Christmas in March!

I’m having just the best week, and I’m here to share the joy (and maybe brag just a little bit). Mostly because I came home to a lovely package with “Penguin Random House” on the side of the box. It’s Christmas in March!

I’m a sucker for giveaways, which I guess just means I love free stuff. Who doesn’t! But I never win, at least until now. I was entered into this particular giveaway after becoming a member of the Penguin Random House Reader Advisory Panel, and much to my surprise, I received this bag stuffed full of new hardcovers!

(Angel was far less excited. “That’s all we need,” he said, “more books.” I guess he does have a point, since we’re moving in September, and I’ve acquired about twice the amount of books since our last move. Yes my love they’re heavy, but still, they’re free! And they look like great reads!)

Here’s what I got:

Cloister by James Carroll – Released March 6.

Father Michael Kavanagh is shocked to see a friend from his seminary days named Runner Malloy at the altar of his humble Inwood community parish. Wondering about their past, he wanders into the medieval haven of The Cloisters, and begins a conversation with a lovely and intriguing museum guide, Rachel Vedette.

Rachel, a scholar of medieval history, has retreated to the quiet of The Cloisters after her harrowing experience as a Jewish woman in France during the Holocaust. She ponders her late father’s greatest intellectual work: a study demonstrating the relationship between the famously discredited monk Peter Abelard and Jewish scholars. Something about Father Kavanagh makes Rachel think he might appreciate her continued studies, and she shares with him the work that cost her father his life.

At the center of these interrelated stories is the classic romance between the great scholar Peter Abelard and his intellectual equal Héloïse. For Rachel, Abelard is the key to understanding her people’s place in intellectual history. For Kavanagh, he is a doorway to understanding the life he might have had outside of the Church. The Cloister is James Carroll at his best.

Two Nights by Kathy Reichs

Meet Sunday Night, a woman with physical and psychological scars, and a killer instinct.

Sunnie has spent years running from her past, burying secrets and building a life in which she needs no one and feels nothing. But a girl has gone missing, lost in the chaos of a bomb explosion, and the family needs Sunnie’s help. Is the girl dead? Did someone take her? If she is out there, why doesn’t she want to be found?

It’s time for Sunnie to face her own demons—because they just might lead her to the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

Into the Fire by Elizabeth Moon – Released February 6

Ky beats sabotage, betrayal, and the unforgiving elements to lead a ragtag group of crash survivors to safety on a remote arctic island. And she cheats death after uncovering secrets someone is hell-bent on protecting. But the worst is far from over when Ky discovers the headquarters of a vast conspiracy against her family and the heart of the planet’s government itself.

With their base of operations breached, the plotters have no choice but to gamble everything on an audacious throw of the dice. Even so, the odds are stacked against Ky. When her official report on the crash and its aftermath goes missing—along with the men and women she rescued—Ky realizes that her mysterious enemies are more powerful and dangerous than she imagined.

Now, targeted by faceless assassins, Ky and her family—along with her fiancé, Rafe—must battle to reclaim the upper hand and unmask the lethal cabal closing in on them with murderous intent.

Enchanted Islands by Allison Amend

Born in Duluth, Minnesota, in 1882 to immigrant parents, Frances Frankowski covets the life of her best friend, Rosalie Mendel, who has everything Fanny could wish for—money, parents who value education, and an effervescent and winning personality. When, at age fifteen, Rosalie decides they should run away to Chicago, Fanny jumps at the chance to escape her unexceptional life. But, within a year, Rosalie commits an unforgivable betrayal, inciting Frances to strike out on her own.

Decades later, the women reconnect in San Francisco and realize how widely their lives have diverged. While Rosalie is a housewife and mother, Frances works as a secretary for the Office of Naval Intelligence. There she is introduced to Ainslie Conway, an intelligence operator ten years her junior. When it’s arranged for Frances and Ainslie to marry and carry out a mission on the Galápagos Islands, the couple’s identities—already hidden from each other—are further buried under their new cover stories. No longer a lonely spinster, Frances is about to begin the most fascinating and intrigue-filled years of her life.

Amid active volcanoes, forbidding wildlife and flora, and unfriendly neighbors, Ainslie and Frances carve out a life for themselves. But the secrets they harbor from their enemies and from each other may be their undoing.

Drawing on the rich history of the early twentieth century and set against a large, colorful canvas, Enchanted Islands boldly examines the complexity of female friendship, the universal pursuit of a place to call home, and the reverberations of secrets we keep from others and from ourselves.

God: A Human History by Reza Aslan

In Zealot, Reza Aslan replaced the staid, well-worn portrayal of Jesus of Nazareth with a startling new image of the man in all his contradictions. In his new book, Aslan takes on a subject even more immense: God, writ large.

In layered prose and with thoughtful, accessible scholarship, Aslan narrates the history of religion as a remarkably cohesive attempt to understand the divine by giving it human traits and emotions. According to Aslan, this innate desire to humanize God is hardwired in our brains, making it a central feature of nearly every religious tradition. As Aslan writes, “Whether we are aware of it or not, and regardless of whether we’re believers or not, what the vast majority of us think about when we think about God is a divine version of ourselves.”

But this projection is not without consequences. We bestow upon God not just all that is good in human nature—our compassion, our thirst for justice—but all that is bad in it: our greed, our bigotry, our penchant for violence. All these qualities inform our religions, cultures, and governments.

More than just a history of our understanding of God, this book is an attempt to get to the root of this humanizing impulse in order to develop a more universal spirituality. Whether you believe in one God, many gods, or no god at all, God: A Human History will challenge the way you think about the divine and its role in our everyday lives.

The House of Unexpected Sisters by Alexander McCall Smith

Precious Ramotswe learns valuable lessons about first impressions and forgiveness in this latest installment of the beloved and best-selling No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are approached by their part-time colleague, Mr. Polopetsi, with a troubling story: a woman, accused of being rude to a valued customer, has been wrongly dismissed from her job at an office furniture store. Never one to let an act of injustice go unanswered, Mma Ramotswe begins to investigate, but soon discovers unexpected information that causes her to reluctantly change her views about the case.

Other surprises await our intrepid proprietress in the course of her inquiries. Mma Ramotswe is puzzled when she happens to hear of a local nurse named Mingie Ramotswe. She thought she knew everybody by the name of Ramotswe, and that they were all related. Who is this mystery lady? Then, she is alerted by Mma Potokwani that an unpleasant figure from her past has recently been spotted in town. Mma Ramotswe does her best to avoid the man, but it seems that he may have returned to Botswana specifically to seek her out. What could he want from her?

With the generosity and good humor that guide all her endeavors, Mma Ramotswe will untangle these questions for herself and for her loved ones, ultimately bringing to light important truths about friendship and family—both the one you’re born with and the one you choose.

Grey by E.L. James

See the world of Fifty Shades of Grey anew through the eyes of Christian Grey.

In Christian’s own words, and through his thoughts, reflections, and dreams, E L James offers a fresh perspective on the love story that has enthralled millions of readers around the world.

Christian Grey exercises control in all things; his world is neat, disciplined, and utterly empty—until the day that Anastasia Steele falls into his office, in a tangle of shapely limbs and tumbling brown hair. He tries to forget her, but instead is swept up in a storm of emotion he cannot comprehend and cannot resist. Unlike any woman he has known before, shy, unworldly Ana seems to see right through him—past the business prodigy and the penthouse lifestyle to Christian’s cold, wounded heart.

Will being with Ana dispel the horrors of his childhood that haunt Christian every night? Or will his dark sexual desires, his compulsion to control, and the self-loathing that fills his soul drive this girl away and destroy the fragile hope she offers him?

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