A Useful Woman

A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

This is the engaging first book in a mystery series set during the Regency period in London. In 1817, a few years after her family’s fortunes changed for the worse, Rosalind Thorne lives on the fringes of London society as a personal secretary for fashionable ladies, helping to organize events, shop, and plan debuts for young ladies. When Rosalind’s godmother, Lady Blanchard, is late leaving a meeting with the other patronesses of Almack’s Assembly Rooms, Rosalind finds a body in the ballroom. The dead man’s sister asks Rosalind to look into his death, along with Adam Harkness, a Bow Street Runner. A former beau reappears in Rosalind’s life, and she must balance uncovering secrets with keeping her good reputation. A pleasantly diverting read, followed by A Purely Private Matter, then And Dangerous to Know, which I plan to add to my reading list. All of these titles are available from Media on Demand, our Overdrive/Libby collection. A fourth book is expected in November.

Brenda

Light Changes Everything

Light Changes Everything by Nancy E. Turner

Readers of Turner’s historical novels These Is My Words and Sarah’s Quilt will be eager to read about Sarah’s niece, Mary Pearl Prine. Mary is 17 in 1907 and lives on her family’s pecan farm in Arizona Territory. She loves to read and draw, and is invited to study art at Wheaton College in Illinois. May’s mother would rather see her get married, and Mary does have a likely suitor. Family life on the frontier contrasts strongly with life at Wheaton College, where society girls care more about parties and dresses than studying. Mary, with her horse and pistol, doesn’t exactly fit in. She discovers a talent for photography, and a photograph of lightning becomes especially valuable to her family. A personal crisis sends Mary home straight into a ranger war, with her younger brothers in grave danger. Full of drama and adventure, Mary’s coming-of-age story is a memorable, compelling read.

Brenda

 

The Sun is a Compass

The Sun is a Compass by Caroline Van Hemert

Real life adventure memoirs can make for wonderful reading, especially during a time when we’re staying close to home. Wildlife biologist Caroline, 33, makes an epic trek with husband Patrick, a home builder, to the Alaskan Arctic in 2012. Traveling by homemade rowboats, skiing, hiking, on inflatable rafts, and in a borrowed canoe, the pair make an incredible six-month journey. Along the way they meet with unexpected kindness from strangers and Caroline regains her love of science after completing her Ph.D. mostly in a lab. Their backstory and motivation for the journey are shared, along with glimpses of happy childhoods and their loving, supportive families. Caroline’s sister has a baby as they consider parenthood. Patrick is the optimistic adventurer and builder, while Caroline is the detailed list maker, organizing most of their food drops. Part of their journey is through areas so remote that available maps show little detail and the weather forecasts are unhelpful. The pair are often awed by the magnificent landscape and the wildlife, learning to trust the trails of migrating caribou, and encountering moose, bear, and many of the birds Caroline has studied. A compelling read, and a good readalike for Lab Girl by Hope Jahren and Sarah Marquis’ Wild by Nature, along with other adventure memoirs that can be found here. I read the print book, but listened to a sample of the downloadable audiobook I’ve just added to our Media on Demand collection.

Coming soon: a list of family friendly reads that can be enjoyed by older kids, teens, and adults, including titles suggested by staff in our Children’s Department.

Enjoy!
Brenda

 

The Operator

The Operator by Gretchen Berg

Vivian Dalton, a telephone operator in Wooster, Ohio, is jealous of rich Betty Miller and hopes she’ll hear some juicy gossip when she listens in on her phone calls. Devastated to hear gossip about her husband Ed, Vivian is embarrassed but determined to find out the truth. Vivian’s daughter Charlotte is puzzled by her mother’s attitude to her father, and wonders about the poems she finds in the attic and the money tucked into a hat box. Life in small town Ohio in 1952 is vividly described in this first novel inspired by the life of the author’s grandmother. While not a very pleasant character at first, Vivian, who inadvertently finds a lead in a Wooster bank robbery, gains the reader’s sympathy as the story develops, and the heartwarming conclusion is quite satisfying, especially as the snobbish Betty Miller gets her just desserts.

Brenda

 

Underland

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

For a remarkable reading adventure, join Robert Macfarlane as he explores the hidden worlds underground, from Slovenia to England to Greenland. This is a book to savor, lyrically written, for readers of adventure, travel, nature, and history, except for the claustrophobic. Moving below ground, he often travels backwards in time, to see red pictographs in Norwegian sea caves, the catacombs deep beneath Paris, and the fungal network linking trees in Epping Forest. There are ancient barrows, a physics lab in a Yorkshire mine, a glacier in Greenland, and caves built to receive nuclear waste in Finland. In China there’s a cave system with its own weather system, and a river deep underground connects Slovenia and northern Italy. Receding glaciers and melting permafrost show that nothing is permanent. Awe and brief moments of terror in locations ordinary and sublime make for a fascinating look at unimagined worlds. Readalikes include Into the Planet, The Hidden Life of Trees, Frozen in Time, In the Kingdom of Ice, and Deep Down Dark. Macfarlane’s other books include The Old Ways, Landmarks, and The Wild Places.

Brenda

 

Simon the Fiddler

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles

The author of the acclaimed novel News of the World returns to Texas in 1865 for another beautifully told adventure. Simon the fiddler has three goals in life: to protect his precious fiddle and his hands, to save enough money to buy a piece of land, and to win the heart and hand of Miss Doris Dillon, an Irish immigrant. The story is bookended by a pair of brawls; one gets Simon conscripted into the Confederate Army at the end of the Civil War while the other lands him in jail. Simon and a mismatched group of musicians, including drummer boy Patrick, travel through post-war Texas, playing music in bars, hotels, and at parties, starting out in rented white shirts. The many fans of News of the World will welcome this colorful tale, to be published April 14, and won’t want Simon’s story to end.

Brenda

The Case of the Wandering Scholar

The Case of the Wandering Scholar by Kate Saunders

While this is the second book in the Laetitia Rodd series, this is an excellent place to begin this thoroughly enjoyable Victorian mystery series. Laetitia is a middle-aged widow of an archdeacon, and sister to Fred, a criminal barrister. Fred occasionally finds Laetitia assignments as a discreet private investigator. She moves in a variety of society circles, has a wide acquaintance among the clergy, and can certainly use the money. A dying man is looking to be reconciled with his brother Joshua, once a scholar at Oxford, who now wanders the countryside. Mrs. Rodd’s search becomes tangled with a series of murders and a long-ago theft. When two young friends are arrested for murder, Laetitia investigates, along with the gruff Inspector Blackbeard. 1851 London and Oxford really come to life, the mystery is intricately plotted, and Laetitia is absolutely wonderful company. I look forward to her next assignment. The first book is The Secrets of Wishtide.

Brenda

 

Secondhand

Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter

This is a fascinating look at what happens to clothes, furniture, and other household items donated to Goodwill, to recycled laptops and televisions, and even what becomes of vehicles totaled after an accident. Journalist Adam Minter follows these items around the globe, starting with home cleanout services in Minnesota and Japan. He travels to Vermont, Toronto, Arizona, Mexico, west Africa and Asia. Many products cross borders and oceans to be repaired, resold, or repurposed. Damaged American cars and trucks are packed with needed repair parts, put on a cargo ship in New England, and repaired in West Africa, often sold and smuggled into Nigeria. The durability of clothes is decreasing, making it harder to repurpose, and some electronics are deliberately made difficult to repair. This well-researched book makes for compelling, thought-provoking reading.

Brenda

Ever Faithful

Ever Faithful: A Vintage National Parks Novel by Karen Barnett

This novel set in Yellowstone National Park in 1933 has a wonderful sense of time and place. Nate Webber has dyslexia and can barely read, but loves to learn. Elsie Brooks, daughter of a park ranger, is saving money for college as a hotel maid in the park when she gets the chance to teach Nate’s Civilian Conservation Corps crew part-time. Elsie’s friends Mary and Rose welcome the chance of a summer romance, while a young park ranger is interested in Elsie, who’s hiding a secret of her own. The city boys of the CCC, many from New York City, find the hard work in the park challenging, but settle in quickly. A couple of small fires had me suspecting a character of arson, but this mildly inspirational story isn’t as predictable as I thought. Warm-hearted, relaxing, and thoroughly enjoyable, this trip back in time has me looking forward to reading Barnett’s other novels set in Yosemite and Mount Rainier National Parks.

Brenda

Lady Clementine

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict

The struggles and triumphs of the wife of Winston Churchill make for an interesting biographical novel, especially the second half of the book, which covers World War II. The first half of the book doesn’t flow as well, as it covers the first thirty years of Clementine and Winston’s marriage. Clementine was always interested in politics, although she didn’t always share Winston’s views. He was moody and rather bombastic, but Clementine would stand up to him, soothe and support him, and they were a good team, at least according to this very well researched novel. Clementine struggled to balance being a supportive wife with being a good mother and running a household on a modest budget during the early years of their marriage, and occasionally took a rest cure to recharge. I really liked the chapters on Clementine’s work on the home front during the war, improving air raid shelters, helping Winston with his speeches, and being recognized internationally for her work with the Red Cross. Other recent books about the Winston and his mother Jennie include Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard and That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron. Readalikes include novels by Melanie Benjamin, Paula McLain, and Nancy Horan.

Brenda