1. The Time Keeper
by Mitch Albom
Summary: In this fable, the first man on earth to count the hours becomes Father Time. The inventor of the world's first clock is punished for trying to measure God's greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and forced to listen to the voices of all who come after him seeking more days, more years. Eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.
He returns to our world--now dominated by the hour-counting he so innocently began--and commences a journey with two unlikely partners: one a teenage girl who is about to give up on life, the other a wealthy old businessman who wants to live forever. To save himself, he must save them both. And stop the world to do so.
Rating/Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars. Albom has a sparse literary style that appeals. He says a lot without wasting words. Though it is a narrative about belief, it doesn't preach. I appreciate that. His 5 People You Meet In Heaven is still my favorite but this is a great second place.
2. Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes
by Betsy Woodman
genre: historical fiction/cultural fiction
Summary: Meet Jana Bibi, a Scottish woman helping to save the small town in India she has grown to call home and the oddball characters she considers family.
Janet Laird's life changed the day she inherited her grandfather's house in a faraway Indian hill station. Ignoring her son's arguments to come grow old in their family castle in Scotland, she moves with her chatty parrot, Mr. Ganguly and her loyal housekeeper, Mary, to Hamara Nagar, where local merchants are philosophers, the chief of police is a tyrant, and a bagpipe-playing Gurkha keeps the wild monkeys at bay. Settling in, Jana Bibi (as she comes to be known) meets her colorful local neighbors—Feroze Ali Khan of Royal Tailors, who struggles with his business and family, V.K. Ramachandran, whose Treasure Emporium is bursting at the seams with objects of unknown provenance, and Rambir, editor of the local newspaper, who burns the midnight oil at his printing press. When word gets out that the town is in danger of being drowned by a government dam, Jana is enlisted to help put it on the map. Hoping to attract tourists with promises of good things to come, she stacks her deck of cards, readies her fine-feathered assistant—and Jana Bibi's Excellent Fortunes is born.
Rating/Recommendation: 4 out of 5 stars. I was really charmed by this novel and surprised to learn it is Woodman's first one. It brims with a love of India (where it is set) and its characters. Wonderfully funny and witty, it's a quiet sort of novel about every day life, really. India fascinates me so I may be biased but it is a very good read.