Good Reads - Fiction
Banis, V.J. - This Splendid Earth - 1978,
It's 1830 France and Anne has just wed the
older Jean, Baron de Brussac in an arranged marriage.
the handsome guardsman, Emile, and knowing this, Jean drags
her from Paris (and Emile) to his wine country estate.
As the years pass, the couple learns to become vintners
as well as lovers. When tragedy strikes, Anne and her son
flee to California with little money hoping the cuttings
from their vines will renew their future. Romance and danger
flow through this saga and on to its two sequels, The
Earth and All It Holds and San Antone.
Binchy, Maeve - Light a Penny Candle - 1982,
It is wartime in London; ten-year-old Elizabeth
is sent to her mother's school chum in Ireland. Eileen and
Sean O'Connor have a ten-year-old girl as well as
three other children. The two girls become close friends
even though their backgrounds and upbringings are wildly
different. Their lives over the decades, their passions,
marriages, tragedies, and triumphs...evoke magically and
poignantly the ever-wondrous process of human growth and
change. Ireland and London, from the forties to the sixties,
are lived by the reader as well as by the characters as
they celebrate ordinary life. These are sharply drawn,
memorable characters one can care about. Absorbing, entertaining
Bushnell, O.A. - Molokai - 1963, 539p.
The novel takes place
on the island of Molokai in the late 1800's. Beginning
in 1866, boatloads of leprosy patients were taken there;
a place with no doctor, no hospital,
no hope. In 1873 Fr. Damien de Veuster volunteered to work
with the people at the leper settlement. From these events,
O.A. Bushnell has fashioned a work of fiction designed
to bring this sad event in the history of Hawaii to life.
Historically correct, fast-moving and emotionally involving,
this is a good read for anyone interested in history, drama,
and a measure of suspense, all rolled into one excellent
and very readable novel.
Card, Orson Scott - Ender's Game - 1985,
Ender Wiggin enters Battle School at age six, the
best hope the Earth has to stop the Third Invasion of the
an alien species that almost destroyed the Earth during
their last attack. Through simulated battle and video games,
Ender and the other carefully chosen child geniuses train
to become the future commanders of Earth's armies.
Will they graduate in time? A thoughtful, exciting tale
of a boy's coming of age in an adult world he doesn't
fully understand, but is prepared to endure.
Chamberlain, Diane - Secret Lives - 1991,
Eden Swift Riley, divorced actress, mother of a
young daughter, returns home to her archaeologist Uncle
to research the life of her mother, a children's
author and archaeologist, who lived and died in a cave
when Eden was a small child. When Kyle gives her the first
of her mother's journals to help her understand the
troubled woman, Eden is drawn into the drama of a woman
consumed by demons. The journal is one of a dozen notebooks
which covers her life from 13 to 31. From the first page
of Kate's diary, Eden and the reader are gripped
by her life—with a mother who forbids reading and
is considered crazy by the neighbors who whisper that she
should be locked up, a father who stands back while this
is happening but sneaks books to her, and her brilliant
brother Kyle who helps her write her journal. Kate retreats
to the sanctuary of her cave at the age of thirteen, and
this refuge is the object of Eden's intense scrutiny
in her attempt to understand her mother. Ben Alexander
has been hired by Kyle to help Eden in her archaeological
excavation of the cave. Ben is fresh from a year-and-a-half
in prison, shunned by all of his friends except Kyle who
asks him to show Eden how to catalog what she finds when
she excavates her mother's cave. The mystery of Ben's
imprisonment holds the reader's interest as much
as the content of Kate's journals. This novel of
secrets is a wonderful read which will lead the reader
to other novels by Diane Chamberlain, an award-winning
Childress, Mark - Crazy in Alabama - 1993,
Peejoe, a successful screenwriter living in San
Francisco, gets a call from his Aunt Lucille who wants
a part in the
movie he's writing. Her request launches Peejoe into
remembering the series of incredible events in both his
and his aunt's lives in the summer of 1965 "when
everybody went crazy in Alabama," and Peejoe was
12. Peejoe and his brother were orphans being raised by
their grandmother when, one day, Aunt Lucille dropped over
to announce that she'd murdered her husband (she
poisoned Chester with D-Con, then sawed off his head with
an electric knife) and that she was off to California to
be the actress she always wanted to be. She intends to
take along with her, in a Tupperware bowl, the severed
head of her husband; but she doesn't intend to take
her six children with her. She's leaving them with
her mother. As the law pursues her across the country (Lucille
is reminiscent of a one-woman Thelma and Louise), Peejoe
and his brother back home are taken by their overburdened
grandmother to stay with an undertaker uncle. Peejoe inadvertently
gets involved in the local civil rights movement which
has erupted that summer and drawn national media attention.
As Lucille eludes capture and makes it to Hollywood, Peejoe
ends up on the cover of Life magazine. The adventures of
Lucille are the outrageous side of this novel; the trials
and tribulations of young Peejoe are its poignant side.
This is a novel of social consciousness and coming of age
filled with plenty of quirky Southern characters.
Cook, Thomas H. - Flesh and Blood - 1989,
Frank Clemons, ex-police officer turned P.I., is
hired by a clothing designer to find a relative of her
murdered elderly assistant, Hannah Karlsberg. Frank discovers
that very little is known about Hannah's younger
years, but eventually puts together the pieces of the life
of the young sweatshop worker turned union leader, her
move to South America, and her re-emergence in an elite
company in NYC. Intrigued by Hannah's character,
Frank does not stop when he has found a relative, but continues
on to find her murderer and discovers a secret that could
destroy his client. He is aided by Farouk, a man of mystery,
whom he meets at a bar he frequents. Some surprising twists
and turns in Frank's investigation end up putting
his life in danger. This is a good mystery whose solution
spans many years and two continents. Clemons' meticulous
collection of the details of Hannah's past builds
suspense and creates a surprising ending.
Cookson, Catherine - A Grand Man - 1954,
Set in the tenement section along the Tyne River
docks in England, this is the first in the "Mary Ann" series,
which chronicles the life of Mary Ann and her family from
the time she is eight years old until she is married and
has children of her own. Here we meet Mary Ann, her father
(a grand man), her mother and the rest of the family, as
well as the multitude of people who reside in the Tyneside
area. In turn funny, touching, sad, and above all optimistic,
this is the story of a little girl who never gave up on
her hard-drinking father, who always knew that someday
he would pull himself together and show everyone what a
Grand Man he was. A good read for those who enjoy novels
of family life without a dark side. If readers like the
first one, they will ask for the series.
Cussler, Clive - Inca Gold - 1994, 537p.
Dirk Pitt and his
buddy Al Giordino are caught up in a battle against an
international ancient artifact smuggling
ring when they are called in to rescue two archaeologists
in a sacrificial pool in the Andes. Guided by the inscription
on an artifact, the smugglers are intent upon finding a
huge treasure hidden by the Incas. But Pitt discovers another
artifact that leads to the treasure as well, and the race
begins to see who will find the treasure first. When Pitt's
girlfriend, a Congresswoman, is abducted by the smugglers,
more than the treasure is at stake. Lots of action, suspense,
plot twists, and historical information on the Incas create
a page-turning adventure story spiced with good-humored
ribbing between Pitt and his buddy Al.
Davidson, Lionel - Kolymsky Heights - 1994,
Intricate plotting, strong characterizations, elegant
writing, and a detailed setting intertwine in this satisfying
novel of scientific espionage. A Soviet scientist sends
coded pleas for assistance to a British colleague and asks
that former Rhodes scholar Johnny Porter be sent to northern
Siberia to bring out an extraordinary secret. As the novel
unfolds, layer by layer, revealing Porter's elaborate
preparations for this espionage coup, tension mounts until
that final, inevitable chase across the frozen Bering Strait.
DeMille, Nelson - The Charm School - 1988,
What happened to Greg Fisher? He was traveling through
Russia and just disappeared! While looking for the missing
tourist, Colonel Hollis, an Air Force Officer, Lisa Rhodes,
an embassy liaison, and the chief of the CIA's Moscow
station discover a shocking KGB secret—The Charm
School. Situated outside of Moscow, this school trains
Russian agents to dress, speak, and even think like Americans.
When they graduate, they infiltrate every facet of the
U.S. with the KGB calling the shots. With heart-stopping
suspense, the three Americans try to expose this horror
before they are gunned down.
Dunning, John - The Bookman's Wake - 1995,
Ex-cop Cliff Janeway now runs a bookstore for rare
and used books in Denver. His peaceful life is disturbed
an old friend finagles him into going after a young woman
who has jumped bail and flown to Seattle. When Janeway
meets Elinor Rigby, a young and very talented book scout,
he is drawn to her love of old books and her fear of a "darkman" who
is stalking her. As he becomes involved in her life and
with her family, he becomes entangled in the mysterious
deaths of the Grayson brothers who owned a publishing company
known for its limited editions, and especially for the
last book Darryl Grayson did of Poe's The
The five book collectors who may have owned that book have
all met violent deaths. Is the mysterious darkman killing
people to find this rare book? The twists and turns of
the plot keep Janeway and the reader guessing right to
the last page. Any reader who loves books will be drawn
into this mystery with its original plot, interesting publishing
arcana, and rare book information. Dunning makes bookbinding
Edgerton, Clyde - Walking Across Egypt - 1987,
Mattie Rigsbee is a 78-year-old widow living in
Listre, North Carolina. She takes Wesley Benfield, an
adolescent and juvenile delinquent, under her wing. Good
food can cure anything, so Mattie thinks. Her relationship
with Wesley will change them both. This novel is filled
with humorous descriptions which may make the reader laugh
out loud. It is easy to read, very entertaining, and has
a message if one cares to find it.
Evanovich, Janet - One for the Money - 1994,
Stephanie Plum, an out of work discount lingerie
buyer, is out of money, with her car being repossessed.
for money, she becomes an apprehension agent for those
who jump bail. Cousin Vinnie, bail bondsman, gives her
some easy ones, then she is assigned to Joe Morelli, a
cop accused of murder. Stephanie knows Joe from the old
neighborhood and figures to settle some old personal scores
with him as well. Evanovich has a wonderful eye for detail,
a tangible sense of place, and hilariously funny characters.
This is a fast-paced, gritty mystery. It has a raunchy,
gutsy dialogue that leaves you waiting for her next book.
Fast, Howard - The Immigrants - 1977, 389p.
This is the
first book in a captivating series of the Lavette family
and the lives they touch. Beginning in 1888
with the birth of Daniel Lavette on a ship from Italy to
America, it is the story of an immigrant family who endures
hardships to grow into one of the most powerful clans of
20th century America. After the San Francisco earthquake
kills his parents, Daniel takes his father's fishing
boat and builds a shipping empire. Fast draws the reader
in with fascinating characters against a backdrop of actual
historical events. The next book in the series is The Second
Garber, Joseph R. - Vertical Run - 1995,
This fast-paced thriller is the story of 47-year-old
executive Dave Elliot. He's a Vietnam veteran who, on a typical
morning, jogs to work through the streets of Manhattan
after kissing his wife goodbye. On the 45th floor of the
fifty-story ultramodern skyscraper where he works, he showers
in his office suite, dresses for work, and settles in with
a cup of coffee to begin his day. But today is far from
typical. Today everyone Dave meets will try to kill him.
Why does his friend, the company president, enter Dave's
office with a gun in his hand? To his horror and confusion,
Dave finds that his coworkers, friends, and family members
want him dead. He can't imagine why. Armed gunmen
guard every exit of his building, and a team of professional
mercenaries are searching floor by floor. The suspense
and terror mount as Dave finds his skills as a soldier
coming back to him. He has to outwit and elude his pursuers
and try to discover why everyone is out to get him. Intrigue
and non-stop action are the mark of this novel up to its
breathtaking conclusion and surprising ending.
Guterson, David - Snow Falling on Cedars - 1994,
When Kabuo Miyamoto is accused of killing local
fisherman Carl Heine, the residents of San Piedro Island
to face their prejudices. The trial, set in 1954 in the
Puget Sound area, brings back the bitter memories and the
past sins of when the islanders watched their Japanese
neighbors being carted off to internment camps during World
War II. Ishmael Chambers, war veteran and owner of the
local newspaper, chronicles this seamless blend of murder
trial, love story, morality play, and regional history.
Hellenga, Robert R. - The Sixteen Pleasures - 1994, 327p.
this stylish, literate first novel, 29-year-old book
conservator Margot Harrington travels to Florence in
wake of devastating floods and is assigned to help salvage
the book collection of a Carmelite convent that is also
under siege from the male-dominated Church hierarchy. While
there, she discovers a way to help the convent stay afloat,
embarks upon several love affairs, and gains some insight
into the choices which lie open for her future. A "feminist" book
without rancor, it is funny, poignant, erotic, thought-provoking,
and full of pleasurable surprises.
Hess, Joan - Malice in Maggody - 1987,
First in a series. Introduces Ariel (Arly) Hanks,
the first woman sheriff in Maggody, Arkansas, pop. 852.
has left New York City and a disastrous marriage to return
to her home town and recuperate. However, small town politics
and the constant (friendly) sniping and interference of
her mother and her mother's best friend give her
cause to wonder if she has made a mistake. Then a missing
EPA investigator, an escaped convict, and the murder of
the convict's wife make Arly's "quiet" job
a little riskier than she had expected. Mixed with these
important cases are the little matters of the local bootlegger
and the constant wrangling of the town's favorite
lovebirds. Could the whole town be involved in the possible
kidnapping of the EPA man? With the mayor and city council
probably involved, Arly has reason to wonder if finding
the missing man will cost her her new job. This series
of humorous mysteries is usually a hit with those who like
their violence offstage, their language relatively mild,
and a little humor mixed in with the murder investigation.
It also offers a continuing supply of books for those who
find they enjoy the citizens of Maggody.
Hiaasen, Carl - Native Tongue - 1991, 325p.
consultant Joe Winder finds himself in the sorry role
of spin doctor for an environmental public
relations gimmick gone wildly amok when he takes a job
at a theme park owned by a former mob snitch. This is an
irreverent, bawdy romp through steamy Southern Florida
that takes equally wicked pot shots at theme parks, tourists,
phone sex, the Mob, greedy developers, activists of any
sort, and contemporary culture in general. Not for the
easily offended, but especially great fun to listen to
as a recorded book on an automobile trip from here to Florida.
Hoffman, Alice - Turtle Moon - 1992, 255p.
After her divorce,
Lucy Rosen and her incorrigible 12-year-old son Keith
move from Long Island to Verity, Florida. When
Karen Wright is murdered, Keith runs away with her baby
daughter. After Julian Cash, Verity-born and fierce enough
to paralyze bees with fright, joins the search for Keith
and the baby, all their lives change. This sure bet is
a quick read; the story develops at a rapid pace. Hoffman
is a quality author, who is being assigned in high school
and college classes, and she is an able storyteller. Turtle
Moon is part mystery, part suspense, and part romance.
Hunter, Stephen - Dirty White Boys - 1994,
This is a compelling story of three deadly convicts
who escape from a maximum security prison. These "dirty
white boys" go on a relentless killing spree through
Oklahoma and North Texas until they encounter Sgt. Bud
Pewtie of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. Sgt. Pewtie confronts
the criminals time and again until a final bloody face-off
threatens to tear his personal life apart. Throughout the
novel, Hunter cleverly humanizes the convicts in small
ways that also display the horror of their actions. As
terrifying as In Cold Blood and harrowing as The
this book should especially appeal to readers who enjoyed
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris and Along
Came a Spider by James Patterson.
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching
God - 1937, 207p.
For the first forty years of her life,
Janie did what everyone told her to do. She married Logan
her grandmother told her to. When Jodie Starks passed by,
he was going to the first town founded by Blacks. He intended
to make a big man of himself there. He told Janie to go
along, and she did. After she found herself widowed, she
met Tea Cake, the sweetest man on earth, a man who asked
Janie what she wanted, a man who wanted Janie to show her
beauty, not hide it from everyone except himself. This
is a modern classic beyond the obvious authors and titles.
The southern Black dialect may be difficult for some readers.
Ishiguro, Kazuo - The Remains of the Day - 1989,
A poetically told, moving and thought-provoking
story of mistaken loyalty, self-sacrifice and loneliness,
was the winner of England's Booker Prize in 1989.
As he reaches retirement, Stevens, a very proper English
butler, in service to the selfish Lord Darlington, reflects
on all that he has given up in his life, including a chance
at marriage and a family, through his mistaken loyalty
to his employer. This is a good read for someone who appreciates
excellence in writing as well as a good story. Not a light
read, but ultimately a fulfilling and satisfying one.
Johnson, Greg - Pagan Babies - 1993, 312p.
Janice, both on the fringe of their 3rd grade Catholic
school class, instantly become soulmates. Little
did they know at that time, but they would share a tender,
and at times tumultuous, lifelong relationship. Each rebelling
against religious and familial restraints, they venture
off on their separate paths, only to reconnect many times
throughout the years. Finally, after many years, the two
reach a beautiful and compassionate understanding of each
other and also of their bond. This book always disappears
off the "Books too good to miss" cart and was
one of the nicest reads I've had in a long time.
It will appeal to baby boomers who were born in the sixties
or slightly earlier, especially those raised Catholic.
Also, those looking for good contemporary fiction will
more than likely enjoy this work.
Kingsolver, Barbara - Animal Dreams - 1990,
Set in the contemporary Southwest, Animal Dreams is a wonderful story of family relationships, Native
issues, as well as the struggle many women face while trying
to balance familial, societal and career roles against
those of a more personal nature. Codi, the narrator, returns
home to her village after abandoning a promising career
in medicine. She then assumes the role of caretaker for
her stubborn father while also rekindling a romance with
a former lover. Feeling as though the world is moving on
without her, Codi eventually learns to value her current
contributions while at the same time reconciling her various
emotional commitments. While Animal Dreams will appeal
mainly to women, anyone who enjoys good literate fiction
or those looking for a novel set in the southwest will
certainly thank you for recommending this remarkable piece
Kingsolver, Barbara - Pigs in Heaven - 1993,
The sequel to The Bean Trees and set three years
later. Taylor, a twenty-something-year-old woman from
has adopted Turtle, the Native American child who was abandoned
outside a roadside bar in Oklahoma. When Annawake Foukiller,
an attorney for the Cherokee Nation, finds out about the
adoption, she tries to reverse it on the grounds that it
violates the Indian Child Welfare Act. This is a moving
and heartfelt story that forces a child to choose between
a mother's love and the Cherokee culture in which
she was born.
Ladew, Donald P. - Stradivarius - 1995,
An American soldier finds a Stradivarius in a farmhouse
wall in Korea. Emotionally destroyed by the war, he returns
home to a small town in West Virginia with the violin but
virtually abandons society except for his friendship with
his young orphaned nephew Ailey. Ailey has a gift for playing
the violin and is eventually offered a scholarship to study
in New York City. But Ailey and the adults who care about
him in West Virginia and New York must bridge cultural,
geographic, and religious differences if he is to achieve
his rightful place in the music world. A counterpoint to
Ailey's story is that of the Stradivarius' three-century
journey from Italy to Korea. The story comes to a climax
when Ailey is given the Stradivarius, but the rightful
owners claim it is theirs. This is a gentle read of relationships,
growing up, accepting differences between people and cultures,
facing difficult moral choices, and the binding power of
Lofts, Norah - A Wayside Tavern - 1980,
In 384 A.D. it was known as the One Bull wineshop,
serving Romans and Icene, and facing invasion from Vikings.
Paulus, Gilda and Sweyn became the first of the Gilderson
family, a family that was to see the One Bull and the nearby
church of St. Cerdic through many changes over the decades
to come. By 1348, the One Bull had grown to become an Inn,
and the church had added an abbey. Although the two structures
stood side by side, a space between them was carefully
preserved. In 1540, the abbey was dismantled. The Inn was
enlarged but also fell on hard times in the early 1600s
as the growth of the village encouraged the building of
competing Inns. Over the next 300 years the fortunes of
the Inn and its owners saw many ups and downs until the
1970s when the Inn seemed well on its way to becoming a
high-class restaurant. In this delightful historical novel,
the One Bull Inn is as much a character as its various
owners. Norah Lofts has written many historical novels,
a number of which feature a building as one of the characters.
Macaulay, David - Motel of the Mysteries - 1979,
The ancient kingdom Usa was destroyed and civilization
buried following a catastrophe in 1985. In 4022 amateur
archaeologist Howard Carson and his assistant discover
the Motel of the Mysteries (aka Motel Toot "n" C'mon),
complete with a dazzling array of "treasures" ranging
from the Great Altar (a television set) to the Ceremonial
Burial Cap (a shower cap). After reading this illustrated
parody of the excavation of the tomb of Tutankhamen, neither
archaeology nor hotel rooms of the late 20th century will
ever seem the same.
Mahfuz, Najib - Palace Walk - 1990, 512p.
Nobel Prize winner
Mahfouz follows the struggles of a middle class Egyptian
family at the end of World War I.
Al-Sayyid Ahmad is a merchant who runs his family strictly
by the Koran, but he roams Cairo's entertainment
district at night seeking his own pleasures. His wife and
daughters are cloistered at home, while his sons live in
fear of their father. Yasin, the oldest son, lusts after
the female servants. Fahmy becomes an activist in the nationalist
movement, while the youngest son Kamal befriends British
soldiers. The girls bicker and dream of husbands, while
their submissive mother runs the house. When wife Amina
tries to venture outside for a walk, Ahmed throws her out
of the house. As the British proclaim the protectorate,
all of the families' lives are changed. The everyday
life of these people is richly portrayed in the first volume
of a trilogy which follows three generations of Ahmad's
family. This beautifully written and very accessible novel
reveals a society that was very different from Western
society, but it is the compelling characters and the vivid
portrait of Egyptian society that will attract readers
to this sweeping family saga.
Martin, David - Back Bay - 1979, 437p.
the fate of a tea set created by Paul Revere for President
Washington, this story features adventure,
intrigue, romance, history, and the lure of lost treasure.
The set disappeared in 1814, and evidence unearthed by
scholars suggests the prestigious Pratt family may have
been responsible. Now, eight generations later, members
of the Pratt family race against time to recover the tea
set before the old landmarks in Boston's Back Bay
fall prey to urban renewal.
Maupin, Armistead - Tales of the City - 1978,
Tales of the City is one of a humorous six-volume
series chronicling life in America during the late seventies
early eighties. Focusing on the eccentric residents of
28 Barbary Lane in San Francisco, Tales of the
many of the moral and social issues that were confronting
Americans through humorous vignettes. Originally written
as daily newspaper columns, this book is a quick, delightful
read that will appeal to most readers, especially women,
gay male readers, and baby boomers who came of age during
that period. If your readers are like me, they will race
through the first five volumes only to come to the horrific
realization that after reading the sixth and final volume,
there is no more! Withdrawal syndrome at its finest. Tales
of the City is truly a sure bet for most readers.
McBain, Ed - Downtown - 1989, 302p.
While in New York City,
orange grower Michael Barnes' identification
and money are stolen by a phony cop and his rental car
by the good Samaritan who is driving him to the police
station. From there his evening gets worse—a body
is found with his ID nearby. With his picture shown on
the news as a murderer, Barnes, along with beautiful limousine
driver Connie Kee, races around New York just ahead of
the police, trying to make sense of the fiasco his life
McCammon, Robert - Boy's Life - 1991,
The year Cory Mackenson was eleven, things were changing
in his small Alabama town. His father lost his job at the
local dairy and witnessed what he believed to have been
a murder, but no one believed him. As Cory's father
struggled to make a living, Cory was full of the excitement
of his new, very special, bike, his new friends from the
African-American side of town, and his triumphant encounter
with the town bully. Ultimately, Mr. Mackenson's
worries and Cory's adventures come together to reveal
an evil presence in their town. This is a novel rich in
interesting characters, strong emotion, adventure, and
suspense, with a hint of the supernatural drifting around
the edges. It appeals to men and women of all ages.
Michener, James - The Source - 1965, 909p.
saga begins in the cave dwellings of Makor, a watering
place known as the Source, and continues
to modern Palestine, as Michener layers many periods of
history relating the story of a family of Ur, their gods
and wars as well as their loves.
Morgan, Marlo - Mutant Message Down Under - 1994, 187p.
an American woman agrees to accept an award from a group
of Australian Aborigines, little does she know
that she is about to embark on a three-month walkabout
with the tribe. She begins a journey which is spiritually
enlightening, as well as physically daunting. Within the
tribal hierarchy, she finds that each member contributes
his or her talents, forming a group which meshes in perfect
harmony—an example for all mankind. The reader who
wants inspirational fiction may find this the perfect novel.
Many of the qualities found in Native American literature
are duplicated in Mutant Message Down Under. This is a
novel which many readers find has a message for humanity.
Mosley, Walter - Devil in a Blue Dress - 1990,
In Los Angeles of 1948, Ezekial "Easy" Rawlins
is a young, tough African-American veteran who has just
been fired from his factory job for talking back to a foreman.
Because he needs money to pay his mortgage, he reluctantly
agrees to locate a beautiful French woman named Daphne
Manet for a white businessman. Daphne likes to frequent
the jazz clubs of Watts, and she likes taking other people's
money. As Easy searches for her and the money she took,
he discovers murder, brutish white cops, racism, and black "brothers" who
are none too friendly when Easy asks about the mysterious
woman in the blue dress. He soon finds himself uncovering
murder, cover-up, and corruption of government officials.
The gritty atmosphere of segregated Los Angeles and the
ugly face of racism are realistically portrayed in this
original hard-boiled mystery. Lovers of the hard-boiled
detective novel will be drawn into this unusual and well-written
book. The violence and plot twists will keep fans turning
pages, but the compelling characters and the portrayal
of a different side of L.A. make this a refreshing and
original spin on the usual hard-boiled mystery that will
fascinate all fans.
Neville, Katherine - A Calculated Risk - 1992,
When Verity Banks' boss nixes her proposal to beef
up the bank's computer security system, she decides
to prove its vulnerability by moving money from the wire
transfer system around inside the bank where it can't
be found. Her mentor, Dr. Zoltan Zorr, discovers her scheme
and offers a bet. She will steal from the wire transfer
system, and he will steal from the New York and American
stock exchanges. Whoever can make thirty million dollars
from investing the stolen funds is the winner. But unsuspected
by Verity, someone else scheming at the bank could cause
all their plans to come crashing down.
Neville, Katherine - The Eight - 1988,
An ancient formula of unimagined power lies hidden
in a fabulous, jeweled gold and silver chess service.
service, a gift to the Emperor Charlemagne, is hidden for
centuries at Montglane Abbey in France, and sought, in
a vast and secret game, by men and women who desire its
power. The Eight follows the parallel stories of Mireille
de Remy, a young novice at the Abbey, as she seeks to guard
the Service from those who would abuse its power and of
Catherine Velis, a modern young woman who suddenly finds
she too must play the game, or die. Mireille's tale
begins with the dawn of the French Revolution and touches
many of the great statesmen, mathematicians, and musicians
of the century, including Talleyrand, Napoleon Bonaparte,
and Catherine the Great. Catherine Velis finds herself
drawn into the world of competitive chess and into wild
adventures across deserts and seas as she seeks the secret
of the Montglane Service and control of the game. Filled
with historical detail, chess lore, suspense, action, and
mystery enough to please anyone, The Eight is a big and
immensely satisfying book.
Peters, Elizabeth - Crocodile on the Sandbank - 1975, 273p.
Amelia Peabody's father dies, the only appropriate
status for a Victorian lady is married. Even at the over-ripe
age of 32, this is possible, if one possesses a substantial
enough fortune. But Amelia Peabody isn't interested
in being appropriate, or in taking care of any more men.
She wants to travel. In Rome, when her hired companion
becomes ill and must return to England, she befriends young
Evelyn Barton-Forbes who has been abandoned, if not seduced,
to the streets of Rome by a fortune-hunting cad. Traveling
on to Egypt, Amelia and Evelyn meet the rude and impossible
archaeologist Radcliffe Emerson and his younger brother,
Walter, travel up the Nile, explore a tomb—and find
themselves pursued by its inhabitant! Any romance reader
knows that when a woman as indomitable as Amelia meets
a man as intractable as Emerson, sparks will fly. But humor,
more than romance, is the center of this book. Amelia tells
her story in an extremely arch and Victorian style, and
Amelia herself is almost a caricature of the Indomitable
English (person) Abroad. Crocodile on the Sandbank has
the additional advantage of being first in a series. In
audiobook format, this and other titles in this series
are excellent material for family vacation listening.
Plain, Belva - Random Winds - 1980, 496p.
was born the day of the flood, the day his brother and
two sisters died when the wall of water
outran them. They had been so well-loved by their parents
who had such high hopes for their futures. Enoch, his father,
was a country doctor, visiting patients in his horse and
buggy. Sometimes Martin accompanied him on his visits,
and it was on one such visit that he met the two Meig girls:
Jessie Meig, sweet-faced and petite, with dark curly hair—and
curvature of the spine; and her sister, Mary Fern, with
curls like those on a Greek statue, and extraordinary pure
blue eyes—something dreaming in her expression. This
is a love story: of Jessie's love for Martin, of
Mary Fern's love for art and herself, of Martin's
love for Mary Fern and his medical profession. Random
Winds is an unforgettable story of choices, of love and loss
over three generations of a family. This is Belva Plain's
Proulx, E. Annie - The Shipping News - 1993,
A recently widowed newspaperman relocates to his
ancestral Newfoundland with his two young daughters and
in this National Book Award/Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Quoyle must try to overcome his lack of social skills and
come to terms with building his life from the ground up
while coping with an amazing assortment of oddball characters
who work and live in Killik-Claw. At times hilarious, at
times heart-wrenching, most serious readers will find the
story of Quoyle's growth from hapless to happy a
thoroughly satisfying read.
Savage, Tom - Precipice - 1994, 290p.
The house is named
Cliffhanger, a bit of heaven perched high on a hill in
a Caribbean paradise. It is the home
of a perfect family—Kay, a lovely rich widow; Adam,
her handsome second husband; and Lisa, her teenage daughter.
To the outside world, they appear to have it all until
Diana arrives, a beautiful secretary-au pair. Suddenly
everyone in the house is on the edge of a place where nothing
is as it seems, and no one is what they pretend to be.
This gripping suspense novel is reminiscent of Mary Higgins
Clark and the early books of Sidney Sheldon.
Sheldon, Sidney - The Other Side of Midnight - 1973, 440p.
beautiful movie star, a naive young woman, and a handsome
RAF pilot are caught in a web of passion and revenge. Packed
with memorable characters, this novel gives us glamorous
settings, an exotic atmosphere, a heart-stopping suspense-packed
courtroom scene, and an aura of credibility. The
Other Side of Midnight is the hour when the pendulum moves from
love to revenge, from passion to terror. Sheldon does know
how to spin an engrossing tale, one you won't want
to put down.
Stewart, Mary - The Gabriel Hounds - 1967,
When Cristabel (Christy) Mansel sets out on a tour
of Syria and Damascus, her only plans are to enjoy herself
and do some sightseeing. Then in the street called Straight
in Damascus she runs into her cousin Charles and learns
that her Great-aunt "H" (Harriet) is still
living in her crumbling palace, Dar Ibrahim, in the High
Lebanon. As she waits for Charles to arrive in Beirut,
Christy decides to see a little of the countryside. On
the return trip, the road passes Dar Ibrahim, and Christy
gives in to her curiosity and decides to try to see Aunt
H. Little does she realize that this impulse will place
both her and Charles' lives in danger as they realize
that things may not be what they seem in the palace. Is
the person Christy has seen really her great-aunt, and
what is the true relationship between "The Lady's" retainers?
As they fight for their lives, Christy and Charles realize
that their feelings for each other have changed and deepened.
Perhaps their parents were right in assuming they would
one day marry—that is, if they survive. This book
is satisfying to historical, suspense, and romance readers
and, although not part of a series, Stewart has written
numerous others in a similar style.
Tevis, Walter - The Queen's Gambit - 1983,
What if a young American girl had the talent to compete
with the greatest chess masters in the world? A shy and
frightened eight-year-old orphan, Beth Harmon survives
on the tranquilizers the orphanage uses to keep its students
tractable. Then, she discovers the janitor, in his room
in the basement, puzzling over a strange game. Drawn to
the game in a way she doesn't understand, she doggedly
insists that he teach her...and her life is changed forever.
No knowledge of chess is needed to be drawn to the suspense
of competition, the bliss of victory, and the power and
joy of Beth's obsession. Readers who enjoy triumph
over adversity will love Beth. Anyone who loved Rocky should
love Beth. But no one who reads The Queen's Gambit will ever forget her. The unabridged audiobook recording
of this title is especially haunting.
Walker, Mildred - Winter Wheat - 1944,
Ellen Webb lives in Montana on her parents' farm.
The farm, the small towns, her father, and her Russian
immigrant mother are all Ellen knows and loves until she
spends a year at the university in Minneapolis. There,
Ellen meets a boy from a sophisticated, urban family. Seen
through his eyes, Ellen's life begins to look rough
and barren. This is Ellen's story of how she grows
from seeing with the eyes of a child to seeing with the
eyes of a strong, mature woman. This novel appeals to adolescents
through to senior citizens in its depiction of a loving
but troubled young woman struggling to grow up.
Watson, Larry - Montana - 1948, 1993, 175p.
is twelve-years-old in the summer of 1948. He is the
only son of a small-town sheriff. His mother
works as a secretary in the Register of Deeds office, leaving
David in the care of the young housekeeper, Mary Little
Soldier, an Hienkpapa Sioux woman. When Mary becomes very
ill with a cold and fever, Uncle Frank, war hero and the
town doctor, is called against Mary's wishes. From
this incident unfolds a deeply moving tale about the abuse
of power, coming of age in rural Montana, betrayal of trust,
and choice between family and justice. This beautifully
written novel will continue to haunt you for a long time.
It is eminently rereadable.
Weldon, Faye - The President's Child - 1982, 231p.
dashing senator is running on a platform of family values.
Imagine the surprise and horror of his aides when they
discover that there is a six-year-old boy living in England
that is the spitting image of the senator and who is the
product of a brief affair. How far will these aides go
to win the election and cover up the "love child"...
threats? ... kidnapping? ... murder? This short thriller
starts slowly and builds to goosebump tension.
Woods, Stuart - Imperfect Strangers - 1995,
Sandy Kingsolving is a wealthy, attractive man on
his way from London back to his home in New York. His
and boss has just had a massive stroke and his death may
lead to serious financial consequences for Sandy. At this
vulnerable moment in his life, he strikes up a conversation
with Peter Martindale, a friendly stranger sitting next
to him. Peter proposes they murder each other's wives.
Sandy agrees, but soon changes his mind. Sandy tries in
vain to stop the plans, but Peter has no intention of letting
him leave his side of the bargain unfulfilled. An excellent
takeoff on the book by Patricia Highsmith and the classic
Hitchcock film, Strangers on a Train.
Wouk, Herman - The Winds of War - 1971,
Thrown together on the vortex of World War II are
the Henrys, an American naval family; the Jastrows, including
beautiful Natalie and her Jewish expatriate uncle; and
Alistair Tudsbury, a British correspondent and his WAAF
daughter, Pamela. Filled with memorable characters and
heart-stopping suspense, this novel begins in Hitler's
Germany of the late '30s and winds up with Hiroshima
in the sequel, War and Remembrance.
Wynd, Oswald - The Ginger Tree - 1977,
In 1903, 20-year-old Mary MacKenzie sets sail for
China from Scotland to marry a British officer stationed
An unhappy marriage leads her to an adulterous affair with
a Japanese count. Ostracized by her husband, Mary is separated
from her children and ultimately travels to Japan where
she not only learns to survive but is able to establish
herself as an independent businesswoman.
Prepared by members of the Adult Reading Round Table,
a group of librarians from various library systems in Illinois.