Month: November 2022

Book Review: The Lost Melody by Joanna Davidson Politano

“The Lost Melody” is an excellent example of Christian historical fiction. Set in England in the 1880s, this is the story of a young musician who is searching for an inherited ward in an asylum. The asylum claims to have no record of the patient in question, and Vivienne goes to great lengths to figure out what happened to this mystery woman.

Most of the story is set in Hurstwell Asylum, and the author sheds a great deal of light on what conditions were typically like in that type of institution during that time period. I found her descriptions of locations, staff, patients, and practices to be historically accurate and interesting. I appreciate Ms. Politano’s efforts to research and write about such a difficult topic, and share her knowledge with the reader without making the story feel depressing. I also liked reading about some of the earliest attempts at music therapy.

I enjoyed just the right amount of suspense as I tried to figure out the answers along with Vivienne. It was interesting to watch her navigate the asylum and see firsthand how it was run. I enjoyed the missing ward storyline, as well as Vivienne’s personal growth and development, throughout the novel.

The author has a unique way of bringing characters to life that make them simultaneously fascinating and relatable. There is just something special about the way she writes that draws me in to her work in a very personal way. In addition to Vivienne, other characters added a great deal to the story. Patients and staff, as well as a couple of “outsiders”, all add depth to the plot and draw the reader into this world even more deeply.

Vivienne’s personal faith journey adds an important element to the story. From her childhood acceptance of God through some doubts as she navigates a difficult situation, I found her faith and thoughts to be realistic. I liked the way her faith was portrayed throughout the novel, and seeing how it guided her in her choices.

The book ends with a satisfactory resolution of the plot, while leaving room for the reader to imagine what comes next in the lives of the characters.

As an added bonus, a quote by a musician starts each chapter. Many are from familiar historical names, but some are from Vivienne herself.

Definitely five out of five slices of perfect Provolone!


Book Review: Murder and an Irish Curse by Melissa Bourbon

I have loved every book in this series so far, and “Murder and an Irish Curse” was no exception. It definitely lived up to the high standard set in earlier books, and I am eagerly anticipating the next installment!

This time around, Pippen is still working with her friends and family to find a way to end the family curse. In addition, a local reporter is harassing Pippen with questions about rumors of her bibliomancy, and she may have personal ties to the Lane family. Things don’t end well for the reporter, so Pippen has to deal with that mystery in addition to working on the curse and running her business. One note: The murder mystery is a very minor part of the story. In fact, it’s not so much a mystery as something that happened; the reveal of who/why is provided, but not as a result of Pippen trying to solve the crime. This book is much more heavily focused on researching and trying to end the family curse. This story could work as a stand-alone, but I think you’d be far more invested (and be able to follow the past research more easily) if you’ve read the series in order.

The reader gets to know Grey and Lily a bit better in this installment; personally, I was glad to see more of both of them. Cousin Cora also makes her first in-person appearance. I like seeing the major characters, as well as their relationships, evolve over the course of the series, and getting to know more of Pippen’s family members better added to this. Temporary characters like the inn guests are given enough unique characteristics that each stands out as an individual. Just as in the previous books, Pippen’s dog Sailor steals every scene she appears in.

The main mystery (trying to end the curse) was very well written, with lots of details and information about Irish lore. Pippen continues her investigation using both regular techniques and her bibliomancy. (This is a special gift she has in which books reveal information to her magically.) She’s fairly methodical about this, and I liked following the clues along with her. I won’t share exactly what is figured out in terms of the curse to avoid spoilers, but the murder aspect was resolved as part of this storyline.

Five out of five slices of spicy Pepper-Jack!