Peaches for Father Francis, Joanne Harris
Vianne Rocher returns to Lansquenet, the village where she charmed some people and upset others with chocolates and magic (in Chocolat). Eight years have wrought many changes, including a new community of Moroccan Muslims who clash with some of the locals. As Vianne and her daughters reunite with old friends and make new ones, tensions between (and within) the two sides of Lansquenet rise to the boiling point. Caught in the middle are a teenage girl, a mysterious veiled woman, and Vianne’s old nemesis, Father Francis Reynaud. Harris writes lushly and explores deep questions of home and community, strangeness and belonging, and how we often judge people before we know their stories. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 2).
Dog On It, Spencer Quinn
I loved this first book in the Chet and Bernie mystery series, narrated by Chet, failed K-9 candidate and superb sleuth (with a fabulous sense of smell). Chet is tough, no-nonsense and yet endearingly doggy – he loves treats, naps and being scratched behind the ears. He and Bernie (who’s also tough but a little down on his luck) team up to solve the mystery of a teenage girl’s disappearance, and have a few wild adventures along the way. Smart and often hilarious. I’ll be sniffing out the rest of this series.
The Ruins of Lace, Iris Anthony
Through seven different characters’ points of view, Anthony weaves the intricate story of Flemish lace in the seventeenth century. Banned by the king of France but desired by all, lace prompted bribery, theft and a flourishing smuggling industry. Love, wealth, court intrigue, even the use of dogs to run lace are all elements in the story, whose complex plot is its best feature. The characters are a bit vague (maybe because there are so many points of view) and the ending felt abrupt. Still, a fascinating glimpse into a segment of history I didn’t know about before. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 1).
The Moving Finger, Agatha Christie
Jerry Burton, injured airman, takes up residence in a nondescript village with his sister to recover from his wounds. But when many of the villagers – including Jerry – begin receiving anonymous hate mail, the peace of the place is shattered. Miss Marple solves the case, as always, though she’s rather a minor character in this book. The mystery kept me guessing, but it didn’t intrigue me as much as some of Christie’s other plots. Still fun.
The House of Velvet and Glass, Katherine Howe
I loved Howe’s debut, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and also enjoyed her second book. Sibyl Allston, daughter of a posh Boston family whose mother and sister died on the Titanic, struggles to deal with her grief, manage her father’s house and help her dissolute brother (who has just been expelled from Harvard). There are also flashbacks to her father’s seafaring youth and his time in Shanghai. A fascinating glimpse into World War I-era Boston and its Spiritualist movement (seances, scrying glasses, opium dens, etc.), a sharp contrast of two worlds (strait-laced Back Bay and seedy Chinatown), and musings on whether we really determine our own fate.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
A wry, heartbreaking story of two teenagers with cancer who fall in love. Never maudlin, though sometimes I felt the sarcasm veered into callousness. Hazel, the narrator, is keen-eyed and witty, yet intensely vulnerable, as is Gus, who shows up at a cancer support group one day and catches her eye. They’re trying to live while knowing they won’t see adulthood, and this makes everything rather fraught, even while they attempt to enjoy being teenagers. Wise and sad and yes, sometimes funny.
What are you reading these days?