Booklist 2014

The Reading list Books 2014

Malcolm Brooks Painted Horses
Alix Christie Guttenberg’s Apprentice
Lynn Cullen MrsPoe
Anthony Doerr All the Light We Cannot See
Maria Duenas The Time in Between
Charles Finch The Last Enchantments
Thomas Christopher Greene The Headmasters Wife
Ned Hays Sinful Folk
Susan Hill The Strange Meeting, The Magic Apple Tree
**Bruce Holsinger A Burnable Book
*Nancy Horan Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Franny Stevenson)
*Anthony Holden Poems that make Grown Men Cry
Martin Jensen The King’s Hound
Sarah Jio Goodnight June
Rachel Kuschner Flamethrowers
Wendy Lesser Why I Read
David Liss Day of Atonement
Charlie Lovett First Impression
Elizabeth May Falconer
Hilary Mantel The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher
Val McDermid Northanger Abbey
Jennifer McMahon The Winter People
Patrick Modiano Missing Person
Solomon Northup 12 Years a Slave
*Robin Oliveira I always loved you (Mary Cassatt in Paris)
Jeremy Page Salt Sea Change
Hilary Scharper Perdita
Julie Schumacher Dear Committee Members
Nina Siegal The Anatomy Lesson
Alexander McCall Smith Forever Girl
Rosie Thomas The Illusionist
Helene Wecker Golem and the Jinni
*Gabrielle Zevin Storied life of AJ Fikry

Meg Anbott Fever
Stephanie Barron Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas
Cara Black Murder in Pigalle
*Alan Bradley The Dead in their Vaulted Arches
*Alan Bradley As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust
*Christopher Brookmyre Bred in the Bone When The Devil Drives
Susanna Calkins From The Charred Remains
Andrea Camilleri Fourth Secret
Kate Carlisle The Book Stops Here
Alys Clare Blood of the South
**John Connolly A Wolf in Winter
*Diana Gabaldon Written in my own Heart’s Blood
Alex Grecian The Devil’s Workshop
Susanna Gregory Death in St James’s Park
Elly Griffiths The Outcast Dead
**Martha Grimes The Way of all Fish (Sequel to Foul Matter)
Martha Grimes Vertigo 42
Sophie Hannah Monogram Murder (new Poirot)
Peter James A Twist of the Knife
Emma Jameson Marriage can be Murder
Charlaine Harris Midnight Crossing
Gregory Harris Bellingham Bloodbath
Anthony Horowitz A Study in Silks
Rupert Penny Jones White Chapel
J. Sydney Jones Empty Mirror, Requiem in Vienna, The Silence
Craig Johnson Any Other Name, Wait for Signs
Charlie Lovett First Impression
Peter May Entry Island
Alexander McCall Smith The Handsome Man’s Cafe
Carol McCleary No Job For a Lady, Alchemy of Murder, Illusion of Murder
Sharyn McCrumb King’s Mountain, Nora Bonesteel’s Christmas
Mary Miley Silent Murders
Jenny Offill Dept of Speculation
Lauren Owens The Quick
Gigi Pandian The Accidental Alchemist
Oliver Potzsch The Ludwig Conspiracy
**Ian Rankin Saints of the Shadow Bible
Paula Paul Medium Dead
Anne Perry Blood on the Water
Thomas Perry A String of Pearls
Deanna Raybourn Night of 1000 stars
Kathy Reichs Bones Never Lie
Peter Robinson Children of the Revolution
John Sandford Field of Prey, Deadline
AD Scott Beneath the Abbey Wall
Ian Simpson Murder on the Second Tea
Simone St James Silence for the Dead (Haunting of Maddy Clare)
Olen Steinhauer All The Old Knives
Sam Thomas The Harlot’s Tale (midwife mystery)
*Charles Todd Hunting Shadows (Rutledge)
*Charles Todd Unwilling Accomplice (Bess Crawford)
*Nicola Upson Death of Lucy Kyte
Bob van Laerhoven Baudelaire’s Revenge
*Jacqueline Winspear Care And Management of Lies
Kim Wright City of Light (city of mystery)

Mary Balough Only Enchanting
Tessa Dare Romancing the Duke
Susan Hayes and Loretta Nyhan I’ll be Seeing You
Madeline Hunter Accidental Duchess
Susanna Kearsley Splendor Falls
Susanna Kearsley A Season of Storms
Stephanie Laurens By Winter’s Light
Amanda Quick Otherwise Engaged, The Hot Zone
*Deanna Raybourn Whisper of Jasmine
Imogen Robertson Circle of Shadows
Jess Russell The Dressmaker’s Duke

Maragret Foxe Prince of Hearts, a dark heart
Colleen Gleason The Clockwork Scarab
*Emma Jane Holloway A Study in Silks, in Darkness, in Ashes
Cherie Priest Boneshaker
Meljean Archer The Iron Duke

Children’s /YA
Anne Bishop The Others, Written in Red, then Murder of Crows
Alan Bradley The Dead in their Vaulted Arches
Gail Carriger Curtsies and Conspiracies
Colleen Gleason Clockwork of Scarab
Jennifer Holm 14th Goldfish
Sarah J. Maas Thrones of Glass (Assassin prequels)
*Gregory McGuire Egg and Spoon
*Ransom Riggs, Hollow City (Miss Peregrine)
William Ritter Jackaby (para Sherlock)
**Maria Semple Where’d You Go Bernadette?
Robin Sloan Ajax Penumbra
Lemony Snickett All the Wrong Questions

Alain Baraton The Gardener of Versailles
John Cleese So, Anyway
Martha Grimes Double Double
Tom Nissley A Readers Book of Days
*Mary Robinson Everybody Matters, (my life giving voice)
*Janice MacLeod Paris Letters
*Carol Wall Mr Owita’s Guide to Gardening

Science Fiction
Lev Grossman Magicians trilogy
***Deborah Harkness The Book of Life (Discovery of Witches3rd)
Charlaine Harris Midnight Crossing(ed. Dead but not Forgotten)
Robin Hobb, Dragon series!, Fool series
GRR Martin et al. Rogues
Diana Pharaoh Francis The Black Ship, The Cipher
Terry Pratchett Raising Steam
Terry Pratchett Stephen Baxter The Long Mars
*Douglas Nicholas Something Red, The Wicked
Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs Turtle Recall revised Disc World
*Patrick Rothfuss The Slow Regard of Silent Things
Samantha Shannon The Bone Season, The Mime
Sherwood Smith Blood Spirits, Revenant Eve, Banner of the Damned
Sherry Thomas The Burning Sky

2014 Nonfiction
Peter Ackroyd Foundation
Alain Baraton The Gardener of Versailles
Benedict Carey How We Learn
Phil Cousineau The Painted Word
Richard Flanagan The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Thomas Foster 25 Books at Shaped America
Robert Frost Letters (vol 1)
Atul Gawande Being Mortal
Marilyn Johnson This Book is Overdue
Ruth Kassinger A Garden of Marvels
**Elizabeth Kolbert The Sixth Extinction, an Unnatural History
Gale Lawrence The Beginning Naturalist
William Patrick Martin A Lifetime of Fiction
Elizabeth May Falconer (Edinburgh)
Alexander McCall Smith What WH Auden Can do for You
Tim McGrath Give Me a Fast Ship
Robert A. Mello Moses Robinson and the Founding of Vermont
Terry Pratchett A Slip of the Keyboard
Michelle Raffin The Birds of Pandemonium
Amity Schlaes Coolidge
*Hampton Sides In The Kingdom of Ice
Amy Stewart The Last Bookstore in America
Matthew Stewart Nature’s God

Short Stories
John Connolly Caxton Lending Library Museum of literary Souls, Museum of Literary Souls
Douglas Nicholas The Demon
George Orwell All Art is Propaganda
Kathy Reichs Bones in her Pocket
Charles Todd The Maharani’s Pearls

Ben Cathryn Sill Field Guide to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds

* denotes excellent reads!

A Winter Cosy

Gigi Pandian The Accidental Alchemist

This is a rather charming, cosy read, perfect for a winter’s afternoon (to be published January 2015). It has quirky characters and could be classified as urban fantasy, perhaps YA, cosy mystery, or a paranormal romp. It’s a quick light read.
Gigi Pandian previously has written the Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mystery (ongoing) series. Her debut novel Artifact (2012), won the William F Deeck Malice Domestic award. This series includes Pirate Visnhu (2014), with Quicksand to be published March 2015. A short story The Hindi Houdini was shortlisted for both Agatha and Macavity awards.
Midnight Ink publishes this tale of a 300 year old herbalist/witch/alchemist Zoe Faust who specializes in spagyrics- plant alchemy which extracts the healing property’s of herbs. She is finally ready to settle down (Portland Oregon), buys and old house, starts to unpack, when all sorts of things happen. 1) The most wonderful character of the book shows up: an impish gargoyle who stowed away in her belongings from France and who desperately needs her help if he is to ‘stay’ alive (he’s turning back into stone). But he is a master French chef and would be my new best friend if he’d just come live with me. I love his charm and name (Dorian Robert Houdin). 2) Handsome detective Max Liu, who is investigating a body that presented itself on her doorstep (thus preventing her house repairs). I hope the continuing series will develop their friendship/relationship. (The only two people in Portland who don’t like coffee?!) And 3) the three adolescents (Brixton, Veronica and Ethan) who provide quite some comic relief while being relevant and real. I found them very predictable (except for the green smoothies!) but became so attached to Dorian I sped read through the book. I love that Dorian’s father Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin was a French stage magician and clockmaker and the father of modern magic (a master showman and illusionist, 1805-1871).
Pandian is a breast cancer survivor who has learned carpe diem, and eating good food. It’s easy to recommend The Accidental Alchemist just for the food- yes, I read the mouth watering descriptions and ever the skeptic (teenagers drinking green goo?? And loving it??!) that I tried several and definitely enjoyed them (I prefer chocolate colour, so used the cocoa instead; adult version?). Visit the website too.
Suspend disbelief, enjoy an imaginative little mysterious gem as a distraction on a chilly afternoon.

Read on
If you like Elizabeth Peters, Agatha Christie or John Dickson Carr
3.5 stars
Read as an ARC ebook from Netgalley

“Did I mention that when I was born in Massachusetts, it was 1676?”
“The gray creature looked similar to the famous “thinker” gargoyle with short horns and folded wings. The main difference was that this gargoyle held an old leather-bound book in his arms.”
“I have control of myself now, I simply do not understand why anyone would leave France?!”
“I do not think things make much sense when one has left France.”
“Life is too short to eat inedible food because it is healthy.”
“A false answer is often easier than a complicated truth.”
“One of the very few positive things about living so long was getting to read so many books.”

BookScapes by Helen McIver


The Midwife’s Tale  by Samuel Thomas

The midwife in this tale is Lady Bridget Hodgson, and her newly acquired servant and apprentice Martha. Lady Bridget is a 30 year old twice widowed woman, whose real sorrow is the loss of her 2 children. She lives in York, and best of all is based on a real character. These were streets I know well, and the pull back in time was intense: the setting perfectly depicted the harrowing days of a siege (by the Scots, described here as barbarians). This story has an intriguing list of characters, all well developed, with distinct differences and functions. Many classes of people are represented from city officials, soldiers, jailers, working women, wives, tailors, to street urchins, in churches, government, bars, apothecaries etc.

Martha is also a fascinating character, useful to the household, but with unusual set of skills, not so much house cleaning as house breaking. She has a few secrets of her own.

This is primarily a book about women, but there is an interesting assortment of men:

nephew (Mathew) with a club foot, tormented individual but helpful

brother-in-law (Edward), dominating, political, ultimately trustworthy

Italian (Baca) mysterious bordering on violence and deadly

husbands, sinful men of god, ‘the godly’

dwarf jailer – humour in odd places, goodness

Lord mayor – powerful, secretive, ruthless chess player

rebels and kingsmen in bombardments (to be avoided!)

siege which is destroying innocent townspeople

This is not a fast paced thriller. It is filled with death and the grim reality of the struggle for life, such that you wonder how we as humanity made it out of the 17th century. There is scathing social and religious commentary, interesting portrayal of the conniving and desperate lives of most women, the corrupt power of local politics all the while presenting everyday life. If you think you’d like time travel, read this for the gritty, grimy gruesome detail that will make you revel in central heating and plumbing. My nose wrinkles just thinking of her descriptive reeking passages. The contrast with her life (with linens, extra clothing, food) to the poor and unfortunate is uncomfortable at best. The writing is evocative – reel from the scents (stinking smells really), the sounds (cannons, horse screams, rain) but also the torment and sorrow of loss of children, babies, diseases, and the precariousness of life. There are full descriptions of several types of births but also the customs and camaraderie of the gossips (those women who helped with birthing)

But the characters were intriguing and interesting and every page turned effortlessly. I so enjoyed this book that I seriously hope that it is the beginning of a series. That Lady Bridget will continue to deliver babies and solve mysteries satisfactory, especially with Martha now taken on as deputy (midwife in training).


“I was struck once again by the artist’s inability to portray him as any less pathetic than he had been in life. In truth it was a peculiar kind of masterpiece.”

“Phineas (her second husband) had taught me the hard lesson that contentment in marriage could not be taken for granted. I preferred the certainty of my work to the unknown of married life.”

‘I never forget a mother, the fathers were a different matter.”

“It is said that in his youth Edward ordered his sleeves cut an inch longer than was fashionable in order to hide the pommel of his dagger. This seemed right to me.”

“Edward was a voracious reader, and the walls of the room were covered with bookshelves containing works on every subject imaginable. There were books in English and Latin, of course, but also French and what looked like Greek. Massive folios of Shakespeare’s plays sat comfortably next to cheap pamphlets detailing a monstrous birth in Sussex….his desk was a riot of correspondence and commonplace books in which he scrawled notes…despite all this the room exuded not chaos but a sort of controlled energy.”

4.5 stars

read as an ARC

If you like Ariana Franklin, CJ Ransom and Vanora Bennett this is a book for you.

Bookscapes by Helen McIver

A Good Book and Chocolate – Flowers Optional
Romantic Authors

bookpile2Following the library’s (and Facebook’s) alphabetic lists of either books or authors, here is a list of authors that write romance fiction.  I, personally, never knew that Jane Austen or Garrison Keillor was considered a romance writer (searching Kindle selections). These are some of the authors I have enjoyed reading, especially classics and Regency or historical novels.

To quote Robertson Davies, “It is dangerous to condemn stories as junk which satisfy the deep hunger of millions of people. These books are not literary art, but a great deal of what is acclaimed as literary art in our time offers no comfort or fulfillment to anybody.” (From For Your Eyes Alone; the Letters of Robertson Davies, ed. Judith Skelton Grant, Viking Press)
Jane Austen, Jennifer Ashley, *Laurie Anderson

Mary Balogh, *Angela Benson

Gail Carriger, *Jennifer Crusie, Mary Chase Comstock

Christina Dodd

Suzanne Enoch

Jane Feather

*Diana Gabaldon, *Roberta Gellis

*Madeline Hunter, *Deborah Harkness

Iris Johansson

*Eliosa James

Lisa Kleypas, Susanna Kearsley, Lynn Kurland

Stephanie Laurens

Karen Marie Moning, *Lucy Muir

Brenda Novak

Constance O’Day Flannery

Mary Jo Putney, *Elizabeth Peters, * Nina Coombs PyKare,

Julia Quinn, Amanda Quick

Karen Rose, Karen Ranney, Deanna Raybourn, *Pamela Regis

*Christina Skye

Adriana Trigiani

Joan Vincent

Susan Wiggs, Lauren Willig, Edith Wharton, Kathleen Woodiwiss

*Jane Yardley, Rebecca York

Mia Zachary
* Denotes authors who have a PhD in various subjects and take the romance novel to a new level.

Book of the Moment
Susanna Kearsley’s The Winter Sea

I read Shadowy Horses, Mariana and The Rose Garden, quite quickly in succession, charmed by the writing and locations. Historical Scotland, medieval England, magic as well as reminding me greatly of reading Mary Stewart as a teenager. Then I discovered Mary Stewart was one of Kearsley’s favorite authors growing up, and I couldn’t wait to read more. Her first novel Mariana won the Catherine Cookson literary prize, all of her books have become bestsellers. She also writes classic thrillers under the name Emma Cole.

The Winter Sea is her most recent book, and rumor has it her next one is a sequel (you have time to read this one before Firebird is released in June). Prepare to be enthralled: this is a beautiful and engaging work of historical fiction, with a dash of romance, tragedy, mystery in an engrossing story. She has done her research, both in richly detailed history but also in the present day settings – interesting characters, a moody sea, enchanting Scottish village and local customs.

Summary: Carrie McClelland moves to Scotland to continue to research her next book on a relatively unknown Jacobite rebellion of 1708. She is drawn to Slains Castle, rents a remote cottage and begins to dream of her characters, creating a parallel story.

If you like Barbara Erskine (Lady of Hay), Diana Gabaldon and Mary Stewart, read on.

Author Spotlight and Interview – Paula McLain

By Helen McIver

Author Paula McLain

Author Paula McLain

After I reviewed Paula McLain’s new book The Paris Wife earlier this year, one of my book clubs decided to read her novel. I was volunteered to do the “Author Review” that normally accompanies a book we read. Having already delved back into Hemingway, I was more than ready. However I decided to add something extra: I contacted her and asked if she would answer a few questions about her reading habits.  She decided which questions she had time to answer, and we ended up with a few more books to read!

Paula McLain was born in Fresno, CA in 1965.  After being abandoned by both parents, she and her two sisters became wards of the California Court System, moving in and out of foster homes for the next 14 years. Eventually, she discovered she could – and wanted to – write.  She received her MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan in 1996, and since then has been a resident at Yaddo and the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.  She is the author of two collections of poetry, a much-praised memoir called Like Family, and one previous and well-received novel, A Ticket to Ride.  Paula McLain lives in Cleveland, Ohio with her family. Visit her website,

Helen McIver:  Do you remember the last time you said to someone, “You really must read this book now?” and the book was? Are you part of a book club?

Paula McLain:  I haven’t been in a book club for years and years, but when I speak with book clubs or go into local Indy book stores, I’ll always ask for glowing recommendations. Recently I found Julie Otsuka’s The Buddha in the Attic that way, and also Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder.  Loved them both

Helen McIver:  What is your favorite line from a book?

Paula McLain:  From Willa Cather’s My Antonia: “Whatever we had missed, we possessed together the precious, the incommunicable past.”

Helen McIver:  A recent Book you bought just for the cover?

Paula McLain:  Amor Towles’, Rules of Civility. Isn’t that a great looking cover?

Helen McIver:  Have you heard any good books lately?  Driving?  In an airplane?  Did you choose the reader of your book?  Did you like the audio version of your book?

Paula McLain:  I just listened (yesterday!) to Ian McEwan’s Saturday, which was terrific.  I love him and also loved, lately, his On Chesil Beach, which I also got as a book on tape. In general, I love to be read to.

I had a lot of trouble with the casting for the audio for Paris Wife.  None of the actors they liked sounded like Hadley to me, including the one who actually was chosen. Maybe no one would have pleased me, though, since I had a strong “Hadley” voice in my head for years, which I just wasn’t going to hear again out in the world, if you know what I mean.

Helen McIver:  Do you have a genre to beach read?

Paula McLain:  Lord, I wish I had time to read on the beach. Oh, and a beach to read on!

Helen McIver:  Do you have a favorite literary adaptation on TV or film? Is there something coming out you can’t wait (Hemingway?!)

Paula McLain:  There’s a great BBC production of Jane Austen’s Persuasion that I HEART and have watched maybe fifty times….

Helen McIver:  What book is on your nightstand?

Paula McLain:  Rules of Civility.

Helen McIver:  Paper or electronic? Do you take notes?

Paula McLain:  Electronic, always. I take lots of notes, some of which I actually find again!

Helen McIver:  Is music important to your writing? (Do you listen to music when you write? When you read? Do you incorporate songs into your work that have “hidden” meaning or help set the tone?)

Paula McLain:  I have to listen to music, and keep my iPhone tuned to Pandora, on a sound dock for my whole working day. Usually something low-key and croon-y. I like whispery male singer-songerwriter types like Bon Iver……

Helen McIver:  What were your most cherished books as a child? Do you have a favorite character or hero / heroine from one of those books?

Paula McLain:  Charlotte’s Web, The Borrowers, tons of Roald Dahl.

Helen McIver:  Is there one book you wish all children would read?

Paula McLain:  Watership Down – those rabbits!

Helen McIver:  Is there one book you would like adults to read?

Paula McLain:  Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried. A lot, there, about the act of storytelling. Why we tell stories and what they mean to our lives.

Helen McIver:  Do you tend to keep books, lend them out or give them away?

Paula McLain:  I horde them and lend the ones I feel evangelical about.

Helen McIver:  Any guilty reading pleasures?

Paula McLain:  People Magazine in airports! Ooh, and I love food magazines and cook books: essentially food porn!

Book Review – Rebecca

A Review by Helen McIver

Jonathan Yardley’s publication of Second Reading, Notable and Neglected Books Revisited, inspired me to revisit a few classics and old favorites. There are 60+ book reviews in this collection which had me seek out a few authors I had passed over – I had never heard of Paper Tigers by Stanley Woodward, nor The Fathers by Allen Tate. But when I discovered that most of one of my book groups had never read Rebecca (Daphne du Maurier, 1938), I checked out the Book Group in a Bag at the Library and we started reading.

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly again,”

I didn’t remember it being so melodraumatic and, reading it now, I was far more impatient with the unnamed non-Rebecca wife. But this is a classic gothic novel, and much of our book discussion centered on that history. Gothic novels have haunted castles or mansions, windswept moors, usually obsessed handsome dark brooding men with defenseless young women, a few family secrets and an atmospheric romantic suspense plot. They are often adored by readers (and bestsellers!) and even more often deplored by reviewers.

Some of the best gothic novels are Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and William Faulkner’s Absalom! Absalom! I would also include works by 19th century writers Wilkie Collins, Bram Stoker and Elizabeth Gaskill.

The physical descriptions of the various settings in this book are vivid and richly detailed. I absolutely love books and/or movies where the house is just as much a character as the people in the book! And I enjoyed learning that the house actually exists, and the success of her book enabled her to renovate the ruin and make it her home for a number of years.  Much of the novel was written while she was staying in Egypt where her husband was stationed, and may also be filled with the longing and nostalgia for home.

Daphne du Maurier

In Rebecca, the plot has the unnamed narrator recall her past: As the companion to a rich American woman vacationing in Monte Carlo, she is courted (apparently unknowingly) by a wealthy Englishman, Maxim de Winter. After a week of courtship (not even recognizing the proposal), she marries him, and they move to his Cornish mansion, Manderley. There she discovers that his first wife, Rebecca, is still alive in the memories of all the estate inhabitants; but especially its domineering housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers –  one of literature’s great infamous female villains. I was actually horrified that the narrator felt relief that Max didn’t love Rebecca when he reveals that he murdered her! (Remember the Hitchcock film has a different ending!) But because of the film, Rebecca has been in print since 1938.

Additional Reading:
I loved the comment that “If I wanted to go to Manderly again, I would just reread Rebecca.” Still, there are several books that have been approved by the du Maurier estate:

  • Mrs de Winter (1993), by Susan Hill is a sequel originally written in the 1980s
  • The Other Rebecca (1996), by Maureen Freely is a contemporary version.
  • Rebecca’s Tale (2001), by Sally Beauman, is a narrative of four characters affected by Rebecca. (My bookclub’s best comment: “Rebecca left no man untouched.”
  • Daphne by Justin Picardine, is also a fascinating fictional account of DuMaurier.

Rebecca won two Academy Awards: Best Picture and Best Cinematophotography in 1940 with Alfred Hitchcok as director. Olivier played Max, Joan Fontaine, the unnamed Heroine, and Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers. Rebecca has been adapted for television by both BBC and ITV (then Masterpiece Theatre 1997 with Diana Rigg playing Mrs Danvers).