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Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

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In the wake of my NYC trip and the presidential transition, here’s what I’ve been reading lately:

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling
Multiple secret plots, Horcruxes, Quidditch and so much snogging: I love this sixth installment of Harry’s story. It is, in many ways, his last chance to be a teenager. The ending makes me weep every single time, but it’s still so good.

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables, David Bellos
I adore Les Mis: I fell head over heels for the musical as a teenager and loved the book when I read it a few years ago. Bellos chronicles the inspiration, writing process and publication of Hugo’s masterpiece, with fascinating asides about language, color, coinage, politics and more. Accessible and interesting for Les Mis fans. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 21).

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, Adam Gidwitz
An engaging, often funny medieval tale of three French children with unusual powers – plus a greyhound who just might be a saint. Fun, clever and moving. (Also: best subtitle ever.) Recommended by Liberty on All the Books!.

The Satanic Mechanic, Sally Andrew
Tannie Maria van Harten, who writes the recipe and love advice column for her local newspaper, gets drawn into a police investigation when she sees not one, but two, men murdered before her eyes. An engaging mystery set in South Africa, which is as much about Tannie Maria’s life and relationships as it is about catching the killer. Lots of Afrikaans words and delicious food descriptions. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 28).

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, J.K. Rowling
The final, grim, heartbreaking, wonderful installment of a story I adore. It felt astonishingly timely, and as usual, I didn’t want it to end. Lupin’s words on Potterwatch struck me particularly this time: “Everything for which we are fighting: the triumph of good, the power of innocence, the need to keep resisting.”

Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature, Shelley DeWees
Everyone knows about Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters – and they are amazing. But before (and concurrently with) Jane and Charlotte, there were other groundbreaking British writers who were female, feminist, wildly talented and generally badass. A fascinating, highly readable account of seven such women. So good. Also recommended by Liberty on All the Books!.

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

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More (more!) summer reading, as the calendar slides toward fall. Here’s my latest crop of reads:

Fall of a Philanderer, Carola Dunn
A seaside holiday means first relaxation and then a murder investigation for Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher and her policeman husband. A fun, twisty mystery full of entertaining minor characters. This one reminded me somehow of a Miss Marple case.

Second Chance Summer, Morgan Matson
When Taylor Edwards’ father is diagnosed with cancer, her family heads back to their lake house for one last summer together. But Taylor has to face the consequences of a mistake she made five years ago. A wonderful, poignant, rich story of first love, teenage summer, deep grief and – yes – second chances.

The House on Nauset Marsh: A Cape Cod Memoir, Wyman Richardson
Richardson, a Boston doctor who kept a house on the Cape for many years, writes with keen observation and humor about the birds, fish, seasons and rhythms of life there. Lovely and often lyrical; reminded me of One Man’s Meat. Found at the Concord Bookshop last month.

How to Speak Brit: The Quintessential Guide to the King’s English, Cockney Slang, and Other Flummoxing British Phrases, Christopher J. Moore
A quirky, fun “glossary” of common British phrases, with some interesting historical tidbits. Catnip for an Anglophile like me (though I knew lots of the terms already). Found at Raven Used Books.

Grounded: Finding God in the World: A Spiritual Revolution, Diana Butler Bass
Church attendance continues to decline in the West, but increasingly, people of all religious stripes are practicing their faith out in the world. Bass examines the “new” spirituality through the lens of several natural elements (ground, water, sky) and social structures (home, neighborhood, community). Thoughtful, though a bit long-winded at times. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 6).

Pagan Spring, G.M. Malliet
Father Max Tudor, former MI5 spy turned priest, finds himself trying to solve the murder of a man no one particularly liked, while dealing with parish duties and his love life. Not my favorite entry in this series, but the village writing group scenes were hilarious.

Recipes for Love and Murder, Sally Andrew
Tannie (“Auntie”) Maria van Harten writes a recipe-and-advice column for the newspaper in her small South African town. When an abused woman who has written to her ends up murdered, Tannie Maria and her colleagues get mixed up in the police investigation. A satisfying mystery with charm, heart and recipes. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Nov. 3).

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

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I know we’re only a week into February. But I’ve already read several great books and wanted to share them with you.

february books penumbra snow child

Speaking from Among the Bones, Alan Bradley
Flavia de Luce, diabolical chemist and 11-year-old amateur sleuth, returns for a fifth adventure. As the village of Bishop’s Lacey prepares to disinter the bones of its patron saint for a celebration, they find a surprise in the crypt: the body of the church organist, wearing a gas mask. Who killed him and left him there, and why? Flavia, Inspector Hewitt, and a new detective/horticulturalist are on the case. Witty and fun, with plenty of sarcastic asides from Flavia, a few hilarious misunderstandings, and a cliffhanger ending.

The Silver Ghost, Charlotte MacLeod
The eighth Sarah Kelling mystery, involving another old, eccentric Boston family (Rolls-Royces and Renaissance music), bees, and murder. This one dragged, and I spotted the solution long before the detectives did. Definitely a lackluster entry in the series.

The Fever Tree, Jennifer McVeigh
When Frances Irvine’s father dies, she is left penniless, forced to leave London and emigrate to South Africa to marry a doctor she barely knows. Unnerved by the harsh landscape of the Karoo, Frances slowly adjusts to her new life, till a smallpox epidemic breaks out in the diamond mines. Fighting to save those who are suffering, her husband finds himself pitted against the men in power who will do anything to protect their investments. A powerful story of loss and reinvention, and being shaped by a brutal but rich new landscape. Sweeping and beautifully written. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 4).

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, Robin Sloan
Clay Jannon, unemployed web designer, takes a clerking job at a strange bookstore in San Francisco. Most of the customers are odd types who never buy books: they simply check out books, one at a time, from the stacks in the back. Suspecting (rightly) that the bookstore is a front for something else, Clay investigates with the help of a few friends, including a young venture capitalist, a special-effects artist and a sharp, pretty girl who works at Google. Such a fun ride of tech geekery, typography, puzzles, and a deep respect for how books are bound up with life. Loved it.

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey
I loved this beautiful, evocative book – part pioneering story, part love story, part fairy tale. Jack and Mabel, childless and sad, leave their families “back east” to start a new life in Alaska. One night, they fashion a child out of snow, and the next day a girl appears out of the wilderness, wearing the mittens and scarf they put on the snow child. Mabel and Jack love her instantly, but they cannot tame her – and for a while they’re not even sure if she is real. Ivey lives in Alaska, and her deep love for the landscape thrums through every line. There is sadness here, and heartbreak, but also so much beauty.

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

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