The Innocent by Taylor Stevens

Five years ago, eight-year-old Hannah was kidnapped and hidden in a cult called The Chosen, from which her mother had recently fled.  Her father and other former members of the cult have finally located Hannah in Argentina.  Can they retrieve her before the Prophet moves her again, as has happened over and over?  They enlist the help of Vanessa Michael Munroe, a woman with demons of her own in her past.  She is very expensive, very deadly, and very good at solving complicated problems.  This fascinating  thriller will have you reading late into the night.  The author, Taylor Stevens, was raised in a cult, so every detail rings true.  Highly recommended.

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick by Joe Schreiber

Because Perry wants to get into Columbia, he has pretty much always played by the rules.  He understands that he needs to get good grades and that obtaining a recommendation by doing an internship at his father’s law firm is very important.  He works his butt off most of the time, but he’s still a teenager and, therefore, wants to do fun things once in a while.  That’s why he belongs to a band.  And even though many teenagers look forward to their senior prom, Perry and his friends have other plans for that night — they’ve finally lined up a gig at a club in New York City!  Unfortunately for Perry, his dad doesn’t care.  His dad wants him to bring Gobija [the foreign exchange student who has been staying with their family] to prom.

If Gobija had been the teen movie stereotype — hot and anxious to date a geeky American boy — Perry might have been happy about this arrangement.  Since she was dorky and standoffish, though, Perry was looking forward to the end of her stay and tried his best to weasel his way out of this date.  It was rather obvious that things went a bit differently than expected since the book opened with Perry saying, “You shot me!”  The bad news is that, after the initial teaser, I had to go back to the beginning of the story to find out how the heck he got shot.  The good news is that the story moved so quickly that I got back to the wild ride before too long.

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Pressia Belze is one of the masses who were exposed to the blast of the apocalyptic Detonations.  Partridge Willux is a Pure — one  of the fortunates who escaped into a massive, protective dome.  Years after the Detonations, Pures remain sequestered and safe in the Dome while those outside struggle to survive amidst the rubble and unrest.  Each group has become almost mythological to the other — no Pures leave the Dome, no outsiders enter.  But when Pressia turns sixteen and flees to avoid mandatory enlistment by the brutal ruling militia, and Partridge escapes through the Dome’s filtration system in search of his lost mother, the two meet.  Seeking safety and news of Partridge’s mother, they take to an underground network where danger lurks at every turn.  In their flight, they uncover secrets about their pasts and their families, as well as a conspiracy that contradicts everything they thought they knew about the Dome and the Detonations.  This story, the first in  a planned trilogy, kept me awake and reading long past bedtime.  Highly recommended for those who enjoyed Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Set in bohemian New York City, this book shows what it was like to be a woman and an artist at the turn of the twentieth century.  Louis Comfort Tiffany was one of the first to recognize women’s artistic abilities and have women working in his studio.  Clara Driscoll is head of his women’s division and at times his muse.  A colorful cast of characters share Clara’s triumphs and challenges.  Based on truth, this is a moving glimpse into an important time in our history.  Recommended.

The Strain: Book One of the Strain Trilogy by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

A Boeing 777 jet arrives at JFK, stops dead and sits on the tarmac in darkness and silence.  Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, head of a CDC rapid-response team, boards to investigate.  The mysterious being that seemingly killed every passenger aboard is the subject of this chilling trilogy about a virus which brings the dead back as vampires.  In a pawn shop in Harlem, holocaust survivor Abraham Setrakian has met this evil and may have the knowledge to destroy it.  After a riveting start, the story degenerates into killing after killing, as Eph’s son, ex-wife, and friends are soon in danger.  This one is still a must for all horror fans and will soon be a major motion picture.

The Mistress of Nothing by Kate Pullinger

When Lady Duff Gordon, stricken with tuberculosis, leaves her home and family for the hot, dry climate of Egypt, her lady’s maid, Sally, accompanies her.  Much to Sally’s delight, Egypt offers her freedoms she would never have known in London.  She wears native clothing, learns Arabic, and falls in love with their Egyptian interpreter, Omar.  However, her new freedoms may prove her undoing.  A riveting plot with fascinating characters based on real-life events, Sally’s story examines power, race and class distinctions during Queen Victoria’s era.

The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha

The subtitle gives quite a good idea of the types of things you’re going to find in this book — Snow Days, Bakery Air, Finding Money in Your Pocket, and Other Simple, Brilliant Things — but there are just WAY too many awesome things for a simple summary to reveal just how awesome this book is.  Entries range from a few sentences to a few pages, and there are a lot of photos to illustrate the awesome topics at hand.  I loved that the author had such a positive outlook and that he found beauty in so many simple things.  I also loved that the entries were short enough that I could grab this book and read a bit even when I knew I would soon be interrupted — like in the doctor’s office waiting room, while waiting for dinner to finish baking, and when my kids were playing in the bath just to name a few.  Some of my favorites include finding extra fries in the bottom of the bag, illegal naps, and getting gas right before the price goes up (which actually happened to me about 2 days before I read that entry!).  Not quite sold on this book yet?  Try checking out his blog — http://1000awesomethings.com