Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
The first entry in Trigiani's new trilogy offers an exciting and charming tale of an extended Italian-American family. From Manhattan to the Isle of Capri, it captures the very essence of family life, delicious, mouth-watering recipes, the old craft of shoemaking and most important - romance! Can't wait for the sequel! Phyllis Graziosi, Reference Librarian

Martha Washington: An American Life by Patricia Brady
In this scholarly yet immensely readable biography, Patricia Brady shows us a little known side of our first First Lady - that of a passionate, equal partner in a vibrant, demanding marriage. Brady illustrates how Martha's childhood, her first marriage to Daniel Custis and her experiences as a young widow shaped the woman who became a devoted and influential partner to our first president. Antonia Petrash, Library Director

Derailed by James Siegel. Warner Books, 2003
James Siegel’s novel, Derailed, is a page-turning psychological thriller that fans of Russell Andrews and James Patterson and are sure to enjoy. When protagonist Charles Schine takes a later train than usual to his job in New York City, he meets the beautiful Lucinda and their flirtation is taken to the next level. In addition to marital problems and coping with his daughter’s illness, Charles’ life is turned upside-down after his affair with Lucinda turns into a dark conspiracy that forces Charles to risk losing everything, including his family, his job and his savings. This intriguing thriller that will keep you guessing chapter after chapter is soon to be a motion picture starring Jennifer Anniston as Lucinda and will be opening in theatres on October 21, 2005. Highly recommended for those who enjoy thrillers.
-- Amy Mondello

Detour by James Siegel. Warner Books, 2005
Detour, James Siegel’s latest novel, is a fast-paced thriller with just as many unexpected twists and turns as his previous book, Derailed (2003). After years of unsuccessful fertility treatments, Joanna and Paul Breidbart fly to war-torn Columbia to adopt a baby girl. Just when they think that their dreams have come true they realize that their nightmare is just beginning – Joanna and the baby are kidnapped by ruthless drug dealers and Paul is told that if he ever wants to see them again that he must smuggle millions of dollars worth of cocaine into the United States. Paul must risk his life and what he believes in to bring his family home to safety. James Siegel provides readers with an exciting trip that will keep them engrossed from the very first page; recommended for fans of suspenseful fiction.
-- Amy Mondello

The Dogs of Babel, by Carolyn Parkhurst. Little Brown & Co., 2003
Paul Iverson’s wife Lexy fell from a tree in their backyard to her death with only one witness – their dog Lorelei. Driven by grief, the young widower decides he will force Lorelei to divulge what she knows about the accident through a series of exercises designed to teach her to speak. This premise is, to be sure, farfetched. But as the narrative progresses the author’s storytelling skills go a long way toward convincing us that such an idea not only plausible, but faintly possible, leading the story to its rewarding and very plausible conclusion. Highly recommended.
-- Antonia Petrash

Don’t Kiss Them Goodbye, by Allison Dubois. Simon & Schuster, 2005
Don’t Kiss Them Goodbye is the story of psychic medium Allison Dubois, the inspiration for NBC’s hit television series, Medium. Allison Dubois’s visions have helped law enforcement organizations solve crimes, find missing people, profile criminals, and predict future events. In her book, Dubois describes her unique gift and explains how it has affected her life and the lives of those she works with and loves. She shares some fascinating stories of her encounters with people who have passed and describes her struggle to live a normal life as a wife, mother and friend. Alison has worked with others well known in the field of parapsychology and spirituality, including Dr. Gary Schwartz, John Edward, Laurie Campbell, Susy Smith and Deepak Chopra and others who attempt to scientifically study the phenomenon of life after death in search of the truth. Her ability to communicate messages from those who have passed away to those who still long for them have helped countless individuals cope with their grief and have a glimpse of what the other side has to offer. This inspirational book is highly recommended for those who are interested in the many mysteries of the afterlife.
-- Amy Mondello

Fires in the Dark, by Louise Doughty. Harper Collins, 2004
Louise Doughty’s historical fiction novel, Fires in the Dark (2004), provides a deeply moving portrayal of the Romany people’s valiant effort to survive during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia and in World War II.
The story begins when a son is born to a Gypsy couple in a time of peace and prosperity. To most he is known as Emil – but his real name, known only to his mother, is Yenko. Through Emil, the reader experiences a world that is heartbreaking, yet full of strength, hope and love, emphasizing the importance of family bonds and the persevering will to survive. Louise Dougherty, a writer with Gypsy ancestry, provides a fascinating and seemingly realistic look at Hitler’s efforts to exterminate Europe’s Gypsies.
-- Amy Mondello

Halfway House, by Katharine Noel. Atlantic Monthly Press, 2006
Katharine Noel’s moving debut novel, Halfway House, tells the story of the Vooster family, detailing how their lives are transformed when 17-year-old Angie suffers a breakdown and is diagnosed with manic depression. Set in rural New Hampshire, Halfway House examines family dynamics and how Angie’s mental illness affects each member of the family; Pieter, her father, retreats into himself while her mother, Jordana, begins an affair that ends up ruining her marriage. Her protective brother, Luke, finds comfort in his friends while away at college but still manages to be there for his sister when she needs him most. Noel takes readers on a step by step journey through the Angie’s agonizing ordeals in this compassionate novel providing readers with an understanding of how mental illness can affect and change an entire family. Highly recommended.
-- Amy Mondello

The Last Days of Dogtown, by Anita Diamant. Scribner, 2005
Anita Diamant’s latest novel, The Last Days of Dogtown, is set during the early eighteen-hundreds and introduces readers to some unusually fascinating characters that inhabit the island Cape Ann, in Massachusetts. According to local legend, it is said that only witches, whores and their dogs still remain there and readers come to learn about the lives and secrets of the remaining dregs of this community. The main characters include Judy Rhimes, a woman in mid life who has known much hardship and heartbreak in her life. We meet Black Ruth, an African woman who dresses like a man and earns a living as a stone mason. There's also overbearing Mrs. Stanley, mother and owner of the local brothel, her young son, Sammy Stanley, who grows up with the prostitutes that live in his home, and Cornelius Finson, a freed slave who is secretly Rhimes's lover.
After reading and enjoying Diamant’s The Red Tent, I was expecting something else from this author and was a bit disappointed by this novel. I found it rather difficult to get into reading this book and I found myself struggling to finish it, but persisted, thinking the story may get better as it moved along – unfortunately, it didn’t. Although the author has a distinct way of capturing the emotions and feelings of varying forms of human relationships, I would not recommend this book.
-- Amy Mondello

The Liberated Bride, by A.B. Yehoshua. Harcourt, 2003
Yehoshua’s latest novel explores the issues of loyalty, identity and history. Set in contemporary Israel, it explores a multitude of sectors of Israeli life as told through the voice of an engaging professor, Yochanan Rivlin. Rivlin suffers from two obsessions: the Arab mind and the secret of his son’s failed marriage. These two issues lead him through different and entertaining experiences. His personal life becomes intertwined with the political as he searches for truth in both spheres. Yehoshua’s detailed description of everyday life, and the plot-driven story captures the reader’s universal desire for both adventure and truth.
-- Carol Stern

Life’s Missing Instruction Manual: The Guidebook You Should Have Been Given at Birth, by Joseph Vitale. John Wiley & Sons, 2006
If only I had read this book as a teenager! This unique collection of contributions from author Joe Vitale’s friends and colleagues is padded with his own contributions and words of wisdom. This clever and often humorous book includes ideas and ways of living that should be applied in our daily lives. The ideas and subjects included in this “instruction manual” range from sex and relationships, food, forgiveness, personal finance, the purpose of life and how to handle death. Its contents are presented in short sections, making it a quick and easy-to-read book. Life’s Missing Instruction Manual is recommended for individuals who want to change something about themselves and the way they live their lives.
-- Amy Mondello

The Lost Mother, by Marry McGarry Morris. Viking, 2005
Set in rural Vermont during the great depression, The Lost Mother, by Mary McGarry Morris, portrays the heartbreaking life of the Talcott family, as it is told from the prospective of twelve year of Thomas Talcott.
Henry Talcott, devastated by the recent and unexpected abandonment by his wife, the loss of the family home, and the lack of work, struggles to provide for Thomas and his daughter, Margaret, and to keep his small family together. The children are often left alone to fend for themselves and they become extremely close, relying and depending solely on each other. The small family is faced with numerous overwhelming problems; and when the children finally locate their mother and things do not turn out as they had hoped, things just seem to get even worse.
Morris’s characters are unforgettably believable and this compassionate novel has many plot twists and an unpredictable ending. Although this novel may seem grim and depressing, it is a tale full of redemption and love and is highly recommended.

-- Amy Mondello

Mary: A Flesh-and-Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother, by Lesley Hazleton. Bloomsbury, 2004
In this biography, Lesley Hazleton provides a powerful look at the Virgin Mother and attempts to portray the woman Mary really was as opposed to the idealistic iconic images of her that have evolved over the centuries. Hazleton explores aspects of Middle Eastern archaeology, culture, history, religion and spirituality during Mary’s time and attempts to humanize Mary, referring to her throughout the book as Maryam, the name she would have been called in the Aramaic language she spoke. Hazleton allows readers to see Mary for the extraordinary woman she was before she became an icon and how she transformed the grief of losing her son into wisdom she shared with others.
Although some readers may argue that this biography should be classified as a work of fiction, this thought-provoking biography provides an interesting portrait of life during Mary’s time and is sure to contain something to challenge and intrigue all who read it. –Recommended for readers interested in history and religion.

-- Amy Mondello

Our Lady of the Forest, by David Guterson. Knopf, 2003
This novel tells the story of Ann Holmes, a teenage runaway who’s living in a tent in the woods of Washington State with other homeless people. Ann makes a little money picking and selling psychedelic mushrooms and in the Fall of 1999 while out picking mushrooms, Ann encounters a glowing ball of light in which she sees and hears the Virgin Mary, who returns to her on a few different occasions with various messages. Although she is the only one who can see or hear this visionary, the word spreads quickly and Ann soon has a crowd of followers numbering in the thousands. Ann, accompanied by her self-appointed manager, Carolyn, contacts the local priest, Father Collins, seeking assistance and assurance.
Through his believable characters, David Guterson shows readers how faith is often one of life’s most interesting yet questionable experiences.
-- Amy Mondello

Property, by Valerie Martin. Nan A. Talese, 2003
Valerie Martin’s latest novel, Property, is set in the antebellum South during the racial unrest of the 1820’s. This compelling and disturbing story is unique in its perspective - it is told through the eyes of Manon Gaudet, the unhappy wife of a cruel plantation owner. It depicts the interpersonal relationships between a man, his wife and Sarah, the light-skinned housekeeper that the Gaudets received as a wedding gift, who unwillingly fathers two of her slave-master’s illegitimate children. Property examines the similarities between the unhappy lives of white women in a man’s world and the harsher cruelties of slavery. This riveting historical fiction novel is highly recommended.
-- Amy Mondello

Retribution, by Jilliane Hoffman. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2004
In Retribution, a Miami prosecutor is caught in a cat and mouse game with a serial killer who raped her and left her for dead twelve years before. Although haunted by personal demons, it is her duty to prosecute her attacker and bring him to justice. C.J. wrestles with ethical issues as her personal feelings clash with her legal duties and she must decide between justice and retribution. Full of suspense, this well plotted legal thriller is a tense page turner that ends with a surprise twist.
-- Joanna Filippone

Running With Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs. St. Martin’s Press, 2002
In this horrifying, yet often hilarious memoir, Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs tells of his childhood and the peculiar situations he encountered during the journey into his teenage years. Set in small-town Massachusetts during the late 1970s, Augusten tells what life was like growing up with his alcoholic father, his distant and mentally ill mother, who abandons him by sending him to live in squalor with her abnormal and unorthodox psychiatrist, Dr. Finch, and his strange family. Augusten is forced to struggle with his parents’ abandonment, his mother’s psychotic episodes, his own sexuality, a relationship with a pedophile and a host of other challenges during the course of this disturbing and often graphic memoir, but the bonds of friendship, his independence and the will to survive help Augusten to overcome his severely troubled childhood.
A motion picture based on this memoir is scheduled to be released in October 2006, and will star Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Gwenyth Paltrow and Joseph Cross, portraying Augusten Burroughs. This strange yet compelling memoir is highly recommended.
-- Amy Mondello

The Silenced Cry: One Woman’s Diary of a Journey to Afghanistan, by Ana Tortajada. St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books, 2004
Spanish journalist, Ana Tortajada, was inspired to travel with two companions to Afghanistan in the Summer of 2000 to learn first-hand about the lives of Afghan women after listening to a lecture in Barcelona presented by a leading member of the Revolutionary Association of the Woman of Afghanistan (RAWA). Tortajada’s travelogue takes readers on a three-week journey through Pakistan and Afghanistan and details her visits to clandestine women’s health and literacy classes, underground embroidery shops and soccer fields where executions take place. Her account describes what life is like for women under the Taliban’s brutally repressive regime and provides readers with a better understanding of those who are persevering in their fight for freedom.
Tortajada will donate all royalties raised from the sale of this book to RAWA. This timely book is highly recommended for those who enjoy reading non-fiction books pertaining to women and Middle-Eastern culture.
-- Amy Mondello

Novels by Keith Ablow
Author and forensic psychologist Keith Ablow keeps readers enthralled with his fast-paced psychological thrillers. His novels include Denial (1997), Projection (1999), Compulsion (2002), Psychopath (2003), MurderSuicide (2004) and The Architect. The latest three of these novels feature protagonist Frank Clevenger, a forensic psychologist who is battling his own demons while trying to fight the evils of others. All of Keith Ablow’s novels are highly recommended for those who enjoy reading psychological thrillers.
-- Amy Mondello