Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Kitchen House

This is one of those books that have you reading later than you should and sneaking chapter the next morning at work.

Lavinia, a young seven year old is orphaned while onboard a ship from Ireland to America. Since there is no one left to care for her, the ship’s captain James Pyke, takes her home to work as an indentured servant. 1791 Tidewater, Virginia is not an easy time in America’s history, so when you bring a white girl in to work in the kitchen house of a tobacco plantation there are bound to be problems. Lavinia tries her best to bond with Belle, the illegitimate daughter of the plantation owner, and to fit into the social order that has been laid out at the plantation. However, her white skin sets her apart and when at the age of 17 she marries Marshall Pyke, the Captain’s son, literally all hell breaks loose when racial tensions, family misunderstanding, lynching, rape, arson, and murder rear their inevitable ugly head at Tall Oaks Plantation.

Told in a narrative back and forth style between Lavinia and Belle, the reader sees the full picture that neither character is fully aware of until the inevitable and horrible conclusion is reached. The reader finds themselves cheering on beloved characters and at the same time scratching their heads as to how a person living this nightmare can be so blind to what is truly going on right under their noses.

Not your usual antebellum novel in that Kathleen Grissom shows equal sides in the same story. There are no clear-cut winners and losers here; each person has their story to tell and their way of making the best of a horrible situation.

I highly recommend this fast paced, evenly drawn fictional book to anyone that might want to see yet a different view of this period in our history.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stealing Home (Sweet Magnolia’s Series #1)

I will be the first to admit that romances aren’t my usual forte. I have always found them to be silly and repetitive, but for some reason, this book hit me just right, even though it all ends happily ever after with a dashing man riding into save the day. Does life really work out that way?

No, I did not spoil the ending, all books in this genre end the same way.

After the sudden breakup of her twentyish year marriage to her high school sweetheart and local pediatrician, Maddie Townsend find herself with no job skills and three children that need food on the table and a roof over their heads. Though no job prospects, she does have friends, and in a small town like Serenity, South Carolina, friends are what help you through this situation, even if it is their suggestion to open a spa and to date your son’s baseball coach that is ten years younger and a whole lot more interesting then he should be.

This is the first in the new Sweet Magnolia Series by Sherryl Woods, and though, as I said before, romance isn’t my usual, Ms Woods has developed funny character’s that find a way to get a job done even if there is a man to ride in and save the day. I guess that is what some look for in their reading, but for those of us who have never seen a white steed, that seems a bit far-fetched.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Advent of a Mystery

This review is harder to write than I thought it would be. I think it comes down to the fact that it felt to me like two different people were writing this book. One part was a well thought out even flowing mystery and the second part fell into old trite idioms and ridiculous comments from an American author that was trying too hard to sound British and that combination took away from the overall good mystery that was building.

Set in an English village at Christmas time, Berdie Elliott the wife of the newly arrived parish priest stumbles upon the body of a reclusive neighbor. As all fingers point in the logical direction, Berdie uses her past investigative reporter skills to ferret out the real culprit and unties old family secrets.

Though a couple parts are a bit farfetched, this story falls more into the current cozy genre then the time traditional Agatha Christie that the original summary refers to. I might be tempted to continue this series if Ms Leach can just decide what flow she wants to stick with. Write a good mystery and for goodness sakes, limit the idioms.