Today I'm feeling book reviewish-ish. So I'm going to provide you with some short reviews on some books I've recently read. Hopefully, you'll find something that appeals to you amongst the list. For next month I'm selecting books from my to-be-read pile. But I'll get to that at the end. For now here are some book reviews on a couple of new series I've discovered and enjoyed, as well as a couple of standalone books...
The Tale at Hilltop Farm by Susan Wittig Albert-This story definitely fits in the cozy mystery category of fiction. If you have ever been a fan of Beatrix Potter then I highly recommend this book. It is the first in a series known as the Cottage Tales. I'd heard about these books a couple of years ago and searched for them at my local library but could only find a scattering of books, none of which were the first book in this collection of Beatrix Potter mysteries. Recently, however, my library's ebook collection added more books to this series which enabled me to finally feel I could start reading them. I've also read The Tale of Holly How.
These books include real-life facts about the author into a fictional plot about what village life might have been like for Miss Potter in 1905, after she bought her first farm in the Lake District of England. I love how Susan Wittig Albert incorporates animals in the story into the solving of each mystery. She manages to capture the essence of the Beatrix Potter stories into her plots in this way. It might stretch the reader's suspension of disbelief if you have never read any Beatrix Potter stories before, though. The mysteries aren't gruesome and don't always involve murder. But you are drawn into the life of the village of Sawrey, where the stories take place, and come to care about the outcome as you read. For anyone who loves a good cozy mystery, and doesn't mind stories set in a historical place and time you will enjoy this series.
Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landry-This is a middle-grade fantasy series by Derek Landry that is about a wizard detective who also happens to be a skeleton. A story premise the made me go What? but also intrigued me. Skulduggery Pleasant's partner in detection is a twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie Edgley. Stephanie is drawn into a fantastical sub-culture of magical creatures and people upon the death of her favorite uncle.
This book was very good. At the end you are wondering how any of the main characters are going to make it. There is some violence, so I wouldn't recommend it for a very young middle-grade reader. But I liked the characters, and the tongue-in-cheek humor that is prevalent throughout the book. There are currently eight books available in this series. I love that this is an urban fantasy geared toward younger readers. I do plan on eventually reading more books in this series. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys urban fantasies that don't take themselves too seriously, but that still involve complex characters as well as a good mystery.
Where Petals Fall by Melissa Foster-This novel is a gripping contemporary suspense by Melissa Foster. I was drawn into the lives of these characters right at the very beginning and had a hard time putting it down once I started reading. The plot revolves around Junie Olson and her daughter who used to be a normal preschool aged girl, but who begins to undergo an inexplicable emotional regression that Junie can't explain. When Junie's father dies and she returns to her childhood home for the funeral, flashbacks of memory begin to haunt her. They involve the unsolved disappearance of Junie's best childhood friend when Junie was only seven. This is a gripping story that explores the dynamics of family and friendship. The ending while not necessarily happy, is realistic, and leaves you with a sense of hope for the characters. This is a stand alone novel. If you love a good contemporary suspense you will enjoy this book.
Don't Sing at the Table-This work of nonfiction by bestselling author Adriani Trigiani incorporates the life lessons the author learned from her two indomitable grandmothers with biographical looks at Lucy and Viola's lives. It offers an interesting glimpse of America's past in a very intimate and heart-warming way. Lucy and Viola were two immigrant women who each discovered their own unique fulfillment of the American dream through hard work and determination. They overcame crippling poverty to become successful businesswomen. I don't always manage to finish biographies, but this one was a fast read. This is a great book for anyone who loves nonfiction stories that revolve around strong women and family.
Over the next few weeks I'm excited to start delving once again into my to-be-read pile. Two older works of fiction I'm planning to read are The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart (which a Disney movie, starring Hayley Mills, was based on) and Newberry Honor book The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper (which is the 2nd book in a series, but from what I've read the first is more of a prequel story). Two newer novels I'm planning to read are Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman, (a contemporary YA comedy based around Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice) and Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (a contemporary YA romance). I actually won a copy of Anna in a promotional contest upon its release. It has since gone on to win several awards and has gotten lots of positive buzz.
How about you? Read any good books lately you'd like to share?
- Ann Schwarz
- I'm a published author of short fiction for kids and adults. I have an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University. I'm a former content writer for Spirit and Truth publishing on their Living the Word series. I've also worked as a paid book reviewer and as a student editor for The Louisville Review literary magazine. I'm a wife and mom to two great kids, three dogs, and a cat. I love books, movies, gardening, kids, and animals.