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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: 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
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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
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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
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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
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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.


ISBN: 9781250040527
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Published: St. Martin's Press - August 12th, 2014

Tom Putnam an English Professor who has a neurotic wife and a quirky and wonderful resident mother in law has just received a letter telling him he has a young son who is on his way for a visit. When his wife dies suddenly, his son arrives and Tom meets Rose, the lovely new bookseller at the campus bookstore; his life changes forever .A heartwarming story that reminds us that life can be wonderful and that there might be surprises down the road that we cannot imagine.

ISBN: 9780544309869
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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: 9780802122643
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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
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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: 9780307377937
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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.

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ISBN: 9781400069545
Availability: Out of Print
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: On Our Shelves Now
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!

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ISBN: 9781400069293
Availability: Out of Print
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.