vinegar girlVinegar Girl by Anne Tyler is a modern retelling of the classic Shakespeare play, The Taming of the Shrew. Initially I picked this book to listen to through OverDrive for two reasons: the cover looked interesting and it was available for checkout. I’m glad I checked this out. This was very quick to listen to, the characters are all excellently developed, and the narrator hooked me in.

In this retelling, Kate Battista lives with her father, Dr. Louis Battista, and her younger teenage sister, Bunny. Kate works as a nursery school assistant, takes care of the family house, and has watched her younger sister ever since their mother’s early death. Dr. Battista, a research scientist studying autoimmune disorders, is eccentric to sat the least. His compulsiveness shines through in his work and the way he wants Kate to run the house. Everyone’s laundry is done on a different day of the week, Bunny has to follow her father’s behavior rules 100%, and meal prep is down to a specific science. Kate follows her father’s computer-generated grocery list and makes the family’s “meat mash” at the beginning of the week, a less-than-appetizing-sounding food concoction that contains all necessary nutrients that they then eat for the rest of the week.

Dr. Battista has gone through a number of different lab assistants, the current one, Pyotr Shcherbakov, being his favorite. Pyotr is apparently a star scientist from Russia that Dr. Battista, who is equally famous in Russia, was lucky to get. Unfortunately for everyone, Pyotr’s three-year work visa is about to expire, meaning he will be deported back to Russia unless he marries an American girl. Dr. Battista has the perfect girl in mind for Pyotr: his oldest daughter, Kate, who has never turned down any of his crazy schemes before. This retelling of Shakespeare’s classic veers from the powerful emotions in the original, but is a delightful and positive retelling that leaves readers wondering what will happen between Kate, Pyotr, and her father? Will his research be successful? Will Kate and Pyotr get married? Will the meat mash ever change? Tyler’s quirkiness adds a new level to this classic Shakespeare, something that will have readers clamoring for more.

This book is also available in the following formats:

There are many other clever adaptations of The Taming of the Shrew, some of them you may not realize. Check out this list of my favorite adaptations (and call the library for more suggestions!).
mclintockkiss me kate10 things i hate about you







the arsonistThe Arsonist by Sue Miller is my latest foray into audiobooks. Miller has weaved a suspenseful story full of family drama and community intrigue within a small New England town.

Frankie Rowley has returned to Pomeroy, New Hampshire, the small village and farmhouse where her family has always spent the summers. Frankie has worked in East Africa for the last 15 years, but came home after she realized that she has never really quite fit in over there. The adjustment back to the states is hard on Frankie, leaving her walking along a country road on her first night back. Waking up the next morning, Frankie discovers that a house up the road has been burnt to the ground. Fires keep popping up around the community, putting people on edge and dividing the town even further.

In addition to the community drama around the fires, Frankie’s mother Sylvia is becoming more concerned over her husband’s erratic behavior. He is forgetting more and more some days, while on others, he seems just fine. Frankie and her sister, Liz, are trying to help, but Liz has a family of her own to deal with now and is hoping Frankie will help relieve her stress. Frankie, herself, has fallen for Bud Jacobs, a Washington DC transplant to Pomeroy, who has taken over the town’s small newspaper. All of these relationships become even more entangled in a very small town under great stress due to all of the arson activity and the divide between the summer people and year-rounders.

The Arsonist is the second book that I’ve listened to where the author has been the narrator and the stories really benefit from the author’s telling. The author is able to truly tell how she wants the characters to talk and how she sees them interacting with each other. You also notice a distinct connection between the narrator and each character because the author cares more about and has a more vested interest in how the characters are being portrayed. Check this book out and let me know what you think!

This book is available in additional formats:

Guest CottageThe Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer is a great companion to Enchanted August (see blog post of July 15th). Not only are both set in idyllic New England islands, both novels  are self-limiting in that the cottage rental is for the month of August. (Is this a east coast thing? It seems very exotic to this midwesterner).

The knowledge that this a short-term co-habitation allows for a pleasantly predictable dramatic arc (meet-cute, attraction, development of romance and friendship, sadness of the looming end of summer).

The characters in both books are suffering from unsatisfactory or dysfunctional family situations, and are looking for healing, as well as escape, however brief. They find all this, as well as transformation and joy.

This is the first Nancy Thayer book I’ve read, and I’m happy to find that she has many more in her backlist. She actually lives in Nantucket so her writing has the ring of authority.

What is therapeutic is the satisfaction she obviously takes in the quotidian tasks of cooking, grocery shopping,  cleaning up, and so on. Life on the island also consists of going to the beach, sailing, visiting quaint shops and getting ice cream. One could do a lot worse than spending time in these fictional worlds.

Summer is my romance novel/vacation read time. This summer’s romance pattern: kilts. Rugged Scottish Highlanders tearing up the countryside as they fight with claymores and dirks, display their clan colors with pride on their kilts, and fight to save their damsel, even when she’s capable of saving herself. That description may sound like the plot to many, many different Scottish Highlander romance novels and I tell you, yes, yes it is. But when that plot line lands in the hands of certain authors, it twists and molds itself into a beautifully crafted story involving love, fealty, family, and fierce Scottish loyalty. Here I’ve gathered my most recent Scottish Highlander reads. Enjoy! (If you’re looking for more information about romance novels, check out the Romance LibGuide put together by one of our awesome librarians!)

outlanderDiana Gabaldon is the author of the Outlander series, a total of 8 books with many novellas and other books added to the initial 8 books. She is currently working on the 9th book in the series. The first book in the series, Outlander, introduces the character of Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, who is reunited with her husband Frank as they reconnect on a second honeymoon in the British Isles. As they are exploring their surroundings, Claire and Frank stumble upon an ancient stone circle containing several plants that amateur botanist Claire is very interested in. One night, Claire is back looking at the plants when she walks through the stone circle and finds herself thrust into a different world. Dazed, confused, and lost, she becomes a captive of a group of Highlander men in 1743 Scotland. Forced to deal with circumstances thoroughly out of her control, Claire soon finds herself in the pleasure of a young James Fraser, known to his acquaintances as Jamie. Claire and Jamie soon are forced to rely of each other to survive. Gabaldon weaves the Outlander story around the delicate balance between Claire’s old and new life and the balance between her truth and the lies she must tell to survive. (If this interests you, this book/series has also been made into a television series – which is also available for checkout.)

My most recent Highlander romance series read was the Scandalous Highlanders series by Suzanne Enoch. I just finished mad, bad, dangerous in plaidreading Mad, Bad, and Dangerous in Plaid, the third book in this series with a fourth due to release in October. I picked this book up not realizing that it wasn’t the first book until I was about halfway through and by then I was too hooked to start the series at the beginning. In this book, we find Rowena MacLawry has escaped the Highlands and run away to London to have her debut season after her brothers have expressly told her she could not. She returns home to the Highlands with a large number of her sophisticated English ladies and lords in tow to help plan the wedding of one of her brothers. Rowena, or Winnie as she is known to her brothers and to the dashing Lachlan MacTier, has brought along these sophisticated men to hopefully find a husband and to prove to everyone that she is over her 18-year crush and obsession over Lachlan. As soon as Winnie expresses her disdain for Lachlan, he realizes that maybe he doesn’t want her giving up on him just yet. A humorous and disastrous mix of complications plague the wedding preparations and Winnie and Lachlan are forced to come up with a rather ingenious plan to make sure everyone ends up happy. I recommend that you check out the first book in the series, The Devil Wears Kilts, and the second book, Rogue with a Brogue, before reading the third. Also keep an eye out for the release of the fourth!

There are many, many other Scottish Highlander romance novels, but these are just my memorable ones from this summer’s reading, so if you’re interested in more Highlander romance novels, check out this list that collects from all three Davenport Libraries and contains some of the Highlander romance novels we own.

(Handy tip: If you’re reading a romance novel and aren’t sure whether it is the first in a series, check to see if there are siblings to the main character and whether or not any of them are married or in a serious relationship. If this is true, you most likely are not reading the first in the series. This is a generality and is not always true. Just something I’ve noticed. When in doubt, contact us at the library and we can check.)

Little Beach Street Bakery Written by Jenny Colgan, Little Beach Street Bakery, is surprisingly enjoyable. The  writing style and character development are better than you expect based on cover art and blurb, even though there’s  a bit of a formula feel.

Though Polly’s life has veered wildly off course, there isn’t really  sense of dread.  There’s a comforting feeling that it’s  probably going to work out for her, even as things go from bad to worse. The theme of reinvention is always enticing; readers get to imagine what would happen if they lost everything, but got to start over in a new place, with new people and a new job.

Set in Cornwall, England, Polly and her boyfriend opened a graphic design company not long before  computer programs allowed users to do their own design and printing. Their business failure exposed the cracks in the couple’s relationship and they eventually broke up, leaving Polly without a home or a job.

After a dispiriting apartment search, she ends up in a town that is cut off from the rest of England at high tide, living in a dirty and dilapidated building. The upsides are the ocean views, companionship of a local fisherman and a mysterious American, as well as an adopted baby puffin. The downsides are the lack of jobs, and a cranky landlady who, as the local baker,  is threatened by Polly’s skill in bread making.

Adding to the richness of the novel are secondary characters such as Reuben, an obnoxious philanthropist, Kerensa, Polly’s best friend, through whose eyes Polly is able to appreciate the advantages of her new life, and, of course, Neil, the puffin. The fishing village setting and the evolving friendships and romances make for a lovely break from the stresses of fast-paced, mainland life.

royal weRebecca, a bit frazzled and jetlagged from her transatlantic flight, arrives in Oxford for a year of study abroad. Struggling with her suitcases, she accepts the help of a handsome young man who shows her to her room. She jokes with him a bit (including some off-color but good-natured remarks about the Royal Family), then collapses on her bed after he leaves, exhausted, only to be startled when her new neighbor crashes into her room, asking if she’d met “him” yet? “Him” is Nicholas, Prince of Wales and future king of England and also, on occasion, helpful porter.

After this somewhat mortifying introduction, Rebecca (known as Bex), settles into having a prince as a classmate and becomes a member of the tight-knit circle surrounding the prince after proving her ability to be descrete. Bex and Nick become friends, bonding over bad television shows and junk food, gradually becoming confidents and finally, in love. A rocky romance begins, ends and then begins again, this time when they are both more mature and clear-eyed. But can the Prince marry his beloved, or will one more obstacle stop them at the alter?

Witty and fast-paced, The Royal We is a tons of fun. I admit I was skeptical at first but early on the heroine mentions that her hometown is Muscatine, Iowa. That peaked my interest, especially since I grew up in Muscatine myself. (No blunders or missteps in describing Muscatine or Iowa, although 95% of the book does take place in England!) The excellent writing kept me reading and the ups and downs of their adventures kept me entertained. Obiviously loosely based on the lives of Prince William and Princess Kate, it’s interesting to get a (supposed) peek behind the walls of The Firm (as the Royals call their institution). Conversations and actions of the circle of royal friends are made-up of course, but feel realistic and plausible. More interesting is the push and pull of Bex and Nick’s relationship – the conflict between duty and love, of doing what is expected of you vs what you want to do. What seems like a unique and special relationship in fact must struggle through many of the same issues that ordinary people must work through.

Recommended for a quick, fun read that is at turns funny and touching.

dictatorship of the dressWhen I was growing up, I always had a secret hope that I would meet my significant other on a plane and we would magically fall in love, travel to an exotic location, and live happily ever after. When I reached high school, I realized that my plane-phobic self would actually have to get WILLINGLY on a plane(and not freak out) to do this… My child self was crushed. I would have to continue to look for those fairy tales in books.

Just last week, I stumbled upon a fiction romance novel called Dictatorship of the Dress by Jessica Topper that allowed me to live out my childhood fantasy of travel love. In this novel, Topper weaves together the lives of Laney Hudson, the dress bearer for her mother’s wedding, and Noah Ridgewood, a software designer on his way to his bachelor party. Laney is sick of hauling her mother’s dress around, as her mother seems to care only if the dress actually makes it to the wedding, not her daughter. As she carries the giant dress bag through the airport, she is constantly mistaken for the bride, a mistake Laney uses to her advantage so she can be bumped up to first class. Here she is seated next to Noah, who the flight crew mistakenly thinks is her husband-to-be. Enter in horrible winter weather, missed flights, Laney’s lost love, and an overbearing fiancé, Laney and Noah soon find themselves grounded in the last available honeymoon suite. The two must wrestle with events in their past that are holding them back from catching this new love connection.

a bollywood affairLet me tell you about one of my favorite places in the library: the new shelves. The new shelves are the first place I look whenever I go into any library. They let me see what reading mood I am in before I decide to trek through the whole library, since I can never come into a library and leave in less than an hour… When I’m pressed for time, I wander the new shelves because I’m bound to find something, usually more than one something, that I want to read.

My latest new shelf discovery was A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev. In this fiction romance, Dev has woven a classic story of love, loyalty, and confusion. Mili Rathod was promised and married to her husband when she was 4 years old and hasn’t seen him since. For years, she waited for her husband to come back and rescue her. When he never shows up, Mili takes it upon herself to go to America to get an education, so she can become a more perfect modern bride. Enter in Samir Rathod, a famous Bollywood director, who just happens to be Mili’s brother-in-law. After an accident has injured his brother, Samir is sent to Michigan to convince Mili to sign the divorce papers. This should be easy, right? WRONG. Enter in last-name confusion, accidents, Samir’s writer’s block, and Mili’s crazy roommate’s love story, and readers are guaranteed to be hooked into this story and rooting for Mili to finally get her happily ever after.

dress shop of dreamsThe Dress Shop of Dreams is a captivating novel of enduring hopes, second chances, and the life-changing magic of true love.

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires. Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora.

But magic spells–like true love–can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways. (description from publisher)

paris lettersParis Letters explores finding love and freedom in a pen, a paintbrush… and Paris

How much money does it take to quit your job? Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this questions to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up, and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A few days into her stop in Paris, Janice meets Christophe, the cute butcher down the street-who doesn’t speak English. Through a combination of sign language and franglais, they embark on a whirlwind Paris romance. She soon realizes that she can never return to the world of twelve-hour workdays and greasy corporate lingo. But her dwindling savings force her to find a way to fund her dreams again. So Janice turns to her three loves – words, art, and Christophe – to figure out a way to make her happily-ever-after in Paris last forever. (description from publisher)