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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek–the blue librarian

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

by Kim Michele Richardson

The Book Woman of Troublesome CreekTwo tales woven seamlessly into one—that’s The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, a work of historical fiction carefully researched and crafted by Kim Michele Richardson. Cussy Carter is a blue-skinned young woman, strong, determined, and the subject of suspicion, hatred, and discrimination in the backwoods of the Kentucky Appalachians in the 1930’s. She is also a Book Woman, a librarian who travels by mule to deliver books to the far reaches of the mountains to patrons who otherwise would have no reading options. Cussy, also called Bluet, knows her place in society as does her Black friend Queenie. They are both considered “colored.” Most people are disgusted by looking at Cussy and certainly avoid any kind of touch.

Richardson paints a moving portrait of Cussy and what it must be like to be an object of ridicule and perhaps the last of her kind. You will be hoping for the best for Cussy who, as a coal miner’s daughter, lives in poverty but shares freely with her even more impoverished patrons. Her father, also a Blue, suffers from lung issues and horrible working conditions.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a work you will read with your heart in your throat, amazed at the struggles and sufferings of Cussy, her pa, her patrons, and those who dare show kindness to her. At the same time, the book is uplifting because there are good people included in the story and Cussy always stands as a model of someone who does what is right because it is right and in spite of those who would hurt her.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Sourcebooks Landmark for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Historical Fiction

Notes: There are helpful Author’s Notes at the end of the book discussing the rare condition called methemoglobinemia. Richardson also gives background on the Pack Horse Library Project and courting candles. She explains that she altered one fact regarding dates so that she could include certain medical information.

Publication:  May 7, 2019—Sourcebooks Landmark

Memorable Lines:

I lived for the joy of bringing books and reading materials to the hillfolk who were desperate for my visits, the printed word that brought a hopeful world into their dreary lives and dark hollers. It was necessary. And for the first time in my life, I felt necessary.

I couldn’t help notice again how the students waited for me, looked up at me, all quiet and not a single fidget or wiggle, as hungry for the stories in these books as they were for the food that always seemed sparse in this real land.

Nary a townsfolk, not one God-fearing soul, had welcomed me or mine into town, their churches, or homes in all my nineteen years on this earth. Instead, every hard Kentucky second they’d filled us with an emptiness from their hate and scorn. It was as if Blues weren’t allowed to breathe the very same air their loving God had given them…

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Seeing Red–who’s in the freezer?

Seeing Red

by Dana Dratch

Seeing RedLiving right across the street from a four story Victorian turned into a B&B and run by a handsome, blue-eyed British gent could be a real plus for Alex who is currently single and a freelance writer. In Seeing Red by Dana Dratch, there are an abundance of interesting characters, lots of twists and turns, and an adorable pup named Lucy. Alex ends up with a full house of temporarily upended friends as she tries to discover the identity of a baby as well as several frozen bodies. Throw in some art fraud and a vengeful health inspector and you have an engaging plot with lots of twists and turns. I enjoyed the book but was a little let down at the end as things just got tidied up a little too quickly and easily with few apparent consequences. I do want to read the next in the series to follow the characters and look for improvement in the resolution of the next plot line in Red Hot.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #2 in the Red Herring Mystery Series, but could be read as a standalone

Publication:  May 28, 2019—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

“She’s been looking at that poor innkeeper the way a hungry freshman looks at a vending machine.”

Baba, our dads mother, was ninety pounds of Russian dynamite. Not quite five feet tall and who knows how old, she was a strike force of one. Literally. She’d recently saved me from a psycho killer armed with nothing but common sense and a cast-iron frying pan.

“Mom can’t stay here,” Nick said, quietly. “Not with Baba here. Those two are like garlic and chocolate. You can have one or the other, but never both.”

Tell Me No Secrets–missing delivery man

Tell Me No Secrets

by Lynn Chandler Willis

Tell Me No SecretsI’m gong to work hard at sharing Tell Me No Secrets by Lynn Chandler Willis without giving away a very important theme that emerges and defines the rest of the book. Ava Logan, publisher of a small-town weekly, has her own difficult childhood history but was rescued and raised by her foster mother Doretha, who is also a preacher. Later she escapes from an abusive marriage when her policeman husband is killed on the job. She has three children and is in a relationship with the county sheriff Grayson Ridge who is the complete opposite of her deceased husband.

Trouble starts when Ava spies a backpack in the river during her daughter’s baptism. It belongs to Scott, an employee of the paper who has gone missing. The rest of this page turner is devoted to an investigation to discover what happened to Scott and why. Setting is extremely important in this book as much of it relates to customs of the backwoods of the Appalachians where there are “granny witches” who don’t really practice witchcraft; they treat people with herbal remedies. Religion has different flavors there, and dousing rods are not uncommon.

You’ll enjoy meeting the regular characters that populate this book. Not everyone is painted with the same brush, but they are all depicted realistically. There are also characters to feel ambivalent about and those that are downright evil. Social problems both in and out of the “holler” are addressed as well. Just when you think the book has drawn to a satisfactory conclusion, the investigation takes a turn and everyone is presented with a surprise ending.

I would like to extend my thanks to Edelweiss and to Henery Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: This is #2 in the Ava Logan Mystery Series but works well as a standalone. We jump right into the current mystery with the first lines of the book: “People don’t just disappear. Unless they do.” The author, however, does an excellent job in the first chapter of putting the new mystery in the context of what we need to know of the characters’ backgrounds.

Publication:   June 11, 2019—Henery Press

Memorable Lines:

Praying for the best, expecting the worst. Sooner or later, the two collide and you’re left numb to both.

“Just cause you ain’t the enemy don’t mean you’re our friend. Right, Momma?” Such wisdom from someone deemed simple.

You could set your clock by the depth of Nola’s southern accent. Up until lunchtime, she worked to keep it in check, careful with her pronunciations. After lunch, tire became tar and fire became far.

Ever Faithful–Yellowstone in 1933

Ever Faithful

by Karen Barnett

Ever FaithfulYellowstone National Park, Wyoming

1933

The middle of the Great Depression

Ever Faithful is the tale of young people from various walks of life joined by employment at Yellowstone. Some are pack rats (porters), some pillow punchers (maids), and others pearl divers (dishwashers). Additional college students working the summer are tour bus drivers and laundry workers. Throw into the mix a contingent of down and out, unemployed and often uneducated young men from the cities, part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) founded by President Roosevelt to combat unemployment and the problems that can arise from idleness and defeated attitudes. All of these young people have pasts that affect their presents.

Elsie, the daughter of a park ranger, loves Yellowstone and has spent many summers working hard at the inns at the park to achieve her dream—to go to college to become a teacher. She and her friends have romantic entanglements typical of summer romances. Some, however, seem more serious than others. Vaughn, a park ranger, sets his eyes on Elsie as does Nate Webber who has taken a CCC job to get out of trouble and provide money for his family in New York. Secrets abound and some are potentially deadly as they are linked to wildfires that could destroy the dry, pine beetle infested forests of Yellowstone.

After an interesting story with a historically accurate setting, author Karen Barnett moves the story ahead four years with a quite satisfactory epilogue. Then she provides information on the main aspects of this work of historical fiction and notes a few minor discrepancies as well as how the park has changed.

Yellowstone with its bears, bison, geysers, and vistas is on many a bucket list. Some of the original inns remain while others have been replaced. There are probably too many tourists, but it is still a park that belongs to the people, and it is a wonderful setting for this tale.

I would like to extend my thanks to NetGalley and to WaterBrook (Penguin Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Historical Fiction

Notes: 1. Thematically a part of the Vintage National Parks Novels but remains a standalone in terms of characters, setting, and plot.

2. Gentle reminders of God’s presence and plan.

Publication:   June 18, 2019—WaterBrook (Penguin Random House)

Memorable Lines:

“It’s hard for men to be out of work. It wears at their souls, tears them down piece by piece like a crumbling brick wall.”

It was odd how teaching both energized her and sapped her at the same time. During class, she flitted from one student to another, each one’s progress sending a wave of satisfaction through her chest. But when the room emptied, her strength seemed to go with them.

Nate reached into his pocket and pulled out the pine cone he’d picked up at Roosevelt and squeezed it in his fist. The scales were closed, glued shut by sap. According to Ranger Brookes, without fire it wouldn’t open to disperse the seeds hidden within. God could bring good out of disaster.

Murder with Cucumber Sandwiches–secrets in the family

Murder with Cucumber Sandwiches

by Karen Rose Smith

Murder with Cucumber SandwichesAlong comes a fairly gentle cozy mystery in Murder with Cucumber Sandwiches by Karen Rose Smith that is half personal relationships and half murder mystery. Interestingly enough, Smith manages to tie in a lot of the personal issues with the murder. Daisy, a widow, owns Daisy’s Tea Garden with her Aunt Iris. This mystery begins with uncomfortable anticipation for Daisy and her staff caused by the upcoming visit by celebrity food blogger Derek, known for giving unfavorable reviews. He is found dead after his visit. 

There are so many questions about Derek’s death that Daisy must try to answer while juggling personal dilemmas with her college age daughter Vi and with Foster, Vi’s boyfriend, who is also an employee of Daisy. Her other daughter, Jazzi, is undergoing emotional trauma because of possible rejection by her birth mom. Daisy is moving slowly in her relationship with former detective and current local woodworker Jonas. Daisy’s parents live in the same town, and her mother tends to be critical. What a lot of things for Daisy to deal with at one time!

At the teashop, business is off because potential customers are deterred by the possibility of poisoning. Daisy needs to find the murderer to save her shop and her employees’ jobs. Her major method is listening as she informally interviews suspects and watches for their reactions. The characters are interesting, and I enjoy visits to the tea shop where all kinds of teas and goodies are available as well as more substantial fare such as soups. Before the murder, bus loads of tourists frequently stopped for tea, but the murder has squelched enthusiasm for the tea shop.  As the setting is Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, there are some Amish references as Daisy and Jonas interact with Amish friends and employees. Willow Creek is a welcoming little town, and Daisy’s Tea Garden, set in a charming Victorian house, is a comfortable spot to chat with a friend. Come on in! The tea is hot, the hostess is friendly, and the treats are (not literally) “to die for.”

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: 1. #3 in the Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery Series, but works well as a standalone thanks to the author’s ability to dive right into the plot while simultaneously providing background.

2. Three original recipes are included at the end of the book for items served in the tearoom.

Publication:   May 28, 2019—Kensington

Memorable Lines:

“I know a therapist who’s very good with teenagers. She has a cat who sits in on most sessions. She finds that Lancelot relaxes her clients. He’s very loving, and in that intuitive way cats have, he knows whether to come closer or stay away.”

Daisy felt as if she was living in more than one universe—one filled with the tea garden and friends and customers, tea and sweet goods. And the other with a family dilemma she didn’t know how to handle.

The tea might have been brewed for them, but by their expressions and body language, she could tell tension brewed between them.

Something Borrowed, Something Mewed–canine sidekick

Something Borrowed, Something Mewed

by Bethany Blake

Something Borrowed Something MewedCelebrating the 4th of July in Sylvan Creek, Pennsylvania, means a weeklong pet-centric Wags ’n Flags affair complete with fireworks, patriotic decorations, dogs in costumes, and the canine All Paws on Deck Rowboat Regatta. This year pet-sitter and pet bakery owner Daphne Templeton and her Basset hound sleuthing sidekick Socrates are immersed in solving crimes. Daphne’s sister Piper is engaged to be married. The wedding planner has multiple bookings set up at the same venue and at the same time and has plans to abscond with all the bridal payments. Murder ups the ante on the scam. Who is behind all the nefarious shenanigans? 

On the personal scene in Something Borrowed, Something Mewed, Daphne and her detective boyfriend Jonathan seem to be getting emotionally closer at a time when physical separation is imminent. Daphne’s fun and a little wacky friend Moxie is Daphne’s support throughout it all. Humor is injected as Daphne has interesting, but fairly one sided, “conversations” with Socrates throughout the book as she tries to solve the mysteries swirling around Sylvan Creek’s celebration.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Mystery

Notes: #5 in the Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery Series

Publication:   May 28, 2019—Kensington 

Memorable Lines:

…a black whirlwind flew past our feet and Tinkleston finally launched himself at the world’s meekest, most clueless and most accident-prone cat, who went flying off the icebox with a familiar, plaintive yowl.

I prized allegiance to family and friends. I also admired people who looked out for lost souls, whether they were siblings or Chihuahuas and pugs with oversized personalities. Or very insistent cats.

“I won’t even ask why you rode something you pedal to a biker bar.”

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

You’ll Get Through This: Hope and Help for Your Turbulent Times

by Max Lucado

you'll get through thisI have always been fascinated by the Biblical story of Joseph, from the coat of many colors to saving Egypt and his people from famine. The story includes pride and arrogance, bad parenting, attempted fratricide, slavery, temptations, false accusations, jail, forgotten promises, a rise to power, revenge, and forgiveness. Joseph’s life was a roller coaster ride. There had to be a lot of times when Joseph could have questioned God, “Why me?”

Max Lucado uses Joseph’s story to speak to those who are hurting, who find themselves in a pit of despair. In You’ll Get Through This, Lucado offers the hope found in the Bible that what was intended for evil can be used by God for good. Lucado is the ultimate storyteller, and he brings in stories of people he knows and those he has met to demonstrate his points. With chapters like “Stupid Won’t Fix Stupid” and “Is God Good When Life Isn’t?”,  Lucado’s book is Biblical, practical, and inspirational. I read it at the pace of a chapter a day with more than a few sneak peeks ahead, and I plan on rereading it. There is so much help and understanding rooted in its pages for both men and women who are facing life’s challenges. 

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Nonfiction, Self-Help

Notes: To aid readers who want to use You’ll Get Through This for book or Bible study, there are added “Questions for Reflection” at the end of the book to accompany each chapter.

Publication:   September 10, 2013—Thomas Nelson

Memorable Lines:

You’ll get through this.

It won’t be painless.

It won’t be quick.

But God will use this mess for good.

Don’t be foolish or naive.

But don’t despair either.

With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.

God is plotting for our good. In all the setbacks and slip-ups, he is ordaining the best for our future. Every event of our days is designed to draw us toward our God and our destiny.

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