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Books We Loved, Apr. 2016


Anjali Mitter Duva, Faint Promise of Rain (She Writes Press, 2014)

A rare rainstorm greets the birth of a girl into the family of the dancing master who serves Lord Krishna’s temple in Rajasthan, northwest India, in 1554. This child’s fate unfolds in an atmosphere of political, social, and religious conflict as the Mughal emperor Akbar expands his power into the region, and both she and the dance are changed by the experience. But the real beauty of this book lies in its complex and believable characters, its richly detailed descriptions, and its insights into both the dancer and her art. Free interview with the author on the New Books Network.—CPL

Weina Dai Randel, The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon (Sourcebooks, 2016)

Wonderfully realized two-part story about the only woman in Chinese history to rule as empress in her own name. Wu Mei (Wu Zetian) has been much maligned by Confucian scholars who believed women should keep their place (in the background), but she founded a dynasty, improved her subjects’ lives, and survived the politics of a court so cutthroat that by comparison everyone else’s nobles look like sweet little lambs. Free interview on the New Books Network.—CPL

Elizabeth Chadwick, The Winter Crown (Sourcebooks Landmark, 2015)

The union of Alienor of Aquitaine and King Henry II was not a marriage made in heaven. A ferocious and independent woman, qualities perhaps uncharacteristic of her time, she gave as good as she got from her husband, a powerfully devious and intemperate English king. Their tumultuous life and the twelfth-century tableau surrounding it drew me immediately.—GG

Charlie Maclean, Unforgettable (Amazon Digital Services, 2015)

Unforgettable is an appealing story about the different paths a life can take when a split-second decision is made. The story of Alex, both with and without Julia, is funny and poignant, dark and relatable, and suggests that there just might be more truth to the idea of destiny than we think.—CJH

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