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Toxic Toffee–Jethro and Puff add humor

Toxic Toffee

by Amanda Flower

Toxic ToffeeAs I read Amanda Flower’s latest cozy mystery, Toxic Toffee, I was delighted to see familiar characters, like Jethro the polka dotted pig. I was amused by the introduction of a huge fluffy pet bunny named Puff and intrigued by the mysterious death of a rabbit farmer whom everyone loves. Reading about the construction of a ten foot toffee rabbit and other Easter treats was appealing to this chocoholic as well.

All of this sweetness is wrapped up in an intriguing mystery that starts in New York City where Bailey, chocolatier extraordinaire, and her naive Amish relative Charlotte have been filming candy making for a TV show. They soon leave the fascinating Big Apple where Charlotte’s Amish is frequently “showing” as she encounters a very unfamiliar world. They return to Holmes County, Ohio, where they help Bailey’s grandmother in their Amish candy shop. Bailey is approached by the son of a murdered man with a request that she help solve the mystery of his death. She agrees because of her community ties. Although “Englisch,” her ancestry is Amish and her grandmother is very respected in the community.

Threatening notes and a late night attack ramp up the danger level for Bailey and the concern level for her boyfriend, Deputy Aiden Brody. There are plot twists, turns, and surprises all the way to the end. Suspense, humor, and interesting characters make Toxic Toffee a must read for cozy mystery lovers.

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. #4 in the Amish Candy Shop Mystery series. 

             2. I believe this could be read without reading the previous books in the series, but I think this is one of the best so far in the series.

Publication:   June 25, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Not lucky. Blessed. Luck is an Englisch idea, not an Amish one.”

…I couldn’t live in fear. I would be afraid enough to be careful, but I would not allow myself to be stifled by fear.

“In my opinion, it’s better for a young person to leave the faith and be Englisch than force themselves to be Amish and make everyone around then miserable.”

Sweet Tea and Secrets–a web of lies

Sweet Tea and Secrets

by Joy Avon

Sweet Tea and SecretsLike the main character, Callie Aspen, the plot of Sweet Tea and Secrets seems to exist in limbo in Joy Avon’s latest cozy mystery. Callie has quit a job she loves as an international tour guide and moved back to Heart’s Harbor to help her Aunt Iphy run Book Tea, the local tea shop. She is waiting for a local rental to be restored to livable condition. She doesn’t actually contribute much help to the tea room in this book. To top it off, Deputy Falk, an additional enticement when she decided to move, seems less than enthusiastic about Callie’s return to town.

The plot follows the same erratic pacing and intensity as we see in Callie’s personal life. Callie gets pulled into the investigation of a cold murder case that revolves around a web of lies. It is hard for Callie and the reader to know which characters are reliable. My interest would ramp up, and then I would find myself wondering when the book would end. The ending was a surprise in regards to the mystery, and the author didn’t leave any loose ends. There were a number of subplots that were interesting but sometimes too distracting when acting as red herrings.  I was glad Callie’s personal relationship with Falk showed forward progress. I would read another book in the series, but I hope it will have more of a focus on the tea room like the first books in the series do.

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:  4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Book Tea Shop Mystery Series

 

Publication:   June 11, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

But nothing happened. Just those lights teasing her from the darkness. Telling her she wasn’t alone.

“So far everybody seems to have been lying about everything.”

Flower Power Trip–flowers at the heart of a mystery

Flower Power Trip

by James J. Cudney

Flower Power TripThe third cozy in the Braxton Campus Mystery series does not disappoint its fans nor leave out new readers. It begins with a helpful Who’s Who briefly describing the characters in the series. The first chapter follows up  with a summary of the action in the first two books as told by the main character Kellan, while getting the plot for the new book underway.

Kellan discovers a dead body and again finds himself in the middle of a homicide investigation. Flower Power Trip swirls delightfully with interesting characters, a multitude of clues, and humorous repartee. Several threads continue on from previous books: Kellan’s rocky relationships with his boss Myriam and Sheriff April Montague, Nana D’s bid for the mayoral seat, and Kellan’s presumed dead wife Francesca with ties to a mob family. There are also romantic conflicts and more than a little danger.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series but works quite well as a standalone

Publication:   March 30, 2019—Creativia 

Memorable Lines:

Helena recently celebrated her birthday by doing a pub crawl across all four villages in Wharton County. Eight hours, eight bars, eight different drinks. I wouldn’t have survived that level of commitment.

…”you are nothing but a nosy, interfering, non-stop questioning, painful wart on the tip of my pinky toe that has aggravated me beyond any reasonable expectation.”

…you must always have more physical books than e-books. I wanted Emma to experience a multitude of technology at her fingertips from an early age, but she also needed to respect and cherish all that our country had accomplished in the history of bookmaking and printing.

Bad Pick–goat yoga?

Bad Pick

by Linda Lovely

Bad PickBrie Hooker, a South Carolina aspiring vegan chef, teams up with her yoga instructor and a few friends to start a goat yoga class. That’s a perfect match because Brie is also helping her aunt with 500 goats on her goat farm where they make and sell goat cheese. Also Brie is trying to open a vegan B&B in a semi-dilapidated mansion her aunts bought for her fulfilling a long time dream.

You’ll just have to read this fast-paced cozy mystery to discover how goat yoga and a B&B can be essential components of a mystery with murders, arson, and blackmail. Throw in family relationships, a quirky best friend, and two competing bachelors, and you have Bad Pick, Linda Lovely’s latest humorous cozy you won’t want to put down.

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: 1. I had no idea “goat yoga” is actually a type of yoga. A quick Internet search convinced me that it is something people actually pay money to do. Are any of you goat yoga aficionados?

2. #3 in the Brie Hooker Mystery Series. It works as a standalone, but I think I enjoyed it more having read the other two books in the series.

Publication:   April 16, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

“There’s more to yoga than meditation. What the goats provide is important—closeness to nature and unbridled joy. all part of being present in the moment.”

Eva’s crusty exterior poorly camouflaged her generous heart.

Mollye’s baby-faced beau always had an eager puppy-dog look about him. Yet his demeanor tonight made me sense he was a quite capable of barking and growling if the need arose.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The Poetry of Mister Rogers

Lyrics by Fred Rogers and Josie Carey

Music by Fred Rogers

Illustrations by Luke Flowers

A Beautiful Day in the NeighborhoodMr. Rogers (Fred McFeeley Rogers) influenced several generations of children with his kind and gentle ways in his television neighborhood. He understood that children need routines to feel safe so he started and ended his show the same way each day. Now we have a compilation of his poetry which, as a trained composer, he put to music as well.

I enjoyed reading his poems. They have a wide range of topics, but contain reassuring verses to help children understand their feelings, and the world around them. He is not shy about sharing his love and encouraging children to do the same. Other topics he addresses include positivity, doing your best, feeling good about yourself just the way you are, and parents. One poem that I think particularly demonstrates his understanding of childhood fears is “You Can Never Go Down the Drain.” 

I think this would be a fun book to share with children, choosing poems at random or when a child has a particular need. The illustrations are colorful and reflect the magic of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. This book ends with a brief biography for adults of a fascinating man who has influenced so many in a positive way.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction, Poetry

Publication: March 19, 2019—Quirk Books

Memorable Lines:

You’ve made this day a special day by just your being here.

 

It isn’t by size that you win or you fail. Be the best of whatever you are.

 

It is the people you like the most

Who can make you feel the maddest.

 

It’s you I like. 

It’s not the things you wear. 

It’s not the way you do your hair. 

But it’s you I like.

Benchmark Assessments: Weighing the Pig More Often?

As a practicing teacher, I always thought benchmark assessments were worthless and that I had more in-depth knowledge about a child’s progress than would be demonstrated on an exam. Boots on the ground are so important! This is an excellent blog post to explain the effectiveness of benchmark assessments.

Robert Slavin's Blog

There is an old saying about educational assessment: “If you want to fatten a pig, it doesn’t help to weigh it more often.”

To be fair, it may actually help to weigh pigs more often, so the farmer knows whether they are gaining weight at the expected levels. Then they can do something in time if this is not the case.

It is surely correct that weighing pigs does no good in itself, but it may serve a diagnostic purpose. What matters is not the weighing, but rather what the farmer or veterinarian does based on the information provided by the weighing.

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This blog is not, however, about porcine policy, but educational policy. In schools, districts, and even whole states, most American children take “benchmark assessments” roughly three to six times a year. These assessments are intended to tell teachers, principals, and other school leaders how students are doing, especially in…

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Corned Beef and Casualties–St. Paddy’s Day novella

Corned Beef and Casualties

by Lynn Cahoon

Corned Beef and CasualtiesHow about a quick and easy read? Corned Beef and Casualties is good for St. Patrick’s Day or any day you want a brief distraction. It is a fun little novella from one of my favorite cozy mystery authors Lynn Cahoon. It is part of the extensive Tourist Trap Mystery Series.

Cahoon does a great job of making the novella into a standalone with necessary information about the characters relayed succinctly. We witness  unusual cooperation between the main character, Jill, who owns a bookstore/coffee shop and Darla, the proprietor of a winery and also a reporter for the local paper. Be ready for a surprise ending!

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. A Tourist Trap Novella

2. Cheesecake recipe included

Publication:   February 5, 2019—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

“You need to stop worrying about her and get on with your life.” The look he gave me was filled with such love and sadness I almost teared up. “Miss Gardner, that sounds like a perfectly logical thing to do. Unfortunately, the heart isn’t logical.”

“Some couples just fight…I see couples at their worse. They get a few too many into them, and every slight becomes a big deal.”

Darla was always preaching about the free press and her responsibility to the newspaper-reading public, but deep down, she knew not to release something that might ruin someone’s life. Especially if he was innocent.

FREE Download: Academic Curveball (1st in Braxton Campus Mystery Series)

Free Cozy Mystery! Jump right into this series with this opportunity to get #1 FREE. I’m excited that the third book in the series will be published soon. #1 is a delight!

The Lost Traveller–a mysterious victim

The Lost Traveller

by Sheila Connolly

the lost travellerI was delighted to have an opportunity to get my first taste of Sheila Connolly’s mysteries as she has a number of books and series to her credit. I don’t usually start a series this far in (#7), but Connolly does a good job of introducing her characters. She starts The Lost Traveller off with a nervous American family, first time travelers abroad, visiting Sullivan’s Pub, giving the author a natural opportunity to explore the setting with the reader and present Maura, the American owner of the pub. The pace continues briskly as Maura, on lunch break, spots what appears to be a trash bag down a ravine on her property. It isn’t trash caught by a bridge pier, however, but something more ominous. Next we are introduced to the local gardaí (police). The plot pace moderates as Maura struggles with various types of issues—relationship, crime, business, and legal. It picks up again at the end with the resolution of some of those problems.

I enjoyed the Irish brogue and sprinkling of Irish words and names throughout. I learned more about Ireland and the Travellers, a sort of Irish version of gypsies, but they are not Romani. More information about the Travellers would have been welcome along with some character development of Peter, the father of the Traveller family that Maura meets. In fact, character development is a weak link in the book. For example, there are a group of men who frequent the pub and try to help Maura discover the identity of the victim and who murdered him. This group stands as a Greek chorus, with little revealed about any of them. They serve to reflect Maura’s progress involving the murder mystery. Although I am not thoroughly taken by the book, I enjoyed the intricacies of the plot well enough to try another book in the series.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #7 in the County Cork Mysteries, but works as a standalone.

Publication:   January 8, 2019—Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

Was she getting soft? She’d always been independent, mostly out of necessity. She hated to ask people for help, much less emotional support. Now she had someone in her life who offered both, although cautiously.

This was ridiculous: she was being bossed around by a child. Well, one who could definitely cook, and who knew more about computers than she did.

What had Ireland done to her? She’d gone soft. And, she realized, she kind of liked it.

Mardi Gras Murder–lots of Louisiana flavor in this mystery

Mardi Gras Murder

by Ellen Byron

Mardi Gras Murder.jpgMardi Gras Murder takes place in Pelican, Louisiana, as the townsfolk work together to recover from flooding. Maggie Crozat is an artist who works at her family’s B & B as well as a tour guide at Doucet, the plantation that belonged to her mother’s family. The story starts with action as a body no one can identify shows up during the cleanup, but the author, Ellen Byron, also very quickly gives a background introducing many of the characters. It is fortunate that Byron includes a list of characters because I had to refer back to it may times. Families and lineage are very important in determining status in Louisiana, and it seems like everyone is related to or at least knows everyone else in Pelican.

The plot gets complicated as Maggie has to substitute for her grandmother as a judge in the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen competition, there is another murder, and Maggie uncovers a lot of local secrets. The storyline is interesting, and I enjoyed the Louisiana setting and a generous sprinkling of Cajun French dialogue. It was also fun to read about the local cuisine, frequently leading me to the Internet for personal searches to learn more. Gopher, a Bassett hound pictured on the cover, attracted me to the book, but he has only a minor presence. All in all, Mardi Gras Murder is an enjoyable read.

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. #4 in the Cajun Country Mystery Series. There are a LOT of characters in this book, but the author seems aware of potential issues and manages them well. This was my first foray into the series, but I enjoyed it.

  2. A detail that makes a fun side story, but is inaccurate: A cast iron pot used for the gumbo cook-off had been passed down the family line. The seasoning that had accumulated over the years was supposedly ruined when some dogs licked it. Actually “seasoning” does not affect the flavor of foods cooked in the pot. Seasoning makes it nonstick and prevents rusting. The well-seasoned, prized pot need not have been discarded. A simple hand washing, heating to dry, and wiping with lard or oil would have restored the pot quite satisfactorily.

Publication:  October 9, 2018— Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

He made himself sound important, but it came across as someone trying very hard to inflate a small balloon.

“Boy, I had a bad case of SDS back there,” Denise said. She saw the puzzled expression on Maggie’s face. “Southern Door Syndrome, where you take almost as long to say goodbye as you stayed at the party.”

“You know the old cliché, chére. Ninety-nine percent of American families are dysfunctional, and the other one percent is lying about it.”

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