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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

As the snow swirls down outside, I’ve been plowing (ha) through books – poetry, fiction, memoir and strong women, as usual. Here’s what I have been reading:

Swan, Mary Oliver
I adored this Oliver collection, unsurprisingly – especially the first poem, and several others. She writes so well about nature, the interior life, seasons and paying attention. Perfect morning reading.

Salty: Lessons on Eating, Drinking, and Living from Revolutionary Women, Alissa Wilkinson
I’ve known Alissa online for years, and loved her book of essays on smart, strong, bold women – Hannah Arendt, Edna Lewis, Maya Angelou, Laurie Colwin and others – who had interesting things to say about food, gathering, womanhood and community. If that sounds dry, it isn’t; Alissa’s writing sparkles, and each chapter ends with a delectable-sounding recipe. Found at the lovely new Seven and One Books in Abilene.

Running, Lindsey A. Freeman
As a longtime runner, a queer woman and a scholar, Freeman explores various aspects of running through brief essays – part memoir, part meditation, part academic inquiry. I enjoyed this tour of her experience as a runner, and the ways she writes about how running shapes us. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 14).

Beyond That, the Sea, Laura Spence-Ash
During World War II, Beatrix Thompson’s parents send her to the U.S. to escape the bombings in London. Bea lands with a well-off family, the Gregorys, and her bond with them – deep and complicated – endures over the following years and decades. A gorgeous, elegiac, thoughtful novel about love and loss and complex relationships. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 21).

Winterhouse, Ben Guterson
Elizabeth Somers, an orphan who lives with her curmudgeonly relatives, spends a surprise Christmas vacation at Winterhouse, an old hotel full of delights. She makes a friend, uncovers a dastardly plot, makes some mistakes and discovers family secrets. I liked Elizabeth, but I really wanted this to be better than it was.

The Belle of Belgrave Square, Mimi Matthews
Julia Wychwood would rather read than go to a ball – but the only way to placate her hypochondriac parents is to plead illness. She’s rather miserable when Captain Jasper Blunt, a brooding ex-soldier in need of a fortune, arrives in London and begins pursuing her. A fun romance that plays with some classic tropes; I loved Julia (a fellow bookworm!) and her relationship with Jasper. I also loved The Siren of Sussex; this is a sequel of sorts.

The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, Michelle Obama
Michelle needs no introduction from me; this book discusses some of the tools she uses to steady her during challenging times, such as knitting, exercise, friendship and keeping her perspective straight. I loved the insights into her marriage and her relationship with her mom, and her practical, wise voice. So good.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

P.S. The fourth issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, came out last week. Sign up here to get on the list for next time!

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I’ve been blowing through books in the first days of 2023 – so it’s time for a roundup (already!). As we dive into a new year, here’s what I have been reading:

Mastering the Art of French Murder, Colleen Cambridge
Tabitha Knight is loving her sojourn in postwar Paris with her grand-pere – especially since she has Julia Child for a neighbor. But when an acquaintance is found stabbed with Julia’s kitchen knife, Tabitha undertakes a bit of amateur sleuthing. A fun, clever start to a new mystery series; technically my last book of 2022. Coming out in April; I read an ARC.

God’s Ex-Girlfriend: A Memoir About Loving and Leaving the Evangelical Jesus, Gloria Beth Amodeo
Raised in a fairly laid-back Catholic faith, Amodeo joined Campus Crusade for Christ as a college student. This memoir details her experience with Cru, as it’s now called; explores the reasons she clung to the community she found; and charts her struggles to get out of it. Thoughtful and relatable, though the ending felt rushed. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 21).

Code Name Sapphire, Pan Jenoff
German political cartoonist Hannah Martel escapes to her cousin Lily’s house in Belgium after the Nazis discover her true identity. There, she joins the Sapphire Line resistance network, working with the prickly Micheline and her brother Matteo. But the network is (always) in jeopardy, and its members face danger and compromise at every turn. A compelling WWII story inspired by a real-life train break; Hannah and Lily’s relationship is especially complex. I found the ending really depressing. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 7).

Freestyle, Gale Galligan
Cory Tan loves nothing more than dancing with his crew of friends. But when his parents freak out about his grades and get him a tutor, he makes a friend and discovers a new hobby – yo-yo throwing. I adored this sweet middle-grade graphic novel (a Christmas gift from my guy) about friendship, stretching your horizons, apologizing and trying new things. So joyful and fun.

The Porcelain Moon, Janie Chang
Pauline Deng loves working in her uncle’s antique shop in Paris with her beloved cousin Theo. When war breaks out and Theo joins the Chinese Labour Corps as a translator, big changes come for them both, as well as for Camille, a young woman in the village where Theo is stationed. I flew through this well-written novel about a relatively unknown slice of WWI history. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 21).

A Perilous Undertaking, Deanna Raybourn
Lepidopterist Veronica Speedwell and her colleague Stoker have settled into their jobs cataloging the collection of a London gentleman. But when they get asked to investigate a murder, things get way more interesting. A fun, well-plotted mystery (though I agree with my friend Jess – too many phallic jokes). I like Stoker and Veronica, and Raybourn’s writing is highly entertaining.

Her Lost Words, Stephanie Marie Thornton
Both Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley (who never knew her mother) longed to take the world by storm. Thornton’s novel unfolds both women’s stories in alternating timelines, charting their emotional and financial struggles as well as their writing (with despairs and successes). A little long, but ultimately fascinating – like its subjects. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 28).

A Spoonful of Murder, Robin Stevens
Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells travel to Hong Kong to mourn Hazel’s grandfather. When they arrive, they find some surprises – including a new baby brother for Hazel, and soon, a murder. I enjoy this British middle-grade series; I love Hazel as a narrator, and I especially enjoyed the sensitive explorations of the dynamics between the girls in a new setting.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

P.S. The fourth issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, came out last week. Sign up here to get on the list for next time!

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What Can I Say

What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.

Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.

I found Oliver’s collection Swan at the Booksmith this fall, and this first poem stopped me in my tracks, especially the lines about where to take “your busy heart.” As we enter a new year, I am hoping to take my heart to all those places: engaging with the world, noticing and absorbing beauty, and taking time to be in nature and be still.

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We made it, friends – the end of 2022 is nigh. As we wrap up the year and I recover from Christmas travel, here’s what I have been reading:

The Sweet Spot, Amy Poeppel
I flew through Poeppel’s warm, witty, hilarious latest, which involves four different women (an artist, her buttoned-up mother, a divorcee bent on revenge and a young woman caught in the crossfire) taking care of a baby who belongs to none of them. I laughed out loud several times. Bonus: it’s set in my favorite tangle of streets in Greenwich Village. I also loved Poeppel’s Musical Chairs. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 31, 2023).

Inciting Joy: Essays, Ross Gay
I adored Gay’s The Book of Delights (and did a Q&A with him, itself a delight). This new collection explores joy as it’s intertwined with sorrow, grief and desire – and it’s fantastic. I love Gay’s rambling style (though the footnotes occasionally get out of control), and his warm, wise, human voice. So good.

Of Manners and Murder, Anastasia Hastings
Violet Manville is astonished to discover her aunt Adelia is behind the popular Dear Miss Hermione column – and even more shocked to be handed the reins when Aunt Adelia leaves town. Soon Violet has a real mystery on her hands: the suspicious death of a young bride named Ivy. A fun British mystery with a spunky bluestocking heroine. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 31).

Healer and Witch, Nancy Werlin
Sylvie, her mother and her grand-mere are revered as healers in their village. But when Grand-mere dies and Sylvie makes a terrible mistake, she sets out in search of help. A sweet, thoughtful middle-grade novel set in medieval France, with a few surprising twists and some insights about vocation and calling.

Love in the Time of Serial Killers, Alicia Thompson
Phoebe has reluctantly moved to Florida for the summer to clear out her dad’s house and try to finish her dissertation on true crime. But she keeps getting distracted by the (literal) guy next door: is he really as nice as he seems, or is he a killer? A snarky, hilarious mystery with a great main character; I also adored Phoebe’s sweet golden-retriever younger brother.

The Mushroom Tree Mystery, Ovidia Yu
The Allies have won the war in Europe, but things are still grim for Chen Su Lin and her compatriots in Singapore. When a young aide is found dead, Su Lin becomes a suspect – and between caring for a blind professor, supervising the houseboys, trying to decipher news of the atomic bomb and prove her innocence, she’s very busy. A gripping entry in this wonderful series.

Travel as a Political Act, Rick Steves
I loved this thoughtful memoir by Steves – a guidebook author and TV personality – about how travel has shaped and expanded his worldview. He tackles drug policy, autocrats, poverty and other political issues, but also writes engagingly about simply encountering other humans. My favorite line: “Understanding people and their lives is what travel is about, no matter where you go.” Amen.

Kantika, Elizabeth Graver

I flew through this epic novel based on the life of Rebecca Cohen Baruch Levy (the author’s grandmother), a Sephardic Jew whose early 20th-century life takes her from Istanbul to Spain to Cuba and eventually to New York. Richly detailed, full of family drama and rich insights on womanhood and the complexities of love. So so good. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 18, 2023).

Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
I adore this gentle novel set in Scotland at Christmastime, which follows five loosely connected people who end up spending the holiday together. It proves transformative for all of them. I loved revisiting it, as always.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

P.S. The fourth issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, comes out soon. Sign up here to get on the list!

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We are (somehow) halfway through December, and the world feels twinkly and dark and (sometimes) chaotic. Here’s what I have been reading:

Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons, Jeremy Denk
I spotted this book at Three Lives this summer, and snagged it at the library recently. Denk charts his journey from piano-nerd kid to classical pianist, via lots of lessons with idiosyncratic, brilliant teachers (and some personal growth). Writing about music can be hard to do, but Denk pulls it off. Entertaining, witty and wonderfully geeky.

Peril in Paris, Rhys Bowen
Lady Georgiana Rannoch is thrilled to visit her dear friend Belinda in Paris. But once Georgie gets there, she becomes entangled in both a Chanel fashion show and a mysterious death – which leaves a police inspector convinced she’s a criminal. I love this fun historical mystery series and this was an entertaining entry.

What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest, ed. Susan Wittig Albert, Susan Hanson, Jan Epton Seale and Paula Stallings Yost
I stumbled on this collection in an Airbnb in Amherst, and immediately got it from the library when I came home. It’s a stunning anthology of essays and poetry: incisive, moving female perspectives on how we interact with the land, what we take from and give to it, what we leave behind. I loved reading this slowly in the mornings.

Killers of a Certain Age, Deanna Raybourn
Billie, Natalie, Helen and Mary Alice have spent 40 years working as assassins for the Museum, a secret extra-governmental organization. On their retirement cruise, someone targets them, and they work to find out why – and take out their would-be killers. A hilarious, incisive romp showcasing the skills (and ingenuity) of older women.

Maureen, Rachel Joyce
I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which follows a man taking a much-longer-than-planned walk that turns into a journey of self-discovery. 10 years later, this slim novel shares the perspective of Harold’s wife, Maureen. She makes a pilgrimage of her own – which doesn’t go quite as she expected. Lyrical, sad and moving. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 7, 2023).

Hijab Butch Blues, Lamya H
I enjoyed this unusual memoir by a queer Muslim woman exploring all the intersections of her identities. A lot here about Muslim faith and practice; many familiar Bible stories retold as they appear in the Quran; and an honest examination of inner struggle. Heavy at times, and thoughtful. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 7, 2023).

The Holiday Switch, Tif Marcelo
Lila Santos is ready to plunge into the Christmas season (and work all the hours at her local inn’s gift/book shop to save for college). She’s also an anonymous book blogger. When her boss’s nephew, Teddy, shows up to work the holiday season, the two of them clash – but gradually find themselves drawn to one another. A super fun YA holiday romance featuring Filipino-American characters; I also love Marcelo’s adult fiction.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

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It’s almost Thanksgiving, and we are deep in year-end giving projects at work, and my beloved Darwin’s closed its original location yesterday. It’s been a lot, to say the least. Meanwhile, here’s what I have been reading:

Absolutely Truly, Heather Vogel Frederick
Truly Lovejoy is not thrilled about moving to tiny Pumpkin Falls, N.H., after her pilot dad loses an arm in Afghanistan. But she grows to love helping at her family’s bookstore, and even finds new friends and a mystery to solve. I love Frederick’s cheery middle-grade novels and I adore Truly – stubborn, brave, kind and obsessed with owls. A fun reread.

The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre, Natasha Lester
Orphaned at 13, Alix St. Pierre has spent her life trying to prove herself, and she spent World War II doing excellent work in intelligence. But she’s haunted by one failed mission. As she’s working in PR for Christian Dior in 1947, that mission and its characters resurface. A brilliant, propulsive, beautiful and heartbreaking novel about a woman faced with so many impossible choices. I loved it. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 10, 2023).

The Bullet That Missed, Richard Osman
Osman’s septuagenarian sleuths are back – this time tangled up with a couple of gangsters as they try to solve the cold case of a TV anchor who disappeared years ago. Witty, wry and so British – I love this series.

Windfall: The Prairie Woman Who Lost Her Way and the Great-Granddaughter Who Found Her, Erika Bolstad
Bolstad’s memoir takes us on her quest to learn more about her great-grandmother, Anna, a North Dakota homesteader who eventually was committed to an asylum. Curious about Anna’s story (and the possibility of money from mineral rights on Anna’s land), Bolstad takes multiple trips to the Dakotas, researching land laws, oilfield politics past and present and the treatment of women in Anna’s time. Thoughtful and thought-provoking; also familiar since I am from the oilfields of West Texas. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 17, 2023).

Yours Truly, Heather Vogel Frederick
Truly Lovejoy is thrilled to have her cousin visiting for Spring Break. But when someone starts cutting the sap lines on her friends’ farm, it leads to a full-blown town feud, and Truly and her friends are on the case. They also find an old diary with some intriguing secrets. I loved most of this story (also a reread), except for Truly’s clashing with her younger sister – it felt realistic, but soured things a bit.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

P.S. The third issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, comes out next week. Sign up here to get on the list!

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Sadeqa Johnson is the award-winning author of five novels, including Yellow Wife. Her powerful fifth novel, The House of Eve, follows two young Black women in the 1950s who are forced to make difficult choices relating to motherhood and career ambitions. I interviewed Sadeqa for Shelf Awareness, and excerpts from our conversation are below.

What was the inspiration for The House of Eve?

The character of Ruby came out of an idea I had for a YA novel. She also was partly inspired by my family. I remembered my mother telling me that she didn’t know her mother was her mother till she was in the third grade. My grandmother had gotten pregnant at age 14 and had my mother at age 15, out of wedlock, and she had had her in secret. My mom had lived with her grandmother until she was eight, and then she found out that my grandmother was really her mother. I started thinking: How is that situation possible, and what does that do to the child?

I started researching how it was at that time, and I came upon these homes for women. They were largely for white women: teenagers and women in their 20s who were not married. They went into these homes when they were pregnant, and were usually forced to give up their babies. But I couldn’t find a Black woman in these stories.

I am a Black woman and I like to write about the Black woman experience. There is not just one single narrative, no matter what we see on TV. I was doing some research about the Black experience, and I read a book called Our Kind of People, about wealthy African Americans who knew their family history for two or three generations. They were doctors and lawyers, and I traced this research into Washington, D.C., and that was the beginning of William and Eleanor’s story.

Eleanor’s experience at Howard University is wildly different than she expects, after growing up in a mostly white town.

I was watching Toni Morrison’s documentary, The Pieces I Am. Morrison was from Ohio, and she said, “I didn’t know that [Black] people separated themselves by color until I set foot on Howard’s campus.” She lived on a block with Germans and Italians and Poles, and everyone looked out for each other. That wasn’t my experience, but I made that part of Eleanor’s experience. [At Howard], she gets a closer look at the way Black people separated themselves by color.

Of course, that is all leftover baggage from slavery: the light-skinned people who were the master’s children, who often worked in the house, and the darker-skinned folks often worked in the fields. The colorism and the social situations at Howard added an extra layer to this transition time for Eleanor–being away from home, being at school, being on the poorer end of the spectrum. There was the classism she faced as well.

Ruby falls in love with a Jewish boy, and both she and the adults in her life understand that this love might hamper her chances at a college degree.

Ruby says in the book that she was okay with being unhappy, but she was not okay with being poor. Sometimes, for girls like Ruby, it’s a choice. How long would her happiness last if she was poor?

For Ruby, I think the choices were easy. For her family members, the only jobs available were serving white people: cleaning their houses, nannying for them, chauffeuring them. The only way out was an education. And even that was sketchy–because, being poor, you couldn’t afford it. A young girl should not have to choose between falling in love and getting an education. But if she didn’t choose, she would be dependent on white folks. Being poor–or not being poor–is a strong motivator for a lot of decisions that people like Ruby had to make. Even now, really, that’s the case.

Eleanor loves her work at the Howard library, and finds a mentor in Mrs. Porter, the librarian. What was the inspiration for her character?

Mrs. Porter was based on a real person who worked at the Howard library. As a library geek, the library was my foundation for reading and writing. My relationships with the librarians totally fueled who I am today. The best secrets in books happen by accident, and when I stumbled upon Dorothy Porter’s character, I had to figure out how to weave her in.

Those scenes were a pure joy for me–writing about a woman who worked so hard to preserve African and African American and Caribbean history. I loved being able to tie Eleanor into something so historically sound, which was also very important to her character.

Shame is a common theme in the novel: both Eleanor and Ruby are shamed for their choices and also for their struggles.

Shame for women is just rampant in our culture. If my kids misbehave, people are going to blame me–not their father! Anything that happens in the family structure is the woman’s fault. My daughter couldn’t find a homecoming dress that fit her shape. I told her, “It’s not you that are wrong–it’s the dressmakers thinking that we all fit into this one category.”

I think that’s the case for Ruby and Eleanor: Ruby not fitting into Mrs. Shapiro’s world, checking any of the boxes she thought would be a good fit for her son. And as for Eleanor, she was not of this wealthy society that Rose Pride thought William should marry into. Women tend to think of this as their own fault, if they can’t get pregnant or they can’t carry a baby. Women are taught that at a very early age, and that’s something we deal with unless someone teaches you how to stop.

The House of Eve is ostensibly the story of two women, but really it’s about multiple women: Ruby and Eleanor, their mothers, Ruby’s aunt Marie, Mrs. Porter. What do you think is important about that ensemble cast?

So many of the Black women on TV look the same–they all act the same. In The House of Eve, we have different colors, different classes, different socioeconomic backgrounds. I think all these different Black characters in this story creates the melting pot. There’s all these different versions of our story that are being told.

You can read my full review of The House of Eve at Shelf Awareness – and I encourage you to give it a read when it comes out in February.

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November is speeding by, with lots of golden leaves, local adventures, election excitement and good books. Here’s what I have been reading:

A Lady’s Guide to Fortune-Hunting, Sophie Irwin
Annie recommended this delightful Regency romp, which follows Kitty Talbot as she hunts for a wealthy husband in London to save herself and her sisters from penury. When she meets the de Lacy family, their eldest brother – Lord Radcliffe – quickly figures out her game. I loved Kitty, her aunt Dorothy (a former actress) and Lord Radcliffe; also, the skewering of strict etiquette rules was hilarious. Thoroughly charming.

Merci Suárez Plays it Cool, Meg Medina
I adore this middle-grade series about a Latina girl finding her way at a posh private school (and with her loud, loving family). In this third installment, Merci is pulled between two groups of friends and navigating her feelings for a boy she kind of likes. Her beloved grandfather, Lolo, is also declining. I loved watching Merci try to figure things out – doing her best, messing up, apologizing, being stubborn and seeking advice from the adults in her life. So relatable.

A Trace of Poison, Colleen Cambridge
The village of Listleigh is hosting a Murder Fete, along with a short-story contest sponsored by Agatha Christie and her colleagues in the Detection Club. But when the local priest ends up dead from a poisoned cocktail, housekeeper Phyllida Bright decides to investigate. An engaging second mystery featuring Phyllida and her fellow staff, as well as Mrs. Christie (with cameos by Dorothy Sayers and G.K. Chesterton). Good British fun.

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters, Priya Parker
I loved Parker’s interview with Alissa Wilkinson about this book, and had heard about it from Anne and others. Parker explores the purpose, structure and details of good gatherings and gives examples about how to shape them well. She’s a great storyteller and her ideas are thought-provoking (and often fun!).

The Wild Robot, Peter Brown
After a terrible storm, robot Roz finds herself stranded on a remote island. At first the local animals think she’s a monster, but she gradually adapts to them, and they to her. I loved this middle-grade novel (which both my nephews have enjoyed) about friendship and change and caring for our world.

The Lost Ticket, Freya Sampson
When Libby crash-lands in London after a bad breakup, she meets elderly Frank on the 88 bus, and discovers he’s been looking for the same girl (whom he met on that bus) for 60 years. Libby plunges into helping Frank search for the mysterious girl, and ends up finding a new community. An utterly charming novel about friendship, memory and dealing with big life changes.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

What are you reading?

P.S. The second issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, came out recently. Sign up here to get on the list for December!

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Last week, I finished up the set of books I’d been reading: a fun Star Wars novel; a beautiful and heartbreaking novel about Partition in India/Pakistan; a Filipino-America cozy mystery; and a biography of a female Icelandic sea captain. I thoroughly enjoyed all these stories (plus my fall reread of Anne of Windy Poplars).

As I wrote my bite-size reviews for this blog, I found myself on the hunt: not only for my next book, but the next incarnation of my reading mix. For a long time, especially since I started reviewing books for Shelf Awareness, I’ve been a multiple-books-at-a-time kind of girl.

There are a few reasons for this. One: my Shelf books have deadlines, whereas the books I read purely for pleasure can allow for – even require – lingering. Two: some books can’t (and shouldn’t) be plowed through in a few days. I like to take my time with thoughtful nonfiction, or with a meaty novel that I need some time to digest. Three: I need something very gentle for bedtime reading – either a reread of an old favorite or a cozy, warmhearted story that will in no way give me nightmares.

Fourth, and maybe most important: I love what the reading mix does for my brain.

Our brains work differently in reaction to various kinds of stories; we process factual accounts differently than a fictional story, and we take distinct insights from reading disparate genres. Some forms of writing, like a fast-paced YA adventure, are meant to be read quickly, immersively. Some, like poetry, quietly insist on slow and reflective reading. Different genres and topics feed varied parts of our minds and souls; they make us question, reflect, protest, laugh and cry, or sigh with happiness. I feel most mentally balanced and nourished when my book “diet” includes a mix of genres and formats.

My review work helps me in choosing a mixture at any given time. Since I review multiple genres, I’m often working on a novel and some nonfiction for the Shelf at the same time. But I’m also always reading a novel or two for fun, and I pick up interesting nonfiction, like Joyful (above) or The Art of Gathering (more recently). I frequently seek out YA or middle-grade, which I don’t review; and I love a book of poetry or luminous essays when I can squeeze it in. (At the moment, What Wildness is This – a collection of nature essays by women about the American Southwest – is marvelous morning reading.)

I do my best to include authors of color and/or stories featuring a wide range of characters and settings, though I admit I often gravitate toward stories by and about white women who share some of my experiences. I think seeking out diverse books – more of which are available than ever before – helps us grow as readers and as human beings, but it’s also both fascinating and a lot of fun.

The latest incarnation of my reading mix includes that essay collection; Priya Parker’s thoughtful book on how we gather; a fun Regency romp set in London; a middle-grade novel; a British rom-com; and some other books I’ve yet to discover. I love the way these books can interact with each other in my reading life. And I’ll keep seeking out the mix – and changing it up – for as long as it works for me.

Do you read multiple books at once? Do you pay attention to your reading mix?

P.S. The second issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, came out last week. Sign up here to get on the list for December!

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October has been quite a month – stuffed full of good books, in between all the other things. (Also, my Nov. newsletter comes out this week – sign up here!) To cap off the month, here’s what I have been reading:

The Monsters We Defy, Leslye Penelope
Clara Johnson has an uneasy relationship with the spirit world, and a semi-notorious past she’d rather forget. When poor Black folks in her hometown of D.C. start disappearing, Clara and several friends start scheming to steal a magical ring from the woman responsible. An absolutely fantastic heist/mystery/band-of-misfits-save-the-world story, with great historical detail about 1920s D.C. and wonderful characters. I loved Clara (inspired by a real person) and her comrades.

Woman, Captain, Rebel: The Extraordinary True Story of a Daring Icelandic Sea Captain, Margaret Willson
We’re told that female sea captains are rare – but Willson brings to life the story of Iceland’s Captain Thuridur, who defied gender conventions in her homeland of Iceland. A brilliantly researched, compelling biography with lots of sea stories, Icelandic history and local gossip – dragged a bit in the middle, but overall fascinating. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 3, 2023).

Blackmail and Bibingka, Mia P. Manansala
Lila Macapagal and her partners at the Brew-ha Cafe are gearing up for the holidays – but then her no-good cousin Ronnie comes back to town, saying he’s going to revive the local winery. When one of Ronnie’s investors ends up dead, Lila starts sleuthing to figure out who did it. A fun, tricky third entry in this foodie mystery series; I loved all the holiday snacks, Lila’s meddling godmothers and her dachshund, Longganisa.

Anne of Windy Poplars, L.M. Montgomery
This fourth Anne book is delightful and underrated – and I often return to it in the fall. I love watching Anne win over the Pringle clan, make friends with half of Summerside and spend quiet nights in her tower room. Fun and comforting.

Independence, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
India, 1946: the Ganguly family has long lived at peace in their village of Ranipur with both Hindu and Muslim neighbors. But when they visit Calcutta in mid-August, they get caught up in the riots of Direct Action Day, and all their lives are upended. This gorgeous, heartbreaking novel follows the three grown daughters – Deepa, Jamini and Priya – and their choices in the wake of their father’s death. Stunning. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 17, 2023).

The Princess and the Scoundrel, Beth Revis
I love the end of Return of the Jedi on Endor, when Han, Leia, Luke and the crew get to celebrate. But what happens after that? This novel takes us through Han and Leia’s wedding, their honeymoon on a luxury cruise ship (interrupted, of course, by political strife), and the beginning of their relationship as husband and wife. So much fun to revisit these characters I adore, and meet some new ones.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my local faves Trident and Brookline Booksmith. Shop indie!

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