Wednesday, May 24, 2023

My March 2023 Reads

I returned to several old but trusted authors in March: Maeve Binchy, Elizabeth Cadell, Agatha Christie, John Grisham, and two Emilie Lorings, after reading her biography, Happy Landings. I was a little disappointed in Trespasses by Louise Kennedy, which was vivid and atmospheric but depressing. However, I enjoyed Jane Austen Cannot Marry, a time travel novel by May McGoldrick, a husband and wife team I have followed since their charming first historical novel, The Thistle and the Rose. That was the first book I bought as an editor at Penguin years ago.

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy (2008)(audio). This was a real feel-good story about Dr. Clara Casey and the staff she assembles at the new Heart Clinic in Dublin and I loved every minute. There is a reason why Binchy is so many people’s comfort reading! Cameos from characters in earlier Binchy books are a nice addition. My review.

Out of the Rain by Elizabeth Cadell (1987). Mild-mannered Edward Netherford is a London lawyer trying to appease some difficult clients when he encounters a placid widow with three sons. Suddenly he doesn’t mind his trips to Yorkshire, although her appeal is not as convincing to me. My review.
Ms. Demeanor by Elinor Lipman (2023). When lawyer Jane Morgan misbehaves on the roof of her Manhattan apartment building with a younger coworker, she loses her job and is sentenced to six months of home confinement, although nothing happens to him. Jane, with help from her identical twin, has to find some useful way to spend her time in isolation.

Historical Fiction

Trespasses by Louise Kennedy (2022). Set near Belfast during the troubles, this is the story of a young primary school teacher who gets involved with a (married) Protestant her father’s age (actually, her father’s friend) with disastrous consequences. My review.

The Moving Finger by Agatha Christie (1943). When Jerry and his younger sister Joanna, rent a house for six months in a small village, they are pleased with their welcome and new acquaintances. Then they receive a poison pen letter asking if they are really siblings, and they learn one of their new neighbors must be the culprit. My review.

Haunted Ground by Erin Hart (2003). In this mystery set in present-day Ireland, the discovery of a 17th-century corpse leads to the unraveling of the disappearance of a young wife and her son. My review.
Camino Island by John Grisham (2017) (audio). This was a caper, rather than a legal thriller, involving the theft of priceless F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton but it was a good audio book and very entertaining as the two protagonists were a writer and the owner of a successful bookstore. The ending was not what I expected but it is good not to be predictable. I often contemplate how on my last day working at Bantam Doubleday Dell I helped myself to an advance reading copy of The Firm – who knew it was the beginning of a dynasty? The editor left Doubleday soon after to become Grisham’s agent.

Evil Things by Katja Ivar (2019). Set in the 1950s, Hella Mauzer, the first female Helsinki murder squad detective, is dispatched to a remote Lapland village near the Russian border by her unpleasant boss to investigate a disappearance.

The Last Party by Clare Mackintosh (2022). After a one-night stand on New Year’s Eve, Ffion does not expect to see Leo again, but when a local celebrity drowns in a lake that borders Wales and England both Detective Ffion Morgan from North Wales Police and Detective Constable Leo Brady of the Cheshire Constabulary are assigned to the case. My review.
All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham (2023). Isabelle has not been able to sleep normally since her toddler son was abducted in the middle of the night. Her marriage has ended, her friends and family want her to move on, but in desperation she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster, hoping that will shake loose a clue. Instead, her life gets even weirder. Willingham is also the author of A Flicker in the Dark.


While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory (2021) (audio). Anna is a Hollywood actress determined to get bigger roles so she is taken seriously, despite being a woman of color. Ben is an advertising executive working on a campaign that features Anna and has a crush on her like everyone else. When he helps her cope with a family crisis, they have a fling and her agent suggests she use Ben to get paparazzi coverage. Anna is reluctant to exploit Ben but her career should come first, right? Guillory is always entertaining but I was a little surprised by all the cursing in this book. I don’t think I would curse in front of a business colleague; at least, I hope not!

Fair Tomorrow by Emilie Loring (1931). When her father’s business fails, Pamela moves him and her teen brother Terry to Cape Cod where she inherited her grandmother’s cottage. With Terry’s help, she starts a restaurant, hoping to make a modest living. Then the stepmother, who abandoned them when the money disappeared, turns up and sues for what few resources they still possess. Luckily, handsome attorney Scott Mallory was impressed by Pamela’s cooking (and looks) and offers free legal assistance.
Love Came Laughing By by Emilie Loring (1949). Wendy Adair is bringing secret documents to Washington DC from South America and, when pursued on the train, takes refuge in the private compartment of handsome congressman, Van Tyler. DC’s post-war society is full of elegant events but also peril for Wendy and Van as they help safeguard the nation.

Jane Austen Cannot Marry by May McGoldrick (2022). Nadine Finley is a time traveler sent back to the 19th century to prevent Jane Austen from reuniting with a naval officer who might sweep her into matrimony, derailing her literary career. This assignment is interfering with Nadine’s own love life but she cannot let handsome Xander distract her from her mission.

End of Story by Kylie Scott (2023). When Kylie hires a contractor to update the home she has inherited, her ex-boyfriend’s best friend turns up. Despite various complications, it predictably turns out they have more in common than they realized.
In a New York Minute by Kate Spencer (2022). On her worst day ever, after getting laid off from her job, Franny meets Hayes when her dress gets caught in the NYC subway doors on her way home and then rips, leaving her in the fashion equivalent of a hospital gown. A video of the incident goes viral and her friends urge her to take advantage of her sudden notoriety.  Parts of this were very cute.

Juvenile and YA

Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac (2021). In this novel in verse, Malian is staying at her grandparents' Wabanaki reservation when the pandemic strikes. Despite the wonderful stories her grandparents tell, she is lonely until a stray dog appears to be the friend she needs. 
A beautifully written story for 8-10 year-olds that was the monthly de Grummond Book Group choice.
The Star That Always Stays by Anna Rose Johnson (2022). Norvia is proud of her Chippewa heritage but when her mother remarries and the family moves to a more affluent part of Michigan, she is asked to hide her ethnicity. How can she be true to herself yet make friends in a hostile community? The author is a big Betsy-Tacy fan. My review.

Blitzcat by Robert Westall (1989). An intrepid cat misses her owner when he goes off to become an RAF pilot during WWW, so sets off to find him and has many adventures. My review.

PS - yes, this is a little late!


Cath said...

If you put that pile of books in front of me I would quite happily transport them somewhere nice, a seaside cottage, a cabin in the woods, and work my way throught the lot. The Jane Austen time travel, even though time travel is not a favourite trope, would probably be my first pick. I must find a copy of The Moving Finger as it's a Miss Marple I haven't read. Still reading Horse and finding it 'excellent'.

CLM said...

I know you also read that Grisham recently. How did you feel about the ending? Shouldn't the FBI have been watching the antique store, given they knew the two basements connected? I wanted them to be punished!

TracyK said...

There are several books here I would like to try, and overall the whole month sounds like good reading. I have never read Maeve Binchy, I should remedy that.