There are few things I like better than a good story. Even a good cup of coffee stands second to a really good story.

So here are two novels I’ve read recently that get high recommendations from me. Enjoy!

The Soul Reader, by Gerard Webster

Though this is a sequel to Webster’s first book, In-Sight, it stands alone. (I say that because I found I had forgotten many of the details and was able to read it just fine. I reviewed In-Sight last summer.) It’s fast-moving and, even better, hard to figure out. It weaves some pretty incredible elements together and it did it without making me shake my head, roll my eyes, or give up on the story.

This book entertains and, in a way, also educates. It refrains from getting preachy (though there was a moment when I wondered if that’s where it was going to go) and, instead, leaves the reader to decide.

I have a secret hope that I’ll meet Ward McNulty again in a future book by Gerard Webster, but I guess we’ll see about that…he left some unanswered questions at the end (and I am holding out hope for getting answers in a future book).

Poor Banished Children, by Fiorella de Maria

This book collected some dust on my to-read shelf. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it and I couldn’t gauge how long it would take me to get immersed and interested. My to-read shelf is quite full (it’s actually two shelves, and spilling over onto a third shelf), and one of the reasons so many of my books on Goodreads have four or five stars is that I don’t start or finish books I don’t think I’ll like. (I am very, very picky with what I’ll start and/or finish. In this season of life when reading time is precious, I have to defend my favorite hobby lest it lose its fun!)

When I finally decided to read it, it was no worse for the waiting. The fact is, this is not just a novel: it’s literature. I was gripped by the story and even more by the clear characterization and vivid scenery. This book could be used as an example for beginning authors of how flashbacks and memories can be used to move your story forward (as opposed to just being more muddle and fuddle).

I found myself reading this book and thinking of the many people who are less fortunate than I am, than many of us are. Somehow, this book made me think of the people who are so invisible to me. It made me consider in more depth the extent of what it means to have my modern life, both as it relates to the year 2011 and as it relates to my specific station in life right now.

Beyond that, this was just a great story. It had elements of uncertainty and suspense, topped at all times with stellar writing. Highly recommended.