The Persian Pickle Club ($2.99) by Sandra Dallas is a quick read with down-home folkiness, humor and mystery.
Living the hardscrabble life in 1930s Dust Bowl in Kansas, a group of rural women meet weekly to quilt and visit. A few had money, but many eked out an existence as best they could. They all knew sorrow, heartache, and disappointment.
Long before the proliferation of self-help books, radio and television talk shows hosted by psychiatrists, and toll-free numbers to call in an emergency, these women had formed a support group that met their physical and emotional needs.
A young lady from the city marries a local farm boy and hard times force them to return to the family farm. Rita becomes a member of the Persian Pickle Club, but she has much to learn about the culture of the group. In her desire to solve a local murder and earn a job writing for the Topeka newspaper, Rita learns that nothing is stronger than the bond these women have formed.
Sandra Dallas uses folksy expressions rich with meaning to anyone who has lived in the rural Midwest. I felt a personal connection with the Persian Pickle Club women. I grew up in a rural area where the farm women gathered regularly for club meetings. Each woman in the book could be identified with real life women who were our neighbors and friends.
Buy the Kindle version for $2.99 and then purchase the audiobook for $3.99.
Cry Baby Hollow by Aimee Love is a wonderful 5 star story. I’m fairly picky these days, but I had no problems falling in love with the story. There’s romance–but it’s the real kind where it starts slow and might actually be based on personalities and common interests. There is one scene in particular that I found very touching because in real life saying “I care” often has less to do with physical attraction and more to do with little things one person does for the other.
There’s also more than one mystery going on and the actual paranormal element doesn’t really rear its head until the end of the book. The book takes place in an unusual literature setting–rural Tennessee. It’s full of interesting twists and turns. There’s cozy parts, thriller parts and weird parts. The beginning starts off on a bit of a jarring note that left me wondering if the story would be too harsh for me, but these necessary scenes are handled deftly and blend well with the also realistic brighter times.
There’s some great humor between many of the characters and very good secondary character development. In the end, it all comes back to a compelling story, and this book, despite any small flaws, not only held my attention, but made me smile and left me wanting to read another book in the series.
At $2.99 it’s a great bargain and is easily going to make favorite reads of the year. Highly recommended for urban fantasy readers or mystery readers who don’t mind a paranormal element.
Guest Review by: Maria Schnieder. She loves a to read – fantasies and mysteries are her favorites.
Miss Prim by Jane Myers Perrine is a delightful read with a sweet romance that is appropriate for all ages.
The hero and heroine embark on an adventure not of their choosing as they protect a spy’s baby daughter from infidels who want to kidnap her. Lady Louisa, who has conformed to society’s expectations, realizes two things: she isn’t happy denying her own adventuresome spirit and that William, Viscount Woodstone is still the man to capture her heart.
The book moves at a fast clip with the couple racing to stay ahead of their pursuers or evading the traps set for them. Lady Louisa creatively rescues William and suffers through mud and more as they travel through the countryside. The ending comes quickly, but it is satisfying.
The book has suspense, humor, and romance. I recommend Miss Prim for a quick weekend read and for anyone who enjoys an historical romance without the pomp. Today it is selling for 99 cents.
No good deed goes unpunished, and the saying proved true for Mark Taylor, an innocent man who became entangled in the aftermath of 9/11 in M.P. McDonald’s psychological thriller No Good Deed ($3.99).
To briefly recap the story, Photographer Mark Taylor buys a camera while in Afghanistan in 1999. When the film is developed, pictures foretell an impending disaster and Mark also dreams the details of the coming event. Because of pictures and a dream Mark warns officials of 9/11 through telephone calls. As a result Mark is named as an enemy combatant, arrested, and held in solitary confinement for a year. He’s interrogated and tortured to reveal what he knows and told very little about why he’s held and what is happening in the world. Mark is eventually freed when the CIA and other federal law enforcement groups cannot find proof of his involvement.
After his release from prison, Mark struggles to re-adjust to life. With the return of his camera, he learns of another terror attack. Now Mark works with those who tortured him to stop the attack.
Overall, I enjoyed the book. McDonald created a very likable guy in Mark Taylor. I was rooting for him throughout the book – for his release, for reconciling with his parents, for a relationship with Jessica, for him to do the right thing.
The beginning of the book was especially gripping and read quickly. The action was intense and as realistic as I wanted when describing the torture scenes. The interrogators fit my stereotypical image of good cop bad cop. Personally, even though it was unpleasant, I felt this was the strongest writing in the book.
At the same time I wondered if McDonald had written the novel as an anti-torture issue book. That portion was more than necessary.
The second half of the book brought out the insecurities of Mark Taylor. A year in confinement, isolated with nothing but his own thoughts made it harder to be a part of the world. I felt Mark’s basic personality had changed from strong survivor to casual observer, apathetic about himself and others. I didn’t like the weaker Mark as well and this half of the book moved slower.
The story had many elements – psychological suspense, police procedural, romance, even a bit of magic. I felt McDonald did a very good job with all of them except for the romance. Jessica Bishop’s character was underdeveloped. The love scene with Mark and Jessica was awkward and did not flow as well as the rest of the book.
I was also disappointed that the end of the book was rushed and not very satisfying. The end scenario was predictable and flat. However, the very last scene was probably accurate – security forces stopped a major terrorist attack and the fans at the ballgame were living large, oblivious to the danger.
What were your impressions of the book? Tell us what you liked or didn’t like. What did you think of Mark Taylor? What about Jessica Bishop? Mark’s parents? Jim Sheridan?
Book review: Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus ($1.99) If you are over the age of 50 or have an aging parent, you will want to read Harriet Beamer’s cross-country adventure. Not wanting to to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Harriet declares her independence. Her world grows beyond anything she imagined as she travels, meeting the best of humankind and a few bad apples along the way. I became Harriet’s cheerleader as the miles unfolded. The underlying story of her son and daughter-in-law added a bit of tension to the novel. A light read with a message that we are never too old to try something new, I recommend Harriet Beamer Takes the Bus.
Susie’s 2013 So Far Top Picks
I must admit that when this book reached the end of the trail and those cattle were delivered to Montana, I nearly shed a tear. I felt like I had walked every step of the trail from the Rio Grande to Montana with the Circle Dot outfit.
The Log of a Cowboy is actually a novel published in 1903, though author Andy Adams based it on his experiences driving cattle on the trail. I decided to read it for research, and ended up being moved by this authentic story. And it’s priced at just $1.99.
The Whole Truth is a legal thriller featuring a lawyer recovering from a coke addiction who drives an ancient Cadillac. There’s a lot to love here. This book from attorney-turned-writer James Scott Bell kept me guessing. Just when I thought Steve Conroy couldn’t do one more thing to mess up his life, I was proven wrong. Yet I was rooting for him the whole time. It is available for $6.64.
I read a lot of Christian fiction and At Every Turn was a refreshing historical romance.
Alyce Benson, who secretly loves to drive automobiles, makes an impetus pledge to give money to missionaries in Africa. Her efforts to fulfill the pledge lead her on a funny journey with a most lovable hero. This book is now selling for $5.38.
Paula’s 2013 So Far Top Picks
My goal of a book a week in 2013 is well ahead of schedule as I have just finished the 50th book, as well as 60 novellas and shorter reads. Picking three was challenging, so I’ve chosen four – because I can. The books below (except Ms. Binchy’s novel) were purchased when the prices were below $5.
Beloved Irish writer Maeve Binchy’s last novel was released after her death. A Week in Winter ($12.99) is set on the rugged Irish coast and filled with classic Binchy characters. The first half tells the story of Chicky Starr and a lie she perpetuates all of her adult life. After 30 years Chicky returns to her hometown to renovate an old stone mansion into an inn. The second half of the book tells the story of the eclectic guests who visit during the inn’s opening week. The book is a bittersweet read.
Almost all romances are written about new love, but Nicolas Sparks’ The Notebook ($5.99) is an emotional novel of lasting love told from a man’s perspective. The love Noah Calhoun had for his wife is the love every woman desires from her spouse. Sparks stated that the novel was inspired by his wife’s grandparents.
The Homecoming ($5.38) is the sequel to The Unfinished Gift ($5.38) both by Dan Walsh. Set during the final year of World War II, Shawn Collins faces life without his beloved wife Elizabeth while serving in the Army Air Corps and providing care for his son Patrick. Katherine Townsend, the social worker who cared for Patrick when Shawn’s wife died, fills a need in both their lives in this heartwarming inspirational novel. Walsh’s writing of wartime events was realistic and suspenseful.
Lauren Royal has re-issued her backlisted titles of several historical romance trilogies. Tempting Juliana ($4.99) can be read as a stand-alone novel, but is part of the Temptations Trilogy ($9.99 bundle). Lady Juliana Chase has the best of intentions: Her friend Amanda must find a husband. Dr. James Trevor is a lonely widower who needs a wife, whether he realizes it or not. What could possibly go wrong?
Almost every American soldier who served in the United States military from 1941-46 remembers smiling greeters serving coffee and snacks in a quaint train station in North Platte, Nebraska. A bright spot on a cross-country train ride, the North Platte Canteen defied all sensible business models, dependent on volunteer labor and donated goods.
Sixty years after the heyday of the Canteen’s service, Bob Greene traveled to North Platte, spending a few weeks in the heat of the summer to learn more about the town and its unprecedented outpouring of gratitude and groceries to six million servicemen and women.
Greene is a newspaper columnist and the book is written in column-length vignettes. Greene visited with senior citizens who were teenagers in the 40s. Their stories are told through the eyes of youth, now wiser, but blissfully ignorant years ago.
Greene interviewed veterans who still grow misty-eyed and struggle to speak when they recall the oasis of comfort and gratitude in a very uncertain time. North Platte’s weak coffee, boiled eggs and smiles of encouragement still touched the hearts of men who had survived the war.
Once Upon a Town is selling today for $8.89. Though it is not a cheap read, the book tells a story of sacrifice by many ordinary families to aid in the freedom of all around the world.
John F. Kennedy said, “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces, but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” Today and every day, please remember those who have sacrificed for us.
Love In the Balance is an entertaining love story set in historic Texas.
This is the second book by author Regina Jennings. It’s not necessary to read the books in order, but some characters from Sixty Acres and A Bride ($9.99) are in this book. I think I’ll go back and read that book now.
Molly Lovelace lives in Lockhart, Texas, during the week working in the land office at the County Courthouse. On weekends, she travels home to stay with her parents.
The book opens with a hilarious scene in which her beau, Bailey Garner “confesses” to sins that make Molly blush. With her father’s orders to find a more suitable match, Molly becomes taken with a wealthy traveler passing through Texas. She discovers that her heart doesn’t always follow the sensible path and that Bailey may have more to offer than it first appears.
The writing in this book was delightful. A certain turn of phrase could make an ordinary passage come to life. It had a Texas flavor and some unexpected turns to make it surprising to the very end. The story line at times seemed to jump around and it took awhile to determine what exactly was happening. Overall, a solid four stars.
The Kindle edition is now available for $9.99.
I received this book as part of Bethany House’s book review program in exchange for an honest review.
Thank you for dropping by to the Daily Cheap Read Book Club as we discuss Murder on a Girls’ Night Out by Anne George.
Today Paula and Susan have posted their reviews and overall impressions of the book below. Join the conversation and tell us your thoughts about the book and the sisters in general. We’ll be discussing characters and the plot in more detail soon.
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Bless their hearts, what can you say about two Southern ladies who become embroiled in a murder investigation that reveals the unsavory side of a prominent political family?
In Murder on a Girls’ Night Out ($2.99), the first book in a series of eight whodunits, Mary Alice and her sidekick sister Patricia Anne are introduced. The two are stereotypical Southern women – yet polar opposites. Mary Alice is larger than life, flamboyant, rebellious and impulsive. Patricia Anne is nicknamed Mouse for a reason. She is a people-pleaser, prudent and methodical, and lives in Mary Alice’s shadow. Mary Alice is the creative, right-brained sibling; Patricia the logical, left-brained one.
When Mary Alice impulsively buys a Country Western dance bar, Patricia is drawn into her latest adventure. When the previous owner is murdered just a couple of days after the purchase, Patricia Anne starts poking around for answers. Before the murderer is identified another man dies and Patricia Anne nearly meets the same fate at the hands of the killer.
The novel is in first-person, told by Patricia Anne who used more detail than necessary to describe even small things; i.e. An old mimeograph machine, the kind that turned out tests printed in pale purple ink that the kids complained they couldn’t read.
A little slow to start as the characters and story were introduced, the ending seemed rushed to the resolution. I had not guessed the murderer or the motive before the end and the characters and history became a bit jumbled. I mentally tried to create a family tree to follow it all but just couldn’t visualize it.
I enjoyed the interaction between the sisters, chuckling at their verbal sparring and Southern expressions. They make the book and I’ll read at least one more Southern Sisters mysteries to see if Patricia Anne ever really stands up to Sister.
The fun thing about reading a cozy mystery is you know what you’re going to get. This book delivered in many ways – quirky characters, vivid setting, unexplained death and lots of red herrings.
The sisters’ interaction was the highlight of the book. It was especially entertaining as they tried to best each other at getting a date for their single daughters. Patricia Anne was an especially engaging character who added some nice depth to a story line that dragged at times. Although it may not have been relevant to the murder investigation, the details of making homemade applesauce did bring detail to the story. The Southern charm of the characters and setting were also a lot of fun.
One of the reasons to read a mystery is to try to solve it along with the characters. That made me feel cheated when the murderer confessed to the crime before the sisters actually solved it. The sleuths were asking the same questions I was about what happened.
Sheriff Reuse was an especially interesting character and I would like to know what happens to him in the rest of the series.
We want to wish a happy Easter to all our readers. May this season of spring and new life renew hope for each of you.
I (Susan) wanted to share some inspirational fiction that I read recently. Stephanie Grace Whitson’s Quilt Chronicles is set in historic Lincoln, Neb. As an author, she really gets delves into women’s hearts and explores complex emotions. The first two books are selling for just $2.99 right now.
The Key on the Quilt is set inside a women’s prison facility, tracing how lives intersect in unexpected ways. In The Shadow on the Quilt which I just finished, Juliana Sutton faces terrible pain when her husband dies in a fire at a brothel. She and her husband’s two maiden aunts find healing together. The story had an element of romance with a most lovable hero, but I found Juliana’s story complete in itself.
The third book in the series, The Message on the Quilt releases tomorrow. I preordered it for $5.30 as an Easter gift for myself.
The books are independent stories in the series, so it doesn’t matter which one you read first.
Description: When Emilie Rhodes convinces her newspaper editor father to assign her to interview the speakers at the 1890 Chautauqua series, she meets and falls in love with “The Man of Many Voices.” But Noah Shaw’s professional life is only one reason he’s in Nebraska. Noah is on a quest to find answers. . .but will a treasured quilt bear a message of brokenness—or hope and healing?