Salutations Everyone! This week we feature: old money, angels and demons, a few unhappy matrimonies, a brilliant, quirky and fiercely independent fourteen year old, life in the Tudor court, and mystical chess pieces...

Abby shares, “A few weeks ago my neighbors were very excited to share a book pick with me. The title they came up with was The Eight by Katherine Neville. Published in 1982, The Eight is like an epic version of The Da Vinci Code covering extraordinary times and places but is actually well written. The book is set against the background of the chess service belonging to King Charlemagne and a hunt for the mystical pieces that crosses over centuries. The book is so well researched; the parts that take place in the court of Catherine The Great cover some of the same fascinating information found in Robert Massie’s recent award winning biography Catherine the Great. The author is actually ahead of her time as the main current day character in 1972 is a female computer expert. It's over 500 pages so there's a lot yet to unfold. It took 30 years, but Neville recently released a sequel The Fire. My audio of The Passage by Justin Cronin continues this week; disc 8 of 29. I guess I need to drive more to finish this up!”

Ann just finished Newlyweds by Nell Freudenberger. “This is a book that I was truly looking forward to and unfortunately it did not live up to my expectations. It is the story of Amina, from Bangladesh, who answers a dating site and moves to Rochester, NY to marry George. There is a conflict of religion which is never truly developed and the conflicts of Amina and George not truly knowing one another. Amina attends school and works many jobs to get her parents to the United States so they can live with Amina and George. This is something George initially does not want. It turns out that both Amina and George have secrets from their pasts that will impact their present lives. I feel this story could have been better if the author developed her characters and story line more.”

Barbara states, "I’ve just started reading Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and so far it’s less cerebral and easier to read than Wolf Hall (which I loved) but just as well written. As a continuation it still takes place in the mind of Thomas Cromwell and begins when Henry VIII is tiring of Anne Boleyn and turning his attentions to Jane Seymour. Although we know how it will end Mantel makes the intrigues and politics of the court infinitely interesting.

I just finished The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff. Daphne has a difficult life, she’s half angel, half demon, her father being Lucifer and her mother is the infamous Lilith. Then, to make matters even more fun, her brother Obie has gone missing. Her mother has sent her to Earth to find him. Only problem with that is, demons are not allowed to stay on Earth for too long, so she finds someone to her help; the heartbroken, self-destructive Truman,who just happens to be half angel, half human. Together, they try to find her brother while keeping a watch out for Azrael, the angel sent out to destroy demons who try to hide out on Earth. It was wonderfully written, and evenly paced.

Jeanne says: “I just finished Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt. This is a surprising, bittersweet novel about first loves and losses. June is a 14 year old girl living in Westchester County with her mom, dad and 16 year old sister in the eighties. The story follows her conflicted relationships with everyone, especially the very close one she shares with her Uncle Finn living in New York City and very ill with AIDS. June believes he is the only one who understands and appreciates her. Brunt's beautiful language is inspired as she relates the angst of adolescence and illness with warmth and wit. This is one of the best books I have read this year!”

Meg is currently reading Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed, and she is thoroughly enjoying it. It is about Cheryl’s journey to find herself, while hiking alone along the Pacific Crest Trail across the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Cheryl is a great storyteller and this book is extremely easy to follow. She cannot wait to see how it ends.

Pat S. is reading Glitter and Gold: The Real Life of the Real American Duchess by Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan. This is a most interesting autobiography of the famed Vanderbilt heiress who was sold into a titled marriage at the age of nineteen to further her mother's aristocratic pretensions. Unfortunately, this was no fairytale. This misalliance produced nothing more than the required two children (the heir and the spare), and 20 odd years of emotional isolation for all parties involved. However, Vanderbilt Balsan writes movingly about trying to define herself and her own interests as she sets about making a life with some emotional fulfillment. After many years of success in supporting causes for underprivileged women and children, she found true love in late mid-life. It provides not only an interesting portrait of the lifestyle of late nineteenth century British aristocracy, but the more timeless tale of defining a life of personal authenticity.

Pat T. says: “I spent my vacation days reading The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan and I felt as sea sick as the passengers in lifeboat 14! The story is narrated by Grace who is on trial, along with two other women, for murder because of their actions while adrift in the ocean for 20 days after the ocean liner "Empress Alexander" exploded. Grace recalls the harrowing days in the overcrowded boat as the passengers deal with too little food and water and a power struggle of authority. The passengers in the lifeboat are at the mercy of the natural elements, as well as the manipulation of the shrewdest passengers who become the self-proclaimed leaders.”