Ariana Byrnes gets a new life, why can’t I? Wait. I don’t want one

It’s a New Life For Ariana Byrnes, and I wouldn’t mind giving it a try for myself temporarily.

This summer fun read by Liz Hurley is a blast. I consumed my version of this book in large chunks through an audiobook. This fun story blasted in my ears as I sat under a fan, getting frustrated by my quilting mishaps in 110-degree heat.

Hurley must have known people like me needed this wonderful break from reality at a time when the problem in my lap was too much to bear. Besides, I adore English humor, English sensibility, and English manors – something Ariana Byrnes, living the life of an abused street rat wife in London’s worst suburbs, was experiencing. For Ariana and her four sisters, however, life is about to change; dramatically.

Before I begin, let’s introduce this author, whose biography says that she “became a professional librarian for the money and the glamour. Not finding quite enough of either, she set up a bookshop with her husband in Cornwall. She didn’t find much there either, so she started writing. Now she has loads of money and glamour but only in the pages of her books!”

Isn’t that amusing?! Maybe it’s just me and my 40-percent DNA that is from the UK. But I digress.

After the first few chapters, and we get rid of the horrible circumstances that stand in the way between Ariana and a bright future, we find this young mother of twin boys rambling around a “manor” as the new “Lady.”

Suddenly gifted with more money than she imagined, power out her sleeves, and a tremendous distrust of other people’s motives for knowing her, Ariana works hard to reverse the wrongs of relatives who walked the English countryside generations before she arrived.

Someday I want to see England, Ireland and a castle of some sort. After all these years of listening to Cinderella stories like this one, I want to smell the damp ground and touch the stone-cold walls – literally – of a castle and get a slight inkling of what it might be like to be rich and royal. Well, truthfully, I am already royal. I’m a child a God. But the rich part has alluded me.

Enjoy this royal romp away from reality for between eight hours and 23 minutes, and you will be happy you spent your time with your head, or ears, in a book.

This is the first book in the Hiverton Sisters collection. And since there are five sisters, it sounds like I’ll be entertained for a while. Bring it on. A New Life for Ariana Byrnes was narrated by Martha Mackintosh, and well done by the way, and produced by Saga Egmont Audio.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Read Coming Home to Seashell Harbor while sitting in sand next to your own ocean paradise

It’s a summer of renewal for Hadley Wells, who returns home to Seashell Harbor after her famous boyfriend betrays her love and leaves her heartbroken in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Tony Cammareri, a renowned football player and Hadley’s first love, suffers a career-ending knee injury that leaves the Type A personality without a future.

After years apart, Hadley and Tony find themselves back in Seashell Harbor, looking for hope in what appears to be an embarrassing and bleak future. Unknown to Hadley, her former beau is the first to return and brings his money along with the idea he could start a restaurant in his hometown as a second career. The best building in Seashell Harbor happens to belong to Hadley’s beloved grandmother, who runs a dog kennel and is thinking seriously about retirement.

Before Hadley can stop any plans, Tony, not knowing Hadley is returning, offers to buy the building and renovate it into his future business. But Hadley will not allow such a travesty to happen. First, Tony breaks her high school heart, and now he wants to destroy her grandmother’s legacy by destroying any sign of its former existence. Hadley can’t stand the idea of her grandmother’s building changing identity and sets off to rebuild her grandmother’s dying business and prevent Tony from buying it.

Once Hadley’s grandmother breaks her hip and is forced into the hospital, it is up to Hadley and Tony to compete over which one will offer Hadley’s grandmother the winning proposal.

Hint: Hadley’s grandmother really likes Tony. But Hadley is grandma’s second daughter.

Who will win in this quick summer read? Hmm. Not too hard to guess. But, this book is about romance, not a mystery.

Coming Home to Seashell Harbor, by romance novelist Miranda Liasson is, in this case, an audiobook, which is narrated by Kate Marcin and produced by Orange Sky Audio. Coming Home to Seashell Harbor will be available for purchase next Tuesday, June 29.

This love story is the perfect way to beat the heat in traffic, wandering around with laundry in your hands or sitting at the beach with the images of Seashell Harbor taking form in your face. Coming Home to Seashell Harbor is a tall glass of ice water on an otherwise boiling hot day.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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LA Graffiti Black Book features 151 Los Angeles artists’ work

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a love/hate relationship with Los Angeles that won’t disappear. But, what else would I expect from a city “founded” September 4, 1781, after a 20-year infiltration of Spaniard colonization efforts? Yes. Crime. Homelessness. Bad attitudes. All of those things exist in Los Angeles, making it a place for a person like me raised in its eastern suburbs, a location that I largely avoid.

But I cannot forget the countless times as a child that I sat in my mother’s backseat, peering east toward Los Angeles while traveling across the 57 freeway from Diamond Bar to San Dimas. On a clear day, crossing over those tall roadways and bridges, I occasionally caught the faint image of skyscraper buildings that looked to me like the real-life Emerald City depicted in Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. I was Dorothy on the golden road to the promised land of Oz in those days.

As an adult, I took my kids on the Metrolink train to Grand Central Station in downtown Los Angeles occasionally to spend a few short hours in the city. The raw beauty of Los Angeles’ backdrop was masked by the manmade beauty of a 240-year-old city that continued to hold its original charm. For a person like me, to visit the Los Angeles Times building, in which I worked as a freelancer, was like living a dream. And it was a dream I will never forget.

Along with the stunning antique architecture of Los Angeles is the vast expression of art that decorates its building’s walls. Paint on a concrete canvas tells the story of Los Angeles’ people, its story, its struggles, and triumphs in a way perfectly suited to the City of Angels. L.A. Graffiti Black Book captures and celebrates that art on paper. Though the smells of local eateries and food trucks are missing, and the faint scent of flower blooms mixed with the sometimes oppressive heat of the sun hitting concrete cannot be included, the pure, raw grit of humanity screams its message loud and clear.

This art is incredible and created by artists invited by the Getty Research Institute, who commissioned the Black Book, a term used to describe the sketchbooks many graffiti artists use to create their work. This book is a modern-day depiction of the antique art black books invited artists studied.

Artists include Angst, Axis, Big Sleeps, Chaz, Cre8, Defer, EyeOne, Fishe, Heaven, Hyde, Look, ManOne, and Prime, to consider the idea of a citywide graffiti black book.

This group of talented men and women visited the Getty Center, studied rare books relating to calligraphy and letterforms, and recognized the connection between ancient geniuses and their genius at work. Participating artists then took their Getty visit inspiration, created their own interpretations of that work, and then invited other artists to participate in the Getty Graffiti Black Book project. In all, 151 Los Angeles artists participated in this publication, a page-by-page reproduction of their work.

The L.A. Graffiti Black Book is a lettered study, and very, well, Los Angeles; a diverse artistic Emerald City standing tower-like for all to enjoy. The best part about this scenario is that you don’t need a clear day to see the beauty. You simply need to crack its covers.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Cleo Coyle’s gumshoe ghost gets bookstore co-owner’s heart going in this strange but fun read

Though my favorite cozy series is still Monica Ferris’ Needlecraft Mystery series, Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mystery series is a close second. So when I stumbled across Coyle’s The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller, the sixth of seven books in The Haunted Bookshop Mysteries series, I knew I was about to give away another nine or ten hours listening to an audiobook.

Coyle did not disappoint. But she never does. I have to say, however, that the Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller featured the most creative characters I’ve met thus far in my cozy career.

Jack Shepard is dead. No. He’s alive. No. He’s dead and alive. But he’s no Jesus Christ, I promise.

Our heroine in this series is Penelope (Penn) Thornton-McClure, bookstore co-owner and amateur detective who acquired the ghost of Jack Shepard, a hard-boiled 1940s era gumshoe, after studying his case files at a local research library.

By the time Coyle writes the sixth of this seven-book series, Penn welcomes Jack to stop by at all hours of the day and night, showing up in her dreams and thoughts to teach her how to be a private detective. Not only is she good with it, she likes it. I dare say she’s got the hots for the stone-cold dead detective whose spirit regularly chills the air and warms her heart.

This story’s plot takes off like a roller coaster rocket when an unnamed woman enters Penn’s bookstore, picks up a current bestseller, and finds her own half-naked photo plastered across the back cover. A few hours later, she is dead. Somehow, in the great co-incidences that regularly occur in cozies, a friend and high-level college professor is also murdered. No. He commits suicide. No. He’s murdered. Regardless, he’s dead, and now Penn has two deaths to deal with. Thanks to the frequent visits of her jealous, possessive ghost who accompanies her to dinners and other events, it doesn’t take much for Penn to realize the two deaths are connected. Now, she and Jack team up to solve the double suicide/murders.

Now before you bypass this ridiculous scenario, take a second to appreciate this story’s creativity. Coyle uses Jack to add a 1940s film noir element to this series that is interesting and true to the time period. Coyle successfully injects a healthy dose of period lifestyle and human thought processes into the story through her high-level gumshoe, which is intriguing and worth enjoying. In this book, Coyle used famous, very real, and late editor H.L. Mencken as a fictional character who hires Jack to solve a separate crime. Jack uses the Meklin case to teach Penn how to solve the case of the bogus bestseller.

Very nice. Very creative and very unbelievable. But, Coyle showcases her vast knowledge of literature and nods to her Coffeehouse Mystery series characters in this story. One problem with this premise. Though I wouldn’t mind reading book seven in this series, I don’t think I’m interested in reading books one through five. The characters are already developed. And the premise is too ridiculous for me to spend the time reading five books building up to a main character whose in love with a dead detective. Yuck. And how about a dead detective who has the hots for a person young enough to be his granddaughter if he were still alive? Double Yuck. Still, The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller is a good fictional read from a good author. This book is another Cleo Coyle-inspired good time.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Spend your money! Buy this marketing book about how to make money marketing your book!

Never Fear local writers, Book Marketing For Authors: Get Ready, Get Set, Sucess by Terri Ann Leidich and Julie Bromley, is here. This 96-page book delivers what its title reveals in a logical, easy-to-follow format for new authors who need a little help setting up their new marketing lifestyle.

Hey! Writer! The idea is getting seen! There. That’s this book’s message, and I said it in five words. Who needs an entire book? Okay, maybe a lot of people who are just beginning their writing journey could use this handy little book to help them develop their future success in the publishing field. Lord knows it’s changing every day.

This book will take readers through the steps it takes to create a new author lifestyle.

Hint: Everything this book suggests, and in reality that it will take to get the word out that you are on the planet, costs money, which subtracts profits from the book you are selling on a razor-thin margin. Oops. Did I let my jaded attitude show? Shame on me. It’s not like I’m experienced on this merry-go-round. Oh well. I’m just an old fart with a calloused heart.

Anyone who has ever considered self-publishing knows that the uphill battle involved in setting up an author profile and platform is a daunting, time-consuming, and lengthy task. But taking oneself seriously, creating an author brand, and growing an audience are first-level priorities in making a book successful.

And you thought it was about good writing. Ha!

But that is why Leidich and Bromley are betting you need this book.
Book Marketing For Authors outlines the extensive developmental process of book .self-promotion necessary to more significant sales and longer runs in the print world.

Web presence, social media, cross-platform marketing, book reviews, Amazon, advertising, book signings, and Book Bub are all things to consider when developing an after-creation bookselling process.

Book Marketing For Authors has a handy list of book associations, awards opportunity lists, and ideas for getting the word out that your great book is waiting to be admired.

Here is my unsolicited author-platform advice: Take all your money, sink it into your idea, spend the totality of your lifetime attempting to be heard, sell your soul to anyone who will mention your name, use every vacation to self promote and give other people the impression that you have an ego problem, then hope Amazon sends you the six percent of your cover sale price once every six months.

But, listening to me might not be such a good idea. I might have an issue with this whole thing.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Come out, come out, wherever you are! Bride & Seek will overheat your summer!

Just what I needed. Another sappy summer love story. No. Really. It’s just what I needed.

Bride and Seek, Book 4 in the Enchanted Bridal series by Samantha Chase, is narrated by Kathryn Lynhurst, and for me, was the perfect companion for me to enjoy during this week’s Southern California heatwave. Though things between this couple were getting hot, hot, hotter, the mild cool resort air surrounding their gorgeous mountain workplace was enough to settle even the most overheated heart.

Our main character is Cammie, who is, as usual, is a jilted former bride who returns home to the mountains of the east coast to restart her life after she walks in on her former fiance having sex with the boss’ daughter in North Carolina. Now, six months later, after finally finding a new home, new lifestyle, and new place to use her college hospitality degree, Cammie is confronted with her former fiance and the tramp sex partner/girlfriend/new fiance, who insist on holding their upcoming wedding and reception at the resort where Cammie is on the event planning team.

Watch Cammie run. And curse like a sailor. But never fear. Cammie runs right into the hottest man she’s ever known and finds herself speechless by his sexy demeanor. And even better, this hotty, who has a name – Cade, is head-over-heels for Cammie as well. (Why is this NOT sexual harassment? I’m just saying.”

I must be getting old, but it seems like young people boil over awfully fast these days – and in public places. Where are the good ol’ fashioned values? Anyway, Bride and Seek is a fast, formulaic read that will hold any reader’s attention from start to finish.

Grab a very large glass of water, iced tea, or whatever imbibement you desire and hit ‘Play’ on this romantic audiobook story. Your vacation drive will fly by. Your work commute or your afternoon of daydreaming at the beach will force you to blast the air conditioning or dunk yourself underwater. Regardless of how you ingest this fun little fantasy, it will be well worthwhile.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Couple Found Slain at Macmillan Audio, Henry Holt

Is there ever an acceptable reason to kill your parents? And, is the insanity plea the best way to defend yourself? Finally, can God really make a difference after the devastation is done and two people are left to rot unattended in their home?

I honestly don’t know.

Couple Found Slain: After a Family Murder by Makita Brottman explores all those questions.

Brottman’s subject is Brian Bechtold, a lethally-capable 22-year old karate black belt, who, in 1992, gunned down his parents in their Maryland home and has subsequently spent his life at the mental hospital attempting to prove his sanity. Like all good true crime stories, Bechtold’s actions in maximum and minimum-security hospital wards leave readers with a host of foundational questions to ponder.

Couple Found Slain begins with an overview of the family history into which Bechtold was born, then proceeds through the accumulation of siblings and mental illnesses slowly gathered by its members. Bechtold is born last of several siblings and is raised by older, just-as-crazy-as-when-they-were-younger, parents. By the time Bechtold grabs his legally-purchased gun and takes out his parents, Brottman has laid a foundation of understanding as to why Bechtold did his deeds. After his murderous acts, Bechtold drives aimlessly through the country, finds God in the pages of a King James Bible, then turns himself in to authorities.
That is where this true crime story begins to twist.

Brottman, a psychoanalyst, explores life in a mental institution from a patient’s point of view. Bechtold’s treatment and progressive personality charges illustrate how criminals are treated and what it takes to get released from a mental institution’s locked doors.

In this case of Bechtold, who was also featured on a Bill-Curtis hosted documentary exploring the subject, life rides on waves of ups and downs, depending mainly, according to this story, on the psychiatrist treating Bechtold, and his decision whether or not to comply with the doctor’s orders.

Hint: Comply, or stay in the mental hospital for a lifetime.

In this case, Bechtold, who is determined to be a schizophrenic, refuses to take medication to “help” his condition. According to his doctors, the more Bechtold refuses to comply with his medication schedule, the more defiant and dangerous a patient he becomes. Bechtold disagrees.

Regardless of his actual mental health, according to Brottman, who is working from Bechtold’s records and personal interviews, Bechtold falls deeper into “schizophrenia” the more he refuses medical treatment.
According to Bechtold’s records, the karate black belt feels redeemed by his relationship with God and does not need the mind-altering medication that leaves him impotent and incontinent.

This conflict sets up a lifetime of frustration and difficulty for Bechtold’s that exposes him as a strong-willed leader and some of his professional overseers as legally insane – which actually happened. The result of this system that changes out doctors like it changes laundry and does not change or update diagnosis’ as they progress is a gradually worsening experience that points out that the key to release is compliance.

I listened to this book on audio as I created my latest quilting club sample block. I must admit. I found myself conflicted by Bechtold’s story. In the end, I wrestled with a combination of pity and the sense that I was a sucker for believing a legally insane person can be healed and become a productive member of society. Couple Found Slain: After a Family Murder is a great read for true crime fans and those studying in the field of psychology. However, expect to be changed by a story that both pulls at your heartstrings and develops a few more calluses on your heart.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Andy Carpenter enters a Dog Eat Dog world in 23rd book this July

It was casual at first. An affair. Nothing serious. Nothing lasting. Just a fling in the night. Then, it got serious. He was a dog lover, a dog fanatic, in fact. Andy Carpenter looked like the perfect man for me. He’s smart, funny, solves murders, and fictional. Perfect.

But alas. Andy’s wife, with whom he is deeply in love, is an ex-cop; and a powerfully enforcing one to boot. That’s okay. I’ll stick with enjoying his fictional adventures from the outside. It’s safer out here anyway.

With his newest title, released July 6, 2021, Dog Eat Dog beloved author David Rosenfelt delivers another winner to his 24-book Andy Carpenter Mystery Series.

Famed and retiring defense attorney, Andy Carpenter finds himself in the midst of a Maine murder investigation after witnessing a man’s heroic efforts to save Andy’s newest doggy companion, Hunter, from an abusive previous owner.

When Andy strides across the street to break up a fistfight between the hero and abuser, he learns that the stranger’s selfless efforts to save an innocent dog will land him in jail for a lifetime.

Now Andy, the Tara Foundation, and his team of investigators must unravel the reasons why the DNA of a seemingly innocent man flooded the fingerprints of a murder victim.

Available on audiobook from MacMillian Audio, this fun Andy Carpenter story was far more enjoyable, thanks to its narrator, Grover Gardener. I couldn’t help wonder which comedic legend Gardener resembled more, Bob Hope or Jack Lemon. I felt like I was listening to a Bob Hope Road Show movie the whole time.

Regardless, Grover provided Carpenter with masterful voice inflection. Gardener provided perfect comedic timing alongside a subtle sardonic delivery for Carpenter’s understated investigative humor. Really great. A definite asset.

As an author, Rosenfelt is outstanding. He’s famous for a reason, reader; he’s an excellent comedic cozy mystery writer. His well-developed characters are loveable and a pleasure with which to spend a quiet summer afternoon.

Travel all the twists and turns of this enjoyable east coast-set Andy Carpenter story as an audiobook, CD, Kindle, or hardback book.

I can only find one problem with this title. Dog Eat Dog is the 23rd or 24 books in this series. Oh, come on!

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Get this perfect summer fairytale read before you go on vacation. You might find your own prince charming

Once Upon a Royal Summer, by Teri Wilson, is this summer’s Cinderella story. Literally.

Oh, how I wish it were so easy. But, since it’s not, I’ll take a break from reality and enjoy this Cinderella.

Lacey, a genuine and sweet, motherless 20-something Florida maiden, is the star of the show as she plays the part of Princess Sweet Pea at her hometown Florida theme park, Once Upon a Time.

Hosting princess tea parties, dancing with fake Prince Charmings, and wandering the theme park in search of special fairy tale-loving boys and girls fulfills Lacey’s desire to soothe her still-grieving inner child. And Lacey’s life is bouncing along just fine until she breaks off her long-term relationship with her now former boyfriend/fiance and finds herself entertaining an adorable girl named Rose, who came to Once Upon a Time to celebrate her seventh birthday.

While Lacey thinks she is teaching young Rose how to be a princess by loving butterflies and showing kindness, she is oblivious that Rose is a real princess. And her father, gorgeous, widowed (of course), and sitting close by with a sarcastic grin on his face, Grumpy Ballcap, is watching as Lacey proceeds with her roleplay.

When it’s time for Princess Sweet Pea’s Royal Tea Party ballroom waltz, Lacey moves through her script and looks for a potential dance partner. Furious with Rose’s good-looking dad, Lacey decides to teach Grumpy Ballcap a royal lesson by asking him to waltz the floor while other tea party participants watch.

The moment their hands clasp, a new relationship is bound, and Lacey is connected to her real Prince Charming, who happens to be the actual prince of the small European country of Bella-Moritz.

Well, guess what happens next? This is a Hallmark Publishing Audiobook. (Available in paperback and electronic versions.)

Once Upon a Royal Summer is a mix of the actual fairytale, Princess and the Pea, Cinderella, and the popular movie, Princess Diaries. It is formulaic and predictable. A widowed prince brings his daughter to America looking for a break from his royal duties and finds the last thing he thought he wanted, a princess with which to spend the rest of his life.
At the end of his vacation, he invites Lacey and her bestie, who plays Little Red Riding Hood, back to Bella-Moritz to meet the family – who, of course, have an issue with a theme park princess capturing the heart of their royal heir.

I remember the day I sat in a Barstow, California movie theater and watched Princess Diaries for the first time. It was a hot, stressful day full of nasty people doing nasty things. But, sitting in that cool theater seat, eating Milk Duds, and watching that ridiculously unbelievable story unfold was just what I needed to relieve that intense unhappy moment.

Once Upon a Royal Summer offers the same stress release. On audiobook, it’s a great listen-to while on a long vacation trip with the kids. The kids would love this. So would the dog. But be warned. I’m not guaranteeing your own prince charming would find this fun escape story entertaining.

But that’s okay. Your Grumpy Ballcap can just look out the window at the scenery, or better yet, he can drive.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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There is a world of beauty out there that doesn’t exist at Disneyland

Oh. Sorry. What day is it? I think it was last Tuesday when I started this review, but I got so wrapped up in this book, I lost track of time.

I never saw myself as an explorer before, but now that I’ve discovered Mapping America’s National Parks: Preserving Our Natural and Cultural Treasures, produced by the US National Park Service, I feel like a regular Tarzan the Apeman, or maybe more accurately, Bear Grylls. Okay. Bear Grylls’ grandmother.

This 300-page hardback, full-color beauty is the best overview of the United State’s National Park Service on the market today. I’m still not done with this book, but I keep getting held up and lost in all its maps.

Let’s face it. As a Parks visitor, the first thing we all need to know is their location. This book starts with a beautifully illustrated and notated map. In my limited experience, I learned that to experience a National Park, is to step into heaven and glimpse a God-created glory I could never imagine on my own.

I am blessed to enjoy this book as an electronic galley. But, I have to admit that this is one of those titles I wish I had sitting on my tabletop to wander through instead of turning to some everyday blather like the local news. This book is a time-losing wonderland of different typographies. It is a natural science class, presented in color.

Travel anywhere in the country. Study maps, learn about geological anomalies, human history interacting with nature.

Oh my gosh! The history, begging all of us to indulge and embrace its lessons.

This book appeals to me because of the five years I lived in northern Montana at the gateway of Glacier National Park. I lived on Flathead Lake and worked for the Hockaday Museum of Art in Kalispell, whose fine artists specialized in canvas representations of National Parks, and particularly the one in all our backyards.

Reader, when you take the time to understand how the parks system preservation was formed and funded, you will find respect and awe for the natural world complicated by man and re-unwound by nature itself.
Learn about the intricate system of checks and balances that include geologic activity, volcano eruptions, water ebbs, and flows.

Appreciate the history of America through places like Tortugas National Park, where the highly influential African American leader Booker T. Washington lived. A plantation site is available to see and experience deep in the woods of Florida. Amazing.

Ah, and then there is the Stehekin in North Cascades Nation Park in Central Washington. Stehekin is accessible only by boat and welcomes visitors who visit the far end of Lake Chelan, the nation’s largest natural lake in the United States at 50.5-miles long. Lake Chelan, at its deepest, is 1,486-feet deep and is home to a large collection of UFO and Bigfoot sightings. This is one of those places I know personally, and I am proud to say I lived blocks away from it for five years. Before I found Flathead Lake, Montana, I was convinced Lake Chelan was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

Of course, this book has the obvious places, like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, but it offers other, just as incredible things to appreciate, like Lidar and the Forts of St. Petersburg, a Civil War park I have yet to learn about.

Mapping America’s National Parks: Preserving Our Natural and Cultural Treasures is largely a culmination of places, reasons for preservation, potential opportunities to visit. This book reminders readers that historical information is available. This is not a history book in itself. It’s a gateway. A door. An opportunity to learn, grow and become a better person.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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How much will you pay for a cozy mystery?

“Only on Audible” cozy mysteries are as good as mainstream series novels, and they are by the same authors. I can’t figure out why. It’s no secret that I spend all my free time listening to audiobooks thanks to both Libby (the FREE nationwide public library app by Overdrive) and my $4.99-a-month subscription to Audible.

Of the nearly four dozen Audible titles I’ve listened to since January, most were cozies, and at least four series novels were “Only on Audible.”

The Maternal Instincts series by Diana Orgain features Kate Connolly, a first-time mom. Kate chooses the life of a private detective over returning to her corporate job after the birth of her daughter, Laurie. In this eleven-title series, readers get a first-hand reminder of the sleepless nights, frustrating attempts at breastfeeding, and the heartbreakingly strong desire to stay home with the baby when it’s time to return to work. Kate stays home. And she pays for it with murder.

Unlike many other audiobooks I’ve heard, Orgain narrated this one, a little detail I find both interesting and attractive. The upside to the author narrating her work is obvious. Now I know what Orgain thought when she penned the words. I hear the right inflections and the right emotions to accompany the text.

I’ve consumed two of Orgain’s 11 books thus far, which gives me plenty of titles to enjoy in the future IF I’m willing to pay for a full Audible membership. I’m not.

Another series I didn’t think would be particularly good that turned out to be a lot of fun was Orgain’s Love or Money series. This “Only on Audible” collection is about a gorgeous San Fransisco ex-cop looking for love. Too bad she finds herself hunting for murderers instead.

I’m pretty sure Audible is doing this “Only on Audible” thing to entice cozy fans to buy a regular monthly subscription ($14.99) which, in my opinion, IS TOO EXPENSIVE!

Along with Orgain’s further Motherhood is Murder series’ titles, for the full monthly subscription price, readers can get cozy author Shannon Van Bergen’s work. Van Bergen offers the Glocks and Grannies series, and Leighann Dobbs presents the Mystic Notch series under the same full-price demand.

Interesting marketing. But, not for me.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Make Your Own Board Game is a great book idea!

I was up in Washington visiting my family recently, and one day my grandson, who had been quiet for a long time, appeared at my side and asked me if I wanted to play a board game. He just finished making it. Of course, I said, sure.

So he put two sheets and copy paper side by side and revealed an old-fashioned Monopoly-like playing board with some fancy scrolls. It had tiles with bonus points and bankruptcy designations, a few trinkets for game pieces, and a deck of Uno cards (a colorful deck of cards numbered from 0 to 9).

He quickly told me the rules, which were far more intricate than I’d expected, and told me to draw a card. So I did. Around the board, we went – or at least he went. Somehow, I got all the bad cards.

I was impressed with this little effort that kept my seven-year-old grandson busy for quite some time, both beforehand and after its creation. I had no idea if he based that game off of one he played or if he made it up himself. But the idea that a seven-year-old boy created a board game fascinated me.

Now I know something new about my oldest grandboy. That, and that my darling perfect, sinless grandson is a cheater. No wonder he and his big sister fight all the time.

Jesse Terrance Daniels and Storey Publishing already knew something important that I did not know. Making board games is trendy.

It turns out that tech-savvy kids are comfortable with creating customized gaming worlds.

I believe it. In this children’s book, the reader chooses his/her navigation path and method of information consumption. Tools, resources, all the regular stuff you would expect from a book like this are present as a teaching or reminder tool. This book is comprehensive and gives the reader everything they need to consider in its pages.

I give it the “Grandma thinks it’s cool” sticker for future expected success.

Daniels reminds readers that games can be a great way to teach things like history. Choosing a gameboard theme is a great way to learn history, a sport, or whatever main focus your child chooses. And if your grandchild is like my grandchild, he/she might be interested in Pokemon (I can’t believe this is still around) or Super Mario Brothers (Around since my decadent 1980s CHILDHOOD).

Make Your Own Board Game: Designing, Building, and Playing Your Own Tabletop Game by Jesse Terrance Daniels discusses dice, cards, game pieces, props, tokens, tiles, currency, and resources. Then there are tools, timers, and tokens. And let’s not forget the rules.

This looks like a great birthday gift for the child in your life. But it doesn’t publish until 2022, so you are going to be forced to ask Alexa to remember it for you. When you do get this one, however, be prepared to sit down and spend some quality time with your offspring. And expect there might be cheating.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Sicilian senior citizen out-adventures everyone in this funny Vatican-inspired story

“What do you think I am, a nympho old lady?”
See, this is why the European sense of humor is superior to our flat American politically correct version of what is funny. Did you know Auntie Poldi laid the Pope? Scandalous.

Auntie Poldi and the Los Madonna, An Auntie Poldi Adventure, Book 4, by Mario Giordano, is humor at its best; understated, ridiculous, sassy.

Sicilian detective Auntie Poldi is a 64-year-old bundle of surprises that never ceases to entertain us as she takes on the Vatican and the mystery of a demon-possessed nun who, during an exorcism, screams out to the priest in Auntie Poldi’s native Bavarian voice. Shortly after the exorcism is over, this disturbed and still possessed nun plunges to her death.

Now it is Auntie Poldi’s job to figure out why, among other things. There is the little matter of the missing black Madonna, the fact that two big-handed twins are following her around everywhere, and then there is the strange circumstance in which the Pope tries to convince Auntie Poldi to hunt for the missing Madonna and save the day for all of Vatican-inspired religion.

Of course, Auntie Poldi tells the Pope, “NO!”

And then there is the matter of Auntie’s active love life, which features her longtime on-again, off-again lover, Montana. How does she do it?

Told through the eyes of Auntie Poldi’s nephew, this odd adventure is a spit-your-iced-tea-out-of-your-mouth hoot. This sassy senior is keen to small detail and reminds me of Sherlock Holmes reincarnated as a fast-talking, faster-thinking old lady.

My experience with Auntie Poldi was through an audiobook. Though it took me “a bit” to become accustomed to the British narrator, Matt Addis’ voice, it was worth the effort. Somehow this story seems funnier with that upper-crust twang spouting out of the narrator’s mouth.

I admire Giordano for this wonderful series that started as an Indie Next Pick. This story and its characters provide a kaleidoscope of fun.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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How does a person knit two socks at the same time?

I am going to try this sock knitting method for sure!
Did I ever mention I taught knitting at a major fabric retailer before COVID 19? Our company is not going back to classes yet, but my desire to knit never stopped.

Knit 2 socks in 1: Discover the Easy Magic of Turning One Long Sock into a Pair by Safiyyah Talley makes me want to wield my needles – in a good way. And this method is smart. Basically, the way this method works, you knit a long tube that starts with a sock cuff. At the proper locations, you knit off your required stitches and throw them on a stitch holder for later use. Knit on and on and on until you are at the other end of your socks. Make another cuff, and separate. Whammo.

I’m sure there are a few more intricacies to it, but that’s the idea. And I like it.
This method actually makes sense. Talley reminds readers that knitting socks are a one-at-a-time craft, but losing the first sock during the time it takes to make the second one can be pretty darn frustrating. You might as well not do it at all if you can’t keep track of them. But when they are both on the same tube, there’s no losing them.

You sock knitters understand.

For non-knitters who have read this far, when a person hand knits a sock, they either start at the cuff top or the toe. Either way, constructing the toe and the heel takes a bit of effort, adding or subtracting stitches to create the desired shape. So sculpting the same pair simultaneously makes sense.

I wonder if you could pull this off on one of those hand-crank knitting machines.

I know this idea two-in-one idea is new. I have a few books set up with similar methods in my closet. But Knit 2 Socks in 1, is special because it’s a physically beautiful book put together understandably.

Containing all the necessary explanations about tools and fibers, Talley shares her love for this craft with an expert hand and admirable manner. Talley included lots of little charts for sizes, needles, and yarns.

Adult socks, kids socks, cable socks, stockinette socks, you name it. Knitters need this. Don’t knitters need ALL knitting books? But, you do need this one for your library. You will thank yourself later.

There is only one problem with Knit 2 Socks in 1: Discover the Easy Magic of Turning One Long Sock into a Pair. It publishes next February.

So keep your eyes open and save a few bucks for this one.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Stephanie! Buy this DINO book for Jack!

Sunday, Sun-day, S.U.N.D.A.Y. Come and see the biggest … loudest … craziest machines on the planet compete with the penultimate collection of competitors, D.I.N.O.S.A.U.R.S!

Welcome, welcome, welcome to the consummate little boys’ picture book—Dinos vs. Machines by Eric Geron and Mat Edwards.

Fresh from the Becker & Meyer press, this 47-page non-fiction children’s book is a little boy’s dream. Truthfully, little girls too. Why leave them out. This graphic description is a kids’ dream. Wait. What about moms, dads, aunts, and grandmas? Everyone will love this fun battle.

But, in this case, I’m thinking about my four-year-old great-nephew, Jack, who is a dinosaur freak. He would whip through this fabulous book in about 30 minutes and read it over and over again. (That’s one of the reasons this title caught my eye.)

Line them up and let them go. That’s the race day-like comparison Geron makes in this fun book.

Team Dinosaur showcases, among other wild prehistoric creatures, Velociraptor, ankylosaurus, and quetzalcoatlus. Those big boys are up against motorcycle, crane, and helicopter. HOW COOL! I can hear the arena announcer’s words reverberating in my ears.

Next on the battle schedule are the stats. While Velociraptor, from China and Mongolia, is a whopping 3.5-feet high, six feet long, and weighs in at 33 pounds, its competitor, the motorcycle, is four feet tall, six feet long, and weighs up to 700 giant pounds. Who will win this unbelievable competition?

Well, according to Geron … you’ll have to read this graphic-style battle book to find out.

Okay, this is really neat. Sometimes I wish I was a kid again so I could beg my mom to buy these fabulous graphic books. Car rides would have been so much better, and I bet my dad could have focused on the road instead of reaching into the back seat and pinching our legs.

My brother and I could have battled it out with our imaginations and fingers instead of our mouths and each other’s arms. I always lost. Why? Maybe because he’s my BIG brother. But I love him. What can I say?

Time passes, I guess, and we all learn from our mistakes. And Geron certainly did learn that providing kids with engaging reading material that compares similarly-sized items from today with prehistoric creatures is a great way to teach the subject and ignite children’s minds.

Nice job.

Dinos vs. Machines is a great pre-school through elementary-school-aged children’s read. This title offers a wide interest range because of its content and its design.

It looks like I found yet another title for the kids I love. Not only does Jack need a copy of this book, so do Abby, Brayton, CoraLilly, Reagan, Carter, and Archer.

Then, let’s all get together with a big collection of playdough, legos, blocks, and time and make some dino battles of our own.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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It takes two to tango and one to panic

“Anything you can do I can do better
I can do anything better than you
No, you can’t
Yes, I can
No, you can’t
Yes, I can
No, you can’t
Yes, I can! Yes, I can!”

I’m singing right now, and I can’t remember the musical these lyrics belong to. Mary Poppins? Oklahoma?

The title of this book says it all. It Takes Two to Tango. Oops. I mean It Takes Two To MANGO.

Here is another cozy mystery dance, where fighting frenemies hold one’s adversaries close and gesticulate across the ballroom floor. Oh yeah. And they must also face the fact that they are on an island with a murderer.

It Takes Two to Mango is book 1 of 2 in the Tropical Island Cozy Mystery (Trouble in Paradise!) series by Carrie Doyle.

This bright, sunny, Caribbean island story features the lovely, somewhat full of herself Plum Lockhart, who loses her New York City travel magazine editor’s job rather unceremoniously during a company-wide corporate publishing cut.

Boy, can I relate to that! Especially the unceremonious part. At least it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one. But I’m off track.

First, in a two-volume series, our main character, Plum, quickly realizes she is not nearly as “wanted” by her hiring industry partners as she previously thought. It doesn’t take long for Plum, who is embarrassed by the fact that her peers are working, to become extremely aware of her dire financial situation, her depressing love life, and her incredible need for a new beginning.

After first refusing to go to the tropical island resort, Casa Mango, Plum is ultimately forced to reassess her viable options and flee New York City for the land of sand and sun.

Well, at least she gets to be a “villa broker” on a resort island, right?
Not so fast.

When Plum arrives on her perceived prince charming paradise employment solution, she finds herself smack dab in the middle of a big sandy dump with an exaggerating new boss, a secretary, and a handsome, cocky salesman who pits Plum’s ego against the resorts worst piece of Casa Mango property. Too bad this white-teethed wonder is so attractive. We could all shower him with melodramatic “Boo!”s.

Can Plum rent the 1970s four-bedroom dump in time to win her bet? Or will she find a dead body instead?

I am sure you can guess which things happen to Plum. Enter the police chief, a murderer unable to leave paradise, and a shell-shocked Plum who must resolve the entire situation.

If you like spicy banter and challenging relationships between two people who are a self-important match, this title is the series for you.

It Takes Two to Mango is a great beach read, considering its set on the beach, and offers readers a fun, snappy story that might encourage a sunburn.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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No man. Really. I don’t have no Weed.

Don’t Look. No, don’t look over there. Okay. Seriously. Don’t look. I think someone’s watching me. The weirdest thing happened yesterday. Wait. Backup. I’ll start at the beginning of this story. 

I downloaded a Quatro Publishing book entitled, Weed: A Connoisseurs Guide to Cannabis, by Ellen Holland a few weeks ago. You know, Aunt Mary, Dona Juana, ganja, the front yard grass? (I made that last one up.) 

Anyway, I downloaded this book and put it on my publishing schedule to review today. Last week I opened this book up and noticed the first chapter had page number 279 on it. Or some crazy number that was not number one, anyway.

The chapter I read was about edible weed products that looked a whole lot like chocolate squares. Hmm. That’s strange. I thought weed was green. Anyway, I scrolled through this chapter full of information on how my little flower buds can be stronger in food if you are not accustomed to it. This is something I can attest to being true, and I’m not going to even tell you how I know this because if you knew who gave me this innocent-looking food product, you wouldn’t believe me anyway.

So, I’m over here accepting that this book starts on page 279 when I get to the next chapter, which starts with some other number, that was not one.  

Well, this freaked me out because I started to think that Quatro Publishing, or this author, must be on some sort of bad trip to be producing a chocolate-covered chapter followed by a mind-bending second chapter that did not start with number one. 

I closed this book and decided to come back to it in a few days. And, you will never guess what happened. It disappeared. Right into the air, I guess. First, I get a tiny roach of what I assume is a full book, then, out of nowhere, it disappears. Why? This book doesn’t publish until next October.

I am flummoxed by this development and am starting to wonder if this weed bud of a book was ever on my device at all. I’d like to preview this book for you, reader. But someone at Quatro must have been smoking when they put this thing together in the first place. I guess we’ll all have to wait until October 12 to see what this book is really all about. 

Right now, I just really feel like eating me some chocolate. And I just got in trouble for not paying attention to the speaker in front of me. What? There was a speaker?

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Corpse Talk: A new show for kids about dead people arrives this summer

I’m into the graphic novel idea. Instead of reading paragraph upon paragraph about a bunch of dead people, kids who read this DK children’s book can get an eyeful of information in addition to an earful. Publishers say that graphic novels are a great way to engage young people in the lifelong habit of reading. And I believe it, even if this book is about dead people.

Corpse Talk: Queens and Kings and Other Rotters by Adam Murphy is a creatively done interpretation of history intended to teach readers about earth-changing people who existed hundreds of years ago. I’ve never seen such a good-looking zombie before, and I am surprised to see that these corpses are very familiar with the interview process.

“Hello, everyone. Welcome to ‘Corpse Talk,’ the comic book talk show,” our gallant graphic book host, Adam Murphy, proclaims.

These pages present history in a way I would have enjoyed as a child and will likely be popular among a new generation of learners. I know I would have retained this information. Actually, as a 57-year-old grandma, I will retain this information.

Corpse Talk: Queens and Kings and Other Rotters covers world history’s most scandalous monarchs and leaders and includes Chinese emperors, pharaohs, kings, queens, sultans, and empresses.

And I love the idea that the author is interviewing each corpse about their lifetime, hitting the highlights and perhaps the lowlights, depending on how the reader feels about a particular subject.

My biggest issue with this book was that I couldn’t see the writing, but that is more about my glasses and computer screen than the author or the book. Corpse Talk is one of those titles I’d like to see my elementary school-aged grandkids approve.

Murphy covers 18 leaders in this book, and I suspect it will become a future school library staple. Corpse Talk: Queens and Kings and Other Rotters, a DK Children’s title, hits the streets on July 20, 2021.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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I jumped at the chance to renew my professional respect for Alfred Hitchcock

I am glad that I could not pick up my college degree without learning about the genius of Alfred Hitchcock. I went to one of those community colleges that allowed me to take art-related classes to learn the fascinating subject of human history. It was fun and instilled in me a life-long desire to relate life and art.

My respect for Hitchcock and his career is immense. If I could siphon off a tiny piece of that strange genius Englishman’s talent, I might somehow ooze a bit of his classic dry humor and terrifying ability to understate horror. 

Available on audio, e-book, or hardcover, this fascinating biography approaches the life and career of Alfred Hitchcock from 12 different viewpoints. Each viewpoint showcases various parts of Alfred Hitchcock’s life and how that facet influenced his professional artistic career. 

Like his movies that continuously questioned its viewer’s perception of reality, so too did Hitchcock’s life question the sanity of human nature. Like everyone else’s, Hitchcock’s career was heavily influenced by his upbringing in England during World War II. Hitchcock’s film, The Birds imitated the terror of Nazi bomber planes swirling in over the English sky during his youth to replace innocence with a landscape of destruction and horror. 

White looks at Hitchcock through the eyes of a child, a murderer, the filmmaker, womanizer, fat man, an admired leader, family man, voyeur, entertainer, pioneer, Londoner, and man of God. Fascinating. White reveals layer upon layer of this man’s complicated through these chapters. 

One of the drawbacks of audiobook versions is that I did not see the included 32-page photo album. The e-book and print versions of this title do, however, share this collection.

On a side note, I never did pick up my college degree. I gave birth to my third daughter instead. Though I can’t hang my darling child on my wall with a tassel, the exchange was well worth the effort and lifetime. I could go back and finish. My daughters continue their life-long encouragement. But why? I’d rather focus my time and efforts on writing a cozy mystery series.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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There are a lot of cozies coming out this summer

Cozy Case Files 12, a preview of upcoming titles from McMillan USA, is twice the size of its January predecessor. And boy, am I excited!

These books remind me of first grade when the Scholastic lady visited our classroom and gave us book previews and an order sheet to bug our parents. Those were some of my all-time favorite times.

OOOH HOW FUN! Here we go:

1. A Tale of Two Cookies: A Cookiehouse Mystery, by Eve Calder.

  • It’s nothing but sugar and spice at The Cookie House, but everything isn’t so nice elsewhere on Coral Cay.

2. The Rocky Road to Ruin, An Ice Cream Shop Mystery by Meri Allen.

  • Justice will be swirled by amateur sleuth Riley Rhodes in the first in Meri Allen’s brand-new mystery series!

3. Mocha She Wrote, Murder is a Sticky Business: A Bakeshop Mystery, by Ellie Alexander.

  • Trouble is brewing for Torte’s pastry chef and amateur sleuth Juliet Capshaw during the summer in Ashland, Oregon.

4. Death In Bloom A Flower House Mystery by Jess Dylan.

  • Sierra Ravenswood, a new Flower House employee in Aerieville, Tennessee, that every rose has its thorn.

5. Claws for Alarm: A Cat Cafe Mystery by Cate Conte.

  • Not everyone has nine lives. It’s the heart of the busy season, and JJ’s House of Purrs is booming—until a killer is let off the leash. Life just got complicated for Maddie James.

6. Murder Most Fowl: A Meg Lanslow Mystery by Donna Andrews.

  • Look forward to a Shakespearean twist on the long-running Meg Langslow mystery series.

7. Danger at the Cove: An Island Sisters Mystery, by Hannah Dennison.

  • In Danger at the Cove, a surprise visitor makes an appearance on the island—and murder ensues.

8. Trail of Lies, a mystery, by Kylie Logan.

  • Jazz Ramsey is just getting used to the idea that her on-again-off-again beau, Nick, might actually be a permanent fixture when she gets an alarming call in the middle of the night from his mother, Kim: there’s a dead man in her backyard.

9. Independent Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery, by Carolyn Haines.

  • When Dr. Alala Diakos, a visiting professor of Greek literature, comes to teach at Ole Miss in Oxford, Mississippi, it doesn’t take long for controversy to follow.

10. The Abduction of Pretty Penny: A Daughter of Sherlock Holmes Mystery, by Leonard Goldberg.

  • The Whitechapel Playhouse calls in Joanna and the Watsons to find Pretty Penny, a lovely, young actress who has gone missing without reason or notice.

11. A Peculiar Combination, by Ashley Weaver.

  • Breaking into the homes of the rich and picking the locks on their safes may not be condoned by British law enforcement, but World War II is in full swing, Ellie’s cousins Colm and Toby are off fighting against Hitler, and Uncle Mick’s more honorable business as a locksmith can’t pay the bills anymore.

12. A Rouge’s Company: A Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery, by Allison Montclair.

  • Miss Iris Sparks and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge are making a go of it in 1946 London. That is until Lord Bainbridge returns from Africa and threatens to do whatever it takes to put a stop to her business, even if that means sending her six-year-old son to boarding school abroad.

13. Fatal Family Ties, by S.C. Perkins

  • Texas genealogist Lucy Lancaster is back, working to uncover the truth behind a Civil War-era painting and its elusive artist in this delightful third mystery in the Ancestry Detective series.

14. The Secret Staircase, by Sheila Connolly.

  •  The town is finally on Kate Hamilton’s side, and the finances are coming together. Even two recent murders aren’t enough to discourage her: after she helped to solve them, she put them behind her.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Cozy Case Files and X Files have nothing in common

Boy, some publishers will do anything to sell books. Take, for example, St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books, who published Cozy Case Files: A Cozy Mystery Sampler, Volume 11. This company has declared that getting the word out about their awesome authors is their top priority. 

I guess that’s a good thing. Actually, it’s a really good thing. 

From what I can tell, I’ve been missing out on this clever marketing tool that previews upcoming cozy mysteries. I have two of these smart little overviews in my bevy; volumes 11 and 12. Today I’ll run down what’s inside the older volume that covered January 2021, and tomorrow I will catch up with volume 12, the most recent Cozy Files sampler.

The way this works is simple:

  1. We see a short overview of each title.
  2. We get a teaser of each story.
  3. We get each book’s three beginning chapters, enough to convince readers to open their pocketbooks and let their dollars fly right out.

Sampler 11 features:

  1. Death of a Showman: A Jane Prescott Novel by Mariah Fredricks.
  • In this fourth absorbing book set in the Gilded Age, New York lady’s maid Jane Prescott is thrust into the world of show business, where a killer is stalking Broadway.

2. Deadly Editions: A Scottish Bookshop Mystery, by Paige Shelton.

  • A treasure hunt through Edinburgh gives way to a search for a villain terrorizing the city in the sixth Scottish Bookshop Mystery.

3. Bodies and Bows: The Apron Shop Series, by Elizabeth Penny.

  • Iris Buckley is tying a bow on a wonderful summer when murder strikes … and death is something a quick stitch can’t fix.

4. Murder with a View: A House Flipper Mystery, by Diane Kelly.

  • The third in the delightful cozy mystery series from Diane Kelly set in Nashville, TN— where the real estate market is to die for.

5. Chilled to the Cone: A Bakeshop Mystery, by Ellie Alexander.

  • Pastry chef and amateur sleuth Juliet Capshaw finds herself on thin ice as she attempts to solve her latest case of a small-town murder.

6. Fatal Fried Rice: A Noodle Shop Mystery, by Vivien Chien

  • Ho-Lee Noodle House is getting schooled in murder.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Mystery at the Masquerade features gay male cozy characters

I’m not sure how I feel about male cozy mystery protagonists. The truth is, I can’t remember ever reading one before. I guess that makes me a male cozy virgin. Josh Lanyon defiled me with Ellery Page, the hunky hero of Mystery at the Masquerade, an M/M cozy, Secrets and Scrabble mystery, book 3.

Oh, I love the nerds. And Ellery is so perfectly poised to be my kind of Scrabble geek too. Here’s the stack up; he is the reigning champion Scrabble player, the Crow’s Nest Bookstore owner in his village of Pirate’s Cove, and he’s an aspiring screenwriter. And I’m not the only one who thinks this handsome hero is as cute as a puppy. 

See, Ellery is invited to a masquerade party by the wealthy Marguerite Bloodworth-Ainsley. 

That sounds fun—sort of Cinderella near the seaside. No. Phantom of the Opera. No. Oh, heck. I don’t know.

When Ellery gets there, looking all slick and hidden, he learns that he’s not so secret after all. It turns out that Marguerite has a son who has the hots for Ellery too.

SCRATCH! What?! Is he gay? Oh, man, what a bummer. All the super gorgeous ones are unavailable like that. Well, I guess I’m out of the running to fall in love with this fiction fashion model. 

But, Julian, Marguerite’s son and descendant of a pirate, is right on track to take over in the love department. 

That is, of course, a problem. Ellery must simultaneously fend off the feigning frenzied friend as he works to solve the recent murder of Julian’s stepfather. Complication. Ellery’s big nose is sniffing around Police Chief Jack Carson’s case. Oh, and Jack is Ellery’s on-again, off-again love interest during the past two books.

Oh, what will this cozy king do? What Watson? Is it elementary? Hmm. I thought you were Ellery’s puppy?

I’m sure we all know what comes next, and that is the fun of all cozy mysteries, of which this one is no exception. 

I was surprised to see a gay male protagonist in Ellery, but I am glad to see that this book doesn’t have any stereotypical church fanatics with signs and waggling fingers following him around. Jack and Julian are enough. And I’m relieved to report that life in Pacific Grove progresses normally.

Will Ellery find the killer? Will Jack commit to Ellery as much as he commits to his job? Will young, handsome Julian be out on the street or wrapped up in a warm, knitted blanket next to Ellery and a cozy fire?

I guess we’ll all have to read this JustJoshin Inc. publication to find out.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Crayola, Our Colorful Earth is a rainbow of facts, places and, of course, color

In some ways, I want to be a kid again. Take, for example. Crayola’s stunningly beautiful book, Crayola, Our Colorful Earth: Celebrating the Natural World by Marie-Therese Miller. This childrens’ book teaches important scientific lessons with such simplicity that its teaching method is hard to overlook.

I remember sitting at my grandma’s maroon-legged French bistro dinette table in Rancho Bernardo, California, during the mid-1960s. Wearing two low ponytails, shorts, and knee socks, I sat with a luxuriously indulgent 120-color box of Crayons, coloring pictures and drinking Fresca while my mom and grandma cooked bacon in my grandma’s hot pink kitchen. That happy, gentle, pre-kindergarten memory is one of my favorites. My big brother was next to me, my mom was close by, and all was right with the world.

As anyone familiar with the rainbow-of-wax company would expect, this book is jam-packed with dazzling color photos that point out a handful of brilliant earth locations and why that earth diversity exists.

This book highlights algae and minerals, tricks of the eye, and unexpected color shifts of locations most of us will never visit. This full-color picture book is a must-have for all homeschool and public libraries, homes, classrooms, and vacationers exploring new areas in their cars.

Who knew a river could be rainbow-colored? I live in California’s Mojave Desert and am familiar with a place called Rainbow Basin, a former dinosaur hotbed that now showcases a geographic masterpiece of mineral rock formations. Now, after reading Crayola, Our Colorful Earth, I know a river exists with similar masterpieces to display. I never heard of the seven-colored earth in Chamarel, Mauritius. I did not know that place existed. But it looks like something I might like to visit one day.

The unusual reminders of earth color bouquets accompany familiar beauty spots available to the general public’s knowledge base, like the orange and yellow electric glow of lava flows as it creates new basalt rock formations.

In this book, the strangely formed rock dragon called Nevada’s Fly Geyser spews its life-giving water through vents on its top. The geyser is my favorite location and factoid in Crayola, Our Colorful Earth.

Color graces opals and sapphires, lavender and sunflowers, as well as the massive Amazonian landscaped sky. And the giant Redwood trees on the northern California coast provide a multi-textured museum of time, growth, and beauty.

The Crayola company and Miller have done a fantastic job with this book that screams out, “READ ME!” Now I want more.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Andrew McCarthy reveals his life in Brat: An 80s Story

I learned the term “pretty boys” in the 1980s when movies like Sixteen Candles and Breakfast Club premiered. Rob Lowe, (gorgeous) Emelio Estevez, (looked too much like me), Judd Nelson (I liked the dark-haired boys), and Andrew McCarthy (too handsome to even consider) made movies depicting my era and defined my age.

The media followed this group of young people during their transition from youth to adulthood in an environment of expectation, pressure, and privilege, sharing every detail, pretty or ugly, of their storied lives.

Born and raised in New Jersey, McCarthy attended Pingry School, a prep school that refined his talent as an artist. He attended New York University as a theater major and studied at the Circle in the Square Theater School in New York. Set aside from the beginning to be a Hollywood master, McCarthy performed in a fistful of Off-Broadway shows and more than 40 movies during his young life and earned his way into the famous “Brat Pack” of era-defining Hollywood stars.

As an adult, McCarthy enjoyed a richly textured writing career for National Geographic Traveler, Travel+Leisure, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and a list of other top-notch publications. He then moved into the role of director and made his mark once more.

In his new memoir, Brat: An 80s Story, McCarthy outlines the pretty boy Hollywood lifestyle he shared with his 1980s peers.

McCarthy, who experienced his coming of age under the bright lights of reporters’ microscopes, navigated his way to adulthood in the fast lane with an unlimited buffet of sexy girls, drugs, and cars. McCarthy, like many of his peers, faced the choice of success or self-destruction. And McCarthy made his mark on the world throughout his life as a first-class multi-talented artist.

Honestly, I came to dislike this group of Hollywood hunks. I saw them as shallow, materialistic, too good-looking, and well-connected to have any character or life texture. They were on-screen puppets in my mind, used by movie makers to define my age. Rob Lowe and Andrew McCarthy, in particular, were two Brat Pack members I considered flat, useless real-life human beings. Embarrassingly, I expected them to drug out, drink themselves off a cliff, and disappear like the ratings of their many movies.

I was so wrong. I officially, and humbly, apologize to all Brat Pack members and pretty boys around the world. Rob Lowe was the first pretty boy to shock me back into reality with his work on Wayne’s World. And, admittedly, over the years, I’ve watched Lowe embrace humor and parody that made his overly gorgeous looks acceptable to be around. (Shame of me for being so insecure.)

McCarthy disappeared. Ironically, while he was off fulfilling a satisfying journalist’s career abroad, I was fulfilling a satisfying journalist’s life right here in Southern California. Reading his book now convicts me for my preconceived prejudice against his looks and privilege and demands respect where there was only a bedroom poster before. Bravo, Mr. McCarthy.

Brat: An 80s Story is a pure, intelligent, witty, and sometimes painful look at the life of this artist during the 1980s. McCarthy explores the plaguing questions of identity and direction in a world of thespian disorder and chaos. McCarthy’s introspective and candid nature makes this memoir memorable to readers as he tells history under the microscope of his own words.

Brat: An 80s Story, a Grand Central Publishing title, hits the streets on June 11.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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What do papercraft and drawing prompts have in common?

Today we have two titles, two publishers, one roundup worth reading. Here we go:

First up, The Art of Paper Craft, a Storey Publishing title by Helen Hiebert. We all have our passions, and this author’s mastered one of the most impressive art forms I’ve seen in a while. Paper art. Sounds cheesy? No way.

Years ago, Hiebert acquired a century-old paper-making mold used in the day when specialized artisans made the writing tools one sheet at a time. Hiebert was fascinated by this age-old process and could not help but dip her hands into the mushy liquid past and feel first-hand what it was like to spend hours and days creating a simple sheet of paper. From that point, she was in love with the intricate possibilities that arose for paper-making art. And clearly, she is a master at working with a unique art form.

This colorful, mind-twisting book is an origami lover’s dream, a fine paper artist’s ode to her inner beauty. I’m so impressed.

Yes. There are pages of beautiful origami instructions. Hiebert features that art in Chapter Four. But this 300-plus love affair with paper crafting encompasses so much more.

Hiebert treats us to full-color renditions of her paper-thin fine art, beautifully photographed and presented for all of us to admire. Like a cookbook, this author shares the necessary tools, techniques, and methods for creating paperwork masterpieces. Then she instructs, informs, and inspires.

I have to admit, Hiebert’s ability to create the colorful world of art with paper amazes me. It’s like viewing a watercolor painting on a piece of paper or an intricate modern art sculpture you could squash with two hands. Even if you are not a paper nut, which I am not, this book is worth considering. Sometimes, we all need a new passion, right?

Next up, Invitation to Draw: 99 Drawing Prompts Designed to Inspire Kids’ Creativity by Jean Van’t Hul is a Roost Books title that is grandchild approved.

Maybe I like these children’s art books because my grandchildren are perfect for discovering the art world. Or, it could be that I am a perpetual child who loves the elementary joy of creating art with pencil and paper. Whichever it is, this time-munching book is the perfect anecdote to a miserably hot afternoon that keeps our inner artists cooped up in an air-conditioned room.

Invitation to Draw contains all the regular stuff: The notice that prompts are not a substitute for free drawing, the idea that friends can copy the book, and instructions about creating future drawing prompts. This is a title that would lend itself well to a younger audience of artists. Kids between six and nine would enjoy finishing the design started on many of these pages.

But I have to say that this title has some more complicated line and shape art prompts that would be good for older kids between 10 and 12 years old. Heck, I remember drawing some of these things myself, but, perhaps embarrassingly, I was in high school, NOT paying attention to algebra. This 200-page playbook could get as complicated or straightforward as an artist would like it to be.

The more I look at this title, the more I want it for myself. Hey, where’s my unlimited budget and my Amazon account?

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes explains sensory-challenged children’s behavior

I wasn’t sure if Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down, by Lindsey Rowe Parker was more appropriate for me as an adult, children, or those who display this behavior set. Honestly, I suspect this book is good for all those groups, and probably more.

Forgive me if I mangle this terminology. This review is coming from a non-teacher, non-health professional.

Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes Calm My Jitters Down portrays a child-sized definition of what it is like to be inside a body with sensory differences.

Though jitters are common in folks of all ages, having an extreme case of the jitters and the compulsion to run, tap, touch, twist, and squeeze, like this boy, can sometimes be misunderstood.

But through the eyes and voice of this small child, and his mother, readers can explore what that particular behavior set is like for some people, why it is important for those with his mindset to feel the of dipping their feet into the cool water, the process of tapping three times on a surface, or running out that jittery feeling when necessary. It is all a part of how they interact with the world.

In this book, Mom is a person who understands the special needs of her son. Sometimes, he needs to run. Other times he needs to tap. And other times he needs to remove his shoes. He doesn’t know why he needs to do these things. He is just compelled to do them.

This character also experiences extreme distress at his inability to wash his hands clean of the soil that rests on his skin. He responds with an upset, exaggerated, and severe reaction to a simple problem other people would solve with more soap. But this sensory-challenged boy cannot process his dirty hands in a way commonly acceptable. So mom, who is trained to identify and assist in these situations, takes over and helps her special son find peace and calm once more.

Another aspect of this book I found illustrative of what it feels like to be sensory-hyper aware was that its text is run together, most words in a sentence are missing a word space, and some word letters overlap with the letters in place before it. When I first opened this book, I thought I was experiencing a software glitch. Then I realized the text was presented in that manner purposely to show readers how a child with special needs might see the same world.

All in all, this was a very moving five or ten minutes of reading that introduced me to a new way to understand and tolerate behavior and actions I do not fully understand.

Wiggles, Stomps, and Jitters is a title that belongs in libraries and classrooms. Teachers, at some age, might do very well to introduce mainstream students to what it feels like to approach life in a way different from their own.

I give this BQB title a thumbs up, a winner’s circle blue ribbon, a bronze statuette of the thinking man pondering why he was unaware of what was behind the seemingly bad behavior of certain children. And I deem this title an “I” for an “important” read for all ages. Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes will make a difference to everyone who reads it pages.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Resorting to murder is never restful

How can murder possibly benefit a southwestern United States resort lodge? Ask Julianne. She will tell you that it can’t.

Perhaps that is why our dear, smart traveling resort-chain software trainer is so interested in solving the Santa Fe murder of a high-profile businessman uniquely clad with a rather dangerous arrow protruding through his paunch. Especially after he grabs her ankle and, in his dying breath, somehow indicates to Julianne that it is time for her to don her super sleuth suit and sniff the killer out from the corner shadows.

This is no Steve Martin Comedy routine, all you readers old enough to giggle instantly at the absurd murder weapon. Instead, it is one of those unfortunate times when death is decidedly dealt to the dummy in the arrow suit laying on the floor.

Never fear, of course. Our razor-sharp heroine is on the job. And Julianne is about to slice a cucumber of clues to solve this senseless, savage, slaying.

Life becomes complicated when Mason, her over-attentive love blade, stabs at the dark as he wields his weapon against Julianne’s enemies and helps her, sort of, smooth over the seamless sinking of someone we all know is superfluous. The Enchanted Canyon Resort in New Mexico will never be the same.

Enter Mason’s former love interest. Why? How? Boy, it’s a small world.

She wants Mason back and forces Julianne to do double duty, defending her sweetheart and solving a murder simultaneously.

Daniels dives deep into Indigenous Indian lore as she weaves this fast, fun plot planted deeply among the weeds of deception and disaster.

Arrowed is book four in the A Resort Murder series, a follow-up to Daniel’s first three books that can serve as a stand-alone title as easily as reading it in the series order.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Bring back your smiles with grief doodling

Here is a vitally important children’s title for social services workers, parents, grandparents … well, everyone, everywhere who suffered the loss of someone they love.

Grief Doodling: Bringing Back Your Smiles, written and illustrated by Harriet Hodgson offers a kind, gentle approach to the heavy subject of grief by using a physical process to express a feeling that is difficult for some learners to put into words.

This book is precisely what it says. It is a personal journey through pen and paper to understanding and accepting a recent life loss. Grief doodling, according to designer Steven Heller, is the art of thinking, which means that the practice of doodling helps a person’s mind calm down and allow tension to float away while they are drawing simple shapes and forms about whatever subject is on their mind at the time of creation.
Doodling stills the mind so that it can gather facts. Doodling transmits ideas as it allows the person doodling to express themselves; it helps the mind pay closer attention to the inner subject rolling around in a person’s head.

Hogson writes that additionally, doodling improves memory, releases feelings, is creative, and helps the doodler know him or herself. It can be spiritual but does not have to be. Doodling is whatever the doodler’s mind wants it to become.

And that is why doodling is the perfect application to present hands-on learners while processing the subject of grief. Because grief, Hogson says, is a journey and doodling offers beacons of light on that path.

This book is excellent. Among its contents are doodling technique tips, examples of an object that might represent sadness, stormy thoughts, or sunny days. There are no rules in this art title, which is the ultimate freedom for readers to work through their confusing, waves of feelings.

Grief Doodling: Bringing Back Your Smiles, is listed as a children’s title. But honestly, this one is perfect for my 57-year-old mind to use. I don’t know about anyone else, but in my case, when grief hits my heart and my breath catches in my throat, I feel very childlike; vulnerable, afraid, and unsure how to proceed. For my personality, processing confusing, sophisticated feelings with this approach is perfect.

Let’s take a quick look inside.

Hogson presents the process of grief in a visual way and its pages lead the doodler through the classic five-stage grief process; denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.

Just reading this book’s intended message and thumbing through its pages, compels my mind to raise the subject of my latest grief process and challenge me to consider if I’ve made it through myself. This is the epitome of the word “workbook.”

Social workers, funeral homes, families, emergency staff, anyone who interacts with this inevitable, awkward, and emotional phase of life should at least have quick access to this 60-page title. Sometimes the best way we can help another person process their grief is by not saying anything at all. Instead, Grief Doodling: Bringing Back Your Smiles can do the talking for you.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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RuPaul pushed me out of the closet and under the microscope

I was raised to hold secrets; hide truths; put on faces “the world” expected me to wear. But the truth is, reader, that my tastes are different than some others. While many adults my age prefer to read thriller novels and sappy love stories, I am a closet children’s literature fan. This genre is honest, innocent, and pure of heart. And it illustrates the way my true heart wants to be. 

After all, what better time in life is there to approach a developing heart and mind with the message of love and inclusiveness?

I’ve never seen drag queen RuPaul on television. Not once. I don’t watch TV. It’s not a slight. It just is. But a few years back I did watch a Masterclass video session RuPaul taught. It was life-changing to understand this person’s story and to embrace his philosophy when it came to how to behave when someone else does not accept you; when someone else is downright mean and hurtful in his words, actions and intentions. RuPaul’s message is foundational and I wish I’d learned it before I spent my childhood calling people “Booger,” and “Fat,” and “Stumpy.”

Whoever said that “sticks and stones can break my bones but words will never hurt me,” WAS A LIAR. They hurt. They actually destroy.

 But one thing that truly cannot hurt me, or any child, is the understanding of love and acceptance that we humans can gift to one another.

Little People, Big Dreams, RuPaul, by author Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara and illustrator Wednesday Holmes is a child-sized account of a colorful, oak-strong personality who weathered the storm of the 1970s and 80s with the grace and wisdom of a queen.

Most influenced by his mother and three sisters, RuPaul’s childhood was a time of exploration and discovery. RuPaul was encouraged to be the person he was on the inside, and what blossomed out of that love and expression was a person who later defined the word, drag queen.

Forgive me for preaching, but here is why RuPaul’s children’s message is important to me as a Christian: 

The power, in my mind, of the message of Christ, is that Jesus LOVES us; that Jesus ACCEPTS us, where we are, right now, at this moment. Why would it be different for RuPaul, or anyone else? It’s not. But I as a Christian have far too often jumped straight to weirdo and skipped right over top of the crystal clear message that the word “WE” means all of us.

I am thankful to God that RuPaul dared to stand up and express his personality. I am thankful that this story is on the shelves to teach the true oneness of humanity. And I am thankful that God has opened my eyes to see my error in excluding those who act differently than myself.

Little People, Big Dreams, RuPaul is an uplifting story that teaches our future that it’s okay to be different, that love truly does conquer all, and, ironically, Little People, Big Dreams, RuPaul shares the ultimate message of God’s love in a non-churchy format.

Oh, and for all you naysayers: Self-love is not always intended to be a Godless, carnal running wild of behavior. And in this case, I take it to mean that we all need to embrace who we are and “just be.”

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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The Bark Before Christmas is NOT about Christmas, or dogs. It’s not even cute

The Bark Before Christmas, book #18 in the Melanie Travis Mystery series, by Laura Berenson isn’t about Christmas. Okay. It is about Christmas, and murder, and a bunch of other expectable cozy-perfect ingredients. 

I know. I know! Don’t bother protesting. These Christmas cozies are just so cute. To me, they’re little editorial Toy Poodles, small, cute, and have an end that never disappoints. And Berenson’s book is no different.

This barkalicioius story about a missing show dog, who is a Cairn Terrier and a proud representative of my favorite canine breed, thankyouverymuch, is different than other cozy I’ve lapped up before. Murder? Of course. Santa? Why not? But in this book, our heroine and main character, Melanie Travis is focused on an unusually short four-legged mystery, instead of the dead Santa laying at her feet.

Melanie is a woman neck-deep in her son’s various challenges, new marriage, private school special education teaching position, and a thriving standard poodle dog breeding business. She does not possess spare time to waste trying to solve the jolly old murder in red fur found nearby. No. She’s more interested in the missing dog, that somehow escaped its precious pooch palace during a school Christmas bazaar and pet photos event with Santa event.

That’s rough.

But, in this case, ignoring the dead body found within walking distance is a good plan. She needs to find a prize-winning Cairn Terrier who went missing at the same time. Can you believe that some foul fiend opened the snow-white, fluffy-furred terrier’s kennel door while simultaneously stirring up a pile of elementary chaos?

Hey, that brings us to a point; if a number one, long-term, top-quality showed dog escaped the safety of its dog kennel in the middle of a busy elementary school Christmas bazaar, how did “said dog” become a show dog in the first place? Wouldn’t a show dog stay put because it’s a show dog? Isn’t that part of why they win those blue ribbons? Oh, never mind.

Melanie does a great job solving this mystery while developing our canine muscles through education about the ins and outs of her most worthy champion poodle breed. And her deep commitment to her doggies takes readers on a path of discovery and danger. Nice.

Melanie is dogged in her pursuit of what turns into a confusing case of canine pooch-napping, and doesn’t let go until she’s chewed clean through this mystery.

Unmoved by bad puns and bad people, our heroine trots through every tunnel and she weaves through a french braid of suspects and sub-plots before she uncovers her ultimate answers.

And whala! Right at the same time that Melanie reveals the truth about the missing show dog, the police, in a separate investigation, catch their bah-humbug killer, and this story is wrapped up with a pretty bow.

If I had to attach a rating to this cozy mystery, I’d give it a “G” for Grandma thinks her grandkids would like this story. Therefore, I hereby deem The Bark Before Christmas a cozy for the ages – all ages.

And my granddaughter can’t figure out why I like reading all these books about dead bodies and crazy killers. Sheeze.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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This aint yo mama’s TikTok, but it is cookin’

Me: Tic Tock.

The voice in my head: You mean knock knock.

Me: No, Tic Tock.

The voice in my head: Alright, I give. Tic Tock what?

This TikTok cookbook is sheer genius.

From the fertile mind of Valentina Mussi, a.k.a., @sweetportfolio, arrives a brilliant, youthful twist on yo mama’s old cookbook.

You’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. This fast-paced, wacky world is way better. 

The Unofficial TikTok Cookbook: 75 Internet-Breaking Recipes for Snacks, Drinks, Treats, and More! is guaranteed to amuse and inspire human beings everywhere.

Damn. I wish I would have thought of this.

This little cookbook has everything from Dalgona Latte Coffee to egg lasagna, and whatever a cloud breakfast turns out to be.😊😊

Grab the vegi-ma-tator, or the blending, frapping, whipping, cooking and, whatever “after $%@%!,” device you have on hand, and dive into these pages.

Where, oh where do I start? How about cheese puff-crusted chicken fingers? Yes, please. Make mine a double.

Clearly, this is a cookbook for the young. Only this group of the adult population can get away with completely destroying any type of nutritional value in a food product whatsoever, and come out on the other end smelling like still-healthy-heart success.

But yum. Gimme seconds, the Tums, and the phone number to a good cardiac surgeon.

@sweetportfolio (Mussi) says anyone can have the same ol’ regular, boring food. But only readers of The Unofficial TikTok Cookbook can have a banner night, and a morning in the emergency room afterward, and get away with it.

I am seriously into this.

First, Mussi tells readers all about how to understand the terminology of the TikTok video platform, and how to film your versions of these recipes, so you can share them, and spread marketing word of mouth for @sweetportfolio across the globe.

Brilliant. Oh. Did I already say that? Listen up, grandpa. You need this tutorial or you’ll miss out on all the good stuff that will send you straight to the grave, but on the good side, your journey probably won’t taste like chicken.

Next, Mussi uncovers the success TikTok algorithm it takes for your videos of her recipes to spread across this popular Internet platform. 

Ah, I don’t want to betray my age or anything, but do either of those things have to do with food? Bring back the cheese puff chicken fingers.

Evidently, good marketing is the next subject in this cookbook, and then there is what appears to be a glossary of emojis (those are tiny little faces that keep popping up everywhere, old people.) 

And finally, the payoff. We get to page after page of scrumptious TikTok-able recipes to make any old fart want to be young again.

This one, readers, is a full-blown blast. And just for clarification. I mean that it’s an explosion of fun. Don’t send the senior citizen’s patrol to my door.

Do, however, get this one for your shelf, your e-reader of choice, or your snotty teenage daughter. Then, go find the Tums. Regardless of age, this one’s for you. After all, @sweetportfolio dedicated this book to her Abuelo.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Dear Paris is a visual feast

I sure do wish I was in on this “Dear Paris” project, artist and author, Janice Mac Leod shared with her subscribers on Etsy over the past ten years.

What a brilliant, creative, lovely expression of France, its culture, and its romantic attitudes; especially for someone who never left the United States and is left to explore her imagination and travel show memories to identify the author’s love for her surroundings.

Ten years ago Mac Leod needed money to help her travel and live in The City of Lights, so she started a paid physically illustrated journal service designed to fund her expenses and remember her experiences.

In return, subscribers received a “painted letter” in the mail that depicted Mac Leod’s artistic interpretation of the day. Beautiful.

The author explains at the beginning of this book, Dear Paris, The Paris Letters Collection – which is also on audio – that one subscriber in particular, supported Mc Leod religiously for her entire journey, and so in honor of that loyalty, each letter is addressed to “Aine,” (Anne).

The letters are unremarkable, ordinary in their text. They depict one’s life, in and out, ebb and flow, while living in Paris. I suppose, as a subscriber, who is receiving these illustrated letters in the mail, the words would not matter. They wouldn’t to me. And I suspect that Mac Leod’s story would grow on me as I lived overseas vicariously through her paintbrush.

The undeniable strength of this book is in its art.

I am an enormous impressionist fan. All actual, real art that I want on my walls is Monet, Manet, Renoir, or one of the gang. So, to see the physical art attached to these letters is compelling, fragrant and addictive, making the words another layer of the texture that adds to the overall picture.

I listened to this book on audio. While audio enabled me to imagine walking the streets of Paris, or jumping into one of my favorite impressionist paintings, listening to a project so visually enhanced was itself, like looking at an impressionist painting, not fully formed, made up of an organized chaos of color shards applied artfully to suggest something not fully present.

In my opinion, this book is without a doubt better on paper. This one, on audio, is missing a massive slice of its potential beauty.

That said, listening to Dear Paris did allow me to see France in the eyes of my imagination. For readers who visited the City of Lights, Dear Paris is a personalized love letter to the enigma of their memories.

All in all had I known about this subscription and possessed the money to support a traveling artist, I would have loved to participate.

I applaud Mac Leod’s work, admire her talent, and envy her experience. Dear Paris is one of those titles that is going to sit on tabletops for quite a while into the future.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Cajun County Mystery Series a Byron Blowout Bestseller – or at least it should be

Author Ellen Byron’s Plantation Shudders is the first in her Cajun County cozyy series featuring Maggie Crozat, a “prodigal” daughter, who returned home after – what else – her boyfriend and business partner of six years called it quits, took her side of the business and married another woman.

What is it with these unlucky cozy heroines? And, why do I like them so much? Scary comment on me. But, onward we go.

Maggie Crozat is an artist who returns home to her family’s former plantation, now bed and breakfast to help out with her parent’s Inn full of guests. This young girl’s cast of co-characters includes a wonderful grandmother, Maggie lovingly refers to as “Gran.”

In this first book, Maggie and her Gran team up to help solve a murder that eliminated an elderly couple, during a thunderstorm, at the Inn, in the parlor.

Da .. Da .. DAH! It’s Clue! Or maybe Murder By Death!

Though I’m not a voodoo fan – too scary for a Christian girl like me – Byron uses the subject as a cultural spice and seasons Maggie with the ‘shudders,’ which is a sixth sense that something is wrong.

Is it the Australian family, the college boys, the honeymooners, the obnoxious tourists?

Read and find out in this fun Southern-hospitality-themed cozy.

Plantation Shudders is Book 1 in this series. Body on the Bayou is Book 2.

In her second book, Byron continues to develop the storylines of several down-home characters that readers cannot help fall in love with. Maggie’s love interest, in particular, is an unlikely man, a Romeo and Juliet/Hatfield and McCoys kind of guy, whose autistic son steals the heart of everyone on the pages.

Maggie and her beau fight to find the killer that dumped a dastardly and ruthless marketer in the backwoods bayou. Somehow Maggie falls into another murder on her own parent’s property and finds the foul non-friend before the crocodiles can get at its latest meal.

In this second book, Maggie, her beau and Gran work together with friends and enemies to find the murderer who took out a human life that was already making everyone else miserable.

Byron proves that her second book in the Cajun County Mysteries, Body on the Bayou, is as fun as the first book and entertains readers from start to finish.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Amazon “Original” Reality TV cozy mystery is a great read, but harder to obtain

I’m not a giant “Bachelorette” television show fan, but I thoroughly enjoyed A First Date with Death: A Love or Money Mystery by Diane Orgain.

Told through the eyes of disgraced ex-cop, Georgia Thornton, this story is set in front of the wild, unreal world of reality T.V.

Georgia, or “G”, depending on who’s talking to her, thinks someone is out to kill her, after the bungee-jumping first date she takes with her reality co-star and potential love connection, Aaron, goes terribly wrong.

Georgia leaves the side of the San Francisco Bay’s Golden Gate Bridge, after a shove from someone behind her. And while she comes perilously close to the hard icy face of the Pacific Ocean’s water, Georgia is spared from certain death and bounces skyward toward the unforgiving surface.

Aaron is not so lucky.

Perhaps that is why we never learn his last name.

Poor Aaron plunges into the depths of the ocean face first after a bungee -cord malfunction, and ultimately dies from his injuries.

But, the show must go on, and before Georgia can recover from the Golden Gate accident, she finds herself in a formal gown, standing at the helm of an opening-shot retake so the television producers can replace the now-comatose Aaron.

Enter Paul. This scoundrel is the worst husband-material bachelor replacement, ever.

Georgia nearly loses her lunch when, at the opening retake, her former fiance’; the man who left her at the wedding alter and fellow police officer, Paul, steps out of the door.

Things could not get worse for Georgia, until the next shoot takes place, where the cast gathers, and bachelor number two leans into Georgia to whisper he has a secret message to share.

Well, he’s a goner.

After the suspicious death of a second contestant and a regretful ex-fiance hot on her tail, “G” must stuff herself into ridiculously revealing clothing, tower atop mile-high heels, fight jealousy and her romantic pursuits to solve the “suspicious deaths” of two men who disappear in her company.

Now, it is up to Georgia to wheedle down the suspects from her harem of potential mates who are either in their reality T.V. contest position for love, or money.

This one kept me guessing, and I enjoyed the relatively accurate and callous portrayal of the lunatic television producers who will sacrifice anything to obtain the perfect shot and enhance the suspense and drama of “reality” in front of their camera.

This story was jammed full of nutty stereotypical television types, insistent make-up and hair artists, barracuda leadership, and sly murder suspects.

I deem this a great read. Where’s the next one? Oh, ya. There is ONE problem with this book. It’s an “Amazon Audio Originals.” It is one of those exclusive types – which REALLY SUCKS. But, once you find it on Amazon, you can get it in paperback, mass market paperback, CD, and of course, audio. There are other cozies from this author online, and, this one might be worth the fight to find it and a trial run with Audible or Kindle.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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The Candy Cane Caper: A Culinary Mystery is a Christmas cozy set in Colorado

ADMISSION: I am now officially 15 cozy mystery book reviews behind. That shows how much time I spend in my car and the value of an audiobook subscription service. I’m not fully sure how to catch up on all these reviews other than to jump in and start swimming to the other end of this wonderful cozy ocean. So, let’s go. 

Author, Josi S. Kirkpatrick shares a wonderful and loving story about life, death, and family in this holiday heart warmer.

Yes. I must listen to yet another snowy-backdrop cozy while wandering around the Mojave Desert in my car because I miss the Pacific Northwest and am not enduring the below-freezing days my near-Canadian friends are experiencing this winter. (This was back in January, by the way.)

The Candy Cane Caper, a Culinary Mystery takes place just before Christmas in gorgeous Colorado. Sadie Hoffmiller Cunningham, our main character, and protagonist, is as expected, a nosy, persistent cooking aficionado who spends her time attempting to make the final days of Mary, her longtime friend, and neighbor, as wonderful as humanly possible.

Sadie is mourning the near loss of Mary, who, in her 80s, learns she has pancreatic cancer and decides not to seek life-saving treatment. Several months before our story begins, Mary sold her home and belongings, then moved into Nicholas House Assisted Living Facility where she could live comfortably through the rest of her days.

It’s 48 hours before Christmas. And Saidie’s law enforcement husband Pete is in another county, another state conveniently solving a cold case crime. So that gives Sadie plenty of time to visit Mary during her last few weeks of life. And that is where our story begins:

Sadie is visiting the now blind Mary and is decorating a Christmas tree with Mary’s priceless antique Christmas decorations. As Sadie reluctantly unpacks each delicate glass piece, Mary tells yet another nearly century-old story about the ornament’s origin, its extreme personal value, and its off-the-charts physical value on the antique market. Sadie’s trepidation to allow such valuable pieces to sit unprotected in Mary’s nursing home room grows a little more each time she reaches into the carefully packed box, but, so too does her desire to see Mary enjoy her final Christmas in the company of her favorite holiday memories. 

Well, we all know what happens next.

Bite off a few hours to relax and enjoy book #13, in this 13-volume Culinary Mystery series and you will enjoy a little virtual sugar retail, a little sweet and sour storyline, and a whole lot of good old-fashioned cozy holiday escapism.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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I cannot do justice to What It’s Like To Go To War

This book review is something I wrote at least three times since I listened to it on audio several months ago. And I still feel like I cannot do it justice.

What It’s Like to Go to War, by Karl Marlantes, is a harsh look at the ugly face of combat, and what mental conditioning it takes for a human to survive that primal life-and-death situation.

I understand now, why some of my relatives and friends, particularly those who served in Vietnam, don’t like to talk about the war. I didn’t even want to write a book review. I cannot imagine the hellish aftermath our Vietnam Veterans, and other warriors, have lived through all these years. But at the very least, now I know not to poke the wounded tiger of a combat veteran, and to listen compassionately when he or she is ready to roar.

Beginning with the mentality our military must instill in a soldier simply to get him or her to the other side of a combat tour, this autobiographical memoir is focused on the spiritual and psychological scars of the American warrior.

In Marlantes’ case, survival meant slashing through the jungles during the Vietnam war. With crystal clear, unforgettable imagery, Marlantes shares his experiences shooting his way to safety, contemplating the human lives he was destroying, and enjoying relationships with fellow soldiers, only to watch them be gunned into death a few feet away.

Marlantes talks about waiting for his only lifeline to safety; helicopter pilots, whose crew sharpshooters flood swatches of safety with live American ammunition in hopes they could grab weary and wounded soldiers after laying their copters down between the dense trees of the unpredictable land.

Marlantes talks about post-war abuse by American anti-war protestors who assumed a solider’s uniform was worn to command disrespect and not because a solider just gave up his childhood, his belief system, and in many cases, his sanity after a mandatory draft pulled them from their teenage life into a hell they were lucky enough to survive.

And then there are the chapters in What it is like to go to war, where the reader learns of the demons that visited Marlantes in the night to remind him of his deeds and to commandeer his soul – the demons that watch him from the shadows and whisper injustices in place by the altered mindset it took for him to endure the jungle.

Marlantes reminds us that war is human, and humans are psychologically, as well as physically fragile.

I am not doing this book justice, even after the fourth attempt at explaining something I never knew. Before I conclude, and on a side subject, Bronson Pinchon narrated this book on audio and he was phenomenal. I never would have guessed him to be Marlantes’ voice.

My personal opinion is that every human being on earth should read, or listen to this book, not for any pro- or anti-war reason, but to understand what we do to ourselves as humans to fight for what we believe. Everyone should read this book to hear the horror of the soldier, to understand the complications of a mandatory draft, and to thank a military soldier – and particularly a Vietnam Veteran – for truly laying down his own life so the rest of us can simply stay alive.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Create comics creates memories

Reviewing books from Netgalley is dangerous. Particularly, reviewing the art books.

Create Comics: A Sketch Book, from Chartwell Books, is the second title I ordered the minute I got done reading through its pages. Dang.

I’m supposed to be getting something for free, not spending money the minute I see something I think will be an automatic win for my family.

But when I find a must-have-it-this-moment book, Create Comics: A Sketch Book reached right into my wallet and grabbed about $12.

It’s worth it. Unlike other books that I buy on the spot, Create Comics is not arriving in my mailbox. It’s going to my granddaughter, who loves to draw comics.

I can’t wait to go see her, so I can borrow it … I mean, draw with her.
Like all Quatro/Chartwell sketchbooks I’ve seen, Create Comics: A Sketch Book is intended to, well, teach potential illustrators how to draw their favorite superhero character.

In my time, Peanuts and Family Circus were popular favorite character studies and comic strips to emulate, but these days, more sophisticated characters entertain our kids. P.J. Max, I think. Or is it P.J. Masks? I think the first one is a bathroom towel retail store.

Create Comics starts at the beginning, as it should, with simple lessons on how to connect shapes and lines to make figures. In the first boxes, Chartwell editors teach the theory, in the next blank box, aspiring artists create their shapes, figures, expressions, and emotions.

Then, little by little, we proceed to faces, noses, eyes, ears, hands.
After going through the steps these editors believe new artists need to grasp for the basics of illustration, Chartwell books provides several pages of comic strip blank pages that artists can use to create their very own stories.

I can’t wait to sit down with my eight-year-old granddaughter and play. I wonder what she’ll create? I wonder what I will create alongside her?
Doesn’t matter. The memory will be set, the creativity explored, our shared expression of fun on paper.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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“Volcano” is the art of science presented artfully

Some things are simply natural.

I was born interested in geology, weather patterns, tidal flows, the appearance of the sun and the moon that seemed opposite each other in the sky. I stand in awe of a beauty that has no appropriate adjectives to do it justice.

I live on the San Andres Fault, grew up experiencing earthquakes, forest fires, giant waves that sweep human life into death with one swoop of its hands. To understand how one green shale rock sits on the Cajon Pass and its partner sits hundreds of miles to the south means I must learn about the force of nature that can move those things into action. Volcano eruptions, to me, seem like the gas ready to propel the earth into motion.
Someone once told me volcanos are like teenager’s pimples ready to pop on the face of the earth. Something tells me I might need a more educated explanation of this subject.

Volcano: Live, Dormant and Extinct Volcanos Around the World, by Robert J. Ford, is an extension of that natural love. This gorgeous science and travel hardcover tabletop book is a showpiece. Its art leaps off the page and captures a piece of our world’s beauty I’ve not seen before.

Volcanos feature my “first-love of volcanos” if there is such a thing, Mount Vesuvius, and the time-stopping human sculpture it created when its hot Molton lava turned them to stone in the night.

Ford shares his knowledge about more than 60 active European volcanos, the longest-existing lava lake in Ethiopia, and Mount Stromboli, continually erupting for 2,000 years, which is located off the coast of Italy.

Ford presents 200 spectacular photos in this book and is highlighted even more if seen on the illuminated backscreen of a computer reading device.
Ford takes readers to Alaska, Antarctica, Tanzania, Tasmania, Russia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sicily, and, my closest neighbor, Washington state.

Learn the science behind this awesome empire builder and how it changed our world and you will find your imagination interacting with science to create a natural reality.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Death made cozy … again. How long is this genre’s history?

Death is an old subject. Old, old subject. And there are no signs we’re going to stop hearing about it.

For some reason, in 1891 England, amateur detectives and mystery book readers liked to call themselves Lord and Lady. Feeling superior, you two main characters?

Anyway, this time Lord William Wethington and Lady Amy Lovell jump into action after Mr. James Harding – no Lord in this guy – “drunkenly” falls to his death in the icy River Avon.


Mr. Harding doesn’t drink. He may be a well-known dirty rotten scoundrel, but, he doesn’t drink.


But why should the Lord and Lady care about poor Mr. Harding and his unfortunate demise?

Because, like all cozy fans love to read, the cops have it wrong, again.

But … in 1891, the English constable somehow finds a letter with Lord William’s name on it.

Hey, isn’t that a paper letter? Water, paper, water, paper … That’d odd. Forget that the victim was drunk in a river. A paper with Lord William’s name on it surely means he’s the evil villain, right?

No, not a villain, a warlock! A stupid warlock who knows how to indict himself in a murder charge by creating waterproof paper in 1891.

Whatta moron.

Lord William’s circumstances certainly don’t change when the constable learns his dead guy cheated Lord William … and a bunch of other people … in business.

Hey reader, have you ever noticed these authors make the bad guy someone, who in secret, you really don’t feel that bad about losing?

Well, like all the rest, this historic cozy novel is yet another wonderful diversion into the world of superior police work pulled off by complete amateur detectives who are nothing more than cozy authors and their fans, who have nothing better to do than to be nosy.

It’s a nosy cozy.

That sounds like that term that started out in 2010 called “citizen journalism,” where a bunch of greedy newspaper publishers fired all their reporters and encouraged people who did not know a thing about how to report the actual news, flood newspapers and Internet social media sites with propaganda, lies, and half-truths.

But I’m not bitter.

Geeze and people wonder why our society is so generally uniformed with the actual facts these days …

Sign of Death, the second book in the Victorian Book Club mystery series by Callie Hutton. This title delivers exactly what it promises and is a no-brainer-read for historic cozy mystery fans everywhere.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Travel is back! And its beautiful offerings have not changed

Breathe in … breath out … breath in … breath out …
Repeat this phrase: We are no longer stuck at home … We are no longer stuck at home … Don’t forget your ding-dong mask.

I’ve always been fascinated with foreign lands. I’m not a giant fan of big bugs, sleeping in a net, peeing down my leg and onto my sock, or picking ticks out of my legs, but I do love the flora-and-fauna, shade-and-sparkling-water beauty God created in most place other than the desert in which I currently reside.

Don’t get me wrong. California’s Mojave Desert carries its own beauty – and I do love it for what it holds. The rich reds and pale green layers of minerals hidden beneath one another that are betrayed only when earthquakes force them skyward are stunning. But, I’ve been here a long time, and the blues and greens of other lands beckon me during the miserably-hot summer nights.

Traveling on a budget was once extremely one-dimensional for this penniless girl. My ‘otherworld’s exploration’ was either experienced through the Travel Channel’s Samantha Brown or by spending hours staring into the silent magnificence captured in full-color, glossy hardcover table top books. When the Internet came along in the 1990s, I thought I’d visited Heaven.

But my parched mindset is yearning for travel once more, and Amber Books’ premier of The Visual Explorer’s Guide. Greece: The Cradle of Civilization by Claudia Martin is presented in perfect timing.

This book is Geor … ge … ous! Gorgeous!

Covering Athens and Attica, the Peloponnese, Central, and Northern Greece, Crete, the Ionian, and the Aegean Islands, this travelogue is a book that showcases some of Greece’s most beautiful assets.
No wonder our human forefathers found inspiration of thought and civility in Greece. Who wouldn’t? And the diet! Mediterranian. Just what I wanted.

To wander through these pages and read the short narrative Martin uses to punctuate the already speechless topography, is a chance to witness a glimpse of early civilization and its intense statement of advanced architectural creation. Greece, like the Mojave Desert, is built, one layer of history over the top of another layer of history, revealing its hidden treasures only when excavated by expert hands. Greece’s historic rises and falls are fascinating and very mirror-like to what will likely happen to the future United States.

I did not know that feta cheese was featured in Homer’s Oddessy. I barely knew what Homer’s Oddessy was, to begin with. Actually, that’s not true. My former lifetime partner had an incredibly intelligent young and educated mind and inspired me to catch up with his college education by learning of these fine literature pieces. I will be forever grateful for his priceless awakening.

I like how the Greeks, and Roman-influenced Greeks, built massive reminders to their people that they are dedicated to strength and power. No wonder the Greek civilization still thrives.

Greece, its culture and landscape, are a sense-overwhelming wonder. Buy this book, and its sister books dedicated to Italy, Scotland, and Iceland for readers who love to mix the imagination of amazing photography with just enough history to inspire their minds to yearn for more.

As for me, I won’t be getting my VISA anytime soon. But, that’s okay. Thanks to people like Claudia Martin, I can still enjoy a snapshot of what must be a colossal on-the-ground experience. And, if Claudia has not yet photographed a location I want to see, there’s always the Travel Channel, which occasionally televises exotic locations.

Where’s Josh Gates when you need him? I like that guy. He reminds me of Dudley Do Right.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Mary Higgins Clark gets cozy in her five-volume wedding cake series

Michelle Lovato’s Book Reviews With A Twist!

Piper Donovan is a failure. 

Well, not exactly. But this 26-year-old unemployed actress is smarting when she finally moves home to New Jersey, after facing the fact that her recently-broken wedding engagement and wide-open – or in other words acting jobless – calendar can’t sustain her lifestyle any longer. Home, where her heart is not, yet, But Piper licks her wounds while dabbling in the family bakery business to keep her busy.

As if losing her fiance wasn’t enough for this wilting flower, Piper’s best friend Glenna – thanks a lot honey – and fellow actress asks the talented Piper to make a wedding cake for her impending nuptials.

Problem? Of course.

Before Piper can layer icing onto Glenna’s frozen cake patties, a dead body appears out of nowhere. Who killed her best friend’s daytime drama co-star?

(Insert organ music from a ‘B’ horror film here … ) I’ve always been a fan of melodrama, as long as it’s not my own.

In this case, Travis York, Glenna’s television co-star is front-and-center at a charity auction, dead of cyanide poisoning.

Those darn actors always insist on being at the center of everything.

Glenna’s fiance is not happy when he hits the cop’s top suspect list. And Glenna is receiving threatening letters from the killer.

A cozy wouldn’t be cozy without the intrepid, spunky, loyal heroine insisting she jump into the center of this murder investigation, irritate law enforcement everywhere, and hunt down the killer. But, alas, Piper’s tubes are clogged. And the newly-minted wedding-cake artist realizes and she needs help.

Piper’s eggs get whipped when she comes across a childhood neighbor, and an irresistibly sexy FBI agent, Jack Lombardi. Perhaps Piper’s moving home wasn’t such a terrible idea after all.

Together, the smitten, but coy pair stir up a powdered sugar frenzy in their attempt to find the dastardly destructor during the days depressing her best friend’s wedding.

Perfect setup? Of course.

Mary Clark Higgins has the magic touch when it comes to giving readers exactly what they want from a murder mystery. Different from her mainstream thriller bestsellers, To Have and To Kill is the first “light” cozy mystery in her five-book Piper Donavan Wedding Cake Mystery series.

Someday, I want to read Mary Clark Higgin’s biography. This prolific wordsmith hero of mine is the real-life daughter of an FBI agent father and neighborhood cake decorating mother who worked at CBS News for decades before producing this series. Now, that’s my kind of murdering cake baker.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Why is weight loss such a consistent problem

When Weight Loss Hero author, Christine Carter says she lost 150 pounds by first changing the way she thought about weight, as well her own worth, I was excited to see a diet book with a reasonable, solid approach. Carter claims that easing her internal weight-control monster was founded on learning how to nourish her mind and body.

I believe that. I know that to be true. I lost 155 pounds in 2004-5, 60 pounds in 2011, and 75 pounds in 2020-21. Yo-yo, yo-yo, yo-yo.

But the caution I offer for this book is Carter’s method of weight loss. I’m not anti-keto. I’ve read a dozen keto cookbooks and pilfered scores of recipes I used and modified to satisfy my own nutritional needs.

But, with this book, and every other diet book on the market, creating realistic expectations and health goals must include an open-minded understanding that our fingerprint biologies are different.

It’s dangerous to one-size-fits-all the idea of weight loss. It doesn’t work. That’s why the diet industry remains one of the most lucrative book publishing industries in the nation.

Carter lost her weight using the Keto diet. And as I mentioned in previous reviews, if I followed the high-fat diet this diet supports, I’d be dead well before my time. I have a familial cholesterol problem and I have to watch that level closely. Without a doctor’s inquiry, I would not have known that important fact, leaving myself wide open to self-harm with the keto plan of high fat and high protein.

There are things to learn from diets that don’t necessarily work for every person, and that is the nutritional make-up of some of the specialized diet recipes and meal suggestions CAN be helpful IF the reader trying a diet’s method has a body that will respond well.

I’m not a medical expert. I’m just a yo-yo. But I have at least 45 years of experience trying to keep my weight under control, and I know how it’s done – for real.

Individually, intelligently and with a sober, steady, doctor-aware, marathon approach.

Carter shares her inspiring story in Weight Loss Hero: Transform Your Mind and Your Body With a Healthy Keto Lifestyle. She lessened her anxiety, minimized her depression, and reduced her dependency on prescription drugs during her journey. She learned the lesson that true, and lasting change comes from closeting the thought of rules and regulations for daily eating, and picking up the excitement to be found in new activities and life opportunities.

I agree. As a person who participated in Brown University’s 10-year long-term weight-loss program, and still rose and fell with my weight as my emotional life tanked and rose, I offer serious caution.

According to WebMD, in 2020 the US News and World Report named the Mediterranian Diet best for the third consecutive year. Which, by the way, means nothing if your mind or body rejects this way of eating.

I take pieces of this, pieces of that. I choose things that work for my body, and things that won’t harm my long-term well-being. To that end, Weight Loss Hero offers more than 50 original recipes worth a serious peek.

Is my third large weight-loss success the long-term charm? I hope so. I think so. But I’m not so foolish as to think that my next 50 years will be any less challenging than the first 50. In my case, I’ve eliminated the stressor most prolific in inspiring my diet flip-out choices. But I am in the same boat you are with the daily challenge of what to put in my body, how to nourish my mind and soul.

I wish you well, Christine Carter, in your efforts to share your message through Weight Loss Hero. And I wish you well, reader, in your challenge to blaze the highly-personalized path you need to take to achieve your goals.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Murder in the Piazza is a fantasy of Roman reality

Author Jen Collins Moore mixes a tour of the ancient city of Rome with the always intriguing subject of murder, when it is a cozy-style plotline of course, in Murder in the Piazza, Moore’s first book in the Maggie White Mystery series.

Like so many other cozy mystery female protagonists, Maggie White is a rather, well, nosy amateur sleuth dead set on the idea that she needs to solve the murder of a distasteful English aristocrat she found laying around in a penthouse.

It’s a darn good thing Maggie is a fine art aficionado since she needs her deep knowledge of the heavily-layered ancient expression of life to dig into the mystery laying before her. Otherwise, she might end up in jail. And we all know that prison is no place for a nice girl like Maggie White, a former executive who is stuck in the European mecca with her husband and is looking for a little adventure and peace.

This protagonist’s snooping device – she teaches art to wealthy students – is just what she needs to bring this untimely human obliteration to fruition.

As with all the 300-plus cozy mystery series books I’ve devoured through the years, Murder in the Piazza holds its own among the impossible-to-match cozy masters we all admire.

Someday, Jen, I will share my new series of cozy-mystery books set in this constantly-proliferating pretend world where the very ugliest representatives of human nature are so intensely mentally ill that they feel the need to confess while experiencing an emotional breakdown.

But is that what happens here? Hmm. I’m not telling.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Weenie loves eating cows, and doesn’t feel bad about it either

Weenie loves meatloaf as much as Garfield loves Lasagna.

Figures. Don’t you know that it’s a dog-eat cat world? Or, in this case, a dog teases cat world. 

Or, better said, it’s a cat teases dog world. Oh. Heck. I don’t know.

All I do know is that it’s not a dog-eat-dog world.

It’s a dog-eat cow world. Because Weenie LOVES meatloaf!

This darling graphic novel could not be more perfect for my first-and second-grade grandchildren who are neck-deep in the process of falling in love with reading.

During the 1970s, reading Peanuts cartoons in signet paperback book form was my greatest pleasure. I felt so accomplished finishing book after book of strip comics depicting Charlie Brown, that evil football-snatching Lucy, sweet little sister Sally, and adorable Linus.

Today, my grandchildren’s favorite graphic novels are more along the lines of Captain Underpants, and Dog Man. Cute, but a bit more, ah, Great-Grandma-Prudy-Pants offensive. But not Mad About Meatloaf! This book is 100-percent cute. Great Grandma PP would approve.

Introducing Mad About Meatloaf (Weenie featuring Frank and Beans Book #1), authored by Maureen Fergus. This early-reader chapter graphic novel stars the charming, mischievous, and enduringly hungry Weenie, who is, of course, a wiener dog.

In this first novel, our intrepid Weenie is laser-focused on eating his “Bob’s” meatloaf, conveniently sitting atop a counter, precariously close to the edge, waiting like a police-sting hooker to be victimized. 

Weenie’s friends, Frank the cat and Beans the guinea pig, argue with the suave little wiener because they do not agree whether eating Bob’s meatloaf is a house-sanctioned activity. Once they decide Weenie is a hero for teaching Bob the lesson of sharing, they dig into the challenge and work together to accomplish Weenie’s goal.

Illustrations? Just darling. Story? Predictable – but it should be that way.

A long line of first- and second-grade angels watched over this author as she penned this little book and an even heavier blessing was bestowed upon illustrator Alexandra Bye who breathed life into these friends when she created the illustrations. 

Mad About Meatloaf is a God-send to parents whose children struggle to fall in love with the foundational lifeblood of eye-opening, world-rocking knowledge available through reading.

Perhaps this book was intended to be something else. A gift book? A table topper? That’s easy to see. Weenie Loves Meatloaf could serve either of those categories. It could also spark a good old-fashioned newspaper or online-inbox comic strip as popular as its reverse-the-animal-characters near-clone, Garfield.

It doesn’t matter.

Right now, the only relevant thing is this: 

Weenie loves meatloaf … and he wants more.

By the way, I live with my very own Weenie. But he is much taller, a jet-black labrador retriever named Romeo, and does not need a cat, or any of his other dog pack members to help him skim the counters for food. All he has to do is lift his head, raise his giant body, paw the counter, and suck.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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301 Things to Draw is 301 ways to drink my morning coffee

Why do I fall in love with every single digital book title that floats across my desk? I want them all, sitting old-style on my shelves so I can pull them out, crack their pages, and jump down their rabbit hole of thought and imagination. 

What happened to the days I looked forward to the afternoon mailman who delivered happy cardboard boxes full of review books to open like Christmas presents. So fun. I was like Beauty, sort of, twirling my peasant dress in my own Beast’s gorgeous, but extremely dusty royal library.

And the ART BOOKS! Gimme gimme gimme! Let’s leap into those pages like Mary Poppins in her famous English movie. Didn’t whirl her umbrella, open her carpetbag?

Chartwell Books premiered 301 Things to Draw four days before Christmas last year. That’s a shame. Missed the biggest selling season of the year. But, never fear, 301 Things to Draw is an evergreen title that will remain fresh year-round indefinitely.

There aren’t more than five words on each page of this genius drawing book. But each word is judiciously placed to inspire a plethora of activity. 301 things to draw is a sketchbook intended to help beginner artists kick start their imagination.

Draw a tree frog … Draw a tornado …

Each page displays two prompts, making art space in this roughly 6×8-inch title about 6×3 inches each. It’s not an all-day project.

Like runners stretch their muscles before hitting the track and writers write a few hundred words before they start their professional work, 301 Things to Draw is an artist’s version of professional morning coffee.

In school, I would have been awarded a failing grade for completing this book instead of working on whatever boring academic pieces of paper lay before me.

301 Things to Draw is appropriate for pencil, colored pencil, and pens. I wouldn’t try to put paint on these pages. Too small. Too tight and a sure-fire way to created colored glue.

If you know an elementary school artist whose birthday is rolling around, or a bored mom recovering from her day, 301 Things to Draw is a thoughtful, inspiring, and supportive way to encourage the hand of those special people who can visualize life’s beauty and transform it into life on paper.

The last time I did a review on one of these Chartwell drawing books, I was on Amazon finishing my purchase before completing my own blog publishing process.

This time? I’m going to resist. Resist. Resist. Well, maybe I will just scan through the electronic pages of this fun little distraction once more and check my bank to see if I have any extra money laying around.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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America’s Great Railroad Stations is art of art by artists

Am I the only one in love the with insight professional architects and photographers display when they capture their visions and transfer them to a canvas intended to remain forever? To me, there is a special magic about a masterpiece conceived beyond the human eye of an artist who sees something individually their own and articulates their world through a collection of colors, shapes, and styles.

Like God who supernaturally creates a beautiful woman, some architects and photographers are deeply inspired by their maker to imitate such beauty by giving birth to a building design or capturing a moment in inspired history, that testifies to that building’s emotion, evokes its life and history. 

I am in awe of that person who can yield a pencil and ruler like a Samari sword and a star-shaped shuriken to slice timber, shape stone, and sculpt lasting, useful buildings that stand for centuries into the future. I am in awe of the person whose natural creative gift, attention to detail, deeply-sought-after skillset, and mastery over a camera’s lifeless lens can further highlight the master architect’s creation.

And so my hat is off to authors Roger Straus III, Ed Breslin, and Hugh Van Dusen who joined their creative forces to create a stunning photographic display of America’s Great Railroad Stations.

This photographic journey captures a collection of regal historic railroad stations, built decades before our time, and used to serve men, women, and children as a nexus meeting place, a shelter and safe respot for travelers who used America’s railroads to travel from one destination to another.

Inspiration in these stations is evident in their lasting impact over time. Some remain in use today. Some are re-purposed into new, interesting accommodations that remember and accentuate yesterday’s artistic tool kit.

One of my favorite pass times is to ride the MetroLink train to Los Angeles’ Union Station – at a time of day that it is safe to be present – and walk its antique halls, alive today with men, women, and children who continue to pass from one location to another. I love to scan the walls and appreciate the golden-lined details of this station’s childhood of existence. I adore sitting on its long, wooden benches staring skyward into the vast storytelling hidden in its arches and tiled ceilings. 

I love to walk this station’s halls, cross its front doors, and shuffle across the street to the colorful Olvera Street waiting for my wonderment of the reds, yellows, greens, and blues dancing on the wind; the smell of roasted Serrano peppers, steaming pots of refried beans … 

I’m making myself hungry. And, planning my next non-COVID weekend trip —

My point of this diatribe, of course, is that America’s railroad stations are full of this history, full of these stories, some of them our own relatives, and family friends. Strauss, Breslin, and Van Dusen capture this romantic period of architecture in America’s Great Railroad Stations and make this beautiful hardcover tabletop book an excellent gift for a host of art-and railroad-loving readers.

Sometimes, spending a little more money for a lasting work of art is well worth the expense. In this case, America’s Great Railroad Stations is, as its subject matter, worth spending the money. Buy this book and gift it to a dearly-loved friend or to keep it for your own table. There is no price tag for simple enjoyment, honest distraction, and automatic inspiration of one’s imagination.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Move through March with medicinal herbs

Winter isn’t fun, even here in the sunny Southern California desert. Wind. It is an ice-cold, slicing mirage fooling experienced desert rats like me to walk out the door without a parka and into a sunny heatless atmospheric blast of reality. It’s a trickster that convinces my sense of logic to present me coatless and practically naked to its fierce raping assault. By the end of the season, I feel like a ham steak, and a body-builder made strong by opening my car door and dashing across the Walmart parking lot, all the while knowing it’s easier to run fast than prepare ahead of time and wear my coat. Especially since it was warm moments ago in the car.

Oh, boo hoo to me. My friends in Montana endured below-freezing air, ice, snow, and dagger-wind for days that kept them from opening their doors and crossing their patios.

Regardless, Medicinal Herbs for Immune Defense: 104 Trusted Recipes for Fighting Colds, Flus, Fevers, and more is one of those books that falls into the “Better Late Than Never” category in my assessment of titles that could have made the difference during winter.

The good news is, however, that next winter looms three seasons into the future and we’ll face the same challenges again, with bodies another year older, wiser, and in my case, perhaps weaker.

I consider Medicinal Herbs for Immune Defense a cookbook as valuable as any other on my shelf. Its concoctions can save me a trip out the door, into traffic, and through a waiting-room experience watching nasal plumbing issues and questionable internal disorders.

Author JJ Pursell, and Timber Press, introduce this holistic health title with the reminder that COVID 19 brought the clear need for additional education in this ancient health healing system. Let’s take a look.

Step one: Learn the basics. The fastest-acting medicinal herb remedy exists in the form of a liquid tincture. Ingesting a concoction in the form of warm tea will soothe a completely different area of disturbance. Rubbing herbs on an affected wound is appropriate for its own set of issues. And on, and on we go.

Pursell introduces how to make master mixtures, how to create customized recipes for customized problems, and how to stock your shelves with items that are ready and waiting to heal your ailing body.

I wish this title was not electronic and expiring in six days. This is one of those titles I need on my shelf … at the ready, all the time – like stocking the cupboard with sugar, flour, rice, and beans.

I am an enormous fan of aromatherapy, which is a great excuse to buy candles – SOY WAX PLEASE – as well as essential oils. I have my favorite high-end brand I won’t name for fear of alienating lovers of competing brands. But in my opinion, pure essential oils are priceless in the effort to combat the ails that push all of our health cycles downward.

As far as herbs go, however, Medicinal Herbs for Immune Defense, its master recipes, and listed remedy concoctions make this book another foundational title for my shelves.

Like other cookbooks on the market, Medicinal Herbs goes through the standard routine of stocking shelves with proper ingredients and tools, herbs, and other miscellaneous items needed to succeed. It explains the more intricate delicacies of creation methods and ingestion. It offers a mini-Bible of recommended herbs, and frankly, a lot of these plants are commonly available, and likely wandering around in your garden.

Who knew roses were considered herbal medicine? I know it’s one of my favorite scents. It inspires my smile when it wafts into my nose since it reminds me of my youngest daughter who says rose smell means “old lady.” Ok. I’ll accept that.

Medicinal Herbs for Immune Defense will forever mark this COVID-19 ground-zero period in history, as its author directly addresses this deadly, invisible assassin’s effect on humanity.

Allergy treatments, anti-viral treatments, breathing treatments, all headline this essential health book. I suspect an herbal medicine fan could likely find many of these recipes in a variety of sources other than between these two covers, considering the age of this successful treatment method, but why? This title covers almost everything that’s ailed me through the years.

Get this Bible and let it decorate your shelves. When you get sick, grab it, use it and get well. You will do yourself a favor – and you might just teach your children that ancient medicine is often just as good, or better than the latest hot pink pill they are about to pop.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Shakespeare on Toast is like sawdust on rye

I’m not gunna lye. I didn’t ‘reed’ Shakespeare on Toast.

The idea of Ben Crystal’s unmercifully thorough tome on how to break-down and understand Shakespeare’s classic work seems like something I should know. But I can’t seem to get interested enough to read it.

To give you an idea of my predicament, I’ve had this book in my review folder since August 2012. That’s not 2021. That’s nine years ago. Hmm. Maybe I should wait and make it an even ten.

Snooze …

Shame on me. How dare I call myself a writer without having keen respect and admiration for William Shakespeare, who I am told, is credited for putting on paper a bagillion different forms of storytelling the rest of us ripped off repeatedly as soon as the ink dried from his quill – or chalk – or coal – or whatever. I know some people claim he created storytelling’s foundational archetypes, but, I’m sorry. He isn’t the first. What about the Illiad, the Oddesy, the Bible? Shakespeare had to rip off someone. He was just an outstanding marketer.

Those darn marketers rule the world with their sleight of hand. And let’s face it. Shakespeare was a great marketer. Really great.

Author Ben Crystal is, however, a proper authority on this subject and his book “should be required high school reading,” according to his reviews.
In this book, Crystal breaks down Shakespeare’s stuffy attitude to reveal “plays for what they really are: modern, thrilling, uplifting drama.”

Thank God Crystal did this. All you high school students need to get this book. Spend your allowance. Do what you have to do. Invest in this book and your mandatory dive into Shakespeare will be easier on your brain. Not to mention, you won’t be inspired by that tired old “Romeo” story and kill yourself over a girl. Believe me. There are plenty more.

Well, maybe I shouldn’t say that so fast. My first love – though he was a boy – is still pretty important.

Just don’t kill yourself over it. Life is still full of way fabulous experiences.
You know what, reader. Suddenly I feel like I am back in high school. This is exactly how I got through that grueling four years of fear and hiding from bullies and gang members. I won’t even mention the pain I endured not using the school bathroom my entire high school career. How did I do it? Create a distraction, pave the road with baloney, run as fast as you can and learn everything you were supposed to learn in high school over the next 40 years. Ya. That did not serve me very well.

My advice? Just read Shakespeare on Toast, grab every Cliff Note-type book you can find, and hold on for the ride. I guarantee. A small percent of you will actually like this stiff stuff and learn something that cuud turn U into a righter sum day.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Potatoes on Rooftops ensure food production in the city

After a year of abstinence, this Southern California city girl is excited Big Brother might finally allow restaurants to open for inside dining. I didn’t even know “inside dining” was a term. It’s been a business-destroying year and has forced me to rethink the way I access food.

Sometimes I wish I was a toddler again, eating cereal out of a baggie in my car seat, banging my hands against my brother without retribution, and reading fun picture books designed to teach me about the big, bright, beautiful world. Or maybe it would be better to be a grade-schooler, eyes wide open to the wonderous universe of learning opportunities available. Regardless, Potatoes on Rooftops, by Hadley Dyer, tops my menu of perfect reads.

Illustrated by Michael Martchenko, this informative picture book educates readers about non-traditional ways to enjoy city gardening. Potatoes on Rooftops provides readers with an overview of several already-established programs that teach local youth the fine art of creating a self-sustaining food-growing environment for themselves and generations that follow.

Dyer shares a Detroit high school program that teaches kids to grow food and raise chickens and a Tokyo bank vault that was converted into an underground greenhouse and a Nairobi local youth that turned a part of a slum into a garden to help feed local families.

This title is filled with gorgeous photos and illustrations and perfect for a school library. It is an excellent spring-board book for inspiring kids to learn the science of botany. This title is perfect for school club organizers who can use its model to help countless minds learn how to create self-sustaining environments for the future.

After all, you never know when the world is going to plunge into a pandemic and leave society without line cooks, indoor air-conditioned, plastic dining chairs, and all the soda our hearts desire on the counter behind our table.

Don’t tell anyone, but during the past six months in my region, an underground rope of culinary rebels hid their indoor dining so well during, they actually stayed in business. It was a prohibition for food. Wild. I never thought I’d be part of that rebellion. But, admittedly, I know that rope intimately.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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Ode to your cookies is baking my cookies

QUICK! Grab my diet pills! Inject the insulin! Cork my mouth shut! Call my counselor!

Just when I thought I was safe from packing on another dozen pounds, Houten Mifflin Harcourt presents The Cookie Bible.

Seriously? A cookie Bible?

Thin, crisp, and chewy chocolate chip cookies?

I can resist. I can resist. No. I can’t resist. Move over. I’m sidling up to this bar.

Hello, sugar. It’s nice to greet you. We know each other well. I’m your biggest fan. I take drugs to quell you – to keep your scintillating tentacles from hooking my hands around your creations. Even pills a don’t touch that animal desire to slide your sweet narcotic taste away from my addicted mouth. Oh, Sugar. You darling, mischievous imp. You alone, are the sexiest seductress in my world – or would that be seduction? Or Casanova? Oh, whatever. Let’s get to this review.

The Cookie Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum, is the answer to anyone’s sheet-soaking dream for sugar. “Rolled by hand,” “dropped or piped,” “shaped or cut.” 

I am drunk already.

Beranbaum shares her version of classic cookie favorites and introduces us to recipes I never conceived before.

Kourambiethes!? Muscovado? Cat Tounges? Swiss Schoggies? Ex-cauuuuuse me!? What did you say, Ms. Author?

The Cookie Bible takes bakers, and sugar aficionados like me around the world in this must-buy cookbook.

Here’s what I’d do. Buy this book for your favorite baker’s next birthday. Or heck. Just give it to them as your latest “Love Gift,” and let them experiment before the end-of-the-year holiday season begins.

The Cookie Bible is packed with culturally-classic mama-used-to-make recipes that wrap a golden bow around any holiday celebration; Halloween through New Year’s. 

I am 57 years old, and as I read these recipes to my mother, she tells stories of my father’s grandmother, who made this cookie or that cookie for Christmas. I remember, as a child of the 60s and 70s, sitting perched atop a kitchen barstool to watch my mother whisk and roll and shake powdered sugar over similar confectionary joys.

The Baking Magician takes “healthy” ingredients and turns them into devilishly delicious delicacies. Tahini crisps, lime butter squares, apricot walnut rugelach. And interational favorites too: Norweigen Pepparkakors, German Mandelbrot, Austrian Ischler.

Beranbaum offers Jewish, Greek, Italian, and Brazillian recipes. And here is the icing on my proverbial cookie: Swiss Lebkuchen – a recipe from 2,000 b.c. Mesopotamia, considered to be the world’s oldest cookie recipe.

Now, this is the kind of family history I like.

But wait! Call the EMTs! Beranbaum unveils the answer to combining leftover cookie-making ingredients in her Freedom Treasure Cookie recipe, where she teaches bakers how to recycle cookie excess to create custom cookies as personalized as a thumbprint.

Hold on. I choked on my coffee. I need to recover.

No discrimination here. Beranbaum uses brown, white, powdered, and Muscovado sugar.

Oh, joy, tell me what to ingest and I’ll open my trap and let it drop into the silo.

Beranbaum makes a smart move wrapping up this page-turner with her recipe for Prune Lekvar. That should get things moving in a different direction. 

Though Beranbaum authored The Cake Bible in 1988, the Pie and Pastry Bible in 1998, the Baking Bible in 2014, and Rose’s Heavenly Cakes in 2020, I’m lucky she hasn’t gotten around to writing the Donut Bible. Those floating sugar rafts are my real favorite.

Happy are those who respect the Lord and obey him. You will enjoy what you work for, and you will be blessed with good things. Psalm 128: 1-2

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