Mary L. Doyle

I never turn down a chance to spread the word about good books. And 2017 was an especially busy reading year since I had to take any and every opportunity to escape from the reality of 2017 … if you know what I mean.

Some of the best I read this year were, Dinner at the Center of the Earth, by Nathan Englander, In Farleigh Field, by Rhys Bowen, A Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon and Janet Oakley’s expertly researched historical thriller, The Jossing Affair.

Andria told us to give her our top three books of this year. An impossible task! (Sorry! Just trying to impose order with my iron fist –Editor) So, I’m going to cheat and give you my top three picks, in no particular order, which all happen to be part of a larger series.

Scorch Series – I loved every single book in Toby Neal and Emily Kimmelman’s post-apocalyptic romance series, Scorch. All SIX books, yes six of them, are smart, well written, edge-of-your-seat thrillers that are also deeply moving love stories, each featuring one brother of the Luciano family. Trust me, it’s the kind of romance series you won’t be embarrassed to read.

I helped the authors as a military advisor on the books, so I can vouch for Neal and Kimmelman’s efforts for authenticity. Since the stories are told from different points of view in each chapter, Neal and Kimmelman split the work, each of them writing either the male or female POV depending on the book. I’d never witnessed this kind of author collaboration before and hadn’t expected it to be as successful as it turned out. These are delicious stories. Try not to gobble them all in one sitting.

The Fatal Flame – Also in my top three is another example of expertly researched historical fiction. Lyndsay Faye’s, The Fatal Flame, is the third book in Faye’s Timothy Wilde series. Wilde is a man of small stature with a hideously burned face he earned on the night both of his parents and hundreds of others were killed in a fire. The tough as nails, New York City Copper, navigates the 1840s city while displaying a soft spot for misfits and strays. The most dangerous misfit in his life is his firefighting brother, Valentine, who bloodies his knuckles in Tammany Hall brawls for the right to put out fires and save lives.

Valentine is a massive, handsome and charming, gay man who decides to run for office against a corrupt wealthy patron. Valentine is a larger than life character in this story of expertly drawn, three dimensional people you won’t want to leave when the pages are done.

The Fatal Flame is the third and final book in this series. Sometime next year, I’ll read all three of them, The Gods of Gotham, Seven for a Secret and The Fatal Flame, in a row. I think I’ll save them for a long holiday weekend or a beach vacation.

The Fifth Season- My final pick is The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, the first book in the Hugo Award Winning Broken Earth series. I’ve not read the other two books in the series, The Stone Sky and The Obelisk Gate, but I look forward to digging into them.

Jemisin starting winning awards for her fiction with her very first book and has collected a pile of them since. She’s known in the fantasy writing business for her rich world building that, not only draws place and characters and intricate plots but also culture, religion, political systems and language and it all feels naturally organic.

In The Broken Earth series, children born with the dangerous ability of Orogeny are murdered by their parents or killed by mobs if their capability to drive their will into the earth to shake the world apart is discovered. If orogenes survive discovery, they are sent to the Flucrum where they are trained to use their gifts to stop the shakes that plague the earth.

Jemisin tells the non-linear story from multiple viewpoints, all of them unique and unforgettable. She populates her world with exotically and wildly different characters, some with black skin, nappy hair, long twists, some are pirates and some are Guardians who are to be feared. I can’t wait to read the next two books in the series to see how it all shakes out … pun intended.

doyle3M.L. Doyle has served the U.S. Army both in uniform and as a civilian at home and abroad for more than 20 years. A native Minnesotan, she currntly lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the co-author of two memoirs, including I’m Still Standing: From Captive Soldier to free citizen—my journey home (2010, Touchstone) which chronicles the story of Shoshana Johnson, a member of the 507th Maintenance Company who was captured during an ambush and held prisoner in the early days of the Iraq War. The book was nominated for a 2011 NAACP Image Award in the literary category for best Autobiography/biography.

In addition to the Sergeant Harper mystery series (reviewed here on your Mil Spouse Book Review), Doyle’s other fiction includes an erotica series, Limited Partnerships, and a fantasy called The Bonding Spell, which, intriguingly, is about a woman who has an ancient Sumerian goddess living in her mind. Mary is an editor for The Wrath-Bearing Tree.

 You can learn more about M.L. Doyle on, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and read excerpts of all of her work on her humorous and entertaining web site: An interview between Doyle and Time Now’s Peter Molin can be found in 0-Dark-Thirty.

Abby E. Murray

This year, Sarah Sentilles’ Draw Your Weapons knocked me on my ass– I already reviewed it here on the Mil Spouse Book Review.


Some books I love, recent and otherwise, military related and otherwise:

Helen Phillips’ And Yet They Were Happy. The bright yellow cover with a quaint burning house on it drew me to this years ago and I was hooked by her deft hand at flash fiction.


Matthew Zapruder’s Why Poetry. When you teach writing, it’s damn near impossible to avoid what’s political. So I don’t. I brought this in to my class a month ago and it was immensely helpful, particularly the chapter on three political poems. Re-examining the relationship between writer, words and reader is never a bad idea.


Daniela Gioseffi’s anthology Women on War: An International Anthology of Writings from Antiquity to Present. I started reading this after talking with someone about how few women are represented in war-related anthologies, even those edited or co-edited by women. It’s multi-genre too, which I appreciate.


Gary Copeland Lilley’s The Bushman’s Medicine Show. I got this book after meeting Gary and read it on my back porch in October before it got cold. These poems sound good. They feel good.


abbyAbby E. Murray teaches creative writing at the University of Washington Tacoma, where she offers free poetry workshops to soldiers and military families, serves as editor in chief for Collateral, a journal that publishes work focused on the impact of military service, and teaches poetry workshops at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Her poems can be found in recent or forthcoming issues of Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Stone Canoe, and the Rise Up Review. She lives near Tacoma and writes often about what it means to resist when your spouse is a soldier.


Terri Barnes

For books to give at Christmas, I recommend two life stories, one fictional and completely believable; the other absolutely true yet almost beyond belief. Each book is a summons to live life completely, to answer one’s calling—not in spite of difficult circumstances but because of them.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles A young Russian count, Alexander Rostov, is sentenced to house arrest in the attic of a luxury hotel in the heart of Moscow for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, the unfolding story is about freedom, love, principles, and “the difference between being resigned to a situation and being reconciled to it.” Towles weaves his story with Russian history, diplomatic intrigue, and devotion. His storytelling is so skillful that even the well-worn phrase “Round up the usual suspects” has new significance. An easy read, but not a guilty pleasure.


Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas, is another story of principle and lost freedom. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian turned spy, spent years urging resistance, both spiritual and political, to Hitler and the Nazis. This detailed biography reveals why Bonhoeffer finally joined a plot to save the country he loved from the leader who would destroy it. Even though the denouement is a foregone conclusion, and though the author delves into centuries of German history—in 600 plus pages, readers will not find a dull one. They will feel anger and sorrow as Hitler incrementally dismantles the freedoms of the German people, strangling the press, the church, the Jewish people. As Dietrich and his co-conspirators decide there is only one recourse against tyranny, they will turn pages eagerly, hoping for success, forgetting there was none. To the last page, the strength of Bonhoeffer’s character, faith, and intellect challenge the reader to act on belief and principle.


Count Rostov will inspire readers to be kind and generous. Bonhoeffer will urge them to action. Two reasons books are the best Christmas gift.

Only at the cost of self-deception can they keep their private blamelessness clean from the stains of responsible action in the world. In all that they do, what they fail to do will not let them rest. –Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Terri_BarnesTerri Barnes is a third-generation military wife and mother of three. She is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life and senior editor at Elva Resa Publishing, an independent publisher of books for military families.