January Reads 2016

ReadingRoundup_dsI had three Five-Star Reads this month.  That’s amazing.  Usually, I’m lucky if I read one every two or three months.

I, the Sun by Janet E. Morris – I love Hittite history and Suppliluliuma is one of its most dynamic figures.  It was he who built the Hittite Empire, literally, from the ashes.  He brought the Great Kingdom of Mitanni to its knees and managed to expand his borders into the Levant without overly antagonizing Egypt.  Of course, that might have gone differently if anyone else but Akhenaten was Pharaoh.  The story of his reign also includes the mysterious disappearance of one queen, a shocking request from another, murder, and plague.  In other words, Janet Morris had a lot of raw material to work with in weaving a dramatic “autobiography” of Suppiluliuma.  So much that, if I wasn’t familiar with the history, I’m not sure if I’d have been able to keep everything straight.  Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

The Lady Queen: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, and Sicily by Nancy Goldstone – The murder of Andrew of Hungary, Duke of Calabria, by his adulterous wife, Joanna, Queen of Naples, was one of the great scandals of the Middle Ages.  It was made even more so by her exoneration purchased by the enormous bribe of Avignon.  That, at least, is the version of the tale found in most books.  Goldstone, however, puts a different spin on it.  Or, to be more accurate, wades through centuries of spin to find the truth.  Joanna, it seems, was completely innocent.  And she didn’t sell Avignon to the papacy, she rented it to them at a steep discount.  But it’s still a thrilling, scandalous, story of family intrigue, treason, scheming, and murder.  Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

Duke of Scandal by Gaelen Foley – This is the first full length novel in Foley’s new Moonlight Square Regency series.  There’s a prequel novella called One Moonlit Night which I didn’t like at all.  It was boring.  But, since I like most of Foley’s books, I decided to give this one a go despite that.  And was surprised that I liked it.  Felicity and Jason were neighbors, growing up, and they have become more if not for the intervention of her overprotective big brother, who, of course, is Jason’s best friend.  Jason then becomes a manwhore and Felicity and prim and proper miss who prefers the shadows to the spotlight.  But, then, they realize they’re grown ups now and can be together.  Or Felicity does, and she’s not shy in going after who she wants.  Jason’s a little slow on the uptake, but men generally are.  This was a fun read.  Rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Janet Morgan – I adored this book.  It was hilarious and tragic at the same time.  Equally as likely to make cry with sadness as it is with laughter.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean – This first novel of Sarah MacLean’s new Scandal and Scoundrel series, begins with an awesome “You go, girl!” moment involving an ass (in two senses of the word) and a pool.  It was great.  I was very proud of our heroine, Sophie.  But then, she meets the hero and promptly loses several IQ points.  I enjoyed this book while I was reading it, that’s the power of MacLean.  Rating:  4 out of 5 stars

Only the Stones Survive by Morgan Llywelyn – Blurbage is often misleading, but, not here. As skillfully as any ancient bard, Llywelyn takes the tales ofLebor 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.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom – I loved this book, told to us by Music with music.  Be sure to read it with YouTube open so you can listen to the music as you read.  It really does enhance the experience.  Rating:  5 out of 5 stars

Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf – Somehow, I missed this one.  I always enjoy my visits to Holt, Colorado, and this was no exception.  The ending, however, is unsatisfying, to say the least.  Rating:  4.25 out of 5 stars

After Rome by Morgan Llywelyn – This was bit of a disappointment after the awesomeness of Only the Stones Survive.  I spent most of it wondering why Cadogan didn’t just sell Quartilla to the Pict.  She was annoying.  And what was with Dinas, Meradoc, and the flying horse prophecy thing?  Cadogan’s story was interesting, and I would have liked to see more of Saba and Pelemos.  Rating:  3 out of 5 stars

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth – Anna is thirty-eight years old, and she as Alzheimer’s.  Luke is forty-one, and he has frontal-lobe dementia (trouble with finding the correct words and with the physical act of speaking).  Their story is sweet and tragic.  Keep a box of tissues close.  Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars



LibraryReads January 2016

library_reads_logo_websiteLibraryReads has released their first list of 2016, and while I can’t agree with their favorite, My Name is Lucy Barton, not having been a fan of Olive Kitteridge (read my review) and, thus, on the fence concerning Elizabeth Strout, there are a few titles that I can’t wait to read.

Bivald_Broken-WheelThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend sounds really good.  And I love the cover.  This one was a discovery for me, on the list, as I’d yet to hear of it.  I love when that happens.

Also of interest are Melanie Benjamin’s The Swans of Fifth Avenue, American Housewives: Stories by Helen Ellis, and The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth.

Anything on this list y’all can’t wait to get your hands on?  Or wonder why in the world anyone would?

Most Anticipated Debuts of 2015

Of all the books I read last year, over a hundred, according to Goodreads, my favorite was, as I’ve said, Laline Paull’s The Bees.  This was Ms. Paull’s first venture into writing novels.  This year, I have my eye on several author’s making their fiction debuts.

All release dates are American.  Several of these are already out in the UK.  Martine Bailey’s An Appetite for Violets, for example, came out there in May of last year and her second novel, The Penny Heart, will be released in May of this year.

An Appetite for Violets by Martine Bailey
Release Date: January 13, 2015

“That’s how it is for us servants. No one pays you much heed; mostly you’re invisible as furniture. Yet you overhear a conversation here, and add a little gossip there. Then you find something, something you should not have found.”

Violets-BaileyIrrepressible Biddy Leigh, under-cook at the foreboding Mawton Hall, only wants to marry her childhood sweetheart and set up her own tavern. But when her elderly master marries the young Lady Carinna, Biddy is unwittingly swept up in a world of scheming, secrets, and lies. Forced to accompany her new mistress to Italy, she documents her adventures and culinary discoveries in an old household book of recipes, The Cook’s Jewel. Biddy grows intrigued by her fellow travelers, but her secretive and unconventional mistress is the most intriguing of all.

In London Biddy finds herself attracted to her mistress’s younger brother. In France she discovers her mistress’s dark secret. At last in Italy, Biddy becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy, knowing the secrets she holds could be a key to a better life, or her downfall.

Inspired by eighteenth-century household books of recipes and set at the time of the invention of the first restaurants, An Appetite for Violets is a literary feast for lovers of historical fiction. Like Jo Baker’s Longbourn, it opens a window into the fascinating lives of servants, while also delivering a suspenseful tale of obsession and betrayal. goodreads-badge-add-plus-7d89c09d2df9777b38fbd808bb3ffb1a

The Secrets of Midwives by Sally Hepworth
Release Date: February 10, 2015

Midwives-HepworthTHE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES tells the story of three generations of women devoted to delivering new life into the world—and the secrets they keep that threaten to change their own lives forever. Neva Bradley, a third-generation midwife, is determined to keep the details surrounding her own pregnancy—including the identity of the baby’s father— hidden from her family and co-workers for as long as possible. Her mother, Grace, finds it impossible to let this secret rest. For Floss, Neva’s grandmother and a retired midwife, Neva’s situation thrusts her back 60 years in time to a secret that eerily mirrors her granddaughter’s—a secret which, if revealed, will have life-changing consequences for them all. Will these women reveal their secrets and deal with the inevitable consequences? Or are some secrets best kept hidden?


The Shadow of the Crescent Moon by Fatima Bhutto
Release Date: March 24, 2014

Crescent-Moon_BhuttoFatima Bhutto’s stunning debut begins and ends one rain swept Friday morning in Mir Ali, a small town in Pakistan’s Tribal Areas close to the Afghan border.

Three brothers meet for breakfast. Soon after, the eldest, recently returned from America, hails a taxi to the local mosque. The second, a doctor, goes to check in at his hospital. His troubled wife does not join the family that morning. No one knows where Mina goes these days. And the youngest, the idealist, leaves for town on a motorbike. Seated behind him is a beautiful, fragile girl whose life and thoughts are overwhelmed by the war that has enveloped the place of her birth.

Three hours later their day will end in devastating circumstances.

The Shadow of the Crescent Moon chronicles the lives of five young people trying to live and love in a world on fire. Individuals are pushed to make terrible choices. And, as the events of this single morning unfold, one woman is at the center of it all.


The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford
Release Date: March 17, 2015

Pocket-CrawfordA stylish psychological thriller with the compelling intrigue of The Silent Wife and Turn of Mind and the white-knuckle pacing of Before I Go to Sleep—in which a woman suffering from bipolar disorder cannot remember if she murdered her friend.

Dana Catrell is shocked when her neighbor Celia is brutally murdered. To Dana’s horror, she was the last person to see Celia alive. Suffering from mania, the result of her bipolar disorder, she has troubling holes in her memory, including what happened on the afternoon of Celia’s death.

Her husband’s odd behavior and the probing of Detective Jack Moss create further complications as she searches for answers. The closer she comes to piecing together the shards of her broken memory, the more Dana falls apart. Is there a murderer lurking inside her . . . or is there one out there in the shadows of reality, waiting to strike again?

A story of marriage, murder, and madness, The Pocket Wife explores the world through the foggy lens of a woman on the edge.


The Figaro Murders by Laura LeBow
Release Date: March 31, 2015

Figaro-LeBowVienna, 1786: Lorenzo Da Ponte is reluctant to agree to his barber’s plea for help in finding his long-lost parents. The poet is busy writing the opera The Marriage of Figaro with the up-and-coming composer Wolfgang Mozart and fending off a rival who is after his job at Emperor Joseph II’s Court Theater.

Something in the barber’s story touches Da Ponte, however. He begins his search by visiting the Palais Gabler, home to the barber’s former employer, a brilliant aristocrat about to assume an important diplomatic position. Hours later, a body lies crumpled on the stones of the Palais courtyard. A witness overheard Da Ponte threaten the victim. The poet is brought before the Minister of Police and offered a chance to clear his name by going undercover at the Palais to expose a murderous Prussian spy who has infiltrated the household.

Posing as poetry master to the lonely, beautiful Baroness Gabler, Da Ponte quickly becomes ensnared in a web of lies, old secrets, political intrigue, and revenge. When the killer strikes again, Da Ponte must put his career and his life on the line to solve the case. For if he fails to find the real murderer, he will spend the opening night of Figaro dangling from a hangman’s noose.


The Memory Painter by Gwendolyn Womack
Release Date: April 28, 2015


Painter-WomackBryan Pierce is an internationally famous artist whose paintings have dazzled the world. But there’s a secret to Bryan’s success: Every canvas is inspired by an unusually vivid dream. When Bryan awakes, he possesses extraordinary new skills . . . like the ability to speak obscure languages and an inexplicable genius for chess. All his life, he has wondered if his dreams are recollections—if he is re-experiencing other people’s lives.

Linz Jacobs is a brilliant neurogeneticist, absorbed in decoding genes that help the brain make memories—until she is confronted with an exact rendering of a recurring nightmare at one of Bryan’s shows. She tracks down the elusive artist, and their meeting triggers Bryan’s most powerful dream yet: visions of a team of scientists who, on the verge of discovering a cure for Alzheimer’s, died in a lab explosion decades ago.

As Bryan becomes obsessed with the mysterious circumstances surrounding the scientists’ deaths, his dreams begin to reveal what happened at the lab, as well as a deeper mystery that may lead all the way to ancient Egypt. Together, Bryan and Linz start to discern a pattern. But a deadly enemy watches their every move, and he will stop at nothing to ensure that the past stays buried.

The Memory Painter is a taut thriller and a timeless love story spanning six continents and 10,000 years of history.


The Sunlit Night by Rebecca Dinerstein
Release Date: June 2, 2015

SunlitNight-DinersteinFrom an exhilarating new voice, a stunning debut novel-which Jonathan Safran Foer calls as “lyrical as a poem, psychologically rich as a thriller.”

In the beautiful, barren landscape of the Far North, under the ever-present midnight sun, Frances and Yasha are surprised to find refuge in each other. Their lives have been upended-Frances has fled heartbreak and claustrophobic Manhattan for an isolated artist colony; Yasha arrives from Brooklyn to fulfill his beloved father’s last wish: to be buried “at the top of the world.” They have come to learn how to be alone.

But in Lofoten, an archipelago of six tiny islands in the Norwegian Sea, ninety-five miles north of the Arctic Circle, they form a bond that fortifies them against the turmoil of their distant homes, offering solace amidst great uncertainty. With nimble and sure-footed prose, Dinerstein reveals that no matter how far we travel to claim our own territory, it is ultimately love that gives us our place in the world.