Emmy and Bunty are doing their part for the war effort, but Emmy's dream is to become a Lady War Correspondent, so when she spots an advertisement for a newspaper job, she jumps at the chance. Unfortunately, the job isn't hard journalism, but typing letters for the uptight agony columnist Mrs. Bird. Any mail that is unpleasant or inappropriate is relegated to the trash, but the sometimes desperate letters tug at Emmy until she takes a leap and answers one on her own. This delightful historical fiction novel is charming and touching and funny all at once.
It's the summer of 1965, and Helen Gurley Brown is poised to resurrect the failing Cosmopolitan magazine. She quickly realizes that she's actually been set up to fail - but that won't happen if her new secretary Alice Weiss, a plucky aspiring photographer, has anything to say about it. HGB is the star of every room, but this is actually Alice's story, set against the dual backdrop of glamorous Park Avenue and the burgeoning women's rights movement. And you'll cheer Ali on as she navigates it all to have to become a true Cosmo Girl.
This book is like an armchair trip to the Deep South, y'all. The "Southern Lady Code" is the term for the technique by which, if you don't have something nice to say, you say something not so nice in a nice way. My best girlfriend from the south's example is the ubiquitous, "Bless your heart!" which she uses near constantly. Helen Ellis has taken this lesson and many others to compile these essays on topics ranging from how to stay happily married to a GRITS (Girl Raised in the South) to the definition of a Southern Effeminate Man (and why they should be your best friends), and they're all hysterically funny. This refreshing book is like cold sweet tea on a breezy front porch. I loved it.
Martha Storm couldn't say 'no' to anyone, and the state of her house proved it. It was an inheritance from her parents, and took on the feel of a hoarder's home, filled with unfinished projects that the town dumped on her. Martha was too downtrodden to even fight for pay for the librarian's position at which she'd worked as an energetic and competent volunteer, until the day a book of fairy tales arrives on her doorstep, inscribed with a dedication to her by her long-dead grandmother. The tales are familiar ones - Martha had made them up herself - but it wasn't until she discovers a clue leading her to believe that her grandmother is still alive that she began to control her own life. The ending of this novel was a bit neat, but Patrick's writing. setting, and characters are charming.
The Lee family bakes gingerbread. Their family has done so for generations, but this isn't your grandma's gingerbread. It provokes strong feelings of loving or loathing, but the person who loved it most was Harriet Lee's best friend Gretel, who greatly influenced every event - good and bad - in Harriet's life. This quirky and sweeping family drama is a riff on the prevalent gingerbread theme in fairy tales, and was really, really interestingly done.
One summer day in 1969, four siblings from the Lower East Side convince a gypsy woman to tell them the dates of their deaths. Armed with that knowledge, we follow the Gold children through the decades as they walk the edge between free will and fate. This story was lovely and sensitive, and I found myself pondering the book long after I finished it in one sitting.
Joanne Fluke has never shaken up her storylines or characters much – at least until the last couple of books in her Hannah Swensen mystery series. It took twenty books for Hannah to finally make a decision and get married, and not long after that for her new husband Ross to go missing, which he has in this book. When his assistant P.K. – who was driving Ross’s car and using his office at KCOW-TV drops dead after eating some chocolates delivered to the office, Hannah can’t help but try to solve the case. Was the poisoned treat actually intended for Ross? Why did Ross take off, leaving only his car keys and a whole lot of money in Hannah’s name? She’ll have to solve the murder to answer those questions. I have a bit of a quibble with this book, because if my new husband went missing, I’d have a hard time going out with friends, throwing dinner parties, and carrying on with work. Hannah (oddly) does all those things. But this story was pretty fun on the whole.
Daisy Jones and the Six rose to become one of the hottest bands of the Seventies, only to unceremoniously disband one night in Chicago, leaving a cadre of disappointed fans. Their story was unknown - until now. This novel is cleverly written as a series of interviews, so that every character's perspective emerges at the same time, and it evokes all that we find magical about music of that era. You'll feel like the head writer of Rolling Stone magazine interviewing Fleetwood Mac - or maybe even like the seventh member of The Six.
This imported British edition was supposed to go on our cozy mystery display, but I couldn’t quite let go of it. G.K. Chesterton wrote his Father Brown series in the years between Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie and the Golden Age of Mysteries, and I’ve long intended to read them. And so I’m sorry not sorry that I scooped this off the display. At 797 pages, I’ll admit that I haven’t finished, but I’ve read enough of these short stories to know that they are absolutely delightful. While Father Brown is truly the star of the book, he rarely makes an appearance until the end of the puzzle, with the perfect solution culled from his unexpected and unlikely knowledge of evil in the world. He has the eyes of Sherlock Holmes and the mild-mannered attitude of Miss Marple, and you can be sure that I’ll be spending a great deal of my snow days with Father Brown.
I love Martha Stewart. Her wit is dry, her homes are gorgeous, and her entertaining is impeccable. (I love her most with Snoop, but that’s a different review.) So of course I had to take a look at her newest book, The Martha Manual. It’s subtitled How To Do (Almost) Everything, and she’s not wrong, because this will guide you from organization to pet care and everything in between, including cleaning, laundering, enjoying, and celebrating. It’s comprehensive, and while it’s a terrific reference book, it’s also lovely to look at. Of course. It’s a good thing.
Every day we are faced with a barrage of timing questions: when should we eat, sleep, exercise, have a meeting. Or the bigger questions: when should we get serious about a large project, a job change, a relationship (a spoiler - it's after all education and between the ages of about 25 and 35). Daniel Pink tells us, and even better, backs up his reasoning with dozens of studies and scientific research. He upends many popular ideas and advocates naps, and lunch as the most important meal of the day. I found the book absolutely fascinating, and couldn't stop sharing tidbits of information with anyone who would listen.