Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans’

We’ve (nearly) made it through February, and I’ve read some great books lately. Here’s the latest roundup:

The Yellow House, Sarah M. Broom
Broom is the youngest of 12 children born to Ivory Mae, who bought the titular house in New Orleans East in 1961. Broom’s memoir relates her family’s history with the house and neighborhood (wrecked by Hurricane Katrina) and her own wanderings, searching for a place to call home. Started slowly, but it’s powerful and thought-provoking.

Hid from Our Eyes, Julia Spencer-Fleming
In Millers Kill, N.Y., an unidentified young woman is found dead: barefoot, wearing a party dress, not a mark on her. The case is uncannily like two others from 1952 and 1972, and Chief Russ Van Alstyne (then a young Vietnam vet) was a person of interest in the latter. As Russ tries to solve all three cases, his wife Clare Fergusson is juggling priesthood, new motherhood, a new intern and other troubles. I love this series and this ninth entry (we’d been waiting a while) was excellent: well plotted with compelling characters and plenty of depth. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 7).

The Sweeney Sisters, Lian Dolan 
Liza, Maggie and Tricia Sweeney shared a (mostly) idyllic childhood in a WASPy Connecticut town. But after their father, literary light William Sweeney, dies, they discover their former neighbor, Serena, is really their half sister. A smart, witty novel of all four grown women grappling with these revelations; juicy and funny and full of heart. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 28).

Five Days: The Fiery Reckoning of an American City, Wes Moore
Police violence against black men is (unfortunately) nothing new in this country. But after Freddie Gray’s death in April 2015, Baltimore exploded in protests and anger. Moore, himself a black Baltimore native, chronicles the week of the riots through the stories of seven people: protesters, lawyers, civic figures. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 14).

Poppy Redfern and the Midnight Murders, Tessa Arlen
This book is my catnip: a British mystery set in wartime with a smart, witty heroine who feels a bit out of place. Poppy is a newly trained air raid warden who’s back from London patrolling her little village, when two local girls are murdered. With the help of her corgi, Bess, and a handsome American pilot, she tries to solve the case. So fun.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
I love this last book in the series: big, emotional, complex, satisfying, with so many great moments for so many characters. It’s a commitment but it’s one I’m always glad to make.

The Authenticity Project, Clare Pooley
How honest are we, really, with the people in our lives? That’s the question posed in a green notebook that London cafe owner Monica picks up. What’s written inside will have a ripple effect on her life and several others. I loved the characters in this sweet, fresh novel about secrets and friendship and admitting that life is messy.

Cooking Solo: The Joy of Cooking for Yourself, Klancy Miller
I discovered Klancy via her risotto recipe on Cup of Jo, and have been loving her fresh, accessible cookbook full of yummy recipes and pithy advice on cooking for one. Favorites include her roasted veggies with tahini dressing, lemony pancakes, curried sweet potato-carrot soup, lentil soup, and that risotto.

The Long Run: A Memoir of Loss and Life in Motion, Catriona Menzies-Pike
I read this book two winters ago, right after I became a runner. I’ve been savoring it again, slowly, this winter as I run through the grief from my divorce and the joys and challenges of my new life. Menzies-Pike surprised herself by becoming a runner (like me), and she writes well and honestly about the gifts, frustrations and soul-deep change that running can offer. Also some fascinating feminist history here. Highly recommended.

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

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One Man’s Meat, E.B. White
I loved these witty, succinct, often wry vignettes from White about life on his Maine farm. (They appeared in a column in Harper’s Magazine in the late 1930s and early 1940s.) He muses on agriculture, chickens, politics, county fairs, the vagaries of dachshunds and the difficulties of being a writer-cum-farmer. After reading his essays, his letters and this collection, I still want more.

Out of the Easy, Ruta Sepetys
I picked this up on our recent trip to NYC, and loved the story of Josie Moraine, set in 1950s New Orleans. The daughter of a prostitute, Josie dreams of attending Smith College, even while she earns money cleaning a brothel and working in a bookshop. But when a handsome tourist is murdered, Josie’s links to the investigation threaten to wipe out her dreams. A richly atmospheric setting, with colorful characters and a sassy, resourceful heroine. (I also loved Sepetys’ debut, Between Shades of Gray.)

Leaving Everything Most Loved, Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie Dobbs‘ 10th adventure finds her investigating the murders of two Indian women in London, and weighing some big personal questions. As Maisie tries to untangle the web surrounding Usha Pramal and her friends and employers, she also worries over her two employees and her own personal life. Well written, fascinating and layered, like all Winspear’s books. Look for a fuller review in late March, in conjunction with TLC Book Tours, and a review in Shelf Awareness. (Out March 26.)

Leave the Grave Green, Deborah Crombie
The third mystery featuring Scotland Yard partners Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James concerns a suspicious drowning case. Several members of the victim’s well-connected family are keeping secrets, and even as Kincaid is attracted to the deceased’s estranged wife, he and Gemma realize that their relationship is far from simple. A so-so mystery, but I am now officially hooked on the series because I have to find out what happens next with Duncan and Gemma. (Recommended by Jessica.)

Palisades Park, Alan Brennert
I loved Brennert’s two previous novels, Honolulu and Moloka’i. This one traces the history of a New Jersey amusement park (a beloved part of the author’s childhood) through assorted real and fictional characters. The plot centers on Eddie Stopka and his wife Adele, who run a French fry stand at the park, and their children, Toni and Jack, who grow up among the park workers. The Depression, World War II and the beginning of the civil rights era bring changes for both the park and the Stopkas. Brennert deftly intertwines their stories, evoking the smells and sights of a bygone world. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 9).

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

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I’ve just been reading on NYTimes.com and CNN.com about the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath. Conditions in New Orleans continue to get worse. Thousands are being evacuated to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and other locations because the Superdome can’t hold them all. Armed thugs are running loose in the streets. What was a natural disaster is quickly becoming out-of-control chaos.

Contrast that with the words of a song that just came up on my iTunes (I’m at work, so have the pleasure of listening to other people’s purchased music):

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ Name

On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay

On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand

How to reconcile these words with what is going on along the Gulf Coast? Yet I know these words are a bigger truth than the devastation. May they, and the God who is their subject and Author, bring peace to those who are beleaguered, despairing, starving and without hope.

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