Leave Only Footprints

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park by Conor Knighton

Armchair travel has been a reading theme for me this summer. Fortunately, there are a lot of terrific books that can take the reader on a virtual journey. In his first book, Emmy award-winning television correspondent Conor Knighton visits all the National Parks in the U.S. in 2016, beginning with the first sunrise of the year in Acadia National Park in Maine. Imagine visiting Alaska, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Hawaii, and American Samoa in the same year, along with all the other National Parks! Conor, recovering from a broken engagement, isn’t sure where he wants to live when his year of traveling is over. His writing is insightful, and occasionally funny. I would have liked more photos, but enjoyed the ones that are included. For videos from his time in the parks, visit his website. Different chapters cover the night sky, climate change, diversity in the parks, and how the most popular parks are coping with crowds. Knighton talks with many park rangers and guides, and is smitten by a litter of puppies in Denali, where dogsledding often makes more sense than snowmobiling. He gets advised to not always climb the highest peak, as the view and experience may be better from another less popular peak. Every cave tour has a moment of utter darkness, and while dark skies in some parks make for amazing stargazing, it’s getting harder to find an area without cellphone service. I enjoyed Knighton’s writing so much, I read several short passages out loud to my family. Since 2016, Conor has visited our newest national parks, including the Indiana Dunes, some national parks in other countries, and many islands.

Brenda

 

Three Mysteries

A Divided Loyalty by Charles Todd, Grey Mask by Patricia Wentworth, & Trouble in Nuala by Harriet Steel

Travel back in time with me to three mysteries set in the 1920s and 1930s. In 1921, Inspector Ian Rutledge travels to Avebury in Wiltshire, to investigate a death by a standing stone, part of the largest stone circle in England. Since then, many more of the stones have been uncovered, but even then it was apparently an uncanny place. Rutledge, having solved a similar crime in Shropshire, is asked to take over Chief Inspector Brian Leslie’s case. When some new evidence, painstakingly discovered, contradicts Leslie’s report, Rutledge has to decide where his loyalty lies. There are many twists and turns along the way, an atmospheric setting, and even a pursuit at night on horseback. One of the best in this long-running series.

In 1929, Charles Moray has come home to England to his inherited house, only to hear voices and see a light in the supposedly vacant house. His former fiancée Margaret, is mixed up in a gang of criminals, but is willing to help Charles save the life of a lovely but naïve young girl, Margot. This is the first mystery featuring Miss Maud Silver, retired governess turned sleuth, and the mystery was suspenseful and fast-paced. I found the book hard to put down, surprising me as this book was published in 1929. Perhaps a new mystery with a similar setting and plot would have more violence, but maybe not. Miss Silver was a contemporary of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple, but is not as well known.
The first Inspector de Silva mystery is set in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka, in the 1930s. Shanti de Silva is enjoying his work in the town of Nuala, driving his Morris car and picnicking with his wife, until a complaint is made against an English tea plantation owner, and then a body is found at the plantation. Shanti’s wife Jane, a former governess, befriends the plantation owner’s wife. A lovely setting, a cricket game, and some fine detecting add to the reader’s pleasure. Dark Clouds Over Nuala is the next book in the series.
I enjoyed all three mysteries, and plan to read more by these authors.
Brenda

 

Eighty Days to Elsewhere

Eighty Days to Elsewhere by K. C. Dyer

Romy Keene works for her uncles in their New York City bookstore, living in an apartment above the shop. When the building is sold and their rent skyrockets, Romy enters a contest to win a huge bonus and a position with a travel company. All Romy needs to do is visit the same landmarks as Phileas Fogg did in Jules Verne’s novel Around the World in Eighty Days, without taking a commercial flight. And Romy needs to be faster than Dominic Madison, whose uncle is her new evil landlord. Romy has never been further from New York City than Montreal, and is definitely not an intrepid traveler. Many adventures later, the cargo ship she and Dominic are traveling on rescues a group of Somali refugees, and the pair find a new, mutual goal. This book is perfect armchair travel reading for summer, complete with a little romance (with Dominic, of course!). A good non-fiction readalike is Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World, by Matthew Goodman. This novel really kept my interest, and will be published on August 11.

Brenda

 

The Smallest Lights in the Universe

The Smallest Lights in the Universe by Sara Seager

This compelling memoir of an astrophysicist who searches for exoplanets is one of the best, most memorable books I’ve read this year. Sara is an accomplished, pioneering scientist whose career achievements alone could easily fill a book, However, it’s her remarkable personal story that has reviewers describing this book as luminous, insightful, and extraordinary. As a girl in Ontario, Sarah fell in love with the stars. She earned college degrees from the University of Toronto and Harvard, kayaked with her future husband Michael, and started a family, then began a journey through grief after her husband died of cancer. Sara reinvents herself with the help of the Widows of Concord, juggling work, single parenting, traveling, and dating, and learns that she is autistic. The Smallest Lights in the Universe will be published on August 18. Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is a good readalike.

Brenda

The Tourist Attraction

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

In this quirky debut romantic comedy, Zoey Caldwell meets grumpy Graham Barnett on her first night in Moose Springs, Alaska. Graham reluctantly serves tourists from a nearby luxury lodge at his diner, The Tourist Trap, but he’d rather be spending time with his dog or making sculptures with a chain saw. Zoey has been saving her tips for years to afford a two-week vacation in Alaska, and is happy to sleep on the sofa in her friend Lana’s suite at the lodge. Determined to see as many Alaskan attractions as she can, Zoey’s day trips are with a budget company and she goes whale watching in heavy seas, and gets an uncooperative horse on a trail ride. Graham is part of a long-running local versus rich tourist feud, but introduces Zoey to his dog, his friends, and takes her to a local favorite bakery for giant cinnamon rolls. Graham is a bit too ready to get into a fight for my tastes, but clearly has a soft spot for Zoey and her friend Lana. Funny and engaging, with a great sense of place, this novel will have readers eager to visit Moose Springs, Alaska, ASAP. Fortunately, the author’s second book, Mistletoe and Mr. Right, will be published this October. Other reviewers suggest books by Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Robyn Carr, and Debbie Macomber as readalikes. The Tourist Attraction will be our virtual book discussion selection on August 25.

Brenda

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim

Vanessa has 26 first and second cousins, but no siblings. Working as an accountant in Palo Alto, Vanessa struggles with visions of the future, sometimes predicting death. Her Aunt Evelyn, who has the same talent, brings Vanessa to Paris for several weeks to help with the opening of Evelyn’s tea shop and to teach Vanessa how to handle her visions. Vanessa would rather tour Paris with fellow Asian-American Marc; foodies and Francophiles will really enjoy their sightseeing and delicious meals. Readers of Sarah Addison Allen and Joanne Harris may also find the hints of magic appealing. I would have enjoyed more scenes with Vanessa’s many interfering but well-meaning aunties, who enjoy bargaining at antiques stores and are as comfortable at a tiny café as at a lavish banquet. Vanessa also shows skills at matchmaking, but has been told she’ll never have a lifelong romance. I found some of the descriptions in the book a bit much; I didn’t need to know the size of Vanessa’s condo or the exact number (75) of oysters appearing on a platter. I also wanted to learn if Vanessa’s sometimes dire visions of the future could be averted. This is a good summer read that’s sure to be popular. This book will be published on August 4; her earlier book is Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck & Fortune.

Brenda

I Was Told It Would Get Easier

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

A road trip with nine other Los Angeles area families to visit East Coast colleges could be a perfect chance for mother-daughter bonding for Jessica and Emily. Busy lawyer Jessica spends so much time taking calls and texts for work that she misses a whole day of the tour. 16-year-old Emily is worried about a scandal at her private high school, and has no clue where she’d like to attend college or what she wants to study. A couple of joint sessions with a college counselor might have made the whole trip unnecessary, but then the reader would miss out on a very funny and heartwarming mother-daughter relationship. Emily is the most interesting character, but visits with her mother’s college friends reveal more of Jessica’s personality. There’s also cute, geeky Will and his attractive father to make their free time in Philadelphia, New York City, and Rhinebeck, New York even more appealing. This witty novel is sure to appeal to readers of Waxman’s novels The Garden of Small Beginnings and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Brenda

July 2020 Virtual Book Discussion: If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now

On July 28 at 7:00 pm, please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group on Zoom as we discuss If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now, by Christopher Ingraham. Continuing our summer theme of armchair travel, this is the true story of a data reporter who wrote about the least desirable place to live in the lower 48 states, based on scenery and climate. Residents of Red Lake County in northwest Minnesota objected to the article, invited the reporter to visit, and he unexpectedly moved there with his young family. My earlier review is here. Register for the book discussion here. Copies of the book are available on Hoopla and from Media on Demand (our Libby/Overdrive collection). More copies will be available at the library soon.

Brenda

Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café

Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café by Jodi Thomas

I picked this book because of the gorgeous cover. In reading the novel, I enjoyed a pleasant visit to a small Texas town with plenty of secrets, a possible ghost, and not quite enough descriptions of breakfast at the café. Sam Cassidy gets an unexpected request to be interim pastor in Honey Creek. Sam, while a seminary graduate, is a pilot and firefighter, but is drawn to Honey Creek for a personal reason. Mayor Piper Jane is late to welcome Sam and give him a tour of the town because she’s distracted by another newcomer, Colby McBride. Colby is undercover, investigating the disappearance of a man whose car was found in a nearby river. Two seniors graduating from the local high school are also drawn together; hardworking Pecos and sweet, popular Kerrie. In this contemporary novel, appealing characters, some humor, and a little romance make for a heartwarming story. More Honey Creek stories are planned.

Brenda

A Royal Affair

A Royal Affair by Allison Montclair

I thoroughly enjoyed this delightful mystery, a sequel to The Right Sort of Man. Widowed Gwen Bainbridge and former intelligence operative Iris Sparks run The Right Sort Marriage Bureau, where their diverse talents make them successful matchmakers in post World War II London. When Gwen’s cousin asks for help in vetting a suitor for Princess Elizabeth, the adventures begin. Wonderfully witty dialogue, appealingly complex characters, and lots of action scenes put this mystery on my list of sure bets for summer reading. A July 28 publication date is planned.

Brenda