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Book Reviews & Recommendations

The Book blog of the Bristol Public Library features reviews written by our staff, volunteers, and summaries of books read by the Nevermore Book Club. Mysteries, non-fiction, fantasy, young adult novels, thrillers—there’s a little something for everyone. New reviews are posted Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Free resource with book reviews and ratings. It also offers users the ability to catalog what you have read, are currently reading and plan to read as well as get book recommendations.

What To Read Next

The Reference Department produces a number of bibliographies in many different genres in response to patron requests. You can pick up copies at the Reference Desk. Many include series lists. For general recommendations, click on the links below:

Amish Fiction

Beverly Lewis is arguably the best-known author of Amish fiction. Her first book, The Shunning, was loosely based on her grandmother, a Mennonite who left her community to marry. Since then, she has gone on to write a number of best-selling Amish books, some in series and some standalone.

Wanda E. Brunstetter is another well-known author of Amish fiction. Her husband was raised in a Mennonite church and they have several Amish friends. She is considered one of the founders of the Amish fiction genre. Her first series was The Brides of Lancaster County.

Cindy Woodsmall has both series and standalone books. She has a number of real life connection to Old Order Amish families. Her first series was Sisters of the Quilt.

Beth Wiseman writes both Amish and non-Amish books. Her first Amish series was Daughters of the Promise.
Kim Vogel Sawyer writes Christian historical novels, Christian romances and Mennonite fiction. One of her early series was The Sommerfeld Trilogy.

B.J. Hoff is known primarily for her Christian historical fiction (usually set in 18th or 19th century America). Riverhaven Years is Amish historical series set before the American Civil War.

Leslie Gould has several popular novels that deal with the Amish faith, including The Courtships of Lancaster County series, inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. Courting Cate, the first in the series, is a retelling of “The Taming of the Shrew,” while Adoring Addie takes inspiration from “Romeo and Juliet.”

Sarah Price has written a number of Christian novels, including historical fiction and women’s fiction. She has several Amish series, including Amish Classics, based on the novels of Jane Austen. Her next series is Amish Fairytale, and the first title is Belle.

Shelley Shepard Gray has a number of series, many about Amish or Mennonite communities. Some of her books are set in the present day, while others are historical fiction. She has also written an Amish mystery series.

Tricia Goyer is author of over 35 books in fiction and non-fiction, including several on parenting. She’s an advocate of simple living, and she even has a website called “Not Quite Amish Living.”

Mindy Starns Clark is truly a “jack-of-all-trades.” A former singer, stand-up comedian, and playwright, she’s best known for her mysteries; however, she’s beginning to make a name for herself with her Amish books as well.

Linda Byler grew up Amish and is still in an Amish church to this day. Even though readers know her best for her series, the Amish community knows Byler as a newspaper columnist for a weekly Amish publication.

Amy Clipston’s books have appeared on several Christian fiction bestseller lists. Although not Amish, she is of German descent and feels a kinship to the culture.

W. Dale Cramer resides in northern Georgia, where he is a husband, father, electrician, and author. Aside from his series, he has also written Sutter’s Cross, Bad Ground, Levi’s Will, and Summer of Light.

Jerry S. Eicher grew up in Honduras where he spent eight years with his grandfather in an Amish community. When he became an adult, he taught in parochial Amish and Mennonite schools. He currently resides in Virginia.

For more suggestions or lists of series in order, pick up a free bibliography at the library or ask a librarian!

British Mysteries

Colin Dexter wrote the Inspector Morse series which became the basis for three separate BBC TV series. Morse is a bit of a curmudgeon who likes Wagner, crossword puzzles, and his vintage Jaguar automobile.

Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus is a Scottish detective who works in a gritty Edinburgh setting. Rankin has won praise for his inventive plots.

Agatha Christie is one of the grandmasters of detective fiction. She is best known for her novels and stories involving either the Belgian private detective Hercule Poirot or the elderly village spinster Miss Marple. She’s known for her clever plots and clever clues.

Peter Robinson writes crime novels set in Yorkshire, featuring music loving Detective Inspector Banks.

Dorothy L. Sayers is a classic mystery writer whose Lord Peter Wimsey novels and stories were said to have elevated the mystery to literature.

Ann Cleeves has several series, but her best known detectives are Vera Stanhope, a middle-aged, blunt Detective Inspector, and DI Jimmy Perez who works in the tight knit community of the Shetlands.

P.D. James’ books have been called “literate mysteries.” Her better known series features DI Adam Dalgliesh, a thoughtful widower who is also a poet.

Simon Brett write contemporary mysteries with a sense of humor. He recently won the Crime Writers Association Diamond Dagger Award for his contributions to the genre.

American Authors of British Mysteries

Elizabeth George writes the Inspector Lynley series, featuring an upper class detective and his working class partner. George’s work is known for in-depth characterization and thought-provoking plots with a bit of social commentary thrown in for good measure.

Deborah Crombie’s detectives are Scotland Yard’s Duncan Kincaid and Metropolitan police detective Gemma James. Part of the appeal is the personal relationship between the two, along with a mystery to solve.

Patricia Highsmith is known for her dark crime novels such as The Talented Mr. Ripley.

Charles Todd is a mother and son team who write books set in the early part of the twentieth century, just after WW I.

Other authors to consider: Ruth Rendell, Josephine Tey, Ian Rankin, Robert Galbraith, Ngaio Marsh, Martha Grimes, C. Alan Bradley, Catherine Aird, Rhys Bowen, Nicci French

For more suggestions or lists of series in order, pick up a free bibliography at the library or ask a librarian!

Christian Fiction

Karen Kingsbury is considered by many to be the top Christian fiction writer today. Her books are called “life changing fiction” by many of her fans.

Melody Carlson is better known for her teen fiction than her adult, but she’s becoming very popular with all ages. Like Karen Kingsbury, she takes on contemporary problems in compelling stories. Her adult novels are non-series books so you can read them in any order.

Jan Karon, a North Carolina native, had a dream about an Episcopal priest and began writing her gentle and very popular novels about a small town.

Kristen Heitzmann has written several historical novels but is making a name for herself in the Contemporary category as well.

Philip Gulley is a Quaker minister and humorist. His career as an author began when a friend suggested he send some of his church newsletters to a publisher. He has several books of “Porch Talk” essays and stories. He is also the author of several books set in the small town of Harmony.

Robin Jones Gunn writes for children, teens, and adults. Her best known adult series is “Sisterchicks,” stories about two friends who travel to another country or exotic location. Funny, heartwarming, and inspirational, these don’t have to be read in any order.

Gilbert Morris is a prolific author who writes in a number of genres, though he’s probably best known for historical novels. He has at least 22 adult series and has over 100 books published.

Janette Oke was born in Canada but has lived in the U.S. She’s best known for her stories of pioneers and the settling of the frontier.

Francine Rivers writes both contemporary and historical Christian fiction. Her first book, Redeeming Love, was set during the California Gold Rush and is still a top selling Christian novel.

Judith Miller, a best-selling Christian author who often writes with Tracie Peterson, has a series set in the Amana Colonies of Iowa in the 1870s. While not Amish, their strong faith, belief in a simpler lifestyle and communal living give these stories a similar feel.

Lori Wick’s fiction ranges from contemporary work to historical fiction – whether it tells the story of Victorian Englanders or American pioneers.

For more suggestions or lists of series in order, pick up a free bibliography at the library or ask a librarian!

Christian Mysteries and Thrillers

G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown, a gentle Catholic priest, is a master at solving mysteries because of his
knowledge of human psychology. Chesterton was a Christian intellectual whose work inspired C.S. Lewis.

Ellis Peters was really Edith Pargeter, a self-taught historian and scholar. She’s considered one of the founders of the “historical mystery.” Wonderful descriptions of time along with sympathetic characters make her Brother
Cadfael series a standout.

Barbara Workinger combines more than one genre in her “Granny Hanny Mysteries.” Hannah Miller is an
Amish woman in Lancaster County, PA who loves quilting and reading mysteries. Her granddaughter is a lawyer, which comes in handy when Granny Hanny does some sleuthing on her own.

P.L. Gaus is the author of a fine series set among the Old Order Amish in Ohio. His detective is Professor Michael Branden, a history professor at a nearby college who is called up on to help solve crimes.

Sister Carol Ann O’Marie was a Roman Catholic nun who turned to mystery writing after her retirement from
teaching, so it’s no surprise that her detective was also a nun who had retired from teaching. Sister Mary Helen
is a tough but compassionate nun who loves to read mysteries and has a sense of humor.

Mindy Starns Clark is the author of the “Million Dollar Mystery” series. Callie Webber is an attorney and PI who checks on charities on behalf of her employer, a wealthy philanthropist. If the charity is proven worthy, a nice donation comes their way. Murder has a habit of intervening though, and Callie has to use all her skills to solve the case.

Dee Henderson is the daughter of a minister and author of numerous award-winning books. Her best known series is probably “The O’Malley Chronicles” about a family whose members are dedicated to public service in various forms: fireman, paramedic, police negotiator, etc.

Terri Blackstock is a long time Christian author who has written in several genres, including romance. She’s
becoming best known for her mystery books.

Joel C. Rosenberg is the son of a Jewish father and a Gentile mother, and became an evangelical Christian. His background has served him well with his political thrillers which use people and events in the Middle East as a backdrop. His first book, The Last Jihad, was written before September 11, 2001 but opened with a highjacked jet attacking an American city. His books have been compared to those by Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum: international intrigue, non-stop action, and strong plots.

For more suggestions or lists of series in order, pick up a free bibliography at the library or ask a librarian!

Cozy Mysteries

M. C. Beaton presents Agatha Raisin, a retiree turned private investigator in a small Cotswolds village. Handsome neighbors, dilettante friends, the vicar’s wife and many others complement Agatha’s loud, brash, and quirky personality.

Amanda Lee, aka Gayle Trent, is a local author who uses Oregon as the setting for her Embroidery Mystery series. Marcy owns an embroidery specialty shop called Seven Year Stitch. When Marcy opened up her shop, she expected to be busy with clients. What she didn’t expect was to be busy solving mysteries.

Laura Childs is well known for her Tea Shop and Scrapbooking Mystery series. When professional scrapbooker Carmela Bertrand comes across a tip about a murder, she takes matter into her own hands. Of course, this provokes Laura’s clients to seek her help in solving other cases, leaving Laura to “stitch” everything together.

Earlene Fowler is the author of the cozy and fun Benni Harper mystery series. Benni Harper was quite the quilter, but she didn’t think she would end up being a detective! All of her book titles are named after quilt patterns.

Molly MacRae’s Haunted Yarn Shop Mysteries feature Kath Rutledge who returns to Blue Plum, Tennessee to take over her grandmother’s yarn and fabric shop. MacRae combines mysteries, fiber arts, and a ghost to craft a winning series. And if Blue Plum sounds a bit familiar, consider that Ms. MacRae once lived in Jonesborough!

Ann B. Ross writes about Miss Julia, a widow who discovers her late husband left her a lot of money, not to mention a mistress and an illegitimate son. Miss Julia is a keen-eyed observer with a sharp sense of humor who comments on small town life. These delightful mysteries tend to be light and cozy with a rather eccentric cast.

Clea Simon pens the Theda Krakow mysteries, which follows the adventures of a Cambridge newspaper freelancer who loves cats, and the Dulcie Swartz mysteries which chronicles the life of Dulcie, her new kitten Esme, and the spirit of her late cat Mr. Gray. She also writes the Pru Marlowe series, in which Pru learns to cope with her ability to speak to animals, cats and dogs alike.

Claire Donally writes the Sunny & Shadow Mystery series, set in Kittery Harbor, Maine. Returning from New York City to take care of her ailing father, Sunny seems to attract all sorts of trouble and must keep herself—and Shadow, her cat—out of harm’s way.

Spencer Quinn writes the Chet and Bernie Mysteries. Chet is the narrator that happens to be a dog—and, although Chet flunks out of police school, he is an investigator at heart. Together, Chet and Bernie solve the cases of missing persons.

Jenn McKinlay features Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura in The Cupcake Bakery mystery series. With a 50’s style bakery and the tastiest cupcakes in town, Melanie and Angie also have the unfortunate habit of getting involved in criminal investigations.

Carolyn Hart writes a delightful cozy mystery series featuring a helpful ghost, Bailey Ruth Raeburn. Of course, Heaven’s “Department of Good Intentions” doesn’t like for their emissaries to use the word “ghost.” Bailey Ruth is allowed to return to earth occasionally to help out individuals in trouble.

Nancy Atherton writes the Aunt Dimity series, set in England. American Lori Shepherd inherits an English cottage from her mother’s friend, “Aunt” Dimity. Lori tumbles into one mystery after another, with a little supernatural help from the ghostly Aunt Dimity.

Sue Ann Jaffarian combines the past and present with the ghostly Granny Apples and her great-great-great-granddaughter Emma Whitecastle. Granny was murdered over a hundred years ago, and she has been waiting all this time for someone to help her find justice.

Kate Collins features flower shop owner Abby Knight, who is ready, willing, and able to supply flowers for weddings, get-well wishes, funerals, and everything in between. Hunky cop Marco would prefer that Abby keep her nose out of police business, but she has a habit of jumping in headfirst.

For more suggestions or lists of series in order, pick up a free bibliography at the library or ask a librarian.

Food Mysteries

Virginia Rich may be the godmother of the “Mysteries with Recipes” books. In 1982, she published the first Eugenia Potter book which featured a delightful older female sleuth who operated a culinary school. Rich passed away after completing three books, and Nancy Pickard continued the series, using notes Virginia left.

Diane Mott Davidson cooks up a storm with Goldy Schultz, owner of Goldilocks Catering where “Everything is Just Right.” With an abusive ex-husband and a pre-teen son, Goldy has her hands full even before mysteries start falling into her lap.

Laura Childs writes the Cackleberry Club series. Three newly-single women open a cozy café with murder as the special of the day.

Isis Crawford writes the Mystery with Recipes series about polar opposite sisters, Bernie and Libby, who run “A Taste of Heaven” catering in between sibling squabbles.

Julie Hyzy serves up the White House Chef Mysteries. Not only preparing tasty dishes, Olivia Paras must also be concerned with national security, the First Family and the White House staff.

Gayle Trent writes the Daphne Martin Cake Mysteries, about a young woman who decorates cakes. Trent is a local author, so it’s no coincidence that the southwest Virginia setting sounds more than a bit familiar. Frothy & fun, the books include some recipes and cake decorating tips.

JoAnna Carl’s Chocoholic Mysteries are set in the fictional resort town of Warner Pier, Michigan. Lee McKinney and her aunt Nettie TenHuis make chocolates for the locals and tourists, along with the occasional serving of murder and mayhem.

Ellery Adams writes the Charmed Pie Shoppe mystery series featuring Ella Mae LaFaye and her enchanting pies in small town Havenwood, Georgia. With a light touch of the supernatural, Ella Mae bakes up pastries filled with happiness and runs into a little romance along the way.

Jessica Beck (a pseudonym for Tim Myers) writes the Donut Shop mystery series about Suzanne Hart, owner of the Donut Hearts coffee shop in April Springs, North Carolina.

Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen bakes up a storm at The Cookie Jar, in Lake Eden, Minnesota. With colorful family members and two beaus vying for her attention, Hannah believes that cookies may indeed serve as breakfast.

Virginia Lowell’s Cookie Cutter Shop mysteries by are set against the backdrop of The Gingerbread House, a shop selling cookies and specialty bakeware. Owner Livie Greyson started the shop on the bottom floor of a Victorian house and lives upstairs with her rescue dog Spunky.

G. A. McKevett presents Savannah Reid, a southern belle P.I. transplanted to southern California. With younger siblings named after a dozen Georgia towns, Savannah tends to mother those around her even as she catches crooks.

Michael Lee West’s pastry chef Teeny Templeton is great with recipes but not so good with relationships. Just when she thinks she’s found Mr. Right, she catches her fiancé playing badminton with another woman—did I mention they were nude?

Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery mystery series stars Melanie Cooper and Angie DeLaura in their Scottsdale, Arizona Fairy Tales Cupcakes bakery. With a 50’s style bakery and the tastiest cupcakes in town, Melanie and Angie also have the unfortunate habit of getting involved in criminal investigations.

For more suggestions or lists of series in order, pick up a free bibliography at the library or ask a librarian.

Historical Fiction

Bernard Cornwell is one of the best known names in historical fiction for his novels set during the Napoleonic Wars (Sharpe), the Saxon era (Last Kingdom/Saxon Chronicles), the Hundred Years’ War, and the American Civil War.

Ken Follett’s Century Trilogy follows five families from the first World War to the 1980s, including an American law student, two orphaned Russian brothers, and a woman who falls in love with a German spy. His Kingsbridge books, The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are set in the same village but two centuries apart.

Jeff Shaara picked up where his father Michael left off and has produced a number of novels set during the American Civil War, World War II, and the Korean War.

Diana Gabaldon has captured the imagination of many with her Outlander series. Although there is a time traveling/fantasy frame, most of the story is set during the mid 1700s in Scotland.

Sara Donati weaves romance into her historical fiction set in the New World in the late 1700s.

Phillippa Gregory has written a number of popular books on the Tudors, including The Other Boleyn Girl and The Red Queen.

Tracy Chevalier writes fiction set in a variety of places and times, including Girl With a Pearl Earring (Holland, 1600s) and At the Edge of the Orchard (Ohio in the 1800s).

Hilary Mantel has won numerous awards for her books set in the court of King Henry VIII (Wolf Hall; Bring Up the Bodies) but she has written books set in other time periods.

Cameron Judd writes about the American frontier, including the early eastern frontier. Titles include The Overmountain Men and Crockett of Tennessee.

Eugenia Price is known for her fiction set in the American South, such as the Florida Trilogy which begins in the post-Spanish colonial era.

Other authors to consider: W. E. B. Griffin, John Jakes, Elswyth Thane, James A. Michener, Gilbert Morris, Edward Rutherfurd.

For more suggestions or lists of series in order, pick up a free bibliography at the library or ask a librarian.

Paranormal

Karen Marie Moning made a name for herself as a writer with her Highlander books, a sweet and sensual series of romantic novels set in the Scottish Highlands. However, she also delves deep into Celtic mythology and the ethereal, darkly magical world of Faery in her Fever series.

Charlaine Harris is probably most famous for her Sookie Stackhouse series, which begins with Dead Until Dark, introducing Sookie, a clairvoyant waitress in small town Louisiana who finds herself caught in the middle of a murder investigation – and possibly in the arms of a vampire.

Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series features werewolves, vampires, witches, and more. It revolves largely around strong female characters who find themselves caught in the chaotic crosshairs of the Otherworld.

Laurell K. Hamilton writes the steamy, dark fantasy series Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter. Her novels follow Anita Blake, one of the most skilled – and deadliest – vampire hunters in the country, as she protects humankind from vampires, werewolves, and other, more nefarious creatures of the night.

Patricia Briggs writes fantasy novels with a bite, purely of the werewolf variety. In her Mercy Thompson series, Mercy – a coyote shapeshifter – works as a seemingly ordinary mechanic by day and prowls the paranormal underworld by night. In Alpha and Omega, Anna survives a brutal werewolf attack and becomes trapped at the bottom of her pack’s food chain, at once reviled and respected as their Omega.

Lynsay Sands introduces readers to the Argeneaus, a family of immortal vampires with a penchant for catastrophe – and a thirst for love. Filled with quirky bits of humor and steamy romance, Sands’ extensive series is both hilariously comical and scintillatingly romantic.

Christine Feehan is a prominent name in urban paranormal fiction, penning dozens of novels about shape shifting vampires (Dark Carpathian series) and Special Forces soldiers with enhanced psychic abilities (GhostWalker series).

Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series has become a mainstay for lovers of vampire lore and urban fantasy readers. Her other series include the Mayfair Witches and the New Tales of the Vampires.

MaryJanice Davidson’s Undead series follows the adventures of Betsy Taylor, who goes from being an unemployed secretary to the Queen of the Vampires overnight – or, more accurately, after one very bad hit-and-run accident.

For more suggestions or lists of series in order, pick up a free bibliography at the library or ask a librarian!