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by Sarah Fox
Good, but not excellent—that’s how I rate Crêpe Expectations by Sarah Fox. Unlike the other two cozy mysteries I have read by this author, I just didn’t find this to be a page turner. Despite that, I do plan on reading the next book Sarah Fox publishes.
In this book, Marley McKinney, owner of the Flip Side pancake house, spends her spare time trying to solve a cold case after she discovers a skull in the woods near the Wildwood Inn, a B&B that is about to open. Demetria, who disappeared when she was eighteen years old after a party, was assumed to be in New York starting a modeling career. So even the original investigation was delayed. At the same time she is investigating the murder, Marley is trying to discover who sabotaged the local amateur chef competition by making several contestants sick. Could the crimes be related?
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.
Notes: #5 in the Pancake House Mystery Series but the author brings the reader up to speed even as she starts the action of the current plot.
Publication: May 28, 2019— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)
Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas
I had a blast reading Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas. Author and illustrator Juana Medina, like the main character in her book, is from Bogotá, Columbia. I know some bilingual teachers who would be uncomfortable with the code switching in this book; I love it. For me, inserting some Spanish words in places where the context or illustrations make the word meanings plain adds color and flavor to this chapter book written mainly in English.
Juana, her Mami, and her dog Lucas have an almost perfect life together. They have a routine and a support group of family and friends that keep them happy. Things start to change when Mami gets a new hairstyle and starts wearing more perfume. The new man in Mami’s life is Luis, an architect. Juana likes him but she doesn’t want things to change, and she doesn’t want Mami and Luis to get married. We learn about Juana’s dad who passed away and about the sadness of not having a father. We share in the characters’ preparations for the wedding and the move. All of this is portrayed sensitively, but also with humor. The illustrations fit the book well.
I learned about a favorite Columbian soup, ajiaco. It is creamy and made of several types of potatoes that cook to various consistencies. It has corn on the cob, capers, chicken, sour cream, and herbs, and is topped with a slice of avocado. The other unfamiliar food to me is chocolate con queso. This special treat consists of hot chocolate with chunks of cheese—chihuahua, queso fresco, or mozzarella. Evidently it is a delight of sweet and salty and is served with bread. I’m ready for a trip to Columbia!
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Candlewick for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
Publication: May 14, 2019—Candlewick
The county fair is the setting for Annette Dashofy’s mystery Fair Game. It is part cozy and part police procedural. Fair Game is a page turner with two murders and several viable suspects. Complications keep arising as EMT and deputy coroner Zoe Chambers has duty at the county fair where she is also showing her quarter horse. Some of the crimes occur in neighboring jurisdictions so her boyfriend Pete Adams, police chief in Vance Township, Pennsylvania, as well as several other law enforcement colleagues are called in.
Threads include 4-Hers, a family with a child in rehab due to a horse accident, Zoe and Pete’s romantic relationship, abusive boyfriends, teenagers attracted to the carnival, and a school bus demolition derby. Zoe tends to see the best in people and her intuition sometimes gets her in trouble. She is smart, fearless, and caring and those characteristics make her a heroine you will root for. Chief Pete Adams, a thorough investigator who loves Zoe and is supportive of her and her passion for horses and her work. He wants the best for her as she struggles to overcome a less than perfect past.
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.
Notes: 1. #8 in the Zoe Chambers Mystery Series, but can be read as a standalone.
2. There was more bad language in this book than is usual in a cozy or than I prefer, but not enough to preclude me from reading more by this author.
Publication: May 14, 2019—Henery Press
Before Zoe could ask anything else, he spun and trudged away in the head-down, slouched posture of one used to dodging emotional bullets.
Close enough that Zoe could smell the stale sweat on her clothes, the alcohol on her breath, and the anger radiating from her soul.
by Jo Bannister
Hazel Best, a personable young constable with aspirations to be a detective, finds herself the focus of an admirer turned stalker. The investigation heats up when the stalker enter her home and later her friend Ash is bludgeoned. Saturday, a young man Hazel befriended, suddenly reappears in Norbold, having gotten his life together. There are two murders that are possibly related to Hazel’s stalker, but no one knows how the events could all be tied together. As tension mounts, Hazel’s friends and even a local businessman with a dark background gather around to support and protect her. It is a race against time as Hazel and her friends try to identify the mysterious attacker.
A fun part of this book is Patience, Ash’s very likable lurcher. Ash is gradually overcoming the town view of him as mentally unstable. At one time he earned the nickname “Rambles With Dogs,” but has since tried to rein in his public dialogues with Patience. Ironically, he does, in fact, talk to his dog, and Patience replies but only Ash can hear her.
Silent Footsteps is a police procedural that will keep you turning pages as the police investigate the various threads to try to make sense of them. The characters are interesting and continue to develop in this latest mystery. I figured out the murderer before Hazel, her friends, or the police did, but that is understandable considering the timing of the revelation of various facts. This discovery in no way mitigated my enjoyment as I still had to anticipate a resolution—and it was quite surprising.
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.
Notes: #6 in the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best Mystery Series. I have only read one other mystery in this series. This book works quite well as a standalone, although I must admit it makes me want to read the first books in the series to get more understanding of the characters. That does not take away from the mystery at all, however.
Publication: May 1, 2019—Severn House
“You’re far too honest to be any good at it,” said Ash. “Spies have to be able to lie convincingly. You lie as convincingly as my eight-year-old when the biscuit barrel is empty and there are crumbs on his T-shirt.”
With the best will in the world, Ash in a blonde wig was never going to be mistaken for a twenty-eight-year-old policewoman. There wasn’t enough rope in Norbold to suspend disbelief that far.
“…the sheep people are constantly trying to keep their stock from committing suicide. Dropping dead from no appreciable cause is the average sheep’s highest goal in life.”
by Sara Leach
Illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Lauren’s family makes a difficult two day car trip to North Dakota for Auntie Joss’ wedding because flying has been a disaster before for Lauren who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is learning how to control her reactions to changes and to certain things that make her uncomfortable. She takes things literally and doesn’t always understand jokes or react instinctively to facial expressions or body language. She is, however, an intelligent child with a passion for reading and insects.
Several problems arise in Penguin Days with the whole wedding scenario. Lauren is under the impression she will be the only flower girl when, in fact, she is one of three. She doesn’t like her dress because it isn’t comfortable and itches. Without meaning to, Lauren ruins the dress. Lauren’s mom has several solutions up her sleeve because she works hard to understand what Lauren is thinking. You’ll enjoy learning how the parents solve these problems and enlist the help of extended family members. Lauren even begins to make friends with her cousins as the story comes to a close.
If you are ever in public and you see a child having a meltdown, don’t judge. Maybe he is a child who needs more discipline and boundaries, but maybe, just maybe, you are witnessing a child on the Autistic Spectrum. If the child is lucky, like Lauren, she is receiving professional help to learn how to control her inner fireworks and to interact with others socially. In the U.S., where for whatever reason autism is on the rise, we are becoming more aware of autism and learning how to manage its effects better. Not everyone, however, has the money or skills to navigate that system. Also, the intervention is most effective when it happens early, and the changes do take hard work, consistency, and time. Meanwhile, Penguin Days is a wonderful, sensitive tool to help the child with autism and the rest of us to understand how autism plays out on the inside and manifests itself on the outside of the child on the Autistic Spectrum.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: 1. Very good illustrations
2. Sensitive book sharing the perspective of both the autistic child and her family.
Publication: January 18, 2019—Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing)
“You’re precious.” “Gems are precious,” I said. “I’m not a gem. But I would like to be an amethyst. They are purple.”
Mom and Dad always say my brain works differently than other people’s brains because I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say my different brain is one of the things they love about me.
The barn got really noisy. Mary Lou mooed. Kevin yelled. And somebody was screaming. I lay on my back in the prickly hay. Mary Lou stepped toward me. I curled into a ball, covered my head with my arms, and started rocking back and forth.
Shadow Among Sheaves
by Naomi Stephens
The Biblical story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth is known and quoted as an example of devotion. Upon the death of her husband and sons, Naomi encourages her daughter-in-laws to return to their home countries, but Ruth says: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16).
In Shadow Among the Sheaves author Naomi Stephens uses this story in a new setting. Nell (Lady Hawley) and her daughter-in-law Rene move from India back to England in the glory days of the British Empire. Rene, from the highest caste in India, has promised to take care of Nell, but because of discrimination against Indians, they are treated as outcasts and beggars. Stephens’ story follows the same general lines as the Biblical story but is fleshed out with a deeper plot and extensive character development. Using the complexities of the ethnic divide and the social and class norms in Britain at that time, Stephens weaves a riveting tale of love and conflict.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Romance
Notes: You do not have to be familiar with the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi to enjoy this book, but if you would like to read it, the book of Ruth is found in the Old Testament and is only four chapters long.
Publication: April 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)
An aching belly, an empty room, skin pulled tight over hungry bones—all of these sacrifices were worth it, she knew, if it meant staying with Nell, if it meant her family would be her family forever.
Thomas had never been a monster, exactly, though he had always been monstrously arrogant.
Music began tumbling across the now barren fields. The notes were thick and plucky, sticking to the window like hands pressed up against the glass.