The Vintage Teacup Club, Vanessa Greene
When Jenny finds the perfect vintage tea set at a car boot sale in Sussex, there’s just one problem: two other women have fallen in love with it, too. They agree to share the tea set, using it for Jenny’s wedding, Maggie’s event planning business and Alison’s home craft business. Along the way, they become friends and help each other through a few rough patches. A sweet, heartwarming (if slightly predictable) debut novel. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 5).
Home: The Story of Everyone Who Ever Lived in Our House, Julie Myerson
Curious about her London home’s history, Myerson sets out to track down as many of its previous owners and tenants as she can. She digs through tenancy records, wills, photos and family correspondence, unearthing a trove of odd, poignant stories from several eras. She also weaves in memories of her own peripatetic childhood and musings on what makes a home. Could have been much shorter, but still interesting.
Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers
When a dead man turns up outside his brother’s hunting retreat, Lord Peter Wimsey hurries in to do a spot of sleuthing and clear his brother’s name. But their sister Mary, who was engaged to the dead man, may be hiding something. With the help of his unflappable manservant and clear-headed policeman friend, Wimsey solves the case. A fun introduction to Wimsey’s wacky family, and an interesting (if slightly far-fetched) solution.
Divergent, Veronica Roth
In futuristic, dystopian Chicago, everyone must align themselves with one of five factions based on a single virtue: honesty, bravery, intelligence, etc. Beatrice Prior has grown up in Abnegation (which values selflessness), but chooses to leave her family and join Dauntless. During the intense initiation process (think Hunger Games training), she makes a few friends and meets an exasperating, fascinating boy. The plot is interesting, as are some of the characters, but the violence felt over-the-top, and I couldn’t see the reason for it. Not sure if I’ll read the next book, Insurgent.
The Gallery of Vanished Husbands, Natasha Solomons
When Juliet Montague’s husband disappears, she lives as a widow in her Jewish community near London, working to support her two children. But when a young artist offers to paint her portrait, Juliet is thrust into London’s art world. As London enters the 1960s, Juliet becomes a gallery curator and owner. I loved Solomons’ The House at Tyneford, but this book disappointed me. I appreciated Juliet’s struggle to define herself outside her strict community, but her choices didn’t always make sense. I found her self-focused to the point of egotism – she didn’t really have meaningful relationships with the other characters.
Unnatural Death, Dorothy Sayers
Lord Peter Wimsey and his policeman friend investigate the (seemingly) natural death of an elderly lady. What starts out as an entertaining, almost hypothetical, problem becomes knottier as several people close to the case (including Wimsey himself) are threatened. It’s a long, meandering path to the solution (shot through with legal jargon), but Wimsey and Parker solve the case, of course. Entertaining.
Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir, Beth Kephart
I read and loved Kephart’s memoir Into the Tangle of Friendship years ago. This book on writing memoir is lyrical, practical, brave, straight-up honest, and lovely. Kephart shares her hard-won wisdom and explores the pitfalls and joys of the genre. The appendix is a rich annotated list of classic memoirs on various subjects – a great reading list. Every chapter made me want to pick up a pen. Recommended by Becca.
Al Capone Does My Homework, Gennifer Choldenko
I loved the first two books in this series, and this third installment was just as much fun. Moose Flanagan lives on Alcatraz in the 1930s with his parents (his dad is the associate warden) and his autistic sister, Natalie. When a fire starts in their apartment, Natalie is blamed, and Moose and his friends must find out who set the fire to clear her name. Meanwhile, the convicts may be targeting Moose’s dad, according to a cryptic warning from – who else? – Al Capone. Fun and fascinating.
The Situation and the Story: The Art of Personal Narrative, Vivian Gornick
A short, direct primer on writing personal narrative (split into two sections on essay and memoir). Gornick illustrates her points with long passages from memoirs, ranging from Oscar Wilde to Beryl Markham to Loren Eiseley. Narrowly focused, and often arrogant, but I do appreciate the distinction between situation (what happens to a writer; the context) and story (the larger meaning the writer makes of it).
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