behavior Analyst, has personal reasons for her emotional involvement in each fire. This romance includes a lot of insight into the movement of mountain forest fires, the dangers involved, and the expertise of the various crews and their responsibilities. The struggles of women in that male dominated field are also highlighted.
This was a quick read with a predictable and hoped for ending. The fun of the book was watching the characters work through their issues both personally and professionally and discovering their motivations. There are some exciting adventures as fires are fought in Idaho, but the dangers are experienced from the safety of the reader’s armchair.
I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in The Mountain Firefighter Series but works well as a standalone.
Publication: April 20, 2020—Purple Papaya
The new fire toyed with the Hot Shots for only a moment before bending across their six-foot-wide break and igniting a fresh blaze on the opposite side with a heated kiss.
There was a difference on the fire line between being brave and being stupid. Jack hadn’t learned that difference, had probably never scrambled up a steep slope praying that he could outrun the fiery dragon at his heels. To him, being cautious was a sign of weakness.
“It was an accident. Patience is a virtue of good leaders and good parents.” She berated him as if she were his second-grade teacher, appalled that he’d eaten paste.
by Sheila Connolly
Maura Donovan is as American as can be until she inherits a pub, house, and assorted pasture lands in Ireland from an Irish friend of her grandmother’s. In Fatal Roots by Sheila Connolly, Maura has lived in Ireland about a year and is becoming comfortable with her new country, role of ownership, and relationship with her boyfriend Mick and other new friends in the small town in Cork.
Life gets more complicated for Maura when Ciara, a post graduate student in archaeology shows up on her doorstep requesting permission to examine Maura’s early Irish fairy forts. Maura doesn’t know where her various acreages lie and doesn’t know what a fairy fort is or anything about the superstitions surrounding them. In the process of rolling out this tale, there is a grizzly discovery, Maura’s mother who abandoned her as a child comes to Cork on business bringing Maura’s half sister, and Maura makes changes to the pub so she can sell food.
Throw in Mick’s grandmother Bridgett and Old Billy who lives above the pub and you have a good basis for a plot. I liked the story, but repetition hampered the enjoyment for me. I had to hear over and over again of Maura’s background, the Irish attitude toward fairy forts, Maura’s angst about…everything—her family, her relationship with Mick, superstitions, decisions about kitchen remodeling, the student archaeologists. The plot was wrapped up nicely, and the epilogue provided emotional closure for characters that I really liked. I also enjoyed learning about fairy forts, which are a mystery in themselves and go by many names.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #8 in the County Cork Mystery Series
Publication: January 7, 2019—Crooked Lane Books
But it was beginning to seem like any time anything happened, it was like scraping off the present to see pieces of the past.
“I could show yeh, but it really doesn’t have an address.” “Neither does my place. So far it’s ‘the cottage halfway up the hill, past the yellow cottage. If you reach the piggery you’ve gone too far.’ This is all so not like Boston.”
Life was too short, with too many unexpected twists and turns, to wait for the one perfect moment, if there even was such a thing.
Theater Nights Are Murder
by Libby Klein
Poppy, a plus size single in her forties, and her Aunt Ginny, a red-headed octogenarian with all kinds of spunk, are the main characters in Theater Nights Are Murder. There is a huge cast of supporting characters sporting lots of quirks. Topping the list are Gia, an Italian barista, and Tim, a chef with romantic ties to Poppy’s youth; both men are vying for Poppy’s heart, and six months after her move back to her hometown, she remains indecisive. Also, front and center, are the “biddies,” friends of Aunt Ginny who manage to get into all kinds of trouble. Figaro, her cat, has a mind of his own and has free run of the Victorian house the two ladies are trying to convert into a Bed and Breakfast. As a pastry chef, Poppy divides her time between Gia’s coffee shop, Tim’s restaurant, and her own B&B.
As if friends, family, and business are not enough to keep Poppy busy, author Libby Klein immerses her and the biddies in the senior center’s production of Momma Mia, starring Royce, an aging, homegrown, Shakespearean star. The plot of this cozy is complicated by old rivalries, reignited loves, and mysterious men who appear in the audience during practices. All is fun until one of the cast members falls to his death from a catwalk. Is it a suicide, an accident, or murder?
The biddies are so funny as they investigate, bringing in Sponge Bob walkie talkies and applying tips they have picked up from Murder She Wrote and other television shows. Meanwhile, trolls are scattering bad reviews under various names across social media. They focus on criticizing Poppy’s pastries at all three establishments while actual demand for the goodies and praise at the restaurants remain consistently high. A frustrated Poppy has no idea how to stop the false reviews, uncover a murderer, or solve her love dilemma.
Theater Nights Are Murder is packed with fun situations and dialogue. The plot and quirky characters will keep you turning the pages to help out the likable, down to earth, pastry chef who ironically is confined to gluten free treats. Throughout this cozy mystery, Aunt Ginny and her pals prove that octogenarians can enjoy fun, romance, and some senior humor at their own expense.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #4 in the Poppy McAllister Mystery Series, but OK as a standalone as the author fills you in as you read.
2. Recipes are included at the end of the book.
Publication: December 3, 2019—Kensington Books
I was a little stunned, the way Miss Piggy was a little self-involved.
I can barely control myself, let alone a group of stubborn biddies who have their minds made up. In their heads, those ladies were conducting an FBI sting rivaling that of capturing Osama Bin Laden, and they were going to get their man.
The peachy-pink glow is a bouquet of empty promises of warmth and comfort mocked by the frigid wind blowing off the Atlantic Ocean. Even the seagulls sit with their wings wrapped around themselves, too disgruntled by the cold to dive-bomb passersby for potential smackerals.
Sell Low, Sweet Harriet
by Sherry Harris
When Alicia Arbas was murdered, the Fitch Air Force Base community turned out in support, including Sarah Winston who only knew her in passing. To Sarah’s surprise, she is recruited by Pellner who works for the local Ellington Police Dept. and Special Agent Bristol, an investigator with the Air Force OSI, to keep her ears open to any talk around base that might help them solve Alicia’s murder.
As the ex-wife of an Air Force security officer, Sarah still volunteers at the base thrift store and has maintained some of her social contacts. She also has been involved in informally investigating other local crimes.
Sell Low, Sweet Harriet is a cozy mystery with lots of fascinating threads. Sarah has a garage/estate sale business and in this book is hired to sell off goods that belong to former CIA agents who recently passed away in a faulty gas line accident. The house is full of interesting items from their travels around the world. so while Sarah is involved in a murder investigation and a mid-winter estate sale, she is trying to pinpoint her feelings for District Attorney boyfriend Seth and help her friend and landlady Stella with her relationship with an enforcement officer whom Sarah has nicknamed “Awesome.” Mike Titone, a mobster has also complicated her life by moving into the other apartment on her floor—again.
This mystery moves quickly; the characters are interesting. I hated to get to the end although I enjoyed the surprise. I want to see this series continue, but I am a little concerned about the direction it may take. Sarah makes it clear that as time passes, she has fewer genuine connections to the Air Force base. I wonder if the author will continue to rely on these tenuous connections or focus on Sarah’s new relationships and her business. I like Sarah because, despite various personal digs and a betrayal, she takes the high road, never seeking revenge.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: 1. #8 in The Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries, but works quite well as a standalone.
2. Includes tips for holding a winter garage sale.
Publication: December 31, 2019—Kensington Books
And every time someone opened the door the wind nipped at my ankles like an overenthusiastic puppy.
“It’s hard enough to feel judged when it’s just you, but then worrying about tanking your husband’s career too? It feels like you’re walking a minefield of rules no one gave you.”
Pellner’s expression didn’t change. He kept his cop face locked and loaded. I thought his dimples deepened just a bit, but his impassiveness was impressive.
Matchmaking Can Be Murder
by Amanda Flower
Already familiar with the little town of Harvest through Amanda Flower’s Amish Candy Shop Mystery Series, I was a a little confused when I found myself in a familiar town, but with a new main character, Millie. Then I remembered that Matchmaking Can Be Murder is the first in a new series. Many of the characters in the first series, which focuses on Bailey, an Englisch candy maker are back in this series. The new series features a sixty-seven year old Amish woman with a knack for knowing if two people are compatible. She returns home after years of caring for Amish kin in various communities.
Harvest is a mixed community with its Amish and Englisch citizens getting along fairly well. It is interesting to learn more about the Amish while watching their interactions with their non-Amish friends and neighbors. Especially fun is the reunion of Millie with her childhood friend Lois, a gregarious lady who has had a lot of husbands and is quite outspoken. Her clothing and jewelry are as eye-catching as Millie’s style of dress is plain. Lois makes many references to contemporary technologies and cultural icons that go right past Millie. More humor is found in the trained goat duo of Phillip and Peter who are Millie’s pets, guard goats, and lawn keepers.
Although Millie is the main character, the mystery centers around her niece Edy, a young widow with three children, whose fiancée is discovered dead in her greenhouse shortly after she breaks off the engagement. Millie and Lois attempt to discover who murdered Zeke, but they uncover more crime and convoluted personal relationships than they could ever have predicted.
It is interesting watching Millie in action as she tries to find out the truth while staying within the limits of what is right. She and Lois have to work at keeping each other in check and out of trouble. A nice touch is the author’s inclusion of Amish proverbs as they come to Millie throughout her day. I enjoy the Amish Candy Shop Mysteries, but this spinoff series is even better!
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.
Notes: The first book in the Amish Matchmaking Mystery Series, it is a spinoff but it is not necessary to read the series it came from.
Publication: December 31, 2019—Kensington Books
Sometimes it worked to a person’s advantage to be friends with the biggest gossip in the district. I just had to feed Raellen the right information, and she would take care of the rest.
…”they can only fully commit to the Amish life when they know what the Englisch one is like. If they see the way the rest of the world lives and then commit to our ways, they are more likely to stay here.”
There was no way to rebuild what was shattered, but what we could make was something brand-new, something that was different but stronger than before. That’s what I hoped for the very most.
This Road We Traveled
by Jane Kirkpatrick
The wilds of the western United States were conquered by the strengths, sacrifices, and sometimes deaths of women as well as men who left the security of their homes for adventure and, for some, a better life. Women often made the dangerous journey solely because their husbands made that decision for them. Women of that day had no vote and no right to apply for the free land being apportioned in Oregon. Oftentimes heart wrenching decisions were made for them, leaving them to trust in God for the consequences.
Jane Kirkpatrick researched the history of Tabitha Brown carefully and then brought her story to life in a fictional account of her actual travels from Missouri to Oregon in 1846. Never wanting to be dependent on her grown children, or perhaps because her independent nature carved from early widowhood drew wedges between her and her sons, Tabitha (Tabby) took responsibility for her decision to accompany part of her family on a harrowing journey and also care for her elderly brother-in-law on this long and dangerous trip.
This Road We Traveled gives insight into the physical, emotional, and spiritual struggles the various characters endure as seen through the eyes of Tabby, her daughter Pherne, and Pherne’s daughter Virgilia. These three generations of women are united in their love for God, family, and each other. Each struggles with different challenges and their characters are formed in the forge of the many tests they endure.
Kirkpatrick is a skilled storyteller cycling through the main characters’ points of view revealing the events occurring in each life without getting bogged down in any one character’s difficulties. None of the issues are simple, varying from choosing the correct fork in the road to discovering God’s will for the future. One woman dealt with reining in her tongue so that her words matched the kindness in her heart. Another struggled with the importance of possessions, and the third had difficulties with friendships.
The pacing of the plot is good and the characters are well developed. Although there are many Christian themes emphasizing moral choices, the book is not about a cookie cutter religion; the characters have various attitudes about their relationship with God and how they should live out their faith. The author describes the desert landscape, the treacherous mountain passes, and the homes, both humble and more luxurious with equal skill. Slavery, an issue that is being stiltedly worked out during that time period, crops up several times. The various Indian tribes are not stereotyped. Some are quite generous to the travelers who are in the throes of desperation and others are violent and aggressive. Politics also play a role as the U.S. is afraid the British will cut off routes in the west.
This Road We Traveled brings to life an important part of history. Tabitha was a real person who actually made this journey at the age of 66. She had hardships on the journey and went on to help many in the state of Oregon which publicly acknowledges her contributions with the title “Mother of Oregon.” I learned a lot about her life, travels in the 1840’s to the west, and the difficulties of settling into a new community. Tabby’s story is an inspiration, and I am grateful to Kirkpatrick for sharing it.
Category: Christian, Historical Fiction
Notes: 1.Questions for discussion are included.
2. I read this book as the first book chosen for a book club newly formed by friends at church and held via Zoom meetings. I think the consensus was that we all enjoyed the book. There was plenty of depth for discussion on a variety of topics.
Publication: September 6, 2016—Revell
“Your sadness, your anger at Orus, at me, those are losses reaching out like the gnarled hands of Shakespeare’s witches. They seek something to hold on to, but there is only air.”
Oh, she’d prayed and asked for guidance but didn’t see the clarity she would have liked. Some choices were like that. God left her to step into uncertainty. She guessed that’s where faith grew strongest.
“In the end, things don’t really matter. We think they do, but they don’t. What matters is keeping those we love alive.”
Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book
by Nelda Hoyt Banek
The chronological scope of the Bible is huge, spanning approximately 4,228 years. Have you ever wished for a collection of Bible stories that covers that length of time completely and deals with the complexities of the Bible in an understandable way? Obviously a labor of love, the Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book by Nelda Hoyt Banek is just such a book. At 649 pages, it is a large volume containing 312 stories and over 270 incredibly detailed engravings from 19th century folios. Until you actually examine the format, it can seem overwhelming, but it has an exceptional structure which can be used by individuals, in family units, or by schools as a complete curriculum. Parents who homeschool could use this for the Biblical portion of their curriculum. If the book is used cyclically as children mature, students will glean new knowledge each time they are exposed to the stories and discuss the truths found therein.
The introduction provides tips for sharing the stories with preschoolers in a family setting. A special mark divides longer stories into two more manageable pieces. Families can expect to read through the book in two years. Classrooms could cover the material in three years of 36 weeks per school year. In both instances, the pace would be one section every day for four days a week.
I have been personally studying the story of Joseph’s life, so I chose to closely examine those passages in the Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book. The dysfunctional family story and the first mention of Joseph are found in story #21, but the first story that focuses on Joseph is #25, “Joseph Sold into Egypt,” based on Genesis 37. The Scriptural reference for each story is noted at the beginning of the account. A handy, but not intrusive, pronunciation guide is included at the bottom of pages for each story. There are eight stories dealing with Joseph. They are all well-written and true to the Scriptures from which they are drawn in Genesis.
Because the storybook is arranged chronologically, the next story concerns Job and is taken, of course, from the book of Job, but also from Ezekiel and James in an effort to place this account in the larger context of the whole Bible. The next story returns to Exodus with the tale of Moses’ birth.
In order to create a full curriculum for Christian schools or Sunday Schools, Nelda Banek has also created a series of workbooks for student use. The workbooks for grades K5-3 are called Bible Story Lessons. Scripture Studies are intended for 4th grade through adult learners. Upon examination of the workbooks, you can see that the curriculum is, indeed, rich and the lessons could be repeated in a two or three year cycle. There are six workbooks for each age range.
I am pleased that the student workbooks include both the story and the followup questions for discussion that comprise the large hardback storybook. That inclusion adds a lot of flexibility and support to teacher and learner. The activities in the appropriately named Scripture Studies are, as they should be, more advanced and complex than those found in Bible Story Lessons. I do think the teacher of younger students within both age ranges for each workbook would need to provide some support in completing the activities while the older students in each age range would be able to work more independently depending on their reading levels and experiences with Bible study.
My survey of Bible Story Lessons (Book A: Creation to Sinai and Job) revealed a variety of interesting activities. As an example, the workbook activities for the Joseph stories are a dot to dot, word search, matching descriptions with pictures, hidden words, fill in the blanks, secret letter puzzle, and color by description. All would serve to reinforce the information provided by the stories.
Looking at Scripture Studies (Book E: Nativity to Zacchaeus), I surveyed the activities for the first six lessons which cover Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2. Activities for these older students send the learner to the Bible to explore the original text for a variety of interesting fill in the blank activities. These activities help the student to delve more deeply into the Scriptures as the source of information and to understand the theological implications of the stories. The illustrations found in the hardback book are also included in the workbooks and sometimes are a part of the activities.
The end of Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book includes notes, a chart of the kings and prophets, index of proper names, timeline of Biblical history, illustration of the Tabernacle, the marching order of the tribes and depiction of their camping locations, four maps, and a list of resources. All of these are helpful aids for students of God’s word. According to the author in describing the curriculum: “Teacher’s guides are available for each book in these series, containing instructions for pacing the curriculum, the reprinted stories, an answer key to the student worksheets, discussion and short-answer review questions, review game ideas, and memory work suggestions.”
I taught in a Christian school for two years before I entered the public school arena. I would have loved to use this curriculum with my students. Having taught grades K-adult in my thirty-four years as an educator, I can attest that this is a well thought out curriculum by an author who is both a Biblical scholar and professional educator. More importantly, as I peruse its pages, I can tell that it was prayerfully constructed to provide teachers and parents with a tool that lays out the whole story of mankind in a Biblical perspective from the creation and fall of humanity to redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I highly recommend the Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book for anyone wishing to read an easily understandable overview of the Bible through engaging stories or to teach Biblical truths to others in the same way. The workbooks are an excellent addition to help students focus on the facts of the stories and dig deeper into the Scriptures.
I would like to extend my thanks to the author, Nelda Hoyt Banek, for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Nonfiction, Christian, Religion, Theology
Notes: 1. For best pricing, I suggest you contact the publisher at www.aelfredrex.com.
2. Suggested ages:
Ælfred Rex Bible Story Book—all ages
Bible Story Lesson (workbook)—Ages 5-9
Scripture Studies (workbook)—Ages 9-13
Publication: September 1, 2014—Ælfred Rex Publications
Sample Quotes Taken from Joseph’s Story:
As they ate, they saw a caravan of Ishmaelite and Midianite traders coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing spices, balm, and myrrh to sell in Egypt. Judah said to his brothers, “What do we get out of killing our brother secretly? Let us sell him to the Ishmaelites. He is our brother and our own flesh. Let us not hurt him ourselves.”
Then Potiphar was angry, and he put Joseph in the king’s prison. But the Lord was with Joseph there, too, and caused the keeper of the prison to look on him with favor. The prison keeper gave Joseph charge of all the other prisoners. He did not have to check up on anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him. Whatever Joseph did, the Lord made it prosper.