Reading is my oldest and favorite hobby. I literally can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love to curl up with a good book. Here are my reads for May, 2021.
Magpie Murders (Susan Ryeland #1), by Anthony Horowitz – Book editor Susan Ryeland receives a manuscript from her publishing company’s most celebrated author, but it’s missing the final chapter; then the author turns up dead. Susan is convinced there’s a connection, and sets about investigating. I enjoyed this mystery-within-a-mystery just fine, but don’t feel compelled to continue on with the series.
Slightly Foxed No: 69: The Pram in the Hall, ed. Gail Pirkis and Hazel Wood – A new issue of Slightly Foxed is always a treat! This one featured a few books I’d already read (1984 and Cheerful Weather for the Wedding) and one I really want to get to, soon (A Month in the Country).
Rhubarb Rhubarb: A Correspondence Between a Hopeless Gardener and a Hopeful Cook, by Mary Jane Paterson and Jo Thomspon – I blew through this collection of email correspondence in one sitting, and loved every second of it. Thompson is a celebrated garden designer and Paterson a cooking instructor; the two friends share their wit and wisdom with one another in a cheerful and uplifting email exchange. There are gorgeous photographs and illustrations, and I want to make every single one of Mary Jane’s recipes, and try out all of Jo’s gardening tips.
The Geography Reader, Vol. I, by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer – Girls Gone By Publishers has recently issued the second volume of a collection of Elinor Brent-Dyer’s four “geography” novellas – this first volume is out of print but I couldn’t resist tracking it down on Abebooks. This one contains two novellas – one about Australia and one about New Zealand. They’re not particularly eventful plots, but that’s not the intention – the idea, at the time, was to promote the Commonwealth by showcasing the attractions of the different member nations; this is a fun way to do that. I liked the Australia novella a bit better, but both were a lot of fun.
The Last Mrs. Summers (Her Royal Spyness #14), by Rhys Bowen – Another installment in Georgie’s adventures! Lady Georgianna is settling into married life and her new role as mistress of Eynsleigh – a manor house she will inherit from her erstwhile stepfather, Lord Hubert. When Darcy O’Mara is called off to another secret mission, Georgie assuages her boredom and loneliness by accompanying her best friend, Belinda, to inspect a cottage Belinda has recently inherited in Cornwall. Obviously, there is a murder – and Belinda is the prime suspect. There are all kinds of nods to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, one of my favorite novels, and I loved it.
The Other Bennet Sister, by Janice Hadlow – This doorstopper of a novel imagines Mary Bennet’s life during and after the events of Pride and Prejudice. It was fun, although the writing style took a little getting used to and it was probably 100 pages too long. Still, I enjoyed Mary’s perspective and was rooting for her to find love.
Spring: An Anthology for the Changing Seasons, ed. Melissa Harrison – I loved Winter, and Spring was just as good. Harrison collects historic and recent writings about the season into this beautifully presented paperback volume. I can’t wait to continue on with the rest of the series.
The Guest List, by Lucy Foley – The premise is fun: a group of wedding guests gathers on a remote island to celebrate the nuptials of a popular television actor and a magazine publisher. By the time the wedding festivities are over, someone will be dead. Who is the killer – and who will be the victim? This was a fun, twisty suspense novel, and I didn’t guess the answer! It wasn’t earth-shattering but I did enjoy it.
Mrs. Tim of the Regiment (Mrs. Tim #1), by D.E. Stevenson – I have loved D.E. Stevenson’s novels for years, but somehow did not make my way to Mrs. Tim. Strange, because Hester Christie is probably Stevenson’s most famous character! I finally got around to this one, and loved it. Mrs. Tim’s diary chronicles the joys and travails of life as a British Army officer’s wife – and it’s such a fun read.
Such a Fun Age, by Kiley Reid – This one has been so hyped; probably over-hyped. One fall evening, Alix Chamberlain calls her babysitter, Emira Tucker, and asks Emira to take Alix’s toddler out of the house during a family crisis. Emira brings little Briar to an upscale grocery store to kill time, and is shocked when she is accused of kidnapping the toddler. A bystander films Emira’s interaction with store security – an interaction which ends well, thankfully, but sets off a chain of events that will change Emira’s life as well as Alix’s. This was an engagingly written meditation on race in the age of social media.
The Consequences of Fear (Maisie Dobbs #16), by Jacqueline Winspear – I waited not-so-patiently for my turn with the new Maisie, and my library hold finally came up! Young message runner Freddie Hackett witnesses what appears to be a murder – but there’s no body. The police don’t believe Freddie, but Maisie Dobbs does. Setting about to investigate, Maisie clashes with her contact in the British government, Robbie MacFarlane, and highly-placed Free French officers. Meanwhile, Maisie tries to sort out her personal life, and the United States inches closer to World War II.
Majesty (American Royals #2), by Katharine McGee – This is pure brain candy, but it is fun. The second installment of the American Royals series sees Queen Beatrice, recently installed on the throne as the first Queen Regnant of America, getting ready to marry Lord Teddy Eaton – for convenience and the crown. Meanwhile, Princess Samantha tries to get over her crush on Teddy; Nina Gonzalez has trouble extricating herself from the world of the Washington family; and Daphne Deighton continues to scheme. I do enjoy the American history nuggets buried in these books; they’re no classics, but they’re a good – and a bit silly – way to while away an afternoon
Drawn from Memory, by Ernest H. Shepard – E. H. Shepard’s work is instantly recognizable as the iconic images of Pooh and friends, as well as Mole, Ratty and Toad. His Victorian childhood memoir is liberally sprinkled with charming images of the same style. Shepard describes Victorian Christmas holidays; a gaggle of maiden aunts; racing hansom cabs on his three-wheeled horse; visiting the Pantomime, and so many other charming scenes. I loved it.
Drawn from Life, by Ernest H. Shepard – The second volume of E. H. Shepard’s memoirs begins tragically, with the death of his beloved mother when he is ten years old. The family does eventually come out of their fog of grief, but Shepard writes very honestly that his mother’s death impacted him much more than he realized at the time. Shepard takes us through his years at school, the development of his talents as an artist, and falling in love with a fellow art student. Like in Drawn from Memory, his signature line drawings are sprinkled throughout, enlivening almost every page.
May is a long month, and this is a long book list! There were quite a few highlights this month – including the two E. H. Shepard memoirs, the latest installment in Maisie’s adventures, Rhubarb Rhubarb, and of course, Mrs. Tim! I’m looking ahead to long light evenings of summer reading now.