education pathways

Home » 2017 » October

Monthly Archives: October 2017

Dead on the Bayou–great setting, but…

Dead on the Bayou

by June Shaw

Dead on the BayouSunny and Eve are identical twin sisters in the cozy mystery Dead on the Bayou. The sisters try to keep their home repair and renovation business going while exonerating themselves and friend Dave Price from murder charges. Sunny is the narrator of this tale and shares with the reader in endless repetition her attraction to Dave and how she stifles it because her twin sister is also attracted to him. Much information about her investigation is also repeated to the point that as  a reader I wanted to yell “I know. I was there!”

The plot idea is good. The ending is a surprise, but in a disappointing way. There are no clues to lead Sunny and Eve in that direction at all. The setting is well executed with descriptions of the bayou and Louisiana food. Even better are the descriptions of the living facility where the twins’ mother resides. Accurate details include little groups of chatting ladies, assigned tables with self-assigned seats at early mealtimes, and seniors with walkers who by necessity are totally focused on keeping themselves upright and headed to their destination. Unfortunately the author, June Shaw, keeps returning the twins fruitlessly to this home to investigate even though the residents have little more than rumor to offer and usually are not even available. The twins are not honest, being willing to bend truth and fabricate stories to cover themselves. I found myself looking for diversions each time I finished with a chapter or two. Dead on the Bayou is not a page turner.

I would like to extend my thanks to and to Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 3/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Twin Sisters Mystery Series

Publication:   August 22, 2017— Lyrical Underground (Kensington Press)

Memorable Lines:

…she reminded me of my first-grade teacher, who didn’t know about my dyslexia any more than the rest of us did at that time. Every time I read a few words or a group of numbers in class, she gave me that same hard shake of her head and finger wag as though I had been a really bad puppy. She would end this display of negativity toward me by speaking my name with a sharp tone and say, “No, you are wrong. Again.” No wonder I hated my early schooling.

Bless my third-grade teacher, who figured I was dyslexic and had me tested.

Eve must have read my mind since she called me the instant I sat in my truck and pulled out my phone. Maybe that was an occurrence with a lot of people, but over our lifetimes my twin and I so often received the same vibe at the same time that our connection was hard to discount.

The Eye of the North–children’s fantasy adventure

The Eye of the North

by Sinéad O’Hart

The Eye of the NorthThe Eye of the North is a fantasy adventure tale intended for children in grades three through seven. The interest level would be appropriate for that range and maybe a little higher, but the reading level is too high for most third graders as it contains some fairly advanced vocabulary. It would make a good read aloud with a parent. The chapters are short. Within each chapter, when the two main characters are apart, the story jumps from one character to the other in a well-defined fashion which keeps the plot moving and the reader involved in the action of both characters.

The main character is Emmeline Widget whose parents are immersed in secret scientific research which endangers both them and their daughter. The storyline follows Emmeline’s adventures through apparent abandonment, solo sea travel, kidnapping, attacks and rescues by extraordinary creatures, and near death experiences. Along the way she meets Thing, a most unusual and self-sufficient boy. She saves his life and he repays her by following her north to lands of snow and ice to rescue her.

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

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes: Age Range: 8-12 years
Grade Level: 3-7

Publication: August 22, 2017— Random House (Knopf Books for Young Readers)

Memorable Lines:

Even worse, a roaring river ran right at the end of their property, sweeping past with all the haughtiness of a diamond-encrusted duchess.

…her gaze was caught by a dusty head emerging from a grating in the wall. This head—the color of whose hair was impossible to determine—was swiftly followed by a grubby body dressed in overalls. The fingernails of this creature were clotted with dirt and oil, and his—its?—face was smeared with grease. As Emmeline watched, he slithered out of the hole he’d been hiding in, until all of him—and there wasn’t much—was standing in front of Emmeline with a hand held out in greeting.
“Mornin’,” he said “M’names’s Thing. Who’re you?”

The wind was rummaging through his clothing like a pickpocket looking for a payday.

Murder in Disguise–murder in the golden age of movies

Murder in Disguise

by Mary Miley

Murder in DisguiseMurder in Disguise opens with a murder set in Hollywood in the golden theater/movie  days of Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks. During the course of the murder investigation, we learn about movie production, vaudeville, prohibition, corrupt law enforcement, gangsters, and the plight of orphans and women workers.

Jessie Beckett, working as an assistant script girl, has a knack for noticing things that others don’t, a talent which she attributes to her vaudeville background. This ability enables her to solve crimes, and she solves this one with the help of one of the few honest cops in L.A., Detective Carl Delaney, who is interested in getting to know Jessie better.

Jessie comes from a difficult background, but wants to leave mistakes of the past behind. Will her boyfriend David stick with his promise to do the same? Can the murderer stop with one crime? How does Jessie relate to a deaf and dumb girl left with one of Jessie’s roommates? The action keeps the plot moving; the characters and setting maintain a high interest level. The time period is well researched and the author includes words such as “copacetic” from the period adding to the authenticity. She follows up the novel with an “Acknowledgments” section that adds notes about the era and several interesting YouTube links.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #4 in the Roaring Twenties Mystery Series, but good as a standalone

Publication:   August 1, 2017—Severn House

Memorable Lines:

Rumors were passed around like Christmas candy and devoured with the same enthusiasm.

La Grande was one of the largest depots of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe line, a great cavern of a place where the footsteps and shouts of a thousand rushing people echoed from the polished floor to the ceiling before being drowned out by the snakelike hiss of steam and the earsplitting squeal of brakes as the monstrous engines pulled into their tracks.

“There’s always another job on the horizon,” my mother used to say. I looked up the street toward home. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see the horizon from where I stood.

Hunting Hour–excellent K-9 mystery

Hunting Hour

by Margaret Mizushima

Hunting HourHunting Hour begins with the personal issues of Sheriff’s Deputy Mattie Cobb, but quickly segues into the drama of a missing young teenage girl. The focus of this book by Margaret Mizushima is the efforts of Mattie and her K-9 officer Robo. They work well as a team. Originally trained to sniff out drugs, Mattie has recently trained Robo to search by sniffing an object belonging to a person and then follow the scent. He is also capable of following commands to attack a perpetrator, stop the attack, and keep the suspect in place. All of that sounds easy but is actually a complex process, once the dog is trained, to prep the dog properly for each event, handle him correctly, and then reward for a good effort. If the dog doesn’t find something, that is as significant as if he does. All of this information is shared in context so it is never pedantic and helps move the story.

While Mattie is doing her job, she has to deal with her feelings for Cole, the local vet, and his two daughters. Trauma from Mattie’s past also surfaces during her investigations. She must struggle to remain professional when confronted with a suspect with bizarre behaviors.

I highly recommend this mystery and plan on reading the two previous books in this series: Stalking Ground and Killing Trail. There was no problem reading this book as a standalone, but it is such a good mystery that I am looking forward to reading more by this author.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #3 in the Timber Creek K-9 Mystery Series

Publication:  August 8, 2017 — Crooked Lane Books

Memorable Lines:

The stress on his face caused the pain she’d been suppressing to flare. He came to stand at her side, the warmth from his body contrasting with the coldness she felt in her chest…

Fear gripped her, making her gasp. Sprinting toward the aspen grove, she entered, slowing to part the foliage around the slender white tree trunks slashed with gray.

Always listen to your dog! If you don’t, you’ll only be as good a team as a human cop can be. If you do, the possibilities are endless.

Away with the Fairies–not a fairy tale

Away with the Fairies

by Kerry Greenwood

Away with the FairiesAway with the Fairies begins immediately with the discovery of Miss Lavender’s body in a fairytale setting. There are many possible suspects from the residents of the apartments to coworkers at the women’s magazine that Miss Lavender writes for. Maybe even a disgruntled reader who has solicited help from the magazine’s advice column.

In the midst of this complicated investigation, Lin Chung, Phryne Fisher’s Chinese lover, goes missing and it is up to Phryne to cross the cultural barriers set up by his family.  She needs to find him and rescue him if needed.

Dot, Phryne’s assistant, and Bert and Cec, socialist taxi-drivers and part-time employees of Phryne, get major roles. We are also introduced to another interesting character, Li Pen, a Shao Lin monk and bodyguard of Lin Chung.

Away with Fairies is an interesting mystery, full of adventures and intrigue, set in 1928. Phryne, as always, is brave and defiant. The plot is complicated, and the book has a satisfying, but unexpected resolution.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction, Mystery

Notes: #11 in the Phryne Fisher Mystery Series. This one would work as a standalone, but is probably more enjoyable if the reader has been previously exposed to the characters.

Publication:   August 1, 2017—Poisoned Pen Press

Memorable Lines:

The case was breaking. She knew the feeling. The matter would be as obdurate as a big stone block for ages, utterly resisting all chipping and tapping. Then just when you were about to give up and take to it with a sledgehammer, it cracked into a lot of pieces and fell away, revealing the gold egg of the solution in the middle. Feeling that she had extended her metaphor beyond its coefficient of expansion, she blew idle smoke rings all the way to the city.

Bert, who was about to call upon his maker to deliver him from unconscionable demands from stroppy sheilas, decided not to on receipt of a fifty megawatt glare from those strange green eyes. He felt a moment of gentle Christian pity for whoever tried to stop Miss Fisher…

She stood so still that a questing rat paused in its passage across her foot, whiffling its whiskers, wondering if the engineer was dead enough to provide a late-night snack. Loathing washed over Phryne so strongly she was afraid that she would retch. The clammy tail was across her bare ankle. It was cold. It was one of the vilest things she had ever felt in her whole life and if it had gone on for another second she might have flinched.

A Fierce Love–applying I Corinthians 13 to a broken marriage

A Fierce Love

by Shauna Shanks

A Fierce LoveA Fierce Love is Shauna Shanks’ true story of how she tried to keep her marriage together after her husband’s affair. She turned to God for help and was led to apply what she calls “The Love Filter” to her relationship with her husband. It was a difficult journey as she tried to live out I Corinthians 13, often known as the “love chapter of the Bible,” in the face of her husband’s attitude toward her on a daily basis, ranging from indifference to emotional cruelty.

Shauna found that she had to focus on her own relationship with God first and rely on God to work on her husband’s heart. She lays out in detail the struggle she went through and the pleasure she now takes in her new relationship with her husband.

The author makes it clear that God told her to stay with her husband, but she does not think that is a blanket response for every marriage. She does not criticize those who feel God is leading them in a different direction or that they have no other choice given their circumstances.

A Fierce Love is a frank discussion of one Christian’s response to infidelity. I found it difficult to read because of the emotional pain the author endured, but at the same time the style of writing makes you feel like you are sitting down with a friend over coffee. Her struggles become your struggles as you go through the journey with her. Also I should add that the Biblical principles she discovers about drawing near to God and trusting Him apply to all Christians who seek a closer walk with God.

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

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction

Publication: June 27, 2017—Zondervon

Memorable Lines:

Craving love, I found it in God. Losing all trust in my husband, I found a better trust in God.

“By the grace of God, he has allowed me to experience this “hunger”—this need to depend on him, so that he could feed me with his supernatural food! So that I would know in my heart his goodness and his capability to provide for me.”

I came to understand that God had not wasted a single hardship I had gone through, nor a single tear I had cried. He was using each one for his good and was wringing them out, getting the most out of every drop. He wasn’t just “getting me through this.” He was truly making everything beautiful. He was working all things out for my own good.

The Stepchild–does the past really stay in the past?

The Stepchild

by Joanne Fluke

The StepchildIf you are a fan of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen cooking mysteries, you will be surprised and possibly disappointed by The Stepchild. I know Fluke has a huge following for the Hannah Swensen Mystery Series. I found the one I read too syrupy sweet with the emphasis on the personal lives of flat characters and their recipes.

The Stepchild is a completely different type of book. I would classify it as a psychological thriller. It begins with a prologue that focuses on two dramatic events. Then the scene fast forwards to describe the sudden problems of Kathi Ellison whose father is only a few weeks away from becoming a senator. There is a life changing secret in Kathi’s past that even Kathi does not know about.

Three quarters of the way through the book I almost stopped reading it because of what appears to be a strong paranormal aspect. I am glad I continued on to the end as the story progresses in a different and unexpected direction with surprising implications. The Stepchild is an unsettling read, but a good one.

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.

Rating: 4/5

Category: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery & Thriller

Publication: July 25,2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

To succeed in political circles he had to give up something, the same as in everything else. In the city you had to give up nature, in a marriage you had to give up privacy, and in politics you had to give up little pieces of yourself, carefully doled out in meetings and speeches, making your life smaller with each passing encounter. It was almost like bleeding, and Doug sometimes wondered what would happen when he was bled dry.

Now that she was awake, sleep eluded her like a fickle lover, tempting her by making her body warm and drowsy, but forcing her eyes to open.

And now, in the late fall, the leaves were swirling in the wind, blowing up against the wooden snow fences, gathering in piles. She could see the woods by the side of the narrow road, the carpet of fallen leaves and the lovely, deep darkness behind the bordering trees.

A Toast to Murder–mystery set in a bar

A Toast to Murder

by Allyson K. Abbott

A Toast to MurderThere are suspects galore. The wannabe detective actually gets unwanted official recognition. The setting is interesting—a bar whose owner caters to the Capone Club, an informal crime solving group, by providing a room in the bar for their gatherings. There is a lot to like about this book.

You know what’s coming up next…a medium sized “but.” Yes, I liked the book, but it was not an “I just can’t put this down” mystery despite the fact that lives were hanging in the balance. This is not a case of book bashing because a serial book does not work well as a standalone: A Toast to Murder can stand on its own. The author actually does a good job of bringing the reader up to speed, but it is a constant process and becomes slightly intrusive. Because this mystery seems to occur over several books, it just doesn’t have a comfortable cohesiveness. Another problem I have with the book is that many of the suspects are not fleshed out enough for the reader to invest interest in the probability of their being the criminal. There are two love interests for bar owner Mack, but I had a hard time caring about her relationship with either of them. Perhaps that would be different if I had read previous books in the series.

On the positive side, the main character, Mackenzie “Mack” Dalton, has an interesting neurological disorder called synesthesia. In Mack’s words, “It causes one’s senses to get mixed up or cross-wired so that any sense I experience—smell, for instance—is manifested through a second sense at the same time. For instance, I not only hear people’s voices, I often taste them.” Although this disorder can be stressful for Mack, she has learned to use it to her advantage in solving crimes. The author deserves kudos for her creativity in constructing a plot that would focus on Mack’s skills in this area.

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.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #5 in Mack’s Bar Mystery Series

  2. Bonus section with mixed drink recipes

Publication:   July 25, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

They hung around for an hour or two, chatting about the letter writer, speculating about motive, comparing whoever was behind it to Sherlock Holmes’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty. By inference, it meant they were comparing me to Sherlock Holmes, and I had to admit that I found the analogy a little flattering.

Knot What You Think–piecing together a mystery and a quilt

Knot What You Think

by Mary Marks

Knot What You ThinkMartha Rose takes center stage in the cozy mystery Knot What You Think by Mary Marks. Martha has been quilting with a small group of friends in L.A. every Tuesday for seventeen years. They also form her support group as she investigates mysteries that come her way. She is an observant Jew, and so there are a lot of Yiddish phrases that spice up the writing with meanings inserted in a non-intrusive way. There are two love interests: Arlo Beaver, the straight shooting LAPD homicide detective and “Crusher,” a secret ops/undercover ATF agent.

This cozy mystery swirls with personal threads—weddings, funerals, ex’s, health issues, quilting, swindles, and dogs in fancy dress. Usually that would be too much distraction for me from the main point of the book: discovering the identity of a murderer. Surprisingly, Mary Marks is able to put it all together and make it work. The side issues are, in fact, important to Martha’s process of investigation. In spite of the fact that I was reading it during some traveling, I always enjoyed coming back to it until the mystery was solved.

There were interesting notes about quilting scattered through the story. The book ended with an epilogue that tied up some of the personal stories with promise of more to come.

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.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #5 in the Quilting Mystery Series and good enough as a standalone to make me want to read more in the series.

Publication:   July 25, 2017—Kensington Books

Memorable Lines:

I found endless fascination in the geometry of traditional quilts. Depending on how you placed quilt blocks next to each other in the top, secondary overall patterns could emerge.

Besides, even if I did want to get married, whose proposal should I accept? A generous, laid-back undercover ATF agent with a secret life and Israeli connections he refused to discuss or an upright, uptight LAPD detective with Native American roots, whose life was an open book? A future filled with anxiety and uncertainty or one that was reliable and predictable but not as exciting? A three-carat flawless diamond sitting in a black fuzzy box or my favorite German shepherd?

I was less interested in the hapless Kaplan and more interested in reading the whole three-volume story passing over Beavers’s face.

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day

Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day

by Dave Croatto

Superman and the MiserableAs you were growing up, did your storytime include Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst?  Or maybe you read it to your kids. As a teacher, I saved it for a really bad day for the initial read in my classroom. It’s one of those special books that puts problems in perspective and a smile on your face.

With those memories in mind, pick up Superman and the Miserable, Rotten, No Fun, Really Bad Day. MAD promotes it as 100% parody, and I think you will get a kick out of the story and illustrations. Poor Superman is just having one of those days. He wakes up to broken glasses and cell phone. Kids on the bus and the other superheroes don’t give him the respect he deserves. He gets a lousy assignment at work. You just need to read it yourself to learn of all the “miserable, rotten, no fun, really bad” things that happen to the Man of Steel. Maybe your problems won’t seem so bad!

I would like to extend my thanks to and to DC Entertainment/MAD for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Comics, General Fiction

Notes: Parody

Publication:   October 17, 2017— DC Entertainment/MAD

%d bloggers like this: