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Fatal Family Ties
by S.C. Perkins
Lucy is a genealogist with her own business in Austin. She is tracked down at lunch by Camilla Braithwaite, one of her “three least-favorite former coworkers” at a job she held four years prior at Howland University Library in Houston. She wants Lucy to disprove an article written in Chronology magazine about her ancestor Charles Edward Braithwaite who is accused of being “a coward, a deserter, and a charlatan.”
This project turns out to be a complicated task because records from the Civil War, especially from the Confederate army, are scarce, incomplete, and often inaccurate. Lucy’s expertise is just what this job requires. It is complicated further by a mysterious triptych and the sudden death of Camilla’s Uncle Charlie who was like a grandfather to her. He and Camilla each own a panel from the art set and no one seems to know who inherited the third panel.
Fortunately, as things get dangerous, Lucy’s boyfriend, Special Agent Ben Turner of the FBI, has most of a week off. His concealed carry license, law enforcement connections, and special training help keep Lucy safe. Her associations with the art restoration world through her college friend Helen help Lucy solve the murder and the triptych mystery.
I liked all the positive characters and enjoyed watching Lucy solve this puzzling case. The “mean girls” were clearly not going to give anyone warm fuzzies, but the author did not portray them in black and white terms. There was room for growth and self-realization for two of them. Suspicion landed on various characters and the ending was a surprise. My favorite minor character was Lucy’s mom. I particularly enjoyed the way she interacted with an elderly neighbor known for her grumpiness.
Genealogy is a field that has always confused me with phrases like “second cousin twice removed on your mother’s side.” Fatal Family Ties is dependent on those relationships, but I could follow the reasoning. Lucy even explains that the term “great aunt” instead of “grandaunt” is, in fact, confusing as it does not follow the established language pattern. That made me feel better! You can learn about genealogy and its importance through this book, but it is never pedantic.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Notes: #3 in the Ancestry Detective Series, but can be read as a standalone. There is not a lot of personal character backstory to catch up on. The current mystery is the focus.
Publication: July 20, 2021—St. Martin’s Press (Minotaur)
I certainly understood Camilla’s stress, and I had immense sympathy, but I didn’t need the attitude. If I was going to be snapped at, I deserved carbs.
“Wonders will never cease,” Mom said, and I smiled at her. I always loved how she said it as a statement she was stubbornly sure of rather than posing it as the traditional sarcastically surprised question.
“Though one thing you don’t need to change, Lucy, is your willingness to give people second chances. Too few people are open like that these days. Don’t give it up, okay?”
Read a Book, Help a Cowboy: Support the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund with Shanna Hatfield #RABHAC #JCCF #rodeoromance @ShannaHatfield
Ever wonder what happens to a rodeo cowboy who is injured? It’s not like he has a boss and goes on disability for a work related injury. Author Shanna Hatfield did some research and discovered that Justin Boots in partnership with some professional rodeo associations created a fund to help. This post gives you a way to help while reading! What could be better? Between October 1 until December 24, she will donate 10% of her sales to the fund. If you are a social media fan, you can read this post to learn more about a special online event, but it is not necessary to participate in that. My thanks to Carla at carlalovestoread.wordpress.com for sharing the word!
I have read and enjoyed a few books by Shanna Hatfield, and am looking forward to reading more. I was not aware of the Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund until I heard about it from Shanna. What a great opportunity to support others and enjoy a wonderful story. Read on to find out how you can do this, as well as how to attend the facebook kickoff party on November 10th. I know I will be purchasing at least one Shanna Hatfield book during this time.
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Unfortunately, this author is not trying to be humorous. What has “education” come to?
You know it’s time to retire when you cannot keep up with the acronyms. Florida Assessment of Student Thinking (actually a decent name that gives away the longstanding pretense that the reading test is testing reading) is an easy one for Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) to puzzle out, but he admits B.E.S.T. keeps him googling for the B: Benchmarks for Excellence in Student Thinking.
And that tips us off that while Ringling Brothers retired the elephants and the pungent smell of elephant dung departed from the Big Top, well, that Florida smell of standardized testing remains no matter what we call it.
And yes, GOT has an attitude and is proud of it.
The first problem with F.A.S.T. is that Florida is moving too fast; it is implementing a new test before they are ready. For those…
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Welcome to the First School by the Sea
by Jenny Colgan
Whether or not you are a fan of British boarding school books aimed at girls, you will enjoy this series written for adults who loved that genre in their younger days. The series will contain six books as it follows students and teachers through six grades at Downey House in Cornwall beginning with this book, Welcome to the First School by the Sea.
Maggie, a young English teacher from Glasgow, has been teaching in a fairly rough school in London and is ready for a change. She lands a job at the posh boarding school which looks like a beautiful castle. Her long-time, scruffy boyfriend Stan stays behind, and they try to work through the problems of a long distance relationship. The girls and some of the staff are introduced gradually as the plot progresses. Some are likable, some intentionally not. I really enjoyed meeting the various characters from the hardworking, bullied scholarship student Simone whose family hails from Romania to the sophisticated and daring French teacher Claire Crozier.
Maggie wants to do well by her students and is committed to being successful in her new job. She find herself in the middle of situations that develop and even puts herself physically at risk to help a distraught student. The Headteacher, Dr. Veronica Deveral, is a formidable but also amiable institution at the school. There is a potential romantic interest in Maggie’s counterpart at the boys’ school nearby. His dog Stephen Daedalus plays a prominent role in the story.
The normal tension from girls going through puberty, angst over grades, sports and distant family, and unpleasant bullying is ratcheted up when some valuable personal items go missing at the school. The identity of the thief is quite a surprise. Other dramatic twists are included, but not totally resolved leaving the reader anxious to rejoin the staff and students of Downey House after their summer break.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to HarperCollins (William Morrow) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction
Notes: 1. #1 in The School by the Sea series.
2. Be sure to read “A Word from Jenny” about the origin of the series. It is very interesting as is the original “Introduction” by the author under her pen name.
3. Some swearing.
Publication: March 29, 2022—HarperCollins (William Morrow)
Once she’d dreamed of filling young hearts and minds with wonderful books and poetry; inspiring them, like Robin Williams, to think beyond their small communities and into the big world. Now she just dreamed of crowd control, and keeping them quiet for ten bloody minutes without someone whacking somebody else or answering their hidden mobiles.
Pat and Liz had been delighted to take the young teacher under their wing and give her the benefit of their wisdom, acquired through about two years in the classroom and twenty in administration, as far as Maggie could work out.
Remembering her family’s love provided a small candle of warmth inside her.
Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake
by Sarah Graves
Most cozy mysteries are fairly tame. They have an interesting plot with a great whodunnit puzzle, a little action, and a sprinkling or two of danger. With Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake, you can take those expectations and turn them upside down. Then double the pace, add lots of adventure, and throw in some creepiness.
The settings are extremely important to the plot. Main character Jacobia (Jake) and her friend Ellie own a chocolate-themed bakery, The Chocolate Moose, in the island village of Eastport, Maine. A lot of the action takes place at a remote cliffside house recently purchased by Ingrid Merryfield, a past-her-prime actress. Formerly glorious but currently decaying, Cliff House sits at the end of a narrow peninsula. With one way in by car, boat access when the tides are right, earthquakes, swamps, and secret tunnels, Sarah Graves has created a setting that is the perfect background for her plot.
Merryfield is hosting a party to ostensibly show off her new house to old friends even before any remodeling has been done. The guests who are staying overnight are plunged into sudden danger as they are trapped when a ginormous tree is uprooted and blocks the egress just as someone starts murdering them one by one. Instead of a locked room mystery, we can call it a sealed island mystery.
Ellie and Jake have been hired and paid well to provide chocolate desserts with the proviso that they stay overnight to serve and clean up. Things go from bad to worse as Jake tries to save Ellie, Jake’s stepmother, and Jake’s daughter-in-law and get them off the island. Graves goes into great detail with the setting helping the reader picture the dangerous cliffs and rising tides.
Sorting through the characters, their motivations, and the numerous plot twists is a full-time job. In the conclusion, everything is spelled out and loose ends are tied up. Jake and Ellie are brave, self-sacrificing, and ingenious ladies, but two of my favorite characters critical to the plot are not main characters. My semi-heroes are Igor the Irish Wolfhound who has a recurrent role and Jake’s elderly father who should not be underestimated. Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake is not the book for a calm afternoon’s read, but a cup of hot tea might go with it well as there are some wet, cold scenes.
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.
Notes: 1. #5 in the Death by Chocolate Series. It could be read as a standalone, but would be enjoyed better with more character background.
2. Minor swearing (about 5 occasions)
Publication: March 29, 2021—Kensington
…there are no dumb housewives in Maine. If there were, they’d get eaten by bears, poisoned by toadstools masquerading as mushrooms, or bled dry by mosquitoes so big they could stand flat-footed and look right over the barn at you.
So the whole line of thought was a vicious circle and for now I set it aside turning instead to thoughts of our imminent journey: Life jacket, check. Iron grip on the rail, check.
On the hearth, flames licked hungrily at the logs, curling their splinters to frizzled wisps.
Legally Blind Luck
by James J. Cudney
The discoveries, surprises, and twists just keep coming in the seventh novel in James J. Cudney’s cozy mystery series. In Legally Blind Luck there are a number of mysterious new characters including a blind woman with a bodyguard. Kellan, the main character, discovers a murder victim just as an art exhibit is scheduled to open on campus. An art treasure, supposedly bearing a curse, disappears. Kellan’s uncle who died a few months prior to the exhibit might have been involved. These events seem to be tied into South Africa’s history of apartheid. Kellan and his girlfriend April, a sheriff, have to search out the murderer and untangle relationship webs to keep Kellan and his family safe.
The many characters in the book are described in great detail. The plot moves quickly enough, but it is easy for me to get bogged down as I try to recall the characters as they reappear. Fortunately, the author, recognizing that this could be a problem, includes a descriptive character list at the beginning of the book. As usual, Kellan’s Nana D plays a role in providing humor as she and her grandson lovingly tease each other. The conclusion of the book holds many surprises that I absolutely did not see coming as well as some major hooks to draw the reader into the next book in the series.
I would like to extend my thanks to author James J. Cudney and to Gumshoe (Next Chapter) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #7 in the Braxton Campus Mystery Series. It could be read as a standalone, but the author recommends “reading the series in order because of the side stories and character progression.” I agree with him, and I have enjoyed each book.
Publication: April 15, 2020—Next Chapter
I’d mostly felt lost and ignored, so I kept to myself—bookish nerd met prankster met Curious George.
Dr. Myriam Castle delivered a uniquely special brand of cantankerous poppycock that was best left ignored if you valued your sanity.
“I might believe her personality is on par with Nurse Ratched and Lizzie Borden, but I don’t doubt her love for you.”
This is a fun cozy mystery series with a male protagonist and lots of quirky characters. It is a good series to start at the beginning as there is a lot of character background that develops through the series. It is amazing the author is giving readers the opportunity to read this first book for free! I hope you enjoy it!
In Cold Camomile
by Joy Avon
Callie Aspen and her great-aunt Iphy, who own the book-themed tea shop Book Tea, are managing a Valentine-themed fundraiser for lovely Haywood Hall. Callie is supervising the whole event with its many volunteers, and Iphy is providing her beautiful tea creations.
Unfortunately, there is a murder at the tea, and a long lost acquaintance of Iphy’s is a major suspect. The book includes several mysteries. Iphy is quite secretive about her relationship with the baritone guest singer. There are a pair of women overheard plotting revenge. No one seems to like the murder victim.
Callie risks her relationship with Ace, acting sheriff, to insure her aunt’s safety. Both ladies act rather rashly and contrary to Ace’s advisement as they investigate.
I enjoyed Joy Avon’s In Cold Camomile but never quite felt the thrill of the investigation. It is clear that Callie and Iphy are overstepping their bounds and that there will be negative consequences. This mystery is diverting, but not gripping. I look forward to the next book in the A Tea and a Read series as several personal relationships are at the cusp of transition.
I would like to extend my thanks to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #3 in the A Tea and a Read Mystery Series
Publication: February 11, 2020—Crooked Lane Books
The wind played around them, and the darkness seemed to squeeze just a little tighter. Sometimes happiness seemed just out of reach, so tantalizingly close and yet too far away to ever grab hold of.
Callie had the unpleasant sensation that everyone was different that day than they usually were, and not in a good way.
She didn’t feel like eggs and yogurt with walnuts and honey anymore. Her stomach seemed too full to eat anything. Full of murder and manipulation, with no clear clues leading her anywhere.
A Springtime to Remember
by Lucy Coleman
There are times, like today, when I wonder why I would pick a romance off the virtual bookshelves. Then I read a book like A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman and understanding strikes again. I am hit by a combination of the beauty of Versailles, the ostentatious audacity of the aristocracy of days gone by, a passion for history, the mystery of family relationships, and ultimately the gentle magnetism of two hearts drawn into one.
Lexie, a TV presenter, wants more professionally; it is not enough to be the pretty face in front of the camera. She also has to prove her value to her successful brother, Jake, who very publicly fired her. Lexie is combining forces with cameraman Elliot Nielson to produce and financially back their own mini-series of documentaries. Their first project takes them to France to focus on the Palace of Versailles. Their futures are ironically fixed in the past: Lexie has an added interest in Versailles as her grandmother, an avid gardener, spent a year working in the Versailles gardens immediately prior to her marriage. Mysteriously, she never discussed that year with her family.
Indulge in this clean romance with its appreciation for natural beauty and historical context. You will be treating yourself to lots of smiles and a few tears in the midst of a well-told tale.
I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to Boldwood Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Publication: December 26, 2019—Boldwood Books
“Versailles holds so many secrets. The more you uncover, the more you realise the surface has only just been scratched, even after all the years of intense scrutiny.”
I nod my head in agreement, thinking that every family has their problems, they’re just all very different. It’s how you resolve them that counts…
“I’ve learnt that the nature of life is that everyone’s journey is different and, therefore, no one should ever stand in judgement of another. Not least because they have not travelled that same road. Instead, it’s wise to feel grateful if one’s own road is less arduous, or one is simply better equipped to deal with the harsher realities of life.”