Kate Rees was raised on an Oregon cattle ranch, and became a crack shot with a rifle. In 1940, she’s testing rifles in a munitions factory in Scotland’s Orkney Islands when she’s recruited for a special mission in Paris, where she studied on scholarship at the Sorbonne. Mourning her husband, Kate agrees, and almost kills Hitler during his three hour tour in Paris. Why she is sent to Paris, after a very brief training that includes tips for quick disguises, and why she fails are just the background for what comes next. Kate wasn’t the only operative parachuting into France that June, and she makes contact with allies, an injured fellow spy, her former tutor at the Sorbonne, and the intriguing Philippe. While Kate is on the run in a beautifully described Paris, Nazi detective Gunter Hoffman is searching for a sniper, and MI6 handler Stepney is scrambling for options to salvage his operations in France. Readalikes include Munich by Robert Harris, Dragonfly by Leila Meacham, Basil’s War by Stephen Hunter, Under Occupation by Alan Furst, and the mid-20th century spy novels by Helen MacInnes. This stunning and suspenseful historical thriller is almost impossible to put down, and great escapist reading.
Fans of the Howard brothers will enjoy this upbeat, candid memoir of their childhood in show business, including their parents’ improbably journey from Oklahoma to Hollywood. Rance and Jean Howard were both actors, and Rance also did some writing. They never hit the big time, except in their parenting of Ron and Clint. Rance was Ronny’s dialog and acting coach when he was in The Sound of Music and The Andy Griffith Show and when Clint was in Star Trek, and one parent was always on the set, making it challenging when young Clint was filming Gentle Ben in Florida. Rance taught the boys to approach their roles with emotional truth and relatability, understanding their character’s motivation. Sometimes the whole family was on a set together, including the 1970 film Wild Country. They lived modestly, and the boys enjoyed baseball and basketball, with Ron coaching Clint’s basketball team, and Clint showing Henry Winkler how to pitch softball. Ron was bullied a bit in school, and Clint struggled with an addiction to alcohol and drugs, but the family stayed close, working together into their parents’ later years as Ron became a successful director and Clint a much in-demand character actor. Full of behind the scenes stories from beloved television shows and movies, this is an entertaining and engaging read.
Small town life in northern Michigan is this focus of this novel about family life, friendship, love, and teaching second graders. Jane is new in town when she meets Freida, who sings and plays mandolin, and then Duncan, who is charming but seems to have dated almost every other woman in town. Duncan moonlights as a locksmith, while his day job is woodworking, restoring furniture, but never quickly. Sweet and slightly slow Jimmy is his helper, who later helps bring Jane and Duncan together after a breakup. There are many funny passages about teaching second grade, especially guest speakers and field trips that never go quite according to plan. A cranky toddler often steals the scene later in the story. Aggie, Duncan’s ex-wife, and her second husband Gary are often present, especially for Taco Tuesdays, which might feature Aggie’s pork chops rather than actual tacos. Even trips to an ice cream shop to check out someone’s crush are both awkward and hilarious, as are a few of Jane’s thrift store outfits. Quirky characters, found family, happiness and occasional disaster all make for a delightful and memorable read. Readalikes include Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel, All Adults Here by Emma Straub, and books by Jodi Thomas and RaeAnne Thayne.
I read this eBook because I liked A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, a newer book by the author. I enjoyed this fantasy novel for teens, tweens, and adults even more. Oliver, a minor mage, is 12. His mother is out of town. His familiar is an armadillo. The armadillo’s mother was the familiar of the elderly wizard who taught Oliver everything he knows. And, other than learning about using herbs, it’s not much. Oliver only knows how to use three spells. Trying to summon an elemental or becoming invisible are just a bit tricky at the moment. But Oliver’s village is struggling during a drought, so he gets sent on a journey with his familiar to the Rainblade Mountains, in an attempt to bring back some rain.
Oliver and the armadillo are very appealing characters. Their adventures, while many, are not predictable, either to Oliver or the reader. They meet ghuls, bandits, pigs, an evil mayor, and a musician in this charming, heartwarming story. The eBook is available from Hoopla Digital and from Media on Demand/Libby.
In the summer of 1954, Emmett Watson is heading home from a stint at a juvenile work farm to a failing Nebraska farm to collect his younger brother Billy and retrace their mother’s earlier journey on the Lincoln Highway to San Francisco. Emmett has a blue Studebaker in the barn, along with some money his father left him. Billy has his Army surplus knapsack, along with some treasures including a book of heroic stories by Professor Abernathe. Their plan is disrupted by Duchess and Woolly, stowaways and escapees from the work farm. Duchess wants to get revenge for some past wrongs, and pay back some other debts, including smuggling strawberry preserves into an orphanage. Nothing goes smoothly for Emmett over the 10 days that follow, as Duchess and Woolly plan to head to New York City and the Adirondacks to retrieve a fortune that should be Woolly’s. Woolly is sweet, irresponsible, and prone to sipping from a medicine bottle. Emmett and Billy end up riding the rails, meet Ulysses, a black veteran longing for his missing wife and child, and have many detours along the way. While this isn’t the mid-century road trip and family reunion readers might be expecting, this is an absorbing and entertaining read with some rather dark moments. A memorable third novel from a master storyteller.
This is the clever and entertaining sequel to the Thursday Murder Club, a mystery series inspired by the upscale English retirement village where Brenda, the author’s mother, lives. A group of four retirees led by retired MI5 agent Elizabeth, gather weekly to discuss unsolved mystery cases, with occasional input from DCI Chris Hudson, Constable Donna De Freitas, and fixer Bogdan Jankowski. The first book is to be a Steven Spielberg film, and I am picturing Penelope Wilton to play Joyce, a retired nurse who narrates her adventures with Elizabeth, Ibrahim, and Ron to her diary. Elizabeth gets a plea for help from a dead man. It’s really from her ex-husband Douglas, who’s in a safe house with new MI5 agent Poppy after some diamonds connected to the Mafia go missing. Douglas may have stolen the diamonds, and he’s definitely in trouble. Ibrahim is injured when his phone is stolen, and the friends plot revenge on his young assailant. If you enjoy crime novels, very dark humor, and excellent writing, you’re in for a treat. Lesley Manville does excellent work narrating the audiobook. Here’s a longer list of readalikes, as I’d like to read more books like Osman’s myself: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helen Tursten, Before She Was Helen by Caroline Cooney, The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz, Celine by Peter Heller, and The Postscript Murders by Elly Griffiths.
Please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group in-person to discuss The Windsor Knot by S.J. Bennett. We will be meeting on the fifth Tuesday, November 30, at 7 pm in the 2nd floor Mahlke Meeting Room.
This is a mystery set at Windsor Castle in 2016, featuring Queen Elizabeth and her new assistant private secretary, Rozi Oshodi. Here’s my earlier review.
Please register online or at the Computer Help Desk. Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk. eBook and eAudiobook copies are available from MediaonDemand/Libby and eBook from eRead Illinois.
Another top notch romantic comedy from the author of The Wedding Date and Royal Holiday. Olivia Monroe has just moved to Los Angeles from New York City to start a law firm with her friend Ellie. Staying in a hotel before she moves into a rental, she chats with the hotel bartender about the lack of traditional desserts on the menus of trendy restaurants. A handsome stranger chimes in, and Olivia and Max enjoy a flirtatious conversation. She is surprised to see Max on the new that night; he’s California’s junior senator. They reconnect at a fundraiser, and Max sends dessert to her office. He is smitten, but she’s hesitant, especially as a black woman, to date a politician. Max is impulsive where Olivia takes her time making decisions; except what to have for dessert. When the pair go public with their relationship, it’s predictably stressful. Both accomplished professionals in their late thirties, I enjoyed their witty banter and descriptions of Olivia’s work. She definitely takes center stage; Max and his work as a senator are downplayed. This was a really enjoyable light read. Readalikes include The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren, Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole, and Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert.
Mona, 14, is an orphan who works at her Aunt Tabitha’s bakery. She has a knack with bread and cookie dough, and can make gingerbread men dance for the bakery’s customers. Her bread is exceptionally good, thanks to a sourdough starter named Bob. One early morning, Mona arrives at the bakery to find a body on the floor; someone who also had a magical talent. The dreaded Spring Green Man has struck, again. But Mona first has to clear her name, aided by the city’s Duchess. A boy named Spindle and a skeleton horse help her in what turns out to be a quest to save their city, aided by some really massive baked goods. By turns funny and deadly serious, this exciting Andre Norton Nebula Award winner is a good readalike for Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novels featuring Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men.
Stephenson’s new techno-thriller is set in the near future, and describes possible effects of climate change and one Texas billionaire’s idea to reverse global warming. Action-packed, with a variety of settings that include Texas, the Netherlands, New Guinea, and the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas separating China and India. Saskia, Queen of the Netherlands, is flying to Houston when her plane is diverted by extreme weather to Waco, where a group of feral swine on the runway disables her plane. She’s traveling to Houston to meet T.R. Schmidt, who’s demonstrating a way to use sulfur to help lower temperatures and prevent a rise in sea levels. The feral swine, alligators, and the aftermath of a hurricane make for exciting travels, but this is just one plot line in this page turning novel by the bestselling science fiction author of Reamde, Seveneves, Anathem, and Cryptonomicon. Laks, a Canadian semi-observant Sikh who practices martial arts has his own adventures. Though some of the characters could be developed more, I found this to be an entertaining and informative look at a possible near future. Readalikes include New York, 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson and Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.