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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.

Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein

Lethal Legacy by Linda Fairstein (2009)
Set amid the treasures of the New York Public Library, Linda Fairstein gives us a fascinating glimpse into the history of the NYPL including its start as a scholarly research facility that housed rare books, documents, and maps. What I enjoyed, besides the mystery itself, was learning about the curators, cartographers, conservators, special librarians and rare, priceless donations still housed in the building. It was very cool that librarians with their special knowledge, background and expertise were crucial in helping the police solve the mystery.

Go to the author's website and watch the video tour of the NYPL before you read the book! Read an excerpt from the book and check out Harlan Coben's review plus others at Amazon.com.

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center

Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center (2009)
Lanie's life is not turning out how she expected. When she is uprooted from Texas to live in the Northeast, she finds her life more out of control than ever. Lanie takes the opportunity to get control and ends up finding herself in the process. A light, funny read.

Read reviews at Amazon.com, visit the author's web site, and watch a YouTube video.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti (2008)
Twelve year old Ren has no memory of his life before he came to the Catholic orphanage in mid-19th century New England. Then, one day, the mysterious Benjamin Nap comes to the orphanage and claims Ren as his long lost brother. Soon Ren is off with Nab, who turns out to be a con man of great charm. This is a delightful old-fashioned story with an appealing young hero you can't help but root for. It includes grave robbing, breathtaking chase scenes, and even a long lost evil relative.

Visit the author's website, preview the book and read a New York Times review of the book.

Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins

Road to Perdition by Max Allan Collins (1998)
Michael O’ Sullivan is a soldier who served in the U.S. Army during WWI. During Prohibition, O’Sullivan provides for his family by working as a ruthless but honorable enforcer for the Looney crime family. His nickname is “The Angel of Death.” When O' Sullivan's oldest boy, Michael, witnesses a murder committed by the crime boss and his son, the Looney family kills O’Sullivan’s wife and other son. But Sr. and Jr. O' Sullivan escape, hitting the road to Perdition, Kansas, where the boy's aunt and uncle live. Along the way, “The Angel of Death” exacts his revenge on the Looneys.

The graphic novel is stylishly drawn by the English artist Richard Piers Rayner in black and white Noir style, which suits the O’Sullivans’ travels through the Depression-era Midwest. The graphic novel was made into a movie by the same name. There is more going on than just the usual violence; it is a story about fathers and sons, a familiar story of family, loss and revenge.

Check out the reviews at Amazon.com and read a Time magazine article about the graphic novel.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak (2006)
I read this for my young adult literature class. It was fast paced and has a very important (and different) narrator. The book talks about Nazi Germany but also about the growth of a young girl. And what book lover doesn’t want to know more about the book thief?

Watch the video to see the author discuss The Book Thief, read the reviews at BookBrowse.com and listen to NPR's interview with the author.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (1997)
There are many good books about this painful time in human history but there are some books that have a profound impact on us because they present the real toll of the Holocaust. This is one of those books. The Reader is a work of psychological complexity; an exploration of the painful and difficult process of guilt and atonement. It is also a love story. The story is told in three parts by the main character, Michael Berg. Each part takes place in a different time period in the past.

When he falls ill on his way home from school, fifteen-year-old Michael Berg is rescued by Hanna, a woman twice his age. In time she becomes his lover—then she disappears without explanation. When he sees her again, he is a young law student, and she is on trial for a terrible crime. As he watches her refuse to defend herself, Michael gradually realizes that Hanna may be guarding a secret she considers more shameful than murder. The final part the book is about truth and reconciliation.

Read an excerpt from this Oprah's book club selection and view the reading group guide.

Livability by Jon Raymond

Livability by Jon Raymond (2009)
This short story collection is set in and around Portland, Oregon, and follows characters at transition points in life. Two of the nine stories have been adapted into independent feature films directed by Kelly Reichardt.

Listen to the author read from Livability and check out the Amazon.com reviews.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943)
Many of us read about Francie Nolan and her life 100 years ago growing up poor in Brooklyn when we were young ourselves. Try it now as an adult. Although the writing is at times a little stilted and too often we are told things instead of shown them, the spirit of Francie and her practical and hardworking mother and her dreamer of a never-do-well father comes through. Some scenes are absolutely delightful: Papa taking Francie and her brother on a fishing trip or Aunt Sissy finally finding a way to get herself a baby. Other parts are poignant beyond words: Six-year-old Francie having to take her younger brother for their vaccinations before starting school or Francie finding that she must work instead of going to high school.

Preview this American classic and check out the reading group guide.