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Penny's Picks

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Penny McConnel has worked in bookstores for almost 40 years. Since reducing her hours at the bookstore (although remaining a co-owner) she is spending more time gardening, reading, cooking and traveling to be with her grown sons and their families in France, Phoenix, Arizona and Marin County, California. She and husband Jim live in Norwich.

 


 

White Bird: A Wonder Story Cover Image
$24.99
ISBN: 9780525645535
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Knopf Books for Young Readers - October 2019

This well-written graphic novel is a wonderful way to introduce young readers to the many acts of bravery and heroism that took place before and during World War II. A young Jewish girl is hidden by a family in Nazi-occupied France by a couple and their son. This is done at large risk to the family and the reader discovers both great bravery as well as kindness. A good introduction for middle grade and older children to a lesser known aspect of what happened to Jewish people during WWII. The art is simple, and skillfully helps to tell the story. This quote from the book sums it up for me: "It always takes courage to be kind, but in those days, such kindness could cost you everything."


My Jasper June Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062836625
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Published: Walden Pond Press - September 3rd, 2019

 

This is a delightful novel for girls about friendship, family and loss. Leah is just beginning her summer vacation, but this summer everything is different. We do not learn why until midway into the novel, but we are totally along with Leah as she makes a new friend who also seems to be having a strange summer. The story of their friendship, and the wisdom that Leah discovers in herself make for a lovely and rewarding novel.
 


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The Last Train to London: A Novel Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780062946935
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Published: Harper - September 10th, 2019

There have been numerous books written about World War II over the years focused on the Holocaust and the bravery of people in many countries who risked their lives to save Jews living in their communities. This fast-paced novel centers around the true story of Trus Wijsmuller, a member of the Dutch resistance in the days before WWII, who was a key player in smuggling over 10,000 Jewish children to safety. We follow several families and their individual stories as they go from living in a free society to Nazi controlled Austria. This is an intriguing good summer read. Appropriate for young adults as well. 
 


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Rules for Visiting: A Novel Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780525559221
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Published: Penguin Press - May 14th, 2019

This is a quiet tale of a young British landscape gardener who is shy, seemingly with few friends and yet content with her life. On somewhat of a whim she decides to visit four people from her past to see what may be there in terms of friendship. Along the way, she makes discoveries not only about herself but about the world around her. Not a new topic, but Kane's story of an endearing and unique young woman will stay with you long after you have closed the book.
 


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The Parisian Cover Image
$27.00
ISBN: 9780802129437
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Published: Grove Press - April 9th, 2019

I have not yet finished this book but am too excited to wait to share it! Midhat Kamal is the son of a wealthy textile merchant from the town of Nablus in Ottoman Palestine. He travels to Montpelier, France in 1914 to study medicine, thus changing how he views everything in his life so far. This is a fascinating look at a period in history that I am ashamedly ignorant about. Midhat returns to Nablus to find it under British rule with Palestine at the cusp of its battle for independence. This is a hard to put down tale about love, one's home, country and family. The writing is rich and well constructed. I look forward to hearing more from this talented novelist.


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The Guest Book: A Novel Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9781250110251
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Published: Flatiron Books - May 7th, 2019

I loved this book about a large house on an island in Maine and the family who bought and loved it for several generations. Fortunately, we can never imagine the curves that our lives will throw us or where they will lead; nor what we will remember and what we will forget. As time forges ahead the younger generation begins to look at life differently from their parents and grandparents, and nothing is the same. This is a powerfully engaging story about change, friendship and loyalty.
 


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The Line Tender Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780735231603
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Published: Dutton Books for Young Readers - April 16th, 2019

Growing up in Rockport, Mass, 12 year old Lucy Everhart's life has centered around the sea. Her mother, a marine biologist who studied sharks, died when Lucy was 7. When a Great White Shark washes up onto the beach, Lucy and her best friend Fred decide to learn all they can about this creature that had fascinated Lucy's mother. The summer brings another tragedy to her life that sets Lucy off on a search to learn more about her mother, as well as to help her reach beyond her losses and move ahead with her life.
 


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The Salt Path: A Memoir Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143134114
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Published: Penguin Books - March 5th, 2019

A couple in their early 50’s living in Wales find themselves broke, homeless and to top it off, he has a debilitating disease. Sounds like a depressing scenario doesn’t it? This is, however one of the more uplifting and positive books that I have read in quite awhile. With nothing else on their horizon Ray and Moth decide to walk the South West Coast Path in England. They have limited financial means, a tent and two sleeping bags. 630 miles and many months later their lives have been enriched and changed forever. Ray and Moth walk through a magical and challenging landscape to come out the other side. I felt privileged to walk with them.
 


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Unto Us a Son Is Given: A Comissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Cover Image
$26.00
ISBN: 9780802129116
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Published: Atlantic Monthly Press - March 5th, 2019

I am a reader who would be happy for a new Donna Leon book every 6 months. Sadly, I have to settle for one a year, but they never disappoint. Commissario Guido Brunetti is called to his father-in-law's palazzo where the elder man asks Guido to do some checking on an old friend. Gonzalo Rodriguez de Tejada is considering adopting a young man, who would someday inherit great wealth and position. This seemingly simple request to Brunetti leads to soulful thinking and conversations around his family dining table, as well as in the Questura. Another richly satisfying trip for fans and new readers of this wonderful series.
 


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The Huntress: A Novel Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062740373
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Published: William Morrow Paperbacks - February 26th, 2019

Quinn’s first book The Alice Network was good, and this new novel is even better. Boston, Vienna and Siberia; an American  girl, two men searching for a war criminal, a young Siberian woman and the criminal herself—The Huntress. Spanning the years from the 30’s to 1951 this book goes back and forth between the characters until they converge in Boston. It moves fast, is clever, thoroughly enjoyable, and I missed these characters for days once I put the book down.
 


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Right as Rain Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062652942
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Published: HarperCollins - February 12th, 2019

Norwich native Stoddard, following on the heels of her first novel for young readers, has written another marvelous story for readers who are interested in reading something other than fantasy. Our heroine Rain and her family have recently moved from Vermont to Brooklyn to start over after a family tragedy. Rain is finding it difficult to adjust to so many new changes and is also harboring a secret that she is determined her family do not discover. This is a gentle yet strong and heartfelt story about family, change and friendships.
 


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Becoming Cover Image
$32.50
ISBN: 9781524763138
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Published: Crown - November 13th, 2018

HONEST-SENSITIVE-REVEALING-HEARTFELT-INFORMATIVE-POWERFUL

                  FOR ME THIS WAS THE BOOK OF 2018!


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Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9781607749165
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Published: Ten Speed Press - October 16th, 2018

 

I wish that Ottolenghi had written this book first. Great flavors made without fanfare or fuss and often with items already in  your pantry.
 


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Kingdom of the Blind: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Cover Image
$28.99
ISBN: 9781250066206
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Minotaur Books - November 27th, 2018

Louise Penny has done it again.This woman is one heck of a fine writer. Her amazing ability to come up with yet another suspenseful and interesting story for her readers is one thing; but then she proceeds to write a clever, fast paced, and thoughtful novel about murder, mayhem, friendship, family, and oh yes, love. Her interesting characters are always growing and changing. In this new one, both Gamache and Beauvoir have reason to question even themselves. I wanted to race to the end but I also wanted to savor every page. Louise Penny, you rock!
 


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The Library Book Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781476740188
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 16th, 2018

Are you interested in libraries, fires, California, people or book restoration? This and much more can be found within the pages of best selling author Orlean's latest. Known for many previous books, including The Orchid Thief and Rin Tin Tin as well as her essays in The New Yorker, Orlean could write about a sewer system and make it a compelling read. In the end she writes lovingly and passionately about people, and this is true with The Library Book. It is a leisurely read for both men and women and perfect for a winter's day in a cozy chair.
 


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Where We Live Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9780997452884
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Published: Green Writers Press - October 17th, 2018

Lyme resident Walter Wetherell has been giving his loyal readers good books for years. Be they essays, fiction, non fiction, books of nature or fishing, Wetherell never disappoints. His newest book of short stories is yet another gem. His imaginative plots are developed and concluded in often less than 20 pages and the reader comes away feeling as satisfied as if she had read a novel.
 


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The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781328770028
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
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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Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781571313676
Availability: Out of Print (call or email to check availability of used copies)
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: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
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
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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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Tin Man: A Novel Cover Image
$23.00
ISBN: 9780735218727
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
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: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
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
$17.00
ISBN: 9780399573231
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Riverhead Books - May 21st, 2019

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: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780802129208
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Grove Press - March 19th, 2019

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 Italian Teacher: A Novel Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780735222700
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Penguin Books - March 5th, 2019

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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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
$7.99
ISBN: 9781534406308
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - February 26th, 2019

 

e 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
$6.99
ISBN: 9780062652928
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: HarperCollins - December 31st, 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
$17.00
ISBN: 9780804188401
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Broadway Books - November 6th, 2018

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
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062367655
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
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 Night Garden Cover Image
$7.99
ISBN: 9781250294142
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Square Fish - March 26th, 2019

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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Glass Houses (Chief Inspector Gamache Novel #13) Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781432852351
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Large Print Press - May 29th, 2018

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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Before We Sleep Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9781620404997
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
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
$17.00
ISBN: 9780812989410
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Random House Trade Paperbacks - March 27th, 2018

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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Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781101974261
Availability: Usually Available in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - April 3rd, 2018

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
$15.95
ISBN: 9781101969946
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Anchor - October 17th, 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
$18.00
ISBN: 9781250160010
Availability: On Our Shelves Now (call or email to confirm availability)
Published: Picador - February 6th, 2018

866 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.