Monday, December 31, 2012

A Teeny Bit ofTrouble

Author: Michael Lee West Title: A Teeny Bit of Trouble Publisher:Minotaur Books Pages: 330, incl. recipe section

I checked this book out from my local public library.

From inside the front cover:
After Charleston pastry chef Teeny Templeton witnesses a murder, she discovers that her lawyer-boyfriend, Coop O'Malley, has been keeping secrets. And then even more trouble comes knocking on her door- trouble in the form of a precocious ten-year-old girl who just might be Coop's daughter. As more lies explode, Teeny finds herself trapped in tiny Bonaventure, Georgia, a zany "little Savannah" , where she must gather DNA from a child genius as she tries to outwit a stalker, decode an encrypted diary, and fend off the advances of an ex-beau.  That calls for Anything-You-Say-Can-Be-Used-Against-You-Quiche.  And just when she thinks her life can't get any more complicated, a series of not-so-teeny troubles arise, including an uneasy love triangle, a gossip-mongering tarantula breeder, a wise-cracking Southern Belle with early Alzheimer's, Coop's lovable Chihuahua-toting granny, and clues that point to something truly deadly going down in the charming southern town...But when the suspect is arrested and the bodies keep piling up anyway, Teeny doesn't know whom to trust.  As the murderers close in, Teeny unearths a revelation that threatens to flip her whole world upside down.

I didn't even have to read inside the front cover to know I'd love this book.  I love Michael Lee West's books! She is an awesome southern writer. I checked the book out and brought it home without even opening it- and it did not disappoint.  Teeny, like all Wests heroines, is easy to love.   Wests' females are human- imperfect, sometimes a little neurotic, and always easy to identify with.  Teeny makes mistakes.  She can be impulsive and stubborn.  She has bad hair days (every day), and has a strange fashion sense.  The reader is immediately drawn to her. Who wouldn't be on her side?  Her boyfriend may be seeing his beautiful (and evil) ex.  A smart-alek ten-year-old claims he is her father. Then, after witnessing a murder, Teeny is in fear for her own life.  Life has never been easy for Teeny- her own mother abandoned her at the local Dairy Queen when she was only eight years old.  Raised by her loving Aunt Bluette, Teeny has had do to the very best she could with what little she had to work with. This is what makes her vulnerable.  It also gives her strength.  Teeny is a gourmet cook, finding recipes for every situation (including The Right To Remain Silent Salsa and I've Already Hired An Attorney Chips).  Recipes are included!

West writes a great mystery.  I had no idea which character(s) were guilty until the very end.  (Don't worry, I won't spoil it.) This book was hard to put down.  There were twists and turns on every single page.  Just when you think you've got it all figured out, another clue is unearthed which changes everything.  Once again, Michael Lee West has written a great southern read- an a great mystery as well.

Read this book if...
*you love southern fiction
*you love a great mystery
*you love "small town novels"
*You are a fan of Michael Lee West

See this review on

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Summer in the South by: Cathy Holton

Title: Summer in the South Author: Cathy Holton Publsiher: Center Point Publishing Pages: 510 (large print edition)

I checked this book out from my local library after seeing it on  Library Thing.

From the cover:  After a personal tragedy, Chicago writer Ava Dabrowski quits her job to spend the summer in Woodburn, Tennessee, at the invitation of her old college friend, Will Fraser and his two great aunts.  Her charming hosts offer Ava a chance to relax and write at their idyllic ancestral estate, Woodburn Hall.
But Ava soon learns that ancient feuds and modern rivalries lurk just beneath the estate's placid surface.  Fascinated by the family's impressive history- their imposing house filled with treasures and their mingling with literary icons Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Faulkner- Ava stumbles onto rumors about the darker side of the family's legacy and discovers a multitude of skeletons in their closets.  As Ava struggles to write the story of the Woodburns, she finds herself tangled in the tragic history of a mysterious Southern family whose secrets mirror her own.

Being a fan of southern fiction, I had to give this one a try.  I had a stack of books in my TBR pile, but this one caught and held my attention from the first page.  The author does a great job of capturing the uniqueness of a southern small town (waving at everyone you see, revealing one's life story in line at the grocer).  However, I never could find myself rooting for Ava.  She seemed nosy, blunt and cold to me.  Actually, I think this is the way southerners tend to view many non-southerners.  It just isn't the way we do things.  Therefore, I think the author does a great job in capturing the way non-southerners are viewed by others here (often unknowingly). 
The mystery itself is vaguely interesting, but I kept wondering why, exactly, Ava really cared?  In her relentless pursuit of finding the true killer of Charles Woodburn she questions other family members continuously. She also writes their family secrets down and intends to publish them.  (Can you see why I find her so unlikeable?)  I kept asking myself (over and over) why Ava even cared?  These people were essentially strangers to her.
 Another thing I found distracting was this quote:  "They'd spend the summer driving around town picking up girls in a 1967 Corvette they'd bought at an auction. Jake was the worst. You didn't dare get into the back with him unless you wanted to come out with bruises and whisker burns all over your face and other places too embarrassing to mention."  Think about it.  A 1967 Corvette has no back seat.
So was all the hanky panky taking place- in the trunk? A minor detail, indeed, but very distracting.
I'm not saying I didn't like the book. It was a pretty good mystery and I was surprised at the outcome.  However, I am not used to books where the main character is actually unlikable.  Again, this is an excellent portrayal of how non-southerners appear to southerners.  The author actually did an excellent job with this.  It was a quick read, and not a bad one.  At least it made me think.....

Read this book if....
*you love southern fiction
*you love a good mystery
*you have no knowledge of classic cars (smile)