Project Hail Mary

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Better than The Martian or Artemis, more compelling and memorable, with much higher stakes. And, like The Martian, sure to be a hit movie. Ryland Grace wakes up alone on a small spaceship, with amnesia. Gradually he remembers his crewmates, and his mission, to save Earth from a dying sun by traveling to Tau Ceti and sending back a probe with the results of his experiments and discoveries. Unexpectedly, Ryland encounters Rocky, an engineer on a similar desperate mission. Then Ryland remembers that he’s on a one-way only journey. The science is pretty cool, and the ingenuity and perseverance of Ryland and Rocky are inspiring and occasionally funny. Hard to put down and impossible to forget, a science fiction novel to celebrate and share. Publication date is May 4.


The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Reading this fantasy novel about an orphanage for magical youth is as comforting as a warm hug. Scrupulously honest Linus Baker is a caseworker for the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. After work, Linus retreats to his small house, listening to records and talking to Calliope, his grumpy cat, while dreaming of a sunny day by the sea. After being summoned by Extremely Upper Management, Linus is sent to inspect an island orphanage for especially dangerous magical children. After a long train ride (with Calliope the cat, of course), he meets the children, their charming caretaker Arthur, and island local Zoe. After getting acquainted with the children, then encountering prejudice in a nearby village, Linus finally finds his voice. The six children are unique, and I can’t pick a favorite. They include eager Chauncey, who wants to be a bellhop, Talia the fierce gardening gnome, and a scary six-year-old boy nicknamed Lucy. Linus evens gets to dance with Arthur, once, before returning home to file his final report. Readalikes include Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire, Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh, The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and the Tom Hanks movie Joe Versus the Volcano.



Five Mysteries

Are you looking for some new mysteries? Mysteries have been very popular here this past year, so here are some mini reviews of four new mysteries I’ve recently read, and one classic mystery.

Death on the Nile, by Agatha Christie has been keeping mystery readers up late since 1937. A new movie version featuring Kenneth Branagh as private detective Hercule Poirot is expected this fall. The setting is appealing, if a bit menacing, featuring a cruise on Egypt’s Nile River. A rich heiress and her new husband, a mother and daughter, a great aunt and her niece, an author and her son are all featured, along with the renowned Belgian detective and the jilted lover of another passenger. If you enjoy twisty plots with an atmospheric setting and an intensifying pace, this is still a wonderful read, if you can overlook some dated cultural references.


Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke is the latest in the popular cozy Hannah Swendson series, where everyone in Lake Eden, Minnesota drops into The Cookie Jar for a cup of coffee and all the latest news. A much disliked resident of Lake Eden is found by dead by one of Hannah’s sisters, and Hannah has to solve the mystery to clear her sister’s name. Full of tempting recipes, this is the perfect mix of mystery and comfort read.


An Extravagant Death by Charles Finch is a Victorian era mystery in which Charles Lennox, a private detective in London, visits New England and finds his detecting skills needed in opulent Newport, Rhode Island, when a young debutante is found dead on the beach. Charles misses his family dreadfully, and considers leaving his profession, especially after a close call.


Death in Daylesford by Kerry Greenwood will be published June 1. I won’t share too much of the plot yet, but I can guarantee that it’s a delight to read. It’s been several years since the last Phryne Fisher historical mystery set in Melbourne, Australia, but this is worth the wait. The popular television series, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, has been filling the gap for many fans of this Jazz Age series.


Mystery of the Drowned Driver by Shanna Swendson is the third novella in the Lucky Lexie cozy mystery series, featuring a young newspaper editor in small town Texas whose boss is the ghost of the founding editor. Lexie wonders if her days in town are numbered as she stirs up ill feeling with questions about recent sales of family farms.


All of these titles are available from Libby/Media on Demand and/or Hoopla, several of them as audiobooks. Enjoy!






The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within by Becky Chambers

A short stopover at a small planetary dome is prolonged for three travelers during a communications and travel outage. At least there’s a garden, a friendly host, and her tween child. How strangers from four species cope during their extended stay makes for an enjoyable, heartwarming read. The dome reminds me of a family run motel. All of the travelers are anxious at being delayed and out of contact, worried about missing an important event on their home planet, a rendezvous with a lover, or just their crewmate sibling. Tupo, the child of host Ouloo, steals most of their scenes; enthusiastic, curious, clumsy, and adorable. A sure bet for readers of this award-winning series, and a good entry point for anyone looking for a feel-good science fiction novel, to be published on April 20. Earlier books by Chambers include The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and Records of a Spaceborn Few.


Spoils of the Dead

Spoils of the Dead by Dana Stabenow

After nine years, a new Alaskan mystery featuring Trooper Liam Campbell is a welcome return. I don’t remember the earlier books featuring Liam and his wife, pilot Wyanet Chouinard, but this book is a good entry into the series as Liam and Wy move to a new post in Bleweston. Wy’s flight to Bleweston beautifully describes the area’s scenery and wildlife. Liam meets the brewer who sold him a bayfront house and several other locals, and is invited to visit archaeologist Erik’s dig site on the coast. After a few days at his new post with extremely efficient assistant Sally Petroff, Liam gets a call that two boys found a skeleton in a cave. Exploring the cave the next morning, Liam also finds Erik’s body. Liam, assisted by Wy, investigates, with the most local insight coming from an elderly woman who keeps sneaking out of her assisted living facility.

The setting is gorgeous and most of the locals are friendly. The mysteries of the two deaths aren’t solved by any great detecting on Liam’s part, but rather by a confession. Liam does uncover one of the town’s many secrets; why his assistant Sally has been lying to him. Robyn Carr fans who also read mysteries will likely enjoy getting to know Liam and Wy, along with fans of Stabenow’s Kate Shugak mysteries (start in the middle with the darkly funny Breakup). Readers of Sue Henry’s Alaskan mysteries or Anne Hillerman’s Navajo mysteries may also enjoy. Mystery fans who prefer an intricate but solvable mystery plot may be disappointed, but I enjoyed the characters and setting very much.


Find Your Next Read


Find out what’s new in the stacks of the Woodridge Public Library with NextReads.

Besides writing about books here, I also edit several monthly or bimonthly newsletters you can receive by email, or by visiting our website. These, along with non-fiction newsletters edited by other librarians, feature books new to our collection, along with occasional lists of books you may have missed. These include Thrillers & Suspense, Nature & Science, Biography & Memoir, Romance, and more. The February Mystery list is here, and includes new books by Dana Stabenow, Joanne Fluke, Barbara Hambly, and Clea Simon.

And who can resist a cover like this?

Not me! Happy Reading,



The Last Garden in England

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly

Readers of historical fiction who like a strong sense of place and enjoy multi-period novels will enjoy this appealing novel. In 1907, Venetia Smith designs a variety of garden rooms for Highbury House in rural Warwickshire. A rose fancier provides romantic interest here. In 2021, Emma Lovett is searching for plans, drawings, and letters to help her and her crew restore Venetia’s neglected gardens.

In 1944, widow Diana Symonds and land girl and amateur artist Beth Pedley try to prevent the gardens being plowed under for crops during World War II. Most of the house is a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers run by Diana’s sister-in-law, which causes some conflicts. Cook Stella Adderton and her young nephew Bobby are also featured here. The stories all connect in the end, making for a satisfying read, though the characters struggle with loss in two of the time periods. I should mention that some of the names are confusing; in one chapter we meet Captain Hastings, then he’s referred to as Graeme further on; I would have liked a list of characters.

Readalikes include The Lake House by Kate Morton, the Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter by Susan Wittig Albert, and historical novels by Jennifer Robson, Beatriz Williams, and Rhys Bowen. Readers may also want to browse the gardening section; I found some beautiful books by Jackie Bennett: The Writer’s Garden and Shakespeare’s Gardens.