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Penned In–Idaho Halloween tale

Penned In

by Lynn Cahoon

Penned In is a novella in Lynn Cahoon’s excellent Farm-to-Fork series which does not typically contain paranormal references. This novella has a paranormal twist to it, however. The story takes place on the night before Halloween at the old Idaho Penitentiary where the County Seat Restaurant’s staff goes for a team building exercise. The book contains a little history which is interesting. As a novella, neither the plot nor character development are extensive.

My enjoyment of the novella was probably colored by my dislike of both paranormal novels and team building exercises. As a diversion, it was satisfactory, but not something I would ever reread. If you are a fan of locked room mysteries, you would probably enjoy this little mystery!

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

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. Would work as a standalone.

  2. Includes paranormal, but is not scary.

  3. Locked room mystery.

  4. Includes a recipe for chocolate chip muffins.

Publication:   August 31, 2020—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

“Anyone that mean, he has to be the killer. The other people are nice. Tad doesn’t have a nice bone in his body, as my grandmother would say.” Hope leaned back in her chair and folded her arms. No one was going to mess with her logic.

“They said I wasn’t smart enough to sell computers. Hell, I could sell ice to Eskimos.”

It was all just posturing for him. He didn’t want her but he wasn’t sure he wanted her to be happy with another guy.”

Lineage Most Lethal–secrets from the past

Lineage Most Lethal

by S.C. Perkins

Having read a very positive review of the debut novel in S.C. Perkins’ Ancestry Detective Mystery Series, I decided, when the opportunity arose, to give Lineage Most Lethal, the second book in the series, a try. I am fairly neutral on the interest continuum when it comes to genealogies, but this cozy mystery afforded a different perspective for me on family trees. I also learned a little about the intricacies of researching lineages.

Lucy Lancaster is an outgoing young woman who shares office space with two friends in downtown Austin, Texas. Currently she is spending a week at the high-end Sutton hotel working for Pippa Sutton to investigate her family’s history and compile the information into a video to be presented at a family gathering. As the plot progresses, we learn about Lucy’s own beloved grandfather’s involvement in World War II and a little about her former boyfriend, Ben, an FBI agent who has ghosted her.

Lucy’s research turns dark when a stranger dies before her eyes, Pippa’s mother Roselyn begins acting strangely, and Chef Rocky is found dead. Lucy’s grandfather shares secrets from the past, and suddenly it seems many in the present are in a dangerous state. As Lucy tries to juggle all the balls, she is pushing against a murderer’s timetable as well as her professional and personal commitments.

Although I suspected the identity of the murderer, I did not grasp the intricate connections of the victims, potential victims, a nutcase who appeared sane, and their descendants. The tale includes a few red herrings dealing with cipher codes and given names as well. The solution is definitely complicated. Well played, S. C. Perkins!

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Ancestry Detective Mystery Series, but worked well for me as a standalone.

Publication:   July 21, 2020—St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur

Memorable Lines:

The point is, do yourself a favor and halve your problem by sharing it with someone.”

I would do my part to protect these people, even if I would never meet them and got branded by the APD as a genealogist who was a taco short of a combination plate.

Ben took my hand and led me out the French doors into the winter wonderland, the white fairy lights making the falling snow glitter like diamonds.

English Humor

SO FUNNY! Share this with all of your English nerd friends and those English teachers you love to hate. History teachers will love it too! 😂😝🤓

Died in the Wool–in pursuit of a murderer

Died in the Wool

by Peggy Ehrhart

Died in the WoolDied in the Wool, like the first book in Peggy Ehrhart’s Knit and Nibble Mystery Series, has a calmness that gives me pleasure as I read. Although the main character Pamela sometimes follows inadvisable investigative leads like other cozy mysteries’ main characters, neither her pace of life nor her pursuit of justice is frenetic. I sometimes wonder how some main characters manage to maintain a job while trying to solve the mystery and juggle their many personal issues.

Pamela, like author Ehrhart, enjoys knitting and food, and those passions are evident in Pamela’s life as a member of a knitting club whose meetings  also feature snacks or desserts. Ehrhart includes a knitting pattern and recipes in the back of the book, but more pointedly, her descriptions of various foods are detailed and mouth-watering.

The knitting club Knit and Nibble works for weeks producing stuffed animal aardvarks, the school mascot, to sell in support of the football team at Arborfest. Unfortunately there is a murder and the knitting group’s reputation is damaged. Pamela and her friend Bettina try to find the murderer. This cozy has twists and turns with the criminal’s identity discovered only after many understandable, but wrong assumptions and some exciting scenes. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, Knit One, Die Two.

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: #2 in the Knit and Nibble Series, but works well as a standalone

Publication:  August 28, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

She tested several ice-breaking comments in her mind, settling on “Your daughter’s tabouli is delicious.” He turned, looking as startled as if she’d announced a taste for human blood. Terribly shy, Pamela said to herself, awkward in social situations.

At that moment, the sandwiches arrived, on cream-colored oval plates with slender pickle spears tucked alongside. Gobbets of tuna salad and golden streaks of melted cheddar were barely contained by bread that had been grilled to buttery and toasty perfection.

Pamela wasn’t a wary person. She woke up every morning expecting the day to unfold predictably, just the way a knitting project moved predictably toward completion with only an occasional dropped stitch that could easily be picked up again.

The Summer Nanny–relationships and their impact

The Summer Nanny

by Holly Chamberlin

The Summer NannyThe term “women’s fiction” can connote quite a broad range of books. Thus I was unsure what to expect from The Summer Nanny by Holly Chamberlin. This story is actually two tales in one as best friends Amy and Hayley, from very different backgrounds and with very different prospects, decide to accept employment for the summer as nannies for wealthy vacationing families. Hayley is a product of a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic and abusive father. She loves academia, but rather than finish college has to work cleaning houses to support her family. Amy’s father passed away when she was a baby, but her mother, a gifted crafter of fiber arts, has raised her in a small but comfortable home in a loving atmosphere.

Amy and Hayley find personal challenges in their summer jobs. Naive Amy is hired by a narcissistic and controlling successful businesswoman who claims to want to mentor Amy. Hayley, on the other hand, finds relief from her home environment in her job as a nanny for two year old twins whose mother is teaching French at a community college as a favor to a friend. Both girls experience personal growth as a result of their jobs. Romance plays a role in this novel, but so do family connections.

The style of The Summer Nanny with its short chapters keeps the plot moving as the focus of the chapters alternates between the two main characters. The book is interesting, but some of the scenes could have been omitted without sacrificing the integrity of the plot or the points the author wants to make.

Although this book could be considered a “beach read,” it is not really fluff. The author encourages the reader to examine questions of the causes and results of two abusive situations and the responses of the characters involved in them. There are definite themes of right and wrong and the importance of choices.

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: Women’s Fiction

Notes: One of the recurring characters in the book is a lesbian and a subplot concerns her relationship status, but there are no descriptions of a physical relationship.

Publication:   June 26, 2018—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

Hayley was smart enough to know there was no possibility of completely throwing off one’s past, but there had to be ways to move into the future relatively unencumbered by traumas experienced when one was young.

Love and admiration transformed an average-looking human being into an angel of beauty. Contempt and dislike transformed an average-looking human being into a goblin.

“What with arts education funding being cut so drastically, I feel I have to do something. Kids need to learn visual thinking and creative problem solving.”

Hot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt–young time travelers

Hot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt

written by Linda Bailey

illustrations by Bill Slavin

Hot on the Trail in Ancient EgyptHot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt is a juvenile graphic novel that kept this adult interested from beginning to end.  In this book, which is part of The Time Travel Guides, the bored Pinkerton twins chase after their little sister Libby who has entered the rather creepy Good Times Travel Agency. Opening the owner’s personal guide book catapults the three children into Ancient Egypt. They learn that their adventure will not end until they finish reading the book.

The layout of the book is very appealing. The fictional story is told in comic book style at the top of the page. At the bottom of the page is a drawing of an aged book (Julian T. Pettigrew’s Personal Guide to Ancient Egypt) containing nonfiction text that explains and elaborates upon what is happening in the story. For example, when an Egyptian woman invites them into her home, the nonfiction text describes the house, food, and clothing of Ancient Egypt.

I can’t stress enough the current importance of books like this to interest children in history for three reasons. First, most people are familiar with the saying attributed to George Santayana that “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” There are many horrific events in history most can agree should never be repeated. Second, sadly to say, most children are not exposed to history in their younger years in school. The school day and curriculum in public elementary school is so regimented that the focus is reading, taught in a boring and uninspired way, math, and standardized testing. I am not kidding or exaggerating when I say that as a teacher I had to sneak in science and history and hope the principal didn’t catch me. Third, history is interesting and FUN. in an age when teachers do their best to incorporate games and movement activities called “brain breaks” (to replace the recess that was taken away), we need to restore the intrinsic fun that comes through learning interesting things. In that way we create life long learners.

In addition, a book of this type actively demonstrates reasons for reading—to learn more about something you are interested in and to be carried away by a story. I particularly appreciate that Bailey gave a belated shout out to her high school history teacher: “Great work, Mr. Visch—you made it fun!” She dedicated the book to her daughter who “once did a school project on the Sphinx and has been in love with all things Egyptian ever since.” Teachers and projects do make a difference.

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 Nonfiction

Notes: 1. new edition of an older book

  2. Grade Level: 3-7

  3. Age Range: 8-12 years

Publication:   May 1, 2018—Kids Can Press

Memorable Lines:

For drinks, try the national beverage—beer! It’s made from half-cooked bread and river water, and it’s thick, dark and sometimes a bit lumpy. You’re supposed to strain it well before serving, but not everyone does.

Down at the bottom are the farmers and laborers. Most people in ancient Egypt are at the bottom of the society—where there’s plenty of room!

Sightseeing in the middle of a getaway? This was a very bad idea. Emma and Josh tried to lure their little sister out of the pyramid.

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest–pigeons just want to be loved

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest

written by Sarah Hampson

illustrated by Kass Reich

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon ProtestDr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest is a sweet but nonrealistic story for children. I don’t mean unrealistic in the sense that it is fiction. Indeed it is fiction and talking birds can be expected. My issue with the book is that its goal is to show how even those with differences can work to get along with each other…and I believe in that. The problem is that the basis for compromise is based on promises the pigeons can not keep such as refraining from “splatting on cars (and heads)” and instead use only designated compost areas for their droppings, keeping public areas clean. In exchange people will not put spikes on ledges, shoo pigeons away, or run them down with cars. These are nice sentiments but the pigeons, being pigeons, can not keep up their end of the bargain. This concept just does not translate over to two groups of people trying to live in harmony. 

 

The book is well written and the illustrations are appealing, their style going well with the text. The best part of the book is the idea Dr. Coo, a pigeon, has for getting people’s attention so they can negotiate. I would say to the team, “Give it another go with a different idea or even a different solution. I just would not buy this for my own children or for my classroom as is.

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: 3/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Ages 4-8

Grades P-2

Publication:   April 3, 2018—Kids Can Press

Memorable Lines:

The conversation started out as it normally did.

They cackled about the supply of corn kernels in the park.

They nattered about the nearing of winter.

They prattled about new perches.

How to Stop Time–historical fiction with a science fiction twist

How to Stop Time

by Matt Haig

How to Stop TimeThe typical work of historical fiction takes a character from a specific time and place and imagines, hopefully based on some research, what life would have been like for that person. How to Stop Time is not a “typical work of historical fiction.” Author Matt Haig dares to explore what would happen if certain people were naturally genetically designed to age slowly, to live hundreds of years. What would life be like for that person? What would the response of others be to them? How do you form a relationship with someone who will certainly age at a different rate? What if one of these “albatrosses” becomes powerful enough to use various means to control the others?

How to Stop Time follows Tom Hazard as he negotiates life in the twenty-first century and reflects on events in his past spanning multiple centuries, locations, careers and aliases. He is musically inclined and along the way discovers an aptitude for teaching history.

Tom is a likable character whose situation is in some ways different from the circumstances of “normal” human beings. In many aspects, however, his struggles are the same as he tries to fit in, decides how open to be with those he meets, and battles with opening his heart. We all on occasion want to stop time to savor the moment, to revisit past decisions, and to look ahead into the future.

How to Stop Time is an excellent work of fiction, well-written and interesting. It introduces historical characters such as Shakespeare and  Captain Cook, but there are equally fascinating fictional characters who convincingly embody the everyday men and women of past generations. With its fast-moving storyline, this book is one I recommend you add to your To Be Read list.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to the Penguin Group (Viking) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction

Publication:   February 6, 2018—Penguin Group (Viking)

Memorable Lines:

I had no idea I had been looking for her, but now I had found her, I had no idea what would happen. I felt like I was spinning fast and out of control, like the seed of a sycamore, traveling on a changing wind.

I kept going cross the desert and over dry hills and mountains and past a large quarry that seemed to my delirious mind like the blackness of death itself calling me towards it like the River Styx.

I can’t right now think of a better purpose in life than to be a teacher. To teach feels like you are a guardian of time itself, protecting the future happiness of the world via the minds that are yet to shape it.

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