June Reads 2016

Allegiance_SinghJune was a slow reading month for me. I started off with what I think of as waiting room reads The Forgotten Child and A Baby and a Wedding by Lorhainne Eckhart. I picked them because they were free on Amazon, and, frankly, they weren’t particularly memorable. Sitting here, typing this, I can’t really remember what they were about except that it involved an autistic child, a doormat, and what I’ve seen another blogger aptly refer to as an Alpha-hole.  I’m just left with the overall impression that they sucked.

After that, I dived heart first into Allegiance of Honor and loved every moment of it. It was awesome! I could wish we’d Sighs_Robertsspent more time with the wolves, though, because for a book with an ensemble cast, it was definitely cat-centric.  Read my full review:  Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh.

Then there was a quick re-read of Stars of Fortune by Nora Roberts before I picked up her latest, Bay of Sighs. It was fine. This isn’t shaping up to be my favorite of her trilogies, but it was interesting. Mostly, I think, due to the mermaid. That’s new. The rest of the cast, not to mention the overall plot, is kinda deja vu.

Albion_TampkeFinally, I read Ilka Tampke’s debut novel, Skin, which for some unknown reason was re-titled Daughter of Albion here in the States. Skin, in my opinion, is much more apt. I enjoyed this one immensely and am eagerly awaiting the sequel. Historically speaking, we know what happens, but how do the characters cope with it?  Here’s my full review:  Daughter of Albion by Ilka Tampke.

After I finished it, my reader’s palette was still feeling a little atavistic so, instead of picking up Britt-Marie Was Here like I’d intended, I reached for The Tiger and the Wolf by new-to-me author Adrian Tchaikovsky. So far, it’s good.

What have you been reading?

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Daughter of Albion by Ilka Tampke

To the rest of the world, this book bears the title Skin, and it is much more apropos.

Born to the skinless, or lost to their families before naming, the unskinned were not claimed by a totem.  Their souls were fragmented, unbound to the Singing…The passage from womb to world was only half a birth–the body’s birth.  Our souls were born when we were plunged, as babes, into river water, screaming at the cold shock of it, given our name and called to skin…Skin was our greeting, our mother, our ancestors, our land.  Nothing existed outside its reach.

Beyond skin there was only darkness.  Only chaos.

Because I was without skin I could not be plunged or named.  I was half-born, born in body but not in soul.  Born to the world but not to the tribe.  I could never marry lest skin taboos were unknowingly betrayed.  Deer did not marry well to owl.  Owl to oak.  At Ceremony I had to be silent, and keep to the edges.  For where would I stand?  What would I chant?

I lived with these losses, but the one that hollowed my chest was that I was not permitted to learn.  All learning began and ended with the songs of skin.

Left at the kitchen doorstep the Tribequeen’s dwelling as a babe newborn, cord still attached, Ailia was raised by the Cookmother. Being an orphan without known blood kin, she was skinless, outside the tribe.  Without skin she was forbidden to marry and permitted no knowledge.  Even something so basic as learning to swim was denied her.  And yet, the seeds of Knowledge were within her, fostered by the Mothers and they would not be denied.

In the first century A. D., Cunobelinos, King of the Catuvellauni, began to carve out the beginnings of an empire for himself in southeastern Britannia.  Conquering, first the Trinovantes, a tribe allied to Rome.  But the king chose his timing well, for the Romans were otherwise occupied following their shocking defeat at Teutoburg Forest.  He with his sons and his brother, would continue to expand their influence to Cantii and the Artrebates before his death in about A. D. 40.  One of his sons, Caratacos, completed the conquest of the Artrebates, and their king, Verica, fled to Rome, providing the Romans under Claudius just the excuse for which it had been waiting to invade Britannia for the second time.  The Romans are no respecters of skin.

Ailia finds herself torn between the two worlds.   When her skin is finally revealed, you kind of want to smack yourself because it was rather obvious with clues galore scattered throughout the book.

Skin/Daughter of Albion is a wonderful story about a young woman’s need to belong.  Her struggle for knowledge, for love, and for family.  Ilka Tampke’s world is richly imagined, drawn from our small knowledge of Druidic doctrine and the traditions of the Aborigines which, somehow, fit together seamlessly.  When the sequel comes out, I’ll definitely be reading it.

Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Column of Fire, a third Kingsbridge novel, coming fall 2017

It’s time for fans of Ken Follett and his awesome Pillars of the Earth to do a happy dance.  We’ll be back in Kingsbridge next fall.  The new book is “provisionally titled ‘A Column of Fire’.”  Hints dropped so far include:  Elizabethan Era, Francis Walsingham’s spy network, and a portion of the book being set in Seville, Spain.

I adored Pillars of the Earth and World Without End.  You can bet this one will be on my most anticipated reads list come January.

May Reads 2016

TangleofNeed_NaliniSinghThis month has, mostly, been occupied by my Psy-Changeling reread and am more than ready for Allegiance of Honor. Even after this third time reading Tangle of Need, I still think Adria got gypped. That one continues to irritate me.

Between visits with the leopards, the wolves, and the Psy (oh my!), I read a few other things.  I really enjoyed the latest in Lorraine Heath’s Hellions of Havisham series, The Earl Takes All.  Although, I do think Julia was way less pissed than she should have been.  She forgave Edward too easily.  Earl-Takes_HeathOnly Beloved, the last book in Mary Balogh’s Survivors Club, was another good one, and I also enjoyed her novella, Another Dream, in Once Upon a Dream.  Wulfric Bedwyn continues to be one of my favorite fictional gentlemen.  Less enjoyable was Eva Leigh’s The Temptations of a Wallflower, the third installment in her Wicked Quills of London series. I almost choked on some of the purple prose spouted by The Lady of Dubious Quality.Beloved_Balogh

Next was Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. It didn’t take two chapters before things started going down hill. Sittenfeld’s Lizzie Bennett is, obviously an idiot, a condition to which I vehemently object in that character. I managed to stick it out until chapter 38 when Jasper’s last name was revealed. It kind of dashed my last hopes for Liz’s intelligence. However, on the bright side, Sittenfeld’s Mr. Bennett made me laugh every bit as much as his Austenian counterpart, but, alas, this was not enough to induce me to continue.

I picked up the much anticipated by me Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman and the very interesting sounding Daughter of Albion by Ilka Tampke, but I haven’t found the time to dive into them, yet.  That’s for June.

What have y’all been reading and loving lately?

Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn

Morgan Llywelyn weaves Irish mythology, historical elements, and ancient places Stones-Survive_Llywelynin the Irish landscape to create a riveting tale of migration, loss, and transformation.

And she does. Blurbage is often misleading, but, not here. As skillfully as any ancient bard, Llywelyn takes the tales of Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland or The Book of Invasions), and weaves them together with wonder and ruin into a stirring, absorbing narrative of the epic struggle between the Children of Milesios and the Children of Light.  Amergin himself couldn’t have done better.

For centuries uncounted, peace and beauty reigned on the island we now call Ireland.  The ancient Túatha Dé Danann lived as one with their adopted homeland and with its other inhabitants.  But then come the Gaels from Iberia, bringing war and death.  Chaos and destruction follow, but not all is lost, and not only the stones survive.

Only the Stones Survive is a riveting novel written with Morgan Llywelyn’s consummate skill.  I have her After Rome in my TBR pile.  It just got moved closer to the top.

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

 

Most Anticipated Debuts of 2016

Noah’s Wife by Lindsey Starck
Release Date: January 26, 2015

The Blurb:

Noah_StarckNoah’s Wife is a story of a community battered by a relentless downpour from the heavens, a gray and wet little town teeming with eccentric characters who have learned to endure the extraordinary circumstances of the rain with astonishing human fortitude and willfulness.

When Noah’s wife arrives with her minister husband to this small coastal town, she is driven by her desire to help revive the congregation. However, she is thwarted by the resistance of her eccentric new neighbors and her failure to realize that her husband is battling his own internal crisis.

As Noah and his wife strive to bring the townspeople to the church—and keep the strains on their marriage at bay—the rain intensifies, impeding their efforts. Soon the river waters rise, flooding the streets of the town and driving scores of wild animals out of the once-renowned zoo. And so, Noah, his wife, and the townspeople must confront the savage forces of nature and attempt to reinforce the fragile ties that bind them to each other before their world is washed away.

Full of whimsy and gentle ironic humor, Noah’s Wife is a wise and poignant novel that draws upon the motifs of the biblical flood story to explore the true meaning of community, to examine the remarkable strength of the human spirit, and to ask whether hope can exist even where faith has been lost.

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River of Ink by Paul M. M. Cooper
Release Date: January 26, 2015

The Blurb:

Ink_CooperIn thirteenth-century Sri Lanka, Asanka, poet to the king, lives a life of luxury, enjoying courtly life and a sweet, furtive love affair with a palace servant, a village girl he is teaching to write. But when Magha, a prince from the mainland, usurps the throne, Asanka’s role as court poet dramatically alters. Magha is a cruel and calculating king–and yet, a lover of poetry–and he commissions Asanka to translate a holy Sanskrit epic into the Tamil language spoken by his recently acquired subjects. The poem will be an olive branch–a symbol of unity between the two cultures.

But in different languages, in different contexts, meaning can become slippery. First inadvertently, then deliberately and dangerously, Asanka’s version of the epic, centered on the killing of an unjust ruler, inspires and arouses the oppressed people of the land. Asanka must juggle the capricious demands of a king with the growing demands of his own political consciousness–and his heart–if he wishes to survive and imagine a future with the woman he loves.

The first novel from a remarkable young writer, River of Ink is a powerful historical tale set in the shadow of oppression–one with deep allegorical resonances in any time–celebrating the triumph of literature and love.

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For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser
Release Date: January 28, 2016 (UK date, I’ve yet to find one for the US)

The Blurb:

Beautiful_HauserThree thousand years ago a war took place that gave birth to legends – to Achilles, the greatest of the Greeks, and Hector, prince of Troy. It was a war that made – and destroyed – both men, a war that shook the very foundations of the world. But what if there was more to this epic conflict? What if there was another, hidden tale of the Trojan War that had yet to be told?

Now is that time – time for the women of Troy to tell their story.

Beautiful_Hauser-GoldThrillingly imagined and startlingly original, For the Most Beautiful reveals the true story of true for the first time. The story of Krisayis, daughter of the Trojans’ High Priest, and of Briseis, princess of Pedasus, who fight to determine the fate of a city and its people in this ancient time of mischievous gods and mythic heroes.

In a novel full of passion and revenge, loyalty and betrayal, bravery and sacrifice, Emily Hauser breathes exhilarating new life into one of the greatest legends of all – in a story that has waited millennia to be told.

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The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin
Release Date: February 2, 2015

The Blurb:

Forgetting_GuskinNoah wants to go home. A seemingly easy request from most four year olds. But as Noah’s single-mother, Janie, knows, nothing with Noah is ever easy. One day the pre-school office calls and says Janie needs to come in to talk about Noah, and no, not later, now – and life as she knows it stops.

For Jerome Anderson, life as he knows it has stopped. A deadly diagnosis has made him realize he is approaching the end of his life. His first thought – I’m not finished yet. Once a shining young star in academia, a graduate of Yale and Harvard, a professor of psychology, he threw it all away because of an obsession. Anderson became the laughing stock of his peers, but he didn’t care – something had to be going on beyond what anyone could see or comprehend. He spent his life searching for that something else. And with Noah, he thinks he’s found it.

Soon Noah, Janie and Anderson will find themselves knocking on the door of a mother whose son has been missing for eight years – and when that door opens, all of their questions will be answered.

Sharon Guskin has written a captivating, thought-provoking novel that explores what we regret in the end of our lives and hope for in the beginning, and everything in between. In equal parts a mystery and a testament to the profound connection between a child and parent, THE FORGETTING TIME marks the debut of a major new talent.

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The Book of Memory by Petina Gappah
Release Date: February 2, 2015

The Blurb:

Memory_GappahThe story you have asked me to tell begins not with the ignominious ugliness of Lloyd’s death but on a long-ago day in April when the sun seared my blistered face and I was nine years old and my father and mother sold me to a strange man. I say my father and my mother, but really it was just my mother.

Memory, the narrator of The Book of Memory, is an albino woman languishing in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison in Harare, Zimbabwe, where she has been convicted of murder. As part of her appeal her lawyer insists that she write down what happened as she remembers it. The death penalty is a mandatory sentence for murder, and Memory is, both literally and metaphorically, writing for her life. As her story unfolds, Memory reveals that she has been tried and convicted for the murder of Lloyd Hendricks, her adopted father.

But who was Lloyd Hendricks? Why does Memory feel no remorse for his death? And did everything happen exactly as she remembers? Moving between the townships of the poor and the suburbs of the rich, and between the past and the present, Memory weaves a compelling tale of love, obsession, the relentlessness of fate and the treachery of memory.

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Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday by Christine Reilly
Release Date: April 5, 2015

The Blurb:

Sunday_ReillyThe Middlesteins meets The Virgin Suicides in this arresting family love story about the eccentric yet tight knit Simone family, coping with tragedy during 90s New York, struggling to reconnect with each other and heal.

Claudio and Mathilde Simone, once romantic bohemians hopelessly enamored with each other, find themselves nestled in domesticity in New York, running a struggling vinyl record store and parenting three daughters as best they can: Natasha, an overachieving prodigy; sensitive Lucy, with her debilitating heart condition; and Carly, adopted from China and quietly fixated on her true origins.

With prose that is as keen and illuminating as it is whimsical and luminous, debut novelist Christine Reilly tells the unusual love story of this family. Poignant and humane, Sunday’s on the Phone to Monday is a deft exploration of the tender ties that bind families together, even as they threaten to tear them apart.

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Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Release Date: August 23, 2015

The Blurb:

Dreamers_MbueAt the intersection of Americanah and The Help, a riveting debut novel about two marriages—one immigrant and working class, the other from the top 1%—both chasing their version of the American Dream.

In the fall of 2007, Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Jende hopes the new job will enable him, his adored wife, Neni, and his young son, to live a better life in America.

Their situation only improves when Neni is hired as household help by Clark’s wife, Cindy.

But in the course of their work, Jende and Neni begin to witness infidelities, skirmishes, and family secrets. Desperate to shield the fragile life they’ve built in New York, the Jongas protect the Edwardses, even when the other couple’s secrets begin to drive a wedge between Jende and Neni.

Then, with the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers, a tragedy changes all four lives forever, and the Jongas must decide whether to continue fighting to stay in a recession-ravaged America or give up and return home to Cameroon.

A deeply empathetic debut novel about marriage, class, and race, and the crevasses in the American Dream.

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Most Anticipated Books of 2016, Part 1

Happy New Year, y’all. Here’s to hoping this new year is better than the last.

Now that we’ve said a farewell to 2015, and remembered, with nostalgia and/or exasperation all the books we experienced during it, we can, now, anticipate all the lovely voyages-by-page we’ll take in 2016. Here are a few of mine:

Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn
Release Date: January 5, 2016

Ireland is an enchanted place where history and magic meet and meld to create wonderful stories and tales for winter nights before a fire, or in a pub with friends. And no one weaves Irish history into a tale quite like Morgan Llywelyn. Her Lion of Ireland is among my favorite books. As is her Etruscans. Both stories combine magic and mythology, legend and history, to make a spellbinding, wild ride for the imagination. I look forward to seeing what Ms. Llywelyn does with the Faere Folk and their history.

The Blurb:
Stones-Survive_Llywelyn
A novel of the untold history of the Túatha Dé Danann, the ancient gods and goddesses of Irish myth and legend.

For centuries the Túatha Dé Danann lived in peace on an island where time flowed more slowly and the seasons were gentle – until that peace was shattered by the arrival of invaders. The Gaels, the Children of Milesios, came looking for easy riches and conquest, following the story of an island to the west where their every desire could be granted. They had not anticipated that it would already be home to others, and against the advice of their druids, they begin to exterminate the Túatha Dé Danann.

After a happy and innocent childhood, Joss was on the cusp of becoming a man when the Gaels slaughtered the kings and queens of the Túatha Dé Danann. Left without a mother and father, he must find a way to unite what is left of his people and lead them into hiding. But even broken and scattered, Joss and his people are not without strange powers.

Morgan Llywelyn weaves Irish mythology, historical elements, and ancient places in the Irish landscape to create a riveting tale of migration, loss, and transformation.

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Other Broken Things by Christa Desir
Release Date: January 12, 2016

Desir is a new for me author, but the blurb sounds really good.

The Blurb:

Broken_DesirNat’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like get in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life and things start looking up. Joe is funny, smart, and calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now in order to make a different kind of life, Natalie must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.

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We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson
Release Date: January 19, 2016

Another new to me author.  The title’s what caught my attention.  It sounds quirky and unusual.  Just the thing that perks up my interest.  I loved The Bees, remember.  Then I read the blurb at Goodreads and promptly clicked “want to read.”

The Blurb:

Ants_HutchinsonHenry Denton doesn’t know why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

Since the suicide of his boyfriend, Jesse, Henry has been adrift. He’s become estranged from his best friend, started hooking up with his sworn enemy, and his family is oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. As far as Henry is concerned, a world without Jesse is a world he isn’t sure is worth saving. Until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

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The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Release Date: January 26, 2015

When I first saw this on Amazon, I let out a loud gasp and did a little happy dance in my chair. I loved, completely and absolutely loved, Secret Daughter. It made it onto my best reads list for 2013. I’ll be eagerly awaiting this one, with plans to read it with a cup of cardamom tea and a box of tissues.

The Blurb:

Golden_Gowda
From the beloved author of Secret Daughter comes a moving new novel of a young man at the crossroads of life
Anil is the cherished son of a large family in rural India. As the eldest boy, he is expected to inherit the role of leader of his clan and arbiter of its disputes, dispensing wisdom and good advice. Leena is his closest companion, a fiercely brave girl who loves nothing more than the wild terrain they inhabit and her close-knit family. As childhood friends, they are inseparable-but as adulthood approaches, they grow apart.

Anil is the first person in his family to leave India, the first to attend college, the first to become a doctor. Half a world away in Dallas, Texas, he is caught up in his new life, experiencing all the freedoms and temptations of American culture: he tastes alcohol for the first time, falls in love, and learns firsthand about his adopted country’s alluring, dangerous contradictions. Though his work in a gritty urban hospital is grueling, Anil is determined to carve out his own life in America.

At home, Leena dreams of marriage, a strong and true love like the one shared by her parents, and leaves her beloved home to join her new husband’s family in a distant village.

Then things start to go wrong: Anil makes a medical mistake with tragic results, his first love begins to fray and a devastating event makes him question his worth as a doctor and as a friend. On a visit home, Anil rekindles a friendship with the woman who seems to understand him better than anyone else. But their relationship is complicated by a fateful decision made years earlier.

As the two old friends discover each other again, they must also weigh the choice between responsibility and freedom, and between loyalty and love.

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That Other Me by Maha Gargash
Release Date: January 26, 2016

I’m always interested in being introduced to new cultures when I read and this is one I’ve never read about.  And the plot sounds fascinating.

The Blurb:

Other_GargashFrom the #1 internationally bestselling author of The Sand Fish, Maha Gargash’s second novel is set in mid-1990s Dubai and Cairo and tells the story of how secrets and betrayals consume three members—an authoritarian father, a rebellious abandoned daughter, and a vulnerable niece—of a prominent Emirati family.

Majed, the head of the eminent Naseemy family, is proud to have risen into the upper echelons of Emirati society. As one of the richest businessmen in Dubai, he’s used to being catered to and respected—never mind that he acquired his wealth by cheating his brother out of his own company and depriving his niece, Mariam, of her rights.

Not one to dwell on the past—he sent Mariam to school in Egypt, what more could she want from him?—Majed spends his days berating his wife and staff and cavorting with friends at a private apartment. But he’s suddenly plagued by nightmares that continue to haunt him during the day, and he feels his control further slipping away with the discovery that his niece and his daughter are defying his orders.

Mariam despises Majed, and although she blames him for her father’s death, hers is a strictly-organized, dutiful existence. But when she falls for a brash, mischievous fellow student named Adel, he might just prove to be her downfall.

Largely abandoned by Majed as the daughter of a second, secret marriage, the vivacious Dalal has a lot to prove. The runner-up on “Nights of Dubai,” an American Idol-type reality show for Arab talent, Dalal is committed to being a singer despite the fact that it’s a disreputable career. When her efforts to become a celebrity finally begin to pay off, she attracts the attention of her father, who is determined to subdue Dalal to protect the family name. As Majed increasingly exerts his control over both Dalal and Mariam, both girls resist, with explosive consequences.

An exhilarating look at the little-known Khaleeji (Gulf-Arab) culture, That Other Me explores the ways social mores contribute to the collapse of one family.

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Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Release Date: March 29, 2016

The Bridgertons are back! That’s all I need to know to put this book, solidly, in the “must have” column.

The Blurb:

Bridgerton_QuinnSometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places…

This is not one of those times.

Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband… someday.

Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should…

Or not.

There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest heir to the earldom, but he’s arrogant, annoying, and she’s absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can’t stand the sight of him, either.

But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor…

Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can’t abide is the one person they can’t live without…

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A House for Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi
Release Date: May 3, 2016

I’ve read and loved all five of her books. A Breath of Fresh Air is an especial favorite. It makes me cry every time I read it. So I was thrilled when Amulya Malladi announced the publication of this sixth novel on her blog.

The Blurb:

Mothers_MalladiA stunning new novel—full of wit and warmth—from the bestselling author of The Mango Season.

In trendy Silicon Valley, Priya has everything she needs—a loving husband, a career, and a home—but the one thing she wants most is the child she’s unable to have. In a Southern Indian village, Asha doesn’t have much—raising two children in a tiny hut, she and her husband can barely keep a tin roof over their heads—but she wants a better education for her gifted son. Pressured by her family, Asha reluctantly checks into the Happy Mothers House: a baby farm where she can rent her only asset—her womb—to a childless couple overseas. To the dismay of friends and family, Priya places her faith in a woman she’s never met to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Together, the two women discover the best and the worst that India’s rising surrogacy industry has to offer, bridging continents and cultures to bring a new life into the world—and renewed hope to each other.

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Britt Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
Release Date: May 10, 2016

A sequel to My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, which I adored.  Sign me up.

The Blurb:

Britt-Marie_BlackmanFrom the bestselling author of the “charming debut” (People) A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, a heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms a tiny village and a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places.

Britt-Marie can’t stand mess. She eats dinner at precisely the right time and starts her day at six in the morning because only lunatics wake up later than that. And she is not passive-aggressive. Not in the least. It’s just that sometimes people interpret her helpful suggestions as criticisms, which is certainly not her intention.

But at sixty-three, Britt-Marie has had enough. She finally walks out on her loveless forty-year marriage and finds a job in the only place she can: Borg, a small, derelict town devastated by the financial crisis. For the fastidious Britt-Marie, this new world of noisy children, muddy floors, and a roommate who is a rat (literally), is a hard adjustment.

As for the citizens of Borg, with everything that they know crumbling around them, the only thing that they have left to hold onto is something Britt-Marie absolutely loathes: their love of soccer. When the village’s youth team becomes desperate for a coach, they set their sights on her. She’s the least likely candidate, but their need is obvious and there is no one else to do it.

Thus begins a beautiful and unlikely partnership. In her new role as reluctant mentor to these lost young boys and girls, Britt-Marie soon finds herself becoming increasingly vital to the community. And even more surprisingly, she is the object of romantic desire for a friendly and handsome local policeman named Sven. In this world of oddballs and misfits, can Britt-Marie finally find a place where she belongs?

Zany and full-of-heart, Britt-Marie Was Here is a novel about love and second chances, and about the unexpected friendships we make that teach us who we really are and the things we are capable of doing.

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The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
Release Date: May 24, 2015

Finally, the third and final book in Cronin’s The Passage Trilogy.  Testimony to just how awesome The Passage was, because I continue to anticipate The City of Mirrors even though The Twelve sucked.

The Blurb:

Mirrors_CroninIn life I was a scientist called Fanning.

Then, in a jungle in Bolivia, I died.

I died, and then I was brought back to life…

Prompted by a voice that lives in her blood, the fearsome warrior known as Alicia of Blades is drawn towards to one of the great cities of The Time Before. The ruined city of New York. Ruined but not empty. For this is the final refuge of Zero, the first and last of The Twelve. The one who must be destroyed if mankind is to have a future.

What she finds is not what she’s expecting.

A journey into the past.

To find out how it all began.

And an opponent at once deadlier and more human than she could ever have imagined.

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Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh
Release Date: June 14, 2015

All I really needed to be seized with an avid desire to read this was the word “pupcubs”, which Ms. Singh uttered in relation to this book during the Google Hangout she had back in October of last year. Sold! Everything, and everyone, else is icing.

The Blurb:

Allegiance_SinghThe “unparalleled romantic adventure”* of Nalini Singh’s New York Times bestselling series continues as a new dawn begins for the Psy-Changeling world…

The Psy-Changeling world has undergone a staggering transformation and now stands at a crossroads. The Trinity Accord promises a new era of cooperation between disparate races and groups. It is a beacon of hope held together by many hands: Old enemies. New allies. Wary loners.

But a century of distrust and suspicion can’t be so easily forgotten and threatens to shatter Trinity from within at any moment. As rival members vie for dominance, chaos and evil gather in the shadows and a kidnapped woman’s cry for help washes up in San Francisco, while the Consortium turns its murderous gaze toward a child who is the embodiment of change, of love, of piercing hope: A child who is both Psy…and changeling.

To find the lost, protect the vulnerable—and save Trinity—no one can stand alone. This is a time of loyalty across divisions, of bonds woven into the heart and the soul, of heroes known and unknown standing back to back and holding the line. But is an allegiance of honor even possible with traitors lurking in their midst?

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The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

One of the marks of a good book is when you turn that last page looking for more.  Asking, “What happens next?”.  And with Brooks’ The Secret Chord, you already know what happens next.  And, yet, still….

Chord_BrooksI remember the first time I actually sat down and read Samuel and Kings as an adult.  The David I met through the verses was a very different man from the prettied up version I was taught.  And, still, this book made me see the ancient tale with new eyes.

The desperate loneliness of a boy neglected and abused by his father and brothers, denied the love of his mother.  Then he finds affection, devotion, and deepest love in the family of a madman.  Only to have it all torn away by the madness.

You can’t help but feel Michal’s hopeless, helpless, rage at the neglect and abuse she suffered from her mad father and her oblivious husband.  At, finally, finding happiness and affection from someone, and having that torn away to appease that husband’s honor.  Batsheva’s fear of a king’s desire and her grief when, as a consequence, she loses her child.  David’s sorrow and grief as the four-fold punishment unfolds.  Tamar’s terror and the outrage of Maacah and Avshalom.

Then there’s Natan, at the center of things, yet outside them.  Knowing what is to come but unable to speak of it.  The scene where he utters his first prophecy, feet caked in the blood of his father, resonates.  Another chord, pulsing throughout.

On the flip side, the passages about David and Yonathan are achingly poignant.  Beautiful.  As was his relationship with Avigail.  And, of course, his gorgeous music and obvious love for and devotion to the Land and the Name.

At the end, as the joyous celebration resounds through the streets, David listens from his sickbed, and is comforted, while Yoav and Adoniyah, hearing it from their treasonous feast, are anything but.  Then it’s, “What happens next?”.

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

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The Taming of the Queen by Philippa Gregory

By all accounts, Katherine Parr was an intelligent, learned and sensible woman.  But Philippa Gregory has developed a singular talent for making smart women sound like idiots.  You all know what I thought of her Margaret Beaufort (The Red Queen by Philippa Gregory).  It really irritates me when she puts words like these into her Kateryn’s mouth:
Taming_Gregory

“Nan, this is madness. They may disagree with me but they wouldn’t try to drag me down in the eyes of the king. They won’t falsely accuse me of God-knows-what because we don’t agree about the serving of the Mass. We differ; but they are not my enemies. Stephen Gardiner is an ordained bishop, called by God, a holy man. He is not going to seek my destruction because I differ from him on a point of theology.”

Could she sound like any more of an imbecile? Oh, yes she can.   Every Court plot and machination has to explained to her in cold, simple, logical (for Henry) terms.  She keeps passionately insisting that the king loves her, that he trusts her and would never get rid of her and take another wife.  Her sister warns her, Thomas Seymour warns her, hell, even the departing Spanish ambassador (the indomitable Chapuys) warns her, but it’s always “But he loves me.”  Until, that is, she’s on her knees, thoroughly degraded and humiliated, before her personal Bluebeard.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

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LibraryReads September and October Lists

library_reads_logo_websiteSeptember Reads

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Release Date: September 15, 2015

Fates_GroffThere are two sides to every story. Lott and Mathilde have a marriage that is the envy of all of their friends, but not everything is as it seems. Told first from one perspective then the other, this is the story of their marriage. A change in perspective makes a big difference.

I actually started to read this one, but I just had to drop it. Not because I didn’t like, I didn’t get far enough into it to decide that, but because of an accident of timing. I’d just dropped The Lives of Others in disgust. The next day, I open Furies. I’m reading along, not really sure if I like the prose or not, when it happens. Lance walks out and his crap drops out onto the floor. I promptly close the book and move on. Maybe I’ll come back it someday.

Family_CleggDid You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg
Release Date: September 8, 2015

The day before a wedding tragedy strikes in the form of a devastating fire that leaves only one survivor, June Reid, the bride’s mother. How does everyone cope? From June to the caterer with the forgotten bill, this is the tale of aftermath.

 

Crash_DeCarloThe Art of Crash Landing by Melissa DeCarlo
Release Date: September 8, 2015

What do you do when you screw of your life for the umpteenth time? You go home and start over. Even if you’re turning into your mother. But what if home is the place that turned your mother from a bright young woman full of light and promise into the broken shell you remember? The search for your mother’s “why” may break you, or it could lead to your own healing.

October Reads

after-youAfter You by Jojo Moyes
Release Date: September 29, 2015

Sequel to the much loved Me Before You. I can’t wait to read it, box of tissues at the ready.

 

 

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
Release Date: October 6, 2015

The story of King David as told by Geraldine Brooks. Should make for an interesting read. Here’s the blurb:

Chord_BrooksWith more than two million copies of her novels sold, New York Times bestselling author Geraldine Brooks has achieved both popular and critical acclaim. Now, Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected. We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikhal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans.