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Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

august books 1

The summer reading continues – with some great books. Here’s what I’ve been reading so far this month:

The Word Exchange, Alena Graedon
In the not-so-distant future, print books are entirely dead, except for a couple of stubborn dictionaries. When Anana Johnson’s lexicographer father goes missing, she’s worried that his disappearance is linked to a “word flu” sweeping the country. Witty, well plotted and slightly terrifying. (Oxford plays a small but vital role, which made me so happy.) Recommended by Kerry and Leigh.

Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food, Megan Kimble
Busy, broke and increasingly concerned about where her food comes from, Kimble spends a year eating as little processed food as possible. This means joining a CSA and baking bread, but it also means interviewing farmers, butchering a sheep, and trying to understand the systems our food goes through – and where they’ve gone wrong. Insightful, eye-opening and not at all preachy. Found at Porter Square Books.

Black Dove, White Raven, Elizabeth Wein
The children of two stuntwoman pilots, Emilia (half Italian) and Teo (half Ethiopian) have grown up together. After Teo’s mother dies in a plane crash, Emilia’s mother takes the children to live in Ethiopia. But as war with Italy looms in 1936, life becomes increasingly complicated for all of them. Narrated by Emilia and Teo, this is a fascinating, heartbreaking look at a war (and a country) I knew almost nothing about.

Die Laughing, Carola Dunn
Daisy Dalrymple finds her dentist murdered in his chair, and helps her policeman husband investigate – finding it tricky to navigate her new middle-class social circle, several of whom are suspects. A decent mystery, but I really liked the portrayal of Daisy adjusting to married life and a new neighborhood.

The Red Notebook, Antoine Laurain
Parisian bookseller Laurent Letellier finds a woman’s handbag on the street – and becomes obsessed with locating the owner. A charming, whimsical, beautifully told story – sweet without being saccharine. I loved it. (I received a free copy of this book from the publicist.)

A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd
Felicity Pickle is used to moving around a lot. But when her family lands back in Midnight Gulch, her mama’s hometown, Felicity longs to put down roots. With the help of a new friend, some magical ice cream and a little banjo music, everything may turn out right after all. A sweet, whimsical middle-grade debut.

Absolutely Truly, Heather Vogel Frederick
Too-tall Truly Lovejoy is not thrilled when her family moves to tiny Pumpkin Falls, New Hampshire. Even worse: her father hasn’t been the same since he lost an arm in the war. But as Truly helps renovate the family bookshop, she stumbles onto a mystery – which she solves with the help of a few new friends. I love Frederick’s work and adored this charming, moving story. (Bonus: includes a delicious recipe for mini pumpkin whoopie pies.)

Wicked Autumn, G.M. Malliet
Max Tudor, former MI5 agent turned Anglican priest, has settled into his new life in Nether Monkslip. But when the village busybody turns up murdered at the annual Harvest Fayre, Max dusts off his investigative skills (and begins facing his demons). A delightful, slyly witty village mystery – first in a series.

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own, Kate Bolick
A fascinating, often frustrating exploration of single womanhood, via Bolick’s own experience and that of her five “awakeners” – women writers who forged their own unconventional paths. I enjoyed learning about Neith Boyce and Maeve Brennan (both new to me), but was put off by Bolick’s self-sabotage and glaring lack of self-awareness. Still thought-provoking, and a different angle on the cultural conversation about womanhood.

(More about the stack above: I’m dipping back into The Sound of Paper, as I seem to do every summer, and working through Middlemarch for my book club. Though I’m not sure if I’ll be finished by the time we meet!)

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

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ana of california book geraniums front porch

Summer reading is some of my favorite reading, and I’ve been getting through stacks of books this month. Here’s the latest roundup:

Ana of California, Andi Teran
Shuttled around the foster system for years, Ana Cortez has run out of chances when she comes to work on a farm in Northern California. A vivid, lovely 21st-century reimagining of Anne of Green Gables. Ana is fierce and vulnerable and I loved her (and the whole cast of characters). Found recently at the Concord Bookshop.

The Wrath and the Dawn, Renee Ahdieh
Khalid, the boy-king of Rey, murders a new bride every morning. After her best friend falls victim to his cruelty, Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid, planning to take revenge. But his story is more complicated than she’d thought. A riff on One Thousand and One Nights with two likable heroines, though the magical element felt forced.

The Case of the Murdered Muckraker, Carola Dunn
On a working holiday in New York, Daisy Dalrymple (now Fletcher) witnesses a murder. A mad chase for the killer and plenty of culture shock ensue. A fun variation on the series, but I missed the usual supporting characters.

The Last Bookaneer, Matthew Pearl
In the days before copyright laws, literary piracy flourished. Pearl imagines a breed of “bookaneers,” swashbuckling thieves who made their fortunes stealing from authors. An engaging adventure tale full of colorful characters and some great lines about the literary life – though I didn’t like the ending. Recommended by Laura.

Mistletoe and Murder, Carola Dunn
Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher and her family end up at an isolated Cornwall estate for Christmas, where (of course) someone is murdered. A highly enjoyable holiday twist on this series.

My History, Antonia Fraser
Biographer Antonia Fraser has always adored History with a capital H. She details her growing-up years and her burgeoning love of the field in this memoir. It is full of Oxford (where she grew up and went to university) and witty commentary on her family and herself as a young woman. Some lovely lines, though the whole thing felt a bit disjointed. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 13).

The Carols of Christmas: A Celebration of the Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Holiday Songs, Andrew Gant
Despite their pious lyrics, many Christmas carols have a checkered history. Choirmaster Andrew Gant tells the entertaining (often murky) stories of 21 classic carols. Occasionally obtuse but mostly accessible and really fun. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 15).

Astrid and Veronika, Linda Olsson
Reeling from a recent tragedy, Veronika rents a house in an isolated Swedish village. Her elderly neighbor, Astrid, is also carrying a heavy sorrow. Gradually, a friendship develops between the two women. Quiet, spare and beautifully written.

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

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july books 1

Summer reading season is in full swing – hooray! Here are the books I’ve enjoyed so far this month:

For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards, Jen Hatmaker
I read Jen Hatmaker’s funny, snarky blog occasionally, but hadn’t read any of her books. This essay collection covers her usual mix of topics: imperfect parenting, messy marriage, trying to be a faithful person while sometimes being disappointed by the church. Funny and relatable, though I think she occasionally oversimplifies things. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 18).

To Davy Jones Below, Carola Dunn
On their honeymoon voyage to America, Daisy and Alec Fletcher end up (of course) investigating a couple of murders. The shipboard setting made for a fun change of pace and the end twist was certainly unexpected.

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, Mary Norris
Norris has been a copy editor at The New Yorker for 30-plus years. In that time, she’s learned a few things about grammar and punctuation. This witty book combines anecdotes from her career with practical, thoughtful advice on various matters of style. Gloriously geeky and wonderfully informative.

Lion Heart, A.C. Gaughen
As Prince John continues his campaign of terror and extortion, Scarlet (aka Lady Marian) and Robin Hood must protect the people of Nottingham. A great conclusion to the Scarlet trilogy; I loved watching Scarlet grow as a character. Romantic and full of adventure.

Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph, Kristina Rizga
Characterized as a “failing school” by national testing standards, Mission High in San Francisco is a vibrant, diverse community full of passionate, skilled teachers and intellectually curious students. Journalist Rizga spent four years at Mission and uses it as a case study to explore education reform in the U.S. Thoughtful and well-researched. Particularly interesting to me because of my work at HGSE. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Aug. 4).

An Unwilling Accomplice, Charles Todd
Nurse Bess Crawford is tapped to escort a wounded WWI soldier to a ceremony at the Palace – but the next morning, he has disappeared. Then he’s accused of murder and Bess is accused of negligence. To clear her own name, Bess embarks on a journey to find him. Full review coming soon as part of a TLC Book Tour.

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

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2015 favorite books

I read a lot, as y’all know – I’m almost at 100 books for the year. And we are (somehow) halfway through the year already, so here are the books I have loved the most over the last six months:

Frothiest, Sauciest, Most Fun Chick Lit: The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan. Oxford, true love, tightly knit sibling bonds and a gaggle of quirky, loyal friends – what more could I ask for?

Most Insightful Memoir on Work & Life: Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin. A thoughtful, sensitive exploration of writing, carpentry and building a good life.

Best New Installment in a Beloved Series: A Dangerous Place by Jacqueline Winspear. Classic Maisie Dobbs in a fresh new setting, with new challenges. I will follow Maisie to the ends of the earth.

Smart, Witty, Utterly Delightful Sherlockiana: The Great Detective by Zach Dundas. A fantastic exploration of the Holmes phenomenon (past and present).

Best Book on Yoga & Life: Do Your Om Thing by Rebecca Pacheco.

Cheeriest British Fictional Companion: Mrs. Tim, aka Hester Christie. I enjoyed every page of the four books about her.

Most Evocative Travel Memoir: Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr. So many beautiful sentences.

Best Retelling of a Legend I Thought I Knew: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, which made me fall in love with Robin Hood all over again. (I still have a crush on the handsome fox from the Disney movie.)

Most Delicious Memoir of Food & Marriage: Picnic in Provence by Elizabeth Bard, which I reviewed at Great New Books.

Snarkiest, Most Entertaining YA Novel: Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond.

Spunkiest Cozy Mystery Series: the adventures of Daisy Dalrymple.

Loveliest Story of a Quiet Life Well Lived: Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse by Faith Sullivan (out in September).

What are the best books you’ve read so far this year? I’d love to hear about them.

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picnic in provence book scone tea

“Paris is always a good idea,” Julia Ormond famously noted in the 1995 film version of Sabrina. Like many Americans enamored with la belle France, I tend to agree, as does American journalist and author Elizabeth Bard.

More than 10 years ago, Bard had a lunch date with a handsome Frenchman in Paris and never went home. That story is chronicled in her first memoir, Lunch in Paris, which I read several years ago and loved. So I was delighted to hear that Bard was releasing a second memoir, Picnic in Provence. As its title suggests, this book follows Bard, her French husband Gwendal and their infant son Alexandre as they leave Paris behind for a quieter life in the Provençal village of Céreste.

I love a good memoir—especially one featuring food, travel, or both. So I’ve read my fair share of true-life tales set in France. I’ve come to expect some of their common elements: rhapsodies about the food, the difficulty of putting down roots in a new community. (Anyone who has read Peter Mayle will expect the home-renovation subplot that crops up at one point.) But Bard’s memoir, while full of gentle humor (and luscious food descriptions), goes deeper.

I’m sharing my (glowing) review of Picnic in Provence at Great New Books today. Please join me over there to read the full review – and share your favorite French and/or foodie memoirs!

I write quarterly reviews for Great New Books. You can read all my recs over on the GNB site.

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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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april books red orange

Apparently I’m following a color scheme with my books lately. (Even the tulips match.)

I know April isn’t quite over, but here’s what I have been reading:

Things You Won’t Say, Sarah Pekkanen
Jamie Anderson knows the risks of being a cop’s wife: her husband Mike faces danger on the job, every day. But when Mike is involved in two shootings just months apart, their family’s whole life changes. A gutsy, timely book, but not my favorite of Pekkanen’s novels. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 26).

Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life, Rebecca Pacheco
I bought this book after reading Lindsey’s enthusiastic review. Pacheco demystifies yoga philosophy (chakras, koshas, deities) and gives practical suggestions for integrating yoga into your life on and off the mat. Warmhearted, wise and down-to-earth. Loved it.

Murder at the Breakers, Alyssa Maxwell
Society reporter Emma Cross may be “just” a poor cousin of the wealthy Vanderbilts, but that doesn’t stop her from investigating when their financial secretary is murdered – and her brother is the prime suspect. A so-so mystery plot, but the setting (Gilded Age Newport, RI) is really fun.

The Precious One, Marisa de los Santos
Taisy Cleary hasn’t seen her autocratic father, Wilson, in 17 years. But when he calls asking her to come home, she says yes – and forms a surprising bond with her teenage stepsister, Willow. I love de los Santos’ lyrical writing and her sensitive explorations of family, and this one is just lovely.

Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter, Nina MacLaughlin
After spending her twenties staring at a computer screen, MacLaughlin longed for more tangible work – so she dove headfirst into the world of carpentry. A stunningly written, wise memoir about work and identity and building a meaningful life. Recommended by Kerry.

Murder at Marble House, Alyssa Maxwell
Emma Cross’s second adventure finds her investigating the death of a fortune teller and her cousin Consuelo Vanderbilt’s sudden disappearance – which may or may not be connected. Fun to see these characters again (and the mystery was better this time).

The World on a Plate: 40 Cuisines, 100 Recipes and the Stories Behind Them, Mina Holland
Holland gives readers a quick tour of 40 regional cuisines, mixing culinary history with recipes and a little memoir. Fun; best suited for flipping through. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 26).

Fatal Reservations, Lucy Burdette
Hayley Snow, Key West food critic and amateur sleuth, investigates the death of a local juggler (hoping to exonerate a friend of hers who’s implicated). I like this series, but this entry felt disjointed. Out July 7 (I received a copy from the publisher).

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

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