The Book Jam is pleased to introduce our first young adult guest blogger – Carly Miles. Carly is a rising eighth grader at Richmond Middle School in Hanover, NH. (Richmond Middle School is part of our small Vermont town’s school district; the cross state boundaries aspect is a long story that involves JFK.) Since one of her selections – Like No Other  – is one of the Book Jam’s all-time favorite YA books, both Book Jam Lisas are looking forward to spending a few long summer days with Carly’s other well-reviewed selections. And now, we are proud to present her picture, her bio, and the four books she thinks we all need to read ASAP.


Carly loves books, summer, and, surprisingly for some people, does not like cats or dogs. Her favorite leisure activity is sleep, so she gets as much of that as possible, especially during the summer. She enjoys some aspects of school, but gets very bothered by teachers who are arrogant, unsympathetic or just plain bad. She also, along with most students, hates homework, because if we spend seven hours every day, five days a week at school, what is the purpose of homework? To stress us out even more? That’s mean.


FC9780142425763.JPGI’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (2014) – Moving, yet hilarious. Beautiful, yet awkward. I don’t know how she did it, but  with I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson has created the perfect novel. The story hovers magically between one sixteen-year-old girl who has sworn off boys and is mourning the loss of her mother, and her 13-year-old twin brother, who is in a parallel story, and hasn’t had the harsh experiences that will soon come. When life takes a turn for the worse, both twins react differently: one hides behind an untrue identity while another hides away completely, buried under superstition and regret. The characters at sixteen are different people from who they were at thirteen. But, is there a way to return, even partially, to the people they were in the past?~ Carly Miles

FC9780553496642.JPGEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (2015) – In the world outside of novels, there are sometimes rumors, or jokes, about SCID (Severe Combined Immunodeficiency) , but never do they come close to reaching the true meaning of being allergic to everything. Madeline suffers from SCID and has not left her house for seventeen years. But, strangely she doesn’t seem bothered by it. Then, Olly moves next door. He changes her life and opens her eyes to a world she has only read about. She doesn’t realize it at the time, but he will soon be the reason her fragile lungs may breath unfiltered air for the first time since she was a baby. ~ Carly Miles

FC9780142417805.JPGThe Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (2010) – Jandy Nelson has created the ultimate heartbreaker. From page one, you empathize with seventeen-year-old Lennie as she carves a unique path through love, sadness, regret and loss. She learns how to keep her late sister, Bailey, in her heart, while still moving forward with her own story; she learns how to deal with consequences and regret mistakes. This book has enough life lessons to create a new bible, plus the beautifully imagined prose and poetry of Nelson. Combined, The Sky is Everywhere is truly a miracle. ~ Carly Miles

FC9781595146748.JPGLike No Other by Una LaMarche (2014) – This book contains the inspiring love story of the most unique characters ever invented. It’s no Romeo and Juliet, or even The Longest Ride. This novel should have it’s own genre; a category all to its own, called, “Love Stories Like no Other”. This category would include this book, and only this book. It is about a clashing of two worlds, but without the cheesy “one glance and your world is changed” scenes that accompany most love stories. Here, there’s a broken elevator and an awkward, yet beautiful moment between a boy and a girl. That moment propels the fast-food-restaurant-working boy from the streets and the yes-ma’am-no-ma’am, strictly Jewish girl to enter each other’s lives and create a story that is truly like no other. ~ Carly Miles


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 

Seven Years of Grace: The Inspired Mission of Achsa W. Sprague Cover Image

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.

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life Cover ImageA Dark-Adapted Eye Cover ImageFar from the Madding Crowd Cover Image

(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.


(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

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.


We celebrated books, summer reading, and the power of youth last week at Vermont’s Thetford Academy (TA). This was the first time we used our live event Pages in the Pub with youth presenters, and wow did they nail it! Their picks and personalities are all superb. We hope you enjoy reading from their list as much as we enjoyed hearing them passionately convince the audience why their book selections just had to be read. (Note – because we were not in a pub, we called this event BOOK BUZZ.) images-1.jpg

We thank them for their time, their enthusiasm and the list of books they generated. Their support (and the help of two of their dedicated teachers – Joe Deffner and Kate Owen) made the first BOOK BUZZ a success. Bonus – thanks to the generosity of the Norwich Bookstore, the event raised around $600 for the Thetford Academy Library (while increasing sales for our local indie bookstore).


With great pleasure, we now list all twenty-four books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review written by the presenter. You’ll notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make browsing easier. We hope you have fun looking, and that you enjoy reading about their picks from the comfort of your computer/iPad/phone using direct links to each selection. And now, our superb presenters’ picks for summer reading, with their bios at the end.

The Kiss of Deception Cover ImageBrooklyn Cover ImageBurn for Burn Cover ImageTo All the Boys I've Loved Before Cover ImageOff the Page Cover ImageAn Ember in the Ashes Cover Image

Books that magically get glued to your hands

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson (2014). Selected by Izzy – A Princess, An Assassin, A Prince.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin  (2009). Selected by Malcolm – Beautifully written with compelling characters; moving.

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (2014) and Burn for Burn by Jenny Han (2012). Selected by Kiya – Books that are too dramatically real.

Off The Pages by Jodi Picoult and Samatha Van Leer (2015). Selected by Jasmine, but reviewed by Maggie – A love story gone almost wrong.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (2015). Selected by Ms. Owen – Slavery’s poison spreads. Does love conquer?
A Court of Thorns and Roses Cover ImageCity of Thieves Cover Image

Perfect books to help you ignore the fact you are on a road trip/school bus

A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Mass (2015). Selected by Izzy – A fairy world and finding love.

City of Thieves by David Benioff (2010). Selected by Mr. Deffner – World War Two quest for dozen eggs.

Beware of Pity Cover ImageThe Girl on the Cliff Cover Image

Books that will make you forget you are bummed it is raining outside

Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig (1995). Selected by Malcolm – Heartbreaking, truthful; like reading the rain.

The Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley (2011). Selected by Izzy – Death, mystery, romance, with a twist.

Popular: How a Geek in Pearls Discovered the Secret to Confidence Cover Image

Middle School Survival Books: Required reading before you arrive

Popular by Maya Van Wagenen (2014). Selected by Ms. Owen – Geek sits at popular table…survives?
Americanah Cover ImageThe Outsiders Cover ImageA Prayer for Owen Meany Cover ImageChallenger Deep Cover ImageWonder Cover ImageHow to Be Black Cover Image

Books you would assign to grownups as required reading

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014). Selected by Malcolm – Illuminates race’s role in culture; impactful, relevant.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (1967). Selected by Jasmine, but reviewed by Mr. Deffner – The difference between rich and poor.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (2002). Selected by Mr. Deffner – Faith and prayer, it really works

Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman (2015 ). Selected by Maggie – Passionate travel through the challenges of schizophrenia.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio (2012). Selected by Maggie – A book of bravery and loyalty.

How to Be Black by Thurston (2012). Selected by Lisa – Onion Humorist examines, skewers race relations.          The Lowland Cover ImageDown and Out in Paris and London Cover ImageFans of the Impossible Life Cover ImageLeaving Time (with Bonus Novella Larger Than Life) Cover ImageA Tree Grows in Brooklyn Cover Image

Books teens should read even if they are not required

The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri (2013). Selected by Izzy – Two very different brothers in India.

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell (1972). Selected by Malcolm – Poignant, realistic memoir of mysterious man.

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (2015). Selected by Maggie – Takes a deeper meaning of teen life.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (2014). Selected by Jasmine, but reviewed by Ms. Owen – My mom’s dead the reason…..mystery.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (1943). Selected by Maggie – Beautifully crafted and about a girl’s life.

Raymie Nightingale Cover ImageThe War That Saved My Life Cover Image

Books your younger school siblings really HAVE TO read 

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016). Selected by Lisa – Girl uses pageant to get dad home.

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley (2015). Selected by Lisa – Closer look at “Pevensie”-like children.

images.jpgBOOK BUZZ Presenters

Malcolm Quinn Silver-Van Meter‘s favorite things to do are run, read, write, and both watch and create films. He loves distance running and proudly self-identifies as a film nerd. He is sixteen years old and attends Thetford Academy.

Kate Owen runs the TA library and most importantly helps many, many students find the perfect book to read next – even if they aren’t sure they want to read anything.

Izzy Kotlowitz graduates in mere days. While at TA she also attended the Mountain School, played soccer, and laughed a lot. She will attend Kenyon College in the Fall.

Maggie Harlow is a rising senior and loves food, ducks and smiling a lot. In her free time– wait she doesn’t have any! If she did have free time she’d be hiking and reading lots of fun books. Her favorite genres are fantasy, mystery and alternative history.

Kiya Grant loves cooking. She reads realistic fiction and is working on her own novel. She is a rising 8th grader at TA.

Jasmine Doody is a rising 8th grader at TA. She was unable to present during the event. So her fellow reviewers covered her choices during BOOK BUZZ, but we left her six word reviews intact for this post.

Joe Deffner teaches Seventh and Tenth Grade English, as well as a Senior Honors elective.  In his free time, he enjoys reading––obviously–––and going on cross-country barnstorming events in which he promotes his sons, Owen and Eamon, as the East Central Vermont Junior Cornhole Champions.

Lisa Christie is one half of the Book Jam blog and the emcee for this BOOK BUZZ. When not reading, she can be found coaching nonprofit directors, being with the three guys she lives with, walking her very large dog, and attempting to navigate a masters degree.




A reluctant reader recently discovered the novels of Kwame Alexander and we are thrilled! It is not that this reader can’t read, or that he does not understand complicated texts. He can and he does. It is just that he says he would rather stare at the walls of his room than read a book by choice. And thus, much to our dismay, with rare exceptions, he does not read outside of his class assignments. So when he devoured, in a 24 hour period that included sleep, school, and hockey practice, an entire book – Booked by Kwame Alexander – and wanted to talk about it, we noticed. We then realized he had done the same with Mr. Alexander’s first book The Crossover. This post was conceived to help anyone else out there who is searching for superb books that show reluctant readers the joys of great prose.

So thank you Mr. Alexander;  the mom of this very reluctant reader owes you.


TThe Crossover Cover Imagehe Crossover by Kwame Alexander (2015) – My 13-year-old reluctant reader handed The Crossover to me last fall when I was looking for a good book. He did not know it at the time, but he hit a sweet spot for me as I am drawn to children’s books written in verse; and, Mr. Alexander’s poetry did not disappoint. His lyrical, artistic, pointed, and poignant word choices expertly develop a narrative of “closer than close” twin brothers who are basketball stars, facing the first challenge to their relationship – a girl, and trying to navigate their evolving relationship with their parents. (A mom who is also their assistant principal complicates their lives quite a bit.) This 2015 Newbery Medal Winner and 2015 Coretta Scott King Honor Award Winner book haunted me days after reading the last page.

Booked Cover ImageBooked by Kwame Alexander (2016) – This novel is yet another hit from Mr. Alexander. In it, a soccer player, 12-year-old Nick, experiences family hardships (divorce), school problems (bullying and a sports rivalry with his best friend), and teen angst (girls and soccer tryouts). Luckily, The Mac, a rapping school librarian, is on hand to help with inspiring words and great books to read. The verse format is winning, the word choices magical, and my 13-year-old fan of The Crossover gives this a huge thumbs up.



Mother’s Day has come and gone, and yet you somehow have yet to find the perfect gift. So you promised you would send something ASAP. We thought we’d help by reviewing two books to help you get the right gift for your mom – even if it is after the fact (and, even if it ends up being a gift for you). Enjoy!

Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice Cover ImageEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (2016) – Yes, we know that the New York Times panned it. And honestly, we agree with their reviewer that Ms. Austen’s Jane would never consent to be married on a reality show; but, that is a small point in light of the fact that as you read Eligible, you get to spend additional hours with the Bennet Sisters. Viewing 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. We also are strong believers that sometimes it is more than OK to read a book just to have some fun — no deepening of knowledge or self-reflection required. We also believe it takes no small amount of courage to take on a classic. So, kudos to Ms. Sittenfeld for bravely adapting Pride and Prejudice. As for the rest of you – start reading. To help sway you, we share some assessments from a few other critics:

  • “A hugely entertaining and surprisingly unpredictable book, bursting with wit and charm.” The Irish Times
  • “Endlessly amusing . . . Her take on Austen’s iconic characters is skillful, her pacing excellent, and her dialog highly entertaining. . . . Austen fans will adore this new offering, a wonderful addition to the genre.” Library Journal
  • “Sittenfeld adeptly updates and channels Austen’s narrative voice the book is full of smart observations on gender and money. . . . A clever retelling of an old-fashioned favorite.” Publishers Weekly

FC9781607747307The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (2014) – Whether you (or your mother) are seeking inspiration to clean out your sock drawer or to declutter your whole darn house, pick up a copy of this book and start reading. Kondo will talk you calmly an confidently through her personal philosophy of tidiness, one she’s been developing since she was a girl growing up in Japan. Kondo admits to a lifelong fascination with organization, one which drove her to rush home from grade school so that  the she could straighten up her messy little brother’s room. Her childhood curiosity then turned into a small consulting business (which has a three month waiting list and no repeat clients because they are always successful)  and then into a book which took the world by storm upon its publication two years ago . She encourages people to keep only the objects that “spark joy” in  their lives and to discard the other objects. Warning: once you start reading and cleaning, you won’t be able to stop with just the sock drawer!







This “3 Questions” features Ted Levin, nature writer, photographer, VPR (Vermont Public Radio) commentator, and author of America’s Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake and other books.


Mr. Levin will visit the Norwich Bookstore at 7 pm on Wednesday, May 11th to discuss his latest book, America’s Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake. In America’s SnakeMr. Levin captures the snake’s natural history and unique behaviors, and looks at the people who love them, loathe them, and have abused them through illegal tradeMr. Levin has written for Sports Illustrated, Audubon, National Wildlife, National Geographic Traveler, and other publications.America's Snake: The Rise and Fall of the Timber Rattlesnake Cover ImageThe event with Mr. Levin is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited.  Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save your seat.

The Origin of Species: 150th Anniversary Edition Cover ImageWild America: The Record of a 30,000 Mile Journey Around the Continent by a Distinguished Naturalist and His British Colleague Cover ImageA Sand County Almanac: With Essays on Conservation from Round River Cover Image

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

a) The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. Darwin loops together the past, the present, and the unimagined future, all bound together by natural selection. Seen through the lens of natural selection, the unifying principle of biology, every species is a work in progress, a continuous interpretation of its immediate environment.

b) Snakes and Snake Hunting by Carl Kauffeld (out of print), and Wild America by Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher. Both were seminal books for a nature-loving twelve-year-old boy, the very first indication for me that men other than baseball players grew up to do boy things.

c) Sand County Almanac and Essays from Round River by Aldo Leopold. Leopold wrote eloquently of the wild lands of his home in Wisconsin, as well as of faraway places like Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental, all the while building a case for a healthy land ethic, an ethic now embraced by successive generations of people who feel a need for the preservation and conservation of self-sustaining ecosystems.


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

Theodore Roosevelt. I’d like meet a president who made conservation a national priority, who took vacations in the backcountry with writer-naturalists such as C. Hart Merriam, Gifford Pinchot, John Muir, and John Burroughs. In 1907, Roosevelt (and Burroughs) saw the last wild flock of passenger pigeons. (Roosevelt might even be able to explain to me what in the world has happened to the Republican Party.)

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life Cover ImageImperial Dreams: Tracking the Imperial Woodpecker Through the Wild Sierra Madre Cover ImageThe Birds of Panama: A Field Guide Cover ImageAn Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

Half-Earth by E. O. Wilson; Imperial Dreams by Tim Gallagher; Birds of Panama by George R. Angehr and Robert Dean; An Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins.

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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


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