This Tender Land

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

The author of Ordinary Grace sets this adventure novel with echoes of Huckleberry Finn and The Odyssey in 1932 Minnesota and Missouri. Four kids head south in a canoe, fleeing loss and harsh treatment at the Lincoln Indian Training School. Odie and his older brother Albert are orphans heading to a barely remembered aunt in St. Louis, while young Emmy clings to Sioux teen Mose after she’s lost everything in a tornado. Mose is mute, and the group share an often secret sign language. They meet a healer with a revival tent show, a madam, traveling families and vagabonds, and find temporary haven in a soup kitchen and friendship in a Hoover town. Odie is a storyteller, Albert can fix most mechanical equipment, Mose goes on a vision quest, and young Emmy reminds an eccentric farmer of his missing daughter. Poignant and lyrically written, this story of an unlikely family on an epic journey has moments of conflict balanced with simple joys, unpredictable adventures, and the possibility of danger around every river bend. This remarkable character-driven novel is a compelling read.

Brenda

Dear Edward

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

What does it mean to start over at age twelve, having lost everything important, but suddenly famous? Eddie Adler is flying from New York City to Los Angeles with his older brother Jordan and his parents. His mother is in first class, working on a television script. Their flight is doomed, and Eddie will be the only survivor. The stories of several passengers and a flight attendant alternate with Eddie’s recovery. Eddie, now Edward, struggles with the burden of being the sole survivor. He lives with his aunt and uncle in New Jersey and is befriended by next-door neighbor Shay. What finally gives Edward a purpose is a cache of letters Shay and Edward find hidden in the garage, written to him by the families and friends of the other passengers. Although it’s hard to put down, this is not a thriller but rather a moving and melancholy coming-of-age story written with compassion, insight, and a glimmer of hope.
Brenda

Heartwarming Holiday Stories

In Christmas from the Heart by Sheila Roberts, Livi Berg is stunned when her charity’s biggest sponsor sends a frosty email with the news that they’re not sending a donation to Christmas from the Heart. Guy Hightower, running a family business with his brothers, regrets the email, but not his lavish lifestyle. When his sports car breaks down outside Pine River, Washington, Livi gives him a ride to her friend’s auto repair shop. Guy gives a fake name and is absorbed into village life while his car is repaired, even helping to judge a fruitcake contest. Predictably, Guy falls for Livi and Pine River, but hesitates to reveal his true identity in this cozy, heartwarming romance.

In Christmas Cow Bells, the first in a new cozy mystery series by Mollie Cox Bryan, Brynn MacAlister is settling into Shenandoah Springs, Virginia, along with her three cows. Brynn is a cheesemaker, getting ready for the farm market shop set to open soon in an old church. When her neighbor Nancy is critically injured in a fire at the old church, Brynn is as uneasy as her cow Petunia, and starts investigating, with help from Nancy’s teen grandsons and other local farmers. This is an appealing, very gentle mystery just right for holiday reading, especially as another cow, Buttercup, is rehearsing for a holiday pageant.

For more holiday reads, see my December book display of heartwarming holiday stories. Up next in my to be read pile is Owl Be Home for Christmas by Donna Andrews, in which blacksmith Meg and her extended family get snowed in at a Virginia inn hosting an ornithology conference.

Happy holiday reading!
Brenda

America for Beginners

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui

I thoroughly enjoyed this first novel about a Bengali widow who takes a cross-country trip from New York City to Los Angeles with a young Bangladeshi guide and a struggling actress as her companion. The trio stay at basic chain hotels and eat a lot of mediocre Indian food, visiting all the usual tourist sites. Pival has lost contact with her son, who may be in Los Angeles, and wants to confront his partner Jake. This is her first time away from Kolkata, India and I enjoyed seeing the country through Pival’s point of view. Rebecca, when not acting or picking up men in bars, works at a map store in New York City while young Satya is on his first tour outside the city, and is always hungry. This is a poignant, heartwarming, and occasionally funny character-driven story about outer and inner journeys. I’m looking forward to the author’s next novel, set in Mumbai, India.
Brenda

 

American Royals

American Royals by Katharine McGee

Princess Beatrice, 21, will one day rule the United States. Her brother Jefferson and sister Samantha, both 19, have far less pressure and have time for romance and travel, recently evading their security detail in Thailand. Their family is descended from George Washington, America’s first king, in this alternate history. Beatrice is encouraged to meet future suitors at a ball, as duty comes before love, or must it? A sequel is planned for this novel by the author of the Thousandth Floor trilogy, set 100 years in the future. While the plot is somewhat predictable, the characters are well-crafted and relatable. With plenty of drama, intrigue, and romance, this is an entertaining read, perfect for royal watchers.
Brenda

Puppy Christmas

Puppy Christmas by Lucy Gilmore

In Emily Ford’s eyes, Lila Vasquez is Princess Lila, after they meet when Lila’s wearing a pink ball gown at a banquet. Six-year-old Emily, who has cochlear implants, gets to pick out a service puppy with Lila’s help, then spend several weeks learning to work with Jeeves, a cockapoo. Emily’s father Ford, an illustrator, is quickly smitten by Lila, who is used to the role of serious older sister, yet is willing to dress like a princess for Emily during puppy training. In a mostly lighthearted humorous romance, Ford’s neighbors and young Emily are the holiday matchmakers, especially during a memorable pirate-themed party. Humor, relatable characters, and puppies make for a quick, appealing read.

Brenda

 

The Sentence is Death

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz

In this very clever mystery, private investigator Daniel Hawthorne summons writer Tony Horowitz to a house on the edge of Hampstead Heath where a divorce lawyer has been killed with an expensive bottle of wine in the sequel to The Word is Murder. Horowitz is supposed to editing a tv script for Foyle’s War, but instead is playing Watson to Hawthorne’s Holmes as he tries to solve the mystery before Hawthorne or the threatening Inspector Grunshaw. Three cavers, a single mom, an art gallery owner, and a successful poet are all connected to the victim, Richard Pryce. Horowitz, with a book contract to write about Hawthorne, is quickly in over his head, getting in trouble at a bookstore, persuaded to attend a book club where no one wants his opinion on the mystery being discussed, and stumped by false leads on why the number 182 is painted on the wall near Pryce. Suspenseful, intriguing, and occasionally funny, with an excellent audiobook narration by Rory Kinnear; I found this a very compelling read.

Brenda