The Cove, by Ron Rash: In the tradition of Heaven and Winter’s Bone, this book is about back woods Appalachia people, albeit set in World War I times. Laurel has got some sort of birthmark and she lives up on a part of the mountain that is shady, so neighboring mountain hicks think she is a witch. She finds a mute man in the woods and he doesn’t think she’s a witch, so she gets friendly. Good ole boys get rage-y and tragedy ensues.
Among Others, by Jo Walton: A cross between a Flavia de Luce novel and What a Girl Wants, that movie with Colin Firth and Amanda Bynes. Told diary-style by the protagonist, who (unlike Laurel above) IS a witch. A teenage witch! She doesn’t really do anything witch-y, though. In fact, she is adamant about not using magic. But she does see fairies in the woods. Mostly, the book is about how she likes to read a lot of science fiction and fantasy novels.
The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman: A novel that’s really a collection of short stories. Stories about the various people who work for a newspaper in Rome during a several-decade time period. The pieces aren’t really tied up into some neat inter-connected package like you might expect. But each little tale is so piquant in its illustration of some emotional exchange or experience, that I think this was, in the end, quite good.
The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan: A big passenger ship sinks in 1914 (2 years after the Titanic) and some of the people get in lifeboats. The book opens with Grace on trial for her life for something that happened while she was on a lifeboat with 39 other people for 3 weeks. What follows is an account of her experience on the lifeboat with the other survivors who suffer and power-struggle, while she reflects on her path to marriage-trap Henry, who she’s JUST married about two seconds ago and who is super rich, but no one knows she has married!
Big Machaine, by Victor LaValle: For such a seemingly juicy plot, this was a bit of a slog to get through. There’s a supernatural element that seemed superfluous to the better parts of the book – the story of Ricky Rice, growing up in a strange religious cult, becoming a heroin addict, mysteriously being invited to Vermont to work as a oblivious researcher on a team of other societally-rejected black folk.
The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey: Fairy tale-esque and as such, rather predictable. But very engaging and nice to read. A girl appears in the place of a snowman made by an elderly couple who lives miles away from anyone else. She disappears in the summer and reappears every year once the snow falls. Incredibly beautiful descriptions of winter homesteading life in Alaska.
Up next – Telegraph Avenue and The Golem and the Jinni. Anything else I should add to the queue?