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It has been a strange July: hot one minute, pouring rain the next. I’m still struggling to find a rhythm at my new job – I am enjoying it, but so much to absorb! Meanwhile, here’s what I have been reading:

A Deceptive Devotion, Iona Whishaw
Lane Winslow and Inspector Darling are finally engaged – but before they can get married, they have to solve a murder (naturally). This one involves an elderly Russian countess, a pair of hunters (and former friends), and a perhaps overeager new constable. I adore this series and this entry is so good.

A Most Clever Girl, Stephanie Marie Thornton
Double agent Elizabeth Bentley had a long career spying for the Soviet Union and then informing for the FBI. Thornton’s novel unravels her story in the form of a long conversation with Catherine Gray, a young woman who tracks Elizabeth down seeking answers about her own mother. The narrative – like Elizabeth – rambles a bit, but eventually picks up speed. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 14).

New Girl in Little Cove, Damhnait Monaghan
Reeling from her father’s death and a bad breakup, Rachel O’Brien takes a teaching position in rural Newfoundland. She’s greeted with equal parts welcome and suspicion – and this story of her first year there is completely delightful. The blurb compares it to Come From Away, which I adore, and that’s true – the island’s culture shines through. Found at the wonderful Excelsior Bay Books in Minneapolis.

Take Me Home Tonight, Morgan Matson
Best friends Kat and Stevie, both theater kids at a posh Connecticut high school, head into NYC for a night of adventure. Things quickly go wrong; the girls end up phoneless (with a Pomeranian in tow) and then get separated. But their individual escapades force both of them to reflect on their friendship and other parts of their lives. Funny and insightful.

Solo: How to Work Alone (and Not Lose Your Mind), Rebecca Seal
British journalist Seal has worked alone for years – it can be hard, and also rewarding. This warm, wise, insightful book dives into the pressures and joys of working alone. So helpful and validating as I’m working on a hybrid model after 18 months of profound isolation. I’m going to check out her podcast too.

A Scone of Contention, Lucy Burdette
Hayley Snow and her policeman husband are headed to Scotland for their honeymoon (with Hayley’s 80-something friend Miss Gloria in tow). Once they arrive, there’s plenty of family drama – and then murder – to go along with the scones. I love this cozy mystery series and it was fun to see Hayley in a different setting than her Key West home. I received an early copy; it’s out Aug. 10.

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

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Somehow we’re into July, and the weather has swung from the 90s two days ago to the 60s this morning. I’m finishing up week 2 at my new day job at ZUMIX here in East Boston, and trying to hang on. In between Zoom meetings and sweaty morning runs, here’s what I have been reading:

Very Sincerely Yours, Kerry Winfrey
At almost 30, Teddy Phillips is working in a vintage toy store and wondering what on earth to do with her life. A breakup propels her to make some decisions, including starting an email correspondence with Everett St. James, a local children’s TV host. I loved this warm hug of a book – I want to be friends with Teddy and her sweet, quirky roommates. Sweet and funny.

The Tumbling Turner Sisters, Juliette Fay
I enjoyed Gert Turner’s character so much in City of Flickering Light that I went back to read this novel, which tells the story of how Gert and her family got into vaudeville. Charming and compelling, though the characters sometimes felt transplanted from the 21st century.

The Amelia Six, Kristin L. Gray
Millie Ashford is a Rubik’s cube whiz, but she doesn’t have many friends and she misses her pilot mom. When Millie and five other girls are invited to spend the night at Amelia Earhart’s childhood home in Kansas, Millie makes new friends – with whom she quickly has to solve a mystery. A fun middle-grade tribute to Earhart and women in STEM.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer
This book had been on my list for a while. Kimmerer is a botanist and enrolled citizen of the Potawatomi nation, and she weaves science with Indigenous stories and practices of caring for the earth. Gorgeous and thought-provoking.

A Sorrowful Sanctuary, Iona Whishaw
Lane Winslow is fishing with friends at the beach when they find an injured stranger in a rowboat. Then a local young man goes missing, and someone starts stealing antiques from various houses. Meanwhile, Lane and Inspector Darling are struggling to define their relationship. A satisfying entry in this wonderful series.

Most links are to Trident and Brookline Booksmith, my perennial local faves. Shop indie!

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We’re in the thick of June (between heat waves), and I started a new day job this week (!!!), so am reading a bit less than usual. But here are my recent reads, which include both my favorite summer genres:

Dear Highlights: What Adults Can Learn from 75 Years of Letters and Conversations with Kids, Christine French Cully
For 75 (!) years, Highlights has been providing kids with entertaining, informative stories, quizzes and other features, including its “Dear Highlights” column where editors respond to reader mail. Longtime editor Cully collects and reflects on dozens of letters and drawings, on topics ranging from the everyday (sibling dynamics, dreams for adulthood, playground politics) to the super-tough (events like 9/11 and the COVID-19 pandemic). The letters and responses are joyful, quirky and heartening to read; it’s even more fun since I was an avid Highlights reader as a child. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 10).

Musical Chairs, Amy Poeppel
Bridget is hoping for the perfect summer in her rundown but beloved Connecticut house. But then her boyfriend dumps her over email, her grown twins descend with their dogs and quarter-life crises, the classical trio she’s a part of threatens to disintegrate, and her octogenarian father announces he’s remarrying. A joyful, zany, witty account of a chaotic family summer. I loved it. Recommended by Anne.

It Begins in Betrayal, Iona Whishaw
Lane Winslow and Inspector Darling have finally begun a relationship. So when Darling is called to London and accused of murder, Lane promptly follows him and does her best to dig up answers. Meanwhile, Constable Ames is dealing with a murder back in King’s Cove. A great fourth entry in this wonderful series; fun to shake up the setting a bit.

Three Keys, Kelly Yang
Mia Tang and her parents are now the proud co-owners of the Calivista Motel, but ownership comes with its own problems – from cranky customers to widespread anti-immigrant sentiment. Add middle-school politics, and Mia’s got some challenges. But she’s plucky and kind, and she won’t give up. I loved this sequel to Front Desk.

Yours Cheerfully, A.J. Pearce
It’s the fall of 1941, and Emmeline Lake and her colleagues at Woman’s Friend magazine in London are Doing Their Bit to help win the war. This means providing recipes, dress patterns and sound advice, but Emmy thinks they need to do more. Her series on women working in factories opens up a few cans of worms and some surprising new friendships. Sweet, funny and Very Pluckily British; a lovely sequel to Dear Mrs Bird. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 10).

Amina’s Song, Hena Khan
After a summer vacation in Pakistan with her family, Amina is ready to start seventh grade and tell her friends all about her adventures. But she’s frustrated when her classmates seem to pay more attention to stereotypes than her experiences. A sweet, powerful sequel to Amina’s Voice.

Most links are to Trident and Brookline Booksmith, my perennial local faves. Shop indie!

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We’re 10 days into June and the books are flowing – which is just how I like it. Here’s what I have been reading:

City of Flickering Light, Juliette Fay
Desperate to escape a cruel employment situation, three young people jump off a moving train and make their way to Hollywood. Fay’s novel follows sensible Irene, guileless but thoughtful Millie, and dependable Henry as they navigate the sparkle and grit of 1920s Tinseltown. I flew through this in two days – it was captivating.

Dear Martin, Nic Stone
Justyce McAllister is a top student at a tony Atlanta prep school. But none of that matters when he encounters a police officer, or when his best friend gets shot – the police (and most of the public) only care that they’re Black. A thoughtful, compelling YA novel about race, first love and navigating friendships, with some parallels to The Hate U Give.

An Old, Cold Grave, Iona Whishaw
It’s early spring and the Hughes ladies are cleaning out their root cellar when they stumble on a child’s skeleton. Who was the child, and how did he/she get buried there? The local police ask Lane Winslow to help investigate. This third mystery digs into the complex relationships in King’s Cove, and delves into the mutual attraction between Lane and Inspector Darling. So thoughtful and well plotted.

The Queen Bee and Me, Gillian McDunn
Shy Meg has always been happy to live in her best friend Beatrix’s shadow. But both girls are changing as they go through middle school. When Meg takes a science elective on her own and makes friends with a quirky new girl, Beatrix is not pleased. A warm, honest middle-grade story of tricky friendships and learning to stand up for yourself.

Fortune Favors the Dead, Stephen Spotswood
Willowjean “Will” Parker is a circus girl working a side gig when she meets intrepid investigator Lillian Pentecost. Will becomes Lillian’s apprentice, and together the two crack some tough cases in 1940s New York City. A smart, hard-boiled noirish mystery with a sassy, slangy narrator. Lots of fun.

Dial A for Aunties, Jesse Q. Sutanto
When photographer Meddelin “Meddy” Chan accidentally kills her blind date, she calls her mother and three aunts to help her move the body. Unfortunately, all five women are in the middle of a big wedding weekend, which could be huge for their family business. A hilarious, zany story featuring complex Chinese-Indonesian family dynamics, a sweet love story and some insight about claiming your own independence. An impulse buy at Target and totally worth it.

Lookout: Love, Solitude, and Searching for Wildfire in the Boreal Forest, Trina Moyles
Writer and development worker Trina Moyles loved her childhood in rural Canada, but she never expected to find herself spending summers as a fire lookout. This is the story of Moyles’ journey deep into the woods, her first few summers there, and the challenges and beauty she found. Gorgeous, insightful writing and vivid characters – I loved Holly the tower dog and Trina’s lookout neighbors. One of my faves of 2021. Found at the wonderful Sundog Books in Seaside, FL.

The Memory Keeper, Jennifer Camiccia
Lulu Carter, almost 13, has a highly unusual memory: she can remember specific details from every day in her life. As Lulu’s memory sharpens, her beloved Gram seems to be losing hers, so Lulu and her friends dig into Gram’s past to see if they can help. Funny and sweet, with tons of information about the brain and a sensitive handling of tough family stories. Also found at Sundog Books.

The Paris Connection, Lorraine Brown
Hannah and her boyfriend Si are traveling from Venice to Si’s sister’s wedding in Amsterdam, when the train uncouples in the middle of the night and takes Hannah to Paris. She spends the day with Leo, a handsome but irritating (aren’t they always?) French guy who is also stranded. The day, and Leo, prompt her to rethink her life. A sweet rom-com with some deep introspection on Hannah’s part and lots of lovely Paris details. To review for Shelf Awareness out Aug. 24).

All Things Wise and Wonderful, James Herriot
In this third volume of his memoirs, Herriot has signed up for the RAF and spends a lot of his time in training immersed in thoughts of Yorkshire. I remembered a few moments in this book from reading it 20 years ago, but most of it was fresh to me. Witty, warm and so comforting.

Most links are to Trident and Brookline Booksmith, my perennial local faves. Shop indie!

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Back from a beach vacation with my family – I did not read much on the actual beach, but squeezed in a few pages at night and a lot of plane reading. Here’s the latest roundup:

The Rehearsals, Annette Christie
Megan Givens and Tom Prescott are gathering their (difficult) families on San Juan Island to tie the knot. But after a disastrous rehearsal dinner, both Megan and Tom keep waking up on the morning of that day. They’ve got to figure out two things: how to get out of the time loop, and whether they really want to be together. A warm, funny, surprisingly insightful rom-com with a Groundhog Day twist. I expected to like it, but I loved it. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 13).

Death in a Darkening Mist, Iona Whishaw
Lane Winslow’s second adventure finds her stumbling over the dead body of a Russian at a hot spring. Her Russian language skills make her a valuable asset to the case. I love Lane and her supporting cast of characters in rural postwar British Columbia; I’m especially fond of young, good-hearted Constable Ames.

All the Little Hopes, Leah Weiss
In 1943, Lucy Brown’s family in eastern North Carolina gets a government contract to produce beeswax. They also get a new addition: Allie Bert Tucker, who arrives from the mountains to care for her pregnant aunt but ends up becoming part of the Brown clan. The girls (age 13-14) narrate their story in alternating chapters. It’s got mystery (Lucy fancies herself a Nancy Drew) and plenty of heartbreak, but it’s really a story about family and growing up. So good. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 27).

The Windsor Knot, S.J. Bennett
After an evening of entertainment at Windsor Castle, a young pianist is found strangled in his room. MI5 suspect the Kremlin, but the Queen has other ideas, and enlists her secretary, Rozie, to help her pursue them. A smart, charming mystery featuring Her Majesty’s sleuthing skills and lots of palace intrigue. Rozie – a whip-smart British-Nigerian army veteran – is a fantastic character. More, please.

In All Good Faith, Liza Nash Taylor
Virginia, 1932: May Marshall is struggling to run her family’s market and care for two young children when tragedy strikes her husband’s family. In Boston, shy Dorrit Sykes struggles to cope after the loss of her mother, eventually heading to Washington with her father for a veterans’ march. The women’s two stories (eventually) intertwine, to fascinating effect. Richly detailed, engaging historical fiction; I loved May’s head for business and the way Dorrit eventually grows in confidence. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 10).

Caterpillar Summer, Gillian McDunn
Cat is the best at taking care of her brother, Chicken – especially since their dad died. But when they end up spending time with their estranged grandparents one summer, Cat gets to be a kid for a while. She learns to fish and digs into the reasons why her mom has been avoiding her own parents. Lovely, warm and insightful; a sensitive portrait of a biracial family that includes a neurodivergent child.

Shadow of the Batgirl, Sarah Kuhn et al.
Cassandra Cain is a trained assassin, and that’s all she knows how to be – until she breaks away from her father and his gang. With the help of a kind noodle-shop owner and a librarian named Barbara Gordon, Cass begins to step into her own powers and figure out how to use them for good. I loved this YA graphic take on Batgirl, found at Million Year Picnic.

The Bookshop of Second Chances, Jackie Fraser
In the same week, Thea Mottram loses her job and her husband tells her he’s leaving. Then her great-uncle Andrew dies and leaves her his house in Scotland, plus his extensive book collection, so Thea heads there to sort out his estate and collect herself. Soon, she begins to make friends and even (possibly) fall in love. Sweet, though sort of problematic – the main love interest and his brother had a very strange feud – but I liked Thea and her new community.

Most links are to Trident and Brookline Booksmith, my perennial local faves. Shop indie!

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We’re halfway through May (!) and the lilacs, cherry blossoms and tulips are glorious lately. So are the books. Here’s what I have been reading:

The Great Belonging: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other, Charlotte Donlon
I struggle with loneliness, especially (but not only) since my divorce. Donlon writes thoughtfully about her own experiences with loneliness and mental illness (they are not the same but can sometimes be linked). I liked her honest, compassionate approach. Recommended on Instagram by Devi.

The Rose Code, Kate Quinn
During World War II, the codebreakers of Bletchley Park played a vital but little-known role in stopping Hitler’s advance. This propulsive novel follows three women – a whip-smart socialite, an East End girl determined to better herself, and a shy but brilliant puzzle-lover – who spend their war years at BP, and are torn apart by mutual betrayal. They come back together in 1947 to crack one last code. Quinn is a genius at compelling historical fiction featuring badass women. I loved it.

Of Bears and Ballots: An Alaskan Adventure in Small-Town Politics, Heather Lende
I love Lende’s wise, practical memoirs about living (and writing obituaries) in tiny Haines, Alaska. This, her fourth, tells the story of her decision to run for the local assembly in the wake of Trump’s election, and the triumphs and struggles of her three-year term. Thoughtful, funny and thought-provoking, and a reminder that we can all pitch in (though it will rarely be easy), wherever we are.

The Color of Life: A Journey Toward Love and Racial Justice, Cara Meredith
Like me, Meredith is a white Christian woman who grew up surrounded by “colorblind” rhetoric, which did not give her a good foundation for conversations about race. Also like me, her world changed – both overnight and little by little – when she fell in love with a Black man. This memoir charts her wrestling with her own privilege, her first years of mothering biracial sons, and her complicated relationship with her father-in-law, James Meredith. Her writing style is quippy at times, but I saw myself so often in her experiences.

The Consequences of Fear, Jacqueline Winspear
October 1941: Maisie Dobbs is juggling top-secret government work with family obligations when a messenger boy tells her he’s witnessed a murder. Determined to keep the boy and his family safe, Maisie is shocked when her intelligence work brings her face-to-face with the killer. I adore this series and this 16th entry was complex and satisfying; Maisie’s personal life has also taken some interesting turns lately. So good.

A Quantum Life: My Unlikely Journey from the Street to the Stars, Hakeem Oluseyi and Joshua Horwitz
Growing up poor and Black in Mississippi, James Plummer Jr. knew he loved science, but he never thought he’d become a renowned astrophysicist. But that’s where he is today, and his memoir tells that story: his peripatetic childhood, his contradictory persona of “gangsta nerd,” the addiction to crack cocaine that almost pulled him all the way down. Honest, vulnerable storytelling and lots of great science. Hard to read at times, but compelling. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 15).

The Kitchen Front, Jennifer Ryan
As World War II drags on, along with rationing, the BBC holds a contest to find a female presenter for a popular cooking show. Four very different women, each with their own reasons for competing, decide to enter. A really fun story of wartime cooking and female friendship (shades of Downton Abbey/Home Fires).

Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery
I pick up this book nearly every spring when the world starts blooming – or when it’s rainy and raw and I need a little hope. I adore kind, practical Jane and I love watching her blossom on PEI and build a relationship with her dad and her new community. So good.

Most links are to Trident and Brookline Booksmith, my perennial local faves. Shop indie!

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Hi friends. April is nearly over, and I’m back from a stint of dog-sitting in Cambridge (down the street from my beloved Darwin’s, so of course I treated myself – see above).

Here’s what I have been reading:

The 24-Hour Cafe, Libby Page
I adore Page’s debut novel, Mornings with Rosemary, and finally ordered this one from my beloved Blackwell’s in Oxford because it’s not out in the U.S. It follows Hannah and Mona, flatmates and friends who work at the titular cafe and are each facing career crossroads (Hannah is a singer, Mona a dancer). It’s lovely and bittersweet – Page really digs into the complexities of female friendship – and I loved glimpsing the lives of their colleagues and customers, too.

God Spare the Girls, Kelsey McKinney
Pastor’s daughter Caroline Nolan has always lived in the shadow of her adored big sister, Abigail. But she’s starting to question both her faith and the rules of the community she grew up in. When the sisters find out their father has had an affair–weeks before Abigail’s wedding–they retreat to their grandmother’s ranch. McKinney is a fellow transplanted Texan and she writes so well about summer heat and tangled church politics. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 22).

A Woman of Intelligence, Karin Tanabe
Katharina “Rina” Edgeworth speaks four languages, has a graduate degree from Columbia – and is bored stiff with her life as a Manhattan society wife. When she’s recruited by the FBI to work as an informant, she says yes so she can find a purpose again. An interesting, complicated novel in McCarthy-era New York; Rina’s inner journey is stronger than the external plot. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 20).

How to Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, ed. James Crews
I found this lovely anthology at the beginning of April and have savored its entries about delights, gratitude, family, the natural world and other loveliness. Poignant and lovely. (I wanted more poems from poets of color, but know I need to seek them out on my own.)

Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor, Anna Qu
As a teenager, Qu was forced to work in her family’s Manhattan sweatshop, and treated as a maid at home. She eventually calls child services on her mother, and as an adult, tries to piece together the fragments of her growing-up years. This was powerful at times but felt really disjointed; parts of the narrative seemed to be missing. I received an ARC from the publisher; it’s out Aug. 11.

All Things Bright and Beautiful, James Herriot
This second volume of Herriot’s memoirs picks up when he’s a newlywed and hitting his stride in veterinary practice. I love the familiar characters – Siegfried, Tristan, Helen – and the local folk they encounter. Charming and gentle.

You Have a Match, Emma Lord
Abby sent away for a DNA test in solidarity with her best friend, Leo, who’s searching for info about his birth family. But Abby’s the one who ends up with a surprise sister – Instagram sensation Savannah. They all head to summer camp and shenanigans ensue: tree-climbing, kitchen duty, family secrets and first love. This was my post-vaccine impulse buy at Target and I regret nothing. So much fun.

A Killer in King’s Cove, Iona Whishaw
After World War II, former intelligence agent Lane Winslow has moved to rural British Columbia for some peace and quiet. She’s just getting to know her neighbors when a stranger comes to town and ends up dead – and she’s a suspect. I loved this smart first entry in a series and will definitely read more.

Blue Horses, Mary Oliver
This was one of the only Oliver collections I hadn’t read. I loved spending a few mornings with late-life Mary and her keen, unsentimental eye. She writes so well about nature: its beauty, its darkness, its details.

Most links are to Trident and Brookline Booksmith, my perennial local faves. Shop indie!

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heart-trail-dusk

As regular readers know, there are few things I love more than a long walk, in any season and almost any weather. My walking and reading inform each other: the books I’m reading often provide fodder for ambulatory reflection, but some books capture the pleasures of walking itself.

Scottish author Robert Macfarlane (whose work I adore) collected hundreds of “land-words” for his book Landmarks. Each section begins with a lyrical essay about a type of landform in the British Isles (mountain, coastline, forest), and contains a glossary of related words. Walkers and word nerds – or those who are both – will find much to love in Macfarlane’s treasures from “the word-hoard.”

For those who particularly relish a walk on a wet day, Melissa Harrison’s Rain: Four Walks in English Weather is a celebration of misty treks through various landscapes and seasons. I picked it up, fittingly, at Blackwells in Oxford last year.

The octogenarian title character of Kathleen Rooney’s novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, embarks on a different kind of journey: a zigzagging walk around Manhattan on New Year’s Eve 1984. Narrating her odyssey with the wry zingers that defined her advertising career, Boxfish takes readers on a tour of 20th-century New York on her way to a good steak at Delmonico’s. I’d walk with her any time.

And finally, Emma Hooper’s spare, lovely debut novel, Etta and Otto and Russell and James, follows Etta as she treks across the plains of Canada, determined to walk until she finds the ocean. Like Lillian, she is elderly, a bit lonely and fiercely stubborn. Like Macfarlane and Harrison, she walks with purpose and a sharp, observant eye.

These books celebrate the particular joys of a journey, whether it’s a stroll around the block or a cross-country peregrination. The call to interested readers is the same: let’s go.

I originally wrote most of this column for Shelf Awareness for Readers, where it appeared last fall. 

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book apple bench sunlight

Halfway through October and I can’t believe it, as ever. Here are the books I’ve been reading on the train, before bed, and on (rare) sunny lunch breaks:

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again, Rachel Held Evans
I’ve been following Evans’ work since the publication of her first book, Faith Unraveled. We’re about the same age and we come from similar evangelical backgrounds. Her latest book is an exploration of the Bible as the messy, often frustrating, powerful text it is, rather than the tidy answer book some folks would like it to be. I loved Evans’ reimaginings of well-worn biblical stories, and appreciated her broad-minded perspective on what the Bible can be.

An Act of Villainy, Ashley Weaver
Amateur sleuth Amory Ames and her dashing husband, Milo, are drawn into a mystery involving the players in a theatrical production. The director is a friend of theirs (and the leading actress is his mistress). When murder ensues, Amory and Milo work to unmask the killer. I like this elegant series, set in London between the wars; Amory is an engaging narrator and this fifth entry was fun.

Digging In, Loretta Nyhan
Two years widowed, Paige Moresco is struggling: she and her teenage son are still grieving and now her graphic design job is in jeopardy. On impulse, she digs up half her backyard and plants a garden, to the horror of her neighbors. A fun novel about digging (literally) through grief, though I wanted more depth. Reminiscent of The Garden of Small Beginnings; not as strong, but still really enjoyable.

The Lost for Words Bookshop, Stephanie Butland
Loveday Cardew has spent her whole adult life (so far) working in the same York bookshop and avoiding her past. But the appearance of a handsome magician and copies of her estranged mother’s favorite books throw all that into question. This book broke my heart with every chapter; it’s well done and lovely but so, so sad.

The Wedding Date, Jasmine Guillory
Two people meet in a stalled elevator and end up going to a wedding together; he needs a date, and she thinks he’s cute. But, of course, it doesn’t end there. This delightful, sexy novel follows Drew and Alexa as they navigate a modern-day, long-distance relationship and face their own fears (and Alexa digs into a major work project). Sweet and spicy and so much fun.

The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House, Ben Rhodes
One of my coping mechanisms in the current political climate is reading these Obama staffer memoirs. Rhodes worked on communications and foreign policy for Obama for a decade. This thoughtful, fascinating, well-written insider account recalls a saner time in national politics and helps explain how we got to where we are now. Lots of flashbacks to my last job at HKS; Rhodes’ days – not the setting but the focus and the rhythm – bore some striking parallels to mine.

Our Homesick Songs, Emma Hooper
As the fish disappear from Newfoundland’s waters in the 1990s, the local families leave to find work. Ten-year-old Finn Connor, left almost alone, hatches a plan to bring the fish back. Meanwhile, his parents are taking turns leaving the island to work, and his older sister Cora is trying to find her own way. Haunting and beautiful and sad; started off slowly but I ended up loving it. I also adored Hooper’s debut, Etta and Otto and Russell and James.

Help Me!: One Woman’s Quest to Find Out if Self-Help Really Can Change Your Life, Marianne Power
I’m a little tired of “stunt” memoirs, but gave this one a go. British journalist Power recounts her year-plus of reading and trying to follow one self-help tome per month. Predictably, she does not turn into a perfect, worry-free version of herself – but she does learn some important lessons, often with hilarious effects. Dragged in the middle (when she became a bit self-obsessed), but I thought it ended well. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 15 in the U.S.).

The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden, Karina Yan Glaser
When their elderly neighbor has a stroke, the Vanderbeeker kids want to do something good for him, so they begin turning an abandoned lot into a garden. Challenges and hilarity (as well as the threat of a condo complex) ensue. A heartwarming sequel to the first Vanderbeeker book. These siblings are the 21st-century Harlem version of the Melendys, whom I adore. So much fun.

Most links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

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halifax harbour j k

After our glorious five nights/four days in PEI, the hubs and I headed to Halifax for the weekend. We’d never been there, and we thoroughly enjoyed checking out this smallish, vibrant city on the water.

halifax harbour dusk

I’ve said it before: on vacation, we like to wander and we like to eat. That is exactly what we did in Halifax, for two days.

We arrived on a Friday afternoon, checked into our Airbnb apartment, and immediately went a-wandering. We found the Halifax Common, and a few streets away, DeeDee’s ice cream.

jer-deedees-ice-cream

(J’s berry-swirl ice cream happened to match his polo.)

katie-deedees-ice-cream

I had raspberry passionfruit sorbet, which is as tart and delicious as it sounds.

We strolled the neighborhood a while longer, then drove down to the waterfront that evening for dinner at the Bicycle Thief.

bicycle thief sculpture halifax

While we were waiting for our reservation (it was crowded), we walked along the harbourfront. Live musicians, food trucks, cool old ships, and lots of families out enjoying the lovely evening.

ships halifax harbour

When we did have dinner, it was delicious. I had a truly amazing lobster-corn chowder with new potatoes and bacon. (Also: their bread is focaccia and it’s homemade. Yum.)

bicycle-thief-chowder

We sat outside, and the view was as fantastic as the food.

bicycle thief restaurant halifax

We wandered around town in the long dusk, and split a decadent chocolate torte with raspberry sauce at the Middle Spoon. I could not get a good picture, but it was scrumptious.

The next morning, we headed to Annie’s Place for breakfast.

annies halifax

Annie herself welcomed us, and we had huge chai lattes (not that either of us were complaining) and excellent eggs, bacon and toast.

We spent most of the day exploring after that. First up was Woozles, an utterly charming children’s bookstore down the street from Annie’s.

woozles bookstore halifax

We didn’t spot any Heffalumps (or Woozles), but there were plenty of gorgeous books.

woozles interior

We also stopped by Bookmark – I’d been to their Charlottetown store, but enjoyed exploring this location.

bookmark halifax

The Halifax Public Gardens are close by, and they are gorgeous.

halifax public gardens

We’d heard the Halifax Central Library was worth seeing – though, to me, a library is always worth seeing. This one did not disappoint.

halifax central library

We ate lunch at the Seaport Farmers’ Market, then wandered back downtown, popping into more fun shops, including The Loop, a sweet little yarn shop.

loop yarn store halifax

For dinner that night, we ate at 2 Doors Down – really good pub food and local Nova Scotia wines.

two doors down halifax wine list

We weren’t quite ready for dessert, so we spent a while playing board games and eating popcorn at the Board Room Game Cafe. A Canadian friend had told us about this trend – it was so fun.

jer board room game cafe halifax

We capped off the night by splitting a slice of cheesecake at Sweet Hereafter. (It’s J’s favorite dessert.)

jer cheesecake sweet hereafter

We had to hit the road on Sunday, but stopped at Coastal Cafe for brunch first. J’s face says it all. (The huevos were amazing – some of the best Mexican food we’ve had outside of Texas.)

jer brunch halifax

Halifax, you are charming. Cheers!

halifax mural

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