3 out of 4 stars
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Todd is book one of the Cedar Cove Chronicles by Cynthia Ulmer. The books take place in 1943 in a small town in North Carolina called Cedar Cove. World War II is ongoing and affects even a small town such as this one. Being such a small town, many of the townspeople are farmers, and the preacher runs the local store.
This book focuses on the Jansan family, specifically their son Todd. Todd Jansan is only 10 and doesn’t know much about the war, except that his Uncle Clyde is off fighting somewhere. Clyde returns home from the war suddenly one day, but he seems to be keeping secrets. Todd doesn’t quite know what’s going on, but he knows there is tension between Clyde and his father. There is also a problem with the Jansans’ neighbors, the Hammonds’. Horace Hammond gets drunk often and likes to hold his children over the well by their feet. Todd as well as his sisters are scared of Mr. Hammond, and none of them are allowed on his property for fear of what he may do. Everyone is afraid that one day, he’ll go too far.
In first looking at the synopsis of the plot, I was a little afraid that I would be bored while reading this novel. I enjoy books that have some type of action, and I wasn’t sure that Todd would hold up in that regard. However, the author has enough mystery along with a few twists and turns to really keep the reader interested. The pace, while a little slower, is steady enough that I was able to stay engaged.
While the mysteries kept my attention, my favorite part of this novel was the characters. Todd is a delightful young boy who, while not overly troublesome, gets in his fair share of scrapes. His sisters Libby and Lilly Jean do not start off with much of a role, but they become more important as the novel continues. I found myself laughing with the family, crying with the family, and even getting upset for the family. To me, one of the gifts in writing is to be able to make your audience feel what the characters themselves feel. Ms. Ulmer makes this novel enjoyable by making her characters relatable.
The only real drawback to this book is the errors found throughout the story. Unfortunately, there were more than a few errors that would easily be taken care of by a more thorough reading. Not only were there grammatical errors, but in some instances it looks like the auto capitalization feature went a little wild. When the character’s name included initials (such as T.H.) the next word would be capitalized even if in the middle of a sentence. This is something that really should have been caught and corrected.
While the story itself does not sound like much, the author weaves in a little mystery, liberally adds some great characters, and makes an endearing tale that I would recommend highly. Because of the errors, I am not able to give this book a perfect score, so I give this book a 3 out of 4 stars. I am pleased to say that I enjoyed reading this book. I believe that it would appeal to a wide range of people, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with the characters in this town in the books to come.
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