Two women, Claire Cook and Eva James, are running away, and connect in an airport bar. Exchanging tickets, Claire flies to Oakland, desperate to leave her husband Rory, a powerful, angry, and possessive man. Eva will fly to Puerto Rico instead. Eva, raised by nuns in a group home, studied chemistry in college, but is expelled before graduating, and has no good choices. She is befriended by neighbor Liz, a visiting professor who encourages Eva to make a new start and consider giving information to the FBI. Claire has little privacy in her home, full of staff, and her days are tightly scheduled with appearances for a family foundation while her husband is planning to run for the senate. Claire’s only free time is at a gym, where she meets with a high school friend. In this rollercoaster ride of a novel, I enjoyed the strong yet flawed female characters and the many plot twists, and found it very hard to put down. Readalikes include Layover by David Bell, Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell, The Switch by Joseph Finder and The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine.
Set against the backdrop of the 1960s and 1970s and the Vietnam War, Cooke follows the careers of several women who worked as stewardesses for Pan Am, which focused on international flights. Biology major Lynne Totten, experienced traveler Karen Walker, and Tori Werner, a Norwegian woman who wanted to work for the foreign service were all hired by Pan Am and sent to a six-week training course before getting assigned to flights around the globe. As they gained seniority, they could bid on their preferred flights and live abroad, from New York to Los Angeles to Hong Kong. Their perks included free air travel and paid vacations, with time for all-night parties or sightseeing. Later, some stewardesses sued Pan Am for the right to keep working after marriage and even during pregnancy during an era when new hires had to be slim, attractive, female, unmarried college graduates younger than 27. The author’s father worked for Pan Am until it went bankrupt in 1991, and the family traveled frequently on standby. At reunions for former flight crew, Cooke met and interviewed many retired stewardesses, and was fascinated by their stories. Most notable was an Operation Babylift flight that Tori Werner supervised as purser with Lynne and Karen as part of her crew, that brought orphaned and refugee infants and children to the United States from Vietnam. I would have liked a little less about politics and the Vietnam War and more stories about the other stewardesses mentioned, but I found this well-researched book to be an engaging read about a very challenging job that also allowed the women to expand their horizons.
Comics about animals and their people are my comfort read. I used to have a stack of comic strip collections for when I was sick or in a reading slump. If I were to start a new stack, Living with Mochi would be on the top.
Mochi is a pug named after the Japanese sweet. His person is Gemma Gene—an architect who started doodling about Mochi on her way to work because she missed him so much. The drawings were a hit online (find them on Instagram @157ofgemma) and were turned into a book.
Each page is a little story with adorable drawings. Mochi enjoys the finer things in life and loves his Mami. He tolerates his Papi. He doesn’t realize he’s a dog and not a small human. I recognized my pug in Mochi and it was like having her back. The grunts, the dramatics, the appetite, even the smells. Anyone who’s had a beloved pet would enjoy the humor and the love that went into the comics.
For more light-hearted animal comics, I highly recommend Plum Crazy: Tales of a Tiger-Striped Cat (adorable, family-friendly), She and Her Cat (introspective, teen and up), Chi’s Sweet Home (great for kids…and adults), and Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu (by the artist known for his horror manga but the only scary thing here is how quickly he falls for two cats, and how they don’t care).
If you want more about pugs, try these. For kids, families, or the young at heart there’s Two’s a Crowd and Yay for Vaycay!) by Flora Ahn and the picture book Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino. Teens and up might like The Worrier’s Guide to Life by Gemma Correll (Gemma’s pug makes appearances and there’s more pugs in A Pug’s Guide to Dating) or Battlepug by Mike Norton (a Conan-like fantasy comic featuring a giant pug).
This is a witty and engaging contemporary family saga set in a Hudson Valley town in New York. The family members featured are Astrid, who takes a long look at her life after the sudden death of an acquaintance, her three children and oldest grandchild. Was Astrid a good enough parent to Elliott, Porter, and Nicky after the early death of their father? Is it time to tell them about her new love interest? Will an extended visit from granddaughter Cecelia, 13, be a chance to start over? Everyone here is at a turning point, including single and pregnant Porter, who raises dairy goats, Elliot deciding what business is best for a building he’s secretly bought on the downtown roundabout, and Cecelia starting school with only one new friend, August. Realistically flawed yet likeable characters make for a memorable read. Readalikes include Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel, Pruning the Dead by Julia Henry, Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, and The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. This will be the library’s June book discussion selection.
This immersive, compelling read features an unlikely trio of friends who work at Bletchley Park during World War II, secretly trying to break the codes used by the Germans and Italians. Debutante Osla Kendall, who reads German fluently, is dating Prince Philip of Greece. On the train from London she meets ambitious Mab, a typist whose height gets her work on the machines at Bletchley Park and who is anxious to evacuate her little sister Lucy from London’s East End. Shy Beth, whose demanding mother rents Mab and Osla a room, finds her skill at crossword puzzles leads to work as a codebreaker. The strain of the work and the demand for complete secrecy affect the women’s relationships, although outlets such as their Mad Hatter book group help somewhat. In 1947 the women are no longer friends, yet Mab and Osla meet for tea in York in response to a desperate plea from Beth, who is trying to discover who framed her as a traitor. This crisis is set during the weeks, days, and hours leading up to the royal wedding of Osla’s Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. I loved the focus on the women’s war work and found this book, with its intensifying pace, hard to put down. Only the 624 page count will keep this book from being the top pick of many book groups. Readalikes include Code Girls by Liza Mundy, The Gown by Jennifer Robson, The Secret Lives of Codebreakers by Sinclair McKay, and The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott.
Mackenzie Dienes, winemaker at her mother-in-law’s winery, Bel Après, has an enviable quality of life. She and Rhys have a lovely house on the family compound, and his sisters Stephanie and Four have been her good friends for over 16 years. The extended family shares a personal chef, and Mackenzie has an office at home as well as at the winery, and her own bedroom suite. It’s true that she and Rhys have been friends rather than lovers for several years, but shouldn’t that be enough? Her wines are highly valued, her nieces and nephews live nearby, there are regular family dinners, impromptu gatherings when someone bakes cookies, and weekly Girls’ Night. When matriarch Barbara gets engaged, Mackenzie and Rhys see their marriage in a new light, and she decides it’s time to start over, perhaps with her own winery. I enjoyed the rural Washington vineyard setting, the camaraderie of Mackenzie and her friends, and the theme of starting over, along with a hint of romance. I did find the story rather predictable, and the character of family matriarch Barbara was over-the-top unlikeable. This is a quick, compelling read, perfect for a long weekend. Readalikes include Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Davie, The Promise and New Hope by Robyn Carr, The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas, and the forthcoming Blush, by Jamie Brenner.
This is a contemporary novel of found family, centered around a café in London. After elderly artist Julian Jessop leaves a notebook telling of his grief after the loss of his wife in Monica’s Café, Monica posts a flier in the window looking for someone to teach a weekly painting class, hoping to connect with Julian. Monica puts her own wishes to become a mother in the notebook, and somehow the notebook travels to Australia and back, connecting a newly sober traveler, a struggling new mum, and more, all making connections through the painting classes and weekly dinners. There are secrets, lies, conflicts and quite a few coincidences, but in the end this is a heartwarming, cozy novel about new friendships and a little romance. This is a compelling and enjoyable first novel. Readalikes include The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister and Meet Me at the Museum by Anne Youngson.
A fast-paced, character-driven science fiction novel set in the 25th century. Lieutenant Maxine Carmichael gets her first ship assignment in the NeoG, the Near-Earth Orbital Guard, joining the diverse crew of Zuma’s Ghost, assigned to Jupiter Station. The NeoG is the equivalent of today’s Coast Guard, rescuing stranded ships, searching for contraband, and locating missing ships. The small crew needs to find a role for Max in the upcoming Boarding Games, where she gets lots of attention for being a Carmichael; her sister is CEO of LifeEx. There is plenty of action and some danger but mostly this is an uplifting, entertaining, and enjoyable read. Similar authors include Becky Chambers and Elizabeth Moon. I’m looking forward to the sequel, Hold Fast Through the Fire, which will be published in July.
Ruthie Midona, 25, works in a retirement community and rarely leaves the grounds. She lives on the property and rarely leaves, except to shop at a local thrift store. When two wealthy 90-year-olds need a new personal assistant, Ruthie runs their errands until the community’s new owner suggests his son Teddy, who’s trying to save money for a tattoo parlor. Teddy is staying in the adjoining villa, and is clearly fascinated by Ruthie, when not busy with the hilarious requests made by the Parloni sisters. Temp Melanie is creating a dating profile for Ruthie, who hasn’t dated in years, and helps organize the residents’ holiday party. Opposites definitely attract for Ruthie and Teddy in this sweet and funny romantic comedy. An April LibraryReads pick, this is a funny and heartwarming story about how friends can become your found family. Readalikes include I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella and Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert.
Grace Porter celebrates earning her Ph.D. in astronomy with a short vacation in Las Vegas with friends Agnes and Ximena. She wakes up the last morning with a hangover, a wedding ring, and a picture of Yuki Yamamoto, who hosts a late night radio show in New York City. Back in Portland, Grace tries to live up to the expectations of her father, Colonel Porter. Biracial and queer, Grace is struggling to land an astronomy job, which she somehow thought would be easy. Grace is used to working hard and living up to her father’s expectations. Her response is to flee, visiting Yuki and her roommates in NYC, then her mother at the family orange grove in Florida. Essentially ghosting her friends for long stretches, they are still there when she needs them. I would have liked more about Grace’s astronomy studies; with perhaps a cool field trip to an observatory in Hawaii or Chile. But Grace’s story is much more about an identity crisis, her relationships with her friends, Yuki, and her parents, and learning to accept her own imperfections and uncertainties. Grace and Yuki are memorable characters, and this is an appealing and compelling read.