Please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7 pm on March 22 for our in-person discussion of The Guncle, by Steven Rowley, a heartwarming and witty novel. See my earlier review here. Copies of the book are available for check out at the Circulation Desk. eBook and eAudiobook copies are available at Media on Demand/Libby and at eRead Illinois. Please register online or at the Computer Help Desk. Hope to see you here!
The Delaney family ran a tennis school in the suburbs of Sydney for several decades. Recently retired, Joy Delaney feels like she and husband Stan are in a rut. No grandkids are on the horizon, and none of their four children became a tennis star. Then Joy, 69, after sending a garbled text, goes missing on Valentine’s Day, 2020. Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke cope in varying ways, and Stan is a suspect in Joy’s disappearance, as they had been seen arguing that morning. Then the story goes back to the September, 2019, with the four younger Delaneys reacting to their parents’ unexpected house guest, Savannah. Savannah, who’s almost like another daughter, cooks beautifully, cleans, and enjoys shopping with Joy. There must be a connection, but how? This is a great read for fans of relationship fiction and psychological suspense. There is quite a bit about tennis, though not a strong sense of place. The main focus is the Delaney family and their relationships, and of course, Savannah. While not a quick read at over 450 pages, this novel is hard to put down. Readalikes include Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown, All Adults Here by Emma Straub, and Watching You by Lisa Jewell.
Three cheers for Scalzi’s Plan B! This is not the science fiction novel that the award-winning author meant to write during the pandemic, but it’s one that will entertain and delight his many fans. In this very funny adventure thriller, New Yorker Jamie Gray is unexpectedly fired at the beginning of a very bad year. Demoted to food delivery driver, Jamie renews his acquaintance with Tom, a frequent customer who gives Jamie a job lead with KPS, the Kaiju Preservation Society. Jamie ends up in a warmer parallel earth with a jungle full of flying insects, creatures called tree crabs, and the super colossal kaiju, whose rare visits to our world inspired the Godzilla films. Jamie’s smart, snarky coworkers all seem to have a Ph.D. (unlike Jamie), and are studying the kaiju and trying to encourage a pair to mate and produce offspring. Suddenly Jamie encounters his terrible former boss, a billionaire tourist who almost gets himself kicked off a helicopter. Soon, Jamie and his coworkers have to strategize to protect the kaiju, themselves, and a small Canadian city from danger. Pure escapist reading, sure to be a hit. Readalikes include Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter’s The Long Earth.
Ready or not, novels written in 2020 or early 2021 are now being published, and a number of them are set during the pandemic. Accomplished storyteller Jodi Picoult was in Mexico for a wedding then traveled to Aspen, Colorado in March, 2020. She has been back home in New Hampshire ever since. A story about a Japanese tourist stranded near Machu Picchu in March, 2020 who finally got to tour the ruins that October caught her attention. Never having visited Peru, she didn’t want to set her next novel there. Happily for the reader, Picoult had visited the Galapagos Islands (600 miles west of Ecuador) with her family.
Diana, a New Yorker, works for Sotheby’s, and is about to sell a remarkable painting owned by a famous widow (a fictional version of Yoko Ono). She travels on a long planned trip to the Galapagos Islands without her medical resident boyfriend, Finn, at his urging. Diana ends up stranded on Isabela Island, without her luggage as the shutdown begins. Befriended by an unusual family, she explores the island and trades sketches for clothing, wondering why emails from Finn about the pandemic seem like they’re in two different worlds. Diana’s mother, a photographer, is at high risk from Covid-19, but the two of them have never been close.
I forgot that Picoult likes to throw in an occasional plot twist, and this one takes the story in a very different direction than I expected. This pandemic-inspired novel is a compelling, memorable read. If you’d rather read a contemporary novel set in the Galapagos Islands without the pandemic, try Shipped by Angie Hockman, a romantic comedy.
In this sequel to the delightful mystery The Windsor Knot, Queen Elizabeth takes center stage at Buckingham Palace, where the atmosphere in the autumn of 2016 is a bit darker than in the first book. The Queen has been secretly sleuthing with the aid of her assistant private secretaries for years. A few female staff members have been receiving poison pen letters, including her new assistant private secretary, Rozie Oshodi. One of them is found dead by the pool at Buckingham Palace, apparently accidentally. Brexit has passed, and the palace needs expensive renovations. The Queen discovers a painting of her former royal yacht at a Navy exhibition, and tasks Rozie with investigating how it ever left the palace. Rozie explores tunnels beneath the palace, and in the end, others get the credit for solving the mystery. I will definitely read the next book, and hope the Queen and Rozie get to spend more time together, perhaps at Sandringham or Balmoral, and enjoy the scenery even more than at Windsor Castle. Brenda