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Archive for the ‘Closet Mystery Lovers’ Category

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So, the relatives have left. And yes, you had a great time with them over the holidays; but, you are probably a bit grateful for some peace and quiet, and would love to fill it with a good book or two. Luckily, we have a few to recommend that hopefully hit whatever mood you are in. Thus, our first post of 2017 features a few good books – a novel/thriller, an actual thriller, another thriller, a collection of essays, a reference to the original 1963 inspiration for those essays, a memoir, a quote book inspired by a beloved children’s book, and a link to that children’s book – to peruse in the quiet that the relatives left.

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Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil Cover ImageTell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta (2016) – Apparently we have been missing some great YA novels if Ms. Marchetta’s first adult novel (we’d actually call it a mystery/thriller) is any indication of her ability to tell a tale. This book is part crime story, part immigration tale, part indictment of prejudice against Muslims, part family saga, and totally gripping. Whatever you want to call it, it is worth reading – full of empathy for each and every complicated character. If you need a plot summary, the tale revolves around a suspended cop’s quest to find the truth behind a devastating bombing involving his daughter. I particularly loved the fact that half-way through I was certain the book had to end, yet another plot twist produced enough pages for me to keep reading for another hour or two. Pick this up for “a novel of great scope, of past and present, and above all the Marchetta trademark of a fierce and loving heart” as Markus Zusak of The Book Thief fame blurbs on its back cover. ~ Lisa Christie

619p8s6m37l-_sx320_bo1204203200_In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (paperback 2016 ) – And now for a pure mystery! Hot off the presses in paperback this past summer, this thriller is a perfect winter read: mysterious footprints in the snow, harrowing runs through a freezing woods, kitchen doors blowing open for no reason, letting in the chilly November wind. Ware’s first mystery  (we reviewed her second, the excellent  The Woman in Cabin 10  back in November) is sure to pull in readers as voyeurs to a “hen party” gone all wrong. Set in the English countryside, an odd grouping of friends is gathered to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of beautiful Clare – but then a murder happens and things spiral out of control. Told in the popular, current style by an unreliable narrator Nora, who is a crime writer herself, this book keeps readers on their toes as they slowly learn the complicated story of childhood friends who now find themselves thrown together ten years later for a weekend they will never forget. ~Lisa Cadow

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race Cover ImageThe Fire This Time: A great new generation speaks about race by Jesmyn Ward (2016) – This collection of recent essays inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America – The Fire Next Time, is a powerful way to start the year. Perhaps it will help you figure out how to advocate for equal opportunity for all; it will definitely make you think about what life is like for those with black skin in the USA. ~ Lisa Christie

Men We Reaped: A Memoir Cover ImageAnd, if you like The Fire This Time, I highly recommend Ms. Ward’s memoir – Men We Reaped  – illustrating what it is like to grow up smart, poor, black, and female in America. Ms. Ward’s starting point is a two year period of time shortly after she graduated college during which five boys who she loved and grew up along the Mississippi Coast with experience violent deaths. (Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath also play a role in this drama.) Her prose illuminates these dead young men and the people who loved/still love them; it also exposes the people behind the statistics that almost one in 10 young black men are in jail and murder is the greatest killer of black men under the age of 24. And while the material is brutal, the memoir is not; it is insightful, introspective, beautifully written, and important. At some point Ms. Ward states that the series of deaths is “a brutal list, in its immediacy and its relentlessness, and it’s a list that silences people. It silenced me for a long time.” I am glad she found her voice, and told her story. ~ Lisa Christie

365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne's Precepts Cover Image365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Precepts by RJ Palacio (2014 in hard cover/2016 in paperback) – A GREAT book to use every day of the year. Mr. Browne of Wonder teaching fame has put together a list of his precepts in this companion book to Wonder – one for every day of the year. Each is uniquely illustrated on a page, and each month is introduced by Mr. Browne’s recollections from teaching in essays and conversations between Mr. Browne and Auggie, Julian, Summer, Jack Will, and others from Wonder, providing a Wonder epilogue of sorts. This would be a great book to keep near the dinner table to help start conversations about life based upon that day’s quote, or Mr. Browne’s essays. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

PS – Happy Birthday Dad – you definitely effectively instilled my love of reading – Lisa Christie

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While it is hard to top the list the Pages in the Pub presenters gave us in November or the one that BOOK BUZZ students gave us earlier this month, for those of you still needing gift suggestions, we have a few books for you to try. We truly hope our list helps you succeed with your last minute present shopping. Happy Holidays!

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Adults

Clever Novels for Fiction Lovers
Nutshell Cover ImageHomegoing Cover Image

The Nutshell by Ian McEwan (2016) – I heard about this retelling of Hamlet from the perspective of an unborn fetus while in the UK this summer. I was skeptical, but since I love most of Mr. McEwan’s work I read it as soon as it was available.  WOW!  As Lisa Cadow said in our previous review  – this novel is treasure. Told from the completely unique perspective of a 9-month-old fetus awaiting his birth, we witness his mother, Trudy, and her lover, Claude, plotting the murder of his father. As Lisa Cadow said, this modern-day interpretation of Hamlet, Nutshell is at once tragic and immensely amusing — with the baby boy simultaneously evaluating his mother’s wine choices while expressing his powerlessness to help his unsuspecting father. Told by a master writer at the height of his story-telling abilities, this is not to be missed.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) – A perfect debut novel to give to people who like to discover new authors. The work spans eight generations of characters living in Ghana, the UK and the USA. Thank you Liza Bernard for bringing this to our attention. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Must Read Memoirs, with Belly Laughs

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You’ll Grow Out of It! by Jessi Klein (2016) – Recommended by Lucinda Walker, librarian extraordinaire, during Pages in the Pub, this laugh out loud, poignant, insightful memoir was exactly what I needed to counteract the vitriol of the recent election. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Book Lovers Who Have Everything

Sense and Sensibility Cover ImageMadame Bovary: Provincial Lives Cover ImageGreat Expectations Cover ImageAnna Karenina Cover Image

Assorted Classics such as Sense and Sensibility, Madame Bovary, Inferno (for example),  from the Penguin Clothbound Classic series. Or, you might prefer the Word Cloud Classics faux leather series with  Great Expectations , Jane Eyre, and Anna Karenina to name a few. Titles in both these series are gorgeous and reasonably priced. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Closet Mystery Lovers (We review a few more of these as they make great gifts.)

A Great Reckoning Cover ImageThe Waters of Eternal Youth Cover ImageI Let You Go Cover ImageThe Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel, Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series Cover Image

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (2016) – Somehow Ms. Penny cast of characters in her lovely Quebec Village of Three Pines makes murder comforting. The latest instalment of her Inspector Gamache series is well plotted, infused with poetry and just a great end of summer read.  Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon (2016) – Another superb Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery. This time a young girl is attacked and left for dead, but instead suffers severe brain damage.  Years later her grandmother asks Guido to investigate. The tale weaves illegal immigration, refugees and mental illness together.  It also allows us to spend time with Guido and his superb family. Enjoy. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh (2016) – THE thriller for summer. Written by a retired UK police woman, this is better than than the books it gets compared to – Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. You will like the characters, you will feel each plot twist and you will lose a day of productivity as you finish this novel. Have fun! ~ Lisa Christie

Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (2016) – Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series will not be disappointed. This had me entertained for hours en route home from the UK. ~ Lisa Christie

For History Buffs
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure Cover ImageThe Night Watch Cover Image

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006) – This one is for fiction lovers. Yes, another WWII novel, but worth reading.  This time the plot revolves around people in London just after WWII ends, during the nightly bombings of WWII, and at the start of the war, all told backwards chronologically.  May of the women have taken up important positions as ambulance drivers, the men are in jail for a variety of crimes; their adventures and connection they share link the tales. The prose is beautiful and the images Ms. Waters creates of life for civilians during war memorable. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Wine and War by Don and Petie Kladstrup (2002) – This one is for nonfiction readers. I haven’t finished this yet as someone (hello Langhus Family) just gave it to me as gift, but I am loving this true tale of how the wine industry in France was saved during WWII. Combine this paperback with a bottle from France, and voila you have a perfect holiday gift combination. ~ Lisa Christie

For Food Lovers 

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The easiest way to find great cookbooks is to visit our recent post on great cookbooks.

For Travellers and Others Who like Books about Cool Stuff

The Best Things in Life Are Free Cover ImageMap Stories: The Art of Discovery Cover ImageGreat City Maps Cover Image@Natgeo: The Most Popular Instagram Photos Cover Image

The Best Things in Life Are Free by Lonely Planet (2016) – Just when you thought Lonely Planet had covered all the travel book angles, they do it again. This time a guide to all things free as you travel this world. Have fun not spending money as a result of owning this book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Map Stories: The art of discovery by Francisca Matteoli – The author uses twenty places and voyages that inspired her to show how maps emerge from discovery and how discovery creates maps. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Great City Maps: A historical journey through maps, plans and paintings by DK Smithsonian (2016) – This is like a museum in a book. The authors take you through maps of various cities and show you how cities are shaped by events, geography, and the people inhabiting. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

@Nat Geo: The most popular instagram photos by National Geographic (2016) – This could be the perfect gift for your favorite photographer or explorer. Perhaps you could have it accompany an actual camera under the tree for your aspiring picture takers or a coupon for an exploration of a nearby, unknown territory during the holiday break? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Kids and Kids at Heart

For All Fans of Harry Potter

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay Cover Image

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (2016) — This is terribly fun to read and really what is better than returning to the wonderfully magical world of Harry Potter? This time you visit in 1920 and hang out with a Hufflepuff hero. There is a reason JK Rowling once said that was her favorite Hogwarts house. Combine this screenplay with two tickets to see the movie, and you have a perfect last minute gift for almost anyone. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For Those Who Like Memoirs and Biographies

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition Cover ImagePrisoner B-3087 Cover Image

The Distance Between Us: YA version by Reyna Grande (2016) – This book seems especially important with all the recent talk about walls along the US border and hatred towards illegal immigrants.  Ms. Grande has adapted her memoir for young adults and in it she tells of her life as a toddler in an impoverished town in Mexico, her three attempts to cross into the USA with a coyote as a young child, her life in LA as an illegal immigrant, how her family gained legal status and how she managed college. This is not for the faint hearted due to themes of physical abuse and complicated relationships with parents who are always leaving.  But it is important to be informed, and this book will put faces on any political discussions about immigration that the teens in your life might encounter. ~ Lisa Christie

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (2013) – An amazing book about the holocaust that my 13 year old just declared probably “the best book he’s read”.  Mr. Gratz takes the true story of Jack Gruener, who was moved through ten concentration camps including Auschwitz, and with slight poetic license creates a tale of survival amongst unspeakable horrors that must be remembered. ~ Lisa Christie

Just for Fun

The Trials of Apollo, Book One: The Hidden Oracle Cover ImageRaymie Nightingale Cover ImageJust My Luck Cover Image

The Trials of Apollo: Book One by Rick Riordan (2016) – Mr. Riordan’s treatment of mythology may be getting old for some, but not for me. Why? Well because his ability to capture teen angst and power remains spot on and perfect for narrating these tales. In his latest book, Apollo has fallen to earth as a teenage boy with flab and acne as punishment for his most recent sin against his father Zeus. He turns to his children at Camp Half Blood for help, and with his mortal enslaver manages to figure out what is going wrong on earth. The question is can he solve it? (Cliffhanger alert – Not in book one.) ENJOY! And thank you Augie Fortune for introducing me to this author all those years ago when you visited Vermont. ~ Lisa Christie

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016) – Ms. Camillo returns to 1970s Florida and creates a superb tale of three young girls who discover each other and themselves over the course of a summer.  The plot centers around Raymie’s plan to bring her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, back — she will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, get her picture in the paper and remind him he needs to come home. First though she must learn to twirl a baton and defeat the two other girls in her lessons. Delightful! ~ Lisa Christie 

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern (2016) – Truly a superb book that illustrates what it is like to be a 4th grader, have an autistic older brother, a distracted teacher, and feel as if you were the cause of your father’s life-altering accident. Basically it shows what it is like to be loved and to love. ~ Lisa Christie 

Great for Reluctant Readers

Booked Cover ImageWho Was Harriet Tubman? Cover Image

Booked by Kwame Alexander (2016) – Another hit by Mr. Alexander. This time a soccer player experiences family hardships (divorce) and teen angst (soccer tryouts).  The poetry format is winning. And my 13-year-old fan of The Crossover finished this in 18 hours (with school interfering.) We also highly recommend The Crossover .~ Lisa Christie

Who is What Was Who Is series (assorted years) – We recommend this series every year, but they keep adding great books.  Truly perfect for reluctant readers, and they will learn a lot. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Books Based in Historical Facts and/or People

The Seventh Most Important Thing Cover ImageThe War That Saved My Life Cover ImageSalt to the Sea Cover ImageAnna and the Swallow Man Cover Image

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall (2015) – Listened to with my ten year old and his friend on a long trip to Maine. We all loved this tale of a “trash man” who is actually making an amazing piece of art (actual artist James Hampton), the boy who hurts him and the penance he must pay.  There are lessons for all in this, but most importantly there is a good story of what happens when someone tales the time to get to know someone. ~ Lisa Christie

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015) — When Gary Schmidt (one of my favorite authors) blurbs a book with the words “I read this in two big gulps” I pay attention. This tale of two of the many children who were sent from London to the countryside for safety (think The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) is full of adventure, hardship, and ultimately love. I especially loved Ada and here feisty fight for her place in the world. ~ Lisa Christie

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016) – Just when you thought you WWII had been written about from every angle, an author proves we needed another WWII book. In this one four teenage refugees and their friends flee the Russians and the Germans.  Their tales will haunt you as you listen to today’s headlines about Syrian and other refugees. This one is important. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (2016) – This slim YA novel looks at life as a refugee – this time in Poland during WWII.  Anna’s father never comes home from work on day and she is befriended by a mysterious stranger who remains nameless throughout the book. Somehow, the author makes walking in circles in Poland compelling and meaningful, especially in light of today’s headlines from Syria. A great choice for fans of The Book Thief~ Lisa Christie 

Picture Books – We are going with the experts at Marion Cross School as heard during BOOK BUZZ

Chalk Cover ImageGo, Dog. Go! Cover Image

Chalk by Bill Thomson (2010). Selected by Ava B – Magic chalk drawings come to life.

Go, Dog. Go! by PD Eastman (1961). Selected by Mateo, presented with help from Drew – What is up in that tree?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!  May the final days of 2016 be filled with books and loved ones.

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Ahhhh, November 9th. No matter what your political persuasion, we are certain we will all be grateful to wake up November 9th freed from political ads. We are also assuming most of you have already decided who has earned your vote, and you are ready to ignore the hype until election day.

So, to help distract us all as these final days of campaigning wind down, we review a few mysteries. Why mysteries? Perhaps because we are thinking of ghosts and thrillers on Halloween. Perhaps because even though we are trying to ignore the election hype, we know, due to the daily news, that we can’t fully engage in difficult prose right now. Perhaps we are just in the mood for a good thriller.

And, because surviving until election day is way too important to leave to the two of us, we asked for help with this post from our favorite booksellers – the Norwich Bookstore staff. Many of them were able to help, and we are very grateful for their reviews.

Happy Halloween and thank you all for voting – Lisa and Lisa

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The Case of the Missing Books Cover ImageThe Case of the Missing Books, a Mobile Library Mystery by Ian Sansom (2007) – A cast of eccentric characters populates this series of books set in Tumdrum, Ireland. Israel Armstrong is an outsider about to embark on an exciting new career—driving a mobile library. Fans of Waking Ned Devine and Doc Martin will wonder how they’ve lived this long without reading these quirky mysteries. ~ Beth Reynolds, Norwich Bookstore and Norwich Public Library

The Wild Inside: A Novel of Suspense Cover ImageWild Inside by Christine Carbo (2015) – This dramatic crime novel is spent in Montana’s majestic Glacier National Park. When he was 14, Ted Systead’s dad was dragged screaming from a campsite by a grizzly. Now Systead’s a special agent for the Department of the Interior investigating the death of a man who was tied up BEFORE he was mauled by a bear. Ms. Carbo has a good sense of the wildness of human nature AND the wilderness that surrounds us. ~ Carin Pratt, Norwich Bookstore

The Trespasser Cover ImageThe Trespasser by Tana French (2016) Yes, it’s long, but Tana French’s new Dublin Murder Squad mystery is so well written it doesn’t drag. Paranoid detective Antoinette Conway has to find out why a young woman was conked on the head next to a table set for a romantic dinner.  At the same time, she is fighting a lot of her colleagues in the department who seem hellbent on driving her out of the force. French is the master of the police interrogation room, and her mysteries are always about much more than the case at hand.  ~ Carin Pratt, Norwich Bookstore

The Girl from Venice Cover ImageThe Girl From Venice by Martin Cruz Smith (2016) – One night towards the end of WWII a fisherman fishing in the lagoon off 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. ~ Penny McConnel, Norwich Bookstore

The Nature of the Beast: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel Cover ImageLouise Penny’s Inspector Gamache Audio Books (assorted years) – If you love the Louise Penny series and have a hard time waiting for each new instalment of Inspector Gamache, try revisiting the earlier books in the series through an audiobook experience. For me, narrator Ralph Cosham so embodies the true voice of M. Gamache and the villagers of Three Pines that when he passed away before the instalment of the 11th book in the series, I felt as though a part of Gamache had died with him. ~ Katie Kitchel, Norwich Bookstore

I Let You Go Cover ImageI Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh (2016) – For me, this was the thriller of summer 2016. Written by a retired UK police woman, this is better than than the books it gets compared to – Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of a car accident and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and other aspects of her past. The novel also watches a pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of a hit-and-run. You will like the characters, you will feel each plot twist, and you will lose a day of productivity (or a night of election news) as you finish this novel. Have fun! ~ Lisa Christie

The Woman in Cabin 10 Cover ImageThe Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware (2016) – This fast-paced mystery is sure to keep readers sweating through the cold, gray days of autumn – and beyond. The suspense begins immediately when we meet Lo Blacklock , a twenty-something travel writer, who is burgled in her London apartment as she prepares for her departure on an all expenses paid cruise through the Norwegian Fjords. She is hurtled into a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety that she has to manage as she hob nobs with the fancy passengers and press corps on the maiden voyage of the “Aurora”. When Lo believes that she witnesses a murder in the cabin next to hers, the question isn’t “Who dun it?”, but instead “Did it really happen?” The Woman in Cabin 10 is the latest in a series of page-turners that feature imperfect, unreliable yet somehow winsome protagonists. A page-turner that will keep you “cruising” (apologies for the pun) and wanting to finish the tale all in one read. If you still crave more at the end, don’t miss In a Dark, Dark Wood, Ruth Ware’s first bestseller that was published in 2015. ~Lisa Cadow

Nutshell Cover ImageNutshell by Ian McKewan (2016) – Though I must insert the caveat that I haven’t quite finished this slim volume, I can confidently assert that this mystery is treasure. Told from the completely original perspective of a 9-month-old fetus awaiting his birth, we witness his mother, Trudy, and her lover, Claude, plotting the murder of his father. A modern day interpretation of Hamlet, Nutshell is at once tragic and immensely amusing — with the baby boy simultaneously evaluating his mother’s wine choices while expressing his powerlessness to help his unsuspecting father. Told by a master writer at the height of his story-telling abilities, this is not to be missed.  ~Lisa Cadow (And, this review is COMPLETELY SECONDED by Lisa Christie who has finished this slim novel)

Presumption of Guilt Cover ImagePresumption of Guilt by Archer Mayor (2016) – Archer Mayor has brought back the memorable “Tag Man” along with his daughter for this fast-paced mystery. A body is found in cement that was poured over 40 years ago, and Gunther and his team need to reconstruct the actions and activities of several individuals over the span of time to figure out ‘who done it!’ I devoured it in a day… ~ Liza Bernard, Norwich Bookstore

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Ahhh summer, a time when longer days provide extra daylight to read. It is also a time for the Book Jam’s annual list of books for you to take to the beach, lake, mountains, and/or your own backyard or apartment roof. This year, we included many older titles, as we know paperback copies are easier to carry while moving about. (Please remember that each review is linked to the Norwich Bookstore’s web site, and can be downloaded to your i-pad or e-reader too.) We also tried to include titles to help when you crave a substantive piece of nonfiction, a quick YA read, a surprising mystery/thriller, a page-turning “beach read”, as well as, fiction that makes you think. Happy reading!

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Fiction

The Nightingale Cover ImageThe Nightingale by Kirstin Hannah (2015) – This book has been staring at us from the best-seller bookshelves and still in hardcover for over a year but we resisted its charms until the summer of 2016. It invites us into the wartime world  of two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, in 1940’s  France and tells a tale of their very different roles in the resistance movement. The Nightingale is an excellent summer read which caught this reader off guard in the final pages, with tears streaming down my face without a kleenex all while sitting in the window seat of an airplane. A compelling story with excellent character development which as with any good tale leaves one asking, “What decisions might I have made if put in the same situation?” The Nightingale shows us that there are also still many aspects of World War II to explore through the powerful vehicle of literature. ~ Lisa Cadow (and Lisa Christie)

The Sense of an Ending Cover ImageThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011) – This Booker Prize winner concisely explores what happens when you receive information late in life that skews your memories and perhaps questions your entire view of yourself. In this case, a retired historian receives a puzzling bequest that causes him to investigate what actually happened to a childhood friend. These 163 pages of exquisite prose will haunt you long after you finish reading. I somehow missed this when it was published, and am so glad I found it this summer (also reviewed by Lisa Cadow in December 2012). ~ Lisa Christie

The Night Watch Cover ImageThe Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006) – Yes, yet another WWII novel, but so worth reading. This time, the plot revolves around people in London just after WWII ends, during the nightly bombings of WWII, and then at the start of the war, told backwards chronologically. Many of the women have taken up important positions as ambulance drivers and business owners, and the men are in jail for a variety of crimes; their adventures and seemingly random connections link their tales. The prose keeps you wanting more, and the images Ms. Waters creates of life for civilians during WWII are memorable. ~ Lisa Christie

Lily and the Octopus Cover ImageLily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley (2016) – In just the way we adore our beloved pets, a reader can’t help instantaneously feeling the same way about Lilly the dachshund and her worried, emotionally-closed yet deeply loving caregiver Ted. We join these characters when Ted realizes that his best friend and canine companion of many years, Lilly, may be sick. This is a funny, very well observed story about courage, caregiving, change, and emotional growth. Set in temperate, languorous Los Angeles and told by quirky, single, gay Ted (a narrator with one of the most original voices to emerge in recent memory) this is one of my favorite books of the year. ~ Lisa Cadow

Strawberry Fields Cover ImageStrawberry Fields (published as Two Caravans in Europe) by Marina Lewycka (2008) – A devastating, funny, and thought-provoking account of life as an immigrant. Ms. Lewycka has created a core of memorable characters, initially united as strawberry pickers in the idyllic countryside around Kent, England, but who then partake on a road trip of tragic, humorous, political, and loving proportions. Do not let the fact it is a rather quick paced read belittle the importance of what these characters have to say. ~ Lisa Christie

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (paperback 2015) – This lovely story touches a chord with all who read it. Meet cranky and curmudgeonly Ove a retired Swede stuck in his routines who has very set ideas about how things should be. He patrols his planned neighborhood daily to ensure that rules are being followed, that the garbage is being set out for collection just so, and that nobody parks incorrectly. Things in his world get shaken up when a Pakistani family moves in next door and upends his sense of order. A  pesky stray cat also enters his world and refuses to leave. All of these interlopers conspire to challenge Ove’s no-nonsense, iron facade and might just teach him a thing or two about love. ~ Lisa Cadow

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Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf (paperback 2016) – I couldn’t help immediately falling for Addie, the 70-something protagonist of this story when she knocks on the door of her similarly-aged neighbor and invites him to sleep with her. No, not in that way! She simply wants Louis to come over to her house to share what both characters agree are the loneliest hours. Thus begins the story of Addie and Louis unexpectedly finding meaning and human connection in the later part of their lives. Haruf wrote this slim novel at the end of his own life with his trademark spartan prose and simple language. Named one of the best books of the year in 2015 by the The Washington Post, this masterpiece is profound and poignant and worth every minute of reading time spent lost in its all-too-few pages.~ Lisa Cadow (Note: the Book Jam Lisas tend to love most of Mr. Haruf’s novels – Plainsong for example; so, don’t stop reading Mr. Haruf if you like this novel.)

The Sympathizer Cover ImageThe Sympathizer  by Viet Thanh Nguyen (2015) – The Pulitzer landed on an important book; important in that Mr. Nguyen, in extremely effective prose, unfolds the Vietnam War from the perspective of a Vietnamese man. The narrator, a Vietnamese immigrant to the USA, was rescued by American troops during the fall of Saigon due to his work with them there. His war-torn life unravels further from this rescue and leaves you thinking. As an Indie bookseller wrote when this novel hit the shelves, “Nguyen injects much dark humor into this tragic story, and the narrator’s voice is both subversive and unforgettable. The Sympathizer will be one of the most talked-about novels of the year.” He was right, and we should probably mention we almost reviewed this in our Mysteries/Thriller category. ~ Lisa Christie

Sweetbitter Cover ImageSweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (2016) – Make a reservation and let Stephanie Danler serve you a story of the fast-paced, drug-laced restaurant world of New York City circa 2016. The author herself worked at Union Square Cafe so she offers a reliable narrator in Tess, a waitress at an upscale watering hole who has followed her heart to the bright lights and big city. This book shines a light on the dynamic in upscale restaurants with many highly educated people vying for stressful, coveted serving positions. This is a coming of age story and a love story for Tess and a very well written novel. Given the lifestyle of the characters who live a life of hard work and hard core play, this has been likened to a fictional counterpart to Anthony Bourdain’s memoir, Kitchen Confidential~ Lisa Cadow

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“Beach Reads”

The Nest Cover ImageThe Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (2016) – This is a pitch perfect  beach, mountain, or summer-in-the city read as well as one of the best novels of the year. It’s about what happens when three 40-and-50 something siblings learn that they might not be receiving the inheritance (referred to by their family as “The Nest”) that they had expected due to an incident involving their prodigal brother Leo. Each one of them — Bea, Melody, and Jack – had been relying on this money to solve a number of life problems like looming college tuitions and secret debt so it’s possible evaporation is cause for panic. Set in New York City, Brooklyn and its environs, this book is witting, sharply observed, insightful, and as one reviewer put it, is full of “emotional truths.” I appreciate how it explores what happens when individuals are challenged to solve problems by digging deep inside themselves, explore places they never wanted to travel, and as a result discover unexpected resiliency. Highly, highly recommended. ~ Lisa Cadow

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice Cover ImageEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (2016) – This book is included for those of you in need of a novel that is truly just fun to read. Yes, the New York Times panned it, and I agree that Jane would never consent to be married on a reality show, and Austen scholars probably cringed the entire way through as it is difficult to truly emulate Ms. Austen, but those are small points in light of the fact you get to spend hours of reading with the Bennett Sisters. Liz as a magazine writer, Jane as a yogi, Kitty and Lydia as self obsessed gym goers, and Mary as a grump with a secret, lets you have a bit of fun with a well-known tale. And besides, it takes no small amount of courage to take on a classic. So kudos for that act of bravery Ms. Sittenfeld; and to the rest of you – start reading. (We also recommend American Wife and Prep by Ms. Sittenfeld as fun summer reads.) ~ Lisa Christie

A Spool of Blue Thread Cover ImageA Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler (paperback 2016) – Readers have come to know that they can count on Anne Tyler for a well-told tale about family and her 20th book is no exception. This story centers around the Whitshank family, their house in Baltimore, and the four generations who have shared and filled with life the space built by their patriarch. It is about what happens when the current adult generation is forced to face the reality that this house may be too much for their aging parents to manage alone. Poignant, universal in its appeal, yet never saccharine or bordering on cliche, this is a gentle and meaningful read. ~ Lisa Cadow

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Mysteries/Thrillers

Arthur & George Cover ImageArthur and George by Julian Barnes – Mr. Barnes uses a true experience from Sir Arthur Doyle’s life and explores race relations, class structure, and mystery as Sir Arthur agrees to help a man exonerate himself. Brilliantly imagined and a great entry to discussing issues of race and class today (and in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s time). I was reminded of this novel when loving The Sense of an Ending, and since detective novels have a special place in summer reading, we are including it here. ~ Lisa Christie

The Waters of Eternal Youth Cover ImageThe Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon (2016) – Another superb Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery. This time, a young girl is attacked and left for dead, but instead suffers severe brain damage. Years later her grandmother asks Guido to investigate. The tale weaves illegal immigration, refugees and mental illness together. It also allows us to spend time with Guido and his superb family. Enjoy. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel, Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series Cover ImageThe Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (2016) – This latest edition to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series was not written by Steig Larsson, but it will not disappoint fans of Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomkvist, and other characters we met in the original trilogy. You will not regret having this page turner keeping you company on your next plane ride. ~ Lisa Christie

 

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Non Fiction

Spain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War, 1936 1939 Cover ImageSpain in Our Hearts: Americans in the Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 by Adam Hochschild (2016) This book is for those of you who crave large volumes of nonfiction to inform your longer summer days. For this review we merely ditto what Carin Pratt wrote in her staff pick review for the Norwich Bookstore. “Almost 3,000 Americans (some famous, most not) traveled to Spain to fight Franco’s Fascists in what Hochschild has called “the first battle of World War II.” Most were untrained and under-armed but unfailingly idealistic, and ultimately, they fought a battle they were predetermined to lose. Adroitly and with empathy, Hochschild tells their largely forgotten stories.” ~ Lisa Christie

When Breath Becomes Air Cover ImageWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi (2016) – Chances are good that you’ve heard of this best selling memoir but may not have read it given the heavy subject matter. At the outset, we know that the author, 36-year old Paul will succumb to lung cancer at the height of his career as a neurosurgeon. Don’t let this put you off from reading his incredible story and from benefiting from the insights he gleaned during his short life. Kalinithi is a brilliant writer who was curious from a young age about the workings of the mind and it’s connection to our soul. He studied philosophy and creative writing before committing to medicine which gives him other lenses from which to explore profound questions. He is candid with the reader about his personal and professional struggles. Ultimately I found this book hopeful and inspiring. When I turned the last page I immediately wanted to share it with loved ones. ~ Lisa Cadow (and seconded by Lisa Christie)

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Cover ImageDead Wake by Erik Larson (2015) – For those of you needing “true” stories,  we recommend this account. Mr. Larson manages to take an event for which you know the outcome – the May of 1915 torpedoing by a German U-boat of the luxury ocean liner Lusitania off the coast of Ireland, killing almost 1200 people – to life. How? By taking tales of the passengers, historical accounts of U-boats, and British intelligence and interweaving them in straightforward, compelling prose. (Coincidentally, this was also selected as a Norwich Bookstore staff pick by Carin Pratt.) ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Best Place to Be Today: 365 Things to Do & the Perfect Day to Do Them Cover ImageThe Best Place to be Today by Lonely Planet (2015) – A travel destination idea for every day of the year. May it inspire last minute travel plans this summer – even of the armchair variety. Bonus – it makes a grat hostess gift. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

 

 

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YA

Salt to the Sea Cover ImageSalt to the Sea by Ruta Spetys (2016) – Just when you thought you WWII had been written about from every angle, an author proves we needed another WWII book. In this take, four teenage refugees and their friends flee the Russians and the Germans and try to make a safe haven to the Baltic north. Their tales will haunt you as you listen to today’s headlines about Syrian and other refugees. This one is important. Yes, this is YA, but every adult I have given it to has loved it. ~ Lisa Christie

HAPPY READING from the BOOK JAM!

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This “3 Questions” features Sara Rath, author of 15 books, including the new historical novel, Seven Years of Grace: The Inspired Mission of Achsa W. Sprague, published by the Vermont Historical Society. This book dramatizes the life of Vermonter Achsa W. Sprague, who in the decade preceding the Civil War, lectured to audiences of of thousands on Spiritualism, the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, and prison reform. Using Sprague’s papers at the Vermont Historical Society, the story includes trances, angels, and the love Achsa felt for a married man.

Ms. Rath has been named a MacDowell Fellow, received a Fellowship to the Ucross Foundation, and was awarded a Wisconsin Arts Board Individual Artist’s Fellowship. She will visit the Norwich, Vermont at 7 pm on Thursday, June 16th to discuss Seven Years of Grace: The Inspired Mission of Achsa W. Sprague 

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This event with Ms. Rath is free and open to the public, and will be held at the Norwich Historical Society at 277 Main Street (just one block from the Norwich Bookstore). Reservations are recommended as space is limited: please call the Norwich Bookstore 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com. The Norwich Bookstore will attend and provide Ms. Rath’s book for purchase.

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(1) What three books that have helped shape you into the author you are today, and why?

This is a difficult question for many reasons.  “The author I am today” writes in a variety of genres: poetry, nonfiction, fiction. My undergraduate degree is in English, and I have an MFA in Writing from Vermont College, in Montpelier, so I have read widely and have been influenced by a wide variety of poets and authors. To narrow this down, my copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird has pages falling out because I refer to it so often.  I also love mysteries by the English author Ruth Rendell, who wrote as Barbara Vine, and A Dark Adapted Eye is the first work of hers that captivated me.  As an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin, I was especially fond of my classes in The English Novel, so I’d have to add Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, the usual.  I’m a great Anglophile.

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(2) What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

I confess to a guilty pleasure: the cozy mysteries in the Agatha Raisin series written by  M. C. Beaton, a/k/a Marion Chesney.  She is a prolific author, 80 years old, who also writes historical romances — but Agatha Raisin is a cheeky middle-aged busybody who lives in the Cotswalds and solves murders.  Perhaps if we had coffee, Marion would invite me to her thatched cottage in the Cotswalds for a visit!

Nurse, Come You Here!: More True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle Cover ImageCarry the One Cover ImageBrooklyn Cover ImageThe Blood of an Englishman: An Agatha Raisin Mystery Cover ImageDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania Cover ImageThe Sea Cover ImageWays to Spend the Night Cover ImageEmpty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune Cover Image

(3) What books are currently on your bedside table?

Magazines:  The New Yorker, Real Simple, Eating Well

Books:  
Nurse, Come You Here!  More Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle
, by Mary J. MacLeod.
Carry the One, by Carol Anshaw
Brooklyn, by Colm Tolbin
The Blood of an Englishman, by M. C. Beaton
Dead Wake, Erik Larson
The Sea, John Banville
Ways to Spend the Night, (short stories), Pamela Painter
Empty Mansions, Bill Dedman and Clark Newell, Jr.

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searchOne of our favorite people  – the superb author Sarah Stewart Taylor – is someone we turn to when we need a great new book or author to read. Thus, we were thrilled when she agreed to turn her recent trip to Ireland into a Book Jam post about some authors she discovered while abroad. In this post, Sarah discusses the power of literature one discovers when traveling, and how literature provides superb armchair travel when hopping on a plane is just not possible. We hope you enjoy her suggested reading list as much as we do. Thank you Sarah! And, happy travels to all.

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On a trip to Dublin, Ireland recently, I ducked into a fantastic little bookshop in Sandymount. The tables were piled high with new and used books of all kinds, and I asked the proprietor to recommend some Irish mysteries for me. An obsessive fan of both Ireland and crime fiction, I love revisiting one of my favorite places on earth through the works of the Irish crime writers Tana French and John Banville (one of my favorite Irish novelists, writing mysteries as Benjamin Black), and I needed some more titles to get me through until their next ones are published.

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He obliged very nicely and I came home with an extra bag to contain all the books I’d bought. I discovered some terrific new-to-me Irish crime writers, among them Gene Kerrigan, Jane Casey (who is Irish but writes mysteries set in London), Declan Hughes, Adrian McKinty, Brian McGilloway, and Stuart Neville. 

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Reading mysteries about a place is one of my favorite ways to prepare for travel, to prolong the fun of an adventure once I’m home. Donna Leon’s Venice mysteries are among my favorites, focusing on the cases (and the meals) of the appealing Inspector Guido Brunetti and reminding me of past trips to that magical city. I love the mysteries of Cara Black, which always bring me back to trips to Paris.

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It’s also fun to read mysteries about places I haven’t yet been lucky enough to visit. Jason Goodwin’s Inspector Yashim novels, set in the 19th century Ottoman Empire, have made me obsessed with visiting (modern-day) Turkey and Colin Cotteril’s wonderful mysteries set in Cambodia have added that country to my travel bucket list. I absolutely loved a novel by Richard Crompton, set in Kenya and titled Hour of the Red God. It stars a Masai detective named Detective Mollel and was one of my favorite new mysteries of the past few years.

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So — what are your favorite mysteries about places you’ve visited — or would like to?

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In a bit of a twist, today’s 3 questions focuses on a group, Sisters in Crime, coming to the Norwich Bookstore this coming Saturday, April 16th at 2 pm. The answers were provided by Beth Kanell, a member of the group and one of the event organizers.

During the Sisters in Crime event, a group of writers will gather to expose their own mystery work to readers and to get their creative juices flowing. Each participant, both published and not yet published, will have five minutes to read a selection of their own mystery writing to the group. Participating published writers include Toby Speed, Kate George, Beth Kanell, Brett Ann Stanciu, Deloris Netzband, Joseph Olshanand, Margot Zalkind Mayor (who will read from new work by her husband, Archer Mayor), Lisa Q. Matthews, and Vicki Steifel. You are invited to read from your work or to listen.

The Sisters in Crime New England group consists of authors, readers, publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians bound by a passion for the mystery genre and support of women who write mysteries. The group welcomes Sisters — and Misters — in Crime from anywhere who have an interest in the New England mystery community. To learn more, see www.sincne.org.images.png

This event is free and open to the public. Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com with questions.
The Monogram Murders: The New Hercule Poirot Mystery Cover ImageBrush Back Cover Image

1) How do Sisters in Crime‘s Murder By the Minute meetings encourage and support mystery writers?

The old days of women mystery writers being nearly invisible are steadily changing — but there’s still a tilted ratio of women to men on the bookshelves, and encouragement means a lot. Reading your work at Murder by the Minute helps remind you of how good your writing is, and why you wanted to write that book, even though it’s taking longer than you hoped! The appreciation and support that writers find among the Sisters (and occasional Brothers) in Crime at this event can boost you through the toughest parts of writing, because you realize you have real people waiting to find out the criminal, the solution, and your (amateur or pro) sleuth’s discoveries about both the mystery and her- or himself.

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2) In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge/obstacle to writing a good mystery?

A mystery is satisfying when all the parts make sense, from the clues to the crime to the solution. But a mystery stays with the reader as a really good mystery when the characters claim your long-term attention. Mastering the art of memorable characters is the hidden secret to writing a really good mystery (but it helps if you totally understand the crime involved!).

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3) Which three mystery writers would you say are must-reads for the burgeoning mystery writer?

Today’s cozy mysteries are rooted in Agatha Christie‘s puzzle mysteries; the hard-boiled ones emerged from Raymond Chandler; and the art of the espionage mystery was refined by Helen MacInnes. Those are the musts — but their mysteries can feel out of date! The modern classics now include the mysteries by Sara Paretsky, Nancy Pickard, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and Laura Lippman — all champions of Sisters in Crime.
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