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: The House On The Gulf: Okay

The House On The Gulf

by Margaret Peterson Haddix

A story of a broken family trying to support and take care of each other. The family moves to Florida because a college there has a program for single mothers. Their mom wants desperately to be a doctor, which is years and years of schooling. Her son finds a job house-sitting  and they all get to move into the house for the summer which allows for their mom to go to school. However, the younger sister senses that something is not quite right. The reader travels right along with her, never knowing if the truth has been discovered fully or not.

This book was so sad. Even the ending remained rather bleak. I would only recommend this book to others who already knew the author’s style and tone. I would probably not recommend this book to anyone who did not already love this author.

Due to the upcoming Tucson Festival of Books I am eating up the many many authors and many many many many books those authors have written. On a recommendation from a friend I wanted to make sure to read a book by Margaret Peterson Haddix before March 9th when the Festival begins. The only book at the library during a quick and insufficient glance through the children’s section. My return to the library after reading this book was much more successful because, A) I looked in the teen section as well, and B) I checked both hardcover and paperback books in the children’s section, and finally C) someone had returned some of the books that were not available on my previous excursion. Therefore, I hope to have some more reviews from this author’s bibliography soon.

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.