The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (2008)
Twenty-six year old Josey still lives with her mother in the family mansion in the mountains of North Carolina. Acting as her mother’s cook, caregiver, and chauffeur, Josey has no life of her own until she wakes up one morning and finds local waitress Della Lee hiding in her closet. Through Della Lee, Josey meets and befriends Chloe, becomes involved in Chloe’s romantic problems and goes on a date with the man of her dreams. A charming romance with a touch of magical realism and maybe a touch of just plain magic.

Visit the author's website for an excerpt, deleted scenes, tidbits, discussion questions, and a preview of all of the candy mentioned in the book.

Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt

Girls in Trouble by Caroline Leavitt (2003)
Caroline, a pregnant teenager, makes the decision for an open adoption and ends up losing all contact with her baby. We “grow-up” with Caroline during her quest to be reunited with her now teenage daughter. Leavitt has written a touching, realistic story.

Visit the author's website for book discussion questions, interviews with the author, and essays about the novel.

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe

The Calling by Inger Ash Wolfe (2008)
This novel is a “first in a series” serial mystery that takes place in rural Ontario. Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef, flawed, middle-aged, divorced, is herself a walking trauma unit. What hasn’t happened to her yet is just a matter of time.

Our killer creatively dispatches his victims with a tad too much gore for my taste, but I often skim the gut wrenching details. However, overlooking that point, the plot gathers momentum until the final scene reaches a pretty exciting ending.

Through the story, we empathize with Hazel because she is “us.” We want her to survive almost as much as we want to stop the killer. The contrast between the rural police force and the urban police force is just another bonus along the way.

Before you get the book from the library, read an excerpt.

Something from the Nightside by Simon Green

Something from the Nightside by Simon Green (2003)
ATTENTION MYSTERY LOVERS -- don’t let the “science fiction” sticker on the spine scare you away! This book is just as much a mystery as a work of fantasy. A private detective, with a few special powers, works in London’s other-world, the Nightside. Take the adventure. You won’t regret it!

Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey

Eva Moves the Furniture by Margot Livesey (2001)
Different in tone from her alarming psychological tales (Homework, The Missing World), this novel is a deceptively simple coming-of-age story set in Scotland in the early 1900s. Eva’s mother dies giving birth to her and she is raised by her father and her practical Aunt Lily. Eva is a woman whose life is accompanied by invisible "companions" whose “guidance” is both helpful and harmful. Eva’s relationship with them is colored by both humor and melancholy. This isn't a ghost story, but rather a love story of the best kind.

Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews

Savannah Blues by Mary Kay Andrews (2001)
Savannah Blues is a light, fun read with a touch of learning about antique pickers. Follow Eloise "Weezie" Foley as she deals with a huge estate sale, eccentric relatives, a sexy ex-boyfriend, and her ex-husband. Love can be better the second time around.

Check out an interview with the author, read an excerpt, and glance over discussion questions. Also visit the author's website to learn more.

Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain

Before the Storm by Diane Chamberlain (2008)
This is an interesting novel that shows the complexities of human relationships. Laurel Lockwood is a mother who is trying to help and protect her special needs son after he is accused of arson. The author shifts from past to present so you really get to know the characters. Very enjoyable read!

Goodbye, She Lied by Russ Hall

Goodbye, She Lied by Russ Hall (2007)
In a tiny Texas town, Esbeth Walters enjoys her vocation as amateur detective. The local police find her an annoying, old busybody. In this zippy adventure, Esbeth takes on conmen and scams. A particular rest home loses guests a little too predictably, a murder is ruled a suicide, and two mean Vegas hitmen give Esbeth visions she’d rather not see.

As a retired schoolteacher, Esbeth has been well-trained in dealing with problems and problem children. Such an offbeat character makes reading mysteries down home fun.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (1995)
Three generations of a family form the core of this novel. Sisters, Gillian and Sally, are raised by their aunts Frances and Jet, also sisters. Sally’s two daughters, Antonia and Kylie, create the third generation. Magical realism is woven into the storyline which focuses on the issues of fate, trust, love, sibling rivalry, and family ties. I highly recommended Practical Magic for readers of multigenerational tales, magical realism, and stories where love, both romantic and between family members, can conquer all.

The movie has much more “magic” to show off the special effects department.

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke

The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke (2006)
If you've read or seen the Jane Austen books/movies, you will like this witty, suspense-driven story about Jane Austen. Contemporary and historical alternating settings make for an enjoyable story. If you do not know Mr. Darcy and the other Jane Austen characters, you’ll still enjoy the novel, but you may not get the references to Austen’s novels. Fast, fun, female read for all Jane Austen's fans and new readers.

Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb

Bimbos of the Death Sun by Sharyn McCrumb (1997)
A great mystery for science fiction fans! The entire story takes place at a science fiction convention. I found the setting and the characters believable. It is just as enjoyable as McCrumb’s Ballad series.

Plus, how can you resist a title like Bimbos of the Death Sun?

Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver

Garden of Beasts by Jeffery Deaver (2004)
An American hit man is hired to go to Berlin during the 1936 Olympics to take out a high ranking Nazi. Check out the author's website for more about the novel, an interview, an excerpt, and more.

The 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing start today! Visit NBC's Olympic website for TV and online listings, results, plus information about the U.S. athletes and teams.

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani (2007)
In this first novel, author Amirrezvani introduces a Western audience to the people and customs of 17th-century Persia. The narrator, whose name is never revealed, is 14 years old when the story begins with the death of her father. Without means, she and her mother leave their village and go to live with her father’s half-brother in Isfahan. The young girl who has a gift for carpet making discovers in her uncle a mentor who helps her master the art of carpet design.

As one reviewer said: “This is a story about adversity and persistence, failure and triumph. It is a story about stories themselves, about narratives and the role of oral tradition in Iranian history and culture.” I think this is a beautifully written historical fiction.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See (2005)
This book reveals more about Chinese culture in the 19th century than any book I’ve ever read. As the story unfolds, the friendship of the two main characters, Snow Flower and Lily, reflect the needs of women everywhere. We sigh with empathy for both of these women.

Visit the author's website to learn about the story behind the book, read an excerpt, or view book discussion questions.

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian

Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian (2008)
In the waning months of World War II in Europe, the German Emmerich family makes their way across Poland and Germany in an attempt to escape the Russians. On the way they are helped by the mysterious Manfred, a German soldier who has seen too much but seems to belong to no specific army unit. This book has an involving story and characters to care about—but its real strength is its evocation of the brutality and randomness of war.

For an excerpt, backstory, and author interview, visit Bohjalian's official website.