Monday, 27 February 2017

Love Thy Belly: A Mindfulness Practice

Via Eileen Daley
on Jul 24, 2016
Eleazar Fuentes/Flickr elephant's newsletter

I remember walking past my mirror and catching sight of it. It stared back at me, and after gazing at it for quite some time, it began to resemble a face.

Yep, my belly looked like a face. My top two rolls resembled two closed eyes, and the bottom looked like a smile; the belly-button, a nose.
There was my belly, smiling at me. I glared back at it with resentment. As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a stomach. (No way, you have a stomach?!) Okay, I mean a protruding, “pudgy” stomach. One with rolls that are thick and squishy and not big fans of crunches or sit-ups. One with skin folds that refuse to disappear, no matter how much I’ve begged and pleaded, or pushup-ed and burpee-d my way through fitness classes.
For years and years, my belly was my enemy. I never accepted my weight, either. I was so stuck on what healthy “should” look like, never once considering what healthy might feel like to me. I struggled greatly with my image and constantly worried about how others perceived me. “If I could just have a flat stomach, my problems would be solved! Why can’t I look like so and so, and have a smaller stomach like her?!”
My belly was the bane of my existence. My body image was incredibly skewed.
But I continued to view it the same way. Day after day, I let my middle control my emotions, thoughts, and feelings as though it were a separate entity from my body. Often, I wanted to escape it. As though my body weren’t whole. As though I wasn’t normal. This led to a harmful cycle of constantly waiting for a new beginning. I was always waiting for the “next day” to eat healthier, to view my body differently, to start over. I was proficient at starting over. I internally battled with the external image of my body, not fully understanding how interrelated the two actually are.
I remember walking aimlessly around New York City, silently screaming on the corner of Hudson and West 11thstreet, pleading for some kind of connection with others. I felt hopeless and desperate because I couldn’t better my body image, let alone come to some kind of compromise with meal times-and my rising abdomen. I truly felt like food was my open wound, incapable of being healed. My belly: the Band-Aid that wouldn’t stick.
It was around that time when I ventured over to a yoga class and began to practice again. I hadn’t in years. My interest in wanting to better my body image took me from Asana practice to exploring meditation and mindfulness, to reading up on inspirational authors and speakers like Pema Chödrön, Liz Gilbert, and the Dalai Lama. I decided to take one of Chödrön’s courses online and I heard her say this

“We are equally hooked by pleasant or unpleasant [experiences]. Continually caught in the [cycle] of hope and fear. When you notice you’re hooked, go beyond hope and fear, pleasure and pain, and choose a fresh alternative. 
Then say to yourself, over and over again, even shout it out loud until you believe it: I think that what I know is true, but I will entertain that it is fiction.”
Boom. When I heard her say this aloud, bells went off in my mind, pianos played, angels sang, champagne bottles popped, and my belly rumbled. So this means I don’t have to think about my stomach the way that I always do? There’s another option? A fresh alternative? What?!
Yes. Yes, indeed. By viewing my body through the lens of a beginner’s mind, I’d be able to choose a fresh alternative to the same self-deprecating ways I’d always perceived my body. This allowed for the spaciousness to view my midriff as something different, and in a non-judgmental way. Also, in doing so, I am not escaping how I feel about my belly, but rather, I am choosing to be aware of what is there, and not judge it.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, says that “Our minds are full of our expertise, but it leaves us without any realm for new possibilities.” Instead of staying enemies with our “hated” body part, why not choose a fresh alternative and shake hands with it? Be curious about it? Explore it? Maybe even befriend it?
Since listening to Chödrön’s brilliant talk, I’ve developed a daily mindfulness practice that has allowed my stomach to feel recognized and met in a way that it has not otherwise experienced. This has benefited my body image in tremendous ways and been profoundly healing for my psyche!

Here is a “Body Awareness Practice” that has greatly helped me in my journey with self-love:

Close your eyes, or soften your gaze, looking down the tip of your nose. Think about an area of your body that you tend to want to change, one that you’ve heard yourself say is a “problem area.”
Take three deep breaths at your own pace, and then bring your awareness to that portion of your body. If it is available to you, place one hand on that area, and send your breath there. Allow the breath to flow naturally without controlling it.
Think about how that part of your body physically feels. Focusing on the physical sensation of that body part, versus your judgements (opinions) about it.
Do you notice a slight change in temperature beneath your hand, on the chosen area? Are there any sensations of feeling beneath the skin? Do you notice the muscles or bones that lie there? Can you feel your breath moving through that part of the body? Notice what is there to notice, without judgement, being interested, curious, and drawing yourself into the experience of exploring your body part without putting a label on it (skinny/fat/strong/weak).
Now take three deep breaths at your own pace. Notice the breath moving through the chosen area of focus.
Repeat to yourself three times: “I believe that what I know is true, but I will entertain that it is fiction.”

Relephant Read: 

The Healing Potential of Ashtanga Yoga.

Author: Eileen Daley
Image: Eleazar Fuentes/Flickr
Apprentice Editor: Tess Drudy; Editor: Emily Bartran

Auntie Crae’s Plantation Chews

Prep time
Cook time
Total time
These flourless cookies look quite innocent but they are anything but! Crunchy and chewy at the same time with an irresistible caramel flavour. It is impossible to eat just one.
Recipe type: Cookies
Serves: Makes 2½ to 3 dozen
  • ½ cup margarine
  • 2 ¼ cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups cornflakes, NOT crushed
  • 1 ¼ cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 ½ cups walnut crumbs
  1. Cream margarine and sugar until very fluffy.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  3. Add dry ingredients and beat on high speed in mixer for 12 - 14 minutes. Scrape bowl often.
  4. Scoop out cookies (a little smaller than a ping pong ball) and place on cookie sheet that is either Teflon coated or lined with parchment paper. Parchment (silicone) paper is your best choice. Do not grease pan.
  5. Flatten cookies with finger tips that are slightly moistened. The moisture will prevent your fingers from sticking to dough as you flatten the cookie dough.
  6. Bake at about 350 F for 6 minutes. Rotate pan (front to back) to distribute heat and then bake a further 6 minutes. Remove from oven and leave on pan until stiff enough to handle. They will be very soft when they first come out of the oven.
  7. You may need to alter the baking time and temperature of your oven if you do not get a satisfactory result. No two ovens bake the same, even if you have clones.
I have used salted butter successfully in place of the margarine.
A gluten free version is possible if you use gluten free corn flakes.
Finely ground pecans instead of walnuts are also excellent in this recipe.

Cleaning and dogs


Yield: about 17 cookies

Deliciously soft, thick, and chewy chocolate cookies infused with coffee and studded with chocolate chunks. No chilling required!

1 and 3/4 cups (218g) plain/all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (25g) cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cornflour/cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup (100g) caster/granulated sugar
1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar
1 large egg
4 tablespoons instant coffee granules
1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup (175g) chocolate chips, or chunks (and some extra for topping)


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4, and line a baking tray with parchment paper, or a silicone mat. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cornflour, salt, and 2 tablespoons of instant coffee granules. Set aside.
Whisk together the butter and sugars until combined. Add the egg, and mix until combined. Dissolve the remaining 2 tablespoons of instant coffee granules in 1 tablespoon of hot water, then add to the wet ingredients, and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Roll the dough into 1.5oz balls, about 17 balls, place on the prepared baking tray, and press the extra chocolate chips on top. Bake for 10 - 12 minutes. Do not over-bake. Allow to cool on the baking tray for 5 - 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.


Cookies stay fresh covered at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Cookie dough balls can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Bake from frozen for an extra minute.

Milk Chocolate Fudge
Milk Chocolate Fudge
  • 3 cups Milk Chocolate chips (you can use semi sweet also)
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 ounce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 to 1 cup pecans (or other favorite nut)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

  1. Line an 8 or 9 inch square pan with foil. Butter foil and set aside.
  2. In a medium heavy saucepan, melt chocolate chips with milk and salt. Once creamy and smooth, remove from heat, add in vanilla and nuts.
  3. Pour into prepared pan, Chill in refrigerator for 3-4 hours before cutting into squares. For best freshness store in air tight container in refrigerator.

Ophelia's Flowers

Shakespeare used flowers to symbolically illustrate his ideas. In the play The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, we are introduced to Ophelia. Hamlet has killed Ophelia's father, and she expresses her grief through the symbolism of flowers.
In her seemingly mad state of mind (Act IV, Scene V), Ophelia passed out various flowers, which indirectly communicated her intent to the King and court.
The key to the following passage is important not only for the deeper, symbolic meaning of the flowers, but their message to the recipients:
"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
love, remember, and there is pansies. That's for thoughts […]. There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue
for you; and here's some for me: we may call it
herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with
a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you
some violets, but they withered all when my father died."
Here are the meanings of Ophelia's flowers:
Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis): "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance," a reminder to remember and be faithful. Ophelia gave rosemary to her brother, Laretes, to remind him to remember what happened to their father and discover who killed him.
Pansy (Viola tricolor): "And there is pansies, that's for thoughts," a symbol of thoughtfulness and faithfulness. Given to Laretes, referring back to his earlier thoughts on Hamlet's love for Ophelia.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare): "There's fennel for you," a symbol of flattery. This Ophelia gave to Claudius as an emblem of the flattery and deceit shown to politicians.
Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris): "... and columbines," representing folly, forsaken lovers and adultery. She gave this symbol of ingratitude and infidelity in love to the king.
Rue (Ruta graveolens): "There's rue for you," a bitter herb that symbolizes sorrow, repentance, adultery and everlasting suffering. Gertrude, the queen receives some, and Ophelia takes some for herself.
English Daisy (Bellis perenis): "There's a daisy," symbolizing innocence. Here, the daisy represents the loss of innocence, for Ophelia puts it back.
Sweet Violet (Viola odorata): "I would give you some violets," a symbol of faithfulness and fidelity, and connected to death. Ophelia addresses the king and queen's faithfulness and integrity with this flower.
We can better appreciate Ophelia's courage and story when we see how important flower symbolism is in the play.
References include Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers and Jessica Kerr's Shakespeare's Flowers.
[Image: Ophelia (1889) by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). This work is in the public domain.]

The Smart Witch

Words of Wisdom: Time
“The saddest thing is to be a minute to someone,
when you've made them your eternity.”
- Sanober Khan
[Image: The art of Lauri Blank. Visit this talented artist at:]


Found on another blog......

Alexander says:
A story told by some Native American peoples is that the Great Spirit decided to divide
the worlds of animals and man.
He gathered all the living beings on a great plain and drew a line in the dirt.
On one side of the line stood man and on the other side stood all of the animals of the earth.
When that line began to open up into a great canyon and at the last moment before
it became too great to cross, the dog jumped over and stood by man.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

24 profoundly beautiful words that describe nature and landscapes

Words about nature
CC BY 2.0 Dan Cook/Flickr
From aquabob to zawn, writer Robert Macfarlane's collection of unusual, achingly poetic words for nature creates a lexicon we all can learn from.
Eight years ago, nature writer extraordinaire Robert Macfarlane discovered that the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary was missing a few things. Oxford University Press confirmed that indeed, a list of words had been removed; words that the publisher felt were no longer relevant to a modern-day childhood. So goodbye to acorn, adder, ash, and beech. Farewell to bluebell, buttercup, catkin, and conker. Adios cowslip, cygnet, dandelion, fern, hazel, and heather. And no more heron, ivy, kingfisher, lark, mistletoe, nectar, newt, otter, pasture and willow. And in their place came the new kids on the block, words like blog, broadband, bullet-point, celebrity, chatroom, committee, cut-and-paste, MP3 player and voice-mail.
Woe is the world of words.
But inspired by the culling and in combination with a lifetime of collecting terms about place, Macfarlane set out to counter the trend by creating a glossary of his own.
“We lack a Terra Britannica, as it were: a gathering of terms for the land and its weathers,” he recently wrote in a beautiful essay in The Guardian, “– terms used by crofters, fishermen, farmers, sailors, scientists, miners, climbers, soldiers, shepherds, poets, walkers and unrecorded others for whom particularised ways of describing place have been vital to everyday practice and perception.”
And thus his book, Landmarks, was born. A field guide of sorts to the language of nature – an ode to the places afforded to us by Mother Nature – which includes thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather.
The words came from dozens of languages, he explains, dialects, sub-dialects and specialist vocabularies: from Unst to the Lizard, from Pembrokeshire to Norfolk; from Norn and Old English, Anglo-Romani, Cornish, Welsh, Irish, Gaelic, Orcadian, Shetlandic and Doric, and numerous regional versions of English, through to Jérriais, the dialect of Norman still spoken on the island of Jersey.
“I have long been fascinated by the relations of language and landscape – by the power of strong style and single words to shape our senses of place,” he writes. Of the thousands of wonderful words included in the book, here are some that warranted mention in Macfarlane’s essay.
Afèith: A Gaelic word describing a fine vein-like watercourse running through peat, often dry in the summer.
Ammil: A Devon term for the thin film of ice that lacquers all leaves, twigs and grass blades when a freeze follows a partial thaw, and that in sunlight can cause a whole landscape to glitter.
Aquabob: A variant English term for icicle in Kent.
Arête: A sharp-edged mountain ridge, often between two glacier-carved corries.
Caochan: Gaelic for a slender moor-stream obscured by vegetation such that it is virtually hidden from sight.
Clinkerbell: A variant English term for icicle in Hampshire.
Crizzle: Northamptonshire dialect verb for the freezing of water that evokes the sound of a natural activity too slow for human hearing to detect.
Daggler: Another variant English term for icicle in Hampshire.
Eit: In Gaelic, a word that refers to the practice of placing quartz stones in streams so that they sparkle in moonlight and thereby attract salmon in the late summer and autumn.
Feadan: A Gaelic word describing a small stream running from a moorland loch.
Goldfoil: Coined by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, describing a sky lit by lightning in “zigzag dints and creasings.”
Honeyfur: A five-year-old girl’s creation to describe the soft seeds of grasses pinched between fingertips.
Ickle: A variant English term for icicle in Yorkshire.
Landskein: A term coined by a painter in the Western Isles referring to the braid of blue horizon lines on a hazy day.
Pirr: A Shetlandic word meaning a light breath of wind, such as will make a cat’s paw on the water.
Rionnach maoimmeans: A Gaelic word referring to the shadows cast on the moorland by clouds moving across the sky on a bright and windy day.
Shivelight: A word created by poet Gerard Manley Hopkins for the lances of sunshine that pierce the canopy of a wood.
Shuckle: A variant English term for icicle in Cumbria.
Smeuse: An English dialect noun for the gap in the base of a hedge made by the regular passage of a small animal.
Tankle: A variant English term for icicle in Durham.
Teine biorach: A Gaelic term meaning the flame or will-o’-the-wisp that runs on top of heather when the moor burns during the summer.
Ungive: In Northamptonshire and East Anglia, to thaw.
Zawn: A Cornish term for a wave-smashed chasm in a cliff.
Zwer: The onomatopoeic term for the sound made by a covey of partridges taking flight.
"There are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation, and of which words offer only a distant echo. Nature will not name itself. Granite doesn’t self-identify as igneous. Light has no grammar. Language is always late for its subject," Macfarlane says. "But we are and always have been name-callers, christeners."
"Words are grained into our landscapes," he adds, "and landscapes grained into our words."

15 New Historical Fiction Reads Your Book Club Will Love

Posted on February 23, 2017 by 
If your book club is looking for something new and exciting to read this spring, we’ve collected some of the best recent and forthcoming historical fiction novels for you to choose from. These books have all the depth and drama that make for engrossing book club discussions — plus they’re simply beautiful reads. Check them out below, complete with publishers’ descriptions.

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
Profoundly moving and gracefully told, Pachinko follows one Korean family through the generations, beginning in early 1900s Korea with Sunja, the prized daughter of a poor yet proud family, whose unplanned pregnancy threatens to shame them. Betrayed by her wealthy lover, Sunja finds unexpected salvation when a young tubercular minister offers to marry her and bring her to Japan to start a new life.
So begins a sweeping saga of exceptional people in exile from a homeland they never knew and caught in the indifferent arc of history. In Japan, Sunja’s family members endure harsh discrimination, catastrophes, and poverty, yet they also encounter great joy as they pursue their passions and rise to meet the challenges this new home presents. Through desperate struggles and hard-won triumphs, they are bound together by deep roots as their family faces enduring questions of faith, family, and identity.

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov

The Patriots by Sana Krasikov
When the Great Depression hits, Florence Fein leaves Brooklyn College for what appears to be a plum job in Moscow — and the promise of love and independence. But once in Russia, she quickly becomes entangled in a country she can’t escape. Many years later, Florence’s son, Julian, will make the opposite journey, immigrating back to the United States. His work in the oil industry takes him on frequent visits to Moscow, and when he learns that Florence’s KGB file has been opened, he arranges a business trip to uncover the truth about his mother, and to convince his son, Lenny, who is trying to make his fortune in the new Russia, to return home. What he discovers is both chilling and heartbreaking: an untold story of what happened to a generation of Americans abandoned by their country.
The Patriots is a riveting evocation of the Cold War years, told with brilliant insight and extraordinary skill. Alternating between Florence’s and Julian’s perspectives, it is at once a mother-son story and a tale of two countries bound in a dialectic dance; a love story and a spy story; both a grand, old-fashioned epic and a contemporary novel of ideas. Through the history of one family moving back and forth between continents over three generations, The Patriots is a poignant tale of the power of love, the rewards and risks of friendship, and the secrets parents and children keep from one another.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive — and to reunite.
It is the spring of 1939 and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.
As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent, while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.
A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports readers from the jazz clubs of Paris to Kraków’s most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the 20th century’s darkest moment, the human spirit can find a way to survive, and even triumph.

 Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the smash bestseller Orphan Train, a stunning and atmospheric novel of friendship, passion, and art, inspired by Andrew Wyeth’s mysterious and iconic painting Christina’s World.
“Later he told me that he’d been afraid to show me the painting. He thought I wouldn’t like the way he portrayed me: dragging myself across the field, fingers clutching dirt, my legs twisted behind. The arid moonscape of wheatgrass and timothy. That dilapidated house in the distance, looming up like a secret that won’t stay hidden.”
To Christina Olson, the entire world was her family’s remote farm in the small coastal town of Cushing, Maine. Born in the home her family had lived in for generations, and increasingly incapacitated by illness, Christina seemed destined for a small life. Instead, for more than twenty years, she was host and inspiration for the artist Andrew Wyeth, and became the subject of one of the best known American paintings of the 20th century.
As she did in her beloved smash bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that illuminates a little-known part of America’s history. Bringing into focus the flesh-and-blood woman behind the portrait, she vividly imagines the life of a woman with a complicated relationship to her family and her past, and a special bond with one of our greatest modern artists.
Told in evocative and lucid prose, A Piece of the World is a story about the burdens and blessings of family history, and how artist and muse can come together to forge a new and timeless legacy.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved 11-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.
From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state — called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo — a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo
 is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky

The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky
One very special work of art — a Chaim Soutine painting — will connect the lives and fates of two different women, generations apart, in this enthralling and transporting debut novel that moves from World War II Vienna to contemporary Los Angeles.
It is 1939 in Vienna, and as the specter of war darkens Europe, Rose Zimmer’s parents are desperate. Unable to get out of Austria, they manage to secure passage for their young daughter on a kindertransport, and send her to live with strangers in England.
Six years later, the war finally over, a grief-stricken Rose attempts to build a life for herself. Alone in London, devastated, she cannot help but try to search out one piece of her childhood: the Chaim Soutine painting her mother had cherished.
Many years later, the painting finds its way to America. In modern-day Los Angeles, Lizzie Goldstein has returned home for her father’s funeral. Newly single and unsure of her path, she also carries a burden of guilt that cannot be displaced. Years ago, as a teenager, Lizzie threw a party at her father’s house with unexpected but far-reaching consequences. The Soutine painting that she loved and had provided lasting comfort to her after her own mother had died was stolen, and has never been recovered.
This painting will bring Lizzie and Rose together and ignite an unexpected friendship, eventually revealing long-held secrets that hold painful truths. Spanning decades and unfolding in crystalline, atmospheric prose, The Fortunate Ones is a haunting story of longing, devastation, and forgiveness, and a deep examination of the bonds and desires that map our private histories.

Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese
From the dawn of the 20th century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.
In the dazzling glitter of 1900 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer — young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish — meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.
Nearly 40 years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria — and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family — and their history — alive.
Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?
Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun (Christina Baker Kline, #1 New York Times bestselling author), Stolen Beauty intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair, and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and above all, to endure.

The Evening Road by Laird Hunt

The Evening Road by Laird Hunt
Meet Ottie Lee Henshaw, a startling, challenging beauty in small-town Indiana. Quick of mind, she navigates a stifling marriage, a lecherous boss, and on one day in the summer of 1930 an odyssey across the countryside to witness a dark and fearful celebration.
Meet Calla Destry, a determined young woman desperate to escape the violence of her town and to find the lover who has promised her a new life.
On this day, the countryside of Jim Crow-era Indiana is no place for either. It is a world populated by frenzied demagogues and crazed revelers, by marauding vigilantes and grim fish suppers, by possessed blood hounds and, finally, by the Ku Klux Klan itself. Reminiscent of the works of Louise Erdrich, Edward P. Jones, and Marilynne Robinson, The Evening Road is the story of two remarkable women on the move through an America riven by fear and hatred, and eager to flee the secrets they have left behind.

The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

The Illusionist's Apprentice by Kristy Cambron
Harry Houdni’s one-time apprentice holds fantastic secrets about the greatest illusionist in the world. But someone wants to claim them… or silence her before she can reveal them on her own.
Boston, 1926. Jenny “Wren” Lockhart is a bold eccentric — even for a female vaudevillian. As notorious for her inherited wealth and gentleman’s dress as she is for her unsavory upbringing in the back halls of a vaudeville theater, Wren lives in a world that challenges all manner of conventions.
In the months following Houdini’s death, Wren is drawn into a web of mystery surrounding a spiritualist by the name of Horace Stapleton, a man defamed by Houdini’s ardent debunking of fraudulent mystics in the years leading up to his death. But in a public illusion that goes terribly wrong, one man is dead and another stands charged with his murder. Though he’s known as one of her teacher’s greatest critics, Wren must decide to become the one thing she never wanted to be: Stapleton’s defender.
Forced to team up with the newly formed FBI, Wren races against time and an unknown enemy, all to prove the innocence of a hated man. In a world of illusion, of the vaudeville halls that showcase the flamboyant and the strange, Wren’s carefully constructed world threatens to collapse around her. Layered with mystery, illusion, and the artistry of the Jazz Age’s bygone vaudeville era, The Illusionist’s Apprentice is a journey through love and loss and the underpinnings of faith on each life’s stage.
Release date: March 7

Confessions of a Young Nero by Margaret George

The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George
Built on the backs of those who fell before it, Julius Caesar’s imperial dynasty is only as strong as the next person who seeks to control it. In the Roman Empire no one is safe from the sting of betrayal: man, woman — or child.
As a boy, Nero’s royal heritage becomes a threat to his very life, first when the mad emperor Caligula tries to drown him, then when his great aunt attempts to secure her own son’s inheritance. Faced with shocking acts of treachery, young Nero is dealt a harsh lesson: It is better to be cruel than dead.
While Nero idealizes the artistic and athletic principles of Greece, his very survival rests on his ability to navigate the sea of vipers that is Rome. The most lethal of all is his own mother, a cold-blooded woman whose singular goal is to control the empire. With cunning and poison, the obstacles fall one by one. But as Agrippina’s machinations earn her son a title he is both tempted and terrified to assume, Nero’s determination to escape her thrall will shape him into the man he was fated to become — an Emperor who became legendary.
With impeccable research and captivating prose, The Confessions of Young Nero is the story of a boy’s ruthless ascension to the throne. Detailing his journey from innocent youth to infamous ruler, it is an epic tale of the lengths to which man will go in the ultimate quest for power and survival.
Release date: March 7

In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant

In the Name of the Family by Sarah Dunant
Bestselling novelist Sarah Dunant has long been drawn to the high drama of Renaissance Italy: power, passion, beauty, brutality, and the ties of blood. With In the Name of the Family, she offers a thrilling exploration of the House of Borgia’s final years, in the company of a young diplomat named Niccolò Machiavelli.
It is 1502 and Rodrigo Borgia, a self-confessed womanizer and master of political corruption, is now on the papal throne as Alexander VI. His daughter Lucrezia, aged 22 — already three times married and a pawn in her father’s plans — is discovering her own power. And then there is his son Cesare Borgia, brilliant, ruthless, and increasingly unstable; it is his relationship with Machiavelli that gives the Florentine diplomat a master class in the dark arts of power and politics. What Machiavelli learns will go on to inform his great work of modern politics, The Prince. But while the pope rails against old age and his son’s increasingly erratic behavior, it is Lucrezia who must navigate the treacherous court of Urbino, her new home, and another challenging marriage to create her own place in history.
Sarah Dunant again employs her remarkable gifts as a storyteller to bring to life the passionate men and women of the Borgia family, as well as the ever-compelling figure of Machiavelli, through whom the reader will experience one of the most fascinating — and doomed — dynasties of all time.
Release date: March 7

Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin

Minds of Winter by Ed O'Loughlin
In a journey shrouded in mystery and intrigue, Sir John Franklin’s 1845 campaign in search of the Northwest Passage ended in tragedy. All 129 men were lost to the ice, and nothing from the expedition was retrieved, including two rare and valuable Greenwich chronometers. When one of the chronometers appears a century and a half later in London, in pristine condition and crudely disguised as a Victorian carriage clock, new questions arise about what really happened on that expedition — and the fates of the men involved.
When Nelson Nilsson, an aimless drifter from Alberta, finds himself in Canada’s Northern Territories in search of his brother, he meets Fay Morgan by chance. Fay has just arrived from London, hoping to find answers to her burning questions about her past. When they discover that their questions about their pasts and present are inextricably linked, the two will become unlikely partners as they unravel a mystery that traverses continents and centuries.
In a narrative that crosses time and space, O’Loughlin delves deep into the history of Franklin’s expedition through the eyes of the explorers themselves, addressing questions that have intrigued historians and readers for centuries. What motivated these men to strike out on dangerous campaigns in search of the unknown? What was at stake for them, and for those they left behind? And when things went wrong — things that couldn’t be shared — what would they do to protect themselves and their discoveries?
Release date: March 7

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See
A thrilling new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa See explores the lives of a Chinese mother and her daughter who has been adopted by an American couple.
Li-yan and her family align their lives around the seasons and the farming of tea. There is ritual and routine, and it has been ever thus for generations. Then one day a jeep appears at the village gate — the first automobile any of them have seen — and a stranger arrives.
In this remote Yunnan village, the stranger finds the rare tea he has been seeking and a reticent Akha people. In her biggest seller, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, See introduced the Yao people to her readers. Here she shares the customs of another Chinese ethnic minority, the Akha, whose world will soon change. Li-yan, one of the few educated girls on her mountain, translates for the stranger and is among the first to reject the rules that have shaped her existence. When she has a baby outside of wedlock, rather than stand by tradition, she wraps her daughter in a blanket, with a tea cake hidden in her swaddling, and abandons her in the nearest city.
After mother and daughter have gone their separate ways, Li-yan slowly emerges from the security and insularity of her village to encounter modern life while Haley grows up a privileged and well-loved California girl. Despite Haley’s happy home life, she wonders about her origins; and Li-yan longs for her lost daughter. They both search for and find answers in the tea that has shaped their family’s destiny for generations.
A powerful story about a family, separated by circumstances, culture, and distance, Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane paints an unforgettable portrait of a little known region and its people and celebrates the bond that connects mothers and daughters.
Release date: March 21

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck
Three women, haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.
Set at the end of World War II, in a crumbling Bavarian castle that once played host to all of German high society, a powerful and propulsive story of three widows whose lives and fates become intertwined — an affecting, shocking, and ultimately redemptive novel from the author of the New York Times Notable Book The Hazards of Good Breeding.
Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once-grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resister murdered in the failed July 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows.
First Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and naive Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resister’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war.
As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war — each with their own unique share of challenges.
Written with the devastating emotional power of The NightingaleSarah’s Key, and The Light Between Oceans, Jessica Shattuck’s evocative and utterly enthralling novel offers a fresh perspective on one of the most tumultuous periods in history. Combining piercing social insight and vivid historical atmosphere, The Women in the Castle is a dramatic yet nuanced portrait of war and its repercussions that explores what it means to survive, love, and, ultimately, to forgive in the wake of unimaginable hardship.
Release date: March 28

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve

The Stars Are Fire by Anita Shreve
In October 1947, after a summer long drought, fires break out all along the Maine coast from Bar Harbor to Kittery and are soon racing out of control from town to village. Five months pregnant, Grace Holland is left alone to protect her two toddlers when her husband, Gene, joins the volunteer firefighters. Along with her best friend, Rosie, and Rosie’s two young children, Grace watches helplessly as their houses burn to the ground, the flames finally forcing them all into the ocean as a last resort. The women spend the night frantically protecting their children, and in the morning find their lives forever changed: homeless, penniless, awaiting news of their husbands’ fate, and left to face an uncertain future in a town that no longer exists. In the midst of this devastating loss, Grace discovers glorious new freedoms — joys and triumphs she could never have expected her narrow life with Gene could contain — and her spirit soars. And then the unthinkable happens — and Grace’s bravery is tested as never before.
Release date: April 18