In an unnamed Middle Eastern security state, a young Arab-Indian hacker shields his clients - dissidents, outlaws, Islamists, and other watched groups - from surveillance and tries to stay out of trouble. He goes by Alif - the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, and a convenient handle to hide behind.
The aristocratic woman Alif loves has jilted him for a prince chosen by her parents, and his computer has just been breached by the state's electronic security force, putting his clients and his own neck on the line. Then it turns out his lover's new fiancé is the "Hand of God", as they call the head of state security, and his henchmen come after Alif, driving him underground.
When Alif discovers The Thousand and One Days, the secret book of the jinn, which both he and the Hand suspect may unleash a new level of information technology, the stakes are raised and Alif must struggle for life or death, aided by forces seen and unseen.
Recommended by Erin W. (10/19)
Stegner's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is the story of four generations in the life of an American family. A wheelchair-bound retired historian embarks on a monumental quest: to come to know his grandparents, now long dead. The unfolding drama of the story of the American West sets the tone for Stegner's masterpiece. (Publisher)
Recommended by Amy H. (10/19)
Will Connor returns to his hometown, a village north of Boston, to care for his injured mother. He's kept his distance from the town since high school, but once home he finds himself reexamining a horrific incident that took place during one of his mother's 'spirit circles.' His mother had embraced the hippie generation's fascination with New Age and the arcane, but the unexpected death of a close friend put an end to the meetings of the modern-day coven. Or did it? As Will looks deeper into his family's history he discovers that her practices weren't so much a passing fad but the latest link in a long tradition of New England witchcraft, which still seems to hold a strange power over the town. Will hopes that unearthing the facts about the death will put his questions to rest, but there are those willing to resort to violence to keep those secrets buried.
Recommended by Sara (10/19)
In 19th century London, Cyrus Barker and his associate Thomas Llewelyn are renowned private enquiry agents, successfully employed by the highest levels of Her Majesty's government as well as private citizens. Their success, however, has led to their acquiring a powerful group of enemies, many of whom are determined to have their revenge. At least one of those enemies is responsible for a bombing of their offices that puts Cyrus Barker into the hospital and endangers Thomas Llewelyn's rapidly forthcoming nuptials. To add to the confusion, Barker's long-lost brother Caleb turns up on the rubble of their doorstep not long after the not-quite-fatal bombing. Unsure of Caleb and warned about him by Barker, Thomas reluctantly accepts Caleb's help both with a new case that comes in as well as trying to pinpoint which of Barker's enemies is making a move against them. As Thomas works his way through their enemy list, someone else is winnowing down that list: one by one those enemies are dying. With time running out--and his bride-to-be reconsidering their marriage--Llewelyn must (with the sick-bed bound Barker's help) uncover the killer and the plot before it's too late.
Recommended by: Becky (10/19)
The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together in Dharamsala for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet.
Recommended by Linda (10/19)
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek explores the story of the Fugates, a family from the Appalachia Mountains of Kentucky with pale blue skin due to a blood enzyme disorder which reduces their levels of oxygenation. Cussy Mary "Bluett"Fugate joins the pack horse librarian project launched by the WPA in the 1930s and goes on to challenge notions of racism and classism through her ceaseless empathy and charity. Woven throughout this story there is also a heartwarming tale of how love can transcend these boundaries.
Recommended by Krysti (12/19)
When four-year-old William vanishes in the woods behind his home, the only witness is his older brother who whispers, "The lights took him," and then never speaks again. With these words, the boys' grandmother Lynn Roseworth fears only she knows the truth. But coming forward would ruin her family and her husband's political career. As Lynn and her best friend Roxy revisit the secrets of her long-buried past to find clues that will lead to William, they'll get ensnared in a much larger conspiracy. The truth is hidden for a reason, and not even a grandmother's love may be enough to save her grandson from what is coming for them all. Author Jeremy Finley was inspired to write this story after interviewing so many families of missing people for stories and seeing how far people will go to try to find their loved ones. He combined this experience with that of his mother-in-law, who was a secretary in an astronomy department, like Lynn, for professors who researched UFOs and were featured in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". The Darkest Time of Night is fast-paced debut full of suspense and government cover-ups, perfect for thriller and alien fans alike.
Recommended by Louise (10/19)
Cleverly written tale of a brother and sister "pushed" out of their home by a scheming stepmother, after their birth mother abandons them and their father remarries. Ironically the house, a mansion really and another "character" in the novel, is the cause for all of the conflict in the family. The mother left because the house was too ostentatious for her humble disposition, while the stepmother coveted the house for all its extravagance. However, the brother and sister, Danny and Maeve, become a closer family unit sans the parents and the step-siblings because of all the consternation the house has caused.
Recommended by Karen (12/19)
In a small town in Maine, recently widowed Eveleth "Evvie" Drake rarely leaves her house. Everyone in town, including her best friend, Andy, thinks grief keeps her locked inside, and she doesn't correct them. In New York, Dean Tenney, former major-league pitcher and Andy's childhood friend, is struggling with a case of the "yips": he can't throw straight anymore, and he can't figure out why. An invitation from Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button. When Dean moves into an apartment at the back of Evvie's house, the two make a deal: Dean won't ask about Evvie's late husband, and Evvie won't ask about Dean's baseball career. Rules, though, have a funny way of being broken--and what starts as an unexpected friendship soon turns into something more. But before they can find out what might lie ahead, they'll have to wrestle a few demons: the bonds they've broken, the plans they've changed, and the secrets they've kept. They'll need a lot of help, but in life, as in baseball, there's always a chance--right up until the last out.
Recommended by Lousie (10/19) Kind of sweet with snappy dialogue!
Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who've been a part of one another's lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group's children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It's a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost.
Recommended by Kathy H. (10/19)
In this delightful and illuminating look into a crucial but little-known "hinge" of history, Thomas Cahill takes us to the "island of saints and scholars," the Ireland of St. Patrick and the Book of Kells. Here, far from the barbarian despoliation of the continent, monks and scribes laboriously, lovingly, even playfully preserved the west's written treasures. With the return of stability in Europe, these Irish scholars were instrumental in spreading learning. Thus the Irish not only were conservators of civilization, but became shapers of the medieval mind, putting their unique stamp on western culture.
Recommended by: Becky (10/19)
In the middle of the night, in a house on a quiet street in suburban Minneapolis, intruders silently murder Luke Ellis' parents and load him into a black SUV. The operation takes less than two minutes. Luke will wake up at the Institute, in a room which looks just like his own, except there's no window. And outside his door are other doors, behind which are other kids with special talents—telekinesis and telepathy—who got to this place the same way Luke did. Kalisha, Nick, George, Iris, and the youngest of them, ten-year-old Avery Dixon. In this most sinister of institutions, the director, Mrs. Sigsby, and her staff are ruthlessly dedicated to extracting from these children the force of their extranormal gifts. There are no scruples here. If you go along, you get tokens for the vending machines. If you don't, punishment is brutal. Luke becomes more and more desperate to get out and get help. But no one has ever escaped from the Institute.
Recommended by: Louise (11/19)
As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is "as good as anyone." Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future.
Recommended by Cindy (10/19)
Wonderful coming-of-age story set in small town Minnesota during the summer of 1961. Told in first person by a thirteen-year-old boy, Frank Drum, the novel centers around several deaths that occur in the community where Frank lives with his minister father, somewhat distant mother, musically-talented older sister, and younger sidekick brother. The novel is true to the culture of the time period, including certain aspects of racism and sexism, as well as the elements of living in a small town environment and its inhabitants. It reminded me of "To Kill a Mockingbird" with a young protagonist telling the story, a father trying to do right by his family and community, and the truth and motivations behind criminal activities. The author has described the book as the “most nearly autobiographic work” he has done.
Recommended by Karen (12/19)
Eve Haas is the daughter of a German Jewish family that took refuge in London after Hitler came to power. Following a terrifying air raid in the blitz, her father revealed the family secret - that her great-great grandmother Emilie was married to a Prussian prince. He then showed her the treasured leather-bound notebook inscribed to Emilie by the prince.
Her parents were reluctant to learn more, but later in life, when Eve was married and inherited the diary, she became obsessed with proving this birthright. The Secrets of the Notebook tells how she follows the clues, from experts on European royalty in London to archives in West Germany and then, under threat of being arrested as a spy by the Communist regime, to an archive in East Germany that had never before opened its doors to the West.
Recommended by Linda (10/19)
Alicia Berenson's life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London's most desirable areas. One evening, her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word. Alicia's refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Recommended by Julie (10/19)
She calls herself Lady Justice. And once she has chosen a man as her target, she turns herself into a tall blonde or a curvaceous redhead, makes herself as alluring and seductive as possible to them. Once they are in her grasp, they are powerless. The first victim is wealthy businessman Nigel McEnroy. His company's human resources department has already paid out settlements to a couple of his young victims-but they don't know that his crimes go far beyond workplace harassment. Lady Justice knows. And in one shocking night of brutality, she makes him pay a much steeper price. Now Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke, are combing through the evidence of McEnroy's secret life. His compulsive need to record his misdeeds provides them with a wide range of suspects, but the true identity of Lady Justice remains elusive. It's a challenging case, made even more difficult by McEnroy's widow, who reacts to the investigation with fury, denial, and threats. Meanwhile, Lady Justice's criminal crusade is escalating rapidly, and if Eve can't stop this vigilante, there's no telling how much blood may be spilled.
Recommended by: Louise (11/19)
A fast paced fantasy of destiny, death, and the supernatural world hiding beneath the surface. Nettie Lonesome lives in a land of hard people and hard ground dusted with sand. She's a half-breed who dresses like a boy. A stranger attacks her. When nothing, not even a sickle to the eye can stop him, Nettie stabs him through the heart with a chunk of wood, and he turns into black sand. And just like that, Nettie can see. But her newfound sight is a blessing and a curse. The world is full of evil, and now she knows the source of all the sand in the desert. Haunted by the spirits, Nettie has no choice but to set out on a quest that might lead to her true kin... if the monsters along the way don't kill her first. A fun series to get lost in.
Recommended by Tova (10/19)
A dangerous and passionate love affair between an accomplished tango dancer turned elegant thief and a beautiful, intelligent society woman bursts off the page in this epic historical tale of romance and espionage En route from Lisbon to Buenos Aires in 1928, Max and Mecha meet aboard a luxurious transatlantic cruise ship. There Max teaches the stunning stranger and her erudite husband to dance the tango. A steamy affair ignites at sea and continues as the seedy decadence of Buenos Aires envelops the secret lovers.
Nice, 1937. Still drawn to one another after all these years, Max and Mecha rekindle their dalliance. In the wake of a perilous mission gone awry, Mecha looks after her charming paramour until a deadly encounter with a Spanish spy forces him to flee.
Sorrento, 1966. Max once again runs into trouble—and Mecha. She offers him temporary shelter from the KGB agents on his trail, but their undeniable attraction offers only a small glimmer of hope that their paths will ever cross again. Arturo Pérez-Reverte is at his finest, offering us a bittersweet, richly rendered portrait of a powerful, forbidden love story that burns brightly over forty years, from the fervor of youth to the dawn of old age.
Recommended by: Becky (10/19)
How do you set about solving a murder no one can reveal has been committed?
That's the challenge confronting C.S. Harris's aristocratic soldier-turned-sleuth Sebastian St. Cyr when his friend, surgeon and anatomist Paul Gibson, illegally buys the cadaver of a young man from London’s infamous body snatchers. A rising star at the Foreign Office, Mr. Alexander Ross was reported to have died of a weak heart. But when Gibson discovers a stiletto wound at the base of Ross’ skull, he can turn only to Sebastian for help in catching the killer.
Described by all who knew him as an amiable young man, Ross at first seems an unlikely candidate for murder. But as Sebastian’s search takes him from the Queens drawing rooms in St. James’s Palace to the embassies of Russia, the United States, and the Turkish Empire, he plunges into a dangerous shadow land of diplomatic maneuvering and international intrigue, where truth is an elusive commodity and nothing is as it seems.
Meanwhile, Sebastian must confront the turmoil of his personal life. Hero Jarvis, daughter of his powerful nemesis Lord Jarvis, finally agrees to become his wife. But as their wedding approaches, Sebastian can’t escape the growing realization that not only Lord Jarvis but Hero herself knows far more about the events surrounding Ross’s death than they would have him believe.
Recommended by: Becky (1/20)