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Acts of Faith by Philip Caputo (2005)

actsoffaithPhilip Caputo sets this fascinating tale of aid workers against the background of Sudan’s civil war, where the Muslim government in the north fights the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) for control of the Christian and animist south. Acts of Faith presents multiple stories of a group of men and women who confront their own individual moral crises and fears as they work to alleviate the suffering caused by civil war in contemporary Sudan. Reporter, novelist, and nonfiction writer, Caputo has produced a compassionate and dramatic novel.

The Impersonator by Mary Miley (2013)

impersonatorIn 1924, vaudevillian Leah Randall finds herself unemployed. When approached by shady Oliver Beckett with a scheme to impersonate a missing heiress and share in her inheritance, Leah is at first dismissive. When no paying roles materialize, Leah gives in and finds herself in a mansion on the Oregon coast impersonating Jessie Carr. Jessie disappeared seven years before. Is she alive, and if not, what happened to her? Could what happened to Jessie now happen to Leah? Mary Miley’s The Impersonator is a fun jazz-era mystery inspired by Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013)

girlyouleftbehindSophie and Liv struggle through tragedies, tough decisions, and community ridicule nearly a century a part. A hauntingly beautiful portrait of Sophie with penetrating eyes painted by her impressionist husband connect the womens' plights across time. Liv feels a deep connection to Sophie and risks everything to keep the painting out of the wrong hands.

Sophie is left behind in occupied France during WWI as her husband goes off to fight. Liv is left behind after her husband's untimely death in 21st century London. Liv meets Paul and finds out he is on the opposing side of her quest to keep Sophie's portrait. Their relationship develops in opposite directions. She is not sure if he can pull her out of her deep depression left by her husband's death, financial ruin, and public criticism, or push her further down.

As Liv finds herself at the end of all hope, Jojo Moyes allows the reader inside the mind of Sophie on the brink of death at the hands of the enemy. In The Girl You Left Behind, parallel narratives converge as the two women continue to struggle. A satisfying epilogue ties up loose ends in both worlds, yet leaves enough for the reader's imagination to wander a bit.

The Cairo Affair by Olen Steinhauer (2014)

cairoaffairIt may be a spy novel, but it’s deeper as it involves feelings. The Cairo Affair takes place in the Middle East; the characters are Egyptian Americans, Libyans, and CIA agents. Olen Steinhauer’s writing provides a very warm, poetic description of Cairo. This book will stay with you for a while, not leaving your thoughts.

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline (2014)

keepquietJake Buckman is a successful businessman who longs to have a closer relationship with his 16-year-old son. He gets his wish when both of them try to cover up a tragic accident. Lisa Scottoline’s Keep Quiet includes plenty of suspense and is a good page turner.

The Lie by Helen Dunmore (2014)

liedunmoreDaniel Branwell returns to his small Cornish village at the end of WWI. Daniel, although very smart, is from a very poor family and had to leave school to support his widowed mother. Now back from the war, he helps an elderly neighbor, and when she dies, moves into her home. Without education and prospects, traumatized by the war, and deeply missing his childhood friend, Frederic, who died in battle in front of him, Daniel wanders through life searching for meaning. The Lie by Helen Dunmore is a quietly beautiful and moving novel.

The Blessings by Elise Juska (2014)

blessingsI really enjoyed Elise Juska’s latest novel, which centers on a large, Irish Catholic extended family living in North Philly. Told in alternating points of view by various family members and spanning 15 years, The Blessings is a lovely, sometime heartbreaking, tale of a family and what unites them.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993)

giverlowryThe book is a quick read and well done. In The Giver, an organized community controls its citizens every move and position within the community. The main character is a twelve-year-old boy, Jonas, and how he learns the truth about the community and the world outside.

Did you see the movie? How does it compare with Lois Lowry’s novel? If you haven't seen it yet, check out the trailer below.

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (2011)

index.aspxKendare Blake’s Anna Dressed in Blood is THE dark, twisted romance story for fans of the television show Supernatural. I appreciated gruesome moments that made me both throw up in my mouth and say “aww” at the same time.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman (2014)

index.aspxIn New York City in 1911, a fire devastated both the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village and destroyed the amusement park Dreamland being constructed above Coney Island.

These public events are the framework for a spellbinding tale in which the author weaves realism and fairy tale. This novel, a romance and a tightly plotted mystery, is set among carnival sideshows, freak shows, and the midway of Coney Island. Her portrayal of New York City during a pivotal year in the city’s history turns the city a character in its own right.

Alice Hoffman’s storytelling magic is here in The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a love story rich with history and a sense of place.

The Cartographer of No Man's Land by P. S. Duffy (2013)

index.aspxNova Scotia fisherman and amateur artist Angus MacGrath leaves his wife and son to enlist in the army during WWI. MacGrath has been lead to believe that his skills as an artist will be put to use as a cartographer. Instead he finds himself in the middle of the fight, witnessing horrors he never imagined. At home his emotionally distant wife and young son must deal with his absence and that of a beloved brother and uncle. MacGrath returns to his beloved Nova Scotia a man changed, perhaps forever.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land by P. S. Duffy is a beautiful balance between realistic characters and setting and dream-like quality adopted by some of the characters to survive. For other modern novels about WWI see our bibliography.

Join us! Our Novel Idea book discussion group will discuss the book on Wednesday, September 10 at 7pm.

The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs by Alexander McCall Smith (2005)

index.aspxEnjoy the very funny adventures of Professor Dr. Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld in The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs. I listened to the audio version, which was read by Hugh Laurie. His voice and delivery complimented Alexander McCall Smith’s text.

The first book in the series is titled Portuguese Irregular Verbs.
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The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon (2014)

index.aspx1930 was the year of New York Justice Joseph Crater's infamous disappearance (his body was never found). This novel tells the story as seen through the eyes of the three women who knew him best: his wife Stella, his mistress Ritzi, and the maid Maria. Their story, expertly woven around these events, comes from the author’s imagination and she builds a fascinating tale of what may have happened.

Author Ariel Lawhon saves the why of Judge Crater disappearance until a twist in the very last pages. The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress will transport readers to a bygone era of chorus girls, speakeasies, bootleggers, Tammany Hall corruption, gangsters, and irritating rich people.

An Inquiry into Love and Death by Simone St. James (2013)

index.aspxWhen Jillian Leigh hears of the death of her eccentric ghost hunting Uncle Toby, she must put her Oxford studies aside and travel to seaside village Rothewell. There she learns of local Blood Moon Bay, haunted by a notorious ship wrecker. But more than a two hundred year old ghost is haunting the Bay. Local WWI veterans are haunted by the war and Jillian herself seems stalked by a local spirit. Set in the early 1920s, this romantic Gothic tale is a satisfying ghost story.

Check out a copy of Simone St. James’ An Inquiry into Love and Death.

The Invisible City by Julia Dahl (2014)

index.aspxRebekah Roberts is a stringer reporter for the New York Tribune. Growing up in Florida and raised by her father, she is scarred by the absence of her Hasidic mother, who left when Rebekah was a baby. Her parents never married and met while Rebekah's mother was questioning her faith. When Rebekah is at the scene where an ultra-Orthodox woman is found dead at a scrap yard, she finds herself trying to understand a faith she doesn't know that well. She is also working on the case with a policeman named Saul who knew both her parents all those years ago. Saul wants justice for the murdered woman, Rivka Mendelssohn, but believes that the police are not investigating thoroughly and leaving it to the Hasidic community to dictate what's done, such as not performing an autopsy on Rivka. Will Rebekah be able to put her personal issues aside and put her journalist skills to good use?

Julia Dahl’s Invisible City is the first book in the Rebekah Roberts series and features an intriguing main character along with interesting story. It would appeal to readers who enjoy the Kate Burkholder books by Linda Castillo.