National Library for Children

A child explores the ceramic frieze depicting Ukrainian fairytales by Ukrainian artist Olga Rapay-Markish in the National Library for Children in Kyiv. Photograph: Serhii Korovayny/The Observer

The National Library for Children in Kyiv, Ukraine, is open and functioning as a place of refuge for children traumatized by the ongoing war. Recently, hundreds of books by award winning children’s author Shirley Hughes were donated by her son Ed Vulliamy to the library, which he knew would have made his mother extremely happy. And more of her books will be going to other children’s libraries in Ukraine. Lada Tsybulska is the library psychologist, and her philosophy is “a book is the best doctor for the soul”. The director Alla Gordiienko calls the library “a place for emotional shelter” for moms and their children. What a valuable use for a library…

Library director Alla Gordiienko (in embroidered blouse), Ed Vulliamy and Raechel Isolda, ‘prime mover’ of the books donation project, with children at the library. Photograph: Serhii Korovayny/The Observer

Not the Ones Dead

Kate Shugak is a private investigator in an Alaskan Native village. When two small planes collide in the wilderness nearby, leaving all the passengers and pilots dead, she is hired by one of the pilot’s families. Their eighty-seven year old father is being blamed for the crash, and his two children want to clear his name. Kate takes on more than she bargained for though, when the Feds become involved and the term “domestic terrorism” is mentioned. With the aid of her partner and one hundred plus pound half wolf/ half dog Mutt, Kate sets out to prove exactly what happened. Dana Stabenow received an Edgar Award for her first novel in the Kate Shugak series, A Cold Day for Murder, and her novels are very engaging.

The Honeymoon Cottage

Yardley is a wedding planner in the town of Cemetery, not a very upbeat name for a honeymoon destination. When she lobbies to remove the name from every business in town, including her own, the town matriarch defends the use of her relative’s name, who established the town. Yardley is also pitted against her mother and aunt, her two roommates in a large Victorian house, where she also operates her business, Cemetery Weddings. They constantly criticize her to the point where she often questions her decisions. Enter a bride -to- be with a handsome brother, and you have the beginnings of a romance between him and Yardley. This was a light read, good for when you don’t want to wrangle something more serious. Recommended for romance fans…

Hello Beautiful

Released last month and chosen as an Oprah pick, Hello Beautiful describes the four Padavano sisters growing up as a close-knit family in Chicago. The oldest sister meets William Waters at college, (spoiler here) the man who will marry 2 of the sisters. Reflecting the Little Women theme, we anticipate that one sister will perish before the book ends. Spanning about 30 years, we watch as the sisters each make a life for themselves mostly against the approval of their mother. William is the solitary, sad, 6 foot 7 inch man who is welcomed into the family. Told in the voices of various characters, we understand how each decides to move forward and then finally circle back around to their origins. Recommended.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun

This title is number three in the Finlay Donovan series, which I realized after I had started reading it. Finlay Donovan, a writer/mom/sleuth needs to discover who is blackmailing Feliks Zhirov, a Russian mobster. It’s a quid pro quo, since at her request, he shut down a website for contract killers that had her ex-husband’s name on its list . Her pal Vero owes an Atlantic City loan shark thousands of dollars that she doesn’t have, so they are both in hot water. Together they drop out of sight and attend a citizens police academy, where Finlay is attracted to a hot cop who is teaching several courses. It’s your basic mystery romance, but I enjoyed it. However I would start with the first two books in the series; otherwise this title will be a bit confusing…