The season of giving is a favorite time for me because I love to give books for any occasion. The problem is that for each book I buy as a gift, I end up buying two books for myself. If you’re as passionate about books as I am — or if you’re simply looking for a great read to snuggle up with this winter — here are a few recommendations that should be at the top of your list. And read to the end for some non-fiction options that are garnering some great buzz, too!
6 New Novels to Curl Up With This Winter
I cannot stop thinking about American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins because it was so powerful that it was all I could do not to go to the very last page first to see how it ended. The book opens with Lydia and her 8-year-old son, Luca, hiding because killers have come to her home to execute her family, who were living a quiet and peaceful life in Acapulco. In the first chapter, all of the family is murdered except Lydia and Luca. A powerful drug lord wants vengeance, and it is not because Lydia is involved in selling drugs. In fact, Lydia is a highly educated woman who owns a bookstore, and her husband was a journalist.
What would a mother do to protect her son? Lydia believes that fleeing to American soil is their only chance of staying alive. The power and influence of the drug cartel mean Lydia cannot risk public exposure. It is not a direct route they travel, so keep a map of Mexico beside you to follow the journey of Lydia and Luca. You will experience terror and compassion as they try to reach “American Dirt” during their incredible journey.
The Authenticity Project
If you mix Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, with Bridget Jones Diary, by Helen Fielding, you would have The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley. Set in England, the story features Julian Jessop, an artist who thinks life has passed him by. He decides to write facts or something “authentic” about himself in a notebook. He leaves the notebook in a public place and writes in it that whoever finds the notebook should also write facts about themselves and pass it on. The person who finds Julian’s notebook is Monica, who owns the cafe. She reads the truths Julian has shared about his lonely life, and she decides to write a few facts about herself. The notebook is then passed around, and several people participate in writing authentic statements, including a famous Instagrammer who appears to have a perfect mommy life, an obnoxious businessman, and a handsome young Australian. All of the characters meet each other as the notebook and their lives change in intriguing ways. The Authenticity Project is sure to be a popular choice for book clubs and would make a terrific television series.
The Revisioners, by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, is about Josephine, Gladys and Ava — women who are also mothers. Josephine escaped slavery as a young girl before the Civil War. In 1924, she owns her own farm, is kind to everyone and is a trusted midwife. She has worked hard to survive and protect her son, and she has walked a very fine line to survive when the Klu Klux Klan terrorized her.
The Revisioners is a novel that goes back and forth in time, between Ava, in 2017, and Josephine, in 1924. In 2017, Ava is in New Orleans and has lost her job. Her wealthy white grandmother, Martha, offers Ava a lot of money to move in with her and be a companion. Ava thinks she can stick it out for a few months so that she and her young son, King, will have enough money to buy a home. There is no love lost between Ava’s mother, Gladys, and Martha. Nothing goes as planned for any of the mothers.
Nothing to See Here
If you are a fan of The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson, then you will love his new work of genius, Nothing to See Here. My emotions ranged from giggling to laughing out loud, and the plot of Nothing to See Here is the reason it was featured on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. Two young women meet at a prestigious boarding school. Madison comes from the “haves,” while Lillian comes from the “have nots.” Madison’s family bribes Lillian’s mother for Lillian to accept the blame for a serious rule that Madison breaks. The two friends then lose touch until 10 years later, when Madison needs Lillian’s help.
Madison has married Jasper and has molded him into a powerful politician who has his eye on the White House. The public is aware that Madison and Jasper have a perfect son, but no one knows about the twins he fathered in a previous marriage. That’s why Madison really needs her old friend Lillian. Stephen King would enjoy the powers of these twins as we learn why Madison is so determined to hide the twins from the voting public.
Mr. Churchill’s Secretary
When The Bletchley Circle was on PBS, a series about London women who were code breakers in World War II, I was hooked. Sometimes you really can judge a book by its cover, and when I saw Mr. Churchill’s Secretary, by Susan Elia MacNeal, I knew I had to read it because it reminded me of The Bletchley Circle. The book is the first in a series featuring the brilliant American, Maggie Hope, who goes to London just before the beginning of the war and becomes a secretary to Winston Churchill. When Churchill finds out that Maggie has a degree in math and can break codes, he puts her to work on sensitive and dangerous cases to help win the war.
MacNeal’s new book, The King’s Justice, is the ninth book in the Maggie Hope series. Maggie has had many roles during the war, and now she has her greatest challenge. If you enjoy historical fiction featuring smart women, I highly recommend this series.
Meg & Jo: A contemporary retelling of Little Women
Louisa May Alcott is one of my favorite authors. So much so that I made a pilgrimage to Orchard House, her home in Concord, Massachusetts, which is the setting for her most famous book Little Women. I learned Louisa spent most of her life supporting her father so he could try out his various failed projects. She chose not to marry and did not want her character, Jo, to marry in Little Women. The publisher had other ideas.
Meg & Jo: A contemporary retelling of Little Women by Virginia Kantra is out just in time to enjoy as the newest film version of Little Women opens nationwide this week. I really enjoyed Kantra’s version of the relationship between the stories and family members, especially since she does not sugarcoat the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. March.
Meg & Jo is set in the present and takes place in Bunyan, North Carolina. Most of the book focuses on Meg and Jo. Just like the original book, Meg is married to John and has twins. She is a perfectionist and takes on too much, especially when her mother has an accident, and most of the caregiving and scrambling for money falls on Meg.
Jo is trying to make it as a writer in New York and works as a prep cook for a famous chef, Eric Bhaer. Trey Laurence, the wealthy boy next door, is still living in their hometown, as is the irritable and overbearing Aunt Phee. Amy is living in Paris, and Beth is trying to make it as a musician. All the sisters come together when there is a family crisis. I am happy to report that Kantra is working on the sequel, Beth & Amy.
Looking for great non-fiction? Try the following new books:
- The Great Blue Hills of God, by Kreis Beall, co-founder of Blackberry Farm
- Games of Deception – The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany, by Andrew Maraniss
- The Beautiful Ones, by (and about) Prince
- Janis: Her Life and Music by Holly George-Warren, about Janis Joplin.
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