Month: April 2021

Book Review: Mary Jane by Jessica Anya Blau

I have so many good things to say about “Mary Jane” by Jessica Anya Blau. This book was my introduction to the author, and I’ve already ordered some of her other work based on how much I enjoyed this story.

This is the story of Mary Jane, a young teenager who has lived a sheltered, fairly simple life. She is hired as the summer nanny for a neighboring family, and finds her life stretched and changed in many ways as she gets to know new and different types of people.

While I loved everything about the story, my absolute favorite was the way the characters were written. All the major ones were portrayed with such depth and sincerity that I felt like I was actually meeting them. I don’t mean that they were realistically written….they were, but I say that about lots of books. I mean that they felt real to me in a personal way. As I was introduced to Jimmy and Sheba, I really felt like I had been introduced to these famous people in real life. I felt like I spent the summer with them, and really knew them, and looked forward to keeping in touch. I had to remind myself that they were fictional characters. To me, that’s the sign of a truly phenomenal character writer!

The story was also excellent, and kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next to my new book friends as the summer progressed. I loved seeing the ups and downs, the highlights and low points, and the day-to-day life of 1970s Baltimore (and Dewey Beach). I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but I appreciated the ending, both the parts that were wrapped up, and the parts that were left for the reader to imagine. It left me feeling the perfect amount of closure and hope for the characters’ futures.

One important lesson I took away from this book: People need to feel appreciated and valued. If someone in your life matters to you, please take a moment to make sure they know it.

I received a review copy of this book through the Goodreads Giveaways program, and am thankful to have been selected.

Five out of five slices of perfect Provolone!

Book Review: The Love Hex (or Nicest Flings in Mexico) by Mike Meier

I can honestly say that I LOVED “The Love Hex (or Nicest Flings in Mexico)”. It was a delightful mix of historical fiction, romance, magical realism, and comedy. Add in a healthy does of plain good storytelling, and you have a book I’d highly recommend to anyone.

The book mainly focuses on Rose, an American woman who visits Mexico in 1929 in search of a hot springs cure for some medical issues. She brings along her best friend Alice, who is trying to cope with her husband’s death. The pair quickly meet some attractive young men, and romance (as well as hilarity) ensues. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say that everyone winds up where he or she belongs in the end. Rose and Miguel, as the lead characters, are very well-drawn and detailed. The reader learns a great deal about their personal histories, dreams, and goals. The more I got to know these characters, the more I was eager to see what happened next for them, and to find out where they ended up.

I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of side characters who added a great deal to the story:

  1. Maria, Miguel’s younger sister. This young lady has a lot going on in her life, and she is absolutely in charge! She added a special spark to the overall story, and I’d be thrilled to see a spin-off book following her character as she grows up (and quite possibly takes over the world).
  2. The curandera, or local medicine woman/witch. A typical scam artist…or is she? She absolutely steals all the scenes she’s in.
  3. Diego, Ramiro’s dog with unique markings. Or possibly his brother. Maybe both? Regardless, I especially enjoyed any scene in which Diego made an appearance.

Black and white drawings are interspersed throughout the book. I enjoyed these, and found they added greatly to my mental pictures of the characters and places.

As usual, author Mike Meier has created a unique, fabulously enjoyable book that grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept it until the last page.

Five out of five extra-large chunks of ultra-peppery Pepper Jack!

Book Review: What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

Book Review: What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson

I started this book expecting primarily an adventurous quest-for-the-missing money story, with a bit of heartwarming brotherly storyline on the side. Both of those items were definitely present, but as a whole the book was so much MORE than what I was expecting.

First, the treasure hunt storyline: High school student Jack finds himself (and his younger brother Matty) suddenly orphaned and imminently homeless. His father is currently serving time in prison for a robbery, and the stolen money was never recovered. Jack figures his best hope is to find the money and use it to make a new life for himself and Matty. Unfortunately, the original owners of the money are also highly motivated to retrieve it, and Jack’s sudden interest attracts their attention. This is a ruthless faction with no scruples regarding threatening or hurting children (or anyone else in their way) to get what they want. As Jack takes increasingly greater risks to try to insure his future, the reader is taken along on a crazy ride with plenty of twists, turns, and danger. I enjoyed this cat-and-mouse game, and speculating about where the money might be and who (if anyone) would find it.

While the adventure storyline was very good, the character storyline and development was even better. My favorite part of the whole book was reading about Jack’s relationship with Matty. This young man, who never had an easy life with reliable adults to guide him, has somehow grown into an incredibly caring and responsible teen who will stop at nothing to make sure his little brother feels safe and loved. When Jack’s new friend Ava is added to the mix, things become even more complicated (and more beautiful). Ava has issues of her own, and it was interesting to watch how her presence affected the boys’ lives, as well as Ava’s own. Profound (and often poetic) observations from Ava start each chapter.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. It’s easily one of my favorites of the year so far; expect to see it on my Top 10 annual wrap-up.

Definitely five out of five slices of perfect Havarti!