Good Reads - Fiction
What We're Reading
Díaz, Junot - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao - 2007, 339 p.
This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel creates an epic from the individual stories of an obese fantasy geek, who is mockingly called Oscar Wao, and his immigrant family. Oscar is the last generation of the House of Cabral, a wealthy but ill-fated line of Dominicans. Along with his sister and mother, Oscar relocates to New Jersey. Unfortunately, their fukú (curse) follows. Díaz peppers his novel with brilliantly placed, biting references to popular culture, literature, and Dominican Republic history, which are included in the form of footnotes. This is a great read-alike for anyone who likes the irreverent, magical-realism infused historical fiction of Salman Rushdie. Lynette Pitrak
Jiles, Paulette - The Color of Lightning - 2009, 349 p.
Based on a true story, this novel follows Britt Johnson, an African American freed slave, and his family. At the end of the Civil War, they accompany his former owner, leaving Kentucky to homestead on the north Texas Plains. During this time, Texas welcomes settlers to homestead, but the Kiowa and Comanche Indian tribes are not happy to be displaced from their land. While Johnson and most of the other men are away, their settlement is raided and many are killed. The surviving women and children are captured and taken north by the Indians. A heartbroken Britt is determined to rescue his family and the others taken captive. Marianne Trautvetter
Korelitz, Jean Hanff - Admission: A Novel - 2009, 449 p.
As an admissions officer, Portia Nathan is a gatekeeper to Princeton University; her analyses of the applicants’ files determine who gets in – and who doesn’t. But after 16 years in admissions, the decisions and responsibilities of her work have begun to weigh heavily upon her. In addition, Portia’s private life is complicated by a distant relationship with her mother and an unraveling one with her partner Marc. Her ability to stay aloof and detached from her own life begins to slip as she desperately tries to keep her own secret – or admission – from getting out. An intense, densely written study of the road from high school to the Ivy League, Admission is both a disturbing and deeply satisfying read. Gretchen
McDermid, Val - Beneath the Bleeding - 2008, 404 p.
This is the fifth book featuring Dr. Tony Hill, a psychologist and criminal profiler and DCI Carol Jordan, head of the Major Incident team at the Bradfield Police Department. Carol and her team are investigating two major cases – the poisoning of a sports star and the bombing of a football stadium. Unfortunately, Tony is laid up in the hospital recuperating from a knee operation. Carol, under pressure to solve these two horrific crimes, must rely on Tony’s research from his hospital bed. As the investigations proceed, Tony and Carol, as usual, have different methods of solving the crimes and the tension between them mounts to a fever pitch. Twists and turns of this complex plot culminate in an ending the reader will not predict. Sheila G.
McFadden, Maryann - So Happy Together - 2009, 381 p.
Claire Noble is finally ready to live her dream: a summer photography workshop at the Cape Cod Arts Center, followed by her marriage in the fall to a man with whom she is deeply in love. However, when her daughter returns home pregnant and it becomes clear her parents need to move into assisted living, Claire gives up her space in the coveted workshop and tends to the needs of her family once again. Luckily, a space unexpectedly opens up in the fall workshop, so Claire decides to bring her entire family along to the Cape. The lives of three very different women, a secret long buried in the past, and details of photography are woven into a beautifully descriptive, satisfying novel as past hurts are healed and everyone ultimately moves forward in their lives. Sue O’Brien
Rakha, Naseem - The Crying Tree - 2009, 353 p.
Devastated by husband Nate’s abrupt decision to uproot them from friends and family in Carlton, Illinois, Irene Stanley and children, Shep and Bliss, doggedly craft new lives for themselves in Blaine, Oregon. Nate now works as Deputy Sheriff under a friend he served with in Vietnam. Just when she believes the worst of the transition is behind them, Irene is summoned home from work by Nate to learn that fifteen-year old son, Shep, has been murdered in a home invasion gone badly. Nineteen years later, on the cusp of murderer Daniel Robbin’s execution, Nate discovers Irene’s secret cache of letters from their son’s killer. After Nate angrily erupts with some startling facts about the day of the murder, Irene determines to confirm his story. Told from multiple points of view while shifting between the past and present, this contemporary novel demonstrates grief and loss are compounded by secrecy just as truth and forgiveness offer unilateral redemption. Suzy Miller
Whitehead, Colson - Sag Harbor - 2009, 273 p.
By 1985, 15-year-old Benji Cooper and his family had been spending summers at the family house in Sag Harbor, Long Island forever. “Coming out” to Sag Harbor, an African American summer community, marks the beginning of summer and long-standing traditions, bikes and bar-be-ques are pulled out of storage, old friends meet up, and catch up. For Benji, Sag Harbor is not just vacation, it’s his chance to leave behind the clumsiness of being one of the only black kids in the world of his expensive private school and catch up with what’s cool (shoes, hair, handshakes and music). Although Benji’s geeky side fights him at every step, he does his best to keep up with his friends as they move from bikes and Star Wars to part-time jobs, cars and girls. An engaging slice of 80s’ life and, an almost, coming-of-age story. Terri W.
Barbery, Muriel - The Elegance of the Hedgehog - 2006, 325 p.
As concierge of number 7, rue de Grenelle, a luxury apartment building in Paris, Renée Michel has overseen the comings and goings of the building and its inhabitants with indifference for twenty-seven years. She fiercely guards not only her privacy, but also a secret: though none of the wealthy (and oblivious) inhabitants of the building would guess it, Madame Michel has a fine, intellectual mind. When a mysterious Japanese gentleman named Kakuro Ozu buys one of the apartments, he quickly manages to shake up her world – and the social order of the entire building – by befriending Madame Michel and Paloma, a twelve-year-old resident. Literary and layered with multiple points of view, The Elegance of the Hedgehog is brimming with quirky characters and philosophy about the meaning of life. Gretchen Rings
Hoffman, Eva - Appassionata - 2009, 265 p.
This introspective novel depicts the growth of a musician who is used to resisting all new or foreign ideas due to a fear of destroying the connection to her art. Isabel Merton, world-renowned classical pianist, is slowly unraveling under the stress of a European tour. She cannot shake a growing feeling that she understands nothing about life until it is filtered through music. Then she meets Anzor Islikhanov, a Chechen nationalist who is fighting abroad for the freedom of his country. The two form a fragile relationship as they follow Isabel’s concert agenda through some of the world’s most romantic and historic cities. As in Hoffman’s novel Lost in Translation, Appassionata beautifully explores the emptiness and disillusionment often experienced by those who live outside their homeland. Lynette Pitrak
Kay, Guy Gavriel - Ysabel - 2007, 421 p.
Canadian teen, Ned Marriner travels with his father, a famous photographer, and his crew on a shoot to capture Aix-en-Provence’s Saint-Saveur Cathedral in France. Trying not to worry about his physician mother as she works in the Sudan as a part of Doctors Without Borders, Ned hopes to enjoy the summer and explore Aix with his new American friend, Kate, a self-proclaimed history nerd. Wandering around the cathedral on the first day of the shoot, Ned and Kate are confronted by a man with a knife who warns them to go away. In spite of this, Ned begins to experience weird premonitions and to encounter odd circumstances that hurl him into a centuries-old, ancient Celtic conflict. Nicole W.
FICTION / KRAFT
Kraft, Eric - Flying: A Novel - 2009, 580 p.
Peter Leroy’s conscience started bothering him with the invitation back home to witness the town’s homage to his historic fight fifty years earlier as the “Birdboy of Babbington.” With the prospect of the spectacle looming before him, Peter decides it is time to come clean about that fateful, fabulous, (fictitious) flight from Babbington, New York to New Mexico, the summer of his 15th year, and he begins to work on setting the record straight…almost. Quirky and witty, this masterfully narrated tale includes most of two prior books, Taking Off and On the Wing. A good bet for readers who have enjoyed Ivan Doig, Richard Russo or Anne Tyler. (Book discussions questions are included.) Terri W.
Kramer, Julie - Missing Mark - 2008, 276 p.
This is the second in this engaging series featuring spunky television news reporter Riley Spartz. Desperate for a news story that will spike the ratings at her television station, Riley comes across an ad in the local newspaper that says “Wedding Dress for Sale – Never Worn.” This rouses Riley’s curiosity and she contacts the woman for an interview. At first it seems like a case of an abandoned bride at the altar, however, nobody seems to care what happened to the groom – except for Madeline, his fiancée. While investigating the missing groom case, Riley is also working on shutting down a neighborhood meth ring, and discovering who the culprit was who stole Big Mouth Billy Bass from the Underwater Adventures at the Mall of America. This is a fast-paced and entertaining story with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing till the surprising end. Sheila Guenzer
Thayer, Nancy - Summer House - 2009, 351p.
Set on the island of Nantucket, this novel tells the story of three generations of the wealthy Wheelwright family. Thirty-year-old Charlotte operates an organic garden and food stand from her grandmother’s estate which is something she enjoys and allows her to look after Nona. Her mother, sixty-year-old Helen, is horrified to discover that her husband is having an affair and wonders if all the sacrifices she has made during her marriage have been worth it. Ninety-year–old Nona sees her life coming to an end and is disturbed by the petty jealousy that plagues her family. All three women have regrets about their past and are searching for the answers to their futures before it is too late. Marianne Trautvetter
Willig, Lauren - The Temptation of the Night Jasmine - 2009, 388 p.
Lady Charlotte Lansdowne’s dreams of romance seem about to come true when her very distant cousin, Robert, the Duke of Dovedale, returns home from India. However, Robert is on a mission to avenge the murder of his mentor; and after a brief interlude with Charlotte, he disappears into the night, leaving her only a terse note. When the two meet again in London, Charlotte is unwilling to trust Robert’s intentions until they become embroiled in a conspiracy involving the King and must work together to save him. Romance, humor, espionage, and adventure intertwine in this fifth entry in the Pink Carnation series that began with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Sue O’Brien
Zama, Farahad - The Marriage Bureau for Rich People - 2009, 291 p.
Mr. Ali, a retired civil servant in Vizag, India has grown restless without meaningful work to infuse his day with purpose. Operating from his home, Mr. Ali establishes the Marriage Bureau for Rich People which functions as a contemporary resource providing introductions for upper class Indians who are matrimonially minded. Newspaper advertisements are placed on behalf of each client after fees are collected. While initial connections are made with the Marriage Bureau acting as an intermediary, each client decides whether to pursue a relationship or to seek additional introductions. Suffused with humor and a vivid sense of place, this in-depth examination of class consciousness in modern day India – as it pertains to betrothal – offers western readers a rare look into a little-understood custom within its native cultural and religious context. Suzy Miller
Bolton, S.J. - Awakening - 2009, 393 p.
Wildlife vet Clara Benning lives and works in a remote British village to avoid people due to her scarred face. When a neighbor calls in a panic because she finds a venomous adder in her infant daughter’s crib, Clara rescues the child and becomes drawn into village affairs as snakes begin to turn up in greater numbers and in unusual places in the village. Clara begins to investigate the mystery, finding a connection with a fire that took place over 50 years before in this suspenseful, fast-paced novel that weaves snake behavior and lore into the story of a young woman’s coming to terms with her past. Sue O’Brien
Hall, Tarquin - The Case of the Missing Servant - 2009, 310 p.
Vish Puri runs the well established India’s Most Private Investigators Ltd in Delhi. The bread and butter of his work comes mostly from screening prospective marriage partners. When an honest lawyer named Ajay Kasliwal appeals to Vish Puri to solve the case of a missing servant that could ruin his reputation and take years to creep through India’s corrupt judicial system, Vish Puri must use all of his sleuthing skills to find a woman, known as Mary, among India’s one billion people. The case ratchets up in intensity with the arrest of Ajay for the murder of his missing servant, but the persistent Vish Puri always gets to the truth. Nicole
Morley, Isla - Come Sunday - 2009, 319 p.
After a rare date night together, Pastor Greg Deighton and wife Abbe return to learn their three-year-old daughter Cleo has been involved in a tragic accident while in the care of close friends. Exotic settings in both greater Honolulu and Paarl, South Africa underscore this work which examines the marital impact of Greg’s floundering church ministry alongside their grief. Whereas Greg manages to negotiate a rough peace with their loss, Abbe remains mired in emotion. The exile and abandonment she endured during her South African childhood mirror the estrangement she now feels from those around her. When Greg leaves Abbe to take a pastoral call at another church, pressing financial circumstances soon propel her return to South Africa. There, some unexpected discoveries threaten to jeopardize a financial windfall from the sale of her Grandmother’s farm.Suzy Miller
Peale, Samantha - The American Painter Emma Dial - 2009, 330 p.
At 25, Emma Dial had dreams of becoming the next great American painter. She was young, passionate, incredibly talented, and hand-picked to be the assistant of legendary New York painter Michael Freiburg. Seven years later, Emma feels as if her life belongs to Michael. Between painting all of his high-priced work and carrying on an affair behind his wife’s back, Emma has no time to establish a career of her own. When Michael’s old friend and intense rival shows interest in Emma as both an artist and a lover, she must decide how much she is willing to give up to make a name for herself. Peale, a former studio assistant to Jeff Koons, has created a scandalous but arresting tribute to the New York gallery world. Lynette Pitrak
Perry, Thomas - Fidelity - 2008, 357 p.
This riveting novel grabs the reader from the very first page, when Phil Kramer, head of Kramer investigations is ambushed and killed on a quiet suburban street. His wife Emily is shocked at his murder, but is even more horrified when she realizes her husband has been having an affair and their bank account is empty. Emily, determined to find the truth behind her husband’s murder, enlists the four remaining employees at the agency to help her. Soon her husband’s killer, a hit man named Jerry Hobart, is after Emily, and she soon realizes Phil had some very damaging information that is worth killing for. Complex characters and interesting plot twists make this stand-alone novel of Perry’s worth reading. Sheila Guenzer
Berry, Hannah - Britten and Brulightly - 2009, (unpaged)
Private investigator Fernandez Britten along with his trusty, though unusual, partner is tired of solving the same crimes and ruining peoples’ lives with the knowledge he exposes. Known as “The Heartbreaker,” Britten longs to solve a case where the truth offers hope instead of despair. He decides to investigate the death of Berni Kudos, whose fiancé believes his suicide was in fact murder. Britten follows a trail of blackmail and deceit as he uncovers long-kept family secrets, forcing him to choose whether to reveal the truth or perhaps this time keep silent. A tight plot coupled with exquisite, yet somber drawing makes for a read that will have you reveling in the talent of this newcomer to the graphic novel genre. Nicole
Dallas, Sandra - Prayers for Sale - 2009, 305 p.
Young newlywed Nit Spindle comes to the isolated mining town of Middle Swan, Colorado in 1936 in need of a friend. At 86, Hennie Comfort seems to be an unlikely companion for Nit, but Hennie recognizes a bit of her younger self in Nit and before long the two women form a close bond. Hennie is a gifted storyteller and from the stories she tells Nit, the reader learns much about the hardships and happiness of living in a mining town during the Gold Rush Days. Like the quilts the women stitch, this story is told in bits and pieces to create a unique treasure. Marianne Trautvetter
Gillian Flynn - Dark Places - 2009, 349 p.
Her trust fund is nearly exhausted when 31-year-old Libby Day is contacted by Lyle Wirth as messenger for the Kill Club – a true-crime group with an affinity for studying the crimes of renowned serial killers. Lyle promises Libby substantial remuneration for a first-person account of the “Kansas Prairie Massacre” where her mother and two sisters perished twenty-four years ago. At that time, testimony from six-year old Libby culminated in lifetime incarceration for fifteen-year-old brother Ben. To her consternation, Libby discovers most club members believe Ben is innocent. At first, the lure of easy money drives Libby to reexamine the crime, but new information surfaces as she reluctantly reconnects with key witnesses. Shifting between the past and present, this contemporary literary novel unfolds from multiple points of view and reveals some startling surprises for readers with a strong stomach! Suzy Miller
Keane, Mary Beth - The Walking People - 2009, 392 p.
By 1957, the Cahills are the last family living in Ballyroan, Ireland. Big Tom, Lily, and their five high-spirited and hard-working children all consider the Cahill plot of land as their own green island, surrounded by the Nore River and the sea. Only eighteen-year-old Johanna dreams of finding excitement and glamour in America. The vivacious, headstrong girl convinces her sweet but painfully awkward younger sister Greta and a nomadic “tinker” named Michael Ward to accompany her on the journey. Thirty years later, Greta is the one with a family and a job in New York. She longs to show her family what has become of the child they nicknamed “Goose Girl”, but it will take some plotting by her own children to reunite the long-estranged Cahills. Keane has brought her characters fully to life in this beautiful novel, and that includes Ballyroan and New York City. Lynette Pitrak
Lipman, Elinor - The Family Man - 2009, 305 p.
Set in Manhattan, this charming and humorous novel centers around the life of Henry Archer, retired and ready to enjoy life. However, Henry’s life is about to take a new direction, as he is reunited with his stepdaughter Thalia, an aspiring actress, who he realizes is the receptionist at his hair salon. Henry, now gay, was married to Denise briefly and Thalia was the child of another marriage. Denise, whose third husband has just died, contacts Henry to enlist him in helping her fight her two stepsons for her late husband’s estate. The plot thickens when Thalia gets an acting job and moves in with Henry. Funny, quirky, and very human characters make this novel of family relationships a delightful read. Sheila Guenzer
Macomber, Debbie - Summer on Blossom Street - 2009, 361p.
The residents of Blossom Street, along with some newcomers, are back. Lydia, owner of the yarn shop A Good Yarn, and her husband are ready to adopt. She is also starting a new class, Knit to Quit, at her shop. Phoebe wants to forget her former fiancé who cheated on her. Alix wants to quit smoking before she gets pregnant, and Hutch, the lone male member of the class, wants to quit his bad health habits and learn to relax. Their stories, along with that of bookstore owner Anne Marie Roche, are intertwined, with some surprises, in this heart-warming tale of family and friends, both old and new. Sue O’Brien
Beckett, Bernard - Genesis - 2009, 150 p.
In a post-apocalyptic setting, a remote island stands protected by a Great Sea Fence from a world devastated by plagues. A utopian society based on the ideas of Plato, the island is governed by an elite group of philosophers named The Academy. It is in front of three examiners from The Academy that Anax stands to discuss her unconventional views on the history of the rebel Adam Forde. Each of the four parts of this novel represent one hour of Anax’s grueling oral entrance exam. As her examination unfolds, philosophical reasoning about human versus artificial consciousness is cleverly debated. At the end, Anax discovers she has not been told the whole story and that there is much more to The Academy. Genesis packs a punch for its diminutive size, propulsive plot, and shocking end. Nicole
Coben, Harlan - Long Lost - 2009, 371p.
As Myron Bolitar ends one relationship, another begins when he receives a mysterious phone call from an ex-girlfriend who says she needs his help and begs him to come to Paris. Myron has not seen Terese Collins in ten years but reluctantly agrees, and upon arriving finds out that Terese is a suspect in her husband’s murder. Myron eventually discovers that Terese has a secret – a daughter that was supposedly killed in car accident appears now to be alive. Myron and Terese soon finds themselves pursued by everyone from Homeland Security to Mosssad as they try to discover the truth. This is the ninth in the Myron Bolitar series and brings back a variety of secondary characters including Win, Bolitar’s eccentric friend. An enjoyable mystery, but try reading in order to appreciate the whole series. Sheila Guenzer
FICTION / KLOSTERMAN
Klosterman, Chuck - Downtown Owl - 2009, 275p.
Everyday lives in 1983 Owl, North Dakota (population not quite 800) are brought to life in this quick, unconventionally humorous novel. Mitch is an average high school student and remarkably unspectacular football player. Julia is the newest high school teacher and only young, unattached woman in town. Horace is a widower, and long-time member of the downtown coffee clutch. Each character focuses on the daily grind that is their slice of reality in this small town’s life, but even in Owl, reality is unpredictable, and sometimes, reality bites! Terri W.
McNeil, Gil - The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club - 2009, 404p.
When Jo Mackenzie’s husband dies in a car crash, minutes after telling her he wants a divorce, she moves to a small seaside English village to take over her grandmother’s knitting shop and begin a new life for herself and her two young sons. Making new friends, including a well-know film star, updating the shop, taking care of her sons, and a bit of romance ground her in a story framed with quirky characters, knitting, and daily life in this humorous, warm-hearted novel that will appeal to fans of Raffaella Barker and Katie Fforde. Sue O’Brien
Marchetta, Melina - Jellicoe Road - 2008, 419p.
This Printz Award-winning novel is a complex and beautiful tale that spans two generations of students who attend a small boarding school in the Australian countryside. Feisty and cunning, Taylor Markham has been named leader of the Underground Community at her boarding school, making her responsible for commanding the students in a cut-throat and often violent territory war against the neighboring teenage factions: the Townies and the Cadets. Unfortunately, the leaders of these two enemy groups have valuable information about the mother who abandoned Taylor when she was eleven. As Taylor slowly unravels the mystery surrounding her mother, she discovers that the territory wars developed from a horrific series of events following a tragic accident that occurred on Jellicoe Road almost twenty years earlier. Drug addiction, child abuse, friendship, and love collide to create a truly spellbinding novel. Lynette Pitrak
Rath, Sara - Night Sisters - 2008, 320p.
When feature writer Nell Grendon, a twice-divorced Wisconsin journalist, travels to Wocanaga Spiritualist Camp for a story, she has no idea that her own life is about to take a totally unexpected turn. Nell is initially skeptical when a private reading reveals intimate details about her past, and suggests that she herself has intuitive abilities. That is, until she is unexpectedly “visited” by the spirit of a deceased 1920s actress who insists on dredging up a childhood secret, and jeopardizing her budding relationship with her new male tenant George, and long-time best friend Polly. The ending of this charming and memorable, paranormal/mystery/romance (with humor) is likely to surprise any readers without a well-developed sixth sense. Debbie Deady
Stockett, Kathryn - The Help - 2009, 451p.
Set in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s, Stockett tells a truth-filled, poignant story of what it was like on opposite sides of the racial divide. After recently graduating from college, Eugenia Skeeter Phelan returns to her childhood home with dreams of a writing career instead of the engagement ring her mother had hoped for. The only writing job Skeeter can find is writing an advice column on household cleaning. Since she has no experience doing domestic chores, she enlists the help of her friends’ African American maids. Skeeter finds it disturbing that her country club friends trust their children to be raised by their black maids, but count the silver after the maid has polished it. These injustices disturb Skeeter and she decides to write a book telling the maids’ stories who lovingly maintain their employers’ households, while at the same time suffer racial prejudices. Marianne Trautvetter
Umrigar, Thrity - The Weight of Heaven - 2009, 365p.
Not long after seven-year old son Benny’s unexpected death, Ellie Benton begs her husband, Frank, to accept a company assignment overseas outside Mumbai, India. Torn apart in their grief, Frank accepts the position running a factory in coastal Girbaug to please Ellie. There, Ellie finds friendship and meaningful volunteer work at a local health clinic. Floundering with labor unrest at Herbal Solutions, Frank is ill-equipped to deal with the bribery and other cultural clashes he observes as plant manager. The single respite from parental bereavement is Frank’s involvement with Ramesh, son of the Indian couple who cooks and cleans for them. Unhinged by Benny’s death and increasingly estranged from Ellie, self-deception allows for Frank’s obsessive madness with Ramesh to yield a surprising outcome in this contemporary literary novel. Suzy Miller
Daheim, Mary - The Alpine Uproar - 2009, 384p.
When Clive Berentsen kills Alvin De Muth with a pool cue in a barroom brawl, Emma Lord, owner of the weekly Alpine Advocate, looks into the killing when she comes to believe that there is more to the story than has come out through the investigation, even though Clive has confessed to the crime. This 21st in the long-running series, set in small-town Alpine, Washington, includes well-drawn main characters framed with the interesting details of running a local, weekly newspaper. The first in the series is The Alpine Advocate. Sue O’Brien
Hill, Susan - The Risk of Darkness - 2009, 374p.
This is the third in Hill’s compelling and solid police procedural featuring Detective Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler. When a child is abducted in Yorkshire, Serrailler is asked to help with the investigation. There is little evidence, and the case brings up memories of a similar missing child case Serrailler worked on months ago with no resolution. Frustrated, Serrailler pours himself into finding the person who is guilty, while also trying desperately to remain balanced in his personal life. A secondary plot involves his sister Cat, and her patient who has an incurable disease, and the effect this has on her devastated husband. Hill’s other two books The Various Haunts of Men and The Pure in Heart should be read first to fully understand the character development but well worth the effort. Sheila Guenzer
Khadivi, Laleh - The Age of Orphans - 2009, 292p.
Beginning in 1921, Laleh Khadivi’s darkly lyrical debut spans fifty years of civil war between the Iranians and the Kurds. This violent and often demoralizing story is shaped by the experiences of a Kurd orphan who is forced to serve in the Iranian army alongside the men who killed his family. The seven-year-old boy, known as “the bird boy” in his village because of his love of nature, eventually becomes Captain Reza Pejman Khourdi of the Shah’s imperial army. Reza’s rise in rank, the result of a series of brutal acts and finely crafted lies, is simultaneous with his decline as a human being. He is eventually stationed in the Zagros Mountains for the specific purpose of crushing uprisings from the Kurds, who demand their own country. While back among his own people, Reza realizes that his entire life has been devoid of love and a sense of belonging. Khadivi’s powerful novel does not offer redemption, but does build an understanding for the forces behind the atrocities people commit against one another. Lynette Pitrak
Miller, Linda Lael - Montana Creeds: Dylan - 2009, 377 p.
The middle brother of the wild Creed family, Dylan is known for his bull-riding and womanizing. After a game of high stakes poker at a seedy club, Dylan discovers his young daughter abandoned in the cab of his truck by her mother. He knows that Bonnie deserves a better life and stability, so he heads back home to Stillwater Springs, Montana. As word spreads that Dylan is back in town and with a little girl no less, Kristy Madison, the town librarian, tries to keep her cool. Dylan and Kristy have a history that goes back to high school, that is until he left and she became engaged to another man. Now Dylan and Kristy must learn to trust each other again as they struggle to overcome the hurts of the past and the problems of the present. This novel is part of Miller’s trilogy on three brothers, including Montana Creeds: Logan and Montana Creeds: Tyler. Nicole
Monroe, Mary Alice - Time Is a River - 2008, 369p.
Breast cancer survivor Mia Landon attends a fly-fishing retreat in the mountains of North Carolina to help get her life back on track. When she returns home to Charleston she finds her husband having an affair with another woman. Running out of the house, she returns to the mountains and is offered refuge in an abandoned mountain cabin for the summer. The cabin belongs to Belle Carson, a fly-fishing guide, who inherited it from her grandmother Kate, a woman with a scandalous past. Mia gets back to nature and begins to heal her body and soul as she discovers more about Kate’s life from things she finds in the cabin. Marianne Trautvetter
Moore, Christopher - A Dirty Job - 2006, 387p.
When Charlie Asher sees a mysterious stranger in his wife’s hospital room moments before she dies, things begin to change. Charlie is left to fend for himself, simultaneously raising a trusting little girl while making sure to keep the family thrift store afloat. Unfortunately, Charlie learns that the stranger in his wife’s room is not only invisible to everyone else, but also has a job to pass on to Charlie. The job of a Death Merchant is not an easy one, and in order to keep the universe in order and the sewer harpies at bay, he must pick up, distribute, and place soul vessels with the appropriate soul, and he must not be late. With immortal forces struggling to upend his cause, and his stroller-sized daughter mysteriously gaining the ability to end those around her with the use of the innocent word “kitty”, Charlie Asher has found himself in an otherworldly situation that he must learn to work with in order to survive. Katherine Peters, COD Intern
Patterson, Richard North - Eclipse - 369p. 2009
A cry for help from long time friend Marissa propels San Francisco attorney Damon Pierce across the globe to Africa in this political/legal thriller. Arriving in oil rich “Luandia” Pierce finds Marissa’s husband, activist Bobby Okari, barely alive, framed for murder, jailed, and tortured. Okari’s only hope is if Damon can prove, in a court tribunal, the nightmare of retaliation and slaughter unleashed following Okari’s decision to protest the relationship between PetroGlobal Oil and corrupt players in the government. The tension steadily mounts as Damon and Marissa’s safety becomes more precarious the closer Damon is to proving the truth. This fast paced political/legal thriller, based loosely on recent events in Nigeria, is a good bet for readers who enjoy courtroom drama and international intrigue, John Grisham, David Ignatius, or David Lindsey readers. Terri W.
Rhodes, David - Driftless - 2008, 429
After three successful novels during the early 1970s and a publishing hiatus of thirty years owing to an accident which left him a paraplegic, author David Rhodes reappears with Driftless, a densely written contemporary, literary novel set in rural Words, Wisconsin. In the story, readers reconnect with July Montgomery, a central character in Rock Island Line (1975). Since his young wife’s murder, July has traveled the nation working a smattering of various jobs until finally landing in the Driftless Region of Wisconsin. Slowly and deliberately, the eclectic populace of Words emerges to demonstrate characters whose lives are innumerably intertwined. A strong sense of place, lyrical language, and keenly drawn observations deliver all the promise of the author’s earlier novels. Suzy Miller
Bauermeister, Erica - The
School of Essential Ingredients - 2008, 240p.
This lyrically written and engaging novel is composed of
vignettes describing the lives of eight students who gather
on Monday nights for a cooking class at Lillian's
restaurant. Each has a story to tell about how and why
they find themselves at Lillian's. Lillian's
story is also revealed detailing the circumstances that
led to her fascination with food and eventually opening
her restaurant. Unlikely friendships form as the students
prepare and eat a variety of menus from a simple white
cake to a Thanksgiving dinner. The food is described in
sensuous detail, and readers who enjoyed Pomegranate
Soup and other similar novels with find this a delightful and
satisfying read. Sheila Guenzer
Fossum, Karin - The
Indian Bride - 2007,
Tractor salesman and confirmed bachelor, Gunder Jomann
travels from Norway to India on holiday intending to secure
a bride. After marrying the demure Poona, an Indian waitress
who perchance served his meals each day at a local Mumbai
restaurant, Gunder returns home to begin elaborate preparations
for her arrival to the small farming hamlet in two short
weeks. Awash with anticipation, Gunder happily imagines
their life together. Then, on the day of Poona's
arrival, a terrible car accident has Gunder at his sister's
hospital bedside instead of collecting Poona at the airport.
When police are dispatched to investigate the gruesome
murder of a female foreigner, an exhausted Gunder is immobilized
by his worst fears. This contemporary mystery showcases
the tender devotion Gunder has for Poona with the grizzly
reality of her demise in this latest installment of Fossum's
Inspector Sejer series. Suzy Miller
James, P.D. - The
Private Patient - 2008,
Investigative journalist Rhoda Gradwyn goes to noted plastic
surgeon George Chandler-Powell to have a facial scar removed
at his Dorset private clinic, located in his stately manor
home. The operation is a success, but the next morning
Rhoda is found dead in her bed, strangled. Commander Adam
Dalgliesh of the Metropolitan Police and his team are called
in to take over the investigation. While they are investigating
Rhoda's past and the residents of the manor, another
murder occurs, confusing matters even more. This descriptive,
densely-written, and leisurely paced mystery is told from
numerous points of view by well-drawn characters. Sue O'Brien
Shreve, Anita - Testimony - 2008, 307p.
Mike Bordwin, the headmaster of a prestigious New England
boarding school, is given a videotape of an underage girl
being raped by three members of the boy's basketball
team. This page-turner is written from the multiple-points
of view of those affected by this incident as their lives
are shattered and forever changed. Shreve dissects the
scandal and by peeling away layer upon layer the reader
is able to see how this could happen in what first appears
to be an unlikely scenario. The incident itself is just
the tip of the iceberg for the greater tragedy ahead, as
lives, marriages, and careers are destroyed. Marianne Trautvetter
Zadoorian, Michael - The
Leisure Seeker - 2009,
This emotionally-sensitive novel's title refers to
a 1978 Leisure Seeker RV owned by Detroit octogenarians
John and Ella Robina who – against the strong objections
of their family and doctors – decide to take one
last highway vacation along historic Route 66. John suffers
from progressive dementia, but according to Ella, he (like
the Rainman) is still "an excellent driver." She
is a terminal cancer patient with limited mobility, yet
unflappable good humor. Together, the couple navigates
an odd assortment of cheesy tourist traps and roadside
diners en route to Disneyland, where a major decision ultimately
defines both their adventure and their lives. Debbie Deady
SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY SNYDER
Snyder, Maria V. - Poison
Study - 2005,
Drug out of a rank dungeon to be executed, Yelena is offered
her life back if she serves as the poison taster for the
Commander of Ixia. Yelena goes from one form of prison
to another as she is tricked into drinking Butterfly Dust,
for which she must get the antidote daily from the rather
maddening chief of security. Plus, General Brazell, her
former master, wants her dead as revenge for the death
of his son. As Yelena faces many dangers, she develops
magical powers she does not understand how to control,
and soon bigger problems threaten the land of Ixia. First
in the trilogy that includes Magic
Study and Fire
Weingarten, Lynn - Wherever
Nina Lies - 2009,
Two years ago, sixteen-year-old Ellie's artistic
and wildly beautiful older sister Nina disappeared without
a trace. When a sketch that could only have been drawn
by Nina turns up in a thrift store bearing a penciled-in
phone number, Ellie embarks on a crazy road trip with a
sexy, sensitive stranger who has experienced a family tragedy
of his own. As the two unearth more of Nina's drawings
scrawled on unexpected places – the mirror of a roadside
diner, the wall of a tattoo parlor, the t-shirts of a group
of hipsters – Ellie discovers her sister's
secrets through clues in the sketches. The truth about
Nina's disappearance will come as a horrifying shock
for readers. This edgy, funny, enigmatic book is a perfect
mix of mystery and romance. Great read-alike for fans of
Alyson Noel's Saving
Zoe. Lynette Pitrak
Newmark, Elle - The
Book of Unholy Mischief - 2008, 372p.
Secrets and intrigue drive this entertaining historical
fiction novel set in 1498 Venice. The search for a hidden
book rumored to contain formulas for alchemy, true love,
and immortality, have ignited fantasies from the street
urchins in the darkest alleys and canals, to the most powerful
men in the glittering halls of the Doge's Palace.
Even the palace's lowly cooks' apprentice,
Luciano, former street kid and thief, imagines owning the
mysterious book that would fulfill all his dreams. As palace
intrigues surrounding the book grow, Luciano is surprised
to find himself in an ever-more dangerous position, where
he must rely on old loyalties, a quick wit, and street
smarts to survive. Terri W.
Alexie, Sherman - The
Absolutely True Diary of Part-Time Indian - 2007, 229p.
Teenager Arnold Spirit is a Spokane Indian living on a
government-subsidized reservation, trying to overcome serious
handicaps (both physical and generational) despite having
the odds stacked squarely against him. An avid cartoonist,
Arnold's drawings help him cope with life's
difficulties, both inside and outside his close-knit but
sadly dysfunctional family home. Fortunately his street-tough
exterior and impressive basketball skills are enough to
earn the respect of his new classmates in the all-white
farm town high school where he ironically finds acceptance.
A bittersweet and often edgy contemporary story. Debbie
Cashore, Kristin - Graceling - 2008, 471p.
Beautiful, wild Katsa is one of the Graced, the most feared
people in all seven kingdoms because each has a supernatural
power. Katsa is even more loathed than most because she
has been "blessed" with a killing Grace,
and is forced to be the personal thug of her uncle, King
When Katsa meets Po, a Graced fighter on a mission to rescue
his grandfather from captivity, he helps to unearth her
compassionate and fiercely protective nature. As the two
uncover some of the most dangerous secrets in the seven
kingdoms, both are compelled to find their true strength,
which has been long overshadowed by their Graces. Fans
Hunger Games and the Maximum
Ride series will fall
in love with Cashore's lethal and fearless heroine
who also has a deep capacity for kindness. Lynette Pitrak
FICTION / DRAYSON
Drayson, Nicholas - A
Guide to the Birds of East Africa - 2008, 202p.
A delightful tale of competition and happenstance set in
contemporary Nairobi, Kenya. Rose Mbikwa, who has been
leading the bird walks for the East African Ornithological
Society, every Tuesday morning since shortly after her
husband's death over sixteen years ago, is completely
oblivious to the passions she has stirred-up. Quiet, reserved,
widowed, Mr. Malik, who has silently harbored a crush on
Rose for three years, plans to invite her (finally) to
the Nairobi Hunt Club Ball, as does his fellow club member
and flashy adversary, Harry Khan. Who gets to invite the
lovely Rose? The Club has proposed a competition. Whoever
racks up the most birds sighted and identified in one week
wins the privilege. Who would have thought that looking
for a common hadada, hoopoe or speckled moosebird could
be so exciting? If you are searching for a delightful story,
brimming with charming and likeable characters, this is
a good bet. Terri W.
Graham, Heather - Deadly
Gift - 2008, 395p.
First in the Flynn Brothers trilogy, this novel is set
in post-Katrina New Orleans involving a plantation that
the Flynn brothers inherited from a cousin they never knew
existed, Amelia Flynn. The Flynn brothers are intrigued
by the family plantation and reluctantly decide to restore
it even though it is said to be haunted by two Flynn cousins
who served on opposite sides in the Civil War. Aidan, a
private investigator and eldest of the three Flynn brothers,
finds two human bones on the property and is disturbed
when the local authorities brush him off saying that many
graves were disturbed after Katrina. When Kendall Montgomery
lived on the plantation as a caregiver for Amelia, she
never believed in the rumors about the house being haunted,
but now seems driven by mysterious dreams and visions to
help Aiden solve the mystery of the bones and their tie
to the plantation. This page-turner combines an interesting
plot, intriguing characters, and romance. Marianne Trautvetter
Huston, Charlie - The
Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death - 2009, 319p.
On the job tragedy prompted twenty-something Web Goodhue
to resign from his inner-city teaching position and reduced
him to freeloading off his boyhood friend, Chev, for over
a year. When Chev signals a fast-approaching end to his
benevolence, Web reluctantly embraces the offer of temporary
gainful employment with a mutual acquaintance from Chev's
White Lightening Tattoo Parlor. At Clean Team Trauma, Web
is trained by company owner, Po Sin, about the safe removal
of trauma and crime scene evidence. Learning this new trade
satisfies Web's financial obligations and allows
for him to uncover some unexpected truths about himself.
Set in Los Angeles, this frenetically paced contemporary
novel maintains both a humorous and respectful approach
in highlighting details regarding a little-known industry.
Liesche, Margit - Hollywood
Buzz - 2009,
Women Air Force Service Pilot (WASP) Pucci Lewis travels
to Fort Roach in Hollywood to make sure the World War II
Victory short about the WASPs being filmed there accurately
reflects their service. Pucci is also asked to investigate
the plane crash where a fellow WASP was badly injured.
Was it sabotage? Then the director of the short Colonel
Brody is murdered. Pucci, also a secret agent, investigates
and unravels the mystery with the help of another agent
on the scene. Details of the WASP program and Hollywood's
contribution to the war effort are woven throughout the
story of a patriotic young woman in an unconventional job.
Larsson, Stieg - The
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - 2008, 465p.
After being convicted of libel by a shady businessman,
Swedish financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist unexpectedly
finds himself accepting a job to delve into the mysterious
disappearance of teen heiress Harriet Vanger. Hired by
her now elderly uncle, Mikael struggles to make new headway
in the case that happened forty years ago. Enlisting the
help of the tattooed and pierced, gifted computer hacker,
Lisbeth Salander, they come to the brink of solving the
case. Stumbling upon dark family secrets, Mikeal finds
his life in danger at the hands of an insane serial killer.
An engrossing murder mystery with financial intrigue and
in-depth character development, The Girl with the Dragon
Tattoo is sure to hook readers of crime fiction. First
in a series published after the author's death. Nicole
Buzzelli, Elizabeth Kane - Dead
Dancing Women - 2008, 370p.
This is the first in a series featuring Emily Kincaid, a journalist and aspiring
mystery writer, who has moved to a remote part of Michigan in order to concentrate
on her novel. However, when a severed head shows up in her garbage can, she reluctantly
becomes involved in identifying the victim as Ruby Poet. Reporting the story
for a local paper, Emily pairs up with the eccentric Deputy Dolly and when another
murder occurs things get interesting. Baffled about what the two ladies had in
common to cause their demise, Dolly and Emily start asking questions which eventually
put their own lives in danger. A complex plot and quirky secondary characters
make this a satisfying first outing. Sheila Guenzer
Gleeson, Janet - The
Grenadillo Box - 2004, 338p.
In this clever locked-room mystery, Nathaniel Hobson, apprentice to master
craftsman Thomas Chippendale, has been dispatched to a Cambridge country estate
to supervise the installation of library cabinets due to the sudden disappearance
of the original designer. Nathaniel arrives just days prior to a planned New
Year's Eve dinner party during which shots are heard, and the host is found
dead in the library. All in attendance are suspect, and evidence is plentiful
(an intricately carved wooden box found in the victim's hand, for instance).
Yet, it's the body of the missing cabinet maker (Nathaniel's best friend) discovered
frozen and mutilated nearby, that provides the personal incentive and additional
clues that ultimately solve this engaging eighteenth-century puzzle. Debbie
Godbersen, Anna - Rumors:
A Luxe Novel - 2008, 423p.
In this tantalizing sequel to The
Luxe, the year 1899 is almost over and Manhattan's socialites are still
obsessed with rumors that seventeen-year-old Elizabeth Holland, society's favorite
debutante, is alive. Only Elizabeth's free-spirited younger sister Diana and
her traitorous friend Penelope know the truth – Elizabeth faked drowning
to escape an arranged marriage to a man she did not love. Now the former IT
girl is roughing it in California with the love of her life, the Holland's
coachman Will Keller. Diana has also found romance, with her sister's ex-fiancé.
However, a few of Manhattan's most dangerous power players gossip and scheme
to ensure that no one will have a happy ending. This second book in the bestselling
series delivers all of the fashion, drama, and scandal of the Gossip
Girl books, with a touch of Regency romance. Lynette Pitrak
Morrell, David - The
Spy Who Came for Christmas - 2008, 233p.
Tension mounts in this fast paced spy novel set in Santa Fe, New Mexico during
Christmas Eve. A deep cover agent has decided it is time to come out of the
cold, whether his handlers like it or not. Paul is a valuable asset. He clawed
his way into a trusted spot in a very nasty, very violent organization, provided
valuable information, maybe even prevented some atrocities, but the price has
been high and now he wants out and he's bringing a priceless package with him.
This fast-paced novel is a quick read and a good bet for Grisham or Baldacci
readers! Terri W.
O'Nan, Stewart - Songs
for the Missing - 2008, 287p.
On a bright summer day outside Kingsville, Ohio, eighteen-year-old Kim Larsen
fails to arrive for her evening shift at the local Conoco station. Told from
multiple points of view, this contemporary literary novel is not so much about
the precise details of Kim's abduction as it is about the private side of a
keenly felt public loss within a small Midwestern community. Kim's parents,
Ed and Fran Larsen, struggle to move forward with their daily work and family
obligations striving to keep Kim's story alive before the public and with law
enforcement. Continuing on, despite grievous loss, proves the greatest challenge
for those who love Kim most and instructs readers about the difficulties of
those dwelling in the specter of suspended hope. Suzy Miller
Saramago, Jose - Death
with Interruptions - 2008, 238p.
In an unnamed country on the first day of the new year, death has stopped.
No one is dying. As this rumor spreads, the people hang patriotic flags to
celebrate the achievement of eternal life. Yet, the problems of a country with
people who will live forever soon become apparent to the politicians, the funeral
industry, religious leaders, the life insurance companies, the homes for the
elderly, and the hospitals. And this reality quickly catches up to the families
who now have to care for the bodies of the undying. Meanwhile Death is alone
in her chilly home until she becomes entranced with a solitary cellist and
his dog. What if Death decided to fall in love? Portuguese winner of the Nobel
Prize for Literature, Jose Saramago writes a philosophically rich novel that
is edgy, yet playful. Nicole
Scotch, Allison Winn - Time
of My Life - 2008, 286p.
Be careful what you wish for. Jillian seems to have the perfect suburban life:
investment banker husband Henry, angelic eighteen-month-old daughter, and a
beautiful house from the pages of Metropolitan Home. Yet Jill isn't happy and
when she hears that her previous boyfriend Jackson is getting married, she
wonders what her life would have been like if they had stayed together. After
an intense chi-clearing massage, Jill finds herself living seven years in the
past with Jack in Manhattan. The trick is: can she do it right now that she
can do it over? This funny, fast-paced story will be just the trick for anyone
suffering from the post holiday blues. Marianne Trautvetter