Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh (2003)
In her first novel, Jennifer Haigh tells of three women who marry the same man, Ken Kimble. Birdie, his first wife, struggles to hold herself together following his desertion. Then he finds Joan, a lonely heiress shaken by personal tragedy, who sees in Kimble her chance at happiness. Finally there is Dinah, a beautiful woman who is half his age. Ken Kimble is revealed through the eyes of the women he seduces and you’re not going to like him very much!

The author makes no judgments, but rather her story is a revelation of the human condition at its best and worst. She deals a steady hand of emotions, but with a deft touch. And as one review put it, “The book raises as many questions as it answers, and in that lies its true significance, a certain authenticity of voice that compels one to read on in spite—or perhaps because of—the contradictions.”

Read an interview with the author about Mrs. Kimble.

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin (2009)
A beautifully written novel set in Rwanda, Baking Cakes in Kigali eloquently demonstrates that life isn’t always black and white. Angel is a baker with a booming cake business; she is a wife; and she is a mother to her five orphaned grandchildren.

The family moves from Tanzania to Rwanda for better opportunities. They settle in a community of people from all walks of life – aid workers from the West, refugees trying to rebuild, and so many affected by AIDS.

Check out this debut author’s thought-provoking and enjoyable story set in a foreign land. If you enjoy Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, I think you’ll like this book.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (2007)
It’s popular with book clubs. Colleagues have raved. When I saw Sarah’s Key on the Friends shelf on the eve of my trip to Paris, it seemed perfect.

Set in Paris, Sarah’s Key alternates between 1942 and 2002. The novel is centered on a forgotten tragedy in Parisian history – the Vel d’Hiv roundup – when thousands of French men, women, and children of Jewish descent were rounded up by the French police, stripped of their possessions, and sent to concentration camps.

In the 1942 chapters, we see the tragedy unfold in occupied Paris through the eyes of 10-year-old Sarah. In 2002, we follow an expat American journalist who discovers a story larger and more complicated than she imagined.

The hype is well-deserved. A one sitting read. Have a tissue handy.

Watch the trailer of the movie version Sarah's Key.

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks

Safe Haven by Nicholas Sparks (2010)
This is a rather captivating story written by Nicholas Sparks about a young woman who manages to escape from her abusive husband and start a new life in North Carolina. She meets a widower and falls in love with him and his two children. Of course, her deranged husband, who is also a police detective, never gives up searching for her. Good entertaining read!

If you like Nicholas Sparks, check out our list of other books you may enjoy.

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal

The Lost Recipe for Happiness by Barbara O’Neal (2009)
Great, fast-paced, escapist novel for anyone who loves food and romance. The main character, Elena, is a gifted chef hired for a new restaurant in Aspen. The story is well-crafted and filled with complex, likable characters, even though it is somewhat predictable. The brilliant descriptions of the food, its preparations, and the inner workings of a restaurant made me wish that I were a better cook, but not in a restaurant! I’d love to try a few of the recipes that the author includes throughout.

I also loved another book by this author, titled The Secret of Everything, and plan to read her next novel (How to Bake a Perfect Life) due out at the end of December. One warning: there are a few graphic sex scenes that may be off-putting to some.

Read an excerpt and reviews, visit the author's website and view the reading group guide.

House Rules by Jodi Picoult

House Rules by Jodi Picoult (2010)
In her latest novel, which is one of her best, a teenage boy with Asperger’s syndrome is accused of murder. Not only is this book really difficult to put down, you can also learn a great deal about Asperger’s and forensic science. Jodi Picoult sure does her research while creating her novels. Excellent read!

Read an excerpt from the book and visit this bestselling author's website.

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott (2010)
A 43-year-old, divorced woman’s life becomes entangled with a down-on-their luck family. When their two cars collide and the hospital discovers the mother has cancer, Clara moves the three children, their father and grandmother into her home putting her life into a tailspin. With humor, honesty and tenderness, Endicott tells the story of a woman who finally finds herself through others. The characters are wonderful and I was sad to leave them.

Read the New York Times review and learn more about the author.

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Doran Barbieri

The Lace Makers of Glenmara by Heather Doran Barbieri (2009)
Kate Robinson was really lost at the beginning of The Lace Makers of Glenmara – her boyfriend had left her, her mother had passed away, and her fashion line had failed miserably. Overwhelmed by the heartbreak and loss, Kate flees to her ancestral homeland of Ireland. Hoping to break free of old patterns and reinvent herself, she becomes involved in the community of Glenmara. The novel tells of the camaraderie and teamwork between the group of lace makers and of their interwoven histories. Each of the women is affected in some way by Kate’s presence as she becomes a part of this small and isolated community. And of course there is a romance for Kate!

Read an inteview with the author and check out the reading group guide.

The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal

The Secret of Everything by Barbara O’Neal (2009)
 I really enjoyed “devouring” this book while on vacation. It’s got many elements of a great “beach read” – fascinating characters, wonderful setting, romance, a bit of mystery, and great food (along with the recipes). The vivid descriptions of the small town in New Mexico where much of the story takes place made me want to visit New Mexico (or even move there!).

 I also loved the delicious-sounding recipes scattered throughout the book. Finally, a great bonus for me, were the wonderful dogs that so brilliantly came to life as family members of various characters. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys escaping to another location and experiencing the joys and sorrows of well-developed, likable characters. 

Be sure to check out the author's website!

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (2006)
This interesting page-turner explores the deep love between a father and daughter. It also shows the horrible aftereffects following a date-rape.

Read an excerpt and check out the reading group guide at and be sure to visit this popular author's website.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult (2009)
In this very sad but excellent story, Jodi Picoult tells of the heartache a family suffers in caring for their disabled daughter. It grabs you from the very first chapter. Bring some tissues along.

Read the reviews at and visit the author's website to read an excerpt or a synopsis and find discussion questions.

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy

Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy (2001)
Slow, leisurely reading book for travelers. It's easy to pick up and put down due to being divided into 12 months of one year. Set in contemporary Ireland; the novel follows two people who begin a catering business. The story develops around the families and friends of Cathy and Tom.

Preview the book before you visit the library and read reviews of the book at

The Used World by Haven Kimmel

The Used World by Haven Kimmel (2007)
Contemporary setting in small town about three women and the relationships in their lives. Fast, easy read with twists and an interesting way of life in small town USA today. The story has an interesting ending and all is well. The author's use of descriptions in her story makes for good reading flow. A person should read this book 30 years from now to know the terminology and setting of life in the beginning of the 21st century.

Read reviews at and visit the author's website.

A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber

A Cedar Cove Christmas by Debbie Macomber (2008)
Mary Jo Wyse is pregnant; she heads to Cedar Cove in search of David, the father of her baby. Following her are three overprotective brothers (the three Wyse men). Although she doesn’t find David, Mary Jo is embraced by the close knit Cedar Cove community. A nice light read that’s good for the holidays.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin (2008)
This sentimental story takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, where debutante Abbie Eliot Coleman, daughter of a U.S. Senator, is being attacked in a park. Doss Michaels, a fishing guide and part-time artist, comes to her rescue. They fall in love, marry against her family's wishes and have a few successful years with Abbie becoming a sought after interior designer and Doss's paintings hanging in the best homes in the city.

After ten years of marriage, Abbie is stricken with breast cancer. During the next four years, she endures "slash, poison and burn" therapy. She barely survives in person but in spirit she asks Doss to take her on a river journey to fulfill her last 10 wishes. Beautiful descriptions of their 129 mile river journey, her husband's devotion, and a true love story make this a sure read-alike for anyone who enjoys Nicholas Sparks or Robert James Waller stories.

Visit the author's web site and watch a video on Amazon.