The Edge of Belonging by Amanda Cox is a multi-timeline novel set mostly in Tennessee. It shifts from 1994 to 1998-1999, and back to Present Day.
In 1994, Harvey, homeless and living by the highway, finds an abandoned baby girl. He connects with her immediately, trying to care for her in his lean-to by the side of the road. Abandoned as a boy, he hopes to make a family with this lost little girl.
In the Present Day, Ivy, who is in an abusive relationship with a controlling fiance, returns home to Tennessee to settle her grandmother’s estate. Her grandmother has left her a message and pointed her to a journal which will explain more about her adoption. With the help of her friend Reese, she starts to try and find out more about the first three months of her life.
The beauty of this book lies in the simple message of family and what constitutes a family. Ivy’s family has always been her parents, her grandmother, and her Uncle Vee. But who are they really?
This book also hits some hard issues. It looks at domestic abuse, sex trafficking, drug abuse, the foster care system, and PTSD. It shows how important it is to love each other, and how love can transform a life. And it shows how God answers prayers, but not always in the way you would expect.
The Edge of Belonging is well written and hard to put down. The characters are so well developed that they will permanently touch your heart. The message of hope amid sorrow and tragedy abounds through the book. I highly recommend this to anyone who has experienced loss, or anyone who just wants to read a well written novel.
I received a free copy of this book from Revell via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.
As you will soon see, I felt very strongly about this one. I can be a lenient reviewer, but hateful stereotypes really set me off. Unfortunately, that’s what I found in this new series.
Still Knife Painting is a new series about Miranda Trent, who has inherited her Uncle’s homestead in Kentucky, in the heart of the Daniel Boone National Forest. She starts a unique business for tourists called Paint ’n Shine, providing a package which includes a scenic painting class, a Southern dinner, and a moonshine tasting.
I was excited to read this because like the protagonist, Miranda, I lived elsewhere, but spent all my summers in the mountains with my relatives, who were Appalachian locals (in my case from the mountains of North Carolina). Unfortunately my expectations for this book fell far short. The main character Miranda is very unlikable. Miranda is supposed to be from a local family, even though she has been living in New York, so she should have some empathy and understanding for the locals. Instead she looks down on them and is downright rude at times. Her thoughts are shown in italics, and are usually something mean about others. I really hated the approach of presenting her thoughts in italics, because whenever I saw italics coming up, I knew it was probably going to be something cruel or condescending.
Then there were the ridiculous stereotypes presented in this book. When the Sheriff’s Deputy showed up and is described as a “Barney Fife,” I rolled my eyes back in my head. Then he passed out at a crime scene. Too cheesy. Too ridiculous. Mountain people are not stupid. They are not Barney Fife. The police do not pass out at the scene of a crime. I really wanted to put the book down at that point.
In addition, she should have some understanding of the rich culture and traditions of the locals. Very little of that is brought forth. Instead she is rude, condescending, and standoffish with the locals. As someone whose families are locals, Miranda should at least have been sharing a lot more of the cultural stories and traditions of the area. Miranda is starting a business involving art, distilling moonshine, and cooking, but she doesn’t really spend much time tying that in with the rich history of each of these things in the mountains. We could have learned something in this book besides how the main character is annoyed and affronted by everyone and everything. A lot of potential was lost in this series. Her constant denigration of the locals really ticked me off. I know the locals in my mountain town to be loving, smart, resourceful, and talented. The book’s presentation of mountain locals as stupid, inconsiderate people who supposedly tried to limit Miranda’s art is really offensive.
And by the way, young people are taught to say “yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” in the South. It’s automatic. This is not an “insider/outsider” thing and should not have annoyed Miranda. After spending all her summers in this area, she should have known this. Miranda spent a lot of time complaining about the insider/outsider perception in the mountains. Although there is some of that, nobody in any town anywhere is going to open up to a rude person who looks down on others. At the same time she is complaining about the insider/outsider perception, she complains that mountain people share too much of their personal lives with her! This is contradictory.
There is no real strong cast of characters as there would be in a small town. Just another of many disappointments. None of the characters are memorable for me except Miranda, and that is only because of her horrible personality.
What started out as a series with potential fell flat for me. I will not be interested in reading anymore of these books. I cannot find anything likable about the main character. I was excited to see a series set in the Appalachian Mountains. That excitement faded pretty quickly.
I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley. My review is voluntary.
A Deception At Thorncrest is the latest book in the Amory Ames mystery series. In this installment, a heavily pregnant Amory is visited by a woman claiming to be married to Amory’s husband! If that isn ‘t enough, relatives are coming out of the woodwork, and a local young man is shockingly murdered. Even though the baby’s arrival is imminent, Amory is on the case, determined to find the killer.
Amory’s wry sense of humor, even while thinking her husband might be a bigamist, is a delight. The mystery takes many twists and turns, and the true culprit is a surprise. Although this is book seven in a series, it can be read as a standalone. However, it may contain spoilers for the previous books.
Anyone who enjoys cozy mysteries with lots of humor and a strong cast of characters will enjoy this book. I would definitely read more of this series, and I rate it four stars.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.
I am writing this review of Doing Time, which came out last year, because the second book in this series, Hard Time, is winging its way to me in the mail as we speak. My review of Hard Time will be along soon. I must preface this review by saying Jodi Taylor has become my favorite author. Her St. Mary’s Chronicles is an absolute must for Time Travel (Sorry Dr. Bairstow) Fiction Readers. I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you to drop whatever you are doing and buy the first book in the St. Mary’s Chronicles, entitled Just One Damn Thing After Another. You will not be sorry, and I envy you the experience of reading it for the first time.
Doing Time is a spinoff of the St. Mary’s series and revolves around Matthew, son of two St. Mary’s main characters. Now that I’ve set this up and advised you to check out everything the brilliant Jodi Taylor has ever written, on to the review!
EDIT: My copy of Hard Time (Book 2 in the series) has been received. The review will be posted on 10/13//20. Hard Time will be released on 10/15/20.
Jodi Taylor has done it again. A spinoff of her wonderful St. Mary’s Chronicles, Doing Time is the story of Matthew, Jane, and Luke, trainees in the Time Police. Matthew is of course the son of Max and Leon from the St. Mary’s Chronicles. There is mystery, laughter, and intrigue all rolled up in one story as the trio (Team Weird) become Time Police cadets, and are faced with opposition from the Albayans. The Albayans are leftover followers of the late Colonel Albay, the former Time Police leader and unapologetic fascist, who killed first and asked questions later.
Beloved characters from St. Mary’s make an appearance and provide a lot of hilarity during some stressful times, and we learn a tiny bit about what is going on in Matthew’s head. I hope more will be revealed in subsequent books.
If you love Time Travel, history, and well written characters, you will LOVE these books.
Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past is the third book in the Salem B&B Mystery Series. Although this is the third book in a series, it can be read by itself. However, there are some spoilers for the previous books.
Charlene is the owner of a bed and breakfast in Salem, Massachusetts. In addition to Charlene, her cat, small staff, and guests, the house is inhabited by Jack, who happens to be a ghost. In this book, Charlene’s parents are visiting for Christmas when a local restaurant owner is killed. Was it an accident or murder?
This book dragged on for me and I did not really connect with the characters. Even Jack, the ghost, was not very interesting. One thing I learned over and over is that Charlene’s mother is annoying and often rude. The reader is pounded over the head with that. The murder mystery was not very engaging in my opinion. Unfortunately, I have no interest in reading anymore of this series.
I received a free copy of this book from the publishers and Netgalley. My review is voluntary.
My review of An Ivy Hill Christmas by Julie Klassen
Richard Brockwell is a careless playboy content to live off of his family’s money in London. But it is Christmas season, 1822, and his mother has summoned him. He is to come home for Christmas or his funds will be cut off. Left with no choice, Richard heads for Ivy Hill. Before, during, and after his journey, a dog, a boy, and a beautiful woman threaten to open up his cold heart. Will God do the rest?
I loved this beautiful story of redemption, charity, and second chances. . This wonderful novella will speak to anyone who has struggled with forgiveness and anyone who has longed for a chance to right old wrongs. The characters are well written and memorable, especially Richard, Arabella, and the boy Jamie. And let’s not forget Wally!
It was fun to read about and join in the Christmas celebrations from 1800’s England, and there was even a recipe at the end of the book.
This is actually my first visit to Ivy Hill, but it won’t be the last. I plan to go back and catch up on Julie Klassen’s “Tales From Ivy Hill” series.
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley. My review is voluntary.