Mona, 14, is an orphan who works at her Aunt Tabitha’s bakery. She has a knack with bread and cookie dough, and can make gingerbread men dance for the bakery’s customers. Her bread is exceptionally good, thanks to a sourdough starter named Bob. One early morning, Mona arrives at the bakery to find a body on the floor; someone who also had a magical talent. The dreaded Spring Green Man has struck, again. But Mona first has to clear her name, aided by the city’s Duchess. A boy named Spindle and a skeleton horse help her in what turns out to be a quest to save their city, aided by some really massive baked goods. By turns funny and deadly serious, this exciting Andre Norton Nebula Award winner is a good readalike for Terry Pratchett’s fantasy novels featuring Tiffany Aching and the Wee Free Men.
Stephenson’s new techno-thriller is set in the near future, and describes possible effects of climate change and one Texas billionaire’s idea to reverse global warming. Action-packed, with a variety of settings that include Texas, the Netherlands, New Guinea, and the Line of Actual Control in the Himalayas separating China and India. Saskia, Queen of the Netherlands, is flying to Houston when her plane is diverted by extreme weather to Waco, where a group of feral swine on the runway disables her plane. She’s traveling to Houston to meet T.R. Schmidt, who’s demonstrating a way to use sulfur to help lower temperatures and prevent a rise in sea levels. The feral swine, alligators, and the aftermath of a hurricane make for exciting travels, but this is just one plot line in this page turning novel by the bestselling science fiction author of Reamde, Seveneves, Anathem, and Cryptonomicon. Laks, a Canadian semi-observant Sikh who practices martial arts has his own adventures. Though some of the characters could be developed more, I found this to be an entertaining and informative look at a possible near future. Readalikes include New York, 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson and Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this memoir about a Londoner who relocates to the Seven Valleys area in northern France with her husband, where they spend over a decade renovating a rundown old house. Susan Duerden narrates the audiobook (available from Hoopla Digital). While Janine and Mark live in a tiny village, their life there seems very lively, with festivals, seasonal markets, eccentric neighbors, and the antics of farm and domestic animals. Even frustratingly slow internet is humorous here. Janine is a travel writer, and often travels by train to a different region, to discover its charms, then comes home to realize that France’s Opal Coast is where she wants to stay. Readers will feel well acquainted with many of the residents in the village, and long to travel there, or at least want to try some of the seasonal pastries or local cheeses mentioned. Excellent armchair travel with warmth and humor, with wonderful descriptions of food and drink.
Micah Mortimer, 43, likes his routines. He goes for a run every morning before breakfast, then cleans his basement apartment before beginning work as superintendent in a Baltimore apartment building and making house calls for technical support as the Tech Hermit. Occasionally he sees his woman friend Cassia, but fails to empathize when her landlord learns she has a cat and she could get evicted. Micah’s mainly solitary world is upended when Brink, the 18-year-old son of his college girlfriend, shows up on his doorstep. Later, a gathering with his large, chaotic family has him wondering if they like Cassia, a fourth grade teacher, better than him. A bittersweet and yet heartwarming story of a man reluctantly learning to change his point of view. I’d like to see what Micah does next, and hope he makes some changes in his minimalist apartment. At 177 pages, this shorter book is a good introduction to the author of Clock Dance and many other acclaimed novels.
Join the Tuesday Evening Book Group for our second in-person book discussion of 2021. We will be meeting in the 2nd floor Mahlke Meeting Room at 7 pm on Tuesday, October 26 to discuss The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune.
Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six magical children are too dangerous to stay together. Arthur Parnassus, head of the orphanage, will do anything to keep the children safe, and has created an unlikely family on the island. My earlier review is here.
Please register online or at the Computer Help Desk. Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk; eBook copies are available at Media on Demand/Libby and eRead Illinois. Downloadable audiobook available from Hoopla Digital and Media on Demand. Hope to see you here!
Phyllida Bright, who was a nurse’s aide in the Great War, is the housekeeper for mystery writer Agatha Christie and her second husband, archaeologist Max Mallowan, at their country house in Devon in 1930. When an univited guest is found dead the next morning by Mrs. Bright and another death soon follows, the housekeeper, a fan of the fictional Hercule Poirot, investigates. Phyllida occasionally brings Agatha a cup of tea and an update on the investigation; readers will be happy to know the writer seems much happier than in The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict. While there are rather a lot of staff and guests to easily tell apart, the setting is well-drawn and appealing, and I look forward to the planned sequels. Readalikes include A Devious Death by Alyssa Maxwell and Murder in an English Village by Jessica Ellicott.
This shorter fantasy novel reads like a cozy historical mystery, and is connected to the acclaimed The Goblin Emperor, which was published in 2014. Thara Celehar is a witness for the dead in Amalo, and is a minor religious cleric. His rank is unclear, and he lives modestly; with a daily routine that includes visiting teahouses and feeding stray cats. Thara can sometimes get information from a dead person, and is obligated to investigate any suspicious deaths. An opera singer who dies in the wrong part of town is one plotline, and a forged will that somehow leads to Thara being sent to a mining town with a ghoul problem is another. The aftermath of an explosion at an airship factory and searching local cemeteries for the grave of a missing young woman are the last strands in this intricately plotted yet character-driven story. Thara is an elf, but is unlike any of Tolkien’s elves, and many of his clients are part elf and part goblin. A thoroughly nice and hardworking man, Thara will win hearts of many readers and makes them long for more mysteries for him to solve. Readalikes include books by Natasha Pulley, Zen Cho and the Foreigner series by C.J. Cherryh.
Four years after judge Dominic De Vere voted Sylvie Fairchild off Operation Cake when her unicorn cake exploded and showered him with edible glitter, the pair are rival business owners in Notting Hill, London. Sylvie has opened Sugar Fair, a bakery straight out of a fairy tale, across the street from the traditional De Vere’s, where delicious cakes are beautifully decorated, mostly in white or perhaps ivory. Sylvie is asked to fill in as a judge on Operation Cake, where she gets to know the stern and prickly judge as a fellow business owner, and they gradually become friends. When Princess Rose announces her engagement to John Marchmont, the pair are finalists to bake the royal wedding cake, and end up doing research on the royal family together, with witty banter, tender moments and irresistible chemistry. I thoroughly enjoyed Dominic and Sylvie’s story, and the audiobook narration of Billie Fulford-Brown. A second Palace Insiders is planned, featuring Dominic’s younger sister.
A compelling read, this debut thriller is perfect summer reading; unless you’re on an airplane. Former flight attendant and bookseller Newman had many rejections when trying to find an agent, then ended up with an instant bestseller. Pilot Bill Hoffman of Coastal Airways has just begun a flight from Los Angeles to New York City with copilot Ben when he gets an emailed photo of his family, taken hostage. Expecting a ransom demand, Bill is instead told to crash the plane in order to save his wife Carrie, son Scott, 10, and baby Elise. Bill gets word to head flight attendant Jo, who has a contact with the FBI, and she agrees to try to protect the passengers. Chapters alternate between the points of view of Bill, Carrie, Jo, and the FBI, making the book increasingly difficult to put down. The author’s background makes the airplane setting and responses of the flight crew seem authentic. In a twist, the hostage taker informs Bill that he has a Plan B already on board the plane. Film rights have been sold. Readalikes include Airport by Arthur Hailey, Hostage by Clare Mackintosh and Airframe by Michael Crichton.
Join the Tuesday Evening Book Group for our first in-person book discussion of 2021. We will be meeting in the 2nd floor Mahlke Meeting Room at 7 pm on Tuesday, September 28 to discuss Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. This is a first novel set in small town Maine, about the unlikely relationship between a young woman who’s lost her husband and a major league pitcher who’s lost his game. My earlier review is here.
Please register online or at the Computer Help Desk. Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk; eBook and eAudiobook copies are available at Media on Demand/Libby and eRead Illinois. Hope to see you here!