Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
I read this book in high school, at the behest of a favorite teacher, but hadn’t picked it up in a decade. And I loved the story just as much as before. (I’d forgotten most of the details!) Jane is a wonderful character – kind, indomitable and endearingly stubborn. I applauded her for sticking to her principles over and over again, and rejoiced with her as she made her way in the world. (I’m glad she finds love, but this time I was equally glad to see her find family.)
So Pretty! Crochet, ed. Amy Palanjian
I’m a knitter, not a crocheter, but these patterns – so fresh and colorful and stylish – might just convince me to pick up a hook. I also loved the anecdotes from each designer about what inspires their aesthetic and/or how they learned to crochet. Published by Chronicle Books, which means it’s beautifully designed. To review for the Shelf (out May 2).
Out of Sight, Out of Time, Ally Carter
I’d been waiting eagerly for this fifth Gallagher Girls book, and while I tore through it, I was disappointed at the conclusion. Very little resolution (perhaps that’s coming in the sixth and final book?). All the characters I love – from the teenage girl spies-in-training to the handsome boy spy to the secret-agent teachers – are back, and Carter’s skill for writing cliffhangers kept me turning the pages. Not my favorite of the series, but still good fun.
The Train to Estelline, Jane Roberts Wood
Someone recommended this in a list of spring books on Sarah’s site, and I squealed when I saw it was set in West Texas. (It’s rare to find fiction set there.) Estelline is only a few hours from where I grew up. And I enjoyed the tale of Lucy Richards, 17-year-old schoolteacher from East Texas, tackling new adventures with gusto. She’s a bit naive, but kind and good-hearted, and I loved her commentary on the wide plains, big skies and stunning sunsets of my homeland.
Summer at Fairacre, Miss Read
I love Miss Read’s gentle tales of life in an English village (I found this one at Rivendell Books). The story of an English spring and summer was just what I needed during a gray few days. Miss Read is a witty, observant narrator, and I enjoy seeing the cast of village characters through her eyes.
An Irish Country Village, Patrick Taylor
Switching from England to Ireland, with the continued adventures of Dr. Barry Laverty and his mentor Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, physicians to the Ulster village of Ballybucklebo. All the old friends from the first book return, and we meet a few new characters. Taylor’s use of the Ulster dialect is highly entertaining; I can hear the Irish accents in my head. Warm and comforting.
Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery
I hadn’t reread Jane’s story in years, but oh, I enjoyed watching her fall in love with Prince Edward Island (and learn to stand up to her shrew of a grandmother) again. Jane is practical and capable but still has an imagination, and it’s wonderful to see her spirit open up. Montgomery’s minor characters are always such fun – I loved getting reacquainted with the entire population of Lantern Hill.
Storm in the Village, Miss Read
The good people of Fairacre are horrified by the possibility of a new housing estate next to their beloved village – and they marshal their arguments to the local council. Miss Read observes and narrates, while carrying on her teaching routine and dealing with the thousand little events of village life.
Women from the Ankle Down: The Story of Shoes and How They Define Us, Rachelle Bergstein
Bergstein presents a sartorial history of the last century – from how Ferragamo got his start to the crazy platform shoes of the ’70s to the obsession with Manolos caused by Carrie Bradshaw. Frothy and fun but well-researched, with lots of cool historical nuggets. The story of shoes since 1900 is in large part the story of femininity in contemporary American culture, and it’s a fascinating one. To review for the Shelf (out May 29).
The Meryl Streep Movie Club, Mia March
A charming Maine inn, a handful of Meryl Streep movies and a group of estranged relatives who need to reconnect? The perfect recipe for a lovely debut novel about family, chasing your dreams and becoming who you’re meant to be instead of remaining stuck in the past. March’s characters felt like friends, and their love of Meryl made me want to go watch all her movies. To review for the Shelf (out June 19).
A Place Called Sweet Shrub, Jane Roberts Wood
This sequel to The Train to Estelline (see above) takes Lucy from her East Texas hometown to eastern Arkansas, where she and her husband confront racial tensions. This one didn’t work for me the way the original did – it was fun to spend time with Lucy again, but I preferred her adventures in West Texas.
Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride, Alyssa Harad
Serious English-major type Alyssa didn’t expect to fall in love with perfume – but the story of how she flirted with it, read obsessively about it and then gave herself up to the obsession is both delicious and fascinating. Full of tidbits about the perfume industry and lusciously described scents, and peopled by elegant, quirky characters (who all smell wonderful), this memoir swept me away. (It reminded me, in a wonderful way, of Molly Birnbaum’s Season to Taste.) To review for the Shelf (out June 28).