Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis

I wish I liked this more. It has a lot of things I really like in general-a super meet cute [Trapped in a snowstorm on a motorway, Noella spends the hours in a guy’s car and the two really hit it off. Only problem is he’s American and headed to the airport to go home], and the idea that people fated together may have encountered each other multiple times in their lives before connecting. In fact, I love that idea so much that I’m still giving this a solid 3 stars because I really did like seeing how that played out.

However, I was so frustrated by Noelle, the main character. I found myself siding with the “bad guy” in the story in terms of his own frustration with Noelle’s inability to live her own life. [Her mom is “delicate” and Noelle is the appointed caregiver to the extent that she never goes out or does anything for herself.] Rather than having sympathy for her I was just completely annoyed.

*After this I read Dear Emmie Blue, which was great, and written before this one. Having read both I’d say that Eight Perfect Hours reads like a second book that was written because there was a contract but the author had an idea and rushed to get it out.

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett by Annie Lyons

This had a strong Man Called Ove theme and feel about it-somewhat cranky old person perfectly willing to end her life. In this case Eudora would like to travel to a Swiss clinic for a physician assisted suicide. She insists she’s not depressed she just wants to end life on her own terms-she’s elderly and doesn’t want to end up on machines and such. It’s all very straightforward and practical but of course we come to find out why she doesn’t have anyone who will object and why she is so ready to end this life.
New neighbors and a sparkling interesting ten year old who butts into Eudora’s life suddenly turn her life upside down. It all seems very predictable and yet it was a joy to read. I loved watching Eudora’s hard shell crack, gaining insight into being elderly (I liked it when she said she understood how irritating it was to watch an old person walk because now that she was a slow walker she hated it, too!), and reading the flashbacks of her life (and wondering how different her life might have been had she lived in a different era.)
This was, not surprisingly, very heartwarming, but it was also very thoughtful and I found myself really thinking about death and how we approach it, well after I finished the book. And then, in a strange coincidence, a couple days after finishing the NYTimes had an article about death doulas, which had featured in the book.
Would love to read more by this author.

And Then She Vanished by Nick Jones

Paul brought this home from work and we both read it right up. When logging it in GR we discovered that there is a different edition and also a sequel. (Good old Goodreads, listing this as Joseph Bridgeman #1) Anyway, it’s time travel but in a very intriguing way. Joseph’s little sister disappeared many years ago and he’s really been haunted by it ever since. He goes to see a hynpotherapist hoping it will help his mental health, but he actually find out he can time travel. It’s kind of a weird time travel (and really only gets weirder) but Joseph sees in it the possibility to go back to the night his sister vanished and either prevent it from happening or see what happened. I enjoyed this premise very much and the ending definitely sets up for an exciting sequel (or series), so I’m looking forward to that.

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens

Absolutely delightful! It was kind of weird to think that to be reading a story so exactly when it takes place-read in January 2021 and she is describing Christmas 2020 and December 31 2020– that means she wrote it set in the future, technically. (and then also a little weird because, with no mention of a pandemic technically it’s an alternate reality! I’m sure she had no idea that would happen when she wrote this.)
All the reviews are giving it comparisons to One Day and Miss You, both of which I loved, and I absolutely agree. I love a story where characters who know each other now crossed paths earlier in their lives and we get to see that (and then I spend the whole story worrying that they’ll never KNOW that. For some reason it is extremely important to me that they eventually figure it out.)

Quinn and Minnie were born within a minute of each other-first babies of 1990, but only one could be the first and win its parents a 50,000 pound prize. Minnie just missed out and not only that, but her precious name, Quinn, was taken by the other baby. Ever since she’s felt (and been told) that she has bad luck, especially on her birthday. On her 30th birthday she and Quinn meet for the first (?) time and sparks fly.

I really enjoyed this story, it was fun and thoughtful and I loved Minnie’s pie baking business.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Jenny Bayliss

I’d intended to read this in the lead up to Christmas because I do love a holiday romance each December. However, it was so popular that I only just got it now. I figured I wanted to read it more than I needed it to be read in December, so I dove in. What an absolute delight!! This just ticked so many boxes of the perfect paperback holiday romance: British, quaint village where the main characters seem to be beloved by the town, ample snow, a dream job that seems like people don’t really get to just have (fabric designer for Liberty of London), a charming house (again practically happened into), a best friend foil who has young children but still has time to come over with a bottle of wine, a manor house straight out of Downton Abbey, plenty of holiday sweets (many truffles and mince pies), a neverending stream of Irish coffee, tea, mulled cider, and other booze, quirky family characters who don’t bring the story down. And of course, the actual romance.
One of they ways this fits a lot of that in (gingerbread houses! caroling! wine!) is with the actual premise–12 dates that each have a theme and activity and pair our main character with a different man each time. It’s actually a brilliant party planning/dating service/holiday activity business plan (and must have cost a fortune.)
Highly recommended.

Just Like You by Nick Hornby

First finish of the new year! And fortunately, it’s a good one. I haven’t always loved everything Hornby has written, but I do think he’s a good writer and some of his stuff I have really loved. I thought this was terrific. My friend Melissa said she was very invested in the romance and I have to say, same. Even though instinctively I want to cringe at a 22 year old man and a 42 year old woman, I really was rooting for this unlikely couple.
This is the first British book I’ve read that gets into other country’s horror at Trump, and it did a good job of explaining to me the Brexit fiasco. It was also interesting to read about racism in another country. That all sounds pretty heavy for a book that I didn’t think was heavy at all. It was heartwarming, sweet, funny, and a little bit thoughtful.

I especially enjoyed Lucy’s two children.

Miss Cecily’s Recipes for Exceptional Ladies by Vicky Zimmerman

I gave this the category “Recipes Included” but the truth is, to my tremendous disappointment, there are not actual recipes in here. But enough food and menu descriptions to warrant the category anyway.

I’ll preface this by saying that I love vintage cookbooks and especially enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s grandmother (?)’s book At Home on the Range. And, I keep my very own menu journal, listing all the menus and notes about them, for special occasions.

So here we have Kate, about to turn 40, with a wonderful boyfriend, who suddenly “has a wobble” and isn’t so sure about them. Kate is despondent and gives him a couple months to get his act together. During this time she begins volunteering at an elderly ladies’ nursing home and strikes up a friendship of sorts with Cecily. Only “of sorts” because Cecily is crotchety and mean to her. But somehow Kate keeps coming back. In part because Cecily is a smart and interesting lady who had a fascinating life. She is quick to tell Kate what she’s doing wrong with her life though. Cecily’s book collection is enormous, including cookbooks. She lends Kate a vintage book called Thought for Food, which includes fascinating and wonderful menus that are often very funny since each includes the true “aim” of the meal. Kate loves to cook and eat and begins to make some of these things.

I want to read Thought for Food! Where is this book?
I really enjoyed this whole heartedly.

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

I really liked The Flatshare, so I was excited when I read about her new book, and even more excited when my friend gave me a copy. [So long without new books! But, our library reopened last week, all my holds started coming in, and I finally had a socially distant visit with my friends, which included much passing around of prepubs. Consequently I am having the best reading week.]

The premise in this one is that a frazzled successful young woman (Leena) (with an equally go getter beau) is forced to take 2 months leave from her all consuming job. The idea of slowing down is simply crazy to her, but at the same time her grandma (Eileen), a somewhat recent divorcee, talks about how much she missed out on when she was young and wishes she had gone to London to have adventures. She is also hoping to date and her village is so small there are no suitable boyfriends there. And thus, they swap homes and lives for 2 months! Grandma is very involved in her teeny tiny village and can’t help becoming equally involved in the city, specifically in the apartment building. She loves being with her new young roommates, but finds a way to connect people her age in the city. Meanwhile, Leena takes her project management skills to the village committees. Crucial to their plan is that they also swap phones so that Leena can really disconnect. Also, Leena’s mom lives in the village, but it’s been hard for them to be together ever since Leena’s sister died.
I really loved this. Just like Flatshare it was warm and sweet, funny, and had some depth to it.  Utterly charming and a perfect book to read during this bizarre summer of 2020.

 

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan (reread)

I’m running low here on the books I want to read (although the truth is there are still hundreds of books in our house.) I decided to reread The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir and it was a delight all over again. Here’s my first review.

I really loved seeing how the war changes the characters and how some of them can make those changes positive. Mrs. Tilling, in particular, but also Venetia and Kitty.

Solid historical fiction with a good story.

Pennington’s Last Term by. K. M. Peyton

This is one of my cherished childhood books. I read it many times and much of it just became the fabric of my memories-certain phrases have stayed with me and become part of my ordinary thinking. I’m not sure why I read it so much or why it practically imprinted on me. And rereading it again I do wonder at the appeal to an American child in the 1980s. It’s set in the late 1960s in England. So much of it was bizarre and foreign, and even now I find it so puzzling–the whole school system puzled me greatly. He’s 16 but everyone talks about when they will “leave”? They eat lunch together and are served communally, but it’s not boarding school, in fact they all seem “lower class”? His parents are casually abusive. It seems to be ok for the kids to drink beer and smoke? And teachers employed corporal punishment!  Penn himself is a brooding misunderstood character with tremendous appeal for the girls. This was a delight to reread.

 

Here’s a post I wrote about it for another blog back when I last reread it:

That Was Then, This Is Now: Pennington’s Last Term