The Sweet Spot

The Sweet Spot by Amy Poeppel

While not all the characters are likeable, at least at first, Lauren and Leo Shaw’s extended family are the heart of this contemporary novel. No one is the lead in this ensemble cast, as the point of view changes from revenge-seeking Melinda to social influencer Felicity to ceramic artist Lauren, then Lauren and Leo’s three hilarious children, her prickly mother, his biological father, and more. In addition, there’s a gerbil and a dog, a private school and a bar, The Sweet Spot, in the basement of the Greenwich Village brownstone that Leo and Lauren are living in. Their house is owned by Phillip, and still has all the 1970s décor that desperately needs updating. The group of characters, including Melinda’s ex-husband, all come together to take care of baby Horatio, also known as Hank. I laughed aloud several times, and read parts of it out loud to my family. I thoroughly enjoyed this chaotic and joyful novel. The library’s book group is discussing Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel on February 28, another up-lit novel.

Brenda

Varina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story

Varina jacketVarina Palladino’s Jersey Italian Love Story by Terri-Lynne DeFino

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.

Brenda

February 2023 Book Discussion

musical chairs 2 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!

Brenda

Up-Lit Booklist

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.

  1. Adkins, Mary. When You Read This remarkably bright creatures
  2. Backman, Frederik. A Man Called Ove
  3. Balasubramanyam, Rajeev. Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
  4. Brown, Elenor. The Weird Sisters
  5. Center, Katherine. How to Walk Away
  6. Flagg, Fannie. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion
  7. George, Nina. The Little French Bistro
  8. Greer, Andrew Sean. Less
  9. Haig, Matt. The Midnight Library
  10. Henry, Emily. Beach Read
  11. Hogan, Ruth. The Keeper of Lost Things
  12. Honeyman, Gail. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
  13. Joyce, Rachel The Music Shop
  14. Klune, T.J. The House in the Cerulean Sea
  15. Martin, Madeline. The Last Bookshop in London
  16. McCall Smith, Alexander. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agencypenguins jacket
  17. Miller, Louise. The Late Bloomer’s Club
  18. Murphy, Julie. Dumplin’
  19. Nunez, Sigrid. The Friend
  20. Olafsdottir, Audur. Hotel Silence
  21. O’Leary, Beth.  The Flatshare
  22. Page, Libby. The Lido
  23. Patrick, Phaedra. The Secrets of Love Story Bridge
  24. Pearce, A.J. Dear Mrs. Bird
  25. Pooley, Clare. Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting
  26. Prior, Hazel. How the Penguins Saved Veronica
  27. Probst, Jennifer. Our Italian Summer
  28. Prose, Nita. The Maid
  29. Rowell, Rainbow. Landline
  30. Rowley, Steven. The Guncle
  31. Semple, Maria. Where’d You Go, Bernadette
  32. Simsion, Graeme. The Rosie Project
  33. Towles, Amor. A Gentleman in Moscow
  34. Van Pelt, Shelby. Remarkably Bright Creatures
  35. Winfrey , Kerry. Very Sincerely Yours
  36. Woods, Eva. Something Like Happy

Gayle

The Inn at Tansy Falls

tansy falls jacketThe Inn at Tansy Falls by Cate Woods

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.

Brenda

Small Game

small game jacketSmall Game by Blair Braverman

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.

Savannah

Lucy Checks In

lucy checks in jacket

Lucy Checks In by Dee Ernst

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.

Brenda

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries

marple jacket

Marple: Twelve New Mysteries

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.

Brenda

The It Girl

it girl jacketThe It Girl by Ruth Ware

Dark academia meets psychological suspense in Ruth Ware’s latest hit, The It Girl.

Hannah seems to have it all; a loving husband, a cozy job, and a baby on the way. Despite that, she is still haunted by the murder of her roommate April Clarke-Cliveden, ten years prior, as she was the one to discover April’s lifeless body in their dormitory at Oxford University, and immediately pointed her finger at the creepy and seemingly predatory staff member she had seen exiting the stairwell to their room. The staff member in question, John Neville, was ultimately charged and convicted in the death of the university student as a result of Hannah’s testimony, and spent the rest of his life in prison. Upon his passing in jail, interest in the case is instigated again and a member of the press isn’t completely convinced that John was actually guilty. Hannah is racked with worry and guilt when presented with clues that may prove the convicted man’s innocence. While stirring up decade old issues and rivalries amongst her friends from university, she proceeds on a mission to uncover what really happened that fateful evening, to the reluctance of those surrounding her. The drama doesn’t cease there though, as Hannah’s husband, Will, was dating the beautiful and poised Miss Clarke-Cliveden at the time of her strangulation.

Ware blends complex and well-developed characters as well as an engrossing setting to create a compelling read. By featuring dual timelines that are delineated as “Before” and “After,” readers are taken on a suspenseful journey to figure out who the real culprit is, alongside the story’s protagonist. While written with intensifying pace, “The It Girl’” is quite lengthy (at 420 pages) due to the amount of detail that Ware provides.

Readlikes include The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn and The Maidens by Alex Michaelides, with readalike authors being Paula Hawkins and B.A. Paris.

Savannah

January 2023 Book Discussion

mystery of mrs. christie jacketPlease join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7 pm on January 24 for our discussion of The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict in the 2nd floor Meeting Room. This is a historical mystery, based on the real-life disappearance of young English mystery writer Agatha Christie in December 1926, after an argument with her husband Archie. Agatha never revealed what happened while she was gone; this is one writer’s take on what might have happened and why. Here’s my earlier review. Copies of the book are available for checkout at the Circulation Desk, and eBook copies are available from Media on Demand/Libby, Hoopla Digital, and eRead Illinois. Please register online here, or at the Computer Help Desk.

Brenda