This immersive, compelling read features an unlikely trio of friends who work at Bletchley Park during World War II, secretly trying to break the codes used by the Germans and Italians. Debutante Osla Kendall, who reads German fluently, is dating Prince Philip of Greece. On the train from London she meets ambitious Mab, a typist whose height gets her work on the machines at Bletchley Park and who is anxious to evacuate her little sister Lucy from London’s East End. Shy Beth, whose demanding mother rents Mab and Osla a room, finds her skill at crossword puzzles leads to work as a codebreaker. The strain of the work and the demand for complete secrecy affect the women’s relationships, although outlets such as their Mad Hatter book group help somewhat. In 1947 the women are no longer friends, yet Mab and Osla meet for tea in York in response to a desperate plea from Beth, who is trying to discover who framed her as a traitor. This crisis is set during the weeks, days, and hours leading up to the royal wedding of Osla’s Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. I loved the focus on the women’s war work and found this book, with its intensifying pace, hard to put down. Only the 624 page count will keep this book from being the top pick of many book groups. Readalikes include Code Girls by Liza Mundy, The Gown by Jennifer Robson, The Secret Lives of Codebreakers by Sinclair McKay, and The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott.
Mackenzie Dienes, winemaker at her mother-in-law’s winery, Bel Après, has an enviable quality of life. She and Rhys have a lovely house on the family compound, and his sisters Stephanie and Four have been her good friends for over 16 years. The extended family shares a personal chef, and Mackenzie has an office at home as well as at the winery, and her own bedroom suite. It’s true that she and Rhys have been friends rather than lovers for several years, but shouldn’t that be enough? Her wines are highly valued, her nieces and nephews live nearby, there are regular family dinners, impromptu gatherings when someone bakes cookies, and weekly Girls’ Night. When matriarch Barbara gets engaged, Mackenzie and Rhys see their marriage in a new light, and she decides it’s time to start over, perhaps with her own winery. I enjoyed the rural Washington vineyard setting, the camaraderie of Mackenzie and her friends, and the theme of starting over, along with a hint of romance. I did find the story rather predictable, and the character of family matriarch Barbara was over-the-top unlikeable. This is a quick, compelling read, perfect for a long weekend. Readalikes include Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Davie, The Promise and New Hope by Robyn Carr, The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas, and the forthcoming Blush, by Jamie Brenner.
On Tuesday, May 25, please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7:00 pm on Zoom as we discuss Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. This is a novel with a bit of magical realism, set in Bascom, North Carolina, where Claire Waverley is a caterer, using plants with special properties from her garden. Her quiet life is unsettled when her sister Sydney comes home after many years, along with her daughter. This is the first novel by Sarah Addison Allen; First Frost also features the Waverley sisters
Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk, we own the audiobook on cd, and the ebook is available for download from Media on Demand/Libby.
This is a contemporary novel of found family, centered around a café in London. After elderly artist Julian Jessop leaves a notebook telling of his grief after the loss of his wife in Monica’s Café, Monica posts a flier in the window looking for someone to teach a weekly painting class, hoping to connect with Julian. Monica puts her own wishes to become a mother in the notebook, and somehow the notebook travels to Australia and back, connecting a newly sober traveler, a struggling new mum, and more, all making connections through the painting classes and weekly dinners. There are secrets, lies, conflicts and quite a few coincidences, but in the end this is a heartwarming, cozy novel about new friendships and a little romance. This is a compelling and enjoyable first novel. Readalikes include The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister and Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson.
A fast-paced, character-driven science fiction novel set in the 25th century. Lieutenant Maxine Carmichael gets her first ship assignment in the NeoG, the Near-Earth Orbital Guard, joining the diverse crew of Zuma’s Ghost, assigned to Jupiter Station. The NeoG is the equivalent of today’s Coast Guard, rescuing stranded ships, searching for contraband, and locating missing ships. The small crew needs to find a role for Max in the upcoming Boarding Games, where she gets lots of attention for being a Carmichael; her sister is CEO of LifeEx. There is plenty of action and some danger but mostly this is an uplifting, entertaining, and enjoyable read. Similar authors include Becky Chambers and Elizabeth Moon. I’m looking forward to the sequel, Hold Fast Through the Fire, which will be published in July.
Ruthie Midona, 25, works in a retirement community and rarely leaves the grounds. She lives on the property and rarely leaves, except to shop at a local thrift store. When two wealthy 90-year-olds need a new personal assistant, Ruthie runs their errands until the community’s new owner suggests his son Teddy, who’s trying to save money for a tattoo parlor. Teddy is staying in the adjoining villa, and is clearly fascinated by Ruthie, when not busy with the hilarious requests made by the Parloni sisters. Temp Melanie is creating a dating profile for Ruthie, who hasn’t dated in years, and helps organize the residents’ holiday party. Opposites definitely attract for Ruthie and Teddy in this sweet and funny romantic comedy. An April LibraryReads pick, this is a funny and heartwarming story about how friends can become your found family. Readalikes include I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella and Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert.
Grace Porter celebrates earning her Ph.D. in astronomy with a short vacation in Las Vegas with friends Agnes and Ximena. She wakes up the last morning with a hangover, a wedding ring, and a picture of Yuki Yamamoto, who hosts a late night radio show in New York City. Back in Portland, Grace tries to live up to the expectations of her father, Colonel Porter. Biracial and queer, Grace is struggling to land an astronomy job, which she somehow thought would be easy. Grace is used to working hard and living up to her father’s expectations. Her response is to flee, visiting Yuki and her roommates in NYC, then her mother at the family orange grove in Florida. Essentially ghosting her friends for long stretches, they are still there when she needs them. I would have liked more about Grace’s astronomy studies; with perhaps a cool field trip to an observatory in Hawaii or Chile. But Grace’s story is much more about an identity crisis, her relationships with her friends, Yuki, and her parents, and learning to accept her own imperfections and uncertainties. Grace and Yuki are memorable characters, and this is an appealing and compelling read.
On Tuesday, April 27, please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7:00 pm on Zoom as we discuss Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale, by Adam Minter. This book reveals what happens to donated and recycled objects, and even to totaled vehicles. Here’s my earlier review. Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk, the audiobook can be downloaded from Hoopla, and the ebook is available from Media on Demand/Libby.
Better than The Martian or Artemis, more compelling and memorable, with much higher stakes. And, like The Martian, sure to be a hit movie. Ryland Grace wakes up alone on a small spaceship, with amnesia. Gradually he remembers his crewmates, and his mission, to save Earth from a dying sun by traveling to Tau Ceti and sending back a probe with the results of his experiments and discoveries. Unexpectedly, Ryland encounters Rocky, an engineer on a similar desperate mission. Then Ryland remembers that he’s on a one-way only journey. The science is pretty cool, and the ingenuity and perseverance of Ryland and Rocky are inspiring and occasionally funny. Hard to put down and impossible to forget, a science fiction novel to celebrate and share. Publication date is May 4.
Reading this fantasy novel about an orphanage for magical youth is as comforting as a warm hug. Scrupulously honest Linus Baker is a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. After work, Linus retreats to his small house, listening to records and talking to Calliope, his grumpy cat, while dreaming of a sunny day by the sea. After being summoned by Extremely Upper Management, Linus is sent to inspect an island orphanage for especially dangerous magical children. After a long train ride (with Calliope the cat, of course), he meets the children, their charming caretaker Arthur, and island local Zoe. After getting acquainted with the children, then encountering prejudice in a nearby village, Linus finally finds his voice. The six children are unique, and I can’t pick a favorite. They include eager Chauncey, who wants to be a bellhop, Talia the fierce gardening gnome, and a scary six-year-old boy nicknamed Lucy. Linus evens gets to dance with Arthur, once, before returning home to file his final report. Readalikes include Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and the Tom Hanks movie Joe Versus the Volcano.