Chickenlandia: A Shady Hoosier Detective Agency Mystery by @DaisyPettles

Pawpaw County, Indiana is all a twitter with the annual chickenfest happening. That is, until Ma and Peepaw Horton’s prized rooster and hen go missing. RJ and Veenie are hired, however, to search for the missing Chicken BBQ queen instead. Things turn even darker when the local chicken dance king is run over by a car with out of state plates. Can things get any stranger or darker for the people of Pawpaw County!?

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First, allow me to say thank you for all of your thoughts and well wishes while my husband had by-pass surgery. He is home now and doing very well. They did some “extra work” while they were in there and soon he will be better than new. It’s great to be home and a little more settled, though. I thought I would read a million books during this time – I read none. <sigh> But, thank you all!

To say that I love (LOVE) this series is an understatement. I don’t know if it is because I’m from Indiana and know just how crazy the folks here can be or if it is the characters that Daisy Pettle’s creates or maybe a little of both! What I do know is that this cozy mystery series is a laugh out loud good time and fun reading.

Through the previous two books, we have come to love the chickens – and Rooster Dewey – at the Horton’s farm. The chicken houses are built to resemble famous buildings from all over the world, including the white house, so naturally we and the people of PawPaw County are very worried when something fowl happens there. Then, of course, there is the mysterious disappearances of the BBQ queen and more…..  What makes Chickenlandia and this series so wonderful are the senior sleuths who work at the Detective Agency. I’m not sure I ever have read about or related to fictional characters as much as I do RJ and Veenie. They are colorful, hilarious and always get their man with plenty of laughs, sarcasm and shenanigans along the way.  If you like cozy mysteries and if you love humor, then this is a book for you. You can read Chickenlandia as a stand alone, but the books are quick reads and I suggest you read them all.

Thank you to @Netgalley, #DaisyPettles and #BooksGoSocial for my copy of this delightful book.

Sunday Morning for Kids featuring: The Hat Who Was Left Behind, Billie Jean and Marie Montessori

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The Hat Who Left Behind is such a beautiful book for young readers. The prose is brilliant and written in a flowing verse with which children will be enraptured  It is the illustrations, however, that captured my attention.

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Each of these gorgeous watercolours tell a story in themselves. They invite the reader to use their own imagination to describe what is happening within them. The language is simple enough that whoever is reading, adult or child, can elaborate on commentary and that is very important for young readers especially.

The theme is one of purpose: can we or an inanimate object be more than what we think we can be. Can a hat, whose purpose was beauty for a small child, be more than just a hat. Think about that and you will find that the philosophy behind this one can be as deep as you want it to be. Again, this is a skill I highly encouraged my own children to develop and the author and artist have done an exquisite job illustrating this. The Hat Who was Left Behind is a perfectly marvelous book and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Meet the Author and Illustrator:

Céline Lamour-Crochet was born in Brittany, France and is a well known children’s author whose titles are available worldwide. This is her first book for minedition. Feridun Oral was born in 1961 in Kirikkale, Turkey and graduated from Marmara University. He has illustrated his own children’s books as well as those of other authors. He is the recipient of many awards including an award from UNESCO in Japan. His books with minedition include The Message of the Birds, A Red Apple, A Whisper In the Snow, and A Warm Winter.
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On a different note and in the genre of children’s non-fiction, there were two incredible books that I added to our library: Billie Jean and Maria Montessori.
I think there are few women who are not familiar with Billie Jean King and the accomplishments she achieved for all women. A tennis star in the latter part of the 20th century (that looks strange, doesn’t it?) Billie Jean King played tennis against Bobby Riggs in a match entitled “The Battle of the Sexes.” Billie Jean won the match and went on to open new paths for women of all ages.
She didn’t start out as champion, however. At one point she was a little girl who was considered overweight and wore “coke bottle” glasses. To overcome the stigma, she began playing tennis where is steadfastly prevailed. She is a role model for all children on perseverance, overcoming bullying and what we all can achieve when we work hard. Billie Jean, by Mara Rockliff,  is a well told story of an amazing woman whose legacy should be known by children everywhere.
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Oh wow. I probably could write my own book about Maria Montessori who is and has been my own role model and hero. Few have influenced my life and that of my children as much as Maria Montessori!
Maria Montessori, by Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara, is part of the Little People, Big Dreams series for children. The books are basically biographies written on child’s level about people who not born into greatness but, instead, lived to achieve their dreams. Montessori is best known for her unique method of educating children that was and still is practiced in many countries through schools founded on her philosophy and by many homeschool families who appreciate the child centered approach to learning. The book often points out, rightly so, that Maria received her education, in science, medicine and more, at a time when girls were not encouraged to do so. She overcame the odds to become an expert in childhood education.
My one drawback to this book is that the author describes Montessori’s method as education through play. While playing in an important part of learning for us all, that is not the foundation of Montessori’s teachings. Learning is everywhere – play, cooking, building, every day skills that we must achieve. Giving the child access to multiple areas in which to learn – including play – is essential to their growth. My son was cooking Mac and Cheese from scratch when he was five years old because he was never told that he couldn’t. All of my kids stayed well above the “normal” achievements of others because they were never held back from learning new skills. Freedom to learn everywhere, that is the beauty of Montessori’s method.
Maria Montessori is marvelous addition to this incredible series and one that I hope parents and teachers alike will utilize to their fullest extent.
If you read these book, or have already, let me know what you think. If you haven’t, then I encourage you to do so regardless of your age. You will learn something new, guaranteed.

The Companions by Katie M. Flynn

A dystopian sci-fi novel that is far too close to reality for comfort….

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A pandemic sweeps through the US during which quarantines are mandated. Neither the living or the dead are allowed to leave. There are people trapped in towers who are both stir-crazy and lonely. Metis, a tech company, comes to the rescue with “companions.” Download the brain with all of its electrical currents, memories, and emotions, into a robotic body – some with skin for a more human like touch. These creations are pre-programmed not to harm or do violence and to operate only at the command of their human. One such “companion” – Lilac – goes off track when she learns that she is to be scrapped. Setting out on her own, she is in search of the person who murdered her human form.

Admittedly, this one of the strangest pieces of fiction that I’ve read in a long time. When I began reading I wasn’t sure if I liked it or would finish the book. But then I became invested in Lilac as she hops from body to body. We’re then introduced to more characters, some human and some are companions. Each of the stories seemed to be unrelated – until they weren’t. Going further into the book I realized that each of these “stories” was interconnected and relevant to the others. By the end of the book, I was all in and couldn’t believe how it ended, or possibly I knew how it would end before I even began reading.

What was so startling about The Companions is on this day, as I finished reading and am now writing this review, I’m listening on the news about quarantines being set up all over the world on the brink of what could be the early days of a Pandemic. In tandem, there is tech news about the first fully functioning AI who is frighteningly quite human. In light of those things, The Companions seemed more current events than “sci-fi.”

This is NOT a book for everyone. It is, however, one of the best dystopian tales that I’ve read in ages. It’s also a great sci-fi experience that does not involve other galaxies, fantasy or world building. If you do not like dystopian fiction or science fiction, then you will not enjoy this book. However, if you like new, different, quirky, dark reads then I can recommend The Companions 100%.

Thank you to @Netgalley, the author and #GalleryScoutPress for my ARC of The Companions.

Romantic Two for Tuesday: Husband Material and Been There, Married That

Happy Tuesday! I had hoped to bring you two delicious romances for the Tuesday of Valentine’s Week. Strangely enough, neither of these books were what I was expecting, one for the better and one, well… not so much.

Been There, Married That by Gigi Levangie, promised to be a humorous look at a celebrity marriage gone wrong. I truly thought it would be a funny take on a woman who was rebuilding her life after a celebrity marriage. What I got, instead, was a book about nothing. The characters were flat, there really wasn’t a plot other than a lot (a LOT) of attempts at humor. In fact, that appears to have been the goal of the author – to see how many laughs she could get, many of which fell very flat. I love a good Rom-Com but this was neither a Romance or a Comedy. It was like watching a really bad movie where there is one pratfall too many. Basically, I skimmed three-fourths of the book to finish. So, no romance or recommendation here for Been There, Married That.

On the flip side, I had small expectations for Husband Material. But then I read the first page, and the second, and found I couldn’t stop until I was completely finished with the book. I honestly don’t want to say too much about the plot because I want you to be as surprised as I was. The main character wants you to believe this is simply her search for the perfect husband. What we discover instead is that she is much less detached and aloof than she appears and her heart is in need of serious mending. Husband Material had me laughing, crying and cheering and then I wanted MORE. It is a wonderful book that is far more than a romance. It is wonderful story of resilience and strength. I highly recommend Husband Material for all who love an exceptionally written story.

Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them? Was I totally off the mark with Been There, Married That? Let me know….

#MurderousMondays – The Look-Alike and When You See Me

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I’m doing my best at “beating the backlist” which includes some amazing crime fiction that earlier got erased from saved files. Just because I failed to review them in time does not make them less than stellar suspense thrillers. I hope you’ve either read them or will be enticed to do so after today.

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Erica Spindler has become of my favorite suspense authors. While she began her writing career in the romance genre, she has quickly made a name for herself with her crime fiction series and her stand-alones, which are the ones I love most. Now she is back with The Look-Alike, a can’t put down thriller that will have the reader doubting their own sanity. Let me also state, up front, that I admire any author or publisher who remembers to put a hyphen in the wordd look-alike!

Sienna Scott, our primary character, has led a bizarre and rather sad life living with a mother who a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic. She literally lives a life in constant fear and paranoia. Sienna’s father has done everything he can to protect Sienna from her mother including shipping Sienna off to London to keep her from “shattering” after Sienna discovers a fellow college student dead on campus. However, now Sienna is back home, with her mother, where she begins wondering if, in fact, she was the target of the killing so many years ago. The victim could have been Sienna’s exact “look-alike.”

Spindler weaves a tale of suspense that will leave you doubting your own sanity as much as Sienna and her mother doubt theirs. The Look-Alike is filled with twists and turns that will keep you reading until the end – but, never once do the surprises appear staged for shock value, Rather, they are the perfect course for a case like to take. Who is telling the truth? Who is really behind the murder and how much paranoia is real and how much is being exacerbated to make Sienna and her mother off balance. Fabulously written, this is a thriller that I highly recommend to all who enjoy crime fiction, thrillers and suspense.

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I have come to adore Lisa Gardner’s writing and the characters from her various series. Now, in When You See Me, Gardner has brought together the most-loved characters of two of series together: DD Warren, Kimberly Quincy and Flora Dane. Detective series just don’t get much better than this!

Earlier in the series we were introduced to Flora Dane who spent over a year as a captive of a deranged killer. Now bones have been discovered in a remote area of Appalachia that suggest the killings are associated with Flora’s kidnapper. FBI agent Quincy, Det Warren and Flora go to the site in hopes of finally putting to rest Dan’s abductor once and for all. What they find is a crime far larger than they bargained for.

When You See Me is an extremely well written, tense thriller. We’ve come to know these characters through other reads and feel a connection to them, their quirks and their flaws so much so that it is very easy to become fully engrossed in the danger that is lurking in the dark, rural mountains. As mentioned, this is part of a series – two actually – and I do not recommend reading it as a stand-alone. I started the series in the middle with the introduction of Flora Dane and have since gone backward to catch up and to read the Profiler series which includes Agent Quincy. When You See Her feels more like a conclusion to a story-line that should be followed, rather than a place to begin. I know that many of you already follow Gardner, as do I, and if you haven’t read this one yet, it is a must read for her fans. For others, at least go back to Find Her and start the series there. You will be glad you did.

 

Scorched Grounds by Debbie Herbert

At least one Saturday a month I like to feature southern literature. I may not be a southern gal any longer, but writers from that region have a gift that is quite different from most other authors. Their writing is grittier, darker, have sly wit and so much charm. Southern Literature is definitely in my soul.

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Scorched Grounds is the second book by Debbie Herbert in the Normal, Alabama series. For those wondering, yes there is a Normal Alabama. It’s an…. unusual place and one I don’t care to drive through again. The series is set in the same location but with totally different characters so join us as we get to know the people from Normal.

Della Stallings’ father went to prison for murdering her mother and brother. Della was the sole survivor of this tragedy, one that has left her with a debilitating phobia. She has worked her entire life to cope with this phobia, including working only the night shift. But now, her father is being released from prison on a technicality and murders begin happening almost immediately. Della has no idea if it is her father who is killing people or, worse, he is being framed by someone else – someone very close to Della.

From the cover, alone, you can tell that this story is very dark. The characters are not very likable. The places are dreary and, some, in ruins. Despite that, you get the sense that Della is trying desperately to rise above this, not to be pulled down by the horror that is her life. There is, however, someone who is determined not to allow that to happen. From Della’s father, to her very bizarre psychologist, to her gosh-awful aunt and uncle, there are so many suspects, a myriad of twists and turns and chilling acts of terror to ensure you are captivated from start to finish.

Herbert does an amazing job at creating an atmospheric thriller that is a perfect example of southern noir. I loved it and hope you will too!

Thank you to #Thomas&Mercer and #Netgalley for this intriguing thriller

The Neighbours by Nicola Gill: Happy Pub Day!

In this era of “ageism” it is wonderful to see a book about two women with roughly two decades of difference in their ages come together in a celebration of friendship.

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Ginny is a thirty-something woman who is struggling with her place in life. She feels unfilled in her job but has no idea how to get a different and better one. When she walks in on her live-in boyfriend shagging her boss – in Cassie’s own apartment – she is forced into looking at life from a different, jobless perspective. She is good at what she does – marketing and PR – but she isn’t always on her game when it comes to job interviews.

Her neighbor, Cassie, is a fifty-something, well known actress who, sadly, has sabotaged her career over time with her boorish behavior, uncensored mouth and worse. She desperately needs an agent or PR consultant to help her get her life back in gear but no one will touch her, not even with a ten foot pole!

Cassie talks Ginny into helping and soon the two realize, well, they have absolutely nothing in common and barely can tolerate one another. As they work together, however, they realize that one doesn’t always have to have similarity as a foundation upon which to build a great friendship. Both of these women learn from one another, help each other turn their weaknesses into strength and, ultimately, they form a beautiful friendship.

The Neighbours is a humorous, witty look at relationships of all types and illustrates how each of us have something to offer to one another, despite our differences. And yes, in today’s world where differences are highlighted and maligned, it is a joy to see how our lack of sameness can be a strength. This is a wonderful, well written story of friendship that is perfect for readers of all genres.

Many thanks to #Netgalley, #AvonBooksUK, #AvonBooks for my copy of The Neighbours on sale today!