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Penny's Picks

penny

 

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.

 

 


 

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The Waters of Eternal Youth Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780802124807
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Atlantic Monthly Press - March 8th, 2016

Donna Leon is proving herself to be a writer of quality fiction with an eye toward intelligent and thought provoking insights on the human condition. She also has a way of turning a phrase, for example,  "there was a toothbrush, bristles tormented to all four sides, and a tube of toothpaste that had been squeezed so tightly that Brunetti would not have been surprised to hear it weep." Yes, we have the wondrous Inspector Guido Brunetti and his family along with his co workers at the Questura. It does not matter what the subject matter of these books are; they all delight and this is by far the very best of the bunch!


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Alive, Alive Oh!: And Other Things That Matter Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9780393253719
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: W. W. Norton & Company - January 4th, 2016

At age 99, Diana Athill is delightfully alive and certainly not one to sit in a rocker until The End comes. She writes with wit, wisdom and candor about growing older; sharing with her readers some of her strongest memories of almost a century of living in England. The description of her grandmother’s house and garden in the years between the wars is one of the most delicious accounts of a gentle British childhood that I have read. She writes of sex and death, love and fashion, books and aging. This is a joyful take on aging that I now want to give to everyone I love.


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Burning Down the House Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781101875452
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - March 15th, 2016

I suspect that if someone had explained the plot of this book to me, I would have said “no thanks”, and then sadly would have missed a marvelous and provocative read. It is at base a contemporary tale of a wealthy yet tormented family living in New York City. Privilege, decadence, crime all set within a family of interesting, smart people. The writing is rich and the characters seemed very real to me with all of their wounds and vulnerability. In fact, I cannot stop thinking about these people!


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Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781400069538
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - February 9th, 2016

Dawn Tripp has taken the story of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz and turned it into an amazing story of what happens when art, passion and life come together. Tripp's powerful writing and imagination had me believing that I was reading a biography, not a novel. Spanning from 1917 when the famous photographer and budding artist first begin what is to become a long, passionate and complicated relationship through 1979 when O'Keefe is in her 80's, the reader is caught up in the world of art and the life of a woman who needs to live and paint on her own terms. Told from the painter's point of view, I felt as if I were right there with her as she struggled to become the woman and artist she insisted on becoming. This is a powerful novel. I hated to have it end.


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The Master Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780743250412
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Scribner Book Company - May 3rd, 2005

This brilliant book, published in 2004, caught me totally by surprise. It is a fictionalized account of the life of the writer Henry James. It takes place primarily in the mind of James. The book covers his life, his works, his travel, his friends and acquaintances, as well as what he is thinking -- about everything. Truly, not much happens, but at the end the reader feels as if he has just completed an in-depth biography of a fascinating man, as well as a history of much of the 19th century. Next read: The Portrait of A Lady -- a James novel, of course.

 


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When Breath Becomes Air Cover Image
By Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese (Foreword by)
$25.00
ISBN: 9780812988406
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Random House - January 12th, 2016

This powerful biography is a stunning account of a man, his chosen life as a neurosurgeon and his coming to terms with his diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer at the age of 36. Do not miss reading this powerfully honest and courageous account of Kalanithi's extraordinary life. The writing is lyrical, profound, and not sentimental. Nor is it depressing. You will read about life, you will read about dying. This is a book that will stay with you long after you finish the last words. It has with me.


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In Other Words Cover Image
By Jhumpa Lahiri, Ann Goldstein (Translator)
$26.95
ISBN: 9781101875551
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - February 9th, 2016

Lahiri grew up speaking Bengali at home with her family, and English in grade school and college. As an adult, she decided to undertake an in-depth study of the Italian language and entered into what was for her a new and unexplored realm in her chosen field of being a writer. In Other Words is a meditation on the meaning and value of language. Written in dual language format, Lahiri addresses the intricacies of how we express ourselves, as well as the importance of language to who we are in the world. Not precisely a memoir, but an intimate insight into the life and mind of one of our finest young writers; this book should reach and excite new readers for Lahiri.


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Where My Heart Used to Beat Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780805097320
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Henry Holt & Company - January 26th, 2016

Faulks often turns to war stories in his novels, and although this is not primarily a war story, it concerns a man whose life was shaped largely by World War II. Robert Hendricks is a psychiatrist in England who has never reconciled two events on his life: the fact that he never knew his father, and the wartime death of the woman he loved. Out of the blue he receives a letter from an unknown man who claims to have known Hendricks' father. The conversations between the two men enable Robert to look at his life in a new light and to move toward the future. A richly told tale.


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Crenshaw Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781250043238
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Feiwel & Friends - September 22nd, 2015

How wonderful to come across a contemporary, old-fashioned story for kids that does not involve electronic games, evil, or a dystopian universe. Jackson's family has fallen on hard times and although there is a lot of love and fun in the family, it is stressful for everyone. With the return of his imaginary friend, Crenshaw, the very large cat, 10-year-old Jackson begins to learn what it is to grow up and accept the reality of his life. This is a delightful and honest story for boys or girls.


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The Book of Lost and Found Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9780316375054
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Back Bay Books - August 25th, 2015

Paris in 1939 and London circa 1986. It all begins with an old photograph that leads Kate to Paris, New York, and Corsica as she endeavors to identify the person in the photo and how it came into her hands. Paris during the war, the world of art, and a romance all come together to make this a good read about a woman who, in her mid-20s, discovers the identity of her real mother and the story of where she came from. A fine novel to curl up next to the fire with.


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The Art of Stillness: Adventures in Going Nowhere Cover Image
By Pico Iyer, Eydis Einarsdottir (Photographer)
$16.99
ISBN: 9781476784724
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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.


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The Dust That Falls from Dreams Cover Image
$27.95
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!


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The Heist Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780062320087
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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.

 


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A God in Ruins Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316176538
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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.


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Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness Cover Image
$16.00
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.


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The Penderwicks in Spring Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780375870774
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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.


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An Unnecessary Woman Cover Image
$16.00
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.


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Funny Girl Cover Image
$27.95
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.


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The Evening Chorus Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780544348691
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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!


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Americanah Cover Image
$15.95
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.


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Belzhar Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780525423058
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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.


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All Four Stars Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780399162527
Availability: Special Order
Published: G. P. Putnam's Sons - 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.

 


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The Late Starters Orchestra Cover Image
$23.95
ISBN: 9781565129924
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
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.