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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.




ISBN: 9780802122643
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atlantic Monthly Press - April 1st, 2014

If you are a Donna Leon fan, just buy the book. You cannot go wrong. If you are not yet a fan, buy the book, you cannot go wrong. Venice, Commissario Guido Brunetti. contemporary Italian culture and a mystery that revolves around books. Pure delicious reading indulgence!

ISBN: 9780812976311
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House Trade - November 14th, 2006

This wonderful novel is as timely today as when it was first released and won The Pulitzer Prize 30 years ago. In alternating chapters we meet Fred, a 29 year old English professor at a prestigious New England college, and Vinnie, a 54 year old professor also at the same college. They are not friends nor do they become friends, but they are both in London for the summer and each of them has a summer of discovery; about themselves, their relationships and their professions. This is a deliciously rich and satisfying novel.

ISBN: 9780062188519
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Harper Perennial - March 5th, 2013

This haunting and lyrical novel about a man heading toward old age and the young girl who comes into his life will stay with you for a long time. Living on an orchard in Washington state toward the end of the 20th century, Talmadge has been alone for most of his life, growing his apples and taking them to town to sell from the back of his wagon. One day two young and pregnant girls stumble into the orchard and everything changes. Coplin writes of the landscape of frontier Washington as if she had been born there. She is a young writer to watch for.

ISBN: 9780984913664
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Spring Street Publishing - August 5th, 2013

Consider me pleasantly surprised! "A Fine Romance" takes the reader on a delightful two month escape via The Queen Mary to the English countryside. Branch who is known for her hand lettered cookbooks complete with watercolor paintings has done one better with this memoir of the trip she took with her husband in 2012. Both gardeners and Anglophiles will enjoy this personal and colorful memoir. What better in this snowy Vermont weather than to curl up by the fire with a book about England in the springtime. A perfect companion to "Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life".

ISBN: 9780544309869
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Houghton Mifflin - September 23rd, 2014

At last: a grown-up novel written with thoughts and ideas that understand there are intelligent people still reading novels today. Florence Gordon is a feisty writer of 75 years who does not suffer fools gladly. She is working on writing her memoir, but finds it difficult when her son and his family return to New York City bringing all kinds of problems with them. Florence would be happy to not have to become embroiled, but life will have it's own way. I found this to be a richly satisfying read.


ISBN: 9780307377937
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pantheon Books - April 1st, 2014

Julia Glass’ newest offering is a delicious delight. For me, it was akin to spending a week with a group of people I had just met and wanted to learn more about. Kit Noonan is in his 40's. A father and husband, he is finally ready to search out the identity of the man who fathered him. What he discovers brings him not only a new family in all aspects of that word, but also a way to re-direct his professional life. With wonderfully interesting characters this is a rich and rewarding read. I crept through the past 100 pages not wanting it to end.

ISBN: 9781400069545
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - April 1st, 2014

Several years ago Gail Caldwell gave us the lovely and intimate memoir, "Let's Take The Long Way Home" about her deep friendship with Carolyn Knapp. This insightful new memoir is another deeply engrossing read. When Caldwell was an infant she had polio. 50 years later a limp and increasing pain in her leg forced her to make a decision about the years ahead and possible surgery. This is not a woman to be slowed down. Her remarkably honest tale of how she copes amid her day to day life is like sitting down with an old friend and asking how her life is. Five stars again for Gail Caldwell.

By Elena Ferrante, Ann Goldstein (Translator)
ISBN: 9781609450786
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Europa Editions - September 25th, 2012

The first of a series by the amazing Italian writer Elena Ferrante, this story follows the deep and abiding friendship of two girls growing up on the edge of Naples in the 1950's. I was deeply drawn into the lives of both of the girls, as well as those of their families and neighbors. Naples was, and to a certain extent still is, a rough scrabble place and is very much another character in this beautifully evocative story of the lives of two friends.

ISBN: 9780374154905
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Published: Sarah Crichton Books - July 9th, 2013

I love just about any book this woman writes. They are always smart, fun and deeply affecting. This is no different. Fin is an 11 year old boy who after the death of his mother goes to NYC to live with Lady, his glamorous half sister. At times it is difficult to know who is the adult. It is the 60's and much is going on in their lives including three suitors vying for the hand of Lady. If you want a book that does not force drama on you yet gives you total pleasure as well as something to think about, this is it!

ISBN: 9781400069293
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Published: Random House - July 16th, 2013

Historical fiction at its best, written by a woman with extensive knowledge about Italy’s past and present. Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia has just been declared Pope Alexander at the end of the 15th century and has a voracious appetite to acquire power for himself and his four children. At the heart of the book is Lucrezia, who we meet at 12 years of age about to be married to the first of her three husbands. This novel reads like a contemporary story, but with the passion and history of well researched fact. I loved it!

ISBN: 9781594631764
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Published: Riverhead Books - May 21st, 2013

This is a better book than The Kite Runner and that is saying something. It is concerned not so much with the wars and troubles of the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban, but with the people of those areas. A multi-generational story that spans from Kabul to Paris, San Francisco and a small island in Greece. The plot follow a family watching their lives unfold and then in some cases fold back again. The characters are richly created and their stories both complex and heart-warming. This is a good book to sink into for summertime reading.

ISBN: 9780374278328
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - June 11th, 2013

Eck and Winterrowd began sharing their lives with each other over 40 years ago. Early on they created North Hill, a garden of exceptional beauty on their farm in Southern Vermont, which they have written about in previous books. The two of them traveled extensively, bringing back to their home in Vermont things of beauty for the kitchen and home as well as collecting seeds and finding types of cattle and poultry that appealed to them to raise at North Hill. But above all they ate and they ate well; primarily from the very extensive vegetable garden that they had been cultivating at North Hill. This delightful book addresses not only how to grow a variety of beans or raise a Scottish Highland calf by bottle, but how to cook said beans or just about any other fruit or vegetable that could be grown at North Hill. Sadly Winterrowd died in 2010, and Eck was left to carry on alone on the property that they most lovingly had created over the years. To Eat is a beautifully written testimony to two lives well lived and loved. This is a special book and I loved it!

ISBN: 9781400043132
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Published: Knopf Publishing Group - April 2nd, 2013

I believe James Salter to be one of the finer writers around and am sad that he, along with Ward Just, has never become as famous as I think they both deserve. Philip Bowman is just starting out in his career after WW2 and finds a job as a book editor in NYC. He stays in the world of publishing throughout his career and in so doing becomes a fixture in that world of privilege, book deals, and conversations about the finer things of life. There is often a woman (and is there is always sex), but love eludes him until..... This is a fine, thoughtful and beautifully written novel.

ISBN: 9780142422595
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - March 26th, 2013

Jim Praley is back in Tulsa for his summer break after his freshman year in college. He meets a somewhat mysterious young woman and the summer is off at a fast pace. This is a thoughtful novel that asks the questions that a young man in love for the first time would be thinking about. As a woman past middle age, I found the novel to be provocative as well as entertaining. Perhaps our worries and concerns do not change as we age, but that we see them with different eyes.

ISBN: 9780374180560
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Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - February 5th, 2013

Is this the book I hate to love, or the book I love to hate? Find out for yourself. I think that you will be struck by the anger and the audacity of Kincaid and yet, I believe you will be astonished by the writing and her insights into not only a marriage but perhaps what it is to live a life.

ISBN: 9781400042715
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Published: Knopf Publishing Group - February 12th, 2013

Wow Wow Wow!  I finished this book and wanted to start it all over again.  It is that good.  Ms. Zarin is a poet who lives in NYC.  Her writing draws you in with interesting structure as well as a poetical rhythm.  Her insightful perspectives on her life and surroundings landed on the page and had me saying, "Well, now that makes sense.”  The book has a way of introducing a thought or an idea and giving the reader the opportunity to go further with it on their own.  New York City and the people and businesses therein feature largely in this very fine memoir.  Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9781616201708
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill - February 5th, 2013

This is a sweet novel, perfect for a winter's reading. An Italian American family confronts its past, present and maybe the future in the present day suburbs of  Wilmington, Delaware. A potential trip to their ancestral village in Italy brings up the past and allows the entire family to look at their lives. Family trumps all in this beautifully told novel.