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

Well Played

Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Well Played is a sweet romantic comedy set in Willow Creek, Maryland, which hosts a renaissance faire on four July weekends. Stacey looks forward to the faire all year, and this year she’s more involved in planning the faire, and helping arrange the wedding of two of her friends. A receptionist at a dentist’s office, Stacey lives in a small apartment over her parents’ garage. A former cheerleader who’s always smiling, she’s best known for her fondness for pumpkin spice lattes. A typical evening finds her home with her cat scrolling social media posts, or hanging out at a local bar with her friend Mitch. In the past, she hooked up with a hunky faire musician named Dex, and sends him a flirtatious text, which unexpectedly starts a long-distance relationship by text and email. The next July, Stacey’s shocked to learn she’s been writing to Dex’s cousin Daniel, the band manager. Well Played is the sequel to Well Met, but I will happily read them out of order. A third book is planned for 2021.
As I hoped, this is a good readalike for The Falcon Always Wings Twice, a cozy mystery set at a renaissance faire.

Brenda

 

How to Astronaut

How to Astronaut by Terry Virts

Retired NASA astronaut Terry Virts offers an entertaining and informative look at what it’s like to be an astronaut. Colonel Virts first flew to the International Space Station on the shuttle Endeavor, helping install the cupola module. Later he spent 200 days on the space station in 2014 and 2015, launching on a Soyuz spacecraft with Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov and Italian astronaut Samantha Christoforetti. Humorous anecdotes abound, including the difficulties of getting his extra-large head into a helmet, and learning to cut Christoforetti’s hair. The failure of three cargo ships to reach the space station postponed their return date, but Virts still gives a thumbs up for the quality of food they ate. He slept better in zero gravity than on Earth; verified by one of the many science experiments he worked on. Three spacewalks and filming an IMAX documentary were highlights. If you’ve ever wondered what life in space is like, Virts covers everything I could think of, from adapting to zero gravity to what he missed most on Earth. The most sobering chapter is when he served as family support for the crew of Columbia, and was with the family members when the shuttle exploded. An Air Force Academy graduate, Colonel Virts was a test and fighter pilot with the Air Force before he joined NASA. Virts thoroughly prepared for his spacewalks in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (a huge pool) before his spaceflights. What if scenarios are also described, as well as the wonder of being in space and looking back at Earth. This memoir is a great read for space buffs. Virts is also the author and photographer of View From Above : An Astronaut Photographs the World.
Brenda

 

 

 

The Switch

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Workaholic Londoner Leena Cotton has a panic attack at work, and takes two months off. She ends up switching places with her grandmother Eileen, and moves to her cottage in a small Yorkshire village. The Cotton women even exchange phones and laptops so Leena won’t be tempted to work. Eileen, 79, is pretty happy but is having trouble finding romance in her small town. At Leena’s London flat, with two quirky roommates, she organizes a social club for seniors and has a fling or two, while also spying on Leena’s London boyfriend. Back in Hamleigh-in-Harksdale, Leena ends up on the May festival committee, befriending her grandmother’s grumpy neighbor Arnold, and plays Easter Bunny with the help of former classmate Jackson’s little girl. Both women have challenges adjusting to their new environments and neighbors, but relish their new projects and Leena learns to re-connect with her mother Marian, and start dealing with her grief over her sister’s recent death. Mixed grief and humor, with a strong sense of place and appealing, quirky characters. Grandmother Eileen is especially appealing, embracing life and love in London at 79. A light feel-good story that makes for an absorbing, enjoyable read.

Brenda

The Falcon Always Wings Twice

The Falcon Always Wings Twice by Donna Andrews

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio version of the latest Meg Langslow cozy mystery. There is a large cast of quirky characters, the mystery is fast-paced, and the tone is light and often humorous. Meg is a blacksmith who doesn’t often have much time to practice her craft, especially as she and her husband Michael, a drama teacher, are raising twin boys. This book is set at a renaissance fair in northern Virginia, where Meg is one of two blacksmiths putting on demonstrations every weekend. Everything is going well with the fair, except for prankster actor Terence, who annoys almost everyone, and a visiting director who wants to get too involved with the fair. An early morning owling walk led by Meg’s grandfather ends with discovering a body in the woods, and Meg, once again, turns amateur sleuth. Bernadette Dunne narrates expressively and the well-detailed fair setting is especially appealing. Well Played by Jen De Luca, a romantic comedy set at a renaissance fair, sounds like a good readalike. I’m looking forward to The Gift of the Magpie, to be published next month.

Brenda

The Tourist Attraction

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler

In this quirky debut romantic comedy, Zoey Caldwell meets grumpy Graham Barnett on her first night in Moose Springs, Alaska. Graham reluctantly serves tourists from a nearby luxury lodge at his diner, The Tourist Trap, but he’d rather be spending time with his dog or making sculptures with a chain saw. Zoey has been saving her tips for years to afford a two-week vacation in Alaska, and is happy to sleep on the sofa in her friend Lana’s suite at the lodge. Determined to see as many Alaskan attractions as she can, Zoey’s day trips are with a budget company and she goes whale watching in heavy seas, and gets an uncooperative horse on a trail ride. Graham is part of a long-running local versus rich tourist feud, but introduces Zoey to his dog, his friends, and takes her to a local favorite bakery for giant cinnamon rolls. Graham is a bit too ready to get into a fight for my tastes, but clearly has a soft spot for Zoey and her friend Lana. Funny and engaging, with a great sense of place, this novel will have readers eager to visit Moose Springs, Alaska, ASAP. Fortunately, the author’s second book, Mistletoe and Mr. Right, will be published this October. Other reviewers suggest books by Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, Robyn Carr, and Debbie Macomber as readalikes. The Tourist Attraction will be our virtual book discussion selection on August 25.

Brenda

I Was Told It Would Get Easier

I Was Told It Would Get Easier by Abbi Waxman

A road trip with nine other Los Angeles area families to visit East Coast colleges could be a perfect chance for mother-daughter bonding for Jessica and Emily. Busy lawyer Jessica spends so much time taking calls and texts for work that she misses a whole day of the tour. 16-year-old Emily is worried about a scandal at her private high school, and has no clue where she’d like to attend college or what she wants to study. A couple of joint sessions with a college counselor might have made the whole trip unnecessary, but then the reader would miss out on a very funny and heartwarming mother-daughter relationship. Emily is the most interesting character, but visits with her mother’s college friends reveal more of Jessica’s personality. There’s also cute, geeky Will and his attractive father to make their free time in Philadelphia, New York City, and Rhinebeck, New York even more appealing. This witty novel is sure to appeal to readers of Waxman’s novels The Garden of Small Beginnings and The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Brenda

Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café

Breakfast at the Honey Creek Café by Jodi Thomas

I picked this book because of the gorgeous cover. In reading the novel, I enjoyed a pleasant visit to a small Texas town with plenty of secrets, a possible ghost, and not quite enough descriptions of breakfast at the café. Sam Cassidy gets an unexpected request to be interim pastor in Honey Creek. Sam, while a seminary graduate, is a pilot and firefighter, but is drawn to Honey Creek for a personal reason. Mayor Piper Jane is late to welcome Sam and give him a tour of the town because she’s distracted by another newcomer, Colby McBride. Colby is undercover, investigating the disappearance of a man whose car was found in a nearby river. Two seniors graduating from the local high school are also drawn together; hardworking Pecos and sweet, popular Kerrie. In this contemporary novel, appealing characters, some humor, and a little romance make for a heartwarming story. More Honey Creek stories are planned.

Brenda

Chilling Effect

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

In this entertaining debut space opera, Eva Innocente, captain of the small cargo ship, La Sirena Negra, has a cargo of psychic cats but no buyer. Then Eva learns that her sister Mari has been kidnapped by an intergalactic crime syndicate known as The Fridge and she is being blackmailed in a piracy scheme that might be connected to an archaeological find. Her crew, including attractive engineer Vakar, wonder what Eva’s got them into, with each mission more dangerous than the last. Full of adventure and humor, yet often poignant, this science fiction novel is a good readalike for Becky Chambers. The audiobook is very well narrated by Almarie Guerra, especially when Eva, who has Cuban roots, swears eloquently and often in Spanish. Ultimately, Eva has to decide what she stands for, and whether her crew or her family are more important. Intriguing aliens and a variety of planets make for a fast-paced and fun read. Eva’s next adventure, Prime Deceptions, will be published in September.

Brenda

 

Puppy Christmas

Puppy Christmas by Lucy Gilmore

In Emily Ford’s eyes, Lila Vasquez is Princess Lila, after they meet when Lila’s wearing a pink ball gown at a banquet. Six-year-old Emily, who has cochlear implants, gets to pick out a service puppy with Lila’s help, then spend several weeks learning to work with Jeeves, a cockapoo. Emily’s father Ford, an illustrator, is quickly smitten by Lila, who is used to the role of serious older sister, yet is willing to dress like a princess for Emily during puppy training. In a mostly lighthearted humorous romance, Ford’s neighbors and young Emily are the holiday matchmakers, especially during a memorable pirate-themed party. Humor, relatable characters, and puppies make for a quick, appealing read.

Brenda