Book Review: A Plain Scandal by Amanda Flower

A Plain Scandal by Amanda Flower Cover

A Plain Scandal by Amanda Flower Cover

When I received a pitch for an Amish murder mystery book, I was very intrigued. I knew that there were Amish romance novels out there, but a murder mystery? I love cozy mysteries and decided to read A Plain Scandal: An Appleseed Creek Mystery by Amanda Flower so I could tell you all about it, dear readers. I had no idea what to expect when I began reading.

Let me tell you, dear readers, I practically ignored my husband Saturday night to find out whodunit. Don’t let the Amish setting deter you for this book.

In A Plain Scandal, our sleuth is Chloe Humphrey who is clearly not Amish. She recently moved to Ohio’s Amish country to take an IT job at the local college. How un-Amish is that?  Chloe is friends with Timothy and Becky Troyer, siblings who decided to leave their Amish religion after their rumspringa, a time when Amish youth are allowed to experience “English” life.  Becky is Chloe’s roommate and also her guide to Amish culture. Chloe also has a massive crush on Becky’s older brother Timothy, but isn’t sure how to approach him because of his Amish background.

In the midst of the small college town life, Chloe and Becky discover that several Amish teenage girls have been assaulted and their hair cut short. Amish girls are not allowed to cut their hair. While Chloe tries to track down the person(s) responsible, she discovers a body (like any cozy sleuth should). Sleuthing is challenging for Chloe, since most Amish will not speak to outsiders.

Usually when I read cozy mysteries, I don’t try to figure out the killer. I’m just there for the ride.  I read them for the characters, the relationships between the characters and the setting. Cozies are how I relax. (Cozies are murder mysteries in which the sleuth is usually a woman and there isn’t a lot of blood or gore.)

First of all, A Plain Scandal is very well written. I’ve read plenty of cozies where the premise is so contrived I could not buy into it. Not the case with Amanda Flower’s writing. Chloe was the perfect character for readers who are unfamiliar with Amish culture/religion. Like me. It’s all new to Chloe’s eyes as well, so I learned with her. It was a very natural fit.  From an outsider’s point of view, I felt that Flower present Amish culture in a very respectful manner.

My favorite character in the book is Becky. Becky discovered cooking shows during her rumspringa and has embraced them wholeheartedly. She is so excited about cooking new to her foods: manicotti, Mexican, even Paula Deen.

If you like cozy mysteries, I highly recommend A Plain Scandal: An Appleseed Creek Mystery by Amanda Flower. It’s the second book in the series and I can’t wait to get my hands on the first book, A Plain Death.

What did you read this weekend?

I received  an ARC of the book in order to review it. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Book Club Day: The Expats by Chris Pavone

The Expats by Chris Pavone

Today our book club members traveled across the Atlantic Ocean in The Expats by Chris Pavone. Kate Moore, the novel’s heroine, sheds her old life to take on a new role as a stay-at-home mom when her husband accepts a job in Luxembourg. Soon she realizes that shedding her former, more exciting life was not as easy as it seemed.

Join our bloggers as we discuss motherhood, traveling, secrets, double lives, and much more. Here are their thoughts as inspired by The Expats:

The Expats offers plenty of twists and turns, a Rubik’s cube of intrigue, as one of our members wrote. Make sure to grab a copy of the novel and let us know what you think.
What sort of secrets lurk in your life?

Review: Footprints in the Sand: A Piper Donovan Mystery by Mary Jane Clark

Footprints in the Sand by Mary Jane Clark

Footprints in the Sand by Mary Jane Clark
Over the Christmas break as I nursed my cold, I picked up Footprints in the Sand: A Piper Donovan Mystery by Mary Jane Clark. I wasn’t sure what to expect because this is the first book I’ve ready by Mary Jane Clark. Plus this is the third book in the Piper Donovan/Wedding Cake Mysteries series so I didn’t know if I would need to backtrack to the previous two. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about.

Piper Donovan, 27 year old struggling actress and cake decorator,  is the main character in this cozy mystery series. In Footprints in the Sand, Piper and her parents head to Florida for her cousin’s wedding. Piper is the maid of honor and  she and her mother are creating the bride’s wedding cake. Unfortunately, as with most mysteries, one of the bridesmaids’ body if discovered on the Sarasota beach. When a neighbor is run off the road, Piper realizes that something is amiss. Throughout the story, Piper sends Facebook status updates about her visit in Sarasota and her online friends inadvertently help her discover clues to the mystery. Instead of waiting for the police to solve the mystery, Piper attempts to track down the murder herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cozy mystery.  It was perfect for my congested sinuses because it was light and the mystery wasn’t convoluted or too complicated. The pacing of the novel gave me a chance to figure out whodunit. Mary Jane Clark kept me on my toes for a good portion of the novel.  I absolutely adored Piper Donovan. She was confident, easy going, and thoughtful. Her only flaw is her curiosity of course, just like any cozy mystery non-professional detective.

Now that I’ve finished Footprints in the Sand, I plan on reading the other two books in the Wedding Cake Mysteries. As a foodie, I wished that the cake decorating had been more prominent in Footprints in the Sand. There are recipes in the back of the book so you can try out the desserts yourself. I’m hoping the other books will offer more cake decorating and making.

If you’re looking for a fun, light mystery, I’d recommend Footprints in the Sand Mary Jane Clark. It goes on sale tomorrow, January 8 but of course you can pre-order it!

I received a review copy of the book. 

Reading While Sick

I hope you all had a great Christmas/holiday break. My break was spent in bed sick while trying to take care of sick kids. My husband is sick too but he returned to work yesterday.  Christmas evening we were all in bed by 9:30pm. Rare for our household. Needless to say, it’s been quite an interesting few days.

I’ve been slugging along towards my 2012 reading goal even though I know I won’t finish it.  I think I’ll be happy if I end the year with 80 books read. That means only 3 more books to read within 5 more days.

Since my cold makes it hard to concentrate, I’ve been taking the easy way out and reading some lighter fare. I’ve discovered a new culinary theme cozy mystery with Footprints in the Sand by Mary Jane Clark. Next on deck, when I my sinuses allow me to read, is another food based novel, Vanity Fare: A novel of lattes, literature, and love by Megan Caldwell.

Hopefully by the time I finish Vanity Fare, I will have recovered from this cold. I think I’ll try to tackle at least one book from my currently reading list on GoodReads. One of them have been on the list since April! Yikes.

I also hope to post a couple of more reviews by the end of the year.

How are you finishing out 2012?

Book Review: The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

I was hoping that I could give you an update on Justin Cronin’s The Twelve  but it didn’t arrive today. I was not a happy camper! Maybe in a couple of days.

The first book I picked up from my Blogalicious book haul was The Cutting Season by Attica Locke. The novel appealed to me because it’s set in Ascension Parish, Louisiana, right across the Mississippi River from where I grew up. Ok, maybe not right across the river, but on the other side of the state’s capital, Baton Rouge. Usually when I pick up a book set in Louisiana, it’s historical fiction set before or during the Civil War. Locke sets her book in almost present day Louisiana, circa 2009.

The Cutting Season revolves around Caren Gray who manages Belle Vie, a plantation turned museum and wedding venue. This includes reenactments based off the property’s history, school tours through the slave cabins and, by night, wedding receptions. The novel opens up with the discovery of a migrant worker’s body, hastily buried on the plantation property.

As the police and Caren concurrently investigates the murder, it’s hard to avoid the racial and socioeconomic tensions that arise in the community. On top of that, Caren has to come to terms with her past connections with Belle Vie.

While the murder investigation is the main plot line for the novel, it’s Caren emotional ties to Belle Vie that makes the novel worth reading. Caren is a single mother attempting to balance work, her daughter, and her daughter’s father. Attica Locke gives a realistic portrayal on the community’s racial tensions (in my opinion, though I haven’t lived in Louisiana in many years).

I found the pacing a bit slow. There’s plenty of mention about Caren’s past ties to Belle Vie, but only as unsatisfying crumbs. It’s not until much later in the book that we get the full story. I would have rather no crumbs than the little drips I was given. The drips came often but had little follow up. It got old really fast.

It was a good read, though I did figure out whodunit well before he/she was revealed. Does that mean I’m becoming too smart for mystery novels?

I received a copy of The Cutting Season in my swag bag at Blogalicious. All opinions are my own. 

Book Review: The Girl Below by Bianca Zander

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The Girl Below by Bianca Zander

I am so grateful for all of the books I received this summer to review!  One of the novels I received from the nice folks over at William Morrow was Bianca Zander’s  The Girl Below.  Once again, this one seemed pretty much right up my alley – time travel, a bit of Britain, and a little bit of the surreal/fantasy/suspense thrown in for good measure.

Here is the official synopsis:

Suki Piper is a stranger in her hometown. . . .

After ten years in New Zealand, Suki returns to London, to a city that won’t let her in. However, a chance visit with Peggy—an old family friend who still lives in the building where she grew up—convinces Suki that there is a way to reconnect with the life she left behind a decade earlier. But the more involved she becomes with Peggy’s dysfunctional family, including Peggy’s wayward sixteen-year-old grandson, the more Suki finds herself mysteriously slipping back in time—to the night of a party her parents threw in their garden more than twenty years ago, when something happened in an old, long-unused air-raid shelter. . . .

A breathtaking whirlwind of mystery, transgression, and self-discovery, Bianca Zander’s The Girl Below is a haunting tale of secrets, human frailty, and dark memory that heralds the arrival of an extraordinary new literary talent.

I read the book in a weekend…it was a compelling and quick read.  I’m not sure that I loved it, though.  In my opinion, the main character was hard to connect to; I found Suki to be selfish, aimless, and a complete narcissist.  She didn’t really seem to want to do anything to help herself (or her situation), and for me that was a profound turnoff.  The pace of the book swung from quick to meandering, and there were portions I just didn’t care about (does that ever happen to you when you read?).

Despite my dislike of the main character, I was unwilling to break up with the book.  The book was written in first-person voice, so I had to get past my irritation with Suki and focus on the story…and it was a great story.  I was absolutely pulled in to the “what possibly could have happened down there” aspect, and there were a few moments where I was genuinely nervous (I am always worried about what could be lurking in a wardrobe).

I’m still not sure I’m satisfied with the resolution at the end, and I felt overall as though something was missing.  But it was a decent read – I didn’t love it or hate it.  I will absolutely read more from this author, as I think she has a great flair for writing.  She utilizes fantastic imagery and descriptive writing, and can absolutely set a scene.  I’m just hoping the next main character is more likable.

Quick Facts:
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (June 19, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062108166
ISBN-13: 978-0062108166
Twitter: @BiancaZander

I received a complimentary copy of the book to review – no other compensation was given and all opinions expressed are my own.