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Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald’s unique take on the increasingly popular immigrant saga juxtaposes an introspective look into the repressive lifestyle experienced by Tamila Soroush, 27, in Iran with the nearly unreal freedom she finds while in Tucson on a three-month visa. Sent by her parents in the hope that she can “wake up her luck” and stay in America like her older sister, Tami has three months to find a husband and avoid returning to Iran. One of the Iranian suitors her sister and brother-in-law have lined up turns out to be obsessive-compulsive; the second is a gay control freak. Beyond these awkward matchmaking scenes, Tami forges her own strong friendships with the students in her ESL class, including Nadia, a Russian refugee abused by her bigoted husband, and the outrageously provocative Eva, who introduces Tami to country line dancing. Tami also captures the heart of Ike, a Starbucks server who encourages her pursuit of photography and sends her flowers, despite her sister’s objections. A fun, romantic, and thought-provoking debut novel from a promising author.

Keeping the House by Ellen Baker

As a new bride in a new town, Dolly Magnuson is consumed with trying to be the perfect wife, as determined by articles in the reigning womens’ magazines, and with trying to obtain the perfect house, the abandoned Mickelson mansion, a crumbling Victorian that has captured her fancy to the point of obsession. As Dolly plies her fellow quilters during Monday afternoon sewing bees about the fate of various Mickelson family members, she hatches a plan to restore the house to its original glory in hopes that her husband will buy it for them, a ploy to save her sanity as much as her marriage. But when one of the Mickelson scions returns and catches Dolly dusting the family heirlooms, Dolly discovers more about the family, and herself, than she ever dreamed possible. Brimming with luscious details that authenticate the story’s various time periods, from early to mid–twentieth century, Baker’s accomplished, ambitious debut novel is a majestic, vibrant multigenerational saga in the finest tradition of the genre.

Look Again by Lisa Scottoline

Ellen Gleeson was balancing life as a single mother and a feature reporter as well as could be expected. She had taken on single parenthood voluntarily, having fallen in love with her adopted son, Will, now three, when he was a very sick infant. A have-you-seen-this-child postcard featuring a child who could be Will’s twin catches Ellen’s attention, and while she should be pursuing her assigned story about the emotional effect of Philadelphia’s high teenage murder rate, she instead becomes obsessed with the missing child and with pursuing more details about Will’s background. Her questions multiply when she learns that, just three weeks after she adopted Will, the attorney who handled the proceedings killed herself. Where is the birth mother, and why doesn’t her family seem to know that she was pregnant? The answer only leads to danger, but Ellen, her reporter’s instincts on high alert, is hell-bent on finding the truth, no matter the cost. In a departure from her wildly popular Rosato & Associates series, Scottoline still sticks to what she knows in this taut stand-alone: female drama, family ties, legal intrigue, and fast-paced action. A sure-fire winner.

Handle with Care by Jodi Picoult

Picoult has carved an impressive niche in the topical family drama genre, tackling medical ethics, faith, and the law in her sixteenth novel. Charlotte and Sean O’Keefe are the parents of Willow, six, who has brittle-bone disease, suffering 68 broken bones in her short lifetime, including 7 before she was born. Charlotte gave up her job as a successful pastry chef to care for Willow full time, doing whatever she can to prevent the inevitable breaks and trying to lessen Willow’s discomfort when they occur. After a lawyer broaches the possibility of a wrongful-birth lawsuit, which would find Charlotte’s ob-gyn (also her best friend) guilty of failing to diagnose Willow’s illness early enough for a possible abortion, the family unravels. Charlotte becomes increasingly aggressive in her new attack mode; Sean disagrees with the lawsuit and files for divorce; and Amelia, Willow’s teenage half sister, seeks attention by becoming bulimic and cutting herself. In her customary fashion, Picoult probes these sensitive issues with empathy and compassion.

How Starbuck’s Saved My Life by Michael Gates

In his fifties, Michael Gates Gill had it all: a mansion in the suburbs, a wife and loving children, a six-figure salary, and an Ivy League education. But in a few short years, he lost his job, got divorced, and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. With no money or health insurance, he was forced to get a job at Starbucks. Having gone from power lunches to scrubbing toilets, from being served to serving, Michael was a true fish out of water.

But fate brings an unexpected teacher into his life who opens his eyes to what living well really looks like. The two seem to have nothing in common: She is a young African American, the daughter of a drug addict; he is used to being the boss but reports to her now. For the first time in his life he experiences being a member of a minority trying hard to survive in a challenging new job. He learns the value of hard work and humility, as well as what it truly means to respect another person.

Behind the scenes at one of America’s most intriguing businesses, an inspiring friendship is born, a family begins to heal, and, thanks to his unlikely mentor, Michael Gill at last experiences a sense of self-worth and happiness he has never known before.

Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall
Switching back and forth in short segments, two narrators portray authors Hall and Moore in memoirs that begin in distant walks of life and intersect in a homeless shelter. In the charming accent of an unschooled black man with a deep, scratchy voice, narrator Barry Scott recounts Denver Moore’s life of hardship and misfortune, starting on a Louisiana plantation. In contrast, the subtle Southern accent of Dan Butler speaks for co-author Ron Hall, an educated white gentleman of comfortable means. The narrators play their parts of the drama so well that listeners will believe they are hearing the men who lived the story. In the end, the two individuals form an unlikely friendship resulting from charity and challenged by tragedy.

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