The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Cover of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Art of vintage letters wrapped in a ribbow by Christian Raoul Skrein von Bumbala.
Art by Christian Raoul Skrein von Bumbala. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Author: Mary Ann Schaffer

Nutshell: World War Two is over, and for Juliet Ashton, sometime writer of a war humour column, so is the Muse of Comedy. Juliet is sick of making fun of war, and ready to write something completely new. As she tours England, two unexpected things happen. The first is that a rich, handsome man begins to court her. The second is that she recieves a letter from one Dawsey Adams, inhabitant of the Island of Guernsey in the English Channel, who owns a book that used to be hers. It’s collected writings of Charles Lamb, and he adores them and wonders if she might know of a place where he could acquire more?

Juliet, intrigued, has her favorite bookseller hunt down a volume which she sends with her reply, asking about his literary passions. He explains that he is a member of the Society given by the title of the book, which came about during the war in order to prevent their being arrested by Germans, and that only serves to fascinate her more. How could a literary society prevent arrest? Wherefore the Potato Peel Pie? And so she begins to correspond with the members of the Society, discovering the extraordinary story of one community’s occupation by Germans in WWII, and their reconstruction.

Readalikes: I have not read much WWII fiction since my girlhood. If you wish to delve deeper into the experiences of those caught in the Holocaust, The Hiding Place and Number the Stars are two excellemt choices. For those wanting more historical fiction in this style, Sorcery and Cecelia and sequals are also told through correspondence. The characters and narrative story are rather like Dorothy Sayers, without the mystery aspect.

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The Mulberry Tree

Cover of The Mulberry Tree. Painting of a bench under a tree in sunshine by Lisa Litwack.
Art by Lisa Litwack. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Mulberry Tree

Author: Jude Deveraux

Nutshell: When James Manville, emperor of a billion dollar corporate network, died, he left his widow nothing.

That’s not entirely true. He left her a ruined farmhouse, fifty-thousand dollars, and a note, saying, “Find out what really happened for me, Frecks?” But the billions of dollars, the twelve luxury homes, the yachts and planes and extravagant cars he left to his horrible brother and sister.

Lillian Manville adored her husand. He was her whole world. Now, crucified by the media, nearly penniless, and with no practical skills to speak of, she has to figure out how to survive, support herself, and possibly investigate whatever her late husband wanted. If that weren’t enough, the tiny town nearby is full of odd characters, formed by the aftermath of events surrounding six boys a generation ago, the Golden Six.

Readalikes:  I’m going to say Midnight in Austenland, since both are about women in bizarre circumstances finding themselves at the end of a marriage, and hit very similar emotional notes. If you have a better title, drop it in the comments!Read More »

Murder at the Vicarage

Cover of Murder at the Vicarage. Art of a tombstone bearing the title by David Correy.
Art by David Correy. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: Murder At the Vicarage

Author: Agatha Christie

Nutshell: The vicar is a much put upon man. He must deal with the problems of the village, and the gossips, and the problems caused by the gossips talking about the other problems. In addition, his wife is flighty and his maid is awful. So really, finding a man shot to death in his library ought to be the end of enough. But no, not only is the man found shot in his library, but everyone connected with the case seems determined to involve him in the matter. The gossipping ladies share their gossip with him. The principal suspects in the case confess to him, and then un-confess later! The possessions of unrelated persons are found in the woods behind his house, and inside those are the possessions of the muder victim! Really, it’s enough to drive a vicar to drink.

Read-alikes: Dorothy Sayers. Really, I need to read more old detective novels.

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The Body in the Library

Cover of The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. Cover of words on shelves by Michael P. Correy.
Cover by Michael P. Correy. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: The Body in the Library

Author: Agatha Christie

Nutshell: Miss Marple’s friend, Mrs. Bantry calls in a panic. There is the body of a dead woman in her library! Neither she nor the Colonel have ever seen the woman before. Will Miss Marple please come and have a look round to see what she thinks of the affair?

The dead girl turns out to be Ruby Keene, a dancer for a nearby hotel, who was mixed up in nothing, and nobody has anything remarkable at all to say about her. Miss Marple must use all her insight to crack this case.

Read-alikes: Dorothy Sayers is very like Christie. Their faintly satirical portrayal of their characters is similar.

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Dengeki Daisy

Cover of Dengeki Daisy volume 4 by Kyousuke Motomi
Click through to read an excerpt on Amazon!

Title: Dengeki Daisy (Electric Shock Daisy)

Author: Kyousuke Motomi

Nutshell: Teru has just lost her elder brother who was her guardian and confidant. He leaves her a cell phone on which she receives mysterious, encouraging emails from DAISY, a person who Teru’s brother tasked with protecting her after his death. DAISY becomes her confidant, the only person with whom she shares her heart.

Meanwhile, due to an accident, Teru ends up working for the school janitor. Somewhat of a rebel and a mystery man, Teru finds herself drawn to him. But he behaves oddly toward her, and it becomes clear he’s hiding a powerful secret about her brother.

Read-alikes: Fruits Basket. Perhaps Kare Kano.Read More »

Gaudy Night

Cover of Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers.
Cover by Robin Bilardello. Click to read an excerpt!

Title: Gaudy Night

Author: Dorothy Sayers

Nutshell: Harriet Vane returns! Still plagued by the ever charming and mischievous Peter Wimsey, the as-yet-un-fully-moved Harriet returns to her alma mater, Oxford University, for what amounts to a class reunion. She expects nothing more than to see the hallowed past tarnished by the unfortunate present, but someone decides to pen vile messages and leave them around the grounds for incomprehensible reasons. Harriet manages to be the only member of the college above suspicion, and as her day job has exalted her logical faculties in the eyes of her college’s faculty, they appoint her to investigate. What joy. Happy day. Harriet accepts, if only to keep the messages from getting into the gossip channels and damaging the college’s reputation, but this case will run close to her heart — like a knife.

Readalikes: This is so much more like a novel of manners (and social commentary) than a detective novel that I’m claiming Jane Austen as a readalike.

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Bluescreen

Cover of Bluescreen by Dan Wells. Art by Sebastien Hue.
Art by Sebastien Hue. Click through to read a preview on Amazon!

Title: Bluescreen

Author: Dan Wells

Nutshell: In a very, very believable future, the smartphone is an implant in your brain, and everything you can do with it, you can do overlaid on the real world. Everything the internet has to offer (and more, because this is the future, you guys.) available in an eyeblink.

Marisa is a gamer and a hacker in this world, a world that’s surprisingly normal. People try to get by, and there never seem to be enough jobs (fewer, now that so much can be done by robots), and schools assign homework. And people do what they can for fun.

Marisa’s friend Anja experiments with body hacks for fun. But when she picks up a sensory-overload app, a drug in digital form, Marisa and their team find a deep, dark, scary hole in the world of digitally-enhanced life. And in order to rescue Anja, they’ll have to go all the way to the bottom.

Read-alikes: Heir Apparent by Vivian Vande VeldeRead More »