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Penny's Picks

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Penny McConnel has worked in bookstores for over 35 years. She lives in Norwich with her husband, Jim, and they spend several months of the colder part of the year in California. Penny spends as much time as she can reading, gardening, spending time with Jim, and learning Italian.

 

 


 

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Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781571313676
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Milkweed Editions - June 12th, 2018

I believe this book may be the "Silent Spring" for our times. At first, I was not sure that I could write a review, for it is both a beautiful and yet devastating read. From New England to the Eastern Coast to California, the seas are rising, the marshes are flooding and we are in great peril. There once were bayous in Louisiana that no longer exist. There are people whose homes are now under water. Yes, the tale is at times overwhelming, but somehow Rush's poetic and flowing language draw the reader further into her story. Descriptions of the scientists and volunteers who are working daily to combat these dire conditions, as well as the personal commentaries of people whose lives have been affected recount courage and elicit empathy. I found myself loving this book and looking forward each morning to reading a few more pages.

David Biello in the NYT Sunday Book Review gave "Rising" a glowing review:
 "This is a book for those who mourn the changing climate and coast, as well as, perhaps, America's diminishing literary culture: sadness benefits from lyrical prose"
 


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French Exit: A Novel Cover Image
$25.99
ISBN: 9780062846921
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Ecco - August 28th, 2018

Frances Price and her 32 year old son who live together on the Upper East Side of NYC discover that their vast fortune has run out. What else can they do but run away to a friend's apartment in Paris to escape scandal and make their next move? De Witt has written a deliciously droll and quirky novel about two rather unusual people and their small cadre who are so intrigued they can't stay away. Did I mention that there is also a small cat who has a few odd characteristics? Quite simply a delightful read.
 


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Less (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize): A Novel Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780316316132
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Back Bay Books - May 22nd, 2018

Even though Andrew Dean Greer won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for literature for Less, I truly did not pick it up, thinking that It did not seem like a book that I wanted to read. Then a friend passed on her copy to me saying she loved it. As did I. It is witty and wise, and definitely has substance. Our hero Arthur Less is a gay writer approaching the age of 50. His most recent partner is about to marry another and Less sees no reason to stick around San Francisco to hear friends talk about it. He cobbles together a trip around the world teaching and attending literary events. The trip becomes an opportunity for Less to examine his life, his beliefs, his lovers, his friends and at heart a chance to decide how he will precede into his future. I found this humorous novel a delight.
 


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Peony: The Best Varieties for Your Garden Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781604695205
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Timber Press - December 27th, 2017

“A luscious and colorful immersion into the world of the peony.” —Petal Talk

The bold blooms, pretty colors, and heady fragrances of peonies make them one of the most popular flowers, both in gardens and floral arrangements. Peony—by leading experts David Michener and Carol Adelman—makes it easier than ever to grow them home.


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Tin Man: A Novel Cover Image
$23.00
ISBN: 9780735218727
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons - May 15th, 2018

Sarah Winman has written a short, astounding book that this reader will not soon forget. A beautiful account of the love between three characters; two men and a woman. The two men meet as boys when they are 12 with the woman entering their lives a decade later. This lovely story is about friendship, kindness, love and loss.The characters are honestly and beautifully written and the story a simple one in the telling, although perhaps not in the living. I hated for it to end.


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The Ensemble: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780735214767
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Riverhead Books - May 15th, 2018

It is always a joy to come upon a debut novel by an author who excels at her craft and is a good storyteller. The Ensemble is just that. This is a story of a young string quartet founded in San Francisco that moves through the lives of its members spanning their 20's into their 40's. These are complex lives, both individually and as members of an group who need to be so fine-tuned to each other that they play as one. Everything each individual does has ramifications within the whole. Being a lover of chamber music increased my enjoyment of this book, but it is definitely not a prerequisite. The Ensemble was one of those delicious novels that I did not want to end.
 


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The Female Persuasion: A Novel Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781594488405
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Riverhead Books - April 3rd, 2018

Meg Wolitzer, the author of "The Interestings" has again written a book about people I would like to hang out with. I love a good story and this is an exceptionally good one. Greer Kadetsky is 17 when she meets Faith Frank, an elegant 63 year old pillar of the women's movement. We follow Greer, as well as a very interesting and diverse cast of characters, for the next 17 years as she does her best to follow in Faith's footsteps and make a difference in the world. As in much of Wolitzer's writing, this novel does not take us where we or our protagonist expects it to. This was for me a most satisfying read.
 


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The Temptation of Forgiveness (Commissario Guido Brunetti Mysteries) Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780802127754
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Atlantic Monthly Press - March 20th, 2018

The Temptation of Forgiveness is the 27th in the always delicious series about Commissario Guido Brunetti of the Venice Police Department; and it is even better than the last one! Putting the "bad guy" into jail is not the only thing of importance to Guido. He is always interested in people, philosophy, la lingua Venetian, and his family. But he is also concerned with why people do what they do.Trust me, you will not be disappointed in Leon's latest. And if you have not read her before,, you have 26 more books to delight in.
 


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The Night Diary Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780735228511
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Books - March 6th, 2018

Twins Amid and Nisha's mother died when they were born in India in 1935. On her 12th birthday, Nisha is given a diary where she records the events of the next two traumatic months in the form of letters to the mother she never knew. When India gained independence from The British in 1947, the country was divided into two countries: Pakistan and India. Tensions flared between Muslims and Hindus as thousands crossed borders and many people were killed.This is the story of the harrowing two month trek that the twins made with their physician father to a new life in Jodhpur. I loved this heartfelt tale of a close family and the trials they endured to reach a new home and start a new life. 
 


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The Italian Teacher Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780735222694
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Viking - March 20th, 2018

Pinch Bavinsky has grown up and lived under the shadow of his father Bear, who is a famous and larger than life painter. Always trying to gain the attention and admiration of his father, Pinch never truly lives his own life until after the death of Bear, when he conceives of a way to make his own mark on the world. Moving from Rome to galleries in NYC to the South of France, the reader follows the life of a man determined to be heard.
 


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Personal History Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780375701047
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - February 24th, 1998

I came to this absorbing memoir after seeing the recent film, The Post. Although written 20 years ago, this Pulitzer prize winning autobiography remains a strong and insightful read. Graham reveals she spent most of her first 40 years as a shy, insecure person. After the suicide of her husband Phil Graham, the publisher of The Washington Post, Katharine took the helm. She played a monumentally important role in shaping our nation’s history as she quietly guided the paper through many turbulent years, including exposing The Pentagon Papers and Watergate. This is a frank, honest and courageous account of a woman who found her sense of self in a man's world. To me, she is a remarkable role model.


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The Dark Flood Rises: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781250160058
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Picador - February 13th, 2018

Contrary to the blurbs on the jacket, The Dark Flood Rises is not a novel about death, but a truly remarkable novel that addresses aging, friendship and life. It is full of gorgeous writing, humor and a cast of wonderfully eccentric and interesting characters who are beautifully fleshed out by an author who knows her craft. I found this a wonderfully fulfilling novel.


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Educated: A Memoir Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780399590504
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Random House - February 20th, 2018

This unforgettable memoir is both devastating and uplifting, and yes, I do mean both of these adjectives. The story of Tara, who grew up in a survivalist Mormon household in rural Idaho under unimaginable circumstances, is difficult to believe in these times. At 17 she left home for college having never attended school. The story of how she breaks away from her family and earns a PhD from The University of Cambridge will stay with you long after you sadly turn the last page. This is a great story of a remarkable young woman who I, for one, am unable to forget.


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The Boggart Fights Back Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781534406292
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - February 27th, 2018

 

 

Allie and Jay are visiting their grandfather in Scotland when they discover that the castle next door is being bought by a rather nasty American who plans to turn it and all of the surrounding land into a very fancy resort. With the help of the local Boggart, a magical, mischievous, and friendly beast who lives in the loch, things get turned around in a most delightful way. Susan Cooper has written another sequel to her wonderful book of several years ago titled The Boggart. Like the others, this one is part fantasy and part story about family. Perfect for the reader who likes a quiet book that addresses good and bad without violence.Allie and Jay are visiting their grandfather in Scotland when they discover that the castle next door is being bought by a rather nasty American who plans to turn it and all of the surrounding land into a very fancy resort. With the help of the local Boggart, a magical, mischievous, and friendly beast who lives in the loch, things get turned around in a most delightful way. Susan Cooper has written another sequel to her wonderful book of several years ago titled The Boggart. Like the others, this one is part fantasy and part story about family. Perfect for the reader who likes a quiet book that addresses good and bad without violence.


Just Like Jackie Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062652911
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: HarperCollins - January 2nd, 2018

Lindsay Stoddart grew up in Norwich and was a classroom teacher for 10 years, has written a wonderful novel for middle grade readers. Robinson Hart, age 11 does not have a mother, father or siblings. She lives with her grandfather with whom she is very close in a small town in Vermont. Robinson's secret worries about her grandfather's memory loss is making her act out at school, but when she is put into a small group of 4 other students to "talk about what is troubling them" she realizes that everyone is going through something. This is a lovely story about acceptance and family and I loved it.


L'Appart: The Delights and Disasters of Making My Paris Home Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780804188388
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown - November 7th, 2017

A delightful book about Paris, food and the intricacies of buying and renovating a Parisian apartment. I have followed Lebovitz's blog about living and eating in Paris for several years and love his cookbooks. His readings make me feel that I am sitting next to a friend who is regaling me with his exploits. A wonderful gift for anyone who loves food, Paris or better yet, both!
 


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Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780062367655
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Harper Wave - October 3rd, 2017

Two sisters, one living in Vermont, come to terms with issues of life and death as the author's sister is faced with having a bone marrow transplant and all that ensues from this decision. Written with love and honesty, this is not a downer of a book, but one about finding within us the ability to make difficult choices and continue with the unfolding of our lives.


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Avid Reader: A Life Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781250141057
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador - September 12th, 2017

This is the perfect book for anyone interested in the world of publishing, especially from the 50's right up until today. Robert Gottlieb had a long career in books. He started working for Simon & Schuster in his early 20's, became an editor there, and continued at Knopf Publishing, and later still as the editor at The New Yorker. Today, in his 80's, Gottlieb is still very involved in the world of books. He writes of  friends and writers from his many years in publishing, including Bill Clinton, Lauren Bacall, John Cheever, Nora Ephron, Doris Lessing, Joseph Heller and scores of others. For a literary voyeur like me, this book is pure delight.
 


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The War I Finally Won Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780525429203
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Dial Books - October 3rd, 2017

Whether or not you read the wonderful first book in this series, The War That Saved My Life,  you are in for a treat with this richly satisfying read. Ada and her brother are living in the country outside of war torn London with Susan who has become their ward following the developments in the first book. Jamie at 6 is able to adjust to their new life, but for Ada this does not come easily. When a bomb destroys their cottage, they move into a house on the nearby estate and are soon joined by a group of people who help young Ada understand that learning to trust others is a necessary part of growing up.This is a story that satisfies on every level.


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The Night Garden Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780374304522
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) - September 12th, 2017

On Vancouver Island during the Second World War, 12 year old Franny is living a somewhat eccentric, yet happy life with her parents. Her father, Old Tom, takes care of their many beautiful gardens, but there is one garden which he says is dangerous and no one is allowed to enter. Into their quiet lives come three wild children who need a home while their mother leaves in pursuit of their father. The youngest child, Zebediah begins receiving letters from his father that he hides from the others. Thus, the mystery begins and we are off and running. Quite funny at times with a certain amount of magic thrown in, this is a story for the child (or adult like me) who is happy reading about other families and how they work.
 


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Orphan Island Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062443410
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Walden Pond Press - May 30th, 2017

Nine children living on an island with no adults. Every year a boat arrives with one small child in it. The child gets out and the oldest child on the island gets in the boat which speeds off not to be seen again until the next year. The island is magical as there does not seem to be any danger and there are foods to pick, cook and preserve, The children read the few book that are there and live a harmonious life; sharing in the day to day business of growing up on the island. All of this is fine until one day the oldest child refuses to get into the boat to leave. What happens next changes everything. An unique adventure story for the 8-12 set.


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Glass Houses: A Novel (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel #13) Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9781250066190
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - August 29th, 2017

Louise Penny never disappoints. Once again she has written a fast paced, suspenseful and well written novel to delight her ever growing stream of fans. The investigation into vast amounts of illegal drugs being transported across the border between Canada and Vermont has put the professional and private lives of Armand Gamache and Jean- Guy Beauvoir in great risk. As time runs out they hope that they their plan will work, and we the reader are their trusting delighted companions. 


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A House Among the Trees: A Novel Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781101870365
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon - June 13th, 2017

Are there costs to being creative and, if so, how great are they and to whom? I really enjoyed this book about a beloved children's book author who has just died and left his home and vast holdings to his assistant who has worked for him for many years. Interesting  characters, a bit of a mystery and a rich setting combine to make this an ideal summer read. 
 


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The Heirs: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781101904718
Availability: Hard to Find (call or email to check availability)
Published: Crown - May 23rd, 2017

A wonderfully delightful novel about a large and yes financially successful family in Manhattan. Rupert and Eleanor marry in the 60's and quickly produce 5 sons.The novel begins with Rupert’s death at 65 and winds back and forth through time to give us a complete accounting of this family’s ups and downs. All the characters are interesting and complex, and a few unsolved questions provide an interesting flow to the narrative. Rieger is a writer to follow. She has a good wit and an intelligent approach to her writing. I really loved this book!


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Before We Sleep Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781620404997
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Bloomsbury USA - May 2nd, 2017

I have long believed that Jeffrey Lent is one of the finest living writers in our country. Sadly, he has not yet gained recognition outside of New England. His newest novel contains all of the fine writing and use of language that his fans have long associated with his novels. The story of a mother and daughter in Vermont and the man who loved them takes us from the post war years of the 1940's to the dawning of the wild 60's, I was engrossed in this beautiful tale of family and awakening from beginning to end. Jeffrey will be reading The Norwich Bookstore on May 24


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Anything Is Possible: A Novel Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780812989403
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House - April 25th, 2017

Throughout each of her 6 novels, Elizabeth Strout has demonstrated an acute awareness and understanding of the human condition. Her seemingly uncomplicated stories tell of ordinary people and their complex small town lives, but they have a depth of pathos that astounds me. Her stories are filled with people bearing heavy hearts, but who are also experiencing moments of joy and love. This is a beautiful novel.


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My Mother's Kitchen: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and the Meaning of Life Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780805093308
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - April 4th, 2017

I greatly enjoyed this book, a tribute from a grown son to his remarkable mother through food, cooking and conversation. Judy Gethers became a chef in her 50's, becoming friends with many famous chefs in NYC and LA. When she was in her mid 80's, she suffered a debilitating stroke which took away her ability to cook. Her son decided to sharpen his cooking skills and create for her all of the foods that she had loved to cook and eat. In the process they became closer and closer while sharing both the cooking and the foods. This book is the result and it is quite simply a delicious and delightful read. 
 


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Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage Cover Image
$22.95
ISBN: 9780451494481
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf - April 11th, 2017

Dani Shapiro is a writer appreciated for her memoirs and novels. Reading "Hourglass" which is a memoir,  I felt as if I were sitting down with a friend for a heartfelt conversation---no holds barred. Shapiro has a way of sharing with the reader stories and details about her life and marriage with such intimacy and truth that I felt a deeper understanding of my own life story.
 


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Autumn: A Novel (Seasonal Quartet) Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781101870730
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon - February 7th, 2017

When I first started reading this book I could not get into it. However, it pulled me back and on the second go around I fell in love. Daniel is 100 years old, Elisabeth younger by more than 70 years. Their friendship is the loose hook upon which the author takes us to the past and returns us to a very changed present. One reviewer called the novel a "meditation on a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive". It is also a dream that I emerged from without being able to describe the dream, but with a warm memory of having been someplace elusive and special.
 


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4 3 2 1: A Novel Cover Image
$32.50
ISBN: 9781627794466
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Henry Holt and Co. - January 31st, 2017

880 pages of pure delight, amazement, awe and gratitude. I loved this novel! Auster weaves literature, history and family through this tour de force and never falters in the telling.  Archibald Isaac Ferguson is born in 1947 in Newark NJ and from the moment of his birth, we the reader are witness to the four lives Ferguson may have lived had his life taken 4 different turns. Four parallel yet entirely different Fergusons with the same parents, friends and interests, yet each life different from the others. From the moment I started, I was hooked. Not in many years have I come across a novel so full of life and passion as this one. Ferguson's four lives cover the decades between 1947 and 1975 as we experience with one Ferguson or another, those amazing years of our country's modern coming of age.


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The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781328770028
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: HMH Books for Young Readers - September 25th, 2018

Every Vermont child between 8 and 12 should read this wonderful story about a family with 5 children who live in present day Harlem. It is a wonderful way to find out what life in the city can be like for enterprising children. These are resourceful kids with trusting parents. When Mr. Jeet, an older neighbor in their small brownstone apartment building lands in the hospital, the children decide that they have to come up with a plan to make him feel better. They discover an old abandoned lot nearby and decide to create a garden. With creativity and cooperation they do just that. This is a delightful old-fashioned story and I loved it.
 


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