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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Booking some solid reads for January & February 2013

Now that Christmas is over and done with,we can start truly focusing on the year to come in books. The New Year will be upon us early next week,so stockpiling those must-have reads should be a resolution to make and keep for 2013.

As I write this,snow is falling at a fast and furious pace outside my window and we'll be seeing plenty of that before spring arrives,giving all of us ample time to catch up on our reading.

Granted,you'll have some literary gifts to go through still after the holidays(not to mention a few TBR piles to clear up)but one of these tempting new titles ought to find a home by your favorite reading spot:


While historical novels are no stranger to Tracy Chevalier,the author of Girl With The Pearl Earring,the setting of her upcoming book is in fresh territory.

The Last Runaway follows the journey of Honor Bright,a young Quaker woman from Europe,who makes a new home in 1850s America due to a broken engagement. She and her sister Grace end up in Ohio,where Honor finds a new life and love but also becomes involved with the Underground Railroad.

As she grows increasingly torn between family duty and personal convictions,Honor's choices are more complicated than ever before yet she must make a real decision either way. Chevalier shreds some more light onto the role that the Quaker community played in the American abolitionist movement,as well as the emotional struggles that went along with it(January 8):

Another well known novelist changes pace with her latest book,Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini,a stand alone story apart from her popular series of Elm Creek Quilt books.

The lady of the title is Elizabeth Keckley,a freed slave woman who is the most sought after seamstress in Washington D. C. and was chosen to be Mary Todd Lincoln's personal stylist in 1861.The bond between both ladies became more than professional,with Elizabeth sharing in the private joys and sorrows of the Lincoln household.

That bond becomes threatened,however,when Elizabeth decides to share her experiences with the wider world in a memoir meant to show the best side of Mary. Keckley's legacy goes beyond her Lincoln connection yet it's a good starting point to know her better and Chiverini's literary love of sewing fits this tale to a T(January 15):


In Ellen Meister's Farewell Dorothy Parker, film critic Violet Epps takes her writing cues from Dorothy Parker but lacks her literary muse's feisty social skills. That starts to change after a visit to the famous Algonquin Hotel introduces Violet to the ghostly spirit of Mrs. Parker herself.

Dorothy takes a shine to Violet and not only hangs around to offer her quips about her life but at times takes a hands-on approach to her advice. This lively look at a most unlikely relationship should inspire a fresh interest in Mrs. Parker and her vicious circle,plus make for an engaging read on it's own terms. When my review copy arrives from Library Thing,I'll be able to tell you more(February):

Paula Bryne's take on The Real Jane Austen involves a scaled back view of the lady's life and work. Subtitled "A Life In Small Things",Bryne uses objects found in both Austen's life and in some of her characters to further define her as an artist and a woman.

One item included is an amber cross,given to Jane by one of her seafaring brothers and currently on display at Jane Austen's House in Chawton. It is no coincidence that Fanny Price of Mansfield Park also received a similar gift from her nautical sibling and the significance that bit of jewelry played in the novel and Austen's relationship with her family is one of the many avenues worth exploring in this suitably subtle biography(January 29):


Darien Gee revisits the town of Avalon in her follow-up to Friendship Bread but this time takes the action out of the kitchen. In The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society,self appointed busybody Bettie Shelton actively encourages her friends,neighbors and anyone she happens to run into to join in her scrapbook club.

This group and their involved hobby includes Yvonne,a plumber with a heartbroken past,Isobel,a widow still not over the adultery of her late husband and Frances,a mother of a pack of boys who longs to adopt a baby girl with health problems. These ladies and many others find a renewed interest in life,not to mention some new friendships along the way.

Even if,like me,you haven't read Friendship Bread yet,this charming novel will entice you into it's engaging world. Thanks to Library Thing,I'm enjoying ALSS right now and getting convinced that just about any experience can make for acceptable scrapbook material(January 29):

In Dana Fuch's The Secret of the Nightingale Palace,widow Anna Rosenthal is surprised to hear from her grandmother Goldie,who hasn't spoken to her in years due to disapproving of her marriage.

Goldie insists that Anna help her transport some artwork to San Francisco from New York via Goldie's Rolls Royce. The art in question was on hold for good friends forced into an internment camp due to their Japanese ancestry and it also has some clues to Goldie's past adventures as well.

This tale of two generations learning to reconnect has all the makings of a novel that more than one audience can appreciate and even learn a lesson or two from within it's pages(February).


Lisa O'Donnell's The Death of Bees starts off with a bang,as two young girls are burying their parents in the backyard. While Marnie and Nellie are not responsible for the demise of their abusive mother and father,concealing their passing is vital to keeping them out of foster care.

Their secret is eventually shared with Lenny,an elderly neighbor with a dog that takes to digging up the girls' yard. Lenny at least wants to help the sisters out,unlike the drug dealer whose on the lookout for the money their dad stole from him and their mother's father,demanding custody in order to make up for his sins as a father.

The eerie twists and turns of this dark coming-of-age story possesses a cinematic quality that promises to make for a vividly interesting read(January):

In News From Heaven,Jennifer Haigh brings us an interconnected set of short stories set in the town of Bakerton,home to her earlier novel Baker Towers.

These portraits of Bakerton residents range in time from WWII,when in "Beast and Bird" Anna Lubicki seeks a romantic partner who accepts her religion,to later years with Aunt Melanie in "Broken Star" looking to Regina for more help than she was willing to admit.

With Baker Towers available in paperback,an ideal book club selection would be a dual reading of both books so that all of Haigh's novelistic nuances can be truly felt(January 29).

A Happy New Year of reading to all and may you find plenty of page turners to occupy yourself with as the winds of winter are howling outside your door:

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