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August 1, 2008 Edition

Virgins and Martyrs, by E.L. Merkel

While responding to a report of a bomb at a family planning clinic, police officer Aria Quynn and her partner are caught in the detonation of a second bomb. Officer Tara Kinsey is killed instantly, leaving Aria to unravel the case with the help of her former partner, Tito, who is now a private detective. All clues point to The Centurions of the Lord, a violent fundamentalist group, and soon Aria finds herself in a race with a journalist bent on getting a scoop as she investigates the connection between the Centurions, the bombs, and a thirteen-year old girl with stigmata and visions.

Winter Haven, by Athol Dickson

Vera Gamble gets the call she’s wished for and dreaded for thirteen years: her brother Siggy has been found. To claim his body, she travels from Texas to Winter Haven, a small barrier island in Maine. But the body she is shown is that of a recently-deceased fifteen year-old boy, not the twenty-eight year old man he ought to be. Perplexed, Vera determines to stay in Winter Haven until she finds answers, but soon she begins to fear for her mental health. Her landlady’s stories of witches and vanished colonists seem to be taking a toll and Vera begins suffering from hallucinations: catching glimpses of figures that aren’t there and hearing axes chopping wood when there’s no one around. Dickson’s eerie settings and vivid, unbalanced characters will come back to haunt readers.

City of Thieves, by David Benioff

Arrested and sentenced to execution for looting a paratrooper’s body, seventeen year-old Lev Beniov is given a reprieve: if he and his cellmate can find a dozen eggs for the Colonel’s daughter’s wedding cake, they will go free. But this is Leningrad, nearly a year into the siege, and everyone is starving – eggs are non-existent. Lev and Kolya, a womanizing Red Army deserter, set off on a desperate search for eggs, armed with a curfew waiver, a stolen knife, and several hundred worthless rubles. Along the way, Lev meets his future wife, makes a friend for life, and most importantly, survives. Powerful and beautifully written, with a self-deprecating humor, this is a great coming of age story.

A Good Indian Wife, Anne Cherian

What happens when an Indian-born, American-educated anesthesiologist with dreams of marrying into American society gets railroaded into an arranged marriage to a woman from his hometown? Neel Sarath takes a trip back to India to visit his ailing grandfather only to find himself twisted up in family machinations with a bride chosen and a wedding date set. His bride, Leila, a literature teacher who speaks English as if it were her first language, is elated to finally have a marriage proposal and is looking forward to living in America. But when the couple returns to California after the wedding, she finds herself with an aloof and uncaring husband and wonders what she’s done wrong. For his part, Neel struggles to divest himself of an unwanted American girlfriend who had marriage plans of her own, without letting Leila know. Can this marriage be saved?

The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway

Inspired by a real event, this haunting novel tells the stories of four individuals who are doing their best to maintain their humanity in the midst of the 1992 siege of Sarajevo. First, there is the cellist who witnesses a random bombing which kills 22 people: to honor their memory, he plays a concert a day for 22 days. Then there is Arrow, a young soldier whose orders are to protect the cellist as he plays, but whose music makes her question what she’s become. Dragan has sent his wife and son out of the city to what he hopes is safety. He is a lonely man, but believes that his solitude is his protection. The last player is Kenan, whose regular trips through the sniper-watched streets to collect water for his family and their neighbor are exercises in terror and bravery. The lives of the four, taken together, tell the story of Sarajevo itself, as it was before the war, as it was while bombs fell, and as it will be again.

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