Title: The Spirit Keeper
Author: K. B. Laugheed. This is her debut novel.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Readers: Editor Kristina, retiree Sulyn, parents Emry and Sarah L.
Summary: The thirteenth child conceived of miserable Irish exiles, Katie O’Toole dreams of a different life. Little does she know that someone far away is dreaming of her.
In 1747, savages raid her family home, and seventeen-year-old Katie is taken captive. Syawa and Hector have been searching for her, guided by Syawa’s dreams. A young Holyman, Syawa believes Katie is the subject of his Vision: the Creature of Fire and Ice, destined to bring a great gift to his people. Despite her flaming hair and ice-blue eyes, Katie is certain he is mistaken, but faced with returning to her family, she agrees to join them. She soon discovers that in order to fulfill Syawa’s Vision, she must first become his Spirit Keeper, embarking on an epic journey that will change her life—and heart—forever.
Our Take: A fun book for readers who want a little bit of everything: history, romance, adventure and more.
Title: Goat Mountain
Author: David Vann. He is the author of several previous novels, including Legend of a Suicide and Caribou Island.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Readers: Project manager Andrea, reading teacher Emry, retiree Nancy, administrative coordinator Cyn and editor Kristina.
Summary: In the fall of 1978, on a 640-acre family ranch on Goat Mountain in Northern California, an eleven-year-old boy joins his grandfather, his father, and his father’s best friend on the family’s annual deer hunt.
Every fall they return to this dry, yellowed landscape dotted with oak, buck brush, and the occasional stand of pine trees. Goat Mountain is what this family owns and where they belong. It is where their history is kept, memories and stories that will be shared again by these men. And for the first time, the boy’s story will be added if he can find a buck. Itching to shoot, he is ready.
When the men arrive at the gate to their land, the father discovers a poacher and sights him through the scope of his gun. He offers his son a look-a simple act that will explode in tragedy, transforming these men and this family, forcing them to question themselves and everything they thought they knew.
Our Take: Right away you should know if this book is for you. While one reviewer found she just couldn’t get into it, the other 4 were quickly immersed. Not an easy book, but one that will get deep under your skin. It’s no mistake that two of our reviewers compared it to a Cormac McCarthy novel.
Title: Lookaway, Lookaway
Author: Wilton Barnhardt
Genre: Commercial Fiction
Readers: Blogger From Grind to Whine Stacey, lawyer Abby R., research assistant Rosie T., stay-at-home mom Emry and small business owner Samantha.
Summary: Jerene Jarvis Johnston and her husband Duke are exemplars of Charlotte, North Carolina’s high society, where old Southern money—and older Southern secrets—meet the new wealth of bankers, boom-era speculators, and carpetbagging social climbers. Steely and implacable, Jerene presides over her family’s legacy of paintings at the Mint Museum; Duke, the one-time college golden boy and descendant of a Confederate general, whose promising political career was mysteriously short-circuited, has settled into a comfortable semi-senescence as a Civil War re-enactor. Jerene’s brother Gaston is an infamously dissolute bestselling historical novelist who has never managed to begin his long-dreamed-of literary masterpiece, while their sister Dillard is a prisoner of unfortunate life decisions that have made her a near-recluse.
As the four Johnston children wander perpetually toward scandal and mishap. Annie, the smart but matrimonially reckless real estate maven; Bo, a minister at war with his congregation; Joshua, prone to a series of gay misadventures, and Jerilyn, damaged but dutiful to her expected role as debutante and eventual society bride. Jerene must prove tireless in preserving the family’s legacy, Duke’s fragile honor, and what’s left of the dwindling family fortune. She will stop at nothing to keep what she has—but is it too much to ask for one ounce of cooperation from her heedless family?
Our Take: This is one of those books that depends a lot on the reader. Either you connect with the characters and enjoy the book, or you find them insufferable and you don’t like the book. It’s a bit of a crap shoot, but if a novel about a dysfunctional Southern family sounds up your alley you may want to give it a try.
Title: The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things
Author: Paula Byrne. She has written other biographies, including one on novelist Evelyn Waugh.
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Readers: Reading teacher Emry, stay at home mom Julie J., production coordinator Joanna and art history professor JoLee.
Summary: Literary scholarship has revealed that letters and tokens in Austen’s novel’s often signal key turning points in the unfolding narrative. This groundbreaking biography explores Jane’s own story following the same principle. As Byrne reveals, small things in the writer’s world-a scrap of paper, a simple gold chain, an ivory miniature, a bathing machine-hold significance in her emotional and artistic development. The Real Jane Austen: A Life in Small Things introduces us to a woman deeply immersed in the world around her, yet far ahead of her time in her independence and ambition; to an author who was an astute commentator on human nature and the foibles of her own age. Rich and compelling, it is a fresh, insightful, and often surprising portrait of an artist and a vivid evocation of the complex world that shaped her.
Book: The Runaway Princess
Author: Hester Browne, New York Times bestselling author of several novels, including The Little Lady Agency series.
Genre: Chick Lit
Reviewers: Policy wonk BakingSuit, stay-at-home-mom Sarah L, research tech Rosie T and reading teacher Emry.
Publisher Summary: If Amy Wilde’s new boyfriend, Leo, treats her like a queen, that’s because he’s secretly a prince himself: Leopold William Victor Wolfsburg of Nirona, the ninth most eligible royal bachelor in the world. Amy soon discovers that dating an heir to a throne has many charms—intimate alfresco dinners, glittering galas, and, for a girl who lives in jeans and wellies, a dazzling new wardrobe with tiaras to match. But there are also drawbacks: imagine the anxiety of meeting your boyfriend’s parents multiplied by a factor of “riding in a private jet,” “staying in a castle,” and “discussing the line of succession over lunch.” Not to mention the sudden press interest in your very un-royal family. When an unexpected turn of events pushes Leo closer to the throne, the Wolfsburgs decide to step up Amy’s transformation from down-to-earth gardener to perfectly polished princess-in-waiting. Amy would do anything for Leo, but is finding her Prince Charming worth the price of losing herself?