“what is the most important thing you’ve learned in your life so far?”
My blogging friend KSBETH asked this question on her wise and observant blog, I didn’t have my glasses on….
Well, I’m really old, so I’ve had time to learn important things from many people:
Sister Mary Second Grade:
- I before E except after C (or when sounded like A as in neighbor and weigh).
- If you put a spin on the side of the ball in kickball, your girls’ team will mop the playground with the boys’ team. It’s never too early, girls, to learn that it’s all down to exactly how you kick their balls.
Sister Mary Third Grade:
- Always wear nice underwear in case you get hit by a bus. [NOTE: Sister would NOT have been pleased to hear we modified this a few years later to include shaving your legs and the possibility of a hot date…]
Sisters Mary Fourth-Twelfth Grades:
- Remember girls: teenage boys are raging masses of single-minded hormones. And they smell bad. [NOTE: over these years, our reaction to this piece of advice went from abject horror to the spirit of scientific inquiry demanding that we reproduce the Sisters’ results. Lots.]
- Don’t show your nice underwear to anyone (boy or bus) until after you’re married. [See above note…]
- Bailey’s Irish Cream for when you’re well, and a hot toddy for when you’re not.
- If you get an offer, give it a shot. The age of slavery is over, so if you don’t like your job (Or your house. Or your date…), you can vote with your feet.
- Check the fluids. And carry jumper cables.
- There’s always plenty of food and a bed for family. (If you rang our doorbell at dinner time and you were a cousin, knew a cousin, or correctly guessed the partial name of a cousin, you were brought in, another plate was jammed into the dozen already set up, and you got the first serving of pot roast. Meanwhile, kids were evicted from the “guest” room and you were urged to stay the night. At least.)
The Hub (an Economist):
- There’s something called M1. If you’re not very, very careful he’ll tell you what it is. Lots.
Some things I taught my children—how to tie their shoes, drive a car, do their own laundry, sew on a button, and not mix stripes with plaid. Some things they just figured out on their own (or IDK in the streets or somewhere)—how to tell jokes, draw, write, travel the world, and rock the stripe/plaid mix. Some things they learned from others—foreign languages, social media outlets that are NSF mamas, and how to make a mean risotto out of an almost empty larder.
But some things, some really important things, they teach me every day—the joys of discovery, passion for justice, practice of compassion, and therapeutic value of the group mani/pedi.
There’s something else I’ve learned over the years: the utter comfort of knowing when I open the ice cream colored cover of a cozy mystery, I can count on the amateur detective to solve the crime with a minimum of swearing, sex, and blood. Author Amy Reade is an expert, and MayDay!—the latest book in her holiday-themed Juniper Junction series—shows us the cozy mystery done right.
MayDay! (The Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery Series Book 5) by Amy M Reade
Lilly Carlsen has planned the perfect wedding reception for her brother, but her plans unravel in spectacular fashion when a dead body turns up and someone’s dangerous prank spirals out of control.
After Bill and Noley head off to their well-deserved honeymoon in the tropics, Lilly is determined to find out who was behind the events that turned a fairy-tale evening into the worst reception in Juniper Junction history. But all is not as it seems, and Lilly may be putting herself in grave danger by attempting to uncover the culprits.
And to make matters worse, serious family issues are mounting and Lilly may have to do the one thing she swore she wouldn’t do…
My Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars for MayDay! (The Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery Series Book 5) by Amy M Reade
When I see a book cover in ice cream colors (preferably with a cupcake or a cat), I know the tropes I’ll find inside. And in her latest Juniper Junction holiday mystery, author Amy Reade gives a master class in constructing the cozy mystery. Wherever her amateur detective Lilly goes, bodies pile up offstage, but actual blood/bodily fluids are kept to a minimum. (Same goes for sex, actually.)
This time jeweler and amateur sleuth Lilly Carlsen isn’t looking for a murder to solve. She’s got bigger problems. She’s agreed to organize the May Day wedding of her best friend Noley, a celebrity chef, and her brother Bill, a member of the local police force. Despite conflicts with the caterer, family issues such as her mother’s slide into dementia, and the professional demands of running a successful jewelry business, Lilly is determined to pull off the perfect fairytale wedding.
And she nails it. That is, until the small plane repeatedly buzzes the wedding party, sending everyone into dress-destroying faceplants. And until the groom and most of his fellow law enforcement officers race off toward the sound of the plane crash, leaving behind the bride, the guests, and… the corpse.
Cue frustration you could cut with a knife. With the two main members of her crime-solving posse, Bill and Noley, off on their honeymoon, Lilly is frustrated by the slow pace of the ensuing investigation. Her boyfriend Hassan is frustrated that after giving up Lilly’s attention to the wedding preparations, he still has to take second place to her determination to figure out who deliberately destroyed the wedding, and unmask the murderer. Lilly’s son and daughter are literally frustrated as she deliberately and consistently blocks their developing relationships.
But what sets this book apart from others of its genre are the things that have nothing to do with the mystery. I can’t tell you how refreshing Lilly is as a heroine. Instead of misogynistic brooding and drugs like Sherlock, or painful personal quirks like Poirot, Lilly is a mature woman who has to balance her detecting with the needs of…well, everyone. Her best friend wants her to organize her dream wedding, but imposes restrictions, not to mention pale green bridesmaid dresses that make her look ill. Her college-age kids (“‘Kids, do not make me stop this car.’ The threat still worked, even after all these years.”) want to have sleepovers—the good kind— with their love interests. Her aging mother’s dementia is accelerating, but she wants to stay in her own home. Her over-protective police officer brother (“Don’t you dare, Lil. Don’t think it, don’t say it. I’m up for a promotion to deputy lieutenant and if you go sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong and sniffing out answers, there’s no way they’ll promote me.”) wants her to stop asking questions. And of course, her boyfriend Hassan just wants her. So does her dog.
So even though I found Lilly’s solution of grounding her college age kids a bit cringe-making, and found the motives for the crimes to be somewhat weak, I’m in love with Lilly. Her life is believable, she faces familiar joys and difficulties I’ve had to deal with too. She makes bad decisions for good reasons, and good ones almost by accident. But when things go off the rails, or she’s in danger, it’s those strong relationships that save her.
Author Amy Reade plays fair with her readers, liberally scattering clues and red herrings for us to unravel along with Lilly. As with most series I love, one of the pleasures of reading about Lilly’s life and family is the way she and her posse continue to grow and develop into ever more fully rounded characters. Her slow-burn romance with Hassan, her struggle to accept her mother’s decline, and her determined (if often intrusive) parenting are all wonderful to see and appreciate over again.
Recipes included! (Laurel’s Chicken Pot Pie sounds delicious, even if I have no idea what “Better Than Bouillon” is…)