‘Lessons in Chemistry’ by Bonnie Garmus is not just delightful, it’s a lesson in the reality of being a woman in the 50s and 60s

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

It’s not necessary to love chemistry, or even science, to enjoy “Lessons in Chemistry.” Debut author Bonnie Garmus takes us back to the late ’50s and early ’60s as we experience life through the eyes of a capable, intelligent, scientist who happens to be a woman. The fact that she’s a woman? It’s important because in that time, opportunities for women were extremely limited. Let’s face it, 60 years later we are still proud of the fact that we (finally) have a woman vice president. Sixty years ago, women weren’t accepted into what were typically thought of as “male” endeavors. Chemistry was definitely a field for men, no matter how brilliant, how dedicated, how hard-working a supremely qualified woman may have been.

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‘Citizen K-9: A K Team Novel’ by David Rosenfelt solves another complicated crime

Citizen K-9 by David Rosenfelt
(dog: Lexi, a Rockpit rescue)

This latest David Rosenfelt novel should come with a warning: Be aware that reading this book will probably cause you to now have a new, must-read series. Rosenfelt’s Andy Carpenter series is much beloved by readers who enjoy the clever mysteries, the canine characters, and main character Andy Carpenter’s self-deprecating humor. In “Citizen K-9,” the second in a spin-off series about the K Team, a group of investigators whom we have met in the Andy Carpenter novels, we still get Rosenfelt’s humor and his wonderful writing, resulting in a mystery that provides enjoyable reading as well as mental exercise in solving crime. And in this novel, the crime is not easy to solve.

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‘Must Love Dogs: Lucky Enough’ by Claire Cook is the latest entry in that popular and charming series

Must Love Dogs: Lucky Enough
by Claire Cook

Some books you read because they teach you something, some books are read for lengthy book club discussions, and some books, like “Must Love Dogs: Lucky Enough,” the eighth book in this engaging and humorous series, you read simply to escape from reality and jump into the life of Sarah Hurlihy as she navigates her at-times fraught relationship with John, with their ever-growing menagerie of pets, and with her often-crazy extended Irish family. Sarah’s life is never dull, and when you factor in her job as a preschool teacher with some very precocious children and their very suburban parents, you get lots of humor as well as many touching moments.

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‘Code Name: Serendipity’ by Amber Smith is a sweet doggy tale of friendship, family, growing up, and most of all, compassion

Code Name: Serendipity by Amber Smith

With her new middle grade novel, “Code Name: Serendipity,” author Amber Smith presents an eleven-year-old fifth grader named Sadie. Sadie doesn’t feel as if she fits in anywhere because now that her best friend, Jude, has moved away, she has no one at school to talk to, ride the bus with, or eat lunch with. At home, her older brother Noah is often unkind and has little time for her. Her two moms are also busy, and her grandfather’s recent declining mental health means they have worries of their own. It doesn’t help that Sadie has a learning disability, even though she prefers to call it a learning difference.

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‘Right Behind Her’ by Melinda Leigh is the newest mystery featuring county sheriff Bree Taggert

Right Behind Her
by Melinda Leigh

While “Right Behind Her” might be the fourth installment in the mystery series featuring Bree Taggert, a former Philadelphia homicide detective turned county sheriff, author Melinda Leigh masterfully manages to give readers the backstory in a manner that is natural and part of each new story. We learn about Bree’s sister’s death and that Bree has taken over caring for her niece and nephew with the help of her now-retired former police partner, Dana. They live in a farmhouse with a barn for the horses that her sister rescued from a kill pen. And now Bree has a rescue of her own, a chubby mix named Ladybug who is a nod to Leigh’s own beloved rescue with the same name.

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‘Best in Snow’ by David Rosenfelt is the 24th Andy Carpenter mystery

Best in Snow by David Rosenfelt

In the Andy Carpenter mysteries, author David Rosenfelt has created an irascible yet lovable attorney and dog lover who only agrees to represent accused murderers after much kicking and screaming. He’s inherited a lot of money from his father, so he doesn’t need to work, and he certainly doesn’t need the stress of having someone’s life in his hands. But in each novel, there is a reason that Andy is compelled to once again dust off his briefcase, call his employees into the office, and use their combined talents to save someone by solving another mystery. Reluctantly.

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‘The Forever Dog’ by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker is the complete handbook for how to help your dog live a longer & healthier Life

The Forever Dog
by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

The full title of this very weighty tome by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker is “The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier & Longer.” It’s a mouthful, and this book is not a one-night read. Rather, it’s the kind of book you will skim, and then keep in a safe place for future reference. There’s a huge amount of information in these pages, but to anyone who has read about human health, nothing written here will be shocking or novel.

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‘It’s a Wonderful Woof’ by Spencer Quinn is another thrilling Chet and Bernie mystery with lots of holiday charm

It’s a Wonderful Woof by Spencer Quinn

Chet and Bernie (in that order; Chet the dog always comes first!) have appeared in eleven mysteries before this one, and their fans adore them, especially Chet, the intrepid almost K-9 who can smell fear, grab a gun, dig out important clues, and accidentally uncover evidence. Of course, he doesn’t admit that the evidence uncovering is accidental—it just looks like he’s brilliant. But Chet is the first to admit that he leaves the heavy thinking to Bernie, the human part of the private investigation team of the Little Detective Agency.

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‘Drown Her Sorrows’ by Melinda Leigh is the third mystery in her Bree Taggert series

Drown Her Sorrows by Melinda Leigh

I’ve really enjoyed books about women sheriffs, and Melinda Leigh’s Bree Taggert series fits the bill nicely. The third book in the series, “Drown Her Sorrows,” can be read as a stand alone book, but the whole series is so good, why not start with the first one, “Cross Her Heart” and then continue with “See Her Die.” Bree Taggert has returned to her hometown, Grey’s Hollow, where her abusive father killed her mother as eight-year-old Bree cowered under the porch with her four-year-old sister and infant brother. In the first book, Bree returns to solve her sister’s murder, and she stays when she is offered the position of county sheriff.

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‘See Her Die’ by Melinda Leigh is the second in the Bree Taggert series

See Her Die by Melinda Leigh

“See Her Die” is the second book in Melinda Leigh’s Bree Taggert series that started with “Cross Her Heart.” I had not read any of Leigh’s previous mysteries (which I plan to rectify), but I knew from the first page of the first book in this series that I was hooked. This second book is no different. While it works better to have read the first book to understand completely the family dynamics, this does work as a stand alone novel. But I enjoy seeing how relationships change and mature, so I’m glad I started the series at the beginning.

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‘Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals’ by Laurie Zaleski is touching, charming, and humorous

Funny Farm by Laurie Zaleski

“Funny Farm: My Unexpected Life with 600 Rescue Animals” by Laurie Zaleski is not what I was expecting at all. We know from the first page, the Prologue, that it’s about how Zaleski rescues animals, but what is unexpected is that more than half the book is about her childhood, her parents’ abusive relationship, and how her mother left and raised them in a tiny, dilapidated house where she also took in animals of every size, shape, and need. This book is the best kind of nonfiction—it’s nonfiction that reads like a novel, and it’s hard to put down. We want to know more about Zaleski’s family and how they will survive in the shack where they end up after leaving their very nice suburban home. We also want to know how Zaleski ends up with a farm and over 600 animals.

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‘Tips for Magicians’ by Celesta Rimington is a superb middle grade book that deals with overcoming loss, family and friendship

Tips for Magicians by Celesta Rimington

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from “Tips for Magicians,” a new middle grade book by Celesta Rimington. The title sounded cute—but I realized the book is much more than “cute.” It’s a powerful and touching story of a boy who loses his mother in an unexpected accident, and we see that the grief and the resulting damage to his family seems overwhelming. Harrison’s mother was a beautiful classical singer, and she performed all over the world. His father was her stage manager, and since her death he’s been working a lot. We don’t know if he needs to work or wants to be busy to assuage his grief, but he’s gone a lot. Since her death, Harrison’s father can’t stand to hear music in their home, and Harrison has been grieving not only the loss of his mother, but the loss of the music that both he and his mother loved and shared together.

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