Two women separated by many miles and many years become close friends thanks to the United States Postal Service. 27-year-old Joan Bergstrom from Los Angeles is a huge fan of 59-year-old Imogen Fortier’s column in Northwest Home & Life magazine. Joan sends a recipe and a packet of saffron to Imogen. With that, their regular correspondence and friendship begins. The novel contains letters sent to each other between 1962 and 1965. Their 32-year-age difference does not matter to either of them. They become each other’s confidant and cheerleader.
This is a quick gentle read on friendship that doesn’t hesitate to touch on joy, sadness, love, and death.
The final entry in the Miss Julia series is a delight. There are weddings galore happening in Abbotsville, North Carolina. Some are expected and others are a total surprise. Helen Stroud will probably marry a man who is really looking for a housekeeper/nurse. Etta Mae Wiggins will probably marry her longtime boyfriend. Christy Hargrove is dropping out of medical school to marry a surgeon. Miss Julia’s housekeeper Lillian is thinking of marrying a 98-year-old man for status and his big house which would become hers sooner rather than later. LuAnne Conover just wants to marry again and is searching for Mr. Right. In the midst of all the above drama, Abbotsville, has problems with a naked man terrorizing older women that are home alone. The sightings are frequent. The local sheriff isn’t terribly interested in capturing the man, so Julia Murdoch and the other women in town hatch their own plan.
Over the years, I have thoroughly enjoyed these books The characters flow from book to book, so I highly recommend reading them in order.
Miss Julia series –
1. Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind (1999)
2. Miss Julia Takes Over (2001)
3. Miss Julia Throws a Wedding (2002)
4. Miss Julia Hits the Road (2003)
5. Miss Julia Meets Her Match (2004)
6. Miss Julia’s School of Beauty (2005)
7. Miss Julia Stands Her Ground (2006)
8. Miss Julia Strikes Back (2007)
9. Miss Julia Paints the Town (2008)
10. Miss Julia Delivers the Goods (2009)
11. Miss Julia Renews Her Vows (2010)
12. Miss Julia Rocks the Cradle (2011)
13. Miss Julia to the Rescue (2012)
14. Miss Julia Stirs Up Trouble (2013)
15. Miss Julia’s Marvelous Makeover (2014)
16. Etta Mae’s Worst Bad-Luck Day (2014)
17. Miss Julia Lays Down the Law (2015)
18. Miss Julia Inherits a Mess (2016)
19. Miss Julia Weathers the Storm (2017)
20. Miss Julia Raises the Roof (2018)
21. Miss Julia Takes the Wheel (2019)
22. Miss Julia Knows a Thing or Two (2020)
23. Miss Julia Happily Ever After (2021)
Poppy Harmon Investigates
by Lee Hollis
Recently widowed Poppy Harmon discovers that her husband left her penniless. He was a gambler and even gambled away their daughter’s trust fund money. He had taken out a second mortgage without Poppy’s knowledge. Poppy is a retired actress who played a detective’s secretary in a 1970’s television series. She counts her time on tv as experience being a private investigator, applies for and gets her California private investigator license. Together with her best friends Iris and Violet, she opens a detective agency. They hire Violet’s 12-year-old computer whiz grandson to create their website. The three 60+ year old women don’t garner any business until they start using Matt’s face on their website. (Matt is the actor boyfriend of Poppy’s daughter.) With the arrival of Matt, the agency is hired to retrieve stolen jewels for singer Shirley Fox, a fellow resident at the Palm Leaf Retirement Village in Palm Springs, California.
The first entry in the Desert Flowers Mystery series is a cute quick cozy. I look forward to reading the other two in the series.
Desert Flowers Mystery series
(In my opinion the book cover is fun but a little deceiving. I don’t think Poppy or Violet or Iris look like the 60+ year old private eye depicted.)
Leonard and Hungry Paul: A Novel
Best friends Leonard and Hungry Paul, bachelors in their 30’s, enjoy quiet walks, playing board games, and staying close to home. Leonard, who recently inherited his family’s home, writes articles for children’s encyclopedias. Hungry Paul is a substitute mailman who lives at home with his parents who are busy planning their daughter’s wedding. Leonard is interested in a young woman at work and hopes a romance can progress even though their initial encounters have been awkward. Hungry Paul enters a slogan contest for his local business community and wins. This opens up a new opportunity for Hungry Paul which will hopefully help him move forward with his life in new ways.
This is an enjoyable gentle story. It’s a tale of best friends who are genuinely happy for each other’s successes and challenges.
I am currently reading The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin. It’s January 1888
on the Nebraska-Dakota border when an unseasonably warm day turns into a deadly blizzard just when school lets out for the day. Despite heroic efforts 235+ people died that day. Also, I am just starting Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession. Leonard writes articles for children’s encyclopedias. Paul is a substitute postman. These good friends both in their 30’s live in the parents’ homes. They meet regularly to play board games. I know there’s more to come since this book was highly recommended by a co-worker. Emma
I’m listening to The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. Not only is the French Revolutionary history itself fascinating, but the author reveals the travel and effort he put into the research. This book is about the novelist Alexandre Dumas’s father who was also named Alexandre Dumas. The senior Dumas was the son of a French aristocrat and a Caribbean African slave. He achieved the rank of General in the French military, for a time equal to the up and coming Napoleon. How did this happen? I was clueless about the Civil Rights Movement in Paris in the mid 1700s that allowed former slaves and children of slaves freedom, education, and position in society. This was specific to Paris, did not apply to the American colonies, and the progress would later be undone by a new wave of racist policies. Still, General Dumas was an adventurous swordsman and leader of the cavalry who would repeatedly inspire characters in his son’s novels including the betrayal faced by Edmond Dante in The Count of Monte Cristo. Byron
I started reading The Queen’s Gambit shortly after seeing that Netflix has released a new series based on the book. I had seen some very positive reviews of the book and learned that the author, Walter Tevis, also wrote the novels, and excellent Paul Newman films, The Color of Money and The Hustler. However, I was skeptical that competitive chess would be edge-of-your-seat thrilling material, but The Queen’s Gambit is as much a story of loneliness, addiction, and genius as it is of chess. Had The Queen’s Gambit been just a book about chess, then I would have still been wrong because the chess bits are thrilling. Trent
Agent of the Library Irene is sent to obtain a certain book by any means necessary and is drawn into an art heist, complete with a rag tag team of misfits, carefully laid plans, and secret island lairs. This new chapter in the Invisible Library series is a fun romp through heist movie tropes, with a twist.
I have just finished The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington and loved every second of it. Written by the artist and author Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) this collection of stories spans throughout her career. The surreal stories within were best enjoyed when I allowed the narrative to unfold with their own internal dreamlike logic. A great introduction to Carrington’s work. Greg
Linus Baker is a by-the-book case worker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He’s tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. This book is about a group of magic-filled children, seen as utter misfits by the world, but you will immediately fall in love with each and every one of them. It is about two kind, smart, and brave men who stumble forward into a friendship and gentle love. As TJ Klune has said himself, “it’s important, now more than ever, to have accurate, positive queer representation in stories”. Finally, it is about the false promise of blind faith and the courage to challenge that promise. I simply love this book. I implore you to read it now, you will not regret it. Mary
I just started reading this book on the enthusiastic recommendation of a friend and am very much enjoying this weird and riveting story thus far. Written by one of Japan’s most highly regarded novelists, this book follows Toru Okada as he searches for his wife’s missing cat in a Tokyo suburb. He soon finds himself looking for his wife as well in a strange underworld that lies beneath the surface of Tokyo, full of odd and sometimes menacing people. I have no idea how this will end but look forward to getting there! Nicole
Once upon a time, all women had a little magic- a few words to make dishes sparkle, a rhyme to mend a seam. And some knew stronger things, such as a spell to break a fever, dry up a cough, or help a woman through a difficult labor. But that all changed with the Salem witch trials. Witches were burned at the stake with their children watching; witchcraft was deemed illegal, and women were treated worse than ever with no power to protect themselves. But witching was never completely gone. It was passed on by grandmothers and mothers in fairy tales and innocent sounding nursery rhymes that were actually spells. Spells that could work magic if a woman had the words, the way, and the will. Led by the three Eastwood sisters (magical things always come in threes), the downtrodden women of New Salem have enough will to make up for any lack of words or ways, and they are determined to bring real magic back into the world to set right some of the many, many wrongs they have suffered at the hands of men. Sara
This year, Christmas feels a little strange and isolated. But it also feel a little cozy. The first snowfall was absolutely beautiful and really got me into the Christmas spirit. As I try to avoid malls and busy stores, I have of course turned to online shopping like many of us. But somehow that just seems impersonal this year. After weeks of quarantining, ordering carry out, groceries from Instacart, and pretty much everything else in the world from Amazon, I’m ready to get back to basics for this year’s holiday. My daughter and I tried our hand at making candles (we definitely need to read up on this a little bit, as I watch one of ours smoke itself out), we have plans for many more cookie varieties than ever, and are drawn towards handmade gifts from Etsy and local stores.
In keeping with this, I am buying books as gifts for the first time in years! My teen/young adult kids don’t read as vociferously as they used to, and most of my family reads on a Kindle. But this year, it just feels right to go back to basics, hold a real book in my hands while I sip coffee by my Christmas tree and lights. My kids have watched pretty much everything Netflix, Hulu and Amazon have to offer, so I think I’m going to try and entice them to take an electronic break, relax on the couch with me to read a good book by the tree.
Here are a few titles coming out in December. Some of them haven’t been published yet, but what is more fun then preordering a book and knowing you will be one of the first to read it? Remember that our local retailers need you this year more than ever. So head to bookshop.org to get some of these new titles that promise to be keepers! They also offer gift cards if you just can’t choose ;-).
There’s no such thing as a perfect family. And it’s usually not wise to point that out.
Thriller, romance and fantasy, all rolled into one.
A debut thriller that asks one simple question, shouldn’t a dead husband stay dead?
On the lighter side
Quinn and Minnie share their day of birth, but their lives couldn’t be more different.
A dare and a crash course in flirting turn a frumpy college professor’s life upside down.
An anxiety-ridden introvert finds herself in the spotlight and decides to fake it til she makes it.
Different times and places
Stunning debut explores Afghanistan on the eve of a violent revolution.
A story of survival, loss and love, and the sisters who changed fashion forever.
A poor girl with dreams grows up in the shadow of Biltmore House, the palatial Vanderbilt mansion.
Try some chocolate themed fiction. We have sweet chocolate stories, dark chocolate stories, and even some hot chocolate stories.
Maybe nonfiction is more to your taste. We’ve got you (chocolate) covered.
Happy Reading (and sweet snacking)!