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Ascension by Steven Galloway

Ascension by Steven Galloway (2003)
Salvo Ursari learns his trade of tightrope walker in Budapest. He arrives in America to work for the Fisher-Fielding circus and takes us on a journey of his life and his family on the tightrope.

The Serpent’s Daughter by Suzanne Arruda

The Serpent’s Daughter: A Jade del Cameron Mystery by Suzanne Arruda (2008)
This is the third entry in the Jade del Cameron mysteries. Jade grew up on a ranch in New Mexico and served as an ambulance driver during WWI. Her abilities to survive in extreme circumstances serve her well as her adventures take her to Colonial East Africa. In The Mark of the Lion, she searches for the murderer of her dead fiancé’s father and in Stalking Ivory, she tracks down elephant poachers. Her latest adventure takes her to Morocco where she is to meet her mother before heading off to Spain to buy a stallion for the family ranch. When Jade’s mother is kidnapped, Jade chases after Tangier to Marrakesh. These charming books are part mystery, part Saturday afternoon matinee adventure.

Check out the author's blog for information on Jade and the time period in which she lives.

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke

The Tin Roof Blowdown by James Lee Burke (2007)
James Lee Burke writes with a gritty style, using characters, settings, and issues from the underbelly of southern Louisiana. In his latest book, Burke starts with the premise that Hurricane Katrina damaged New Orleans more than the bomb that struck Hiroshima. Burke manipulates the plot to include events before, during, and after Katrina. His words ring true.

Dave Robicheaux is a compassionate cop who is sucked into the vortex of a Katrina style “blowdown.” Murders, drugs, in your face evil, graphic language, and down home characters – good and bad – confront readers with the historical, world class disaster we call Katrina. In this novel, Burke does a world class job.

Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (2005)
Heath Champion is determined to find a wife. The successful sports agent (and popular bachelor) wants to expedite the entire courtship process, so he hires professional matchmaker Portia Powers.

Annabelle Granger just inherited her grandmother’s matchmaking business – along with its septuagenarian clientele. After failing in her previous careers, Annabelle is determined to make this one work. She finagles an interview with Heath, who reluctantly agrees to a limited trial.

With both Portia and Annabelle introducing him to potential brides, Heath should be closer to finding a wife. And while his perfect match continues to elude him, Annabelle becomes more and more entangled in his life.

In this honorary Chicago Stars book, Phillips entertains with her usual combination of quirky comedy and deep emotion.

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin

City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin (2006)
The mysterious origins of Anna Anderson, who for sixty years proclaimed herself Anastasia, only survivor of the massacre of Czar Nicholas II’s family, are entwined with the rise of the Nazi party in 1920s and 1930s Berlin.

The Blue Moon Circus by Michael Raleigh

The Blue Moon Circus by Michael Raleigh (2003)
Lewis Tully tries his hand at circus living with his old pals before he settles down. He gets together a snake handler, an aging magician, animal trainer, a ringmaster, a nine year old orphan, and, of course, a posse of clowns to take the circus on the road one last time.

Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot

Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot (2006)
In the first book of her new mystery series, Cabot introduces us to former pop star Heather Wells. Her mom ran off with her manager and her money, and her dad’s in jail. Heather finds a job as an assistant dorm director at a New York college. Everything seems to be going well…until someone finds a dead body. Heather doesn’t think it was an accident, despite what the police say. She starts investigating, ignoring the advice of her landlord and crush (and her ex-boyfriend’s brother), P.I. Cooper Cartwright. Laugh out loud at this chick lit mystery as you follow the adventures -- and misadventures -- of Heather Wells.

If you want to read more Heather Wells escapades, check out the next books in the series: Size 14 is Not Fat Either (2006) and Big Boned (2007).

Meely LaBauve by Ken Wells

Meely LaBauve by Ken Wells (2000)
Meely LaBauve is a fifteen-year-old Cajun boy living in the swamps of 1960s Louisiana. His mother long dead and his father often away hunting gators, Meely is left to his own devices to feed himself and go to school when he wishes. When a school bully, Junior Guidry, decides to teach Meely a lesson, it takes Meely, his pa and the friends he didn’t know he had to outwit Junior and his crooked cop uncle, and triumph before the judge. This coming-of-age novel is reminiscent of Huckleberry Finn and has a fine ear for dialect and some laugh-out-loud moments. You will root for Meely.

All the Way Home by Ann Tatlock

All the Way Home by Ann Tatlock (2002) This is the story of a young girl who finds a friend and a family with the Japanese American Hatsunes; however, they lose touch when World War II breaks out and the Hatsunes are interned. Years later she is reunited with her friend while working for the civil rights movement. The story is a clever juxtaposition of the social issues—the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and the incarceration of Japanese Americans in the 1940s.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander (2003)
A man leaves his granddaughter a taped account of his time serving the Russian royal family during their imprisonment. How much of his recollection is the truth? Did any of the Romanovs survive? Find out in this riveting fictionalized account of the months leading to the execution of the Romanov family.

The Legend of Fire Horse Woman by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

The Legend of Fire Horse Woman by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (2003)
Sayo, born under the disastrous sign of the Fire Horse, comes to California from Japan for an arranged marriage and years later during World War II is imprisoned with her family in a Japanese internment camp. A story which skillfully re-creates the limitations and loneliness of life in the Manzanar camp.

Run by Ann Patchett

Run by Ann PatchettThis is the story of two families who first come together during an accident in which a woman intentionally throws herself in front of a car to save the life of a “stranger.” It shows the power and commitment of parental love, whether by birth or adoption. Great character development.

There are several places to find more reviews on this novel: check out the New York Times, listen to NPR, or read the Washington Post. For more information on the novel or the author, listen to an interview with NPR or visit Ann Patchett's website.

The March by E. L. Doctorow

The March by E. L. Doctorow (2005)
Characters as diverse as freed slaves, Confederate and Union soldiers, a Southern lady, German-born Union surgeon and General Sherman himself populate this very unromantic view of Sherman’s march through the South.

Doctorow was awarded the 2007 Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for lifetime achievement. The Tribune features an October 28 profile article of the author, a 2005 review of The March, and archived articles. Doctorow was presented with the award on November 4 at the Chicago Humanities Festival. You can also listen to an NPR interview about the book.

The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day

The Circus in Winter by Cathy Day (2004)
From 1884 to 1939, the small town of Lima, Indiana, becomes the home in the winter to the Great Porter Circus. These interconnected short stories share the private lives of clowns, pinheads, acrobats and other circus folk during their off season.

Limitations by Scott Turow

Limitations by Scott Turow (2006)
For the uninitiated, once again Turow delves into the mystery of how the law works. George Mason is judge of the Court of Appeals in Kindle County. He is faced with three problems: his wife has cancer, he receives threatening e-mails, and finally, he must decide the outcome of a horrific case of sexual assault. Turow ingeniously resolves these issues, especially the case of sexual assault. A fascinating book.

Check out the author's website for biographical information, a reading group guide (pdf), and the author's backlist.