The House of Broken Angels

by Luis Alberto Urrea                  luisurrea.com

The House of Broken Angels is, as Urrea describes it, “the story of an American family—one that happens to speak Spanish and admire the Virgin of Guadalupe. Imperfect and glorious, messy and hilarious, sometimes heroic.” Inspired by the death of his brother, Urrea’s novel mines his own family history to tell a once-in-a-lifetime tale, simultaneously intimate in its detail and grand in its scope. Miguel Angel De La Cruz, aka “Big Angel,” is dying. The beloved and rapidly declining patriarch of the De La Cruz clan, he assembles his relatives for a final, epic birthday bash. Days before the party, however, his mother, nearly a hundred herself, passes away, resulting in a hefty farewell fete. Over the course of one weekend, the family members reminisce under the San Diego sun and stars, sharing stories about growing up in Mexico, leaving Mexico, and making a home in the U.S.

The Great Believers

by Rebecca Makkai                  rebeccamakkai.com

In 1985, Yale Tishman, the development director for a Chicago art gallery, is about to pull off a coup, bringing an extraordinary collection of 1920s paintings. Yet as his career begins to flourish, the carnage of the AIDs epidemic grows around him. One by one, his friends are dying and after his friend Nico’s funeral, the virus circles closer and closer to Yale himself. Soon the only person he has left is Fiona, Nico’s little sister. Thirty years later, Fiona is in Paris tracking down her estranged daughter who disappeared into a cult. While staying with an old friend, a famous photographer who documented the Chicago epidemic, she finds herself finally grappling with the devastating ways the AIDS crisis affected her life and her relationship with her daughter. Yale and Fiona’s intertwining stories take us through the heartbreak of 80’s and the chaos of the modern world, as both struggle to find goodness in the midst of disaster.


The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century

by Kirk Wallace Johnson                kirkwjohnson.com           

On a cool June evening in 2009, after performing a concert at London's Royal Academy of Music, twenty-year-old American flautist Edwin Rist boarded a train for a suburban outpost of the British Museum of Natural History. Home to one of the largest ornithological collections in the world, the Tring museum was full of rare bird specimens whose gorgeous feathers were worth staggering amounts of money to the men who shared Edwin's obsession: the Victorian art of salmon fly-tying. Once inside the museum, the champion fly-tier grabbed hundreds of bird skins—some collected 150 years earlier by a contemporary of Darwin's, Alfred Russel Wallace, who'd risked everything to gather them—and escaped into the darkness. Two years later, Kirk Wallace Johnson was waist high in a river in northern New Mexico when his fly-fishing guide told him about the heist. He was soon consumed by the strange case of the feather thief. What would possess a person to steal dead birds? Had Edwin paid the price for his crime? What became of the missing skins? In his search for answers, Johnson was catapulted into a years-long, worldwide investigation. The gripping story of a bizarre and shocking crime, and one man's relentless pursuit of justice, The Feather Thief is also a fascinating exploration of obsession, and man's destructive instinct to harvest the beauty of nature.


The Girl from Berlin
by Ronald H. Balson                 ronaldbalson.com

An old friend calls Catherine Lockhart and Liam Taggart to his famous Italian restaurant to enlist their help. His aunt is being evicted from her home in the Tuscan hills by a powerful corporation claiming they own the deeds, even though she can produce her own set of deeds to her land. Catherine and Liam’s only clue is a bound handwritten manuscript, entirely in German, and hidden in its pages is a story long-forgotten…Ada Baumgarten was born in Berlin in 1918, at the end of the war. The daughter of an accomplished first-chair violinist in the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic, and herself a violin prodigy, Ada’s life was full of the rich culture of Berlin’s interwar society. She formed a deep attachment to her childhood friend Kurt, but they were torn apart by the growing unrest as her Jewish family came under suspicion. As the tides of history turned, it was her extraordinary talent that would carry her through an unraveling society turned to war, and make her a target even as it saved her, allowing her to move to Bologna―though Italy was not the haven her family had hoped, and further heartache awaited. What became of Ada? How is she connected to the conflicting land deeds of a small Italian villa? As they dig through the layers of lies, corruption, and human evil, Catherine and Liam uncover an unfinished story of heart, redemption, and hope―the ending of which is yet to be written.


Murder in the News: An Inside Look at How Television Covers Crime

by Robert H. Jordan Jr.   

Television news anchor Robert Jordan Jr. draws from forty-seven years of news experiences to provide an eye-opening look at how news programs decide which murders to cover and which ones to ignore. Jordan takes readers behind the scenes into the big city newsrooms of Chicago. Here split-second decisions are made on where to send limited resources when dozens of shootings and several murders are occurring on a daily basis.  Using interviews from decision makers--such as assignment editors and producers--who work daily in the trenches of working newsrooms, the reader learns how they decide where to send reporters; when to dispatch live trucks; and how the stories will be treated as they are placed in the news programming. Why will one story get "breaking news" banners and be placed at the top of the broadcast while others may not make the air at all or may be given casual mention in later segments?  Additionally, Jordan reveals the results of a ground-breaking questionnaire sent to producers and assignment editors at Chicago television stations to assess their rationales for covering murder stories the way they do. Finally, he examines how the explosion of social media platforms has changed the dynamic of reporting the news and why murders are the perfect stories for television, as news organizations struggle to survive.

A Word for Love

by Emily Robbins               awordforlove.com

It is said there are ninety-nine Arabic words for love. Bea, an American exchange student, has learned them all: in search of deep feeling, she travels to a Middle Eastern country known to hold the "The Astonishing Text," an ancient, original manuscript of a famous Arabic love story that is said to move its best readers to tears. But once in this foreign country, Bea finds that instead of intensely reading Arabic she is entwined in her host family's complicated lives--as they lock the doors, and whisper anxiously about impending revolution. And suddenly, instead of the ancient love story she sought, it is her daily witness of a contemporary Romeo and Juliet-like romance--between a housemaid and policeman of different cultural and political backgrounds--that astonishes her, changes her, and makes her weep. But as the country drifts toward explosive unrest, Bea wonders how many secrets she can keep, and how long she can fight for a romance that does not belong to her.