Mary P.

The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber (2019)

In the 1880s, Deborah lives an unusual life in a small town in the Utah territory. Her husband Samuel, who travels as a wheelwright repairperson, is long overdue. She is part of a community of eight families who live apart from other Mormons because they do not carry the same beliefs.

When a stranger arrives on her doorstep looking for shelter from a federal marshal, it sets in motion a series of events that threatens not only her future, but that of her entire town. Fear and mistrust feature prominently among the community and of outsiders. The Glovemaker provides an interesting look at early pioneers, Mormon settlers, and survival in the 19th century.

Try this Ann Weisgarber novel if you enjoyed News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Both compelling, descriptive novels feature the early West and people overcoming challenging circumstances.



Mary P.

The Weight of a Piano by Chris Cander (2019)

In 1962, in the Soviet Union, eight-year-old Katya is given a Blüthner piano. She brings this beautiful instrument with her when she later marries an engineering student and settles in California with their young son. Katya's life is difficult and her marriage brutal, but her piano remains an escape throughout it all.

Clara receives a Blüthner from her father for her 12th birthday. Her parents die in a tragic fire soon after, but she clings to the piano, even though she cannot play it. As an adult, she impulsively rents the piano to Greg. Then, she has second thoughts, causing her to follow him and the piano to Death Valley, where he is using it in a series of photographs.

Their time together results in the unburdening of their family stories and links them in ways they never dreamed. It's a compelling story that features a piano as both a gift and a burden. You'll want to keep reading to see how the parallel stories connect in Chris Cander's The Weight of a Piano.



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Mary P.

Colette (2018) R

Young Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley) marries an older writer, nom de plume Willy (Dominic West), who takes her from the countryside to cultural, sophisticated Paris.  They lead an extravagant lifestyle, always having bills to pay.  He convinces her to ghostwrite stories for him, and she does turning out a semiautobiographical novel of a bold, young girl that becomes the new sensation in Paris.  She continues to write as she explores her sensual side and Willy takes all the credit for the rage of Paris. Colette is visually a beautiful movie and definitely an adult story because of her sexual appetite.


Mary P.

Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly (2019)

Martha Hall Kelly's newest novel, Lost Roses, focuses on Eliza, the mother of Caroline Ferriday (who you may remember from Lilac Girls). Kelly brings to life the story of Eliza traveling to St. Petersburg with Sofya Streshnayna, a cousin of the Romanovs. The two met years before and Eliza is excited to see Sofya's home, but Austria declares war on Russia and the Imperial dynasty starts to fall. Eliza escapes back to America while Sofya and her family flee to their country estate, putting themselves in mortal danger. Eliza tries to assist fleeing white Russian families to resettle, but fears the worst when she stops hearing from Sofya.

Lost Roses is a beautiful, well-researched tale of women's strength and friendships and surviving perilous times. Excellent choice for fans of historical fiction.



Mary P.

The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse by Alexander McCall Smith (2018)

goodpilotAlexander McCall Smith’s latest standalone opens on an English farm as the Americans enter WWII and fly into the English air bases. When Val rescues a border collie named Peter Woodhouse from his owner who was mistreating him, she gives the dog to Mike, a U.S. pilot living at the base. The American G.I.s become so attached to Peter that they begin taking him along on missions, acting as their mascot.

When disaster strikes, Woodhouse finds himself face-to-snout with Ubi, a German corporal. Ubi is tired of war and death and spares the lives of the pilots, changing the narrative of the war for the Americans. The Good Pilot Peter Woodhouse is a charming and beautiful story that reaffirms even when life goes in an unexpected direction, things can still work themselves out.
Mary P.

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian (2018)

flightattendantA self-destructive alcoholic, Cassie Bowen is a mess who binge drinks until she blacks out. After a flirty flight to Dubai, she joins an American businessman for a private party in his hotel room. When she wakes up, he is dead and she is covered in blood. What happened?

Cassie panics and lies—to her airline and the FBI. And just when you think she’s hit rock bottom, Cassie finds a way to make it worse. Full of twists and turns, The Flight Attendant is a fascinating story that’s even more suspenseful than The Girl on the Train. Check out Chris Bohjalian’s latest gripping, thought-provoking read today.

Want more psychological suspense? Check out our list of recommended reads.
Mary P.

Phantom Thread (2017) R

phantom_threadIn 1950s London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) creates dresses for high society women. He is talented, self-centered, controlling, and oftentimes abusive. His sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) runs his empire and does his dirty work (dismissing his latest muse).

After Reynolds meets waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps), she becomes his assistant, muse, and lover. What he doesn’t count on is that she has an iron will, and will do anything to get her own way. Alma makes a plan to gain the upper hand in their relationship. To make him more vulnerable and needy, Alma laces his tea with poisonous mushrooms. She makes him reliant on her, nursing him back to health.

Phantom Thread won an Academy Award for costume design. The film was nominated in five other categories, including best picture.
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Mary P.

The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen (2018)

In 1944, British bomber Hugo Langley parachutes into German-occupied Tuscany. He is found by Sofia, who nurses him back to health and hides him from the Nazis. Thirty years later, Hugo’s daughter finds an unopened letter written to Sofia that startles her and sets her on a journey to understand her father’s past.

Pick up The Tuscan Child by Rhys Bowen for a gripping historical novel.
Mary P.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey (2018)

widowsofmalabarhillPerveen Mistry, Bombay’s first female lawyer, is investigating a suspicious will on behalf of three Muslim widows living in strict seclusion when the case to turns to murder. Perveen notices that all three wives have signed away their full inheritances to charity, leaving nothing for them to live on. She is skeptical and puts herself in great danger trying to help the widows, but she is clever and determined to do what is right.

The Widows of Malabar Hill, set in 1920s India, kicks off a new historical mystery series by Sujata Massey.
Mary P.

Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor (2017)

lastchristmasparisEvie Eliott is a wealthy young woman in England in August 1914. Her brother Will and his best friend, Tom, have just enlisted in the Great War. In the beginning, their letters home are filled with excitement and confidence, with promises that the war will be over by Christmas. The war rages on, however, with the death toll rising by hundreds each day and the fighting quickly changing from bayonets to chemical bombs.

Evie feels like she’s not doing enough for the war effort, so in addition to the letters she writes, she begins delivering mail and starts writing a column in Tom’s father’s newspaper that addresses the women left behind as the men are away on the front, focusing on their personal and emotional experiences. She writes to the women of Britain to reassure and encourage them in their war efforts and to help reaffirm their emotions. As the years go by, the news becomes censored and Evie doesn’t know who to believe or who to trust and doesn’t know how to help out in a war she can’t fight.

Written entirely in letters, The Last Christmas in Paris by Hazel Gaynor is absorbing and touching, portraying the emotions of both soldiers and those on the home front. If you enjoy novels written in letters, check out our list of epistolary novels.
Mary P.

Rooster Bar by John Grisham (2017)

Four students at a substandard law school where fifty-percent of the graduates don’t pass the bar the first time, come to the realization that they are massively in debt with student loans in the six-figures and no job prospects on the horizon. They decide to take matters into their own hands and pass themselves off as lawyers without finishing school. Picking up clients outside of courtroom doors, the students think they are in the clear, but soon their scheme starts falling apart. It’s all fun and games trying to avoid the local police, the FBI, and a whole bunch of bad guys in John Grisham's newest legal thriller, The Rooster Bar.
Mary P.

Alone in Berlin (2016) R

In Germany, a couple’s only child is killed during the early days of World War II. Otto (Brendan Gleeson) spends his days in a factory making coffins. Bereft at this loss of life, and wondering why, Otto feels like his family gave the ultimate sacrifice to the Fuhrer. Spurred into action, he disguises his handwriting and starts writing and distributing anti-Nazi propaganda around Berlin. When his wife Anna (Emma Thompson) discovers his efforts, she wants to help him despite the dangers. Both the police and army are seeking who is responsible.

Alone in Berlin is based on a true story. Read the NPR article for more details.
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Mary P.

The Great Halifax Explosion: A World War I Story of Treachery, Tragedy, and Extraordinary Heroism by John U. Bacon (2017)

In 1917, a ship full of explosives en route from New York to France exploded in Halifax Harbor, Nova Scotia. Killing 2,000 people and wounding 9,000 more, the explosion leveled 2.5 square miles of Canada. In The Great Halifax Explosion, author John U. Bacon combines engaging human interest stories with what happened leading up to and after the explosion (which was the largest in the world until the atomic bombs were dropped in 1945). He introduces readers to the families of Halifax and details their daily lives in this fascinating story. For fans of history books with a personal narrative.

If you visit Halifax, you can see the Mont Blanc Anchor. Learn more from Canada’s Historic Places.
Mary P.

Gifted (2017) PG-13

After the death of her mother, Mary (McKenna Grace), a young mathematics prodigy, is put in the custody of her uncle, Frank (Chris Evans). Seeing how his sister's genius drove her to suicide, Frank wants to raise Mary as a regular child, but her grandmother wants her to embrace her gifts. The two adults engage into a custody battle—with Mary in the middle. Gifted proved to be a gentle, beautiful movie that will surely appeal to your heart.
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Mary P.

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan (2017)

In 1940s Italy, Pino is a typical teenager. With WWII progressing, his parents are worried that he will be drafted. To protect him, they send him to a monastery. Unbeknownst to him, the priest is helping at-risk people escape Italy into neutral Switzerland.

Pino returns to Milan to see his family. They convince him to enlist in the German army as a driver to avoid a more dangerous duty in the Italian army. He uses his status working for a high-ranking general in the German army to spy for the Allies.

Mark T. Sullivan’s Beneath a Scarlet Sky is based on a remarkable true story and is in production for a movie adaptation. Read other novels of WWII and novels of the resistance.