Tag Archives: Beach reads

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

Marybeth Whalen. The Wishing Tree. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013.

The Wishing TreeJust as the pieces of Ivy Marshall’s life are shattering, it seems like all of the elements in her sister Shea’s life are fitting together seamlessly. Shea’s long-term boyfriend Owen plans a grand, romantic proposal on national television. Meanwhile, Ivy discovers that she’s losing her job at the family company because her father is shutting down her local branch in Asheville. On top of that, she finds out that her husband Elliot has cheated on her. Ivy bears Shea’s good news through gritted teeth. To add insult to an already terrible situation, Ivy’s family and friends blithely tell her not to worry about her job termination and to see it as an opportunity to prepare for Shea’s upcoming wedding. For the time being, Ivy has decided to keep word of her marital discord under wraps. Since she and Elliot married under tense circumstances, she is ashamed to admit possible defeat to her family.

Six years ago, Ivy was engaged to Owen’s cousin, Michael. Childhood friends Ivy and Michael and Shea and Owen coupled off naturally in their teens. Their lives were set on a happy track, but when Ivy met Elliot at a ski lodge on vacation, she recognized Elliot immediately as her true soul mate. She abandoned her family and her home in Sunset Beach and tossed away her former life to move to Asheville and wed Elliot instead. Lately though, Ivy observes that she and Elliot only seem to discuss “the business of life – what groceries they were out of, what bills needed to be paid, when they were expected to be somewhere” and she rues that their spark has mellowed. Elliot’s betrayal unhinges Ivy, but it is not a total surprise. The instant Ivy learns of Elliot’s infidelity, she sets out for Sunset Beach without waiting around for an explanation.

The process of wedding planning is near traumatic for Ivy, especially since the news team that covered Shea and Owen’s engagement story is also interested in broadcasting their wedding. As all the decisions and preparations play out before Ivy’s eyes, she cannot help but consider the wedding she was supposed to, but never had. She fights back jealousy for Shea and what appears like a perfect wedding. Disillusioned by a broken engagement and a failing marriage, Ivy flings herself alternately between the men in her life, Michael and Elliot, confused about which path to take into the future – her past or her present. As she wonders what could have been with Michael, she plays a dangerous what-if game.

But Elliot is not ready to let Ivy go and he uses creative measures to communicate his remorse. In a charming and modern twist on traditional love notes, Elliot creates a Twitter account and tweets his apologies and affections for Ivy through the handle, @ElliotIdiot. Forgiveness is a concept central to novelist Marybeth Whalen’s The Wishing Tree. One of Ivy’s greatest struggles is learning to accept being alone. While Ivy owes forgiveness to many people in light of her impulsive actions, she must also separate her individual desires and fears, and forgive herself, before she can find a happier ending.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Brunswick, Buncombe, Coast, Mountains, Religious/Inspirational, Romance/Relationship, Whalen, Marybeth

Colleen Coble. Rosemary Cottage. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013.

Rosemary CottageNovelist Colleen Coble has authored a second book in her bestselling Hope Beach Series. Interested readers should consult our blog post on the first novel, Tidewater Inn, if they would prefer to start from the beginning. However, Coble has written the novels so that readers can enjoy them independently from each other. Some familiar characters reappear in Rosemary Cottage, most notably, Libby Holladay, the archaeological historian and protagonist from Tidewater Inn. In this novel, Libby takes a backseat to Amy Lang. Amy has returned to the fictional Hope Island in the Outer Banks after her older brother Ben was killed in a surfing accident. She intends to stay at her family’s beach home, Rosemary Cottage, where she and Ben spent many blissful summers together.

Amy idolized Ben. She thought of her brother as a smart and hardworking man. Understandably then, the news of his recent death has left her in a state of shock. She has arrived at Rosemary Cottage under the pretense of mourning her brother and possibly relocating her successful midwife practice to the island, but she has another, hidden, agenda behind uprooting her former life. Amy received an anonymous e-mail claiming that her brother was murdered, and that he deserved his fate. Before the mysterious e-mail, Amy had her doubts about the accident. Ben was a strong swimmer and a skilled surfer. Police never recovered Ben’s body, but they did retrieve his shark-bitten surfboard. Even though the evidence indicated a simple and unfortunate accident, Amy believes a grimmer truth lurks beneath the surface.

Curtis Ireland, a Coast Guard officer on Hope Island, just lost his sister Gina in a devastating boating accident. Upon her death, Curtis became the guardian of Gina’s newborn daughter, Raine. Curtis is a dutiful uncle who loves his little niece dearly. He stepped up to the task of caring for Raine without any problems. That is, until Amy’s arrival. Curtis and his aunt Edith know the secret behind Raine’s parentage, and it could jeopardize their claim to Raine’s custody. Edith urges Curtis to approach Amy and reveal the secret, but Curtis is wary that Amy’s affluent family might barge in and wage a custody battle. Matters become more complicated when Amy approaches Curtis. She wants to investigate Ben’s death. Shortly after they partner up, they realize that Ben and Gina’s accidents might be interconnected. What they discover leads them to a tightly wound web of dark secrets and unexpected twists.

A romance between Amy and Curtis forms quickly, but the potential relationship is troubled almost immediately by the tension of uncovering harsh realities about Ben and Gina. Neither Amy nor Curtis want to see their beloved sibling in a negative light. Hostilities flare when Curtis suggests that Ben might not be the great man Amy believed him to be. Moreover, as Curtis feels increasingly attracted to Amy, she pushes him away. Amy possesses an unpleasant secret of her own, one that prevents her from growing closer to Curtis despite their clear chemistry. In the midst of their unofficial investigation, the island is busy with a campaigning senator and the arrival of an unusual new girl seeking work. Will Curtis and Amy uncover the truth with all the distractions and complications surrounding them? If they find the truth, will they regret that they went hunting for it in the first place?

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Coble, Colleen, Mystery, Romance/Relationship

Lisa Williams Kline. Season of Change. Grand Rapids, MI: ZonderKidz, 2013.

Season of ChangeIn Season of Change, the fifth and final installment of the Sisters in All Seasons series, Diana and Stephanie have returned with new challenges. The stepsisters overhear fighting between their parents, Lynn and Norm, and Stephanie unwittingly finds a brochure advertising marriage counseling in their bathroom. While the thought of another divorce makes Stephanie distraught and anxious, Diana acts nonchalant and indifferent about the evidence of marital discord. She tells Stephanie not to worry about the conflict. In Diana’s experience, not fighting is much worse than fighting.

Soon after the girls suspect trouble, Norm and Lynn announce that they are taking a quick weekend vacation to reconnect and refresh their relationship. They have decided that Stephanie and Diana will stay for the weekend with Lynn’s parents who live on Lake Norman. Stephanie feels uncomfortable with that arrangement. She believes that her presence at Diana’s grandparents will be unwanted and out-of-place since she is their granddaughter through remarriage and not by blood. Her sensitivity is heightened because she is already nursing an open wound. Stephanie’s mother has been consistently unavailable when Stephanie has needed her the most, devoting her time to her new husband, Barry, instead of her daughter. The weekend of Norm and Lynn’s vacation, Stephanie’s mom has a trip to Asheville planned with Barry and she does not intend to cancel it for Stephanie. Meanwhile, Diana faces difficulties with her horse, Commanche, who has gone lame. She visits and cares for the horse, but she cannot ride him and is not certain when he will be well enough to ride again. Diana is also practicing driving, and not without some usual parental stress and novice mishaps.

Throughout the series, Stephanie and Diana’s relationship has been rocky. Neither girl felt they could understand the other; shy and nature-loving Diana and social and artistic Stephanie clashed at first. They each wanted to sever the relationship between Norm and Lynn. Now, with what looks to be another potential divorce, the girls are starting to question their initial desires and to understand that they have grown more attached to each other than they realized. Do they really want to be separated? What will happen when Norm and Lynn return from their weekend vacation? Novelist Lisa Kline has penned another absorbing book in her Sisters in All Seasons series. Diana and Stephanie are relatable characters, and their problems and adolescent milestones – divorce and family strife, boy trouble, summer jobs, driving, and more– are realistically portrayed. This is a great read for teen readers and readers fond of young adult novels to sneak in before the end of the summer.

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

To start at the beginning, take a look at the posts written on the previous volumes in the series:

  1. Summer of the Wolves
  2. Wild Horse Spring
  3. Blue Autumn
  4. Winter’s Tide

 

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Children & Young Adults, Kline, Lisa Williams, Novels in Series, Piedmont

Kathryn O’Sullivan. Foal Play. New York: Minotaur Books, 2013.

Foal PlayWho killed Myrtle Crepe? That’s the question lingering on the minds of the townspeople of Corolla. Not many people were fond of Myrtle. A retired schoolteacher and the despotic head of the Lighthouse Wild Horse Preservation Society, Myrtle was known for her terse and domineering manner. Myrtle made it difficult for anyone to like her. Even her son Bobby and her sole companion Nellie Byrd struggled to overlook her demanding attitude. But did someone hate Myrtle enough to want her dead?

Gruesome things have been turning up around Corolla lately. Immediately prior to Myrtle’s death, the burned body of a John Doe washed ashore. News of the murder entices Fire Chief Colleen McCabe into the beginning stages of the investigation despite well-meaning warnings for Colleen to mind her business from her best friend, Sheriff Bill Dorman. In the past, Colleen has demonstrated a tendency to conduct her own “unofficial” investigations without solicitation from the local police force.

With her tenacious Irish roots, Colleen is a tough protagonist, and definitely not one to be deterred from solving a mystery. She single-handedly whipped the firemen of Station 6 into shape and refused to tolerate any insubordination. Colleen is not afraid to go with her gut and get her hands dirty. With her trusty Border Collie, Sparky (who has a nose for sniffing out fire) alongside her, Colleen winds up at the center of all the action. Although she is in for a few bigger shocks than she could ever imagine.

Kathryn O’Sullivan is a first time novelist. With the offbeat characters, the coastal setting, and the wild horses, O’Sullivan emphasizes local color in Foal Play. She formulates many comedic encounters and interweaves them between more serious moments and surprising plot developments. Readers interested in mystery and and Outer Banks enthusiasts will enjoy this novel. Foal Play is a great read to get in the mood for summertime.

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

 

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Coast, Currituck, Mystery, O'Sullivan, Kathryn

Sherryl Woods. Wind Chime Point. Don Mills, Ont: Harlequin Mira, 2013.

Wind Chime PointAfter successful PR maven Gabriella Castle winds up pregnant and unemployed, her entire life plan is blown off course. Gabi is a workaholic who has devoted herself to her position at a biomedical company. Her determination stems from a need to impress her disinterested father, Sam Castle, who has established himself the biomedical industry as an esteemed figure. Their relationship is strained, and Gabi is nervous about what her morally upright father will think of her condition. Before her pregnancy and her layoff Gabi set her ambitions to climbing the corporate ladder and landing a vice-presidency within the company. But those dreams seem impossibly distant from her reach, which is difficult for Gabi to handle. Gabi is a sensible planner and she feels adrift without structure guiding her life.

The father of Gabi’s child and her boyfriend of five years, Paul Langley, expresses shock at the news and distances himself from the situation. Paul is a slick professional with little desire for starting a family. Now that the ties of Gabi’s former life in Raleigh have loosened, she returns to Sand Castle Bay on the coast of North Carolina at the urging of her older sister Samantha. Gabi’s younger sister, Emily, is engaged and in the throes of wedding planning and Samantha coaxes Gabi to join them for a reprieve from the hectic upheaval in her life. Gabi cautiously agrees to the vacation; her sisters and her grandmother, Cora Jane, tend to meddle with match-making. Gabi knows just who they intend to pair her up with and she is not interested in entering into a new relationship with anyone, not even the patient and gallant Wade Johnson.

Wade Johnson has harbored feelings for Gabi since he first met her. Gabi’s sisters and grandmother believe that Wade is a perfect partner for Gabi, but she remains stubbornly resolute that she can handle her present situation alone and discusses plans to give her baby up for adoption. For Wade, family is an essential and precious element for happiness, and one that he is sadly lacking. Two years ago his pregnant wife Kayla was killed in an accident. Wade still experiences trauma from the ordeal and refuses to communicate his emotions on the topic. Instead, he acts as a devoted uncle to his sister Louise’s five children. He spends time with the kids while Louise runs her law firm and her husband Zack stays busy at his medical practice. As much as he loves his nieces and nephews, he feels jealous of Louise and Zack’s family and depressed by his lost opportunity to start a family of his own.

When Gabi and Wade bump into each other only somewhat unintentionally at Castle’s by the Sea, a local restaurant owned by the Castle family, Wade’s “knight-in-shining-armor side of his nature” emerges. He does not care that Gabi is pregnant. In fact, he finds her as beautiful as ever and becomes determined to help her recover from the recent blows of her pregnancy and her unemployment and to find a new purpose in her life. Wade hopes that whatever direction Gabi embarks on will include him as well. Initially, Gabi accepts Wade’s support and friendship with reluctance, and she stipulates from the beginning that the relationship will only be platonic. After plenty of confusion and self-reflection, Gabi reconsiders what she wants out of life. When Gabi’s old boss offers to rehire her, she is suddenly not so sure that she is ready to leave Sand Castle Bay.

Wind Chime Point is the second work in a series of three books by popular novelist Sherryl Woods. The Ocean Breeze series concentrates on the lives of the Castle sisters: Samantha, Gabriella, and Emily. In Wind Chime Point, Woods splits the perspective between Wade and Gabi. Woods exposes the nuance in the thoughts and actions of her two main characters. By switching between the voices of Gabi and Wade, Woods shows the disparity between what they say versus what they actually feel. Woods’ story presents a great depth of feeling and cements the importance of family, particularly during the hardest of times.

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

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

Ellery Adams. Written in Stone. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2012.

Written in StoneWhen Oyster Bay’s gossipy diner proprietor Dixie relays a message to Olivia Limoges from the reclusive witch of Oyster Bay, Olivia laughs it off as a bunch of hocus-pocus and horoscopes. The witch, Munin Cooper, wants Olivia to pay her a visit. Olivia is a successful restaurateur and aspiring author. She is a woman who takes care of herself and her constant companion, Captain Haviland, a standard poodle. However, when Olivia discovers that Munin Cooper inexplicably knows a private detail about her deceased mother she decides to brave the journey across the swamp to hear out the witch’s message.

According to local lore, the witch requires her visitors to relinquish their most precious belongings in exchange for her help. Most of Munin’s visitors are just desperate enough to part with their possessions. Tucked away in her shack, Munin embeds those trinkets and mementos into memory jugs. A memory jug serves as “a scrapbook made with found objects” that represent an individual’s life. Munin is an eerie figure. A member of the Lumbee Indian tribe, she lives in primitive but self-sufficient isolation and decorates herself with jewelry fashioned from teeth and small animal bones. She warns Olivia that death surrounds her and that she should protect herself and her friends before any terrible events occur. To help her fend off death, Munin gives Olivia her final memory jug. Despite her otherworldly wisdom, Munin does not realize that death will seek her out first. A park ranger finds her drowned in a stream shortly after Olivia’s visit.

After she learns of Munin’s passing, Olivia refuses to believe that the witch died from natural causes, so she urges Police Chief Rawlings to examine the case further. Because Munin lived in a different county, Rawlings cannot influence the ruling of accidental death. But Olivia knows it was murder and she has all the evidence she needs to solve the crime thanks to the memory jug. In order to identify the killer, she must first understand the relationships among the keepsakes in the jug. With the Coastal Carolina Food Festival gearing up, Olivia is overwhelmed with her restaurant, The Boot Top Bistro. Yet with her life and the lives of her friends in question, she juggles supervising her business and sleuthing a murder. As the web of connections grows clear and clearer, Olivia is shocked by what she unearths.

Novelist Ellery Adams delivers another absorbing mystery for her “Books by the Bay” series. Adams tantalizes her audience with snippets of Olivia’s mysterious back story. She supplies an enigmatic mix of details that will leave readers curious for the full explanation. Moreover, her lush descriptions of food are enough to make your mouth water and your stomach growl. This book should probably be read on a full stomach. For readers interested in more, consult three of the Read North Carolina Novels previous blog posts on Adams’ work: A Killer Plot, A Deadly Cliché, and The Last Word.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2012, Adams, Ellery, Coast, Mystery, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places

Ann B. Ross. Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble. New York: Viking, 2013.

miss juliaReaders of this series know that Miss Julia has come to love Hazel Marie and her son Lloyd, who is the illegitimate son of Miss Julia’s late husband.  They are family.  So much so that Julia and her new husband, Sam Murdock, have settled the pair, along with Hazel Marie’s husband, J.D. Pickens, and their twin girls into Sam’s old house.  Not only does the Pickens family have a nice house, but Sam’s cook, James, has stayed on to help.  This is a blessing because Hazel Marie was never much of a cook and those babies have her worn down.  But James is no spring chicken and when he injures himself in a fall, the Pickens household is in crisis.  James needs help to get in and out of bed, so Hazel Marie must tend to him and her babies, keep the house in order, and cook the kind of meals that keep a man at home. (J.D. was a womanizer before he married Hazel Marie and he travels quite a bit for his work–all of which causes Miss Julia to worry about this marriage.)

Of course, Miss Julia steps in.  She has trouble finding a temporary cook, so she lines up various friends to come over and both cook and give Hazel Marie cooking lessons.  (The recipes that are used are scattered throughout the book.)  Organizing all these cooking lessons is quite a juggling act, but it is nothing compared to managing the personalities sharing space at the Pickens house.  James proves to be a demanding patient, Hazel Marie’s sleazy uncle, Brother Vern, is back in town and has moved in, and Granny Wiggins, who Etta Mae has recruited to clean, is a tornado of energy–and opinions.  Plus, Miss Julia and Lillian have both spotted J.D. with another woman and they will do anything to keep Lloyd from finding out that his new dad is no saint.  This, the fourteenth book in the Miss Julia series, is a tasty dish of misadventure, misunderstanding, and southern charm.

A note on the dust-jacket:  The imagery on dust-jackets has become stereotypical and formulaic–and sometimes even misleading.  It’s not uncommon for the image on the cover to misrepresent some basic element of the location or the main character by, for example, making the heroine a blonde when the book says she’s a brunette, or showing a mountain lodge out of Travel + Leisure when the action takes places at an abandoned hunting cabin.  The dust-jacket for Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble is an exception to this trend.  It’s a delight to look at the image and see so many items mentioned in the book–everything from a bag of Gold Medal flour to a grilled cheese sandwich to J.D.’s aviator style sunglasses.  Kudos to the people at Viking Press.

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

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Filed under 2010-2019, 2013, Henderson, Humor, Mountains, Novels in Series, Novels Set in Fictional Places, Ross, Ann B.