I quite enjoyed this first Mitten State cozy mystery, set in a small town on the coast of Lake Michigan. Isabel Puddles, a widow and empty nester, makes ends meet by working in her cousin Freddie’s hardware store and also by selling pies, pickles, and knitted scarves. When she has time, Isabel and her dog, Jackpot, enjoy the view from her lakeside deck. Isabel, as a local rather than a tourist, gets a discount on her daily breakfasts at the café with her outspoken friend Frances. On rare occasions, Isabel helps out at the funeral home, styling hair and makeup, which leads to evidence that her friend Meg’s elderly father didn’t die from natural causes. Isabel investigates, with the help of her friends, who add comic relief, though I would have liked a little less reckless driving. A potential wind farm, a hidden beaver dam, and some unexpectedly rickety steps add to the mystery, while the pacing and suspense increase as Isabel gets closer to the killer or killers. Readalike mysteries include The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert, Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake by Sarah Graves, and A Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn. This was a pleasant read to start the new year.
Fans of the long running Virgin River series or the new television series will rejoice with the publication of this book. Virgin River is a tiny town set in Humboldt County in Northern California. Suspense novelist Kaylee Sloan, struggling with writer’s block while grieving her mother’s recent death, rents a house from family friends, only to suddenly need a new place to stay. Kaylee, finding a warm welcome at Jack’s Bar, the local gathering place, winds up at the guest house owned by local artist Landry Moore. Kaylee brings her laptop to Jack’s Bar most days, but gets little writing done there, so she starts a second book, a romance featuring a version of herself. Kaylee, with the help of friends new and old, finds her own happy ending, and finishes her books. Favorite characters from past books reappear, leaving fans satisfied yet still hoping for more books in the series. Readers who enjoy heartwarming contemporary romance set in small towns will also enjoy. Start anywhere in the series, or with the first book, Virgin River.
I picked this book because of the gorgeous cover. In reading the novel, I enjoyed a pleasant visit to a small Texas town with plenty of secrets, a possible ghost, and not quite enough descriptions of breakfast at the café. Sam Cassidy gets an unexpected request to be interim pastor in Honey Creek. Sam, while a seminary graduate, is a pilot and firefighter, but is drawn to Honey Creek for a personal reason. Mayor Piper Jane is late to welcome Sam and give him a tour of the town because she’s distracted by another newcomer, Colby McBride. Colby is undercover, investigating the disappearance of a man whose car was found in a nearby river. Two seniors graduating from the local high school are also drawn together; hardworking Pecos and sweet, popular Kerrie. In this contemporary novel, appealing characters, some humor, and a little romance make for a heartwarming story. More Honey Creek stories are planned.
Small Town Life
These are novels set in small towns, usually with a contemporary setting, many featuring a woman coming home again to start over, often with strong female friendships, and a bit of romance. Character driven, these books are usually heartwarming or cheerful in tone. All of these titles are available at the library and at Media on Demand.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
The Happy Camper by Melody Carlson
Country Guesthouse by Robyn Carr
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck
Now That You Mention It by Kristan Higgins
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber
Sisters by Choice by Susan Mallery
Herons Landing by JoAnn Ross
Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis
Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne
Best known for her Virgin River series, Carr’s recent books are set in small town Colorado. Leigh is a doctor who meets Rob when she stitches his son Sean’s hand. Rob’s older son Finn is attracted to Maia, who’s facing a health crisis. Leigh’s Aunt Helen, a mystery writer and retired teacher, sells her Naperville house and comes to Sullivan’s Crossing for a long visit with Leigh, only to find a good friend in Sully. A multi-generational romance with considerable small-town charm and gorgeous Colorado scenery, this fourth book set in Sullivan’s Crossing is a quick, emotional, and very enjoyable read. The first book is What We Find, but it doesn’t need to be read first to enjoy The Best of Us. Readalike authors include Debbie Macomber and Kristan Higgins.
If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now by Christopher Ingraham
Chris writes an article for the Washington Post about the least scenic counties in America and keeps getting polite comments from the residents of Red Lake County, Minnesota, ranked worst. He visits, writes another article, and eventually moves to Red Lake Falls (which has neither a lake nor a waterfall) with his wife Briana and young twin sons. He leaves behind an awful commute from Baltimore to Washington, a cramped row house with three flights of stairs, and very limited time with his wife and sons. Briana takes time off from her government job to stay home with the boys, then gets involved in local organizations. In northwest Minnesota, they find a purple house with a playroom and back yard, a wide variety of mostly friendly neighbors, and brutally cold winters that have its own rewards. Candid and humorous, this memoir about discovering the joys of Midwestern small town life is sure to be popular.
Except for weekly breakfasts with best friend Andy, young widow Evvie mostly stays in her house. Andy encourages Evvie to consider renting the apartment attached to her house to his friend Dean, a former major league pitcher. Evvie and Dean are attracted to each other, and I really enjoyed their interactions, complete with laugh-out-loud dialogue, especially when Evvie describes a cereal box race at the local minor league baseball park in coastal Maine and when Dean buys an old pinball game. Evvie wallows in misery a bit too much, especially as she was planning to leave her husband the day he died. Dean’s struggles to figure out what happened to his pitching career lead to an interesting agreement with Evvie: she won’t ask about his arm and he won’t ask about her husband. Overall, a charming first novel that’s full of heart and humor, not too predictable, and is a great summer read.
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
As a third generation fan of Anne Shirley, beginning with my Canadian grandmother, it was a real pleasure to read her Aunt Marilla’s story about growing up on Prince Edward Island in the 1830s and 1840s. Fans of Green Gables will enjoy spending more time in Avonlea, getting to know Matthew, Marilla’s brother, as a young farmer, and learning some Canadian history, including the role of the Underground Railroad in eastern Canada. Marilla meets her aunt Izzy, a dressmaker, makes friends with John Blythe and Rachel, and visits an orphanage. Knowing that Marilla never married made it a little sad to read about her one romance, and you never learn why Anne has to wait for her puffed sleeves, but overall a very enjoyable gentle read.
The Lost Queen of Crocker County by Elizabeth Leiknes
Jane Willow, the former Corn Queen of Crocker County, Iowa, moved to Los Angeles after high school to study film and hasn’t been home since. Now a successful film critic, she adores her practically perfect parents and wants them to move to L.A. Jane isn’t always likable, and has too much drama and tragedy in her life. I had a hard time believing the secrets she kept from her parents and best friend, Charlotte. Charlotte, who now runs a meatloaf hotline, is more interesting than teen Bliss and her screenplay. The story is a page-turner, but not quite the feel-good read I was expecting.
A candid memoir about Amy’s life in tiny Freeville, New York, with her teenage daughter, Emily, and with many family members nearby. Amy is an advice columnist, and travels to Chicago monthly to meet with her editors and appear on the radio show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” A follow-up to The Mighty Queens of Freeville, this is frank and funny while also dealing with love and grief. Amy falls in love with local contractor Bruno, who has a house full of daughters, one of whom wonders why Amy keeps showing up for dinner. They get engaged, plan a fun wedding, and work hard to blend their families. Amy finds quiet time at the movies, in her car, and in the little house she uses as an office. She also visits her frail mother Jane daily. Eventually, Amy loses and mourns her mother, struggles with clearing out her mother’s house, regains her love of music, reluctantly reconnects with her father, and works on becoming her best self. I found this book hard to put down, and enjoyed Amy’s vivid descriptions of family and small town life.