Miss Dimple Disappears by Mignon Ballard
Life on the home front in Elderberry, Georgia, is pretty calm in Fall,1942 until Miss Dimple Kilpatrick, longtime first grade teacher, disappears, and the school custodian dies, apparently of a heart attack. Charlie Carr and her friend Annie, both teachers, decide to investigate, along with Charlie’s mother and aunt. Charlie’s boyfriend Hugh will probably enlist in the armed forces soon, and Charlie wonders how she’ll answer if he proposes. The reader learns Miss Dimple’s account of her kidnapping, a possible motive, and how she plans to get rescued. Meanwhile Thanksgiving is coming, with plans for a meal and dance for visiting service men. This is a cozy mystery with lots of quirky characters and small town charm. I enjoyed a glimpse of Charlie’s life as a teacher dealing with rationing, lunch at a boarding house, worries about her brother in North Africa, and doing her bit by writing to many of the enlisted men she meets. There are two more books already in this series. The second book is Miss Dimple Rallies to the Cause. Miss Dimple Disappears reminds me of the 1930s Darling Dahlias mystery series by Susan Wittig Albert, set in small-town Alabama.
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Jack and Mabel, middle-aged and childless, decide to homestead in Alaska in the 1920s. Mabel feels very isolated, especially since Jack doesn’t want her help on the farm, and bakes pies to sell in town. Jack worries about making it through their second wretchedly cold winter, and they grow apart. One day, as a distraction, they make a snow child, and wrap her in a scarf. By morning, snow child and scarf are gone, but the couple starts glimpsing a little girl in the woods. Skittish and free-spirited, Faina gradually warms to Jack and Mabel and brings them little gifts. Finally befriended by their neighbors, Mabel tells Esther about Faina, but she is skeptical. Jack knows a secret about Faina, but has promised not to tell. Mabel remembers a fairy tale she read about a snow child, and worries about what will happen when spring comes. The wintry landscape is vividly described, along with clearing land, hunting moose, trapping, and meals with their neighbors or Faina. The story takes unexpected twists and turns, and is quite memorable.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Do you love books? Did you ever play Dungeons and Dragons or watch Star Wars? Would you like to read about code breaking, a quest, or Google? Then welcome to the three-story-tall independent bookstore in San Francisco where Clay Jannon gets a job as the night clerk. The recession ended his job as web designer at NewBagel after only a year. Mr. Penumbra asks Clay three questions when he applies for the job. One is to describe a book he loves (the made-up Dragon-Song Chronicles by Clark Moffat) and another is if he can climb the ladders up three stories to retrieve books. The bookstore has only a small selection of books for sale. Most of the books are written in code, and are checked out by regular customers. Clay tries to market the bookstore, reads the log describing all the customers, and decides to map the entire bookstore on his laptop. Kat Potente from Google visits the bookstore, and helps Clay and his roommate scan one of the log books to try and solve the mystery that is the bookstore. Clay’s quest involves friends old and new and takes him to a museum for knitting, the Google campus, a storehouse for unwanted museum artifacts, and a secret reading room in a New York City cave, supported by sales of an ancient type font known as Gerritszoon. Many book lovers are trying to crack the code of one of the first book printers, Manutius. Google staff help, also, but the answer is most unexpected. A real pleasure for fans of both old knowledge and new technology. The author’s website has more about Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.
The Silvered by Tanya Huff
Mirian Maylin is a low-level mage who’s just finished her first year at university. Her mother would love her to attract the attention of one of the young men in the Pack, and lingers near them at the theater. Their small country, Aydori, is threatened by the tech-loving Empire, and some of the werewolves in the Pack serve as officers in Aydori’s army, protecting their border. When families flee the capitol on foot and in carriages, the Empire sets a trap after a soothsayer’s prediction. Young Pack member Tomas survives an attack by a powerful new explosive that kills his brother and best friend, both army officers. He encounters Mirian in the woods after she tries to help some more powerful mages who have been kidnapped. They travel together, with the usual humorous problem of how Tomas can keep his clothes handy when a wolf. The Pack can change at will, and heal when they do, unless struck by a silver weapon. Mirian grows in her magical abilities under pressure, but at a cost. Captain Reiter, their enemy, becomes concerned about the emperor’s plans for the captured mages and his disregard for the Pack. With a setting resembling 19th century Europe, this fantasy has plenty of adventure, some romance, and a little humor to balance the danger. I don’t read many books with werewolves, but I’ve read some of the author’s other books. She writes contemporary or urban fantasy with magic, selkies, dragons, or vampires, traditional fantasy, and military science fiction. A talented writer, but one many fantasy and science fiction fans haven’t read.
Unnatural Habits by Kerry Greenwood
This is the latest book in the the Australian mystery series set in and around Melbourne in the 1920s. The first book is the unfortunately named Cocaine Blues. Phryne grew up poor in Melbourne before her father inherited an aristocratic title, drove an ambulance in World War I, and was an artist’s model in Paris. Now she’s single and wealthy in Melbourne, and a fearless private detective. She has lots of adventures, and has a lover, as well as two adopted daughters. In the latest outing, pregnant women who had been living (and working) at a convent have gone missing from their maternity house, along with Polly, a reporter who was searching for them. Phryne also acquires a new member of the household, 14-year-old Tinker. For more about Phryne and her friends, visit the author’s website. Greenwood also write the Corinna Chapman series, set in modern day Melbourne. Read my review of Earthly Delights here.
In honor of Black History Month, here is a list of recent African American Fiction. There are lots of young adult titles this year.
Dickey, Eric Jerome. An Accidental Affair.
Jackson, Neta. Come to the Table. on order
Johnson, T. Geronimo. Hold It ‘Til It Hurts.
Monroe, Mary. God Don’t Make Mistakes.
Morrison, Toni. Home.
Perlman, Elliot. The Street Sweeper.
Roby, Kimberla Lawson. The Perfect Marriage.
Weber, Carl. The Family Business; The Man in 3B.
Austin, Lynn. All Things New.
Mathis, Ayana. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie.
Wimberley, Darryl. Devil’s Slew
Day, Zuri. Love on the Run.
Evans, Harmony. Lesson in Romance.
Girard, Dara. Secret Paradise.
Hart, Regina. Smooth Play.
Hill, Donna. Everything is You.
Perrin, Kayla. Surrender My Heart.
Rochon, Farrah. A Forever Kind of Love.
Washington, AlTonya. His Texas Touch.
Mosley, Walter. Merge; Disciple.
Morrison, Mary. If I Can’t Have You.
Souljah, Sister. A Deeper Love Inside. on order
Carter, Nikki. On the Flip Side.
Flake, Sharon. Pinned.
Hartman, Brett. Cadillac Chronicles.
Magoon, Kekla. Fire in the Streets.
Nelson, Vaunda Micheaux. No Crystal Stair.
Simone, Nin-Ni. Hollywood High.
Volponi, Paul. The Final Four
Walker, Brian. Black Boy/ White School.
Reached by Ally Condie
Reached is the final book in the Matched trilogy. The Rising against the Society has begun, and Cassia, Ky, and, surprisingly, Xander are all working for the Rising. Ky is a pilot, Xander is a medic, and Cassia sorts, trades with the archivists, and starts an outdoor art/poetry gallery. Xander and Ky both love Cassis, which is no secret to readers of Matched and Crossed. Rarely together, the trio still work in concert to find a cure for the plague, which has mutated, and to search for their families. Cassia learns that she has lost memories from taking the Society’s red tablets, and struggles to remember a red garden day with her grandfather. The story is fast-paced, with lots of action, and reads quickly for a 500+ page book. There is often a question of who to trust, as well as the motives of the mysterious Pilot, leader of the Rising. A very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy; new readers will want to start with Matched, the beginning of this popular young adult series with crossover appeal for adults.