Twisted by Andrea Kane (2008)

twistedFormer FBI Special Agent Sloane Burbank still struggles with her career-ending hand injury. When her consultant gig brings her to the attention of her childhood friend’s parents, Sloane knows the chances of finding the long-missing Penny are remote. Reluctantly partnering with ex-flame Derek Parker, Sloane follows a bizarre trail of evidence suggesting that Penny isn’t the only missing woman – and that Sloane might be at the center of it all.

A psychological thriller with a bit of romance, Twisted by Andrea Kane is a pulse-pounding page turner – I finished it in one sitting. Find more romantic suspense novels on our website.

Beauty and the Beast (1991) G

beautybeastBefore heading to Disney World and the new Be Our Guest restaurant, I revisited this classic from my childhood. Beauty and the Beast was the first animated film to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination. The Oscars for Best Original Song (“Beauty and the Beast”) and Best Score (the talented Alan Menken and Howard Ashman) come as no surprise as you listen to the enchanting music throughout the film. The story is engaging, the characters endearing (how can you not love a girl who is thrilled by books and libraries?), and the movie simply magical.

Roger Ebert was equally enthralled. Check out his review. And something else to look forward to – Beauty and the Beast will be here live on stage in late March as part of Broadway in Chicago.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (1950)

grandsophyIn Georgette Heyer's The Grand Sophy, a lighthearted and witty regency romance along the same vein as Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Sophia Stanton-Lacy returns to England after traveling around continental Europe with her diplomat father…and immediately throws her cousin’s household into chaos. With her effervescent personality and managing manner, Sophy effortlessly fixes familial and romantic relationships. You’ll admire Sophy’s mad skills as a horsewoman, her disregard for silly rules, and the way her kindhearted yet devious mind conceives her madcap plans.

I listened to the engaging narration by Sarah Woodward -- and you can too by downloading the book through Hoopla!

Runner by Patrick Lee (2014)

runnerGripping, suspenseful, definitely need to suspend disbelief, but oh what a ride. In Runner, Patrick Lee keeps you guessing from beginning to end. In the wee hours of the morning, ex-special forces operative Sam Dryden encounters 12-year-old Rachel. She’s terrified, on the run, and can’t remember anything from before two months ago. What follows is a heart-pounding adventure with endearing characters.

Raúl Esparza narrates the book brilliantly – I kept inventing excuses to stay in the car so I could listen to just a bit more of the audiobook.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (2014)

dearcommitteemembersJulie Schumacher's brief epistolary novel offers a glimpse of academia from a crotchety and beleaguered middle-aged creative writing professor. In a series of snarky letters, Jason Fitger laments the death of liberal arts on college campuses, endorses his struggling grad student, and documents the ridiculousness of teaching in a decrepit building. His own literary career trending downward, Fitger channels his creativeness into countless pithy letters of recommendation written over the course of a school year.

Pick up Dear Committee Members for a quick laugh, an endearing character, and a nostalgic look at days gone by. And if you’re a fan of stories told in letters, emails, and more, check out our list of epistolary novels.
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The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan (2014)

oppositelonelyIn 2012, Marina Keegan’s final essay in the Yale Daily News went viral after her sudden tragic death five days after graduation. In The Opposite of Loneliness, her teachers and family compiled a selection of her writings, both fiction and nonfiction.

I enjoyed listening to Emily Woo Zeller’s narration – she captures the wry humor in Keegan’s writing. The title essay – “The Opposite of Loneliness” – is powerful, relatable, moving. “Against the Grain,” which tracked her life with celiac disease, brought tears to my eyes. And while I particularly enjoyed her nonfiction work, her short stories were lovely as well.

Check out a review from The New York Times.

Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) R

goodmorningvietnamI’ve seen the clip of Robin Williams saying, "Gooooood morning, Vietnam!” loads of times and always wanted to watch the film; I finally viewed Good Morning, Vietnam for the first time after his death.

As an irreverent airman and a DJ in 1965 Saigon, Adrian Cronauer is in Vietnam to provide a bit of comedic relief to the troops (and as a bonus, irritate his superiors). Williams’ comedic talents are on full display. His monologues, voices, and impersonations, as well as his physicality, keep your eyes glued to the screen. And while he excels as a comedian, he handles the dramatic turns admirably as well.

The music is amazing, highlighting many hits of the 1960s. Check out the soundtrack that nabbed Williams a Grammy (it features a mix of Williams’ comic routines and music).

Check out Roger Ebert’s take on Williams’ performance and the film.
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Delicious! by Ruth Reichl (2014)

deliciousI savored Ruth Reichl’s first foray into fiction (sorry for the pun – couldn’t resist!). I vacillated between eagerly turning the pages and pausing for a break, simply because I didn’t want the story to end. In Delicious!, we meet Billie as she prepares for an interview as the assistant to the editor of a food magazine.

In the engaging characters she encounters, the mouth-watering food she describes, and the foodie side of New York City she explores, the reader is drawn in to all of Billie’s new experiences. With an unexpected WWII tie (Billie discovers letters between James Beard and a precocious 11-year-old Lulu), a mystery, and unresolved family issues, this book is hard for me to describe – other than it was lovely and wonderful and completely worth a read.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey (2014)

index.aspxIn this witty teen mystery, Millie Ostermeyer investigates the murder of the successful (yet unpopular) high school football coach in small town Honeywell. Aided by the enigmatic quarterback Chase Albright, Millie battles her archnemesis – the newspaper editor and cheerleading captain Viv – and the bumbling town detective in her pursuit to uncover the truth and clear her father’s name.

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey is a great fit for fans of Veronica Mars, Nancy Drew, Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mysteries, or Lisa Lutz’s Spellman family.

Jennifer, Gwyneth & Me: The Pursuit of Happiness, One Celebrity at a Time by Rachel Bertsche (2014)

index.aspxI thoroughly enjoyed Rachel Bertsche's quest to emulate a different celebrity each month (Jennifer Aniston's workout regimen, Gwyneth Paltrow's cooking, etc.) in order to improve her happiness, well-being, etc. In Jennifer, Gwyneth, & Me, the planning and execution of the journey is balanced with her personal struggle with infertility. The author's engaging voice is humorous and relatable. She includes interesting perspectives on celebrity culture and how it has changed... whether you're a regular People or have a love-hate relationship with the current obsession with celebrities, Bertsche's voice will draw you in.
 
 

Veronica Mars Season 1 (2004-2005)

Veronica_Mars_season_1_DVDAfter hearing about this cult classic and the groundswell of fan support to make a movie, I finally watched season 1 of Veronica Mars. I can see the appeal. The title character (portrayed by Kristen Bell) is a likable yet troubled high school student in Neptune, California.

After her best friend Lilly (Amanda Seyfried) is killed and her dad Keith (Enrico Colantoni) loses his job as sheriff over the handling of the murder investigation, Veronica uses her PI skills to discover the truth behind Lilly’s death. This arc lasts the entire 22 episodes, as does Veronica’s quest to discover what happened to her at a party last year. In the meantime, she’s solving mysteries big and small for classmates and community members, plus dealing with the typical high school angst. A smart, addictive show.

That Summer by Lauren Willig (2014)

thatsummerAn unexpected inheritance. A mysterious painting. A forbidden relationship. In this mesmerizing tale, a house and a painting provide the link between 2009 and 1849 England.

In 2009, unemployed New Yorker Julia unexpectedly inherits a house in suburban London from a mysterious great aunt. In the mid-nineteenth century, Imogen’s mundane existence is transformed by the appearance of members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

I was immediately drawn into the family saga spanning two centuries. I love Lauren Willig’s writing style, and how she mixes historical facts and figures with her fictional tale.

After I finished That Summer, I immediately wanted to start again to revisit those gothic twists that made me question what I’d previously read.

If you enjoyed The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013) or A Vintage Affair (2010) by Isobel Wolff, or simply adore books that travel between the past and present, read this book!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (2008)

This book has been on my “to read” list for years – thanks to Jez for motivating me to finally read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. I loved this sweet story told through letters. Set in 1946 England, thirty-something writer Juliet is struggling with her next project. When a chance correspondence begins with the residents of Guernsey (an island occupied by the Germans during WWII), she discovers not only her next book idea, but kindred spirits.

Today is the 69th anniversary of V-E Day.
For other novels set during WWII, check out our list.

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger (2014)

I had a smile on my face the entire time I was reading Susan Rieger’s debut The Divorce Papers – except when I was tearing up over those poignant moments. This epistolary novel quickly became a favorite read.

29 year-old Sophie is a loveable lawyer who prefers criminal work because then her clients can't get to her...she goes to them. When she gets roped into working on a divorce case, her life takes an unexpected turn that gives her a new perspective and forces her to confront unresolved childhood issues (and all revealed in an entirely engaging and largely humorous manner).

Set in 1999, the story unfolds through a series of letters, memos, emails, transcripts, and legal documents. Because of the format, it's a book that allows you to read a bit and put it down, but you'll get so hooked on the story that you won't want to stop.
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The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel and Brett Witter (2009)

My grandfather was a WWII veteran, plus I've always been fascinated by history. He spent time in Hawaii, New Guinea, and the Philippines, so my explorations of the war focused primarily on the home front and the Pacific theater.

My forays into WWII fiction covered Poland, England, and France, among others, but I had never before considered this slice of history. What happened to the irreplaceable artwork during wartime? Robert M. Edsel (with Brett Witter) explores that question in this fascinating study of a group of monuments men. In the real world, they were architects, museum directors, and conservationists. Now, they were racing across Europe in a war zone to preserve cultural treasures.

I love a personal take on history. It's why I'm a fan of Unbroken, The Girls of Atomic City, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. The Monuments Men is another exhilarating tale from the front lines. It's a gripping combination of art, history, biography, war, and adventure.

Oh, and George Clooney turned it into a movie. Learn more about these heroes.