The Importance of Being Seven, Alexander McCall Smith
The sixth Scotland Street novel finds Matthew and Elspeth expecting triplets (!), Angus and Domenica traveling to Italy on holiday, and Bertie struggling, as ever, with his overbearing mother, Irene (and longing to turn seven). Fun and philosophical and gently satirical, like all the other books in this amusing series.
The End of Night, Paul Bogard
Our night skies are disappearing, due to the increasing brightness and volume of man-made light. Bogard visits a wide range of bright and dark places – from the dazzling Las Vegas Strip to Acadia National Park in Maine – to explore the effects of light pollution on our health, our public spaces and our society. His deep love for the night is infectious, and his interviews with folks ranging from astronomers to night-shift workers are fascinating. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 9).
Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, Anna Quindlen
I loved this warm, witty book of essays, in which Quindlen touches on everything from the importance of girlfriends to the profound changes wrought by the women’s movement during her lifetime. She writes wisely and often humorously about marriage, motherhood, family and aging – it felt like I was sitting across the table, listening as she shared her wisdom. Wonderful.
Someday, Someday, Maybe, Lauren Graham
Aspiring actress Franny Banks came to NYC after college, determined to make it big in three years – and she’s got six months left. Graham (whom I loved on Gilmore Girls) has created a fun first novel, full of New York moments, sly humor and wonderful mid-90s details (answering services, high-top sneakers, pay phones). Franny is funny, smart and full of spunk, and I rooted for her the whole way. The ending was a bit abrupt, but this was a wonderful ride.
The Romeo and Juliet Code, Phoebe Stone
After leaving England, 11-year-old Felicity is dropped off at her grandmother’s house in Maine while her stylish, mysterious parents return to Europe to pursue their secret work. When Felicity’s uncle starts receiving top-secret letters from her father, Felicity and her new friend Derek investigate. I found Felicity naive and bratty at first, but I did enjoy the story, and I eventually warmed to her. Fun weekend reading.
Calling Me Home, Julie Kibler
African-American hairdresser Dorrie is surprised when her favorite (white) client, Miss Isabelle, asks a big favor: she wants Dorrie to drive her from Texas to Cincinnati for a funeral. As the women travel north, Isabelle shares her story of falling in love with a black boy as a teenager in 1930s Kentucky. Meanwhile, single mom Dorrie is dealing with her own problems, and wondering whether she can trust the new man in her life. I found 1930s Isabelle a bit naive and selfish, but I liked both Dorrie and present-day Isabelle, and several plot twists kept me turning the pages.
Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, Paul Gallico
I loved this spunky, sweet tale of a British charwoman who saves her money for years so she can jaunt over to Paris and buy herself a Dior gown. The gown is exquisite, of course, but the people Mrs. Harris meets, and the connections they forge, are the best part of the story. (Also: the flowers.) Recommended by Jaclyn. Similar to Miss Pettigrew, shorter and simpler but just as charming.
The September Society, Charles Finch
Victorian gentleman detective Charles Lenox returns for a second case, investigating the death of a young man at Oxford (his alma mater). I loved the visits to 1860s Oxford, different from and yet so similar to the Oxford I know and adore. And I like Lenox, a thoughtful and principled detective, and his circle of friends. Great fun.
Ready for a Brand New Beat, Mark Kurlansky
Released at the beginning of the “Freedom Summer” of 1964, “Dancing in the Street” became the anthem of an unsettled generation. Kurlansky delves into the history of music in mid-century America, the origins of Motown, the civil rights movement and the continuing life of the song, which endures today. Fascinating and well-researched, with plenty of outsize personalities. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 11).
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