WWW Wednesday – January 2

It’s that time of the week again! I’ve been reading some pretty fantastic stuff lately and I can’t wait to share with you!

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words — if you’re interested in participating simply answer the following questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Here’s what I’m currently reading…

img_8390The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. From the cover blurb: 

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m. 
There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit. 
We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer. 
Understood? Then let’s begin…

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others…

This mystery novel has a very gothic/romantic vibe to it, and I’m loving the dark atmosphere. There’s a whole lot of “wtf is happening here” going on at the moment, but I’m absolutely engrossed. Turton has me hooked!

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The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott. I started reading this one around Christmas time, and it’s kind of taken a backseat for the past week or so. We traveled to my mom and dad’s house for a belated Christmas celebration, and I think I only read five pages the whole time. 😅 Here’s what it’s about: A young Irish immigrant commits suicide one winter afternoon when he opens the gas taps in his tenement apartment. Later, this gas leakimg_8210 starts a fire, and his young wife and unborn child are taken under the wing of Sister St. Savior who is passing by on her way back to the convent. What follows is a tale that spans decades, centering on Sally, the man’s daughter, as she grows up in her Brooklyn community. Her sort of “collective” upbringing by the nuns and her mother is endearing, and the discussion of poverty and struggle makes for a meaningful read.

Ohio by Stephen Markley. This is my current Audible pick and one I think I’m going to love for its lit-fic elements and rural noir undercurrent. From the blurb:

On one fateful summer night in 2013, four former classmates converge on the rust belt town where they grew up, each of them with a mission, all of them haunted by regrets, secrets, lost loves. There’s Bill Ashcraft, an alcoholic, drug-abusing activist, whose fruitless ambitions have taken him from Cambodia to Zuccotti Park to New Orleans, and now back to “The Cane” with a mysterious package strapped to the underside of his truck; Stacey Moore, a doctoral candidate reluctantly confronting the mother of her former lover; Dan Eaton, a shy veteran of three tours in Iraq, home for a dinner date with the high school sweetheart he’s tried to forget; and the beautiful, fragile Tina Ross, whose rendezvous with the captain of the football team triggers the novel’s shocking climax.

It’s touted as a mystery, but I anticipate there’s going to be much more to this novel than the average fast-paced whodunit.

Here’s what I recently finished…

The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker. This overlooked 2018 novel tells the story of Anton, a former friar whose position as a school teacher and within the Church is upended by Nazis at the onset of the T4 plan during WWII. Anton, at a loss without his cherished roles in life, answers a personal ad from a widow in Unterboihingen. Elizabeth is seeking a husband to help provide for herself and her three young children. She and Anton quickly agree to marry — strictly platonic, no romance here! — and the novels tells of their time together and the struggles they face, raising children in a tumultuous time. Anton becomes part of a resistance group, which serves as a source of conflict in the novel. I listened to this one on Audible and though it could’ve used some paring down here and there, I ultimately really enjoyed this story — AND it’s based on the author’s husband’s grandfather! So cool.

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser. I stumbled upon this charming read via bookstagram recommendations. It’s a middle-grades novel featuring a family of 7 in a brownstone in New York . . . a family that has just discovered their lease won’t be renewed next year — just ten days before Christmas. What ensues is the efforts of the Vanderbeeker children, ages 4.5-12, to convince their grumpy and enigmatic landlord to renew their lease. This was a perfect Christmas-y read, though it’d be great any other time of the year, too. I enjoyed the little doodles incorporated throughout the novel, as well as the messages of kindness, generosity, honesty, and community that Glaser tied into the work. This is a fantastic read for elementary kids, and adults will love it as well!

What I’m reading next…

There are a few books awaiting my attention this month. With the start of the new year, I’ve also created some reading goals for myself, especially to read one work of nonfiction per month. That said, here’s what I’m looking forward to in January:

What are you currently reading — or planning to read this month? Let me know in the comments section! Happy reading, friends.

Best of 2018: A Recommended Reading List

I read 84 books in 2018 — a few of them, rereads — and there were so many that I immensely enjoyed. Pachinko was my first read of the year, and it was a 5-star title. I started the Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny and thoroughly delighted in the first three novels (I’m really dragging them out, here — don’t want the series to end!). Beartown stirred me, deep. But a handful of titles stand out — they’re exceptionally well-written, their plots moved me in meaningful ways, the characters were especially memorable . . . I know I’ll revisit these books again someday. And in the meantime, I’ll be thrusting them into the hands of any willing listener I can find.

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In no particular order, here’s the seven books that I read in 2018 and I hold most dear:

  1. Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. I salivated over this novel in January — such a deeply moving and heartwarming and heartbreaking story — and you can read my full review here. It’s been 12 months, and I’m still thinking about June and her uncle Finn.
  2. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker. Rumor has it a second book will be coming out in 2020, and I’m here for itThe Golem and the Jinni is a fascinating, engrossing fantasy story with roots in Syrian culture and folklore. Chava and Ahmad were some of the most well-drawn characters I read this year, and I couldn’t put this one down.
  3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. This series is controversial, but it’s largely popular for a good reason: Gabaldon can write a drama, friends. I came to this hefty tome in March with a couple of friends I met on bookstagram — Betsy (@booksgloriousbooks) and Taylor (@shihtzus.and.book.reviews) — and it was honestly probably my first foray into adult romance. I don’t typically enjoy the genre, but Clare and Jamie’s story was just so enthralling, and the books is so much more than a love story. I just finished the third book this month and while I’ve enjoyed all of the books in the series thus far, Outlander remains my favorite. And, if I’m being honest, this one’s always going to hold a special place in my heart because it’s the book that sparked a long-distance friendship of epic proportions.
  4. Foe by Iain Reid. This was my first Reid novel and y’all, it BLEW. MY. MIND. His books are short and quick reads, with brief chapters and compelling storylines. I tore through this one in less than 24 hours — it was THAT good. Foe is a mind-bending and provocative read that contemplates human relationships, and humanity itself. If you’re in the mood for something fast and bendy, this is it.
  5. Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller. I’ve gushed about this one so much on bookstagram, it almost feels excessive to talk about it more. Here’s my full review, and here’s a link to buy the book.
  6. An Unexplained Death by Mikita Brottman. This work of nonfiction was absolutely fascinating. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: An Unexplained Death is so much more than a work of true crime. Brottman touches on some deeply unsettling aspects of human nature, including our obsession with the macabre and our deepest needs to both tether ourselves to and isolate ourselves from the victims of crimes. This obsessive account of Brottman’s own unofficial investigation into the disappearance and death of Rey Rivera is a solid — and overlooked — gem of 2018.
  7. The Line That Held Us by David Joy. I’m pretty wishy-washy about picking a number one or “favorite” book, typically, but Joy’s gritty work of Appalachian noir is it. If you’re holding a gun to my head and telling me to choose, I choose you, The Line That Held Us. This novel is dark. It’s vividly drawn. It’s evocative and atmospheric and full of absolutely brilliant characters. Joy somehow manages to weave together this tragedy that is chock-full of emotion and desire and fear and the result is breathtaking. I cherished every word of this novel, then rushed out to buy his other works. You would be wise to do the same!

For a look at my reading year in review, head to this link. But before you go, tell me about your favorite reads of 2018! Did you read any of the titles that made my list? Leave me a comment and let me know what you thought of these works — or what books I need to add to my TBR for 2019!

Happy reading, friends, and Happy New Year!

WWW Wednesday – 12/12

It’s that time of the week again! I’ve been reading some pretty fantastic stuff lately and I can’t wait to share with you!

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Sam over at Taking on a World of Words — if you’re interested in participating simply answer the following questions:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you recently finish reading?
  3. What do you think you’ll read next?

Here’s what I’m currently reading…

The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden. This fantasy/respun fairytale has been on my list since its gorgeous cover hit shelves a year ago. I didn’t grab a copy until it came out in paperback, though, and I wanted to save it for winter — AND WINTER IS HERE, Y’ALL! In just a few hours during my kid’s afternoon nap, I’ve managed to read about 40% of the book. It’s so. freaking. good. img_7759Vasilisa is born into a northern family in the depths of winter. Her mother dies with the effort of childbirth, and her family is left to manage without a woman — until her father travels to Moscow when Vasilisa is six, bringing home a cold new wife with him. The girl, always “different,” struggles against her stepmother’s unmoving piety. While a priest works to exorcise the community of demons, Vasilisa befriends these guardians and grows increasingly interested in the world they have to offer.
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The Train of Lost Things by Ammi-Joan Pacquette. This middle-grades read is a bit out of my ordinary wheelhouse, but I decided to jump in on a buddy read of the title, hosted by my buddy Kathleen (@book_beat) on Instagram! Marty’s most prized possession is a denim jacket his dad gave him for his birthday. Every time the two do something special together, they find a pin to attach to the jacket as a sort of commemoration. But the jacket goes missing one day — the same day Marty discovers his father is dying (soon) of cancer — and Marty sets off on a mission to recover the jacket from the Train of Lost Things, a mythical and magical train from his father’s stories. When Marty finds the train, though, he doesn’t expect to also find another kid looking for a lost possession — Dina — or that the train has gone of the rails and is stealing things. 

The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker. A historical fiction novel set in WWII-era Germany, in which Anton — a middle-aged man stripped of his role as friar and teacher by Nazis — travels to a small village to respond to a wanted ad. His mission? To marry the young widow Elisabeth, mother to three small children. Anton isn’t looking for love; rather, he’s seeking to make amends for his failure of the schoolchildren who haunt his memory. But he’s surprised at how quickly the children capture his heart, and as the threads of resistance tug, Anton must make a choice between his new family and the secret rebellion. I’m listening to this one while I workout — so far, so good!

Here’s what I’ve recently finished…

Undiscovered Country by Lin Enger. Touted as a retelling of Hamlet, this literary thriller tells the story of 17-year-old Jesse’s strife to bring his father’s death to truth. On img_7632an evening hunting trip, Jesse discovers his father shot through the head, and though the police rule it a suicide, Jesse is certain his dad would never do such a thing. He sets out to discover the identity of the murderer and uncovers some disturbing truths — about his father, his mother, and himself — along the way. This was a well-drawn, engaging story that satisfied my longing for grit and darkness. 3.5 stars.

One Day in December by Josie Silver. I’ll spare you the synopsis, as this one’s all over the internet right now; ultimately, the book is touted as a rom-com/chick lit novel, and that’s a pretty accurate placement of the work. I keep trying romance in hopes that someday I’ll find one I like, but sadly, this wasn’t it for me. I didn’t really love either of the main characters, who often railroaded others in their efforts to fulfill their own desires; and I’ll spare you the spoilers, but some things Jack did were downright uncharacteristic of the initial development the author gave us. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it, either. 2.5 stars.

Voyager by Diana Gabaldon. This was another strong installment in the Outlander series. While certain aspects of Jamie and Claire’s relationship continue to frustrate me (not gonna say it, but if you’ve read this book, YOU KNOW), I continue to enjoy the historical details and elements of adventure in these novels. And, in direct contradiction to the statement in the previous paragraph: I do like the romance between these two. *throws hands up in the air in a shrug*

Here’s what’s next…

I’ve got a looooooot of titles stacked up for December, including these reads:

  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker
  • The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston
  • I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

and a couple of ARCs that just came in from HarperBooks:

That’s all for this Wednesday! What’s on your plate this week? Tell me in the comments below!

7 Books to Read if You Love a Rural Vibe

I can remember thinking in high school, Why are so many books set in the city? I was born and raised in a rural area where cows outnumbered humans, and had such a difficult time fully relating to the idea of life on the crowded streets of the Big Apple or London; these were places I’d never been, and I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have pizza delivered to the door (our closest option: Pizza Hut, 27 miles away) or to spend thirty minutes traversing a few city blocks (you could get from one side of town to the other in 3 minutes, if you hit the stoplights just right).

Obviously, I didn’t give up on these titles; part of the joy in reading is, for this little reader on the prairie, “traveling” to other times or places that differ significantly from my own life. That being said, there’s just something about rural literature that I adore — the homey feel I get when I read about an old dirt road leading to nowhere under a canopy of trees, the not-so-anonymous vibes of small-town crime, the intimate knowing between neighbors who’ve team-raised half the kids in the community.

In honor of this love affair with rural America, I give to thee: A List of Renee’s Favorite Rural Reads.

  1. The Line That Held Us by David Joy. Published by Putnam Books, August 2018. If you’re in the market for something gritty, something utterly compelling, something sofrigginmindblowinglyEXCELLENT that you can’t put it down, look no further. I picked this one for my August BOTM selection and just got around to reading it in September and I still haven’t stopped thinking about this glorious work of fiction. (Or recommending it to, like, everyone.)
  2. Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache Series. Published by Minotaur Books, 1990 – present. I’m only three books in (Still Life, A Fatal Grace, and The Cruelest Month), but these cozy mysteries do not disappoint. Nestled in the teeny town of Three Pines in Quebec, Canada, the book isn’t *technically* rural; however, the small-town vibes are terrifically reminiscent of the upbringing of anyone who’s been part of a community of a couple hundred. Everyone in Three Pines knows everyone else, all are quick to welcome — and assess — newcomers, and the small-town feel is utterly endearing.
  3. Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell. Published in 1933. This satirical work of fiction examines a family of sharecroppers in Georgia during the Great Depression. The narrative is centralized on a family of poor white farmers — the Lesters — who are struggling to survive in an era that no longer needs all hands on deck to cultivate, plant, and harvest cotton. The Lesters are ignorant, depraved, and some of the most darkly-comical characters I’ve ever read. Often repulsive and darkly hysterical*, this tragic portrait of 1930s America  depicts rural life in an unfathomable time.
  4. Descent by Tim Johnston. Published by Algonquin, 2015. Nestled in among the Rocky Mountains, Descent takes readers to the dark places that exist in the shadows between family members. The Courtland family heads off on a family vacation prior to the eldest daughter’s departure to college. What should be relaxing and rehabilitating ends in despair when the daughter disappears without a trace on an early morning run. This novel isn’t purely set in the countryside — there are some forays into the city as family members search for their missing daughter and sister; but much of the novel takes place within the wooded mountains or rural areas outside the city, at times both blissfully lonesome and achingly void.
  5. The High Divide by Lin Enger. Published by Algonquin, 2014. This western novel features the Pope family, living on the prairie of Minnesota in 1886 and newly abandoned by Ulysses, father and husband. Leaving without a word of explanation and hardly a farewell, Ulysses leaves his two sons and wife reeling: where could he have possibly gone? It doesn’t take long for the boys to set off after him, truly a wild goose chase in an era unprivileged with cell phones and social media. This work of historical fiction offers spectacular views of the prairieland and Midwest of more than a century ago and I am here for it.
  6. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Published by Little, Brown, 2012. If you read my review of this spectacularly charming work of fairy-tale-esque fiction last winter, you’ll already know I was utterly captivated by Ivey’s lonesome Alaskan couple, childless and increasingly individual as the months pass by. When the pair builds a snow child on a whim during the first snowfall of the season, things take a turn for the better and the couple soon discovers an orphaned girl, roaming about the woods. Is she a manifestation of their snow child? Is she the product of homesteaders, long dead and gone? And more importantly — is she theirs to love forever? Surrounded by nothing by the breathtaking and brutally remote Alaskan wilderness, The Snow Child is a perfect read for those seeking a rural setting . . . and better still, it’s ideal for these chilly and snowy winter days.
  7. Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. A simple, but evocative novel in which several ordinary characters — a father raising two sons alone, two solitary bachelors dwelling together, a pregnant teenager thrown out by her mother, and a compassionate schoolteacher — are strung together in an unembellished by heartwarming manner. Set in the plains east of Denver, the novel is a portrait of the simplicity and community that comes with life in rural America.

And here’s a peek at a few titles I haven’t read yet, but am highly anticipating due to their rural vibes!

  • A Key to Treehouse Living by Elliot Reed. Published by Tin House, 2018. An unconventionally wrought story about a young boy growing up near a river in the Midwest, sans parents. The book is told in glossary-style, a list of informative vignettes about various subjects the boy encounters in his lifetime. The book promises to be a coming-of-age tale, and you all know how I feel about those. 🙂
  • The Worst Hard Time (nonfiction) by Timothy Egan. Published by Mariner Books, 2006. This work of nonfiction is mostly focused on the area I now occupy: the vast — and unforgiving — southwest region of Kansas. A portrait of the dust storms and utter calamity that devastated the Midwest in the 1930s, The Worst Hard Time is “the story of those who stayed and survived — those who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the grave . . . “. I’m particularly interested in this title as my grandfather-in-law has often imparted memories of his own upbringing during the Dirty Thirties, an era which is unfathomable to most of us today.
  • Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich. Published by Putnam, 2015. Now this one — this book is what I’m all about, friends. Have you ever watched Lawless,  the movie about a moonshine-making family in the hills of Appalachia during the Prohibition era? I have. Seven times. I’ll probably watch it again tonight, now that it’s on my mind. Anyway — Bull Mountain seems to fall in line a bit with the rowdy gang of vigilantes in Lawless. The novel features a family history of down-home mobsters running moonshine, pot, and meth across state lines, with virtually no legal consequences. This is all well and good until one of the sons — Clayton — decides to become a law-man and separate himself from his family of criminals . . . until the federal government steps in and Clayton is forced to reconsider where his loyalties truly lie. I have high hopes for this one, my friends. HIGH.

Got any other great rural reading suggestions for me? Drop ’em below in the comments! I’m always on the lookout for books that bring life to the places tucked away in forgotten valleys or between mountain towns or left untouched among the prairie grasses of the Midwest. After all, home is where the heart is; and once you’ve loved the country, your home will never change.

*I read Tobacco Road in college in a course titled “Literature of the South.” My classmates were deeply disturbed that I (& my darkly humorous professor) found the book “funny” at times. I’d like to clarify that this isn’t a “OMGLOL” book, but rather, a book that one has to laugh at here and there in order not to weep at the sheer depravity of the characters featured. And honestly, it is funny sometimes. It’s satire. 

Best of 2017: The Shortlist

A month ago, I published a “longlist” of sorts featuring my favorite reads of the year. (You can see that list with short descriptions for each title here.) I read a few more books after that, though, and wanted to narrow it down to highlight the very best titles I read last year, and here she be! Without further ado, my top 7 reads from 2017 (in no particular order, because let’s be honest — I can’t choose just one favorite):

  1. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. This one is full of family drama, perfection-seekers, secrets, and jealousy: the perfect recipe for disaster. You’ll stay up all night to find out what happens in this startlingly realistic work of fiction.
  2. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Probably my favorite magical read since the Harry Potter series, this novel is beautiful in its simplicity and wintry mystery. It’s based on the Russian fairytale of Snegurochka and set in 1920s Alaska — so basically, it’s a very cozy, romantic read for adults who love a little magic in their lives.
  3. Salt Houses by Hala Alyan. Without a doubt, the most beautifully composed story I read in 2017. Spanning multiple generations of a Middle Eastern family through several marriages, deaths, and wars, Salt Houses is one of those reads that didn’t get nearly enough hype for the quality of writing it contains.
  4. Celine by Peter Heller. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Celine is a badass granny detective and I want to be her when I’m 65. She’s probably my favorite character of the year — okay, definitely — and that fact combined with the tight plot in this thrilling mystery make it a book I want to add to my shelves and read over and over.
  5. Descent by Tim Johnston. This title was my favorite thriller of the year, and believe me — I read a lot of those. The novel isn’t just gripping and fast-paced; its characters are fleshed out and the prose is absolutely gorgeous, which is something quite unexpected for the genre. (Because let’s be honest — most thrillers are all about the shock factor and not so much about solid lyrical writing skills.)
  6. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. The only nonfiction title on this list (but not the only NF I read last year!), this book was an absolute thrill (and horror) to behold. I was taken aback by the very tumultuous history of the Osage tribe’s rise to wealth in Oklahoma during the oil boom and repeatedly repulsed by the actions taken by white Americans to suppress the native people over and over again. I can’t recommend this gem enough.
  7. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Okay, I know I already said Celine was my favorite character of the year, but it’s really quite possible Ove is a tie. Or at the very least, a close second. He’s persnickety, he’s obnoxious, he’s blunt, and he’s hands-down the most endearing old man ever written. This book made me laugh out loud, gasp in surprise, and cry at least twice. It’s quick, it’s sweet, and it’s one of the books I’m most likely to recommend to anyone and everyone. If you haven’t read it, what are you waiting for?!

Overall, I’m really pleased with the quality of novels I read in 2017 and am looking forward to tackling a large quantity of unread books that have been accumulating on my shelves for the past several years. So far this year, I’ve read Tell the Wolves I’m Home (I started it in 2017, but only got halfway through before the new year started, so I’m counting it as a 2018 read) and Pachinko, both of which have set the bar high for the other titles on my TBR shelf for the year.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2017?

Incoming! December Book Mail

At the beginning of the year, I made a promise that book addicts around the world will find familiar: I vowed to not buy any books until I’d read the ones already waiting on my shelves.

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The fact of the matter is, I’m fairly certain I acquired at least twenty more books this year. At least. And by “least,” I mean “the highest amount I’m willing to publish on a blog that my husband sometimes reads.”

At any rate, November was especially good to me; I received an ARC from MacMillan; won two books in an Instagram giveaway; and was made aware of the existence of BookOutlet thanks to some beloved Bookstagram buddies, just in time for Black Friday. If you haven’t had the joy of perusing this site yet, give it a look and let your little bookish heart soar at the overwhelming volume of new editions priced at wallet-friendly prices. Like, less-than-five-dollars friendly. Yeah. I know. Take a moment to let that soak in.

This month when my hoard arrived in the mail, I actually shrieked. I was so excited my hands started to quiver a bit with anticipation. I’ve never been foolish enough to try any drugs stronger than NyQuil and Tylenol PM, but I’m willing to bet my thrill rivaled that of a coke addict about to score his next hit. (Too far?)

Without further ado, take a look at these 11 finds I added to my shelf this month, courtesy of my Black Friday BookOutlet spree (for a mere forty-one dollars and twelve cents!):

img_9129 A Good Country, published in 2017, is a fiction novel touted as “truly brave” and “an important novel for this moment in our history.” (Percival Everett) A bit from the novel’s synopsis: Laguna Beach, California, 2011. Reza Courdee, a sixteen-year-old straight-A student and chemistry whiz, takes his first hit of pot. In as long as it takes to inhale and exhale, he is transformed from the high-achieving son of Iranian immigrants into a happy-go-lucky stoner. He loses his virginity, takes up surfing, and sneaks away to all-night raves. For the first time, Reza — now Rez — feels like an American teen. Life is smooth; even lying to his strict parents comes easily. . . . We are left with . . . a lingering question that applies to all modern souls: Do we decide how to live, or is our life decided for us?

img_9128From the author of The Miniaturist (which I have yet to read, but have had my eye on for some time) comes The Muse, published in 2016. This work of fiction follows two women in different countries and time periods: Odelle Bastien, living in London in 1967; and Olive Schloss, dwelling in Spain in 1936. Odelle is an immigrant working at an art gallery when she discovers a high-interest painting by an artist who died under mysterious circumstances. Decades earlier, Olive moves with her parents to the southern coast of Spain where she grows close to a housekeeper and a painter. The two women are united across the decades by a tie that even they are unaware of.

img_9127This purchase was strictly made on cover appeal. The artwork is absolutely spellbinding, so I’m trusting the work will be, too. From the inside cover: Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the Forest, Xan, is kind. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. . . . Sounds perfectly fantastic, doesn’t it? I’m so excited to jump into this modern-day fairy tale!

img_9126Published in 1998, Antelope Woman is one of many titles by renowned author Louise Erdrich. Although I didn’t love her most recent novel (Future Home of the Living God), I’m willing to give Erdrich another try, as I’ve heard great things about her Native-infused literature. From the back cover, When Klaus Shawano abducts Sweetheart Calico, the seductive Indian woman who has stolen his heart, and takes her far from her native Montana plains to his own Minneapolis home, he cannot begin to imagine the eventual ramifications his brazen act will entail. Shawano’s mysterious Antelope Woman has utterly mesmerized him — and soon proves to be a bewitching agent of chaos whose effect on others is disturbing, and irresistible, as she alters the shape of things around her and the shape of things to come. 

 

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Published in 2015, this title comes with three full, front-and-back pages of praise. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this one might be a hit. The Small Backs of Children is the story of a photographer who captured a striking image of a young girl in a village stricken by war, and an attempt by a community of artists to locate the child featured in the world-famous photograph and rescue her, bringing her safely to the United States. As you can imagine, conflict abounds in this national bestseller.

 

img_9124 Alright, I’ll admit it again: I was drawn to this one by its magical cover and the absolutely curious title, The Smell of Other People’s Houses. You got me, Hitchcock; bravo. This work of fiction, published in 2016, is set in Alaska and features four individuals: Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank. From the publisher: “Growing up in Alaska in the 1970s isn’t like growing up anywhere else: Don’t think life is going to be easy. Know your place. And never talk about yourself. Four vivid voices tell intertwining stories of hardship, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation.” I’m all about those tragedy-and-salvation novels, friends, and I can’t wait to crack the spine on this short but promising read.

img_9123Okay, I might be most excited about this discovery — Carrying Albert Home, by Homer Hickam. Hickam is the author of Rocket Boys, a beautiful and hopeful memoir that was made into the 1999 movie drama October Sky, both of which I absolutely freaking love. For those familiar with Hickam’s memoir, this “somewhat true story” will feature some familiar characters: Elsie and Homer Hickam, Sr. This novel promises historical nuggets, family legends, humor, and sorrow as Hickam weaves together the tale of his parents’ courtship and an alligator named Albert.

 

img_9122Published in 2016, Everyone Brave is Forgiven comes to readers from Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee. Dubbed “both searing and timeless” by the Seattle Times, this novel takes place in London in 1939 — in the heart of World War II. Set in London during the years of 1939-1942, when citizens had slim hope of survival, much less victory, Everyone Brave is Forgiven features little-known history and a perfect wartime love story inspired by the real-life love letters between Chris Cleave’s grandparents. Um, a love story set during the 40s based on actual love letters? Count me in, folks.

img_9121Foer stole my heart with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close; which is why I jumped at the $2 opportunity to purchase this 2002 novel with the following synopsis: With only a yellowing photograph in hand, a young man — also named Jonathan Safran Foer — sets out to find the woman who may or may not have saved his grandfather from the Nazis. Accompanied by an old man haunted by memories of the war; an amorous dog named Sammy Davis, Junior, Junior; and the unforgettable Alex, a young Ukranian translator who speaks in a sublimely butchered English, Jonathan is led on a quixotic journey over a devastated landscape and into an unexpected past. I feel all the feels coming on.

img_9120I’m a sucker for covers with photographs of fog. If I ever write a novel, I am going to try my damnedest to ensure the cover features fog. Is there anything more alluring or enticing? This 2015 debut novel by firefighter Brian Panowich (okay, maybe that’s smoke on the cover, instead of fog?) promises plenty of drama and conflict: Clayton Burroughs comes from a long line of outlaws. For generations, the Burroughs clan has made their home on Bull Mountain in North Georgia, running shine, pot, and meth over six state lines, virtually untouched by the rule of law. To distance himself from his family’s criminal empire, Clayton took the job of sheriff in a neighboring community to keep what peace he can. But when a federal agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms shows up at Clayton’s office with a plan to shut down the mountain, his hidden agenda will pit brother against brother, test loyalties, and could lead Clayton down a path to self-distruction. This synopsis — coupled with Esquire‘s blurb “Prose as punch as rapid-aged whiskey” — was enough to draw me in. And at $3.72, I couldn’t click “add to cart” fast enough.

img_9119 Last but not least, this 2014 science fiction/post-apocalyptic release has been all over the Bookstagram/Litsy communities lately and I couldn’t resist adding the title to my cart. The book won the 2015 Toronto Book Awards and was a finalist for the National Book Award, Pen/Faulkner Award, and the Sunburst Award. Twist my arm, why don’tcha? From the cover: One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous Hollywood actor, dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time — from Arthur’s early days as a film start to twenty years int he future, he a theatre troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains — this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: Arthur, the man who tried to save him, Arthur’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony caught int he crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

I’m absolutely stoked to read each of these works in 2018, among dozens of other titles, undoubtedly. What’s a book you’re eager to read in 2018? Tell me in the comments below!