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Posts Tagged ‘World War II’

I don’t know much about pigeons, though I know they’ve been used as messenger birds for hundreds of years. But I’ve learned quite a bit about pigeons – and their use in World War II – since reading Stephanie Graves’ mystery series featuring Olive Bright.

Olive lives in the fictional village of Pipley, situated close to the real-life Brickendonbury Manor, used as a training ground for British intelligence services (SOE) during the war. When her father’s pigeons are rejected by the British pigeon service, she’s deeply disappointed – until SOE comes calling. Olive and her birds begin working with SOE (in the form of prickly Captain Jameson Aldridge), while she pretends to fall in love with the captain as a cover story. Soon, a village murder is added to the mix, and Olive’s family takes in a young evacuee, leaving Olive with her hands full: sleuthing, pigeon training and helping care for the household keep her quite busy.

It’s no secret I love a WWII mystery, and this series has all the right ingredients: cozy little village (with a disturbingly high murder rate); plucky, kind brunette heroine determined to make her mark and solve a few cases along the way; a will-they-won’t-they love story (with a bit of intelligence intrigue); and an engaging cast of secondary characters. In this series, that cast includes Olive’s blustering father and sharp-eyed, kind stepmother; her brother Lewis and best friend George, both away fighting; Jonathan, the evacuee who becomes a companion to Olive; Henrietta Gibbons, local Girl Guide; and lots of villagers, including Olive’s newly married chum, Margaret.

As the series continues, we learn more about both the villagers and Olive’s war work, not to mention her ingenuity for getting herself out of frequent scrapes. I read the third book earlier this spring, and am eagerly awaiting more of Olive’s adventures – and hoping she and the captain can finally admit they’re in love for real.

Have you read this series (with its Home Fires vibes)? I’d love to know what you think.

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We’re a week into May, and I’ve been racing through good books. Here’s what I have been reading:

Begin Again, Emma Lord
Andie Rose is an A+ planner – but when she transfers to the competitive state school where her parents met, her plans to ace her college experience fall apart. Instead, she finds friendships with her roommate and her stats tutor; shifts at the off-campus bagel place; a slot on the school’s pirate radio station, founded by her mom; and a will-they-won’t-they connection with her RA, Milo. I love Lord’s sweet, witty YA novels and this one was so much fun.

The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, Jennifer Ryan
I flew through this charming WWII novel about a group of women in Kent banding together to mend and lend wedding dresses to each other amid fabric rationing. Fashion designer Cressida, shy vicar’s daughter Grace, aristocratic Violet and their friends were wonderful characters. Serious Home Fires feel-good vibes.

Pages & Co.: The Bookwanderers, Anna James
Tilly Pages loves spending time in her grandparents’ London bookshop. When Anne Shirley and Alice (of Wonderland) turn up in the shop, and Tilly discovers she can wander into books, her grandparents – and a secret sect of librarians – have a lot of explaining to do. A cute, bookish middle-grade story; I wanted to love it more than I did, but it was fun. Found at All She Wrote Books.

Write for Life: Creative Tools for Every Writer, Julia Cameron
I’ve loved Cameron’s work since I received The Sound of Paper as a college graduation gift. This is a six-week practical guide to getting in a writing rhythm, using her classic tools (Morning Pages, walks, Artist Dates). Helpful and engaging, though not much new info if you’re already a Cameron reader.

Love from A to Z, S. K. Ali
Zayneb has HAD it with her racist teacher targeting Muslims – but when she speaks out, she gets suspended. She heads to Doha to visit an aunt, where she meets Adam – Chinese-Canadian, also Muslim and recently diagnosed with MS. This lovely YA novel alternates between their perspectives, and deals with both difficult topics and the sweet headiness of first love. Thoughtful and fun. Found at the Bryn Mawr Bookstore in Cambridge.

Stateless, Elizabeth Wein
England, 1937: Stella North is determined to prove herself in an international race against 11 other young pilots from across Europe, to promote peace. But one contestant disappears, and Stella suspects sabotage. She works with a few other pilots to figure out who was responsible, and why. I love Wein’s fast-paced historical YA novels; this one has great flight details, fascinating characters, and a growing sense of unease as Europe heads toward war.

My Contrary Mary, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand & Jodi Meadows
This sequel-of-sorts to My Lady Jane (which I loved) picks up with Mary, Queen of Scots, at the French court. She’s supposed to marry Prince Francis, but she’s ambivalent – meanwhile, Francis’ mother and Mary’s uncles are both scheming to gain power, and Mary’s mother is in faraway Scotland. With the help of her ladies-in-waiting (all of whom, like Mary, can change into animals) and Nostradamus’ daughter Ari, Mary learns to navigate both politics and love. I raced through this one on a flight; so much fun.

Off the Map, Trish Doller
Carla Black has always preferred traveling to putting down roots; she spent summers road-tripping with her father, Biggie, after her mom left. But when she goes to Ireland for her best friend’s wedding, she meets a man (the groom’s brother) who might make her want to stay. I like Doller’s smart modern-day romances; this one was pretty steamy for me. But I liked Carla and the honest way she was forced to deal with her issues.

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

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Suddenly, it’s lilac and tulip season – which means it’s inching closer to reading-barefoot-outdoors season. As we head into May, here’s what I have been reading:

Better Living Through Birding: Notes from a Black Man in the Natural World, Christian Cooper
Cooper gained some notoriety as the “Central Park birder” in 2020, but he’d been birding – and writing – for decades before that. This thoughtful memoir explores his experience as a queer Black man in New York City, his years writing for Marvel Comics (so cool!), his complex family relationships and, of course, his love for birds. Helpful tips on birding sprinkled throughout. I loved this book. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 13).

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, Jesse Q. Sutanto
When a mysterious man ends up dead on her teahouse’s floor, Chinese grandmother Vera Wong quickly decides the police are useless and she’ll solve the case herself. Hilarity ensues, including a spot of matchmaking; elaborate meals (cooked by Vera, of course); a Hercule Poirot-style dramatic reveal; and skirmishes with the police. I cracked up at this wonderfully plotted mystery; I love Sutanto’s work and hope she makes this a series.

Mrs. Porter Calling, AJ Pearce
Emmy Lake is relishing her job running the Yours Cheerfully advice page at Woman’s Friend magazine. But when the new publisher, the titular Mrs. Porter, starts changing all the best parts of the magazine, Emmy and her colleagues must band together to save Woman’s Friend. Meanwhile, WWII continues; Emmy’s friend Thelma and her kids move into the flat upstairs; and Emmy and her best friend Bunty continue to be shining examples of Pluck and Compassion. I adore this series. To review for Shelf Awareness (out August 8).

Leeva at Last, Sara Pennypacker
What are people for? This question propels Leeva Spayce Thornblossom out of her constricted existence (her parents are truly terrible people) and into the wider world. She meets the local librarians, makes a few friends and figures out how to save her town from bankruptcy. A sweet Roald Dahl-style middle-grade novel; I enjoyed Leeva and her new friends. Spotted at Symposium Books in Providence, RI.

My Lady Jane, Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand & Jodi Meadows
I was thinking about this book after seeing Six and then scored a copy at a Little Free Library. It’s a fresh, badass, feminist, hilarious take on Lady Jane Grey. England is split between Eðians – people who can change into animal form – and Verities – those who can’t. Edward VI is dying and hands his crown over to Jane, who is forced to marry a young lord who turns into a horse every morning. That’s inconvenient, but the real fun comes when politics, love and sly references to other stories collide. I raced through this in a weekend and adored it. Recommended by Anne.

Poet Warrior, Joy Harjo
I admire Harjo’s poetry (“Praise the Rain” is a favorite). This, her second memoir, explores her own identity as a poet and warrior, with a loosely chronological narrative of her life. It is wise and lovely, sometimes heartbreaking, occasionally a little hard to follow. Poems sprinkled throughout. Best read slowly, but definitely worth reading.

Symphony of Secrets, Brendan Slocumb
Musicologist Bern Hendricks is thrilled at the chance to work on a newly unearthed manuscript by his musical hero, Frederic Delaney. But as Bern and his tech-whiz colleague Eboni dig deeper, they discover a Black woman named Josephine Reed – was she Delaney’s lover, collaborator or something else? A fast-paced, fascinating musical mystery with a great dual narrative and engaging characters.

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

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parnassus books nashville

This month, I’ve been to Nashville and back again, to visit my beloved college roommate and her family. (We went to Parnassus Books, above – of course.) Here’s what I have been reading:

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy: A Modern Graphic Retelling of Little Women, Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo
I loved this modern-day adaptation of Little Women, in which the March sisters are a blended, biracial family living in NYC. All the girls (and Marmee, and Laurie) were spot-on, and I loved the updates to the familiar narrative as well as the deep sisterly bonds. My guy found this at Phoenix Books in VT; so good.

Ciao for Now, Kate Bromley
When Violetta Luciano lands a coveted fashion internship in Rome, she’s determined to learn all she can and win the competition for a job. But her hostess/professor’s grumpy son (and her own lack of self-confidence) threaten to jeopardize her plans. I raced through this fun rom-com on a flight; I loved the dreamy setting, Violet’s friend Marco, and the connections she makes at the fashion house. (I did roll my eyes at her thinking she was washed up at age 29.) Super fun; made me hanker for a trip to Italy. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 6).

The Spectacular, Fiona Davis
I love Davis’ rich, compelling historical fiction, usually set in iconic NYC buildings. This one follows the journey of Marion Brooks, who auditions to be a Rockette in 1956, much to her widowed father’s chagrin. Davis explores Marion’s fight for independence and her complex relationship with her sister alongside the grimmer story of a pipe bomber targeting public places in NYC. Great storytelling and I loved Marion’s character. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 13).

An Impossible Impostor, Deanna Raybourn
Veronica Speedwell and her partner, Stoker, travel to a grim manor house (another one!) to work on a case of potential identity theft – which brings up some ghosts (not all of them dead) from Veronica’s past. I love this series, and this case was an explosive one – curious to see where it goes next.

It’s Kind of a Cheesy Love Story, Lauren Morrill
Beck Brix has spent her life (so far) being famous for being born in the bathroom of a local pizzeria. It gets even more embarrassing when she has to start working there at age 16. But in spite of herself, Beck comes to love her geeky coworkers – and maybe the delivery guy is cute? When disaster strikes, she not only steps up to save the pizzeria, but figures out some important things about herself. A sweet YA story that (of course) made me crave pizza.

Yours Cheerfully, A.J. Pearce
Emmeline Lake and her best friend Bunty are still Doing Their Bit to help the war effort, but Emmy gets inspired when the government calls on magazines to recruit female war workers. A series of articles on women working in munitions goes over well, but Emmy’s discoveries about the lack of childcare threaten to land her and her new friends in hot water. I loved this smart, cheery (ha) sequel to Dear Mrs. Bird just as much the second time around. Can’t wait for book 3 this summer.

Jane of Lantern Hill, L.M. Montgomery
I say this every spring: I adore kind, practical Jane and the tale of how her life transforms once she starts spending time with her dad on Prince Edward Island. I love the Island, but what I love best of all is watching Jane grow into herself. Absolutely wonderful, as always.

The Radcliffe Ladies’ Reading Club, Julia Bryan Thomas
After escaping an oppressive marriage, Alice Campbell opens a bookshop in Cambridge and starts a book club that attracts four young women from Radcliffe. The students – Tess, Merritt, Evie and Caroline – are each struggling in their own ways, and both their friendships and the book club challenge their preconceived notions. I liked the premise, though it got kind of melodramatic. Shades of Mona Lisa Smile. To review for Shelf Awareness (out June 6).

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

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It’s no secret around here that I love a mystery – particularly a series featuring a plucky, quick-witted female amateur sleuth. Bonus points if she’s brunette, bookish or British, or all three. (Since I’m two of those, I confess I like imagining myself in the role of novice detective.) Mysteries set in the British Isles, where I spent three very happy semesters studying abroad, with such protagonists are my literary catnip. So Ashley Weaver’s newish series, featuring a smart, stylish safecracker named Electra McDonnell, fits the bill exactly.

I’ve now read three books narrated by Ellie, who has grown up with her Uncle Mick and cousins following the deaths of both her parents. As World War II heats up, Ellie and her family get caught on a job – which turns out to have been a setup – much to their chagrin. But the man who caught them, a Major Ramsey, agrees not to send any of them to prison if they’ll help him with an occasional espionage (or lockpicking) mission. Ellie, naturally, is not only relieved to retain her freedom, but secretly thrilled to be let in on some top-secret information.

I loved Weaver’s previous series, the Amory Ames mysteries, though I thought it did rather peter out toward the end. Ellie is a rather different character: fiery and independent, with some Irish blood in her, and a puzzling attraction to the major, which he may or may not return.

So far, her adventures have taken her all over London, then up north to the port city of Sutherland in pursuit of a possible forgery ring. On top of solving mysteries and cracking safes, she’s also in pursuit of knowledge about her parents’ deaths, particularly her mother’s – and though the truth may be painful, she won’t stop until she learns what she needs to know.

Besides Ellie herself, the books feature a great ensemble cast: gruff Uncle Mick and his two boys; the housekeeper, Nacy, who mothers everyone; Ellie’s friend Felix, an expert forger; and the major himself, who I’m sure has secrets we haven’t learned yet. I’ve quite enjoyed getting to know all of them, and am looking forward to Ellie’s next adventures.

Have you read any of this series, or the Amory Ames books? What did you think?

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I can’t believe it’s already April – Easter is this weekend, and Marathon Monday is around the corner. Between work and yoga classes, here’s what I have been reading:

The Vintage Shop of Second Chances, Libby Page
I love Page’s warmhearted, poignant novels that focus on female friendship. This one follows a special yellow dress and its effect on the lives of three women: vintage shop owner Lou, American innkeeper Donna and 70-something divorcee Maggy. I loved how their stories intertwined. Full of charm and cheer and delicious clothing – I adored this one.

March: Book Two, Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin & Nate Powell
John Lewis continues his story with the Freedom Rides in the American South, and the involvement of Dr. King and other leaders in the student-led Civil Rights Movement. A fascinating, often harrowing account of what the Freedom Riders were up against, and what they suffered. So powerful and important – gave a lot of context to events I’d only heard the outlines of.

The Princess Bride, William Goldman
I love this movie (who doesn’t?) but had never read the book, until my guy bought it for me and we read it together. We both loved seeing familiar scenes come to life on the page, but I got tired of the narrator’s asides. (The torture scenes are also a lot grimmer than the movie.) I almost never say this, but I’d stick with the film.

Another Appalachia: Coming Up Queer and Indian in a Mountain Place, Neema Avashia
I loved this thoughtful, vivid, sometimes funny collection of essays exploring Avashia’s experience as one of very few Indians in her West Virginia hometown. She delves into the complexities of her identity, the people she loves, the way her upbringing has clashed with her experience in Boston (I related to that), and a bit of her journey to coming out. Recommended and lent by my friend Jackie.

A Quiet Life in the Country, T.E. Kinsey
Lady Hardcastle and her maid, Florence Armstrong, have left London for the country – but when they stumble across a dead body in the woods, things get interesting. A fun British mystery with a delightful pair of leading ladies; first in a series. Recommended by my friend Jess.

The Light Over London, Julia Kelly
Cara Hargraves, an antique dealer reeling from her divorce, stumbles on a WWII diary during a work assignment. Kelly weaves together Cara’s story with that of Louise Keene, a girl from rural Cornwall who becomes a gunner girl during the war. I love Kelly’s absorbing historical fiction; this one also dealt sensitively with the aftermath of divorce, which made me feel seen.

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

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March is flying by – we’ve finally had a few sunny days, plus lots of great books. Here’s what I have been reading:

Playing It Safe, Ashley Weaver
I love Weaver’s smart mysteries (see above), and this third Electra McDonnell adventure was well done. Ellie heads to Sunderland on an assignment for the enigmatic Major Ramsey; once there, she gets to know a few locals, witnesses at least one death, and does a bit of good old-fashioned safecracking. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 9).

Kiki’s Delivery Service, Eiko Kadono
When she turns 13, young witch Kiki must find a place to live on her own for a year. With her black cat, Jiji, Kiki flies to the mid-size city of Koriko, where she makes a few friends and opens the titular delivery service. I loved this gentle, fun middle-grade story, though I haven’t seen the classic anime. (Unrelated, but still fun: my nephews call me Kiki.)

An Unexpected Peril, Deanna Raybourn
I’ve been loving the Veronica Speedwell series, and this sixth one – involving a lady mountain climber who died under mysterious circumstances – was so much fun. Veronica ends up impersonating a princess while trying to solve a murder, and wrestling with her own complicated feelings about Britain’s royalty. Highly entertaining.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun, Elle Cosimano
After several run-ins with the Russian mob, single mom Finlay Donovan just wants to finish her next novel and figure out her feelings for cop Nick Anthony. But when Finlay and her nanny/partner in crime, Veronica, attend a citizens’ police academy, things get complicated real fast. I love this zany, fast-paced mystery series – it is, as a friend said recently, pure chaos but so much fun.

Dear Mrs. Bird, A.J. Pearce
As the Blitz pounds London, aspiring journalist Emmeline Lake lands a job typing letters for a women’s magazine. Mrs. Bird, the titular advice columnist, won’t answer anything Unpleasant or Racy, so Emmy takes matters into her own hands. I read this book in 2018 and recently found it at a library sale for $2 (!). I loved it just as much this time around – warm, witty and entertaining. I want to be friends with Emmy, and I especially enjoyed her colleagues at the magazine and the fire station where she volunteers.

The Late Mrs. Willoughby, Claudia Gray
Juliet Tilney is thrilled to be invited to visit Colonel and Mrs. Brandon in Devonshire. Jonathan Darcy is less thrilled to be visiting Mr. Willoughby, but they are both pleased to be in each other’s company again. When Willoughby’s wife is poisoned – quite dramatically – at a dinner, Jonathan and Juliet join forces to find the killer. A delightful follow-up to The Murder of Mr. Wickham, featuring lots of Austen characters (notably the whole Dashwood/Ferrars clan), and a fun mystery. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 16).

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

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book culture bookstore interior yellow flowers

February was a strange month – short and long, sunny and snowy, plagued by the sniffles. But it ended with a batch of great books. Here’s what I have been reading:

Bloomsbury Girls, Natalie Jenner
London, 1949: Bloomsbury Books is clinging to the past, but its female staff – whip-smart Vivien, quiet Evie and steady, reliable Grace – are poised to push it into the future. I loved this charming story of a bookshop full of varying (sometimes clashing) personalities, bookish (and other) secrets, and women willing to take major risks to change the bookshop and their lives. Just the thing for a cold, snowy week.

Same Time Next Summer, Annabel Monaghan
Monaghan’s second novel follows Sam and Wyatt, neighbors on Long Island who fell in love as teenagers. After an eruption of a family secret and a bad breakup, Sam has convinced herself she’s moved on. But returning to the beach (with her fiance, Jack), she encounters Wyatt, and they have to reckon with their past and present selves. Funny, moving and real; I got a little frustrated with Sam but enjoyed this story. (I received an ARC; it’s out June 6.)

Patience and Fortitude: Power, Real Estate, and the Fight to Save a Public Library, Scott Sherman
I stumbled across this nonfiction account (fittingly) at Mercer Street Books in NYC. Sherman expands on his reporting in The Nation to detail how the New York Public Library’s trustees nearly gutted the historic 42nd Street building. I read with fascination (and sometimes horror). I love the NYPL, and Sherman deftly captures the competing interests (and characters) at play.

March: Book One, John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
My guy lent me the 3-book set of Congressman Lewis’ graphic memoirs. Book One (framed around President Obama’s inauguration) traces Lewis’ childhood and his student days, getting involved in activism and sit-ins and learning the principles of nonviolence from Dr. King. Powerful and engaging; I loved getting more context and details for events I’d heard of (and some I hadn’t). Can’t wait to keep going.

The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels, India Holton
Cecilia Bassingthwaite is anxious for the day when she’ll be a senior member of the titular society. (She’s also keen to avenge her mother’s death.) But the arrival of a handsome assassin, a mass kidnapping, her aunt’s harping about her health, and some highly inconvenient feelings make all that a bit difficult. A madcap romp set in Victorian England – lots of flying houses, literary references and absurdities. Really good fun.

Mrs. Tim Carries On, D.E. Stevenson
I adore the adventures of Mrs. Tim (Hester) Christie – military wife, mother, confidant, keen observer of daily life as WWII begins in England. I picked up this used copy (for $4!) at the Bryn Mawr Bookstore, and have been reading it slowly at bedtime. Such a comfort, and a joy.

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

What are you reading?

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

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three lives bookstore interior

January has been a long year, as someone commented on social media recently. The latest batch of books, fortunately, has been excellent. Here’s what I have been reading:

Under the Henfluence: Inside the World of Backyard Chickens and the People Who Love Them, Tove Danovich
Danovich dreamed of owning chickens during her years in Brooklyn – but when she moved to Oregon and ordered three chicks, she had no idea how they’d change her life. A warm, engaging, often hilarious deep dive into chicken-keeping, the poultry industry, chicken care and the ways these little birds steal their owners’ hearts. Informative and fun. To review for Shelf Awareness (out March 28).

Island of Spies, Sheila Turnage
Hatteras Island, 1942: As World War II heats up, Sarah Stickley “Stick” Lawson and her two best friends, Rain and Neb, hunt for mysteries to solve on the island. They’re soon caught up in some real espionage, possibly involving the cranky postmistress, two enigmatic visitors, a couple of baseball players and Stick’s older sister. I loved this middle-grade novel about family and secrets and standing up for what’s right; I also adore Turnage’s Three Times Lucky and its sequels.

The Theory of (Not Quite) Everything, Kara Gnodde
Siblings Mimi and Art have always been close – especially since their parents’ tragic death. But in her thirties, Mimi gets restless and wants to find love. Art – a mathematical genius – agrees to help her if he can use an algorithm. When Mimi falls for Frank, another mathematician, Art is distressed for a few reasons. A thoughtful exploration of sibling dynamics; I loved Mimi’s friend Rey, and Frank himself. (Heads up for a few seriously heartbreaking death and hospital scenes.) To review for Shelf Awareness (out February 28).

Other Birds, Sarah Addison Allen
When 19-year-old Zoey moves into the condo she inherited from her mother on tiny, beautiful Mallow Island, she’s hoping to uncover some family secrets – but other secrets start to emerge almost immediately. From the resident turquoise birds to the suspicious death of one of her neighbors, plus a local reclusive author, Mallow Island is teeming with mystery. I love Addison Allen’s warm, enchanting Southern fiction; this one has some engaging characters, but also lots of deep sadness around abuse and addiction.

Operation Sisterhood, Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Bo and her mum have always been a team, and Bo likes it that way. But when Mum announces she’s getting married, they move from the Bronx to Harlem and in with Bo’s new stepdad, his daughter, another family who shares their house, and a menagerie of pets. Bo – an introvert, baker and happy only child – likes her new family, but struggles to adjust. A warm, funny middle-grade novel (like the Vanderbeekers turned up to 11) with lashings of Black girl magic.

The Covenant of Water, Abraham Verghese
Verghese’s second novel traces the epic story of a family in southern India afflicted by a mysterious condition: one person in every generation dies by drowning. Spanning seven decades, the story begins with a child bride coming to Parambil, the family estate, and continues through several generations of love, loss, marriage, death, medical school and social change. Verghese is a medical doctor and it shows; the medical detail is painstaking (and occasionally gruesome). I read his memoir My Own Country in college and was blown away; he’s a powerful writer. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 2).

People We Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry
Poppy and Alex – polar opposites – have been best friends since college, taking an annual summer trip together. Until two years ago when they ruined everything. Poppy, floundering at work, is determined to salvage their friendship with one last trip to Alex’s brother’s wedding in Palm Springs. A funny story of travel disasters and friendship that might tip over into love; Poppy is wacky and oblivious, but eventually gains a little self-awareness. Fun for the winter doldrums.

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

What are you reading?

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

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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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