The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner (1929)
Originally published in 1929, the title was republished in 1991 with a corrected text. One cannot call this a fast read due to the lengthy prose and "Southern English" writing. If a person wants to know about Mississippi classes of society and the prejudices of people, this is the book for you!

The pre-civil war race relations of slavery, the anti-Yankee attitudes and the Southern lifestyle are detailed in the lives of the Compson family. Each family member serves the purpose of telling the story about a wealthy Mississippi family's fall into poverty after the Civil War due to poor choices and fate. This book has literary value over enjoyable reading. People who like Faulkner probably read this book over and over, but I think once is enough.

Discover more about this Nobel Prize author's works, read more about his life, and see what Amazon.com has to say.

The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart

The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart (1980)
The story of Merlin has been told often. Mary Stewart’s account, however, has Merlin's point of view and his magic. It is full of detail, vivid images and realistic characters in a time far from our own. The Crystal Cave (Book 1) shows Merlin, at age five, living in his grandfather's household with his mother. Merlin helps defeat the High King Vortigern by using his powers to foretell the future. The book continues the story of his young life until the conception of Arthur.

The Hollow Hills (Book 2) picks up with Merlin taking care of Arthur, teaching him and helping him attain the throne by setting the sword Caliburn in the stone. It ends with Merlin in middle age and Arthur as High King. In The Last Enchantment (Book 3), readers learn of Merlin's last years before he disappears from the legend.  Truly memorable books!

Preview the trilogy and read an interview with the author.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (2009)
Before the Great War, a small child ends up on the wharf in Australia. She won't say or doesn't know her name and no adult seems to be responsible for her. The kindly wharf agent takes her home to his childless wife, and there she remains.

Named Nell, and growing up in Australia unaware that she is not the biological daughter of her parents, Nell is a happy young woman until her father feels he must reveal to Nell her origins, or what he knows of them. Many years later Nell, and later her granddaughter, return to England to try to find out Nell's true birth parents and how she came to be on that wharf in Australia. Their only clue a book of illustrated fairy tales packed into the small child's suitcase Nell had with her when she was found.

Read a review at Bookreporter.com and read an excerpt at Google Books.

A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell

A Trace of Smoke by Rebecca Cantrell (2009)
This first novel follows an undercover crime reporter in 1931 Berlin as she searches for her brother's killer, a trail that leads from the city's dark underbelly to the top ranks of the rising Nazi party. It is one of several suspense or mystery stories set in Germany or Austria between the two world wars that I have been reading lately, and what a perfect backdrop for suspense it is!

This one is a good read and is a good mystery with a little tragedy, a little romance and some interesting history in the mix. Learn more about the author, check out the reviews at Amazon.com and read an excerpt from the book.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)
Middle aged and recently widowed Henry Lee remembers the time during WWII when his best friend, Keiko, a Japanese American girl, was taken away to the internment camps. Henry's father was stubbornly, nationalistically Chinese and disowned Henry--refusing to speak to his son for years. Alternating in time between the war years and the 1980s, the story is a simply told gem about friendship and love transcending both time and distance.

Join our discussion of the book at the library on Wednesday, February 10 at 7:30.

Visit the author's website, check out the reading group guide, and read reviews at Amazon.com.

The Last of the Husbandmen by Gene Logsdon

The Last of the Husbandmen by Gene Logsdon (2008)
Husbandry
is the farming of animals and produce using resources wisely. This book explains how families have struggled to maintain animals and produce in the 20th century. It’s a fast read about farming in Northern Ohio from the 1930s to 1970s. The book includes factual information about how families could earn a living from farming through the generations to when a family could no longer support itself farming.

You'll find the impact of supply and demand along with politics interesting. The farm machinery and growth methods using fertilizers that caused changes in farming from the family to corporations is a reminder of today's dilemma about farm produce. Today people are revisiting organic farming. Get a great overview of farm information in the USA today without a dictatorial presentation.

Read reviews at Amazon.com and read an excerpt from the novel.

The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease (2005)
A luminescent and readable portrait of a dark time in history. Set in the 14th century, a time of religious strife, a medieval illuminator with radical views finds himself sharing quarters with a widow struggling to preserve her independence in this enthralling historical novel.

Check out a review and reading guide at Bookreporter.com. Visit the author's website and read an excerpt from the novel.

The Devil’s Company by David Liss

The Devil’s Company by David Liss (2009)
This is third in a series about Benjamin Weaver, a thief taker in 1720s London. Benjamin Weaver is blackmailed into working for a mysterious Mr. Cobb. The exact nature of what Benjamin is hired to do is kept a mystery even from Benjamin himself. As the plot becomes more and more complicated and more and more people seem to be embroiled in the scheme, Weaver must figure out who is working for whom and whom he can trust. A fun and rewarding adventure. You need not have read the first books in the series. I have not.

Read an excerpt from the book, check out the Washington Post review, and visit the author's website.

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.

Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill

Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill (2008)Curse of the Pogo Stick is the fifth mystery in the Dr. Siri Paiboun series featuring the national coroner of  Laos. The series is set in the mid-1970s, following the withdrawal of  Western forces from the region and as Laos was being taken over by the communists.

I recommend reading this series in order though, as the mystery elements are made even more complicated by Siri's increasingly strong connection with the spirit world. (Dr. Siri Paiboun Series: The Coroner's Lunch (2004), Thirty-Three Teeth (2005), Disco for the Departed (2006), and Anarchy and Old Dogs (2007)

Curse of the Pogo Stick isn't strictly a whodunit-style mystery. The story is unexpected. Helped along by Colin Cotterill's convoluted plots and exotic location, it is fun to read.

Read an excerpt from the book and listen to an interview with the author at NPR.com.  Read more reviews at Amazon.com and learn more about the author at BookBrowse.

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.

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.

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.

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard

The Black Tower by Louis Bayard (2008)
Twenty years after the horrors of the French Revolution, sometimes medical student Hector Carpenter is minding his own, rather aimless, business, when the mysterious Vidocq involves him in the search for the missing (or dead) lost Dauphin. Vidocq, a real life police detective and founder of the Brigade de Sûreté, leads his young friend through dangerous escapades through the French countryside and Paris until they find the truth about the lost Dauphin. Or do they?

Visit the author's website, read reviews at Amazon.com and check out the reading guide for the book.