Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf (2014)

littlemerciesEllen is an overworked social worker with three children of her own. After a tragic accident occurs in her own family, she finds herself on the other side of the system she works for.

Ten-year-old Jenny, alone in Iowa, must rely on her street smarts to help herself.

When their lives intersect, the pair finds some unique ways to help each other. Little Mercies is a really good page turner, with characters you come to care about. Check out the latest from Heather Gudenkauf.

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh (2005)

bakertowersJennifer Haigh’s family saga takes place in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania. Baker Towers exudes family love, pain, and pathos, as the children of Italian/Polish immigrants go out to meet the world to find their calling, a sense of happiness, and directions to their lives.

The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis (2014)

IMG_0983I grabbed this quirky graphic novel on a whim and was pleasantly surprised. Rob DavisThe Motherless Oven contains a story of friendship as three teens go on an adventure to solve the usual mysteries of life. Can someone escape their assigned death day? Where did Scarper's robot father go?

It was the world building in this book that intrigued me the most though. Why on earth does it rain knives instead of water? Read this on a day you are FEELING WEIRD. Or ready to feel weird. Or weirder than you already feel.

 

Trains & Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith (2013)

trainsloversThree men and a woman share a train compartment between Edinburgh and London. From different age groups, backgrounds, and even countries, they prove it is sometimes easier to bare your soul to strangers, except for one coveted secret of an old love that is revealed only to readers. The travelers share their personal or family love stories and, oddly enough, they all involve trains. Diverse anecdotes take the reader all over England, Scotland, Australia, and the eastern part of the U.S., past and present day. The stories of Trains & Lovers get at the heart of human emotions. By the last chapter, Alexander McCall Smith may convince you to book a rail journey.

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks (2011)

bestofmeSome of Nicholas Sparks’ novels are just really sad, but I still loved this one and have to recommend it. The character development and the plot have just the right amount of suspense thrown in to keep the reader turning pages.

Dawson and Amanda were lovers 25 years ago and are reunited in their North Carolina hometown after the death of a mutual friend. Neither has lived the life they had hoped to live, nor can they forget the special love that they shared.

In The Best of Me, you really come to care about the main characters as they struggle to accept and live with the choices they’ve made. After you read the book, check out the movie adaptation.

Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood (2014)

mrshemingwayThe incredible talent, the struggles with mental health, the madcap adventures around the globe, the drinking, the recklessness, and the many loves of the original party animal – Ernest Hemingway told through the eyes of his four wives is a revealing piece of historical fiction. Fans of The Paris Wife may be disappointed at first when the Hadley they have grown to love is pushed into the background and each new wife in turn takes over the narration of the literary genius' life story.

Naomi Wood endears the reader to the many qualities that made Hemingway fall for the other three women over the years. In Mrs. Hemingway, Wood drives the point home that all the great loves of his life could not quench his inherent loneliness.

The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns (1997)

churchofdeadgirlsA series of disappearances of young adolescent girls in a small upstate New York town creates suspicion and violence amongst the town’s other inhabitants. From its truly creepy beginning to its end, Stephen DobynsThe Church of Dead Girls is one suspenseful story.

China Dolls by Lisa See (2014)

chinadollsThree young Asian American women meet at the Golden Gate International Exhibit in 1938. They forge immediate friendships and end up entertaining in the San Francisco nightclub scene. Each woman holds dark secrets that are slowly revealed as they struggle to survive during the war years. Friendship, family, love, and betrayal are examined from their diverse points of view in Lisa See’s China Dolls.

Join our Novel Idea discussion group on Wednesday, May 13 at 7pm to talk about China Dolls. Get your copy of the book at the front checkout desk.

Nora Webster by Colm Toibin (2014)

norawebsterIt took me a while to get into the story of the recently widowed Nora Webster in Colm Toibin’s latest novel, but I ended up enjoying this patient exploration of a woman’s life. After her beloved husband passes away, Nora struggles to take care of her four children while living on a meager widower’s pension.

Narrator Fiona Shaw's authentic Irish accent enriches the story that takes place in small town of Wexford, Ireland, where Nora raises her two young boys. Nora's sisters, aunts, and friends all offer assistance and advice as she navigates the unfamiliar terrain of her new life. In Nora Webster, the transition of Nora from grieving widow to resilient independent woman is a wonderful journey for the reader.
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The Murder Man by Tony Parsons (2014)

murdermanAfter a transfer from the anti-terrorism unit to homicide, DC Max Wolfe is immediately involved in the investigation into the grisly murder of investment banker Hugo Buck. When a homeless man is killed soon after in the same way, it seems there's a serial killer on the loose who specifically targeted both men. What is the connection between the victims and will there be more deaths before Max and his colleague, DCI Mallory, discover the identity of the killer?

In this first book in the Max Wolfe series, author Tony Parsons creates an interesting main character who struggles to raise his five-year-old daughter, Scout, on his own, while mourning the loss of his wife. He is also able to craft a puzzle that keeps you guessing until the end. The Murder Man is a good read-alike for those who enjoy the Mark Tartaglia series by Elena Forbes.

Neuromancer by William Gibson (1984)

neuromancerWilliam Gibson’s critically acclaimed Neuromancer tells the story of Henry Dorsett Case, a master computer hacker forced into a life of petty street crime after crossing an employer who wrecked his nervous system as payback. As Case spirals down a self-destructive path on the streets of near-future Chiba, Japan, a mysterious benefactor offers to repair his nervous system – allowing Case to once again explore the myriad gleaming pathways of Cyberspace – in exchange for a highly dangerous, confidential job. Case accepts, and is plunged into a tangled web of conspiracies with dire implications.

Neuromancer is fascinatingly paced: the first half or so reads like a series of connected short stories, while the latter half begs to be read in one sitting. The plot is a gripping tale of intrigue, and the characters are compellingly written, but where the novel really shines is in its prediction. Gibson’s deeply atmospheric prose envisages a world dramatically changed by incredible advances in computer science and biotechnology combined with growing corporate influence on political and legal matters.

Neuromancer’s frankly portrayed adult subject matter and occasionally unsettling themes definitely aren't for everyone. But for everyone else, it comes highly recommended to those looking for an engaging sci-fi thriller.

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain (2014)

silentsisterIt's usually pretty easy to get quickly drawn in by Diane Chamberlain's novels, and this one does not disappoint. In fact, The Silent Sister is a great page-turner.

Riley MacPherson is the protagonist in this story. She is a young woman in her mid-twenties who has the unpleasant and depressing job of clearing out her childhood home after her father passes away. She discovers that her family kept many secrets during the time she was growing up, including a really huge one concerning her older sister. Very enjoyable!

The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai (2014)

hundredyearhouseThis is the quirky and charming story of Laurelfield, a grand estate north of Chicago. Rebecca Makkai unfolds the history of the century old house in reverse order starting with Zee and Doug, a young couple struggling to find their place in the world of academia. At Laurefield, they encounter locked attics, Y2K fears, jealousy and plenty of ghosts. As the past is revealed in the subsequent chapters, you begin to understand that everything is connected in a mysterious way. I loved this unconventional story and you will want to read The Hundred-Year House again as soon as you finish.

Hey 20-30somethings -- GenLit will be discussing this novel on Wednesday, March 25 at 6:30pm at Phillies Pizza in Willowbrook. Join the conversation on Facebook.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014)

allthelightThe horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe are told through the eyes of Marie-Louise and Werner. They are on opposing sides, yet they are both just innocent teenagers caught up in a no-win situation. In another time and place, they could have been soulmates. Their intelligent and gentle natures bleed through some of the travesty.

Marie-Louise escapes war-torn Paris as her father tries to hide her away in a family home in St. Malo, but the war catches up with them. Her father, as an employee of the National History Museum, is hiding a special stone with legendary stories attached to it. The stone and its legends add a touch of mysterious appeal to All the Light We Cannot See.

Werner is an electronic genius and an orphan who gets caught up into the Nazi plan at a much younger age than necessary. Superiors lie about his age to take advantage of his radio expertise on the front lines. Werner's sister is part of the underground German resistance movement and adds an interesting element to the story.

Anthony Doerr alternates between Werner and Marie-Louise's voices and magically creates a haunting story readers will not soon forget.

For more novels of WWII, check out our list.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver (2014)

murderatbrightwellIf you’re a fan of traditional mysteries, you’ll enjoy this one. Set at a fashionable hotel on England’s southern coast in 1932 with a cast of characters right out of an Agatha Christie mystery, Murder at the Brightwell is a witty and energetic who-done-it.

Amory Ames, wealthy and dissatisfied with her life, takes a holiday at the seaside and turns detective after a fellow hotel guest turns up dead and another is suspected of foul play. The plot takes on a new dimension when her husband Milo arrives unexpectedly. Amory and Milo Ames’ off and on again marriage seems to be laying the foundation for a lively and clever new series of mystery novels by Ashley Weaver. At least I hope so.