'The Sandcastle Girls'

In 1915, Elizabeth Endicott decided to leave her home in Boston and travel with her father to Aleppo, Syria. Their mission was to aid the refugees fleeing from the Armenian genocide.

What they found was a nightmare of death and torment far beyond anything they could have imagined. But amid the despair and violence, Elizabeth also found friendship and love. Friendship with an Armenian woman Elizabeth rescues from the camps, and love with an Armenian engineer whose wife and child have disappeared somewhere in the desert.

"The Sandcastle Girls" by Chris Bohjalian is a beautiful historical novel set during a period of history that few Americans are familiar with. Bohjalian's lovely prose and heart-wrenching story of loss is captivating. Elizabeth's story is narrated by her granddaughter, which gives it a very personal touch.

Novels of World War II and the Holocaust abound in recent literature, but here is a chance for readers to learn more about another equally tragic period of world history.

'The Black Count'

Any time I am asked for my all-time favorite book, I easily answer "The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexander Dumas. So, when I learned that parts of Edmond Dantes's story was based on the life and travails of the author's father, I knew that was a biography I had to read.

I was not disappointed.

In "The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo." author Tom Reiss describes General Alexander Dumas as a legendary soldier of mixed race that fought for his beloved French Republic and was eventually promoted to leading 50,000 men. The father's adventures and courage proved to inspire his son's most remembered literary scenes such as D'Artagnan's three-duel day and Edmond's unjustifiable prison sentence.  

Much like Dumas's work, Reiss includes a great deal of historical detail and context as he presents General Dumas to his readers, but again like Dumas, the depth is rewarding. Any fan or student of the beloved author will want to learn more of his father, an inspiring man whom history has almost forgotten.

Carla Zollinger is a librarian with the Provo City Library. Email her at carlaz@provo.lib.ut.us.