We start with Pat's find of the month, THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND, by Katarina Bivald. Pat says: I love this book! It’s a quiet book about a quiet book reader who summons the nerve to leave Sweden to visit an elderly penpal in a quiet small town in Iowa. Not just a quiet small town, but a broken one. The economy has struck the town hard. Residents have mostly died or moved away.
Amy, the penpal Sara comes to visit has also died, but the town insists that Sara stay in Amy’s home because they all knew how much Amy enjoyed reading her letters and how much Amy had been looking forward to her visit. Stunned by her situation, by the graciousness of the residents, and by the enormous library of books in Amy’s empty house, Sara quietly begins to change everything without even realizing she’s doing so.
There’s even a quiet romance. It’s an amazing journey for readers who loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Highly recommended! (And right now, it's only $2.51 at Amazon) (Anne adds that she and several wenches have read and enjoyed this book, bought on Janga's recommendation on this blog back in September. Thank you Janga.)
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Mary Jo is sailing down a river: Her recommendation this month is The Rivers of London Series, by Ben Aaronovitch. The first book in the series is: Midnight Riot, PC Peter Grant, Book 1
Said to be a cross between CSI and Harry Potter, this series has been mentioned by a couple of other Wenches, Joanna and Pat, perhaps. I was a little leery since I couldn't quite figure out what it was about, but once I read an excerpt of the first book, Midnight Riot, it made perfect sense. In a fantasy-ish sort of way. <G>
Peter Grant is a diligent young London constable with a mother from Sierra Leone and a father who is a talented but often addicted jazz musician. His mixed heritage plays into the story in various ways, including his being a bit of an outsider. He become much more of one when he has a chat with a ghost and is seen by a DCI Thomas Nightingale, who turns out to be the only licensed wizard in Britain and in charge of investigating all crimes involving magic and 'other beings.'
In no time at all, Peter is working for him as an apprentice wizard, which turns out to be dangerous but far more interesting than being a police paper shuffler. Peter is a great character–smart and funny and committed to helping people even when it takes him into mortal peril.
I've now bought all seven books and the one novella and I'm waiting for book #8, and the biggest reason is that Peter is funny. One of my favorite lines is when Peter has barely survived an encounter with a very dangerous, very evil wizard. When Nightingale finds him, there is an awkward moment when it seemed that Nightingale might hug Peter, but just in time they remember they're English. <G>
The stories are saturated with Aaronvitch's love and knowledge of his city. The series title, The Rivers of London, comes from the fact that the many rivers of London–the Thames is the big one, of course, but many smaller rivers have been paved over as the city has grown. And the rivers have spirits of place that manifest as colorful and often bossy goddesses. <G> It's hard to explain, but it works.
There are many wonderful secondary characters, from a magic sniffing dog to a hajib wearing policewoman who is, like Peter, a bit of an outsider. And she's very good at her job. Lots of solid police investigation, too.
So if you like funny, quirky, inventive series that are paranormal mysteries, take a look at some of the series excerpts. You might become hooked just as I was!
Andrea says: Maybe it’s my withdrawal from Foyle’s War, now that I’ve glommed through all eight seasons (sigh). But I’ve had The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn on my TBR pile for a while and decided to dive into it, as it was a dual narrative of two intertwining stories—one a WWI woman spy. and the other a young woman in 1947 desperately trying to discover what happening to her French cousin, who disappeared in WWI. Now, full confession—this might not be a book I’d normally pick up because of the time period.
But oh, am I glad I did! The “modern” narrator is Charlotte “Charlie” Sinclair, a smart , rich girl from NYC who’s fallen off the rails and gotten herself pregnant. Her elegant Maman (who is French, married to a high-powered American lawyer) is taking her to Switzerland to get rid of the Small Problem. But Charlie, whose life has spiraled out of control—her brother has committed suicide after coming home from the war and her beloved cousin can’t be found in the wreckage of France—has other ideas. She bolts from Southhampton, where the boat as put into port and travels to London to find the woman whose name is on the official document reporting the search for her cousin. Somehow if she can find Rose, who she fervantly believes is alive, it will redeem all her past mistakes.
And so begins a madcap journey to find the the truth . . . in so many ways. Eve Gardiner, a Luger-toting, drunken wreck of a woman, and her driver Finn Kilgore, a dishy Scottish ex-soldier with demons of his own (and a very snazzy car) are Charlie's reluctant companions. As they follow clues and seek answers, we learn Eve’s story as a spy behind enemy lines in the Great War. It’s heartbreakingly poignant in places, yet full of wisdom and humor, too. The characters are beautifully drawn, the plot wonderfully engaging, and the friendships formed in the face of adversity add a note of triumph to the grim realities of the past. In the end, Quinn ties all the connections together in a marvelous way. I highly recommend it!
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Susan says: As soon as Alan Bradley's latest Flavia de Luce mystery, The Grave's A Fine and Private Place, was released, I snapped it up. I've just found time to get to it this month, and I'm loving it–another excellent, very smart mystery in an exceptionally creative series. Though the de Luce family has been dealt a tragic blow, Flavia, now 12, is finding her inner strength even as a body mysteriously surfaces in a nearby village. Flavia is just as clever, quirky, resourceful and endlessly curious as ever, and the familiar characters around her are growing too. I adore this brilliant Pippi-esque sleuth and her world of 1950s England, and though Bradley's series may be drawing to a close, I'm hoping Flavia will reappear before too long. If not, I shall revisit Book I and start all over again! I'm listening to the audio version, narrated by Jayne Entwistle, and I'm convinced there is no more perfect pairing than Jayne and Flavia.
Thanks to Wench Anne's recommendation, I read Elly Griffiths' The Crossing Places, in which archaeology professor Ruth Galloway is drawn into helping the police solve a mystery when a bog body is found, and then when a child goes missing. Galloway is not the usual amateur sleuth, nor is Nelson the usual Inspector on the case–and Griffiths writes with a matter-of-fact style that is spare, neatly paced, and compelling. I was so intrigued that I immediately started the second book in the series, The Janus Stone, and the third and fourth are waiting in my Kindle–I'm hooked!
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And finally Anne here. Only one of the books I'm talking about today is historical romance. It's Carla Kelly's My Loving Vigil Keeping, set in a largely Mormon coal mining settlement in Utah. Lovely story, fascinating setting — and based on a real historical incident. Well worth reading.
Next I read The Dry, by Australian author Jane Harper, a debut crime/mystery novel that's been an international bestseller. Set in a small country town struggling to survive through years of intense drought, it's one of those books where the setting is another character. Excellent book, and the next in the series has just come out.
I read this book some months back, but forgot to include it, and I know people will love it. It's Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman, which is a story about a young woman coming to terms with "the incident," a traumatic event in her childhood that she can't remember but which haunts her.
That makes it sound like a grim read, but it's not, mainly because of the character of Eleanore Oliphant herself. She's isolated, intelligent, highly educated and socially awkward, and the book is studded with her caustic observations on various aspects of modern life, many of which are laugh-out-loud funny. The book is moving, funny, wry, sad — and highly recommended.
Last on my list is Rhys Bowen's The Tuscan Child. Back in October I wrote about In Farleigh Field, the first in her new WW2 related series, and this is the next in the series. It's a two interwoven strand story, one set in 1944 Italy, where a crashed British pilot is injured, in hiding from the Germans, and is secretly cared for by a lovely young Italian woman. The second strand is set 30 years later and concerns his English daughter, who knows nothing of her late father's history, including a legitimate brother she never knew she had. When she discovers a love letter to an Italian woman that refers to "their beautiful boy," she goes on a journey of discovery, to Tuscany, to solve the mystery. Lovely book, well worth reading.
So what about you? What books have you read (or listened to) in the last month that you'd recommend to the wenchly community?