Four generations of an Italian American family in suburban New Jersey gather often for dinners at which the noise level is set at an 11, with frequent arguments between Varina’s grown children. Varina, 70, loves her family and the Italian grocery store she runs, but would like a calmer life that’s also more adventurous. Her mother Sylvia tries to set Varina up with suitable men yet ends up finding romance at 92 with a nice man who loves dancing, in the sweetest part of this engaging novel. Visiting a travel agency to book a European river cruise, Varina makes friends with Ruth, and enjoys her friendship more than the dinner dates she’s having. Son Dante remodels buildings with help from family friend Paulie, who has a crush on Dante. I really enjoyed Sylvia, Varina, and Paulie’s points of view, though not as much that of colorful and disruptive Donatella. Each chapter begins with a few Jersey Italian words and phrases, which slightly disrupted the flow of this otherwise compelling read. Adriana Trigiani is a good readalike author, and I’m strongly reminded of the movie Moonstruck.
Please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7 pm on February 28 for our discussion of Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel. This contemporary novel is full of family, humor and drama, music, home repairs and falling in love. My earlier review is here.
Copies of the book are available for checkout at the Circulation Desk, and eBook and eAudiobook copies are available from Media on Demand/Libby.
Please register at the Computer Help Desk or online.
Hope to see you there!
Up-Lit: Books with kindness at their core
Need a mental boost? Looking for something to raise your spirits? Try Up-Lit, books that center on the power of kindness, compassion, humor, love, friendship, redemption, and healing – all with a healthy dose of realism.
- Adkins, Mary. When You Read This
- Backman, Frederik. A Man Called Ove
- Balasubramanyam, Rajeev. Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
- Brown, Elenor. The Weird Sisters
- Center, Katherine. How to Walk Away
- Flagg, Fannie. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
- George, Nina. The Little French Bistro
- Greer, Andrew Sean. Less
- Haig, Matt. The Midnight Library
- Henry, Emily. Beach Read
- Hogan, Ruth. The Keeper of Lost Things
- Honeyman, Gail. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
- Joyce, Rachel The Music Shop
- Klune, T.J. The House in the Cerulean Sea
- Martin, Madeline. The Last Bookshop in London
- McCall Smith, Alexander. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
- Miller, Louise. The Late Bloomer’s Club
- Murphy, Julie. Dumplin’
- Nunez, Sigrid. The Friend
- Olafsdottir, Audur. Hotel Silence
- O’Leary, Beth. The Flatshare
- Page, Libby. The Lido
- Patrick, Phaedra. The Secrets of Love Story Bridge
- Pearce, A.J. Dear Mrs. Bird
- Pooley, Clare. Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting
- Prior, Hazel. How the Penguins Saved Veronica
- Probst, Jennifer. Our Italian Summer
- Prose, Nita. The Maid
- Rowell, Rainbow. Landline
- Rowley, Steven. The Guncle
- Semple, Maria. Where’d You Go, Bernadette
- Simsion, Graeme. The Rosie Project
- Towles, Amor. A Gentleman in Moscow
- Van Pelt, Shelby. Remarkably Bright Creatures
- Winfrey , Kerry. Very Sincerely Yours
- Woods, Eva. Something Like Happy
London accountant Nell Swift has recently lost her best friend to cancer. Megan asks Nell to visit Tansy Falls, Vermont, where she spent summers growing up, and follow a two-week itinerary taking Nell to all of Megan’s favorite places and people. Nell, who works from home and never really got over a bad breakup, dislikes adventure and meeting new people, but agrees to Megan’s last request. Tansy Falls, in late winter mud season, amazes Nell, despite some weather-related mishaps, and she finds the people of Tansy Falls mostly quite friendly. Nell learns more about Megan, and despite missing her dog Moomin, wishes she could start over in Vermont. Reading this heartwarming contemporary novel is like drinking hot cocoa–very comforting. Readalikes include The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler, Book Lovers by Emily Henry, and books by Abbi Waxman.
Do you have what it takes to survive months in the wilderness? What about a grueling reality television show? Blair Braverman explores both scenarios in “Small Game.”
Mara never set out to be a celebrity, yet she found herself cast in a survival reality show called Civilization, with four others who are desperate to win a million dollars. The gist of the show is that five strangers turned teammates will need to survive in the wilderness with limited supplies and no modernized technology, for a whopping six weeks if they hope to win big. Mara’s parents raised her to live off of the land, which ultimately led to her career as a survivalist instructor, and consequently, she seems to have the game in the bag. That is, until strange events begin occurring, and Mara and the remaining contestants are left wondering how much of the show is fabricated, and what is truly at stake.
Survival and adventure novels are not the stories that I typically reach for, however, the reality television aspect drew me in. I’m so glad that it did, because I enjoyed this title immensely. Braverman’s prose is relatable (regardless of whether you’re a camping aficionado) and captivating, to the point where I wanted to consume the novel in one sitting. The well-developed and richly written cast of characters includes LGBTQIA+ representation, which plays a small role throughout the plot. Quickly paced, “Small Game” brings suspense, while raising existential questions and themes that left me reeling long after turning the last page.
Readalikes include “Patricia Wants to Cuddle” by Samantha Allen, “The Last One” by Alexandra Oliva, and “The River at Night” by Erica Ferencik.
With over twenty-five years’ experience working in hotels, Lucy Gianetti is unexpectedly jobless after her boss (and boyfriend) embezzled pension funds from the New York City hotel she managed. Her only job offer as hotel manager is in Rennes, Brittany, in northwest France. When Lucy arrives at the Hotel Paradis, there are no rooms ready for guests. Some of the partners and future staff live in the hotel’s stable block, and Lucy’s suite doesn’t have dishes, glasses, a comfy chair or even a hook for her toiletry bag. She soon discovers that there is plenty of furniture, linens, and artwork well kept in storage. At least the café across the courtyard serves delicious meals. Raoul will replaster all of the guest rooms while Lucy, with the aid of smart aleck Bing, is expected to paint them. Resident Vera sews gorgeous curtains, another gardens, the chauffeur agrees to have his car spiffed up, and the hotel gradually comes together as Lucy also learns to build a website, then finally hires more staff. As she once worked in Montreal, Lucy’s French is pretty good and improves quickly. After the hotel opens to guests, Lucy settles into life in Rennes, and enjoys a growing friendship with talented artist Bing, until some family drama threatens to derail her happiness. Northwest France is beautifully described, and I found it refreshing to have a middle-aged main character. I enjoyed this upbeat, witty and humorous novel with a bit of romance.
A well-written short story can make for a very satisfying one sitting read. If you like traditional mysteries with a variety of mundane and exotic settings and time periods from 1930s to the 1970s, this collection is a fine choice. Agatha Christie’s iconic amateur sleuth, Miss Jane Marple, solves new mysteries in short stories by twelve acclaimed women authors, including Ruth Ware, Alyssa Cole, Lucy Foley, and Leigh Bardugo. Miss Marple travels to Hong Kong, Italy, and New York City, and investigates crimes at a vicarage and at Christmas, sometimes finding the culprit surprisingly close at hand. If you fancy new Hercule Poirot tales, try Sophie Hannah’s four new mysteries, beginning with The Monogram Murders.