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Posts Tagged ‘memoir’

As the snow swirls down outside, I’ve been plowing (ha) through books – poetry, fiction, memoir and strong women, as usual. Here’s what I have been reading:

Swan, Mary Oliver
I adored this Oliver collection, unsurprisingly – especially the first poem, and several others. She writes so well about nature, the interior life, seasons and paying attention. Perfect morning reading.

Salty: Lessons on Eating, Drinking, and Living from Revolutionary Women, Alissa Wilkinson
I’ve known Alissa online for years, and loved her book of essays on smart, strong, bold women – Hannah Arendt, Edna Lewis, Maya Angelou, Laurie Colwin and others – who had interesting things to say about food, gathering, womanhood and community. If that sounds dry, it isn’t; Alissa’s writing sparkles, and each chapter ends with a delectable-sounding recipe. Found at the lovely new Seven and One Books in Abilene.

Running, Lindsey A. Freeman
As a longtime runner, a queer woman and a scholar, Freeman explores various aspects of running through brief essays – part memoir, part meditation, part academic inquiry. I enjoyed this tour of her experience as a runner, and the ways she writes about how running shapes us. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 14).

Beyond That, the Sea, Laura Spence-Ash
During World War II, Beatrix Thompson’s parents send her to the U.S. to escape the bombings in London. Bea lands with a well-off family, the Gregorys, and her bond with them – deep and complicated – endures over the following years and decades. A gorgeous, elegiac, thoughtful novel about love and loss and complex relationships. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 21).

Winterhouse, Ben Guterson
Elizabeth Somers, an orphan who lives with her curmudgeonly relatives, spends a surprise Christmas vacation at Winterhouse, an old hotel full of delights. She makes a friend, uncovers a dastardly plot, makes some mistakes and discovers family secrets. I liked Elizabeth, but I really wanted this to be better than it was.

The Belle of Belgrave Square, Mimi Matthews
Julia Wychwood would rather read than go to a ball – but the only way to placate her hypochondriac parents is to plead illness. She’s rather miserable when Captain Jasper Blunt, a brooding ex-soldier in need of a fortune, arrives in London and begins pursuing her. A fun romance that plays with some classic tropes; I loved Julia (a fellow bookworm!) and her relationship with Jasper. I also loved The Siren of Sussex; this is a sequel of sorts.

The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, Michelle Obama
Michelle needs no introduction from me; this book discusses some of the tools she uses to steady her during challenging times, such as knitting, exercise, friendship and keeping her perspective straight. I loved the insights into her marriage and her relationship with her mom, and her practical, wise voice. So good.

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

What are you reading?

P.S. The fourth issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, came out last week. Sign up here to get on the list for next time!

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I’ve been blowing through books in the first days of 2023 – so it’s time for a roundup (already!). As we dive into a new year, here’s what I have been reading:

Mastering the Art of French Murder, Colleen Cambridge
Tabitha Knight is loving her sojourn in postwar Paris with her grand-pere – especially since she has Julia Child for a neighbor. But when an acquaintance is found stabbed with Julia’s kitchen knife, Tabitha undertakes a bit of amateur sleuthing. A fun, clever start to a new mystery series; technically my last book of 2022. Coming out in April; I read an ARC.

God’s Ex-Girlfriend: A Memoir About Loving and Leaving the Evangelical Jesus, Gloria Beth Amodeo
Raised in a fairly laid-back Catholic faith, Amodeo joined Campus Crusade for Christ as a college student. This memoir details her experience with Cru, as it’s now called; explores the reasons she clung to the community she found; and charts her struggles to get out of it. Thoughtful and relatable, though the ending felt rushed. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 21).

Code Name Sapphire, Pan Jenoff
German political cartoonist Hannah Martel escapes to her cousin Lily’s house in Belgium after the Nazis discover her true identity. There, she joins the Sapphire Line resistance network, working with the prickly Micheline and her brother Matteo. But the network is (always) in jeopardy, and its members face danger and compromise at every turn. A compelling WWII story inspired by a real-life train break; Hannah and Lily’s relationship is especially complex. I found the ending really depressing. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 7).

Freestyle, Gale Galligan
Cory Tan loves nothing more than dancing with his crew of friends. But when his parents freak out about his grades and get him a tutor, he makes a friend and discovers a new hobby – yo-yo throwing. I adored this sweet middle-grade graphic novel (a Christmas gift from my guy) about friendship, stretching your horizons, apologizing and trying new things. So joyful and fun.

The Porcelain Moon, Janie Chang
Pauline Deng loves working in her uncle’s antique shop in Paris with her beloved cousin Theo. When war breaks out and Theo joins the Chinese Labour Corps as a translator, big changes come for them both, as well as for Camille, a young woman in the village where Theo is stationed. I flew through this well-written novel about a relatively unknown slice of WWI history. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 21).

A Perilous Undertaking, Deanna Raybourn
Lepidopterist Veronica Speedwell and her colleague Stoker have settled into their jobs cataloging the collection of a London gentleman. But when they get asked to investigate a murder, things get way more interesting. A fun, well-plotted mystery (though I agree with my friend Jess – too many phallic jokes). I like Stoker and Veronica, and Raybourn’s writing is highly entertaining.

Her Lost Words, Stephanie Marie Thornton
Both Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley (who never knew her mother) longed to take the world by storm. Thornton’s novel unfolds both women’s stories in alternating timelines, charting their emotional and financial struggles as well as their writing (with despairs and successes). A little long, but ultimately fascinating – like its subjects. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 28).

A Spoonful of Murder, Robin Stevens
Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells travel to Hong Kong to mourn Hazel’s grandfather. When they arrive, they find some surprises – including a new baby brother for Hazel, and soon, a murder. I enjoy this British middle-grade series; I love Hazel as a narrator, and I especially enjoyed the sensitive explorations of the dynamics between the girls in a new setting.

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

What are you reading?

P.S. The fourth issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, came out last week. Sign up here to get on the list for next time!

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We made it, friends – the end of 2022 is nigh. As we wrap up the year and I recover from Christmas travel, here’s what I have been reading:

The Sweet Spot, Amy Poeppel
I flew through Poeppel’s warm, witty, hilarious latest, which involves four different women (an artist, her buttoned-up mother, a divorcee bent on revenge and a young woman caught in the crossfire) taking care of a baby who belongs to none of them. I laughed out loud several times. Bonus: it’s set in my favorite tangle of streets in Greenwich Village. I also loved Poeppel’s Musical Chairs. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 31, 2023).

Inciting Joy: Essays, Ross Gay
I adored Gay’s The Book of Delights (and did a Q&A with him, itself a delight). This new collection explores joy as it’s intertwined with sorrow, grief and desire – and it’s fantastic. I love Gay’s rambling style (though the footnotes occasionally get out of control), and his warm, wise, human voice. So good.

Of Manners and Murder, Anastasia Hastings
Violet Manville is astonished to discover her aunt Adelia is behind the popular Dear Miss Hermione column – and even more shocked to be handed the reins when Aunt Adelia leaves town. Soon Violet has a real mystery on her hands: the suspicious death of a young bride named Ivy. A fun British mystery with a spunky bluestocking heroine. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 31).

Healer and Witch, Nancy Werlin
Sylvie, her mother and her grand-mere are revered as healers in their village. But when Grand-mere dies and Sylvie makes a terrible mistake, she sets out in search of help. A sweet, thoughtful middle-grade novel set in medieval France, with a few surprising twists and some insights about vocation and calling.

Love in the Time of Serial Killers, Alicia Thompson
Phoebe has reluctantly moved to Florida for the summer to clear out her dad’s house and try to finish her dissertation on true crime. But she keeps getting distracted by the (literal) guy next door: is he really as nice as he seems, or is he a killer? A snarky, hilarious mystery with a great main character; I also adored Phoebe’s sweet golden-retriever younger brother.

The Mushroom Tree Mystery, Ovidia Yu
The Allies have won the war in Europe, but things are still grim for Chen Su Lin and her compatriots in Singapore. When a young aide is found dead, Su Lin becomes a suspect – and between caring for a blind professor, supervising the houseboys, trying to decipher news of the atomic bomb and prove her innocence, she’s very busy. A gripping entry in this wonderful series.

Travel as a Political Act, Rick Steves
I loved this thoughtful memoir by Steves – a guidebook author and TV personality – about how travel has shaped and expanded his worldview. He tackles drug policy, autocrats, poverty and other political issues, but also writes engagingly about simply encountering other humans. My favorite line: “Understanding people and their lives is what travel is about, no matter where you go.” Amen.

Kantika, Elizabeth Graver

I flew through this epic novel based on the life of Rebecca Cohen Baruch Levy (the author’s grandmother), a Sephardic Jew whose early 20th-century life takes her from Istanbul to Spain to Cuba and eventually to New York. Richly detailed, full of family drama and rich insights on womanhood and the complexities of love. So so good. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 18, 2023).

Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
I adore this gentle novel set in Scotland at Christmastime, which follows five loosely connected people who end up spending the holiday together. It proves transformative for all of them. I loved revisiting it, as always.

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

What are you reading?

P.S. The fourth issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, comes out soon. Sign up here to get on the list!

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We are (somehow) halfway through December, and the world feels twinkly and dark and (sometimes) chaotic. Here’s what I have been reading:

Every Good Boy Does Fine: A Love Story, in Music Lessons, Jeremy Denk
I spotted this book at Three Lives this summer, and snagged it at the library recently. Denk charts his journey from piano-nerd kid to classical pianist, via lots of lessons with idiosyncratic, brilliant teachers (and some personal growth). Writing about music can be hard to do, but Denk pulls it off. Entertaining, witty and wonderfully geeky.

Peril in Paris, Rhys Bowen
Lady Georgiana Rannoch is thrilled to visit her dear friend Belinda in Paris. But once Georgie gets there, she becomes entangled in both a Chanel fashion show and a mysterious death – which leaves a police inspector convinced she’s a criminal. I love this fun historical mystery series and this was an entertaining entry.

What Wildness is This: Women Write About the Southwest, ed. Susan Wittig Albert, Susan Hanson, Jan Epton Seale and Paula Stallings Yost
I stumbled on this collection in an Airbnb in Amherst, and immediately got it from the library when I came home. It’s a stunning anthology of essays and poetry: incisive, moving female perspectives on how we interact with the land, what we take from and give to it, what we leave behind. I loved reading this slowly in the mornings.

Killers of a Certain Age, Deanna Raybourn
Billie, Natalie, Helen and Mary Alice have spent 40 years working as assassins for the Museum, a secret extra-governmental organization. On their retirement cruise, someone targets them, and they work to find out why – and take out their would-be killers. A hilarious, incisive romp showcasing the skills (and ingenuity) of older women.

Maureen, Rachel Joyce
I loved The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which follows a man taking a much-longer-than-planned walk that turns into a journey of self-discovery. 10 years later, this slim novel shares the perspective of Harold’s wife, Maureen. She makes a pilgrimage of her own – which doesn’t go quite as she expected. Lyrical, sad and moving. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 7, 2023).

Hijab Butch Blues, Lamya H
I enjoyed this unusual memoir by a queer Muslim woman exploring all the intersections of her identities. A lot here about Muslim faith and practice; many familiar Bible stories retold as they appear in the Quran; and an honest examination of inner struggle. Heavy at times, and thoughtful. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 7, 2023).

The Holiday Switch, Tif Marcelo
Lila Santos is ready to plunge into the Christmas season (and work all the hours at her local inn’s gift/book shop to save for college). She’s also an anonymous book blogger. When her boss’s nephew, Teddy, shows up to work the holiday season, the two of them clash – but gradually find themselves drawn to one another. A super fun YA holiday romance featuring Filipino-American characters; I also love Marcelo’s adult fiction.

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

What are you reading?

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It’s almost Thanksgiving, and we are deep in year-end giving projects at work, and my beloved Darwin’s closed its original location yesterday. It’s been a lot, to say the least. Meanwhile, here’s what I have been reading:

Absolutely Truly, Heather Vogel Frederick
Truly Lovejoy is not thrilled about moving to tiny Pumpkin Falls, N.H., after her pilot dad loses an arm in Afghanistan. But she grows to love helping at her family’s bookstore, and even finds new friends and a mystery to solve. I love Frederick’s cheery middle-grade novels and I adore Truly – stubborn, brave, kind and obsessed with owls. A fun reread.

The Three Lives of Alix St. Pierre, Natasha Lester
Orphaned at 13, Alix St. Pierre has spent her life trying to prove herself, and she spent World War II doing excellent work in intelligence. But she’s haunted by one failed mission. As she’s working in PR for Christian Dior in 1947, that mission and its characters resurface. A brilliant, propulsive, beautiful and heartbreaking novel about a woman faced with so many impossible choices. I loved it. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 10, 2023).

The Bullet That Missed, Richard Osman
Osman’s septuagenarian sleuths are back – this time tangled up with a couple of gangsters as they try to solve the cold case of a TV anchor who disappeared years ago. Witty, wry and so British – I love this series.

Windfall: The Prairie Woman Who Lost Her Way and the Great-Granddaughter Who Found Her, Erika Bolstad
Bolstad’s memoir takes us on her quest to learn more about her great-grandmother, Anna, a North Dakota homesteader who eventually was committed to an asylum. Curious about Anna’s story (and the possibility of money from mineral rights on Anna’s land), Bolstad takes multiple trips to the Dakotas, researching land laws, oilfield politics past and present and the treatment of women in Anna’s time. Thoughtful and thought-provoking; also familiar since I am from the oilfields of West Texas. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 17, 2023).

Yours Truly, Heather Vogel Frederick
Truly Lovejoy is thrilled to have her cousin visiting for Spring Break. But when someone starts cutting the sap lines on her friends’ farm, it leads to a full-blown town feud, and Truly and her friends are on the case. They also find an old diary with some intriguing secrets. I loved most of this story (also a reread), except for Truly’s clashing with her younger sister – it felt realistic, but soured things a bit.

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

What are you reading?

P.S. The third issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, comes out next week. Sign up here to get on the list!

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Last week, I finished up the set of books I’d been reading: a fun Star Wars novel; a beautiful and heartbreaking novel about Partition in India/Pakistan; a Filipino-America cozy mystery; and a biography of a female Icelandic sea captain. I thoroughly enjoyed all these stories (plus my fall reread of Anne of Windy Poplars).

As I wrote my bite-size reviews for this blog, I found myself on the hunt: not only for my next book, but the next incarnation of my reading mix. For a long time, especially since I started reviewing books for Shelf Awareness, I’ve been a multiple-books-at-a-time kind of girl.

There are a few reasons for this. One: my Shelf books have deadlines, whereas the books I read purely for pleasure can allow for – even require – lingering. Two: some books can’t (and shouldn’t) be plowed through in a few days. I like to take my time with thoughtful nonfiction, or with a meaty novel that I need some time to digest. Three: I need something very gentle for bedtime reading – either a reread of an old favorite or a cozy, warmhearted story that will in no way give me nightmares.

Fourth, and maybe most important: I love what the reading mix does for my brain.

Our brains work differently in reaction to various kinds of stories; we process factual accounts differently than a fictional story, and we take distinct insights from reading disparate genres. Some forms of writing, like a fast-paced YA adventure, are meant to be read quickly, immersively. Some, like poetry, quietly insist on slow and reflective reading. Different genres and topics feed varied parts of our minds and souls; they make us question, reflect, protest, laugh and cry, or sigh with happiness. I feel most mentally balanced and nourished when my book “diet” includes a mix of genres and formats.

My review work helps me in choosing a mixture at any given time. Since I review multiple genres, I’m often working on a novel and some nonfiction for the Shelf at the same time. But I’m also always reading a novel or two for fun, and I pick up interesting nonfiction, like Joyful (above) or The Art of Gathering (more recently). I frequently seek out YA or middle-grade, which I don’t review; and I love a book of poetry or luminous essays when I can squeeze it in. (At the moment, What Wildness is This – a collection of nature essays by women about the American Southwest – is marvelous morning reading.)

I do my best to include authors of color and/or stories featuring a wide range of characters and settings, though I admit I often gravitate toward stories by and about white women who share some of my experiences. I think seeking out diverse books – more of which are available than ever before – helps us grow as readers and as human beings, but it’s also both fascinating and a lot of fun.

The latest incarnation of my reading mix includes that essay collection; Priya Parker’s thoughtful book on how we gather; a fun Regency romp set in London; a middle-grade novel; a British rom-com; and some other books I’ve yet to discover. I love the way these books can interact with each other in my reading life. And I’ll keep seeking out the mix – and changing it up – for as long as it works for me.

Do you read multiple books at once? Do you pay attention to your reading mix?

P.S. The second issue of my newsletter, For the Noticers, came out last week. Sign up here to get on the list for December!

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We are almost two weeks post-Gala, and I think I’m almost recovered! And the leaves, as always, are stunning. Here’s what I have been reading:

The Maid, Nita Prose
Molly Gray loves her job as a hotel maid, though she’s struggling since her gran died. When a wealthy, difficult customer ends up dead, Molly falls under suspicion and tries to solve the mystery, alongside some friends. I loved this fun mystery with a neurodivergent narrator and some wonderful characters.

The Lipstick Bureau, Michelle Gable
1989: Nikola “Niki” Novotna attends a dinner in appreciation of the women who worked in the OSS during World War II. 1944: Niki and several colleagues in Morale Operations are assigned to Rome, where they produce propaganda to lower German morale and try (sort of) to stay out of trouble. A fascinating slice of WWII fiction with a magnetic main character. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 3, 2023).

Key Player, Kelly Yang
When the women’s World Cup comes to Anaheim, Mia Tang wants to interview the players – maybe then her PE teacher will raise her grade. But finding the teams is harder than it looks, and she’s got other troubles, at school and at her parents’ motel. A great installment in this spunky middle-grade series about a Chinese-American girl finding her way.

Requiem for the Massacre: A Black History on the Conflict, Hope, and Fallout of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, R.J. Young
In 1921, white Tulsans burned the Black business district of Greenwood to the ground, killing dozens of Black Tulsans and wounding the community beyond repair. Young, a longtime Tulsan, combines historical accounts of the massacre with commentary on events surrounding its centennial and the ways in which Tulsa has (and has not) reckoned with the massacre’s legacy. Powerful, harrowing, necessary. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 1).

Ways to Share Joy, Renee Watson
This third installment in the Ryan Hart series finds Ryan caught in the middle between her two best friends, between her older and younger siblings, and between how things are and how they used to be. (I can relate.) A sweet, relatable story with a spunky, resourceful heroine.

Specter Inspectors, Bowen McCurdy and Kaitlyn Musto
My guy bought me this slightly spooky comic about a group of ghost hunters who find a bit more than they bargained for. I do not do well with creepy, and this one was on the edge for me – but I liked the friendships, relationships and Scooby-Doo vibes.

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

What are you reading?

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We are nearly halfway through October – and between bike rides, a major work event and daily life, here’s what I have been reading:

Picture in the Sand, Peter Blauner
In 2014, a young Egyptian-American man leaves his home suddenly to join a jihadist uprising overseas. His grandfather, Ali Hassan, decides to share his own story with his grandson: his experience working on the movie set of The Ten Commandments and getting swept up in political forces larger than himself. I flew through this – it’s part thriller, part historical epic, part love story, part intergenerational family saga. Fascinating and layered. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 3, 2023).

Book Lovers, Emily Henry
Nora Stephens is not a rom-com heroine: she’s the other woman, the sharp-edged, stiletto-wearing city person who loses the guy. When her sister Libby begs her to go to a tiny North Carolina town, Nora reluctantly agrees – and even begins to enjoy herself. But the presence of a handsome, infuriating editor from the city throws a wrench into Nora’s plans. A fun, sometimes steamy rom-com with plenty of bookish references, but at its heart this is a story about sisters, family, and the stories we tell ourselves.

Seasons: Desert Sketches, Ellen Meloy
I picked up this collection at the Desert Museum in Arizona last spring. They’re short, bracing essays (originally recorded for radio) on life in southern Utah: flora, fauna, human community. Meloy is smart and salty and often hilarious. Perfect for morning reading.

The Verifiers, Jane Pek
Claudia Lin is loving her new hush-hush job working for an online-dating detective agency. But when a client turns up dead, and it turns out she was impersonating her sister, things get complicated fast. Claudia, like any good amateur sleuth, keeps digging into the case, even after she’s warned off. I loved this smart mystery about choices and expectations (our own, our families’, our potential partners’). Well plotted and I hope the author writes more.

The Dressmakers of Prospect Heights, Kitty Zeldis
Brooklyn, 1924: Catherine Berrill is desperate for a child to complete the family she’s started with her kind husband, Stephen. Dressmaker Beatrice Jones, newly arrived from New Orleans with her ward Alice, has a secret that connects her to Catherine’s past. I really enjoyed this twisty historical novel about three different women trying to make their way. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Jan. 3, 2023).

The Vanderbeekers on the Road, Karina Yan Glaser
I loooove this warmhearted middle-grade series (and loved meeting Karina in person recently!). The Vanderbeekers (plus assorted animals) pile into a friend’s van for a cross-country road trip. As is often the case with road trips, not everything goes to plan. Sweet and funny, like this whole series.

Take My Hand, Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Montgomery, Alabama, 1973: nurse Civil Townsend is working at a women’s clinic purporting to serve poor patients, but she grows concerned about the side effects of birth-control shots (and the necessity of giving them to young girls). A powerful, often heavy, brilliantly told novel about a woman who gets caught up trying to save the lives of the people she’s serving. Highly recommended.

The Woman with the Cure, Lynn Cullen
As polio infects thousands of young children, the race for a cure is on. Too-tall Dr. Dorothy Horstmann, obsessed with detecting the virus in the blood, becomes caught up in the science – and the politics – around finding a vaccine. A well-done historical novel (with lots of real-life characters, including Horstmann) about science and feminism and sacrifice. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Feb. 21, 2023).

Holy Spokes: The Search for Urban Spirituality on Two Wheels, Laura Everett
Everett, a minister and four-season cyclist, shares what she’s learned about spiritual practice from riding the streets of Boston. Thoughtful, forthright and wryly funny – I loved reading about her journeys around my adopted city. (I haven’t met her yet, but we know a lot of the same bike folks, including my guy.)

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

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September is flying by so far – amid work and daily adventures, here’s what I have been reading:

The Lost Summers of Newport, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig and Karen White
I enjoy Team W’s richly detailed historical novels (and I’ve devoured nearly all of Williams’ books). This one follows the intertwined stories of three women connected to the same Newport, R.I., mansion during different eras: architectural preservationist Andie, music teacher Ellen, and Italian-American socialite Lucia. Rife with family secrets and dripping with diamonds – great escapist reading.

The House of Eve, Sadeqa Johnson
Ruby Pearsall is on track to be her family’s first college student – but a forbidden love may derail her plans to escape her rough neighborhood. Meanwhile, Eleanor Quarles, a brilliant young woman from small-town Ohio, struggles to find her place at Howard University and with her rich boyfriend’s family. Their lives collide in an unexpected way. A powerful, sometimes wrenching novel about the struggles of Black women in the mid-1950s. So much here around shame and womanhood and making choices. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 2023).

Love, Lies & Spies, Cindy Anstey
Miss Juliana Telford is more interested in publishing her research on ladybugs than diving into the London Season. Mr. Spencer Northam is far more preoccupied with espionage than with matrimony. But all this might change when they encounter one another by chance. A witty, hilarious, romantic tribute to Jane Austen and a really fun love story. Recommended by Anne.

Blood from a Stone: A Memoir of How Wine Brought Me Back from the Dead, Adam McHugh
After years as a hospice chaplain, McHugh found himself burned out, and needing not just an escape but a whole life change. His love of wine led him – several times – to California’s Santa Ynez Valley, where he began a career working in wine. An honest, sometimes snarky, well-researched, thoughtful memoir about wine and transformation. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 11).

Viviana Valentine Gets Her Man, Emily J. Edwards
Our titular heroine loves her job as secretary/girl Friday to NYC private eye Tommy Fortuna. But when she finds an unconscious man in the office and Tommy disappears – right after taking on a case for a wealthy client – Viv must marshal all her wits to solve the case and stay alive. A fun romp with an engaging heroine, though the dialogue read almost like a send-up of 1950s phrases. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 8).

Bicycling with Butterflies: My 10,201-Mile Journey Following the Monarch Migration, Sara Dykman
I picked up this memoir last fall at the Harvard Book Store and have been reading it sloooowly. Dykman takes a months-long solo journey starting and ending in Mexico at the monarchs’ overwintering grounds, following their trail and giving presentations about the importance of these beautiful creatures. She’s a lovely writer, though the trip logistics dragged sometimes (as I’m sure they did in real life!). Fun bonus: she went through my dad’s tiny hometown in southwestern MO.

What Comes from Spirit, Richard Wagamese
I picked up this collection at the wonderful Savoy Bookshop in Westerly, R.I., in June. Wagamese was an Indigenous Canadian writer who wrote extensively about his journey away from and back to his Native identity, as well as noticing the natural world, building community and paying attention. Short, lovely meditations – exactly my kind of thing for slow morning reading.

The Star That Always Stays, Anna Rose Johnson
When Norvia’s parents divorce, she and her siblings move from rural Beaver Island to a small Michigan city with their mother. Norvia must navigate a new school, a tricky blended family and her own shyness and anxiety, while striving to be a heroine. A sweet middle-grade story (though the middle dragged a bit); I loved Norvia’s family, especially her spunky younger sister, Dicta. Reminded me of Emily of Deep Valley.

Saving Main Street: Small Business in the Time of COVID-19, Gary Rivlin
Americans idolize small business – though we give a lot of our money to the colossal chains. It’s common knowledge now that small shops were hit hard by COVID-19. Veteran reporter Rivlin follows several business owners, including a restaurateur, a pharmacist, a Latina hairstylist and three Black brothers making chocolate, through the first 18 months or so of the pandemic. Full of fascinating anecdotes and a thorough explanation of the government’s confusing (but ultimately sort-of-effective) struggle to help small businesses. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 18).

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

What are you reading?

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August is flying by – between work and yoga and other adventures, here’s what I have been reading:

Rivals, Katharine McGee
Queen Beatrice is hosting her first international diplomatic conference, and alliances will be formed and shattered – but by whom? Meanwhile, Princess Samantha might be falling in love – for real this time – and Prince Jeff’s girlfriend, Daphne, is reconsidering her usual scheming ways. A fun third installment in McGee’s alternate-reality YA series where America is a monarchy.

The Matchmaker’s Gift, Lynda Cohen Loigman
Sara Glikman makes her first match at age 10, as her family immigrates to the U.S. When Sara keeps using her unusual gift to make love matches, the local matchmakers – all male – join forces against her. Decades later, Sara’s granddaughter, Abby, uncovers some of her grandmother’s stories and begins to suspect she might have the gift, too. A highly enjoyable historical novel with a touch of magic. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 20).

The Dead Romantics, Ashley Poston
Romance ghostwriter Florence Day is in trouble: she doesn’t believe in love anymore, but her handsome new editor is pushing her to submit a manuscript on deadline. Then Florence’s father dies, and she flies home to South Carolina (where her family runs the funeral home) – and a very handsome ghost shows up unexpectedly. Quirky and fun and really sweet; the premise is bonkers, but I loved it. Found at the delightful Phoenix Books in Burlington, VT, and recommended by Anne.

Black Women Will Save the World: An Anthem, April Ryan
Black women are the often unsung “sheroes” who make immeasurable contributions to America’s democracy, institutions, families and communities, while facing the double bind of sexism and racism. Veteran White House reporter Ryan – herself a trailblazing Black woman – champions the accomplishments of leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer, Maxine Waters, Kamala Harris and the cofounders of Black Lives Matter. Thoughtful and powerful. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 18).

The Mystwick School of Musicraft, Jessica Khoury
All her life, Amelia Jones has dreamed of studying at Mystwick, the school where her mother learned Musicraft. After a botched audition, Amelia still gets in due to a mix-up, but she gets a chance to prove she belongs there. A fun middle-grade novel with adventures, music, magic and complicated friend/frenemy dynamics. First in a series.

London’s Number One Dog Walking Agency, Kate MacDougall
In 2006, MacDougall quit her job at Sotheby’s – where she was safe but bored – to start a dog-walking company. This delightful memoir chronicles her trials and triumphs in setting up the business, navigating adulthood, getting her own dog and starting a family. Witty and warm, with lovely insights on work and building a life. Found at the wonderful Three Lives in NYC.

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

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