I Read: The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy PickardThe Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard is a murder mystery novel set in the heart of a small town in the midwest. This is my book club’s first pick for the new year, which we’ll be discussing at the end of the month.

Book Description from GoodReads.com:

During a deadly blizzard in 1987, high school senior Rex Shellenberger and his older brother help their father search snow-covered pastures for newborn calves. What Rex finds instead is a breathtakingly beautiful young woman, completely naked and frozen to death, as if she just curled up and fallen asleep. The body is never identified and is eventually buried in an unmarked grave in the town cemetery. But even after 17 years, rumors still swirl around the girl and the mysterious events of that fateful night. How did she get there? Why did Mitch Newquist, the handsome son of the local judge, suddenly leave town — and Abby, the love of his life — never again to return? A growing number of people believe that visiting the unmarked grave will bring them miracles — but there are those in the small town who know there is nothing inspirational about the legend of the Virgin of Small Plains. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

This was a book with high points and low points for me. On the one hand, I thought that the mystery of this story was really well written. Pickard rotates the point of view of this book between all of the essential characters in the story so that you can slowly learn what each character knows about that night in 1987 and what they don’t know.

You gradually start to get an idea of what really happened that night and why, but you don’t know anything until the author wants you to and I frequently found myself saying, “Ohhhh I know who did it!” and then being proven wrong. I don’t think I really knew the truth until the minute the author wanted me to so I have to commend her for a job well done there.

On the other hand, I had a hard time with some of the awfully graphic detail in this book. I’m sure it’s not the most graphic book ever written but between the gruesome murder details, the in depth descriptions of teenage fantasies and the sex scenes. She leaves little to the imagination. This may appeal to some people but it’s not my cup of tea and I had a hard time getting through some chapters, occasionally enough to make me consider reading something else.

Luckily for my book club, the essential heart of this story was enough to keep me reading and I’m glad I did, because it was a really good story. I’d give this one 3 out of 5 stars, but I think a lot of people would give it at least an extra star – not everyone is as squeamish and anti-graphic love scenes as me, I’m sure. And to be honest, there weren’t that many of them, they were just awfully intense when they happened.

All in all, I’d say not a bad start to the new year and I’d recommend this book to most fans of a good mystery. What are you reading right now?

Picture Book Round Up: 3 New Books We're Loving

Looking for a new book to read with your kids? There are a million picture books out there and it can get a little overwhelming trying to find a good story with nice illustrations that doesn’t feel like torture trying to read out loud. We’ve gotten a few new awesome stories this Christmas and I thought I’d share them with you guys in case your bedtime routine is getting a bit stale (this is essentially cross posted from my review blog):

Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis: I first discovered this awesome book back in September while perusing a website you need to know about: wegivebooks.org. I’ve been smitten with this new line of picture books ever since and can’t seem to say enough good things about them. The illustrations in these books (by David Soman) are simply brilliant, the small details perfect – flip through it for a few seconds and you will know what I mean – this is the book I sometimes want to curl up and read by myself and always get excited when MM asks for it at night. I love the stories which are all about empowerment, imagination and kindness. This one will make you reminisce of your own childhood and laugh at the all too familiar antics of your own brood. I recommend any of the Ladybug Girl books and guarantee your family is going to love them.

Freddi the Dog by Lisa and Randy Herman Freddi the Dog by Lisa and Randy Herman, Illustrated by Bruce Hammond : This was one of the books I reviewed in our gift guide at the review blog, but I didn’t give a lot of details since it was a Christmas present for the kids. We’ve read it several times since Christmas morning and my four year old is pretty smitten with it. I especially love Bruce Hammond’s adorable illustrations of Freddi’s many, many antics. This story is terribly funny but also very sweet and I think any pet owner will find something to relate to in this book. What dog owner hasn’t experienced that moment of “You ate what?” My husband was especially fond of this one, having grown up with many dogs as a kid and he and my son love reading this one together.

MORE BEARS! by Kenn Nesbitt More Bears! by Kenn Nesbitt and Troy Cummings (Illustrator): This book is so silly and well drawn and should be well appreciated by any writers or wanna be writers out there. This was another book from our recent gift guide and my kids and husband both got a kick out of this one, too. I love that this book sort of breaks that fourth wall and talks about the author as he writes the story and finds himself being coerced into adding MORE BEARS! at the demand of a hidden audience. For some reason reading this book makes me want to go out and write a million stories immediately, not a bad thing! I also think this is a great way to explain the concept of authors and how books get written to your kids and in general, it’s simply a hysterical story to boot. My son loves to yell out “More Bears!” along with the story – giving a similar sort of interactive experience as the infamous Pigeon books by Mo Willems.

What books have you and your kids been reading lately?