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: Delia’s Shadow
Author: Jaime Lee Moyer. This is her first novel and the first in a series.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Readers: Stay-at-home mom Kristi, policy wonk BakingSuit, metrics analyst Mary and editor Kristina.
Summary: It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side.
Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest.
Our Take: A mix of paranormal, historical and serial killer thrill-age, 3 of 4 readers give it a thumbs up. They do note it was a bit “trite” and “convenient,” though, so if you get kind of picky about these things, you may find yourself leaning more towards our dissenting reader’s opinion.
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: The Girl You Left Behind
Author: Jojo Moyes. She is the author of several novels, including the recent bestseller Me Before You.
Genre: Historical Fiction
Readers: Communications director Barbara, editor Kristina, attorney Elizabeth H., stay-at-home mom Dana and victim advocate MJ.
Summary: In 1916 French artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his wife Sophie to fight at the Front. When her town falls into German hands, his portrait of Sophie stirs the heart of the local Kommandant and causes her to risk everything – her family, reputation and life – in the hope of seeing her true love one last time.
Nearly a century later and Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. Its beauty speaks of their short life together, but when the painting’s dark and passion-torn history is revealed, Liv discovers that the first spark of love she has felt since she lost him is threatened…
Our Take: This two-time-frame novel of love and loss enraptured our readers. Elizabeth H., our one reviewer with a few qualms, found the characters a bit too perfect but still gave it a positive grade.
Title: The Light in the Ruins
Author: Chris Bohjalian. He is the author of several books, including Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Readers: Editor Kristina, retiree Nancy, attorney Elizabeth H. and professor Michal.
Summary: 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.