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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Skydive–a cozy with a serious theme


by Susan O’Brien

skydiveSkydive, the third book in the Nicki Valentine Mystery Series written by Susan O’Brien, worked well for me as my first read in this series. Background details from the first books were neither overdone nor too scanty to follow the action. Skydive is a cozy mystery in the typical sense, but there is a serious theme that goes beyond what is usually present in a cozy mystery.  It examines the dilemma faced by children who have been in the foster system but are dumped without supportive resources when they turn 18. Happy Birthday! They may have high aspirations, but the reality is that they have few options, making them vulnerable emotionally and physically to those who would use and abuse them in horrible ways.

Nicki Valentine is a single mom with a PI license and a handsome boyfriend, Dean, who works in the same field. Her best friend, Kenna, is an inexperienced PI, but a trained fitness instructor.  Nicki and Kenna have huge hearts and are open to doing whatever is necessary to help others.  They also get each other into and out of trouble with frequency.

This is a great cozy with lots of twists and turns as Nicki takes on a case, expecting nothing in return, to help an inmate by locating her daughter who has been recently exited from the foster care system.  The case is much more far reaching than expected.  The details would be spoilers, so I won’t reveal the directions her search took her.  Suffice it to say that the plot is both interesting and intricate.  I particularly like Nicki and wanted her to succeed in both her personal and professional struggles.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Cozy Mystery

Publication: Henery Press–November 29, 2016

Memorable Lines: People are capable of more than they know–both good and bad.

The Bringer of Books and Smiles

Featured Image -- 931Part teacher, part book lover, part entertainer–a true friend to homeless children!

Kindness Blog

For the last eight years, Colbert Nembhard has been bringing books (and smiles) to homeless children in The Bronx, New York.

Mr Nembhard, a librarian who’s been the manager of the Morrisania branch of the New York Public Library for 25 years, has been on a mission to making literacy a constant in their wandering and ever changing lives.

The New York Times reports:

“It’s a pleasure to come in here,” Mr. Nembhard began on that Wednesday, never removing his jacket during a presentation that was just short of a Mr. Rogers routine.

He began to sing, “Good morning to you,” and followed with “Wheels on the Bus.” The children joined in with a chorus of “round and round, round and round.”

Toddlers, fidgeting in their chairs or in their mothers’ arms, suddenly became fixated. They could not wait to flip open “Dear Zoo,” by Rod Campbell, a lift-a-flap book…

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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



Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education?


I have tried to stay away from anything that smacks of politics on social media during this election cycle. There is just so much negativity I can let into my life. I followed the issues. I voted. Now we are presented with an appointment that might unite the left and the right because parents, teachers, students, and many others are concerned about the state of education–the overtesting, Common Core State Standards, evaluations based on testing, and ridiculous administrative mandates.

I have done some research on Betsy DeVos and there is much I could say. Today I just want to focus on two things. First, her words. In a video I watched she made two very telling statements about initiatives she supports:

“[they] will empower educational entrepreneurs.”

“entrepreneurial spirit will prevail even in the industry of education.”

I find it troubling that she wants to empower an entrepreneurial spirit to prevail in education.  Big business is trying to take over education for their own profit and to dumb down the 99% so we are not educated enough to stand up for our constitutional rights. We need to get big business out of education.  The accumulating of wealth and warming a seat in the classroom do not qualify one to make educational decisions.

Even more troubling is the use of “industry” and “education” in the same sentence.  Our schools should not be industries; we should not make a profit off of them or produce worker bees for the powerful in our society. We are nurturing growing minds and bodies, and we should be creating opportunities for independent thinking–not that of the right or the left, independent. The goal of our efforts should be citizens with a moral and ethical compass who can find satisfying ways of supporting themselves and their families.

Second, her actions. These “education advocates” like DeVos are big money, big business people, and you can be sure that they have their own bottom line in sight with every decision. DeVos says she does not support Common Core. Just take a look at Jeb Bush’s pet project that she has been involved in for so many years as a board member and “education advocate”: ExcelinEd common core “toolkit.”

I retired after 34 years of teaching in the midst of this kind of nonsense, and I saw and experienced first hand the devastating effects it has on learning, creativity, and morale of students and teachers. Why would we continue down this same path, sacrificing our children, to line the pockets of the 1%?

A Composition in Murder–Do y’all want a glass of Meemaw’s Tea?

A Composition in Murder

by Larissa Reinhart

a-composition-in-murderI have read a variety of books recently: some YA/Teenage, general fiction, and historical fiction.  Although I enjoyed reading and reviewing them, it was time for a break.  Fortunately, next in my queue was a cozy mystery–always good for a mental getaway with an interesting puzzle, a smart and sassy heroine, witty dialogue, and definitely  lacking an excess of horror, gore, or inappropriate language.  Just a good diversion.

A Composition in Murder was just what I needed. Although this is the sixth book in the Cherry Tucker Mystery series, it was the first for me.  I enjoyed meeting Cherry, a somewhat down on her luck artist teaching seniors at an independent living center in Georgia, complete with sweet tea when y’all are thirsty.  Cherry gets involved in the affairs of two influential families in Halo and finds herself and some of her senior friends in danger.  Will her special deputy, Luke, be able to save her from her too helpful self? Will Cherry be able to get kidnapping charges against her brother dropped? And who is responsible for the deaths in the “Meemaw’s Tea” family?

The author has created a delightful supporting cast of characters at Halo House.  My favorite is Ada who never can seem to get Cherry’s name right.  Are seniors above a little passive/aggressive teasing parading as a bad memory? At Halo House they can do that and maybe more!

This book works fine as a standalone, but I would love to go back and read the first books in the series to see more of Cherry in action.  It would also flesh out some of the background storylines that I want to know more about.  Bring on more Cherry Tucker Mysteries!

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Cozy Mystery

Publication: Henery Press–November 15, 2016

Good News and More Good News!

Good News:

Congratulations to “doraquilts” who won the book giveaway for The Other Einstein. I’ll be contacting her to make arrangements for the publisher to send her a copy of the book.

More Good News:

For a limited time the ebook version of The Other Einstein is on sale.


Last Day for The Other Einstein Book Giveaway!

the-other-einsteinThis is indeed the last day to participate in the “no strings attached” giveaway for a copy of The Other Einstein.

The Other Einstein is a really good historical novel. The author uses research to fill in the gaps of what might have occurred in developing the theory of relativity. Einstein’s first wife was also a brilliant scientist in an age where women were not encouraged to use their brains. How much influence did she have? Click here to read the review if you missed it.

Click here for details on the giveaway and to enter.

The Sun is Also a Star–Cultures don’t have to clash

The Sun is Also a Star

by Nicola Yoon

the-sun-is-also-a-starThe Sun is Also a Star is the story of two immigrant families, one Korean and one Jamaican. Legal Korean son meets illegal Jamaican daughter on her deportation day. Both struggle with their identity on a personal level and a cultural level.  There are also major conflicts within each family.

Most of the account is told within the scope of one day, but telling this story necessitates side trips into family history to discover motivations. There are no chapter divisions.  There are labelled breaks according to who is is narrating the story, Daniel or Natasha. Sometimes there are passages about minor characters or philosophy narrated in the third person.  This layout is initially slightly troublesome without chapter divisions, but as you are immersed in the storyline you realize how well this format works for this story.

The plot is engaging, the characters well developed, and the various settings reflect the cultural clashes.  Additionally there is an underlying and unifying theme exploring fate, coincidences, and multiple universes. If just one incident had occurred a little sooner or a little later, how would that have affected the rest of the day’s events?  It’s enough of a foray into philosophy and religion to attract a teen/young adult reader questioning their place in the order of things.

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


Rating: 5/5

Category: Teen & YA Fiction/Romance

Notes: Mild Language

Publication:  Delacorte Press (Penguin Random House)–November 1, 2016

Memorable Lines:

The impossible hungry mouth of her loneliness wanted to swallow her in a single piece.

“It’s not up to you to help other people fit you into a box.”

Sometimes your world shakes so hard, it’s difficult to imagine that everyone else isn’t feeling it too.

“This is the life you’re living. It’s not temporary and it’s not pretend and there’s no do over.”

Swing Time–review and reminder of book giveaway for The Other Einstein

the-other-einsteinSunday, November 20, 2016 is the closing date for the drawing for a free copy of The Other Einstein.  To enter, go back to the ORIGINAL GIVEAWAY POST. It’s easy to enter!


Swing Time

by Zadie Smith

swing-timeSwing Time has been summarized in simplistic terms as the story of two dance-loving brown girls growing up in London.  This friendship is actually only one part of a complicated story that extends from New York through London to West Africa and includes politics, religion, and a variety of cultures.

I was immediately drawn into the story as I read the Prologue.  At that point I had other things to attend to and put the book away with regret thinking “if the Prologue is so engaging, the rest of the book must be fantastic.” And it was. Part of it. Unfortunately, it unintentionally reflected its title swinging back and forth from interesting to “let’s just move on through.”

Zadie Smith is undoubtedly a very good writer.  For Swing Time she draws on her own Jamaican heritage as well as extensive research of West African culture. She also depicts the various social and cultural groups of London. She has interesting characters but she doesn’t always share a satisfactory motivation for their actions. Some of the characters, such as the never-named main character/narrator’s boss and her mother’s partner are important but are treated more as accessories to the story rather than fully developed personalities. I do not regret reading Swing Time, but I wouldn’t reread it.

Note: Language warning

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

The Education of Dixie Dupree-review

The Education of Dixie Dupree

by Donna Everhart

the-education-of-dixie-dupreeThe Education of Dixie Dupree was a difficult read because it deals with difficult topics–physical, mental, and sexual abuse, depression, anger and troubled family relationships. Although uncomfortable topics, they are handled with sensitivity by the author. This novel could just as easily have been called “The Secrets of Dixie Dupree” because the young Alabama girl Dixie is the the hub of so many secrets. Secrets she has to keep or are kept from her for a variety of reasons.

The book is well-written with good character development.  There are personal mysteries to be untangled that keep the reader looking forward to their resolution. The pace is appropriate, spending time when necessary but always keeping the story moving.  Although the book deals with hard topics and even though it is fiction, it is a story that needed to be told.

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

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