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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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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: On Our Shelves Now
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
$26.95
ISBN: 9781590518571
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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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The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781501126345
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner Book Company - August 2nd, 2016

This collection of essays is a powerful way to start the year. Perhaps it will help you figure out how to advocate for equal opportunity for All. But it will definitely make you think about what life is like for those with black skin in the USA. 
 


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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. 


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The War That Saved My Life Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780147510488
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Puffin Books - May 31st, 2016

When Gary Schmidt (one of my favorite authors) blurbs a book with the words, "I read this in two big gulps", I pay attention. This tale of two of the many children who were sent from London to the countryside for safety during WWll (think The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) is full of adventure, hardship, and ultimately love. I especially loved Ada and her feisty fight for her place in the world.