Warm Up with a Good Book

Miss Iris Sparks (a former British Intelligence Officer) and Mrs. Gwendolyn Bainbridge (a young upper class widow), co-owners of the “Right Sort Marriage Bureau”, are contacted by Lady Patience Matheson a cousin of Gwen’s who works in the palace. A letter meant for Princess Elizabeth was intercepted. Someone claims to have damaging information. Supposedly this blackmailer has correspondence written between Alice, Phillip’s mother, and a lover. Lady Matheson wants Iris and Gwen to authenticate the assertions and find out who sent the letter. The information needs to be proven true or false before the Princess and Philip become engaged. The investigation must remain hush-hush.

The second entry in the Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series is a delight and a sure winner for fans of British mystery series and the royal family.

Sparks & Bainbridge Mystery series

The Right Sort of Man – 2019

A Royal Affair – 2020

Rogue’s Company – 2021

Unkept Woman – 2022

~Emma

Review: All Her Little Secrets by Wanda M. Morris

Find it here.
Ellice Littlejohn escaped her poor, small-town Georgia life at 14 and has rarely looked back since building a successful life and law career for herself in Atlanta. She does the best she can to help her younger brother, Sam, but his past run-ins with the law and her fancy corporate lawyer gig means that Ellice keeps the two parts of her life separate. She was successful at that until the morning she arrives at work to find her boss and lover, Michael, dead in his office. In a whirlwind of events in the aftermath of Michael’s murder Ellice finds herself in the center of a conspiracy that she never saw coming. 

This debut novel has it all-secrets, lies, murder, and suspense. Mixed in with all the action and drama are themes of racism, white supremacy, and family secrets. 

Readalikes:

Warm Up with a Good Book

If you are off to Grandmother’s house this year for the holidays, you’ll be glad that she isn’t anything like Maud, the protagonist from Helene Tursten’s new collection of connected short stories, An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed. In some ways, Maud, at 89-years-old, is inspirational: she is spry, resourceful, and unafraid to travel internationally and live alone. However, Maud is also not above “acting her age” by using fake hearing aids as props to avoid answering pesky questions from unwanted visitors, like the police. Maud also is unafraid to solve her problems the permanent way — with murder!

In order to avoid further questions regarding a dead body in her apartment, Maud decides to embark on a lavish trip to Africa. On her flight, she reminisces about her past — and mostly bloodless past murders that she has carried out over the years. These vignettes of Maud exacting her own brand of justice are a bit dark, but they are funny and mostly bloodless affairs, made to look like accidents. This modern day avenging octogenarian isn’t very nice but she does care for some people in her own strange way, and her unapologetic and no-nonsense attitude about how life (and death) should work will keep you turning the pages to see who Maud might target next.

For maximum enjoyment, laughs and intrigue, start with Tursten’s first book starring Maud, An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good.

-Carol

Fall into a Good Book

The Bookseller’s Secret: A Novel of Nancy Mitford and WWII

by Michelle Gable

This is the story of two bestselling authors, modern-day fictional novelist Katharine Cabot and legendary author Nancy Mitford (1904-1973). Nancy, the eldest of the famous Mitford sisters, worked at the Heywood Hill Bookshop in London during the second half of WWII. Katherine, who is staying with a friend in London, ends up working at the same bookstore. In walks Simon Bailey. He is hunting for an unpublished manuscript and is convinced it is in the Mitford files housed at the bookstore. Felix, owner of Heywood Hill, carefully guards those files not granting access according to the Mitford family’s wishes. There is some link between Simon’s grandmother Lea and Nancy. Simon wants to prove the connection and Katherine is pulled into the mystery. Of course, a close relationship develops between Katherine and Simon.

For fans of historical fiction, bookstores and those committed to finding answers.

~Emma

Fall into a Good Book

The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede was originally published in January 2002. The book chronicles how the citizens of Gander and neighboring towns sheltered, fed and supported 6,579 airline passengers and crew whose U.S. bound planes were forced to land. This was as a result of the September 11th attacks. At 9:26 a.m. Tuesday, September 11th the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) shut down its airspace, forcing over 4,000 planes to land at the nearest airport. Inbound flights from Europe were diverted to Canada. 38 planes landed at Gander International Airport. The airport in Gander marks the closest point between Europe and the U.S. and is a preferred emergency landing spot.

The population of Gander is fewer than 10,000 people but they took up the challenge of helping people in need. Many citizens took passengers home with them. Others brought basic supplies (blankets, towels, toiletries, etc). The passengers could not get to their luggage. Schools, churches, Salvation Army centers, and community centers were opened to serve as shelters. Bus drivers, who were on strike, came back to work to transport people to shelters. Stores stayed open 24 hours a day and often donated necessities. The good deeds went on and on.

The Broadway musical “Come From Away” is based on this book.

~Emma

Review of You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Jeffrey Cranor and Janina Matthewson

You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Janina Matthewson and Jeffrey Cranor book cover and RRPL catalog link

Miriam grows up during the Great Reckoning, an apocalyptic war that destroys nations, displaces thousands of people, and kills millions more. Later, when civilization slowly begins to function again, the nascent New Society government concludes that tribal loyalties, including familial bonds, are to blame for the Great Reckoning. As an adult, Miriam perfects a technique that helps children to forget traumatic memories, and the New Society uses it in ways she never intended to create the Age Ten Protocols. The government takes babies from their families and raises them in child care centers, then erases those memories when they turn ten years old, destroying those dangerous family ties. Now an elderly woman, Miriam writes a memoir of her extraordinary life in the new novel You Feel It Just Below the Ribs by Janina Matthewson and Jeffrey Cranor.

This book is a companion novel to Within the Wires, an audio drama podcast written by one of the writers of Welcome to Night Vale, Jeffrey Cranor, and writer and voice actor Janina Matthewson. Longtime listeners of Within the Wires will certainly find breadcrumbs of new information to chew over, as this novel provides much backstory to the world of the podcast. As a standalone novel, it is a stark dystopia that may confuse readers not aware of its extensive audio drama roots. I have listened to Within the Wires since its first episode, and as I read, I found myself preferring the podcast and the intimacy with which we get to know the characters. In this novel, the narrator is carefully writing her own memoirs in a New Society that will not publish anything too radical, so there is a substantial distance between Miriam and the reader that means we never really get to know her as a person.

However, the authors explore intriguing philosophical questions throughout the course of the novel: in a post-apocalyptic society, what lengths are too far to go in trying to prevent another worldwide war? Are family ties and tribalism truly the root of all war and conflict? Is it ethical – and if not ethical, then necessary – to erase memories and destroy families in the pursuit of peace? With Miriam as our unreliable narrator versus the New Society’s narrative, who is telling the truth? Fans of Within the Wires and new readers who are intrigued by this unique concept for a dystopian novel should check this one out. If you like the book, make sure to listen to the podcast in your favorite podcast app!

Release date: December 7, 2021

Thanks to NetGalley for the Advance Reader Copy!

Fall into a Good Book

God Rest Ye Royal Gentlemen

It’s 1935 when newlyweds Georgie and Darcy O’Mara plan a small gathering of friends and family over the Christmas holidays at their new home. Their plans change when an unexpected invitation arrives from Darcy’s eccentric Aunt Ermintrude. Ermintrude had been a lady-in-waiting for Queen Mary and is living at Wymondham Hall which is on the edge of the royal Sandringham estate. The invitation implies that the Queen would like to visit with Georgie. The O’Mara’s feel they must accept Ermintrude’s invitation. Georgie’s mother, brother Binky and his wife Fig are also invited along with their two children. The Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson are in attendance. The Prince is duty-bound to his family’s holiday traditions especially since the King’s health is failing and this may be his last Christmas. Wallis is unhappy that she is left behind at Wymondham Hall while the Prince is at Sandringham.

Awful accidents happen at Sandringham, and the Queen wants Georgie (along with security and the police) to figure out what is going on. She feels that the estate is cursed. The Prince is shot at. An equerry (an officer of the household of a prince or noble who had charge over the stables) died last Christmas and another died this Christmas. Wallis Simpson is left unconscious when a collapsible staircase falls and hits her on the head at Wymondham Hall.

I won’t give away any more of the plot and invite you read the novel. I thoroughly enjoy the Royal Spyness series and recommend that the books be read in order. The stories and characters build on each other.

  1. Her Royal Spyness – 2007
  2. A Royal Pain – 2008
  3. Royal Flush – 2009
  4. Royal Blood – 2010
  5. Naughty in Nice – 2011
  6. The Twelve Clues of Christmas – 2012
  7. Heirs and Graces – 2013
  8. Queen of Hearts – 2014
  9. Malice at the Palace – 2015
  10. Crowned and Dangerous – 2016
  11. On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service – 2017
  12. Four Funerals and Maybe a Wedding – 2018
  13. Love and Death Among the Cheetahs – 2019
  14. The Last Mrs. Summers – 2020
  15. God Rest Ye Royal Gentlemen – 2021

~Emma

Fall into a Good Book

by Suzanne Feldman

It’s 1914 in Baltimore when Ruth and Elise Duncan finally defy their father’s wishes. Ruth wants to become a doctor, but society and her father don’t feel that’s an appropriate career choice for women. Women should be stay-at-home wives and mothers. The sisters volunteer to help the British on the Western Front and head to Ypes, Belgium. There Ruth will work as a nurse and Elise will be an ambulance driver and mechanic. The horrific conditions keep both women too busy. At times Ruth oversteps her nursing duty boundaries and assists in the operating theatre annoying doctors. With the support of John Doweling, who is a doctor with the British, Ruth gains additional knowledge and practice in the operating room. John and Ruth soon fall in love while Elise and Hera, another driver in the all-female Ambulance Corps, also fall in love.

When the war is finally over, John and Ruth plan to marry. Ruth is still determined to become a doctor but medical schools will not accept married women. Elise and Hera plan to stay together and raise a houseful of orphans.

This novel is not meant for anyone with a sensitive stomach. Near the battlefront, there are many life threatening wounds, amputations and deaths. I am guessing a sequel is in the works for this book. There are several loose ends that could be resolved.

~Emma

Fall into a Good Book

Yours Cheerfully
by A.J. Pearce

In this sequel to Dear Mrs. Bird, its 1941 when Emmeline Lake is hired as the wartime advice columnist for “Woman’s Friend” magazine. Along with her publisher, Emmy attends the Ministry of Information meetings where the need for women wartime workers is stressed. The British magazines are asked by the Ministry to do their part to help recruit more women. Emmy is up to the challenge and expands her role at “Women’s Friend”. She is allowed to visit a munitions factory to see firsthand women workers at their jobs and write a series of articles for the magazine. She is allowed to interview women who face the difficulty of being wartime workers, wives and mothers. With their long workdays and odd hours, these women need government-sponsored nurseries for daycare. Emmy and her best friend Bunty help take up the cause for nurseries, equal pay for equal work, and the ability for women to join the union.

The second entry in the Emmeline Lake Chronicles series is a heartwarming novel with a little romance. Emmy gets married just as her husband joins the fight.

~Emma

Fall into an Otherworldly Read

Sixteen years after the publication of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, her 2004 award-winning, magical and mysterious alternative history debut novel, Susanna Clarke is back with another dazzling tale.

Piranesi, Clarke’s second novel, is a slim tome compared to her first, but similarly, it is another literary page-turner set an alternate reality. This time, her protagonist is not an 19th-century magician, but just a man, with a strange name, who lives in a strange place that seems unlike any reality humans have encountered before. This man, Piranesi, lives in a grand labyrinth he calls the “House,” which is filled with statues he speaks to. Though he can remember living nowhere else, Piranesi obsessively keeps track of the House, including its many halls and rooms, the human remains that he finds within them, and the tidewaters that flood the House and threaten to drown him.

Piranesi’s only human interactions are with a man he refers to as “The Other.” The Other is often away, but when he regularly meets with Piranesi, he asks for assistance in his constant search for “A Great and Secret Knowledge” that he believes is hidden within the House.

As Piranesi records his daily life and activities in his detailed journal entries, he begins to notice inconsistencies in The Other’s behavior, as well as inconsistencies in his own journals, prompting Piranesi to question what he really knows about his world and the possible existence of living other people.

If you love to solve puzzles, love literary fiction, or if you are just looking for something off the beaten path, pick up Piranesi, suspend your disbelief for a short while, and be prepared to be a-mazed!