Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland (1999)
The title of Girl in Hyacinth Blue could also be titled Life of a Painting. All who read this book will enjoy art more because of the wonderful description of the painting and the way the owners of it enjoy its beauty.

Set in Amsterdam from 1939 to 1945, the story gives a wonderful history of the life of the people during WWII. Since the story gives the historical account of the painting Girl in Hyacinth Blue from present day to its beginning, you're reading a memoir backwards to find out how the painting came to be in the current owner's home.

Enjoy an easy read while you learn.

Visit the publisher's website for a reading guide and an interview with the author.

The Master of the Delta by Thomas H. Cook

The Master of the Delta by Thomas H. Cook (2008)
Jack Branch is living in the moldering remains of his family’s plantation house. Jack, formerly a teacher at the local high school, relives events from the 1950s when his encouragement of a young boy to write about his father, a local murderer who died in jail, opens up wounds and provokes actions that end in tragedy.

Publisher's Weekly has an article about the author, and both Yahoo! and The Washington Post have reviews.

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child

Bad Luck and Trouble by Lee Child (2007)
As read by expert reader Dick Hill, Bad Luck and Trouble (#11 in the series) goes into overdrive as Jack Reacher solves the brutal murder of a former colleague. Jack Reacher reunites his old team of elite investigators into a wildly exciting assault. Not always probable, tough, mach Jack raises the level of excitement to high – fun. Listen and enjoy.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (1982)
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." If you can resist an opening sentence like that, you have more willpower than I. The Gunslinger begins The Dark Tower series, which follows Roland’s quest to reach the nexus of all universes. Since King finished the seven volume series in 2004, it’s safe to start reading! I also would highly recommend George Guidall or Frank Muller’s narrations.

(Nota Bene: This is NOT a horror series or story. King may be best known for writing horror novels, but he is a masterful storyteller and writer in other genres too!)

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers (1998)
A well written novel of Christian faith. This is the story of an old Welsh custom of symbolically removing the sins of the deceased by eating a meal placed on the coffin. 10-year-old Cadi Forbes, growing up in the Smoky Mountains in the 1850s, is a child of Welsh immigrants whose old country beliefs require a sin eater when someone dies. The child becomes enthralled with this idea when she is present at the accidental death of her much beloved sibling.

Cadi looks for the sin eater, but her search is really a search for Jesus, and eventually she leads the community away from the notion of a sin eater and toward a fundamentalist faith in Jesus the redeemer.

Visit the author's website for an excerpt, a reading guide, and the author's responses to frequently asked questions. In 2007, The Last Sin Eater was made into a movie. You can request it from another library.

The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom


The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (2003)


At first I thought this book would be a bit depressing. However, I found it to be a quick, easy read that also gave me a “feel good” feeling! I truly enjoyed this book.

Visit Mitch Albom's website for everything you need to know about him or his books. You can read a synopsis or an excerpt, find a reading group guide or a teacher's guide, and learn more about the background of the author and the book.

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards (2005)
This story had a very interesting plot and lots of good character development. A doctor delivers his own twins during a fierce snowstorm. He keeps his infant son, but secretly gives away his daughter who has Down syndrome.

Visit the official website for an excerpt, reviews, an interview with the author, and much more. Did you know that the novel was made into a Lifetime movie starring Dermot Mulroney, Gretchen Mol, and Emily Watson? It premiered on April 12. Check out Lifetime's website for more details.

The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang

The Eye of Jade by Diane Wei Liang (2008)
Present day, Beijing. A detective story that goes to the heart of modern China. Mei Wang, our first Chinese female detective, is more than just a pretty face. Hired by her uncle to find a rare piece of jade, she slips into the dark side of Beijing as well as the extremely affluent world of her younger sister, Lu.

As the plot unwinds, Mei also reveals her own inner core of isolation from her family, from her lost love, and from her former job in the Ministry of Public Security. In her quest for justice, she uncovers dark secrets and darker choices.

After reading so many novels that lack that special touch of author style, this book is as refreshing as a real spring day. Read an excerpt, other reviews, and an interview with the author.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult (2000)

Very well-written story about Ellie, a defense attorney who is helping a young Amish girl accused of murder. I couldn’t put it down!

Visit the author's website for a synopsis, an excerpt, and discussion questions. Read a Lifetime interview where Picoult discusses her inspiration for the book and her experience living with the Amish. Compare the novel to the 2004 TV movie adaptation starring Mariska Hargitay.

It's Superman! by Tom De Haven

It's Superman! by Tom De Haven (2005)

Coming of age in rural 1930s America with unusual skills like X-ray vision and the power to stop bullets, Clark Kent takes us along on his coming-of-age journey of self-discovery. Covering years (May 1935 through February 1938), the story takes him from Smallville to New York (Metropolis). A Young Clark Kent, newly hired "Daily Planet" reporter; Lois Lane; and evil criminal mastermind Alexander "Lex" Luthor come to life in It's Superman! This is a fascinating idea. The story is as inventive and thrilling as it is touching and wise.

See what Powell's and the New York Times said about the novel. Other books by Tom De Haven include Derby Dugan's Depression Funnies (1996), Dugan Under Ground (2001), Funny Papers (2002), and the graphic novel Green Candles (1997).

Roommates Wanted by Lisa Jewell

Roommates Wanted by Lisa Jewell (2007)

Leah, while living with her Indian boyfriend, has long observed the interesting characters who live across the street from her London apartment. Leah gets involved when an elderly resident of the mystery house has a heart attack on the sidewalk. She then meets Toby and his assortment of lost souls. Now Toby has the chance to sell the house and move to the country--but he can't bring himself to abandon his housemates. Enter Leah and her ability to make all ship shape. A delightful chick lit novel with considerably more depth than the average.

--Debbie

Set in contemporary London, our gangling anti-hero, Toby, rents rooms to the needy and then passively allows his tenants to dictate his life. Whoa…along comes the girl next door, Leah.  Slowly, not suddenly, our hero falls out of love with and into love with—Ah, but that would be telling. This book is fun: a chick flick that’s tolerable to all.

--Lucille

The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell

The Dark Lantern by Gerri Brightwell (2008)
In late Victorian London, young maid Jane Wilbred comes from the country to take a position with the Bentley family. Soon Jane becomes the pawn of both upstairs and downstairs. Jane’s mistress Mina Bentley has a secret past she is desperate to outrun and a mysterious woman shows up claiming to be the widow of Mr. Bentley’s older brother. Is the young man wooing Jane in love with her, or only using her for his own master’s devious plans? Wonderfully gothic and atmospheric.

At the publisher's website, you can browse inside the book, find more about the story and the author, and view a reading group guide.

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (1994)
A courtroom drama provides the framework for this tale of the legacy of racism following WWII in the northwestern United States.

The reading group guide for the winner of the 1995 PEN/Faulkner Award contains historical background for the  novel, discussion questions, and suggestions for further reading. You can also compare the novel to the 1999 movie starring Ethan Hawke.

The Geisha's Granddaughter by Chayym Zeldis

The Geisha's Granddaughter by Chayym Zeldis (2003)
This novel provides readers with a taste of how Japanese Americans felt while adjusting to a new world, when WWII shatters that world with the accompanying internment.

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg (2008)
This collection of short stories deals with women taking chances at all stage of their lives. Some of the stories will have you howling with laughter; others will bring you to tears, but all feature characters and writing that will find a place in your heart.

Today's the day! Call the Downers Grove Public Library at 630-960-1200 to reserve your tickets for An Evening with Elizabeth Berg on Thursday, May 8. Listen to the author talk about her inspiration for Dream When You're Feeling Blue, the research, and the response. Berg will read an excerpt, answer questions, and sign books.