For all Austen enthusiasts Syrie James has written a novel in the essence and style of Jane. It begins with a contemporary story of American librarian, Samantha McDonough, discovering a hidden letter written by Jane Austen in the back of a book of poetry while vacationing in London She gains enough insight from the letter to begin to believe that Jane has written and lost another manuscript while visiting friends at Greenbrier in Devonshire. Pursuing this exciting possibility, Samantha meets handsome owner of Greenbrier, Anthony Whtaker and begins the search within his home. Now the story within the story begins when the manuscript is found and the two begin reading it to each other. We walk the streets of Bath with Austen characters in a story with all the atmosphere, romance and charm found in a Jane Austen novel.
The wonderful books of Maeve Binchy have come to an end with her death last July in Ireland. This last delightful book, A Week in Winter was finished just a few weeks prior to her becoming ill. Those of us who are her fans will miss her common sense and creative approach to life’s obstacles and trauma. Maeve has written about every kind of personality imaginable in her Irish tales. Her stories unite characters bringing support to each other and finding answers to difficulties. Whether it be divorce, unwanted pregnancy, lover’s who run off, death, senility, Maeve’s characters learn to journey on.
In her last novel we are experiencing the windswept coast of western Ireland where Chicky is turning an old estate into a bed and breakfast. She has returned to her home town after many years in New York hiding the fact that her love deserted her after convincing her to leave home. The following chapters each tell the story of a person who finds themselves at Stone House that first week.
Maeve was a journalist for the Irish Times for many years. When interviewed about her books she shared this bit of philosophy that was evident in her wonderful books, “I don’t think you’re happier if you’re thin or beautiful or rich or married. You have to make your own happiness,” Binchy told Australia’s Illawarra Mercury newspaper in 2000. “My heroines do not become beautiful elegant swans, they become confident ducks and get on with life.”
Delightful, charming and unique, 12-year old detective Flavia de Luce makes her fifth appearance in Speaking from Among the Bones, the latest novel by Alan Bradley. Flavia uses her intelligence to solve crimes as an amateur detective as well as in her chemistry lab, creating potions and poisons. On the 500th anniversary of St. Tancred’s death, her small village of Bishop’s Lacey is preparing to open the tomb of the saint, leaving Flavia excited to take a look into the crypt. Rather than finding the remains of the saint, Flavia discovers the corpse of the church organist. She naturally inserts herself into the investigation of the murder and along with the help of her trusty bicycle Gladys, she follows clues from the murder. At the same time, Flavia must adjust to changes in her family situation and in her home. We learn more about the her sisters, her father and Dogger, Flavia’s trusted friend at Buckshaw.The books in this series are filled with quirky, interesting characters and with lots of witty dialog. This outstanding series begins with the title The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. If you are not acquainted with Flavia de Luce and her world, start at the beginning and read the series in order–you will be charmed and delighted by this amazing young detective!
Christmas in January? Well, I’m just catching up from an overly busy holiday season so that means that I’m just finishing my books that were intended to put me in the holiday mood. Marcia Willett’s Christmas in Cornwall easily can be enjoyed at any time of year. Her charcter-oriented novel overflows with interesting people, including a young widowed father, his endearing five year-old son, Jakey, a cast of nuns (some with halos and some without), and a widowed caterer who is always looking for love in the wrong places. The picturesque English countryside, descriiptions of quaint homes and decades old architecture add to the charm of this sweet story. There is a side story of unscrupulous real estate dealings that add a bit of mystery to this engaging cozy.
With the first chill of autumn in the air, I carried my warm weather house plants inside that survived the intense Kansas heat. Just one day into cold temps and I am already dreading the long, cold winter. Reading is a respite when the story’s setting is lush and tropical. My latest read is set in the low country of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina. Porch Lights is Dorothea Benton Frank’s newest. All thirteen of her books revolve around this small town at the entrance to Charlestown harbor and draw you into the laid-back, charm of beach life.
Jackie McMullen has recently lost her NYC firefighter husband to a tragic accident. She takes her ten year old son, Charlie, home to Sullivan’s Island for the summer. Jackie finds a part time job and her mother does everything she can to make Jackie feel at home. Jackie feels over mothered and even pushed into a relationship with the widower who lives next door. Charlie finds friends and distractions from his sadness and wants to stay permanently. The ending is satisfying as they begin healing in the love and warmth of family.
Open the back cover of Calling Invisible Women and you will hoot with laughter. The photo of the author, Jeanne Ray, is as imaginative as this story.
Clover Hobart is a middle aged mother of two young adults and the wife of a pediatrician with an insanely busy practice. One day she discovers that she is invisible. As any middle age woman knows, this is not uncommon, however, Clover was actually gone. She could not see her own hands, face or anything else. This crazy situation was being experienced by other women that Clover finds through a newspaper ad she stumbles over while searching the notices. The 10 a.m. meeting at the Downtown Sheraton of equally invisible women brings comfort to Clover and a determination to discover the source of their invisibility. Could a combination of prescription drugs that all of these women have taken actually lead to this result? How are they going to battle a major pharmaceutical company? When will her family actually take notice of her condition?
Jeanne Ray wrote her first book as a retirement project after working forty years as a registered nurse. This New York Times bestselling author has a wonderful sense of humor. I can’t wait to see what else she has written.
In the third book of the Corduroy Mansions series, Freddie de la Hay, the devoted canine who attached himself to William French is missing. While visiting William’s old school friend and his wife, Freddie follows the irresistible scent of rabbit and digs himself into trouble which involves a possible new home and life for Freddie. Meanwhile his master is in his own hot water when the wife of his best friend announces her secret long-held love of William. Free-loading Eddie has found someone to take care of him he thinks, but Barbara with all of her inherited money may have doubts. Other quirky characters charm us with their foibles and we continue to anticipate further antics in this London setting.
Alexander McCall-Smith keeps adding to the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series and I keep enjoying the adventures of Precious Ramotswe. This time the difficult situations are a little too close to home for the Precious and her assistant, Grace Makutsi. The best auto repair assistant of Mma Ramotswe’s husband is arrested for auto theft, then Grace and her husband hire a contractor to begin building their home but the builder comes into question when one of his worker’s leaves doubt in their minds. The renowned Clovis Anderson, author of The Principles of Private Detection, comes for a visit and helps them with the terrible trouble of the dismissal of Mma Potokwane, matron of the orphan farm. Satisfactory solutions result and we continue to applaud the wisdom of Precious Ramotswe and her allies.
>Mr. J. M. Rosenblum just wanted to fit in. He had aspired to be a middle class gentleman in London ever since escaping Berlin. As a German Jew just prior to World War Two he was always striving to obey the rules set out in the Helpful Information and Friendly Guidance for every Refugee pamphlet handed to him by the German Jewish Aid Committee representative as he arrived on the London dock with his wife Sadie.
As the years passed, Jack became a successful carpet factory owner and acquired a nice home, beautiful Jaguar and fitted suits from the finest tailor. The one need that he continued to have was acceptance into London society through membership in a golf club. When this failed, Jack decided that he would build his own golf course.
Jack buys land in Dorset and moves his wife to the countryside. Now he has another society to fit into as he begins building a golf course on his own. He studies all the great courses and begins writing letters to the famous Bobby Jones, designer of the world renowned Augusta golf course. Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English will charm and delight as Mr. Rosenblum deals with rampaging woolly-pigs, migrant struggles and dreams dared to be dreamed.
>The prolific Scottish medical lawyer and author, Alexander McCall-Smith, keeps me regularly supplied with reading . I can hardly keep up with his four different series along with all the other new novels calling to me as a librarian. He has written over 60 books including academic titles and children’s books.
The Forgotten Affairs of Youth is the latest in his Isabel Dalhousie series. Edinburgh is the setting for this contemplative philosopher. This time Isabel is asked to help find parents of a woman who was adopted as a child. The complications involved in the discovery of the possible father make us evaluate when secrets are alright to keep. Should the man who wants to claim paternity be told that he probably isn’t the father, and should the one who would not be happy to find out about his child be forced to face his unknown history?
There are other story vignettes that keep us thinking about subtle moral dilemmas such as Isabel’s mushroom poisoning which involves the delicatessen Isabel’s niece, Cat owns, a paper submitted to Isabel’s philosophical publication that was written under an assumed name and the love story’s continuation between Isabel and her Jamie.
>The year is 1803 and the Darcy’s are preparing for Lady Anne’s Ball, a long-standing tradition at Pemberley. Darcy and Elizabeth have been married several years and have settled into life at the estate with their two sons and with Bingley and Jane living near-by. In the midst of their preparations, a carriage races up to the house with a hysterical Lydia Wickham inside. Her plan was to surprise Elizabeth by showing up at the ball uninvited, with Wickham (who has not been welcome for many years at Pemberley) remaining at a local inn with his friend Captain Denney. During the dark and rainy ride through the woodlands, Denny and Wickham argue, with Denny leaving the carriage and Wickham following him into the woods. Shots are fired, Lydia races to Pemberley, a search party is formed and Darcy and Fitzwilliam find Wickham bent over the bloody and dead body of Denny. Wickham is arrested as the main suspect and is placed on trial for the murder of his friend.
James has captured the original spirit of Pride and Prejudice and introduces new aspects of many of the chararacters that are so appealing in Austen’s work. James also conveys interesting information about the English legal system as well as the social system of the time. Death Comes to Pemberley offers a new view of life at Pemberley and a plot with twists and turns and an unexpected conclusion–an entertaining return to the world of the Darcy’s.
AlanBradley’s 11 year old character Flavia de Luce is one of the most endearing,inventive and precocious characters in literature. She appears again inBradley’s latest novel in the series,I am Half-Sick of Shadows. It is winter in
>With a variety of characters to help keep the conversation flowing, and a myriad of surprises to keep the story going, who wouldn’t enjoy this book? Carrie Carter is the main character of Shadows on the Sand by Gayle Roper. She owns and runs the small town café in Seaside along with her sister & baker, Lindsey. Her employees consist of Ricky the cook, Jase the dishwasher, and Andi her waitress. Many customers of interest visit the cafe daily. One of the interesting customers is Mr. Perkins, an old man that doesn’t say much but when he does you better pull in your toes. Then there is Andi’s boyfriend, Bill, who comes across as a little too rough. How about Clooney, Andi’s uncle, who spends his time looking for treasures in the sand? We can’t leave out Cilla, the lady that keeps an eye on every one and every thing going on in Seaside. Mary P is the wise one and former owner of the café. There are other locals, plus the outsiders that come in to take part in this great story.
Now, on to Carrie’s favorite customer, Greg Barnes, a very handsome man who makes Carrie’s heart do the “Snoopy Dance” every time she sees him. All Carrie really wants is for Greg to notice her, to let her know that he knows she is alive. But after three years of their daily encounter, is there really any hope? It takes a murder to get their romance on the move. When Jase is found murdered and Andi is missing, Greg and Carrie are pushed together to solve the mystery and that’s when Greg realizes, Carrie is definitely alive. That doesn’t mean the romance is in the bag though. They both have pasts that haunt them, keeping them in and out of each others reach. There are several unexpected twists to keep your mind engaged even when you reluctantly have to put this book down.
>Gracie Lynne Calloway did not like rich people. As she grew up in Shady Grove, Alabama, she was made fun of because she didn’t have a father and her mother left her on Ben’s porch in a coal bucket. She wanted her mother to come back and love her, but she was happy living with Uncle Ben and Uncle Artie. She was the best baseball player in town and proud of the fact that she didn’t own a dress, much to Auntie Alice’s dismay. Life was great up until her 25th birthday when Sam Fontana, a young lawyer, came to Shady Grove. He came to inform Gracie that she was really Kathryn Hammond, kidnapped daughter of a wealthy financier. Gracie wanted nothing to do with her new identity or the six hundred and fifty million dollar inheritance left in her name. Relatives come seeking her, some sincere others conniving. Should she refuse the inheritance she believes will ruin her life and the lives of those she loves? Salting Roses, a romance mystery with interesting characters and a well developed plot, is a great porch swing and iced tea read.
>In the beginning, I chose A Bloodhound to Die For by Virginia Lanier because it is about dogs but found many other reasons to read it. The story is fast-paced, starting on Fri. Aug 23rd and stopping on Fri. Sept. 20th with loads of action packed in. Jo Beth trains bloodhounds and uses them for tracking. In these 31 days, Jo Beth struggles with the local sheriff; deals with a crazed jealous gun carrying wife; tracks down an Alzheimer suffering woman twice; meets with a local jailed ever escaping criminal that has the hots for her; is hospitalize when poisoned; deals with the romance in her life; carries on her bloodhound training business; and tracks down the hoodlum that kidnaps her most favorite bloodhound. The characters are fun and interesting and I learned much about the bloodhound. Whew! Now, if you like fast paced light mysteries, take a breath and enjoy reading this book for yourself.