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State of the Stacks: Too Soon Edition

I’m reblogging this essay to share with my readers because it contains a great discussion on developmental reading and book choices. I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Plucked from the Stacks

As a child, reading is a constant period of transitions. A kid usually starts with someone reading picture or board books to them. From there, they might try to tackle wordier texts like easy readers and chapter books. Before long, there’s a pull for longer stories with more complex plots, and that’s when middle grade novels kick in. And as they grow and develop as readers, young adult works wait for them before they drift into the wild and untamed world of adult books.

Of course, every reader is different and, just because a kid moves toward a different style of book, it doesn’t mean they can’t return to an old, trusted format. So while each type of book represents a door for readers, it’s an open one— one they can pass back and forth to suit their moods. It’s how adults can still find joy in picture books.

However…

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Thread on Arrival–helping the helpless

Thread on Arrival

by Lea Wait

Thread on ArrivalI’m so happy to have read Thread on Arrival, the latest in the Mainely Needlepoint Series, by Lea Wait. Angie Curtis, with some private investigator training in Arizona, has returned to Maine to run the Mainely Needlepoint group formerly run by her grandmother who raised her. She finds herself involved in several simultaneous investigations in this mystery, but they all spring from a runaway boy, Leo, who is in a panic because the homeless man who has taken him under his wing has been brutally murdered. To prove Leo did not murder his friend, Angie must find the real killer and suspects abound. I did guess the murderer before the end of the book, but I still have trouble understanding how anyone could be so cruel. If you like watching how investigative clues are put together, you’ll enjoy this book.

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:  #8 in the Mainely Needlepoint Series

Publication:   April 30, 2019—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

As long as men and women made a living from the waters, mourning and remembering would continue, and names would continue to be carved on the monument.

Being a teenager was never easy. But it was much harder when you weren’t like everyone else in your town or school.

Disorderly Conduct–murder on the ridge top

Disorderly Conduct

by Mary Feliz

Disorderly ConductI am of two minds about Mary Feliz’s latest cozy mystery Disorderly Conduct. As a mystery, I think it is top notch. It has interesting, likable characters, from Maggie, a professional organizer, right down to three lovable dogs who play a big part in the story. The setting is compelling as the story plays out in the middle of fire threats in California and involves the tech world of highly paid engineers on software campuses. The plot has twists and turns. Even after the suspects are narrowed down to three, it is hard to guess which one is the murderer and certainly the motive remains a major puzzle.

Unfortunately, I have two problems with Disorderly Conduct. One is that each chapter begins with a tip from Maggie McDonald’s notebook compiled for her company, Simplicity Itself Organizing Services. At first I enjoyed the tips, most of which deal with emergency preparedness. As the book progresses and becomes increasingly more intense, however, the tips become longer and more of an interruption. 

 

The second problem is the large number of social issues Mary Feliz stuffs into this cozy mystery. Don’t get me wrong; I am fine with a themed cozy. I think social issues are important, but the time I spend reading is my pleasure time. I don’t want to feel like someone is either lecturing me or trying to forward an agenda through a cozy mystery. Gun control, gay marriage, discrimination against Muslims, domestic violence, bullying, Olympic competitions, drug cartels, the environment. Choose one, choose two, but not the whole package, please!

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Maggie McDonald Mystery Series, but works as a standalone.

Publication:   July 10, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

If eye rolling was an aerobic activity, no high school on the planet would need to worry about physical education credits.

Rationally, I assumed he was here to update us with news of the investigation into Patrick’s death, and possibly to report on firefighting efforts. But my lizard brain was trying desperately to convince me to flee from a danger and tension in the air that I could feel but couldn’t see.

I glanced at my watch again, having already forgotten what it said when I’d checked the time just seconds earlier. My short-term memory had gotten lost somewhere in the swirl of dreadful events.

39 Winks–cozy mystery with a scientific edge

39 Winks

by Kathleen Valenti

39 WinksIn the first book of this series, Protocol, Maggie O’Malley gets drawn into a complicated and deadly abuse of power in her job as a pharmaceutical researcher. I assumed that in the second book in the series she would continue her work in the pharmaceutical industry. The author explains what happened: “Blame for the downturn was laid not only at the feet of the guilty but the person who had revealed their culpability. Coworkers stopped collaborating. Managers ‘forgot’ to invite her to meetings. Invitations to after-work drinks dried up and blew away with the prairie wind. It was The Great Corporate Freeze Out.”

As 39 Winks opens, Maggie is working at a lingerie shop when she learns that her boyfriend’s Aunt Polly, found her husband murdered and is asking for Maggie. Meanwhile, Maggie finds herself jobless again as she stands up for a coworker. Free to help Aunt Polly, Maggie is thrown in the middle of an investigation that gets more and more complicated. I couldn’t imagine how the author would tie up all the loose ends, but she does it masterfully.  39 Winks is a really good cozy mystery. It involves many serious social issues as well as medical issues. Maggie’s pharmaceutical expertise, her common sense, and courage are all called into play. She also has help from her computer genius boyfriend Constantine. This is a mystery I did not want to put down.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series and not really dependent on reading  the first book in the series

Publication:   May 22, 2018—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

She’d built the Wall, the secret place at the back of her mind where she corralled uncomfortable feelings, when she was eleven. She fortified it at every opportunity. She knew it was getting crowded back there, that she was quite possibly a hoarder of denial. She shoved that knowledge behind the Wall, too.

A look of revulsion crossed her face. “Is that a mouse?” Constantine looked down. Miss Vanilla peered from her tiny fabric lanai, whiskers dancing. “Hamster,” he corrected, “but she thinks she’s a gerbil.” He winked. “We humor her.”

“Another report? What do they plan to do, fend off the bad guys with paper cuts?“

Murder at the Mushroom Festival–beautiful setting for terrible mayhem

Murder at the Mushroom Festival

by Janet Finsilver

Murder at the Mushroom FestivalMurder, poisoning, blackmail, theft, destruction of Native American lands, assault, and threats! There’s plenty of action in Redwood Cove, a coastal town in northern California where lots of folks are gathering for the Mushroom Festival. Kelly Jackson, new manager of the Redwood Cove Bed-and-Breakfast finds herself in the middle of trouble when she and the Silver Sentinels, a group of amateur sleuths with wisdom and connections on their side, try to find a murderer and determine if the other crimes are related.

Murder at the Mushroom Festival kept me wondering at the identity of the villain as suspicion was thrown on various characters. The solution is much more complicated than one might imagine. Kelly and her Miss Marple-like fellow sleuths are likable. Two children, several dogs and a truffle snuffling pig add further interest. I enjoyed learning about mushrooms and about sinker redwood as the mystery progressed.

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: #4 in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone.

Publication:   April 17, 2018—Kensington Press (Lyrical Underground)

Memorable Lines:

He parked, and we got out in what I felt was an enchanted forest. I breathed in the life of the woodland around me. Musty, sweet, earthy, topped off with a sprinkling of salt from the nearby ocean. Spears of sunlight cut through the towering redwoods like beacons to highlight certain areas. A raven cawed, loud and raucous, as we walked through a sunlit glen. A hawk drifted overhead, soaring on the wind currents.

The waves varied in intensity. When a strong one hit the rocky shoreline, water exploded high into the air. The rise and fall of the swell, like a creature breathing, made the ocean a living body.

People who were sure their way was the only way could make life unpleasant.

Murder with a Cherry on Top–great start to a new series

Murder with a Cherry on Top

by Cynthia Baxter

Murder with a Cherry on TopKate’s lifelong love affair with ice cream began as a preschooler, but that devotion was not transformed into a business until fifteen years after her high school graduation. She attended college and had a successful career as a New York City public relations consultant. She returned to Wolfert’s Roost when her “Grams” was injured, decided to stay, and opened her own business, Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe. She finds her bullying childhood rival has not changed any, and there is a murder in quiet Wolfert’s Roost. Kate also has a big personal surprise when she visits Juniper Hill Organic Dairy to purchase milk and cream for her shop.

Murder with a Cherry on Top is a fun, fast-paced cozy mystery by Cynthia Baxter. While many cozies fall flat with descriptions, Baxter’s are right on target. They are precise enough to give the reader a good picture and concise enough to not be boring. Her dialogue is also good. Kate’s investigative style is reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s sleuths: she focuses on interviewing, some research, and thinking. This was a fast read and a book I didn’t want to put down.

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. #1 in the Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery Series

  2. Ice cream recipes included at the end of the book

Publication:  March 27, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“But of course I can do anything you can do, and so much better!” Ashley replied. “I already know that.” She sighed. “It’s just that it’s so much fun seeing you squirm. It always has been. And I guess some things never change.”

Aside from the euphoric experience of something creamy and sweet and icy cold dissolving on my tongue, filling my mouth with a burst of flavor that seemed almost too good to be real, at least as meaningful to me was my father’s love of ice cream.

Who wouldn’t instantly fall in love with such a grand, three-story Victorian? At least it used to be grand. It was built in the late 1880’s, a time when the brand new inventions of Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison were starting to seep into day-to-day life, playing croquet was all the rage, and the Wild West was still pretty darned wild. Coca-Cola, elevators, and ballpoint pens were all brand new phenomena…

Class Reunions are Murder–attending could be a mistake

Class Reunions are Murder

Class Reunions are Murder

Welcome to a new series by Libby Klein that starts out with a great cozy mystery Class Reunions are Murder. As we meet the very likable Poppy McAllister, she is eating her way through grief and talking to her quirky, ever-present cat Figaro. Her life changes when she is convinced by her best friend Sawyer to join her in attending their high school reunion; she decides to combine that trip with a long overdue visit with her Aunt Ginny.

Klein does a good job of writing humorous dialogue that includes what Poppy is thinking as well as saying. Poppy is accused of a crime and needs to prove herself innocent while dealing with the deteriorating state of the home she was raised in and possibly of her Aunt Ginny. Although a cozy mystery, the book also deals with serious themes of bullying, aging, and second chances in life. I’m looking forward to reading about the next phase of Poppy’s life.

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: Paleo recipes are included at the back of the book.

Publication:   January 30, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I was praying either for a house to fall on Georgina or the Rapture to take place. God’s choice.

I hoped Aunt Ginny didn’t organize another fashion intervention for me. Aunt Ginny means well, but she has all the subtlety of a marching band in a cemetery.

“And I figured I’m getting old so I may as well make the most of the time I have left. So I decided convention be darned. I’m gonna dress however I please and I’m gonna do what I want when I want. At my age I’ve earned the right to do it…”

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