Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
The author of Strange the Dreamer (and if you have not read this book yet, drop what you're doing and read it - truly stunning in style, character, and plot line), wrote a trilogy a few years ago that I am finally reading. Where has it been all my life?! If you like YA fantasy filled with magical beings (ie chimera), complicated characters (badass teens, monsters, and a few seraphim thrown in), and seriously complex and fascinating plot lines, this series is for you. In the first book, we meet Karou, a young woman who lives in Prague and attends art school with her best friend, Zuzana (don't judge - it's Czech). Karou has been raised by chimaera and knows nothing of her past life, which is revealed to her after falling in love with Akiva, a seraphim come to Earth. I know, sounds crazy, right? Yet Taylor is a master storyteller, unwinding the secrets of the past and present through beautiful language and thoughtful development of her characters. I cruised through this entire trilogy in a week's time. If you've never explored fantasy, give this one a shot - it is an incredible escape from the nastiness of the real world.
French Bistro by Nina George
Did you read and love The Little Paris Bookshop, George's first big American hit? If so, pick this one up also; if not, you still need to pick up this book. Set in Brittany, France, this is the story of Marianne, a sixty-year old woman whose life needs a directional change. Following a botched suicide attempt, Marianne literally runs away, leaving behind her German husband, an autocrat with whom she has spent forty loveless years. When asked why she was in Kerdruc, Marianne replies "I was on a quest for death...then life intervened." Thanks to the kismet of a little painted tile, we meet the quirky characters of the small Breton seaside town of Kerdruc: the white witch of the forest who battles dementia, the beautiful young waitress and cook who refuse to acknowledge their mutual love, the man who tangos his wife back into his arms, the hotelier with a desperate lost love, and an artist who can see deep into Marianne's soul. This is a beautifully told tale of love lost, found, forgotten, and forsaken, asking the question "Does love have to be earned through suffering?" No one dies, there is no dark mystery, nor stomach-churning tension. Instead, this book touched my soul, leaving me feeling bereft of my book friends as I turned the last page. The Little French Bistro will leave you with your heart full.
The Thirst by Jo Nesbo
If you like dark mysteries, filled with smart but conflicted police, sadistic and brilliant killers, and cynical yet humorous forensic scientists and reporters, and you still haven't discovered Jo Nesbo, where have you been?? Nesbo's Norwegian mystery series starring Harry Hole (pronounced Ho-lay) began a good ten years ago, with The Bat. I, however, did not discover him until book #7, The Snowman. The brilliant thing about this series is that you really don't have to read them in order; they all stand on their own. Admittedly, I do like to see how the characters grow, change, and yes, even die off. Harry started out as an idealistic young policeman in the first book, and I have watched him go through the most terrible physical and psychological traumas known to man. And yes, he always wins. The latest is a great mind-bender involving two creepy killers, a new journalist with her claws deep into her police source, a young naive detective who wants to emulate Harry, and the insidious draw that serial killers have to pull Harry Hole back into detective work. It is a serious page turner, un-put-down-able until literally the last page. Dive into this Norwegian mystery series - you won't be disappointed.
Reviews reposted with permission from Laurie's Lit Picks.