Staff Picks

At the Edge of the Orchard

Summary: 
Once again Tracy Chevalier, New York Times bestselling author of "Girl with a Pearl Earring", has come up with a winner. In this new novel she explores the period of history covering the American frontier. Beginning in 1838 she describes the life of a family living in the swamps of northwest Ohio struggling to survive as they plant an apple orchard. The story then fast-forwards to 1853 as the youngest son of the family strikes out on his own to explore the wilds of California. There he eventually begins working for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to be shipped back to the gardeners of England. This novel is a beautifully written tale which keeps the reader riveted with its excellent characterizations, dialogue, and descriptions of the landscape. One is naturally transported back to that time and place in a way that can be called almost magical.

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I Let You Go

Summary: 
Two British readers balance the characters’ narratives and the police procedural as the case involving a hit-and-run accident unwinds. The plot is compelling, but the characterizations are superb. The inner workings of a CID team and the personal lives of the detectives, as well as the psychology of the suspect and others all ring true.

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The Association of Small Bombs

Summary: 
The deadly blast of the terrorist sends widening ripples of destruction. The random innocents—two 12-year-old Hindu brothers who die, and their Muslim friend who survives, their families, are forever altered and sucked into the vortex of violence—as the perpetrators themselves had been, that spreads and spreads. A tragic, illuminating novel. “What was a bomb, really? A means of separation, of opening. A factory of undoing. It took the violent forces of civilization and applied them to the very opposite aims with a childlike glee. A bomb was a child. A tantrum directed at all things. A wail of a being that hadn’t got its own way. The choice of suicide over defeat.” p. 267

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Warriors of the Storm

Summary: 
The latest tale from Bernard Cornwell in his saga of the birth of England, continues with Uhtred of Bebbanburg controlling Mercia from the Roman fortress, that is Chester. Enemy forces are gathering to conquer the island nation for themselves. Northmen allied to the Irish, by the fierce warrior Ragnall Iverson, joined by the Northumbrians look to be an overwhelming force. Despite this threat, Edward, King of Wessex and Aethelflaed, Queen of Mercia are reluctant to move out of the safety of their own kingdoms. It falls, therefore, upon Uhtred to act. However Uhtred's daughter is married to Ragnall's brother, who is under siege in Ireland, as he later discovers by Ragnall's forces. Uhtred, has decisions to make between family and loyalty, and between personal ambition and political commitment. The action does not cease, and the final page, as with any Cornwell novel, always arrives too soon.

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Vanessa and Her Sister

Summary: 
This historical novel covers a seven year period beginning in 1905 in London, at the start of the famous Bloomsbury group. Written in the first person as a series of journal entries, this book covers the relationship between the writer Virginia Woolf and her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. Woven throughout the story are letters, postcards and telegrams which embellish and bring to life the many other writers and artists who met to discuss literature, art and politics. It is a well-written novel and a totally engaging read.

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Mothering Sunday

Summary: 
This small slim novel, set on one day in 1924 from a vantage point of more than 70 years in the future is called a "romance"-- but of the two love affairs the housemaid "Jane Fairchild" experiences, the one with books and imagination is the most enduring, however formative the first conventional one that forms the plot. Beautifully written, full of life. 'Words were like an invisible skin, enwrapping the world and giving it reality. Yet you could not say the world would not be there, would not be real if you took away the words. At best it seemed that things might bless the words that distinguished them, and that words might bless everything." p.129

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Treachery

Summary: 
S.J.Parris (Stephanie Merritt) sets her 4th Giordano Bruno book in Plymouth, 1585, on the eve of Sir Francis Drake's departure to harass the Spanish ports. With his friend and confidant, Sir Philip Sidney, who has been ordered by Elizabeth I to accompany the exiled Portuguese ruler safely to London, Bruno quickly learns that one of Drake's officers has committed suicide. On examination of the body, Bruno is able to confirm Drake's suspicions, that his man didn't take his own life, but was brutally murdered. Sidney offers Bruno's services to track down the killer, only because he wants to accompany Drake on his much more exciting mission to harass and acquire fame and fortune. Amid the bustling port town of Plymouth, more than one conspiracy emerges and Bruno meets some unpleasant people from his past - as does Drake - men intent on revenge at all costs. I really enjoy Ms. Merrit's style, she is an accomplished writer and her prose is full of detail, that is pleasing to read , plus the the fact that the plot in this and all her prior novels keep you guessing until the closing paragraphs. A must read for all historical fiction addicts!

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Peacekeeping

Summary: 
This thoughtful novel, begins in Haiti, two years before the quake, when a group of UN staff, expats and locals coalesce around an American-educated judge and his wife, to make a difference in the upcoming elections. The natural beauty, the economic mess, the interplay of greed, superstition, poverty as seen by the expat novelist narrator provoke hope, despair, humor and pathos, and most of all, questions. A fascinating and beautiful book. '... stories, if not a necessity, are not a luxury either. Only the rich and the lucky can afford to live without stories, for without stories, as every Haitian peasant knows, life is all just things that happen to you, and you are just something that happens in the lives of others... a good story [is] the only realm in our existence where for every "Why?" there exists a commensurate "Because...". Those two words, "why?" and "because," might be the best thing our species has going for it.' p. 371

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Miller's Valley

Summary: 
Anna Quindlen's latest novel is a wonderful story about the way we define family and home. Set in a small town in Pennsylvania on the verge of great change, the story is told through the eyes of a young girl named Mimi, or Mary Margaret to her mother, or Meems to her older brother Tommy...The characters include a nurse, a farmer and all-around fix-it-man, a war veteran, a construction worker and real estate developer. This book is a moving tale which is a pleasure to read, featuring Quindlen at her best.

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing

Summary: 
I was very skeptical at first about reading this book, but it came highly recommended so I started and I raced through! While I cannot say that I read every word, I touched on all sections and came away with her take-home message. The book has galvanized me to put into practice most of the decluttering and organizing tips she talks about. And it does make you feel good!! If you are downsizing or wishing to tidy your current living space, this a must read.

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