If ever there was a time to run away to a good book….now is it! Just weeks before the election, it seems everyone (on both sides) is a little anxious and agitated. What will happen and what does each outcome mean? I don’t have any answers to those questions, but I do have some great reads this week that will help you slow your thoughts and escape to another place – reality or not! Here’s the list of what to read this month!
A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane
Looking for something more than a little different but that might manage to scratch both your Game of Thrones and romance itch? Try A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane (the pen name of Meljean Brooks).
First things first, this one is not for the faint of heart when it comes to violence – the two main characters’ first meeting is marked by Yvenne, our heroine, killing her brother. She of course has a very good reason – her father and brothers have kept her, the rightful heir to the throne, captive and hidden from the world for her entire life.
Maddek, our hero and prince of his own realm, has his own vengeance to wreak on Yvenne’s father, for the death of his parents. But equally, he is not so sure if he can trust Yvenne. They quickly decide that it is politically expedient that they marry, but that just marks the beginning of a bloody and satisfying merging of purposes between the two of them.
The set up, as with many fantasy novels, is a bit complex, but what really sells this novel is the central relationship between Yvenne and Maddek, as she strives to convince him to trust her and as they teach each other what they know about being true leaders. Vane also imagines a fascinating world that allows her to turn the usual fantasy and romance tropes on end. Dive in for a wonderful, engrossing read.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Gothic is an absolutely perfect book for the lead up to Halloween – a deliciously creepy (and yes, Gothic) tale of a young woman in 1950s Mexico sent to check up on her recently married cousin, after she sends a disturbing letter back home.
Noemí is intelligent, beautiful (and a little vain), occasionally flighty but incredibly loyal, and thoroughly modern. Her distinctive voice permeates the book as she travels from Mexico City to her cousin’s new home in Hidalgo, High Place. Catalina has married into an English family who came to Mexico in order to mine silver, but the mine has long been closed and the home is shrouded in decay and eccentricity.
Despite everyone’s assurances that Catalina is just fine, it becomes very clear to Noemí that something is not right at High Place, from the ban on conversation during dinner to the mold running through the wallpaper. Slowly, so slowly, Moreno-Garcia ratchets up the tension as it all gets creepier and creepier.
Haunted by her dreams. Noemí investigates, probing at the Doyle family, refusing to be cowed by their beliefs in their own racial superiority or rules meant to keep her from Catalina.
This is a brilliant horror read, a delicate psychological mystery that will have you questioning along with Noemí exactly what is real and what isn’t. Perfect as well if you enjoyed the biological horror of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation series.
Earthly Remains by Donna Leon
It’s been nearly a year since I read the first book in the Commissario Brunetti mystery series. Eleven months and 25 books later, I’m nearing the end of the series. Part of me is looking forward to another series, but I’m not entirely sure I won’t miss Guido Brunetti and his wife Paola just a bit!
In Earthly Remains Brunetti finds himself at a gorgeous villa just outside of Venice for two weeks. He’s been diagnosed with high stress – not surprising for the Venetian policeman. He plans to read, relax, and maybe row on the laguna.
The keeper of the villa, Davide Casati, turns out to be a masterful rower and a friend of his father from years ago. The two quickly develop a trusting relationship as they wander the canals and laguna often in silence. The two are together nearly every day for two weeks until Davide turns up missing after a torrential storm.
It seems Brunetti really can’t get away from work as he seeks to find Davide and find Davide’s truth and purpose in life. With picturesque scenery of an Italian villa, a temporary escape from your everyday, and the underpinnings of environmental changes, this read is a little out of the norm for Leon’s series but just as enjoyable as the many others!