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You Dreamed of Empires by Álvaro Enrigue

A wildly imaginative tale of the clash between the Spanish, as represented by Cortes and the American natives, led by Moctezuma. Bloody and violent, this depiction of a tragic historic encounter is enlightening, if grim.

Hard by a Great Forest by Leo Vardiashvili

This dark novel set in post-Soviet Georgia by a native of that region now living in the UK speaks with Russian soulfulness of loss and atonement, both recurring themes in the history of this contentious and deeply spiritual people. It is finely written and richly adorned with detail which makes the whole a compelling and engrossing read.

Harbor Lights by James Lee Burke

Short stories and a novella from one of the finest living writers of American literature, these grim and gritty tales are propelled by a doomed sense of honor, dignity and justice that always leads to tragedy in the service of truth and right.

The Bullet Swallower by Elizabeth Gonzalez James

A fictionalized family history rife with violence and vengeance, but with ultimate justice and the redemptive qualities of kindness and forgiveness. The finely written and swiftly moving narrative will maintain the reader’s interest throughout. A fine book with greater meaning.

The Fair Folk by Su Bristow

Rife with British historical fairy lore but laden with imagination creating a tale that feels fresh and new, the reader will find the story of Fliss, a young English country girl swept up in a fantastic world that offers both glamour and danger to be compelling and charming.

Cahokia Jazz by Francis Spufford

Described as “hothouse jazz noir” by Joe Hill, this complex and fascinating speculative historic mystery is a compelling read that will be difficult to put down. Plenty of meat here, plus an amusement-park ride through alternative culture.

The Curse of Pietro Houdini by Derek B. Miller

The battle of Montecassino is the backdrop for this tale of art theft, wartime violence and human connections, even of kindness and justice. A true page-turner for lovers of historical fiction spiced with details of art, architecture and culture.

Once Upon a Tome by Oliver Darkshire

An unlooked-for career in antiquarian and rare bookselling brings all sorts of adventures and misadventures in the dusty, musty world of old books and the eccentric types who populate the bookselling trade. Fully engaging and enchanting, highly literary in tone and subject.

The Waters by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Set in the Great Massasuaga Swamp of northern Michigan this tale of five women who are both at odds with each other and inextricably bonded by family blood is a compelling read that will satisfy readers of literary fiction and women’s issues as well as contemporary social problems.

Two by Patrick Rothfuss

I’m going to do something I never (very, very rarely, anyway) do. I’ll talk about books that are already published, sometimes years ago.