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Lisa's Picks

Lisa Christie lives in Norwich with her two active boys, Hank and Mateo and her husband Chris. A nonprofit consultant, Lisa is the founder of Everybody Wins! Vermont, a program that brings reading mentors into local schools. She and Lisa Cadow - a former Norwich bookseller - created The Book Jam, a fun blog about books to "alleviate book jams (e.g., what to read tonight, what to take on that trip to Italy, what to get your mom, your best friend, your brother)". The Book Jam also supports the Norwich Bookstore and other independent booksellers through links to indie web sites and periodic live events.

 

 

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Turtles All the Way Down Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780525555360
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dutton Books for Young Readers - October 10th, 2017

I was afraid to read this as I thought it would disappoint. It does not. The main character, Aza and her best friend Daisy, a writer of Star Wars fan fiction, suffer through high school, first loves, and homework in Indianapolis. However, Aza also suffers from spiraling thoughts that take over her life. She has an OCD condition that is being treated in a straightforward and insightful manner as this moving tale unfolds.The characters feel real, the situations are challenging, and Mr. Green's writing about teen life propels the reader forward faster than he or she might wish. After finishing the tale with tears in my eyes, perhaps what touched me even more was Mr. Green's matter of fact acknowledgement in the endnotes that mental illness affects his own life, providing resources and solace that those who suffer are not alone.


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Dear Martin Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781101939499
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown Books for Young Readers - October 17th, 2017

 

A superb YA novel about being profiled by police for being black, and how current events, BLM, and politics affect black youth today. In this excellent debut novel, a black student -  Justyce McAllister, who is at the top of his class, captain of the debate team, and set for the Ivy League next year - is handcuffed by a police officer and released without physical harm. The psychological toll of being profiled is explored as this novel delves into his life at his mostly white prep school and in his mostly black neighborhood. To help cope, Justyce researches the writings of Martin Luther King Jr, and writes him letters asking for guidance about how to live today. While Mr. King obviously never answers, the letters provide a great premise for thinking about how MLK would have handled life as a black man today. The letters also provide grounding once the novel's action turns extremely ugly. Read it and discuss.


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Rose and Poe Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781770413993
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: ECW Press - October 17th, 2017

In this tale, Mr. Todd cleverly re-imagines Shakespeare's The Tempest from the point of view of Caliban (Poe) and his mother (Rose). Rose and Poe live in the woods quietly alongside Prosper Thorne, a banished big city lawyer and his gorgeous daughter Miranda. When Poe appears carrying Miranda's bruised and bloody body, he is arrested, despite lack of evidence he committed the crime; and Rose and Poe find themselves facing bitter hatred and threats from neighbors who once were friends. A timeless tale of how we stigmatize what frightens us, and the consequences of our prejudices.
 


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Long Way Down Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781481438254
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atheneum Books - October 24th, 2017

 

Mr. Reynolds tackles gun violence in an unique and powerful novel. The story unfolds in short bouts of insightful, concise verse over the course of a 60 second elevator ride when Will must decide whether or not to follow the RULES - No crying. No snitching. Revenge. - and kill the person he thinks killed his brother Shawn. With this tale, Mr. Reynolds creates a place to understand the ‘why’ behind the violence that permeates the lives of so many, and perhaps hopefully a place to think about how this pattern might end.
 


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Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062684929
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Dey Street Books - September 12th, 2017

An up front and personal account of the 2016 presidential race from an MSNBC and MBC reporter who followed Trump from the time when everyone thought his candidacy was a long shot all the way through his election. As Jill Abramson said in a New York Times book review - "Compelling... this book couldn't be more timely." 


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The Best Man Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780147515797
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Puffin Books - September 5th, 2017

This may be the best book I've read all year. Mr. Peck's superb sense of humor and his ability to remember what it is like to be a kid make this tale a memorable, smile-inducing novel. Somehow, without preaching, he manages to cover gay marriage, death, divorce, war, national guard service, reconciliation, bullying, bad teachers, social media, hormones, school lunches, middle school, the British Empire, and the Cubs, all in a tale about being a kid in the 21st Century. Read it today; no matter your age, you will not be sorry. 
 


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Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780062362599
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper - June 13th, 2017

I don't think I have ever read such a well written, honest, and brutal account of sexual assault and its aftermath. This sounds like a horrid reason to pick up a book, and it is horrid to think that the author endured a brutal and life-altering assault at age 12, but the story and Ms. Gay's candid insight offer much more than that. Her analysis of her life after assault, as a morbidly obese woman in a society that abhors fat people, is also brutal. Her memoir is filled with self loathing and big mistakes, but also hope, self love, professional accomplishments, friendships, social commentary, and always, always her body and her relationship with it. If, as a woman, you have ever tried to explain or understand your relationship with your own body, Ms. Gay will help. If, as a man, you have never understood this relationship, Ms. Gay will help you gain some insight. If you want to better understand how people who are obese feel, Ms. Gay offers this gift to you. If you have a complicated relationship with your body, Ms. Gay shows you are not alone. If you just want to spend some time with a talented writer of insight, Ms. Gay's Hunger is your chance.
 


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Solo Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780310761839
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Blink - August 1st, 2017

Mr. Alexander does it again, with help from Ms. Hess; I truly love the books this man creates. Blade is the son of an aging rock star who reacted to the death of Blade's mom with an everlasting and highly dysfunctional descent into addiction and absentee parenting. As the story unfolds, Blade deals with his high school graduation, his father's inability to stay sober, his sister's delusions of grandeur, a  broken heart, and a recent revelation he is adopted, by escaping to Ghana to find the birth mother he didn't even know he missed. This is a terrific tale of music, maturing, love, adoption, and finding your way, told in Mr. Alexander's usual sparse, but effecting poetic style (with an added bonus of a great soundtrack list). 
 


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Flying Lessons & Other Stories Cover Image
By Ellen Oh (Editor)
$16.99
ISBN: 9781101934593
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown Books for Young Readers - January 3rd, 2017

Ms. Oh, the founder of We Need Diverse Books, has edited a collection of short stories by authors who happen to be persons of color. The group has earned among them every major award in children's publishing as well as popularity as New York Times best-sellers. Each story is completely unrelated to the rest and totally fabulous. This collection is perfect for a reluctant reader as one of these stories is sure to be just right. (My bet is on the one by Kwame Alexander.) As a collection it makes a great family read-aloud.


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A Long Pitch Home Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9781580897136
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Charlesbridge Publishing - September 6th, 2016

We all need more diverse books and this novel about Bilal, a 10-year-old boy from Pakistan newly arrived in the USA, provides a good place to start. This tale of family, culture, and refuge compassionately addresses immigration from a kid's perspective, and the plot turns on such questions as: will Bilal's father be able to join him or has he disappeared in Pakistan for  good? Will he survive the fact his younger sister's English is better than his? Will he learn to love baseball as much as cricket? And, ultimately what is home?


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Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780062484154
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Ecco Press - December 6th, 2016

I am so glad someone put this collection of short stories in my hands. The writing by Ms. Collins - a little known African American artist and filmmaker - is distinct and concise, and paints vivid pictures of life in New York in the 1970s. The backstory to the collection is even better - these stories were discovered by Ms. Collins' daughter after her death.
 


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Al Franken, Giant of the Senate Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781455540419
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Twelve - May 30th, 2017

A book for liberally minded folks to read as a reminder there are politicians working hard helping others.  A book for more conservative minded folks to read as a reminder that many liberal politicians are actually smart, kind, hardworking people who are doing their best for America; and in this case, even have Republican friends :-)! This is in no way high literature but it would be a great beach read.


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The Leavers Cover Image
By Lisa Ko
$25.95
ISBN: 9781616206888
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Algonquin Books - May 2nd, 2017

As a white mother of Latino boys adopted in infancy from South America, this book is one of the most discomforting and difficult books I have ever read. Then when I looked at the acknowledgements and saw her thanking Transracial Abduction websites, I visited those and did not sleep for many nights. I say this to disclose this review is difficult for me to write.  Ms. Ko has crafted a well written, compelling story of Deming, an American boy born to an undocumented Chinese immigrant. After his mother mysteriously disappears one day, he is adopted by a white couple living in the NYC suburbs and renamed Daniel. In light of today's headlines about ICE and immigration, this novel puts stories and faces on those headlines and is incredibly important. The excruciating part for me was the negative way in which transracial adoption was depicted. I am so glad I found this book as it led to a well-told and important tale.  I am also glad that it reminded me there are many sides to any story. But honestly, being confronted with opinions and stories that place my life story in a negative light is tough. That said, I am willing to learn from tales that contradict and disrupt my preferred narrative. Needless to say, my teenage son and I have already started to discuss the issues in this book. And to conclude, Ms. Kingsolver's PEN/Bellwether Prize picked an amazing tale, AGAIN. It has left me reeling.
 


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The Pearl Thief Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781484717165
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Disney-Hyperion - May 2nd, 2017

If you ever wondered how Julia, the superb heroine of  Code Name Verity was able to do what she did during WWII, this prequel shows the family and upbringing that shaped her. The plot incorporates dead bodies, missing servants, life of the gentry and travellers, and the Scottish countryside of the 1930s. It made me want to re-read Code Name Verity to discover how this new information about her family changes that story for me.


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It's Always the Husband Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9781250081803
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: St. Martin's Press - May 16th, 2017

A thriller from one of my favorite people (yes, we are friends). Perfect for fans of Gone Girl or The Girl on a Train.


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Quicksand Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781590518571
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Other Press (NY) - March 7th, 2017

This was truly an amazing thriller. Apparently I am not the only one who thinks so as it was named “Best Swedish Crime Novel of the Year”, and was recently well reviewed by the NYTimes. For fans for courtroom dramas, I am not sure you can do better than this tale of a teen accused of planning and executing, with her boyfriend, a mass murder of her classmates. The boyfriend died during the mass shooting so she alone stands on trial.  As her story unfolds, you can reflect on parenting, teenage life, immigration, first love and contemporary Sweden. Or you can just enjoy a well-told story.


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The Strays Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781455537723
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Twelve - January 3rd, 2017

This award-winning debut by an Australian author had me staying up late to discover what happened next.  Ms. Bitto uses research into depression-era Australia and an actual group of artists from that time as inspiration for a completely fictional tale of an artist colony and the ramifications of strangers living in close proximity. While I hate it when blurbs compare it to other books I love - in this case Atonement - as that sets the bar far too high, I really enjoyed this and truly look forward to what Ms. Bitto pens next. A great book for art lovers in particular, or for those interested in a novel about adolescent love, and/or the fallout from certain choices.


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The Hate U Give Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780062498533
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen - February 28th, 2017

Sometimes it takes a work of fiction to give life to current events. And sometimes it takes a book for children to give all of us a starting point for conversations about difficult issues. Ms. Thomas has done all of us a service by producing this fresh, enlightening, and spectacular book about the black lives lost at the hands of the police every year in the USA. Starr Carter, the teen she created to put faces on the statistics, straddles two worlds -- that of her poor black neighborhood and that of her exclusive prep school on the other side of town. She believes she is doing a pretty good job managing the differing realities of her life until she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer. As the jacket description of this book stated, The Hate U Give “addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty". Just as importantly, it is a great story, with fully formed characters who will haunt you, told by a gifted author. Please read this one!


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We Were the Lucky Ones Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780399563089
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Viking - February 14th, 2017

Yes, this is another WWII novel. But this one about the lives of a family of Polish Jews and their efforts to survive the onslaught of the Holocaust and the German and Russian armies, seems especially important in light of current political rhetoric. The fact that all the characters and their escapades, deaths and near-deaths are based on the truths of the author's own family had my heart in my throat at times. A moving debut novel about family, survival, and living.


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August Snow Cover Image
$25.95
ISBN: 9781616957186
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Soho Crime - February 14th, 2017

I so hope there is someone like August Snow - half black, half Mexican, ex-cop with a strong sense of justice and community - looking out for Detroit. The hope this book expresses for Detroit weaves throughout the narrative and Mr. Jones's descriptions of Detroit's decline and partial resurgence make the city an actual character in this thriller. Yes, he makes mistakes and, wow, by the end his body count is way too high for my tastes, but so few books take place in modern day Detroit. Enjoy this one!
 


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The Orphan's Tale Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780778319818
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mira Books - February 21st, 2017

The author, a law school professor, discovered two true accounts while working in the archives of Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, and wove them into this novel. They are : 1. a circus that rescued Jews during WWII, and 2. untold numbers of Jewish babies taken from their families and shipped to concentration camps before they knew their own names. Yes, this is another WWII story, but knowing it is based on actual people and events imbues each page with importance. 


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Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780316349291
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Mulholland Books - October 11th, 2016

Apparently we have been missing some great YA novels if Ms. Marchetta's first adult novel is any indication of her ability to tell a tale. This novel is part crime story, part immigration tale, part indictment of prejudice against Muslims, part family saga, part love story, and totally gripping. Whatever you want to call it, it is worth reading - full of empathy for each and every complicated character. The tale revolves around a suspended cop’s quest to find the truth behind a devastating bombing involving his daughter. I particularly loved the fact that half-way through I was certain the book had to end, yet another twist in the plot allowed me to keep reading for another hour or two. Pick this up for "a novel of great scope, of past and present, and above all the Marchetta trademark of a fierce and loving heart" as Markus Zusak of The Book Thief fame blurbs on its back cover.