March was a busy month in my reading and listening habits (which might be why I haven’t gotten much writing done?).
Anyway, the books I enjoyed in March–some more than others, but none of which I detested–are as follows:
Seige and Storm (Shadow and Bone Book 2) by Leigh Bardugo
Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner―hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long.
The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army.
But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice―and only she can face the oncoming storm.
The Winter Queen (Stolen Empire, Book 4) by Sherry Ficklin
Far from the shores of England, another Elizabeth was born to rule a nation…
The daughter of Peter the Great, Elizabeth is a princess by birth, yet a warrior by blood. Never content to be a pawn in the game of men, Elizabeth is destined to sit upon a throne. But when her father’s sudden death leaves her mother and sister at the mercy of the scheming Privy Council, she will have to abandon her beloved Russia in order for her family to survive.
This is not a fairy tale.
And Elizabeth is not an average princess.
She is a Romanov—one woman in a line of powerful female rulers who will change the fate of Russia forever.
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
David Sedaris’ move to Paris from New York inspired these hilarious pieces, including the title essay, about his attempts to learn French from a sadistic teacher who declares that every day spent with you is like having a caesarean section. His family is another inspiration. You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a portrait of his brother, who talks incessant hip-hop slang to his bewildered father. And no one hones a finer fury in response to such modern annoyances as restaurant meals presented in ludicrous towers of food and cashiers with six-inch fingernails.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter’s life is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
After a lifetime of bottling up his magical powers, Harry finally feels like a normal kid. But even within the Wizarding community, he is special. He is the boy who lived: the only person to have ever survived a killing curse inflicted by the evil Lord Voldemort, who launched a brutal takeover of the Wizarding world, only to vanish after failing to kill Harry.
Though Harry’s first year at Hogwarts is the best of his life, not everything is perfect. There is a dangerous secret object hidden within the castle walls, and Harry believes it’s his responsibility to prevent it from falling into evil hands. But doing so will bring him into contact with forces more terrifying than he ever could have imagined.
Full of sympathetic characters, wildly imaginative situations, and countless exciting details, the first installment in the series assembles an unforgettable magical world and sets the stage for many high-stakes adventures to come.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike
And strike it does. For in Harry’s second year at Hogwarts, fresh torments and horrors arise, including an outrageously stuck-up new professor, Gilderoy Lockhart, a spirit named Moaning Myrtle who haunts the girls’ bathroom, and the unwanted attentions of Ron Weasley’s younger sister, Ginny.
But each of these seem minor annoyances when the real trouble begins, and someone — or something — starts turning Hogwarts students to stone. Could it be Draco Malfoy, a more poisonous rival than ever? Could it possibly be Hagrid, whose mysterious past is finally told? Or could it be the one everyone at Hogwarts most suspects . . . Harry Potter himself?
Baby of the Family by Maura Roosevelt
The money is old, the problems are new.
A wry and addictive debut about a modern-day American dynasty and its unexpected upheaval when the patriarch wills his dwindling fortune to his youngest, adopted son–setting off a chain of events that unearth family secrets and test long-held definitions of love and family.
The Whitbys: a dynasty akin to the Astors, once enormously wealthy real-estate magnates who were considered “the landlords of New York.”
There was a time when the death of a Whitby would have made national news, but when the family patriarch, Roger, dies, he is alone. Word of his death travels from the longtime family lawyer to his clan of children (from four separate marriages) and the news isn’t good. Roger has left everything to his twenty-one-year-old son Nick, a Whitby only in name, including the houses currently occupied by Shelley and Brooke–two of Roger’s daughters from different marriages. And Nick is nowhere to be found.
Brooke, the oldest of the children, who is unexpectedly pregnant, leads the search for Nick, hoping to convince him to let her keep her Boston home and her fragile composure. Shelley hasn’t told anyone she’s dropped out of college just months before graduating, and is living in her childhood apartment while working as an amanuensis for a blind writer named Anandaroop Gupta, with whom she develops a rather complicated relationship. And when Nick, on the run from the law after a misguided and dramatic act of political activism, finally shows up at Shelley’s New York home, worlds officially collide as Nick and Mr. Gupta’s daughter fall in love. Soon, all three siblings are faced with the question they have been running from their whole lives: What do they want their future to look like, if they can finally escape their past?
Weaving together multiple perspectives to create a portrait of an American family, and an American dream gone awry, Baby of the Family is a book about family secrets–how they define us, bind us together, and threaten to blow us (and more) apart–as well as an amusing and heartwarming look at the various ways in which a family can be created.
The Gathering by Anne
Anne Enright is a dazzling writer of international stature and one of Ireland’s most singular voices. Now she delivers The Gathering, a moving, evocative portrait of a large Irish family and a shot of fresh blood into the Irish literary tradition, combining the lyricism of the old with the shock of the new. The nine surviving children of the Hegarty clan are gathering in Dublin for the wake of their wayward brother, Liam, drowned in the sea. His sister, Veronica, collects the body and keeps the dead man company, guarding the secret she shares with him—something that happened in their grandmother’s house in the winter of 1968. As Enright traces the line of betrayal and redemption through three generations her distinctive intelligence twists the world a fraction and gives it back to us in a new and unforgettable light. The Gathering is a daring, witty, and insightful family epic, clarified through Anne Enright’s unblinking eye. It is a novel about love and disappointment, about how memories warp and secrets fester, and how fate is written in the body, not in the stars.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, the stunningly beautiful instant New York Times bestseller about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.
Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.
In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter
Twenty years ago Claire Scott’s eldest sister, Julia, went missing. No one knew where she went – no note, no body. It was a mystery that was never solved and it tore her family apart.
Now another girl has disappeared, with chilling echoes of the past. And it seems that she might not be the only one.
Claire is convinced Julia’s disappearance is linked.
But when she begins to learn the truth about her sister, she is confronted with a shocking discovery, and nothing will ever be the same…
Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges, #1) by Stephen King
In a high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands. “Mr. Mercedes is a rich, resonant, exceptionally readable accomplishment by a man who can write in whatever genre he chooses” (The Washington Post).
In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.
In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.
Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with two new, unusual allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.
Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999 — and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it — fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.
Romanov by Nadine Brandes
The history books say I died.
They don’t know the half of it.
Anastasia “Nastya” Romanov was given a single mission: to smuggle an ancient spell into her suitcase on her way to exile in Siberia. It might be her family’s only salvation. But the leader of the Bolshevik army is after them . . . and he’s hunted Romanov before.
Nastya’s only chances of survival are to either release the spell, and deal with the consequences, or enlist help from Zash, the handsome soldier who doesn’t act like the average Bolshevik. Nastya’s never dabbled in magic before, but it doesn’t frighten her as much as her growing attraction for Zash. She likes him. She thinks he might even like her . . .
That is, until she’s on one side of a firing squad . . . and he’s on the other.
Within and Without by Deborah Maroulis
Some girls will go to great lengths to fit in. But how far is too far?
A stunning YA debut that touches on a teenage girl’s emotionally haunting journey to self acceptance.
When sixteen-year-old Wren Newmann is forced to move from her small California town to her grandmother’s vineyard after her parent’s divorce, she’s convinced she’ll die a shriveled, wine-country virgin.
Her dating life improves when Jay, the son of Granny’s vintner and her long-time country crush, notices her. She tries to be the girl Jay would want—social, skinny, and sexy. But as their relationship heats up, so does her anxiety and the need for her secret purging sessions. Still, she insists Jay is the perfect boyfriend in spite of everyone’s warnings.
When Panayis, the cute Greek farmhand, insists on being her friend, Wren finds someone who truly sees her—trouble is she can’t bring herself to look at her own reflection, let alone allow anyone else to see her as she is.
When personal tragedy strikes the night of the Spring Break party, Wren is left to pick up the pieces of her broken relationships. Now, she must step up to the plate and decide if the illusion of being loved is worth sacrificing her health, and maybe even her life.
A Spark of Light by Jodi Piccoult
The warm fall day starts like any other at the Center—a women’s reproductive health services clinic—its staff offering care to anyone who passes through its doors. Then, in late morning, a desperate and distraught gunman bursts in and opens fire, taking all inside hostage.
After rushing to the scene, Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, sets up a perimeter and begins making a plan to communicate with the gunman. As his phone vibrates with incoming text messages he glances at it and, to his horror, finds out that his fifteen-year-old daughter, Wren, is inside the clinic.
But Wren is not alone. She will share the next and tensest few hours of her young life with a cast of unforgettable characters: A nurse who calms her own panic in order save the life of a wounded woman. A doctor who does his work not in spite of his faith but because of it, and who will find that faith tested as never before. A pro-life protester disguised as a patient, who now stands in the cross hairs of the same rage she herself has felt. A young woman who has come to terminate her pregnancy. And the disturbed individual himself, vowing to be heard.
Told in a daring and enthralling narrative structure that counts backward through the hours of the standoff, this is a story that traces its way back to what brought each of these very different individuals to the same place on this fateful day.
Jodi Picoult—one of the most fearless writers of our time—tackles a complicated issue in this gripping and nuanced novel. How do we balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of the unborn they carry? What does it mean to be a good parent? A Spark of Light will inspire debate, conversation . . . and, hopefully, understanding.
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
One is playing a long game. But which one?
They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through.
Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets that begin to accumulate as autumn approaches, feeding the growing doubts they conceal.
Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?
Something—or someone—has to give.
Which one will it be?
All The Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
From bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater, a gripping tale of darkness, miracles, and family. Saints. Miracles. Family. Romance. Death. Redemption.
Here is a thing everyone wants: A miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: What it takes to get one.
Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.
At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.
They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.
Callie and her best friend Olivia are looking for a new
start in an old place. They’ve purchased a North Carolina beach home that they’ve
admired since childhood and are fixing it up. When they’ve finished renovating it,
their new B&B should be ready for guests.
The next door neighbor is the rich, handsome Luke, who also
happens to be a bit of a playboy. Despite the fact that Callie has little time
or energy for a relationship, she finds herself drawn to her enticing neighbor.
When Callie and Olivia unearth a locked and long-forgotten
diary that’s filled with town secrets, what they find out might just destroy
Callie’s chances at happiness. And before the summer is over, a brewing storm
will strike (literally and figuratively!).
The Summer House has all the elements of a perfect summer romance: ocean air, sunny skies, handsome neighbors, and secret pasts. The descriptions are vivid and the essence of summer is palpable as you read. They electricity between Callie and Luke is strong. There are some character development issues that felt left out, but it didn’t interfere with my ability to get lost in the story. The Summer House is a sweet, heartwarming summer read.
I received a copy of The Summer House from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, Book 1) by Emily
century Tranavia and Kalyazia have been at war.
Hidden in a
mountain-top monastery, Nadya—a Kalyazi cleric with the ability to communicate
with the gods, all the gods—has been
living and training. When the Travanian forces breach the walls of the monastery,
she is forced to flee into the snow covered lands that have—until now—kept
invaders at bay. After fleeing, Nadya encounters a small band of rebels with
plans to infiltrate the Travanian palace and kill the king in an effort to end
the war. One of the rebels is Malachiasz, an escaped Travanian Vulture with a
treasonous plan and a dark secret of his own.
High Prince of Tranavia and a blood mage, has accomplished a victory that no
other military leader has, he’s conquered the mountain monastery that hides the
Kalyazi cleric. Even though she’s just barely slipped from his grasp, he can
feel that her power is far greater than anyone had guessed. And now, with her
so close to capture, he’s been called back to Tranavia by his father—for a
betrothal ceremony. But Serefin will find that his betrothal isn’t the only
danger that lies in waiting.
Wicked Saints is a dark and tantalizing fantasy that balances politics, magic and religion. Everything about the setting and characters seems to exist in the gray area between good and evil. The descriptions are vivid and the monstrous creatures are so well-described that they are easily visualized and horrific to imagine. Although I wasn’t as compelled by the romance as I’d hoped, and felt some of the secondary characters could have been better represented, I still found Wicked Saints to be an enjoyable read and look forward to the sequel.
I’m a fan of
historical fiction and I LOVE the Stolen Empire series—I can’t get enough of
it. I was thrilled when I found out there was going to be another book in the
series, and again when I receive a copy of Sherry Ficklin’s latest novella in
The Winter Queen is a prequel to the Stolen Empire series and focuses on the life of Elizabeth, the daughter of Peter the Great and future Empress of Russia. This novella is a quick read, and thrusts us right into the upheaval of the Russian elite. We get to meet the Princess Elizabeth and her sister Petra, witness the death of the heir presumptive to the Romanov line, and then the death of Peter the Great.
mother in Russia, trying to maintain a hold on Russia and others trying to
secure the power for themselves, Elizabeth and Petra are suddenly in a very
tenuous position. They are sent to the “safety” of arranged marriages, but
Elizabeth was born a Romanov, and the throne is only just out of her grasp…for
I can’t wait
for the next installment of what’s sure to continue to be an exciting series
full of political maneuvering and intrigue.
*I received a copy of The Winter Queen
in exchange for an honest review
One of the stories from history that has
always intrigued me (and so many other people) is that of the Romanov family,
particularly Anastasia. So much mystery still surrounds the last hours and minutes
of her life, as well as her death. And so many theories have been entertained. In
Romanov author Nadine Brandes offers
her own creative imaginings about the life and death of young Anastasia “Nastya”
Romanov. This novel is historical fiction, but with an imaginative bit of magic
thrown into the mix.
The strongest part of the novel, in my
opinion, was the relationship between Nastya and her family. It was the one
aspect in which I felt a strong emotional connection with the storyline. The family
relationship felt loving, intense and authentic. Unfortunately, the rest of the
novel felt emotionally distant to me, I didn’t feel a connection to the
characters or action outside of that.
There were some historical inaccuracies
(perhaps creative stretching of facts to meet a storytelling goal?) and some
things that were glossed over that could have used more attention and flushing
out for a stronger storyline. The
inconsistencies in the novel as well as the historical inconsistencies were a
Another thing that could have used more
details was the world-building—especially the magic. It felt unformed and
All-in-all Romanov was a decent read, an
entertaining re-imaging of history, but it wasn’t as great as I’d hoped.
*I received a copy of Romanov from
NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Baby of the Family is a novel about the once influential Whitby family.
Roger Whitby, the four times married family patriarch, has died after squandering a majority of his wealth. He’s left what remains of his estate to his youngest (adopted) son, Nick, the son of his fourth wife. Nick is a young man who has been struggling to find a purpose in his life. As his father is dying, Nick becomes involved in an act of political activism, and then goes missing.
Brooke, Roger’s daughter from his second marriage, is dealing with her own issues. She’s pregnant by a man she doesn’t love, afraid to admit to the love she has for Allie, and her house—the one thing she has from her dad—has just become part of Nick’s inheritance. Brooke doesn’t even really know Nick and has no idea if she’ll be forced out of the house. She’s barely able to get by on her nursing job, and the thought of having to add rent or a mortgage to her financial plan—in addition to the cost of having a baby—has left her unsure of the right decisions.
Roger’s daughter Shelley is living with her mother in the New York apartment Roger walked out of years ago. Her mom has left after descending into a years-long cycle of depression. Desperate for income, Shelley takes a job with a very peculiar man, and ends up in a complex relationship with him.
Told from the point of view of these three Whitby children, each abandoned and let down by their father, it explores the complex relationships between children and their parents. It’s really about finding and being yourself, despite your familial relations.
It was hard to identify with the characters (for obvious reasons—the lack of my own family fortune), but they were interesting enough to keep me reading. Baby of the Family wasn’t a novel that drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat, but I was passively interested enough to continue reading to find out what happens to each of the characters.
*I received an ARC of Baby of the Family from Netgalley and Dutton Books in exchange for an honest review
I love to share some of the great books I’ve read (and listened to!) every month. I’ve been doing this via my newsletter, but haven’t shared anything yet this year, so forgive this list, it may be a bit long!
The bestselling landmark account of the first emergence of the Ebola virus. A highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest suddenly appears in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. There is no cure. In a few days 90 percent of its victims are dead. A secret military SWAT team of soldiers and scientists is mobilized to stop the outbreak of this exotic “hot” virus. The Hot Zone tells this dramatic story, giving a hair-raising account of the appearance of rare and lethal viruses and their “crashes” into the human race. Shocking, frightening, and impossible to ignore, The Hot Zone proves that truth really is scarier than fiction.
I was mesmerized by the description of Gilded Wolves and
thrilled when I received a copy. The promise of secret societies and art heists
in Paris during the late 1800’s were all the temptation I needed.
Gilded Wolves is a YA fantasy about an ancient order with a drastically
diminishing number of houses. Severin is an exiled member of his house—and an antiquities
thief–, trying to earn his way back by finding an ancient artefact. In order
to do so, he enlists the help of a group of colleagues and friends, each as
unique and varied in skill as well as personality.
This book is rich in magic and artistry, as well as multi-cultural
mythologies and beliefs. I found it very difficult to get in to, the first
several chapters were slow to grab me in all honesty. But once I was finally
drawn in to the story line, I was pulled along on a magnificent journey.
I adore how intricately the mythos was woven into the
storyline and the subtle undercurrent of history and science that happens throughout
this novel. Of course there are comparisons to Six of Crows, but I think Gilded
Wolves has set itself apart as it’s own unique world and Roshani Chokshi has
developed it beautifully.
*I received a copy of
Gilded Wolves from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Policy of Truth is a little outside of my usual reading
trends, but (as a fan of Sons of Anarchy) I was interested in giving it a try.
Policy of Truth has one thing in abundance: strong, complex,
bad-ass female characters. The female characters in this book, including main
character Tamra “Durty” Simons, are well-developed, strong and face a number of
real-world issues that happen in every day life, even if we prefer to not talk
about them (ie- domestic violence). While they’re all affected by the things
they’ve seen & endured, all these chicks are strong and maintain their own
positions in a male-dominated world. Sometimes they even dominate.
In addition to the bad-ass women, there’s a ridiculously
spicy love story that develops between Durty and “Sting” who’s equal parts
mysterious, dangerous and endearing.
Policy of Truth is an easy, engaging, and steamy read with a
great cliffhanger that’ll have you eagerly anticipating book 2.
*I received a copy of
Policy of Truth in exchange for an honest review*
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