Staff Recommended Reads

A selection of engaging titles to peruse.  A mix of 
fiction, non-fiction, hard and soft covers ...


2018

Ocean Meets Sky  by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

The Fan brothers are back with another charming picture book. This is a beautiful story with a simple tale of a young boy dealing with the loss of his grandfather. Finn builds a boat and sets sail to find the spot where the ocean meets the sky. Magically illustrated, this book is recommended for ages 4 to 8 but readers of all ages will enjoy. 


Mr. Flood's Last Resort by Jess Kidd

The word for this book is quirky. Delightfully so. Maude Drennan, a young Irish Catholic woman at loose ends, takes a job as a care giver. Her charge, Cathal Flood, is a cranky old man who lives in a ramshackle Victorian mansion. He is also a hoarder. Between Cathal's attitude and hoarding, and the cadre of saints that only Maude can see and hear, the girl is having a difficult time. When questions arise about the late Mrs. Flood's death, a missing child, and an imposter Maude can really use those saints!


The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is back - as an author and main character - in ‘The Word is Murder’! Once again, Horowitz twists the modern crime novel into something new and this twist doesn’t disappoint. As a reader you want to know where the detective story is going, and where Horowitz is going as a writer. A great summer read!


 August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones

August Snow is an ex-police detective who was fired from the Detroit police department. He was a whistleblower in a scandal that involved a corrupt police department and the mayor. August settled for $12 million dollars and left town for a year. When he returns to Detroit, he settles in his old neighborhood, Mexicantown. (August is half African-American, half Mexican). There he is contacted by a wealthy woman, Eleanor Page, who wants him to investigate her investment bank for suspicious activity. August refuses. What follows is murder, lots of dead bodies and assassins. This is a fast paced debut crime novel with well written characters and unexpected plot twists. Hopefully, this will be a new series.


Red Notice by Bill Browder

Non-fiction and current events fans will not want to miss this account of an American financier in Russia that reads like a thriller. At the fall of the Soviet Union Bill Browder was one if the few who foresaw a great investment opportunity. He moved to Moscow, established a hugely successful hedge fund, and enjoyed the envy and respect of the financial community for a decade. Although he resided in Moscow, Browder felt comfortable enough to publicly call out major Russian companies for unethical conduct in manipulating their assets. His courage was answered with intimidation, threats, and even murder. Those who follow the news will recognize people and events that have figured into our current political situation. You won't be able to put this one down!


This Fallen Prey by Kelley Armstrong

This Fallen Prey is the third title in the Rockton series by Kelley Armstrong. Someone evil has come to Rockton, but what exactly are they responsible for? And are they only ones deserving of the label? You may figure out some of the mystery as you go, but there will be surprises through the final chapter. Not all questions will be answered and Armstrong sets the scene for serious conflict between the members of Rockton and the council who oversees the town in the next installment of the series.


Alternate Side by Anna Quindlen    

Nora Nolan lives with her husband, Charlie, and their two college age kids on the Upper West side of Manhattan on a dead end street. They live in an old, stately Victorian home on a street populated by wealthy residents. A violent incident happens in the neighborhood that will affect all who live in this community. The author's narrative is an exceptional character study on the complexities of neighborhood, family, class and race. It is also a lively and often humorous look at living in New York City. 


The Bettencourt Affair by Tom Sancton

Liliane Bettencourt, heiress to the L'Oreal fortune and the world's wealthiest woman, greatly valued her friendship with Francois-Marie Banier, an artist and photographer twenty-five years younger, but attentive and entertaining. Liliane and her husband Andre thought of Banier almost as family. When Liliane mused that she might adopt him and make him an heir, the Bettencourt's daughter and only child took action, bringing to light the hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts her mother showered on Banier. The ensuing lawsuits fractured a family, entangled a president, and fascinated Paris for years. A great read!


Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

Wolff's book delivers on the hype that preceded its publication. The chaos related on the nightly news is confirmed through the words of many White House staffers who spoke to Wolff either with attribution or off the record. Readers are provided with much to mull. 


Mary Astor's Purple Diary by Edward Sorel

When noted illustrator Edward Sorel renovated a NYC apartment in the 1960's, the linoleum he ripped from the kitchen floor revealed a cache of old newspapers that led to a life-long obsession. The NY Daily News and the NY Mirror of 1936 detailed the scandalous child custody case between silent film star Mary Astor and her husband. Of great interest in the trial was the numerous affairs Mary had with some of the most famous Hollywood and New York figures of the day. With humor and wit, not to mention 50 of his wonderful illustrations, Sorel weaves Mary's tale with his own - two people decades apart each with a fascinating, engaging story holding the reader in an absorbing, entertaining, breezy way.


Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Elena Richardson's carefully engineered perfect life in Shaker Heights, Ohio, is literally and figuratively in flames on the first page of Celeste Ng's new novel. The reader is plunged into a tangled web of relationships, both positive and heartbreaking. Elena discovers she doesn't know her four children as well as she believed as she deals with their growing bond with a new tenant and her teenaged daughter. As a custody case further inflames the community, Elena feels compelled to involve herself in her tenant's past, dredging up pain long buried. 


The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer

This is a coming of age memoir of a fatherless boy who grows up in a sheltering bar full of men who step up to do the job his father couldn't.  Moehringer's hard-working, single Mom, pushed him to make something of himself, to go to Yale and he eventually gets hired and fired by the New York Times. Both humorous and sad, insightful and honest. I especially enjoyed the many literary references throughout the book. I found it to be a wonderful read.


The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

 Sara Lindqvist travels from Sweden to Broken Wheel, Iowa, to meet and stay with her pen pal, Amy Harris. They have developed a close relationship because of their love of books. However, when Sara arrives in Broken Wheel she discovers that Amy has died.  Sara decides to stay in Broken Wheel and gets to know the quirky locals, develops a love interest and opens a bookstore (with the books she finds in Amy's house). This is a story of community and friendship in unlikely places. I especially loved how this novel was filled with so many book references. If you love books about books, you will want to try this one. 


The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

When she turned 17, Franny Owens, according to family custom, was summoned from her Manhattan home to the Owens homestead in Massachusetts. It was time for Aunt Isabelle to instruct her in her family heritage - witchcraft. Those who do not enjoy sci-fi or fantasy need not worry, this beautifully written family saga transcends genre. In this prequel to Practical Magic, Hoffman introduces readers to the Owens family whose history dates to colonial era New England and whose powers create fear and suspicion in the community. Over the course of about 50 years, the reader follows Franny and her siblings Jet and Vincent as they deal with who they are and grapple with its affects on their relationships. I found the love stories of the three, particularly Franny and Hay, especially compelling. Readers won't soon forget these vivid and fully realized characters.



Joy

100 Poems

Edited by Christian Wiman

If there is a poet on your gift list anthologies are often best, and Christian Wiman, a professor at Yale Institute for Sacred Music, has compiled a thoughtful edition appropriately titled for the holiday season. Rather than include classic offerings, his decision to include only selections from modern-era poets will introduce readers to lesser known writers and their works, with so many interesting and unusual selections that even the most jaded writer will be delighted, even joyful.


The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

Amber Patterson is convinced she is deserving of a life currently beyond her reach; the life she would live as, say, the wife of Jackson Parrish. The fact that Jackson already has a wife is seen by Amber as nothing other than an obstacle to be overcome. Readers will want to warn Daphne Parrish when she befriends the seemingly shy, unsophisticated newcomer to her affluent town. Pick up this page turner when you have time to read. You won't be able to put it down.


The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

 This is a story about three lonely people and the sad circumstances that bring them together. Arthur is an 85 year old widower who spends everyday at the cemetery having lunch at his wife's grave. It is at the cemetery where Arthur meets Maddy. She is a senior in high school who spends more time there than at school. Lucille is Arthur's elderly neighbor who has never been married. All three have lost someone close to them and all three find their way back from loss and loneliness through their involvement with each other. The friendship between Arthur, Maddy and Lucille is something you won't soon forget. 






2017

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

Fans of Liane Moriarty will immediately recognize the writing style of her sister, Nicola. As is often found in Liane's work, Nicola employs a group of friends with corresponding and conflicting needs. The Fifth Letter finds four women, friends from elementary school, on their annual girls' weekend getaway. All seems to follow their patterns of past years until, for fun, they decide to each reveal a secret in anonymous letters to be shared with the group. The fun turns to concern in the face of troubling secrets that are uncovered and the fact that instead of the expected four letters, there are five.


Penguin Problems, by Jory John and Lane Smith

If you are looking for a children’s book this season that touches both children and adults on many levels, look no further. This story about a tiny penguin who goes through his days with nothing but problems “My beak is cold…. It’s too bright out here….I look silly when I waddle.” And on and on. Rather than appearing whiny and annoying, you just want to hug this pathetic, flightless bird. Finally, he gets some good advice from a passing walrus, and his outlook on life shifts. Hilarious to adults, captivating for children and culminating with an important message for both, this book is destined to become a classic for all ages.


The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman is the first book in the Invisible Library series. Cogman blends a spy novel with a tale of magic and the literary world.  Retrieving highly sought after books from alternate worlds may seem like a straight forward task, but the addition of chaos, creatures from other realms and unpredictable magic make things more complicated. The hectic adventure makes the reader want to jump into the world of Irene, the library spy, and her assistant Kai.


The Little Book of Hygge, by Meik Wiking

The bleak midwinter seemed like the right time to read this book, subtitled Danish Secrets To Happy Living, since the Danes are consistently at the top of the 

U.N.- sponsored World Happiness Report and other surveys. It turns out that happiness can be summed up in a word, "Hygge", which is a concept of well being and comfort, and what exactly provides it. Hygge is not about the acquisition of things, but about creating a peaceful atmosphere: think a fireplace, blanket, book and hot drink. Most of the suggestions are really very simple but it also made me think about slowing down and simplifying, in all the best possible ways.


I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

When Madeline Starling jumped off the roof of the Wellesley College library her husband Brady and teenaged daughter Eve were left behind to agonize over why. Devastated and equally puzzled, family and friends try to reconcile the event with the happy, ever helpful woman who had it all that they knew. But Madeline isn't quite through with earthly concerns. She observes and tries to direct her family into acceptance and the ability to move on. Far from morbid, this engaging story explores the anguish of coming to terms with tragedy and the difficult and uneven process of a father and daughter creating a new family without the glue that held them together.

 

Waiting for Snow  by Marsha Arnold

This is a sweet story that is perfect to read with your little one this month. Badger is anxiously "waiting for snow" to come but is having a hard time waiting. Hedgehog and his friends playfully help Badger wait and remind him that "it will snow in snow's time". This is a charmingly illustrated story about friendship and patience which is perfect for ages 4-7.



Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard

Glamorous does not begin to describe either Ava and Swift or their lifestyle. Their home, friends, art collection, and parties are far from the life of struggle led by Helen, a single mother whose DUI conviction cost her custody of her young son. When the two women meet at an art gallery show where Helen serves patron Ava drinks, Helen's life changes. Suddenly, she is drawn into a life of comfort and ease. Although her own problems persist, Helen is certain her new friends will help her find the solutions she seeks. But at what price?


The Light of Paris by Eleanor Brown

Madeleine's static and highly unsatisfying marriage to a Chicago businessman causes her to flee to her southern hometown and her disapproving mother to regroup. While there, Madeleine discovers the journals her grandmother kept while living in Paris during the 1920's Jazz Age as a single girl. Through these journals comes Madeleine's inspiration to change her destiny and re-write her own story before it's too late. In chapters told in alternating voices by Madeleine and her grandmother Margie, the parallels of their choices become illuminated, despite their being separated by two generations. In addition, we learn of a long hidden family secret that provided an interesting twist.  Although at times somewhat predictable, it was an engaging story that kept me reading long into the night. 


LaRose by Louise Erdrich

Louise Erdrich is in top form with this novel describing family complications, contradictions between tribal and white customs and rituals, and focusing on justice and retribution. When an Ojibwe tribe member accidentally kills his neighbor's 5 year old son, tradition dictates that he must atone by giving the neighbor his own son to raise as his own. The boy, LaRose, becomes a bridge of sorts between the two families. All characters are well developed, their sorrow and pain gradually giving way to acceptance in a believable ending. 


A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

 The famous painting by Andrew Wyeth entitled "Christina's World" is the inspiration for this novel. The girl in the painting was Christina Olson who grew up in a coastal town in Maine during the early 1900's. Her family worked a remote farm and the house she grew up in serves as the stage for Christina's story. As a child, she suffered an undiagnosed illness which left her legs twisted and caused her to stumble as she walked. She lives her entire life on this farm and it was never easy. The author presents an impressive perspective on what life was like during this time. Then, one summer in 1939, the painter Andrew Wyeth befriends her and uses her house and land to paint some of his famous works. The story goes back and forth through time, slowly imagining Christina's life and how Wyeth came to know and paint her. 


Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

This book is in some ways comparable to Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad, which uses  the metaphorical device of an actual railroad, underground, to transport slaves fleeing the South. Exit West concerns refugees of war torn and impoverished countries from which they escape through "doors" to safer lands. The beautiful writing transcends this element of fantasy, with sentences near the end of the book going on for entire pages, reflecting the constant movement of the refugees. An important message of globalization and social media for connectivity, the book's ending is not a contrived happily ever after, but a clear look at our changing world.


Once We Were Sisters by Sheila Kohler 

This heartfelt memoir hopscotches from South Africa, where the sisters, Maxine and Sheila Kohler were raised with wealth and privilege, to Paris, Rome, Greece, and even New Haven. The girls' sheltered childhood helped foster a tender closeness that lasted until Maxine's tragic, untimely death. Sheila's grief and guilt over the loss of her sister is heart wrenching. This memoir is most certainly Kohler's attempt to reconcile this devastation and what she saw as her role surrounding the events.



The Pearl That Broke Its Shell by Nadia Hashimi

This moving novel of Afghani life brings echoes of The Kite Runner. The stories of two women, Shekiba, who lived in the early 20th century, and her great-great granddaughter, Rahima, who lives in contemporary times, are woven and parallel each other to illustrate the meager progress made by women in rural Afghanistan. Rahima, one of five dutiful daughters of a troubled family, finds a degree of freedom as a bacha posh, a girl who dresses and behaves as a boy to provide the conveniences a son offers a family. Encouraged by the tales of Shekiba spun by a beloved aunt, Rahima begins to appreciate what an education would mean to her life. Too young to act on her wishes, Rahima is devastated to be sold into marriage as the fourth wife of a much older warlord. Rahima's battle to maintain hope in dismal circumstances and her desperate acts to crate a life will keep you riveted. A true page turner!


Shattered by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

If you have the energy for more on the 2016 election, this book is for you. Allen and Parnes, political journalists, examine what went wrong for Clinton and right for Trump to produce a result few expected, including at least one candidate. With access to many of the players from the bottom to the top of the Clinton campaign, readers will view the events that were unfolding behind the scenes while a different public scenario was playing out. Fascinating.


Wicked City by Beatriz Williams

If you enjoyed Beatriz's other books, this won't disappoint!  Taking place both in current day New York City and the city during Prohibition in the 1920s, we follow two women who are ultimately connected and how that alters one woman's destiny.


The Girls by Emma Cline

This novel is a disturbingly vivid and terrifying story of a young, lonely girl swept into an alluring cult - very similar to the Manson Family. You will get helpless caught up in the incredible characters and deep inner workings of the plot.  


Sutton by J. R. Moehringer 

Willie Sutton was one of the most notorious criminals in American history with a career that spanned four decades. The public loved him and revered him as a folk hero because he was a bank robber who never fired a gun and his victims were banks. The novel begins with Willie's release from Attica and follows this famous bank robber's career through flashbacks. He spent more than half of his adult life in prison and managed to escape three times. Though this is a work of fiction, it is based on historical events and written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author.


They May Not Mean To, But They Do by Cathleen Schine

This is a sad but humorous novel that explores the difficult process of growing old. Joy Bergman is an octogenarian who loses her husband after caring for him during his declining years. Joy must learn to manage on her own but her grown children interfere with her choices. She feels guilty that she is now their burden. This is both a sweet and sad story about aging, family, loneliness and love. 


Behold the Dreamers Imbolo Mbue 

The novel takes place a decade ago, but this story of an immigrant family with a tenuous hold on a future in America seems especially timely today.  Two couples -- Cameroonian immigrants Jende and Neni Jonga and Lehman Brothers executive Clark Edwards and his wife Cindy-- are striving for very different versions of the American dream.  Their lives become intertwined when Clark hires Jende as his chauffeur. The collapse of Lehman Brothers dramatically changes all their lives, but it's the decisions each of them makes that have the most devastating repercussions. Mbue has created characters that are believable and -- sometimes surprisingly -- sympathetic.  They struggle with fear, despair and loss, they cling to the importance of family,  and they come through with new visions of home and happiness.


Half Wild Stories, by Robin MacArthur, made my summer. This is the most surprising, engrossing book I have read in two years. With the stories all taking place in rural Vermont, the author, who developed as a writer at Brown University and took her MFA in fiction writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, hikes us through the woods of 11 short stories that astound the reader with their range, power and the author's precision of language. The title refers to all of us as we wrestle to balance our commitment to civilization with our commitment to our more animal instincts. Read this lounging in a hammock, while stuck in traffic or in your tent in the woods. "My mother has cleaned houses," MacArthur writes, "waitressed, logged, gardened, trained horses, hammered nails, groomed dogs, hung sheetrock, and killed other peoples' livestock for a living. It's made her body crooked, wrinkled, callous, bent."  Who is the author talking about, dear reader? Your mother. Read the book.


Devil's Bargain by Joshua Green

There has rarely if ever been a figure such as Steve Bannon elevated to head a presidential campaign. This account of his position and the influence he wields in the Trump administration clearly outlines the rise of the alt-right, the partnership of these two men, and their goals. All who care about the direction of the country will find this book revealing.



2016

Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Pena. 

This 2016 NewberyAward winning book tells the story of young CJ and his grandmother as they are leaving church and walking around town in the rain. As they walk, CJ asks many questions about why they need to take the bus, why he doesn’t own an ipod like other boys, and why their neighborhood is so dirty. With a gentle tone, his grandmother answers CJ’s questions, helping him to see the beauty and goodness all around him. When they finally arrive at the soup kitchen and see familiar faces, CJ feels glad to be right where he is. The love and mutual respect between CJ and his grandmother is evident throughout. The brightly colored illustrations add to the feeling of warmth in this lovely story, while addressing issues of race, poverty, envy and inequality. 

                    

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, by Lindsay Mattick. Illustrated by Sophie Blackall. 

In this 2016 Caldecott award-wining book, readers learn the story of how the beloved character Winnie the Pooh came to be. We discover the true story of veterinarian Harry Coleburn’s purchase of a black bear cub while on his way to fight in World War I. Winnie and Harry spent many wartime years together. Harry’s great- great granddaughter shares the stories of Winnie (short for Winnepeg, Harry’s hometown) with her son Cole, and reveals with loving illustrations and soft colors how Winnie ended up living at the London Zoo and meeting a young boy named Christopher Robin Milne. It would be Christopher Robin’s imaginary play with his own stuffed bear that formed the basis for Milne’s Pooh stories.

 

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

 From the moment she opened the email, Nora knew she should decline the invitation. Why would she accept a request from a complete stranger to attend a hen weekend ( British bride's pre-wedding celebration) at a remote location hours from home, for a friend who had long been estranged? When the on line guest list reveals acceptances from only one person Nora, a reclusive writer, even knows, her decision feels right. But, then, is this a long awaited opportunity for reconciliation? Should she pass up a chance to heal an old wound? Will she renew a friendship or regret forever a decision to try? The author introduces the reader to Nora and a cast of strong characters while weaving the threads of this taut, tension filled psychological thriller.


The Opposite of Everyone by Joshilyn Jackson

Each of these compelling, strong, intelligent, yet broken characters carried me along in this fast paced, witty, sharp edged story with heart.  This bittersweet novel is ultimately about the stories that bind us and break us and heal us. I truly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.


Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

Attention dog lovers and mystery buffs:  you must read Spencer Quinn's Dog on It.  Told from the point of view of the dog Chet, this engaging and often hilarious tail (pardon the pun) will keep you turning pages. The author's attention to doggy details is as boundless as Chet's appetite for food and his devotion to his owner Bernie, a private detective down on his luck. The two are a perfect team: Bernie relies on his intelligence and self-control while Chet supplies olfactory superiority and teeth to solve the case of a missing teenager. This is the first in Quinn's Chet and Bernie Mystery Series begun in 2009 and added to each year. You will want to get going on this series, especially since the latest addition, Paw and Order, is scheduled for release in paperback this summer. 

 

Black Flags The Rise of Isis by Joby Warrick
For all those who are concerned about the world's condition, this book is a must read. Warrick, a Washington Post reporter and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, thoroughly traces the origins of Isis from a young boy in a small Jordanian village to his time in a remote and primitive desert prison. The evolution of this barbaric group from a single disaffected street thug to an organization employing the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters so dedicated that they are willing to die for their cause is rivetingly documented by Warrick. The reader learns of years of dire warnings from Jordan's King Abdullah and his struggle to contain this growing threat and how the chaos in the Middle East provided the perfect environment for this dark movement to flourish. Highly recommended.

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers

This charming picture book will definitely become a classic. It is beautifully illustrated with a simple text about enjoying the "beauty of nature". An orphaned boy, William, wakes up one morning to find a tree outside his window transformed into an owl topiary overnight. Over time more topiaries of animals begin appearing in his neighborhood. Someone, The Night Gardener, is working his magic. You'll have to read this wonderful book to find out more. This is a book for readers of all ages.

 
The Expatriates by Janice YK Lee

This novel is set in the American expatriate community in Hong Kong, focusing on three women who attempt to form a new kind of family far removed from their differing backgrounds. Their new life is one of privilege, exotic travel, wealth and servants which none of them had experienced in the past. When their lives intersect more personally as a result of a terrible inexplicable event, the questions of friendship, community, and motherhood are explored, with complicated answers.

 

Hemingway in Love by A.E. Hotchner
Celebrated author Ernest Hemingway had one story he felt he could not tell, but did not want lost. Over the years of his close friendship with A.E. Hotchner, (author, Connecticut native, partner of Paul Newman in Newman's Own), Hemingway revealed his regret and heartbreak over the loss of Hadley, his first wife and love of his life. His involvement with another woman led to a divorce he did not want and his unhappy remarriage. For the rest of his life Hemingway's longing for the woman he had wronged added to the demons that haunted his life and eventually led to his suicide.

Modern Lovers, by Emma Straub
In Emma Straub’s newest book since The Vacationers, she explores the interwoven relationship between two couples. Both couples are now married, and were college friends who (with the exception of one) started a band together while at Oberlin. As Elizabeth, Andrew, Zoe and Jane try to come to terms with their current identity as parent, musician, chef, realtor and friend, they are faced with the making an important decision about the now deceased yet most preeminent member of their band, Lydia. As they wrestle with how this decision will impact their lives, their two teenage children begin a relationship which is filled with all of the angst of their time in life, magnified by their parents’ history and friendships. You will empathize with each character at different times in the book, and ultimately enjoy this well-told story that doesn’t avoid some of the true ugliness of real relationships.

 

The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner

 You will love reading The Bridge Ladies, Betsy Lerner's  memoir of her mother's bridge club of fifty years and still playing.  The memoir takes you to places you may have been and some you may not:  the bridge table, a Jewish kitchen, your mother's living room, New Haven, the Manhattan Bridge Club. On the surface this is a reporter's way into the lives of her mother and the four women with whom she plays bridge, women she has known her whole life but doesn't know at all. Beneath that is Lerner's desire to understand her mother and to improve their generally adversarial relationship while there is still time. Lerner crosses the bridge to her mother's generation through the game of bridge, attending the group's regular games, taking bridge lessons, sitting in at her mother's bridge table, learning to love the game.  Meanwhile she begins to understand the social, economic, and ethnic pressures that shaped these women's lives, beliefs, and behaviors and the personal upheavals they have faced and overcome.  She learns to value her mother as well as love her, and she learns patience. Finally she sees her mother in herself.

 

The Silent Wife by A. Harrison
Jody and Todd enjoyed a loving partnership. Their long term relationship, while not a legal marriage, was shared in a beautiful lake view apartment in Chicago. Each had a successful career and a comfortable, satisfying life. Everything was perfect - until it wasn't. This compelling story, soon to be a movie, engages the reader until the last page. A riveting psychological thriller, this book brings to mind Gone Girl, but could really happen. The reader is invited to question what, given the circumstances, they would be willing and capable of doing. 


 Lust and Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

 After a long hiatus, Augusten Burroughs, author of This is How, Dry and Running With Scissors has returned to his craft.  In this latest memoir, he chronicles a variety of relationships while living primarily in New York City.  Sharing a range of experiences, often hilarious, at time heartbreaking and profound, Burroughs reveals all with characteristic candor and caustic wit whether he is contending with a neurotic Greyhound, revisiting the outrageously oddball circumstances of his youth or lamenting the fate of an AIDS stricken partner. Fans will not be disappointed.  

 

Language Arts - by Stephanie Kallos
The sad irony of Charles Marlowe's life is that his greatest strength fails him in his greatest need and desire. Charles teaches Seattle high school English students the power of language, but words do not help him connect to his autistic son, Cody. To add to the discontent Charles feels in his life is his failed marriage to Alison. The only close, satisfying relationship Charles feels is that with his daughter, Emmy, who has left the nest for college. Kallos powerfully explores the path Charles travels from the influence of an elementary school teacher, a disabled classmate, and a difficult home life, to his struggle to establish a balanced, happy adult life while caring for his son. The author skillfully guides the reader through unpredictable twists and turns that enrich this moving story. 

Finale by Thomas Mallon
The presidential administration of Ronald Reagan might not immediately appeal when choosing a book, but think twice. The reader will experience not only important events of the 80's, but also the White House intrigue of the era through the eyes of several fictitious witnesses to history. The author describes Nancy Reagan's desperate dependence on an astrologer in scheduling the president's travels as well as meetings with other heads of state. We learn of her confidence that the timing of the Reykjavik summit would insure success, and their disappointment in it's subsequent failure. The author utilizes historical documents, presidential library archives, personal visits to relevant sites, and interviews with people present at various events to create a fascinating work of historical fiction.
  

The Bartender's Tale  by Ivan Doig

This is a story about a young boy (Rusty) who is abandoned by his mother as an infant and left with an aunt until he is six years old. At that time, his Dad (Tom) arrives and takes him back to northern Montana to live with him at the Medicine Lodge where he is the bartender.  Rusty and his Dad make an odd kind of family but get along well until the summer of 1960 when Rusty turns 12. It is a summer of change with the arrival of several interesting "outsiders".  Doig's quirky characters and his feel for the landscape are realistically portrayed.  He is definitely a skilled storyteller.







 



Enchanted August by 
     When four strangers from New York agree to rent a Maine island cottage for the month of August, each anticipates solitude and respite from personal heartbreak. Instead, they discover strength and healing in an unexpected community. This is a feet in the sand summer read that will have you searching the classifieds for your own Maine retreat. 

Outline, by Rachel Cusk
     When the narrator, a British writing instructor, travels to Athens to teach for a week in summer, she leaves behind two young sons and a former husband. From this outline, several explanations are possible, as is the case with the friends, strangers, and students whose stories are confided over the duration of the week. Despite our modern reliance on facts, one's personal history is partly - maybe mostly - interpretation, a point well made in this spare and affecting novel.

Missoula by John Krakauer                                
     This is an absorbing but disturbing study of sexual assault on the campus of a respected American university. Many of the cases examined, spanning several years, involved the university's football team. The accusations from women against members of the team were often met with denial or skepticism by university officials, fans, and law enforcement. Krakauer's findings beg many questions surrounding the sports culture at U.S. Colleges. 


The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus
     This novel received far too little media attention. What could have been a light romp about the contrast between privileged wealth and those "less fortunate", is instead a moving account of CeCe Somner, the philanthropic heiress of a vast rubber industry fortune. CeCe is reminiscent of an Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald doyenne, and her relationships with her misguided and delusional son and his formerly working class wife, as well as with her staff, are believably portrayed. The dialogue and CeCe's interior monologues are engaging and often humorous, and the plot moves quickly through conflicts and heartbreak. A remarkable first novel.


Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman
     A young man and two young women, all from significantly different backgrounds, with widely divergent goals, meet as freshmen at Harvard. An unsolved murder and  predatory professor alter their anticipated life paths and haunt their futures while keeping their lives intertwined long after their college years end. 


Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County  By Kristen Green
    The Supreme Court, through Brown vs Board of Education,
mandated  the desegregation of American public schools in 1954. Rather than complying, Prince Edward County, Virginia, responded by shutting down their public school system and opening Prince Edward Academy, a private school that welcomed only white children. This deplorable situation stood for five years, during which time black and poor white families faced heartbreaking decisions. Their choices were to keep their children at home without schooling, homeschooling, which most felt ill equipped to achieve, move across county lines, or send their children to live elsewhere in order to be educated. The author, a graduate of P.E.A. returns to her hometown in a quest to examine how this situation impacted lives in those years through to the present day, and the role played by her own family. 


Bright Lights Paris, by Angie Niles
     Whether you have booked a trip to Paris, are a die-hard Francophile or an armchair traveler, this fully illustrated and photographed collection is the book for you. Sip a glass of rose while you lose yourself in this guide to each of Paris’ distinct neighborhoods. Learn where to eat, drink, shop, stroll and find the true hidden gems of Paris.





I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers
     Another under-reviewed novel that proved to be a great reading experience. Set mostly in London, it is the story of Michael, grieving for his recently killed journalist wife, and his next door neighbors who welcome him into their family with devastating consequences. A novel of loss, friendship and betrayal, as well as details about drone warfare, it is best read without knowing plot details and allowing the reader to be swept along, caught up in the suspense, knowing a happy ending will not ensue. 


Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
   With a single shattering event June Reid's life, as well as the lives of many in her small Connecticut town, are changed forever. June's unbearable  grief propels her across the country seeking a reason to keep living. Those left behind struggle to deal with the aftermath of tragedy. Lydia, whose loss is as devastating as June's, must also endure the scrutiny of the town as well as her own crushing guilt. This elegantly written book explores    not only  loss and grief, but also hope, redemption, and human connection.  This is an exceptionally moving, thought provoking story  whose characters will stay with you long after the last page is read.  


Last Bus to Wisdom, by Ivan Doig
     Ivan Doig's final novel, is a leisurely coming of age story set in the Montana Rockies of the early 1950's. Donal Cameron is a likable, 11-year-old red-head with dreams of becoming  a champion bronc rider. Because his Gram is having an operation, he is sent to Wisconsin to stay for the summer with her sister Kate.  As he makes the long trip on the dog bus, AKA Greyhound, Donal collects friends, and the reader is treated to a large and varied cast of bus riders, each with his own story. Aunt Kate turns out to be a controlling, uncompromising  woman who intends to send him back to Montana. Fearing that the authorities there will place him in an orphanage, Donal runs away. Again he finds himself on the dog bus, this time with an unexpected companion and protector, Herman the German, Kate's husband! 


The Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward
      For those who study the Nixon era as well as those who remember it, this is a must read. The shocking revelation by Col. Alexander Butterfield before the Senate Watergate Committee that listening devices had been installed in Nixon's Oval Office had a fascinating backstory. Over forty years after the tapes produced by those devices led to the only presidential resignation in our history, Col. Butterfield gave Watergate reporter Bob Woodward access to his extensive files from his years in the Nixon White House. Much of this story will be familiar, but Butterfield's observations of the inner workings of the administration add to our understanding of this momentous period in our nations's history. 
Enchanted August by 
     When four strangers from New York agree to rent a Maine island cottage for the month of August, each anticipates solitude and respite from personal heartbreak. Instead, they discover strength and healing in an unexpected community. This is a feet in the sand summer read that will have you searching the classifieds for your own Maine retreat. 

Outline, by Rachel Cusk
     When the narrator, a British writing instructor, travels to Athens to teach for a week in summer, she leaves behind two young sons and a former husband. From this outline, several explanations are possible, as is the case with the friends, strangers, and students whose stories are confided over the duration of the week. Despite our modern reliance on facts, one's personal history is partly - maybe mostly - interpretation, a point well made in this spare and affecting novel.

Missoula by John Krakauer                                
     This is an absorbing but disturbing study of sexual assault on the campus of a respected American university. Many of the cases examined, spanning several years, involved the university's football team. The accusations from women against members of the team were often met with denial or skepticism by university officials, fans, and law enforcement. Krakauer's findings beg many questions surrounding the sports culture at U.S. Colleges. 


The Unfortunates by Sophie McManus
     This novel received far too little media attention. What could have been a light romp about the contrast between privileged wealth and those "less fortunate", is instead a moving account of CeCe Somner, the philanthropic heiress of a vast rubber industry fortune. CeCe is reminiscent of an Edith Wharton or F. Scott Fitzgerald doyenne, and her relationships with her misguided and delusional son and his formerly working class wife, as well as with her staff, are believably portrayed. The dialogue and CeCe's interior monologues are engaging and often humorous, and the plot moves quickly through conflicts and heartbreak. A remarkable first novel.


Bradstreet Gate by Robin Kirman
     A young man and two young women, all from significantly different backgrounds, with widely divergent goals, meet as freshmen at Harvard. An unsolved murder and  predatory professor alter their anticipated life paths and haunt their futures while keeping their lives intertwined long after their college years end. 


Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County  By Kristen Green
    The Supreme Court, through Brown vs Board of Education,
mandated  the desegregation of American public schools in 1954. Rather than complying, Prince Edward County, Virginia, responded by shutting down their public school system and opening Prince Edward Academy, a private school that welcomed only white children. This deplorable situation stood for five years, during which time black and poor white families faced heartbreaking decisions. Their choices were to keep their children at home without schooling, homeschooling, which most felt ill equipped to achieve, move across county lines, or send their children to live elsewhere in order to be educated. The author, a graduate of P.E.A. returns to her hometown in a quest to examine how this situation impacted lives in those years through to the present day, and the role played by her own family. 


Bright Lights Paris, by Angie Niles
     Whether you have booked a trip to Paris, are a die-hard Francophile or an armchair traveler, this fully illustrated and photographed collection is the book for you. Sip a glass of rose while you lose yourself in this guide to each of Paris’ distinct neighborhoods. Learn where to eat, drink, shop, stroll and find the true hidden gems of Paris.





I Saw a Man by Owen Sheers
     Another under-reviewed novel that proved to be a great reading experience. Set mostly in London, it is the story of Michael, grieving for his recently killed journalist wife, and his next door neighbors who welcome him into their family with devastating consequences. A novel of loss, friendship and betrayal, as well as details about drone warfare, it is best read without knowing plot details and allowing the reader to be swept along, caught up in the suspense, knowing a happy ending will not ensue. 


Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg
   With a single shattering event June Reid's life, as well as the lives of many in her small Connecticut town, are changed forever. June's unbearable  grief propels her across the country seeking a reason to keep living. Those left behind struggle to deal with the aftermath of tragedy. Lydia, whose loss is as devastating as June's, must also endure the scrutiny of the town as well as her own crushing guilt. This elegantly written book explores    not only  loss and grief, but also hope, redemption, and human connection.  This is an exceptionally moving, thought provoking story  whose characters will stay with you long after the last page is read.  


Last Bus to Wisdom, by Ivan Doig
     Ivan Doig's final novel, is a leisurely coming of age story set in the Montana Rockies of the early 1950's. Donal Cameron is a likable, 11-year-old red-head with dreams of becoming  a champion bronc rider. Because his Gram is having an operation, he is sent to Wisconsin to stay for the summer with her sister Kate.  As he makes the long trip on the dog bus, AKA Greyhound, Donal collects friends, and the reader is treated to a large and varied cast of bus riders, each with his own story. Aunt Kate turns out to be a controlling, uncompromising  woman who intends to send him back to Montana. Fearing that the authorities there will place him in an orphanage, Donal runs away. Again he finds himself on the dog bus, this time with an unexpected companion and protector, Herman the German, Kate's husband! 


The Last of the President's Men by Bob Woodward
      For those who study the Nixon era as well as those who remember it, this is a must read. The shocking revelation by Col. Alexander Butterfield before the Senate Watergate Committee that listening devices had been installed in Nixon's Oval Office had a fascinating backstory. Over forty years after the tapes produced by those devices led to the only presidential resignation in our history, Col. Butterfield gave Watergate reporter Bob Woodward access to his extensive files from his years in the Nixon White House. Much of this story will be familiar, but Butterfield's observations of the inner workings of the administration add to our understanding of this momentous period in our nations's history.