City of Ink by Elsa Hart
I read this book while preparing for a book discussion of Jade Dragon Mountain, the first of three historical mysteries featuring exiled librarian Li Du and storyteller Hamza. The second book is The White Mirror. All three stories are set in early 18th century China, with very different settings. With City of Ink, Li Du is working as a secretary in Beijing for Chief Inspector Sun. The city is abuzz with preparations for the imperial examinations, which Li Du passed many years ago. Thousands of students who have passed two earlier levels of exams are trying to study, pick out the best ink and brushes, and preparing for several very intense days of exams which only a few hundred will pass. Li Du and Inspector Sun investigate a double murder at a tile factory, but a quick and tidy solution is preferred by the magistrate rather than an in-depth inquiry. In this gated city, Li Du and Hamza get caught outside their neighborhood after curfew, and have to find lodging for the night. Returning to Water Moon Temple, Li Du discovers that his room has been searched. Tension eases when Li Du travels outside the city to teach calligraphy to the grandchildren of his late mentor Shu, whose name he is still trying to clear. Lady Chen of Jade Dragon Mountain is now living in Beijing, and may have useful information for Hamza and Li Du. If you enjoy intricately plotted mysteries (or historical fiction) with vividly detailed settings, I think you’ll really enjoy this outstanding mystery series.
Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy
As a third generation fan of Anne Shirley, beginning with my Canadian grandmother, it was a real pleasure to read her Aunt Marilla’s story about growing up on Prince Edward Island in the 1830s and 1840s. Fans of Green Gables will enjoy spending more time in Avonlea, getting to know Matthew, Marilla’s brother, as a young farmer, and learning some Canadian history, including the role of the Underground Railroad in eastern Canada. Marilla meets her aunt Izzy, a dressmaker, makes friends with John Blythe and Rachel, and visits an orphanage. Knowing that Marilla never married made it a little sad to read about her one romance, and you never learn why Anne has to wait for her puffed sleeves, but overall a very enjoyable gentle read.
On October 16 at 10 a.m., the Tuesday Morning Book Group will be discussing American Fire, by Monica Hesse. A true-crime story set on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where serial arsonists have set dozens of fires. My review is here.
The Tuesday Evening Book Group will meet at 7 p.m. on October 23 to discuss Girl in Disguise. This is a novel about the first woman Pinkerton agent, Kate Warne, who is based in Chicago in the 1860s. Abraham Lincoln appears twice. Here is my review.
The Crime Readers will discuss the classic novel We Have Always Lived in the Castle, by Shirley Jackson at 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 18 at Home Run Inn Pizza in Darien. Optional dinner is at 6 p.m. The Crime Readers are co-sponsored by the Indian Prairie Public Library.
Copies of the books are available now at the Circulation Desk.
Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver
Finally, a book set in dual time periods where each story is well worth reading. Both are centered around a house in need of repairs in Vineland, New Jersey. Thatcher Greenwood is a science teacher with a young, materialistic wife and an eccentric neighbor who corresponds with Darwin. Willa and her gorgeous but impractical husband are struggling financially, while simultaneously caring for an elderly parent who swears in Greek and a new grandson. Willa looks for grant money to repair their historic house and learns about the town’s remarkable history. Somewhat preachy ecologically and bittersweet in tone, this is a pageturner in both time periods.
The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz
Diana Cowper visits a London funeral home to plan her own funeral and is killed later the same day. Coincidence? Or is her involvement in a fatal car accident almost ten years ago connected? Perhaps her son Damian, a famous actor in Los Angeles, has an enemy. Hawthorne, a police consultant, investigates, and wants the author to observe his investigation and write a book about the case. Hawthorne is brusque, brilliant, and secretive, and Horowitz is intrigued. Very clever writing from a versatile author who’s tackled Agatha Christie in The Magpie Murders, Sherlock Holmes in The House of Silk, written a series of thrillers about a teenage spy, and whose next project is a James Bond book. Next year look for another Hawthorne book, The Sentence is Death. Rory Kinnear is an excellent narrator for the audiobook.
This is the gripping story of how two cargo ships encountered Hurricane Joaquin in September, 2015. National Hurricane Center meteorologists began tracking a tropical depression that unexpectedly gained in strength and followed a very different path than usual for Atlantic storms. As the Coast Guard prepared, including helicopter crews stationed in the southern Bahamas, two ships tried, unsuccessfully, to stay away from the storm. Delays in getting current weather reports and a lack of the most up-to-date safety features proved disastrous for one older ship, while dramatic rescue attempts by a highly trained helicopter rescue crew showed the resilience of another ship’s crew, making for compelling reading. This is a good readalike for The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger and Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson.
The Recipe Box by Viola Shipman
Sam Nelson, a young pastry chef, takes her family’s Michigan apple orchard for granted, and thinks she’ll be happier in New York City. Home for a visit, the key to her recipe box unlocks the stories of her mother Deanna, grandmother Willo, and great-grandmother at turning points in their lives. Recipes are included, and not just for apple-themed treats. A visit from her friend Angelo helps Sam see the orchard and the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula in a new light. This charming gentle read had me looking up apple orchards in the area, and may have other readers trying some of the recipes or planning a visit to Michigan’s Traverse Bay area.