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Posts Tagged ‘China’

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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brookline booksmith shelves interior

Royal Blood, Rhys Bowen
Lady Georgiana Rannoch (Her Royal Spyness) travels to a spooky castle in Transylvania for a wedding. But odd things happen during her journey, and once she arrives, a wedding guest is poisoned. Georgie joins her beau, Darcy, in a spot of sleuthing to find the killer – but will she be next? And are there really vampires lurking nearby? A fun send-up of the gothic novel/vampire genre, plus an intriguing mystery. And Queenie, Georgie’s new maid, is hilarious.

Naughty in Nice, Rhys Bowen
Lady Georgiana finally gets to go somewhere warm and exotic – Nice in the winter! Once there, she gets asked to model by the great Coco Chanel – but a valuable necklace goes missing after the fashion show, and then an odious neighbor turns up dead. Accused of murder by a bumbling inspector and determined to clear her name, Georgie tracks down yet another killer. (She does get a proper holiday after solving the case.) Great fun.

On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome with Love and Pasta, Jen Lin-Liu
While honeymooning in Italy, Jen Lin-Liu began wondering about the connections between noodles in China (where she had been living) and Italy. She traverses the ancient Silk Road, visiting Iran, Turkey, Uzbekistan and other countries, taking cooking classes and sampling various cuisines. I enjoyed the social observations and descriptions of food; less appealing were Lin-Liu’s angst about her brand-new marriage and her frustrations with her non-foodie husband. Still an enjoyable (and at times mouthwatering) read.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas, Rhys Bowen
Lady Georgiana and the usual cast of characters – her actress mother, hapless maid, Cockney grandfather and handsome beau Darcy – end up in a quaint English village at Christmastime. But each day seems to bring a new and tragic death, and Georgie must keep up her duties as social hostess while worrying that a killer is lurking nearby. A clever mystery plot, with appearances from characters I love, and lots more Darcy (always a good thing). So much fun.

The Scarlet Pimpernel, Baroness Emmuska Orczy
I knew Jaclyn had loved this book, so when I found it for fifty cents at a thrift shop, I snapped it up. The exploits of dashing Scarlet Pimpernel, his league of gentlemen, and his clever French wife Marguerite were so much fun. Romance, intrigue, swashbuckling adventure – a perfect, classic confection. (I do adore classics that don’t take themselves too seriously.)

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