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

 

The Right Sort of Man

The Right Sort of Man by Allison Montclair

Despite the title, this appealing first novel is a historical mystery, not a romance. In 1946, Iris Sparks and Gwendolyn Bainbridge, a war widow, have combined their unique talents to open The Right Sort Marriage Bureau in Mayfair, London. Iris can’t talk much about her work during the war, but she has all sorts of contacts and can pick locks. Wealthy Gwen has a young son and a gift for matchmaking. After their latest client, shop clerk Tillie La Salle, is found dead and her match, accountant Dickie Trower is charged with her murder, Iris and Gwen team up to save their business. They investigate Tillie’s connections to the black market and Gwen learns to travel around London by bus, visiting Dickie in prison, where he’s worried about his goldfish. The postwar London setting is richly detailed, the characters are likeable and believable, and the dialogue is witty. I’m already looking forward to Montclair’s next book, A Royal Affair, to be published next June.

Brenda

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Nina Hill is funny, smart, anxious, organized, and loves books. She’s also excellent company in this novel about a bookstore clerk in Los Angeles who finds out that her previously unknown father has mentioned her in his will and discovers a big, complicated family. When she’s not at a book club or competing in a trivia contest, Nina would rather be home, reading. Her other favorite activities include avoiding yoga class and planning her week, even if she doesn’t always follow her plan and scolds herself when she runs out of toilet paper. There is a cute guy on a rival trivia team, but it might be hard to work a date into her schedule, especially with new relatives to meet. Nina is also intense and likes to share random facts; this has gotten her trivia club in trouble. Numerous funny scenes add to the book’s appeal, including a woman trying to return a Jane Austen novel, her kids book club, and an ice cream fight outside the bookstore. Witty and heartwarming, I wanted the book to be longer, even after a satisfying conclusion. Her first book, The Garden of Small Beginnings, is also a good read, if not quite as funny.

Brenda

 

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now

If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home by Now by Christopher Ingraham

Chris writes an article for the Washington Post about the least scenic counties in America and keeps getting polite comments from the residents of Red Lake County, Minnesota, ranked worst. He visits, writes another article, and eventually moves to Red Lake Falls (which has neither a lake nor a waterfall) with his wife Briana and young twin sons. He leaves behind an awful commute from Baltimore to Washington, a cramped row house with three flights of stairs, and very limited time with his wife and sons. Briana takes time off from her government job to stay home with the boys, then gets involved in local organizations. In northwest Minnesota, they find a purple house with a playroom and back yard, a wide variety of mostly friendly neighbors, and brutally cold winters that have its own rewards. Candid and humorous, this memoir about discovering the joys of Midwestern small town life is sure to be popular.
Brenda

Evvie Drake Starts Over

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

Except for weekly breakfasts with best friend Andy, young widow Evvie mostly stays in her house. Andy encourages Evvie to consider renting the apartment attached to her house to his friend Dean, a former major league pitcher. Evvie and Dean are attracted to each other, and I really enjoyed their interactions, complete with laugh-out-loud dialogue, especially when Evvie describes a cereal box race at the local minor league baseball park in coastal Maine and when Dean buys an old pinball game. Evvie wallows in misery a bit too much, especially as she was planning to leave her husband the day he died. Dean’s struggles to figure out what happened to his pitching career lead to an interesting agreement with Evvie: she won’t ask about his arm and he won’t ask about her husband. Overall, a charming first novel that’s full of heart and humor, not too predictable, and is a great summer read.
Brenda

Storm Cursed

Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs

Mercy Thompson is a coyote shape-shifter married to Adam, an alpha werewolf. Adam, with Mercy’s reluctant help, is trying to arrange talks between the fae lords and a U.S. senator. Recently Mercy declared that their region of the Pacific Northwest was under the protection of Adam’s pack, so she gets to take care of supernatural problems that crop up. Mercy and werewolf Mary Jo need the help of Larry the goblin king to take care of a goblin issue, then they’re off to deal with twenty miniature zombie goats. Miniature zombie goats are a bit of comic relief before there’s serious trouble at the home of Elizaveta, the local grey witch. There’s gruesome evidence of black witchcraft there (feel free to skim that chapter), but unexpected help comes from amnesiac werewolf Sherwood and vampire Wulfe, who turns out to have a lighter side. Plenty of action, a fair amount of humor and great dialogue keep the pages turning quickly. I listened to the audiobook, skillfully narrated by Lorelei King. Moon Called is the first Mercy Thompson book; another, Smoke Bitten, is expected in 2020. Readalikes include books by Ilona Andrews and Kelley Armstrong.

Brenda

Early Riser

Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

This is an unusual, quirky book by the author of the Thursday Next series, set in an alternate Wales. Charlie Worthing has just joined the Winter Consul Service and heads out on his first assignment, only to get trapped in Sector 12 when the trains stop running. Winters are so long and bitterly cold that most people hibernate, bulking up before their long sleep. Some unfortunates turn into Nightwalkers, sort of zombies who can work menial jobs. Charlie has many adventures as he tries to make it through his first winter awake and investigates a viral dream about a blue Buick. Darkly humorous and witty with an appealing protagonist.

Brenda