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Penny's Picks



Penny McConnel has worked in bookstores for over 30 years. She lives in Norwich with her husband, Jim, and Penny spends as much time as she can reading, gardening, spending time with Jim, and learning Italian.




By Pico Iyer, Eydis Einarsdottir (Photographer)
ISBN: 9781476784724
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster/ Ted - November 4th, 2014

A lovely reminder of the importance and pleasures of spending time in stillness. Iyer,  a writer who has spent his life writing about his adventures traveling to far flung places, spends time in solitude at least four times a year. For him this brings creativity as well as a sense of simplicity to his life during the remainder of the year.

ISBN: 9781101946480
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon Books - August 4th, 2015

It is difficult to imagine that another author could have something new to say about WWI, but de Berniers, the author of Corelli's Mandolin has found a way. In 1902, three middle class families are living next door to each other outside of London. By novel's end we have witnessed how their lives, loves and futures have been greatly shaped by the war. This is a big, delicious, rich novel with wonderfully interesting characters and several plots. I loved it!

ISBN: 9780062320087
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Published: Harper Paperbacks - May 12th, 2015

I can't believe that it took me so long to discover this smart, fun espionage series. Our hero Gabriel Allon is an art restorer, an assassin, and a senior agent with the Israel Secret Service. The tales are fast-paced, creative, and take place in interesting locals around the world. The Heist takes us from Venice to Tel Aviv to Switzerland and a few places in between. The best news is that there are many more titles in the series. These are books to take to the beach or mountains and totally immerse yourself in.


ISBN: 9780316176538
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Little Brown and Company - May 5th, 2015

A very different novel from Atkinson's "Life After Life", this is a story of a family and all that the idea of family can mean. We follow Britisher Teddy Todd as a pilot in the RAF during WW2 and then beyond into the next century. HIs life is not what he expected, but Teddy is a good, kind man who seems to be able to take what is given him and move on. His life, to me, was of great interest. He is positive and mostly hopeful as he becomes a husband, father, widow, and grandfather. This is a richly generous novel spanning four generations that proves once again how delicious a big story can be.

ISBN: 9781609452698
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Europa Editions - May 26th, 2015

This is definitely not the book for everyone. It is about a 41-year-old female librarian who has an affair with a 17-year-old boy. It is beautifully written, honest, and asks the eternal questions about who we love and what we do about it. There is not a great deal of action as most of the book consists of Mayumi's thoughts, fears, and hopes. If what I have said so far has not turned you off, by all means read this book. It will stay with you. I greatly enjoyed it.

ISBN: 9780375870774
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers - March 24th, 2015

What could be more delightful than the fourth delicious Penderwick book? If you have not yet read one of these books, you are about to discover a wonderfully funny, normal, interesting family. This time it is 11-year-old Batty's turn to shine. Music, dog walking and her place in her family with six children are the things occupying her mind when she is not missing her oldest sister, Rosalind, who is off to college, and her dear friend Jeffrey. This book just makes me smile.

ISBN: 9780802122940
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Published: Grove Press - November 11th, 2014

A beautifully written book about a 72-year-old woman living in present-day Beirut remembering key events in her past. A review in the New York Times refers to the novel as a "meditation on aging, politics, literature, loneliness, grief and resilience." I found it absorbing and unforgettable.

ISBN: 9781594205415
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Published: Riverhead Books - February 3rd, 2015

Barbara Parker is crowned Miss Blackpool in England in 1964. She really does not want to be a beauty queen as she is intent on going to London and becoming a famous comedian. This is a delightful story of a group of people who come together to write, produce and star in what becomes a very popular tv show on the BBC. This book is funny, insightful, and deeply human. I loved it.

ISBN: 9780544348691
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mariner Books - February 3rd, 2015

A somewhat elegiac novel about three young people living in England during World War II, Humphreys' novel asks the question, "how do we move ahead in spite of our losses?". Her characters often find their answers in the simple things: birds, walks, dogs, the kindnesses and companionship of others. Humphreys has always been a lyrical and complex writer and this new book surpasses expectations. I loved it!

ISBN: 9780307455925
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Published: Anchor Books - March 4th, 2014

This amazing book has filled me with such great joy, interest and admiration both during and after I completed it. Efemelu, a young smart Nigerian girl dreams of someday going to America. When she does, her eyes are opened to so much more than she had anticipated; most importantly racism. Back home in Nigeria Efemelu had never thought about being black because everyone was, but when she arrived in the states, she discovered the heavy weight of race that burdens both the black and white populations. In the states she graduates from college, has several relationships with good men and ultimately writes a very popular blog called "Understanding America For The Non White American." Throughout these years, Efemelu has never forgotten Obinze, the young Nigerian boy she fell in love with in high school and the reader never stops hoping that they will eventually find each other. This is a contemporary story that is not just another story of immigration, but one of identity, love and powerful insights. Adichie is a powerful voice in contemporary fiction; a brave writer whose work I look forward to reading more of.

ISBN: 9780525423058
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Published: Dutton Books - September 30th, 2014

Wolitzer, a well respected writer of adult fiction has written a strong novel for a younger audience. Following a disastrous relationship ,teenager Jam Hallahue suffers an emotional breakdown and is sent to Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in Vermont. She discovers upon her first day there, that she will be taking a mysterious class called "Special Topics in English". The class of five is told that they must write in their journals twice a week and that the journals will be collected at the end of the term. Strange things begin to happen to each of the students in the class when they start to write in the journals and the class bonds as they  share their stories. This is a wonderful tale of love, loss, sorrow and friendship.

ISBN: 9780399162527
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Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - July 10th, 2014

What can an eleven year old girl do who loves nothing more than cooking up great dishes and plans to be a great restaurant critic someday when her parents say "no more cooking"? They also want her to make friends and spend more time playing on the computer. Gladys  discovers that she can do what her parents ask and also be a restaurant critic while still in 6th grade. This is a wonderful book about listening to your parents, but also following your heart. In the end everyone wins.


ISBN: 9781565129924
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Published: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill - June 10th, 2014

This is a delightful memoir about a man and his cello. Goldman is Jewish and has an on and off again relationship with the cello and his religion. His growing interest in both of these subjects combine for a glimpse into the life of a very interesting man .This would be especially interesting to a musician who begins to play an instrument in earnest in later life.