It’s the time of year when bouquets of flowers fill the stores, the gift of a box of chocolates takes on new meaning, and love songs (and movies) fill the airwaves. Swoonworthy stuff, ya’ll.
Instead of creating a post about current titles that inspire hearts to flutter, I put out an open call for men and women to name their favorite Greatest Love Stories of All Time. Thanks to Mari Barnes*, Sarah Bewley, Leah Canzoneri, Kait Carson, Peggy Clayton, Joy Ross Davis, Missy Davis, Laura Di Silverio, Saword Broyles Ellis, Terri Gault, Courtney Carter Girton, Sherry Harris, Cynthia Kuhn, Joyce Laferrera, Marj Lilley, Alice Loweecy, Gary Miller, Sylvia Nickels, Debbie York Parker, Nanci Rathbun, Jeanie Smith, Ellis Vidler, and Lynn Chandler Willis for their wonderful suggestions. *drawing winner
Books are listed in alphabetical order by title, and where available, links to the Greatest Love Stories are included. Click on the titles and read more about them.
“At Home in Mitford” by Jan Karon
“Cinderella Story” by Wendy Logia
“Come Rain or Come Shine” by Jan Karon
“Dr. Zhivago” by Boris Pasternak
“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte
“Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry
“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon
“Persuasion” by Jane Austen
“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen
“Sense and Sensibility” by Jane Austen
“Shadow of the Moon” by MM Kaye
“Somewhere in Time” by Richard Matheson
“Soulless” by Gail Carriger
“The Far Pavilions” by MM Kaye
“The Last of the Mohicans” by James Fenimore Cooper
“The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks
“The Princess Bride” by William Goldman
“The Scarlet Pimpernel” by Baroness Orczy
“The Second Coming” by Walker Percy
“The Thorn Birds” by Colleen McCullough
Are you thinking romantic, weak-at-the-knees thoughts?
Our work is done. 😉
Photo credit: Patti Phillips
In “What She Knew,” Rachel Finch hesitates, but finally gives her son, Ben, permission to run ahead of her to the swings in a park they have been to many times before. She doesn’t want to be seen as an over protective mother. But when she reaches the swings, he isn’t there and is nowhere to be found.
A sense of sorrow envelops the reader at the beginning of “What She Knew,” as Rachel shares the story from her point of view – what could she have done better/differently/instead of, during those minutes leading up to and after Ben’s disappearance? Her story is heart wrenching as she explores her own actions and reactions in the face of enormously challenging circumstances.
Macmillan spares no one, however, and the other stakeholders – the father, the new wife, the investigators – all take turns at center stage, examining their own guilt and excuses as the 8-day search continues. There is plenty of ‘would have, should have’ to pass around when fingers are pointed and accusations fly. People try to help her cope for a while, but Rachel pushes them away in despair, certain that they cannot truly understand. And, of course, they can’t.
Is Rachel or some other trusted adult at fault? People even remotely involved with the child are questioned, then questioned again. The detective work is painstakingly difficult; the media attention excruciating and sometimes misplaced and vicious.
Do we, the readers, remember every detail about every person, bush, swing, and shrub that we pass on our daily walks in the park? Unless we are in the middle of some kind of memory training game, probably not. And, yet that’s exactly what Rachel is asked to do. Every second, every step, every motive, must be accounted for.
“What She Knew” is an astonishing page-turner, and by seeing the reactions to the crime through the major players involved, Macmillan gets us, the readers, highly invested. I found myself defending the parents, then faulting the parents, defending the detectives and faulting the system as the kidnapping details were explained and suspects revisited.
Macmillan has written fully fleshed out characters, with emotionally believable reactions and dialogue, with devastating twists and turns. Who did it and why? Were the right people investigated/punished? ‘Is the investigative process itself, flawed?’ may be a question that haunts you long after the last page of “What She Knew” is read.
Although the action in “What She Knew” takes place in England (where the book is called “Burnt Paper Sky”) the themes are sadly universal and missing children remain a terrible part of our culture. Check out NamUs.gov and the UK missing children’s sites for more information. Read “How long has your daughter been missing?” for related details about missing persons.
Please visit www.gillymacmillan.com for news about Macmillan and her other work. “What She Knew” is an international bestseller and her latest book, “The Perfect Girl,” was published in the USA in September, 2016.
Attica Locke's “Pleasantville” won the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction.
Other nominees were:
Chuck Greaves' “Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo”
Kermit Roosevelt's “Allegiance”
The Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction was established to commemorate the 50th anniversary of “To Kill A Mockingbird," written by former Alabama law student, Harper Lee. For the past six years, the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal have partnered to award the prize to a published work of fiction from the previous year that best demonstrates “the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.”
The 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction was awarded in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22, and Locke received a signed copy of "To Kill a Mockingbird," as well as $3,000 and a feature article in the ABA Journal.
Locke joins previous winners:
2011 – John Grisham, “The Confession”
2012 – Michael Connelly, “The Fifth Witness”
2013 – Paul Goldstein, “Havana Requiem”
2014 – John Grisham, “Sycamore Row”
2015 – Deborah Johnson, “The Secret of Magic”
Congratulations to all!
In “The 14th Protocol,” Cade Williams is a skilled computer geek and the admin for the largest email service provider in North America, Thoughtstorm. Williams is called to the mysterious 17th floor to fix what looks like a systems crash, alarms sound, he finds the problem with a minute to go, but is told NOT to fix it. Williams wonders what was really going on.
A college friend, Kyle MacKerron, is graduating from the FBI Academy and Williams goes to the ceremony, then shares his concerns about his odd work day. Kyle tells him to follow his gut and look into it. A series of bombings have occurred across the country and the severity and body count ramps up with each new attack. The FBI is investigating and Jana Baker, a rookie recruit, happens to get the assignment that leads her to the Thoughtstorm building.
Thoughtstorm is so security conscious that bulletproof glass protects the first eight floors of the building, and rotating digital codes are used to gain access to the different floors and work areas. What kind of company needs all that? Probably not people that are sending out e-flyers for shopping coupons.
The email mystery in “The 14th Protocol” covers up something so sinister that the parties involved will do anything to keep it quiet. Williams, MacKerron, and Baker are brought together to expose the truth. And what a truth it is. Nathan Goodman has penned a riveting look at what can happen when high stakes secret operations step outside the bounds of common sense. Just because we can do a thing, should we?
The players in Goodman’s book are intense, the action non-stop, and there are plenty of surprises along the way. The Cade Williams character hits all the right notes of a computer savvy guy, facing abject fear at being caught up in something outside his normal realm of experience, yet willing to help stop what’s happening.
The issues of privacy are raised as an aside to the action in the book. It’s fairly unsettling that someone with Cade Williams’ kind of clearance can also read the content in your emails. This concern has been raised repeatedly while our real-life law enforcement agencies pursue terrorists and other criminals. There are pros and cons to the arguments and Goodman handles them as his absorbing tale of spies and villains unfolds.
There is a certain amount of tech speak in “The 14th Protocol,” but Goodman presents the information clearly and simply. We know as real-time email users that too many emails going out at once will crash the server when spammers run amuck or systems overload during a major world event. These days, there are redundancy systems in place for backups in case one goes down or needs some updating. A person like Williams anticipates surges and makes sure the system works smoothly. What could go wrong?
Pay attention to current events and you might be convinced that parts of the storyline are ripped from the headlines. I have to admit that more than one scene in “The 14th Protocol” was so intense that the book has left an indelible impression.
Please visit www.nathanagoodman.com for information about Mr. Goodman's other books of edge-of-your-seat suspense.
*Contains frequent adult language.
A successful writer, separated from a bullying husband, meets a swoon-worthy art professor on the beach and is seduced, not at all reluctantly. During this “Indiscretion,” Zoe Swan relishes the wonderful attention she receives, something that has been missing from her marriage for a very long time. The lovers spend several passionate days together until some truths are revealed – none of them good.
The art prof is not who he seems and Zoe is suddenly caught up in a dangerous game involving a Vermeer stolen during the 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist in Boston. Her condo is trashed, someone is dead, and her almost-ex, David, is called by the police to answer questions. When it looks as if Zoe is under suspicion for everything that is happening around her, her shady brother-in-law is approached for help as a last resort.
Iyer gives us authentic characters in “Indiscretion,” with a story that flows effortlessly between the art heist and the consequences that befall everyone involved. We’re never sure whom to trust in this interplay of shady art world, antiquities, and both good and bad law enforcement officers. Zoe may be the only one we can believe to be exactly who she says she is, keeping the reader thoroughly absorbed with each new twist.
Iyer’s interesting subplot in “Indiscretion” plays brothers against each other as family debts are called into question. A temporary alliance is made with David and it’s hard to tell why he didn’t become a bonafide -ex years ago. Iyer nails David as a character, and makes us understand the complex dynamics of this marriage gone bad.
The total value of the entire missing collection is pegged at nearly 500 million dollars and a LOT of people want some of that action. The race is on to retrieve the hidden masterpiece and stay one step ahead of the several groups out to get rid of the amateurs in the way. Iyer’s version of the real-life art theft from the Gardner Museum is explored and is as entertaining as any I’ve read. The surprising revelations will keep you turning the pages until the end.
The Gardner decided that they would leave the frames empty until the paintings were recovered, but it’s haunting to visit the museum and see the vacant places where the paintings once hung. A daring heist to be sure, and amazing that 25 years after the theft, the paintings are still officially unaccounted for. There have been suspects, but the statute of limitations has long since passed. The Museum would just like to get the paintings back. There is a 5 million dollar reward for their return.
“Indiscretion” is a Kindle Scout winner.
For more information about Polly Iyer and her work, please visit www.pollyiyer.com
*Contains adult themes and dialogue.
In a rush to pick out your summer vacation ‘beach-reads’? This may help with the ‘run-in-and-grab’ non-thought process. Categories are listed in no particular order of favoritism or warning…
“Brisinger” by Christopher Paolini.
More complex than the previous two books in the trilogy. Eragon is more developed as a character, but this has resulted in less time spent on adventures/conversations with Saphira, his dragon. Still great fun for dragon/fantasy fans.
Rated PG-13 for war and violence.
“Night Light” by Terri Blackstock.
A world-wide power outage has kicked the earth back into 19th century technology. No cell phones, no computers, no AC and people have to ride bikes and grow their own food. Fascinating look at how one Christian family chooses to deal with the challenges of a more primitive life, including digging a well to obtain potable water. The young children in the book have dialogue that is developmentally inaccurate, but the overall story made me wonder how I would cope – and what kinds of vegetables I would be able to grow so that I could barter with someone who raised chickens.
Rated PG-13 for a murder, a kidnapping and scenes of drug usage.
“I am Number Four” by Pitticus Lore.
An alien teenager, who has been hiding out on Earth with his protector, must deal with saving the world from nasty beings from his home planet that aim to wipe out his species. Made into a movie, but the book is MUCH better. There are sequels, but “I am Number Four” is the best. Filled with teen bits like first love, outsiders that don’t quite fit in, but are smarter than the ‘cool kids,’ blowing up the high school, etc. Written for teens that are into intense action stories.
Rated PG-13 for alien invasion, intensity, and violence. Adults should look this over to assess its appropriateness for their teen.
Do you have a favorite summer vacation book? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out three quite different Beach Reads from last summer's list here.
Whatever you decide to read, enjoy!