The Bird Sisters, Rebecca Rasmussen
A bittersweet but lovely story, set in Wisconsin and following the lives of titular “bird sisters” Milly and Twiss. Rasmussen’s writing is gorgeous and her characters well drawn – though a mantle of quiet despair hangs over many of them. I wished for happier endings for everyone, amid betrayal and grand plans gone wrong. But the book still concludes with a whisper of hope.
The Fairacre Festival, Miss Read
Fairacre’s citizens plan a huge village festival to raise money to repair the damaged roof and spire of their church building, and everyone, including Miss Read and her students, takes part. More good clean fun in a lovely little village.
How to Eat a Cupcake, Meg Donohue
A fun, lighthearted story of two estranged childhood friends, who open a cupcakery together in San Francisco and slowly repair both their relationship and their respective lives. Full of yummy descriptions, and a few plot twists that kept it from feeling too predictable. (I won this book in a giveaway on Becca’s blog.)
The Late Hour, Mark Strand
I love Strand’s poem “The Coming of Light,” so I picked up the collection from which it came. Most of the poems only struck me as so-so, though there were a few gems: “Snowfall,” “The Garden,” “Lines for Winter.” My favorites contain striking images, rather than simply stream-of-consciousness musings. (Link goes to a 3-in-1 edition that includes these poems.)
The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown
I read this last year and loved it, so I happily picked it up again for book club. The titular sisters – Rosalind, Bianca and Cordelia, daughters of a Shakespeare professor – all return to their small Midwestern college town, grappling with major life decisions as they face their thirties. The first-person plural voice (“we did this, we thought that”) reminds me so much of how I talk about myself and my sister. Brown’s writing is lovely, and her characters are flawed, smart and endearing.
The Story of English in 100 Words, David Crystal
Crystal traces the evolution of English in 100 important words, from “roe” (the first recorded English word) to “Twittersphere,” with plenty of fascinating stops along the way. He’s a linguist and scholar, so his explorations of words such as “taffeta,” “dude,” “what,” “unfriend” and many more are both erudite and entertaining. Good fun for word nerds like me.
Reel Life Starring Us, Lisa Greenwald
Artsy new girl Dina and queen bee Chelsea get assigned to make a video together for a middle school project, and learn some surprising truths about each other along the way. Most of the characters were pretty shallow (which was, perhaps, the point), though I liked Dina and came to sympathize with Chelsea. Not Greenwald’s best (that honor goes to My Life in Pink & Green), but still fun.
Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M., Sam Wasson
Wasson chronicles the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, from Truman Capote’s inspiration for the novel to the issues surrounding the film (it clashed with the prevailing morality of Hollywood at the time). My favorite part was the story of how Henry Mancini wrote “Moon River” and the rest of the film’s score (I love that song, and I also love his Pink Panther music). I’m not a big fan of the film (though I do believe in the iconic power of a little black dress), but the tale of how it came to be was interesting.
Princess for Hire, Lindsey Leavitt
Desi Bascomb, too-tall, quirky daughter of a beauty-queen mom, finds a magical want ad and signs on to be a paid substitute (read: impersonator) for princesses who go on vacation. Of course, disaster strikes when she takes matters into her own hands – standing up to a bullying older sister, performing a tribal Amazon dance and even kissing a prince. Leavitt has a light touch and no shortage of creative ideas, and this was such a fun story. I’ll be reading the sequel.
The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, Trenton Lee Stewart
I love the Mysterious Benedict Society series, so I thoroughly enjoyed this prequel about the childhood of its founder, Nicholas Benedict. He’s an orphan who also happens to be a genius – and he makes the best of life at Rothschild’s End, devising clever ways to get around the rules, making a few friends, outwitting bullies and solving a few mysteries along the way. Such fun.
An Irish Country Christmas, Patrick Taylor
This was my third visit to Ballybucklebo in Northern Ireland, and what fun it was. The cast of characters, helmed by Drs. Barry Laverty and Fingal Flahertie O’Reilly, is still colorful, quirky, cranky and warmhearted. I love the Ulster-Scots dialect and the anecdotes of small-town life and the way the villagers pull together to help a struggling single mother. Lighthearted and well written, with plenty of warmth, good cheer and wry humor.
The Arrivals, Meg Mitchell Moore
I met Meg recently at Porter Square Books and so enjoyed her debut novel, about a pair of empty nesters whose three grown children suddenly descend on their house one summer, all running away from their grown-up issues. Moore gets the nuances of family life – the frustrations and the empathy and the small, telling details – just right, and her characters felt so real. I’m looking forward to her next book (out soon), So Far Away.
Salt to Summit, Daniel Arnold
A memoir of hiking from Death Valley to Mount Whitney, with historical asides about the Native Americans, gold prospectors and mountaineers who have peopled this region. The premise was interesting, but the writing dragged sometimes; it didn’t have the “personal journey” angle I look for in a memoir. Best suited for hikers and mountain climbers. (I received an ARC; this book comes out June 12.)
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