Monday, April 15, 2024

The Case is Closed by Patricia Wentworth – a Miss Silver mystery for the #1937Club

Title: The Case is Closed
Author: Patricia Wentworth
Publication: Warner Books, paperback, originally published in 1937
Genre: Mystery/series
Setting: London and environs
The 1937 Club is hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings to share reviews of books published in that year.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

The Stone Cage, a fantasy by Nicholas Stuart Gray

Title: The Stone Cage
Author and Illustrator: Nicholas Stuart Gray
Publication: Dennis Dobson, hardcover, 1963
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy
Description: Old Mother Gothel, an evil witch lives in a remote cottage with Marshall, her enchanted raven, and Tomlyn, an embittered cat who tells the story. The bird and cat have an uneasy relationship, tattling on each other to win the witch’s temporary favor, as both dislike and fear her.

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Quick Curtain by Alan Melville

Title: Quick Curtain
Author: Alan Melville
Publication: British Library Crime Classics/Poisoned Poisoned Pen Press, paperback, originally published in 1934
Genre: Mystery
Setting: England
Description: It’s opening night at the Grosvenor Theatre for Blue Music, a musical produced by the impressive (at least to himself) impresario, Douglas B. Douglas, and everything is going well until actor Hilary Foster pulls out what is meant to be a prop revolver and aims it at the leading man.

Monday, April 8, 2024

Mrs. Quinn’s Rise to Fame by Olivia Ford

Title: Mrs. Quinn’s Rise to Fame
Author: Olivia Ford
Publication: Viking, hardcover, 2024
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Britain
Description: When Bernard Quinn tells his doctor he and his wife Jenny won’t be undertaking any great adventures in their late 70s, she is taken aback and realizes she at least is not ready to take it easy and let life pass her by. Without telling her beloved Bernard, she completes an extensive online application for Britain Bakes, the country’s well-known culinary contest.

Saturday, April 6, 2024

Six Degrees of Separation – From Frommer's New England to Charlotte's Web

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where you end up. This month’s starting point is any travel guide from our bookshelves. I used to work for the publisher of Frommer’s Travel Guides and happened to pull down Frommer’s New England the other day for a friend who was visiting Salem (when you work for a travel publisher, you collect a copy of every book/location you think you might visit or need as a reference in the future).

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle

Title: Meet the Austins
Author: Madeleine L’Engle
Publication: Laurel-Leaf paperback, originally published in 1960
Genre: Juvenile
Setting: New England
The original cover
Description: The Austins are a close-knit family of six – John is 15, Vicky, 12, Suzy 9, and sensitive Rob about five – they say grace at meals, Mrs. Austin reads aloud to all four at bedtime, and Dr. Austin is an old-fashioned country doctor with an office in his home as well as at a local hospital. Their lives are disrupted when their courtesy-aunt Elena calls to tell them her husband and his copilot were killed in a plane accident.

Monday, April 1, 2024

My March 2024 Reading

This month’s best reads were all historical fiction: The Phoenix Crown, set around the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco; Daughter of Lir by Diana Norman, about an abbess in medieval Ireland; and Wheel of Fortune by C.F. Dunn, in which a 15th century orphan learns she is powerless against men who should be her protectors.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz by L. Frank Baum – Ozathon24

Title: Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Publication: Books of Wonder/HarperCollins, hardcover, originally published in 1908
Genre: Juvenile fantasy/series
Description: In this fourth installment, Dorothy has returned from Australia where she was visiting with her Uncle Henry (including a detour described in Ozma of Oz), and has been staying with friends in San Francisco prior to rejoining her uncle.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

WWW Wednesday – March 27

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading
I am reading Mrs. Quinn’s Rise to Fame by Olivia Ford (2024), a fun story about a woman about to celebrate her 60th wedding anniversary who decides to try out for a British Baking Show.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Enchanted Glass
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publication: Greenwillow Books, hardcover, 2010
Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Setting: Present day England
Description: Aidan Cain, an orphan who just lost his grandmother, ran away from foster care when unnerved by the mysterious creatures that have started pursuing him. In desperation, he took the train to a village outside London to find a sorcerer his grandmother had corresponded with for years, only to learn old Jocelyn Brandon is dead.

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Phoenix Crown by Kate Quinn and Janie Chang

Title: The Phoenix Crown
Authors: Kate Quinn and Janie Chang
Narrators: Saskia Maarleveld and Katherine Chin
Publication: HarperCollins, Audiobook, 2024
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: San Francisco, 1906; Paris, 1911

Description: Four unusual women meet in San Francisco, just days before the infamous earthquake of 1906 and resulting fire that lasted three days, destroying nearly thirty thousand buildings and killing at least 600.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

Spell the Month in Books - March

Spell the Month in Books is hosted by Reviews From the Stacks and occurs on the second Saturday of each month or maybe the third!
The Midwife by Jennifer Worth (2002). In 2013, I watched a season of Call the Midwife and was drawn to the memoir that inspired the series.

Thursday, March 14, 2024

The Mystery of the Blue Train by Agatha Christie #ReadChristie24

Title: The Mystery of the Blue Train 
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication: Dodd, Mead & Co., hardcover, originally published in 1928
Genre: Mystery
Setting: France and England
Description: An American millionaire, Rufus Van Aldin, has purchased priceless rubies for his only child, Ruthie, which distracts her temporarily from annoyance with her philandering husband. She is heading to France to rendezvous with her first love (dismissed as a fortune hunter by her father years earlier) and takes the famous Blue Train, which brings affluent travelers to the Riviera.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Daughter of Lir by Diana Norman - Reading Ireland Month 2024

Title: Daughter of Lir
Author: Diana Norman
Publication: Headline Books, paperback, 1988
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 12th century Ireland
Description: Taken from Ireland and abandoned at a French convent in the Loire Valley at 6, Finola is renamed Sister Boniface and brought up by the nuns, then at 18 is chosen to be Abbess of Kildare in Ireland. Her focus on her new Abbey and not the warring factions around it is disastrous and she makes a serious enemy, Dermot of Leinster.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

My February 2024 Reading

February was a great month of reading for me with two five-star books, First Lie Wins, which was extremely suspenseful and entertaining, and The Women, which was harrowing (set in the Vietnam era) yet impossible to put down. I also really enjoyed The Cheat Sheet, a contemporary romance with a friends to lovers theme. There were quite a few books that made a very good impression on me, as you will see below:

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Sing for Your Supper by Lenora Mattingly Weber - treading the boards in 19th century Colorado

Title: Sing for Your Supper
Author: Lenora Mattingly Weber
Illustrator: Ninon MacKnight
Publication: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, hardcover, 1941
Genre: Juvenile Historical
Description: The Dramatic Company of the Rockies is a traveling theatrical company that has been successful with a small, all-family cast.

Monday, March 4, 2024

The Birthday Girl by Sarah Ward - Reading Wales 2024

Title: The Birthday Girl
Author: Sarah Ward
Publication: Canelo Crime, paperback, 2023
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Wales
Description: Still recovering from an injury and a bad divorce, Malory Dawson retired from her job in London as a police detective and has taken on a temporary job as night manager of a boutique hotel on Eldey, an isolated island in Wales.

Saturday, March 2, 2024

Six Degrees of Separation – from Tom Lake to Some Writer!

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is Tom Lake by Ann Patchett, which I reviewed in September and liked so much it made my Best of 2023 list.

Thursday, February 29, 2024

First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston

Title: First Lie Wins
Author: Ashley Elston
Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld
Publication: Penguin, audiobook, 2024
Genre: Suspense
Setting: United States
Description: Evie Porter is Ryan Sumner’s new girlfriend, and he just invited her to move in with him. They seem like the perfect couple - except that Evie is not her real name.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Miss Manners can always be relied upon

(or as she would probably phrase it, "Miss Manners, upon whom one can always rely")

The Divine Miss M

Dear Miss Manners: Could you please educate us on the difference between a living room, sitting room, drawing room, saloon, library, lounge, parlor and boudoir?

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Ozma of Oz by L. Frank Baum - third and my favorite of the series

Title: Ozma of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Illustrator: John R. Neill
Publication: The Reilly & Lee Co., hardcover, 1907
Genre: Juvenile fantasy/series
Description: Dorothy Gale is accompanying her Uncle Henry on a voyage to Australia, traveling for his health, when she is swept overboard during a storm. Floating on a chicken coop with a talking chicken she names Billina, Dorothy does not despair, knowing she has survived dangerous situations in the past.

Friday, February 23, 2024

China Court by Rumer Godden

Title: China Court
Author: Rumer Godden
Publication: Manderley Press, hardcover, 2023 (originally 1979)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Cornwall
Description: When Deborah Quin dies, it is the end of an era. Although she was once Ripsie, a waif from the village, she married one of the sons of the house and has lived in and maintained both China Court and its impressive gardens since then.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Five Things including a Book Sale

Last week, my mother and I attended an author event at Boston College featuring Celeste Ng, which we enjoyed. BC has a freshman seminar in which many read Ng’s first novel, Everything I Never Told You. It was great to see several hundred students listening to Ng describe her writing process, including her habit of beginning her books with a very dramatic sentence.  I had to check this out:

Sunday, February 18, 2024

The Helsinki Affair by Anna Pitoniak

Title: The Helsinki Affair
Author: Anna Pitoniak
Narrator: Amanda Dolan
Publication: Simon & Schuster, audiobook, 2023
Genre: Suspense/Espionage
Description: Amanda Cole is the CIA’s Deputy Station Chief in Rome and longs for a more exciting assignment. She gets her wish when a Russian comes to the embassy to share information on a plot to kill a prominent American senator.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

The Door-to-Door Bookstore by Carsten Henn

Title: The Door-to-Door Bookstore
Author: Carsten Henn
Translator: Melody Shaw
Publication: Hanover Square Press, hardcover, 2023 
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Present-day Southern Germany
Description: Carl Kollhoff worked for many years at an old, established bookstore called City Gate. After his mentor, Gustav Gruber, the bookstore owner, retired and his jealous daughter Sabine took over, the bookstore changed. Sabine pushed Carl off the selling floor and his only activity now is hand-delivering special requests to a handful of clients.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

The Women by Kristin Hannah

Title: The Women
Author: Kristin Hannah
Publication: St. Martin’s, hardcover, 2024
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: United States and Vietnam
Description: Frances “Frankie” McGrath has grown up in a conservative Catholic home near San Diego that reveres military service. When her beloved older brother graduates from the Naval Academy and leaves to fight in Vietnam, Frankie accelerates her nursing degree and enlists with the army herself.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

The House on the Hill by Eileen Dunlop

Title: The House on the Hill
Author: Eileen Dunlop
Publication: Holiday House, hardcover, 1987
Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Setting: Glasgow
Description: Philip has always heard that his great-aunt Jane is proud and unfriendly, and although she lives just a mile away in suburban Glasgow, he barely knows her. But after his father dies, his mother decides to train as a nurse in London and asks her aunt if Philip can stay with her at The Mount, the family mansion on Wisteria Avenue.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

WWW Wednesday – February 7

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Monday, February 5, 2024

My January 2024 Reading

My favorites this month were The Violin Conspiracy; Harbour Street; Turning Pages, a publishing memoir; and a reread of Charlotte Fairlie.  Now that I am taking public transportation to work after several pandemic years of driving, my audiobook usage has declined but I can read actual books as I sit on the bus and subway.  It has been downright freezing waiting for them to arrive, however!

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Six Degrees of Separation – from Coach to Marry in Haste

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is the last book I read in January, which is Coach by Michael Lewis (2005). It’s a novella about an influential baseball coach at the school Lewis attended in New Orleans but it’s really about the generational divide – how modern parents coddle their children and “protect” them from character building experiences and Coach Fitz’s more acerbic approach had upset current parents who wanted him fired. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The Land of Oz by L. Frank Baum #Ozathon24

Title: The Land of Oz
Author: L. Frank Baum
Illustrator: John R. Neill
Publication: Reilly & Lee Co., hardcover, 1904
Genre: Juvenile fantasy/series
Description: In this sequel to The Wizard of Oz, Baum returns to the magical realm to describe what happened to Dorothy’s companions, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman, as well as introducing several new characters. The most important is Tip, a boy brought up by old Mombi, a witch.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Hazardous Spirits by Anbara Salam - historical fiction set in 1920s Edinburgh

Title: Hazardous Spirits
Author: Anbara Salam
Publication: Tin House Books, trade paperback, 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 1920s Scotland
Description: Although Evelyn’s family experienced difficult times when she was younger, she has now been comfortably married for five years to Robert Hazard, a respectable and reasonably prosperous accountant in Edinburgh. Everything changes when he tells her he can communicate with spirits.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Couple in the Photo by Helen Cooper

Title: The Couple in the Photo
Author: Helen Cooper
Publication: Putnam, trade paper, 2023
Genre: Psychological suspense
Setting: Present-day Britain
Description: When Lucy married Adam, his two best friends from university, Cora and Scott, also became her closest companions. The two couples live just minutes apart in Leicester, their four children are inseparable, and they even bought a weekend cottage together and spend all their free time rehabbing it. But one day when Lucy casually glances at a coworker’s honeymoon photos, she sees one of Scott with another woman in the Maldives when he was supposed to be in Tokyo.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

A Spoonful of Time by Flora Ahn - a culinary time travel

Title: A Spoonful of Time
Author: Flora Ahn
Illustrator: Jenny Park
Publication: Quirk Books, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Juvenile Fiction
Setting: Present-day California
Description: Maya lives with her widowed mother, who works at a law firm, and her grandmother, Halmunee, who moved in with them recently and may be suffering from dementia. Although Halmunee’s memory is erratic, she remembers the traditional cooking she learned as a girl in Korea and is determined to share this with Maya.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Charlotte Fairlie by D.E. Stevenson

Charlotte is the relatively new headmistress at St. Elizabeth’s, a well-regarded girls’ boarding school she attended before Oxford - she wore a dowdy hat at her interview so her male interviewers wouldn’t think she was too young. She takes pride in her work and in knowing the girls but she is lonely because befriending the staff would create jealousy. New girl Tessa MacRynne breaks through Charlotte's reserve when her parents get divorced and she tries to run away back to Scotland.  Charlotte identifies with Tessa, having gone through a

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

My December 2023 Reads

Holiday shopping and planning prevented me from as many December reviews as I had planned but I read some good books, although none that made my top ten for the year.  The two best were The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena and Babbacombe's by Noel Streatfeild, writing as Susan Scarlett:

Sunday, January 14, 2024

Love in the Library by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Title: Love in the Library
Author: Maggie Tokuda-Hall
Illustrator: Yas Imamura
Publication: Candlewick, hardcover, 2022
Genre: Picture book, historical fiction
Setting: Idaho, 20th century
Description: Tama, a young woman who would normally be in college, works at the library at the Minidoka internment camp, where she and more than 13,000 other Japanese Americans were imprisoned during WWII.

Friday, January 12, 2024

Historical Fiction Round-up Post for 2023

Look how much historical fiction I read last year!  Thank you to Marg from The Intrepid Reader for her Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite things to read and, as you can see, it comes in various subgenres.  There is a link if I reviewed the book in 2023, with those I liked best in red. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

WWW Wednesday – January 10

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading

Monday, January 8, 2024

A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid, a gothic fantasy

Title: A Study in Drowning
Author: Ava Reid
Publication: HarperCollins, hardcover, 2023
Genre: YA Fantasy
Description: All her life, Effy Sayre has been obsessed with her country’s epic work, Angharad, written by the recently deceased Emrys Myrrden about an intrepid heroine who falls in love with the Fairy King and then destroys him.

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Six Degrees of Separation – from Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow to Death of a Harvard Freshman

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (2022),  about friends who create a gaming company while at Harvard and MIT.  I really enjoyed this book (although found it very sad) and for about a month after I read it, I kept urging it on other people.

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Favorite Reads of 2023

Although I have not yet summarized my December reading, it is the time of year when it is fun to contemplate the entire year and my top ten. Unusually for me, many were recent pubs and four were audiobooks. I think the latter is just a coincidence – sometimes I put both the hardcover and audiobook on reserve at the same time so read whichever is available first and sometimes I will opt for an available audiobook that I expect to enjoy. Seven of these ten were historical fiction, which is definitely one of my preferred genres but my favorites are generally more evenly distributed. I read a lot of books in 2023 but a number of these were rereads or children’s books, which obviously take less time to read.