Stone Monkey by Jeffrey Deaver. This novel is part of the Lincoln Rhymes (quadraplegic detective) mystery series. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and Chinese cultural tidbits and loved the Chinese policeman, Sonny Li. His character served to show that there are many ways of finding truths, some of them very different from one another but not necessarily less successful. The book begins slowly, but stay with it for this author.
Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen. My mom recommended this, which is the story of a young man who runs away and accidentally joins the circus. Very rich detail on Depression-era train circuses, with captivating narrative that switches between the character in his youth and then as a very old man. I enjoyed this quite a bit, but did not love it as I did some of the books listed here.
The Last Part First by Angela Johnson. Juvenile/Young Adult Fiction about a black teenager who becomes a father. Quiet narrative with a deep soul, the book goes back and forth between "Then" and "Now," and tells the story beautifully and without painful stereotypes of any kind. Winner of the "Coretta Scott King" award, this novel is short, sweet, and deceptively simple.
The True Meaning Of Smekday by Adam Rex. This piece of Juvenile Fiction was the standout of my vacation reading! A spunky (delightfully so) 11-year-old black girl goes in search of her mother during the Florida relocation of all humans after the Boov have invaded the Earth. Along the way, she meets up with a Boov mechanic and they have a series of adventures involving other Boov (nasty ones), UFO nuts, and the invasion of Earth by yet another alien species. This was funny, full of irony, satire and regular humor, and both Christopher and I adored it. It's hard not to love a character who taught herself to drive "by nailing cans of corn to the bottom of my church shoes so I could reach the pedals" and who is capable, smart, and yet also very much a child and not an adult. Very creative storytelling (including illustrated panels drawn by the girl's Boov friend). This is actually the author's first major novel, since he's primarily an illustrator himself. Highly recommended— I reread this one immediately after I finished it, which is something I never do.