Book Review: Grace Under Pressure


I had no expectations with this book beyond its being a Cozy Mystery. Julie Hyzy was a name that was new to me, and I had not heard of her other series either, the White House Chef Mysteries. One of the keys to a Cozy Mystery is that there is a hobby or profession of the main character that usually does not lend itself to being involved in crime solving and detective work. I tend to read those Cozies that share in my own hobbies and interests, so this book was a step outside of my normal range of Cozy reading. Grace, the main character, is a curator for a manor. I think when I was creating my wishlist at the library I was trying to find Cozies with librarians, and the organization of that type of administration led to several museum related Cozies. This book is about an old manor that has been turned into a museum and hotel. The main character, through Hyzy’s writing, truly did draw me in to love her job and location. I left the book wanting to visit this place and meet her, and several days later was still thinking about that idea. It was sad each time for my brain to catch up with my dreaming and realize that she is not real.

    This book had several characters and writing choices that might cause discomfort to some readers in continuing the series. The roommates of Grace are gay, and there was some swearing, but it was always immediately cut off by some interruption after only the first letter. I mention these points because I have found myself reading a Cozy or two in the past that I feel duty-ridden to try to get past similar minor discomforts, but after finishing the book realized that I should not be feeling guilty. There are so many books in the Mystery section that are not for me, and I don’t need to read an entire series trying to get past some quirk of a character that I can’t stand when there are other books with characters I fall in love with, as I did with this book. In fact, as soon as I got to the library the next time, I scooped up every book Hyzy had. For me, these two things were nothing, but I want to be transparent in my review since I am recommending the first book in a series. Julie has me reading her books now, and I highly recommend them.

    The setting was modern day, but brought into play the way that manors used to be run, and that was wonderful for me. I realized reading it that this is something I do enjoy, and often think I can only find in British Literature. It was wonderful to have an American setting that shared some history. I also loved that the romance did not come rushing on strong in the first book. It is expected that the main character, usually female, in a Cozy Mystery will have at least two men pursuing her, and a bad relationship in her past. It was nice to not push all of that into this first book. Having male characters around that were plutonic and gay actually was relieving because it is nice to have friends. The romantic story had some tension placed, but it was not rushed. Finally, there are conversations with women that are not merely about relationships, which in film passes the Bechdel Test. I loved that. The characters were full and gave me excitement to learn more about not just the main characters, but also the side characters that were introduced. The twists in the story did not all get resolved with the resolution of the murder, so there is also that excitement to look forward to in future books. I am also going to read the White House Chef Mysteries, so stay tuned for a review on that series. If you want to take a jaunt through a modern day time machine, this is your book.


The facts about the book.

Title: Grace Under Pressure: A Manor of Murder Mysteries

Author: Julie Hyzy

Place: Marshfield Manor, Emberstowne (a fictional city somewhere in the US) & mentions of Florida & New York

Publisher: Berkeley Prime Crime, New York

Publication Date: June 2010

# Pages: 310

Special Features: Murder Mystery, Curator, Manor, Gardening, Wealth, Scandal, Ponzi Scheme, First Book in a Series

Price: Free from the library or from $0.01 from Amazon

ISBN: 978-0-425-23521-8

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Book Review: 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids


I got this book from the library, took it home, and realized I had already pinned almost everything in the book! I already follow the blog FunAtHomeWithKids.com and love the ideas! However, being in transition for so long has given me only enough motivation to pin and not enough to do. With the book in hand I was able to share it with my son, who immediately chose some things he wanted to do. I was also able to explain some of the ideas to my husband with the pictures and explanations and chapters. Wow I love books!

    I have wanted to do sensory bins for some time, and this book had some great ideas. Once I was able to show this book to my husband he latched on to the idea, and the next day we went out and bought the bin ($3 at Walmart), a bag of insects, lizards, and frogs ($1 at the dollar store), a bag of shells at Michaels ($5) and we had everything we needed for several of the ideas in the book. We already have at home many many small figurines in lots of themes: farm, dinosaur, ocean, Noah’s ark (multiples of animals), desert, rainforest, Arctic, etc. I am not crafty and artsy by myself, and I was a little concerned that I would put too much work in and nothing would come of it, but Davy loved it! Louis loved it, and I am looking forward to adding this to our homeschooling this year as a recurring activity.

    

The second thing I was excited to take from Pinterest to Reality was Discovery bottles. It is so easy to see the beautiful pictures on Pinterest and in reality the work outweighs the reward, or the supplies are out of reach. Since we chose an ocean theme first, since we were reading Jonah, we wanted to make a Discovery Bottle with sand and shells and shiny marbles. What we got was a murky mess. This book included the same Discovery Bottle I had pinned, and upon actually reading the instructions, it calls for craft sand or no sand at all. As I said I am not creative on my own, so it was essential that I get these two ideas because I had not thought of it myself. The book also explained that upon filling the bottle with water or gel or oil it might be too heavy for baby to lift. This was very useful because it brought my expectations to reality, and when it was too heavy for Kyrie, Davy and I just dumped it into the ocean sensory bin and played with the items ourselves.

    I hope the two experiences I took out of this book can give an idea of the usefulness of this book. If you are like me and are looking for ideas to play with kids, and would like them to be in your hand instead of in the digital expanse, this is the book for you. I love this book, and I am going to be using it quite a bit this year. Too bad the library only lets me renew books 4 times. Other fun things in this book include Slimes, Doughs, Paint (including all-natural paint that you color using items like carrots, beets, & spinach), other Sensory Activities, and DIY Toys. I am so excited to share with you in the coming years all about how I am using this book (and the corresponding blog).


The facts about the book.

Title: 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from FunAtHomeWithKids.com!

Author: Asia Citro, MEd

Publisher: Adams Media, Avon, Massachusetts

Publication Date: 2014

# Pages: 255

Special Features: Easy Doable Activities, Upcycled Supplies, Age Range for Each Activity

Price: Free from the library or Kindle Unlimited, and the ideas are all on the website/blog FunAtHomeWithKids.com. The books even have some DIY kits to give these books as gifts to a parent. $12.66 on Amazon or read for Free on Kindle Unlimited.

ISBN: 978-1-4405-7615-7

Book Review: Science Play!


When I majored in Education in college it was within a cohort that focused on multiage education and play education. This is the idea that through play, children learn. My emphasis was math and science and I taught middle school science for a year. So, with these two passions in my back pocket as I am entering my second year of homeschooling, I was overjoyed to find a book that neatly sums up these two loves. Science Play! Has turned out to be everything I hoped. It is a book overflowing with fun activities for 2 to 6-year-olds which will help them begin understanding science that is all around them.

    The book is written in such a way that you could use an entire chapter, or pull out individual chapters. The chapters are split into categories which are excellent to help both the kids and their “Grown-Up Lab Assistants” see how easy it is to enter into science. The first chapter is laid out in such a way that I could start right away with my son. It is written in a way that a kid could understand, and as they learn to read they can even take charge of their own learning experiences. The backyard and bathtub even become science labs in this book. These experiments are so amazing, you really do need this book. I am going to be keeping this book handy for many years to come.

    The very first chapter of activities is my favorite so far, Home Sweet Home. The title is perfect for the lack of items I need to buy, making my home very sweet indeed. This will be a great introduction for my 3 year old to his new class this year in homeschool: Science. The idea is to go on a “Science Safari”. On this safari (there are multiple examples given of ways to do this safari) different items will be collected by the child that fall into categories of either different senses, or the other categories in the book: water, plants, and bugs. Very few materials are needed since the child will be doing mainly collecting. The next few pages share ways to display and store these “treasures” in a “mini-museum”. Once again, the material requirements are few and you can choose based on what you collected and what you have already at home. Then the activities move to observing and learning from what we collected, which involves more trips outside.

    I know I am making it sound too simple, but it really is that easy! If you have a kid 0-6, get this book! I am not just recommending it, but making it an essential if you want to introduce science to your kids. Also, I am going to be using this book in our homeschool curriculum this year, so stay tuned for more posts about how I am using this book!


The facts about the book.

Title: Science Play!

Author: Jill Frankel Hauser

Publisher: Williamson Books, Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date: 1998

# Pages: 143

Special Features: 2-6 Year-Olds, Activities and Experiments, Easy to Read, Many Activities Have No Required Items

Price: From $2.68 on Amazon. I got it for free from the library first, but I liked it so much I bought it for $2.67.

ISBN: 978-0-8249-6799-4

Book Review: The Rook (Excellent)

This book took me by surprise. I fell in love with it, and was disappointed to realize that the next book is still on its way toward publication. However, do not be dismayed, it was a great read on its own. I am not even sure how I came about reading this book. I had it on a list of “To Read” at the library, and I reserved it, a week of reading, and it was wonderful.

    The Rook is a fiction novel written by an Australian author, Daniel O’Malley.

Several aspects drew me into this book, which will help you determine if this is a book for you. I have recently discovered I am an Anglophile, I love English books. This book travels the UK in an interesting and fun adventure.

    Another aspect I am always drawn to is Mystery. The inside cover of this book hooked me immediately.

    “”The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.”

    Finally, Secret Service. I did not actually read the tagline at the top of the book for awhile into the book, but the title, as you can see in the picture above reads: On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service: The Rook. I have been into the Mi6 intrigue in recent movies, and am finding myself drawn increasingly to books with this aspect.

The supernatural bit wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was well done. With a world of “Teen Paranormal Romance” and such garbage, it can be hard to find a good book with a fantasy element. This book was excellent in that regard. I was never taken out of the book by the weird, supernatural, or vampires. The language, characters, and action kept me fully engaged and did not require crass techniques to keep the reader stimulated.

    Because I am into English Mysteries involving the Secret Service, this was a wonderful find for me. If I was only into one of these, however, it would have been just as enjoyable. I thought that it was a book a great many people of different reading styles could enjoy.

It was also wonderful to read an adult book without extreme violence or lust being thrown in my face. I often read from Teen and Young Adult because I am wary of the content of adult fiction, but this one was very appropriate, and I would recommend it to 7th grade and older as the perfect alternative to Twilight, and as higher reading level than Harry Potter. As a young student my siblings and I had a great deal of difficulty in finding books to challenge and entertain us because we were excellent readers. This is one of those books for students who have already read “everything” as well as for the parents and adults who want a good, solid, fun read.

I don’t want to give anything away about the plot because I highly recommend that you go get this book from your library and read it yourself. Have fun! I sure did.


The facts about the book.

Title:
The Rook

Author: Daniel O’Malley

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy

Publisher: Back Bay Books

Publication
Date: October 16, 2012

# Pages: 512

Price: Library: FREE

Kindle: $4

Paperback: $13

ISBN: 978-0316098809

Book Review: Here There Be Dragons: Excellent

Here There Be Dragons

Jane Yolen

This anthology of Jane Yolen’s many works on dragons was a wonderful, magical read. The book traveled through many mythologies of dragons in poetry and prose. It was fun and has many of those transcendent moments where the story was not merely a fantasy about a magical creature but contained some of the stuff we hope we are all made of. Heroes and damsels, as well as a few stories that make the reader reflect on why we need dragons to be a fantasy instead of a reality.

I would recommend this to anyone interested in fantasy. I would also recommend this to anyone who is staunchly against fantasy. It is a great book of poetry for those who love verse, and the short stories are great for struggling readers, whether due to a lack of ability or desire. A great book for the whole family, at least for my Middle Earth believing family.

Book Review: Pecan Pie Baby: Excellent

Pecan Pie Baby

Written By Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrated By Sophie Blackall

A soon-to-be-big-sister is not as happy as everyone else about this new baby coming. Pecan pie is the red thread through this book, reminding us all that life is lived in the small moments. This adorable children’s picture book captures the feelings of an only child not ready to lose her place in the family. The writing is told in such a way that it sounds like the little girl is speaking throughout the book.

My personal take away was a memory of my own lack of preparation for my baby sister. I wanted a puppy and I wanted that squirmy, reddish, loud thing to go back where it came from. As I read this story to my own three and a half month baby, I prayed that he would be excited to be a big brother. I want to also remember the small things in raising him that he will have his own pecan pie moments with myself and my husband.

I would recommend this book to be read to any child 0-12 years of age getting ready to have a new sibling enter the family. A friend of mine has an entire shelf of books on being an older sibling which prepared her for the event. This book should definitely be a part of that shelf in my own house.