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Mark Baker RSS Feed (Santa Clarita, CA United States)

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The Good, the Bad, and the Emus: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries)
The Good, the Bad, and the Emus: A Meg Langslow Mystery (Meg Langslow Mysteries)
by Donna Andrews
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $15.80
53 used & new from $12.03

4.0 out of 5 stars Grandfather Leads an Emu Hunt, July 24, 2014
It's been a couple of years now since Meg's long lost Grandfather surprised everyone by finding them and becoming part of the family. Now, Grandfather, aka Dr. Montgomery Blake, has hired local PI Stanley Denton, to track down his one time love, Cordelia, aka Meg's Grandmother. However, Stanley finds that Cordelia died six months ago in a town not that far away from Meg's family, and her surviving cousin is a recluse. This cousin will only share memories of Cordelia if Stanley and Meg can find Cordelia's killer.

Fortunately, Dr. Blake comes up with the perfect cover for the investigation. The town has a feral emus population thanks to a failed emu farm just outside of town. With a TV crew and a bunch of volunteers, knows as Blake's Brigade, they hope to track down the emus. Meg and her family join Burke’s Brigade, partially to find the birds and partially to find a killer. But when a member of the brigade is struck down by poison, is there a new killer in the mix? What about the murder six months ago?

It’s actually been a while since we had a book that takes place outside of Caerphilly, so I enjoyed the change of pace. As a result, many of the usual characters don’t appear, but the book is filled with memorable new ones I enjoyed getting to know. The book is as much about hunting the emus as the mystery, and I did feel the mystery suffered as a result. However, the final chapter was wonderful and definitely left me wanting to know what happens next.

Fans of the series will ultimately love this book even if it isn’t the strongest in the series. So if you are new to Meg’s adventures, I would suggest you don’t start here but read it after you’ve gotten to know Meg and her family.

My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book)
by Mo Willems
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $7.64
51 used & new from $4.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Is Gerald Losing Piggie?, July 23, 2014
On this particular day, Gerald is talking to Snake. The two are alone because Piggie, Gerald’s best friend, is spending the day playing with Brian Bat, Snake’s best friend. At first, both of them think it is nice because their best friends are so much fun. But then they start to worry. What if their best friends are having more fun without them? Will they lose their best friends?

Yes, there is an important lesson to learn here about friendship, but it is wrapped in the usual fun and laughter that Gerald and Piggie bring us. The reactions of Gerald and Snake as they start to worry are over the top and funny as a result. The resolution is so very sweet. My only complaint here is with Brian and Bat. He really looks more like a rabbit to me. Even with Mo’s stylized illustrations, this is a first for me.

But that’s minor. This book will please Gerald and Piggie’s many fans, young and old.

Disaster Strikes #1: Earthquake Shock
Disaster Strikes #1: Earthquake Shock
by Marlane Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: $4.49
50 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Not Such a Simple Trip Home, July 20, 2014
Joey is thrilled to be allowed to stay late at the skate park even if it does mean having to come home with Dylan. He is trying to learn some new tricks on his new skateboard, and he’s enjoying practicing them with his friends Fiona and Kevin. However, as the four of them are on their way home, an earthquake hits Los Angeles, separating the group. Is everyone okay? What will they find when they get home?

Given the target early elementary age group, this is a simple story, but it is quite entertaining. I’m well beyond the target age range, but I got caught up in the action and cared what happened to the characters. There is certainly enough there to keep young readers turning pages. There are also simple pen illustrations once or twice a chapter, which young readers will appreciate.

I got through the book faster than kids will, but they will still enjoy reading it and be ready to move on to the next natural disaster in the series before you know it.

Drizzled with Death (A Sugar Grove Mystery)
Drizzled with Death (A Sugar Grove Mystery)
by Jessie Crockett
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
67 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Maple Sweet Debut, July 19, 2014
The Greene family has owned a maple syrup tree farm in New Hampshire for generations. Also part of the family tradition is providing the syrup for the town’s annual All You Can Eat Pancake fundraiser for the local fire department. Never mind that Dani’s Grampa wins every year, people still love to attend.

At this year’s breakfast, Alanza Speedwell and Grampa are the last two eating when Alanza flops face first into her plate. No, it isn’t a food coma, it was murder, and people begin to suspect that her syrup was poisoned. Dani has been working hard to grow the family business, and this could be a huge setback if it doesn’t shut the place down all together. And it's not like Alanza hadn't made plenty of enemies in the short time he'd been in town. Can Dani find the killer before the business is the next victim?

This was a delightful debut. While I did sometimes feel like I was struggling to keep up with the setting, the characters and plot were never hazy. They only got stronger as the book progressed, and I was sucked into the story, not wanting to put it down until I saw how everything ended. Since I love maple syrup myself (the real stuff, forget the imitations), I had some strong cravings while reading this book, and the two recipes in the back look like they would taste great. There’s some great humor to this book, especially involving Dani’s love life and the exotic animals running loose in the area.

My only regret is that I wish I had read this book sooner. I’m looking forward to revisiting Dani and her sweet world in the very near future.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (If You Give...)
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (If You Give...)
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $10.13
205 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Creative and Fun Progression, July 19, 2014
Giving a mouse a cookie might seem like a simple kindness, but you never know where it might lead. After all, milk has to go with a cookie, but somehow that leads to housework and even creating art.

Honestly, this is a book that charms. It’s a simple idea and there are very few lines per page. And yet the progression is fun (after all, the mouse helps you out, too, he's not just demanding things) and the illustrations are great.

I missed these books until recently, and if you are like me, check them out. They are simple and outlandish but fun.

Oliver and the Seawigs (Not-So-Impossible Tales)
Oliver and the Seawigs (Not-So-Impossible Tales)
by Philip Reeve
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $9.74
46 used & new from $5.24

5.0 out of 5 stars A Book for Young Readers to Explore, July 13, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Oliver has spent all of his ten years of life exploring thanks to two parents who love nothing else. But with no parts of the world left to explore, they are going to settle in a house by the bay. While his parents aren’t happy, Oliver is excited to have his own room, make friends, and even go to school.

However, when they arrive, Oliver’s parents spot some islands in the bay that weren’t there before. They go out to investigate and vanish – as do the islands. Oliver doesn’t panic, however, but begins to try to find them. Just where will the search lead?

I'd been hearing about this book, so I took full advantage of finding it on Vine. I'm so glad I did. This book is very charming with a couple of twists to the plot that surprised me. The characters were wonderfully likable, too. The illustrations helped make this a fast read for me, and I’m sure the target audience (grades 2-5) will be delighted with it as well. There's fantasy and adventure that should appeal to boys and girls.

I'm so glad I picked up a copy of this book. Kids will delight in Oliver's wild tale.

A Tale of Two Biddies (League of Literary Ladies)
A Tale of Two Biddies (League of Literary Ladies)
by Kylie Logan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.13
65 used & new from $1.26

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Literary Themed Weekend Filled with Mystery, July 13, 2014
It’s July, the peak of tourist season on South Bass Island, and the town has decided to bring in even more tourists with Bastille Day, which is actually a week long event. There is a Charles Dickens lookalike and trivia contest, the band Guillotine will appear, and to get ready for it, the bed and breakfast owner Bea Cartwright and her friends in the League of Literary Ladies have chosen to read A Tale of Two Cities.

However, an accident happens before the week fully gets underway, and after the person involved is rescued, he claims it was attempted murder. It’s not too long before a real murder takes place. Can Bea and the other ladies figure out who the killer is?

This sequel is just as much fun as the first in the series. I quite often thought I had a plot point figured out only to learn I was dead wrong. That's why I was so proud of myself for getting one plot point correct. The characters are fun; I really appreciated that Bea and her new friends were getting along so much better this time around. There's just such a sense of fun to the entire thing, almost like we got to join the tourists ourselves. And even though I've never read the Dickens book, anything I did need to know was explained to me so I never felt lost.

This is a creative premise for a mystery series, and the execution is perfect. If you haven't yet started this fun cozy series, I highly recommend you do so today.

Death on Eat Street (Biscuit Bowl Food Truck)
Death on Eat Street (Biscuit Bowl Food Truck)
by Joyce and Jim Lavene
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.90
69 used & new from $1.86

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dead Body in the Driver Seat, July 8, 2014
Dead Body in the Driver Seat

Zoe Chase has given up a job in a bank to pursue her dream of owning her own restaurant, much to her parents’ and boyfriend’s dismay. In order to raise the money she needs to finish the repairs on her building, she is running a food truck selling her biscuit bowls filled with various fillings depending on the day.

However, business is slow going with few people willing to give her new venture a try. After on particularly bad day, Zoe returns to her restaurant and begins unloading only to find a dead body in a driver’s seat when she goes to lock it up. The victim is Terry of Terry’s Tacky Tacos, and the two had a confrontation that day. Will the police consider her a suspect? Who really killed Terry?

Despite the body appearing in the first chapter, I felt the book took a little bit of time to truly get going. Once it did, the pace was steady with a surprising trail to the final killer. The characters were sharp and always entertaining; I just loved spending time with them. I did feel the narration had too many short, declarative sentences in it, something that distracted me at times as I was reading.

Overall, this was a fun debut by an author I hadn’t tried before. I will be back for Zoe’s next adventure.

NOTE: I won this book in a contest - no review was promised.

There's Treasure Everywhere--A Calvin and Hobbes Collection
There's Treasure Everywhere--A Calvin and Hobbes Collection
by Bill Watterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.55
209 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars "I Don't Think You Should Have to do Something Unless You're Enthusiastic About It.", July 8, 2014
Hard to believe this is the next to last Calvin and Hobbes collection. For fans of the series, there isn't much to say but buy the book. You'll love it as much as the others. New to the comic strip? Here's why you should buy it.

Calvin is a typical overactive six-year-old. Hobbes is his best friend stuffed tiger who is alive thanks to Calvin's imagination. Together, they have all kinds of adventures, including enhancing Calvin's brain to give him an idea for a topic for his paper or fighting to keep Calvin from being bad leading up to Christmas.

Honestly, this book is more stand alone laughs that full on stories. That doesn't make them any less funny. And, while we have seen some of these set ups before, like Calvin's snow art, the punch lines still get laughs. Even though I've read this book countless times before, I still laugh at the familiar strips. And the social commentary, while 20 years old, is still spot on, sadly.

There is a weird time jump in this book since Bill Watterson took a nine month sabbatical before coming back for the final year. That's why spring is just sprouting in one strip and we're back to New Year's Resolutions in the next.

But as any fan of the strip will tell you, that hardly matters. There are laughs and quotable lines throughout this book. Read and enjoy today.

Death in Four Courses: A Key West Food Critic Mystery
Death in Four Courses: A Key West Food Critic Mystery
by Lucy Burdette
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $6.97
69 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Foodie Lit Conference Shouldn’t Include Murder, July 4, 2014
Every year, Key West hosts a literary conference, and this year, the theme is food. That’s perfect for Hayley Snow, who has just started her new job at Key Zest magazine. The conference includes restaurant reviewers like Hayley, cookbook authors, and novelists and poets who use food in their work. Even better, Hayley’s mom is in town. Hayley got her love of food from her mother, so the two are looking forward to some time together at the conference.

The key note speaker is Jonah Barrows, who has had a long career as a restaurant critic and as a chef, and he’s only in his 30’s. During his speech, he states that he is going to be brutally honest, essentially calling out some of the panelists on their secrets. At the opening reception later that evening, Hayley finds Jonah floating face down in a reflecting pool. With the police focused on one of Hayley’s friends, she and her mother feel the need to dig out the truth themselves. But did one of the panelists have a secret worth killing for?

This was such a fun book. The mystery started out strongly and keep right on going from one plot point to another. Several sub-plots added to the fun. The characters were strong with distinct personalities, which made it easy to remember who all of them were. The only potential downside would be Hayley’s relationship with her mother, Janet. Don’t misunderstand, it felt completely realistic. However, I cringed a few times at how Janet treated Hayley. Not that Hayley was perfect; she made me cringe, too. In the end, they do love each other, so this was just a small blip in the story.

I’m glad I broke down and started reading this series this year. They are a fun escape to a tourist destination that is much cheaper than a real vacation.

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