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Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

february vacation books

Between plane delays, crazy long commutes and cold, dark evenings, I’ve been reading a lot lately. (But then, when am I not?) Here’s what I’ve read (and loved) recently.

The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
Veronica Mars is back in her hometown of Neptune, CA, and when a couple of coeds go missing over Spring Break, she’s on the case. Fast-paced, snarky and featuring all the characters I love.

All Fall Down, Ally Carter
Grace Blakely is convinced her mother was murdered, but no one believes her. When she returns to Embassy Row to live with her grandfather, the U.S. ambassador, she starts digging for answers and is shocked at what she finds. An engaging setup for Carter’s newest YA series, though I found Grace kind of bratty.

Queen of Hearts, Rhys Bowen
I love Bowen’s Royal Spyness mystery series following the adventures of Lady Georgiana Rannoch. This eighth entry sees Georgie sailing to America with her actress mother, where they get mixed up with wacky Hollywood types – and a murder. So much fun.

One Crazy Summer, Rita Williams-Garcia
I loved this story of Delphine and her sisters, who go to stay with their activist-poet mother in Oakland in the summer of 1968. They learn a lot about the Black Panthers, their family and each other. Gorgeously written. Recommended by Kari.

The Mapmaker’s Children, Sarah McCoy
I’d never given a thought to abolitionist John Brown’s family – but I loved this novel featuring his artist daughter, Sarah Brown, and her connection to Eden, a modern-day woman struggling with infertility. I liked Sarah’s story better than Eden’s, but both were compelling. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 5).

The Inimitable Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
Bertie Wooster and his friends are in all kinds of trouble (again), romantic and otherwise. Fortunately, Jeeves is always around to save the day. Highly amusing.

Mrs. Tim Gets a Job, D.E. Stevenson
With Tim still in Egypt after WWII has ended, Mrs. Tim takes a job at a Scottish hotel. She deals with difficult guests, her trenchant (but kindhearted) employer and various small problems. Gentle and entertaining.

P.S. Be Eleven, Rita Williams-Garcia
This sequel to One Crazy Summer finds Delphine and her sisters back in Brooklyn and adjusting to all kinds of changes. But Delphine writes to her mother, Cecile, and receives wise (if sometimes cranky) letters back.

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts, Simon Garfield
I love Garfield’s witty nonfiction about various topics, from letters to maps. This exploration of printing and fonts dragged a little, but was still informative and fun.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James, Emma Hooper
83-year-old Etta leaves her home in Saskatchewan, headed for Halifax and the water. Her husband Otto and their lifelong friend, Russell, are left behind, each with their memories. A poignant story of love, war, memory and walking. Reminiscent of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (which I also loved).

The War That Saved My Life, Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Ada has lived her life in a one-room flat, hampered by a clubfoot and berated by her mother. But when the children of London are evacuated in 1940, Ada sneaks out to join them and discovers a whole new life. Moving, multilayered and so good. I read it in one night. Recommended by Shelley.

Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer, Heather Lende
As the obituary writer in her small Alaskan town, Heather Lende helps people reflect on their loved ones’ lives. This slim memoir shares anecdotes from Lende’s work and family life, sprinkled with plainspoken wisdom and threaded with a simple truth: find the good. Wise and witty. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 28).

First Frost, Sarah Addison Allen
The Waverley women always get a little restless before the first frost – but this year has them asking big questions about love, career and identity. A sweet story with a little bite, laced with Allen’s gentle magical realism.

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

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tulips table book bowl curry lunch

It is bleak (snowy) midwinter over here – the season for strong cups of tea and lots of books. Here’s what I’ve been reading so far this month:

The Bees, Carol Ann Duffy
This poetry collection was a Secret Santa gift from a colleague. Duffy’s language is stunning and often highly political. Poems about bees are woven throughout. Lovely.

Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Reading and Writing Metrical Verse, Mary Oliver
I love Oliver’s poetry and found much to ponder in this exploration of metrical verse. She explains the technical terms but also drops in some beautiful words about why poetry matters.

Recipes for a Beautiful Life, Rebecca Barry
A wry, insightful, often hilarious memoir of marriage, home renovation, life with young children, and the slow realization that chasing your dreams is hard work. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 7).

Mrs. Tim Carries On, D.E. Stevenson
World War II has broken out, and Mrs. Tim is bravely carrying on, despite having to manage her own troubles and everyone else’s. I loved this second installment of her adventures – witty, amusing, occasionally poignant.

The Long Winter, Laura Ingalls Wilder
I’ve never seen anything like the snow we’re getting this winter – but at least I’m not stuck in a tiny, isolated prairie town, living on wheat. I love every page of the Ingalls family’s adventures, and the ending makes me cry.

Murder at the Brightwell, Ashley Weaver
Unhappy in her marriage, socialite Amory Ames agrees to go on a seaside holiday with an old friend – only to encounter a web of murders and lies. A sparkling, witty 1930s mystery with a wonderful narrator. A perfect snow day read.

Salt & Storm, Kendall Kulper
Avery Roe has always believed it’s her destiny to become the sea witch of Prince Island. But when a troubling dream shows her another fate, she must figure out how to stop it – if she can. Fierce, luminous and gorgeously written.

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

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delancey molly wizenberg coverI’m back at Great New Books today, sharing my thoughts on Molly Wizenberg’s second food memoir, Delancey.

I adore Wizenberg’s first book, A Homemade Life (I’ve read it three times), so I snatched up Delancey soon after it came out. I loved it. Here’s an excerpt of my review:

When I picked up Delancey, I did look at the subtitle: A Man, A Woman, A Restaurant, A Marriage. (It’s right there on the cover, after all.) But I had no idea how accurate it was, particularly the last phrase.

Delancey chronicles the process of opening and running the titular pizza restaurant in Seattle, which Wizenberg co-founded with her husband, Brandon Pettit. But while it is a book about food (and contains a handful of mouthwatering recipes), Delancey is fundamentally a book about marriage.

Early in their relationship, Molly knew her husband was a dreamer. Brandon was always chasing some big idea or other: a violin workshop, an ice cream shop, a career as a composer and music teacher. When he mentioned opening a pizza restaurant, Molly didn’t pay much attention: she thought it was simply another one of his crazy ideas. But when she finally realized Brandon was serious, Molly had to confront the truth: this restaurant would change the rhythm of their family life significantly, and she wasn’t sure she was ready for that.

Please click over to the GNB website to read the rest of my review. See you there! (And if you’ve read Delancey, I’d love to hear your thoughts.)

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brookline booksmith interior twinkle lights

As the end-of-year book lists flood blogs and newspapers, I’ve looked back over this year’s (long) reading list and handpicked a few favorites. Not all of these were published in 2014, but I read them all for the first time (except Best Reread) in 2014.

Best Road Trip with a Cranky Narrator: Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck. I loved every page of Steinbeck’s wry, witty observations as he and Charley (a dignified elderly poodle) crisscrossed the country together in 1960. (It was also my top pick in our Great New Books roundup.)

Most Evocative Wartime Fiction: a tie between After the War is Over by Jennifer Robson (out Jan. 6) and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Very different novels, both stunning in their exploration of the effects of war on ordinary people.

Best Insights on Food and Marriage: Delancey by Molly Wizenberg. Her story of building a pizza restaurant with her husband was fascinating, and her musings on how hard it can be to support your spouse rang so true.

Most Beautifully Written Classic: The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. I love Cather’s prose and her skill is on full display in this early novel (though My Ántonia is still my favorite Cather novel).

Wittiest Adaptation of a Classic: The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick. (I also loved the YouTube video series.)

Best Love Story With Playlists: Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson. Made me want to hop in a car with a handsome boy and drive for miles with the windows down.

Fanfiction That Actually Works: Jill Paton Walsh’s novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. There are four so far, and three of them are really good.

Yummiest Cozy Mystery Series: the Hayley Snow novels by Lucy Burdette. A food writer gets mixed up in various mysteries on Key West.

Loveliest Meditation on Ireland and Life: The House on an Irish Hillside by Felicity Hayes-McCoy.

Favorite Elderly Spy: Definitely Mrs. Pollifax.

Best Reread: Bel Canto, whose elegant prose and engrossing story swept me up all over again. Though I also loved revisiting To Kill a Mockingbird and some Jane Austen.

What were your favorite books this year? I can always use more recommendations – though the TBR stacks are teetering, as ever.

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christmas book stack charlie brown

The reading is haphazard this month. But it’s happening. (Above: the Christmas picture books I put out every year.)

 An Appetite for Murder, Lucy Burdette
When aspiring food writer Hayley Snow follows her new boyfriend to Key West, she falls in love with the island – and gets dumped. When her ex’s new girlfriend turns up dead, Hayley decides to investigate. A light, well-plotted cozy mystery.

Topped Chef, Lucy Burdette
Hayley Snow gets tapped to judge a foodie reality TV show. When one of her fellow judges is murdered, Hayley starts sniffing around for clues – hoping she isn’t next on the killer’s list. The mystery was a little thin, but I like Hayley and the cast of supporting characters.

Act One, Moss Hart
Moss Hart tells the story of his struggle to become a playwright – from working as a theatre office boy to directing theatrical summer camps, and finally his first hit. Warm, witty and big-hearted. Bought at Three Lives & Co. on our NYC trip.

Shepherds Abiding, Jan Karon
This Mitford Christmas tale makes me cry every year, as Father Tim works to restore a battered Nativity scene as a gift for his wife. So sweet and hopeful.

The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit, Helena Attlee
Attlee tells the long, convoluted tale of citrus production in Italy, covering its history, cultivation, connections to the Mafia, and unbeatable flavor. Fascinating, though a little dense. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 5).

Letters from Father Christmas, J.R.R. Tolkien
I’m a longtime Lord of the Rings fan, but this collection of handwritten, gorgeously illustrated letters is new to me. Tolkien wrote to his children as Father Christmas from 1920-1943 (with notes from his assistant, the North Polar Bear). Hilarious and inventive. Found at Blackwells in Oxford.

The Blood of Olympus, Rick Riordan
“To storm or fire the world must fall” – and a group of demigods must prevent an all-out war, before Gaea wakes. Fast-paced and fun, with lots of zany jokes and surprising depth.

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

What are you reading?

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bookstore gloucester ma

It’s been a zany month so far, between houseguests, work obligations and prepping for travel. Here are the books that have kept me sane:

Nine Coaches Waiting, Mary Stewart
A young, orphaned Englishwoman is hired as governess to a French child in an isolated château, but begins to suspect that her charge is in danger. Lyrically written and suspenseful at first, but the second half felt flat and predictable.

That Summer, Lauren Willig
When Julia inherits a house from her unknown great-aunt, she returns to England, intending to sell up. But a mysterious Pre-Raphaelite painting, a handsome antiques dealer and Julia’s own troubled past give her reasons to stay. Compelling and fun, with a bit of historical mystery.

Ben Le Vay’s Eccentric Oxford, Benedict Le Vay
The lovely Caroline gave me this book when she visited Boston this summer. As an Oxford devotee, I already knew some of these wacky stories, but many tidbits were new to me. Quirky, fun and quintessentially English.

Walking the Woods and the Water, Nick Hunt
A longtime fan of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Hunt retraces Paddy’s journey on foot from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul. The eight decades between Paddy’s walk and Nick’s have brought many changes to each country Nick visits, and he describes them in lucid detail. I loved the anecdotes of kind strangers and the gorgeous descriptive prose. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 28).

A Poisoned Season, Tasha Alexander
Lady Emily Ashton’s second adventure finds her pursuing a cat burglar and dealing with a rather unnerving secret admirer. Witty, well plotted and much better than the first book – I’m planning to continue with the series.

Windows on the World: Fifty Writers, Fifty Views, Matteo Pericoli
Working from photographs, Pericoli creates detailed sketches of fifty windows, through which fifty writers gaze as they work. From city apartment houses to small towns and a few remote islands, the views are varied and stunning. Brief essays by each writer accompany his or her window. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 13).

The Lace Makers of Glenmara, Heather Barbieri
Fleeing a broken heart and other griefs, Kate Robinson finds herself in a tiny Irish village, where she learns lace-making from some local women. I really wanted to love this book, but I just didn’t – it felt flat and stereotypical. Pass.

The Sound of Paper, Julia Cameron
This is one of my favorite books on writing (and life), and I’ve been reading it slooooowly for the last eight weeks or so. It helped greatly in my August writing project, and it always restores my faith in myself as a writer. Highly recommended.

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

What are you reading?

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August reading roundup #3

bookstore gloucester ma

(Interior shot of The Bookstore of Gloucester, MA)

The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, Richard Blanco
I love Blanco’s 2012 inaugural poem and was swept up by this colorful memoir of his Cuban-American childhood in Miami. Full of vividly drawn characters (his family and friends) and poignant reflections on being caught between two cultures. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 30).

The Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances, Ellen Cooney
Evie, age 24 and a total mess, applies to be a trainer at a remote, highly unusual school for rescue dogs. Spare, quiet and moving, though I felt it ended too abruptly.

Mrs. Pollifax Unveiled, Dorothy Gilman
Mrs. Pollifax‘s 14th (and final) adventure finds her headed to Syria (with her friend John Sebastian Farrell) in search of a missing American girl. An entertaining adventure, and Mrs. P saves the day as always. I’m sad to have finished this enjoyable series.

The Pink Suit, Nicole Mary Kelby
I devoured this fictional imagining of the story behind Jacqueline Kennedy’s iconic pink suit. Kate, the Irish seamstress who works on the suit, was a wonderful character, and the language is gorgeous. Absorbing and evocative.

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Victoria Jones has grown up in the foster care system, becoming hardened and cynical – except for her secret love of the Victorian language of flowers. Fascinating characters, beautiful writing and a heartbreaking but hopeful story.

The Counterfeit Heiress, Tasha Alexander
A murder at a masquerade ball leads to a peculiar missing-persons case – but well-bred sleuth Lady Emily and her dashing husband are up to the task. Witty and well plotted. Ninth in a series, but the first one I’ve read. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 14).

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

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