The Inn at Tansy Falls

tansy falls jacketThe Inn at Tansy Falls by Cate Woods

London accountant Nell Swift has recently lost her best friend to cancer. Megan asks Nell to visit Tansy Falls, Vermont, where she spent summers growing up, and follow a two-week itinerary taking Nell to all of Megan’s favorite places and people. Nell, who works from home and never really got over a bad breakup, dislikes adventure and meeting new people, but agrees to Megan’s last request. Tansy Falls, in late winter mud season, amazes Nell, despite some weather-related mishaps, and she finds the people of Tansy Falls mostly quite friendly. Nell learns more about Megan, and despite missing her dog Moomin, wishes she could start over in Vermont. Reading this heartwarming contemporary novel is like drinking hot cocoa–very comforting. Readalikes include The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler, Book Lovers by Emily Henry, and books by Abbi Waxman.

Brenda

Marmee

marmee jacket

Marmee: A Novel of Little Women by Sarah Miller

Do you have a favorite character in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel Little Women? Perhaps Jo, Amy, Beth or Meg. Here’s another looks at the March sisters from their mother’s point of view. Written as Marmee’s diary entries from late 1861 until December 1868, this heartfelt novel gives Marmee depth and a more fully developed personality, with her character based on that of Louisa May’s mother Abigail May Alcott, an abolitionist, suffragist, and activist. Imagine being, essentially, a single mother of four girls during the Civil War, struggling to make ends meet and worrying about your husband. Marmee looks back at her life to reveal the secret reason their social and financial circumstances changed. A friendship with the Hummel family becomes very meaningful to Marmee, as does her relationship with housekeeper Hannah. More satisfying than recent film adaptations while still a tearjerker at times, it’s a real pleasure to visit with the March family again. Readalikes include The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper, Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, and Caroline: Little House, Revisited, also by Sarah Miller.

Brenda

Hidden Treasure

Hidden Treasure by Jane Cleland

The gorgeous cover drew me to this book. While there are several other books in this mystery series, I was pleased that I could pick up this one and get immersed in the story without reading the earlier books. Set on the Atlantic coast of New Hampshire, the mystery is centered around an antique trunk containing the Egyptian box and cat statue pictured on the cover. Antique dealer Josie Prescott and her husband buy a house from Maudie Wilson, whose nieces have persuaded her to move to an assisted living apartment. When doing a walkthrough of the house before renovations, Josie finds the well-hidden trunk, which becomes an object of interest to many. Maudie, Josie, and Josie’s friend Zoe are memorable characters, and the antiques business is fascinatingly described. The setting is appealing, especially as Josie loves to go hiking on the dunes or in the woods. I plan to read the first book, Consigned to Death, and see if I enjoy it as much as Hidden Treasure. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

Brenda

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living

city baker jacketThe City Baker’s Guide to Country Living by Louise Miller

Livvy Rawlings, a Boston pastry chef, has her life go up in flames when she drops a huge baked alaska. Retreating to her friend Hannah in small-town Guthrie, Vermont, she gets a chance to bake at the Sugar Maple Inn, where owner Margaret is known for her award-winning apple pies. Livvy has a history of making bad decisions, about men, hair color, working and drinking too much; but what she really wants is a family. She finds one on an apple orchard/Christmas tree farm with the McCrackens, from frail Henry to his welcoming wife and handsome son Martin, who invites Livvy (who improbably plays banjo) to join a local band. I didn’t really understand why she spends so much time with the McCracken family when pregnant Hannah really needs her, but I think the author wanted to show how flawed and real Livvy is. Livvy briefly returns to Boston, but is no longer a city girl, and returns to Guthrie to bake a wedding cake, and more pies. A pleasant vacation read that was good but not great. Small-town life with its quirky residents, well-drawn descriptions of food and music add to this first novel’s appeal, along with Livvy’s huge dog, Salty.
Brenda

 

The Sparrow Sisters

sparrow jacketThe Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick

An unusual first novel, an excellent readalike for Sarah Addison Allen fans. Set in a seaside town on Cape Cod, the three Sparrow Sisters run a plant nursery, and youngest sister Patience makes herbal remedies for the town. When doctor Henry Carlyle moves to Granite Point, he is skeptical of Patience’s talents. Neither Nettie nor Sorrel has ever married, and the three sisters live in the house they grew up in. When tragedy strikes, Patience’s remedies come under suspicion, and many of the men in Granite Point turn against the sisters. Magical realism is strong but never stated in this book, as Patience’s moods seem to affect the whole town, just like her ancestor Eliza Howard. In spite of the turmoil, one sister falls in love and another gains an admirer. The tone of the book changes, which makes for an unsettling reading experience. I’m expecting small town charm, quite a bit about plants, some romance and magic, and that’s what the first half of the book is like. Then it turns darker, melancholy and suspenseful, with the ending rather uncertain. But that makes for a memorable book, with more depth than a typical cozy mystery or romance.
Brenda

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

storied life jacketThe Storied Life of A. J. Fikry: A Novel by Gabrielle Zevin

This isn’t the charming, feel-good book I was expecting from the publicity. The writing style is engaging and I found the book difficult to put down, but the tone is bittersweet with occasionally very funny sections. This is not a predictable book, and has more depth than I expected. Definitely a memorable read with wide appeal.

 

A. J. Fikry is a curmudgeon, although still in his 30s. Mourning his wife’s death in an accident, he has retreated from life. As he owns a bookstore on an island near Nantucket that is a problem, especially after the rare book he was saving to fund his retirement goes missing. He is very particular about the kind of books he will stock, and new publisher sales rep Amelia Loman finds him a tough sell. Then Maya, a little girl, unlocks the key to his heart, and the bookstore gradually becomes a community gathering place. I especially enjoyed the transformation of local police chief Lambiase from an infrequent reader to a passionate reader who leads a book discussion group. Eventually A.J. even finds love, as does Lambiase. Suggested for readers of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and fans of bookstores everywhere.

Brenda