Fall into New Fiction

Flying Solo
by Linda Holmes 

When Laurie Sassalyn’s cherished Aunt Dot dies at the age of 93, Laurie returns to her hometown of Calcasset, Maine to settle her estate. Laurie is also licking her wounds after calling off her wedding, having decided that like Dot, she never wants to marry. Dot’s house is filled with mementos from her adventure-filled life, and while Laurie was young, it helped provide Laurie with a retreat from her own home that she shared with four brothers and never-ending chaos. Now that Laurie is almost 40, she’s built a life and home like Dot’s for herself in Seattle, where she lives in peace as a freelance nature writer with a busy social life with friends.

Laurie believes that Dot’s things deserve respect and intends to go through each item before returning to Seattle. She has hired a professional declutterer to help her with the valuables. This man takes a keen interest in a wooden duck that Laurie uncovered hidden in Dot’s cedar chest. Laurie knows that this duck was somehow important to Dot, and isn’t sure she wants to part with it, but the declutterer insists it is worthless. Laurie lets the duck go, but cannot stop thinking about it, and when she enlists the help of her life-long friend June and her high school boyfriend Nick Cooper – now the (divorced) town librarian, the two encourage her to dig into the duck’s history.

The more time Laurie spends in Maine, the more she begins to doubt her life choices. She is drawn to Nick, but knows she will be leaving soon. She misses her hometown and friends there, but isn’t willing to sacrifice her independence. Laurie has some choices to make -but first, she has a duck to recapture.

Flying Solo by Linda Holmes is a warm and funny, cozy romantic read, perfect for these early Autumn days. With likeable, atypical characters who have real-world problems and no easy solutions, this novel is about being comfortable in one’s own skin, celebrating one’s independence and ability to compromise, and the road not taken.

-Carol

Fall into New Fiction

Mika in Real Life
by Emiko Jean

Mika Suzuki is 35, single, and broke, living in her best friend’s house and has just lost her most recent job. She is floored when she receives a phone call from Penny, the daughter she gave up for adoption 16 years previously when Mika was a college freshman. The two begin to talk regularly and truly start to bond. Mika is overjoyed to get this chance to connect with her birth daughter, but when Penny decides she wants to visit Mika in Portland, Oregon, Mika panics.

Mika, ashamed of her life, has lead Penny to believe that she owns her own home, is a successful art gallery owner, and has a long-term boyfriend. To prevent a catastrophe, Mika’s friends decide to help her construct her fabricated dream-life for Penny’s visit —one that quickly falls apart when Penny discovers Mika hasn’t been honest.

As Mika wrestles with how to repair their new relationship, she must confront issues from her past, including her family’s immigration from Japan when she was young, her relationship with her impossible-to-please mother, and the circumstances of Penny’s birth. Mika also needs to decide what to do about her budding feelings for Thomas, Penny’s adopted, widowed father. As Mika spends more time with Penny and Thomas and begins to work on herself, she wonders if she will ever feel she deserves good things.

Mika in Real Life by Emiko Jean is a smart, endearing, and sometimes funny novel about relationships between mothers and daughters, the power of good friendships, and learning to love oneself. Mika is a flawed and realistic character that you’ll root for from the first page. Pick up Mika in Real Life and prepare to be surprised by this tender and sincere story.

-Carol

A Book You’ll Love-Love

Were you among the 6.9 million people who watched Serena Williams play her probable-last tennis match at the U.S. Open last week? If so, you helped break a record. It was the largest audience of any tennis match in ESPN’s 43-year history! And, while this year’s action wrapped up at Arthur Ashe Stadium yesterday, fear not, you can still get your tennis on. Just pick up this winner of book, Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

Carrie Soto is a tennis legend who rises to fame in the 1980s under the coaching of her father Javier. She is fierce and unrelenting, and her determination to win and unapologetic style of play have earned her the nickname, “the Battle Axe” and made her unlikable to most of her competitors and plenty of fans. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world, having shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. Now, it is 1994 and at age 37, Carrie has been retired from tennis for six years. When she learns that seasoned-player Nicki Chan is attempting to break her record, Carrie decides to come out from retirement to defend her status. Will she be able to reclaim her place in tennis history against the odds?

Carrie Soto Is Back is more than just a book about a fictional tennis player. This novel explores the ups and downs that accompany celebrity and the double standard that exists between how men and women are treated in the world of sports. It is also a story of personal growth that features a beautiful father/daughter relationship, a slow-building romance, and a complex protagonist who struggles with how she presents herself and is seen. Readers of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Daisy Jones and the Six and Malibu Rising will recognize some cross-over characters in Carrie’s story, finishing the author’s “quartet” on women and fame. Carrie Soto is Back, like those others, can be read independently, but why not deep dive into all of these smart and compelling novels that put women front and center?

-Carol

A Coastal Cozy Mystery

A widow in her seventies, Nonna Maria has never strayed far from her home island of Ischia, off the coast of Naples, Italy. She has no phone or car or TV, is known by all for her kindness and generosity, and is an expert on local history. Nonna Maria’s real skill lies in her ability to solve problems, and when things go wrong, her fellow islanders look to her for guidance.

When a local young woman confesses that she is unsure how she wound up engaged to a stranger, Nonna Maria offers to hide the bride and look into her new fiancé’s dark and mysterious past to discover how he tricked her into the promise of marriage.

Meanwhile, Pasquale, an Ischia tour boat captain and friend to Nonna Maria has drowned while piloting his boat. The local police chief believes it was a drunken accident. Nonna Maria knows that Pasquale, a lifelong sailor, could swim regardless of being drunk on wine. She decides to look into who might benefit from the man’s early demise.

Nonna Maria’s relies on her friendships with locals, including a crime boss, a priest, and a local mechanic to help her to get to the bottom of most matters, but she also has a sixth sense that tells her when something or someone is just not quite on the level. As she investigates these dangerous characters who are willing to trick innocent women or commit murder in order to get what they want, she begins to wonder if she has taken on too much this time.

Nonna Maria is like a breath of fresh air, whose recipe for happiness includes her home brewed coffee, a glass of good wine, and sharing her delicious home-cooked meals with her neighbors and family. With Nonna Maria and the Case of the Missing Bride, Lorenzo Carcaterra has gifted readers with a delightfully cozy mystery that will leave you yearning to travel to Italy or, at the very least, eagerly awaiting the next installment in this new series.

-Carol

A Spellbinding 17th-Century Saga

The Swift and the Harrier
by Minette Walters

In 1642, England is on the brink of civil war between Royalists, who support King Charles I and his right to absolute rule and Parliamentarians, who believe that Parliament should represent the people. Jayne Swift is a daughter of the Dorset gentry, and much to her parents’ dismay, has thus far in life resisted any offers of marriage. Instead, Jayne has trained as a physician and is devoted to healing others, regardless of their political beliefs.

When Jayne first meets William Harrier, she is led to believe that he is a footman to a Dorchester neighbor and Parliamentarian. As war rages on, Jayne remains neutral and just wants the senseless killing to stop.  Each time she encounters William, however, he appears in a different guise and Jayne is left wondering which side of the war he is fighting for.

Throughout it all, including battles that result in Jayne managing hospitals on the front lines, and up to the war’s end in 1649, Jayne and William find themselves in each other’s orbits and in each other’s hearts. But can Jayne ever have a future with the mysterious William Harrier, who presents himself as pauper one moment and a lord the next?

If you are a fan of meticulously researched historical fiction, you’ll want to put The Swift and the Harrier by Minette Walters at the top of your reading list. This sweeping tale of adventure, war, loss, and love stars an unforgettable and non-traditional heroine in Jayne and a dashing man of mystery in William. Well-paced and totally captivating, The Swift and the Harrier is historical fiction at its best.

-Carol

This Book Might Just Make You Swoon

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monahan

Although she makes her living writing screenplays for The Romance Channel, Nora Hamilton isn’t much of a romantic. So, when her husband left her and their two kids, it was mostly a relief. Nora got her ex out of her system by writing a cathartic story about the end of their relationship and divorce. She’s surprised, though, when the script is bought by a production company and even more surprised that she’ll be compensated for filming to take place in the tea house on her property in her small upstate New York town.

When filming wraps, not all the actors have left. The very handsome and very famous Leo Vance’s trailer is still on her property, showing no signs of leaving. Leo asks Nora if he can pay her to stay for a week to decompress. Nora needs the cash and agrees and soon, Leo has insinuated himself into her and her kids’ daily lives. To complicate matters, Nora begins a wild affair with Leo, but unsure that his feelings for her are real, wonders what will happen when he returns to his Hollywood day job.

Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan is a terrific romantic comedy filled with witty banter, complex characters, and a great setting. If you like women’s fiction and romance novels where characters grow and change, Hallmark movies, and fairy-tale happy endings, grab a copy of Nora Goes Off Script.

-Carol

Step Into a Satisfying Read

In Her Boots
by K. J. Dell’Antonia

Rhett Smith was raised by her late father and grandmother on their family farm, Pioneer Hill, in New Hampshire and has been estranged from her university dean/mother Margaret ever since she left them for academia. Instead of college, much to her mother’s disapproval, Rhett chooses to travel the world, seeking adventure and a nomadic lifestyle that doesn’t tie her down. Despite thinking she’ll never live up to her mother’s standards, on Instagram, under the name “Modern Pioneer Girl,” Rhett has garnered quite a following. As her alter-ego, or MPG, Rhett translates her diverse skill-set into a fearless, can-do attitude that inspires other young women to question their own life choices, learn how to fix their own flat tires, attempt to drive a pedicab in Thailand, or be unafraid to work odd jobs to get by. In fact, Rhett has written a successful, best-selling book about it all under a pseudonym – a book that is outselling her own mother’s book of parental advice.

When Rhett’s beloved grandmother dies, a now 40-year-old Rhett decides it is time to stop her wanderings and return to the farm and run it full-time. She is shocked to discover that she has inherited it jointly with Margaret who wants to sell it to her university. As if that weren’t bad enough, when Rhett is asked to be on the Today Show to promote her book, she chickens out and forces her best friend Jasmine to go in her place. Now the world believes that Jasmine is the Modern Pioneer Girl, and Rhett looks like an unemployed failure to her mom, once again. How will plain old Rhett ever convince her mother not to sell her half of the farm?

Pick up In Her Boots by K. J. Dell’Antonia if you are looking for a novel that is full of heart and humor. This book is perfect for fans of women’s fiction and books about friendship, family, second chances and a little bit of romance. I read this delightful novel in a single sitting.

-Carol

A Suspenseful Summer Read

The It Girl
by Ruth Ware

When Hannah Jones heads to Oxford to study literature, she expects her world to change. What she doesn’t expect is to be paired with a roommate like April Coutts-Cliveden. April has it all -she’s rich, beautiful, has an adoring fan club of young men and seemingly never has to study.

When April is found murdered in their common room, Hannah names Oxford employee John Neville as the man she saw leaving the crime scene. Neville is convicted for April’s murder, and traumatized and hounded by journalists, Hannah never returns to school.   

Ten years later, Hannah is now pregnant and married to one of April’s exes and living in Edinburgh. When she receives news that John Neville has died in jail, instead of feeling relief, she begins questioning whether or not she was responsible for convicting an innocent man. If Neville didn’t kill April, who did?

This fast-paced novel is the perfect academic mystery to sink your teeth into. It’s suspenseful, dark, clever and has excellent character development and an ending that this reader didn’t see coming. If you are looking for a perfect psychological thriller this summer, pick up The It Girl by Ruth Ware.  

-Carol

Read the Book First

Doesn’t it seem like every time you read a book you love, it is made into a film or TV show? Well, here is your head’s up -it is happening again.

The Wonder, a 2016 novel by Emma Donoghue, will be out sometime this year on Netflix and will star Florence Pugh. Why not read it first?

This historical novel takes place in the Irish Midlands in 1859, shortly after the end of the potato famine in Ireland. There, eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell has become a sensation. Anna has stopped eating, yet continues to live and appears healthy regardless. The girl’s actions create a stir. All who hear of her assume this must be a miracle and flock to witness it. Nightingale-trained Nurse Lib Wright is sent from England to investigate whether Anna is a fraud. Lib is sure she is there to expose a hoax, but as she spends more time with Anna, she begins to soften her feelings about the girl and question her own lack of belief.

Pick up this atmospheric, psychological thriller of a novel, based on real historical accounts of European and North American cases of ‘fasting girls’ from the sixteenth through the twentieth centuries. And then, feel free to watch the film.

-Carol

As Seen On TV

If you’ve been lucky enough to have seen AMC’s new series Dark Winds, I’m guessing you are hooked like I am. Set in the 1970s Southwest, this riveting police procedural is produced by Robert Redford and George R. R. Martin and has a multifaceted plot which weaves Navajo tradition into its mysteries. The first season follows Navajo police officers Sherriff Joe Leaphorn, his new partner Jim Chee and deputy Bernadette Manuelito as they attempt to solve mysteries involving an armed bank heist, a missing helicopter and a murder of a young girl who appears frightened to death. With Indigenous talent, both in front of and behind the camera (the writers are all Native American), well-written characters, dark psychological themes, and a satisfying series finale, this show is destined to be a hit and has already been renewed for a second season.

If you can’t (or don’t) stream TV, you’re still in luck. Dark Winds is based on a fabulous series of books created by mystery writer Tony Hillerman. Hillerman wrote eighteen Leaphorn and Chee mysteries, from 1970 to 2006. When he passed away in 2008, his daughter Anne Hillerman took up the torch, writing an additional seven books starring Leaphorn, Chee and Manuelito, with more to follow. Anne’s books reignite an already engrossing series by allowing Bernadette Manuelito to grow and develop as a main character. And, like her dad, Anne Hillerman paints a wonderful tapestry in each book, deftly juggling multiple plot lines as her characters are forced to solve complex local crimes, often putting them at odds with other members of their Navajo community.

Check out The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman, and be prepared to deep dive into a character-driven, riveting mystery with folklore and the supernatural at its core, set against a barren and beautiful landscape. And then rest easy, knowing you can spend time with your new friends for many books to come, simply by picking up the next 23 books in the series.

-Carol