Susan Voake, former librarian at the Marion Cross School, lives in Norwich with her husband and springer spaniel. She collects antique dolls, buys and sells Victorian ladies' sentimentalia and ephemera, bakes cookies and enjoys summer days visiting her daughters, treasure hunting, or working in her perennial garden.
So tender. So beautiful. Through four seasons we follow the relationship of a one-eyed mongrel and a village outcast. In exquisite, wrenching detail we experience their coming together, their bonding, and their frustrations. I am not usually a reader of animal stories, but this small, carefully written novel held me from prologue to epilogue.
I have to face it: I am a sucker for historical novels featuring the lives of literary giants (or in this case, short people). Add to that the glitter of Manhattan’s rich and famous, and I’m set for a six hour plane flight. Truman Capote is the center of this story and the swans are the coterie of wealthy women who were his confidantes in the 1950s and '60s. In National Enquirer fashion, we learn their foibles and secrets, but through a novel of manners, we see the consequences of their behavior over the larger social landscape. Lies, sex, and expose. It's all here.
Yann Martel takes us on curious adventures. The high mountains of Portugal are actually rocky plateaus but ascending them in a 1904 Renault (driven by a young backward-walking archeologist who has never before even seen a car nor really knows what his destination is or what precisely he is searching for) makes for the beginning of an unusual story. Add to it elements of extraordinary juxtaposition over the next 80 years—Agatha Christie mysteries viewed as modern Christian gospel, a bizarre autopsy, and recurring chimpanzees for example—and you have a fascinating novel of life and death that will surprise you again and again.
No one knows what really occurred aboard the Hindenburg during its journey across Europe and the Atlantic in 1937, but Ariel Lawhon weaves a compelling tale of those three days. The account is fiction, yet the characters are actual passengers and crew who flew on that trip including an American heiress, a disenfranchised German journalist, an American man of mystery, and a German acrobat. The intrigue is non-stop, one character’s point of view following another, as we count down the hours of the Hindenburg’s fateful flight and its aftermath. A great read for a cold night.
What is the genetic combination that produces a mathematical prodigy? The exquisite mental flights and excruciating psychological and physiological consequences awe the reader in this extraordinary generational saga. Canin’s prose is lyric and his observations are profound and so provocative that I found myself flagging multiple paragraphs to reconsider and discuss. The mathematics in this novel may challenge you, but the humanity will not. Highly recommended.
1946: A deteriorating English country house, a family of young men determined to preserve it, an extraordinary young woman, and the life-changing power of music. 2000: A death, the view backward, the move forward, and the life-saving power of music. Exquisitely evoking sounds and sights, Natasha Solomon tells a tender story of love and family. This is a book for every Anglophile and music lover.
Yet another biographical novel? Indeed! With multi-faceted views of Vanessa Stephens Bell, Virginia Stephens Woolf and their extraordinary salon of Bloomsbury writers, critics and artists, we meet Vanessa and Virginia and their Cambridge brothers Thoby and Adrian and friends in 1905, the year after their father’s death, the year that begins their lives as independents—breaking with Victorian social custom and expectation. Diary entries, cables, and letters carry us through seven evolutionary years in the sisters’ lives and relationships--a stormy passage that will glue you to the page. I loved it!
Wowzers! That Kate Morton really knows how to spin a tale! A master of the incremental reveal, she uses multiple points of view, periods of time, and shifting locales to unravel a 70-year-old mystery—the Midsummer Eve disappearance of an 11-month-old boy from his Cornish manor house bedroom. The atmosphere is haunting, the characters have secrets galore, and there are red herrings throughout. Settle back on a cold afternoon and enjoy.
Laugh out loud and take out your recipe files for these vignettes from the first 30 years of the life of chef extraordinaire and enfant terrible, Eva Thorwald. A wide spectrum of voices—some that use expletives as often as conjunctions and some that will break your heart—tell this tale written almost as a collection of short stories as characters’ lives cleverly intersect with Eva’s. Highly recommended for foodies and anyone else looking for a tender (and tasty) romp in the kitchen.
Annie Barrows is a master at characterization, both of individuals and communities. As in her earlier book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, we vividly imagine the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, in 1938 and come to know its inhabitants like old friends. But there are secrets. And there is history. And what is fact and what is truth seems to depend on the person telling the story. When a wealthy socialite hired by the Federal Writers' Project comes to chronicle the past of Macedonia, 12-year-old Willa Romeyn discovers that the town she has grown up in and the people she has known forever are not always what they seem. A tender, humorous, bittersweet story that resonates long after you've read the last page.
Bright, cheerful illustrations tell the story of sprightly Audrey who decides the family house is getting to be too small for her. Together with her understanding dad, Audrey goes searching for a new place to live. She discovers just the right size tree and her father builds a tree house exactly to her specifications. However, once her father says, "Good night", Audrey has some second thoughts. A lilting, repetitive text makes for an excellent nighttime read aloud.
Looking for an enticing beach read? Fascinated by selkie myths or the tarot? Love those carnival settings? This will be a book that won’t get sandy because you’ll not be able to put it down. Simon, a young librarian, is losing his family’s house to the cliff erosion of Long Island Sound. He has also lost his parents to unhappy deaths, his foul mouthed sister to the circus and now perhaps his job. Enter a mysterious, water-damaged 18th century carnival journal from an Iowa bookseller who believes the book relates to Simon’s family history. A countdown begins as Simon investigates family coincidences through the generations that seem to ominously connect his past, present, and future.
Do you love a good picnic? The self-ascribed Portland Picnic Society certainly does and after perfecting the art of dining al fresco, several of their members have created this book just for you. Wow!! What fun it is! The picnic as an adult party venue is such a great idea. Tips on blankets, baskets and of course fabulous recipes for every sort of picnic treat and every age of picnic goer are included with charming illustrations. Treat yourself and/or give this book as a hostess/shower/wedding/ present together with a basket. The perfect gift for summer!
If you stand at the water’s edge long enough, you may spot what many have described as a monster in the loch. However, when Sara Gruen unravels her tale of Scotland during wartime, that monster may appear in many forms, only one of which is reptilian. Issues of class, family, love and loss bind this story of bruised pride and a yen for adventure that send three wealthy, bored young Americans to a small Scottish village in hopes of documenting the beast.
Two sets of sisters separated by thirty years share this compelling story of Shaw’s Training Homes for Watercress and Flower Girls where many of the orphaned and disabled children who sold posies at Covent Garden Market were saved from harm and starvation. We meet Flora Flynn and her soon to be missing sister Rosie in the back alleys of London in 1876. We learn of Esther Harper when we meet her sister Tilly taking the train from the Lake District to become an assistant housemother at the Homes in 1912. Tilly tells us often that there is no such thing as a coincidence; everything happens for a reason. So don’t let a single detail slip past you as the lives of these sisters converge. Misery, jealousy, love and beauty permeate this tale. A little predictable but I didn’t foresee many of the twists and turns. An engaging read!
An extraordinary harmonica changes the lives of three talented musicians in this lyrical story that moves from the enchanted world of a fairy tale forest to the very real world of the second world war. Recurring themes of bigotry, loyalty. loss and love echo through the movements which rise to an emotional crescendo at Carnegie Hall. A wonderful novel for young people celebrating the power of music.
A bard-like narrator weaves this tale of post Arthurian Britain. A mist of forgetfulness covers the land as elderly Axl and Beatrice leave their hillock village to visit the son they can barely recall. Crossing a land besieged by ogres, dragon and marauding soldiers, they are joined by a warrior, an orphan and Sir Gawain in what becomes a quest to restore the memory of things past. The pain of loss of every kind pervades this mysterious narrative which had me transfixed for an entire day reading from beginning to end.
A testament to love—lost, sought, and found—and the healing power of books, the tango and Provence. We meet aging bookseller Jean Perdu dispensing novel prescriptions for all the travails of the heart from his floating literary pharmacy moored along the banks of the Seine. We join him and a writers’ block beset author phenom, in their odyssey down the canals of France.
Wise, humorous and heart breaking, The Little Paris Bookshop joins last year’s gem, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, in that small clutch of novels that celebrate small bookstores and the treasures they hold.
Film Noir fan? Hollywood trivia buff? Cocktail dabbler? Of All the Gin Joints is the recreational reading book for you! Visit Scott Fitzgerald's favorite bar. Spend at little time at Ciro's. What happened to Bogie at the Garden of Allah? All this and classic cocktail recipes too. Cheers!