Monday, August 4, 2014

More Summer Reading Book Reviews

I am constitutionally unable to stop writing book reviews, as I explained to my writing group recently.  My mother kept a small book where she wrote brief reviews of the books she read.  Just for herself, she said, so she could remember what she read.  I brought her Book Notes home with me a couple months ago because she looked at it and had no idea what it was or who wrote it, and I was afraid she would throw it away.  My husband and I customized the small notebook for her years ago.  Ricky used his old mechanical drawing equipment to label the cover and make alphabetical tabs for the pages. 

Mother's book review notebook
 While I don’t write reviews of every book I read, I have a hard time giving a book away until I duly acknowledge reading it via some sort of review.  Books don’t have to be great literature to entertain me—I guess that harkens back to my Nancy Drew days.  I’ve always analyzed and critiqued things.  When I was in middle school, I helped edit a church youth newsletter one summer.  I found samples of my articles once, and saw I reviewed books, movies, and horse shows with equal aplomb!

Thus, the following are a few of the light mysteries I’ve recently read.  I want to give these books away but can’t until I review them!

The Rocky Road to Romance
Janet Evanovich
(HarperTorch, 2004; originally published in 1991) 

Before her highly popular Stephanie Plum bounty hunter mystery series (Top Secret Twenty-One being the latest offering), Evanovich was a romance author.  I don’t know where I got this book, but I read it quickly one day when I saw it on my shelves.  Daisy Adams has a morning segment on radio station WZZZ featuring recipes for dogs, having written a successful book Bones for Bowser, but one morning she is elevated to the station’s traffic reporter when the regular reporter is injured in an accident with a garbage truck.  Station owner Steve Crow must quickly try to teach her the gist of her new job and finds himself falling in love with the overachieving Daisy.  Daisy is also a doctoral student, delivers newspapers, is caring for a teen-age brother, serves as a crossing guard for school children and volunteers at a nursing home.  When Daisy accidentally helps the police capture a drug king pin, her life is in danger.  Other colorful characters enter the scene, as the story unfolds in Evanovich’s signature humorous and breezy manner.  I can’t help myself.  I like Evanovich.


 The Secret Keeper
Kate Morton
(Atria Books, 2012) 

I’ve had this book for a couple of years but couldn’t make myself read it, though I liked Morton’s The Distant Hours well enough.  Since I’m reading books that I already own right now as part of a personal reading challenge, I pulled this one down to give it another try.  The book was reviewed extensively when it first was published, so I’ll make this brief.  Laurel Nicolson saw something violent and disturbing when she was 16 years old.  Decades later, she wants answers to the mystery surrounding the incident.  Her mother is dying, and Laurel, a famous actress, comes home to be near her mother and her siblings in the farm house where the children enjoyed an idyllic childhood.  Laurel also wants to resolve her own lingering questions and, in turn, uncover her mother’s mysterious past.  The story is told by multiple narrators, as it moves back and forth between the present and war torn London during the World War II blitz.  I found the book to be too long as Laurel laboriously unravels the old mystery, but I did like the surprise twist at the end.

The Spice Box
Lou Jane Temple
(Berkley Prime Crime, 2005) 

A historical mystery set in 1860’s New York City features Irish orphan and cook’s helper, Bridget Heaney.  Her first day on the job Bridget makes an unfortunate discovery—her employer’s son is dead and stuffed into a large box that is intended to store dough before the loaves of bread are ready for baking.  Bridget pitches in to help her employer solve the murderer because neither believes that the police are up to the task.  The information about foods prepared and served both upstairs and below stairs in the grand houses of mid-nineteenth century Manhattan is interesting.  The death of the son is resolved but not before others die.  The climax and denouement are satisfactory.  Bridget has a developing friendship with a young Irish reporter who helps her locate the younger sister who she feared was dead.  Author Lou Jane Temple is a chef, food writer and restaurant consultant.


Judgment Call
J.A. Jance
(William Morrow, 2012)
Prolific mystery writer J.A. Jance writes several successful series and one I’ve followed off and on features Arizona Sheriff Joanna Brady.  When Joanna’s daughter finds the body of her high school principal, it becomes personal for Brady who must first find out who the principal really was before she can discover who wanted her dead.  The motive for the murder and the manner of discovery of the principal’s whereabouts (despite her efforts to change her name and distance herself from her past) are far-fetched.   However, I like the recurring characters of this series and the western setting, plus Jance’s mysteries don’t drag, so it added up to enjoyable escapist summer reading for me.




  1. I love that you have chosen to save your mother's reading record. Things do tend to disappear....

    I liked The House at Riverton and The Forgotten Garden by Morton. I haven't read The Secret Keeper. And I've enjoyed quite a few of J.A. Jance's novels over the years.

    Funny how many readers can trace their obsession back to Nancy Drew!

  2. I was glad I rescued Mother's notebook, too. Just doing some light summer reading at moment :-)) .

  3. So very sad that your mum doesn't remember it. I do love the way you and your husband customized it. I have a few notebooks I kept before my blogging days, and it is pretty hard for me to find particular books - I should take the time and try to organize them. Loved reading about how your love of reviewing goes back a long way.

    1. I have notebooks, journals, odds and ends of writing everywhere, too, Nan. It's hard to organize such a range of sizes and styles. It looks like you are really enjoying your grandchildren this summer, which is lovely.