Death Comes to Bath

Death Comes to Bath by Catherine Lloyd

I loved the beautiful setting of this Regency-era English mystery, and the ability to easily start this series at book six. After a war wound received at Waterloo becomes infected, Sir Robert Kurland and his wife Lucy rent a house in Bath so that Robert can enjoy the healing properties of the Roman baths. Bringing Lucy’s sister Ann, their doctor Fletcher and his pregnant wife Penelope, it’s a lively household. Lucy and Robert get to know the mismatched couple next door, Sir William Benson, an older man from Yorkshire who spends time at the baths with Robert, and his younger, beautiful wife. When William dies suddenly, suspicion falls on his sons and stepsons, especially when his will can’t be found. After a second suspicious death next door, amateur sleuths Lucy and Robert work together to uncover the truth. Colorful characters and a clever plot make me want to spend more time with Robert and Lucy, who first appear in Death Comes to the Village. This novel is a good readalike for the Stephanie Barron mystery series featuring Jane Austen as an amateur sleuth.

Brenda

The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

This alternate history of the space race is an excellent readalike for Hidden Figures, Code Girls, and The Mercury 13. In 1952 a meteorite hits Chesapeake Bay while scientist Elma York is on vacation in the Poconos with her husband Nathaniel, an engineer. They have a narrow escape in Elma’s Cessna plane, and end up in Kansas City working for the International Aerospace Coalition. Elma was a WASP (pilot) in World War II, and works as a computer on calculations of the effects of the meteorite and later on rocket trajectories. She has kept her phobia of public speaking secret, but an adversary from the war years may expose it and derail her hopes of becoming a lady astronaut. The Yorks are Jewish, and their struggle to stay observant is noted, but prejudice against women and African-Americans in science is a major theme. The author, most known for her Regency-era fantasy novels, really did her research on Apollo era science, technology, and daily life, and this makes for an immersive, compelling reading experience. I would have liked less about Elma’s anxiety disorder and more about how others survived the meteorite strike but still found this to be quite the page-turner. The second part of the Lady Astronauts’ story is The Fated Sky, which I hope to read while I’m rereading Rocket Men by Robert Kurson, for a book discussion on February 19.

Brenda

Of Blood and Bone

Of Blood and Bone by Nora Roberts

This second novel in the postapocalyptic paranormal trilogy Chronicles of the One has a great sense of place and compelling characters. As this is not realistic fiction, there are a few things readers need to accept: fairies, shape shifters, a chosen one, and fuel lasting over a decade. After a pandemic almost wiped out civilization in Year One, Lana Swift learned that her baby will be The One. Fallon Swift, now 13, will spend two years training with mentor Mallick in magic, fighting skills, and leadership while completing three magical challenges. Along with Duncan and Tonia, twin teens from the appealing community of Good Hope, Fallon and her family begin the shift from survival to rebuilding. This fast-paced novel is a good readalike for the postapocalyptic Change series by S.M. Stirling, beginning with Dies the Fire, especially for its thoughtful take on how new communities grow after a disaster.
Brenda

Alliance Rising

Alliance Rising by C.J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher

The dramatic, unexpected arrival of Finity’s End sparks a crisis at Alpha Station, the closest space station to Sol, which sends cargo ships every five years. Alpha Station resources have been directed to building a faster-than-light ship, which has glitches, an inexperienced crew, and too many security personnel. This is the welcome return of Cherryh and co-author Fancher to the award-winning Alliance-Union Universe, and a good place to enter a far future that includes Downbelow Station, Cyteen, Rimrunners, and Finity’s End. Told from three very different points of view: station master Ben Abrezio, navigator trainee Ross Monahan, and Finity’s senior captain JR Neihart. The space ships are owned and crewed by families, and Neihart is seeking an alliance to protect the rights of smaller ships and promote trade without being dependent on Sol or distant Cyteen. Low in violence, but with plenty of thrills and intrigue; very enjoyable space opera.

Brenda

The River

The River by Peter Heller

Best friends Jack and Wynn are launched on the adventure of a lifetime, canoeing the remote Maskwa River in Canada. They will have idyllic moments of camping, fishing, stargazing, and discussing books. But mostly it will be a desperate race for survival, with an approaching wildfire, rapids to run or portage around, and an increasing threat of violence from bear or man. Wynn is large and optimistic while Jack is wary and no stranger to tragedy. They’re well-prepared, until they lose some gear and rescue an injured woman. This compelling, action-packed novel is almost impossible to put down, and is a stunning, memorable read.

Brenda

Daughter of Moloka’i

Daughter of Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Moloka’i was a bestseller and a favorite with book clubs, but I hadn’t read it until I heard about this forthcoming sequel. Daughter of Moloka’i is the compelling story of Ruth, an adopted Hawaiian-Japanese girl who grew up in Hawai’i and California, and was later sent to internment camps with her family during World War II. The daily life, joys, disappointments and hardships of the Watanabe family make for engaging reading. After Ruth is a mother herself, she receives an unexpected letter from her birth mother, Rachel, who lived in the leper settlement on Moloka’i. This poignant, family-centered, ultimately hopeful novel can be read before or after reading Moloka’i, and is a real pleasure for fans of character-driven historical fiction.
Brenda

We Must Be Brave

27We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

This is a splendid, moving novel about a young woman and the girls she mothers in southern England in the mid 20th century. Ellen Parr, born well-off, struggles when her father loses his money. Trying to cope in a run-down cottage with her impractical mother, Ellen finds unexpected kindness from her schoolmate Lucy’s family and a local handyman. Ten years later, recently married Ellen finds young Pamela asleep on a bus after Southampton is bombed in December, 1940. Although Ellen’s husband, a miller, doesn’t want to keep Pamela, they do. Eventually, they have to give Pamela back to her relatives in a heart-wrenching scene. Much later, schoolgirl Penny needs somewhere to stay after a flood and during school holidays. This first novel, while a tearjerker at times, is a compelling, satisfying, and ultimately heartwarming read.
Brenda