Margaret and Chip are the Golden Couple – a bit entitled, perhaps, but also young, ambitious, and so perfect for each other that they finish each other’s sentences. Margaret has had an obsessive fear of flying since childhood, but Chip – who is one final test away from his pilot’s license – convinced her to go up with him, where he proposed. A freak windstorm hit, however, and while he walked away without a scratch, Margaret faces long weeks in the hospital, covered in burns, unable to walk, and attempting to piece together a different life from the one she had planned. Katherine Center’s writing is lovely, her characters are fun and relatable, and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel of rediscovery.
Two things before I actually start this review: 1. This was not my favorite book of the Armand Gamache mystery series, and 2. I accidently read it out of order, which may have slightly skewed my thinking a little. But only a little. The monastery of Saint Gilbert Among the Wolves was known for two things – their disappearance during the Inquisition, and their beautiful voices raised in the ancient chants known as the ‘Beautiful Mystery.’ Discord over the production of a cd that will break their vows of silence but also provide money for much needed building repairs lead Chief Inspector Gamache and his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvior to investigate the murder of choir director Brother Mathieu. While I learned a lot about Gregorian chants, I did find this particular installment a bit long – that is until the very end. And I missed the usual cast of Three Pines characters. Read it anyway, because while it’s not the most interesting book in the series, it does provide some insight into Gamache’s and Beauvior’s personal lives.
Casey Pendergast is the ambitious creative director for a top Minneapolis advertising firm, and she’s thrilled to be working with Real Housewives star Ellen Hanks. Ellen is working hard on her ‘personal brand’ and Casey hopes to impress her impossible-to-please boss Celeste, and work on the new campaign to woo literary idols into lucrative contacts – until her conscience starts to erode under the pressure. This fun novel is a terrific mashup of Mad Men and The Devil Wears Prada, and a perfect ‘palate cleanser’ of a weekend read.
Jennifer McGaha had a long history of denial. In her first marriage, the denial was spousal abuse that would not improve. In her second, she ignored of the financial status of her family, and the fact that they owned hundreds of thousands of back taxes. And then she was oblivious as to just how hard it could be to live in an Appalachian cabin in the woods, with its wood boilers and unpredictable hot water, snakes, mice, and mold everywhere. But she also discovered that those things mean a time to slow down, live in the moment, and assess just what is really important. McGaha tells her story with candor and humor, and while I have no urge to embrace her lifestyle, she certainly makes it interesting.
I've always loved Wade Rouse's memoirs, but his fiction works focused on family treasures are almost as personal. Writing as Viola Shipman, the story of pastry chef Sam Mullins unfolds one cherished family recipe at a time. Sam couldn't wait to leave the northern Michigan apple orchard on which she was raised, but when her celebrity chef boss with an ego as big as his audience publicly humiliates her, she quits and returns home to lick her wounds. And in the embrace of tradition, family, and a beautiful Michigan summer, she learns where her heart really lies. Included are several of the author's own family recipes - the apple crisp is particularly delicious!
Marisa de los Santos returns with some of my all-time favorite characters in her latest book, but this time Clare Hobbes is a grown woman and ready to get married – or so she thinks, until she meets an elderly woman during her wedding weekend, and Edith’s words inspire Clare to call off her marriage to her charming but possessive fiancé. Several weeks later, Clare is shocked to learn that Edith has died and left Clare Blue Sky House and a set of mysterious ledgers to decipher. This lovely, fascinating story is set both in the 1950s and present, and alternates between Edith’s and Clare’s voices. I’ve loved Marisa’s last two books, but this one is definitely my new favorite.
Mrs. Sherlock Holmes tells the true story of Grace Humiston, who became a lawyer, U.S. district attorney, and detective before women even had the vote. A rash of missing girls entices her to take on the case of eighteen-year-old Ruth Cruger, and along with her private detective partner, she uncovers the truth against a backdrop of dirty cops, secret boyfriends, and rumors of a white slavery ring. Humiston's fascinating story was unknown to me, and while this book is a biography, it reads like the best mystery.
A crazy grave robber, a boa constrictor named Ethel, and a slew of headless corpses? Add in the antics of Grandma Mazur and Lula, several exploded cars (and one exploding groundhog) and the reappearance of Diesel, and you have a pretty typical week for Stephanie Plum. She's on the hunt for the Supreme Ruler of the Zombies in this latest adventure, and fans of this long-running series won't be disappointed.
Sylvie and Dan have the perfect life - a lovely home, gorgeous twin girls, fulfilling jobs, and a relationship so solid that they finish each other's sentences. But they've also been married for ten years, and Sylvie can't help but wonder if they've become a little too...predictable. She has a scheme to spice things up - they'll surprise each other and prove that they still can. Typically, however, the plan takes some unexpected and funny turns, which is probably the biggest surprise of all - to Sylvie, at least. For the rest of us, this is pure Sophie Kinsella fun.
Pauline Bright, her husband, and their three daughters moved to Philadelphia from a small tobacco farm for the opportunity of a lifetime - Mr. Bright's bachelor uncle has offered his thriving mortuary business to the family, but as they are adjusting to their comfortable new life, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 breaks out and devastates their newly adopted city. This fascinating story is told in alternating voices and is set not only against the backdrop of the worst pandemic in history but also that of The Great War. The choice of a funeral home also gives an interesting perspective, and I certainly learned a lot about what, to me, was a virtually unknown piece of history. This was a page-turner and definitely a new favorite.
Louisa Cannon dreams of escaping her hardscrabble life in London. Nancy Mitford longs for adventure away from her quiet country home. The two bond when Louisa becomes the nursery maid in the Mitford household, and they begin to solve the mystery of nurse Florence Nightingale Shore's impossible murder aboard a train bound for a seaside cottage and a quiet retirement after helping thousands of men during the Great War. This fun, first-in-a-series mystery is set in 1920, and features not only a real family, but a real unsolved crime - although the solution Fellowes writes is certainly a plausible one. This book was delightful, and perfect for Downton Abbey fans.