Happy New Year! It’s that time of year that we all make resolutions we hope we can keep. Among other resolutions, I am committed to listening more and celebrating small as well as larger successes in the lives of all I love and admire.

Speaking of Successes . . .

What a thrill to see a review of Hardland in the Arizona Daily Star on New Year’s Day.

“Sweeney demonstrates a deft hand for rendering a compelling character (who) never surrenders to victimhood. Ruby Fortune has grit and is refreshing in her authenticity. Authentic is the key word here: in the fictitious town of Jericho, just north of Tucson, the desert heat shimmers, the air is redolent of creosote, and history is alive. This is a book to get lost in.” — Arizona Daily Star

Publishing Update

I’m doing a month-long writing intensive from Jan. 15-Feb. 15 to work on my fourth novel, Irish. The big news is I’ve signed a contract for Fall 2024 release with my publisher, She Writes Press. Look for teasers in upcoming newsletters and wish me luck as I write my great-grandmother’s story.

Contest Winner

Congratulations to Tiffany Van Tine for winning a gift card to her favorite independent bookstore near Cheney, Washington for providing her top reads of 2022. Many of you wrote in with your favorite reads; here’s a short list of more than 50 titles that readers recommended.

  • The Tobacco Wives, by Adele Meyers
  • Millicent Glen’s Last Wish, by Tori Whitaker
  • The Ways We Hide, by Kristina McMorris
  • Cradles of the Reich, by Jennifer Coburn
  • Guiding Emily, by Barbara Hinske
  • The Riddle, by J. Robert Kennedy
  • These Women, by Ivy Pochoda
  • Tides, by Sarah Freeman
  • Blow Your House Down, by Gina Frangello
  • Woolgathering, by Patti Smith
  • Horse, by Geraldine Brooks
  • Distant Skies, by Melissa Chapman
  • Forbidden City, by Vanessa Hua
  • The Angel of Rome, by Jess Walter
  • Dinners with Ruth, by Nina Totenberg
  • Of Women and Salt, by Gabriela Garcia
  • Black Cake, by Charmaine Wilkerson
  • The Bright Side Sanctuary for Animals, by Becky Mandelbaum

My Favorite Read of 2022

History of the Rain, by Niall Williams

Bedbound in her attic room beneath the falling rain, in the margin between this world and the next, Plain Ruth Swain is in search of her father, Virgil. To find him, enfolded in the mystery of ancestors, Ruthie must first trace the jutting jaw lines, narrow faces, and gleamy skin of the Swains from the restless Reverend Swain, her great-grandfather, to her grandfather Abraham, and finally to Virgil, through wild, rain-sodden history, exploits in pole-vaulting and salmon-fishing, poetry, and the 3,958 books piled high beneath the skylights in her room. Her funny, meandering narrative sings, moves, and irrevocably inspires.

This lovely book by Irish author Niall Williams made me laugh and cry and, most importantly, think. Williams has the ability to transport readers to Ireland and plop them down in the room where it’s happening. So intimate. I’ve read his haunting and beautiful Four Letters of Love and have This is Happiness on my bookshelf. I can’t recommend his works highly enough.

In Closing

Like the adage, “So Many Books, So Little Time,” I love curated lists from authors and readers I admire to winnow down the list of my next reads. These books are up for me this next month:

  •  Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookshop, by Matthew Sullivan
  • Other Birds, by Sarah Addison Allen
  • Foster, by Claire Keegan
  • Beasts of the Earth, by James Wade

Until then, Happy Reading!