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Oleander Girl by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (2013)

Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has written this romantic suspense novel as a young woman’s search for her parentage and consequently her identity. The heroine Korobi is both infuriating and endearing as her story unfolds with all of its complexity, crisis, and obstacle. Oleander Girl is rich with descriptions of the Indian culture. Divakaruni writes about India in a way that gives the reader an insight into traditional Indian culture.

Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde (2009)

Shades of Grey is science fiction, suspense, and comedy rolled into one. It is set in a dystopian future in which everyone is color blind and one’s class status is determined by the amount of color that he or she can see, with the greys toiling at the bottom, the purples at the top, and several other hues in constant conflict.

Jasper Fforde has a vivid imagination, an eye for detail, and a gift for writing. I especially enjoy the clever dialogue, and each comically absurd scene outdoes the last. John Lee is excellent as the narrator of the book on CD. I would highly recommend listening to this book.

Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt (2013)

Lookaway, Lookaway by Wilton Barnhardt is full of sharp insights about life in the modern South along with plenty of dysfunctional family drama, civil war rehashing, bourbon drinking, and the ongoing struggle to keep up appearances.

We follow a different member of the Johnston family each chapter as they interact with each other during doomed holiday dinners and on their own, usually unfortunate, tangents. Matriarch Jerene manages to hold the family together by wielding a formidable array of threats and lies, all while impeccable groomed, until events progress beyond even her extreme damage control skills.

Digging to America by Anne Tyler (2006)

Two families wait at the airport for two precious bundles, Korean orphans. This coincidental meeting ties these two very different families together as they every year celebrate together this anniversary. This happy situation is threatened when the widowed grandfather of one of the orphans becomes close to the widowed grandmother of the other.

Check out a copy of Digging to America, or find other books by Anne Tyler.

Lucia, Lucia by Adriana Trigiani (2003)

This is a story about a woman recalling what her life was like in the 1950s. The story she tells is all about her family, romance, and what it was like to have a career, which most women at that time did not have.

Lucia, Lucia made me laugh and cry. It touched upon both the humorous and the challenges of life. I love all of Adriana Trigiani’s books, including the Big Stone Gap series.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (2013)

This is my first taste of Neil Gaiman as a writer for an adult audience. The same master storytelling and ability to keep you on the edge of your seat is there. The Ocean at the End of the Lane seems like a child's novel at first. The main character is reminiscing about a nightmarish memory from his childhood. After a while, it becomes quite apparent that the content is straight from a nightmare and also for mature audiences.

Gaiman keeps the reader questioning. Is this reality, fantasy, or are we dealing with mythical creatures as old as life itself? As a consolation to readers, no matter how horrible the nightmare gets, we know our hero survives to recount the story as an adult.

 

Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat (2013)

The title character is a 7-year-old girl whose mother died giving birth to her, “so her birthday was also a day of death,” a day to visit the cemetery every year. Claire goes missing in the first chapter and stays missing until the very last pages, but the novel goes on to portray characters whose lives intersect with Claire and her father Nozias.

Through this fictitious Haitian village, we are brought to an understanding of life on this island nation with its extremes of poverty and excesses of wealth.

Moving back and forth through time but returning at the end to the night of Claire’s birthday, Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light has a fable like quality and is beautifully written…but it is ultimately about loss so not an easy read.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (2005)

Percy is a twelve-year-old dyslexic boy who doesn’t fit in, his mother lives with an abusive stepfather, and he has just been expelled from his sixth school in six years. Life is frustrating, and the future seems bleak, when he suddenly learns the truth: his father is one of the Greek Gods! This, of course, means that Percy is half a God, and it opens up a whole new world full of danger, but also hope. The Lightning Thief is the first book in Rick Riordan’s young adult series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and it will make you wish you paid attention more in high school when you were studying mythology. This is a fun book with a Herculean quest, prophecies, and plenty of action.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones (2012)

This novel which at first appears to be an elegant comedy of manners takes a turn for the better to become a ghost story. The story takes place in a manor house somewhere near Manchester, England, in April 1912 on the eve of Emerald Torrington's 20th birthday. Preparations are being made, guests invited, and but for The Great Central Railway everything would have gone on as planned. A dreadful accident throws the household into confusion and misbehavior.

The combination of rich with period detail, well-imagined characters and a pleasing resolution makes The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones worth picking up for a quick read.

The Big Strike at Siwash by George Fitch (1909)

This short story is one of my favorites. Written in the style of a tall tale, it follows the football team at Siwash College and the daring exploits of star player Ole Skjarsen, a lad built of sturdy Scandinavian stock. He could dismantle most teams single-handedly, until the day he decided not to play anymore, leaving the entire university in turmoil. Find out how the fans cope with this great calamity. The Big Strike at Siwash by George Fitch is free at books.google.com.
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Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012)

Robin Sloan’s book has all of the elements of wonderful and unforgettable story. There are a quirky set of characters led by the clerk of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Clay Jannon. With help from his roommates, childhood friend, and new girlfriend, Clay attempts to figure out what is really going on at the unusual bookstore.  He unknowingly stumbles on a 500 year mystery and embarks on an epic journey. Humorous and well written with a great narrator, this is wonderful novel to listen to.

After Her by Joyce Maynard (2013)

When Rachel and Patty were kids, their dad was the detective hot on the trail of the Sunset Strangler, a serial killer who preyed on young women in their neighborhood. Thirty years later, Rachel is still searching to capture the killer. This is a can’t-put-down whodunit and a story that explores deep family bonds in a coming of age tale. Check out After Her by Joyce Maynard.

The Dinner by Herman Koch (2012)

The Dinner is alarming…a novel which makes you think twice. It takes place over the course of a dinner meeting between two couples, two brothers and their wives, at a high-end restaurant in Amsterdam (although it could be anywhere). Through careful revelations by its unreliable narrator, Paul Lohman, Herman Koch unravels the threads that bind. It is a novel in which the disclosure of secrets tells the tale and, though not an easy read, its twists and turns keep you reading.
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The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (2013)

In this beautifully written and heartbreaking gem, Jodi Picoult tells the story of Sage Singer. Sage is a young woman who befriends an elderly gentleman (Josef) in her grief support group. As time progresses and their friendship grows, Sage learns that long ago Josef was a Nazi officer. Josef begs Sage to not only forgive him for his past sins, but also to help him die. The Storyteller is a very intense novel that grabs you from the very beginning and does not let you go.
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First Frost by James Henry (2013)

Have you enjoyed the Touch of Frost mystery DVDs? Frost’s exploits first appeared in a series of books by R. D Wingfield in the 1980s. This year, Frost’s story is continued in a prequel by James Henry entitled First Frost. Frost is just as rumpled, irascible, and brilliant as in the original books and TV series as he solves crimes on the perpetually understaffed Denton Police Force.