If I can’t be Nancy Drew, please make me Poppy Denby!
I recently finished The Jazz Files by Fiona Veitch Smith, a British writer extraordinaire from Newcastle upon Tyne. She began her writing career as a journalist; her writing style and insider knowledge are valuable assets. This first book of a new series introduces us to Poppy Denby, a young twenty something who moves to London to live with her aunt, a paraplegic and suffragette in the 1920s. Poppy, an aspiring writer, gets a job as an editorial assistant at the Daily Globe. She meets photographer Daniel Rokeby about the time newspaper hack Bert Isaacs dies a messy death before submitting his lead story for the morning edition. Poppy finds his notes, finishes the story and is a sensation, albeit a sensation embroiled in a mystery and a great deal of newspaper politics.
I really enjoyed this series debut, loved Poppy and the other characters, and can’t wait for The Kill Fee, the second novel, to arrive inter-library loan. There is a nice pace to the Smith’s writing, a fun story, as well as a great period piece. I see potential for many more Poppy Denby Investigates mysteries.
Every once in a while, I find a book that sparks inspiration, and often gratitude. I love to tuck one of these volumes in my vacation book bag, especially when I know I will be in a beautiful place with family and friends. The Way of Gratitude: Readings for a Joyful Life is the book I included earlier this August on our annual trip to stay on Kineo, a small island with a mountain in the middle of Moosehead Lake. We stay for a week with three other families, we leave our cars on the mainland, and we put our phones down for some unplugged and adventurous quality time together.
I loved to start my day by the water with a cup of coffee and The Way of Gratitude, noodling a poem by Mary Oliver or Wendell Berry, a meditation by James Martin or Thomas Merton, or a short essay by Anne Lamott. Some readings are spiritual, others may seem religious, and still others very secular. The Way of Gratitude is a small book, filled with the writings of 100 authors. There are poems, anecdotes, short essays, quotations…really a variety of ways of expressing gratitude by a variety of writers. This is a “something for everyone” book that can become an “everything for me” book. You can read it all, pick and choose, or just open to a page and see what the entry says to you.
What I read gives me a lens for the day. The words of these “specialists” encourage me on a hike, echo in the laughter around the dinner table, reverberate in conversations on the porch, and color a walk with one of the kids on a windy afternoon. If you are looking for a little lift this fall, maybe a way to re-frame the change of seasons and all that goes with it, give The Way of Gratitude: Readings for a Joyful Life a look-see.
Summer in Maine…these are the days that carry me through the snow and slush and darkness of winter in Maine. How then, could I imagine journeying to Cocoa Beach, Florida with Virginia Fitzwilliam to settle her husband’s estate? Oh, easily!
When we are introduced to Virginia, she is a Red Cross ambulance driver in World War I, serving in the thick of the battlefields of France. She transports a wounded but handsome and intriguing Captain Simon Fitzwilliam, and falls in love with him during his recovery. They definitely have charisma and passion, but are they a lasting match?
Simon and Virginia marry, but live separately, Virginia and their daughter in New York City and the Captain in Florida. Five years later, news of his death sends Virginia to his estate. She doubts he has died in the fire that burned down the seaside home he built for their family, and her doubts increase as she stumbles upon Prohibition era rum running and other less than legal business pursuits connecting back to her husband. Looking for the truth about the man she loved, Virginia becomes tangled in danger that will threaten both her life and the life of her daughter.
I am a Beatriz Williams fan. There is a glamorous escapism to her novels that is just right. I have enjoyed knowing characters through a series of books, seeing the focus change from person to person, but at the same time, found these new people and their new locales a positive change, and Cocoa Beach a good read, any season of the year.
Vivian Witchell is rising through the ranks at WCHI, a Chicago radio station in the 1930s. From cameos on less sought after productions to a bigger role in the popular radio show “The Darkness Knows,” Vivian’s potential seems to increase daily. When she finds another star, Marjorie Fox, murdered in the station, she moves seamlessly into a new part: private detective. A note threatening Lorna (Vivian’s character on Darkness) adds incentive to finding the murderer. Luckily, PI Charles Haverman is on the job.
The Darkness Knows is pure delight. It is a delicious, pleasurable read with a comfortable predictability, which can be very enjoyable. Vivian is like-able, Chicago in the 1930s as described by Honigford has some curb appeal for this reader, and you get a decent mystery without the graphic details some thrillers boast. Some reviewers criticize the predictability and the choice on the author’s part not to play up the setting more, and to be a bit less likely in her plot. I say this is the first of a series. We need to begin to get the lay of the land, get to know the characters and explore their relationships both real and potential. I for one, look forward to Holidays on Ice, Honigford’s second installment. If like me, you read Nancy Drew mysteries by the armful as a child, and read mysteries by the author/series as an adult voraciously, give The Darkness Knows a try.
Before Reece Witherspoon made The Alice Network by Kate Quinn her summer online book group selection, my fellow barista was pointing it out to me on lists of anticipated summer novels. Delighted to have The Alice Network in my vacation book bag earlier this summer, I eagerly began reading. What I discovered was that though I was sold on advanced reviews, the cover and the World War I & II setting, I was quickly drawn into the story and especially the characters. Charlie is a Bennington College student in a family way, traveling with her mother to Europe to visit a clinic for an abortion. She ditches her mother somewhat easily and searches for her cousin Rose, who is lost in France. In her hotel, she meets Eve, a bitter and gruff World War I spy who may be able to help her find her cousin Rose. Eve comes with a driver and personal assistant named Finn. The three set out to search for Rose, as well as to find a piece of Eve’s past–a piece she would like to resolve once and for all.
The story of their courage to search for answers, to exorcise their internal and external demons, and to resolve the injustices of both past and present, is gripping and quite moving. If historical fiction is written to give you a feel of the time, Kate Quinn is a very successful author. To read this book is to walk next to Eve and Charlie, your skin tingling with their pain, their frustration, their retribution, their acceptance, and ultimately redemption. This is a novel with teeth and staying power. I highly recommend it!
The Alice Network is based on a real network of spies and people resistant to the Germans in the First World War. Eve is based on Louise de Bettignies, a real resister. You can read more about the Network and its heroes here:
For more information about Louise de Bettignies, the person Eve Gardner is based on, visit: