On My Wishlist is a fun weekly event hosted by Book Chick City and runs every Saturday. It's where I list all the books I desperately want but haven't actually bought yet. They can be old, new or forthcoming.
Mitchell James Kaplan - By Fire, By Water
Book Blurb: Kaplan, a screenwriter, sets his debut novel in 15-century Spain, amid the Inquisition, the attempt to unify the kingdoms of Spain under Christian rule, and the voyage of Christopher Columbus to what the seaman expects will be the Indies. The action centers on the historical figure of Luis de Santángel, chancellor to the king of Aragon and a converso, a Jewish convert to Christianity at a time when the Inquisition sought to repress judaizing. Santángel is friend and financier of Columbus, surviving parent of young Gabriel, and more curious than is prudent about his Jewish heritage. While he learns about Judaism in clandestine meetings, a parallel story unfolds, centering on Judith Migdal, a beautiful Jewish woman who learns to become a silversmith in Granada, located in the last part of Spain under Muslim rule. Santángel's attraction to Judith grows, even as the Inquisition closes in and the prospect of another world to the West tantalizes. Kaplan has done remarkable homework on the period and crafted a convincing and complex figure in Santángel in what is a naturally cinematic narrative and a fine debut.
Nerys Jones - Godiva
Book Blurb: The setting is Britain, 1045. The Normans are circling, waiting their turn to pounce on the English throne and wrest it away from the Anglo-Saxon barons who grudgingly support King Edward the Confessor, the childless, half-Norman "Virgin King." The royal court is a hotbed of rumor and political intrigue, and everything hinges on the succession. Godiva, wife of Lovric, Earl of Mercia, one of the most powerful barons—and a major landowner in her own right—is drawn into the court machinations. When Edward manipulates their son into a treasonable act and makes him a pawn in his power play, Godiva's ferocious maternal instincts rise to the fore. As the courtly scheming undermines Godiva's hitherto solid marriage and drives her to despair and confusion, the stage is set for a story so powerful its impact has survived for a thousand years. This tale of an independent, resourceful, and intelligent noblewoman tested to the limits of her endurance illuminates one of the great myths of British history.
Julie Carobini - Chocolate Beach
Book Blurb Brianna Stone has an idyllic life. She lives in a comfortable beach home in Ventura, Calif., with her handsome, loving husband, Douglas, and improbably mature 13-year-old son, Nathan. She loves her part-time job leading coastal bus tours and has a lifelong best friend with whom she can talk about everything while eating brownies on the beach. Unfortunately, first-time author Carobini never quite manages to give Brianna any real problems, and, as such, this novel's plot is wispy. Perplexingly, despite her happiness and groundedness, Brianna decides one day, based purely on the comments of an unpleasant acquaintance, that her life might need a makeover. She fears, for reasons that never actually compel the reader, that her husband is bored and wants a more stylish home and wife. While Carobini's descriptions of events and characters are often witty and engaging, the series of misunderstandings that she substitutes for actual problems give the novel a contrived feel. Interestingly, Brianna does have some underlying issues, including a difficult childhood and infertility, but these go largely unexplored. Brianna and most of the people in her life are Christians, and at the end, Brianna realizes many of her problems stem from having neglected God. While this superficiality may disappoint some readers, those looking for a light, occasionally witty beach read may find that it hits the spot.
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