The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett

Old-fashioned English professor Arthur Prescott of Barchester, England has two passions in his life — books/manuscripts and the Holy Grail.  When he is not teaching, he can usually be found in the Barchester Cathedral Library, enjoying its centuries-old collection.  His predictable life is shaken up when bubbly American Bethany Davis arrives to digitize the library’s ancient manuscripts.  Are these two diametrically opposed, or can each of them appreciate both printed books and digital versions that can be used by anyone anywhere in the world?  Oh, and Bethany is also a Holy Grail enthusiast.  And there is a mystery surrounding a missing manuscript having to do with Saint Ewolda, long associated with the Cathedral.

This is a delightful novel about two very different people who just might be falling in love as they try to uncover the Cathedral’s secrets.  A great read for book lovers, Grail enthusiasts who like a quieter approach than Indiana Jones, and Anglophiles.  Reserve a copy.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat
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I seldom read biography, and certainly not sports biography, but this book was so highly recommended that I picked it up.  I’m so glad that I did.  This is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  While it focuses on the life of Joe Rantz, one of the crew members at the University of Washington, it also presents the other crew members, captures the depths of the hardships filling this country during the Depression, and paints a grim picture of Hitler’s Germany.

Who knew crew was such a grueling sport?  I certainly didn’t.  These college men worked incredibly hard and sacrificed much to earn a place on the team that ultimately triumphed in the Berlin Olympics.  I was inspired by their dedication and by their commitment to each other and to their goal.  This is a story about strength of will, teamwork, and values.  Read it.  You’ll be glad you did.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Mr. Churchill's Secretary

It’s wartime, 1940.  Maggie Hope, raised in America, is actually British and, due to the unexpected inheritance of a house, finds herself in London and in need of a job.  Most unexpectedly, she winds up working as a typist for the prime minister, Winston Churchill himself.  Maggie’s background is actually math, and she soon finds herself caught up in intrigue and ciphers.  This book contains marvelous period detail and interesting characters.  It is both a first-rate historical novel and a fine murder mystery.  Recommended.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor

This is a classic tale of a discarded son being suddenly thrust into the limelight and a position he was never trained for.  Maia’s world is turned upside down when an airship crash kills his father — the emperor —  as well as all those in the line of succession before Maia.  Maia, who has been raised in the harsh and unloving home of his uncle far from the capital, is awakened by a courier and whisked off to the imperial court to take his place as the new emperor of the elves.  Maia himself is half goblin on his mother’s side.  Maia, a young man of integrity and intelligence though woefully uneducated, struggles to learn the endless things he doesn’t know in order to preside over the empire effectively.  The court is full of intrigue and danger, but Maia also finds some allies.

The world building and character development in this fantasy novel are excellent and drew me in.  Names of people are long and rather foreign, but there is a pronunciation guide and glossary in the back.  Though the book doesn’t say so, I’m hoping that this is the beginning of a series.

The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjamin

The Aviator's Wife

I knew very little about Anne Morrow Lindbergh before reading this book, other than that she had written Gift from the Sea and that she was Charles Lindbergh’s wife.  It turns out she was much more.  Anne was the first licensed female glider pilot in the U.S. and served as Charles’s co-pilot and navigator on numerous flights as he traversed the globe.   However, she was overshadowed by her husband’s fame, the tragic kidnapping and death of their son Charlie, and her husband’s domineering personality.

This novel brings the time period to life and rounds out both Anne and Charles — he comes across as something of a tyrant.  It takes many years for Anne to find her voice and come into her own.  I enjoyed this book very much, but also found myself wondering how much of it was fact and how much was the author’s imagination.  Perhaps I’ll have to read a biography of Anne in the future.  Recommended.

 

Witness by Nora Roberts

The Witness

Elizabeth Fitch always did exactly what she was supposed to – except for the day that she didn’t, and that changed everything forever.  While her mother was out of town at a conference, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth rebelled for once and used fake I.D. to get into a club.  One thing led to another . . . and then she witnessed a mob murder and was running for her life.

Twelve years later, Elizabeth goes by another name, works from a super secure home, and minds her own business.  The trouble is, the small town she has just moved to is nosey about newcomers, and getting noticed could blow the cover she has cultivated for so long.  An engrossing read.  One of Nora Roberts better books – which do vary in quality.

Me Before You: a Novel by Jojo Moyes

Me Before You

When the cafe where Louisa Clark works as a waitress closes, she winds up working as a companion for Will Traynor, a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair.  Before he was struck by a motorcycle, Will had been an Alpha male, an aggressive businessman who traveled the world and enjoyed mountain climbing and other demanding sports.  Now his girlfriend is gone, he can only move one hand slightly, and he is subject to serious and painful infections and medical complications.  Upbeat Louisa eventually figures out that her role is primarily watcher — Will is depressed and suicidal.  She determines to prove to him that life is worth living, even given his current limitations.  She actually gets Will to laugh, they have a variety of outings, and Louisa finds herself falling in love.  But is this enough for Will?  What if it isn’t?  Who decides if he lives or dies? A powerful, thought-provoking novel.

Pines by Blake Crouch

Pines

Secret Service agent Ethan Burke comes to by the side of a river.  He is badly injured and has no i.d., no cellphone, no wallet.  He remembers coming to the town of Wayward Pines on a mission, and being involved in a car accident, but nothing more.  When he makes it to the hospital, things continue not to add up.  Why can’t he reach his family by telephone?  Why is there an electric fence around the town?  Why does everything feel so “off?”  The answers are stranger than anything he could imagine.  This one will keep you guessing and reading long into the night.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

As the book opens, Harold Fry, a retired man in a cold, strained marriage with Maureen, receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy, a former work colleague.  She is writing to say goodbye — she is in hospice and dying of cancer.  Harold writes a simple note in reply and sets off by foot to post it.  However, the first postal box doesn’t seem right, nor the second, . . . and Harold finds himself walking six hundred miles from the south of England to Queenie in the north, convinced that somehow his walking will keep her alive.  Harold is completely unprepared for the walk, but he feels that it is something he must do, and so he keeps on.  Along the way he meets a wildly diverse assortment of individuals, and he ponders his life, remembering the good times of so long ago, as well as the tragedies that followed.  Maureen, left at home, also has time to do a lot of thinking.  This is ultimately a very hopeful book with a message that it is never too late to seek healing for life’s hurts or to make ammends.  Recommended.

Making Rounds with Oscar : the Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat by David Dosa

  • Dosa, a geriatrician working at a nursing home, at first scoffs upon hearing that Oscar, the resident cat, knows when a patient at the nursing home is going to die.  Then he starts observing that the cat unerringly heads to the room of a dying patient and stays there, providing company and comfort to both patient and family members.  However long the passing takes, Oscar stays.  Dr. Dosa begins to gather information from families of patients who have died at the nursing home, and eventually he becomes a true believer.  It is clear that Oscar somehow knows when death is near, and he won’t let anyone in his nursing home die alone.  A touching, true story about an amazing cat.

     

The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

Five years ago, eight-year-old Hannah was kidnapped and hidden in a cult called The Chosen, from which her mother had recently fled.  Her father and other former members of the cult have finally located Hannah in Argentina.  Can they retrieve her before the Prophet moves her again, as has happened over and over?  They enlist the help of Vanessa Michael Munroe, a woman with demons of her own in her past.  She is very expensive, very deadly, and very good at solving complicated problems.  This fascinating  thriller will have you reading late into the night.  The author, Taylor Stevens, was raised in a cult, so every detail rings true.  Highly recommended.

Definitely not Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

Chloe Parker is thirty-nine, divorced, owner of a failing letterpress business, and a total Jane Austen fan.  Desperate for cash to save her business and insure a good future for her daughter, Abigail, she applies and is accepted for a position on what she thinks is a total immersion documentary about Jane Austen’s England.  Imagine her suprise when she discovers that it is actually a period reality show, an 1812 version of The Bachelor.  This is outrageous!  This is ridiculous!  This is still $100,ooo on the line.  And so, Chloe decides to give it her best shot to win the heart of Mr. Sebastian Wrightman, a total hunk.  She’ll just ignore the tender feelings she begins to have for his cousin, Henry, who is also on the show in a secondary position.  In the process, she has to cope with nineteenth century hygiene or lack thereof, unpalatable food, and all the strict rules of society at that time.   Light and amusing, as well as informative about Victorian England.  Enjoy.

A Garden in the Rain by Lynn Kurland

After being dumped by her fiance, Madelyn Phillips goes to Scotland, a place she has always dreamed of visiting.  There she meets and falls in love with Patrick MacLeod  .  .  .  who just happens to have come through a time gate from medieval Scotland to the present.   Just as their relationship is deepening, unfinished business for both of them threatens to tear them apart.  This is one of a number of books by Lynn Kurland dealing with two time-traveling families, the Macleods and the De Piagets.  Lovely romances.  Kurland also writes a fantasy series.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

More a series of short stories than a novel, this work by Elizabeth Strout uses vignettes to bring to life the town of Crosby, Maine.  Olive Kitteridge is a retired math teacher married to Henry, a retired pharmacist.  Her relationship with her son, Christopher, is complicated.   Olive is a woman of strong opinions who speaks her mind.  Her life has its share of sorrows, as do those of the other townspeople featured in the various chapters.  Though she isn’t always likable, Olive is nonetheless entirely genuine.  Elizabeth Strout has done a remarkable job of bringing Olive to life, while also ably exploring themes of infidelity, suicide, grief, and the possibility of growth.  Not your typical novel, but well worth reading.

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon Green

There really are ghoulies and ghosties and demons and vampires and aliens and  things that go bump in the night. Fortunately, the Drood Family keeps things under control so that the general population can carry on in blissful ignorance of the peril all around. Eddie Drood does his part as an agent in the field to keep the peace until he suddenly finds himself being ferociously hunted as a Family traitor.  Then it’s up to Eddie to keep himself alive long enough to find out who the real villain is.  He collects some interesting allies along the way.  Great fun.  First of a series.