America for Beginners

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

I thoroughly enjoyed this first novel about a Bengali widow who takes a cross-country trip from New York City to Los Angeles with a young Bangladeshi guide and a struggling actress as her companion. The trio stay at basic chain hotels and eat a lot of mediocre Indian food, visiting all the usual tourist sites. Pival has lost contact with her son, who may be in Los Angeles, and wants to confront his partner Jake. This is her first time away from Kolkata, India and I enjoyed seeing the country through Pival’s point of view. Rebecca, when not acting or picking up men in bars, works at a map store in New York City while young Satya is on his first tour outside the city, and is always hungry. This is a poignant, heartwarming, and occasionally funny character-driven story about outer and inner journeys. I’m looking forward to the author’s next novel, set in Mumbai, India.
Brenda

 

American Royals

American Royals by Katharine McGee

Princess Beatrice, 21, will one day rule the United States. Her brother Jefferson and sister Samantha, both 19, have far less pressure and have time for romance and travel, recently evading their security detail in Thailand. Their family is descended from George Washington, America’s first king, in this alternate history. Beatrice is encouraged to meet future suitors at a ball, as duty comes before love, or must it? A sequel is planned for this novel by the author of the Thousandth Floor trilogy, set 100 years in the future. While the plot is somewhat predictable, the characters are well-crafted and relatable. With plenty of drama, intrigue, and romance, this is an entertaining read, perfect for royal watchers.
Brenda

Puppy Christmas

Puppy Christmas by Lucy Gilmore

In Emily Ford’s eyes, Lila Vasquez is Princess Lila, after they meet when Lila’s wearing a pink ball gown at a banquet. Six-year-old Emily, who has cochlear implants, gets to pick out a service puppy with Lila’s help, then spend several weeks learning to work with Jeeves, a cockapoo. Emily’s father Ford, an illustrator, is quickly smitten by Lila, who is used to the role of serious older sister, yet is willing to dress like a princess for Emily during puppy training. In a mostly lighthearted humorous romance, Ford’s neighbors and young Emily are the holiday matchmakers, especially during a memorable pirate-themed party. Humor, relatable characters, and puppies make for a quick, appealing read.

Brenda

 

The Sentence is Death

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

In this very clever mystery, private investigator Daniel Hawthorne summons writer Tony Horowitz to a house on the edge of Hampstead Heath where a divorce lawyer has been killed with an expensive bottle of wine in the sequel to The Word is Murder. Horowitz is supposed to editing a tv script for Foyle’s War, but instead is playing Watson to Hawthorne’s Holmes as he tries to solve the mystery before Hawthorne or the threatening Inspector Grunshaw. Three cavers, a single mom, an art gallery owner, and a successful poet are all connected to the victim, Richard Pryce. Horowitz, with a book contract to write about Hawthorne, is quickly in over his head, getting in trouble at a bookstore, persuaded to attend a book club where no one wants his opinion on the mystery being discussed, and stumped by false leads on why the number 182 is painted on the wall near Pryce. Suspenseful, intriguing, and occasionally funny, with an excellent audiobook narration by Rory Kinnear; I found this a very compelling read.

Brenda

To be Taught, if Fortunate

To be Taught, if Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Ariadne narrates the travels of a small crew of astronauts exploring several distant planets and an icy moon in this thought-provoking novella. A flight engineer and pilot, she supports the scientists on their long-term mission. In cryosleep for years, their bodies are transformed by bioengineering to adapt to each world they visit. Receiving occasional news updates from an increasingly distant Earth, the crew explore worlds that are wondrous, bleak, terrifying, and lonely. As they wonder if anyone back on Earth is receiving their reports, the crew must decide whether to return to Earth ahead of schedule, continue with their mission, or settle on a planet of their choosing. Another memorable work from the author of the Hugo award-winning Wayfarers series, this is a good readalike for Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson.
Brenda

The Spotted Dog

The Spotted Dog by Kerry Greenwood

This is a very welcome new Corinna Chapman mystery set in Melbourne, Australia, centered around a bakery and an apartment house. Corinna and her boyfriend Daniel, an Israeli private investigator, focus on finding Geordie, the dog kidnapped from retired soldier Alastair. Geordie can sniff out explosives, but only responds to commands in Gaelic. Meanwhile, Corinna bakes bread and muffins with apprentice Jason, naps with Horatio the cat, meets a young troupe of actors, and tries to discover why her neighbor, a biblical scholar, is attracting a burglar or two to their building. The appeal here is the quirky characters, the cozy Melbourne neighborhood, delicious food, Corinna and Daniel’s romance, and some mystery and adventure. While there is quite a bit of suspense finding the missing dog and helping a visiting young woman who’s gone mute, it’s not the focus of the book. Jennifer Vuletic has fun narrating the audiobook and I’m not giving away the plot to share that the story ends with a potluck dinner in the apartment building’s rooftop garden. Sadly, no recipes are included. Earthly Delights is the first book in the series by the author of the popular Phryne Fisher books.

Brenda