The Cape Ann by Faith Sullivan

The Cape Ann by Faith Sullivan (1988)
Lark Erhardt is six years old in late 1930s small town Minnesota. Her father is the assistant agent at the local train depot. Lark and her parents live in a makeshift apartment attached to the depot. This is good enough for Mr. Erhardt, but Lark and her mother dream of the day they can build their dream house, the Cape Ann, torn from a book of house plans. Lark overhears the troubling relationship between her father and mother. She writes all of her "sins" down in a notebook in preparation for her First Communion, and she is there when her mother's sister goes through crises of her own.

This was an evocative and moving story about a young heroine you want very much to succeed. I am looking forward to reading more of Lark's life in the sequel, Gardenia.

Join us for a discussion of the book on Wednesday, December 9 at 7:30. Check out the reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author's website.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult (2009)
In this very sad but excellent story, Jodi Picoult tells of the heartache a family suffers in caring for their disabled daughter. It grabs you from the very first chapter. Bring some tissues along.

Read the reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author's website to read an excerpt or a synopsis and find discussion questions.

A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell

A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell (2009)
Hannah Vogel is a crime reporter in Berlin in 1931. While visiting the police for news tips, she sees a photograph of her brother's dead body on the wall of the unknown dead. For reasons of her own, Hannah does not tell the police about her brother but investigates her brother's death herself, putting her own life in jeopardy. This is one of the current crop of books that uses Germany between the two world wars as the setting for a crime novel.

Watch the trailer and read more about the author. Check out the reviews at Amazon.com.

Life with Strings Attached by Minnie Lamberth

Life with Strings Attached by Minnie Lamberth (2005)
Life with Strings Attached, Minnie Lamberth's first novel, is the winner of the Paraclete Press Award for Fiction. It is graced with strong writing and a decidedly southern charm. Set in Evergreen, Alabama, in the summer of 1972 seven-year-old Hannah Hayes is concerned with keeping her beagle Pumpkin free from the bad influences of the neighbor's dog and convincing the adults in her life that she is called to be her community's first girl preacher. Told with humor and insight this story is not sentimental, but is an authentic tale of growing up. It held me right up to the end!

Read reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author's website.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn (2009)
Libby Day was seven when she testified that her brother murdered their family in a brutal rampage. Years later, she begins to question her recollection and sets out to uncover the truth. A can't-put-down read!

Listen to the author talk about her first book Sharp Objects, read reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author's website.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (2003)
I loved this novel about the Gonguli family – who left their home in India in the late 1960s to begin a new life in America. It’s a story not only about the immigrant experience, but also about the family ties that bind us all. Beautifully written.

Come join the Novel Idea book discussion of this title on Wednesday, October 14 at 7:30.

Read an interview with the author, preview the book, and explore a reading guide to the book.

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani (2009)
A light but very entertaining book for a beach or trip read, especially if you've been or are going to Italy. Valentine, raised in a true Italian family, lives with her aging grandmother as they try to keep their family business (a high-end Italian shoe designer/ manufacturer) up and running. Love enters in for both Valentine and grandma and the ending has a twist. Chick lit, maybe, but I truly enjoyed it!

Read an excerpt and review at Bookreporter.com and visit the author's website.

The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone

The Four Corners of the Sky by Michael Malone (2009)
Twenty-seven year old Annie Goode, a Navy pilot, returns to her North Carolina home for her birthday just in time for a twister to hit and her long lost father Jack to contact her and beg her to fly his old plane to St. Louis. Jack is always one step ahead of the law and an accomplished con man, so Annie is reluctant to follow his wishes, except that he holds out to Annie her own one greatest wish--the name of her father. This is a picaresque adventure complete with Cuban mobsters, the FBI, handsome Miami cops, and an elusive golden statue called The Queen of the Sea. Maybe a bit long, but if you enter into the story, well worth the time.

Preview an excerpt at NPR, check out the Washington Post's review, and read an interview with the author.

Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow

Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow (2005)
The son of a WWII veteran tells a story of what he found out about his Dad's military service in WWII. His dad never talked about WWII and believed in living in the present because he did not want to remember his military service or relate it to his children.

You'll enjoy the suspense of the story. Not a tedious war story, but a human story about the moral decisions made in the midst of gruesome reality. I am the daughter of a WWII veteran and the niece of four WWII veterans who never talked about the war. Therefore, this story interested me, but the grit of the war's reality was disturbing. As the characters in this story led full successful lives after WWII, so did their children; the same has been true of my family members.

Preview the book, read reviews at Amazon.com, and visit the author's website for more information.

Matthew Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom

Matthew Shardlake series by C. J. SansomSet in the reign of Henry VIII, these novels bring to life the sounds and smells of Tudor England. Matthew Shardlake, the lawyer renowned as the sharpest hunchback in the courts of England, finds himself entangled in the intrigues of the Tudor court, and the dangerous schemes of Thomas Cromwell, the feared vicar-general.

In Dissolution (2003), under the orders of Thomas Cromwell, a team of commissioners is sent throughout the country to investigate the monasteries and ultimately get rid of them.

In Dark Fire (2004), Shardlake must find a lost cache of dark fire, a legendary substance which was used by the Byzantines to destroy Arab navies.

In Sovereign (2007), Shardlake becomes a part of Henry VIII’s Royal Progress to the farthest reaches of his realm and becomes involved in murder.

In Revelation (2008), Matthew Shardlake must find the perpetrator of a series of horrific murders with connections to the dark prophecies of the Book of Revelation.

Sansom, who has a PhD in history and was an attorney, writes with wonderful attention to period detail and an artful handling of suspense.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (2008)
The time is post-WWII in the 1940s. The place is a Mississippi cotton farm. The story is about two families: landowners and sharecroppers. It’s extremely informative about the poverty that existed for people in the South after WWII. This is an interesting story of choices people make which turn out good and bad.

Read an excerpt, view reviews and a reading guide at BookBrowse.com and visit the author's website.

Grace by Richard Paul Evans

Grace by Richard Paul Evans (2008)
As is his usual style, Richard Paul Evans makes you really feel like you know the characters. In this bittersweet tale, a young man tries his best to rescue a girl in her time of need. It hooks you in from the very first page.

Watch a video of the author discussing his books and read reviews at Amazon.com.

The Two Mrs. Grenvilles by Dominick Dunne

The Two Mrs. Grenvilles by Dominick Dunne (1985)
This novel was inspired by the sensational Woodward murder case of 1955 in which a well-born society figure, William Woodward, was shot by his actress/showgirl wife.

In the novel, showgirl Ann Arden marries wealthy Billy Grenville hoping to be accepted by high society and become the well-bred woman of her fantasies. To do this, she must contend with the disapproval of her patrician mother-in-law, Alice. Ann's rag-to-riches ascent into New York society comes to a halt when she shoots and kills her husband, claiming she thought he was a burglar. The newspapers call it "the shooting of the century." Alice has no doubts her son was deliberately killed. The Grenvilles and their high-society friends draw a protective shield across the tragedy, and, as a result, the two Mrs. Grenvilles become bound together in a conspiracy of silence.

Read the reviews at Amazon.com and visit the author's website.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (2009)
Eleven-year-old Flavia De Luce is old and wise beyond her years. When first a dead bird and then a dead man turns up on the doorstep of her family's English country estate, she sets out to solve the crime herself. Set in 1950, Flavia's household consists of two older self-involved sisters, a remote father, and a faithful gardener, shell shocked from the war. Flavia researches old newspapers and tracks down village eccentrics to quiz about current and past events to solve the crime and get her father off the hook for the murder.

You might also like Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes (1996) for another depiction of a young sleuth or I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948) for a story about an eccentric English family told from the point of view of the youngest daughter.

Discover more about the author, read reviews and an interview with the author at Amazon.com, and visit the Flavia de Luce Fan Club.

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham (1925)The Painted Veil, published in 1925, has well-developed characters not captured in the 2006 movie. This is a great short book that uses the English language concisely and descriptively. The setting is early 1920s Hong Kong, yet the story concentrates on the personalities of the characters rather than on the story's geographical settings. It’s an interesting read about humanity. This novel has as much to say as books which are much longer. It's surprising how short the time period is in which this story takes place. Before Maugham wrote The Painted Veil, he published Of Human Bondage, which is a classic book and movie.

Watch the trailer for the movie, learn more about Somerset Maugham and visit Google Books to preview his works.