Mercy Sais

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Which is cooler: Finding the answer to life’s most important question using brain power or Google? Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is optimistic about the future of technology and people working together as it looks at the question of immortality. In the novel, friends care about each other. A multi-generational fellowship forms. Two young couples get together. Read deeply and follow the clues to solve the mystery of the Unbroken Spine left by the fifteenth-century printer Griffo Gerritszoon. This novel is a mystery, but it is also about the love of books, whether you find them in the Central Rappahannock Regional Library; a big-box store like Barnes & Noble; a local, independent bookstore like The Griffin; or the quiet little stores built into our Kindles and Nooks.

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway

The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns by Margaret Dilloway

The bare, forlorn branches and thorny sticks of her rose bushes give Galilee Garner something to look forward to all winter in The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns: “Something to hang my daydreams on like the ornaments on a Christmas tree. In the spring, they will bloom again.”

Roses have long been used in metaphors for love in literature, and Margaret Dilloway continues the tradition in her charming novel. Dig right in with Gal Garner as she grows and breeds her difficult and obstinate Hulthemia roses, which thrive under a set of specific and limited conditions.  The roses she breeds pretty much describe Gal, who was born with kidney problems, has gone through two kidney transplants, and has been on dialysis for eight long years waiting for another donor. Learn about love, roses and thriving under difficult conditions as you read this sweet, beautifully-written story.

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Rules of Civility

How would George Washington behave in New York society in the 1930s? The ladies and gentlemen of post-Depression-Era New York have had to reinvent the old rules of order in Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility. The women are experimenting with new freedoms where they don’t want to figure out how to marry the man with the power and money—they want to be him.

In this story, partly a Sex in the City romp, Katey Kontent, daughter of Russian immigrants, and her friend Eve Ross, who is trying to escape her Midwestern small city blues, make a brand new start of it on New Year’s Eve 1937 in the greatest city in the world. They meet banker Tinker Grey that night. They think he is the “King of the heap/top of the list,” and he has a well-studied copy of Young George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation to guide him. The three form a friendship/love triangle, but Tinker’s secrets will test their loyalty. Katey and Eve are not afraid to meet their futures, but Tinker is stuck in the past.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

In its first chapters, Sweet Tooth begins like Dickens’ David Copperfield.  Serena Frome (rhymes with Plume) tells of her unremarkable childhood and how she ends up working as a spy for Britain’s MI5. With her blonde and beautiful looks, she is a bit of a Bond Girl and wreaks havoc on the men around her.

A good all-around student, Serena devours novels and wants to do an English degree in a small university, but her housewife mother, in an uncharacteristic fit of feminism, tells her she has a chance of making something of herself by going to Cambridge and doing “maths.” 

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

Shine Shine Shine by Lydia Netzer

This is a love story. This is a story about what makes us human. This is a story about reaching for the stars. Lydia Netzer’s poetic narration in Shine Shine Shine transports us to the Moon.

We meet Sunny Mann living in an immaculate Georgian house in a perfectly geometrically gridded neighborhood in Norfolk, Virginia and hosting a get-together with her girlfriends. She is perfectly manicured and coiffed and dressed in cute maternity wear, as she is pregnant with her second child. The ladies gossip about Les Weathers, the perfect news anchor, who lives nearby.  The girls chat about Sunny’s brilliant and rich but odd astronaut husband, Maxon, who is on a rocket on the way to colonize the moon. Sunny is embodiment of the well-off suburban stay-at-home mom, including the silver minivan.

Happy Stitch by Jodie Rackley

Happy Stitch by Jodie Rackley

Local Fredericksburg author and crafter Jodie Rackley helps you stitch up a smile with her book,  Happy Stitch. She stitches her fun designs in her home studio in Fredericksburg, which she shares with her pets, Captain Nibbles and Sleepy Kitty.  The 30 charming and colorful felt and fabric projects in her book are uber cute.

Take some time this summer and stitch up a Monster Face Computer Cover or doodle on a denim skirt.  If your older children are complaining of boredom, try one of the projects with them; for example, the Anytime Ornaments have simple cutting and stitching instructions that an older child can follow with a little guidance. Her instructions are clear, and she uses simple techniques. 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

On the surface Gone Girl reads like a whodunit thriller, and it makes a great summer read--but it’s also a literary novel in disguise with its imagery of a landscape of an economic wasteland, the characters’ moral bankruptcy, and its themes of identity and marriage. It’s been the book of the summer for me.

On their fifth anniversary, Nick Dunne comes home, and his wife Amy is gone. The initial crime scene: an open door, the ottoman turned over, broken glass, and the iron left on.  Instead of beginning with “boy meets girl,” the plot starts with “boy loses girl.” Detectives arrive and the media circus begins.

Told in alternating he said/she said chapters, we learn the back story of Nick and Amy.  Gilliam Flynn throws her readers red herrings with sneaky abandon. I found myself shifting loyalties back and forth from Team Amy to Team Nick and then being horrified and guiltily fascinated with both of them.

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

Calling Invisible Women by Jeanne Ray

No one can see women of a certain age. We--I am of a certain age--are nothing but the ghosts of our former selves. We have a contentious relationship with mirrors just like Snow White’s stepmother. We fight aging with Botox, HRT, calcium, and even anti-depressants. Clover Hobart in Calling Invisible Women has contemplated figurative invisibility, but one fall day she becomes literally invisible.

After thinking she has had a breakdown or a stroke, Clover becomes proactive and explores the possibilities of invisibility. This novel has laugh-out-loud moments, is well-plotted, has great characters, and has thoughtful ideas about women and aging.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt

This book has a brilliant title: The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt. The oxymoron continues in the characters, the plot and the language—its poetic style contrasts with the violence of the Old West.  It’s a Western but with twists on the genre; the novel has brutality mixed with moments of sweetness and humor. 

The main characters are killers with bruised pasts: Charlie Sisters is the epitome of Old West: brutal, money-hungry and cold; Eli Sisters, the narrator of the tale, loves to give away his money, has a soft heart for barmaids, and is questioning his profession and his future.  Eli loves his poor excuse for a horse, Tub, and embraces dental hygiene!

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

Gemma Hardy’s story parallels Jane Eyre’s experiences—both have an evil aunt and have to work for their educations at boarding school as charity girls.  Both girls are bullied and treated unfairly by family, school staff, and students. Both girls have disappointments with men who have secrets.  If you enjoyed Charlotte Bronte’s gothic tales or Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, you will love The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. Set in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Scotland and Iceland, the author uses the imagery of birds and flight to underscore Gemma’s journey.