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Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage
by Kate Ginger
If you enjoy a book that starts with personal disaster and ends in triumph, a tale with sadness underlying humor, and a story that emphasizes the good in people, you will have an enjoyable read with Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage. Esme Kendrick is a food technologist; she creates the delectable dishes shown on the famous Felicity Fenchurch’s cooking show. Esme’s life is headed for disaster, however, when she stands up against the theft of her beloved grandmother’s recipes and her long time boyfriend has a less than pleasant surprise for her—all in the same day.
She heads home to Sandchester in defeat, but regroups determined to find success. Fortunately, her lovable and crazy (in a fun way) parents are supportive as are a small group of quirky friends who drive in from London periodically. Esme is a likable character, but you may find yourself yelling at her periodically to stop as she heads for catastrophe.
Will she return to her controlling ex-boyfriend? Can she help her teenage crush recover from a past that haunts him? Is it possible to create a successful blog and find happiness outside of bustling London? Can Esme layer up enough clothes to survive the winter in quaint, but unheated Mistletoe Cottage? Join a cadre of happy readers as you immerse yourself in this Christmasy read that is perfect for any season of the year.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to HQ Digital for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
Notes: Contains some bad language, including British vulgarisms
Publication: October 11, 2019—HQ Digital
This was why Esme loved cooking so much. It was history, their history. It meant her grandma who had helped her through so much, whose loss she had felt so deeply, would never be forgotten if her recipes were still being cooked, and the love that went into them still existed.
“If I lived near him I’d key his car—” “He doesn’t own a car, Mum. No one does in London.” “Well then, I’d put itching powder in his underpants and cut the arms and legs off all his suits.” Esme suppressed a smile. “Has Dad only stayed married to you all these years because he’s too scared to leave?”
Life was a large dark hole that she was falling deeper and deeper into, and at the moment there didn’t seem to be a bottom, or a way back to the top. She was just tumbling endlessly downwards.
Hot Fudge Murder
by Cynthia Baxter
The first chapter of Cynthia Baxter’s Hot Fudge Murder efficiently brings readers up to speed on the characters while beginning the action of the new plot. Kate McKay, owner of Lickety Splits, is hired by fashion designer Omar DeVane to cater an affair at his vacation home, throwing her into the world of the rich and famous. His favorite treat is hot fudge sundaes which Kate is glad to provide.
There is a murder at the event, and the important tourist trade in Wolfert’s Roost plummets, threatening the business interests of Kate and other locals. Kate begins an informal investigation in an effort to save her town financially.
Hot Fudge Murder has two potential love interests for Kate; they are in and out of the plot as Kate interviews suspects. Another character is Emma, Kate’s niece who lives with Kate and works for her in the ice cream shop. Also on the Cream Team are Willow, a yoga instructor and Katie’s best friend, and Ethan, Emma’s current crush.
The fashion world setting is interesting with some humorous elements such as when a fashion model appears clueless as to where she should look in a kitchen to find ice. In her world it was always provided in a bucket. Character-suspects include Omar’s personal assistant, his financial manager, an elegant magazine editor, and his favorite model.
Kate does most of her investigating through interviews—with a little deception thrown in. Consistently, as she is talking to other people, Kate’s mind is tossing around ideas for innovative ice cream flavors. A few sound like winners, but many sound disgusting (e.g. Pear with Blue Cheese). I think they are included to be outrageous and showcase Kate’s creativity Occasionally, however, that aspect of the story seems overdone.
Hot Fudge Murder is fun. I look forward to the next book in the series.
Notes: 1. #2 in the Lickety Splits Ice Cream Shoppe Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone
2. Each chapter starts with interesting historical notes about ice cream.
3. The book includes a recipe for hot fudge sauce and also for a peach and basil sorbet.
Publication: January 29, 2019—Kensington Books
…by making and selling ice cream, I was doing much more than living out a longtime fantasy. I was providing people with the ultimate comfort food, one that was unique in its ability to serve as a treat, a reward, a celebration, a way to feel better on a bad day—or a way to simply enjoy life.
Chloe was curled up in a chair, just watching us. Sometimes I felt that cats were actually creatures from another planet, sent here to spy on us earthlings.
The problem was that with men, as with ice cream, no matter how many delectable possibilities there were, in the end you had to make a choice.
The Most Magnificent Thing
by Ashley Spires
The first thing you will notice about The Most Magnificent Thing is the quirky art style. The main character, a little girl, is drawn with a large head and body and pencil thin arms and legs. Her “best friend in the whole wide world” is her dog, drawn in the same style without any softness. The background is mainly black and white line drawing. This is not an art style that typically attracts me to a picture book, but it is the perfect backdrop for this story.
The main character is described as a “regular girl” and remains unnamed. This is the story of how she makes the most magnificent thing ever. Her project turns out to not be as easy as she anticipates, but she perseveres through various versions to the point of total frustration. She works through her anger, redirects her experimentation, building on her past failures, and in the end is satisfied with the results.
I really enjoyed reading this story and wished I had a child with me to share the experience. The Most Magnificent Thing opens up a wealth of opportunities for discussions about creativity, experimentation, success, failure, and persistence. It would be fun to read to a classroom or an individual child.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: Ages—3-7 years
Publication: April 1, 2014—Kids Can Press
by Marie Letourneau
Argyle Fox is a cute children’s book about a little fox who wants to go outside to play on a windy day. He has fun, creative ideas for things to play, but other animals warn him that each activity can’t be done in the wind. Argyle Fox takes on various roles, such as spider and pirate, in his efforts at make believe, and the dialogue reflects these characters.
This story would make a good early childhood read aloud with lots of discussion opportunities. Argyle Fox has a simple, predictable story line that is reassuring to children, It encourages vocabulary development and creativity. The illustrations are fun and appropriate to the story. This picture book could be enjoyed in the classroom or at home.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Tanglewood Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: recommended for ages 3-7
Publication: March 14, 2017—Tanglewood Publishing
Suggested Discussion Questions (Things to talk about while reading this book):
1. What fun things did Argyle Fox want to play? Have you ever pretended or played those things?
2. What animal friends gave Argyle Fox advice about the wind? Can you find them in the book?
3. What do these words mean: burrow, castle duel, pirate, plank?
4. Can you act out the story with me?
5. What other things can you play in the wind?
6. What nice thing did Argyle Fox do for his friends?
7. What is argyle? (Search the Internet for “argyle pattern” to share some great examples and for younger children contrast argyle with dots, stripes, plaid, etc.)
Education in New Mexico has gone from bad to worse. Teachers and, more importantly, students are suffering from bad decisions made at the state level by the Governor and her Secretary of Education, a non educator, cheered on by administrators at the school district level who fear retaliation if they stand up to the system. Teachers, in turn, fear from certain retribution (i.e. loss of job through inexplicably bad evaluations or being blackballed), if they hold their ground. The sweet children just do what they are told and suffer through overtesting and curriculum taught in a lockstep, one size fits all manner, while administrators claim that the “data driven instruction” will help students achieve higher levels. No, but it certainly wipes out individual initiative, creativity, and a love of learning. Oh, but the students do become better test takers!
Senator Tom Udall asked for my support for early childhood education on Facebook. Below is my response:
What are our children learning from the current obsession with testing?
Source: Mike Keefe, The Denver Post, 2002
Why should the arts still be important in education?
I teach at a community college, and a professor there created an art therapy club for professors, adjunct, and staff. Nine people attended the first session where they colored with pens and painted with watercolors. Future sessions will consist of making jewelry, drawing, and using mixed media—all as therapy to help adults relieve a stressful week. This is brilliant; however, our primary and secondary children are going to school during a time when the arts are slowly being eliminated from their curriculum. I find this dichotomy painfully ridiculous.
Instead of answering the question this month, I’m going to ask a few of my own:
If schools embraced this idea of art therapy, would we have as many children and teens suffering from stress and…
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When you write a blog entry, do you go straight to the keyboard or do you put it down on paper first? If the latter, where do you do your editing?
I’m curious if recording your thoughts is affected by age. I would think that digital natives (those who grew up with computers in the home) might be more likely to compose directly on the computer. Research shows that people who take notes, in a meeting or in class, directly on the computer retain less than those who use longhand. I have not seen research on how computer versus manuscript affects original writing. If you do other writing (i.e. professional documents, short stories, books), do you approach that writing differently?
If you would like to weigh in on this topic, to avoid revealing your age, just say whether you are a digital native or not and how you prefer to write. If you want to give more details, go for it!
I am not a digital native. I did get in on personal computers with the Apple IIe and have always had some kind of computer ever since. I was an elementary school tech teacher for 14 years out of my 34 years of teaching. I write my blog entries in a notebook and do first editing there as well. This preliminary editing can vary from changing a few words to a major rewrite. My final editing is done on the computer and does not usually involve major changes (i.e. the thinking has already mainly occurred and what’s left is grammar, flow, and typographical errors. When I wrote professional documents for work, I composed most of them on the computer and I am not sure why. Currently my only writing in retirement is blogging and informal digital communication which is, of course, written directly into whatever app I am using.