Friday, April 24, 2015

UNTIL THE HARVEST by Sarah Loudin Thomas

UNTIL THE HARVEST  by Sarah Loudin Thomas
Henry is an immature twit. Margaret is a mature, responsible young adult. Mayfair is a sickly teen who may also be a healer. How these three ultimately get together and grow to form a family is the premise for UNTIL THE HARVEST.  Returning to the Appalachian area she explored in MIRACLE IN A DRY SEASON with some of the same characters in new roles, Thomas has written a charming romance.  This not great literature, but it is a thoughtful exploration of the meaning of family and the power of family (and love) to elicit change in a person.
Readers who like an exploration of a simpler life without the pulls of modernity will like this book. The hardships and joys of farm life are revealed as the characters go about living.  Several characters make significant personality changes during the relatively short span of the book. A willingness to overlook this shortcoming will give the reader an enjoyable read. The book is “Christian” in that the characters make reference to their faith, but it is not a religious harangue.  Book groups will find many topics for discussion.
4 of 5 stars

Monday, April 20, 2015


A murder, a mystery, a family squabble over land, another murder, a philandering husband, a contract killer, a ghost – oh my – this plot is thicker than molasses. 
A likeable heroine and her ghost friend take on murders, wife beaters, divorced husbands, family disputes and more.  If you can abide a ghost who is usually, but not always, in the right place at the right time, you will like this mystery. The characters are well drawn, with a few you will like and a few you won’t. The situations are believable and properly contentious.  The mystery will keep you guessing and you may even find yourself rooting for the wrong person as the plot unfolds. 
A mystery with a bit of “southern charm” and a lot of twists and turns.
4 of 5 stars

Risky Undertaking by Mark de Castrique

RISKY UNDERTAKING:  A Buryin’ Barry Mystery   by Mark de Castrique
Barry, funeral director and deputy sheriff, finds himself embroiled in a dispute between the Cherokee Indians, the Catawba Indians, the proponents of a casino and possible gangsters when a body turns up on the fresh grave of the mayor’s wife.  The Ashville area, the Cherokee and a variety of law enforcement folk turn this enjoyable mystery into a page turner.  Generous dollops of humor amid the increasing body count will make the “light” mystery fan happy.  There are enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing until near the end. 
This is the first “Buryin’ Barry “ mystery I have read and I found the various characters difficult to follow without jotting notes to remind who was who.  Readers of the previous books in the series may not find this a problem.
A fun page turner with enough humor amid the mayhem to please both cozy and thriller readers.
4 of 5 stars

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

MR. SAMUEL'S PENNY by Treva Hall Melvin

This young adult book is a cross-over for adults, perfect for Parent-Child Book Groups.
New Yorker Lizbeth, 14, is spending the summer with her small town North Carolina aunt and uncle.  On her very first day in Ahoskie a murder occurs that intrigues her because of the special penny the deceased is clutching in his hand.  Determined to discover both the penny and the murderer, Lizbeth discovers the slowness of small town life along with prejudice, compassion, violence, love, greed and generous neighborliness among the residents and relatives she encounters. 
Realistic characters and situations carry the slow moving plot along.  1972 in the South is clearly presented.  Watching Lizbeth grow in maturity and change over the summer is a pleasant foil to the murder mystery.  The importance of family and respect, the keeping and telling of secrets and the surprising revelations are all good topics for discussion.
5 of 5 stars