Reading from Home Rerun: Marie’s Reading: “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

EleanorEleanor Oliphant is fine.  Completely fine.  Or at least, that’s what she tells herself, when the loneliness starts to be too much or when she has yet another awkward encounter with another person.  As quickly becomes clear in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Eleanor Oliphant is not completely fine.

Eleanor is in her early thirties and she lives a solitary life.  She’s held the same office job for almost a decade.  She gets a weekly phone call from her volatile mother.  She’s socially inept, with real difficulty reading cues and interacting with other people.  She keeps to a strict daily routine and her weekends are a blur of vodka-haze.  Day after day, week after week, this is Eleanor’s life.

Until one day when she and a co-worker happen upon an elderly stranger who needs assistance.  From there, Eleanor’s routines are upended, and she suddenly has plans for the future and more human contact than she’s used to.

There’s a dark layer in this book that I wasn’t expecting.  Eleanor’s got a terrible, sad secret in her past, one that is uncovered as the book goes on.  She’s solitary and disconnected for a good reason.  However, this darkness makes the light at the story’s end that much brighter–there’s real weight and import in Eleanor’s growth as a person.  She’s not quirky.  She’s struggling to cope and to heal.

Which does not mean that she isn’t fun to read about.  This is a very amusing book, and extremely heartwarming, too.  There’s catharsis and change, but there’s also always a sturdy friend and hope for the future.  Her voice is original and perfectly individual.

Eleanor’s relationship with Ray, the scruffy IT guy from her office, is gold.  Ray is a kind, affable guy, and his patience with and affection for Eleanor is great to read about.   Their friendship shows how much kindness can make a huge difference.

If you liked The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, or A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, give this one a try!


This post originally appeared on the blog on May 16, 2017

Reading from Home Rerun: Marie’s Reading: “Midnight Chicken” by Ella Risbridger

91RzlpsnrjLMidnight Chicken
began as a blog, where Risbridger used cooking, writing, and feeding herself and those she loved as a way to pull herself out of a depression.  Her recipes are the type of cooking you can do “a little bit drunk,” the cozy kind, the after-work kind.  It’s food that you can craft out of what you have in your pantry or fridge.

But this is more than a cookbook.  Recipes are included, of course, but it’s the writing style and the emotions that really pull you in.

Risbridger’s writing is so elegant and evocative, you feel that you’ve been pulled from a scene whenever you put the book down, and you remember the imagery as if you were there.  Her descriptions of London fog, of sitting at the table as a child and looking at next door’s chickens, it’s all so gorgeously rendered.

And then there’s the depiction of food!  I’ve read and enjoyed lots of food writers, bloggers, and cookbook authors, and Risbridger is truly my kitchen soulmate.

Elisa Cunningham’s art is perfect, too:


If you need even a little saving, as we all do sometimes, give this book a try.  You can also read Risbridger’s writing over at her blog, Eating With My Fingers, if you’re like me and wanted more of her work.


This post originally appeared on the blog on July 21, 2019.


Reading from Home Rerun: Marie’s Reading: “Girl Waits With Gun” by Amy Stewart

cover_girl_waits_with_gun_amy_stewartI’m a little late to the party on this one.  But I’m so glad I finally arrived!

Girl Waits With Gun is based on real people, and tells the story of one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the United States.  Her name was Constance Kopp, and she lived in Wyckoff, New Jersey.  One day when out in town with her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, a wealthy silk factory owner ran into their buggy with his car.  Constance’s attempts to get the silk man to pay a $50 repair bill swiftly snowball into a dangerous situation when the man refuses to pay up.  Throw in a gang, some gunplay, and a missing child, and then let Constance Kopp save the day.

This is the first in a series, and I’ve also just finished the second installment, Lady Cop Makes Trouble.  The second one builds on the first for sure, but it’s a great outing all on its own–Constance finds her job in jeopardy after a criminal escapes on her watch.  These mysteries are amusing and filled with great characters.  As mysteries both of these books are a nice blend of police work and the more amateur sleuth style, given how Constance is kind of in-between those two worlds.

The pace is quick and the writing is evocative. Stewart does a lot with just a few lines to bring a scene or setting to life.  These books are set in the 1910’s, and there’s just enough historical detail to add color and interest.  And the characters are very well-realized through the dialogue-driven stories.  Their relationships, particularly those between the Kopp sisters, are very well-drawn.  In Girl Waits With Gun we get Constance’s backstory, and that of her family, and learn how these sisters ended up on an isolated rural farm.

Constance is presented as no-nonsense and incredibly driven, and I like how matter-of-fact she is about her unorthodox (for her time) profession.  This real-life quote from Constance says it all:

“Some women prefer to stay at home and take care of the house. Let them. There are plenty who like that kind of work enough to do it. Others want something to do that will take them out among people and affairs. A woman should have the right to do any sort of work she wants to, provided she can do it.”

She’s good at what she does and she wants the opportunity to do her job.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.  I appreciate how Constance just gets on with things, and the story never gets bogged down with the social issues that it touches on.  These books are about Constance Kopp taking down criminals, and keeping you delightfully entertained while she does so.

If you want to learn more, Stewart’s website has some great background on the characters and on New Jersey/New York City in the 1910’s.  Check it out here.

And the third installment is due in September, so keep your eyes peeled this fall for Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions!


This post originally appeared on the blog on February 28, 2017–there have been a few new books in this series since! 🙂


Reading from Home Re-Run: Marie’s Reading: “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day” by Winifred Watson

miss pettigrewA charming book with a delightful main character!  This screwball comedy from the 1930’s follows Miss Pettigrew as she’s swept up into the world of Delysia LaFosse, a nightclub singer.

Guinevere Pettigrew is a 40ish governess who desperately needs a new placement.  She shows up at an apartment in London expecting to find children to take care of.  Instead, she finds Delysia, an elegant young woman who needs to get a gentleman caller out of her apartment and enlists Miss Pettigrew’s help.  From there, it’s one adventure after another, with Miss Pettigrew swept up in the middle.

Over the course of a day in Miss LaFosse’s company, Miss Pettigrew blossoms.  She proves herself smart, loyal, good under pressure, and even might find a beau of her own.  Her progression is really fun to read–the  more she gets drawn in to the kind of world she’s only ever seen in movies, the more she finds she loves it.  This does not remain a fish out of water story for very long–it’s more like a fish finding the right water kind of story.

pettigrew illustrations
The illustrations are fun, too.

The friendship that develops between the women is great to read, too.  They complement each other nicely, and each has lessons to offer the other.  Miss Pettigrew and Miss LaFosse have an excellent rapport, and the way the day winds up for the both of them is sweet and fulfilling.

The dialogue is crisp and very 1930’s, along with the fast pace and lots of supporting characters popping in and out (in very dramatic, theatrical fashion, of course!).  Everything hinges on one misunderstanding, and you  hope that Miss Pettigrew will keep quiet about it and enjoy her day of really living.

While this book doesn’t share the satirical edge of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos, you might give that one a try if you enjoyed Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.  It was definitely in my head as I read this.  Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons could be another good readalike, for the humor and tone.



This post originally appeared on the blog on March 18, 2018

Reading from Home Re-run: Marie’s Reading: “The Diary of a Provincial Lady” by E.M. Delafield

Provincial Lady

Finally!  At long last!  I have found the perfect readalike for Bridget Jones’s Diary!  E.M. Delafield’s Provincial Lady keeps a diary, in which she relates the details of day-to-day life, housekeeping, child-rearing, and entertaining in 1920’s Devonshire.

With such anecdotes as:

Look for [young son] Robin and eventually find him with the cat, shut up into totally unventilated linen-cupboard, eating cheese which he says he found on the back stairs.

(Undoubtedly, a certain irony can be found in the fact that I have recently been appointed to new Guardians Committee, and am expected to visit Workhouse, etc., with particular reference to children’s quarters, in order that I may offer valuable suggestions on questions of hygiene and general welfare of inmates…Can only hope that fellow-members of the Committee will never be inspired to submit my own domestic arrangements to similar inspection.)

Who could resist?

Our Provincial Lady is wry and intelligent, but constantly feels inadequate to the demands of upper-middle-class life in her village.  She wrangles with and is completely intimidated by her Cook, a trip to France becomes a study in avoiding rip tides, shopping for a suitable flattering dress in the new style a momentous effort.  She loves her children more than is fashionable among the smart set, and she often tries in vain to find a bit of commonality with her fellow village ladies.  It’s laugh-out-loud funny all the way through, primarily because of the attention to detail.  The detail combined with the tone makes for a brilliantly relateable book, no matter what your background or era.

As I said, fans of Bridget Jones who want more of the same (albeit with a distinct “between-the-wars” flavor), you really must try this book.  Where Bridget had to navigate the turbulent seas of being a single 30ish woman in 1990’s London, the Provincial Lady swims in nearly identical waters in her village of the 1920’s.

You might also want to try P.G. Wodehouse, if Delafield’s work appeals to you.   Their sensibilities and humor are very, very similar.  Try any of his essays, or one of the Jeeves novels, to start.  I’d also suggest the work of the members of the Algonquin Round Table if you enjoy the sense of time and place, as well as the style of humor.  Try Robert Benchley, S.J. Perelman, and Dorothy Parker.

Finally, for those who want to travel even farther back in time with the comedy of day to day life and struggles, do try the brilliantly funny Diary of a Nobody by George Grossmith.  It is the diary of a “nobody”–an upright middle-class office clerk and family man of the 1890’s named Mr. Pooter.   He gets into fairly Bridget-Jones-esque scrapes, particularly with home decoration, dancing, and trying to get into the social column.


Originally appeared on the blog on January 17, 2014.

Reading From Home

I hope you’re all well and safe and healthy and hunkering on down as much as you can.  I’m going to be replaying some greatest hits here on the blog for a while.  I hope you have a TBR pile to tackle, a loaded Kindle, and/or a bookcase full of old favorites to return to while the library is closed.

Stay tuned.  Stay indoors.  Stay healthy.

Screen shot 2018-01-04 at 4.24.26 PM
Oh, please, as if this wasn’t the first thing you all thought of, too.


Marie’s Reading: “Magpie Murders” by Anthony Horowitz

magpieMagpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz is a clever and fun ode to old-fashioned mysteries, one that two other librarians here on staff beat me to.  I’m glad I finally read this!

Susan is an editor at a press in London that publishes the incredibly popular Atticus Pund mysteries.  She receives the latest manuscript, only to find it incomplete, the final chapters (and solution!) missing.  Soon after, the author Alan Conway apparently commits suicide.  Susan finds herself inside her own murder mystery as she quickly realizes that the details about Conway’s apparent suicide do not add up.

This is a mystery lover’s mystery–a commentary on the genre, chock-full of references, and a supremely well-constructed mystery all on its own.  Horowitz is a screenwriter for mysteries and his insider knowledge shines through right along with his affection.  As you’d expect from a screenwriter, the dialogue is great as is the pacing and the scene-setting.  There are lots of deftly handled moving parts here, and the ending is satisfying.

If you enjoy who-dunnits in the classic style, give this one a look!


February Staff Picks

New Staff Picks

The Golden Thread: How Fabric Changed History by Kassia St. Clair
A fun, informative, and engaging worldwide history of fabric.  From our language to our clothing, from baby swaddles to mummies, from domestic production to the Industrial Revolution and beyond, fabric is intricately woven (see?!) into our everyday lives.  I learned so much from this book, from Ancient China to space missions to prehistoric caves.  I think if you’re a weaver or knitter or similar you’ll get even more out of it, but this is a great book for anyone interested in a history of fabrics and textiles.

Marie’s Reading: “Ducks, Newburyport” by Lucy Ellmann

ducks-newburyport-1Full disclosure: I am not done with this.  If I wait until I’m done this review won’t go up until next February.  But I really want to share it all the same!

In this stream of consciousness novel, we’re inside the head of an Ohio woman as she bakes in her kitchen and goes about her day.  We’re privy to every thought as she gets through all the generally mundane events of any given day–her baking, her deliveries, the dentist, dropping her kids off, a flat tire on a snowy road (which is where I am right now).

It’s the kind of book where nothing happens but everything happens.  I’m finding it completely absorbing, full of insightful observation, fun turns of phrase, nice wordplay, and keen detail.  We really come to understand this woman through her thoughts–she’s anxious, a worrier,  a hard worker, concerned for her family.  She’s also funny and observant and generally doing her best.

It’s a snapshot of one life in America in 2019, and yet speaks to our cultural moment and our country as a whole.  Our preoccupations and our fears.  It’s also deeply, deeply personal, as our narrator thinks about her late mom, her childhood, her cancer, her loved ones, her past.

Ducks, Newburyport defies the usual sort of review.  It’s the kind of book you really have to try to know if it’s for you.  It’s different but accessible, and a commitment at its size (this is taking me a while!), but I’m thoroughly enjoying the narrator, the style, and the experience.  And the Kirkus review I read promises that *something* will explain the one portion of the book where we’re not in the narrator’s head, so I’ll report back!