Kay Vreeland’s 8 Favorite Reads from 2016

img_0001I met Kay Vreeland, a fellow writer and avid reader, through my now-defunct publisher.

Although she didn’t work directly with my books, she helped a number of authors bring their books into the light of day and she served as a fantastic cheerleader for the rest of us. When Kay read my recent blog listing 8 of my favorite books published in 2016, she sent me her own list of 2016 favorites. And that’s when my light bulb went on. I’ve since decided to feature other writers with their favorite reading lists from time to time. So stay tuned. You never know what gem might pop up that you otherwise might have missed. And it’s okay if your to-read list keeps growing. In fact, it’s healthy.

Here’s Kay’s fascinating and eclectic list

Livia Lone – Barry Eisler

Seattle PD sex-crimes detective Livia Lone knows the monsters she hunts. Sold by her Thai parents along with her little sister, Nason, she’s on a mission to find her lost sister. Her lifelong lust for vengeance against child sex traffickers fuels her all the way.

What Kirkus Review (starred) says: Eisler writes sex scenes that are intense and disturbing, and the villains deserve all the pain Livia Lone can inflict. Filled with raw power, this may be the darkest thriller of the year.

What Kay says: Dark and frightening as much of it is, this story is an eye-opener, a wake-up, and an encouragement that a woman can bring down the men who trample women and children.

A quote from the book: But, shit, the bourbon was giving everything that vibe, that great, invulnerable up feeling like he could do anything he wanted take anything he wanted get away with anything he wanted. … And besides, Asian chicks put up with a lot of shit, didn’t they, rather than have to deal with public humiliation.


Precious and Grace – Alexander McCall Smith

Mma Precious Ramostwe and Mma Grace Makutsi get an unusual case requiring both of them to turn their attention to the past and use the healing power of compassion, honesty, and new beginnings.

What the Washington Times says: Very few authors can write about forgiveness and do it with grace. Smith writes with a philosophy infused with gentleness, whether it is about an orphaned dog or a woman who is brought to realize that there is still happiness in bitter memories.

What Kay says: I had forgotten how happy Precious and Grace make me.

Quote from the book: Then there was the man in the Vehicle Licensing Department who invariably clapped his hands with delight when Mma Ramotswe came in to attend to business on behalf of Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, and who would shout out. “My favorite lady has just come into the office! Oh, this is a very happy day for the Vehicle Licensing Department!”


unknown-13The Trespasser – Tana French

Their new case looks like yet another by-the-numbers lovers’ quarrel gone bad. … Is this case another step in the campaign to force her off the squad, or are there darker currents flowing beneath its polished surface?

What the Guardian says: [Detective Antoinette] Conway is an enjoyably complex companion, both bruisingly misanthropic – “If he’s not our guy, he’s such a godawful damp weenie, the kind who needs regular slaps across the back of the head just to keep him from vanishing up his own hole” – and so in love with her job it almost makes you want to give it a try.

What Kay says: The plot is a thoughtful one, resting on moral choices and the nature of leadership. Loved it.

Quote from the book: No one needs a relationship. What you need is the basic cop-on to figure that out, in the face of all the media bullshit screaming that you’re nothing on your own and you’re a dangerous freak if you disagree. The truth is, if you don’t exist without someone else, you don’t exist at all.


No Witness but the Moon – Suzanne Chazin

A tense stand-off between a Hispanic police officer and an undocumented immigrant leads to the shooting death of one, the shattered life of the other, and the shocking connection between them. . . .

What Publishers Weekly (starred review) says: Given the nation’s current turmoil over police shootings, Chazin’s exceptionally well-written third Jimmy Vega mystery should be required reading, as it provides profound insight into the shock, horror, and chaos of such a shooting.

What Kay says: The lives of undocumented immigrants is the big draw for me in Chazin’s novels, and this one goes further with links to Jimmy Vega’s own mother’s brutal, unsolved murder.

A quote from the book: “People from La Casa are already calling me,” Adele said to him. “They’re saying they heard that the police shot a Central American dishwasher in Wickford.”


unknown-11Miss Jane – Brad Watson

Inspired by the true story of the author’s own great-aunt, Jane was born in rural, early-20th-century Mississippi with a genital birth defect. Free to satisfy only herself, she mesmerizes those around her, exerting an unearthly fascination that lives beyond her.

What Kirkus Reviews says: If the novel has a flaw, it’s a lack of traditional drama. Jane approaches life with quiet determination, so her acceptance of her own limitations ultimately becomes a strength and not a weakness.

What Kay says: This is one of those punch-you-in-the gut stories of a woman who is given a particularly horrendous female disability and lives with grace, love and flair in spite of it.

A quote from the book: All things of this nature, apparently unrelated – torrential storm, the burst of salty liquid from a plump and ice-cold raw oyster, the soft skins of wild mushrooms, the quick and violent death of a chicken, the tight and unopened bud of a flower blossom, a pack of wild scruffy dogs a-trot in a field, the thrum of fishing line against the attack of a bream, and peeling away from the delicate frame of its bones from the sweet white meat of its body, a smooth and hard oval nutshell rolled in a palm, the somehow palpable feel of fading light – were in some way sexual for Jane.


unknown-12Britt-Marie Was Here – Frederik Backman

It’s a heartwarming and hilarious story of a reluctant outsider who transforms Borg, a tiny village, and of a woman who finds love and second chances in the unlikeliest of places.

What Paste Monthly says: Backman eschews the “everybody wins” sentimentality that undermines …  [his novel] A Man Called Ove…. He stays true enough to Borg’s bitter economic realities and latent violence to make any hard-won victories feel earned, rather than wishfully imposed. The result is that Britt-Marie Was Here is Backman’s truest, most satisfying book to date.

What Kay says: Bad-tempered, at the end of her rope with her nasty husband, Britt-Marie cleans up her life by taking off and going to live in a hollowed-out town. Her creation of new life all around her, in the midst of baking soda, is a great deal of fun.

A quote from the book: Yet it’s there, flung down there on the map halfway between the lower left corner and its center and next to it is written, “You are here.” Sometimes it’s easier to go on living, not even knowing who you are, when at least you know precisely where you are while you go on not knowing.


unknown-13Glitch Rain – Alex Livingston

Akuba makes a minimal living in the high-stakes world of international cybercrime scrubbing the social feeds for faces who don’t want to be seen.

What Bookworm Blues says: I absolutely love cyberpunk. I also love diversity and strong female protagonists with fluid morals. This book had it all.

What Kay says: Cyberpunk beyond my best dreams … first since Neuromancer and Snow Crash to capture me! Immersed me in the hard, shiny words of the cyberworld, like in a very good movie.

A quote from the book: The city of Baotou looks nothing like the adverganda images. Akuba’s only ever seen the occasional shot of gleaming buildings and blue skies as she does her daily scroll, usually labeled with click-bait hyperbole.



unknown-14To the Bright Edge of the World – Eowyn Ivey

Set in 1885 in the wilds of Alaska, this is a breathtaking story of discovery and adventure, and of a marriage tested by a closely held secret. Man’s trek to discovery, woman’s trek to learn photography and her own body = new perspectives!

What the Washington Post says:  “To the Bright Edge of the World” is a moving, surprising story. … The colonel is, mostly, patient, forward-thinking and resourceful. Sophie is a plucky feminist with a sense of humor.

What Kay says: This is a novel about a place. About the people of the place. And it is magnificent. Every word.

A quote from the book: That is excitement. We catch only glimpses, a burst of movement, a flap of wings, yet it is life itself beating at shadow’s edge. It is the unfolding of potential; all of what we might experience and see and learn awaits us.


* * * * *

Kay, a long-time professor in Japan, now lives in the Puget Sound area and does Author Promotion Coaching, Social Media for Book Sales and Web Content Management. She also does volunteer work and serves on the boards of a large social club, the local time bank, and EPIC Writers Group in Edmonds. Questions about what a hesitant-marketer coach can do for you? Email sophiecay9@gmail.com and ask!


***If you’d like to participate in “8 Favorite Reads” please send me a note. Happy reading!***


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