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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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The Dark Flood Rises Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781250160058
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador USA - 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
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
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
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: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - 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
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: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Picador USA - 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: On Our Shelves Now
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: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - 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: On Our Shelves Now
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 Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9781250066190
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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 Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9781101870365
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - 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 Whole Thing Together Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780385736893
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Delacorte Press - April 25th, 2017

 

 

 

I loved this YA novel, and I am many many years beyond being a Young Adult. Brashares is a fine writer and she knows and understands the vagaries of being human. A large divided family shares an old house on Long Island. One week one part of the family lives there and then they move out and the other half moves in. But then something happens to throw this old pattern to the winds with unimaginable results. Family relationships, secrets and yes, love make this a hard to put down story.


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The Heirs Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781101904718
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - 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
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 Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780812989403
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
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 Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Henry Holt & Company - 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 Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - 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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One Hundred Spaghetti Strings Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062427601
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: HarperCollins - April 11th, 2017

Steffy and her older sister have lived with their wonderful aunt ever since a car accident left their Mom in a hospital with brain injuries and their dad living in another state. When he returns and the girls move in with him, everything changes and the only way Steffy knows how to deal is to do what she loves best -- cook. I greatly enjoyed this gentle story about the many ingredients that go into a family.


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Autumn Cover Image
$24.95
ISBN: 9781101870730
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - 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 Cover Image
$32.50
ISBN: 9781627794466
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Henry Holt & Company - 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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Pogue's Basics: Life: Essential Tips and Shortcuts (That No One Bothers to Tell You) for Simplifying Your Day Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781250080431
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Flatiron Books - November 24th, 2015

Although this book was published last year, I just discovered it and knew that I had to tell others about it. Full of tips,shortcuts and just plain cheats for how to deal with house, car, travel, food, health and more. This is a book none of us should be without. Example: did you know that the fuel gauge on just about every car has a little arrow pointing to the side of the car where the gas tank is? Have fun!
 


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Swing Time Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781594203985
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - November 15th, 2016

Zadie Smith has written another richly complex novel that addresses universal themes of friendship and family roots. Two "brown" girls grow up in London. One a talented dancer, the other wishing she had her friend's talent. The later goes on to be a personal assistant to a mega- star, all of the time trying to figure out how she fits into who she believes she is. Moving between London, New York and West Africa, we follow our characters through their 20's and the changing landscapes of their lives.
 


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The City Baker's Guide to Country Living Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9781101981207
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Pamela Dorman Books - August 9th, 2016

I enjoyed this book. Miller has written a delightful summer read that I enjoyed on a family vacation this summer. There is nothing new about the plot, Olivia Rawlings leaves a job and a man in Boston for an opportunity to be the head baker in an old country inn in Guthrie, Vermont. All that you would expect to happen does---a new and handsome man, a cantankerous boss, friendly, interesting people and a satisfactory conclusion. Perhaps I would call it a ‘feel good’ novel.


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The Girl from Venice Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9781439140239
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 18th, 2016

One night towards the end of WWII a fisherman fishing in the lagoon of Venice comes across the body of a lovely young woman.The woman turns out to be not at all dead, and what follows is a romp through the environs of Venice and the world of partisans,Fascists, the SS and even Mussolini. With a love story tossed in, everything comes together for a delightful read.
 


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Gardenista: The Definitive Guide to Stylish Outdoor Spaces Cover Image
$40.00
ISBN: 9781579656522
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Artisan Publishers - October 18th, 2016

The Gardenista daily blog is one of my guilty pleasures. It is brimming with beautiful photos from gardens around the world, as well as information about products, interesting people and tools that any gardener cannot live without. The perfect book for anyone interested in the delicious world of gardens.
 


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A Great Reckoning Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9781250022134
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - August 30th, 2016

Louise Penny has outdone herself in this wonderful return to the community of Three Pines and the characters that she has so brilliantly created over the years. This is Armand Gamache at his most philosophical and thoughtful best, as he sets about to solve several mysteries in his new role as the commander of the Sureté Academy. This is The Book to take on vacation or to your own backyard and sit down to enjoy. A book for summer pleasure.


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The Black Widow Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062320223
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - July 12th, 2016

This series just keeps getting better. This time our hero Gabriel Allon, art restorer and spy for the Israeli Secret Service, trains a young Jewish female physician as an agent. Disguising her as an ISIS recruit he sends her into the heart of Islam with the hope of flushing out a ruthless terrorist. As always, these novels move fast and this one is especially rich with the history of the Middle East. A perfect summer read.

 


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This Must Be the Place Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9780385349420
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - July 19th, 2016

Claudette, a famous film star who disappeared at the height of her career, and Daniel, a young American professor on a short vacation, literally collide in a remote corner of Ireland. What follows is the remarkable story of their love as well as the lives of their children, friends, and family. O'Farrell has written a very contemporary story that immediately pulled me in and kept me wanting to keep reading. It is a book humorous and wise, well written and a delightful pleasure to read.


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They May Not Mean To, But They Do Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780374280130
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Sarah Crichton Books - June 7th, 2016

A truly terrible title for a funny and engaging novel about a family in NYC as they deal with their aging parents. Schine is known for her wonderful and wacky sense of humor as well as for writing about serious topics that often take place in New York City. Anyone who can write about aging and make it funny is someone I want to read.

Nothing terribly demanding here, but a darn good read.

 


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Children of the Stone: The Power of Music in a Hard Land Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781632863416
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Bloomsbury USA - March 1st, 2016

For anyone trying to comprehend the many complexities of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories: I recommend this well written, researched book by Sandy Tolan, author of The Lemon Tree who has spent years writing about Israel and Palestine. Ramzi, a young Palestinian, growing up in a refugee camp outside of Ramallah, learned as a young man to play the viola. His dream was to create a music school in the settlements with the hope of bringing music to his fellow Palestinians as a form of resistance to the occupation. The school, Al Kamandjati, started in 2002 currently has over 500 students in Ramallah and surrounding refugee camps and villages. This is both a heartfelt story and a sad one; but in the end the music wins.

 


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And After the Fire Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062428516
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper - May 3rd, 2016

A Bach Cantata missing since 1783, the interesting tales of the many hands and homes through which it passed in Germany for almost 200 years, and the young woman who discovers it in her just deceased uncle's papers in contemporary NYC make for a fast paced fun read. As a music lover, I especially enjoyed the discussions of music as well as the detective work involved in proving the provenance of the manuscript in question.

 


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