Mini Book Reviews

Below are the most recent books (along with a brief synopsis and review) that I have read in the last week.

Needle and Dread
A Southern Sewing Circle Mystery

By Elizabeth Lynn Casey

Published in 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery

Rose and Leona open a sewing store in the small town of Sweet Briar, South Carolina. They are having their first group of tourists come for a sewing lesson. Rose and Leona have invited the members of their sewing circle to help out. Things seem to be going well until an obnoxious, rude, complaining, and hateful customer is found dead in the work room with a sewing machine cord around her neck. Now all of the tour guests are suspects. Tori, Margaret Louise, and Charles, who are friends of Rose and Leona, begin investigatin’ to find out who-dun-it. Apparently the sheriff is totally useless in catching criminals, according to the book.

I found this cozy mystery to be extremely boring. The only bright spot was Margaret Louise, the overweight grandmother, jersey outfit wearer, and southern belle. I won’t read another one of these mysteries. I gave it 2 of 5 stars solely because Margaret Louise was such a character. If it hadn’t been for her, I would have been hard pressed to give the book even 1 star.

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A Dark and Stormy Murder
A Writer’s Apprentice Mystery

By Julia Buckley

Published: 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery

This mystery is the first in a series by Julia Buckley. Lena Landon wants to be a suspense mystery writer, like her idol, Camilla Graham. Through a friend, Lena is hired unexpectedly to be Camilla’s new assistant. She is ecstatic and makes the move west to a small town in Indiana. She is welcomed by Camilla who owns an old Gothic house on the edge of the lake. Lena will be Camilla’s gofer, and will help edit Camilla’s new suspense novel. This is a win-win for Lena. Expecting the little town to be peaceful, Lena finds herself in the midst of trouble. First, she is the gossip of the town when she befriends her cranky, recluse of a neighbor. Supposedly, he has made his wife disappear when their marriage fell apart, maybe even murdered her! Lena doesn’t believe the man is guilty. (She believes in her instincts which tell her this.) Secondly, she finds a murdered man on Camilla’s lake front property. This small town is anything but peaceful!

This cozy was very good. Lena actually did some real investigating, getting in the sheriff’s way, of course. Plus she has two men who are interested in her. Who will she choose? I am not telling. The story line was good. There were some good characters. This book was a pleasure to read. I gave it 3.5 stars of 5. I am moving on to the second novel in the series.

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The Bean Trees
By Barbara Kingsolver

Published: 1988
Genre: Fiction

This book has been around for some time. After all, it was published in 1988. It has been sitting on my shelf to be read but, but not since 1988! Marietta Greer comes from a poor part of Kentucky, and when she reaches young adulthood, she decides it is time for her to move out and travel. She changes her name to Taylor, has a rickety car, and a few dollars in her pocket. Her plan is to drive west, and where the car dies, that’s where she will live. After having made a stop in Oklahoma at a restaurant, a woman comes to her and thrusts a bundle into her arm, telling her to take it and leave. The bundle happens to be a Native American toddler. Though she tries to give the child back, the woman won’t take it and drives away. She dubs the child “Turtle” and drives on, praying her car won’t break down in Oklahoma. She definitely does not like Oklahoma.

On her first night with the child, she tragically discovers bruises in several spots and the child has been molested. She promises Turtle that she will always keep her safe. Taylor’s car breaks down in Tucson, Arizona, and there she starts her new life. She lived a pretty sheltered life in Kentucky, and now she has her eyes opened to things she never would have imagined.

Taylor is a feisty girl who gets things done, though she is mystified at suddenly having a little child to raise. The story is intense with a little humor laced in. It is more depressing than anything. The author’s Poisonwood Bible was awesome. This one is not her best. I gave it 3.5 of 5 stars. It’s not a keeper, so it is finally off my shelf for good.

About the Reviewer

clipartwoman

Hello, I’m Vicky. I’ve been a bibliophile since I first read Raggedy Ann and the Nancy Drew mysteries as a child. Though I have graduated to reading “grown up” books, I do occasionally still enjoy a walk down memory lane with The Hardy Boys and The Boxcar Children.

My idea of the perfect day is relaxing in my “Lazy Girl” chair, listening to rain pouring down outside, nose buried in a book, with a chocolate bar pressed to my lips.

Book Review: Me Before You

0mTitle: Me Before You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Published: 2012
Pages: 480
Synopsis: They had nothing in common until love gave them everything to lose . . .

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has barely been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex–Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

Vicky’s Review

This novel, Me Before You, has been on my bookshelf for over a year, after getting it at a Book Club Meeting where books were swapped. I’m not too proud of the length of time it has been sitting on my bookshelf; however, it is a sign I have way too many books to read and not enough time. Be that as it may, I finally got to it as it met the criteria for a book challenge in which I am participating.

I am not a romance reader. Actually, I don’t like them at all. Romances are okay if they are a subdued sideline in a book. This novel follows what I consider to be the main basis of most romance stories – boy and girl meet, and dislike each other intensely, then over time, their hearts soften, and they end up in love.

Be that as it may, I have to actually report that I really did like the book, in spite of it being a romance. Will Traynor is a young executive who makes business deals in which he ends up scoring a lot of money. He’s an adventurer, a world traveler, and a risk taker. On a rainy day, as he is running to catch a cab, he is hit by a motorcycle and suffers a C4-5 traumatic injury, leaving him quadriplegic, wheelchair bound, dependent on others for all his care, suicidal, and very angry.

Enter Louisa Clark, a young woman who was born and has lived in their tiny village all of her life. Out of work after a 6 year stint as clerk at a coffee shop, she is laid off and begins a job search. Despite trying other types of work, she ends up hiring on as a companion/caregiver to Will. Yes, it is hate at first sight. Predictable, right? Louisa wants to quit after the first day, but due to family financial problems, she sticks with it. There is a lot of animosity and repartee between the two until they become friends. Will has tried to commit suicide because of his condition, but Louisa tries to get him to see the good in life as well. To find out how things work out, and if Louisa made a crack in Will’s angry facade, you’ll have to read the book (or see the motion picture.)

As a nurse, I always appreciate when people are factual when discussing medical issues. I will say that Jojo Moyes depicted quadriplegia very accurately. I gave the book 4 ½ of 5 stars. Imagine that? For a romance?

About the Reviewer

clipartwoman

Hello, I’m Vicky. I’ve been a bibliophile since I first read Raggedy Ann and the Nancy Drew mysteries as a child. Though I have graduated to reading “grown up” books, I do occasionally still enjoy a walk down memory lane with The Hardy Boys and The Boxcar Children.

My idea of the perfect day is relaxing in my “Lazy Girl” chair, listening to rain pouring down outside, nose buried in a book, with a chocolate bar pressed to my lips.

Book Review: The Historian

Title: The Historian01historian
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Published: 2005
Pages: 642
Synopsis: Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to “My dear and unfortunate successor”. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.
Rating: 4.5 stars/5

Vicky’s Review

Do you believe in vampires? The undead? There certainly have been a multitude of books written about them. I loved Bram Stoker’s Dracula but I honestly haven’t read many other books about vampires. That said, I did just finish a novel over 600 pages in length on the legend of Dracula. It is entitled The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova.

Though lengthy, The Historian is an excellent story that involves actual events, history, geography, life behind the Iron Curtain, and the cruel barbarian, Vlad Tepes III, known better as Vlad The Impaler.

A young woman who is never named in the book finds a letter from her father telling her he’s gone on a search and asking her not to follow. Professor Paul (we never learn his last name) has taken his daughter on his many travels, telling her about Dracula – Vlad III’s name.

Professor Paul and his mentor, Professor Bartolomeo Rossi, were obsessed with finding Dracula and ending his reign. Professor Rossi disappeared some years ago under mysterious circumstances. Now the unnamed woman’s father is missing too, and after she finds a bunch of mysterious, yellowed letters, she sets off on a journey to find him.

You must read this fascinating book yourself to learn what happens. Is Dracula real? What happened to Professor Rossi? What is the meaning of the old book that has only one word in it? Who is Helen and where does she fit in? Can the young woman find her father, and will he be (un)dead or alive?

About the Reviewer

clipartwoman

Hello, I’m Vicky. I’ve been a bibliophile since I first read Raggedy Ann and the Nancy Drew mysteries as a child. Though I have graduated to reading “grown up” books, I do occasionally still enjoy a walk down memory lane with The Hardy Boys and The Boxcar Children.

My idea of the perfect day is relaxing in my “Lazy Girl” chair, listening to rain pouring down outside, nose buried in a book, with a chocolate bar pressed to my lips.