Friday Book Whimsy: Flying Solo

In 2019, I read and reviewed a book by author Linda Holmes called Evvie Drake Starts Over. I liked that book very much. I liked the story of a strong woman who isn’t kicked in the butt when she loses her man, but instead, pulls herself up and makes her life better.

Linda Holmes’ second novel, Flying Solo, has the same theme, and the same good writing.

Laurie Sassalyn, having recently called her marriage, is happy to leave her comfortable life in the northwest to travel to her small hometown in Maine to go through the effects of her favorite aunt who is recently deceased. Her Aunt Dot lived to her mid-90s, and was never married. She was Laurie’s hero because she lived her life to the fullest, traveling all over the world and making fun and interesting friends in the process.

As Laurie sifts through all of Dot’s things, she discovers at the bottom of an old chest a wooden duck. As if her aunt inexplicably owning a wooden duck isn’t odd enought, Laurie also discovers an unsigned love letter that ends with, “And anyway, if you’re ever desperate, there are always ducks, darling.”

Laurie takes the duck to a person who values estates and is told that the duck has no financial value. Laurie doesn’t mind, but intends to keep it as a reminder of her eccentric aunt. But then the duck mysteriously disappears, leaving Laurie flummoxed as to why someone would want to steal a duck worth nothing.

Laurie takes it upon herself to begin looking at her aunt’s life more carefully. She connects with an old flame who was her first love, and he helps her research and talk to experts in the antique realm. The more Laurie discovers, the more she sees that her aunt was even more interesting than she had ever imagined.

While I didn’t like this book as much as the author’s debut novel, I enjoyed the learning the mystery of Aunt Dot’s past. I liked that the characters weren’t cookie-cutter stereotypes. Laurie is seemingly comfortable with her weight, which is a refreshing change. Her goals don’t have to include marriage. The ending, in fact, was quite unexpected.

Overall, I recommend this book.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: The Cold Way Home

The Cold Way Home is author Julia Keller’s 8th book in the Bell Elkins mystery series. Keller’s wonderful novels appear to be a well-kept secret. And it’s a secret that should be let out to the masses, or at least the masses who like mystery drama, because Keller is a wonderful writer.

The books are somewhat dark, if realistic. They take place in the small town of Ackers Gap in the mountains of West Virginia. The troubles we hear about regularly on the evening news have been taking their toll on this community. Opioid and heroin addiction is claiming many of the young people who still live in this almost-ghost-town. The coal mines have shut down, and there are few jobs left for the people of the town. I have followed Bell from the beginning, when she was the district attorney. As the novels went on, more and more secrets from her past were revealed. Now she is no longer the district attorney, but has started an investigative business with her friend and former sheriff Nick Fogelsong, and a former deputy assistant who is now a paraplegic from a drug-related shooting.

Their first case is a doozy. A woman is found dead at a long-abandoned mental hospital located out in the middle of nowhere. The mental hospital was rumored to have used experimental (and horrific) medical practices during its time of operation. The woman was killed with a hatchet and no one knows why she was killed, or even why she was at that particular spot.  I will admit that the murderer’s identify was about as unexpected to this reader as in any mystery novels I’ve read. I literally gasped out loud when I learned the truth.

Keller’s writing is exceptional. Her descriptions are so clear and eloquent that you can hear the trees as they blow and feel the cold in the air. The story is told from all three of the private investigators, and the three couldn’t be more unique. The author weaves their personal stories into the novel, making us feel almost like they are our friends too.

I love this mystery series, and have recommended it to many. The Cold Way Home is no exception.

Here is a link to the book.

Friday Book Whimsy: Best Sellers

PBS recently used we, the readers, to select their favorite book of all time. The winner was To Kill a Mockingbird. But as we learned through that process, the best books ever written are not necessarily readers’ favorites. Still, a classic book came out on top.

I came across an article from a website called Literary Hub that provided the biggest fiction bestsellers for the last 100 years according to Publishers Weekly. The website also offered other books that were published that same year, but didn’t fare as well. I found both lists to be very interesting, and offer it to you for your perusal…..

Friday Book Whimsy: Clock Dance

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors. Her books — most of which take place in, or have some connection to, the author’s home town of Baltimore — always contain clever and realistic characters who manage to find some degree of contentment at the end of the day despite obstacles they face.

Having said this, her past few novels have been a bit of a disappointment, at least as compared to such classics as Dinner at the Homestead Restaurant or The Accidental Tourist. But her latest novel Clock Dance was a winner in this reader’s opinion, and left me with a degree of satisfaction that I haven’t come across in a novel since Fredrik Bachman’s Britt-Marie Was Here. Both novels present a female lead character who has spent most of her life doing what others think she should do. Until they don’t.

Young Willa Drake lives with her mother and father and a younger sister. Her mother is mentally ill, probably bipolar. When Willa is about 12 years old, her mother suddenly disappears, leaving Willa, her sister, and her kind, but rather namby pamby, father to cope.

Fast forward to her college years, where she meets, and finally agrees to marry, another student who loves her, but is pretty sure he knows what’s best for her. And having never learned to stand up for herself, she agrees. They are happy together, and have two sons. And then one night, a road rage incident results in Willa suddenly being widowed.

Fast forward once again, and Willa has remarried. Unfortunately, her sons are far away and they have grown apart. One day Willa receives a phone call and her life changes forever. She agrees to travel to Baltimore from her desert home, and becomes the caregiver to — now stay with me — her son’s ex-girlfriend’s little girl — when said ex-girlfriend is in the hospital with a broken leg. It’s only supposed to be for a short time.

But Willa’s life changes forever.

Full of the quirky characters that fans of the author have grown to love, Clock Dance is the kind of novel in which the reader — particularly if the reader is a woman — wants to shout HOO-RAY at the end of the book.

I loved this book. Welcome back to my bookshelf, Anne Tyler.