Thursday, January 9, 2014

Kate M. Is Recommending:
Written in radiant prose and with stunning psychological acuity, award-winning author Sarah Cornwell's What I Had Before I Had You is a deeply poignant story that captures the joys and sorrows of growing up and learning to let go.

Olivia Reed was fifteen when she left her hometown of Ocean Vista on the Jersey Shore. Two decades later, divorced and unstrung, she returns with her teenage daughter, Carrie, and nine-year-old son, Daniel, recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Distracted by thoughts of the past, Olivia fails to notice when Daniel disappears from her side. Her frantic search for him sparks memories of the summer of 1987, when she exploded out of the cocoon of her mother's fierce, smothering love and into a sudden, full-throttle adolescence, complete with dangerous new friends, first love, and a rebellion so intense that it utterly recharted the course of her life.

Olivia's mother, Myla, was a practicing psychic whose powers waxed and waned along with her mercurial moods. Myla raised Olivia to be a guarded child, and also to believe in the ever-present infant ghosts of her twin sisters, whom Myla took care of as if they were alive--diapers, baby food, an empty nursery kept like a shrine. At fifteen, Olivia saw her sisters for the first time, not as ghostly infants but as teenagers on the beach. But when Myla denied her vision, Olivia set out to learn the truth--a journey that led to shattering discoveries about herself and her family.

Sarah Cornwell seamlessly weaves together the past and the present in this riveting debut novel, as she examines the relationships between mothers and daughters, and the powerful forces of loss, family history, and magical thinking.
A powerful, lyrical memoir of self-discovery full of warmth and wry humor--a book that combines the soul-baring insight of Wild, the profound wisdom of Shop Class as Soulcraft, and the ad venturous spirit of Eat, Pray, Love

When her college-bound daughter leaves home, Lynn Darling, widowed more than a decade earlier, finds herself alone and utterly lost. Freed of her parental responsibilities, she has no idea what she wants or even who she is. Searching for answers, she leaves her apartment in New York City and moves to a cranky little house in the middle of the Vermont woods, her only companions, a new dog and a compass. There she hopes to develop a sense of direction--both in the woods and in her life.

As she finds new ways to get lost in her own backyard, Darling meditates on her past and on the challenges that aging poses to love, work--not to mention fashion--and the way she sees herself. She has just begun to chart a new course for the future when an unexpected setback unsettles her newfound balance.

With rare insight and remarkable honesty, Out of the Woods reveals how honing the skills of navigation--literal and metaphorical--smoothed one woman's path through the uneven course of life. It is a story at once universal and deeply personal--in the words of writer Geraldine Brooks, "both a compass and a manifesto for navigating the often-treacherous switchbacks of the second half of life."
"this is my book and i am writing it by my own hand."

Mary and her three sisters rise every day to backbreaking farmwork that threatens to suppress their own awakening desires, whether it's Violet's pull toward womanhood or Beatrice's affinity for the Scriptures. But it's their father, whose anger is unleashed at the slightest provocation, who stands to deliver the most harm. Only Mary, fierce of tongue and a spitfire since birth, dares to stand up to him. When he sends her to work for the local vicar and his invalid wife in their house on the hill, he deals her the only blow she may not survive.

Within walking distance of her family farm, the vicarage is a world away–a curious, unsettling place unlike any she has ever known. Teeming with the sexuality of the vicar's young son and the manipulations of another servant, it is also a place of books and learning–a source of endless joy. Yet as young Mary soon discovers, such precious knowledge comes at a devastating price, as is gradually made clear once she begins the task of telling her own story.

Reminiscent of Alias Grace in the exploration of the power dynamics between servants and those they serve and of Celie's struggles in The Color Purple, this quietly devastating tour de force reminds us that knowledge can destroy even as it empowers.
Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves. Meeting by chance, they become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.
When Nicholas Shakespeare stumbled across a box of documents belonging to his late aunt, Priscilla, he was completely unaware of where this discovery would take him and what he would learn about her hidden past. The glamorous, mysterious figure he remembered from his childhood was very different from the morally ambiguous young woman who emerged from the trove of love letters, photographs, and journals, surrounded by suitors and living the dangerous existence of a British woman in a country controlled by the enemy. He had heard rumors that Priscilla had fought in the Resistance, but the truth turned out to be far more complicated.

As he investigated his aunt's life, dark secrets emerged, and Nicholas discovered the answers to the questions over which he'd been puzzling: What caused the breakdown of Priscilla's marriage to a French aristocrat? Why had she been interned in a prisoner-of-war camp, and how had she escaped? And who was the "Otto" with whom she was having a relationship as Paris was liberated?

Piecing together fragments of one woman's remarkable and tragic life, Priscilla is at once a stunning story of detection, a loving portrait of a flawed woman trying to survive in terrible times, and a spellbinding slice of history.
Bernard Cornwell—"the most prolific and successful historical novelist in the world today" (Wall Street Journal)—returns to his Saxon Tales saga with the epic story of divided loyalties, bloody battles, and the struggle to unite Britain.

At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and his son Edward reigns as king. Wessex survives but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will never rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred's great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, the impregnable Northumbrian fortress Bebbanburg.

Loyalties will be divided and men will fall as each Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes—a war that will decide the fate of every king, and the entire English nation.

With The Pagan Lord, New York Times bestselling author Bernard Cornwell, "the reigning king of historical fiction" (USA Today), continues his magnificent epic of the making of England during the Middle Ages, vividly bringing to life the uneasy alliances, violent combat, and deadly intrigue that gave birth to the British nation.  

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