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Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme (2014)

missingreelsCeinwen Reilly is a transplant to the Big Apple where her minimum wage job at a vintage clothing shop funds her classic movie habit and her propensity for dressing like a 1920s film star. When she gets wind of a long missing silent movie directed by a mysterious, long forgotten German director and starring her elderly downstairs neighbor, Ceinwin becomes determined to track down the missing reels.

If you love old movies and romances with Englishmen named Matthew, this is the book for you. If not, many of the allusions to old movies might leave you bewildered. Interested? Find a copy of Missing Reels by Farran Smith Nehme today.

The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean (2015)

roguenottakenSophie Talbot doesn't suffer fools...which backfires when her impulsive action involving her degenerate brother-in-law (a duke) and a fish pond is witnessed by all of society. Thwarting her escape is the rakish Kingscote, Marquess of Eversley, who thinks she's trying to trap him into marriage. What follows is a crazy adventure across England with witty repartee and unexpected discoveries. Plus, (truly) dark secrets are revealed in The Rogue Not Taken. Prepare to fall in love with Sarah MacLean in this series starter.

Emma by Jane Austen (1815)

emmaJuliet Stevenson's delightful rendition of this classic was the perfect way to experience Jane Austen. Her command of the many characters and their quirks brought out the humor and heart in Austen's words.

Check out the audio version of Emma in Hoopla, or read a print copy. And if you already know (and love) Emma, check out Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy. I think you’ll see a few endearing similarities between Emma and Sophy.

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith (2014)

starmrsblakeIn April Smith’s latest novel, Mrs. Blake takes advantage of a Canadian program to send mothers who had lost their sons in the recent war to go to France and see their son’s graves. A Star for Mrs. Blake is a quietly effective novel about a mother coming to terms with the loss of her son in WWI, her own past, and re-thinking all the patriotic trappings that come with any war.

Paradise Sky by Joe R. Lansdale (2015)

paradiseskyIn east Texas, shortly after the end of the Civil War, young Willie inadvertently looks at the hind end of a white woman which causes the lynching of his father. On the run and changing his name to Nat Love, he experiences ranching, buffalo soldiering and Deadwood, South Dakota, in its heyday.

As a story of a black man shortly after the end of the Civil War, there are, of course, sad moments, but Nat's darkly ironic tone make for a read that hits many emotions from laugh out loud to frown in sadness or exasperation. Joe R. Lansdale’s Paradise Sky is a welcome addition to the genre of humorous tall tale western in the tradition of Little Big Man and The Sisters Brothers.

Some Luck by Jane Smiley (2014)

someluckThis novel is best enjoyed as an audiobook with the narration of Lorelei King. Her clear voice changes tone, tempo, and pitch for the different characters expressing their moods and views as the story proceeds. Her believable renditions are very important in Some Luck, which paints the characters of Rosanna and Walter, on their Iowa farm, and continues with those of their five children as they grow up and find their own way. Some readers or listeners might comment on lack of coherent plot, but the theme is that of the family going through their individual and varied lives while keeping touch with one another.

Jane Smiley’s epic saga continues with Early Warning.

The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally (2013)

daughtersmarsIn Thomas Keneally’s The Daughters of Mars, two Australian sisters go first to Gallipoli and later France as nurses during the Great War. They are, as they themselves would say, reserved and non-demonstrative girls who have never been close. The title, meaning women who go to war, is accurate. These women are not in battle, but still see and experience harrowing events. A theme running throughout the book is that any event has at least two outcomes and, especially in war, who will live or who will die or is not preordained. And life, in the larger sense, is like that too. How can someone survive the war then die of flu? How can someone who is a jeweler lose his sight but someone who is an artist lose their non-dominant arm? How can someone survive a horrible shipwreck and die in a simple car accident?

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen (2015)

watersedgeMaddie, Ellis, and Hank are part of the idle rich in World War II Philadelphia. Life is just one big party until Ellis falls out of his father's graces and embarks on a journey to find the Loch Ness monster. Maddie learns the truth about her husband, the war, and life itself in a small village in the Scottish Highlands. There she meets two women and a man who change her path. Sara Gruen's vivid descriptions and characters will transport the reader to a different time and place in At the Water’s Edge.

Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe (2015)

manatthehelmIn the early 1970s, a woman from a wealthy background suddenly finds herself divorced and living in a small English village, where divorced women are suspect (it would seem for good reason). The book is told in the first person by ten-year-old Lizzie (looking back as an adult) and has quite a funny tone and wonderfully set pieces. Nina Stibbe’s Man at the Helm is very funny, but sad too.

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (2004)

jonathanstrangeSusanna Clarke writes a historical fantasy novel full of curious characters and thousands of rich details that are woven together masterfully. Set in the age of Napoleon, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell follows two English gentlemen determined to bring magic back to England. While old Mr. Norrell wishes to hoard the magic for himself and is overly cautious, Jonathan Strange daringly forges ahead producing new and exciting magic despite the risks. Many of the scenes are comical, but there is an ominous cloud of dark magic which hangs over the entire story creating a feeling of foreboding and suspense. (The book was made into a BBC miniseries in 2015.)

Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett (2014)

edgeofeternityThe third of Ken Follett’s 20th century trilogy, Edge of Eternity begins with the assassinations and turmoil of the 1960s and ends with the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989. The five families of the earlier books produce new generations heavily involved in the events of this period. The German family is separated by the Berlin Wall and only at the end does a father meet his 18-year-old daughter who he has composed for and sang to in his successful rock concert career. An English rock group finds international success often in concert with this German composer. A Russian author must keep his identity secret as he publishes stories of the Gulag in the west with the help of a TASS reporter. African Americans of mixed ancestry tell their stories of the freedom rides and interaction with well-known political leaders, some more intimate than political. Russian and American diplomats struggle to avoid nuclear war while maintaining a strong position with their allies. The episodes are well told and keep the reader engaged, particularly as one reminisces about these events.

The Other Daughter by Lauren Willig (2015)

otherdaughterThe glittering veneer of the Bright Young Things cracks under the pressure of secrets large and small in 1920s England. After her mother's death, governess Rachel Woodley discovers her father isn't a long deceased botanist, but a powerful earl living in London. A chance meeting with a gossip columnist launches Rachel's adventures as Vera, a witty girl flitting from one party to the next -- under the guise of uncovering more about her family.

Lauren Willig's latest engaging historical drama contains rich period details, flawed yet likable characters, and a few surprises along the way. Check out The Other Daughter today.

The High Divide by Lin Enger (2014)

highdivideUlysses Pope embarks on a journey that will lead him far away from home for an indefinite period of time. He may not even come back. But the only explanation for his departure that he gives his family is vague and left to be discovered in a note inside a locked trunk. Set in the late 1800s, The High Divide follows the members of the Pope family as they travel across the Great Plains—the father’s departure prompting first his young sons, and then his wife to go on their own quests.

The story unfolds as three different narrators (Ulysses, his wife Gretta, and his older son Eli) give accounts of their adventures—each searching inwardly and outwardly for answers, and encountering many colorful, and sometimes dangerous, individuals along the way. The High Divide is sure to be an entertaining read for lovers of fiction set in this era, as Lin Enger has created authentic voices for his characters and woven some intriguing historical personages and events into his tale.

Baker Towers by Jennifer Haigh (2005)

bakertowersJennifer Haigh’s family saga takes place in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania. Baker Towers exudes family love, pain, and pathos, as the children of Italian/Polish immigrants go out to meet the world to find their calling, a sense of happiness, and directions to their lives.

Citizens Creek by Lalita Tademy (2014)

citizenscreekThis book is arranged in two parts: first about Cow Tom, born a slave and sold to a Creek Indian chief before he was 10 and then about his granddaughter, Rose who was born free. Tom gained his name while tending the tribe’s cows under the direction of his mentor, Old Turtle. Tom wanted more than living on someone else’s land, doing another’s bidding; he wanted marriage, a son, and most of all freedom. Both Old Turtle and Chief Yargee recognize Tom’s special skills with language and the Chief allows Tom to apply part of his earnings as a translator towards his and his family’s freedom.

Rose dearly loved her grandfather and desperately wanted to find her place as a respected member of the family, the tribe, and break the family curse of only girl babies. These stories show family and tribal commitment from black slaves and freedmen at a time of conflict and removal of tribes from the southeast into Oklahoma Indian Territory. In Lalita Tademy’s Citizens Creek, the reader can easily become involved with the characters from their loyalty to one another and their conversations about their problems and struggle to reach their goals.