Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Finding Me: A Memoir

Finding Me: A Memoir
by Viola Davis
HarperOne, 2022. 304 pages. Biography/Memoir

You probably know Viola Davis’s face, voice, and commanding screen presence from her roles in How to Get Away with Murder, The Help, Doubt, Fences, and more. But you probably don’t know Viola. 

In Finding Me, the Academy Award, Tony, and Emmy winning actress shares her life story with breathtaking honesty. Growing up in severe poverty, surrounded by abuse, racism, and addiction, she internalized negative messages about herself. Through raw talent, unshakeable determination, and luck, Davis fought her way into a different life, becoming a first-generation college student and eventually studying acting at Juilliard. She describes the slow ascent of her acting career and her even longer journey to self-love in beautiful detail. 

This is a gorgeously written memoir, and I especially recommend listening to Davis’s audiobook narration for its added emotional impact. This is no ghost-written celebrity memoir. Instead, it’s an unflinching look at the experiences of a poor black child in 1960s and 1970s America, at the struggles of a young, dark-skinned black actress on Broadway and in Hollywood in the 80s and 90s, and the triumphs of a modern acting icon.

If you like Finding Me, you might also like:

by Trevor Noah
One World, 2016. 304 pages. Biography/Memoir

Trevor Noah's unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth. Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents' indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa's tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle. The eighteen personal essays collected here are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting, and weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humor and a mother's unconventional, unconditional love.

by Tara Westover
Randomhouse, 2018. 352 pages. Biography/Memoir

Tara Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her "head-for-the-hills bag." In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father's junkyard. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara's older brothers became violent. As a way out, Tara began to educate herself, learning enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University. Her quest for knowledge would transform her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she'd traveled too far, if there was still a way home. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Tara Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education offers: the perspective to see one's life through new eyes, and the will to change it.

by Michelle Obama
Crown, 2018. 448 pages. Biography/Memoir

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America, she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private. A deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations.

Joseph Smith and the Mormons

Joseph Smith and the Mormons
By Noah Van Sciver
Abrams ComicArts, 2022. 455 pages. Graphic Novels

In Joseph Smith and the Mormons, author and illustrator Noah Van Sciver, who was raised a Mormon, covers one of history's controversial figures, Joseph Smith. The book discusses all of the monumental moments during Smith's life, including the anti-Mormon threats and violence which caused his followers to move from New York to Ohio, Smith's receiving the commandment of plural marriage, his imprisonments, his announcement to run for president of the United States, and his ultimate murder by an angry mob in 1844. With a respectful and historical approach, and strikingly illustrated, this graphic novel is the ultimate book for those curious about the origins of the Mormon faith and the man who started it all.

It's probably impossible to depict a person's entire life, but this graphic novel comes close. The book is a massive undertaking, as it clocks in over 400 completely illustrated pages. The pacing is done well, with full page spreads interspersed to give the reader a breather. Noah Van Sciver does an excellent job of humanizing historical figures and providing context behind the stories. Van Sciver moves the story through dialogue rather than a narrator, which helps the reader make their own conclusions. Also helpful are the historical notes included in the back of the book. Overall it is an impressive feat of storytelling. 

If you like Joseph Smith and the Mormons you might also like:

By Tony Lee
Candlewick Press, 2015. Unpaged. YA Comics

It is 1424. France and England have been fighting for more than a hundred years, and Jehanne D'Arc experiences her first saintly vision. From a small town to the cathedral of Reims, Joan follows her faith and leads the French to victory. But not everyone believes in the divine voices she hears. Some call her a heretic and want her burned at the stake. A visually striking, action-packed story of a young woman who become a heroine whose name would be remembered for centuries to come.

By Mark Elwood
Luman Books, 2021. 150 pages. Graphic Novels

The Glass Looker follows an ordinary American farm boy named Joseph Smith who discovers he possesses the magical ability for seeing in stones. Learn the origin story of the boy-prophet through illustrated accounts collected from Joseph, his family, neighbors and enemies.

By Dacia Palmerino
Plough Publishing House, 2017. 155 pages. Graphic Novels

The life of reformer Martin Luther in graphic novel format. Martin Luther, a spiritual and historical giant, is loved and hated to this day--and for good reason. Five hundred years ago a brash young monk single-handedly confronted the most powerful institutions of his day. His bold stand sparked the Protestant Reformation and marked one of the great turning points in history. 


Halina Filipina

By Arnold Arre 
Tuttle Publishing, 2022. 208 pages. Graphic Novels

Halina Mitchell is half-Filipino, half-American. She's also a native New Yorker--sophisticated, beautiful and confident. On her first visit to the Philippines, she arrives in Manila to reconnect with relatives only to encounter a world of surprises that turn all her assumptions on their head. With the intrepid film critic Cris as her guide, she discovers a Manila that few others get to see! 

This is a fun twist on your standard romantic comedy. The illustrations are engaging and Halina’s joy and interest in discovering part of her identity in the Philippines is portrayed well. I really enjoyed that the author, who is a Filipino comic book artist, kept lots of Tagalog sprinkled throughout the book, some translated, some not, with context clues from the imagery to guide our translations. It adds a layer of authenticity to the story telling, and gives a more immersive experience for the reader. 

If you like Halina Filipina, you might also like: 

By Lucy Knisley 
Fantagraphics Books, 2014. 189 pages. Nonfiction/Graphic Novels 

An Age of License is Cartoonist Lucy Knisley's comics travel memoir recounting her adventures in Europe in Scandinavia. It's punctuated by whimsical visual devices; peppered with the cats she meets along the way; and, of course, features her hallmark--drawings and descriptions of food that will make your mouth water. But it's not all kittens and raclette crepes: Knisley's experiences are colored by anxieties, introspective self-inquiries, and quotidian revelations -- about traveling alone in unfamiliar countries, and about her life and career. 

By Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom 
Drawn & Quarterly, 2019. 151 pages. Biography/Graphic Novels 

Thousands of South Korean children were adopted around the world in the 1970s and 1980s. More than nine thousand found their new home in Sweden, including the cartoonist Lisa Wool-Rim Sjèoblom, who was adopted when she was two years old. Sjèoblom's unaddressed feelings about her adoption come to a head when she is pregnant with her first child. When she discovers a document containing the names of her biological parents, she realizes her own history may not match up with the story she's been told her whole life.


Monday, September 26, 2022

The Locked Room

The Locked Room: a Ruth Gallway Mystery

By Elly Griffiths    

First Mariner Books, 2022. 375 pages. Mystery

Three years after her mother's death, Ruth is finally sorting through her things when she finds a curious relic: a decades-old photograph of her own Norfolk cottage--before she lived there--with a peculiar inscription on the back. Ruth returns to the cottage to uncover its meaning as Norfolk's first cases of Covid-19 make headlines, leaving her and Kate to shelter in place there. They struggle to stave off isolation by clapping for frontline workers each evening and befriending a kind neighbor, Zoe, from a distance. Meanwhile, Nelson is investigating a series of deaths of women that may or may not be suicide. When he links a case to an archaeological discovery, he breaks curfew to visit Ruth and enlist her help. But the further Nelson investigates the deaths, the closer he gets to Ruth's isolated cottage--until Ruth, Zoe, and Kate all go missing, and Nelson is left scrambling to find them before it's too late.

This is the fourteenth installment in the Ruth Gallway mysteries, and I've enjoyed them all! I love the combination of archaeology and history paired with current people and events. The characters are wonderful and I was impressed by how the author tackles the beginning of the pandemic in this latest novel. She does it in a way that is easy to relate to, and not too triggering. Ruth is a flawed and highly likeable character. I highly recommend the entire series, the complexities in Ruth's life as well as those she finds in the past are fascinating and exciting.

If you like The Locked Room, you might also like: 

By Ann Cleeves
Minotaur, 2017. 535 pages. Mystery

Three very different women come together to complete an environmental survey. Three women who, in some way or another, know the meaning of betrayal ... For team leader Rachael Lambert the project is the perfect opportunity to rebuild her confidence after a double-betrayal by her lover and boss, Peter Kemp. Botanist Anne Preece, on the other hand, sees it as a chance to indulge in a little deception of her own. And then there is Grace Fulwell, a strange, uncommunicative young woman with plenty of her own secrets to hide ... When Rachael arrives at the cottage, however, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend Bella Furness. Bella, it appears, has committed suicide--a verdict Rachael finds impossible to accept. Only when the next death occurs does a fourth woman enter the picture--the unconventional Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope, who must piece together the truth from these women's tangled lives in The Crow Trap . Ann Cleeves's popular Vera Stanhope books have been made into the hit series "Vera" starring Brenda Blethyn and are available in the U.S.

By Julia Spencer-Fleming
Thomas Dunne Books, 2002. 308 pages. 

It's a cold, snowy December in the upstate New York town of Millers Kill, and newly ordained Clare Fergusson is on thin ice as the first female priest of its small Episcopal church. The ancient regime running the parish covertly demands that she prove herself as a leader. However, her blunt manner, honed by years as an army pilot, is meeting with a chilly reception from some members of her congregation and Chief of Police Russ Van Alystyne, in particular, doesn't know what to make of her, or how to address "a lady priest" for that matter. The last thing she needs is trouble, but that is exactly what she finds. When a newborn baby is abandoned on the church stairs and a young mother is brutally murdered, Clare has to pick her way through the secrets and silence that shadow that town like the ever-present Adirondack mountains. As the days dwindle down and the attraction between the avowed priest and the married police chief grows, Clare will need all her faith, tenacity, and courage to stand fast against a killer's icy heart.

In Honor's Defense

by Karen Witemeyer
Bethany House, 2022. 376 pgs. Romance

When her brother dies suddenly, Damaris Baxter moves to Texas to take custody of her nephew. Luke Davenport winds up gravely injured when he rescues Damaris's nephew from a group of rustlers. As suspicions grow regarding the death of her brother, more danger appears, threatening the family Luke may be unable to live without.

This is the third book in the Hanger's Horsemen series and probably my favorite so far! I liked that Luke got his own story. He's had a rough past and struggles with believing anyone would want him. Damaris starts out so timid and has to keep forcing herself to do things she doesn't think she can. I like how these two learn to support and encourage each other and to open their hearts to love. 

If you like In Honor's Defense you may also like: 

by Tracie Peterson
In 1879, reunited with childhood friend and lawyer Seth Carpenter, recently widowed Nancy Pritchard must search through the pieces of her loveless marriage for the truth behind her husband's death after his schemes come to light. But as they pursue answers, their feelings create complications, and dark secrets reveal themselves.

by Jody Hedlund
After being robbed on her trip west to save her ailing sister, Greta Nilsson is left homeless and penniless. Struggling to get his new ranch running, Wyatt McQuaid is offered a bargain--the mayor will invest in a herd of cattle if Wyatt agrees to help the town become more respectable by marrying...and the mayor has the perfect woman in mind.

by Mary Connealy
After his father's death, Kevin Hunt inherits a ranch in Wyoming-the only catch is it also belongs to a half brother he never knew existed. But danger follows Kevin, and he suspects his half brother is behind it. The only one willing to stand between them is Winona Martin-putting her in the cross hairs of a perilous plot and a risk at love.


Saturday, September 24, 2022

Heartless Prince

Heartless Prince
by Leigh Dragoon
Hyperion, 2021, 160 pages. Young Adult Graphic Novel

Heartless Prince is a graphic novel that follows a princess, Evony, who is taken in by another kingdom because hers was destroyed by a witch. When the prince of the kingdom she lives in loses his heart to the witch, Evony seeks out the witch who stole her prince's heart.

This book has fun twists and turns. It also has beautiful art that is drawn in a fun style. This book is great for those who want a quick fun fantasy read. It is also great for those who like a strong female main character.

If you like Heartless Prince, you might also like:

Another Castle, Grimoire
by Andrew Wheeler
Oni Press, 2017, 134 pages. Young Adult Graphic Novel

Princess Misty of Beldora longs for a more exciting life, but gets more than she bargained for when she is captured by Lord Badlug, the ruler of the neighboring kingdom of Grimoire. He intends to marry her and conquer Beldora, leading the land into ruin and chaos. Together with the long-suffering citizens of Grimoire and a certain bumbling prince, Misty must fight to protect her kingdom and free both realms from Badlug's tyrannical rule. Misty is determined not to be another damsel in distress ; instead, she'll discover just what it takes to be the hero of the story.

Endless Forests
by April Genevieve Tucholke
Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2020. Young Adult Fantasy

In this stand-alone companion novel to The Boneless Mercies, the Cut-Queen and her band of shaven-skulled witches, The Hounds, are using their dark magic in an attempt to kill or convert everyone in Vorseland. Well, almost everyone. Seventeen-year-old Torvi and her younger sister, Frigga, are still fighting for goodness and light in a land covered in snow. But when the Cut-Queen captures Frigga, Torvi teams up with a band of new characters to rescue her sister or die trying. In this gender-bent retelling of King Arthur, April Tucholke showcases more fierce girl heroes, bloodlust, and quests for power in another darkly elegant tale that is perfect for fans of Maggie Stiefvater, V.E. Schwab, and Heidi Heilig.


Corre, Rose, Corre

Corre, Rose, Corre
Por Dolly Parton
Contraluz, 2022. 537 páginas. Ficción

Descubrir el futuro. Enterrar el pasado. Ella es una promesa de la música que canta sobre la dura vida que ha dejado atrás. Y está huyendo. Llega a Nashville para reclamar su destino. Y en Nashville la oscuridad de la que ha escapado podría encontrarla. Y destruirla. Corre, Rose, Corre. Una impetuosa historia repleta de riesgos y deseos.

Si le gusta «Corre, Rose, Corre» le recomendamos:

El Poder del Perro
Por Thomas Savage
Alianza Editorial, 2022. 359 páginas. Ficción

Montana, 1924. Phil y George son hermanos y socios, copropietarios del rancho más grande del valle. Cabalgan juntos, transportando miles de cabezas de ganado, y siguen durmiendo en la habitación que habían tenido de niños, en las mismas camas de bronce. Phil es alto y anguloso, George rechoncho e impertubable.

Phil podía haber sido cualquier cosa que se propusiera, George es tranquilo y no tiene aficiones. A Phil le gusta provocar, George carece de sentido del humor, pero tiene ganas de amar y ser amado. Cuando George se casa con Rose, una joven viuda, y la trae a vivir a la hacienda, Phil comienza una campaña implacable para destruirla. Pero los más débiles no siempre son quienes uno cree.

El Arquero
Por Paublo Coelho
Vintage Español, 2020. 148 páginas. Ficción

Tetsuya es el mejor arquero del país, pero vive retirado en un valle remoto y trabaja de humilde carpintero. Un día, otro arquero que viene de lejos le desafía. Tetsuya acepta el reto y le demuestra al extranjero que para vencer, tanto con el arco como en la vida, no basta la habilidad técnica.

Un joven del pueblo le pide que le transmita su saber. El maestro le advierte que puede enseñarle las reglas necesarias, pero es él quien deberá trabajar sobre sí mismo. Es así como Tetsuya empieza a instruir a su nuevo discípulo en el misterioso camino del arquero, el recorrido de toda una vida.


Labels: Español, MEB, Ficción, Ficción Historica

Monday, September 19, 2022

Bird Summons

By Leila Aboulela
Black Cat, 2020. 290 pages. Fiction

When Salma, Moni, and Iman-friends and active members of their local Muslim Women's group-decide to take a road trip together to the Scottish Highlands, they leave behind lives often dominated by obligation, frustrated desire, and dull predictability. Each wants something more out of life, but fears the cost of taking it. Salma is successful and happily married, but tempted to risk it all when she's contacted by her first love back in Egypt; Moni gave up a career in banking to care for her disabled son without the help of her indifferent husband; and Iman, in her twenties and already on her third marriage, longs for the freedom and autonomy she's never known. When the women are visited by the Hoopoe, a sacred bird from Muslim and Celtic literature, they are compelled to question their relationships to faith and femininity, love, loyalty, and sacrifice. 

There is a lot of beauty in Bird Summons, both from the setting (the Scottish Highlands) and from the Islamic women, their lives and faith. The element of magic realism was a fresh way of depicting the consequences of both our thoughts and actions. I appreciated the struggle the three women face of reconciling their faith with their desires and the challenges of modern life. My favorite quote from the novel: "Religion is the recognition of beauty."

If you like Bird Summons you might also like:

By Marsha Mehran
Random House, 2005. 222 pages. Fiction

Three Iranian sisters--Marjan, Layla, and Bahar Aminpour--flee the turmoil of the Islamic Revolution in their native country to seek refuge in Ireland, where they open the exotic Babylon Cafe.

By Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi
Tin House, 2020. 545 pages. Fiction

In her twelfth year, Kirabo, a young Ugandan girl, confronts a piercing question that has haunted her childhood: who is my mother? Kirabo has been raised by women in the small village of Nattetta-her grandmother, her best friend, and her many aunts, but the absence of her mother follows her like a shadow. Complicating these feelings of abandonment, as Kirabo comes of age she feels the emergence of a mysterious second self, a headstrong and confusing force inside her at odds with her sweet and obedient nature. Seeking answers, Kirabo begins spending afternoons with Nsuuta, a local witch, trading stories and learning not only about this force inside her, but about the woman who birthed her, who she learns is alive but not ready to meet. Nsuuta also explains that Kirabo has a streak of the "first woman"-an independent, original state that has been all but lost to women. Kirabo's journey to reconcile her rebellious origins, alongside her desire to reconnect with her mother and to honor her family's expectations, is rich in the folklore of Uganda and an arresting exploration of what it means to be a modern girl in a world that seems determined to silence women.


Friday, September 9, 2022

Any Other Family

Any Other Family
by Eleanor Brown
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2022. 354 pages. Fiction

When three different families adopt biological siblings, they commit to keeping the siblings as connected as possible. This means family dinners on Sundays, weekly playdates, spending holidays together, and a two week family vacation in Aspen. But not everything is smooth sailing. Each family has their own boundaries, personalities, and struggles, and learning to meld into a single family unit isn't easy. When the group receives word that the birth mother is pregnant again and looking for another adoptive family, the delicate bonds these families are forming threaten to collapse.

Any Other Family is a character-driven story that I found I could relate to even though I don't know anything about the world of adoption. Told in alternating chapters from the perspectives of the three main female characters, each woman's personality and inner struggles melds and blends with the driving plot point to deepen the premise into something more. While Brown isn't quite as successful in fleshing out the men and the birth mother, I still found this story to be heartwarming, sad, happy, frustrated, confused, and hopeful all at once. Brown separates the novel into sections by interspersing the files of the new baby's prospective adoptive families throughout; a touch I especially liked. This is an engaging tale of the creation of an atypical family.

If you like Any Other Family you might also like:

by Emily Giffin
Ballantine Books, 2016. 384 pages. Fiction

Meredith thought she'd done it all rightmarried the perfect man, had the perfect daughterbut as she grows increasingly restless, she can't help but wonder if she got the love part wrong. Josie has been happily single for years, but she wants a child of her own so much she's one bad date away from heading straight for the baby carriage all on her own. The sisters, whose relationship was strained by the tragic death of their older brother over a decade ago, find that they need each other more than they realized.

by Alison Fairbrother
Random House, 2022. 275 pages. Fiction

Twentysomething Ellie was sure he would leave her his most prized possession, a baseball with which they played catch, and which sat on his desk, as a kind of inspiration: her poet father's most famous poem was called "The Catch." But when her father's will is read, his children, including from other marriages, each receive a meaningful object, except Ellie, who receives a glow-in-the-dark tie rack that she has never seen before. The baseball that inspired her father's work is left to someone with initials no one recognizes, L.M. Determined to try to understand her father's life and to overcome her sense of abandonment, Ellie sets out to track down L.M. In her quest she discovers many startling things about who her father really was and comes to realize the deeper meaning of that baseball, that poem "The Catch," and the many ways life catches us unawares.

by Cathleen Schine 
Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019. 258 pages. Historical Fiction

Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins, share an obsession with words. As adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation begins to push them apart. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition.


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Rock Paper Scissors

Rock Paper Scissors
By Alice Feeney 
Flatiron Books, 2021. 294 pages. Mystery 

Think you know the person you married? Think again. Things have been wrong with Mr. and Mrs. Wright for a long time. When Adam and Amelia win a weekend away in Scotland, it might be just what their marriage needs. Self-confessed workaholic and screenwriter Adam Wright has lived with face blindness his whole life. He can't recognize friends or family, or even his own wife. Every anniversary the couple exchange traditional gifts--paper, cotton, pottery, tin--and each year Adam's wife writes him a letter that she never lets him read. Until now. They both know this weekend will make or break their marriage, but they didn't randomly win this trip. One of them is lying, and someone doesn't want them to live happily ever after. Ten years of marriage. Ten years of secrets. And an anniversary they will never forget. 

This one is a slow build that ends in one of the most carefully constructed and mind-blowing twists I’ve read in a long time. The Scottish Highlands provides an unpredictable, and sometimes foreboding, setting for this thriller; its snowy isolation building the suspense of the troubled couple. Mr. and Mrs. Wright are equally secretive characters with their own suspicious motives that push the narrative along with purpose. Intricately plotted in a way that every page exposes a new deception propelling us towards an explosive conclusion that had me furiously turning back to the beginning to figure out how I missed it and to admire how the author weaved such a story. I highly recommend this book for those who love a twist ending! 

If you liked Rock Paper Scissors, you might also like:

By Shari Lapena
Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2021. 349 pages. Mystery 

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets--especially the dead. Brecken Hill is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there and they don't come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated. Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you'd know. Wouldn't you? 

By B.A. Paris 
St. Martin’s Press, 2018. 291 pages. Mystery 

She went missing. He moved on. 
Finn and Layla are young, in love, and on vacation. When Finn decides to stop at a service station to use the restroom, Layla is gone when he returns...never to be seen again. This is the story Finn told the police, but it is not the whole story. Ten years later, Finn is engaged to Layla’s sister, Ellen. Their shared grief drew them close, but there is something about Ellen that Finn has never understood. His heart wants to believe that she is the one for him, even though a sixth sense tells him not to trust her. Then, not long before he and Ellen are to be married, Finn gets a phone call. Someone from his past has seen Layla, hiding in plain sight. There are other odd occurrences: emails from strangers who seem to know too much, secret messages, clues, warnings. If Layla is alive, and on Finn's trail, what does she want?


Saturday, September 3, 2022

Miss Latimore's Letter

Miss Latimore’s Letter

by Suzanne Allain

Penguin Random House, 2021. 262 pages. Romance

Sophronia Lattimore had her romantic dreams destroyed years ago and is resigned to her role as chaperone for her cousin. Still, she cannot sit idly by when she becomes aware that a gentleman is about to propose to the wrong woman. She sends him an anonymous letter that is soon the talk of the town, particularly when her advice proves to be correct. Her identity is discovered and Sophie, formerly a wallflower, becomes sought after for her expert matchmaking skills. One person who seeks her out is the eligible and attractive Sir Edmund Winslow. As Sophie assists Sir Edmund in his pursuit of a wife, she wishes she could recommend herself as his bride. However, she vows to remain professional and uninvolved while aiding him in his search (especially since the gentleman surely does not return her affections). Three unexpected arrivals soon show up at Sophie's door the man who once broke her heart, a newlywed who is dissatisfied with the match Sophie made for her, and the man madly in love with Sophie's cousin-all wanting her attention. But when her onetime beau and Sir Edmund both appear to be interested in her, Sophie can't figure out if she's headed for another broken heart or for the altar. How can she be expected to help other people sort out their romantic lives when her own is such a disaster?

This is a delightful Regency comedy of errors. Like Allain’s previous work, Mr. Malcolm’s List, Miss Latimore’s Letter introduces us to another hapless heroine who eventually comes into her own. In what could almost be called a Proper Romance, Allain builds tension between love interests to you keep you turning pages, but doesn’t get spicy in an off-putting way. The writing is fresh and fun while maintaining the rules of Regency etiquette. I found myself giggling several times at the hijinks that ensue when matchmaking is attempted. Overall, this was a great book to escape into for a few hours and return revived and refreshed. This book is definitely for fans of Sarah Eden and Julianne Donaldson.  

If you liked Miss Lattimore’s Letter, you might like:

The Bachelor and the Bride

by Sarah Eden

Shadow Mountain, 2022. 363 pages. Romance

London,1866 - Dr. Barnabus Milligan has always felt called to help people, whether that means setting a broken bone or rescuing the impoverished women of London from their desperate lives on the streets as part of his work with the Dread Penny Society. Three years ago, he helped rescue Gemma Kincaid by marrying her in secret to protect her from her family, notorious grave robbers who were intent on keeping her working in the trade. But their unconventional relationship is nearly over before it begins when, six months after they exchange vows, Gemma realizes her love for Barnabus is unrequited. To protect her heart, she leaves, telling Barnabus to contact her if his feelings for her ever grow beyond a sense of duty. When Gemma finally receives a letter from Barnabus, inviting her to return home, she hopes to find a true connection between them. But she quickly learns that he only wants her help to foil the Kincaids, who have been terrorizing the boroughs of London, eager to gain both money and power. Heartbroken once more, Gemma agrees to help, but she warns Barnabus that she will not stay for long, and once she goes, he'll never see her again. Yet as the couple follow the clues that seem to connect the Kincaids to the Mastiff, the leader of London's underground criminal network, Gemma and Barnabus both realize they might make a better match than either of them suspected. Perhaps the marriage that had once saved Gemma's life, might prove the means of saving Barnabus--and his lonely heart--as well.

The Valet’s Secret

by Josi Kilpack

Shadow Mountain, 2022. 288 pages. Romance

York, England, 1819. As a once happily married woman, Rebecca Parker lived a charmed life, but now widowed and working for a living, she feels alone and living a mundane existence. That is until the day a valet speeding by on a horse nearly runs her off the road. Mr. Malcolm Henry is apologetic, gentle, and very handsome. She's instantly drawn to him, which is why, rather than stopping him from kissing her, she finds herself kissing him back, reigniting a nearly forgotten passion in her. But love at first sight only happens in fairy tales--never to an ordinary woman like her. Still, she cannot stop thinking about Mr. Henry and the kiss they shared ... But while working in the kitchens during a fancy dinner party, she sees something strange: the valet--the valet she kissed--is sitting at the right hand of the baroness. She realizes that Mr. Henry is not the earl's valet; he is the earl--Kenneth Winterton. Heartbroken, angry, and betrayed, Rebecca isn't sure she can trust Lord Winterton, much less accept his apology. But when Lord Winterton proves he is as kind and gentle as "Mr. Henry" was, she finds herself willing to give him a second chance. But will he still take a chance on her, when choosing a commoner means he might lose his inheritance?


Full Flight

Full Flight 
By Ashley Schumacher 
Wednesday Books, 2022. 314 pages. Young Adult Fiction 

 Anna James didn’t start in band as early as everyone else in her high school’s marching band. Even so, she’s determined to prove herself. When she's assigned a duet with mellophone player Weston Ryan, the boy her town thinks of as nothing but trouble, she's equal parts thrilled and intimidated. When her strict parents find out she's been secretly seeing him and keep them apart, Anna and Weston learn what it truly means to fight for something they love. With an important marching contest nearing and the two falling hard for one another, the unthinkable happens, and Anna is left grappling for a way forward without Weston. 

This book sent me on an emotional journey. It’s both sweet and lovely, and absolutely it destroyed me. I love Anna and Weston, both individually and as a couple. They’re cute and charming, and everything you would hope for in a high school romance. As a high school band nerd, this took me back to my own days of marching band and my imagination had everything happening in my high school band room. There are some great messages about passing judgement on people you don’t know, and how looks can be deceiving. 

If you liked Full Flight, you might also like: 

By Rainbow Rowell 
St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013. 328 pages. Young Adult Fiction 

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, this is the story of two star-crossed misfits--smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try. 

By Emery Lord 
Bloomsbury, 2015. 376 pages. Young Adult Fiction 

Paige Hancock starts junior year with a list of ways to take back her life, rather than spending another year as "The Girl Whose Boyfriend Drowned," and finding out that Ryan Chase, her long-term crush, is available again might be the key. 


Thursday, September 1, 2022

The Donut Trap

The Donut Trap

by Julie Tieu

OverDrive Audiobook. Fiction. Romance.

Jasmine Tran has landed herself behind bars--maple bars that is. With no boyfriend or job prospects, Jasmine returns home to work at her parents' donut shop. Jasmine quickly loses herself in a cyclical routine of donuts, Netflix, and sleep. She wants to break free from her daily grind, but when a hike in rent threatens the survival of their shop, her parents rely on her more than ever. Help comes in the form of an old college crush, Alex Lai. Not only is he successful and easy on the eyes, to her parents' delight, he's also Chinese. He's everything she should wish for, until a disastrous dinner reveals Alex isn't as perfect as she thinks. Worse, he doesn't think she's perfect either. With both sets of parents against their relationship, a family legacy about to shut down, and the reappearance of an old high school flame, Jasmine must scheme to find a solution that satisfies her family's expectations and can get her out of the donut trap once and for all.
I'm not usually a reader of fiction or romance, but this book was very enjoyable. The characters are easy to get invested in and I found myself feeling their sadness and joy along with them. The humor hit just at the right time and didn't come in too heavy. The only thing I didn't like about this book was how hungry I found myself while reading it (note to self, when reading book about food, bring snacks). This book is available as an audiobook on Libby.

If you like The Donut Trap you might also like... 

A Pho Love Story

by Loan Le

Simon & Schuster, 2021. 406 p. Young Adult Fiction.

High school seniors Bảo and Linh, whose feuding families own competing Vietnamese restaurants, conceal their budding romance, as well as Linh's desire to become an artist.

A Taste for Love

by Jennifer Yen

Razorbill, 2021. 322 p. Young Adult Fiction

Both high school senior Liza Yang and her mother share a love and talent for baking but disagree on the subject of dating, especially when Mrs. Yang turns her annual baking contest into a matchmaking scheme.

The Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow

by Laura Taylor Namey

Atheneum, 2020. 308 p. Young Adult Fiction

Seventeen-year-old Lila Reyes, furious when her parents send her to the English countryside to recover from grief and heartbreak, unexpectedly falls in love with a teashop clerk--and England, itself. Reading Level: Ages 12 up. Atheneum Books for Young Readers.