I've heard good things about Susan Meissner's historical fiction for years, but I must admit, it was the cover that convinced me to give her latest work a try: it was popping up all over the MMD Reading Challenge pinterest board for this category at the beginning of the year! Now that I've read it, I have a difficult time connecting the stylishly dressed woman on the cover to any characters in the novel, but since the teenage protagonist dreams of becoming a fashion designer it's not too far off. The story takes place during the London Blitz, which is probably why it reminded me so strongly of Kate Morton's <a href="https://modernmrsdarcy.com/books/the-secret-keeper/" target="_blank" >The Secret Keeper</a>. Enjoyable and moving.
- by Jamie Ford
The titular hotel is a real place: it's Seattle's Panama Hotel. In the story, an old man looks back to his 1940s childhood and remembers with fondness his friendship—and maybe something more—with his young Japanese friend Keiko. They lose touch when Keiko and her family are evacuated during the Japanese internment. (I learned so little about this in my U.S. history classes that when I first read the book I kept googling Ford's historical references to see if they really happened. They did.)
This is the story of an endearingly cranky bookseller and how his life changed when an unexpected package showed up at his bookshop. For devoted readers, this book is a wonderful reminder of the power of books, and how they can bring people together. But be warned: this book can explode your to-be-read list. At the beginning of each chapter, the narrator recommends a book—or sometimes, a short story—to his daughter, describing what it’s about and why she’ll enjoy it. (He’s a bookseller: he can’t help himself.)
- by Maria Semple
Semple cut her teeth writing for Mad About You and Arrested Development, and that snarky tone is all over this screwball satire. Bernadette Fox was once a cutting edge architect whose work earned her a MacArthur genius grant, but after her daughter is born, she quits, and moves to Seattle with her Microsoft rock star husband, slowing sinking into a town—and a life—she loathes. The format is (appropriately) a little wacky: Bernadette tells her side of the story, sure, but emails, school documents, police reports, and even an emergency room bill clue us in to what's happening. Eventually we figure out where Bernadette escaped to—and why. This feels similar to Gone Girl, but this easy read is lighter, fresher, and a lot more fun.
- by Robin Sloan
Harry Potter meets National Treasure. This fast-paced book is mystery, quest, and love letter to the written word, all rolled into one. In this rip-roaring adventure, the best secrets are hidden in plain sight, in the ancient volumes of a magical bookstore. It’s not technically brilliant, but plenty readable, engaging, and just plain fun. Book nerds, beware: you’ll want to climb Mr. Penumbra’s ladders and browse his shelves. Warm, friendly, and smart—and the cover glows in the dark. That’s hard to beat.
Doerr's characters in this World War II novel are fascinating and altogether unexpected. The book’s setting couldn’t be lovelier: much of the action takes place in Saint-Malo, France, a unique walled port city on the English Channel. Haunting story, beautiful prose, and entirely deserving of its place on 2014's best-of-the-year lists.