The Marriage Game: A Novel of Queen Elizabeth I

Like fine wine, author Alison Weir is better with age. Or maybe it’s just taken this long to forgive her interpretation of Elizabeth I’s early years. The more Tudor historical fiction one reads the more one is apt to forgive the glossing over of certain persons and events, as well as the concept of artistic license. Still, it would be safe to say that this novel is Weir’s crowning achievement as she flawlessly manages to both realistically and sympathetically portray Elizabeth’s endless sidesteps and intricate machinations in avoiding “the married state.” Her Elizabeth is vibrant, and at times the words seem to leap from the page, to the effect that you find yourself feeling sorry for William Cecil – among others who bore the brunt of her frustrations. Her infamous affair with Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, also makes up a large portion of the novel and I found Weir’s handling of their complex relationship to be well balanced and true to the spirits of both parties.

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Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Edogawa Rampo has been called the Edgar Allan Poe of Japan, and with good reason. Each of the nine stories in this collection offers the reader a unique level of creepy discomfort with endings that still manage to surprise. “The Caterpillar” tells of a bitter wife trapped caring for her husband, a war veteran and quadruple amputee, while “The Human Chair” features a young author who is increasingly disturbed while reading the manuscript sent to her by a fan.
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The Splendid Things We Planned

If you have an interest in memoirs about addicts, alcoholics, the mentally ill, or anyone who is just generally self-destructive, this book has it all!  In Splendid Things, author Blake Bailey, known for his biographies of John Cheever and Richard Yates, tells the story of his own family.  While Bailey is truly open and honest in his depiction of both his own chaotic life and that of his parents; his father Burck, a lawyer from Oklahoma and his narcissistic, German born mother Marlies,  the memoir primarily focuses around his brother Scott, an undiagnosed, mentally ill addict and alcoholic.
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Loitering

I’m not going to pretend to be an aficionado of essays, but I know a well-curated collection when I see one, fiction or otherwise. This new essay collection by short story writer and essayist Charles D’Ambrosio is dark, disarming, occasionally funny and honestly not what I expected from a collection of essays.
Karen Continue reading

When It Happens to You

Don’t judge this book by its author, Molly Ringwald, an actress who reached stardom in the 80’s. You will find it is a terrifically captivating book in and of itself. And any skepticism concerning Ringwald as a writer will quickly vanish. Writing the novella as intermingling short stories really added to the genius of the work.
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The Sisters Brothers

The best thing about book clubs is they introduce you to books you would never pick up yourself.  Such is the case with The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt.  This novel is a literary western, set against the backdrop of the California Gold Rush of the 1850’s.  It follows the story of Eli and Charlie Sisters who are on a mission to kill a man.
Maggie Continue reading