Best Reads of January 2019
Since the beginning of the year, I have read 15 books. That’s a lot—even for me! This is a great start toward my goal of reading 60 books this year. Does anyone else set book-reading goals? Goodreads has a fun way to do this and keep track of what you’ve read.
You probably already know about two of my January favorites from my separate blog posts that included both a review and an interview with the authors. If not, catch up on what I thought about R.R. Campbell’s Imminent Dawn (a sci-fi thriller) and Karla Manternach’s Meena Meets Her Match (a vivid middle-grade read.)
Here are quick links to each book’s purchase page on Amazon, too.
Many of the OTHER books I’ve been reading have been just as entertaining. Here are my favorites from the past month.
Silvia Acevedo’s God Awful Rebel (Book 3 in the God Awful Series) is available for pre-order now. I had the honor of reading an advance copy. I’ve enjoyed all the books in this series, but this is the best yet! The characters you love (and love to hate) are back, along with a bunch of gods who might not be on their best behavior with each other, even as they fight a vengeful foe. The god/goddess dialog is witty and quick, alternating between downright dangerous and incredibly funny. With twists and turns I promise you won't see coming, this is an excellent read and a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. We'll see what this author has for us next. I appreciate her smart writing!
Release Date: April 1, 2019
ABOUT THE BOOK:
The once-banished god of love has more street cred than ever, thanks to twice saving the kingdom. He’s been declared heir to Olympus and aims to wed the girl of his dreams. But enemies of the gods taste blood in the air, and a swarm of saboteurs come slithering in.
When three snake-haired sisters long assumed dead lay siege to the heavens, they threaten all that Cupid holds dear. Add a goddess fighting to hide the truth, and ancient elementals bent on revenge, and there might not be any world left to save.
Cupid, though, has a secret of his own, one even he doesn’t know. Will he discover it in time? Can the heir apparent and his fragmented forces crush this new danger under heel? Or is the venom coursing too deep? Only a charmer like Cupid can unwind these deadly coils.
God Awful Rebel smokes out the ways of old in the third and final bite of the God Awful series.
Moving on from gods and goddesses to witches, daemons, and vampires, I am thoroughly enjoying the Deborah Harkness All Souls Trilogy which begins with A Discovery of Witches. In all honesty, I read the first book years ago, but needed to go back and reread it when I came upon its TV series adaption. They did a fabulous job with this. You can watch it on the Sundance Channel. (I found a free one-week trial via Amazon Prime and binged all eight episodes during this fun January weather we’ve been having.)
Here’s the trailer (even though the opening image is gory--the rest of it isn't) . . .
Now, about the books, fabulous – just fabulous. If you like stories with any sort of magical, witchy, paranormal beings living right alongside humans, this is for you! Harkness is a historian and it shows in her attention to detail with a depth of knowledge about decades long, long past. She pulls real historical events and people into this fictional storyline with ease that has you wondering if maybe her fictional characters existed after all. This is a unique take on the practicing of magic with rich details that make you feel like you can see the characters weaving their spells right in front of you.
ABOUT “A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES”
Deborah Harkness’s sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford's Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont. Harkness has created a universe to rival those of Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, and Elizabeth Kostova, and she adds a scholar's depth to this riveting tale of magic and suspense.
ABOUT “SHADOW OF NIGHT”
Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.
ABOUT “THE BOOK OF LIFE”
After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.
I also absolutely adored True Places by Sonja Yoerg. I seriously cried my way through parts of this book. Could not put it down. The story begins with an overburdened mother, wife, volunteer to all causes (can any of us relate?) temporarily shirking her duties by taking a drive out of town where she finds a teen girl collapsed on the side of the road. Bringing her to safety is only the first step in lives that become linked. I won’t give away anymore. You’re going to love this book!
ABOUT “TRUE PLACES”
A girl emerges from the woods, starved, ill, and alone…and collapses.
Suzanne Blakemore hurtles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, away from her overscheduled and completely normal life, and encounters the girl. As Suzanne rushes her to the hospital, she never imagines how the encounter will change her—a change she both fears and desperately needs.
Suzanne has the perfect house, a successful husband, and a thriving family. But beneath the veneer of an ideal life, her daughter is rebelling, her son is withdrawing, her husband is oblivious to it all, and Suzanne is increasingly unsure of her place in the world. After her discovery of the ethereal sixteen-year-old who has never experienced civilization, Suzanne is compelled to invite Iris into her family’s life and all its apparent privileges.
But Iris has an independence, a love of solitude, and a discomfort with materialism that contrasts with everything the Blakemores stand for—qualities that awaken in Suzanne first a fascination, then a longing. Now Suzanne can’t help but wonder: Is she destined to save Iris, or is Iris the one who will save her?
And, finally here’s a quick look at four books by Wisconsin authors that I really, really enjoyed.
R.R. Campbell is having a busy few months. I recently read another of his books, Accounting for It All. This is a solid story with an intriguing plotline.
ABOUT “ACCOUNTING FOR IT ALL”
Former porn-star Robin Whethers has skated by as Pornucopia’s do-nothing accountant for years. And who can blame her? Her supervisor has only encouraged her dillydallying, and it’s given her oodles of time to do what she loves most: coach the talent at her mentor’s all-female pornography studio. But then the IRS comes knocking. With her supervisor unable to bail her out, Robin can either come clean and risk her friendships and career, or buck up and find another way to skirt the system. No matter how she chooses, along the way she’ll have to confront both her blossoming feelings for the man she’s enlisted to teach her accounting and the return of the woman she’s always loved, who’s finally ready to try to make things work. This lighthearted yet evocative tale of one woman’s quest for self-actualization is sure to please anyone who’s ever made the wrong choice for the right reasons.
J. Mercer’s Triplicity is also an excellent read. (You may remember that I reviewed another of her titles – Dark & Stormy in December’s blog post.) Triplicity is her Young Adult debut. The story begins as everyone is boarding the ship for an Alaskan cruise. Mixing three intriguing teen characters with a series of onboard thefts (that any of them might have committed), would make a great story, but Mercer doesn’t stop there. She adds in an adult cast of characters to amplify the story and create even more tension and suspense. I love a mixed-age cast because it reflects our real world. Fun read!
One week on an Alaskan cruise, three teens, and an endless trail of lies...
Enter a series of thefts on board and they all fall under scrutiny. Though Navy acts a proper preacher's daughter, she did end up with someone else's purse in her hands, and Jesse knows more than he should about what's gone missing. Isaiah, however, is the one with motive--enough money and he could back to his ranch. Each holds a piece of the truth, but exposing the thief could damn them all. They must navigate through the lies they've told, choose between standing together or saving themselves, and decide if innocence is worth facing their ugliest secrets.
Larry Scheckel’s nonfiction book Murder in Wisconsin: The Clara Olson Case is a chilling look at a true-crime story from Crawford County in 1926. This is an interesting story as Larry’s painstaking research gives us not only the facts of the case, but he also is careful to construct a sense of what it was like to live in 1926 Wisconsin. We feel the sense of community and their horror at what one resident did to another.
ABOUT “MURDER IN WISCONSIN: THE CLARA OLSON CASE”
A true story of romance and courtship, intrigue, and murder, this book is set among the hills of southwestern Wisconsin in 1926. Clara Olson, a pretty, devout Norwegian Lutheran farm girl meets Erdman Olson, a handsome, suave, smooth-talking college lad at a church picnic. They date for 18 months. When she finds herself in a family way and dreams of marriage, he promises her a wedding, and they plan a secret elopement. However, when Clara instead disappears, a search ensues and is resolved by the chance discovery of her hidden grave. The whole country is ultimately horrified by the shocking details of the tragic betrayal and murder. Laid out in suspenseful detail are the inquest, the funeral, and the subsequent search for her killer. This is a mesmerizing account of true crime at its worst.
T.E. Vernier’s detective novel Feckenmeyer’s Mailbox is an excellently quirky mystery set in small-town Wisconsin with all the usual characters we’d recognize from our own small town experiences plus a few more who are causing all the trouble. But who exactly is that? I liked the larger-than-average cast, because Vernier makes sure that all of the characters we meet are important in one way or another to the plot. The author kept me guessing—which is an obvious plus for a detective/mystery novel.
ABOUT "FECKENMEYER'S MAILBOX"
Dick Stranger didn’t intend to become a detective, but the local police department failed to follow up on a case dear to his heart. Retired from the local college, Dick runs a book store combined with a coffee shop and liquor store. Plus a small used car lot on the side. If that isn’t enough, now Dick has his hands full with curious events. The reluctant detective in small town Woodstock, Wisconsin takes on a routine investigation, but is faced with a hijacked wine shipment, a fireworks store with suspicious merchandise, a farm with dubious crops, and a questionable police chief. Plus, a few unnamed individuals seem to want Dick to mind his own business. On top of it all, the manager of his book store may have other plans for Dick. As the story unfolds, friends and business associates team up with Dick Stranger to uncover the bad guys. Dick and his trusty Cairn Terrier take it all on in Feckenmeyer’s Mailbox, first in the Dick Stranger crime series.
What have you been reading lately? If you have a good book to suggest, please comment below!
Happy Reading! - Valerie