review; beautiful creatures

Title: Beautiful Creatures (Caster Chronicles #1)
Author: Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Pub. Date: December 1, 2009
Source: Library
Summary: Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Paranormal
Rating:

“Mortals. I envy you. You think you can change things. Stop the universe. Undo what was done long before you came along. You are such beautiful creatures.”

There are very few things that can compel me to move a book – especially one clocking in at nearly 600 pages – to the top of my To Read list, but I’m a total sucker for Jeremy Irons. Naturally I had heard of this series and even went so far as to include it in my list of series to read in 2013. A few months ago I saw the movie trailer and thought it looked interesting and a few days ago saw it again while Matt & I saw The Hobbit. A second dose of Mr. Irons was more than I could handle and I promptly went to my library and checked out the first book.

Going into this series I knew nothing about the story. Zip. Nada. Nothing. Imagine my surprise when it relies heavily on a Civil War-era plot! (The Civil War was my area of focus in school and any book about the War – fiction or non-fiction – is a must-read for me). Add in multiple references to To Kill a Mockingbird and you’ve got yourself a triple whammy.

There wasn’t much we wanted to know about any town but our own, and if your granddaddy or great-granddaddy couldn’t tell you, chances were you didn’t need to know.

Beautiful Creatures was a delight to read for the simple fact that the narrator was a boy. Ethan Ware, sixteen, one of the star players on his high school basketball team. I was overjoyed at a male perspective, although the more I read, the more I realized that the only things separating his POV from the countless female protagonists in YA were the pronouns. Once the action started and especially once the romance began developing, Ethan could have easily been any female MC. He just didn’t sound like a 16-year old boy. That said, I liked him.

Ethan lives in the tiny town of Gatlin, famous for its buttermilk pie and a Civil War battle. The previous year his mother died in a car accident and since then his father has been shut inside his study, still too hurt to return to his old life. Amma, Ethan’s nanny? housekeeper? practically raised him and I enjoyed her immensely.

“Harlon James’s been injured, and I’m not convinced he ain’t about ta pass over.” She whispered the last two words like God Himself might be listening, and she was afraid to give Him any ideas. Harlon James was Aunt Prudence’s Yorkshire terrier, named after her most recent late husband.

Gatlin is a town very set in its ways. It’s a town where everyone knows everyone and has for generations. There is a DAR group as well as the Sisters of the Confederacy and the famed Southern hospitality is alive and well.

One day a new girl arrives to the town and immediately her name is on everyone’s lips. Lena Duchannes. Macon Ravenwood’s niece. Despite the Ravenwood being the founding family of Gatlin, the residents still treat Lena as a complete outsider and her taste in black clothing doesn’t help matters.

Of course Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and the two discover they can communicate telepathically, which instantly brought to mind Kami and Jared’s relationship in Unspoken. What Ethan doesn’t know is that Lena is a Caster – a witch – and on her sixteenth birthday she’ll be forced to take part in a Claiming ceremony where her future will either be one filled with Light or Dark.

Macon Melchizedek Ravenwood was the town shut-in. Let’s just say, I remembered enough of To Kill a Mockingbird to know Old Man Ravenwood made Boo Radley look like a social butterfly.

Other reviewers make mention of the abundance of Southern stereotypes, but I didn’t see Beautiful Creatures that way. I was thoroughly sucked in and tore through this massive book in just a few days, which is really saying something, considering the time it usually takes me to read and factoring in the holidays. I absolutely enjoyed this book and can’t believe it took me this long to read it.

I’ll admit that toward the end the plot lost a bit of its steam and started throwing in plot twist after plot twist, ultimately leaving me with more questions than answers (so what really did happen to Ethan’s mom?). I’m hoping these loose ends will be tied up in the following books.

As you all know by now, I’m a BIG fan of dual narratives. Ethan and Lena’s story was intertwined with the story of a Confederate soldier and the Caster girl he loved and although theirs was only told through flashbacks I adored it.

I had spent so many hours in it as a kid, I’d inherited my mother’s belief that a library was sort of a temple.

While Beautiful Creatures did have its flaws (hello, super-insta-love!), I wholeheartedly, absolutely, utterly loved it. It got to the point where I stayed up well past a reasonable hour just to keep reading. I’d reward myself after doing housework by reading a chapter or two.

Its enormous size could definitely have been shed a couple hundred pages and the deus ex machina ending made me roll my eyes, but I savored every moment and there’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be continuing the series.

    Caster Chronicles

  • Beautiful Creatures
  • Beautiful Darkness (2010)
  • Beautiful Chaos (2011)
  • Beautiful Redemption (2012)

review; prophecy

Title: Prophecy (The Dragon King Chronicles #1)
Author: Ellen Oh
Pub. Date: January 2, 2013
Source: ARC (Thanks, HarperTeen!)
Summary: The greatest warrior in all of the Seven Kingdoms… is a girl with yellow eyes.

Kira’s the only female in the king’s army, and the prince’s bodyguard. She’s a demon slayer and an outcast, hated by nearly everyone in her home city of Hansong. And, she’s their only hope…

Murdered kings and discovered traitors point to a demon invasion, sending Kira on the run with the young prince. He may be the savior predicted in the Dragon King Prophecy, but the missing treasure of myth may be the true key. With only the guidance of the cryptic prophecy, Kira must battle demon soldiers, evil shaman, and the Demon Lord himself to find what was once lost and raise a prince into a king.
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating:

When Kira was just ten year old she saved her cousin, Prince Taejo, from a demon and since then she has been Taejo’s personal bodyguard. Unfortunately, her reputation and golden eyes have not made her popular among the kingdom’s citizens. It’s no secret they’re disgusted by and frightened of her; behind her back she’s referred to as Demon Slayer.

When the King is brutally murdered in front of his family, Kira, Taejo, and a swarm of guards flee the city in search of three sacred items named in an ancient prophecy in the hopes of protecting those they love and saving the kingdom from the Demon King.

I was really looking forward to Prophecy. It sounded totally kickass and I was extremely intrigued by the Korean influence. The author definitely did her research and it shows. Also, she’s definitely not afraid to kill off characters – seriously, don’t become attached to anyone! Sadly, that’s where my praise falters.

Let’s start with the characters. 12-year old Prince Taejo and his dog Jindo were the most likeable, along with a handful of monks met along the way. Everyone else came across as your basic stock personalities: there were Bad Guys, a Mysteriously Vague Old Monk (described as – and named!! – Master Roshi), Noble Captain, I could go on and on. Those that weren’t cardboard cutouts were so thinly written that I couldn’t get a feel for the character (Seung, for instance).

Jaewon and Shin Bo Hyun are the Love Interests in a romance that really didn’t go anywhere (I’m assuming it’ll come to light in the following books). Kira is betrothed to Bo Hyun and, let’s face it, he’s kind of a jerk. But a jerk that truly does like her…? The author made it seem that way, along with hints of attraction on Kira’s end, but again, I couldn’t get a real feel for it. I did enjoy Jaewon however. He’s got a decent backstory in a novel where backstories were either quickly presented or forgotten altogether. That said, his attitude towards Kira (multiple times he mentioned he’d do anything she’d ask/go anywhere she said) bordered on obsessive and was downright confusing. Why was he so willing to follow her? They had only had one conversation by the time he began saying these things. I didn’t get it.

Prophecy followed your typical Fantasy Novel model perfectly, right down to it’s title. There’s a prophecy, sacred objects that give the possessor unimaginable power, a quest to find those objects, an evil (in this case, demon) king who wants that power for his own, etc etc. There wasn’t much about Prophecy that was original, but for some strange reason I did enjoy it. The writing was very quick and easy and I noticed this was a dialogue-driven story. So much dialogue.

Despite a relatively harsh review, I had a good time reading Prophecy. Hardcore fans of the genre might want to check it out, but if you’re looking for a unique story, I’d suggest looking elsewhere. Also, for a book targeted toward teens, the writing was extremely simple and could have easily been in a book written for a much younger crowd.

    The Dragon King Chronicles

  • Prophecy
  • Warrior (2014)
  • King (2015)

review; the perilous gard

Title: The Perilous Gard
Author: Elizabeth Marie Pope
Pub. Date: 1971
Source: Library
Summary:

In 1558, while exiled by Queen Mary Tudor to a remote castle known as Perilous Gard, young Kate Sutton becomes involved in a series of mysterious events that lead her to an underground world peopled by Fairy Folk—whose customs are even older than the Druids’ and include human sacrifice.

Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating:

While blogs are rife with the newest releases, older books are pushed aside and nearly forgotten. I absolutely love reading older books and when I heard about a YA gem from the 70s, my ears perked up. How was it that The Perilous Gard, a historical fantasy classic and Newbery winner, managed to evade my notice all these years?

After reading the reviews on goodreads (this book has a 4.14/5 rating!) and seeing nothing but glowing remarks, I knew I needed to find this book and quick. Luckily one of the libraries in my system had a copy and a few days later I was holding it in my hands.

She sat up, punching her pillow vindictively into shape. It was all very well for a hero in a romance, like Sir Launcelot, to break his heart – how did it go? – “run mad in the wilderness”; but in her opinion Sir Launcelot has behaved very foolishly. Somebody ought to have stopped him.

From the very first page The Perilous Gard had my attention. Katherine Sutton – Kate – and her sister Alicia are Princess Elizabeth’s attendants. After a particularly disastrous letter of Alicia’s reaches Queen Mary, Kate is the one who suffers the consequence. As part of her punishment, Kate is sent to live at Perilous Gard, an ancient castle in northern England.

Upon arriving in the village, Kate learns that something if…off. There’s something strange going on, what with the villagers becoming visibly shocked and frightened by her arrival and the sudden disappearance of multiple children. The castle’s inhabitants are refusing to talk and the villagers’ firm belief in the Fairy Folk leave Kate confused. It’s not until Christopher Heron, the younger brother of the castle’s head, shares the story of what really happened the night his 4-year old niece disappeared that Kate wonders whether or not there might be some truth to the ancient beliefs.

Let’s chat about Kate for a moment, okay? I. Loved. Her. She’s smart and strong and level-headed, which is certainly something that can’t be said about many heroines today. Her younger sister is beautiful and charming and perfect at her duties, while Kate struggles with her sewing and speech. Naturally her exile angers her, but she sees it through. After discovering Christopher has been guilt-ridden over Cecily’s disappearance, Kate’s determined to find her and not for an instant does she falter in her decision.

Kate soon uncovers secrets within the castle and ultimately finds herself among the Fairy Folk. Down in the depths of the caverns and caves, their world is completely black. It’s enough to make any person mad, but Kate keeps her wits about her and stands her ground against the Queen.

She had always somehow, in her secret heart, never thought of him except in a world of knights and ladies, the sort of world that one read about in the old romances, where hermits knelt praying among the gray rocks and champions rode out to slay dragons from high turreted castles – not the sort of castles that could ever go to ruin because the scrub had not been cleaned out of the water meadows and there was no money for the ditching and the drainage.

Take note, YA authors: this is how romance should be done. Kate and Christopher’s relationship takes the course of the book to come to fruition. They start out as strangers – stubborn Christopher barely glances at Kate – then a friendship and companionship develops, ultimately leading to romance. It was slow and quiet and absolutely perfect. Kate and Christopher each have flaws and the other not only acknowledges those flaws (no drop-dead gorgeous, perfect people here), but accepts those flaws and it’s all I can do not to type a wall of exclamation points. ♥ Sheer brilliance.

Although The Perilous Gard does take place in the 1500s, apart from a single mention of the ‘current’ fashion and Elizabeth/Mary’s reign, this book could take place at any point in history. Another thing I want to make note of is that this book is not an edge-of-your-seat, thrill-a-minute kind of book. Yes there is action, and yes it is an adventure (with human sacrifices!), but it does so in a very quiet, almost sleepy way that made the book an absolute joy. Despite never having read this book before, I felt as though I was revisiting a childhood favorite; there was something incredibly comforting about the story and the characters and even the Fairy Folk.

If The Perilous Gard is completely new to you as well, I HIGHLY urge you to get to your library or a bookstore (I’ll definitely be buying my own copy) and pick this up. I’m shocked it’s taken me so long to find out about it, but now that I have I know I’ll be rereading it for years to come.

review; river road

Title: River Road (Sentinels of New Orleans #2)
Author: Suzanne Johnson
Pub. Date: November 13, 2012
Summary:

Hurricane Katrina is long gone, but the preternatural storm rages on in New Orleans. New species from the Beyond moved into Louisiana after the hurricane destroyed the borders between worlds, and it falls to wizard sentinel Drusilla Jaco and her partner, Alex Warin, to keep the preternaturals peaceful and the humans unaware. But a war is brewing between two clans of Cajun merpeople in Plaquemines Parish, and down in the swamp, DJ learns, there’s more stirring than angry mermen and the threat of a were-gator.

Wizards are dying, and something—or someone—from the Beyond is poisoning the waters of the mighty Mississippi, threatening the humans who live and work along the river. DJ and Alex must figure out what unearthly source is contaminating the water and who—or what—is killing the wizards. Is it a malcontented merman, the naughty nymph, or some other critter altogether? After all, DJ’s undead suitor, the pirate Jean Lafitte, knows his way around a body or two.

It’s anything but smooth sailing on the bayou as the Sentinels of New Orleans series continues.

Genre: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Rating:

People jog at dawn for a reason. If they wait, their brains will wake up and convince them there are things they’d rather do. Like have oral surgery.

The first book in the series, Royal Street was something I picked up on a whim. I’m a total sucker for pretty covers and, although I’m not a big fan of the genre, paranormal/urban fantasy tends to have SUPER SHINY OH-SO-PRETTY covers.

To my complete surprise, I loved it. Much to my delight I didn’t have to wait long at all for the sequel – less than a year! Guys, I’m extremely pleased to announce River Road does NOT suffer from Middle Book Syndrome. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say it’s even better than its predecessor!

River Road takes place three years after Hurricane Katrina laid waste to New Orleans in Royal Street. I was a bit surprised by the time lapse (I’m not used to such large gaps between books!), but from the very first page the book is off running.

If you’re new to the series, Drusilla Jaco – DJ – is a Green Congress wizard, meaning that while she can do magic, her abilities are limited. Alex Warin, shape-shifter extraordinaire is her ex-enforcer partner and his cousin Jake is a recently-turned loup-garou: the biggest, baddest breed of werewolf. Add in the centuries-old undead pirate Jean Lafitte and you’re set. Especially when all three men are unsure of their feelings for DJ (just as she’s equally unsure of her own feelings for them).

Jean Lafitte informs DJ of an odd illness afflicting mermaid clans and upon investigating, two bodies of Green Congress wizards are discovered. It’s up to DJ and crew to find out what’s going on and just who is behind the attacks.

The plaque on the enormous clock claimed it has been hand-carved of mahogany in 1909, about 130 years after the birth of the undead pirate waiting for me upstairs.
They were both quite handsome, but the clock was a lot safer.

Needless to say, I love this series. With the first book, I was a little worried about how the author would handle Katrina’s aftermath. After reading, I realized I had nothing to worry about: Suzanne Johnson took a painful subject still fresh in mind and approached it delicately and respectfully. River Road is no different: New Orleans is still struggling to regain its footing and Johnson tells it like it is. No sugar-coating here, folks.

River Road introduces a few new species (mers, nymphs) and I loved getting to know them! That said, even though there are plenty of new characters, all the old ones get plenty of screen time, so to speak. I especially enjoyed Jean’s scenes (I’m totally Team Lafitte, by the way!) and absolutely cannot wait to see him again!

Having three super-hot, though not exactly human, love interests might seem like overkill, but I loved it. Jean Lafitte, eternal flirt and gentleman, seems to genuinely care for DJ; Jake has made no secret of his feelings, though his inability to control his loup-garou form makes him hesitant; and Alex is definitely changing their “we’re-much-better-as-friends” relationship. I loved seeing the interactions with each guy and I actually GASPED at that final paragraph! Oh man. Talk about an ending!

Guys, seriously. If you’re looking for a fun, funny urban fantasy, look no further!

Sentinels of New Orleans series

  • Royal Street (review → here!)
  • River Road
  • Elysian Fields (coming 08/13)

review; hikikomori and the rental sister

https://i2.wp.com/d.gr-assets.com/books/1339255693l/14568991.jpg Title: Hikikomori and the Rental Sister
Author: Jeff Backhaus
Pub. Date: January 8, 2013
Summary: Thomas Tessler, devastated by a tragedy, has cloistered himself in his bedroom and shut out the world for the past three years. His wife, Silke, lives in the next room, but Thomas no longer shares his life with her, leaving his hideout only occasionally, in the wee hours of the night, to pick up food at the grocery store around the corner from their Manhattan apartment.

Isolated, withdrawn, damaged, Thomas is “hikikomori.” Desperate for one last chance to salvage their life together, Silke hires Megumi, a young Japanese woman attuned to the “hikikomori” phenomenon, to lure Thomas back into the world. Back in Japan Megumi is called a “rental sister,” though her job may involve much more than familial comforts. At first Thomas remains steadfast and sequestered, but as he grows to trust Megumi, a deepening and sensual relationship unfolds.
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating:

A little hope shows how little hope there is. It’s crushing.

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister is unlike any book I have ever read. Thomas (pronounced Toe-maahs) Tessler has been spending the last three years locked away in his bedroom, refusing any interaction with the outside world. The world in which his child died. For Thomas his grief started out as spending time alone with his thoughts, his guilt. Over time, however, it became more and more difficult to open that door and go out into the apartment. His wife Silke has stood by him, trying to coax him out in her own way: cooking his favorite dinners, leaving her bedroom door open. After three years all of her failed pleas and gentle urges, Silke hires a “rental sister,” a young woman who understands hikikomori and will act as a sister to Thomas.

“The paramedics said, ‘Stand back, please.’ And just like that our jobs as parents were over.”

Thomas’s worldview hinders on his son’s death and for the majority of the novel, the reader doesn’t know exactly how he died, only that he did. A sunny day, an untied shoelace, a broken coffee mug, these are the vivid details that Thomas replays over and over in his mind. As time goes on, some of the details become a little fuzzy (was it the right shoelace that was untied or the left?), but the end result remains the same: one moment Silke and Thomas were parents, the next they were crouched over their son’s body.

Although there was nothing Thomas could have done to change things, he still remains convinced of his guilt. There are reminders in their apartment of his son’s existence and the three-year old stain on the concrete outside his window haunts Thomas. It’s safer in his bedroom. Locked away he doesn’t have to face the past.

Perhaps she is not here. Perhaps I am still listening to her story and my mind has raced forward to contemplate the possible effects of an as-yet-unmade decision and what I am seeing and feeling is not real but a prediction of what I would see and feel were I to open the door, and as such I am learning a lesson: that the locks belong secured and the door belongs shut.

Megumi is the hired rental sister. Having left Japan three years prior after the death of her brother, her own hikikomori experience, Megumi now works at a wagashi shop. When Silke desperately asks for her help, Megumi wants nothing more than to run away and turn her back on this woman. Ultimately she gives in and agrees to a single visit – no promises – and if nothing changes, that’s it, there’s nothing more she can do.

When Megumi visits the apartment for the first time, all three characters become interlaced. Thomas, Silke, Megumi – three incredibly flawed characters, each hiding their own secrets.

Right on the tail of finishing some fairly action-packed and fast-paced novels, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister caught me off-guard. I wasn’t prepared for its quiet nature. At times the story barely gets above a whisper when I was used to bold, in-your-face tales. That said, I enjoyed it immensely and hung onto every word.

I have been unearthed like a cracked skeleton, evidence of some previous, now extinct existence, here this whole time just beneath your nose, waiting to be noticed.

The novel alternates between Thomas and Megumi and it was great to get into their minds. With each of Megumi’s visits, Thomas’s barriers soften a bit. At first it was just conversation, then it was an open door. Soon these visits became longer and longer, even stretching into overnight stays. Megumi loves Thomas, Silke loves Thomas, Thomas loves Megumi and Silke. Flawed, broken characters all around and I loved it.

Clocking in at under 250 pages, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister tricks readers into thinking it’s a quick novel that can be easily digested and tossed aside once it’s done. Don’t be fooled: this novel made me think and even now that I’ve finished, I’m still feeling its effects.

Completely unique and beautifully written, Hikikomori and the Rental Sister is an unsuspecting novel and grabs you and won’t let go.

The whole time in my room I felt like a photograph in Silke’s wallet. She carried me around always but I remained mute and motionless. And now here I am. Silke ripped up the photograph and set me free. Human beings were meant to move.

Disclaimer: All quotes are from an uncorrected proof and could change in the final copy.

review; saving moby dick

Title: Saving Moby Dick (The Enchanted Attic #2)
Author: L.L. Samson
Pub. Date: September, 2012
Summary: In Saving Moby Dick, Linus, Ophelia, and their friend Walter think they can control the powers of the Enchanted Attic, and they plan to bring Captain Ahab from Book World into Real World-on their own terms. But even the best-laid plans go awry sometimes, and their adventures take a wild turn. Captain Ahab is far crazier than they realized, and bookstores aren’t really the best places to find whales, white or otherwise.
Genre: MG, Fantasy
Rating:

Linus and Ophelia had roped poor Walter into serving hors d’oeuvres with them, believing fully in the old adage that misery loves company. In other words, if you have something you’d rather not do, you might as well bring your best friend along and let him suffer as well.

Guys, this series is growing on me. A lot. I had a few problems with the first book, Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and I’m pleased to say those problems have all but vanished in this sequel. Twins Linus and Ophilia Easterday have been shipped off to live with their aunt and uncle (also twins) while their parents hunt butterflies on a remote island in the South Pacific. Their good friend Walter resides in the nearby boarding school after more than his share of picked locks back home in London.

Aunt Portia owns a bookshop and in its attic the trio discovered an enchanted circle that can bring literary characters into our world. Naturally this comes with some rules: they have sixty hours before they need to return, the circle only opens once a month, etc. In their previous adventure with the circle, they met Quasimodo. This time around they set the bar a bit higher: Moby Dick‘s Captain Ahab.

Meanwhile, Aunt Portia didn’t care about the Moby Dick theme at all. She figured it was a water party and mermaids live in the water, so it stood to reason that she could fudge a little bit.

Every single character is great. They’re funny, they’re flawed, they have their own distinct personality and I love it. I’m also very pleased to say that Walter’s love of exercising isn’t shown to the extent it was in the previous book (during a pretty important scene in the first book, Walter randomly started doing push-ups.

Whereas Quasimodo was sweet and kind, Ahab is anything but. He’s a man on a mission and is blinded by his revenge. He also doesn’t take too kindly to being ordered around by three 14-year olds. That said, his fascination with modern technology (indoor plumbing, computers) is hilarious and I loved the scenes where he’s wrecking havoc on message boards on a whaling website.

We also see more of Cato Grubbs, the mad scientist who previously owned the house/bookshop before suddenly disappearing. In Saving Moby Dick we discover a bit more about him and his relationship to the twins.

The only drawback to this book (and this series as a whole) is the narrator. Bartholomew Inkster works in the English Department of Kingscross University and while I enjoy him 90% of the time, his constant need to define words can be a bit grating. This series is targeted toward the 9-12 crowd. I highly doubt they need words like ingest, clear-cut, or fumble explained.

“Curse that foul tome!” he roared. “I curse the day it was ever written, this Herman Melville reaching down into my soul and displaying it for all the world to see.”

Saving Moby Dick is a wonderful display of what a sequel should be. It’s issues have all been ironed over and since the world-building and magical rules have already been introduced in the first book, the story can finally get down to business. Short chapters and a quick pace make this book a breeze. Also, one of the characters is a bounty-hunter-turned-hippie-priest. How could you pass that up??

The Enchanted Attic Series

  • Facing the Hunchback of Notre Dame (review → here!)
  • Saving Moby Dick
  • Dueling with the Three Musketeers (1/13)
  • Wrestling with Tom Sawyer (5/13)

review; deadly row to hoe

Title: Deadly Row to Hoe (Home Crafting Mystery #6)
Author: Cricket McRae
Pub. Date: November, 2012
Summary: As a member of a community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, Sophie Mae wrangles weeds in exchange for tasty, organic treats. But she almost loses her appetite when a dead body is found in the compost heap. The murder victim is Darla Klick, an ornithologist. Between baby-making dates with her husband, the police detective, Sophie Mae decides to really get her hands dirty and discover who killed the young, sweet-natured “bird lady.”
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Rating:

It’s no secret I have a huge love of cozies. They’re so fun and silly and make the perfect afternoon read. They’re also fairly easy to follow which makes jumping in at any book in a series totally doable. So despite never having read the first five Home Crafting Mystery books, I leaped at the chance to review this newest addition.

The best thing about cozies is that they’re so unique. My favorite series, for example, is about a psychic detective. There’s a series about a White House chef, a cheese shop, you name it, there’s a series for it. This series deals with organic farming and homemade products like soap and lip balm. An interesting fact about me: I’m actually really interested in learning how to make my own soap. This book only solidified my curiosity.

Sophie Mae lives with her husband Barr (a police officer), her best friend Meghan, and Meghan’s 12-year old daughter Erin in a quiet rural community. The Turner family owns and operates a large farm and for a yearly fee members can collect a portion of the harvest. Sophie Mae helps out on the farm and it’s there a body is discovered in a compost heap.

In the past Sophie Mae has helped out with cases and it’s only natural for her to want to join in on the investigation. Ignoring the concerned advice from her husband and friends (particularly since Sophie Mae and Barr are trying to have a baby), Sophie Mae jumps in and winds up getting for than she bargained for.

Deadly Row to Hoe was a mere 250 and the pacing makes it feel like half that. Cozies are typically easy to figure out and this one was no exception (although early on I had suspected a different character of being the killer). The characters were fun and even minor characters like Sophie Mae’s two employees were fleshed-out and I got a real feel for their personalities.

Whether you’re already a fan or are completely new to this series, Deadly Row to Hoe will make for a great read. Lightning fast with lots of humor, it’s definitely a book that will hold your attention and can be finished in one sitting. Throughout the story there were lots of great backstory details that not only helped me get to know these characters, but also piqued my interest in the rest of the series. :) Don’t be surprised if you see reviews for the first five books soon!