Ex Libris by Ross King
In the midst of the conflicts over religion and knowledge in 17th century Europe, we meet an unassuming and orderly bookseller with a shop on London Bridge whose life is changed dramatically when summoned to Pontifex Hall, once a splendid house now ruined by war. He is asked by the lady of the house to search for a rare and special book previously owned by her father. At first reluctant but then intrigued, our narrator's search becomes fraught with obstacles and dangers as others begin searching for this book as well.
Along with the bookseller's story, we also find out how the book traveled from Prague Castle when the king and queen had to flee the encroaching Catholic armies, and we learn where the book eventually ended up. In a couple of places, the author gets a bit bogged down with the convoluted history of the times, but on the whole, the story moves along quite well and proceeds to a very dramatic ending. Lovers of books and history should enjoy this one.
Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo
The starship Argonos has been wandering the galaxy for hundreds of years, looking for alien life, which they have never found. Now the ship is in crisis because they have been unable to make landfall in 14 years due to uninhabitable worlds in the numerous star systems they have explored. Deep restlessness is pervading the ship, and a rebellion by the working class is fomenting. Finally a possible planet is found. The exploration team finds what seems to be a long-abandoned human colony that could be a possible haven for them, but when they come across the grim remains of the colonists, the Executive Council orders the ship to leave.
Soon after, the ship finds an enormous alien starship just floating dead in space. Because their mission is to explore alien life, they decide to investigate it. Overcoming unexpected hazards, such as sudden changes in gravity, the teams slowly and cautiously make their way further into the seemingly empty ship. What they discover may change the fate of the humans aboard the Argonos forever.
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
I will say up front that this is a must-read novel that should capture you from the very first page. Beautifully written, it tells the story of identical twin brothers, born in unusual circumstances at a hospital in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia. With their Indian mother, a nursing sister, dead in childbirth and their surgeon father gone because he can't face the responsibility of them, they are taken in by foster parents, both doctors at the hospital, who raise them with love. The boys have a strong bond to each other, but they are very different in outlook and personality. Both find their life's work in medicine but are eventually separated through circumstances having to do with the political upheaval of their country. Their separate journeys and how they come together again will both warm and wrench your heart, and the marvelously drawn characters will live on long after their story is done.
"Where is the fountain that throws up these flowers in a ceaseless outbreak of ecstasy?"