Majesty

Majesty by Katharine McGee

This is an enjoyable coming of age story set in an alternate American future, in which George Washington was crowned king. In this sequel to American Royals, Beatrice is now America’s first queen, and is feeling burdened with her new responsibilities, especially the expectation that she will marry a nobleman. Her fun-loving sister Samantha is now the heir, and has her own romantic problems, as does her friend Nina, along with Nina’s rival, Daphne. There is more pomp and circumstance than glitz and glamor in this second book. The main characters are appealing and I didn’t predict the ending. While the author could write another American Royals book, none is currently planned. Perfect for royal watchers looking for an entertaining read.

Brenda

V2

V2: A Novel of World War II by Robert Harris

While I haven’t been reading many World War II novels lately, I’m a fan of Robert Harris’s novels, including Conclave, Pompeii, Munich, and The Second Sleep, so I started reading V2, and found it a compelling read. In November 1944, Section Officer Kay Caton-Walsh is in the London flat of her boss, Air Commodore Mike Templeton, when the building is hit by a V2 rocket. Kay gets the cold shoulder from Templeton when she’s mistaken for his wife, so she’s happy to take an assignment in Belgium. In Medenham, England, Kay has been analyzing photographs, searching for clues to the launch site of Germany’s V2 rockets. In Belgium, she will calculate the trajectory of the missiles while they’re still in the air, and after they hit London. In this thrilling story about the race to stop the silent, insidious V2s, which threatened Londoners from September 1944 to March 1945, a parallel plot features German engineer Rudi Graf. Graf, who only wanted to work with Wernher von Braun to send rockets into space, helps launch the V2 missiles. How far is Graf willing to go, for Germany, or for his conscience and the future? Another well-researched novel from master storyteller Harris, this is a good readalike for The Secret Lives of Codebreakers by Sinclair McKay, Code Girls by Liza Mundy, Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly, and the Maggie Hope series by Susan Elia MacNeal.

Brenda

 

Meet Isabel Puddles

Meet Isabel Puddles by M.V. Byrne

I quite enjoyed this first Mitten State cozy mystery, set in a small town on the coast of Lake Michigan. Isabel Puddles, a widow and empty nester, makes ends meet by working in her cousin Freddie’s hardware store and also by selling pies, pickles, and knitted scarves. When she has time, Isabel and her dog, Jackpot, enjoy the view from her lakeside deck. Isabel, as a local rather than a tourist, gets a discount on her daily breakfasts at the café with her outspoken friend Frances. On rare occasions, Isabel helps out at the funeral home, styling hair and makeup, which leads to evidence that her friend Meg’s elderly father didn’t die from natural causes. Isabel investigates, with the help of her friends, who add comic relief, though I would have liked a little less reckless driving. A potential wind farm, a hidden beaver dam, and some unexpectedly rickety steps add to the mystery, while the pacing and suspense increase as Isabel gets closer to the killer or killers. Readalike mysteries include The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert, Death by Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake by Sarah Graves, and A Crafter Knits a Clue by Holly Quinn. This was a pleasant read to start the new year.
Brenda

The Narrowboat Summer

The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson

A howling dog on an English narrowboat brings together three women at turning points in their lives. Independent Anastasia is looking for someone to take her boat to Chester for maintenance while she deals with a health issues. Eve and Sally, who just met, decide to take up the challenge, and spend their summer on the narrowboat, with the dog. Eve has just lost her high pressure job while Sally wants a break from her marriage now that her children are grown. Eve and Sally move in and learn to pilot the boat and cope with the challenges of navigating locks and tunnels, while enjoying the leisurely pace of life on the canals. Charming, entertaining, and unforgettable, a novel of women’s friendship and the colorful characters they meet along the towpaths. This book, by the author of Meet Me at the Museum, will be published in January.

Brenda

Nothing to See Here

Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson

This is the most unusual book I’ve read this year, and one of the most memorable. Lillian Breaker, 28, works at two grocery stores and smokes pot in her indifferent mother’s attic. She has some college credits, but is definitely an underachiever. In her teens, Lillian won a scholarship to a nearby boarding school, and became friends with wealthy, beautiful Madison. Then Madison screwed up and let Lillian take the blame; they’ve kept in touch with letters ever since (this book is set about 20 years ago). Now Madison is offering Lillian a summer job as a nanny to her stepkids in Tennessee, but of course, there’s a catch.

Bessie and Roland, 10, have recently lost their mother and have been spoiled by their grandparents. Not surprising, as when the twins get upset, they often burst into flame. They’re completely unharmed, but their clothes and anything around them are toast. Lillian has no experience with kids, but is willing to try and the trio spend time in the pool, and eat lots of junk food. Then Lillian teaches Bessie and Roland to play basketball, arranges a visit to the local library, and they practice some calming techniques. The children’s father is a politician who’s being considered for a cabinet post; flaming children would not help his chances. Whimsical, touching, funny, and full of heart, this is a beautifully written novel about a misfit who finds her tribe and will go to great lengths to protect them.

Brenda

Ask Me No Questions

Ask Me No Questions by Shelley Noble

Philomena (Lady Dunbridge), her butler Preswick, and her new maid Lily have just stepped off the boat in New York City for a visit to Phil’s friend Bev Reynolds when shots rings out. Bev’s husband Reggie is found dead in his roadster, in the arms of his mistress Mimi. Phil is just out of mourning herself, but neither widow is grieving her spouse. Reggie’s true love was breeding and racing horses, and some of the most exciting scenes are at the stable and the Belmont racetrack. Detective Sergeant John Atkins is investigating Reggie’s death when another body is found, casting suspicion on Bev. Phil, Preswick the butler, and Lily investigate, as Phil takes the reader on a whirl through Manhattan society in 1907. Lively, entertaining, and sassy, with a strong sense of place, an enjoyable first mystery set in the Gilded Age. Tell Me No Lies and A Resolution at Midnight continue Phil’s adventures.

Brenda

Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Cellist Bridget Stratton plans to spend the summer in her large, shabby house in Connecticut with her boyfriend. The boyfriend bails, but her house fills up with family and her oldest friend, Will. Pianist Will and Bridget are the founding members of the Forsythe Trio, and find themselves short a violinist. They end up inviting their original violinist, Gavin, to a reunion and plan to play at the upcoming wedding of famous composer Edward Stratton, Bridget’s father. Between home and barn repairs and landscaping aided by sheep and chickens, Bridget has little time to worry about the hilariously unfortunate outfit sent by her future stepmother, an old family friend. Full of family, humor and drama, music, home repairs and falling in love, this funny novel with a large cast of notable characters is engaging and entertaining, just the book I was looking for this fall. Readalikes include books by Katie Fforde and Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes.

 

Brenda

Return to Virgin River

Return to Virgin River by Robyn Carr

Fans of the long running Virgin River series or the new television series will rejoice with the publication of this book. Virgin River is a tiny town set in Humboldt County in Northern California. Suspense novelist Kaylee Sloan, struggling with writer’s block while grieving her mother’s recent death, rents a house from family friends, only to suddenly need a new place to stay. Kaylee, finding a warm welcome at Jack’s Bar, the local gathering place, winds up at the guest house owned by local artist Landry Moore. Kaylee brings her laptop to Jack’s Bar most days, but gets little writing done there, so she starts a second book, a romance featuring a version of herself. Kaylee, with the help of friends new and old, finds her own happy ending, and finishes her books. Favorite characters from past books reappear, leaving fans satisfied yet still hoping for more books in the series. Readers who enjoy heartwarming contemporary romance set in small towns will also enjoy. Start anywhere in the series, or with the first book, Virgin River.

 

Brenda

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie

The Mystery of Mrs. Christie by Marie Benedict

Marrying right before World War I, Agatha Miller followers her mother’s advice to put her new husband Archibald Christie first. Unfortunately, other than surfing and playing golf, nothing Agatha does seems to make Archie happy. She even puts time with her daughter Rosalind at a lower priority, and leaves her behind to travel with Archie. Finally, Agatha thinks about what makes her happy: time with her daughter, mother, and sister Madge, and writing mysteries. It’s not so enjoyable reading about Agatha and Archie’s increasingly unhappy marriage. Then Agatha suddenly vanishes in December 1926, the same day she and Archie have a loud argument during breakfast. The story really takes off here, and the disappearance is related from Archie’s point of view, as the police become suspicious of his role in her disappearance. I wanted to know more about Agatha Christie’s life after reading this novel, which is based on the real disappearance of the author. It’s been 100 years since the first Hercule Poirot mystery was published; so it’s perfect timing for a novel about the creator of Poirot and Miss Marple. This mystery will be published in late December.
Brenda

Ancestral Night

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear

Haimey DZ is an engineer, living on a salvage tug with shipmind Singer, pilot Connla, and their two cats. They explore a derelict ship, only to discover an alien parasite and a booby trap. After an encounter with judicar Cheeirilaq, who resembles a giant mantis, their ship is pursue by pirates, including Zanya Farweather, who’s also encountered the alien parasite. Haimey, who had some of her memories inactivated by a judicial proceeding as a young adult, has to figure out who she really is, plus learn to function in gravity. I really enjoyed reading this fast-paced, entertaining, and thought-provoking space opera novel. Readalikes include books by Ann Leckie, Becky Chambers, Valerie Valdes, and C.J. Cherryh. Machine is Elizabeth Bear’s next book, also set in White Space.

Brenda