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Posts Tagged ‘chick lit’

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We’re halfway through the year already (how??), and I’ve read some truly great books. Here are the year’s best, so far:

Richest Southern Novel of Nature and Love: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I loved every page of this gorgeous, layered book about Kyra, the young woman who lives alone in the marsh near her town.

Best Rereads: Marisa de los Santos’ three connected novels about Cornelia and Clare and their loved ones: Love Walked In, Belong to Me and I’ll Be Your Blue Sky. So many wise, heartfelt, luminous lines that seemed to speak directly to me. (Also The Precious One, by the same author.)

Best Book on Faith and Friendship: Cara Wall’s stunning debut novel, The Dearly Beloved, which follows the intertwined lives of two ministers and their wives in Greenwich Village. It’s lovely and thoughtful and so real.

Most Sweeping Novel of Alaska and Love: To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey. An ideal midwinter read – one of the first and best books I read this year.

Sweetest, Wittiest British Chick Lit: A Dog Called Jack by Ivy Pembroke. The perfect book to curl up with on a snowy weekend in March.

Best Memoir By Someone I’d Love to Be Friends With: Becoming by Michelle Obama. The Internet has gushed about this one enough – but I will say it is warmhearted, wise and fascinating.

Loveliest Clarion Call to Joy: The Book of Delights by Ross Gay – dozens of small essays on delights that take you to unexpected places.

What are the best books you’ve read so far this year?

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mostly books interior abingdon uk bookshop

October began with a much-needed break: a trip across the pond to Oxford, my heart’s home, to see friends and dive into bookshops and drink so much tea. I bought half a dozen books there, of course. Here’s what I have been reading, on my long plane rides and since then:

The Austen Escape, Katherine Reay
Engineer Mary Davies is in a slump at work when her childhood best friend Isabel talks her into joining an Austen-themed country house party in England. Once there, Mary thinks they might actually enjoy themselves, until Isabel has a sudden memory lapse and believes the costume party is real. I like Reay’s sweet lit-nerd novels, though the mental health plotline here felt like a stretch. (NB: I’m married to a therapist.) I did enjoy seeing Mary come into her own. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 7).

The Troutbeck Testimony, Rebecca Tope
Persimmon “Simmy” Brown is celebrating her one-year anniversary of moving to the Lake District and opening a flower shop. But a series of disturbing events, including the body of a dead dog and the murder of a local man, mar her joy and draw her into a tangled investigation. Fourth in a series I hadn’t previously read; I liked Simmy, but found some of the other characters a bit annoying. Still an engaging airplane read. Found at the Oxfam bookshop on Turl Street, in Oxford.

High Tide, Veronica Henry
I loved Henry’s novel How to Find Love in a Bookshop and picked this one up at the Oxfam shop in Summertown, Oxford. It’s a charming story of several people who find themselves in the Cornwall village of Pennfleet, just as summer is turning to autumn. Love and soul-searching and dramatic life changes lie ahead, and I loved each character’s arc – they all felt satisfying, and the tone is so engaging. Light and lovely. (I enjoy a dose of British chick lit once in a while.)

The War I Finally Won, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Bradley’s sequel to The War That Saved My Life (which I adored) picks up with Ada Smith and her brother, Jamie, living in the Kentish countryside with their guardian, Susan. As World War II heats up, Ada and her family find themselves hosting Ruth, a German Jewish refugee. Ada’s struggle to accept Ruth, to trust that Susan will care for her and Jamie, and to reckon with her own losses and fears (war-related and otherwise) broke my heart and mended it again. She is so brave, and this is such a great story. Found at Mostly Books in Abingdon (pictured above) on my trip.

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

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strand bookstore awning nyc

My reading pace has been fairly slow (for me) this month. New apartment, still-new job, lots of other things crowding into my brain. But I’ve still found a few good books. Here they are:

A Sense of Wonder: The World’s Best Writers on the Sacred, the Profane and the Ordinary, ed. Brian Doyle
An eclectic, luminous, often demanding collection of essays first published in Portland Magazine. My favorites are by Heather King, Robin Cody and Pico Iyer, but they are all worth reading. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 15).

Crowned and Dangerous, Rhys Bowen
This 10th entry in Bowen’s Royal Spyness series, which I love, finds Lady Georgiana Rannoch unexpectedly in Ireland with her beau, Darcy, trying to exonerate his father of a murder charge. Frothy, fun and smart, like this entire series. (I adore Georgie.)

The House of Dreams, Kate Lord Brown
Journalist Sophie Cass interviews artist Gabriel Lambert about his experience as a refugee in Marseille during World War II. The true story of Varian Fry and others at the Emergency Rescue Committee, who worked tirelessly to get artists out of France, is fascinating. But the novel’s framing story was less so, and I did not like the ending. (I loved Brown’s previous novel, The Perfume Garden.)

Love for Sale: Pop Music in America, David Hajdu
Music critic (and self-professed music geek) Hajdu takes readers on a tour of pop music in the U.S., from Tin Pan Alley to Broadway, 45s to LPs to mixtapes and MP3s. Smart, entertaining and surprisingly deep. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 18).

The Queen’s Accomplice, Susan Elia MacNeal
Mathematician-turned-spy Maggie Hope returns to WWII London and gets pulled onto a gruesome Scotland Yard case: a Jack-the-Ripper copycat serial killer targeting young professional women. I like Maggie (this is her sixth adventure), but this book was daaark. Also, the comments on the treatment of women felt heavy-handed. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 4).

Faithful, Alice Hoffman
Since the night of the accident that left her best friend in a coma, Shelby Richmond doesn’t believe she deserves to live. Faithful is the slow, rich, heartbreaking story of how Shelby finds her way, with help from her stalwart mother, a few stray dogs and a few highly unlikely friends. Bleak and gritty at times (Shelby messes up over and over), but also beautiful, and ultimately hopeful. Hoffman has written many books, but I’d never read her before. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 1).

The Boy is Back, Meg Cabot
Pro golfer Reed Stewart hasn’t been back to his Indiana hometown in a decade. But when his parents end up in the news (and in financial trouble), he returns to try and help out – which means facing his ex, Becky Flowers. Cabot tells this hilarious story through emails, texts and newspaper articles. Fluffy and really fun – smart chick lit. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 18).

Wonder Women: 25 Inventors, Innovators and Trailblazers Who Changed History, Sam Maggs
We are hearing a lot lately (it’s long overdue!) about brilliant, brave women whose stories have been overlooked. Sam Maggs writes bite-size biographies of 25 such women in this snappy, girl-power book. The colloquial tone got a little wearing, but these women – inventors, spies, scientists – are amazing. Would pair well with Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, which I loved. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 18).

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

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hopefuls book stack books

We are all drawing a few deep breaths after Commencement, and I’m diving into summer reading – woohoo! Here’s the latest roundup:

The Hopefuls, Jennifer Close
After Obama wins the presidency in 2008, Beth moves with her husband (a campaign staffer) to D.C. As Beth struggles to find her place in a new city, she and Matt meet a charismatic couple, Jimmy and Ash, who quickly become their best friends. But like so many friendships, this one is complicated, and Close expertly explores the shifting loyalties and the fault lines in both marriages. So well done. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 19).

Notes from an Accidental Band Geek, Erin Dionne
Elsie Wyatt is a top-notch French horn player, determined to get into a prestigious summer music program. But this means she has to (gasp!) join marching band. Elsie is a brat at first, but I loved watching her fall in love with band. (I’m a proud band geek from way back.) Super fun.

Girl in the Blue Coat, Monica Hesse
Hanneke spends her days finding and distributing black-market goods in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. But when a customer asks for her help in finding a missing Jewish girl, Hanneke is drawn into a web of Resistance activities. A compelling evocation of bravery, cowardice and betrayal during wartime – tense and well crafted.

Gone Crazy in Alabama, Rita Williams-Garcia
Sisters Delphine, Vonetta and Fern travel from Brooklyn to Alabama to spend the summer with relatives. Being black in both places carries a particular challenge in 1969, and the girls struggle to adjust while listening to the (warring) family stories from their great-grandmother and her sister. Delphine’s voice is smart and so engaging.

Understood Betsy, Dorothy Canfield Fisher
I’d never read this classic but picked it up after it featured prominently in Mother-Daughter Book Camp. Elizabeth Ann, sheltered and timid, is sent to Vermont to stay with cousins she’s never met. To everyone’s surprise – including her own – she blossoms there. A sweet, gentle story.

Before We Visit the Goddess, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
This is one of the picks for Modern Mrs. Darcy’s online Summer Reading Club. It’s a bittersweet story of mothers and daughters, spanning three generations and shifting in time, place and point of view: India to California to Texas, mother to daughter to granddaughter. Lovely and melancholy, though I wanted more resolution at the end.

Graveyard of the Hesperides, Lindsey Davis
Davis’ fourth novel featuring Flavia Albia, a private informer in ancient Rome, finds Albia approaching wedded bliss with her beloved, Manlius Faustus. But they get sidetracked when the remains of six bodies turn up in the garden of a bar he’s renovating. The plot meanders, but Albia is a sharp-tongued, engaging narrator. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 12).

Nine Women, One Dress, Jane L. Rosen
Everyone is desperate to get their hands on the little black dress of the season – and it changes the fortunes of nine women, including a runway model, two saleswomen at Bloomingdale’s, an aging Broadway diva and more. Light and frothy and highly entertaining. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 12).

The Seafront Tea Rooms, Vanessa Greene
A journalist researching tea rooms, a young mother at the end of her rope, and a French au pair bond over tea and struggles in Scarborough. Light, refreshing and lovely. Fun for Anglophiles.

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

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roots and sky book table sunglasses

My reading this month – like my life – has been a little scattered. But I have still found a few really good books. Here’s the latest roundup:

The After-Room, Maile Meloy
Gifted teenagers Janie and Benjamin are trying to live a normal life in 1950s Michigan. But Benjamin is grieving his father’s death, and their friend Jin Lo is somewhere in China trying to avert a nuclear war. This third book in Meloy’s middle-grade trilogy is confusing (so many plotlines!) but full of engaging characters. I liked the first book, The Apothecary, the best.

The Baker’s Daughter, D.E. Stevenson
When artist John Darnay moves to a remote Scottish town, Sue Pringle goes to work as his housekeeper – and falls in love with him. Another lovely, gentle 1930s novel from Stevenson, with entertaining characters. I particularly liked Sue herself and her kind grandfather.

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy
I loved Cuddy’s TED talk on presence and “power poses.” Her book delves into the research behind her theories: she explores the body-mind connection and how we can “nudge” ourselves toward a more authentic, less anxious state of mind in challenging situations. A little long, but there’s some good stuff here.

Winter, Marissa Meyer
This fourth book in Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles finds Cinder (cyborg, mechanic, long-lost princess) and her ragtag crew scrambling to defeat the evil Queen Levana. Some witty lines (especially from Carswell Thorne) and so many battle scenes. Too long and too gory, but I’m glad I finished out the series.

The Murder of Mary Russell, Laurie R. King
I adore King’s series featuring Sherlock Holmes and his irascible, whip-smart, complicated partner Mary Russell. This 14th entry explores the origin story of Mrs. Hudson – a fascinating new angle. Richly layered, witty, gripping and so good. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 5).

Roots and Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons, Christie Purifoy
Christie writes a beautiful blog about life at Maplehurst, the old Pennsylvania farmhouse where she lives with her family. Roots and Sky is the story of coming home to Maplehurst, enjoying the seasons there and sometimes struggling with this complicated, beautiful gift. Gorgeously written, wise, luminous and occasionally heartbreaking. This was my Most Anticipated pick for 2016 at Great New Books, and it did not disappoint.

Keep Me Posted, Lisa Beazley
Sisters Cassie and Sid Sunday adore one another, but have grown apart in adulthood. They begin writing snail-mail letters to reconnect, and it works beautifully – until the letters end up on the Internet. Funny, insightful and warmhearted. I particularly loved the deep bond between Sid and Cassie. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 5).

Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold and the Fate of the American Revolution, Nathaniel Philbrick
Today, the name “Benedict Arnold” is synonymous with “traitor,” but it wasn’t always thus. Philbrick delves into the early uncertain years of the American Revolution to trace Arnold’s journey from war hero to turncoat. His portraits of Arnold and George Washington are complex and thoughtful. I got bogged down by the (many) detailed accounts of battles, but once the espionage began, I was riveted. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 10).

Little Beach Street Bakery, Jenny Colgan
After Polly’s business and her relationship both fall apart, she moves to an isolated beach town on a whim. Baking bread is her hobby, but before long it becomes her livelihood – and she finds a new home in Mount Polbearne. Light, sweet chick lit with quirky characters. (I loved Neil the puffin.) Found at the Strand last fall.

The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I pick up this old favorite every winter – and though we haven’t had (nearly) as much snow as last year, I still love seeing Laura and Pa and their family weather the long winter on the South Dakota plains.

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

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june books 2

Wedding Season, Katie Fforde
I like Fforde’s gentle, witty British chick-lit novels, and enjoyed this one about Sarah, a cynical wedding planner who thinks she doesn’t believe in love. (Sarah drove me a little nuts – I liked her friends, dressmaker Elsa and hairdresser Bron, much better.) Found at McKay’s Used Books in Nashville.

Styx and Stones, Carola Dunn
Daisy Dalrymple’s brother-in-law is receiving nasty anonymous letters, and begs her to investigate. It turns out his village is a hotbed of gossip – and then a murder occurs. Daisy, her policeman fiance Alec, and the local inspector solve the case together.

Lois Lane: Fallout, Gwenda Bond
Lois Lane is resolved to fit in at her new school – until she sees another student being bullied. Trying to help the girl, Lois unearths a sinister mind-control plot, which she must hijack with the help of her fellow teenage reporters at the Daily Scoop. A fun, snarky, fast-paced YA novel – Superman meets Veronica Mars. I’m hoping for a sequel.

Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse, Faith Sullivan
Nell Stillman has lived a quiet life in Harvester, Minnesota: teaching third grade, raising her son, caring for friends and neighbors, and reading voraciously (especially P.G. Wodehouse). A truly wonderful story of a sensitive, intelligent, gracious woman. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 15).

Rattle His Bones, Carola Dunn
When Daisy Dalrymple begins researching an article about London’s Natural History Museum, she uncovers all sorts of fascinating things – including, of course, a murder. A tangled, entertaining mystery – one of my favorites in the series so far.

The Invisibles, Cecilia Galante
Nora Walker has built a safe, quiet life for herself, hiding from the trauma of her early years. But an unexpected reunion with her three best friends forces all four women to deal with past and present wounds, and to help each other move forward. Deeply moving, quietly hopeful. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 4).

Silver Bay, Jojo Moyes
Tucked away on Australia’s eastern coast, Silver Bay is frequently visited by whales, dolphins and not many people. When an English developer arrives planning to build a new resort, the town’s inhabitants – particularly a tightly knit group of whale-watchers – are less than pleased. A romantic, heart-tugging read in Moyes’ signature breezy style.

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

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bay bopks coronado ca

During Commencement season, my reading has slowed down a little. But here are the books I’ve loved lately:

In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon, ed. Laurie R. King & Leslie S. Klinger
King (who writes the Mary Russell series I adore) and Klinger asked a few of their fellow authors to write a second volume of stories featuring, parodying, or inspired by Sherlock Holmes. Fun, but a bit uneven; I thought the first volume (A Study in Sherlock) was better.

The Winter Garden Mystery, Carola Dunn
The second cozy mystery featuring Miss Daisy Dalrymple finds her writing about another country estate – and stumbling into another murder. I saw a few plot twists coming a mile away, but I like Daisy and enjoyed spending more time with her.

Four Seasons in Rome: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World, Anthony Doerr
I loved this gorgeous memoir of the year Doerr spent in Rome with his wife and their infant twin sons, exploring the city and trying to write a novel. Full of beautiful sentences and vivid vignettes of a liminal time for Doerr’s family, in an endlessly fascinating city. (I also loved his novel All the Light We Cannot See.) Found at Adams Avenue Book Store in San Diego.

The Royal We, Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
American Bex Porter expects to fall in love with Oxford – but not with an English prince – during her study abroad program. I loved this sassy, frothy, full-of-heart novel about Bex, her twin sister Lacey, Prince Nicholas and his rogue brother Freddie, and the complications of either being royal or dating a royal. Funny, heartbreaking and so good. (Also: Oxford! Love.)

Picnic in Provence: A Memoir with Recipes, Elizabeth Bard
I loved Bard’s first memoir, Lunch in Paris, but I may have loved this one even more. A gorgeous, warmhearted account of transition, marriage, new motherhood and opening an ice cream shop in Provence. Found at Bay Books in San Diego (pictured above).

Requiem for a Mezzo, Carola Dunn
A mezzo-soprano drops dead in the middle of a concert – and of course Daisy Dalrymple is on the case. Another amusing mystery with an entertaining cast of characters (I love the Chief Inspector’s two assistants).

The Tide Watchers, Lisa Chaplin
As unrest foments on both sides of the English Channel in 1802, a young Englishwoman is caught up in a complicated game of espionage. A fast-paced, well-written story full of adventure, intrigue and romance. (Warning: there are a lot of characters to keep track of.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 30).

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

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parnassus books nashville

It’s no secret that I am a serious bookworm. I have a dedicated table for my to-be-read pile, a library holds list as long as my arm, and at least one stack of review copies waiting to be perused at all times. (Currently it’s two stacks.)

I read widely, and I like to think I read broadly. I love many different kinds of books, including (but not limited to) memoirs, mysteries, young adult and middle-grade novels, adult fiction (both general and literary), poetry, and popular nonfiction. My shelves on Goodreads are almost as full as my real-life bookshelves (which are bulging). I am always reading several books at once.

I have two English lit degrees, a constantly shifting calendar of review deadlines and a pretty good sense (I like to think) of what constitutes “quality” literature. So sometimes I think I “should” be reading only the high-quality stuff: shiny new literary fiction, classics that have stood the test of time, nonfiction books dealing with Important Ideas. And I do read all those things. But in the past couple of years – even before I chose it as my word for 2015 – I’ve noticed that I’ve always got at least one “gentle” book in progress.

What do I mean by “gentle” in this case? Sometimes “gentle reading” means a quiet, bucolic story, like Miss Read’s tales of village life, or the Mitford series by Jan Karon. Sometimes it’s a beloved book from childhood (I reach for The Long Winter every February). Sometimes it’s the next book in a favorite series, comforting because it deals with known characters or familiar territory. And sometimes it’s a totally silly “fluff” book – chick lit or a cozy mystery – that I choose not for its great writing, but for its fun and predictable plot. (I also can’t read anything too creepy before I go to bed – or I won’t be able to fall asleep!)

I still occasionally beat myself up about this tendency. Those reading hours are precious, and I do dedicate many of them to high-quality, often more demanding books. But sometimes I simply need to curl up with a good story whose main value lies in escape and entertainment. This week, for example, you can find me digging into Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series (light mysteries set in 1920s England), and savoring Elizabeth Bard’s gorgeous second memoir, Picnic in Provence. (That one is gentle, but it’s so well written that it’s hardly a guilty pleasure.)

Do you read several books at once, too? Is there a “gentle” (or “fluffy,” or “guilty pleasure”) category in your rotation?

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travels with charley steinbeck

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson
Amy’s dad has died, her brother is in rehab, and her mother has moved to Connecticut, leaving instructions for Amy to follow her in their car. Enter Roger, a long-absent (and now really cute) family friend. Together, he and Amy deviate from the planned route, crisscrossing America while listening to wonderful playlists and gradually opening up to one another. Utterly charming.

Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run, Alexandra Heminsley
Curvy and nonathletic, Alex Heminsley never fancied herself a runner – but she is one. This candid memoir traces her journey, from her first disastrous run to several marathons. I’m a sporadic runner at best, but this book made me want to lace up my running shoes. Recommended by Kerry.

Baby Proof, Emily Giffin
My friend Rachael handed me this novel during a discussion about the perennial question of whether to have children. The protagonist, Claudia, is child-free and happily married until her husband decides he wants a baby after all. A thought-provoking premise, but I found Claudia selfish and shallow: not because she didn’t want kids, but because everything had to be about her.

Crocodile on the Sandbank, Elizabeth Peters
Amelia Peabody, a wealthy, opinionated Victorian spinster, heads off to explore Egypt by way of Rome. Love, intrigue and nocturnal mummies among the pyramids, all told with Amelia’s biting wit. So much fun. First in a series and highly recommended by Jaclyn.

Looking for the Gulf Motel, Richard Blanco
Blanco writes vivid poetry about love, memory, his Cuban-American family, and belonging. I recognized many images and characters from his memoir (which I confess I liked better than this collection).

The Curse of the Pharaohs, Elizabeth Peters
Amelia Peabody (see above) and her archaeologist husband return to Egypt, working on a dig supposedly plagued by the titular curse. Quirky characters and red herrings abound, but Amelia solves the case. Not as engaging as the first book, but still fun.

The Paris Winter, Imogen Robertson
Maud Heighton, a genteelly poor Englishwoman, struggles to get by while studying art in Paris. When she lands a job as companion to a charming Frenchwoman, Maud believes her troubles are over, but she is drawn into a web of lies, thievery and revenge. A dark, evocative portrait of Belle Époque Paris, with some wonderful characters. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 18).

Travels With Charley in Search of America, John Steinbeck
I broke my book-buying fast because I could not resist the charming, slightly battered copy (above) on the $3 book cart at Raven. I have no regrets. Steinbeck takes a rambling cross-country road trip with Charley (a large French poodle), searching for the language and spirit of America, and narrates it all in wry, witty detail. Wonderful.

And Only to Deceive, Tasha Alexander
After reading The Counterfeit Heiress for review, I picked up the first book in the Lady Emily series. This is clearly a first effort: well written but the mystery’s solution was obvious. I like the characters, though.

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

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the bookstore lenox ma

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam
I reread this one after reading Vanderkam’s three short productivity guides. Vanderkam is practical, insightful and no-nonsense: she believes everyone has time to create a life they love. I’m rethinking my routines and hoping to make some good changes.

Goodnight June, Sarah Jio
June Andersen has built a successful career as a New York banker. But when her great-aunt Ruby dies and leaves June the children’s bookstore she owned in Seattle, June must return home and face her painful past. Sifting through Ruby’s papers, June finds a stack of letters exchanged by Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown – the genesis of Goodnight Moon? A sweet, bookish story with surprising depth. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 27).

May B., Caroline Starr Rose
Thanks to Serenity’s enthusiastic rec, I picked this one up and read it in one sitting. It’s a spare, lovely tale of a pioneer girl hired out to work in western Kansas, then stranded alone when her employers disappear. Written in verse, but reminiscent of my beloved Little House series.

Restoring Grace, Katie Fforde
Grace, a lonely divorcée scrambling to restore her huge, dilapidated house near Bath, meets Ellie, a struggling (pregnant) artist, and the two join forces. Romance, art restoration and tangled family relationships all play a role here. Fforde’s writing is light and fun – just the ticket during a crazy week.

Cress, Marissa Meyer
An action-packed sequel to Cinder and Scarlet. Cinder and her band of fellow outlaws attempt to rescue Cress, a young hacker imprisoned on a Lunar satellite. But the rescue misfires and the group is separated, scrambling to reunite as the planet hurtles toward war. Confusing at times – too many characters and plotlines – but entertaining. Now to wait for Winter, Book 4, which comes out in 2015…

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
An irascible, widowed bookstore owner adopts a toddler who was left in his store, and gradually opens up to life (and love) again. A charming tribute to book lovers, bookselling and the ways books shape our lives. The characters are great (I especially loved the non-reading cop who becomes a book nut), but I wanted the author to explore them more deeply.

Mrs. Hemingway, Naomi Wood
“Each Mrs. Hemingway thought their love would last forever; each one was wrong.” Naomi Wood deftly portrays each of Ernest Hemingway’s four marriages – each one’s beginning tied up with the previous one’s end. Ernest is a central figure, of course, but this story belongs to the women: Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary. Gorgeously written, elegiac, deeply melancholy. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 27).

The Gilly Salt Sisters, Tiffany Baker
In their isolated Cape Cod village, the Gilly women have farmed salt for generations. Sisters Jo and Claire each struggle to come to terms with their family’s destiny, especially after a fire leaves Jo badly scarred and Claire’s marriage later falls apart. I could not put this one down. Haunting and gripping.

The Amazing Adventures of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton
A friend brought me this pocket-sized collection several years ago and I finally picked it up. Father Brown is quietly clever – a mix of Father Tim Kavanagh and Miss Marple. Gentle, ingenious, entertaining detective stories.

Highland Fling, Katie Fforde
When Jenny Porter gets sent to assess a failing Scottish woolen mill, she never expects to make friends with the locals – or fall in love with the man who could foreclose the whole business. Light, entertaining chick lit. I especially loved Meggie, the outspoken but kind daughter-in-law.

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

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