Saturday, March 4, 2023

A glimpse of spring and three debut books I've read lately...


Hello book friends!  Hope you are all well and already enjoying or looking forward to spring.  I share a picture above of the first glimpse of spring in our yard.  Lovely, right?  The wildflowers are not quite out yet, but I'm hoping for a good season this year.  I did have someone say they had seen a few bluebonnets already, but if we don't get more rain I'm afraid this will be a sparse season yet again.  Come on, rain!  

In my reading life, I've recently read three books that were all debut novels.  They are not alike, but I was pleased with all three.  Oh, and I also attended the historical fiction book group here, though I hadn't read the book.  Enjoyed that anyway and getting to see that group again.  My book group attendance has been a bit hit and miss in the last few months.  The book discussed was The Last Train To Key West by Chanel Cleeton.  Have you read that one?  Most seemed to really like it.  The books I read are:

The Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges - Did you ever have a doll house with little furnishings as a child?  I did and I liked it a lot.  Mine wasn't anything fancy, but I enjoyed moving the parts around and playing with it.  In this book, Myra Malone lives in the mountains of Arizona and she writes a blog with stories about the little mansion that was given to her by her step-grandmother when she was a little girl.  Her grandmother had furnishings for the 'mansion' and also taught Myra how to create new and different types of rooms and settings.  Across the country, Alex Rakes is part of a family of custom furniture sellers and he hears about Myra's blog and stories, checks them out, and is shocked to recognize the 'mansion' setting and some of the furniture.  He writes to Myra and the story goes from there.  There is more than a bit of magic realism in this book and I thought it was fun.

The next book I opened was The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner.  This book is the March selection for the Austin Mystery Book Group that I keep up with.  I must say that Gayle is doing a great job of bringing new book selections to this group.  Set in both the late 18th century and also the present day, The Lost Apothecary tells the story of a woman named Nella who 'helps' women out of predicaments.  Nella's mother was also an apothecary that helped women, but Nella has added to the definition of 'helping' by including poisons in her stock of items.  In this time period, women often had no recourse for life situations with men who abused them or their children.  Nella can 'help'.  The present day story is about Caroline who has come to London for her 10th anniversary, but she's left her husband at home in the US.  Right before the trip, she is shocked to find out something awful about him and she takes their planned trip on her own.  Caroline finds an item that will relate back to Nella and her time and she goes on a quest to solve the 'lost apothecary' mystery.  I did like this book, though I wouldn't necessarily have made some of the choices that Nella did.  She had her reasons.  I'm also not a big fan of the time period - somehow, I like the late 19th century better.  However, I was quite absorbed in the story.  Sarah Penner has a new book coming out next week called The London Seance Society.  I hope to read that one too.

The third debut book I read was another 'cold' one - City Under One Roof by Iris Yamashita.  This book was more of a 'normal' mystery than the other two.  Set in Alaska, in Point Mettier, based in part on Whittier, a town that is approached by trains and cars through a 2.5 mile tunnel.  This is the longest highway tunnel in North America and it's one lane!  A little scary to think about.  All the residents of Point Mettier live in a condo/apartment complex of several stories - 'under one roof'.  It had been a military complex in the past, but an earthquake in 1964 caused vast damage and the military left the area.  Our story starts with a teenage girl finding a hand and a foot washed up on the shore and an Anchorage detective named Cara comes to investigate.  Cara has her own issues and hidden reasons for being there, but she works with the Point Mettier Police to identify the body parts.  Lots of people living there have things to hide (that part of the story almost reminded me of the Rockton books that I talked about recently) and there are criminals that enter the story.  On a cheerful note, there is a 'pet' moose named Denny.  Ha!  The author comes out of a screenwriting background and I think that shows a bit, but it didn't take away from the story.  I liked it.

Hope this post wasn't too, too long.  I'd love to know if any of these appeal to you.  And I'll be back soon to talk about what I'm reading.  Have a good weekend!