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Then and Now: Parallel Lives

Readers' Cafe

Beautiful Ruins A Novel
The eight  a novel
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe
The Island House A Novel
Labyrinth
People of the Book
The Sandcastle Girls A Novel
Sarah's Key
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The Winter Sea
Beautiful Ruins: A Novel / Jess Walter

The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet: the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 . . . and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later.

"Why mince words? Beautiful Ruins is an absolute masterpiece." - Richard Russo

"A ridiculously talented writer." - New York Times

The eight : a novel / Katherine Neville

New York City, 1972 - A dabbler in mathematics and chess, Catherine Velis is also a computer expert for a Big Eight accounting firm. Before heading off to a new assignment in Algeria, Cat has her palm read by a fortune-teller. The woman warns Cat of danger. Then an antiques dealer approaches Cat with a mysterious offer: He has an anonymous client who is trying to collect the pieces of an ancient chess service, purported to be in Algeria. If Cat can bring the pieces back, there will be a generous reward.

The South of France, 1790 - Mireille de Remy and her cousin Valentine are young novices at the fortresslike Montglane Abbey. With France aflame in revolution, the two girls burn to rebel against constricted convent life - and their means of escape is at hand. Buried deep within the abbey are pieces of the Montglane Chess Service, once owned by Charlemagne. Whoever reassembles the pieces can play a game of unlimited power. But to keep the Game a secret from those who would abuse it, the two young women must scatter the pieces throughout the world. . . .

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe / Fannie Flagg

Folksy and fresh, endearing and affecting, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is the now-classic novel of two women in the 1980s; of gray-headed Mrs. Threadgoode telling her life story to Evelyn, who is in the sad slump of middle age. The tale she tells is also of two women--of the irrepressibly daredevilish tomboy Idgie and her friend Ruth--who back in the thirties ran a little place in Whistle Stop, Alabama, a Southern kind of Cafe Wobegon offering good barbecue and good coffee and all kinds of love and laughter, even an occasional murder. And as the past unfolds, the present--for Evelyn and for us--will never be quite the same again...

"Airplanes and television have removed the Threadgoodes from the Southern scene. Happily for us, Fannie Flagg has preserved a whole community of them in a richly comic, poignant narrative that records the exuberance of their lives, the sadness of their departure. Idgie Threadgoode is a true original: Huckleberry Finn would have tried to marry her!"
--Harper Lee, Author of To Kill a Mockingbird

"A real novel and a good one... [from] the busy brain of a born storyteller."
--The New York Times

"It's very good, in fact, just wonderful."
--Los Angeles Times

"Funny and macabre."
--The Washington Post

"Courageous and wise."
--Houston Chronicle

The Island House: A Novel / Posie Graeme-Evans

From the internationally bestselling author of The Dressmaker comes a riveting new novel about a young archaeologist who unearths ancient secrets, a tragic romance, and Viking treasure on a remote Scottish island.

From the internationally bestselling author of The Dressmaker comes an unforgettable novel about a young archaeologist who unearths ancient secrets, a tragic romance, and Viking treasure on a remote Scottish island.

One warm, rainy summer, Freya Dane, a PhD candidate in archaeology, arrives on the ancient Scottish island of Findnar. Estranged as a child from her recently dead father, himself an archaeologist, Freya yearns to understand more about the man, his work on the island, and why he left her mother so many years ago. It seems Michael Dane uncovered much of Findnar's Viking and Christian past through his search for an illusive tomb, and Freya continues his work. The discoveries she is destined to make, far greater than her father's, will teach her the true meaning of love and of loss.

AD 800, and a wandering comet, an omen of evil, shines down on Findnar. The fears of the locals are justified. In a Viking raid, Signy, a Pictish girl, loses her entire family. Taken in by survivors of the island's Christian community, she falls in love with an injured Viking youth left behind by the raiders and is cast out. Confused and bereft, eventually she becomes a nun, a decision that will unleash tragedy as she is plunged into the heart of a war between three religions. Forced to choose among her ancestors' animist beliefs, her adopted faith, and the man she loves, Signy will call out to Freya across the centuries. Ancient wrongs must be laid to rest in the present and the mystery at the heart of Findnar's violent past exposed.

In time the comet will return, a link between past and present. But for these two women, time does not exist. For them, the past will never die. It has waited for them both.

Labyrinth / Kate Mosse

In this extraordinary thriller, rich in the atmospheres of medieval and contemporary France, the lives of two women born centuries apart are linked by a common destiny.

July 2005. In the Pyrenees mountains near Carcassonne, Alice, a volunteer at an archaeological dig stumbles into a cave and makes a startling discovery-two crumbling skeletons, strange writings on the walls, and the pattern of a labyrinth; between the skeletons, a stone ring, and a small leather bag.

Eight hundred years earlier, on the eve of a brutal crusade to stamp out heresy that will rip apart southern France, Alais is given a ring and a mysterious book for safekeeping by her father as he leaves to fight the crusaders. The book, he says, contains the secret of the true Grail, and the ring, inscribed with a labyrinth, will identify a guardian of the Grail. As crusading armies led by Church potentates and nobles of northern France gather outside the city walls of Carcassonne, it will take great sacrifice to keep the secret of the labyrinth safe.

In the present, another woman sees the find as a means to the political power she craves; while a man who has great power will kill to destroy all traces of the discovery and everyone who stands in his way.

People of the Book / Geraldine Brooks

View our feature on Geraldine Books's People of the Book.

From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of March, the journey of a rare illuminated manuscript through centuries of exile and war

In 1996, Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, is offered the job of a lifetime: analysis and conservation of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, which has been rescued from Serb shelling during the Bosnian war. Priceless and beautiful, the book is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna, a caustic loner with a passion for her work, discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding - an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair - she begins to unlock the book's mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book's journey from its salvation back to its creation.

In Bosnia during World War II, a Muslim risks his life to protect it from the Nazis. In the hedonistic salons of fin-de-si??cle Vienna, the book becomes a pawn in the struggle against the city's rising anti-Semitism. In inquisition-era Venice, a Catholic priest saves it from burning. In Barcelona in 1492, the scribe who wrote the text sees his family destroyed by the agonies of enforced exile. And in Seville in 1480, the reason for the Haggadah's extraordinary illuminations is finally disclosed. Hanna's investigation unexpectedly plunges her into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics. Her experiences will test her belief in herself and the man she has come to love.

Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is at once a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity, an ambitious, electrifying work by an acclaimed and beloved author.

The Sandcastle Girls: A Novel / Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian's Armenian heritage.
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.
Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents' ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed "The Ottoman Annex," Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura's grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family's history that reveals love, loss - and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

Sarah's Key / Tatiana de Rosnay

Paris, July 1942: Sarah, a ten year-old girl, is brutally arrested with her family by the French police in the Vel' d'Hiv' roundup, but not before she locks her younger brother in a cupboard in the family's apartment, thinking that she will be back within a few hours.

Paris, May 2002: On Vel' d'Hiv's 60th anniversary, journalist Julia Jarmond is asked to write an article about this black day in France's past. Through her contemporary investigation, she stumbles onto a trail of long-hidden family secrets that connect her to Sarah. Julia finds herself compelled to retrace the girl's ordeal, from that terrible term in the Vel d'Hiv', to the camps, and beyond. As she probes into Sarah's past, she begins to question her own place in France, and to reevaluate her marriage and her life.

Tatiana de Rosnay offers us a brilliantly subtle, compelling portrait of France under occupation and reveals the taboos and silence that surround this painful episode.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation / Lauren Willig

Nothing goes right for Eloise. The one day she wears her new suede boots, it rains cats and dogs. When the subway stops short, she's always the one thrown into some stranger's lap. Plus, she's had more than her share of misfortune in the way of love. In fact, ever since she realized romantic heroes are a thing of the past, she's decided it's time for a fresh start.

Setting off for England, Eloise is determined to finish her dissertation on that dashing pair of spies, the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. But what she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: the secret history of the Pink Carnation - the most elusive spy of all time. As she works to unmask this obscure spy, Eloise stumbles across answers to all kinds of questions. Like how did the Pink Carnation save England from Napoleon? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly escape her bad luck and find a living, breathing hero all her own?

The Winter Sea / Susanna Kearsley

A New York Times and USA Today Bestseller!

Fans of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series will devour this hauntingly beautiful tale of love and time travel by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Susanna Kearsley.

History has all but forgotten...

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.

But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth - the ultimate betrayal - that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

"Powerful, atmospheric, enthralling, and simply mesmerizing, [The Winter Sea] is one of the best books you'll read this year!" - Singletitles.com

"Susanna Kearsley's obvious love of history is infectious... The Winter Sea is an acknowledgement that so many of us are haunted by the deeds of our ancestors, perhaps literally..." - Gail Anderson-Dargatz, international bestselling author of A Recipe for Bees

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