Early Spring Fever

Inspired by Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method, I’ve been folding shirts and finding joy in mindless tasks.  The book –  The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing – caused a decluttering craze when it was first published, but I avoided it.  When short clips appeared on You Tube and Netflix, however, I succumbed and found solace in folding pants and shirts.

When Kondo proclaimed books were not to be kept  but donated or – horrors – thrown away, I immersed myself in my overflowing bookshelves to read a few waiting to be read; I made a dent in the stack – soon to be filled with other books.  None warranted a review, but you might find some distraction in them:

81oX4ShsrZL._AC_UL436_That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

A rambling historical fiction with Winston’s mother, Jennie, as the heroine.

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

When the New York Times featured the 25th Anniversary edition, I found a copy – full of lists and advice.  My “creative soul” couldn’t finish it.

41yKgsnf1fL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

For dog lover’s everywhere, this touching first person account of a woman who almost loses her rent controlled New York City apartment when she adopts the Great Dane of a friend who died, has the dog as the hero who saves her life – of course.

Those Who Knew by Idra Novey

One of my book clubs is about to discuss this one – a timely and harrowing story of a woman who was abused in her youth by a politician now climbing the ladder of power and success.  Set in an unnamed South American island nation, the story is topical and disturbing.

MCD-Dont-Throw-AwayAnd now, my library wait list finally delivered a book by one my  favorite authors  – Eleanor Lipman’s Good Riddance.  With a nod to Marie Kondo, Lipman acknowledges  the fear may of us have after shredding and throwing items away – what if you disposed of something you should have kept?  I’ve stopped tidying and starting reading.

 

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches

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The brilliant eleven-year-old sleuth, Flavia de Luce, is back in Alan Bradley’s sixth book in this mystery series – The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches. If you have not yet met this smart updated version of Nancy Drew with a chemistry set, a pet chicken, and a bicycle name Gladys, who lives in a rundown version of Downton Abbey, you really do need to find this precocious heroine from the first book – The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  Her adventures are fun; the mysteries are engaging; and the information you will glean about poison is enormous.

Although Flavia’s father and two sisters have been unlikely and mostly unwilling assistants as Flavia solves each case, her mother, Harriet, has been missing.  Harriet, who died mysteriously in a plane crash over the Himalayas when Flavia was just a baby, is finally found, and her body is shipped home.  As possible villains and World Was II heroes (including Winston Churchill) appear to attend the funeral, Flavia is determined to use her knowledge of chemistry to bring her mother back to life.

I am in the middle of reading this engaging book, and look forward to each page and more of Flavia’s wise, yet not always appropriate, comments.  The action is just heating up with possibilities of espionage and secret family history, but the word is that Flavia will be shipped off to boarding school when she turns twelve soon – and then how will she – and her readers – manage.  What will become of Gladys (her bicycle) and Esmerelda (her pet chicken).  Will she have access to her lab materials that have played an important role in solving crimes in the six book series?  Alan Bradley, don’t disappoint us.

Reviews of Other Flavia de Luce books: Flavia de Luce mysteries by Alan Bradley

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Mr. Churchill’s Secretary

Number Ten Downing Street, with Churchill as the P.M. and Germans bombing London, is the setting for Susan Elia MacNeal’s first book in the Maggie Hope spy mystery series – Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.  With a mix of Bridget Jones panache and Ian Fleming espionage, MacNeal establishes a new sleuth with a mathematical brain and the charming mix of English parents and American upbringing.

Maggie Hope defers her acceptance into the Ph.D. program at M.I.T. to travel to London to sell the old Victorian house bequeathed to her by her British grandmother.  When the war starts, she takes on roommates and, despite her qualifications, can only get a job as a typist.

Secret Messages in Fashion Drawings

Spies are everywhere, and Maggie soon uncovers a code hidden in an ad for women’s dresses.  MacNeal supplies a reference in her historical note about Nazi agents in England embedding Morse code in drawings of models wearing the latest fashions.  Maggie finds Morse code in the hem of a dress.

The secret of Maggie’s father’s disappearance as well as the murder of one of Churchill’s staff add to the suspense, and the action escalates with a plot to murder Churchill and bomb St. Paul’s Cathedral.  Along with descriptions of  the horrors of London during the Blitz, MacNeal includes excerpts of famous speeches and lovely poems you may want to memorize.

By the end, Maggie has saved the day and been offered a promotion.  A fun, fast read with both history and adventure – and a possible romance brewing for the beautiful and brilliant red-head.

Thanks to Amy for introducing me to Maggie Hope.  I can’t wait for the next book in the series – Princess Elizabeth’s Spy – to be published in October.  In the meantime, as Churchill advises – KPO (Keep Plodding On).