Speed of Life, by Carol Weston (2017)

Contemporary Fiction
11-15
Speed of Life, by Carol WestonHave a tween/early teen daughter? Run out and get her this book now. omg I loved it! Sofia is deeply mourning her mother’s sudden death less than a year ago. She misses her mother so much, and her presence is everywhere, from the school Sofia attends where her mother was a teacher to the New York City apartment where Sofia lives with her gynecologist Dad. They’ll have to move out soon, though, as the apartment is for faculty members only, and well, she’s gone. At 14, Sofia has a lot of questions about life, love, sex, friends, clothes and more. Even though Dad is a gynecologist, Sofia can’t talk to him about such things. When Fifteen magazine’s advice columnist Dear Kate comes to Sofia’s school, she feels a connection and begins to email her about everything from first kisses to a pimple she finds “down there.” Read more of this post

On Turpentine Lane, by Elinor Lipman (2017)

Romance
Adult
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor LipmanI’ve read only one other book by Elinor Lipman, The Inn at Lake Devine, years before I started this blog, but I’ve never forgotten it. That says a lot about her writing, and I happily dove into this new offering. It doesn’t quite measure up to Lake Devine, in my view, but it’s a lovely choice for a bit of escapism in a winter that is sticking around longer than it should! The book opens with 30-something Faith Frankel deciding to buy a little house on, you guessed it, Turpentine Lane. Smitten by the two-storey home complete with a delightful pineapple newel post, Faith soon negotiates the buy from the owner’s distant daughter, as the actual owner, Mrs. Lavoie, is in hospital, having tried to commit suicide. Faith then finds out the woman’s first, second, and third husbands all died in the house. Read more of this post

The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living, by Louise Miller (2016)

Romance
Adult
The City Baker's Guide to Country LivingI love fish out of water stories, and this one has great appeal (though it is primarily a romance). When Olivia Rawlings accidentally sets fire to the swank Boston restaurant where she is both pastry chef and mistress to the married owner, she sensibly takes refuge out of town with her best friend Hannah, who now lives in small-town Guthrie, Vermont. Pregnant Hannah wants her buddy to stay and swiftly finds her a temporary job as the dessert chef at the town’s inn. It even comes with a sugar shack that Livvy can live in with her rambunctious dog Salty. It’s a big switch for Livvy, and the fit is awkward at times, given her penchant for sudden Manic Panic hair dye changes and her f-bombs in a Christian community. Fun! Read more of this post

The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko, by Scott Stambach (2016)

Contemporary
Ages 16-Adult
The Invisible Life of Ivan IsaenkoIvan Isaenko has lived his entire 17 years in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children, where he spends his days studying and skewering the people around him, reading the books Nurse Natalya brings him, and trying to find sense in a world that he can only watch from the sidelines. Born less than two years after the Chernobyl Reactor disaster, Ivan has never known his parents. He lacks legs, and has one arm and just three fingers on his lone hand. He also has a keen intellect, a wicked sense of humour, and agoraphobia. Other than Nurse Natalya, Ivan keeps everyone at a distance. He prides himself on identifying the “three-monthers” (those whose lives are nearing the end) before the doctors do. Read more of this post

The Loose Ends List, by Carrie Firestone (2016)

Romance
15-21
The Loose Ends List, by Carrie FirestoneHere’s another book where I seem to diverge from the collective views. Maddie is 18 years old and is looking forward to spending her post-high school summer with her best friends as they get ready for college. Her plans are upset when her beloved Gram calls the family together to announce she has cancer, and has booked them all on a world cruise, a “dying with dignity” cruise with other terminal patients and families, by the end of which all the patients will be gone. So let’s look at the good stuff first. This is a young adult novel tackling euthanasia with gusto. These patients choose when to die and a doctor on board gives them the final needle. YA lit often takes on tough topics, and this one is done really well. Read more of this post

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch (2016)

Science Fiction
Adult
Dark Matter, by Blake CrouchThis will be a short review because too much information will spoil the story, and it’s a terrific one. First of all, let’s start with Schrodinger’s Cat – the philosophical puzzle that attempts to explain the idea of quantum superpositions – the cat in the box is BOTH dead and alive until the observer opens the box. One reality results and the other collapses. (That’s the best I can do. I’m a BA in History.) Or, think of a tree. From a single trunk grow branches, spawning more branches and on every branch are twigs and on each twig are leaves. Each leaf is the result of branching off the original trunk. Still with me? So in this story, Jason Dessen is a physics professor at a Chicago-area college who set aside his dreams of a Nobel Prize in Physics to marry Daniela and become a father to Charlie. Read more of this post

The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman, by Mamen Sanchez (2013, 2016)

Romance
Adult
The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus CraftsmanWhen Atticus Finchman is sent to Spain to close a literary magazine, he brings Earl Grey tea, an electric kettle and a proper British teacup. Tea, Atticus has learned, can solve nearly every problem, or at least give you the strength to deal with it. But tea is no match for the five fiery Spanish women whose livelihood is threatened, and they soon devise a scheme to distract the young Englishman from his assignment. But when no one hears from Atticus for three months, his father Marlow travels to Madrid to alert the police, and Inspector Manchego gets the case. Language barriers mis-steps, literary references, and a delightful cast of characters provide a promising start for this romantic mystery that includes an appearance by Ernest Hemingway. Read more of this post

The Versions of Us, by Laura Barnett (2015, 2016)

Romance
Adult
The Versions of Us by Laura BarnettDebut author Laura Barnett takes the “what if” concept and spins it into a complicated triptych – three versions of the lives of Eva Edelstein and Jim Taylor. The two first cross paths (literally) as 19-year-olds in 1958 in England when a dog dashes toward Eva on her bicycle. In two versions she crashes and Jim helps her up; in one she avoids the collision and while their eyes meet, they don’t. Yet. The three stories slowly play out, with the same events (births, parties, art exhibitions, funerals) occurring at the right time in each version, but with very different plots. The book spans more than 50 years (70 if you include the prologue). In each version they are a couple, but at different points, for different lengths, and with various levels of happiness. Read more of this post

The Rejected Writers’ Book Club, by Suzanne Kelman (2014, 2016)

Romance
Adult
The Rejected Writers' Book ClubThe way to find literary gems is to take a chance on all kinds of offerings. In this case, a delightful cover initially attracted me, followed by the description. Small-town librarian Janet Jones and spouse Martin are empty-nesters living in Southlea Bay, located on a fictional island in Puget Sound off Seattle. They moved there from California, where difficult daughter Stephanie still lives. Determined to catch the rascally raccoons invading the garden, Martin turns to building a trap using duct tape and birdseed, while Janet does some research that lands her at a meeting of the Rejected Writers’ Book Club, led by the forceful Doris Newberry (a joke for children’s lit lovers). Read more of this post

Movie Game, by Michael Ebner (2016)

Mystery
Ages 16-25
Movie GameIt’s been three years since Joe’s girlfriend suddenly died on the same night he caught his mother in bed with someone not his father. His father left the family and never came back, and his mother abandoned her nearly-adult children to move in with her lover. Joe’s now 17, has regular sex with a girl who already has a boyfriend, and devotes all his time to movies. A cinephile who stalks and threatens the talkers and popcorn-chewers who disrupt his film experience, Joe lives in the family home with his sister, Loren, who fools the neighbours by regularly hanging her mother’s clothes on the line. Finishing university with no social life to speak of, Loren has a job offer in Paris but won’t walk away from her responsibilities. Read more of this post

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, by Katarina Bivald (2013, 2016)

Romance
Adult
The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThis is a book for booklovers. A book about books, in the vein of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society or 84, Charing Cross Road. Sara Lindqvist is a self-described mousy-haired bookshop clerk from Sweden. She has been exchanging letters for some two and a half years with Amy Harris, who lives in the downtrodden and tiny town of Broken Wheel, Iowa. When the bookshop closes and Sara finds herself out of a job and with plenty of time on her hands, she accepts Amy’s offer of a place to stay, and makes the voyage with intentions of spending her days chatting about books and life with her pen pal. Alas, she arrives to discover that Amy was in fact quite ill, and has passed away. Read more of this post

A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg (2004)

Fiction
Adult
A Redbird ChristmasReliable Southern fiction writer Fannie Flagg won me over on the second page as she introduced Oswald T. Campbell, a 52-year-old orphan who visits the doctor to discover he has months to live. In filling out the damn forms the doctor’s receptionist thrusts at him, he comes to a space asking him to list his complaints. He doesn’t hesitate: “The Cubs need a new second baseman.” Instead Oswald is told to abandon Chicago and its wintry weather. The good doc even fishes out a faded brochure for an inexpensive resort in Lost River, Alabama. Turns out the place burned down in 1911, but Oswald is lucky and connects with a helpful resident who picks up the phone at the community centre. She takes his number and as promised, calls back with an offer Oswald can’t refuse – a $50/week room in Betty Kitchen’s home, including meals. Read more of this post

Everything, Everything, by Nicola Yoon (2015)

Romance
14-18
Everything, EverythingWe have all heard of babies born so allergic they live in a bubble. A sterile world designed to protect them from the perils of everyday life: germs, bacteria, and even otherwise benign things that might trigger a deadly reaction. Imagine living this life. What would it be like to spend your childhood and adolescence protected from dangers but with virtually no contact with the outside world? To have never known a car ride, the jostle of strangers in a line-up, or the earthy smell of the air after a rainstorm. This is the life Madeline Whittier lives with her mother, a physician, and Carla, her daytime nurse. Learning is by skype, with very occasional visits by tutors, who must keep a cautious distance. Read more of this post

Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Marty Wingate (2015)

Mystery
Adult
Between a Rock and a Hard PlaceLooking for a quirky new cozy mystery series? How about a Texan garden historian transplanted to the U.K., where she falls for a Detective Inspector and solves murder mysteries as easily as she can reel off the Latin names of your favourite English perennial? Pru Parke is the 50-something protagonist again appearing in what is the third entry in the Potting Shed Mystery series. It can be read as a standalone, but there are enough distracting references to past events that you might want to seek out Book 1 first. This title opens not with death but with love, as Pru accepts a surprise marriage proposal from her beloved, Christopher Pearse. Read more of this post

The Little Paris Bookshop, by Nina George (2013, 2015)

Literary Romance
Adult
The Little Paris BookshopWhat a wonderfully multicultural novel this turns out to be! Originally written in German by Nina George and published in 2013, it has been translated into English by Simon Pare. The novel is set in France, and features mostly French characters, as well as a wonderfully earthy Italian lover and cook. Jean Perdu is our protagonist, who has been mourning the loss of his great love Manon, who left him two decades ago. Now 50, he lives in an unadorned Paris apartment and operates a book barge, The Literary Apothecary, moored on the banks of the Seine. From the barge he dispenses books as therapy for emotional ailments. Until he meets Catherine, a neighbour who is in deep emotional pain after being discarded by her husband. Read more of this post