DEATH BY CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOW PIE by Sarah Graves; Kensington Publishing, 2023; 282 pages, $27; ISBN 978-1-4967-2925-5.


When Jake Tiptree fled New York City and moved to Eastport, Maine, with her young son 15 years ago, she left behind a philandering husband and some shady business partners who’d really like to find her. Now firmly established in Eastport as the co-owner of the Chocolate Moose bake shop with her best friend Ellie, Jake thinks life is pretty sweet. Then her past catches up with her.

This is the sixth book in Eastport author Sarah Graves’ fun “Death by Chocolate” mystery series featuring Jake and Ellie as amateur mystery-solving sleuths. The pair also starred in Graves’ “Home Repair is Homicide ” mystery series. This is also the first book that truly explains Jake’s past life in NYC as a skilled financial manager for a bunch of guys of Sicilian heritage — unforgiving guys who are still looking for Jake and their missing money.

Graves spins an exciting web of suspense and mystery, complete with murder, robbery, false identities, plot twists, and a colorful list of suspects and motives for really bad behavior. A new bake shop has opened in Eastport, in slanderously aggressive competition with the Chocolate Moose, and when  Jake confronts the new owner she realizes her past is right in front of her.

She worries and wonders what his game is, but his sudden, brutal murder ensnares Ellie and sends Jake off on a wild investigation involving quirky, unpredictable (and lying) artists gathered for the local art fair.

Add more dead bodies, a complex and secret criminal conspiracy, and a local police chief who knows the score but won’t tell anyone, and Graves offers another excellent mystery (skip the chocolate-dipped bacon). Most intriguing in the conclusion, however, is the cryptic message Jake receives from her former employers: They know where she is now.


THIS IS HOMESCHOOLING: STORIES OF UNCONVENTIONAL LEARNING PRACTICES ON THE ROAD AND IN NATURE; edited by Katie Rybakova Mathews; Routledge, 2023; 158 pages, $26.63; ISBN 978-1-032-20140-5.


The practice of homeschooling — avoiding the rigidly structured public school curriculum in favor of parental guidance in an open-ended environment — has been around a long time. The pandemic, however, has accelerated homeschooling popularity with an estimated five million families now participating.

“This is Homeschooling” offers an interesting and greatly varied look at the forms of homeschooling that developed in recent years. The editor, Katie Mathews, is an associate professor of education at Thomas College, and is one of the 15 contributors (the only one from Maine).

“Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me, and I may not remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand,” is a Native American saying that illustrates the purpose and end-goal of homeschooling: letting the child guide their own learning under the care of attentive parents. Mathews and the other contributors use their own experiences to describe how their ideas work.

The reader must be aware, however, that some concepts of homeschooling — unschooling, nature-based education, farmschooling, wildschooling and worldschooling — will seem quite foreign and will certainly not be suitable for all families. Worldschooling, for example, involves costs in time and money not attainable for most families. The beauty here is that people are thinking about these things, creating, imagining and trying better ways to educate children.

The contributors agree some basic elements must be present for any homeschooling effort to succeed: the child must be receptive and curious, an adult/parent must be available, get rid of TV, cell phones and video games, get kids outdoors and understand that kids “will learn what they want to when they want to.”

One of the best and most valuable sections is “Mindfulness for Home Educators” by Hunter Clarke-Fields, who reminds parents and adults to take care of their own physical and mental health.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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