Cussy Mary Carter, 19, is a pack horse librarian in the hills of eastern Kentucky in 1936. She is known as Book Woman or Bluet. Cussy is one of the last of the blue-skinned Fugates, and is treated as a colored person. Despite her coloring, her coal miner father wants to see Cussy married and provided for. Cussy and her mule deliver books, magazines, scrapbooks, and newspapers, along with letters and occasionally food to the isolated mountain folk on her route. Hope and heartbreak mingle here, and the story has some very dark scenes. The power of reading to inform, comfort, and enlighten is emphasized in this memorable and moving novel. Very well researched by the author, a Kentuckian, this book is a good choice for book groups interested in Depression-era America. I am looking forward to reading more about the pack horse librarians in The Giver of Stars, by Jojo Moyes, to be published this October.
In 1955 actress Grace Kelly takes refuge from a photographer in Sophie Duval’s perfume boutique in Cannes, France. Sophie then meets James Henderson, the British photographer desperate for a photo. Sophie and James’ stories, including their work, are framed by the love story of Grace and Prince Rainier of Monaco. The settings are gorgeously drawn, the storyline is not predictable, and the epilogue in 1982 is short but very satisfying. The Gown by Jennifer Robson is a good readalike.
In the harsh, relentless heat of the Australian outback, Queensland rancher Nathan Cameron searches for answers when his brother Cameron is found dead by an isolated headstone, not too far from his fully stocked jeep. With his teen son Xander visiting from Brisbane for the Christmas holidays, Nathan settles in at the nearby family homestead, looking for answers. Younger brother Bub isn’t the brightest and Nathan’s extremely isolated, while successful Cameron seemed to have it made with lovely Dutch wife Ilse and two young daughters. A compelling standalone mystery by the author of The Dry, this novel has a twisty plot and an ever intensifying pace. Audiobook narrator Steve Shanahan is outstanding as the backstories of the family, staff, and neighbors are revealed. The complicated relationship of the three brothers and their mother Liz are the legacy of an angry, violent father who isn’t missed. Paintings are significant here, especially those of the legendary stockman’s grave. The red clay dust of the outback is everywhere, but Nathan finds beauty in the wide open spaces, as may the reader. A very satisfying read, this is on my list of most memorable books of the year.
Private investigator Maisie and her friend Priscilla spend a few evenings a week driving an ambulance in London during the blitz. Catherine Saxon, an American reporter, rides along one night, reports what she saw on the radio, and is found dead the next day. Maisie and her assistant Billy investigate, with occasional help from an attractive American agent, Mark Scott. Maisie visits Catherine’s boarding house, and meets with her friends, all while worried about her family in Kent, where she spends weekends. An intriguing puzzle, appealing characters, and a fast-paced story make this a memorable mystery. The first book in the long-running series is Maisie Dobbs.
Mercy Thompson is a coyote shape-shifter married to Adam, an alpha werewolf. Adam, with Mercy’s reluctant help, is trying to arrange talks between the fae lords and a U.S. senator. Recently Mercy declared that their region of the Pacific Northwest was under the protection of Adam’s pack, so she gets to take care of supernatural problems that crop up. Mercy and werewolf Mary Jo need the help of Larry the goblin king to take care of a goblin issue, then they’re off to deal with twenty miniature zombie goats. Miniature zombie goats are a bit of comic relief before there’s serious trouble at the home of Elizaveta, the local grey witch. There’s gruesome evidence of black witchcraft there (feel free to skim that chapter), but unexpected help comes from amnesiac werewolf Sherwood and vampire Wulfe, who turns out to have a lighter side. Plenty of action, a fair amount of humor and great dialogue keep the pages turning quickly. I listened to the audiobook, skillfully narrated by Lorelei King. Moon Called is the first Mercy Thompson book; another, Smoke Bitten, is expected in 2020. Readalikes include books by Ilona Andrews and Kelley Armstrong.
This is a rare World War II novel set on the home front in London that is both suspenseful and joyous. Mrs. Braithwaite isn’t the most appealing character as she’s booted out of her village women’s club (she’s both bossy and divorced), but when she reaches London she begins to transform. Her daughter Betty is missing, and though they’re not at all close, Mrs. Braithwaite goes in search. Betty’s anxious landlord Mr. Norris is surprised to find himself involved in Mrs. B’s quest and they get caught up in a bombing raid during the Blitz. Betty is a spy for MI5 trying to uncover Nazi sympathizers, and turns out to need assistance from her mother and Mr. Norris. I enjoyed the quirky characters, and found this novel by the author of The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir a delight to read.
It’s time for summer reading! Deep Dive Into Reading is the library’s Summer Reading Program for adults and teens. Sign up online or at the Reference Desk. The Kids Summer Reading Snorkel is also going on.
I am hosting a Book Buzz! What Will You Read Next? program on Thursday, June 13 at 7 p.m. Register here for a free tote bag, and come to hear about new and forthcoming books for adults and teens from Penguin Random House. There will be a few book giveaways and light refreshments.
Stop at the Circulation Desk to pick up a copy of Meet Me at the Museum, by Anne Youngson, and come to our book discussion on Tuesday, June 18, at 7 p.m. A British woman on a farm begins exchanging letters with a museum curator in Denmark, in this charming contemporary novel. Here’s my earlier review. Note the earlier week.
On Tuesday, July 16, we’ll meet at 7 p.m. to discuss Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, a riveting story set in meticulously planned Shaker Heights that traces the intertwined fates of the picture-perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. My review is here.
Happy summer reading! Brenda