The Last Night at the Ritz, Elizabeth Savage
Set in Boston, this book follows four old friends through a night fraught with secrets and complications. The narrator (never named) indulges in frequent flashbacks, musing about her college days and various love affairs. Lovely descriptions of Boston/Cambridge and some wittily quotable lines, including my favorite: “It is very dangerous to get caught without something to read.” But I had trouble caring about any of the characters, who struck me as self-absorbed and petty.
Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brené Brown
I love Brown’s blog and enjoyed this discussion of her research on shame and vulnerability, and how the latter is key to authentic relationships. (Also an interesting delineation of the difference between shame and guilt.) She’s a social worker, a researcher, a teacher, a mom, and a fellow Texan whose plainspoken style resonates with me. Thought-provoking, especially if you “don’t do vulnerability.” It is a powerful thing to be seen, and to let others see you.
The Pigeon Pie Mystery, Julia Stuart
I loved Stuart’s previous book, The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise, set at the Tower of London. This book takes us to Hampton Court Palace in the 1890s, with a quirky assortment of grace-and-favour residents, their servants, and local merchants. Princess Alexandrina and her maid, Pooki, come to live at the Palace after the death of the Princess’ father. When one of the palace residents dies after eating pigeon pie at a picnic, suspicion falls on Pooki, who made the pie. Determined to clear her maid’s name, the Princess investigates. Fun, although it’s difficult at times to keep the large cast of characters straight.
Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
The cover of this one looks like a romance novel, but I swear to you it’s not. It’s my seventh time to read this story, in which five people (loosely connected, and all dealing with life crises of some kind) end up in the same house, in a small Scottish village, just before Christmas. None of them are expecting a festive holiday, but they find joy and healing and laughter (and a bit of Christmas wonder) together. I cry at the end every year.
A Share in Death, Deborah Crombie
Jessica has been raving about this mystery series featuring the Scotland Yard detective team of Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James, so I picked up the first one. While on holiday at a Yorkshire timeshare, Duncan gets mixed up in a murder case involving several of his fellow guests. He begins investigating and puts Gemma on the case in London (to the chagrin of the local inspector). I liked the introduction to Duncan and Gemma, though the plot and the construction of the mystery both felt so-so. Still, always good to begin at the beginning, and I’ll probably read the sequel.
Glaciers, Alexis M. Smith
I’d seen this slim novel on several “best of 2012″ lists, and the writing – precise, lyrical, luminous – did not disappoint. The story follows Isabel, a quiet twenty-something library worker in Portland, through a day in her life (interspersed with flashbacks). I especially loved her affinity for old postcards and other ephemera. The plot felt somewhat lacking, but this is the sort of book where action is beside the point. Quiet and lovely.
99 Blessings: An Invitation to Life, David Steindl-Rast
A thoughtful yet whimsical collection of blessings, giving thanks for everything from dragonflies to children’s questions, from tears and old fences to healing hands and the Internet. The prose is gentle and lyrical, and I love the overarching theme, especially in the face of recent tragedies: we keep saying thank you, dark though it is. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 12).
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What are you reading lately?