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!
The Dry by Jane Harper
To begin with, three people in a small town in southeast Australia are dead. Not an opening that draws me, but this first mystery novel is on several best books of the year list and I felt challenged to give it a try. Aaron Falk is back in drought stricken Kiewarra for the funeral, and is asked to do a little investigating by his friend Luke’s parents. Falk is a federal agent in Melbourne and soon finds that Kiewarra’s new police sergeant, Greg Raco, also questions the obvious solution. In general, Falk is no more welcome in town now than when he and his father left, suspects after a friend’s drowning. Newcomers to town, including Raco and his wife, school principal Scott Whitlam, and bartender McMurdo, are pleasant enough, as is Luke’s old girlfriend, Gretchen. Mal Deacon, his old nemesis, is as nasty as ever, even though he’s getting old. Short flashbacks to other points of view keep the reader one step ahead of Falk and Raco, but this is not at all a predictable book. The Dry is suspenseful and riveting, very cleverly written, and on my own list of best books of the year. Film rights have been sold, and another book featuring Aaron Falk is being published in February.
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
Picking up from where we left her in The Bear and the Nightingale, Vasya Petrovna, disguised as a boy, makes her way to Moscow with the help of the frost demon Morozko and her faithful horse Solovey. Moscow is her first stop on her quest to see the world, and where she hopes to be reunited with her sister, Olga. However, trouble is never far behind, and Vasya finds herself rescuing a few maidens along the way. Meanwhile, Vasya’s brother, Sasha, urges the Grand Prince Dmitrii to deal with the roving bandits that have been kidnapping girls and burning villages across Russia. Once in Moscow, Vasya enters a world utterly different from village she left. The grandeur of the city is like magic, and yet the magic Vasya knows holds little power there. She is also torn by the admiration she receives while masquerading as a boy, while knowing the fate that awaits her as a young woman: either to marry or enter a convent. On her journey, Vasya learns more about her family and her ties to Morozko, while a new dark power threatens to overtake Moscow.
There are several plot threads woven through The Girl in the Tower — the second book of the Winternight Trilogy — and Arden brings them together beautifully. As in the previous book, Arden’s lush prose transports the reader to medieval Russia, and her strong grasp of history and creative adaptation of folklore again makes for a winning combination. The story unfolds through the eyes of several characters, which enriches our understanding of them and the world they inhabit. Vasya is still as brave and strong-willed as ever but, thanks to the new setting and characters, she continues to grow as a character, too. The development of her relationships with her siblings and Morozko is particularly lovely. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here, and I’m sure readers will be champing at the bit for the next book!