Tag Archives: Beach reads

Elizabeth Craig. Knot What It Seams. New York: Signet Books, 2013.

Knot What It SeamsNo matter how hard she tries, it seems like Beatrice Coleman is never able to relax. Try as she might, just as she gets comfortable, something always seems to get in Beatrice’s way – a phone call, her eccentric neighbor, Meadow Downey, dropping in unexpectedly, or, even worse, a murder. Beatrice thought a cottage in Dappled Hills, North Carolina would be a nice, sleepy little place to spend her retirement. Turns out, she was wrong.

Meadow, the leader of the local Village Quilters guild, is bemoaning the recent decline in membership. She is fanatical about nipping the trend of dwindling attendance in the bud. She informs Beatrice that she has invited Jo Paxton, formerly of another area guild, the Cut-Ups, to join the Village Quilters. Beatrice is wary of the prospect of welcoming Jo to the group, especially after she observes two heated interactions between Jo and members of the Cut-Ups at the Patchwork Cottage, the go-to shop for quilting materials in Dappled Hills. The Cut-Ups kicked Jo out of the guild because she is a narrow-minded bully who only appreciates traditional quilting. Her confidence in her opinion is only reinforced by the fact that she judges for several quilting shows. But Meadow is dead set on extending the invitation, despite Jo’s tendencies to cause trouble. From her very first Village Quilter’s meeting, know-it-all Jo critiques each of the quilters’ work, one-by-one.

In the midst of inviting Jo to the Village Quilters, both quilting guilds are taken aback by the news that Mayor Booth Grayson intends to tax the quilting groups. Since the guilds are generating revenue, Grayson has decided to tax them for the benefit of the town. All the quilters dispute the decision since the bulk of the money they raise is donated to charity. During the town hall meeting, Jo picks a fight with Mayor Grayson, threatening to air his dirty laundry if he doesn’t drop his plan to tax the quilters. Jo is also the town mail carrier, and a very bad one at that. She constantly delivers mail to the wrong addresses and is known to snoop through other people’s post. Police Chief Ramsay Downey manages to diffuse the tension by suggesting that Mayor Grayson will attend the upcoming quilting show before he reaches a final conclusion on taxing the quilters.

The night of the quilting show, Jo doesn’t show up. The quilters learn that in the rainy weather, Jo drove her car off the side of a mountain in a car accident. Beatrice suspects fowl play and she urges Ramsay to investigate further. Many of the town people are struggling to display grief in response to Jo’s startling death. After a bit of nudging, Ramsay discovers that Beatrice’s instincts were correct. Jo’s unfortunate car accident was no accident–someone cut her brakes. With a murderer on the loose, the town of Dappled Hills is left reeling. Contrary to her mission to relax, Beatrice winds up collecting clues and investigating Jo’s murder, but this isn’t an easy case. So many people wanted Jo dead for very different reasons, from her husband Glen Paxton, a mechanic, to Karen Taylor and Opal Woosley, slighted Cut-Ups members, to Mayor Grayson. Beatrice better take care that she doesn’t get too hot on the trail of the killer, lest she become the next victim.

Novelist Elizabeth Craig returns with her offbeat band of characters in this second installment of the A Southern Quilting Mystery. Craig, a cozy mystery novelist, writes an absorbing mystery for readers who like the gruesome elements of a story toned down. “Cozy mysteries” feature an amateur sleuth who lives in a tight-knit small town. The focus is shifted away from the unpleasant details of the murders themselves and onto the detective work, the sleuth’s personal life, and the recurrent characters, or rather townspeople. Read more about cozy mysteries here and here. Knot What It Seams is an exemplary model of the sub-genre. As the name “cozy” implies, there’s much more humor and light-heartedness in Craig’s work than the average mystery. She even includes quilting tips and recipes at the end of the book.

If you’re interested in starting with the first novel in the series, Quilt or Innocence, take a look at our blog post on it here. Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Sherryl Woods. Ocean Breeze Novels.

  •  Sand Castle Bay. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Wind Chime Point. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.
  • Sea Glass Island. Don Mills, Ont.: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

The Castle sisters–Emily, Gabriella, and Samantha–are the focus of this short, romantic series.  The sisters love the coastal community of Sand Castle Bay, but each went out into the wider world to make a name for herself.  Emily is an interior designer, Samantha is an actor, and Gabi follower her father into the pharmaceutical industry.  But when they hit a patch of trouble–or when a family member needs them–they return to their little beach town.

Each novel focuses on a particular sister who is at a turning point in her life: Emily in Sand Castle Bay, Gabi in Wind Chime Point, and the eldest sister, Samantha, in Sea Glass Island.  Their grandmother, Cora Jane, is a presence in each novel–not quite needing the sisters’ help, but eliciting the sisters’ concern.  But Cora Jane gives much more than she receives, as she offers advice and engages in matchmaking.  Although the Ocean Breeze novels contain contemporary elements such as age discrimination, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and the war in Afghanistan, at heart these are traditional novels.  Unrequited love, the desire to marry and have children, and the impulse to protect family members–and to meddle in their affairs–drive the action in these nicely linked novels.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Series, Woods, Sherryl

Ellery Adams. Poisoned Prose. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2013.

Poisoned ProseOlivia Limoges is stuck. Lately, progress on her novel has stalled and Olivia feels uninspired in her writing. At the latest meeting of the Bayside Book Writers, Olivia’s friends and closest critics complain that her protagonist, Kamila is limp and dull. The exact opposite of what you’d expect from an Egyptian courtesan wooing a pharaoh. Fellow member Laurel Hobbs suggests that the band of writers spend the upcoming Saturday together at the annual Oyster Bay Cardboard Regatta, grab some dinner, and then catch the main highlight of the day: performances by the Southern Storytellers Network at the town’s library. Famed storyteller Violetta Devereux has top-billing at the event. Violetta’s storytelling has reportedly inspired artists of all varieties, and the Bayside Book Writers are excited to experience her stories firsthand.

But Olivia doesn’t mention to her friends that she helped sponsor the event. As a wealthy restaurateur, Olivia juggles several irons in the fire around Oyster Bay. A few weeks earlier, Flynn McNulty, Olivia’s former boyfriend and proprietor of Through the Wardrobe, Oyster Bay’s independent bookshop, approached Olivia about the storytellers’ retreat. Flynn and the local paper, the Gazette, partnered to host the event. But when their grant funding fell through at the last second, Flynn appealed to Olivia for a little bit of last minute help. Olivia hesitated at first, but after she encountered a powerful instance of storytelling in a dive bar, she signed on as a sponsor. Just like Laurel predicts, the storytelling event turns out to be a quite memorable night.

Violetta Devereux was born to a poor Appalachian farmer. But her gift of captivating storytelling and her striking appearance helped her escape her roots and make a name for herself as a master storyteller. The night of the storytelling event, Violetta is characteristically hypnotic. She opens with the cryptic story of her own impending death. After the performance, Olivia goads Violetta’s manager, Lowell, for a private interview with Violetta to learn the secrets behind her storytelling skills. Apparently Violetta does not give interviews and she only performs in partial darkness. But, unexpectedly, Violetta consents to Olivia’s request. During their conversation, Violetta mentions a hidden treasure that will die with her. And, as it turns out, Violetta’s meeting with Olivia is her last.

Not long after their conversation, Lowell finds Violetta strangled in the library conference room. Olivia and her current beau, Oyster Bay Police Chief Sawyer Rawlings, begin investigating Violetta’s death immediately. Their primary suspect is Lowell because of his questionable past. But their initial suspicious subside when Lowell appears more spooked than anyone else. He is convinced that a ghost is behind Violetta’s murder, and he fears he might be next. As Olivia and Rawlings examine the case, they find a trickle of odd clues leading them to a surprising conclusion with unexpected interconnections. The secret to Violetta’s death, they learn, resides in her stories and her personal history.

Stories are at the heart of novelist Ellery Adams’ fifth volume in the Books by the Bay mystery series. Olivia recognizes the potential for stories to unite people. Adams also takes the time to develop the lives of the central characters further beyond the one-off murder-mystery plot. Relationships change over the course of Poisoned Prose, some for the better and some for the worse. Characters succeed – Bayside Book Writers member Millay finds literary representation – and other characters struggle – like Olivia who falters in developing her novel. Adams presents a number of intertwined stories, sure to interest many readers. But just as a local fisherman, Captain Fergusson, warns Olivia, “Sure, stories can be like a fire on a cold night. But they can burn too. There ain’t nothin’ can cut deeper or sting with more poison than words can…Words have power, and all things of power are dangerous.” Stories and words have the dangerous power of manipulation over collective memory and history.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Adams, Ellery, Coast, Mystery, Novels in Series

Lisa Wingate. The Prayer Box. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2013.

The Prayer Box“I don’t believe it,” I answer. “Men are always trying to solve the mysteries of God, but they never will.”

She plucks a whelk shell from the sand, contemplates it, turning it over with her bone-thin fingers. “There will always be another mystery. God is infinite.”

Ninety-one year-old Iola Anne Poole doesn’t have the best reputation. The people of Fairhope regard her as a hermit and a squatter. Word around town is that Iola wormed the Benoit House away from its rightful owners. Girard Benoit’s nephews intended to sell the estate to a group of locals who had grand plans to turn the Victorian house into an upscale beach resort on Hatteras Island. But supposedly Iola intervened and manipulated the old Mr. Benoit, who was not in a clear frame of mind. Or so the story goes.

Meanwhile, thirty-three year-old Tandi Jo Reese has recently started renting Iola’s nearby cottage. Desperate and down on her luck, Tandi fled from an abusive and criminal husband with her two children, JT (age 9) and Zoey (age 14). Without a home, the cottage was the best deal Tandi could find, apart from sleeping in her car. But her money is running out. The rent is already overdue and Tandi is struggling to find a job that will hire her since she is too afraid to provide any details of her former life.

Tandi grew up in a family of slick smooth talkers – her father, her mother and her sister, Gina – who merge fact with fiction to get what they want. Her home life was tumultuous. Then again, it still is. Although Tandi has escaped from her husband, Trammel, she sees the disillusionment in her kids’ faces. Up until Tandi decided to leave, she hadn’t been the world’s greatest mom. After an accident, she became hooked on Oxycontin and walked around in a doped up haze. Because of her tough upbringing and her abusive husband, Tandi hasn’t trusted anyone in a long time, if ever. Now JT and Zoey’s faith in their mother is wavering.

One day, not long after Tandi and her kids have moved into the cottage, she notices a suspicious lack of movement in Iola’s house. When she investigates, she finds Iola’s body lying peacefully in a bed. At first, Tandi is worried that hubbub surrounding Iola’s death might draw notice to the fact that she’s behind on the rent. But Tandi isn’t aware of Iola’s general unpopularity around Fairhope. Tandi’s financial woes aren’t a complete secret though. One of the lay people at the Fairhope Fellowship Church strikes a bargain with Tandi: she will clean out Iola’s house in exchange for her rent.

Tandi accepts the deal. But it isn’t an easy job. The house has been damaged by the most recent hurricane. Architecturally, the house is unsound. Buckets are scattered throughout the rooms to catch dripping water. And Iola hoarded a massive stockpile of food from home grocery deliveries. Canned goods flooding out of the pantry shock Tandi, especially since she can barely afford food for JT and Zoey without skipping meals herself. However, the prayer boxes are the best surprise that Tandi stumbles upon.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of a prayer box, check out this blog entry by Lisa Wingate on making and using prayer boxes. The basic concept behind a prayer box is to create a box or decorate a pre-existing box, which the owner will fill with prayers and reflections, or even favorite scriptures. Every year, for eighty-one years, Iola fashioned a prayer box and filled it with letters to her father. As Tandi combs through the boxes she relates the struggles in Iola’s life to her own. Strangely, the lessons in Iola’s letters resurface and guide her through this trying chapter in her life. And in the process, Tandi discovers that Iola was not the woman that many presumed her to be.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Dare, Religious/Inspirational, Wingate, Lisa

Robin Ford Wallace. The Woman Who Loved the Sea. United States: CreateSpace, 2013.

Piney Point Island is home for Claire.  Claire’s mother, a volatile, unstable person had trouble putting down roots.  She didn’t plan to stay on the island, and every few years threatened to leave, but then her mood would blow over and stay they did.  Their neighbors, the Flannerys, became a second family to Claire.  Mr. Flannery, a high school teacher, charmed Claire and his own daughters, Juliet and Cordelia, by quoting Shakespeare, Robert Burns, and the other masters of English poetry.  But Mr. Flannery wasn’t just a romantic dreamer, he was good about money too.  Over time, he bought up property at one end of the island and built houses for his daughters.  When he built a new house for himself, he sold his original house, just a cottage, to Claire.

Claire, barely twenty and a waitress, was proud to have the money for a down-payment, and she was determined to make the little cottage her home for life.  But then into her life walked Richard Danthe, a rich boy doing penance for bad behavior by working as a pizza delivery man.  Claire fell for Richard and after they married, she helped him develop his career.  But once Richard’s business grew, they moved to Charlotte, far from the island and the sea that Claire loves so much.

Claire’s marriage to Richard, which had been stale for years, is finally undone by Richard’s dalliances with two high school girls.  As The Woman Who Loved the Sea opens, Claire is back on Piney Point Island.  Claire has no plans, except to watch the sea, paint, and renew her friendship with the Flannerys.  Cordelia and Juliet are the same as ever, but they are worried about their father who is drinking too much and appears to be under the spell of Leslie Orange, an ambitious realtor.  Ms. Orange want to develop Piney Point, and she has allies, including a boorish artist whom she is playing off against Mr. Flannery.  Claire aligns herself with Cordelia and Juliet, but what help can she be when her vengeful husband Richard is intent on compelling her to come back to Charlotte?  And then, there is that new mystery man in her life–a beachcomber who admires her paintings and excites her passion–and who comes and goes like the tide.

In The Woman Who Loved the Sea, Robin Ford Wallace mixes the familiar elements coastal development and a vengeful spouse with fantasy and a bit of Shakespeare.  It makes for an interesting read.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Romance/Relationship, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Wallace, Robin Ford

Bennett Madison. September Girls. New York: HarperTeen, 2013.

September GirlsSeventeen-year old Sam isn’t excited by his dad’s resolution to spend the summer at a quiet little beach town on the Outer Banks, but he isn’t surprised by the scheme either. Earlier that winter Sam’s mother dropped all her responsibilities and abandoned her husband and her son to spend time at Women’s Land, which the book implies is something of a feminist commune. Prior to her departure, Sam’s mother, a “frumpy kindergarten teacher,” adopted radical feminist tenants, like the SCUM Manifesto, so the act is something of personal (or self-satisfying) liberation for her.

Sam’s dad has dealt with the change by throwing himself into hobbies from yoga to knitting to cooking. Sam jokes “if there was a tear-off sheet on a bulletin board in Starbucks he was willing to give it a try.” So his latest idea to relocate temporarily to the Outer Banks is one of many distractions from the reality of his wife’s abandonment. Jeff, Sam’s brother, has returned from college recently and helps somewhat to plug the hole left by their mother. With Jeff and Sam in tow, their father packs everything up and heads for the beach, even before Sam’s school year ends.

After several months of dealing with his fragile father and pressure from his friends–and now Jeff– to “man up” and “get laid,” Sam wants to escape. He is troubled by ideas of love and manhood. The men in his life don’t exactly provide a shining paragon of masculinity. But soon Sam’s attention is diverted by another presence on at the beach, the Girls. They are blonde and beautiful and, to Sam, interchangeable. Sam watches them working menial summer jobs around town, taking cigarette breaks, flipping through magazines, lying on the beach. Yet the strangest part is not that the Girls are everywhere, but that they are all interested in Sam. They eye him with a lustful hunger.

Sam is befuddled that the Girls notice him rather than his hunky brother, or any other hunky guy around the town for that matter. He is scrawny and awkward, hardly a chick magnet. Then he meets one of the Girls, DeeDee. Normally they travel in pairs, but DeeDee seems different from the rest of the Girls. She and Sam bond, and he feels genuine affection for her. But she hesitates. There is a mystery of an otherworldly nature surrounding her and the rest of the Girls. When Sam learns the truth behind the secret, it alters his relationship with DeeDee irreparably.

Novelist Bennett Madison captures pitch-perfect the crude exchanges between Sam, Jeff, and their father, and Sam’s constant cynicism sounds like a teenager attempting jaded and world-weary angst. Madison structures the novel traditionally and from Sam’s perspective with numbered chapters, but he weaves in parallel chapters from the Girls with named chapters. The interspersed chapters from the Girls read like an echo and function similarly to a Greek chorus, summarizing background information and responding to and supplementing the story’s action. These chapters also successfully bolster the mythic quality of the story. However, Madison maintains a clean balance between the fairy tale and the reality. Madison’s treatment of Sam and his story is based the development of a boy tripping around the edge of manhood and a confused family trying to mend life’s rips and holes.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Coast, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, Madison, Bennett

Rebecca Lee Smith. A Dance to Die For. Adams Basin, NY: Wild Rose Press, 2012.

Annabel Maitland is a dedicated ballet dancer. So dedicated that she chokes down handfuls of ibuprofen to numb her pounding hip for practices and performances.  Since Annabel is older than most of the other ballerinas (she’s 34), she strives to work twice as hard to compensate for her age. When the novel begins, she is dancing in an off-Broadway production called Moondance.  During one of the performances, Annabel and her friend, Quinn Wolcott, break into a stash of pain relievers to heavily medicate their aches and pains before the show. As Annabel waits for the ballet to begin, her head is spinning and she feels unsteady on her feet; she’s woozy rather than relaxed.

Despite concerned comments from the stage manager and her dance partner Byron, Annabel insists she is well enough to dance. Not long after the performance begins, Quinn experiences anaphylactic shock. The other dancers continue the piece, ignoring Quinn as she gasps for air. Annabel, the only dancer not callously concerned with maintaining a professional veneer, breaks formation and grabs Quinn just before she topples off the stage. Quinn falls on top of Annabel, seriously injuring Annabel’s weak hip. Quinn’s dying words are a cryptic jumble of names and a request to find her killer.

Two months later, Annabel departs New York and journeys to Asheville under the pretense of establishing and managing a dinner theater at the Sheffield Inn. Her dancing career is finished. Annabel’s age was enough of a detriment, but her wounded hip guarantees that she is permanently out of commission. She can teach for the Sheffield Inn, but it’s doubtful if she can dance for a professional company again. The worn-out mountain inn, a little ways outside of town, is in Annabel’s words, “a rundown, miniature version of Tara.” Annabel sought out the position to fulfill her promise to Quinn to investigate her murder. Quinn lived in nearby Black Mountain, but she was romantically linked to the owners of the inn, brothers Trent and Gil Sheffield. Gil was Quinn’s fiancé and Trent was Quinn’s former boyfriend.

Gil welcomes Annabel warmly and shows her around the inn. He sets her to work immediately on preparing the space with two carpenters. Midway through hanging lights, Trent interrupts the crew. Evidently he was out of town and not privy to Gil’s dinner theater plans. Trent fires Annabel on the spot. The brothers already have invested in repairs to restore the building so they, according to Trent, shouldn’t throw extra money toward a harebrained non-necessity that Gil cooked up. Trent is stable and orderly while Gil is impractical and affable. After some finagling, Gil and Annabel persuade Trent the dinner theater is a lucrative opportunity.

Trent is not convinced that he can trust Annabel and her connections to Quinn. But the show goes on and Annabel’s investigation continues. She doesn’t have to snoop around for long before she discovers that Quinn had plenty of enemies who are much happier now that she’s dead. Yet regardless of Quinn’s negative reputation, as the evidence stacks up Annabel starts to wonder if Quinn’s death was a mistake and if she was the original target all along. If her suspicions are right, then Annabel might be searching for her own killer.

Novelist Rebecca Lee Smith’s case is hard to crack until the final twist is revealed. Smith provides intrigue through the romance triangle backstory between Trent, Gil and Quinn. Her portrayal of the competitive New York dancing world feels believable in its heartlessness. A Dance to Die For is a mystery readers could easily lose themselves in for a few hours.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Buncombe, Mountains, Romance/Relationship, Smith, Rebecca Lee, Suspense/Thriller

Sherryl Woods. Sea Glass Island. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

Sea Glass IslandSamantha Castle is the eldest of the three Castle sisters and the only one yet to find love. Her youngest sister, Emily, is frantically tackling the details of her fast-approaching nuptials with her fiancé, Boone. Her other sister, Gabi, is transitioning into motherhood and waiting for her opportunity to marry her perfect match, Wade. But love isn’t the most immediate issue on Samantha’s mind, it’s her acting career. Now that Samantha has hit 35, she is no longer able to land the parts that are reserved for bright-eyed actresses in their early twenties. Even reasonable parts, like mom roles, are cast unsuitably to actresses much younger than Samantha. But, at 35, it seems that Samantha is too young to play mature women and too old to play even a mom. Caught in a limbo, the lack of job offers has forced Samantha into lean times. With TV and Broadway opportunities drying up, Samantha is questioning her dedication to her craft.

But her concerns are divided when Emily places new demands on Samantha. Emily has an unexpected and atypical responsibility for Samantha–to be her maid of honor. Specifically, she is scheming to pair Samantha up with Boone’s best man, Ethan Cole. Emily is determined that Samantha and Ethan are a natural couple, and she has their grandmother and matchmaker pro, Cora Jane on her side. Samantha is skeptical. Back in high school, she had a not-so-secret crush on Ethan. That, of course, was obvious to everyone except Ethan. In high school, Ethan was a football star with girls falling at his feet. After high school, Ethan’s luck changed.

Presently, Ethan runs a small emergency clinic in Sand Castle Bay. He and another doctor, Greg Knotts, established the clinic after returning from service in Afghanistan. During his stint in Afghanistan, Ethan lost the lower portion of his left leg in an IED explosion. He now wears a prosthesis. Upon his return, Ethan also founded a charity, called Project Pride, motivated out of a desire to improve the self-image of children with prosthetic limbs. At first, the town treated Ethan as war hero. However, his fiancée Lisa broke his heart by leaving him. Since the break-up, Ethan refuses to get emotionally involved with women and acts disinterested in romance. To protect himself, he resorts to cynicism and general animosity.

When Boone tips Ethan off about Emily and Cora Jean’s plot, he is less than pleased. Ethan assumes that Samantha, an actress after all, will be vain and shallow. Or so he hopes her to be. An empty-headed and self-absorbed woman is much easier to ignore than a woman with some substance. Unfortunately, when the two encounter each other, Ethan discovers with great surprise, and even greater ire, that Samantha is not at all what he expected – she’s unpredictable, kind, and full of spark. They each fight back attraction by first avoiding one another. Yet that proves impossible with meddling family members who continue to force them together for wedding-related activities, so Samantha and Ethan resolve to be friends. But as they spend more time together, their friendship becomes increasingly difficult to maintain. Whether or not they like it, Samantha and Ethan’s relationship might just evolve without them.

Sea Glass Island is the third and final novel in Sherryl Woods’ Ocean Breeze series. Much like the other two installments, Woods reinforces the value of family. She also presents the importance of moving past surface assumptions and appearances as reflected by Ethan’s initial dismissal of Samantha in addition to the prejudices formed against other characters with prosthetic limbs.

Check out this title in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Novels in Series, Romance/Relationship, Woods, Sherryl

Jessica Beck. Deadly Donuts. United States : CreateSpace, 2013.

Deadly DonutsThanks to the summer heat, Suzanne Hart’s donut sales are lagging. Turns out nobody in April Springs craves a freshly fried donut and a piping hot cup of coffee with sky-rocketing temperatures and soupy humidity that keep them just as shiny as Suzanne’s glazed donuts. So her shop, Donut Hearts, has been quiet, verging on deserted. Suzanne doesn’t mind the lack of foot traffic. She is glad to have her college-aged assistant Emma out of classes and in the shop and she maintains high spirits despite the disappointing turn in business. Unfortunately, her most recent customer delivers a nasty little treat. The mystery man alleges to have proof that Suzanne’s father was a cold-blooded killer. After a bit of initial contempt, Suzanne arranges to meet the mystery man beneath the town clock at one in the morning to see his supposed evidence and decide if his half-baked claim is truer than she would like to believe. If it is true, then it might just cost Suzanne more than she can afford.

Unfortunately, when Suzanne meets the mystery man under the clock at the designated time, she finds him – very dead. Minutes after Suzanne arrives on the scene and stumbles upon the unlucky corpse, the cops show up. At first things don’t look good for Suzanne, but then they look even worse for her mother who was suspiciously absent prior to the murder. Yet again, Suzanne and her closest friend, Grace Gauge, start examining the case. Suzanne is determined to find out who murdered the mystery man and if, in turn, his allegations about her father were accurate. As Suzanne and Grace sniff out all the possible leads, they discover that Suzanne was not the only person the mystery man tried to blackmail.

Meanwhile, Suzanne’s philandering ex-husband, Max, begs for her help. Max claims he is a changed man. The changes, he insists, are all due to his love for Emily Hargraves, the owner of Two Cows and a Moose, the local newsstand. Emily is a peculiar character with a whimsical penchant for dressing up her stuffed animals (two cows and a moose, of course) in costumes. Max has resolved to abandon his slick charm if can get a chance with Emily. He waxes poetic about his newfound love and sincerity. But since his odds seem weak, he is hoping for reinforcement. More specifically, Suzanne. Unwittingly, Suzanne is pulled into playing matchmaker for the very odd pairing. She has no qualms about lending Max a hand, but she is surprised that another woman could truly reform her chronically charming ex-husband.

This is the tenth installment in Jessica Beck’s Donut Shop Mystery series. If you’re new to the series, jump back to this blog post that covers the first book, Glazed Murder. Beck wields self-reflective humor by referencing the cozy mystery sub-genre on a few occasions throughout the novel. In one particularly navel-gazing instance, Suzanne quips that her mother had “even read a series based on a donut-shop, of all things.”

Beck offers four enticing donut recipes: two traditional recipes from scratch and two recipes relying on some prepackaged ingredients, which should satisfy readers of all cooking levels. She integrates the recipes within the text of the story. If you’re based in the Triangle area and don’t feel in the mood to slave over a deep fryer, then you could always enjoy this book over some Monuts or Rise donuts and coffee!

After

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Beck, Jessica, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Elizabeth Craig. Quilt or Innocence. New York: Signet, 2012.

Quilt or InnocenceAll Beatrice Coleman wants is a nice, quiet retirement. Now that she’s moved to small town Dappled Hills, North Carolina she is closer to her daughter, Piper, and has plenty of free time to catch up on her reading. Beatrice has visions of spending her days lying in a backyard hammock sipping leisurely on a mint julep. Almost immediately, Beatrice’s fantasy is interrupted by her intrusive next-door neighbor, Meadow Downey, who barges in and forces Beatrice to attend one of her Village Quilters guild meetings. Although Meadow pulls her into the group, Beatrice is reluctant to get involved. She didn’t come to Dappled Hills for the company. Prior to her retirement, Beatrice worked as a folk art curator in Atlanta. Coincidentally enough, she is familiar with all of the technical details of quilts and has even appraised some in the past. But Beatrice has never attempted to make a quilt herself – nor did she have any inclination to. Quite frankly, she resents been torn away from her sweet corgi, Noo-noo, and her current read, Whispers in Summer.

Before she can say “backstitch,” Beatrice is embroiled in the local quilting scene, and all of the drama that comes with it. She learns quickly that the beloved Patchwork Cottage, which supplies all the town quilters with material, is set to close. Most of the guild members support Posy, the shop owner, and a couple members implore her to stand her ground against Judith, her landlord. Judith is forcing Posy out by raising the rent. Surprisingly, Judith is also a quilter and active with the guild. Despite the shared hobby and associations, Judith is interested in launching a high-end women’s boutique in the space, which she believes will be a more lucrative venture. Judith is not exactly popular in the guild. Fellow members tell Beatrice how Judith often stoops to blackmail and delights in meanness. The night of a quilting bee, for instance, Beatrice catches Judith in the act of ripping off another member.

More than a few people wouldn’t mind Judith gone, obviously. When she turns up dead the morning after the quilting bee, fingers point in every direction. Many possible motives arise and novelist Elizabeth Craig believably shifts among all of the reasonable alternatives. Just as Beatrice fell into the Village Quilters guild by accident, so too does she become embroiled in the mystery of Judith’s murder. Beatrice asks lots of questions and uncovers a number of intriguing, if not incriminating, tidbits about the guild members. Although Beatrice doesn’t claim to carry on an investigation, her sleuthing clearly rattles the murderer, who leaves threatening notes on her doorstep stuffed inside of empty Nehi bottles.  Even with the prospect of continued and escalated threats, Beatrice does not cease asking questions nor remove herself from the case. She’s in too far now to stop – with the murder and the quilting. As Beatrice probes further, she realizes that maybe she didn’t want the sleepy retirement she hoped for all along.

Much like one of the quilts Beatrice admires in the novel, “It looks like a quilt to curl up in on a cold night. With a mug of hot chocolate,” Quilt or Innocence, is a comfortable, engaging read. Although Meadow is the designated eccentric oddball of the bunch, Craig delivers many distinctive characters. At the end of the book, Craig rewards readers with quilting tips and four tempting recipes. This is the first book in Craig’s A Southern Quilting Mystery series. For readers who want more: the second book in the series has been released and the third will come out in December of this year.

We previously covered one of Craig’s books in her Myrtle Clover Mystery series, A Dyeing Shame.

Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Craig, Elizabeth Spann, Mountains, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places