These reviews are for books that may contain scenes or situations that are inappropriate for the under 18 crowd. The reviews are rated G, but not necessarily the books.
TWENTY by Debra Landwehr Engle
Publisher blurb: At age fifty-five, Meg’s life is too filled with loss for her to remember what magic feels like. All she has left is a yard brimming with plants that are wilting in the scorching Iowa summer—and a bone-deep feeling that she’s through with living. Meg has something else too: a bottle of mysterious pills, given to her years ago by an empathetic doctor. He promised that they would offer her dying mother a quick, painless end in exactly twenty days. Though her mother never needed them, Meg does. But a strange thing happens after Meg swallows the little green pearls . . . Now that she’s decided to leave this world, Meg is rediscovering the joy in it. She sheds everything she no longer needs—possessions, regrets, guilt—and reconnects with those she cares for. Finally confronting the depth of her grief, she’s learning that love runs deeper still. But is it too late to choose to stay?
Review: This was a very well-written book. The chapters are short, as is the book. All that being said, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy book to read, because it’s not. And maybe that’s because of my personal situation. As I was reading, I’d get through a chapter and have to put it down because it is such a difficult book to read—and no, I’m not talking vocabulary. The subject is death—and life. There is a lot of poignancy to the story as well as imagery that goes with the subject. It is a strong book. A good book. But not an easy book.
What I liked: the character of Meg. I know her. All too well. Also, I found it interesting that there is a discussion section at the back for book clubs and others to question and discuss this book.
What I didn’t like: I’m not sure I liked the ending. The not knowing. And yet… if I’m truthful, I will admit that the ending is perfect for the book. The author did the story justice in ending it the way she did.
Recommendation: As I said, this is a very strong book and well-written, but it is a book with a very sensitive subject—suicide. Euthanasia. Life. But mostly, death. Be forewarned about that. I do recommend it, but you need to be aware of that.
Thanks to the publisher for providing this book.
THE PIT AND THE PASSION: MURDER AT THE GHOST HOTEL by M.S. Spencer
I’m not sure whether to call this a mystery or a romance because it’s both. There’s a decent cozy mystery going on throughout the book—actually several mysteries that the author deftly ties together by the end. And a rather hot romance—so beware. If you don’t like it graphic, there are a few areas where it’s a little intense.
And that’s my only real issue with this story. I was looking for a nice cozy mystery, not a hot romance. I wasn’t prepared for the bedroom scenes. Though the author did tone things down a bit in several areas, there was still a bit more in the sex department than I was prepared for.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I like a good hot romance as much as the next person. Heck, I used to be an editor for an erotic publisher so I’ve seen it all. And I don’t mind romance in a cozy mystery—it happens often that the sleuth eventually has a partner. What I didn’t like was being in the bedroom with them. Cozies don’t usually get this warm in the romance department. The relationships between the sleuth and the “love interest” evolve slowly—sometimes very slowly—over several books.
Still… the mystery was a good one with lots of red herrings and possible suspects. The sleuth—Charity—is a reporter for a local newspaper on a Florida Key. Her partner—Rancor—is a famous thriller writer. He comes across as a user—always begging money, using other people. He doesn’t seem to have any redeeming qualities and I’m not sure why Charity ended up with him other than he was a good lover. But he is central to the story as his family is deeply ingrained in part of the mystery.
Charity and Rancor travel all over—from Florida to Paris to London and back to Florida in their pursuit of truth. The mystery itself is almost a hundred years old and deals with two skeletons found in an abandoned hole of an unfinished hotel. The author did her research and it shows—though she did diverge a little on a lot of the details in order to fit the mystery in. It was a little disconcerting as she’s working with famous names but not with all the truth. Okay, it’s a fiction book, but if you’re going to use famous names, you can’t change their known history (which the author did). It is still a good read, though.
So… recommendations? If you don’t mind hot romance with your cozy mysteries, go ahead and pick this up. Or maybe a satisfying cozy mystery with your hot romance? Either way, it was a quirky, fun read so pick your poison.
TOMORROW’S BREAD by ANNA JEAN MAYHEW
3 ½ Sparklers
This is a charming book that’s a relatively quick read if you don’t mind first person/present tense interwoven with third person/past tense (varies by chapter and character). In this book, the author weaves a story of Black families in a 1950s-60s neighborhood called Brooklyn—part of Charlotte, N.C. In the story, the good white people of Charlotte are determined to “improve” parts of their town through Urban Renewal. To do so, they displace families and businesses with no care for the inhabitants—where they’re going to go and how they’re going to live.
The story is told through the perspective of three main characters. Loraylee Hawkins is a single mother who is the sole supporter of herself, her son, her uncle, and her grandmother—all of whom live together. She’s in love with the father of her son, but he’s a white man and there’s no way they can be together.
Ebenezer (Eben) Polk is the minister of the local church. He’s a widower who becomes the “father” to his sixteen year old nephew Noah when Noah’s father (Eben’s brother) is killed. Eben’s church and the accompanying cemetery will be destroyed when the Renewal comes through. He needs to deal with that, with the death of his wife and brother, with all the changes hitting him late in his life.
Persy (Persephone) is the wife of the greedy white man who’s pushing to get the Renewal through. Her point of view is a direct contrast to the people who live in Brooklyn, and yet she’s a sympathetic character.
The setting is believable and the characters well drawn, but it seems a little superficial. I’d have liked a little more depth to them. Also, I had trouble getting into the story—the language is true to the society and time, but that can make it a little hard to get past sometimes, which makes it slow to start. But once you get into the story, you forget about the language and just “listen” to their stories.
Would I read this again? Probably not. That’s not saying it’s not a good book. It is. It’s just not *my* kind of story. Would I recommend it? To people who like this kind of historical fiction, yes. They would probably enjoy it much more than I did.