How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Tom Hazard only travels through time in his memories, but they are vivid and go back to Elizabethan England. A member of the Albatross Society, Tom ages very, very slowly. As he has to move and reinvent his life every eight years to keep his condition a secret, he isn’t supposed to fall in love. Back in London as a history teacher, Tom has only to look out the window to see places from his own history, where his true love Rose was a fruit seller, and where he played the lute at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. French teacher Camille thinks Tom looks familiar and may tempt him into a relationship, but Hendrich, the head of the society, sends Tom on a quick trip to Australia to recruit surfer Omai, who Tom first met while sailing the Pacific with Captain Cook. Enthralling yet bittersweet, full of history and adventure, a sure bet for readers of historical fiction or time travel. This novel is a February Library Reads pick.
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
If you like reading about books, village life, starting over, the Scottish highlands and/or romance, then you will probably enjoy this heartwarming contemporary novel. Nina is a librarian in Birmingham, where branch libraries are closing and books are no longer the main focus. When her roommate Surinder won’t let her bring any more books back to their apartment in case the stairs collapse, and she doesn’t get hired at the new main library, Nina buys a former bakery van in a Scottish village and converts it into a mobile bookstore. Surinder and a friendly train engineer help bring the books she’s acquired to Kirrinfief, and Nina’s adventure begins. Luckily, Nina’s able to rent a converted barn from sheep farmer Lennox, and a local dance and midsummer festival help her feel welcome. Nina has a real gift for finding the right kind of book for each reader, and finds enough customers at area farmer’s markets, even though the big van is hard to drive. I really liked the highlands village setting, and the descriptions of Nina’s challenges at starting over. I would have enjoyed more about the bookselling and a bit less romantic drama, but other readers will probably disagree. Readalikes include books by Alexandra Raife and Katie Fforde, along with The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. Enjoy!
A candid memoir about Amy’s life in tiny Freeville, New York, with her teenage daughter, Emily, and with many family members nearby. Amy is an advice columnist, and travels to Chicago monthly to meet with her editors and appear on the radio show “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!” A follow-up to The Mighty Queens of Freeville, this is frank and funny while also dealing with love and grief. Amy falls in love with local contractor Bruno, who has a house full of daughters, one of whom wonders why Amy keeps showing up for dinner. They get engaged, plan a fun wedding, and work hard to blend their families. Amy finds quiet time at the movies, in her car, and in the little house she uses as an office. She also visits her frail mother Jane daily. Eventually, Amy loses and mourns her mother, struggles with clearing out her mother’s house, regains her love of music, reluctantly reconnects with her father, and works on becoming her best self. I found this book hard to put down, and enjoyed Amy’s vivid descriptions of family and small town life.
Munich by Robert Harris
A gripping spy thriller about the Munich conference in September 1938 that averted war for a while. After taking over Austria, Germany wanted Sudetenland, an ethnically German section of Czechoslovakia. British Prime Minister Chamberlain flew to Munich with some of his staff and advisers to meet with Hitler, Mussolini, and French Prime Minister Daladier. Apparently, the British and French military weren’t yet ready for war, and Chamberlain was trying to prevent or at least delay England’s entry into war. Over the course of four very tense days, two junior staffers who met at Oxford try to exchange secret documents that could affect the conference’s outcome. Hugh Legat, one of Chamberlain’s secretaries, is the only German speaker of the British delegation, but is mostly stuck at the delegation’s hotel. Hugh is at the beginning of his career, and money is tight. By disobeying orders, he risks his career. In Berlin, his former classmate Paul van Hartmann is caught up in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, but his main role is to get to Munich with Hitler’s entourage, and transfer the documents to Chamberlain via Legat. Hartmann is under suspicion from the very beginning, and his life is in jeopardy. It’s fascinating to get glimpses of Hitler and Chamberlain, with their very different motivations and personalities, through the eyes of Legat and Hartmann. Hard to put down, although not as outstanding as his earlier novels Pompeii and Conclave.
The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille
An entertaining thriller with plenty of twists & turns, armchair travel to Cuba, and a hot romance.
Endurance by Scott Kelly
Astronaut’s record-setting stay on the International Space Station, along with growing up with twin Mark.
Gap Year Girl by Marianne Bohm
I don’t think the title was a good fit, but it’s an entertaining memoir about an empty-nester couple that travels around Europe for a year, focusing on France, to help Marianne fulfill her dream of becoming a French teacher.
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Unexpectedly charming, as the premise of a young widow attending a Saturday gardening class with her girls and sister for a work project didn’t grab me. The book did, and my sister liked it, too.
The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen Flynn
Time travellers on a project try to meet Jane Austen and recover some papers for the future.
A Tale of Two Kitties and other Magical Cats mysteries by Sofie Kelly
Boston librarian moves to small Minnesota town to oversee library renovations. She misses her family, mostly involved in the theater, but finds friends, a possible love interest, and adopts to very unusual kitties. Appealing characters and setting, even a bit about tai chi, food, and art. The first book is Curiosity Thrilled the Cat.
Caroline: Little House, Revisted by Sarah Miller
Authorized by the Little House Trust, this reimagines the book Little House on the Prairie from the point of view of Laura’s mother, including a pregnancy. Also excellent to reread.
Artemis by Andy Weir
Second science fiction book by the author of The Martian. Artemis is the only colony on the moon, and Jazz Bashara is a courier and small-time smuggler who ends up in big trouble and has to save the colony with help from her friends and her estranged father.
Break Up by Dana Stabenow
A dark and very funny mystery set in small town Alaska. The ice thawing brings out the crazy in everyone and every thing, and private investigator Kate Shugak has to bring order out of chaos. This is still fun to reread.
Jackie’s Girl by Kathy McKeon
This memoir of Jackie’s young, Irish personal assistant is charming. Madam, her family and household are fun to read about, along with visits to the Kennedy compound on Cape Cod.
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
A long, leisurely read set mainly in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow, from the point of view of a former count on house arrest. Just lovely!
The Penric and Desdemona novellas by Lois McMaster Bujold, set in the world of the Five Gods
For readers who like fantasy, humor, adventure, and a little romance with a very appealing protagonist.
“Penric’s Demon” (2015)
“Penric and the Shaman” (2016)
“Penric’s Fox” (2017) (3rd story chronologically)
“Penric’s Mission” (2016)
“Mira’s Last Dance” (2017)
“The Prisoner of Limnos” (2017)
The Lost City of the Monkey God by Douglas Preston
Real life adventure in the Honduran rain forest.
Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton
Adventure story set in 1876, with two competing paleontologists hunting dinosaur fossils in the American west. The manuscript for Dragon Teeth predates Jurassic Park.
The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper
Little Women author’s little sister, May, who does not enjoy being mistaken for Amy March or having her book illustrations panned. May takes art lessons in Boston and Europe, clashing frequently with family breadwinner Louisa.
Design for Dying by Rene Patrick
Enjoyable historical mystery set in Hollywood, with salesgirl Lillian teaming up with costume designer Edith Head to solve a murder.
The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer
Accidental time travel by Beatrice, an overworked neurosurgeon, to Italy right before the plague strikes; full of art, romance, and suspense.
This list is full of some of the books I really enjoyed reading this year. There are so many list of best books and literary award-winners, that I wanted to focus on enjoyable books. I also read quite a few children’s books this year, but that’s outside the scope of this blog.
The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
A bittersweet tale of unlikely friendship between two elderly neighbors and a teen girl. Arthur Moses lives with his cat Gordon, and takes a bus to a local cemetery to have lunch at his wife’s grave every day. Somehow, he can sense the stories of the other cemetery’s residents. He often sees teen Maddy, who doesn’t fit in at school, and they gradually become friends. Arthur’s neighbor Lucille loves to bake and has been happier since an old boyfriend came to visit. Maddy, raised by her father, finds love and acceptance from Arthur and Lucille. This is a cozy read, with no violence, but I wish that the book was happier and less sentimental. This novel is a good readalike for Fannie Flagg’s books.
In December, the Tuesday Morning and Tuesday Evening Book Groups will get together at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, December 19 to talk about the most enjoyable books we’ve read this year. Light refreshments will be served, and I’m looking forward to adding plenty of enjoyable books to my to-be-read list for 2018. Please join us!
The Crime Readers will meet at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien on Thursday, December 14 to discuss Shane, by Jack Schaefer, a classic Western. The book discussion starts at 7 pm, with optional dinner at 6 pm. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
On January 16, the Tuesday Morning Book Group will meet at 10 a.m. to discuss The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan, a novel about life in a village in southeast England during World
War II. Here is my earlier review.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on January 23 to discuss A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Set almost entirely in the Hotel Metropol in Moscow beginning in 1922, this historical novel is a favorite. My earlier review is here.
On January 18 at 7 p.m., the Crime Readers will meet at Home Run Inn Pizza to discuss Full Dark House by Christopher Fowlers. Again, optional dinner at 6 p.m.
Copies of all four titles are available now at the Adult & Teen Services Reference Desk. Enjoy!