First up was Mary-Rose MacColl's In Falling Snow, set at the Royaumont field hospital in France during WWI and in 1970s Australia. I wrote up my thoughts for the Historical Novels Review and will post them here later.
Next was Lynn Shepherd's A Treacherous Likeness, a twisting literary mystery in which London private detective Charles Maddox is asked by Sir Percy Shelley, son of the poet, and his wife Jane to investigate a case of blackmail. This sets him into looking closely at members of the Shelley Circle and into his own family history. The plot held my attention to the end, and the author was very clever in inserting her mystery into known events. All the same, I found some revelations historically unconvincing and the depiction of one real-life character ethically troubling.
Third was Barbara Davis' The Secrets She Carried, a family saga/mystery in which secrets (as you can guess from the title) from a small town in 1930s North Carolina emerge in the present day. Just my type of thing. This was a Kindle purchase; I hadn't requested a review copy for the HNR since I hadn't known the historical component was so prevalent, but since it was, I decided I should review it.
Finally, and to mark the halfway point in my TBR Pile Challenge, I read Lisa See's Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. By far it was my favorite choice out of the five I've read so far. It's the type of book that left me feeling somewhat dazed after I finished because I was so immersed in the story of Lily, her laotong bond of friendship with Snow Flower, and the author's consummate re-creation of the inner lives, relationships, and rituals of women in their remote province of 19th-century China. It's easy to see why it was a bestseller and book club favorite. See has taken a place and time that very few outsiders know and made it not only accessible but movingly real.
Now I'm on to a fifth book in five days, Victoria Patterson's The Peerless Four, about the Canadian women's track and field team in the 1928 Olympic Games, and hope to have a review up soon.
Some other news updates:
I learned some sad news via Facebook recently. T.D. (Tim) Griggs, who contributed a guest post here in April ("The Boer War: Britain's Vietnam"), passed away suddenly in October. Tim was the author of numerous works of fiction, most recently Distant Thunder, set in India, Britain, and the Sudan during Victorian times. He had won a book in my giveaway for Small Press Month and, in the course of our correspondence, kindly offered to write a post for my site. My sympathies to his wife and family.
I've been debating whether to commemorate Small Press Month again next March. If I do, I'll include some reviews of non-small press books during that time because removing an entire month from my blog schedule created a backlog, but I'm unsure how much effort to put into it otherwise. Any thoughts?
On this topic, one of my more popular small press giveaways was for Sarah Kennedy's The Altarpiece, about a nun living through Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries; the author contributed a guest post in May. Her book came out in paperback ($14.00) in October.
Finally, since I've gotten questions about this here and elsewhere on social media – I did send a note to the Library of Congress via their website comment form about the "Puritan maiden's diary," with a citation and link to Mary Beth Norton's article. It may be a little while until it reaches the right person and gets investigated by their staff, but I've found LC quick to respond to questions and comments in other instances and am hopeful that will be the case here too.