The Mirror Thief

by Martin Seay      

The core story is set in Venice in the sixteenth century, when the famed makers of Venetian glass were perfecting one of the old world's most wondrous inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination -- was it reflecting simple reality or something more spiritually revealing?  The Venetian mirrors were state of the art technology, and subject to industrial espionage by desirous sultans and royals world-wide. But for any of the development team to leave the island was a crime punishable by death. One man, however -- a world-weary war hero with nothing to lose -- has a scheme he thinks will allow him to outwit the city's terrifying enforcers of the edict, the ominous Council of Ten.  Meanwhile, in two other Venices -- Venice Beach, California, circa 1958, and the Venice casino in Las Vegas, circa today -- two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans to get away with a secret.  All three stories will weave together into a spell-binding tour-de-force that is impossible to put down -- an old-fashioned, stay-up-all-night novel that, in the end, returns the reader to a stunning conclusion in the original Venice and the bedazzled sense of having read a truly original and thrilling work of art.

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

by Kathleen Rooney        

The titular protagonist of Lillian Boxfish Takes A Walk by Kathleen Rooney is the kind of woman one wishes was a best friend, a sister, a mother, or even a better version of the self. Lillian’s desire for adventure starts with postcards she receives from her single and rebellious aunt, and her own journey takes her through the world of New York advertising and through New York itself, on foot, one adventure and one step at a time. Lillian is feisty, smart, uncompromising, and unforgettable – to reveal too much about her nighttime walk on New Year’s Eve at the age of 85 and the rest of her story would deprive a reader of that delight, so I won’t. I guarantee that the scene with Lillian and her coat will stay with you long after the book is done.

The Chicago Way

by Michael Harvey                 

Private detective Michael Kelly is hired by his former partner to solve an eight-year old rape and battery case long gone cold. But when the partner turns up dead, Kelly enlists a team of his savviest colleagues to connect the dots between the recent murder and the cold case it revived: a television reporter whose relationship with Kelly is not strictly professional; his best friend from childhood, a forensic DNA expert; and an old ally from the DA's office. To close the case, Kelly will have to face the mob, a serial killer, his own double-crossing friends, and the mean streets of the city he loves.

Sisi:  Empress on Her Own
by Allison Pataki  

Married to Emperor Franz Joseph, Elisabeth—fondly known as Sisi—captures the hearts of her people as their “fairy queen,” but beneath that dazzling persona lives a far more complex figure. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, the halls of the Hofburg Palace buzz not only with imperial waltzes and champagne, but with temptations, rivals, and cutthroat intrigue. Feeling stifled by strict protocols and a turbulent marriage, Sisi grows restless. A free-spirited wanderer, she finds solace at her estate outside Budapest. There she rides her beloved horses and enjoys visits from the Hungarian statesman Count Andrássy, the man with whom she’s unwittingly fallen in love. But tragic news brings Sisi out of her fragile seclusion, forcing her to return to her capital and a world of gossip, envy, and sorrow where a dangerous fate lurks in the shadows.

Church of Marvels
by Leslie Parry     

A ravishing first novel, set in vibrant, tumultuous turn-of-the-century New York City, where the lives of four outsiders become entwined, bringing irrevocable change to them all.  New York, 1895. Sylvan Threadgill, a night soiler cleaning out the privies behind the tenement houses, finds an abandoned newborn baby in the muck. An orphan himself, Sylvan rescues the child, determined to find where she belongs.  Odile Church and her beautiful sister, Belle, were raised amid the applause and magical pageantry of The Church of Marvels, their mother’s spectacular Coney Island sideshow. But the Church has burnt to the ground, their mother dead in its ashes. Now Belle, the family’s star, has vanished into the bowels of Manhattan, leaving Odile alone and desperate to find her.  A young woman named Alphie awakens to find herself trapped across the river in Blackwell’s Lunatic Asylum—sure that her imprisonment is a ruse by her husband’s vile, overbearing mother. On the ward she meets another young woman of ethereal beauty who does not speak, a girl with an extraordinary talent that might save them both.  As these strangers’ lives become increasingly connected, their stories and secrets unfold. Moving from the Coney Island seashore to the tenement-studded streets of the Lower East Side, a spectacular human circus to a brutal, terrifying asylum, Church of Marvels takes readers back to turn-of-the-century New York—a city of hardship and dreams, love and loneliness, hope and danger. In magnetic, luminous prose, Leslie Parry offers a richly atmospheric vision of the past in a narrative of astonishing beauty, full of wondrous enchantments, a marvelous debut that will leave readers breathless.

Dirt is Good:  The Advantage of Germs for Your Child's Developing Immune System
by Jack Gilbert and Rob Knight         

“Is it OK for my child to eat dirt?”  That’s just one of the many questions authors Jack Gilbert and Rob Knight are bombarded with every week from parents all over the world. They've heard everything from “My two-year-old gets constant ear infections. Should I give her antibiotics? Or probiotics?” to “I heard that my son’s asthma was caused by a lack of microbial exposure. Is this true, and if so what can I do about it now?”  Google these questions, and you’ll be overwhelmed with answers. The internet is rife with speculation and misinformation about the risks and benefits of what most parents think of as simply germs, but which scientists now call the microbiome: the combined activity of all the tiny organisms inside our bodies and the surrounding environment that have an enormous impact on our health and well-being. Who better to turn to for answers than Drs. Gilbert and Knight, two of the top scientists leading the investigation into the microbiome―an investigation that is producing fascinating discoveries and bringing answers to parents who want to do the best for their young children. Dirt Is Good is a comprehensive, authoritative, accessible guide you've been searching for.

Special thanks goes to Roberta Sejnost, Leslie Forsman, Carol Owles, Julie Hoffman, Mallory P., Sherry Sejnost, Sheila Ruh, Amy Potts-Ostrowski, Donna Vorreyer, and Tammy Potts for their help in writing the book descriptions for the 2018 books.