Sunday, January 14, 2018

A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn

How do I love Deanna Raybourn's books?  Let me count the ways...

She is one of my go to authors when I have just read something with heavy subject matter content and I'm looking for something fun, fast, and with characters I really enjoy.  My love affair with her books first began with Silent in the Grave (#1 in the Lady Julia Grey series) and was greeted by this line:

“To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” 

How can you resist a book with an opening line like that?  For this series I have read book 1, half of book 2 (unfortunately I attempted to read #2 while in the middle of 3 classes for grad school) and now this one.  Book 3 alluded to events in book 2 but not enough to spoil what I haven't read yet.  Veronica Speedwell is one of those intrepid female characters that I have come to love in historical fiction-doesn't care a fig for what society thinks, intelligent, holds her own against any man she comes across, but with a softer side that peeks out every once in awhile.  Yes, some readers who like their characters to fit the mold of the time may be bristle at such a character but personally I love them!  Veronica is right up there with Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody, Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs, Ariana Franklin's Adelia Aguilar and Lauren Willig's Miss Gwen Meadows poking people into submission with her parasol.

This particular adventure follows Veronica and Stoker as they get sucked into a giant vat of intrigue while solving the disappearance of Stoker's former best friend and partner-a mystery that casts an unflattering light on Stoker if they do not get to the bottom of it.  Synopsis is here:

London, 1888.  As colorful and unfettered as the butterflies she collects, Victorian adventuress Veronica Speedwell can’t resist the allure of an exotic mystery—particularly one involving her enigmatic colleague, Stoker. His former expedition partner has vanished from an archaeological dig with a priceless diadem unearthed from the newly discovered tomb of an Egyptian princess. This disappearance is just the latest in a string of unfortunate events that have plagued the controversial expedition, and rumors abound that the curse of the vengeful princess has been unleashed as the shadowy figure of Anubis himself stalks the streets of London.

But the perils of an ancient curse are not the only challenges Veronica must face as sordid details and malevolent enemies emerge from Stoker’s past. Caught in a tangle of conspiracies and threats—and thrust into the public eye by an enterprising new foe—Veronica must separate facts from fantasy to unravel a web of duplicity that threatens to cost Stoker everything. . . .

 I'm always pleasantly surprised when I don't figure out the mystery before the end of the book.  Also, while I'm sure must be quite tempting to throw these two complicated souls together in a romantic relationship, instead the author keeps us anxiously waiting for the moment this will FINALLY happen (I mean we know its going to eventually...).  I have come to appreciate the slow building of the deeper relationship between the two.  Anyway, really did enjoy this one and cant wait for the next.  Thank you to Netgalley for the ebook ARC.  :)


On another note, I am happy that things have calmed down at work and here at home to the point where I am actually able to read books again.  Last year I only managed 31 books which is absolutely horrendous for me.  Of course, until august I was finishing my MLIS and then in September I started my new job as the lead librarian of my branch.  So now I have joined the ranks of "librarians who grit their teeth and smile when some poor innocent soul expounds on how great it must be to have a job were you get to read all day".  What with the meetings, meetings and more meetings, book ordering, programs to run, collections to develop and weed, I can honestly say I have not read a single page while at work in over 3 years.  Nice that the stars have finally aligned and I am free to dive into my piles of glorious books again!

Monday, January 8, 2018

I need to talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin

First, I have decided to resurrect this blog just to have a place to post my book thoughts and record my challenges.  No official reviewing happening here, just a place to babble about what I'm reading.  I'm glad I decided to do so because after picking up We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver on a whim, there are so many thoughts rattling around in my head after almost being late to work so I could finish it that I don't know where to start.  Here is the synopsis:

Two years ago, Eva Khatchadourian's son, Kevin, murdered seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker, and a popular algebra teacher. Because he was only fifteen at the time of the killings, he received a lenient sentence and is now in a prison for young offenders in upstate New York. Telling the story of Kevin's upbringing, Eva addresses herself to her estranged husband through a series of letters. Fearing that her own shortcomings may have shaped what her son has become, she confesses to a deep, long-standing ambivalence about both motherhood in general and Kevin in particular. How much is her fault? Lionel Shriver tells a compelling, absorbing, and resonant story while framing these horrifying tableaux of teenage carnage as metaphors for the larger tragedy - the tragedy of a country where everything works, nobody starves, and anything can be bought but a sense of purpose.

Yes the subject matter of this book is as weighty as it sounds. First impressions?  This is an epistolary novel where Eva writes lengthy letters to her husband Franklin.  Her "voice" really grated on me at first as she had a rather grandiose way of conveying her recollections.  It becomes apparent right away that this lady was not cut out to be a parent.  Her selfishness, unrealistic expectations, and her inability to commit fully to her child serves as a source of tension in her marriage.  The issues are exacerbated by the fact that her husband refuses to face reality and see that their precious child has serious psychological issues and it is not just his wife only wanting to find fault wherever she can.  Together Eva, her husband Franklin, and their truly psychopathic progeny Kevin make for a perfect storm of screwed up family dynamics.  

After getting further into the book, I adjusted to Eva's way with words and was able to focus more on the story itself.  It progresses with a series of increasingly disturbing occurrences leading up to the massacre.  What started as a "What the hell am I reading and why did I pick this up?" scenario ended with me speeding to the end so I could finish and make it to the library on time.  I had an inkling in the back of my mind of how this book might end and while I was right, it still left me on edge to read it.  This is one of those books that came out of nowhere and probably will stick with me for awhile as I cannot begin to wrap my head around how three people could fail each other so thoroughly and with such disastrous results.  Glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and continued reading even though I was really not enjoying the first 3rd of the book.  I'm looking forward to watching the movie starring Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly.  I usually read a book and move on to the next without feeling the need for much discussion.  This one gut punched me to the point where I felt compelled to tell 4 people about this book today.  


Monday, March 14, 2016

It's Been a LONG Time!

I have been radio silent on this blog for just about two years now.  Part of my absence was I got burnt out reviewing. Part of it was I started back to school to finish my Bachelor's degree and I was knee deep in the cat rescuing world saving poor helpless kitties by the armload.  Fast forward two years later and.....I'm even more busy than I was then!  BUT I miss blogging so I have decided to give it another go.

Things have changed quite a bit for me in the past two years.  I have changed careers.  I'm working as a Library Assistant/Floating Substitute for my local library system.  I spend my working hours floating between 10 branches, filling in wherever they need me.  I also got accepted into the graduate program for Library and Information Science at Wayne State University so hopefully I'll be running my own branch one day.  A job constantly surrounded by books-can you think of anything better?

On the cat rescue front, I quit the rescue I was toiling away at for the last three years due to several insurmountable disagreements. Myself and my two crazy cat lady friends (we are collectively known as the Sister Wives) are now free agents in the cat rescue world helping all the local rescues wherever we can with donations and attending fund raisers.  After months of this nomadic existence we think we may have found a couple ways to truly make an impact and we are super excited about it (More about this in future posts)!

So what in the world does that mean for this blog now that I've decided to do it again?  Will there still be reviews here?  The answer is yes but they will be pretty informal and only for books I am reading personally.  I have decided not to do reviews for tours or publishers or anything like that here.  My reading tastes have broadened a bit too so it probably will not be all historical fiction like it was previously.

I will still be doing the historical fiction preview pages, the recently released page, and the Tudor book page.  I'm working on updating all of that this week.

The biggest change (besides the site design) will be that this blog will be more of a general purpose blog as opposed to strictly books.  There will be cats (and gratuitous pictures of my dog too), craft projects myself and my fellow Sister Wives are working on and just life in general posts in addition to the books.

I can't wait to dive back in and catch up on all of my favorite blogs.  Sadly there are quite a few I used to follow avidly that are no longer around but I'm looking forward to discovering new blogs too.

So, in short-Hello Again!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

REVIEW: Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Synopsis: The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.  As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart.

My Thoughts:  So here is the thing.  I really do like books with child protagonists if the author is able to successfully write the character without imposing adult viewpoints/actions/mannerisms that totally mess with the authenticity of the character's voice.  For me they have to contain that innocence-an unblemished view of the world that breathes life into the story.  In Whistling Past the Graveyard Susan Crandall tackles the weighty issue of race relations in the deep South during the early 1960's and uses charming and spirited Starla Claudelle to spin an endearing story of adversity, confronting harsh realities, and finding your inner strength.

I was really drawn to this story and particularly the interaction between Starla and Eula, both people who are facing difficult circumstances but find their courage from relying on each other.  Eula knows it is dangerous to even be seen with a white girl and a white baby but nevertheless she follows her inner compass that tells her these two need her help and she is determined to do the right thing by them.  Eula and Starla encounter many obstacles on the journey to Nashville to locate Starla's mother.  Along the way Starla's innocence gives way to the hard truth of reality but by the end of this novel you are rooting for both Starla and Eula to find their happy ending.  This book reminded me a lot of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.  Although I wasn't sure what to expect when cracking this book open, what I found was a beautifully told story that held my attention from beginning to end. I will definitely be checking out more from this author.

This book was provided to me by the publisher via NetGalley.  These are my honest thoughts on the book.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

For the forseeable future....

I have been absent from this blog in any meaningful capacity for so long I considered not even writing a post explaining why.  I blame cats.  Yes CATS- such as the lovely lady to the left.  They have completely taken over my life.   When I got into the rescue business a year ago my intentions were to help out here and there-maybe devote a couple weekends a month cleaning cages out at Petco.  That is how it started out. Then along came a poor gorgeous  sad looking homeless kitty by the name of Buster who needed a foster or he would be sent back to the pound and I said I'd do it.  He was the first of 42 cats that came through my household in 2013 and went on to find their forever homes.

Now in place of all the reading and reviewing I was doing I am fostering 8 cats at a time in addition to the 5 that are permanent residents here.  The role of chief pooper scooper at Petco has blossomed into running the cat health clinic every week, scheduling them all for spay/neuter, maintaining the rescue's Petfinder page, devoting every Saturday and Sunday to doing adoptions out at Petco and pretty much anything else my fellow crazy cat ladies ask of me.  The thing is despite having less time for pretty much anything else, I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

Like many other bloggers there was also the realization that I really missed reading for pure enjoyment. My wish this year is to go through 2014 no strings attached book-wise.  I am closing the door on blogging/reviewing indefinitely but am tucking the key away in a safe place for some time in the future.  I have a feeling I'll be back at some point and of course I'll still be lurking and commenting on my favorite blogs but Maggie (that would be the pretty Torti up top) and I will be bidding you all adieu for now.....

Sunday, November 24, 2013

April Historical Fiction Preview

The Girl Who Came Home: A Novel of the Titanic by Hazel Gaynor (Apr 1st)
Ireland, 1912. Fourteen members of a small village set sail on RMS Titanic, hoping to find a better life in America. For seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy, the journey is bittersweet. Though her future lies in an unknown new place, her heart remains in Ireland with Séamus, the sweetheart she left behind. When disaster strikes, Maggie is one of the lucky few passengers in steerage who survives. Waking up alone in a New York hospital, she vows never to speak of the terror and panic of that terrible night ever again.  Chicago, 1982. Adrift after the death of her father, Grace Butler struggles to decide what comes next. When her Great Nana Maggie shares the painful secret she harbored for almost a lifetime about the Titanic, the revelation gives Grace new direction—and leads her and Maggie to unexpected reunions with those they thought lost long ago.

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell (in PB Apr 1st)
Confessions are Rose Baker’s job. A typist for the New York City Police Department, she sits in judgment like a high priestess. Criminals come before her to admit their transgressions, and, with a few strokes of the keys before her, she seals their fate. But while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves the room, she reverts to a dignified and proper lady. Until Odalie joins the typing pool. As Rose quickly falls under the stylish, coquettish Odalie’s spell, she is lured into a sparkling underworld of speakeasies and jazz. And what starts as simple fascination turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.


Miracle Thief by Iris Anthony (Apr 1st)
In the darkest hour of the Dark Ages, when God often seemed silent, saints and their relics offered a touchstone of hope. But in a quest for the blessing of the divine, only the most ruthless of souls may win the prize. With her trademark intricate storytelling, Iris Anthony shines a light on the dark world of trading in dead bones. The Miracle Thief asks timeless questions that reverberate with the modern soul: what do we value? What is sacred? Do miracles really happen - or do we make them happen?

Silence for the Dead by Simone St James (Apr 1st)
In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?  Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.

Island of Doves by Kelly O’Connor McNees (Apr 1st)
Susannah Fraser lives in one of Buffalo’s finest mansions, but her monstrous husband makes the home a terrible prison. When a local nun offers to help her escape, Susannah boards a steamship headed for Mackinac Island and a chance at freedom.  Magdelaine Fonteneau has seen her share of tragedy—a husband murdered before her eyes, two sisters lost—and she sees offering Susannah refuge in her island home as atonement for her many regrets. This act of kindness changes Susannah in ways she never could have imagined as she finds solace in the company of others who carry their own secrets and scars. Only together can they untangle their pasts—and find a future bright with the promise of new life…

The Secret Life of William Shakespeare by Jude Morgan (Apr 1st)
How well do you know the man you love? How much do you think you know about Shakespeare? What if they were one and the same? He is an ordinary man: unwilling craftsman, ambitious actor, resentful son, almost good-enough husband. And he is also a genius. The story of how a glove-maker from Warwickshire became the greatest writer of them all is vaguely known to most of us, but it would take an exceptional modern novelist to bring him to life. And now at last Jude Morgan, acclaimed author of Passion and The Taste of Sorrow, has taken Shakespeare's life, and created a masterpiece.

The Red Lily Crown: A Novel of Medici Florence by Elizabeth Loupas (Apr 1st)
April, 1574, Florence, Italy. Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici lies dying. The city is paralyzed with dread, for the next man to wear the red lily crown will be Prince Francesco: despotic, dangerous, and obsessed with alchemy.  Chiara Nerini, the troubled daughter of an anti-Medici bookseller, sets out to save her starving family by selling her dead father’s rare alchemical equipment to the prince. Instead she is trapped in his household—imprisoned and forcibly initiated as a virgin acolyte in Francesco’s quest for power and immortality. Undaunted, she seizes her chance to pursue undreamed-of power of her own.  Witness to sensuous intrigues and brutal murder plots, Chiara seeks a safe path through the labyrinth of Medici tyranny and deception. Beside her walks the prince’s mysterious English alchemist Ruanno, her friend and teacher, driven by his own dark goals. Can Chiara trust him to keep her secrets even to love her or will he prove to be her most treacherous enemy of all?

The White Princess by Philippa Gregory (in PB Apr 1st)
When Henry Tudor picks up the crown of England from the mud of Bosworth field, he knows he must marry the princess of the enemy house—Elizabeth of York—to unify a country divided by war for nearly two decades. But his bride is still in love with his slain enemy, Richard III—and her mother and half of England dream of a missing heir, sent into the unknown by the White Queen. While the new monarchy can win power, it cannot win hearts in an England that plots for the triumphant return of the House of York. Henry’s greatest fear is that somewhere a prince is waiting to invade and reclaim the throne. When a young man who would be king leads his army and invades England, Elizabeth has to choose between the new husband she is coming to love and the boy who claims to be her beloved lost brother: the rose of York come home at last.

Murder on High Holborn by Susanna Gregory (Apr 1st)
In 1665 England is facing war with the Dutch and the capital is awash with rumors of conspiracy and sedition. These are more frenetic than normal because of the recent sinking in the Thames of one of the largest ships in the navy - a disastrous tragedy that could very well have been caused by sabotage. As an experienced investigator, Thomas Chaloner knows that there are very few grains of truth in the shifting sands of the rumor-mill, but the loss of such an important warship and the murder of Paul Ferine, a Groom of the Robes, in a brothel favoured by the elite of the Palace of White Hall makes him scent a whiff of genuine treason. As well as investigating the murder, Chaloner is charged with tracking down the leaders of a fanatical sect known as the Fifth Monarchists. He suspects his masters are not particularly concerned by their amateur antics, and that the order for him to infiltrate the group is intended to distract him from uncovering some unsavory facts about Ferine and his courtly associates. Then, as he comes to know more about the Fifth Monarchists and their meetings on High Holborn, he discovers a puzzling number of connections - to both Ferine's murder and those involved with the defense of the realm. Connections that he must disentangle before it is too late to save the country ...

Templar's Acre by Michael Jecks (Apr 1st)
The Holy Land, 1291. A war has been raging across these lands for decades. The forces of the Crusaders have been pushed back again and again by the Muslims and now just one city remains in Crusader control. That one city stands between the past and the future, and must be defended at all costs. That city is Acre. Into this battle where men will fight to the death to defend their city comes a young boy. Green and scared, he has never seen battle before. But he is on the run from a dark past and he has no choice but to stay—and to stay means to fight. That boy is Baldwin de Furnshill. This is the story of the siege of Acre, and of the moment Baldwin first charged into battle. This is just the beginning. The rest is history.

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (Apr 1st)
Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heatwave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman called Jenny Bonnet is shot dead. The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny's murderer to justice--if he doesn't track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women and damaged children. It's the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.

Love & Treasure by Ayelet Waldman (Apr 1st)
In 1945 on the outskirts of Salzburg, victorious American soldiers capture a train filled with unspeakable riches: piles of fine gold watches; mountains of fur coats; crates filled with wedding rings, silver picture frames, family heirlooms, and Shabbat candlesticks passed down through generations. Jack Wiseman, a tough, smart New York Jew, is the lieutenant charged with guarding this treasure—a responsibility that grows more complicated when he meets Ilona, a fierce, beautiful Hungarian who has lost everything in the ravages of the Holocaust. Seventy years later, amid the shadowy world of art dealers who profit off the sins of previous generations, Jack gives a necklace to his granddaughter, Natalie Stein, and charges her with searching for an unknown woman—a woman whose portrait and fate come to haunt Natalie, a woman whose secret may help Natalie to understand the guilt her grandfather will take to his grave and to find a way out of the mess she has made of her own life.

Sedition by Katharine Grant (Apr 1st)
London, 1794: The problem: Four nouveau rich fathers with five marriageable daughters. The plan: The young women will learn to play the piano, give a concert for young Englishmen who have titles but no fortunes, and will marry very well indeed. The complications: The lascivious (and French) piano teacher; the piano maker’s jealous (and musically gifted) daughter; the one of these marriageable daughters with a mating plan of her own. While it might be a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a title and no money must be in want of a fortune, what does a sexually awakened young woman want? In her wickedly alluring romp through the late-Georgian London, Italian piano making, and tightly-fitted Polonaise gowns, Katharine Grant has written a startling and provocative debut.

The Liars’ Gospel by Naomi Alderman (in PB Apr 8th)
A year after the death of Yehoshuah, a mysterious figure who wandered Roman-occupied Judea giving sermons and healing the sick, four people tell their stories. A mother, a friend, a collaborator, a rebel-to each of these witnesses the young preacher represents strikingly different things. But whether the witnesses are lying or telling the truth, their accounts will change all that comes after.

Leaving Everything Most Loved: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear (in PB Apr 8th)
The year is 1933. Maisie Dobbs is contacted by an Indian gentleman who has come to England in the hopes of finding out who killed his sister two months ago. Scotland Yard failed to make any arrest in the case, and there is reason to believe they failed to conduct a thorough investigation. The case becomes even more challenging when another Indian woman is murdered just hours before a scheduled interview. Meanwhile, unfinished business from a previous case becomes a distraction, as does a new development in Maisie's personal life.

The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato (Apr 8th)
In 1576, five years after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, a ship slips unnoticed into Venice bearing a deadly cargo. A man, more dead than alive, disembarks and staggers towards the Piazza San Marco. He brings a gift to Venice from the Turkish Sultan. Within days the city will be infected with bubonic plague - and the Turks will have their revenge. For months the plague wreaks havoc on Venice. In despair, the Doge summons the architect Andrea Palladio and offers him a commission: the greatest church of his career, an offering to God so magnificent that Venice will be saved. Palladio's own life is in danger too, and it will require all the skills of Dr Annibale Cason, the city's finest plague doctor, to keep him alive. But what Dr Cason has not counted on is the other passenger who disembarked from the Turkish ship - a young and beautiful harem doctor whose skills will more than match his own.

Mimi Malloy at Last by Julia MacDonnell (Apr 8th)
Forced into an early retirement at the age of sixty-something, Mimi Malloy enjoys the simple things in life: True Blue cigarettes, her apartment in the heart of Quincy, and an evening with Frank Sinatra on the stereo and a Manhattan in her hand. Born into an Irish Catholic brood of seven, with six daughters of her own, she knows that life isn't just a bowl of cherries--that, sometimes, it's the pits. And when an MRI reveals that Mimi's brain is filled with black spots--areas of atrophy, her doctor says--the prospect living out her days in an "Old Timer's facility" starts to look like more than just an idea at the top of her eldest daughter's to-do list. Yet as Mimi prepares to take a stand, she stumbles upon an old pendant, and her memory starts to return--specifically, memories of a shockingly painful childhood, her long-lost sister Fagan, and the wicked stepmother she swore to forget. By turns funny, wise, and whimsical, and always deeply moving, Mimi Malloy At Last is an unforgettable story of second chances and the family bonds that break us and remake us. Above all, it's a poignant reminder that it's never too late for love--and that one can always come of age a second time.

The Morning River by W. Michael Gear (re-release Apr 8th) 
1825: Disgusted that his son Richard, a timid and frail philosophy student at Harvard, knows nothing of practical value, Philip Hamilton challenges Richard to put his philosophy to the ultimate test--the Western frontier. If Richard can deliver $30,000 in bank notes to a business associate in St. Louis and return with a signed contract, then, and only then, will he be able to continue his studies at Harvard.

The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland (Apr 8th)
1660, Paris: Claudette's life is like an ever-revolving stage set.  From an impoverished childhood wandering the French countryside with her family's acting troupe, Claudette finally witnesses her mother's astonishing rise to stardom in Parisian theaters. Claudette finds working with playwrights Corneille, Molière and Racine to be deeply rewarding, but like all in the theatrical world, she's socially scorned. A series of chance encounters pull Claudette into the alluring orbit of Athénaïs de Montespan, mistress to Louis XIV and reigning "Shadow Queen." Needing someone to safeguard her secrets, Athénaïs offers to hire Claudette as her personal attendant. Enticed by the promise of riches and respectability, Claudette leaves the world of the theater only to find that court is very much like a stage--with outward shows of loyalty masking more devious intentions. This parallel is not lost on Athénaïs, who fears political enemies are plotting her ruin as young courtesans angle to take the coveted spot in the king's bed. Indeed, Claudette's "reputable" new position is marked by spying, illicit trysts and titanic power struggles. As Athénaïs begins to lose her grip on the Sun King, her use of the magical arts take a dark turn, and Claudette is forced to consider a move that will put her own life at risk. 

The Collector of Dying Breaths by M.J. Rose (Apr 8th)
In 1533, an Italian orphan with an uncanny knack for creating fragrance is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. To repay his debt, over the years René le Florentine is occasionally called upon to put his vast knowledge to a darker purpose: the creation of deadly poisons used to dispatch the Queen's rivals. But it's René's other passion—a desire to reanimate a human breath, to bring back the lives of the two people whose deaths have devastated him—that incites a dangerous treasure hunt five centuries later. That's when Jac L’Etoile—suffering from a heartache of her own—becomes obsessed with the possibility of unlocking Rene's secret to immortality. Soon Jac’s search reconnects her with Griffin North, a man she’s loved her entire life. Together they confront an eccentric heiress whose art collection rivals many museums and who is determined to keep her treasures close at hand, not just in this life but in her next.

In Liberty’s Name by Eva Augustin Rumpf (Apr 9th)
Paris, 1792. When Jean-Louis Auberge narrowly escapes death in the bloody streets of Paris during the French Revolution, he abandons his study for the priesthood and seeks a safe haven in the French Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue. Young Marie Jeannette Saunier's anticipated adventure on the island turns to tragedy and loss, as the slaves' quest for freedom erupts in a terrifying rebellion. The colony is thrust into a war of race and revenge that ends with the formation of a new nation, Haiti. Inspired by a true story and sweeping through four countries and two decades, this historical novel is peopled with figures such as King Louis XVI and Toussaint Louverture, the former slave known as Haiti's liberator.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer (in PB Apr 15th)
After the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix, and the breakup with her longtime lover, Nathan, Greta Wells embarks on a radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her suffocating depression. But the treatment has unexpected effects, and the Greta of 1985 finds herself transported to remarkably similar lives in different eras—as a bohemian and adulteress in 1918, and a devoted wife and mother in 1941—fraught with familiar tensions and difficult choices. Traveling through time, the modern Greta learns that each reality has its own losses and rewards, and that her alternate selves are unpredictable, driven by their own desires and needs. And as the final treatment looms, one of these other selves could change everything.

The Sea House by Elizabeth Gifford (Apr 15th)
Moving to the island of Harris to restore the Sea House, Ruth finds herself strugging to understand the truth about her past - and at the same time finds the house holds a shocking secret. She must uncover what really happened in the Sea House a century earlier if the house is ever to become the home she longs for.

Ember Island by Kimberley Freeman (Apr 15th)
1891: Orphaned as a small child, Tilly Kirkland found a loving, safe home with her grandfather in Dorset. But nineteenth-century England is an unforgiving place for a young woman with limited means and as her grandfather's health fails, it seems perfect timing that she meets Jasper Dellafore. But her new husband is not all he seems. Alone in the Channel Islands, Tilly finds her dream of a loving marriage is turning into a nightmare.  2012: Bestselling novelist Nina Jones is struggling with writer's block and her disappointing personal life. Nothing is quite working. After a storm damages Starwater, her house on Ember Island, she decides to stay for a while and oversee the repairs: it’s a perfect excuse to leave her problems behind her on the mainland. Then Nina discovers diary pages hidden in the walls of the old home. And a mystery unravels that she is determined to solve.  Though the two women are separated by years, Starwater House will alter the course of both their lives. Nina will find that secrets never stay buried and Tilly learns that what matters most is trusting your heart.

Angels Make Their Hope Here by Breena Clarke (Apr 15th)
Russell's Knob is not paradise. But already in 1863 this New Jersey highlands settlement is home to a diverse population of blacks and whites and reds who have intermarried and lived in relative harmony for generations. It is a haven for Dossie Bird, who has escaped north along the Underground Railroad and now feels the embrace of the Smoot family: Duncan (so much older than Dossie; could he expect her to be his helpmeet?), his reticent sister, his exuberant nephews, and a circle of friends that includes the local spirit woman, Noelle. Tentatively, Dossie begins to lay down roots-until an act of violence propels her away from Russell's Knob and eventually into the mayhem of New York City's mean streets.

‘Til the Well Runs Dry by Lauren Francis-Sharma (Apr 15th)

Lauren Francis-Sharma's 'Til the Well Runs Dry opens in a seaside village in the north of Trinidad where young Marcia Garcia, a gifted and smart-mouthed 16-year-old seamstress, lives alone, raising two small boys and guarding a family secret. When she meets Farouk Karam, an ambitious young policemen (so taken with Marcia that he elicits the help of a tea-brewing obeah woman to guarantee her ardor), the risks and rewards in Marcia’s life amplify forever. On an island rich with laughter, Calypso, Carnival, cricket, beaches and salty air, sweet fruits and spicy stews, the novel follows Marcia and Farouk from their amusing and passionate courtship through personal and historical events that threaten Marcia’s secret, entangle the couple and their children in a scandal, and endanger the future for all of them.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose (Apr 22nd)
Emerging from the austerity and deprivation of the Great War, Paris in the 1920s shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club’s loyal patrons, including rising Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyi, socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol; and caustic American writer Lionel Maine.  As the years pass, their fortunes—and the world itself—evolve. Lou falls desperately in love and finds success as a racecar driver. Gabor builds his reputation with startlingly vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover, which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant 20s give way to the Depression of the 30s, Lou experiences another metamorphosis—sparked by tumultuous events—that will warp her earnest desire for love and approval into something far more sinister: collaboration with the Nazis.

The Poisoned Crown by Maurice Druon (in PB Apr 22nd)
No man is impervious to the poisons of the crown...
Having murdered his wife and exiled his mistress, King Louis X of France becomes besotted with Princess Clemence of Hungary and makes her his new Queen.  However, though the matter of the succession should be assured, it is far from so, as Louis embarks on an ill-fated war against Flanders. Where his father, Philip IV, was strong, Louis is weak, and the ambitions of his proud, profligate barons threaten his power and the future of a kingdom once ruled by an Iron King.

From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins (Apr 22nd)
Weeks after the Great Fire ravaged London, Lucy Campion—formerly a chambermaid, now a printer’s apprentice—is helping dig through the ashes of an old tavern, when a body is found stuffed into an old malt barrel, a knife through his chest. On the corpse is a small leather bag,  promptly pickpocketed by a passing thief, and passed accidentally to Lucy. Inside the bag, Lucy discovers a strange collection of objects—the winnings from the last card game ever played at the tavern and a poem. These are also the only clues to the victim and his murderer. Not realizing that the poem is in code, Lucy persuades her new employer to publish the poem.  This action leads to a chain of events that once again brings Lucy in direct confrontation with a murderer.

The Edge of the Earth by Christina Schwarz (in PB Apr 22nd)
In 1898, a woman forsakes the comfort of home and family for a love that takes her to a remote lighthouse on the wild coast of California. What she finds at the edge of the earth, hidden between the sea and the fog, will change her life irrevocably.  Trudy, who can argue Kant over dinner and play a respectable portion of Mozart’s Serenade in G major, has been raised to marry her childhood friend and assume a life of bourgeois comfort in Milwaukee. She knows she should be pleased, but she’s restless instead, yearning for something she lacks even the vocabulary to articulate. When she falls in love with enigmatic and ambitious Oskar, she believes she’s found her escape from the banality of her preordained life.  But escape turns out to be more fraught than Trudy had imagined. Alienated from family and friends, the couple moves across the country to take a job at a lighthouse at Point Lucia, California—an unnervingly isolated outcropping, trapped between the ocean and hundreds of miles of inaccessible wilderness. There they meet the light station’s only inhabitants—the formidable and guarded Crawleys. In this unfamiliar place, Trudy will find that nothing is as she might have predicted, especially after she discovers what hides among the rocks.

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bojahlian (in PB Apr 29th)
1943: Tucked away in the idyllic hills south of Florence, the Rosatis, an Italian family of noble lineage, believe that the walls of their ancient villa will keep them safe from the war raging across Europe. Eighteen-year-old Cristina spends her days swimming in the pool, playing with her young niece and nephew, and wandering aimlessly amid the estate’s gardens and olive groves. But when two soldiers, a German and an Italian, arrive at the villa asking to see an ancient Etruscan burial site, the Rosatis’ bucolic tranquility is shattered. A young German lieutenant begins to court Cristina, the Nazis descend upon the estate demanding hospitality, and what was once their sanctuary becomes their prison. 1955: Serafina Bettini, an investigator with the Florence police department, has her own demons. A beautiful woman, Serafina carefully hides her scars along with her haunting memories of the war. But when she is assigned to a gruesome new case—a serial killer targeting the Rosatis, murdering the remnants of the family one-by-one in cold blood—Serafina finds herself digging into a past that involves both the victims and her own tragic history.

Stolen Remains by Christine Trent (Apr 29th)
After establishing her reputation as one of London's most highly regarded undertakers, Violet Harper decided to take her practice to the wilds of the American West. But when her mother falls ill, Violet and her husband Samuel are summoned back to England, where her skills are as sought-after as ever. She's honored to undertake the funeral of Anthony Fairmont, the Viscount Raybourn, a close friend of Queen Victoria's who died in suspicious circumstances--but it's difficult to perform her services when his body disappears. . .   As the viscount's undertaker, all eyes are on Violet as the Fairmonts and Scotland Yard begin the search for his earthly remains. Forced to exhume her latent talents as a sleuth to preserve her good name, Violet's own investigation takes her from servants' quarters, to the halls of Windsor Castle, to the tombs of ancient Egypt--and the Fairmont family's secrets quickly begin to unravel like a mummy's wrappings. But the closer Violet gets to the truth, the closer she gets to becoming the next missing body. . .

Ruby by Cynthia Bond (Apr 29th)
Ephram Jennings has never forgotten the beautiful girl with the long braids running through the piney woods of Liberty, their small East Texas town. Young Ruby, "the kind of pretty it hurt to look at," has suffered beyond imagining, so as soon as she can, she flees suffocating Liberty for the bright pull of 1950s New York. Ruby quickly winds her way into the ripe center of the city--the darkened piano bars and hidden alleyways of the Village--all the while hoping to see the red hair and green eyes of her mother. When the funeral of her childhood best friend forces her to return home, thirty-year-old Ruby Bell will find herself reliving the devastating violence of her girlhood. With the terrifying realization that she might not be strong enough to fight her way back out, Ruby struggles to survive her memories of the town's dark past. Meanwhile, Ephram must choose between loyalty to the sister who raised him and the chance for a life with the woman he has loved since he was a boy. Full of life, exquisitely written, and suffused with the pastoral beauty of the rural South, Ruby carries the reader along in a rush: through the red dust and gossip of Main Street, to the pit fire where men swill bootleg outside Bloom's Juke, to Celia Jennings's kitchen where a cake is being made, yolk by yolk, that Ephram will use to try to begin again with Ruby.