- A Basketful of Broken Dishes, by Naomi Stutzman
The intimate, candid voyage of one woman for a relationship to her personal view of religion and how her discoveries mended her marriage and enabled her to understand and forgive relatives in a strict Amish sect. Written by her daughter.
- Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance, by Lois McMaster Bujold
Part of the sci fi Vorkosigan saga set centuries in the future, when intergalactic travel has been perfected but human traits and behavior have not changed, this plunges handsome and deliberately obtuse cousin Ivan into the kind of complex, dangerous political and romantic situation usually faced by his dashing but handicapped cousin Miles.
- Head Over Heels, by Jill Shalvis
A best-selling romance writer whose work is frank, vivid, and physical, but well written. In this one, set in the fictional small town of Lucky Harbor, wild-child Chloe (with a major health concern—chronic asthma) falls for the strait-laced but sexy sheriff Sawyer. Kudos for including a person with a disability and showing her living her life to its fullest.
- Illuminations: a novel of Hildegard van Bingen, by Mary Sharratt
An extraordinary woman of the Middle Age, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath, is brought to life in this fictionalized account of her life. From childhood sequestering, through her visions and writings, and to the establishment of her own abbey, she shows the intelligence and courage found in women during those dark times, but usually overlooked.
- It’s Fine by Me, by Per Petterson, Graywolf Press, 2012, translated by Don Bartlett
This small treasure of a book gifts the reader with more of Petterson’s excellent, spare, clean writing that somehow simultaneously conveys unspeakable emotion. An eighteen-year-old Norweigan hasn’t had an easy life; and the story provides insight into why through occasional flashbacks. NOT a “poor-me” saga, deep compassion surfaces again and again.
- Magnificence, by Lydia Millet
Susan Lindley, a woman adrift after her husband’s death and the dissolution of her family, embarks on a new phase in her life after inheriting her uncle’s sprawling mansion and its vast collection of taxidermy. While she restores the inanimate objects, an equally derelict human menagerie joins her. “Funny and heartbreaking.”
- The New Republic, by Lionel Shriver
Set in an imaginary country beneath the Iberian Peninsula, this political and social satire spotlights personality cults, terrorism, media frenzy, and love through the persona of its hero. A complex and stimulating, yet humorous, approach.
- Royal Blood, a Royal Spyness mystery, by Rhys Bowen
One in a series of delightful mysteries set in the 30’s, about Georgie, 34th in line for the British throne and poor as a churchmouse. In this one, she’s called upon to solve a murder in Transylvania and continues her unrequited love for a penniless Irish peer.
- The Secrets They Kept: The True Story of a Mercy Killing that Shocked a Town and Shamed a Family, by Suzanne Handler
The title tell it all. The author discovered a murder in her family that had occurred decades before and been covered up. She ponders the reasons, the immediate consequences, and the impact on later generations.
- Consider This, Señora, Harriet Doerr. A compact novel that manages superbly to weave the stories of three American women and one man into the fabric of life in a tiny Mexican village. In succinct prose as illuminating and delicate as pen and ink drawings, the book is an intimate survey of the people and country.
- Cream of Kohlrabi, Floyd Skloot. This book of sixteen stories spotlights the author’s award-winning style, addressing characters who are aging, struggling to deal with external life’s impacts on themselves, or sports. Each contains a fascinating picture of how the main character adjusts, well or not.
- Forged in Fire: Essays by Idaho Writers, editors Mary Clearman Blew, Phil Druker. A collection of personal essays by Idaho writers that all center around fire. Idaho is familiar with the terror, exhaustion, and incomparable exhilaration of the element, and these pieces present excellent, vivid interpretations.
- Dinner with Osama, Marilyn Krysl. The author’s ironic and acerbic point of view expands the reader’s understanding of this very confusing and often disheartening world. Politics, mythology, and life in Boulder come to the forefront. The final third of the collection is the most piercing. Here her prose is a slap across the face to awaken you to true evil possible in the human condition, set in war-torn and famine-pinched Africa.
- Wild Bunch Women, Michael Rutter. While many are familiar with Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and related desperadoes, these men were not abstinent. Their female chums, lovers, even wives often were as feisty and drawn to risks as they, although the lives of these women are lost in the sands of the desert and time. Rutter patches together a history for each of nine women, relying on rumor, hearsay, and myth.
- The Deportees and Other Stories, Roddy Doyle. An overlooked treasure by an Irish writer who shows off all nuances of his style in this fine collection. Every story deals in some way with Ireland’s influx of immigrants, and all the characters illustrate the wonderful diversity of their personalities.
- Peace, Love & Healing, Bernie S Siegel, M.D. A treatise on how to help yourself heal from serious diseases and conditions; not guaranteed to cure but well able to support your self-healing. Siegel uses the techniques in his book to treat his own patients and now enables all of us to explore them.
- The Proposal, Mary Balogh. A romance in the Regency genre, this is one of a set of books with loosely connected plots, but it features a commoner(!) awarded a title for valour who woos a lady, knowing that they’ll never (what, never?) be a couple. A relaxing evening’s read.
- The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes. Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2011, this tells the story of an older man as he considers his youth and the friend (now deceased) and woman (still alive)who have dogged him emotionally throughout his life, the lessons he learns, the peace he tries to achieve.
- Shine, Shine, Shine, Lydia Netzer. Billed as scifi, which it is most definitely NOT, even though the husband in the story is on a flight to the moon to plant a robot colony, the writing style of this debut is absolutely compelling. Add a pregnant bald heroine, an autistic son, and a dying mother, trace the action and development over several decades, and you have a unique and compelling novel.
- The Red Hat Club by Haywood Smith
A group of Altanta ladies, friends since high school, meet monthly and help several members through divorce, rehab, and other challenges, with lots of humor and good will.
- Murder by Mishap (An Edna Davies mystery) by Suzanne Young
Edna Davies is spots a valuable heirloom brooch in a friend’s yard. Her discovery helps to solve a 50-year-old mystery but it also precipitates a murder. As she tries to make sense of the killing, Edna realizes more than one person is hiding behind a false identity.
- Night Like This by Julia Quinn
A new Regency romance from a skilled writer, this features a governess to three highborn young ladies who accidently meets dashing Earl of Winstead. Despite their mutual attraction, one is in danger. But which one?
- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Absolutely superb! Billed as a YA but for everyone, this story of a young Native American boy on the rez, struggling with disabilities, poverty, racism and too much thinking, winds up being humorous while it gives you perspective and hope, with the heartbreaking, hilarious, and beautifully written account of the teen as he attempts to break free from the life he was destined to live. One of the best novels I’ve ever read.
- On the Head of a Pin by Walter Mosley
Better known for his mysteries, Mosley tries his hand at speculative fiction in this short novel. Protagonist Joshua Winterland helps develop advanced animatronics editing techniques, but the resulting images may lead humanity and Earth beyond the reality he now knows.
- East of the West: a Country in Stories by Miroslav Penkov
Born in Bulgaria, Penkov writes with great empathy of centuries of tumult while his characters mourn the way things were and long for things that will never be. He has a deft touch for exposing the vulnerable in every character, even tough ones.
- The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith (a No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novel)
In this latest episode in the beloved, best-selling series, the kindest and best detective in Botswana faces a tricky situation when her personal and professional lives become entangled. Assistant Grace Makutsi and orphan matron Mma Potokwane face major challenges as well and receive help from Precious.
- The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Three college seniors move into adulthood in the 80s, their lives intertwined, in an on and off triangle. “A disarming novel about life, love, and discovery, set during a time when so much of life seems filled with deep portent.” Eugenides won the Pulitzer for a previous novel.
- Murder by Mishap, by Suzanne Young (an Edna Davies mystery)
Edna’s accidental recovery of an heirloom brooch helps solve an old mystery but precipitates a murder. Matching wits with extortionists, arsonists and frauds, she must determine who is friend and who is foe before another person dies.