Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016)

saltseaTitanic. Lusitania. Wilhelm Gustloff. All major maritime disasters, yet the latter is virtually unknown. Ruta Sepetys changes that in her latest gripping historical novel. Told in short snippets, Salt to the Sea rotates between four narrators attempting to escape various tragedies in 1945 Europe. Powerful and haunting, heartbreaking and hopeful, a must-read for adults and teens.

As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Sepetys sheds light on a little known slice of history, drawing you into the story through the eyes of unforgettable characters.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean (2015)

roguenottakenSophie Talbot doesn't suffer fools...which backfires when her impulsive action involving her degenerate brother-in-law (a duke) and a fish pond is witnessed by all of society. Thwarting her escape is the rakish Kingscote, Marquess of Eversley, who thinks she's trying to trap him into marriage. What follows is a crazy adventure across England with witty repartee and unexpected discoveries. Plus, (truly) dark secrets are revealed in The Rogue Not Taken. Prepare to fall in love with Sarah MacLean in this series starter.

Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

emmaJuliet Stevenson's delightful rendition of this classic was the perfect way to experience Jane Austen. Her command of the many characters and their quirks brought out the humor and heart in Austen's words.

Check out the audio version of Emma in Hoopla, or read a print copy. And if you already know (and love) Emma, check out Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy. I think you’ll see a few endearing similarities between Emma and Sophy.

ER. Season 1 (1994-1995)

ers1I recently revisited the medical drama that started it all. Set in Chicago, ER follows the personal and professional lives of the doctors, nurses, and interns working in the emergency room of County General Hospital. While much of the technology has changed, the fast-paced electrifying show still grabs your attention for the 44 minute episodes. Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) created the show based on his own time as a resident in a busy urban hospital.

Season 1 garnered 8 Emmy wins, including Julianna Marguiles for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Check out the Variety review of the pilot. And revisit the early days of ER to get a look at a young George Clooney (as playboy pediatrician Doug Ross), a baby-faced Noah Wyle (as trauma surgery intern John Carter), plus try to spot famous guest stars including Rosemary Clooney, William H. Macy, and Ming-Na Wen. Episode “Love’s Labor Lost” nabbed 5 Emmys, features a major turning point for Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards), and includes a guest appearance by Bradley Whitford.

Can’t wait to reacquaint myself with season 2!
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The Martian by Andy Weir (2014)

martianDid I understand all of the science? No. But it didn't matter. I challenge you not to get drawn into Mark Watney's epic quest for survival after he is accidentally left behind on Mars. A thrilling adventure, The Martian is largely told through the log entries of this snarky astronaut with glimpses of NASA personnel on Earth and in space. You may have seen the Matt Damon-led movie adaptation (or at least the previews), but I encourage you to pick up Andy Weir's novel!

How to Start a Fire by Lisa Lutz (2015)

startafireIn a departure from her Spellman mysteries, Lisa Lutz explores the friendship between three women over a twenty-year span. Anna, Kate, and George meet in college. Through heartbreak and triumph, their lives are revealed in an engaging story with multiple perspectives and a non-linear timeline.

While this is women's fiction and not mystery, How to Start a Fire has the signature Lutz quirky characters and quick wit. A clever yet reflective look at the ebbs and flows of lifelong friendships.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) R

olympushasfallenWhen telling a friend about Olympus Has Fallen, I called it “Die Hard for the 21st century.” If you’re in the mood for an intense action adventure film (and don’t mind the implausibility), check this one out. Gerard Butler gives a strong performance as the disgraced Secret Service agent who penetrates the White House to save the president (Aaron Eckhart) after terrorists seize the building. Also starring Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, and Dylan McDermott.

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (2014)

unknownamericansTold in alternating first person narratives, The Book of Unknown Americans details the experiences of multiple Latin American immigrants living in a Delaware apartment complex. Cristina Henriquez’ moving, compelling tale showcases families, communities, triumphs, and tragedies.

I loved this book – the endearing characters, the enthralling story, and the lyrical writing grabbed me, prompting me to keep frantically turning the pages, only to be disappointed when there were no more pages to turn.

For other immigrant experiences, check out our bibliography here.

Woman in Gold (2015) PG-13

womaningoldA gripping historical drama, Woman in Gold travels between 1930s Austria and 1990s America. Based on a true story, the film centers around Gustav Klimt’s painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Austria looked at the portrait as a national treasure; Maria Altmann simply saw it as a picture of her aunt. Stolen from her family by the Nazis in 1938, the painting becomes the center of an international controversy in the late 90s when Altmann fights for the return of her family’s property.

The present day legal battle is complemented by flashbacks to Maria’s childhood, her relationship with her beloved aunt, and her daring escape from a no-longer-safe Austria.

You’ll get drawn into the story starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds. And if you’re like me, you’ll wonder about the true events that inspired the movie: check out this book for what really happened.

Join us on Thursday, September 17 at 2:00 p.m. We’re showing Woman is Gold as part of our Thursday Afternoon Movie series. Register here.
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The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig (2015)

otherdaughterThe glittering veneer of the Bright Young Things cracks under the pressure of secrets large and small in 1920s England. After her mother's death, governess Rachel Woodley discovers her father isn't a long deceased botanist, but a powerful earl living in London. A chance meeting with a gossip columnist launches Rachel's adventures as Vera, a witty girl flitting from one party to the next -- under the guise of uncovering more about her family.

Lauren Willig's latest engaging historical drama contains rich period details, flawed yet likable characters, and a few surprises along the way. Check out The Other Daughter today.

Signal by Patrick Lee (2015)

signalWith a device that can't be explained by logic or reality, power hungry villains, and a secret government project, Signal is another fast-paced futuristic thrilling adventure. Once I got over my disappointment that we wouldn't be seeing more of Rachel, I became engrossed in Sam's next escapade. Brought in by his old colleague Claire, Sam must race against the clock to battle a sightless enemy with a constant advantage.

Just like the first in the series (Runner), you'll need to suspend your disbelief. A lot of crazy stuff is going to happen, but you'll be frantically flipping the pages to discover what comes next in Patrick Lee’s latest conspiracy novel.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (2014)

oneplusoneJoin an unlikely group on this wacky road trip across England. In One Plus One, Ed drives Jess and her two kids Tanzie (10) and Nicky (16) and their dog Norman to a math tournament in Scotland. Single mother Jess is juggling two jobs, two kids, and too many bills. Tanzie is a math whiz, and this tournament is her shot at earning enough money to attend an exclusive school. Nicky’s differences make him a target of the neighborhood bullies. Tech geek Ed encounters a slew of problems relating to his business dealings, and without knowing quite how it happened, offers to transport the stranded family across the country. What should be a quick trip turns into an unexpected adventure.

The story is told from multiple points of view. Jojo Moyes’ novel is quirky, sweet, and memorable with endearing characters. Though it has moments of sadness, you’ll finish with a smile on your face.

What If (2014) PG-13

whatifIn this offbeat comedy, Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chandry (Zoe Kazan) meet at a party, strike an instant connection, and become best friends. She has a boyfriend and he’s been burned too many times. Can the pair really be just friends? What If is a sweet and smart romantic comedy set in Toronto with both funny and dramatic touches.
- Jennifer

What if your best friend was a girl? What if you liked her for more than just a friend? What if you don't know how to tell her?

This charming film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace, a med school dropout rebounding from recent heartbreak, who finds himself questioning all of these things.

Enter his roommate's cousin Chantry, an animator living with her long term boyfriend Ben. The two hit it off immediately and continually enjoy each other’s witty banter and humorous dialog. In a disastrous attempt to tell Chantry his true feelings, Wallace finally answers the question What If...- Chris

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2013)

lifeafterlifeKate Atkinson delivers a beautifully written, wildly imaginative tale of 20th century England. In Life After Life, Ursula Todd lives her life, over and over again. From the pre-war bucolic setting to the Great War and 1918 Influenza, to the horrors of WWII in London and beyond, Atkinson guides the reader through the first half of the 20th century through Ursula’s eyes. A novel of historical fiction with a fantastical element, Life After Life is a thought-provoking read of what might change if you could relive your life.

The plot may seem farfetched, but the author structures the book in such a way that it is believable. If you enjoy reading historical or literary fiction, WWII novels, stories about families, alternative histories, or just want a good story, try this book – you won’t regret it!

And if you’re hooked, a companion novel, A God in Ruins, will be released in May (and focuses on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy).

Chef (2014) R

chefOnce a rising star, Chef Carl Casper (Jon Favreau) has a meltdown that goes viral. Adrift and unemployed, Casper accepts help from his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) in the form of a beat-up food truck. With his sous chef Martin (John Leguizamo) and his young son Percy (Emjay Anthony), Casper rediscovers his love of cooking and his creative mojo on a road trip from Miami to Los Angeles. Chef is a heartwarming comedy about food and family.
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