Fans of Dear Mrs. Bird will cheer Emmy Lake’s return as a young advice columnist in wartime London. A chance meeting on a train with Anne and her two young children lead to Emmy visiting the munitions factory where Anne works for an article on women war workers. While the article is upbeat, Emmy and her friend Bunty learn more about the struggles the women face, especially finding child care when they work long, varied shifts. Emmy has infrequent dates with Charles, now stationed in England, and thoroughly enjoys her work at Woman’s Friend magazine, now managed by supportive editor Guy. Emmy and Bunty do get into a bit of trouble when they agree to be in two different places on a very important day, but it makes for very entertaining reading. Such a wonderful story, very well told. More Emmy and Bunty, please! Sure to please Anglophiles and readers of historical fiction.
The Thursday Murder Club meets in the jigsaw room at the luxurious Coopers Chase Retirement Village in Kent, on England’s southeast coast. Widowed Joyce is the newest member of The Thursday Murder Club, taking the place of Penny, a retired police officer who’s in a nearby nursing home. Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Ron, and Joyce discuss Penny’s cold case files, then find themselves with two murders nearby, probably connected to plans to develop a nearby hilltop and relocate a convent cemetery. Elizabeth has a secret background, with connections almost everywhere. Ron was an organizer whose son is slightly famous, while Ibrahim is a psychiatrist. Agreeable Joyce worked as a nurse, and together they work to get information from PC Donna De Freitas and DCI Chris Hudson. There are poignant scenes as well as lighter ones in this witty, dryly funny character-based mystery that is hard to put down. The Thursday Murder Club is the first novel by Osman, a quiz show host on British television; a sequel, The Man Who Died Twice, will be published soon. Film rights have been bought, and a third book is planned for this deservedly popular debut.
On Tuesday, July 27, please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7:00 pm on Zoom as we discuss The Narrowboat Summer by Anne Youngson. From the author of Meet Me at the Museum, this is a charming novel of second chances, about three women, one dog, and the narrowboat that brings them together. My earlier review is here.
Copies of the book will be available four weeks in advance at the Circulation Desk. The eAudiobook is available from Hoopla Digital, and the eBook and eAudiobook are available from Media on Demand/Libby.
I enjoyed this cozy mystery, first in the new Booklovers B & B series, set in historic Beaufort, North Carolina. Chapters Bed & Breakfast comes complete with a well-stocked library and features several book related events each year. Charlotte is fairly new to running the inn, having inherited Chapters from her mysterious Great Aunt Isabella after years of teaching high school. A Josephine Tey mystery week starts off with a Richard III themed costume party and dinner, which ends with one guest murdered. Everyone is a suspect, from Charlotte, cook/housekeeper Alicia, the evening’s hotheaded chef Damian, local bookstore owner Julie, and all of the guests staying at Chapters. Charlotte finds unexpected help from elderly neighbor Ellen when she decides to investigate. The Beaufort setting is especially appealing, and my favorite character is Ellen, along with her dog, Shandy. The second book, Reserved for Murder, has just been published. Readalikes include mysteries by Ellery Adams, Eva Gates, Jenn McKinlay, and Tea and Treachery by Vicki Delany.
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.
On Tuesday, June 22, please join the Tuesday Evening Book Group at 7:00 pm on Zoom as we discuss All Adults Here by Emma Straub. This is warm, funny, and keenly perceptive contemporary novel about the life cycle of one family–as the kids become parents, grandchildren become teenagers, and a matriarch confronts the legacy of her mistakes. By the New York Times bestselling author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers. Here’s my recent review.
Copies of the book are available at the Circulation Desk. eBook and eAudiobook copies are available from Media on Demand/Libby and eBook copies are also available from eRead Illinois.
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.