Monday, June 20, 2016
Nonna's Book of Mysteries by Mary Osborne and Buzz Off by Hannah Reed
What I think I enjoyed the most about this book was how wonderfully strong, determined, and smart the protagonist is. Emilia Serafini is a fourteen year old girl coming of age in Renaissance Italy, and all she wants is to be a painter. This is not a typically achievable goal for a woman in that time period, but Emilia refuses to give up, even fighting against the marriage her father has already arranged for her.
To help her, Emilia relies on her book, A Manual to the Science of Alchemy, a tome that has been passed down the matrilineal line of her family for generations. This book, combined with Emilia's determination, grit, and talent, may just be enough to see her to her dreams.
Nonna's Book of Mysteries contains a delightfully varied cast of supporting characters, from villains, to love interests, to mentors and friends. But it is Emilia that is the real star of the story, and rightly so.
This was a really fun cozy mystery, and that's coming from someone who is petrified of bees.
The main character, Story Fischer, absolutely loves bees. She is an apprentice beekeeper, a very recent divorcee, and the owner of the local grocery store in her small town. Things seem to be looking up--until her beekeeper mentor is found dead and everyone in town begins to panic and blame his bees.
What I especially liked about this book was that the mystery stayed front and center. The beekeeping and honey-making aspects were definitely important and frequently referenced, but it was the mystery that was the focus.
What I didn't love about the book was the author's insistence on putting in character quirks that, to me at least, felt not only unnecessary, but off putting in some instances. Story has a thing for men's feet that comes up multiple times in the beginning, serves no purpose in the story, and is then never talked about again (thank goodness). Story's sister also talks in irritating internet slang abbreviations, which Reed then has to translate for the readers.These strange details are not necessary-the characters are more than strong enough to stand on their own.