The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams
Pub. Date: January 17, 2017
Source: finished hardcover via publisher (Thank you, William Morrow!)
Summary: When she discovers her husband cheating, Ella Hawthorne impulsively moves out of their SoHo loft and into a small apartment in an old Greenwich Village building. Her surprisingly attractive new neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement at night. Tenants have reported strange noises after midnight—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the place hid a speakeasy.

In 1924, Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a smart-mouthed flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin becomes entangled with Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers.

Headstrong and independent, Gin is no weak-kneed fool. So how can she be falling in love with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent when she’s got Princeton boy Billy Marshall, the dashing son of society doyenne Theresa Marshall, begging to make an honest woman of her? While anything goes in the Roaring Twenties, Gin’s adventures will shake proper Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead—secrets that will echo from Park Avenue to the hollers of her Southern hometown.

As Ella discovers more about the basement speakeasy, she becomes inspired by the spirit of her exuberant predecessor, and decides to live with abandon in the wicked city too. . . .
Genre: Historical Fiction

Though I’ve long since finished the book, I haven’t been able to properly sort out my thoughts, pick through my feelings until now – and even as I sit here typing I’m finding it difficult to truly express what a wonderful book The Wicked City is. Beatriz Williams is an absolute gem and the more novels of hers I read, the more I come to realize the scope of her storytelling. Bit characters from previous novels are prominently featured while hints at upcoming novels (numerous years and books in the making) come full-circle and I can only imagine what a pleasure a binge-read of her novels would be! Such a richly detailed, highly scandalous family saga!

The Wicked City uses one of my favorite storytelling devices: the dual-era narrative and from the first page I was hooked. It’s 1998 and Ella has just received a shocking blow: she walks in on her husband having sex with a prostitute. Hurt, angry, and still not quite believing what she witnessed, Ella immediately moves out of their place and into a tiny apartment of her own. As she gets to know the other tenants (particularly the uber good-looking Hector who somehow managed to score the entire fifth floor for himself) Ella learns her new home on Christopher Street has a past of its own and that she should avoid the basement at night – back in the 20s it was a speakeasy and, to this day, wisps of laughter, glasses clinking, and a soulful piano can still be heard.

Gevena “Gin” Kelly is a firecracker. Though she hails from the tiny Appalachian town of River Junction, Maryland, her mama sent her off to a fancy college where she learned to replace her ain’ts with isn’ts. Gin’s been making a go of it on her own in New York, transforming into the perfect flapper, spending her nights at the Christopher Club with her charming Princeton boyfriend, and making some extra money by posing for rather salacious photos. All good things must come to an end, however, as the club is raided one night and Gin finds herself locked up. In order to go free, Gin grudgingly agrees to go along with Agent Anson’s operation. In the years she’s been gone, Gin’s stepdaddy amassed himself a pretty fortune with his bootlegging business. In fact, you’d be hardpressed to find anyone in River Junction who would have anything but the best to say about Duke Kelly. Anyone, that is, except Gin. There’s a reason she took off one day and never looked back.

Though The Wicked City tells two stories, the majority of the novel is spent with Gin and, honestly, I wasn’t complaining! Though I was invested in Ella’s story, I found myself utterly entranced by Gin’s Jazz-Age New York and the experience she went through back home. An abusive stepfather, the mystery as to who her biological father is, an upper crust Princeton boy on her arm, nights spent drinking illegal alcohol at a hidden club, Gin’s life was simply too intriguing and I wanted to know more. Sweet Billy thinks the world of his girl and wants to elope, but Gin’s newfound role in helping the devilishly handsome Agent Oliver Anson finally catch her notorious bootlegger stepfather has been making things complicated.

An urgent telegram is the only thing to bring Gin home: she loves her mother something fierce and can’t bear the thought of not being able to say good-bye, though she has no plans of spending a second longer than necessary in the company of Duke Kelly. Gin’s interactions with her brother and baby sister were lovely and I’m very interested to see where the story goes!

Although I loved this book and tore through it, the ending felt a bit rushed and purposefully vague in an attempt to set the tone for Cocoa Beach, due this July. Gin received a bundle of letters her mother kept – love letters from Gin’s father. I desperately wanted to see that story played out. Sadly it was abandoned – accidentally and intentionally I’m not sure, but I’m hoping for Gin’s story to be revisited in another book. The same with a box of buttons her mother kept. Ella discovers the box hidden underneath a floorboard and it seemed like it was going to be part of a larger story (particularly after they mysteriously disappeared one day) but, again, it’s an element of the novel that fizzled out.

I fell hard for Beatriz Williams back in 2015 after reading Along the Infinite Sea and am thrilled she has a new novel out (along with several backlist titles that are sure to please!) The Wicked City was enchanting and enthralling – I was hooked from the very first page and hated to see the end draw nearer. Though her novels are technically standalones, Beatriz offers a lot of backstory for her Schuyler sisters and I’m left wondering if a long-time fan wouldn’t be more appreciative of these details than a newcomer would be. Several abandoned or hushed-up plots had me frustrated, especially since I was so curious to see how they would play out! I’m hoping the explanation is that all will be revealed in Cocoa Beach. As it stands, I still highly recommend The Wicked City, though the loose threads left me wanting answers.

weekly wrap-up 1/15

• I’ve been sick, sick, sick all week and it’s been terrible. Matt originally caught it and I thought for sure I’d be able to avoid it…but no. I spent all of yesterday alternating between sleeping and cuddling with my pup.

• I mentioned in last week’s wrap-up that I was thinking about compiling my books read in monthly recaps rather than weekly recaps and I’m still liking that idea. For now, just know that I’ve been taking things much slower than last year (though I’m still ahead of my goal by a few books.)

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? I think this was the first time ever in six years (!!!) that I had a post every day of the week. Yikes! This week reviews took a backseat as I did a little miniseries where I highlighted upcoming novels of 2017 that I can’t wait to read! Monday was all about non-fiction, Tuesday was for sci-fi and fantasy, Wednesday featured contemporary fiction, Thursday I flailed over my favorite genre: historical fiction (though it was basically a list of WWII books oops), and we ended on Friday with mystery and suspense!

I also posted another edition of the saturday six. This week I discussed a new Titanic documentary (claiming the iceberg ISN’T what caused the ship to sink), shared some recipes, linked to an author’s romance novel recommendations, and more!

The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick
“Perfect for fans of Kate Morton” aaaand I’m sold. Sorrel has a gift for gardening and her reputations lands her an exciting new gig: traveling from New England to the English countryside where she’s been tasked with reviving an old Shakespearean garden. This sounds lovely. Thank you, William Morrow!

The Wicked City by Beatrix Williams
I mentioned this one in my round-up of the historical fiction novels I’m excited for and I was lucky enough to dive in early! The Jazz Age, prohibition, a long forgotten basement-slash-speakeasy that, seventy years later, still offers up whispers of glasses clinking and laughter. I’m loving this one so far and Beatriz is an absolute treasure. Thank you, William Morrow!

the saturday six.

• More like the Saturday sick. I thought I avoided Matt’s flu, but no. It hit me hard and I’ve been feeling like death these past few days. LOTS of binging on Murdoch Mysteries though!

• SPEAKING OF BINGE WATCHES. A Series of Unfortunate Events finally premiered!! Have you watched it yet? NPR had a really neat article about the food featured in the series.

• Did you hear about the new Titanic documentary? It claims the ship didn’t sink because it hit an iceberg, but because the engine room was on fire. The journalist putting forth this new theory claims the fire actually started before Titanic even set sail! I’m not sure how I feel about this but I’m certainly interested in watching the documentary!

• I mentioned last week that cauliflower rice was a total game changer. Before I would have to make it myself by chopping it in the food processor. Last week however, I randomly stopped into a grocery store I don’t normally go into and discovered Green Giant now sells bags of pre-chopped cauliflower rice!!!!! I grabbed a bag of it AND a bag of cauliflower + sweet potato rice. OH. MY. GOD. If you follow me on instagram you probably saw me flail about it in my stories. I wound up making Skinnytaste’s stuffed pepper soup one night and took it to the next level by adding in the cauliflower/sweet potato mix. ♥ Perfection.

• My flu and I thank you, Vulture, for your Very British Streaming Guide to Victorian TV Dramas.

• I saw this on twitter a few days ago: Sarah MacLean has a 100+ romance novel recommendation page on her website. She said she’s always updating and scrolling through, she seems to have novels from all over: anthologies, novellas, paranormal, historical, contemporary – I’ve added a ton to my library list!

2017 books I need to get my hands on: mystery/suspense!

And here we are, the final day of this week-long series! Can you believe it?? I feel like this week flew! Before we get into today’s list, here are links to the rest of this week’s posts if you missed one of wanted a refresher: non-fiction, sci-fi and fantasy, contemporary fiction, and historical fiction.

Today I’ll be getting into the mystery and suspense novels of 2017 that I can’t wait to read! This list was probably the hardest to compile, even tougher to narrow down than historical fiction – and y’all know I love me some historical fiction! Also, just like yesterday, I’ve included a bonus list with the mystery novels of 2017 that I already have.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh | February 21, 2017
Last year’s I Let You Go (originally published in the UK in 2014) turned Clare into a household name among thriller fans and earned her a spot alongside the heavy-hitters on the genre. Next month she’ll be following up that wildly popular novel with I See You, a tale of a women who goes about her daily routine, completely unaware someone has taken notice of her favorite seat on the train or that she always waits in a precise spot on the platform. Zoe doesn’t suspect a thing until she happens to see an ad in the paper. An ad that features her photo, a phone number, and a link to FindTheOne.com. Each day a new woman appears in the ad and, over time, Zoe comes to realize that these women have all been victims of horribly violent crimes. As Zoe’s fear turns into full-blown paranoia, she no longer knows who to trust, whether the friendly stranger in the seat next to her is truly just a polite businessman – or the man targeting her.

The Widow’s House by Carol Goodman | March 7, 2017
A psychological thriller with a gothic twist that’s being compared to Rebecca. Yep, I am SO there. Hoping to rejuvenate their marriage, a couple moves back to their college town where they’ll step into the caretaker role for a crumbling estate that had belonged to their old writing professor. Clare’s hoping that being back in town will not only bring them closer together, but also kickstart her husband’s writing. Jess had become a literary darling in his 20s when his debut novel became all the rage. Years later he has yet to replicate that initial success and with the advance long gone, Jess needs more than a jolt of inspiration. Soon after moving into Riven House, however, the couple soon realizes things aren’t quite as picturesque as they had appeared. Claire starts to hear a baby crying in the night and begins seeing shadowy figures in the fog. Looking into the town’s history, Clare discovers a dark, menacing past – and Riven House is connected. A ghost story!! I am so excited for this one!

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo | March 14, 2017
Two girls’ lives are changed forever when an armed, masked man walks into a sandwich shop. Though Meredith and Lisa aren’t friends (Lisa is by far the most popular girl in 8th grade), the two find themselves crouched down on the floor together, alternating between comforting each other and being terrified. Then the unthinkable happens: the man orders Lisa to leave with him, leaving Meredith behind to make sense of it all on her own. The older I get the more I begin to identify with parents in novels and I have a feeling Meredith’s mother will hit me hard: she’s overcome with relief that her child is safe, but full of guilt and helplessness over not having been able to protect Meredith and shame at knowing her daughter is safe while another mother is grieving. The blurb states that Meredith copes with Lisa’s abduction “in an unforgettable way” and I’ll admit I’m very intrigued.

The Finishing School by Joanna Goodman | April 11, 2017
A successful writer returns to her elite Swiss boarding school eager to get to the bottom of a tragedy that happened twenty years earlier. In 1998, a beautiful girl plunged from a balcony to her death four floors below. Not wanting a student’s death to have a negative impact on the school (where the Who’s Who of European society send their children), the school covered it up, waving it off as an accident and nothing more. But now Kersti, who never got over her best friend’s death, has the chance to investigate what really happened. Was it suicide? Was her best friend pushed? What happened that night?

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris | June 20, 2017
Remember yesterday when I mentioned how I didn’t even know what Eve Chase’s new novel was about but I wanted it? B.A. Paris wrote the amazing, phenomenal, creepy, haunting, horrifying Behind Closed Doors, a novel I’ve been pushing HARD since it came out in August. You know those novels that are so fantastic you tell everyone? Not just your friends and family, but coworkers, neighbors, the person behind you in the check-out line at the grocery store. Behind Closed Doors was THAT book and I am so, so thrilled that she has a new book coming out! Since the night Cass saw a car accident in the woods she hasn’t been the same. Though there wasn’t anything she could have done – there was a heavy storm, that particular stretch of road is extremely dangerous, the woman in the car was clearly dead – Cass can’t stop thinking about it and soon finds herself forgetting things. First it starts off with small details, forgetting her keys or where she parked the car, but who doesn’t do that? Soon, however, her memory lapses develop into something more: why has been been ordering baby supplies when she doesn’t have a child? Paris is another author who could write a phonebook or a to do list and I would be itching to read it.

The Child by Fiona Barton | June 27, 2017
2017 is going to be the year of amazing follow-up novels. Last February I devoured Fiona’s debut, The Widow, and since then I’ve been hoping and praying for more. The Child sounds excellent: when a house is demolished, a tiny skeleton is discovered, leading a journalist to investigate the story behind the Building Site Baby. What she uncovers is shocking: years ago, a newborn was stolen from a hospital and was never found. Kate soon realizes there’s far more to the story as she tracks down people who once lived in the neighborhood where the skeleton was found. I. Can’t. Wait.

BONUS
Like yesterday, these novels are the upcoming titles that I’m excited for and already own!

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney | January 24, 2017
Holllly. Okay, so I’ve already read this one and my review goes live soon – you do NOT want to miss it! Two women, two years apart and under tragic circumstances, find looking for a place to rent. One Folgate Street seems too good to be true: the rent is EXTREMELY affordable and it’s minimalist style is super sleek and modern. There are rules to follow, however: no photos, no books. When it’s revealed the previous tenant suspiciously died, the current renter looks into it – and uncovers a startling secret. Movie rights have already been purchased and the book isn’t even out yet! I’m hesitant to read books that are hailed as the next Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, etc, but this one was GOOD.

A Death at the Yoga Cafe by Michelle Kelly | January 31, 2017
How do I only have one cozy mystery in this list?? Last year’s Downward Facing Death was a excellent start to Kelly’s Keeley Carpenter series. A woman returns home to the tiny English village where she grew up and turns her father’s butcher shop into a yoga studio and vegetarian cafe! This series has my name written all over it and the first book was great. I’m thrilled to be jumping back into this series!

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens | March 14, 2017
After a bumpy start, I quickly became enamored with Chevy’s work. Her latest novel looks so good. Eleven years ago Lindsey grabbed her daughter and escaped an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband was sent to jail and Lindsey was able to make a new start with her daughter. Now her ex-husband has been released and, though Lindsey severed any ties to him, she can’t help but feel like she’s being watched – especially when her new boyfriend is threatened and someone broke into her home. Though her ex claims to be a changed man, can Lindsey believe him? And if he’s not the one following and threatened her family, who is?

The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur | April 4, 2017
Shortly after Matt and I purchased our first home I received a copy of Karen’s debut, The Secrets of Lake Road, and every time I think of the book I’m instantly flooded with memories of sitting on our new porch and relaxing in the sun while reading. I really enjoyed her first book and am looking forward to jumping into this one! When hundreds of geese mysteriously die overnight in a dam, the media descends on the tiny town of Mountain Springs, Pennsylvania. Linnet owns a bed & breakfast and with tourist season now threatened, her life has suddenly been turned upside-down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the media attention brings her estranged sister back to town and their father is the one sent to investigate the incident. But when a body winds up on Linnet’s property, her father becomes the prime suspect.

I Found You by Lisa Jewell | April 25, 2017
A single mom finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He doesn’t have a name and, despite the wind, doesn’t have a jacket. He doesn’t even have any idea how he came to be sitting there. Against her better judgement, she lets the man into her home. Over in London, Lily is 21 and has been married all of three weeks. When her husband doesn’t return home from work one night she finds herself all alone in a new country – and then the police tell her that her husband doesn’t exist. Ooooh!!!

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda | May 16, 2017
Last year Megan Miranda decided to try her hand at writing an Adult novel with All the Missing Girls. Don’t let me mini review fool you: I could talk about this one for DAYS. The storytelling was so neat (essentially backward, starting with Day 15, reaching Day 1 at the end of the book) and I’ve been anticipating her next novel! Guys, The Perfect Stranger has a main character named Leah. I never see my name in books! As Leah, a journalist, tracks down a missing friend, she discovers that her friend might not have existed.

2017 books I need to get my hands on: historical fiction!

Happy Thursday! I can’t believe tomorrow will be the last of my week-long 2017 books I need to get my hands on! series! Did you miss a day? Monday I highlighted non-fiction, Tuesday was all about sci-fi and fantasy, and yesterday was dedicated to contemporary fiction. I hope I was able to introduce you to a new book or two and if we have the same books on our To Read list, hello new BFF! ♥

I’m beginning to come down with a cold (thanks, Matt!) and to make me feel better I’m going to be talking about my all-time favorite genre: historical fiction.

The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey | February 7, 2017
May 1959, an island off the coast of Ireland where superstitions are alive and well and, though the mountains of the mainland can be seen, the island itself has changed little since its first settlers arrived centuries ago. No electricity, entirely dependent on the sea, there’s not even a harbor – not that many outsiders even know about the place. That is, until the day an American appears, claiming an inherited cottage. But that’s not all Brigid is after. No, she’s also seeking a rumored holy well that can grant miracles. This book is “steeped in Irish history and lore” and I’m giddy!

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham | February 21, 2017
Seventeen-year-old Rowan discovers a skeleton on her family’s property and, in investigating the century-old murder, makes some painful discoveries about the past. Jim Crown South, the 1921 Tulsa race riot, racial tensions that are still prevalent today. Definitely interested in this one!

If I Could Tell You by Elizabeth Wilhide | February 28, 2017
The Nightingale meets Anna Karenina, TELL ME MORE! Julia is living a highly privileged life in England. She has a handsome husband, a young son, a housekeeper, and a very comfortable home. Everything changes when a film crew arrives in town…and she falls in love. Now penniless and cut off from her little boy, Julia is left to travel around war-torn London with her lover as the German invasion looms ever closer. Y’all know I am a HUGE fan of WWII fiction and this one sounds like it would be right up my alley.

The Metropolitans by Carol Goodman | March 14, 2017
This one is being compared to From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and my ears are perked! Four 13-year-olds are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art the day Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. The museum’s curator just so happens to be looking for four brave souls to help track down an ancient Arthurian manuscript – one that could hold the key to preventing a second attack. This one seems to be full of magic and mythology – a total Leah read!

Beyond the Wild River by Sarah Maine | April 18, 2017
If you tell me a book is for fans of Kate Morton and Beatriz Williams (look a little further down in this list!), chances are I will be ALL over it! Set in the 1890s, Beyond the Wild River is about a Scottish heiress who unexpectedly runs into a childhood friend in North America…five years after he disappeared from her family’s estate the night a brutal double murder took place. That high pitched squealing you hear? Yeah, that’s me flailing HARD. As if that wasn’t intriguing enough, this novel also features the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago which was home to H. H. Holmes, America’s first serial killer. It’s like Sarah wrote this book just for me.

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh | May 9, 2017
Yep, that Bonnie. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel – Adult or YA – that was a take on Bonnie and Clyde!

From Duke till Dawn by Eva Leigh | May 30, 2017
After falling in love with historical romance back in October I have been on a huge kick and I don’t think 2017 will be any different! This novel, the first in the London Underground series, is about a duke who fell in love with a woman…only to have her vanish after a passionate night together. As it turns out, the woman wasn’t the destitute widow she claimed to be. She’s a swindler and managing a gambling hall. When she falls victim to her own tricks (her business partner turned and fled, taking all of their earnings), she finds herself seeking help from the man she had once betrayed.

The Scandal of it All by Sophie Jordan | July 25, 2017
The Scandal of it all is the second book in Sophie’s Rogue Files series. The first, While the Duke was Sleeping was one of my VERY few 5-star reads of 2016. I loved it. A lot. And I’m ecstatic that book two is going to be here in a few months! This one features two characters who were in the first book and I’m so excited to see how their story plays out!

The Wildling Sisters by Eve Chase | July 25, 2017
TECHNICALLY these posts were only supposed to cover the first half of 2017 (January – June), BUT I had to make an exception for Sophie and Eve. Eve’s debut, Black Rabbit Hall, was not only my most anticipated read of 2016, but it ended up being my top read of 2016. I loved it SO much. I even dedicated a GoodReads Recommends post to it! Seriously, Black Rabbit Hall is a FANTASTIC book and one I desperately want to reread (my copy has been making the rounds through family and friends). Since finishing I’ve been dying for a new book and Eve has delivered. I didn’t even care what it was about, I knew I was going to read it. As it turns out, The Wildling sisters is about four sisters, an English manor, the summer of 1959, and the dark secret that they share. That heart-eyes emoji is basically me.

BONUS!
Because I love historical fiction so much I wanted to share six more novels – these are ones I already have.

The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams | January 17, 2017
I discovered Beatriz a little late, but oh man I am SO glad I did. 2015’s Along the Infinite Sea was not only my introduction to her work, but it also ended up being my top read of the year. This latest novel bounces between the present day and 1924 – and you all know dual era novels are my favorite. The Jazz Age, speakeasies, bootleggers, and a wealthy Princetonian family. There’s even a hint of something else as, in the present day, Ella is warned to stay away from her apartment building’s basement. Back in the 20s it was a legendary speakeasy and, though it’s been empty for decades, tenants report mysterious noises, clinking of glasses, even a piano.

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner | March 14, 2017
World War Two has finally ended, but the troubles are just beginning for a German ballerina and the daughter of a French resistance spy. The two woman board the RMS Queen Mary along with hundreds of other war brides where they’ll cross the Atlantic and reunite with their husbands in America. Only, when they arrive, one of the women never disembarks. In the present day, a woman visits the supposedly haunted ship and uncovers a 70-year-old tragedy. WWII, mysteries, tragedies, haunted ships. This has my name all over it.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck | March 28, 2017
The end of WWII, a crumbling Bavarian castle, a group of widows of the resistance come together to create a makeshift family. Not much to go on, I know, but several people I know who have already read this one have said it’s absolutely heartbreaking and emotional and I’m looking forward to this tough read.

The One True Love of Alice-Ann by Eva Marie Everson | April 4, 2017
I probably should have made a separate list for the WWII books ha! Alice-Ann is 16 years old in 1941 and is hopelessly in love with her brother’s best friend. Though there’s a five-year gap in their ages, Alice-Ann knows Mack is the man she wants to spend her life with. Then word of Pearl Harbor spreads throughout the country and Mack makes the decision to enlist. For the next three years the two keep up a steady stream of letters and are drawn closer until the day Mack’s letters abruptly stop. Fearing the worst, Alice-Ann eases her worried mind by focusing on filling her days with work and caring for her best friend’s injured brother. But as their friendship deepens, Alice-Ann wonders if she should finally say good-bye to the hope of Mack returning and move on with her life. Another emotional war novel!

The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo | April 25, 2017
Alyssa’s debut novel, last year’s The Violinist of Venice, was our very first #BookClubFix pick and Alyssa has been a regular at our #HistoricalFix chats! She’s an absolute doll and one hell of a writer. The Violinist of Venice was fantastic and I’m thrilled to be able to dive right in to her next one! Florence takes place in 15th century Italy where the Medici family is in full power. Simonetta Cattaneo is a beautiful, educated, talented young woman who draws the attention of some of the most powerful men in the city (including a Medici), but it’s a young painter named Sandro Botticelli who makes her heart race. He invites her to pose for one of his paintings, a painting that will immortalize her: The Birth of Venus. Honestly, Alyssa could write a phone book and I’d be beside myself with delight.

The Book of Summer by Michelle Gable | May 9, 2017
Michelle is also an author #HistoricalFix chatters will recognize! Her first two books, A Paris Apartment and I’ll See You in Paris, were phenomenal and feature real figures and events in history. Her upcoming novel is looking to be magnificent as well: a once grand home on Nantucket has now fallen to ruin, causing Bess to return to the island and finally convince her stubborn mother to pack up and leave. There are secrets Cliff House is holding onto and Bess slowly unravels them. Not to be left out, this book ALSO features WWII! We have another dual era novel here as the perspective switches to Bess’s grandmother, a newlywed just as the war is beginning.

2017 books I need to get my hands on: contemporary!

This week on the blog I’m highlighting the upcoming novels of the first half of 2017 (January – June) that I cannot wait to read. Monday I discussed non-fiction and yesterday I chatted about sci-fi and fantasy. Today I have the contemporary novels that need to be in my life.

Short by Holly Goldberg Sloan | January 31, 2017
Not gonna lie, I’m a sucker for a vibrant, illustrated cover. Middle Grade always brings its A game with cover art and Short is no exception. Julia is performing in her town’s production of The Wizard of Oz and, being short for her age, she’s been cast as a Munchkin. As rehearsals wear on, Julia begins to get to know the rest of the cast: there’s Olive, an adult with dwarfism and Julia’s artsy neighbor Mrs. Chang. This one sounds like it could be really adorable with a message (though Julia is tiny, her heart is big). And I can totally relate to Julia btw – I’m teensy too!

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley | March 7, 2017
“Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult and Jojo Moyes.” Oh hello, novel that will break me! Whenever I stayed home sick from school my morning consisted of daytime talk shows and I’ll never forget one episode of Maury. No, it wasn’t a paternity test show, but an episode that feature a little girl who was allergic to water. WATER. I don’t remember all the details now, but doctors had created a cream (lotion? spray?) that she could put on and it would protect her skin. Close Enough to Touch reminded me of that episode of Maury the moment I first heard about it: Jubilee is allergic to human contact. For the past nine years she’s been holed up inside her house, but now her mother has passed away and with no financial support, Jubilee will need to leave her house and make her way in the world.

The Heartbeat of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber | March 14, 2017
Wing Jones lives in a tiny town that lives for football. Unfortunately, the star on the field is her older brother. He’s athletic, popular, good-looking…basically everything Wing isn’t. Everything changes one night when Marcus drunkenly drives home after a party. Intoxicated, he kills two people and barely makes it out alive himself. Now he’s in a coma and Wing is the one suffering for her brother’s actions: she’s tormented in school, she has to be the support her family needs to get through their grief, and worst of all is that, due to the medical bills they can’t afford, the family could potentially lose their home. Wing begins sneaking out at night to run the track at school and when her talents are realized, Wing has the opportunity to receive a sponsorship from a Big Name athletic company.

Hear the Wolves by Victoria Scott | March 28, 2017
I have never read any of Victoria’s books, but her first Middle Grade novel seems like an excellent place to start! After losing hearing in one ear and with her mom having abandoned the family, Sloan is now terrified to leave the house or be apart from her dad and sister. In an attempt to help her get over her fears, her father has Sloan stay home by herself for an evening she won’t forget. A horrible snowstorm makes it impossible for anyone to get in – or out – of their isolated Alaskan town. What’s worse: the wolves who normally stay away from humans are now without food and have begun making their move. This reminds me of The Quality of Silence, another novel set in Alaska that had me panicking. Not because it was a horror novel, but because of the stillness, the emptiness of the land that stretched on forever.

How to Stage a Catastrophe by Rebecca Donnelly | April 1, 2017
I admittedly don’t know much about this one other than 1, it has another fantastic cover and 2, when Juicebox Children’s Theatre is threatened, a group of kids come together to think of a way to save it. Middle School + drama kids. Yep, I’m there!

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer | April 4, 2017
Brigid wrote the Elemental series and introduced me to those Merrick boys so I will absolutely read anything she writes. A girl copes with her mother’s death by leaving letters at her grave. A boy serving his court-ordered community service at the cemetery comes across one of those letters and writes back. Before either one knows it, Juliet and Declan have formed a connection, writing letters back and forth, all the while unaware they know each other from school.

The Night the Lights Went Out by Karen White | April 11, 2017
Yes, this takes place in Georgia, and yes, I DO sing the song every single time I think about this book. After finally reading one of her novels back in 2015, Karen instantly became an author I will absolutely read. This latest novel centers around a recently-divorced single mom as she makes a new start in Sweet Apple, Georgia. When a local blog uncovers the scandal that caused her marriage to fall apart, Merilee realizes her fresh start isn’t going to be as easy as she had hoped. The crotchety town matriarch sees something in Merilee, however, and takes her under her wing, showing Merilee there’s more to this town than the gated communities and overly-tanned soccer moms let on.

The Original Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig | May 2, 2017
I actually hadn’t heard of this one until it showed up at my door recently. 14-year-old Ginny Moon has finally found her forever home with a family foster kids dream about. So then why is she so desperate to go back to her abusive, drug-addicted birth mother? Ginny is also autistic and that, combined with the foster care and abusive/drugs from her birth mother, are going to make this one tough read. Though it doesn’t come out until May, The Original Ginny Moon has already received a ton of praise, including a blurb from Graeme Simsion!

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert | May 16, 2017
I thought The Coincidence of Coconut Cake was such a fun, fluffy romance and have been eager to read more from Reichert! Sanna is a fifth generation cider-maker who only wants to live a nice, quiet life on the family orchard. After years of keeping his son’s troubled mother away, Isaac decides to pack up and move to California, where he happens to pull up at Sanna’s orchard. I expect this will be another sweet, light-hearted romance!

In a Perfect World by Trish Doller | May 23, 2017
In 2015 I took a gamble at the library and picked up my very first Trish Doller novel, The Devil You Know. I devoured it and instantly became a fan. Her latest novel is about a girl from Ohio who has her summer and senior year planned: Caroline will explore the town with her boyfriend, work over the summer with her bestie, and attend soccer camp where – finger’s crossed – she’ll make team captain in the fall. Then her mother delivers a bombshell: she’s been hired to open a clinic in Cairo. As in Egypt. Suddenly Caroline’s plans are thrown into a tailspin and she’s convinced she’ll be spending the entire year depressed and horribly homesick. But Egypt just might surprise her..

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo
A girl uses kdramas to up her flirtation game. I’m already starry-eyed.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid | June 13, 2017
I’m getting a distinct June vibe here: a classic film actress-now-reclusive Hollywood icon is ready to tell her life’s story. There’s only one reporter she wants to talk to though, and it’s unclear why Evelyn would choose Monique, but she’ll gladly take the opportunity to get her career back on track. I’m all about old school Hollywood and the scandalous truths behind the glitzy ballgowns and lavish parties – whether they’re real or fictional!

2017 books I need to get my hands on: sci-fi/fantasy!

This week reviews are taking a backseat as I flail over the January – June novels that are making me drool. Yesterday was all about non-fiction, as I discussed medical memoirs, badass lady detectives, fabled cities, the Russian Revolution, and more!

Today we’re talking science fiction and fantasy, a genre I used to devour in elementary school and high school, yet seemed to abandon these past few years. To be honest, coming up with this list was a little tricky: sci-fi/fantasy writers love their series. Unfortunately, I tend to come late to the game and am a bit (okay, a lot) behind, so I didn’t feel right mentioning the fifth Queen’s Thief novel, the fourth Gentlemen Bastard novel, the third Shades of Magic novel, the final book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, the upcoming Django Wexler, the latest Memoirs of Lady Trent novel, etc etc. Instead, the books I’ll be highlighting today (thanks to my own laziness) are either brand new series, standalones, or sequels to books I actually did read!

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White | January 17, 2017
I’m starting the list with a book I actually have don’t judge me. I’ve said this SO many times it’s unreal, but despite never having read a single Jane Austen novel (my friend Elizabeth I think has made it her life’s mission to change that ha!) I absolutely love retellings. Heartstone is pitched as Pride & Prejudice with dragons. Um yes please. There’s basically a mythological menagerie at play here: gryphons, direwolves, banshees, the list goes on. They say a Rider in possession of a good blade must be in want of a monster to slay—and Merybourne Manor has plenty of monsters.

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones | February 7, 2017
Last autumn I was invited to read a sneak peek of this one and fell hard. I pestered the poor publicist until I finally got my hands on a full-length copy and am SO ready to dive in. This is a Labyrinth retelling set in 18th century Bavaria, y’all. Do I need to say more?

The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter | February 14, 2017
I love Middle Grade. I love creepy Middle Grade. The Bone Snatcher seems like it would be a wonderful call-back to my early days of discovering Roald Dahl. Sophie Seacove is trapped in a crumbling, decaying mansion and is surrounded by sea monsters and gruesomely haunting people. That’s really all I know about this one, and all I need to know!

Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood | March 21, 2017
A few years ago Caroline Carlson dropped by my local indie to do a book reading/signing and afterwards we got into a big discussion about our favorite Middle Grade authors/books. We both fangirled HARD over Diana Wynne Jones and then Caroline recommended an author I had never heard of: Sage Blackwood. More specifically, the Jinx series. Now she has a new novel – and a standalone at that! – and I couldn’t be more thrilled. When all of the sorceresses in town (including Miss Ellicott) mysteriously disappear one day, Chantel must rescue them and save the Kingdom. There’s a dragon and a crossbow-wielding boy and I am so there.

Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves | March 28, 2017
Admittedly I was a little hesitant to include this one: it sounds like it could either be really fun and entertaining or a typical run-of-the-mill YA fantasy. People are comparing it to Red Queen, which I have yet to read, though it’s been on my To Read list for ages eep! I’m less interested in a society where your blood can either make or break you (in this case, Anna’s blood is defected, leaving her unable to do the simplest of spells and effectively shunning her) and more by the setting (Hungary) and that the story is inspired by Hungarian folklore. Bring it on!

Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel | April 4, 2017
Cheating again! I received a copy of this one last week and am so excited to dive in! Waking Gods is the sequel to last year’s Sleeping Giants, an epistolary novel about massive robots. I’m slowly warming up to epistolary novels and Sleeping Giants certainly helped: the story is told entirely through interview transcripts, camera footage, personal journal logs, etc. I really enjoyed the first novel and have high hopes for its sequel!

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain | April 4, 2017
Another sequel! 2016’s A Murder in Time completely caught me off guard: I honestly wasn’t expecting to like it nearly as much as I did! A rising star at the FBI, the youngest agent to ever be hired, is well on her way to a bright future…until a raid gone bad leaves half her team dead. Wounded herself, she goes rogue, leaving the country and flying to England where she’s determined to track down the man responsible for the death of so many fellow agents. While there, however, things go awry and Kendra finds herself transported back in time, back to 1815. Mistaken for a lady’s maid, Kendra is sucked into the hustle and bustle at Aldrich Castle until a body is discovered. In order to solve the crime, Kendra not only has to convince the men that she’s fully capable of doing so and must figure out how to go about tracking down the murderer without 21th century technology. It was a really fun, intense read and am I so looking forward to jumping back into that world!

Dreamfall by Amy Plum | May 2, 2017
I have never read any of Amy’s books and they seem to be more along the paranormal vein, while this new one is definitely sci-fi. One early reviewer said it was Nightmare on Elm Street meets The Matrix and ummm I’m intrigued. Cata suffers from debilitating insomnia and agrees to take part in an experimental procedure. HOWEVER, when the equipment malfunctions, Cata and six others are plunged into a dream world where their worst nightmares have come to life. The ‘trapped in a dream world where your worst fears come alive’ reminds me of Rhiannon Frater’s Dead Spots, a novel I enjoyed immensely!