With a rare talent for combining history, romance, and action in a way that doesn’t scream “cover shot of Fabio in a pirate outfit,” Boulder author John Shors has penned an enthralling narrative in Beside a Burning Sea. Readers have been standing by for another hit since his 2006 love story, Beneath a Marble Sky—and he doesn’t disappoint.

Shors has a knack for grabbing hold of his readers and dropping them right into his deftly crafted settings. In this emotional snapshot of humanity during World War II, he transports us to a tiny island in the South Pacific. When a Japanese torpedo sinks an American hospital ship, nine survivors fight through the fiery sea to reach the deserted oasis. Eight are Americans, one is a wounded Japanese soldier—and one of the group has an ominous secret bigger than any of them could have imagined. The primal need to survive and the looming threat of an enemy arrival on the island forge a bond between the strangers, and when camaraderie blooms into passion between the Japanese soldier and a young American nurse, the survivors begin to bury the ills of war and look toward their collective future. But the volatile, warship-strewn seas have other plans. Shors masterfully weaves historical intrigue through his rich cast of characters in this absorbing tale of love and war. —JD

Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl
By Stacey O’Brien
When biologist Stacey O’Brien offered to care for an injured baby barn owl, she never expected to spend the next 19 years cultivating a friendship with her avian companion, Wesley. But the more she studied “the way of the owl,” the stronger their connection grew. After O’Brien was diagnosed with a brain tumor, it was her uncanny bond with Wesley that helped keep her alive. Readers journey alongside O’Brien, from the first day she met and fell in love with Wesley to the last time she held the owl in her arms. O’Brien, who plans to relocate from California to Colorado to work at a local raptor rehab facility and continue writing, tells an emotional real-life tale of the kind of friendship most people never experience. —Stephanie Gerlach

Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own
By Doreen Orion
Living in Colorado does not an outdoorswoman make—at least for Doreen Orion. The Boulder-area psychiatrist and writer had always preferred La-Z-Boy reclining to mountain climbing, and recirculated air to the fresh variety. A self-proclaimed princess, she’d cocktailed and bonbonned her way into a comfortable life with her husband—until a ’98 Prevost motor coach crossed her path. Part travel memoir, part diva-on-a-bus-tour comedy, Queen of the Road captures Orion’s newfound appreciation for life at a slower pace—and in a much smaller space. This one’s a handy read for the light-rail, or more appropriately, the bus. —Natalie Villarreal

Blood Memory
By Margaret Coel
Boulder-based writer Margaret Coel—the New York Times best-selling author of the Wind River mystery series—begins her first stand-alone novel with an unintended bang. After a bullet meant for Denver newspaper investigative reporter Catherine McLeod rips through her friend’s chest instead, McLeod must choose between the story of her career and her own safety. Unwilling to abandon her scoop, McLeod can only stop her would-be assassin by unraveling a tangle of mysteries surrounding the 1864 Sand Creek Massacre, a proposed $300 million casino deal on the Plains, and her own past. The result is an unnerving tale of deadly politics and Western lore. —Natasha Gardner