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Review of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

****4 stars

Spoiler Alert: This Review contains some spoilers

The main character, Cussy Mary Carter, also known as “Bluet,” lives in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky in 1936. She is one of the last of a line of blue-skinned people who existed then. This well-researched book follows Cussy as she joins the Pack Horse Librarians to deliver books and reading material throughout the town. Her father, a coal miner and widower, wants her to find a husband and uses a courting candle to attract one. Unfortunately, the man who asks for her hand abuses her and dies during a fit of anger. Because her husband was influential in the town, her “pa” makes a deal with the doctor who comes to their home to hide the body. In exchange, he allows the doctor to examine and test Cussy hoping to find out the cause of Cussy’s blue color and to correct it.

When the cause is determined to be a genetic condition and the doctor treats Cussy with a cure that makes her white, the medicine makes her sick and only lasts a day for each dose. Her father wants her to stop taking it, but she refuses, believing that it will change people’s opinion of her and that the side effects will resolve in time.

As Cussy continues her work bringing books to the townsfolk on her mule, she is pleased when people greet her and look forward to her arrival. Most of the people she serves are sickly and very poor. A young boy who she becomes close to dies from starvation despite her attempts to bring him what little food she can manage.

Two women in charge of the library project consider her “colored” and treat her as below them even when she takes the medicine that makes her white. Besides her book patrons and father, the only other person who views her as an equal is a newcomer to town named Jackson Lovett.

After a young woman, one of her book patrons, dies following childbirth and asks her to take the baby, Cussy discovers that her father has been killed in a mining accident. The day he left, he lit another courting candle. Lovett is the man who responds to it, declares his love for Cussy, and asks her to marry him even though she no longer takes the medicine for her skin condition and has a baby daughter.

On her wedding day, after the ceremony, the sheriff and a group of his supporters put Lovett in jail for marrying Cussy because of a law banning interracial marriages. The doctor tries to persuade them that Cussy is white but suffers a genetic condition that makes her skin appear blue.

The book doesn’t have the happiest of endings and is a sad story, which is why I didn’t give it 5 stars. Readers who enjoy less depressing tales might not find it to their taste. However, it’s an interesting novel based on true historical facts, and the author has written a sequel called The Book Woman’s Daughter.


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Review of Launch Pad: The Countdown to Publishing Your Book by Stephanie Larkin and Grace Sammon

Launch Pad: The Countdown to Publishing Your Book

*****5 stars

The second book of a 3-part series on writing, publishing, and marketing, Launch Pad: The Countdown to Publishing Your Book, features helpful advice for aspiring as well as published authors shared by professionals in the field. Included in this book are chapters addressing topics from working with editors, publishers, and illustrators to finding an agent to treating your writing as a business and much more.

The foreword is written by Zibby Owens, who relates her experience of publishing her memoir after 18 years. Now the publisher of Zibby Books, she is also the host of the award-winning daily podcast, Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, in which she’s interviewed more than 1300 authors. Her advice to writers: “You only need one editor, one publisher, to fall in love with your story or to see your potential . . . . So don’t give up until you find the right the company.”

Grace Sammon, the co-editor of this book, wrote the chapter on working with publishers and also provided the Afterward. It was Grace’s idea to create this series by collaborating with Stephanie Larkin, the CEO of Red Penguin Books. About this addition to the series, she writes, “We wrote this book to help make your world change, to help your book become real.”

“Own it! You are a Business!” is the chapter written by co-editor, Stephanie Larkin. Drawing upon her experience as publisher of Red Penguin Books, Stephanie discusses how debut authors need to adjust their expectations regarding becoming famous and making tons of money. She explains how royalties are calculated and paid, discusses Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Program, book pricing, and other important publishing topics. She also outlines several other methods for authors to make money besides from their writing. These include speaking engagements, classes and workshops, and bulk sales. Her final piece of advice, “As you embark upon your publishing journey, remember that monetizing your book is a marathon – not a sprint – and that by exploring various options, you can find a way to enjoy the journey . . . and hopefully some profits as well!”

I recommend this book for the wealth of information it provides. It’s published in a handy Kindle edition on Amazon: The first book, Launch Pad: The Countdown to Writing Your Book, is also available, and the final volume in the series, Launch Pad: The Countdown to Marketing Your Book, comes out in June.








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Review of Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

*****5 stars

I enjoyed this book. I felt it was charming and featured both funny and sad parts. The characters were well depicted, especially Elizabeth Zott, the chemist turned TV cooking star, and her dog Six-Thirty. I thought it was a nice touch to show the feelings and thoughts of the dog.

This bestselling novel takes place in the 1960’s when it was believed that a woman’s place was in the home and most women didn’t work. If they did, it was as teachers or secretaries. Elizabeth Zott followed a different path. She went into science and met her lover, Calvin, a fellow scientist, on the job. Their first meeting was when she stole some beakers from his office. Their second was even less complimentary as he threw up on her. But when they finally get together, they realize how much they have in common, including unhappy childhoods. Calvin had been an orphan, but his adoptive parents were killed in an accident and then he lost the aunt who took him in, so he ended up at an orphanage.

Without revealing the rest of the story, which has several twists, Calvin and Elizabeth don’t marry because she prefers to be an independent woman and wants her work considered on its own merits and not on Calvin’s. A turn of fate leaves her alone with a daughter, Mad (short for Madeline), and a dog, Six-Thirty. Both are quick learners and quite precocious. They end up helping Elizabeth after she’s fired from her job and is offered one as a cooking show hostess. While the producers have something else in mind, she steers the show toward the chemistry of which food is composed. Housewives love her, but men are not so happy because the advice she doles out along with her scientific recipes encourages their wives to go back to school, stand up to them, and live their own lives.

The ending is happy and features a twist that made sense but that I didn’t expect. This is a different type of book but one I certainly recommend to readers.



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Review of The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

***3 stars

I read this book for a book club. I enjoyed the beginning and felt it had a lot of promise. The story takes place in 1954. I liked the premise featuring the main character, Emmett, a young man who is released from serving a sentence at a juvenile prison for accidentally killing a youth. He’s released after his father dies and goes home to his house in Nebraska where he is reunited with his younger brother, Billy. Not known to Emmett, two of his fellow prisoners have escaped and hidden in the sheriff’s trunk. When the sheriff brings him home, they get out of the car and hide, later announcing themselves to Emmett.

As the story progresses, a turn of events causes Emmett, his brother, and the two inmates, Duchess and Woolly, to take to the road for different reasons. Emmett wants to head to California to start a house flipping business. Billy also wants to go to California because he believes their mother lives there after leaving them years ago and sending postcards from spots on the Lincoln Highway. Duchess wants to locate people from his past to even scores, and Woolly, who has a condition that is never explained in the book but makes him appear dimwitted and in need of medication, just tags along for the ride. Another person who later joins them is Sally, a neighbor of Emmett and Billy, who has a crush on Emmett.

I liked the way that each chapter is told by a different person, but I found that this lengthy novel meandered in the middle. Toward the end, there was a twist that brought my interest back, but the ending itself was a disappointment. Unless the author is planning a sequel, I don’t feel that enough was revealed to tie up many of the loose ends. Although this hasn’t been the best book I’ve read, others may have a different opinion.





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Review of The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell

Note: I read this book on NetGalley before it was published. It’s now available for purchase at

*****5 stars.

I loved this book. Part of the appeal to me is that I’ve watched The Great British Bake Off and recognized many of the similarities. Each chapter is told by a different character who is a contestant on the Bake Week show. Besides getting to know each of these people, we also meet the hostess, Betsy Martin, whose home, a Vermont mansion, is where the contestants stay when they’re not baking in the tent. The novel opens with the murder, but it’s not revealed who has been killed.

As contestants are eliminated, it seems someone is tampering with the kitchen, switching the sugar with the salt, lowering the oven’s temperature, etc. Is this the killer? The reader doesn’t find out until other mysteries are solved. One of the subplots involve Lottie, a contestant who grew up with Betsy and is at the contest for the hidden reason of finding out what happened to her mother who worked as a cook at the mansion and disappeared when she was a young girl.

This reads like an Agatha Christie mystery, and I would consider it a cozy culinary mystery, although there aren’t recipes. This is the author’s first book, and it’s a winner. Don’t miss it. Lots of fun and several twists round out this charming tale.


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Review of Zero Days by Ruth Ware

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on June 20 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at

****4 stars

As a fan of Ruth Ware, I was eager to read this advanced copy of her new book. I initially found it interesting because of the main character, Jack’s, short for Jacintha’s, profession. She’s a pen tester (penetration tester) for companies, which means she breaks into them to find weak spots in their security. She’s assisted by her husband, Gabe, a computer software coder. After a tricky night in which she’s caught entering a building and can’t reach anyone including Gabe to vouch for her, Jack is released by the police and goes home to find her husband dead with his neck slashed.

Reading the rest of the book, in which Jack searches for her husband’s killer, I was hoping for Ware’s usual twist. I felt that there was a scarcity of characters. Jack first suspects her ex-boyfriend who is a police officer. She confides in her sister and her husband’s best friend but then finds herself on the run as her alibi is seen as sketchy, and the police believe she murdered Gabe.

I didn’t find the revelation of the person responsible for Gabe’s death to be a surprise. The twist that does finally arrive at the book’s end is one I considered earlier but didn’t involve the killing and had only a minor impact on my overall impression of the story.

I would still recommend this book to Ruth Ware fans, even though I don’t feel it’s her best.

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Review of Identity by Nora Roberts

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on May 23, 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at

****4 stars

I’m a big fan of Nora Roberts and enjoy reading her standalones, trilogies, and the In Death series she writes as JD. Robb. However, I was disappointed by this forthcoming novel. The main reason is that I dislike mysteries that reveal the killer at the beginning of the book. I also found this too slow paced.

At the start, Morgan Albright, a young woman who moved around a lot during her childhood because her father was in the military, purchases a home with a friend and starts to set down roots for herself. She works at a construction company and also bartends at night to help save money to fix up and maintain the house. Just as things are going well, Morgan meets a man at the bar who she begins to date and invites him over for dinner with her roommate, Nina, and Nina’s boyfriend. During dinner, her date excuses himself to use her bathroom. A few days later, Nina comes down with a cold and stays home from her job. Morgan arrives home after bartending to find Nina dead. That’s just the beginning of the horror, as she also discovers her bank accounts have been compromised, her identity stolen, and the man she was attracted to is a serial killer.

As the book progresses, Morgan is forced to give up the house and her jobs in Maryland and move to Vermont with her mother and grandmother. She fears that Nina’s killer, who was after her and stole her identity, will find her and murder her, too.

There’s a long build up before Morgan’s fears are realized. Along the way, she learns important things about her mother and grandmother, gets a job at a family-owned bar, falls in love with a member of the family, and learns to protect herself by taking self-defense lessons.

I felt this book was more a romance than a mystery. It was well written, and I found the last few chapters exciting. Overall, I would recommend this to other readers of Roberts who don’t mind knowing the killer beforehand or a story that takes long to unwind.

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Review of the Last Russian Doll by Kristen Loesch

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on March 14, 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at

****4 stars

I would’ve given this book 5 stars because it’s an excellent read. However, I had a problem following the large number of characters that were included during various time periods of the novel and how they went by different names and nicknames. The main story takes place in 1991. It centers around Rosie White, (Raisa), who attends a book signing by Alexy Invanov, a Russian author. Her interest in his book, “The Last Bolshevik,” is mainly because her mother and she escaped Russia after her father and sister were murdered there by an unknown man. Her mother has since referred to him as “That Man,” but has shared very little with Rosie about her past or why her husband and daughter may have been killed.

Rosie speaks with Alexy after his reading and learns that he needs an assistant to accompany him to Russia to work on another project. Considering it an opportunity to learn more about her past and find out who murdered her sister and father, Rosie applies for the job. Initially, Rosie’s mother, an alcoholic who only tells Rosie fairytales and keeps lifelike porcelain dolls, isn’t supportive of that decision but, on her deathbed, she asks Rosie to go to Russia and find “That Man.”

After her mother’s death, Rosie finds a key inside one of her dolls and a note indicating that it opens a drawer in their old house in Russia. When Rosie travels to Russia with Alexy, he takes her to a house where he leaves her with a man named Levy who is supposedly in charge of protecting her while Alexy is away.

The book then alternates between 1991 and the past, telling a love story that starts in 1916 between a woman named Tonya, married to Dmitry, a rich man who owns a factory in St. Petersburg, and Valentin, a factory worker and revolutionary. It also includes the fairytales told by Rosie’s mother that play a large part in the book. I compared it to Kristin Hannah’s novel, Winter Garden, that I recently read, which also included Russian history.

As Rosie investigates her mother’s background, she learns of a connection between Tonya and Valentin. She begins to suspect that Alexy has an ulterior motive for hiring her as his assistant. She wonders about his identity and starts to have visions of her dead sister, who seems to be giving her clues. She also develops feelings for Lev, even though she’s left her fiancee back in England.

This story is multi-layered. It involves a love story, Russian history, and much more. There are two big twists at the end that I didn’t see coming at all.

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The Magnificent Lives of Marjorie Merriweather Post by Allison Pataki

*****5 stars

This historical fiction account of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s life is both an absorbing and fascinating read. I gave it an extra star because I attended Long Island University on the C.W. Post campus and am familiar with Hillwood Commons and the Hutton House lectures, all of which I now know the stories behind.

This book was an eye opener about Marjorie Merriweather Post, the cereal magnet’s daughter, who married four times, built several homes across the country with her fortune, lived through two wars, traveled to Russia during Stalin’s reign, was friends with many famous people, and generously gave of her money and time by volunteering for different causes.

The story was told well, although I found it meandered in certain parts, but that might have been because I prefer other faster-moving genres such as mysteries. In any case, the author did a wonderful job bringing Ms. Post to life and the time in which she lived. If you’re a historical fiction fan or one who enjoys reading biographies, you’ll like this book. It’s also recommended for Post students and graduates who might want to learn more behind the woman who once lived at their school.

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Review of Dark Corners by Megan Goldin

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on August 8, 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at


This is the second book I’ve read by this author. I loved Stay Awake but found that, although this one was a very good thriller, it wasn’t as great as that book. I guessed all the twists very early, but I enjoyed the descriptions of podcasters and social media influencers.

The story follows Rachel Krall, the popular podcaster of “Guilty or Not Guilty” a podcast that has helped wrongly accused criminals. The FB summons Rachel to Florida to meet with Terence Bailey, an inmate who has requested to see her. Bailey is due to be released shortly but was suspected of serial killings of young women which there wasn’t enough proof to convict him. They sentenced him after a minor crime in the hope that they could find evidence to tie him into the murders. However, after they admitted him, the serial killings continued, which led the FBI to believe that Bailey was working with an accomplice.

The FBI agent working the case informs Rachel that the last person to visit Bailey in prison was Maddison Logan, a social media influencer. During that visit, Bailey asked Maddison to bring him Rachel Krall. Rachel has no idea why, but the FBI needs to know because Maddison disappeared after seeing Bailey and a body is found near her trailer that is thought to be hers.

Chapters alternate between Rachel’s story and that of a strange rideshare driver with a condition that causes him to give off an unpleasant odor. Is this man somehow connected with Terence Bailey?

Against Agent Martinez’ advice to head home when more bodies turn up and Bailey leaves Rachel a threatening message before his release, Rachel does her own investigation into Maddison’s disappearance that leads her into attending a conference of social media influencers. I found this part humorous, as it showed how obsessed some people can be with social media.

There are several twists that follow along with a budding romantic relationship for Rachel, but I felt these were all obvious. I liked the book and recommend it but felt it didn’t live up to Stay Awake. If you haven’t read that, start with this one. .