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Hot Fudge Murder–fashion and food

Hot Fudge Murder

by Cynthia Baxter

Hot Fudge MurderThe 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.

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: 4/5

Category: Mystery

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

Memorable Lines: 

…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.

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The Most Magnificent Thing–experimentation

The Most Magnificent Thing

by Ashley Spires

The Most Magnificent ThingThe 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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction 

Notes: Ages—3-7 years

Grade Level—Preschool-2

Publication:   April 1, 2014—Kids Can Press

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…

Argyle Fox–what can the little fox play on a windy day?

Argyle Fox

by Marie Letourneau

Argyle FoxArgyle 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.

Rating: 4/5

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.)

How can New Mexico help its students?

_absolutely_free_photos_original_photos_happy-kid-in-class-5184x3456_29015Education 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:
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My Not So Perfect Life–is your life as perfect as your social media says it is?

My Not So Perfect Life

by Sophie Kinsella

my-not-so-perfect-lifeHaving read most of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series as well as several other books by this best selling author, I looked forward to a work of chick lit that is neither trite nor cliché. I was rewarded with a story that contrasts the glamour of London with the authenticity of rural Somerset.  It presents characters with depth who react to their experiences with change and growth.

The first setting is a branding/advertising agency in London where difficult work relationships take center stage, as well as survival in a very expensive city. The second is a sheep farm that reinvents itself as a glamping (glamour camping) center. The main character, known as Cat in London and Katie on the family farm, tries to survive by straddling two worlds.  Katie’s complicated home life leads her to lie about her “perfect” London life, creating unintended consequences. Complications don’t end there, however, as one already difficult boss seems to suffer from mental issues and another sets off romantic fireworks.

I know a book is good when I repeatedly succumb to the temptation of glancing at the opening paragraph of the next chapter. Once I have gotten that far, it is hard to put the book aside, and so it happens again and again. My Not So Perfect Life keeps luring the reader back just like that. As I read, I initially thought I could see a direct path to a happy ending, but Kinsella has lots of surprises in store before the tale reaches its conclusion.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: moderate profanity (including some specific to British English)

Publication:   February 7, 2017–Random House (Dial Press)

Memorable Lines:

 It’s amazing how an otherwise intelligent person can become a credulous fool as soon as you mention the words “organic,” “authentic,” and “Gwyneth Paltrow.”

“Every promotion requires you to do less of the thing you originally wanted to do.”

“Whoever started the rumor that life has to be perfect is a very wicked person, if you ask me. Of course it’s not!”

Overtesting…and the beat goes on!

What are our children learning from the current obsession with testing?

standardized-test-cartoon-pictureSource: Mike Keefe, The Denver Post, 2002

 

 

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