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Posts Tagged ‘young adult lit’

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!

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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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July is (almost) over, and while sweating through a heat wave, here’s what I have been reading:

The Mimosa Tree Mystery, Ovidia Yu
As World War II rages, the Japanese have occupied Singapore, and Chen Su Lin finds herself coerced into helping them solve the murder of her neighbor, Mr. Mirza. Much grimmer than Su Lin’s first three adventures, this is a sobering look at life under Japanese occupation and a compelling mystery.

The Murder of Mr. Wickham, Claudia Gray
I loved this fun mystery (recommended by Anne) that brings together the main characters from many of Jane Austen’s novels for a house party hosted by Emma and George Knightley. Mr. Wickham (that cad!) shows up uninvited, and before long he ends up dead. Juliet Tilney, Catherine’s daughter, and Jonathan Darcy, son of Elizabeth, band together to find the killer. Witty and entertaining, with some interesting subplots. I’d absolutely read a sequel.

Welcome to the School by the Sea, Jenny Colgan
I usually enjoy Colgan’s gentle British rom-coms, often set in charming small towns. This is an older book of hers, reissued, and it shows: there are some fun moments, but the character development is thin, and there is so much fat-shaming. First in a series.

Where There’s a Whisk, Sarah J. Schmitt
Peyton Sinclaire believes she has one shot to escape her trailer-park life in Florida: winning the Top Teen Chef reality show competition. But when she arrives in Manhattan and starts navigating the show’s cooking challenges and interpersonal dynamics, she learns a thing or two she didn’t expect. I loved this sweet, foodie YA novel, especially the way it wrapped up.

Finding Me, Viola Davis
I’ve been impressed by Davis as an actor, but didn’t know her story. She tells it at a sometimes breakneck pace – from growing up in abject poverty in Rhode Island to college to Juilliard to success on stage and film, to marriage and complicated family dynamics. A brutally honest account of her life; so much trauma, so much grit and hard work, and finally some joy. Recommended by Anne.

For the Love of the Bard, Jessica Martin
Miranda Barnes – literary agent, middle child, YA writer under a pseudonym – goes back to her Shakespeare-obsessed hometown for its annual Bard festival. While there, she has to deal with scary health news for a family member, festival committee politics, and – oh yeah – the guy who broke her heart back in high school. I loved this theater-nerd romance with complex sibling dynamics, totally relatable life struggles and a swoony romance. Found at the wonderful Phoenix Books in Burlington, VT.

They Called Me a Lioness: A Palestinian Girl’s Fight for Freedom, Ahed Tamimi and Dena Takruri
Palestinian teenager Ahed Tamimi made international news after a video of her slapping an Israeli soldier went viral. This memoir recounts her childhood, her family’s life under the Israeli occupation, her arrest and imprisonment (and other traumas), and her continuing fight to liberate Palestine. Short, but heavy and heartbreaking. An important perspective we don’t often get in the U.S. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 6).

The Marlow Murder Club, Robert Thorogood
I picked this one up on a whim at the library and blew through it in two days. Judith Potts, age 77, is swimming naked in the Thames (her daily ritual) when she hears a gunshot from her neighbor’s garden. It turns out he was murdered – but by whom? Judith joins forces with local dog walker Suzie and the vicar’s buttoned-up wife, Becks, to solve the case. Witty and clever and so British. I loved it.

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

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‘Tis the season for summer reading – which for me typically means mysteries, YA and lush, immersive novels. But I’m also reading some thoughtful nonfiction, as always. Here’s the latest roundup:

Tokyo Dreaming, Emiko Jean
Izumi Tanaka’s new royal life in Tokyo is going all right – until her boyfriend breaks up with her and the Imperial Council votes against her parents’ engagement. She embarks on a campaign to change their minds, but will it end in disaster? I liked this sequel to Tokyo Ever After, though Izumi drove me crazy at times. Still a fun ride.

Hello Goodbye, Kate Stollenwerck
Hailey Rogers isn’t thrilled about spending part of her summer with her almost-estranged grandmother. But as she gets to know Gigi, they bond over music and books, and Gigi shares some family secrets. This was a fun YA novel set in Texas – the ending got a little wild but I loved the book’s sensitive treatment of complicated family dynamics. And Blake, the neighbor/love interest, is a dream. Out August 2.

The Paper Bark Tree Mystery, Ovidia Yu
Chen Su Lin is enjoying her work as a detective’s assistant for the Singapore police force, until the new administrator replaces her with a privileged white girl. When the administrator is found dead, Su Lin takes on some unofficial sleuthing, which becomes even more important when her best friend’s father is arrested. Third in a wonderful series set in 1930s Singapore; I’m learning a lot about colonial history, and I love Su Lin’s voice. She’s smart and capable (but still gets it wrong once in a while).

Barakah Beats, Maleeha Siddiqui
Nimra Sharif is nervous about starting public school in seventh grade – especially when her (white) best friend starts acting weird. But then Nimra gets invited to join a band made up of other Muslim kids. The problem? She’s not sure if making music goes against her beliefs. A fun, sensitive middle-grade novel about navigating friendships and faith, and being true to yourself.

Mirror Lake, Juneau Black
It’s autumn in Shady Hollow and the election for police chief (between two bears) is heating up. And then Dorothy Springfield, an eccentric local rat, becomes convinced her husband has been murdered and replaced by an impostor. Intrepid reporter Vera Vixen and her raven friend Lenore are on the case, of course. A charming third entry in this delightful mystery series.

Jacqueline in Paris, Ann Mah
In 1949, Jacqueline Bouvier arrives in Paris to spend her junior year abroad. Mah’s novel dives into the people Jackie met, the man she almost loved, her sobering trip to Dachau and the deep, lifelong impression France left on her. Compelling and engaging (even though I am a little tired of Kennedy stories). To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 27).

Church: Why Bother?, Philip Yancey
My dad sent me this slim book detailing Yancey’s experiences with church and his musings on why it’s still worth it. I am not sure I agree, but there are some interesting insights here. (There is also a lot of older-white-man mild surprise that people different from him have something to teach him.) Frustrating at times, but thought-provoking.

The Emma Project, Sonali Dev
Naina Kohli wants nothing more to do with the Raje family after ending a 10-year fake relationship with its eldest son. But then youngest child Vansh comes back home, and he and Naina find themselves competing for philanthropic funding, as well as fighting a mutual attraction. This was way steamier than I expected, but a fun romance with great witty banter.

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

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Suddenly, it’s July – the heat is here, as are the occasional summer thunderstorms. Nine days to Walk for Music; a couple weeks until a getaway I’m looking forward to. As we close out June, here’s what I have been reading:

Dinners with Ruth: A Memoir on the Power of Friendships, Nina Totenberg
Totenberg, a longtime NPR reporter, met Ruth Bader Ginsburg early(ish) in both their careers. Her memoir traces their five-decade friendship, but it’s also a broader meditation on friendship, community, Washington insider politics and the challenges of being a woman in Washington’s highly rarefied environment. Thoughtful and insightful. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Sept. 13).

In a New York Minute, Kate Spencer
Franny Doyle is having a terrible day: she got laid off, then her dress ripped in the subway door. Then a handsome guy offered her his suit jacket and their “love story” went viral. But is there maybe a spark there after all? I loved this sweet, sassy rom-com that’s also a love letter to NYC and a tribute to stalwart friendships (for both main characters). So much fun. Recommended by Annie.

The Last Mapmaker, Christina Soontornvat
Sai has spent her life (so far) struggling to rise above her family’s low-class background. When she gets a chance to join an exploratory voyage as a mapmaker’s assistant, she jumps at it. But on board ship, she discovers that so many things – including the voyage itself – are more complicated than they seem. A Thai-inspired adventure that asks some interesting questions; dragged in the middle but ultimately was really fun. Recommended by Karina Yan Glaser, whose books I adore.

My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor
I admire Sotomayor, but didn’t know much about her before reading this wonderful memoir of her early life and career. She tells a compelling, warmhearted story of her early life in the Bronx, her Puerto Rican family, her journey to Princeton and Yale and her career as a lawyer and judge. Thoughtful, insightful and fascinating. Recommended by my friend Allison, who also loved it.

Portrait of a Thief, Grace D. Li
I loved this Ocean’s Eleven-esque heist novel that follows five Chinese-American college students as they attempt to steal back several priceless bronze pieces that Western museums have looted from China. I liked the characters, the fast pace and especially the questions about ethics, colonialism and who gets to decide where certain treasures belong. Fun and thought-provoking. Recommended by Anne.

So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix, Bethany Morrow
It’s 1863 and the March women are building a life for themselves in the freedpeople’s colony of Roanoke Island, Virginia. I loved this thoughtful remix of a beloved story; the sisters are recognizably themselves, but also distinct from Alcott’s characters. The warmth of family love and the past trauma of enslavement are strong, and I appreciated the questions Morrow’s characters ask about equality and freedom. Excellent. Also recommended by Anne.

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

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We’ve made it to the end of May – with a serious dose of heavy headline news, lately. I am doing my best to stay engaged, but escaping into books when I need to. Here’s the latest roundup:

The Many Meanings of Meilan, Andrea Wang
I found this wonderful middle-grade novel at the library and read it in one sitting. It follows Meilan Hua as she moves from Boston’s Chinatown to small-town Ohio with her parents and grandfather, in the wake of a family feud following her grandmother’s death. Unsurprisingly, she struggles to adjust and fit in, but she uses the different meanings of her name to find creative ways to cope. Beautifully written and so compelling and vivid – I loved it.

The Suite Spot, Trish Doller
I loved Doller’s adult debut, Float Plan, which I read in 2020 (I interviewed her, too). This novel follows Rachel Beck (sister of Anna from Float Plan) as she and her young daughter move to a remote island in Lake Erie so Rachel can take a new job. Rachel’s new boss, a hotel owner/beer brewer, is struggling with his own losses but they find themselves becoming friends, then something more. A sweet, relatable story with some swoony romance moments; I loved Rachel’s new friends, too.

Across the Pond, Joy McCullough
After a friendship disaster back home in San Diego, Callie is thrilled to be moving with her family to Scotland. But when she gets there, she finds herself petrified of making new friends, until a friendly librarian, a prickly neighbor and a local birding club help her out. A sweet middle-grade story of finding new friends/interests and learning how to keep going.

One Italian Summer, Rebecca Serle
When Katy Silver’s mother dies, she is distraught: not even sure she can stay in her marriage anymore. On a trip to Positano, Italy (which was supposed to be a mother-daughter trip), Katy – unbelievably – encounters her mother in the flesh: young, vibrant and full of life. A lovely time-travel story about love and grief, letting go, and taking ownership of your own life. (I loved Serle’s The Dinner List, too.)

Tokyo Ever After, Emiko Jean
Raised by a strong, loving single mom, Izumi “Izzy” Tanaka has always wondered about her mysterious dad. When she finds out he’s the Crown Prince of Japan, she’s whisked away for a crash course in royal behavior and (maybe) a chance to find out if Japan is where she belongs. A funny, modern YA fairy tale; think Princess Diaries goes to Japan with thoughtful commentary on race and family.

The Frangipani Tree Mystery, Ovidia Yu
My friend Jess’ Instagram book club prompted me to pick up this book, set in 1930s Singapore. The narrator, Chen Su Lin, steps in as temporary governess to a mentally disabled teenage girl after her Irish governess dies under mysterious circumstances. Working (mostly) undercover with the local inspector, Su Lin attempts to solve the mystery and carve a path for herself in a rigid society. Charming and so interesting – first in a series and I’ll definitely read more.

The Swallowtail Legacy: Wreck at Ada’s Reef, Michael D. Beil
Prickly, athletic Lark Heron-Finch has been struggling since her mom died. When she goes back to their family’s vacation home with her sister, stepdad and stepbrothers, she uncovers a local mystery that could have serious present-day implications. I loved this middle-grade adventure that sensitively deals with grief and hard emotions; Pip, Lark’s younger sister, and Nadine, her friend/mentor, are especially wonderful.

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace and Everyday Prayer, Micha Boyett
I’ve been rereading Micha’s lovely book slowly, as she’s running a Zoom book club to celebrate its 8th anniversary. It traces her attempts at contemplative prayer as she adjusts to being a mother. Warm, wise, honest and lyrical; so many things resonated even more this time around.

Maame, Jessica George
George’s debut novel Madeleine “Maddie” Wright, a young Ghanaian-British woman living in London and caring for her dad, who has Parkinson’s disease. Maame (Maddie’s nickname) traces her attempts to find some independence, assert herself at work, deal with microaggressions, dip into online dating and figure out who she wants to be. Often sad; sometimes wryly funny. I was rooting for Maddie to find some happiness. To review for Shelf Awareness (out in Feb. 2023).

The Heart of Summer, Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Hayes-McCoy returns to Lissbeg, Ireland, to her cast of warmhearted characters and their daily lives. This time, librarian Hanna Casey takes a holiday to London, which prompts some serious self-reflection; newlyweds Aideen and Conor navigate farm life; and local builder Fury O’Shea has a finger in every pie, as always. So charming and comforting. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 5).

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

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We’re nearly a week into May and I have been diving into books when life feels like too much, as usual. Here’s what I have been reading:

Just Haven’t Met You Yet, Sophie Cousens
Journalist Laura LeQuesne has always believed in love – helped along in part by her parents’ epic love story. But when Laura goes to Jersey (one of the Channel Islands) to research a piece based on her family history, she uncovers some difficult truths. An utterly charming love story set in a gorgeous place, with a really likable main character.

Small Things Like These, Claire Keegan
Anne and others recommended this slim story of a middle-aged man in 1980s Ireland, who is forced to make a quiet but important decision. The setting is so vividly drawn, and the main character’s family life is such a contrast to the situation of others in his town.

Extra Helping: Recipes for Caring, Connecting, and Building Community, One Dish at a Time, Janet Reich Elsbach
Jenny recommended this book of recipes meant for a crowd, whether it’s a community supper, a struggling family or a celebration. Most of these consequently make too much food for me, as I live alone, but there are some yummy ideas in here.

Cold Clay, Juneau Black
It’s autumn in Shady Hollow, and when the bones of a moose are discovered in the local orchard, reporter Vera Vixen starts sniffing around for clues. Meanwhile, there’s a mysterious new mink in town, and possible romantic trouble for Vera and her beau. A fun, charming second mystery in this series where all the characters are animals.

A Duet for Home, Karina Yan Glaser
Since her dad was killed in an accident, June Yang has been trying to keep her family together. When she, her younger sister and her mom have to move into a family shelter in the Bronx, it’s a tough transition. But June finds friends, a new viola teacher, and her own voice – even while things remain difficult. I loved this standalone novel from the author of the wonderful Vanderbeekers series.

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

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It’s nearly April – and the weather is teasing us, as usual. But the books are getting me through. Here’s what I have been reading to close out the month:

Forward Me Back to You, Mitali Perkins
I love Mitali’s sensitively written novels about teenagers finding their place in the world. This one follows Kat – a tough-talking biracial girl from California who’s recovering from an assault – and Robin, a Boston boy adopted from India as a toddler by white parents. When they go to Kolkata on a summer service trip, things change in powerful ways for both of them. I could not put this down; it felt so realistic and layered and often funny. Found at Copper Dog Books last summer.

The Golden Season, Madeline Kay Sneed
Sneed’s gorgeous, thoughtful debut novel follows Emmy Quinn, a West Texas girl who makes the difficult decision to come out to her football-coach dad (and by extension the whole town) during her college years. The narrative captures my Texas – the relentless dry heat, the football obsession, the bless-your-heart church ladies and the surprising beauty – so well. Fantastic. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 31).

Sisters in Arms, Kaia Alderson
Eliza Jones and Grace Steele come from very different Harlem backgrounds. When they both sign up to serve in the WAC, they find themselves thrown together through training camp in Iowa and in all kinds of difficult circumstances. Fascinating, layered historical fiction about Black women serving in World War II. Found at Bookmans in Tucson.

Kind of a Big Deal, Shannon Hale
A girlfriend was reading this YA novel, so I picked it up at the library and flew through it. Teenage theatre star Josie Pie dropped out of high school to make it on Broadway, but she flopped and is now hiding out in Montana. She discovers a strange ability to jump into books – which makes her (further) question her current choices. This one took some odd turns, but it’s a fun story.

A Valiant Deceit, Stephanie Graves
Olive Bright is eagerly training pigeons for the war effort – and reluctantly faking a relationship with her commanding officer. When another officer turns up murdered, Olive (of course) wants to investigate. I loved this second cozy British WWII mystery following Olive, her birds and the village community of Pipley.

The Stubborn Light of Things: A Nature Diary, Melissa Harrison
Harrison is a noticer – and this collection of her columns from The Times shares her observations from rambles in London, where she used to live, and rural Suffolk, where she lives now. Beautiful, thoughtful and wise. Found at the wonderful Book Catapult in San Diego.

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

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March is nearly halfway done – and has included a wild mix of weather, as usual. The daffodils are sprouting, though. Here’s what I have been reading:

The Wide Starlight, Nicole Lesperance
When Eline was six years old, her mother disappeared under the northern lights on Svalbard. Ten years later, Eline – now living on Cape Cod with her dad – starts receiving strange messages, and goes back to try and find her mother. A complex, atmospheric, magical (sometimes creepy) story about family, loss, and the unexplainable at the edges of things. Found at Copper Dog Books in Beverly.

The Last Dance of the Debutante, Julia Kelly
I enjoy Kelly’s historical novels about female friendship. This one follows several of the last debutantes to be presented to Queen Elizabeth in the late 1950s. Protagonist Lily Nicholls, who has always felt like an outsider, learns to navigate the swirl of the Season amid various family secrets. Compelling (though a little sad) and a fascinating slice of history.

Shady Hollow, Juneau Black
Nothing much ever happens in Shady Hollow – until the local curmudgeonly toad ends up murdered. Vera Vixen, a reporter with a nose for news, and her friend Lenore (a raven who runs Nevermore Books, naturally) begin to investigate. A totally charming murder mystery set in a village full of different creatures. First in a series and I can’t wait to read the others.

Our Last Days in Barcelona, Chanel Cleeton
Cleeton returns to the saga of the Cuban-American Perez sisters in this lush historical novel. It flips back and forth in time between the 1960s, when eldest sister Isabel goes to Barcelona to find her sister Beatriz (and do some soul-searching of her own), and the 1930s, when Alicia – the Perez matriarch – finds herself in Barcelona as the Spanish Civil War escalates. There’s romance here, but what I really loved was Isabel’s inner journey, and Alicia’s, too. Cleeton writes strong female leads so well. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 24).

A Trip of One’s Own: Hope, Heartbreak, and Why Traveling Solo Could Change Your Life, Kate Wills
Travel writer Kate Wills spent years relishing her solo trips – but when her marriage fell apart, she found herself thinking about travel very differently. I loved this frank, funny memoir that weaves together Wills’ own experiences with practical tips and the stories of other intrepid female explorers. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 3).

Homicide and Halo-Halo, Mia P. Manansala
Lila Macapagal is getting ready to open the Brew-ha cafe with her friends – but she’s also still dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic murder case and judging a local beauty pageant (as one does). When one of her fellow judges is murdered, Lila gets pulled into the case and is also forced to confront her complicated feelings about pageants. I loved this second cozy mystery from Manansala – yummy food descriptions and more depth than the first one.

When You Get the Chance, Emma Lord
Millie Price is going to be a Broadway star – just as soon as she rocks the prestigious precollege program she’s been accepted into. But when her dad refuses to let her go, Millie embarks on a Mamma Mia-style search for her birth mom. This was the most fun theater-kid YA rom-com, with serious themes of identity and friendship. I loved Millie’s journey.

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

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I know we’re only a week into February, but I’ve already read a slew of great books (including on a snow day and a cross-country flight). Here’s what I have been reading:

Love, Lists and Fancy Ships, Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Jo Walker, yacht stewardess, has struggled to keep going since the death of her young nephew. But the surprise arrival of her two teenage nieces for the summer – plus a kind, handsome new neighbor/coworker and his daughter – forces her to get out and knock a few items off her 30-before-30 bucket list. Loved this funny, sweet novel.

Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, Ingrid Fetell Lee
We tend to think of joy as an intangible, elusive emotion – but it can be enhanced, even engendered, by physical objects and patterns in the physical world. A fun, informative look at 10 different aesthetics of joy – natural and human-made. Recommended by Anne and others.

Some of It Was Real, Nan Fischer
Sylvie is a psychic on the brink of stardom who isn’t quite sure she believes in her own abilities. Thomas is a journalist who’s determined to expose her as a fraud. As they go on a road trip to delve into Sylvie’s past, they both are forced to examine some serious grief and other emotions, including how they feel about each other. To review for Shelf Awareness (out July 22).

The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane, Kate O’Shaughnessy
Maybelle Lane dreams of a singing career – and when she finds out the daddy she’s never met is judging a singing contest, she schemes her way to Nashville, in the company of a no-nonsense neighbor woman and her maybe-friend, the boy next door. A sweet middle-grade story about loneliness and how you choose to build a family.

Just the Two of Us, Jo Wilde
Julie and Michael have been married for nearly 35 years – but their relationship has gone seriously sour. When they’re forced to isolate together in their home in March 2020, they start to wonder if they can find their way back to each other. I wasn’t sure I was ready for a “light” pandemic novel, but this was a lovely exploration of family and the ups and downs of a long marriage. To review for Shelf Awareness (out April 12).

Shoutin’ in the Fire, Dante Stewart
I follow Stewart on Twitter and Instagram – he writes powerfully about being Black, Christian and American. This memoir delves deeper into his own experiences and how he has grappled with anti-Blackness in various contexts (including in himself). He’s a force and this is a message we all need.

The Wicked Widow, Beatriz Williams
I love Williams’ lush, compelling historical fiction. This novel is the third featuring Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a scrappy redhead who gets caught up with a major bootlegging racket during Prohibition, and her connection to the blue-blooded Schuyler family. Heartbreaking and juicy and so good.

A Place to Hang the Moon, Kate Albus
William always tells his younger siblings that their mum thought they “hung the moon.” But when the children – long since orphaned – are forced to evacuate during World War II, clinging to those memories becomes tougher. A sweet (if often sad) story about family, love and the power of good stories.

Every Living Thing, James Herriot
It’s no secret I love Herriot’s books and the new PBS adaptation based closely on them. I found this later volume at the wonderful Dogtown Books in Gloucester (a happy surprise!) and have been savoring it slowly. Funny and vivid and comforting.

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

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