Fiction Recommendations

Ben Hurr: A Tale of The ChristBen Hur: A Tale of the Christ, by Lewis Wallace

The story is about a young Jewish aristocrat in Rome, Judah Ben Hur, who is falsely accused and betrayed by his childhood friend. At the same time Judah is sentenced to a life of slavery, in another land the three Wise Men begin their search for the newborn Savior. The story of the betrayed friend and the Savior of the world progress in parallel and occasionally cross paths, providing many gospel applications for the reader. While the film is made for the spectacle of Hollywood, the novel takes time to meditate on faith, forgiveness, and overcoming adversity.

Recommended by Lynette Christensen

 

 

 

 

Blood Red Blood Red, by Mercedes Lackey

Rosamund is an Earth Master in the Schwarzwald, the ancient Black Forest of Germany. Since the age of ten, she has lived with her teacher, the Hunt Master and Earth Magician of the Schwarzwald Foresters, a man she calls “Papa.” Her adoptive Papa rescued her after her original Earth Master teacher, an old woman who lived alone in a small cottage in the forest, was brutally murdered by werewolves. Rosa herself barely escaped, and this terrifying incident molded the course of her future. For like her fellow Earth Masters of the Schwarzwald Lodge, Rosa is not a healer. Instead, her talents lead her on the more violent path of protection and defense“cleansing” the Earth and protecting its gentle fae creatures from those evil beings who seek to do them harm. And so Rosa becomes the first woman Hunt Master and the scourge of evil creatures, with a deadly specialty in werewolves and all shape­shifters.

Recommended by Rachel Wadham

 

 

 

By the Light of Hidden CandlesBy Light of Hidden Candles, by Daniella Levy

In a mud hut in the Jewish Quarter of 16th-century Fez, a dying woman hands her granddaughter a heavy gold ringand an even heavier secret. Five-hundred years later, Alma Ben-Ami journeys to Madrid to fulfill her ancestor's dying wish. She has recruited an unlikely research partner: Manuel Aguilar, a young Catholic Spaniard whose beloved priest always warned him about getting too friendly with Jews. Their quest takes them from Greenwich Village to the windswept mountain fortresses of southern Spain. At times humorous, at times deeply moving, this beautifully written and meticulously researched book will appeal to anyone interested in the history of Inquisition-era Spain, Sephardic Jews, or falling in love.

Recommended by Linda Safsten

 

 

 

Elantris

Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson

This book was Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel, written in 2005. The plot tells how the godlike inhabitants of Elantris, once the capital of the land of Arelon, have degenerated into powerless, tortured souls, unable to die, after the city's magic inexplicably broke 10 years earlier. When the same curse strikes Prince Raoden of Arelon and he's imprisoned in Elantris, he refuses to surrender to his grim fate and instead strives to create a society out of the fallen and to unlock the secret that will restore the city's glory. Meanwhile, Princess Sarene of Kae (Arelon's new capital), who was betrothed to Raoden, believes her intended has died. Officially declared his widow, she must use her political savvy and wit to protect Kae from malevolent forces without and within the city, chiefly Hrathen, a leader of the creepy Shu-Dereth faith, who aims to either convert Kae or destroy it within three months.

For younger kids, especially those in the middle grades, we recommend Sanderson’s Alcatraz series.

 

 

First Impressions

First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Love and Jane Austen, by Charlie Lovett

 

Book lover and Austen enthusiast Sophie Collingwood has recently taken a job at an antiquarian bookshop in London when two different customers request a copy of the same obscure book: the second edition of Little Book of Allegories by Richard Mansfield. Their queries draw Sophie into a mystery that will cast doubt on the true authorship of Pride and Prejudice—and ultimately threaten Sophie's life. In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie's quest to uncover the truth while choosing between two suitors, and a young Jane Austen's touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

Recommended by Rachel Wadham

 

 

Mistborn: The Alloy of Law

Mistborn: The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson

Set three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, The Alloy of Law is more of a stand-alone work than a sequel. Scadrial is on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds. Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice. One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn who can push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the Roughs.

 

 

 

The Golem and the JinniThe Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Struggling to make their way in 1899 New York, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their immigrant neighbors while masking their true selves. Meeting by chance, they become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Recommended by Rachel Wadham

 

 

 

The Guernsey Literacy and Potato Peel SocietyThe Guernsey Literacy and Potato Peel Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

There is something so evocative and powerful about a novel that is beautifully written, and without a doubt Shaffer’s book is stunning. Written entirely in the form of letters, it tells the story of two strangers whose worlds connect in post-World War II England as they piece together events from the German occupation of Guernsey. Wonderfully quirky characters who interact and change throughout the novel draw readers in, but it is the way Shaffer and Barrows reveal information that will keep people reading. Filled with unforgettable plot elements in a haunting wartime setting, each part of the story will be appreciated. Shaffer passed away just before this novel, her first, was published, so we won’t be seeing more from this fine writer, but that gives us all the more reason to revisit this one again and again.

Recommended by Rachel

 

 

 

The Martian

The Martian, by Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he's alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Recommended by Rachel Wadham

 

 

 

The Miniaturist The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton

 

Set in seventeenth century Amsterdam—a city ruled by glittering weatlh and oppressive religion—a masterful debut steeped in atmosphere and shimmering with mystery, in the tradition of Emma Donoghue, Sarah Waters, and Sarah Dunant.

"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . ."

Recommended by Rachel Wadham

 

 

 

The Way of KingsThe Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

The Way of Kings is the first novel in an epic-fantasy series known as the Stormlight Archive. The novel tells of Roshar, a world of stones where uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. In this world, centuries have passed since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain—mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars are fought for them and won by them. Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one army fighting them. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by overpowering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity. Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under the eminent scholar and notorious heretic Jasnah Kholin, Dalinar's niece. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan's motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war.