5. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker. I wish I knew where I saw a recommendation for this book. It's YA, I genre I really tend to avoid. But the story intrigued me so much I had to read it and once I started I couldn't put it down. This is the story of Julia, an 11-12 year-old girl who writes about the year the Earth's rotation began to slow down. The earth's 24 hour rotation slows to over 72 hours by the end of the book. The magnetic fields of the earth have shifted, people's circadian rhythms are disturbed, and the world slowly begins to die. Be warned, this is not a book with a sudden miraculous happy ending. Julia, already a lonely only child, finds ways to cope with the changes around her. She's resilient and determined to move forward. This first novel by Walker is compelling and emotional. Thank you to whoever mentioned it online. I'm so glad I read this.
4. Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey. This dystopian story is set on earth at an unspecified point in the future. The earth's surface has become uninhabitable and all that's left is a small group of people living in a silo that goes deep into the earth. Life is strictly regimented; the penalty for disobedience is being sent outside (with a piece of wool) to scrub the camera lens that is the sole window to the outside world. This book is actually the collection of six stories that Howey originally self-published. This is a fascinating look at what happens when a small group of people within the silo question the established order. It takes awhile for Howey to begin to reveal the secrets of the silo. The first of the six books is very short and tragic. I'm glad I persisted, though, as the world-building was complex and interesting. This was a long book that I read as we drove home from Oregon, across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, etc., etc. The Omnibus ends on a much more optimistic note than the first book does and leaves lots of room for future books set in the silo. I will be watching for them.
3. Carolina Home by Virginia Kantra. I really liked Kantra's Children of the Sea series, even though I shy away from paranormal stuff most of the time these days. So I was quite happy to pick up the first book in a new contemporary series called Dare Island. The series revolves around three siblings and the small coastal island off North Carolina. Matt is the oldest sibling, the one who never left. He has a teen-aged son and an aversion to commitment. Into his life comes Allison Carter, a teacher with a passion for kids and a desire to find a small community where she can put down roots. Matt is determined to resist Allison, but when events prove overwhelming for his family, he needs help. It's Allison who is there for him and his family. I liked that Kantra wrote a heroine who was vocal and steadfast about what she wanted out of life. This is a solidly-written family, small-town story that does not get overly sentimental and I found it very emotionally satisfying. I'm really looking forward to the other two books to come. Kantra has a backlist I also need to tackle.
2. Ravishing the Heiress by Sherry Thomas. I was not crazy about the first entry in Thomas' new Fitzhugh trilogy, although there were parts I liked very much. The set-up to RTH had me eagerly anticipating this book and it was everything I hoped it would be. I would describe this as a combination of a marriage of convenience story and a friends to lovers story. I totally understood the characters' motivations and their choices made sense for who they were. I was emotionally invested from the first page and read this practically non-stop. Millie is an heiress who agrees to marry the desperate Lord Fitzhugh. He needs money to restore his estate and make sure all the people working there are not left destitute. Fitz is giving up the woman he loves and had planned to marry in order to do the right thing by his family and dependents. Millie is practical and pragmatic. Even so, she falls in love with Fitz immediately and becomes his partner in every sense except sexually. I love the steps they take toward one another, especially as Fitz realizes how much Millie has come to mean to him over the years of their celibate marriage. Beautifully written, I loved every word.
1. A Scandalous Scot by Karen Ranney. Ranney's latest was a real winner for me, mostly because of the way she made this improbable romance between an Earl and a housemaid plausible. I admit to having a huge bias in favor of Ranney's books, which probably helps explain why I rated this my favorite of the month. So take this with a grain of salt! Morgan MacCraig has returned to his ancestral home after a long absence. His political career, which had meant so much to him, is permanently in tatters because he chose to divorce his adulterous wife. He's at loose ends at Ballindair Castle, which does little more than remind of him of all the ways he believes he has disappointed his late father. Jean MacDonald, and her sister Catriona, are employed as maids in the castle, thanks to their aunt, the housekeeper. The MacDonald sisters had been raised in gentility in Inverness, but lost their home, also to scandal. Jean embraces her role as a servant and is fascinated by her new home and the potential for ghosts. Jean and Morgan have a handful of late-night encounters and eventually they are caught in a compromising position, forcing them to marry. I loved the way the dialogue was written between these two. I loved the character arcs, especially Morgan's. He has to get over the life he left behind in London and pay attention what needs doing at Ballindair. Jean needs to trust Morgan's love for her with the truth of her background. I was not so fond of Catriona or Morgan's friend Andrew. I think they made interesting foils for Jean and Morgan, but were not essential to the story. Still, I really liked this historical that had a slightly different twist on the consequence of scandal.