Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier (2014)

eyetoeyeVivian Maier was a nanny, not a professional photographer. Her work was never published until after her death. Her vision and talent were incredible. Maier, with her Rolleiflex in hand, captured the essence of her subjects and their time. Much of her work told a story of the people of Chicagoland in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, but her travels took her all over the world. With Maier, it was all about the people. Regardless of location, she managed to capture breathtakingly ordinary moments in time through the eyes of people all over the world – check out a sample in Eye to Eye.

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher (2014)

dearcommitteemembersJulie Schumacher‘s brief epistolary novel offers a glimpse of academia from a crotchety and beleaguered middle-aged creative writing professor. In a series of snarky letters, Jason Fitger laments the death of liberal arts on college campuses, endorses his struggling grad student, and documents the ridiculousness of teaching in a decrepit building. His own literary career trending downward, Fitger channels his creativeness into countless pithy letters of recommendation written over the course of a school year.

Pick up Dear Committee Members for a quick laugh, an endearing character, and a nostalgic look at days gone by. And if you’re a fan of stories told in letters, emails, and more, check out our list of epistolary novels.

That Summer by Lauren Willig (2014)

thatsummerThe story is set in London and goes back and forth between 2009 and 1849. In the modern thread, Julia inherits a house and travels from New York to London to clean out the house before selling it. The story switches to 1849, where Imogen lives in the house with her dispassionate husband. Imogen has an affair with the artist painting her portrait – a painting that still hangs in the house in 2009. Modern day Julia pieces together Imogen’s life and finds love in Nicholas, an antiques dealer who helps her with the research.

I really enjoyed That Summer and loved the switching of the characters and the years. Very entertaining – I hope that a movie is made from Lauren Willig’s novel.

The Mangle Street Murders by M. R. C. Kasasian (2014)

manglestreetRenowned London detective Sidney Grice is irascible, vain, and a genius. When he takes in a young woman as his ward, he never dreams that her humanistic approach to life will assist him in his detecting. A chance meeting with a doctor and struggling writer Arthur Conan Doyle suggests that Grice and March Middleton, his ward, will become the model for his famous detective Sherlock Holmes.

Find a copy of The Mangle Street Murders by M. R. C. Kasasian today.

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson (2011)

robopocalypseA scientist has successfully created artificial intelligence and puts the world in danger when the robot, calling itself Archos R-14, kills its creator and escapes. Archos slowly spreads its influence across the world and takes over many robots, of which this future society is full, and bides its time before launching a major attack against humanity, an event that would soon be known as Zero Hour. All across the world, humans are dying, but some are fighting back.

Told through many perspectives, Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse seeks to do what many sci-fi and dystopian novels fail to do: show the war in real-time and from a variety of diverse characters, including a Native American police officer, a young girl, a Congresswoman, and a soldier stationed in the Middle East. No longer is North America alone in its struggles!

The audiobook adaptation of this book is told expertly through the narration of Mike Chamberlain, whose voice is perfectly suited to the action hero-type character of Cormac Wallace, who introduces and closes each chapter. The book is written in detailed prose which cleverly balances action and emotion and feels very much like watching a movie.

The Bees by Laline Paull (2014)

beesThis story is charmingly told by Flora 717, an exceptional bee having capabilities in the many skills needed to sustain a hive. A Sister Sage (philosopher bee) says Flora has the hive mind. Trouble comes when Flora discovers she also produces eggs and she regards her offspring with great affection. But only the Queen should produce eggs and Flora must hide this wonderful gift from the hive police.

I particularly enjoyed listening to The Bees by Laline Paull as the accents and tones bring out the character and mood of the speaking bee (of course bees cannot talk but the author has skillfully translated their communications from noise, dance, and scent into English). One can speculate as the story moves along as to what will become of Flora and who will be the next Queen. Read a review of The Bees in the New York Times.

Red Means Run by Brad Smith (2012)

redmeansrunWhen successful criminal lawyer Mickey Dupree is found dead on a golf course in upstate New York, all fingers point to ex-baseball player turned farmer Virgil Cain as his killer. Several weeks earlier, Cain had spouted off in the local bar that “someone ought to blow Mickey’s head off.” That statement alone is sufficient evidence for police detective Brady to place Cain in custody for Dupree’s murder.

When Virgil realizes that Brady is not interested in looking for other possible suspects, he breaks out of jail to prove his innocence. Attractive and highly capable police Chief Claire Marchand has her doubts that Virgil is the murderer and she finds herself helping Cain search for the killer. Great characters, an interesting plot, and the interactions between Claire and Virgil make for a great story in Red Means Run by Brad Smith.

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler (2013)

callingmehomeI listened to the audio version of Julie Kibler’s debut Calling Me Home and loved it. The narration alternates between Isabelle, an 89-year old white woman, and Dorrie, an African American woman in her 30s. These two women have an unlikely friendship, which started many years earlier when Dorrie became Isabelle’s hairdresser.

At Isabelle’s request, they embark on a road trip from Texas to Ohio to attend a funeral. En route, Isabelle tells the story of her life during the 1930s. As such, the storyline alternates between late 1930s and the present day. Since I listened to this book in my car, I felt as though I were on the road with them, sitting in the back seat, eavesdropping on their captivating conversation.

The characters were so real to me that I felt the whole gamut of emotions while listening to this book. I think the book could be turned into a great movie!