The Living Dead Girl: A Novel by Elizabeth Scott

When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends– her life.  She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain.  She waited for the nightmare to be over.   Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for.  She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her.  This is a story that truly sticks with you long after you put it down.

22 Britannia Road by Amanda Hodgkinson

At the end of World War II, Polish war survivor Silvana and her seven-year-old son, Aurek, travel to England to be reunited with her husband, Janusz, after six years of separation. As they struggle to establish new lives, the horrors of the war years and the secrets that they keep from each other interfere with their relationship and threaten to destroy their efforts at creating a safe and happy home for their son.  The novel, a debut for the author, presents a stunning description of what a mother will do to protect her child in impossible conditions, and of the dehumanizing effect of war.

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride

A black man and his 11 siblings were raised in predominately African American sections in the boroughs of New York by his white mother.  She didn’t speak of her upbringing while the children were growing up.  Mr. McBride explores her past while recounting his childhood. This is an engrossing biography about race, religion and human nature.

Every Last One: A Novel by Anna Quindlen

Mary Beth Latham is a happily married mother of three teenagers.  While her children go through the normal dramas of teenagers, they are generally healthy and well-adjusted.   When her talented daughter, Ruby, breaks up with her long-term boyfriend, Mary Beth is not overly alarmed until she is blindsided by an unspeakable act of violence.  Bereft, Mary Beth must cope with her grief and  regain a sense of meaning in her life.  Strong characters and beautiful prose make Anna Quindlen’s novel well worth your time.

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Young Sarah Carrier lives in Puritan-dominated New England, in the late seventeenth century.  Sarah  sometimes doubts her mother’s affection for her. But, when her strong-willed mother and her siblings are targeted as witches by discontented,  hysterical neighbors and an uncle who holds a grudge against them,  she will learn of her mother’s deep love. This unconventional retelling of the Salem Witch trials, told from inside the inhumane jail where accused witches were held,  is a beautiful story of family love and a mother’s sacrifice amidst the horrors of intolerance and hatred. The inspiration for the book comes from the author’s own family history.

The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander

Austin Gray wants to be a “hood ornament” in the No-Jesus Christmas Parade more than anything.  She’s sick and tired of being the butt of Dean Ottmer’s jokes, and she’s sure this plan will turn things around.  She just needs to join the FFA [Future Farmers of America], make some friends, raise an animal to show at the fair, and win a blue ribbon.  THEN, she can be elected the FFA hood ornament.  Simple, right?

This story is about so much more than a girl who is trying to win a popularity contest to defeat a bully, though.  It’s about a mother and daughter who are still trying to work past the loss of a husband and father.  It’s about the dynamics of a small town where everyone knows “everything” about everyone.  And, it’s about how Austin finally gets to the realization that Dean Ottmer’s opinion is “as significant to [her] life as a fart in a tornado.”

The Eternal Ones by Kirsten Miller

Haven Moore can’t control her visions of a past with a boy called Ethan, and a life in New York that ended in fiery tragedy.  She lives with her widowed and heartbroken mother in her tyrannical grandmother’s house in Snope City, a tiny town in Tennessee.  Then an impossible group of coincidences conspire to force her to flee to New York, to discover who she is, and who she was.

Not your typical good vs. evil story, this complex tale takes the reader across time blending mystery, suspense and romance.  An enjoyable read with an unpredictable ending.

The Probable Future by Alice Hoffman

Three generations of extraordinary women are driven to unite in crisis and discover the rewards of reconciliation and love.

Alice Hoffman tells a wonderful story about real characters.  She easily weaves in some fantastical elements like each woman’s special gift.  Eleanor can tell if a person is lying and Jenny experiences other people’s dreams.  The reader easily gets engrossed.  Highly recommended.

Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

“What is real?  It’s what you are, not what others make you.”  Twenty-four-year-old Veronika isn’t pleased with her life.  Not to say that she doesn’t have an overall desired life.  She’s young, attractive, and well loved, but something is missing.  And on November 11, 1997, Veronika decides to die. Taking a handful of sleeping pills, though, does not do the trick, and she wakes up at a local mental hospital with severe damage to her heart.  Although she made it through her suicide attempt, her heart is so damaged that she only has a few days to live.  It is in those days that Veronika really decides to live for the first time.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

Eleven-year-old chemistry genius Flavia de Luce amuses herself by concocting potions and poisons in her laboratory.  Flavia’s two older sisters constantly target her for taunts and pranks, and her father is too busy studying philatelic journals and catalogs to deal with his daughters or the fact that he can no longer afford their inherited English manor house.   When Flavia discovers a body in her cucumber patch, she’s delighted for the bit of excitement and takes it upon herself to investigate.  She discovers that the victim was an avid stamp collector and former classmate of her father’s, leading her to wonder — could her father be responsible?  Flavia, with her trusty bicycle sidekick Gladys, gets to the bottom of things in this smart, fun mystery.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

A riveting historical account of the Zombie War, this is a document that chronicles the experiences of men, women and children during the plague years.  Thought to have started in China, the virus that resulted in the rise of the living dead nearly brought about the end of human society.  This collection of individual survivor accounts is a follow-up to Brooks’ 2003 book The Zombie Survival Guide.  If you are a fan of zombie lit, you will enjoy this chilling post-apocalyptic horror collection which adds the human element to a United Nations report that was mainly facts and figures.

The Man with the Golden Torc by Simon Green

There really are ghoulies and ghosties and demons and vampires and aliens and  things that go bump in the night. Fortunately, the Drood Family keeps things under control so that the general population can carry on in blissful ignorance of the peril all around. Eddie Drood does his part as an agent in the field to keep the peace until he suddenly finds himself being ferociously hunted as a Family traitor.  Then it’s up to Eddie to keep himself alive long enough to find out who the real villain is.  He collects some interesting allies along the way.  Great fun.  First of a series.

For the Win by Cory Doctorow

If the letters “MMORPG” [Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game] don’t mean anything to you, you might not think you could get a lot out of this story.  I honestly only picked up this book because I am a “gaming widow” and wanted to better understand the MMORPG scene that my husband frequents! This story is about so much more than just gaming, though.  Set in the future, this story explores the world of “gold farmers” who become the next generation of sweatshop workers.  The narration rotates between characters who run the gamut from factory-dwelling gold farmers in China to an über-rich game developer at Coca-Cola Games Headquarters in the US.  Although some reviews complain that Doctorow is heavy-handed in his message, I was simply enthralled by the way that he wove economics and unionization into a story about video games.  I think this book would be an excellent tie-in for English and economics/social studies teachers — because the kids will probably enjoy the story while learning an awful lot.  But maybe I’m just too big of a nerd and I enjoy learning while I read!