Month: August 2021

Book Review: The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

I first discovered author Susie Finkbeiner when I read “Stories That Bind Us”. I loved it so much that I snatched up a copy of “The Nature of Small Birds” as soon as it became available without even reading the blurb, and I’m SO glad I did. This book is every bit as amazing, detailed, and moving as the first one I read. I plan to do the same when her next book comes out.

This particular book tells the story of the Matthews family during three time periods, which come together to provide the reader with a complete portrait of the lives of the family members. The tale is unique in that it is told during three distinct years: 2013 (present day) from the perspective of patriarch Bruce, 1988 from the perspective of 18-year old daughter Sonny, and 1975 from the perspective of matriarch Linda. I found it easy to keep the time periods straight, and enjoyed this interesting method of storytelling. As each character’s POV chapter ended, I was sad that it was over, but also eager to pick up missing threads of the narrative from the next character’s chapter. This made the book virtually impossible to put down!

The story itself revolves around the family’s adoption of a Vietnamese child named Minh/Mindy in the 1970s, and how that event affected the family and their relationships going forward. I appreciated learning more about the Vietnam Babylift, a topic about which I knew nothing before reading this novel. It was interesting to learn about this historical event, while also seeing how one particular family reacted to being part of it.

All of the characters were incredibly well-written. Of course, we learn the most about the three major POV characters, but other family members were portrayed with a great deal of detail as well. I found plenty of moments I could relate to personally, as well as others that I could only sympathize with.

I loved the way the family’s entire history felt complete by the end of the book. There were some laughs along the way, as well as some tears (both happy and sad). I’m so glad to have had the chance to read “The Nature of Small Birds”….it is a story that will stay with me for a long time.

One final note: I enjoyed the author’s blurb at the end in which she explained how she got the idea for the story. She had been researching an earlier book, and came across information about the Babylift. It didn’t fit for that book, but she made a note and came back to it when she was looking for a new idea. I appreciated that little glimpse into her writing process, and am SO glad she made and found that note!

Five out of five chunks of the most perfect Provolone!

Book Review: Draw and Order by Cheryl Hollon

After enjoying the debut novel in the “Paint and Shine” series last year, I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of the second book, “Draw and Order”. The first book covered all the introductory items necessary for a new series, and I was looking forward to seeing what happened next. I was NOT disappointed by Book 2! It had all the warmth and charm of the first book, but I honestly think it was EVEN BETTER!

Main character Miranda has now established herself as a businesswoman in her new hometown, and is being taken seriously by the locals. I very much appreciated how much Miranda has grown in business acumen and confidence since the first book. It’s nice to see a legitimate growth arc in a cozy mystery, and I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Miranda. Her romance is moving along at a respectable cozy pace, her businesses are interesting, and her puppy is adorable. Basically, she’s the perfect cozy heroine!

The murder mystery was also handled very well. Since Miranda’s business involves taking various groups of people (often out-of-town guests) on a cultural experience, there’s always a nice influx of new characters/victims/suspects. This is a genius idea for a business for a cozy heroine, and I loved that it’s different from what I often see in this genre. The new group of guests this time around brings Miranda the discovery of a cold-case-disappearance-turned-murder and plenty of new suspects to investigate. I loved the way she methodically uses her “murder notebook” to keep track of her sleuthing; it’s very organized, and helps the reader visualize her thought process. Once everything was revealed in the end, it all made sense given what Miranda (and the reader) had learned along the way.

I also enjoyed the positive relationships Miranda has with the local sheriff, coroner, and park ranger. It’s nice to have the official folks getting along with an amateur sleuth instead of constantly resenting her involvement. Of course, the sheriff warns her to “stay out of it”, but it seems to stem more from his concern for her safety than from any real belief that she wouldn’t be helpful.

Another added bonus this time around is that Miranda’s distillery business is progressing…it won’t be long before she’s able to brew her own moonshine! I’m enjoying learning more about this topic, and really enjoy the moonshine cocktail recipes included along with the food recipes. (Of course, I grew up near Franklin County, VA, so that might be part of it.)

I also need to add that the author clearly knows her novel’s location very well on a personal level. Her love for the natural beauty of the mountains of Kentucky shines through with every scene she describes. I’m enjoying this unique cozy setting, and a lot of that is because of how authentic Ms. Hollon’s descriptions of people and places are. Kudos for some truly excellent writing and storytelling!

Five out of five slices of white cheddar!