Category Archives: Joan

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins (2015)

girltrainOriginally, something in the description of The Girl on the Train struck a chord reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic thriller Rear Window. It is definitely NOT another Rear Window, but Paula Hawkins nonetheless captured my attention from the first sentence and took me on a train ride through the heartbreak of relationships and alcoholism to the suspense and red herrings of a classic mystery. Rachel Watson is not the picture perfect girl next door she emulates, but readers will quickly find themselves in her corner against all odds.

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.

The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro (2012)

artforgerClaire Roth is a starving young artist who suddenly finds herself in the midst of an international art theft. The plot develops with a little romance, a little suspense, and a debate over what is innocent reproduction and what is a crime. The background of the unsolved 1990 Gardner Heist is explained, but the letters and insights into Isabella Gardner in the 19th century adds a pinch of history to this contemporary novel.

Check out B. A. Shapiro’s novel The Art Forger today.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman (2001)

americangodsThe novel opens in the very realistic setting of a prison where model prisoner and likable character Shadow finds himself about to be released into society. Tragedy strikes and Shadow is released into a dismal, lonely future.

When Shadow believes he has nothing to lose, he agrees to work for Mr. Wednesday. In American Gods, Neil Gaiman creatively switches gears and the reader is on a fantasy quest in a strange world where gods and goddesses are as real as prison was just hours before.

Enjoy this novel? Check out our list of the best fantasy novels for adults.

Trains & Lovers by Alexander McCall Smith (2013)

trainsloversThree men and a woman share a train compartment between Edinburgh and London. From different age groups, backgrounds, and even countries, they prove it is sometimes easier to bare your soul to strangers, except for one coveted secret of an old love that is revealed only to readers. The travelers share their personal or family love stories and, oddly enough, they all involve trains. Diverse anecdotes take the reader all over England, Scotland, Australia, and the eastern part of the U.S., past and present day. The stories of Trains & Lovers get at the heart of human emotions. By the last chapter, Alexander McCall Smith may convince you to book a rail journey.

Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood (2014)

mrshemingwayThe incredible talent, the struggles with mental health, the madcap adventures around the globe, the drinking, the recklessness, and the many loves of the original party animal – Ernest Hemingway told through the eyes of his four wives is a revealing piece of historical fiction. Fans of The Paris Wife may be disappointed at first when the Hadley they have grown to love is pushed into the background and each new wife in turn takes over the narration of the literary genius’ life story.

Naomi Wood endears the reader to the many qualities that made Hemingway fall for the other three women over the years. In Mrs. Hemingway, Wood drives the point home that all the great loves of his life could not quench his inherent loneliness.

China Dolls by Lisa See (2014)

chinadollsThree young Asian American women meet at the Golden Gate International Exhibit in 1938. They forge immediate friendships and end up entertaining in the San Francisco nightclub scene. Each woman holds dark secrets that are slowly revealed as they struggle to survive during the war years. Friendship, family, love, and betrayal are examined from their diverse points of view in Lisa See’s China Dolls.

Join our Novel Idea discussion group on Wednesday, May 13 at 7pm to talk about China Dolls. Get your copy of the book at the front checkout desk.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014)

allthelightThe horrors of Nazi-occupied Europe are told through the eyes of Marie-Louise and Werner. They are on opposing sides, yet they are both just innocent teenagers caught up in a no-win situation. In another time and place, they could have been soulmates. Their intelligent and gentle natures bleed through some of the travesty.

Marie-Louise escapes war-torn Paris as her father tries to hide her away in a family home in St. Malo, but the war catches up with them. Her father, as an employee of the National History Museum, is hiding a special stone with legendary stories attached to it. The stone and its legends add a touch of mysterious appeal to All the Light We Cannot See.

Werner is an electronic genius and an orphan who gets caught up into the Nazi plan at a much younger age than necessary. Superiors lie about his age to take advantage of his radio expertise on the front lines. Werner’s sister is part of the underground German resistance movement and adds an interesting element to the story.

Anthony Doerr alternates between Werner and Marie-Louise’s voices and magically creates a haunting story readers will not soon forget.

For more novels of WWII, check out our list.

Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier (2014)

eyetoeyeVivian Maier was a nanny, not a professional photographer. Her work was never published until after her death. Her vision and talent were incredible. Maier, with her Rolleiflex in hand, captured the essence of her subjects and their time. Much of her work told a story of the people of Chicagoland in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, but her travels took her all over the world. With Maier, it was all about the people. Regardless of location, she managed to capture breathtakingly ordinary moments in time through the eyes of people all over the world – check out a sample in Eye to Eye.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (2013)

girlyouleftbehindSophie and Liv struggle through tragedies, tough decisions, and community ridicule nearly a century a part. A hauntingly beautiful portrait of Sophie with penetrating eyes painted by her impressionist husband connect the womens’ plights across time. Liv feels a deep connection to Sophie and risks everything to keep the painting out of the wrong hands.

Sophie is left behind in occupied France during WWI as her husband goes off to fight. Liv is left behind after her husband’s untimely death in 21st century London. Liv meets Paul and finds out he is on the opposing side of her quest to keep Sophie’s portrait. Their relationship develops in opposite directions. She is not sure if he can pull her out of her deep depression left by her husband’s death, financial ruin, and public criticism, or push her further down.

As Liv finds herself at the end of all hope, Jojo Moyes allows the reader inside the mind of Sophie on the brink of death at the hands of the enemy. In The Girl You Left Behind, parallel narratives converge as the two women continue to struggle. A satisfying epilogue ties up loose ends in both worlds, yet leaves enough for the reader’s imagination to wander a bit.