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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.

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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.”

Where the Fire Falls–Yosemite National Park

Where the Fire Falls

by Karen Barnett

Where the Fire FallsThemes abound in Karen Barnett’s work of historical fiction, set in Yosemite National Park, and they intertwine and work together well. In Where the Fire Falls, the Park itself almost seems like a character as it and its God-created beauty are central to the book. The novel has the Christian focus of man’s relationship with God through His grace. The two main characters have pasts they are struggling to both hide and overcome: Olivia, a rising watercolor artist, and Clark, a former pastor and currently a guide for tourists who want to mule pack into the wilderness.

The main characters are likable and the plot is surprisingly complex with some chaste romance throughout. Supporting characters include socialite patrons, an art agent, rangers at the park, other workers at Yosemite, a hermit, and Olivia’s two younger sisters and her Aunt Phyllis. Olivia has to overcome fears of the past, her inexperience with the outdoors, and her own naiveté. She has to peel off the mask she has created as a shield for herself and as a tool to promote herself in the art world. Clark seeks God’s guidance and direction but is unable to hear it because he feels unworthy.

The descriptions in this book are so well written that I can imagine standing at the various scenic spots as I am taken in by the beauty. Likewise, I can almost picture Olivia’s priceless watercolors that attempt to evoke an emotional response rather than provide a realistic depiction.

I enjoyed this book even more than the first in the series as the plot held more puzzles and surprises. The characters in the two books do not overlap so each actually is a standalone. It is my hope that the author will continue the Vintage National Park Series with new characters in a different national park.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to WaterBrook (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Christian

Notes : A Vintage National Parks Novel

 

Publication:   June 5, 2018—WaterBrook (Random House)

Memorable Lines:

The impulsive decision now hung on her like a dress two sizes too large.

“Scripture says faith can move mountains, but I’ve found time spent in the mountains sometimes moves us toward faith.”

“God saved up the best bits of creation and spent them here.” Viewing it from this angle, she could almost imagine a divine artist smiling as He carved the valley away from the giant monoliths.

Dis-grace is a human term, Clark. God invented grace. No one can take it from you.”

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir

by Jean Guerrero

CruxCrux: A Cross-Border Memoir attracted my attention because I live part of each year in Mexico and part in New Mexico, U.S.A.  After five years of cross-border experiences, I have such mixed feelings because I love the U.S. with its fairly balanced mixture of freedom and order, but I also have enjoyed the kindness and diverse cultures of the Mexican people.

Crux, however, addresses cross-border experiences on a whole different level. The author Jean Guerrero is the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father. Guerrero survives a dysfunctional childhood to become a journalist. This book is an effort to understand herself through an attempt to understand her father, a brilliant man who at various times is addicted to drugs, and alcohol, believes the C.I.A. is performing experiments on him, and is schizophrenic according to her mother, a medical doctor.

Guerrero longs for her father’s affection. She received it when she was very little, but most of her memories are of an unpredictable and often hateful man who occasionally dropped in and out of her life. Guerrero tries to win her mother’s affection and approval through scholastic achievement. In the process of becoming an adult, she is always introspective but she experiments in dangerous arenas—drugs at raves, trips to dangerous areas of Mexico, bad boys and sexual exploration, and the occult. The occult is tied in with her heritage as she had a great-great grandmother in Mexico who was a healer and diviner and other Mexican relatives who were involved in similar activities.

Crux contains a lot of family stories: Guerrero’s own memories, interviews with her father and his mother, and trips to Mexico to discover the truth of her roots. It also includes some of her philosophical thinking at various times in her life as well as information from her neurological studies in college. She minored in neurology as a part of her efforts to understand her father’s schizophrenia and her genetic predilection to become schizophrenic herself.

As a cross-border tale, Crux is sprinkled with Spanish, some of it translated, some not. I am not fluent in Spanish, but I appreciated the authenticity added to Crux by including Spanish. I do wonder, however, if understanding the book would be affected by a reader’s not being able to translate as they read. One could, of course, use an online Spanish dictionary to help, but that would definitely interrupt the flow.

Crux is a very personal memoir exploring the raw feelings of the author. The point of view changes in the latter part of the book as Guerrero addresses her father. There is also a maturity and cohesion in that part of the book not present in the first. Perhaps that is appropriate as she was initially relating experiences as remembered from a child’s point of view. Readers who enjoy history will receive historical background to provide context; it is interesting and succinct.  All in all, Crux is a good read. There are very few heart-warming moments, but that was her life.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to One World (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Memoir

Notes: There are some sexually explicit portions and offensive language in Crux. The treatment of women is particularly disturbing.

Publication:  July 17, 2018—One World (Random House)

Memorable Lines:

Life was not turning out as we had hoped. Creativity was a crime. Innocent creatures were mortal. Fathers left their daughters and broke their mother’s heart.

I had grown accustomed to the idea of my father as dead. If he was dead, he wasn’t willfully ignoring us. This belief had become a sinister source of comfort.

He persisted without pausing for protest, the same anger he had directed at me when he was driving me to my riding lessons as a teenager. I stared at the table, steeling myself. The numbness came naturally—a habit of my adolescence.

Pairing a Deception–more than a taste of wine

Pairing a Deception

by Nadine Nettmann

Pairing a DeceptionHave you ever met a wine snob? You know, the person who likes to show off their knowledge of wines? Well, I am the exact opposite. If you ask me what my favorite wine is, I would be likely to reply with (cringe)…a color choice or a description of a cute label. Not bad considering I came to the game rather late in life.

Enter Nadine Nettman with her latest cozy mystery Pairing a Deception. Nettmann, a Certified Sommelier from California has all the knowledge needed to create an interesting mystery based on the amazing varieties of wines available at a food and wine festival.

The main character, Katie, is studying for her three day Advanced Sommelier exam, but decides to squeeze in a festival in Santa Barbara with her selfless boyfriend, Detective Dean. While there, Katie gets to practice blind wine tasting skills, share her enthusiasm for wines as an emergency substitute speaker, and investigate a murder. Katie has a background of karate as a child and attended the Police Academy. Skills learned in both venues come in handy when she discovers the murderer.

I thought I might be overwhelmed or bored with all the wine talk, but it seemed natural considering the setting. I learned a lot about wine, especially wine tastings, liked the main characters, and found the plot interesting. The ending was a surprise, but believable.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Sommelier Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone

Publication:   May 8, 2018—Midnight Ink

Memorable Lines:

The opportunity to taste the exact same grape grown in different areas, therefore each creating a unique wine, was one of the key elements I loved about wine and food festivals.

“We’d like to order wine. Which ones do you have?” “Oh, we have all the colors,” the waiter remarked. I paused, not sure how to respond.

I like helping people learn about wine and choosing the right one for their meal as I share the story of each bottle.

The Otter of Death–fascinating otters and mystery

The Otter of Death

by Betty Webb

The Otter of DeathTeddy is a zookeeper at the Gunn Zoo in San Sebastian, CA. She lives on a houseboat and is engaged to Joe, the local county sheriff. She also volunteers conducting a census for the Otter Conservancy, a marine life rescue group. Trouble occurs during her routine survey when she discovers an otter with a cell phone. More troubling is a selfie on the phone that seems to indicate a crime.

The victim is well known, but not very popular, so there are a lot of suspects. Teddy puts herself in danger with her investigations, much to the dismay of Joe and her mother Caro. There are a lot of other characters in this book, including fellow zookeepers, neighbor liveaboards at the harbor, and the wealthy of San Sebastian.  The author, Betty Webb, does a good job of defining the characters and subtly reminding the reader of who they are, as necessary.

I found all aspects of The Otter of Death fascinating, starting with the mystery to be solved, but also including the inner workings of the zoo and information about the animals, especially the otters.

Despite the appealing cover, I went into this cozy mystery wondering if I would like it. I emerged ready to read more of this series.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #5 in the Gunn Zoo Mystery Series

  2. This is my first book in the series, but it worked great as a standalone.

  3. You can read the first chapter of this book at bettywebbzoomystery.com.

Publication:  May 2, 2018—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

“I love your mother’s house. It’s so tiny and cute.” Tiny? Cute? For an eleven-room—not counting the kitchen and six baths—antiques-stuffed mansion on a shaded hillside overlooking the Pacific? Only a Betancourt could make such an outrageous statement.

I expected a thunderbolt from Heaven to strike me dead any second, but it didn’t happen. Instead, Frasier—thrilled as any man would be to be called fascinating and mysterious—started talking about his job. It was almost, but not quite, as boring as his wails about his blood-sucking ex-wife.

Trumpeter swans may be beautiful, but they are quick to defend their babies with beating wings and slashing bills. The injuries inflicted by these large birds aren’t as minor as you might think. A peck from a swan’s bill can take out an eye, and a blow from an enraged trumpeter’s four-foot-long wing has been known to break an adult human’s leg.

Killer Party–a good one!

Killer Party

by Lynn Cahoon

KillerPartyI had read the eighth book in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series by popular cozy mystery author Lynn Cahoon and was not excited as it focused more on extraneous details of the main character’s personal life and less on the mystery. I am so glad I gave this series and author another chance with Killer Party.

Set at The Castle, a luxurious resort/museum in South Cove, a small town in California, this tale finds Jill Gardner, owner of Coffee, Books, and More celebrating the upcoming marriage of her boyfriend Greg’s old college buddy. Cahoon does a great job of familiarizing the reader with old characters and introducing new ones, while jumping right into the plot. My favorite new character and coffee shop employee is Deek, who initially appears to be a disaster in the waiting. Despite calling everyone “Dude,” Deek is a talented, well-educated young man with great enthusiasm for his work.

There are lots of suspects and threads to the plot. Greg, who is the local police chief, is forced to investigate informally with Jill since he is a friend of the victim. Side issues evolve with Jill’s Aunt Jackie who is planning her own wedding.

Killer Party is fun, interesting and an all-round good cozy mystery. What’s next, Ms. Cahoon? I’m ready!

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: #9 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but works as a standalone 

Publication:  July 18, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Actually I wasn’t sure why I was apologizing to this woman I’d never met before. I’d read a book that said one of the ways women give up their power is by saying I’m sorry for things that weren’t their fault.

I needed to have one good meal before we started skirting the law. It was part of the investigators handbook. Or at the least the one I was going to write someday after I made all the mistakes first.

I liked doing laundry. It calmed me in some weird way. Take something dirty and stained and make that all go away. Too bad life wasn’t like that.

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