The Ninth Hour by Alice McDermott

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A portrait of the Irish-American experience is presented through the story of an Irish immigrant’s suicide and how it reverberates through innumerable lives in early twentieth-century Catholic Brooklyn.

“This seamlessly written new work from National Book Award winner McDermott asks how much we owe others, how much we owe ourselves, and, of course, McDermott’s consistent attention to the Catholic faith, how much we owe God . . . In lucid, flowing prose, McDermott weaves her character’ stories to powerful effect. Highly recommended.” ―Library Journal, starred review

“McDermott delivers an immense, brilliant novel about the limits of faith, the power of sacrifice, and the cost of forgiveness . . . It’s the thread that follows Sally’s coming of age and eventual lapse of faith that is the most absorbing. Scenes detailing her benevolent encounters . . . are paradoxically grotesque and irresistible . . . McDermott exhibits a keen eye for character.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

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Fools and Mortals by Bernard Cornwell

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Philippa Gregory describes this book perfectly: “With all the vivid history that is his trademark, Bernard Cornwell transports the readers to the playhouses, backstreets, and palaces of Shakespeare’s London with added depth and compassion, and a likeable hero.”  This is historical fiction at its best with a thriller element thrown in for sheer reading pleasure.

“In this delightful departure from his popular military historicals, Cornwell (The Flame Bearer, 2016) conducts a boisterous behind-the-scenes romp through the often sordid world of the Elizabethan theater…. Cornwell displays his usual masterful attention to detail…. Sumptuously entertaining.” (Booklist)

“Marvelous…. Full of drama, both on- and offstage, and with numerous delightful, laugh-out-loud moments, this novel is an absolute joy. A must-have for anyone who loves the theater, this is easily the best book this reviewer has read this year.” (Library Journal, starred review)

 

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Life without a Recipe: a Memoir by Diana Abu-Jaber

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Diana’s writing exudes open hearted joy in all of life’ s unexpected bumps in the road.  Her mixed heritage of Jordanian, American, Irish and German roots brew a contagious excitement for life throughout her family stories and her cooking.  Hilarious, gorgeously written, poignant, and wise, Life Without a Recipe is Diana’s celebration of journeying without a map, of learning to ignore the script and improvise, of escaping family and making family on one’s own terms. Curl up, warm up, and laugh with any of her books to stave off the winter blues.

“[A] deliciously candid story….Generously seasoned by an abiding love of food and a keen eye for the nuances of human relationships, this book is a reminder that however unpredictable it may be, life is a dish to be savored. A delectably warm and wise memoir.”- Kirkus Reviews

“Filled with visceral joys and literary beauty as well as soulful honesty and a gripping story. Diana Abu-Jaber writes trenchantly and gorgeously about family, marriage, and motherhood with insights and connections that feel hard-won and richly earned. Her sharp intelligence and unsparing self-knowledge bristle on every page alongside her passionate brio for life in all its flavors and complexities.”- Kate Christensen, author of Blue Plate Special and The Great Man

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The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey

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This is debut novel with punch!  Detective Gemma Woodstock seems to have an unhealthy obsession with the victim, a former classmate, and you don’t know why. She seems jealous of Rosalind’s beauty and sense of mystery which has a kind of magnetism on people which Gemma feels she lacks and the train-wreck of her own life reflects. As the secrets of this small Australian town are revealed, her partner and boss sense Gemma has deeper connections to the murder victim, more than adrmissible…but when Gemma falls into the sights of the murderer, nothing will keep her from the satisfying pursuit to its end. For readers who enjoy Tana French and Lisa Gardiner –  a new writer to follow.

“Police work comes easily to Det. Sgt. Gemma Woodstock, the narrator of Australian author Bailey’s stellar first novel…Bailey interweaves her sympathetic protagonist’s past and present with uncommon assurance…a page-turner that’s both tense and thought provoking.”―Publishers Weekly

The Dark Lake is a mesmerizing thriller full of long buried secrets that sucked me right in and kept me up late turning pages. Gemma Woodstock is a richly flawed and completely authentic character – I loved going on this journey with her and the way the truth of her past was revealed in bits and pieces as we went along. Sarah Bailey has crafted an exquisite debut – I can’t wait to see what she does next!”―Jennifer McMahon, New York Times bestselling author of The Winter People

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Once We Were Sisters: A Memoir by Sheila Kohler

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On the first page in the first one hundred words, the author has given the reader the end of the story.  But the writing is so fluid and so many intriguing topics are touched on – sisterhood, motherhood, the yearning for the impossible, the regret of unfulfilled relationships, the desire to write it all down and the exotic but troubled location of South Africa during apartheid – that the reader feels compelled to read on to discover the full story.

“A searing and intimate memoir about love turned deadly.” —The BBC

“In this intimate, exquisitely written memoir, the author’s first work of nonfiction, she explores the impenetrable bond that can exist between sisters. . . . In spare, delicate prose, Kohler brings a seasoned novelist’s skills to this deeply moving, compelling memoir.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“It’s fitting that the book is written in the present tense, because [Kohler’s] sister is forever with her. Their relationship changes shape yet lingers, as do the important questions about women and violence.”—Oprah.com (5 Powerful New Memoirs)

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The Stars are on Fire by Anita Shreve

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Along with storytelling mojo and stylistic verve, this novel has an excellent, suspenseful premise: Grace’s life is upended and ultimately transformed by a real-life historical catastrophe, the wildfires that spread through coastal Maine in October of 1947, following months of severe drought. With all the terror of fire on our West coast these days, it is scary to realize it happened not far from us not that long ago.  As good as her first book, The Weight of Water.

“This is sure to be a best seller. Shreve’s prose mirrors the action of the fire, with popping embers of action, licks of blazing rage, and the slow burn of lyrical character development. Absolutely stunning.”—Library Journal  (starred review, Editors’ Spring Picks)

“It is a book of small moments, a collection of seemingly simple themes that build to surprising and moving crescendoes. Shreve’s spare, economic prose suits her character’s practicality and initial hesitance to determine the course of her own life… Shreve’s crisp writing becomes more expansive in the moments when her protagonist consciously stretches beyond the boundaries of her previously narrow life.BookPage

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Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liz Mundy

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1942 – all the men were off to war.  An suddenly the Navy and Army needed brain power to break volumes of enemy codes. Senior women graduates started receiving mysterious letters asking them to come to Washington DC to help the war effort. 10,000 women responded from across the US and swore an oath of secrecy for life.  With these girls, I experienced WWII… battle to battle, ship by ship. Their efforts shortened the war, saved countless lives, and gave them access to careers previously denied to them. Fascinating!

“Mundy is a fine storyteller…. A sleek, compelling narrative…. The book is a winner. Her descriptions of codes and ciphers, how they worked and how they were broken, are remarkably clear and accessible. A well-researched, compellingly written, crucial addition to the literature of American involvement in World War II.”―Kirkus (starred review)

Code Girls reveals a hidden army of female cryptographers, whose work played a crucial role in ending World War II. With clarity and insight, Mundy exposes the intertwined narratives of the women who broke codes and the burgeoning field of military intelligence in the 1940s. I cannot overstate the importance of this book; Mundy has rescued a piece of forgotten history, and given these American heroes the recognition they deserve.”―Nathalia Holt, New York Times bestselling author of Rise of the Rocket Girls

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Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

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This book really made me laugh. Graham and Audra are a married couple living in New York with their son. There’s not too much more to the plot than that, as they navigate their son’s needs and interact with Graham’s first wife, Audra’s friends, and the origami club their son joins. What I loved about this book is the humor, much of it related to Audra, who is one of the most unique characters I have encountered in a while.

“Audra Daltry is a singular creation—a character so funny, so appealing, so sure that she can change the world for her family that she will jump right off the page and take up permanent residence in your heart. Standard Deviation is a marvel.” —Kate Atkinson, author of Life After Life 

“Warmhearted… Dishes up amusing riffs on marriage, misfits, and finicky eaters, plus some wonderfully on-target descriptions… Explores the complexities and ambivalences that color even our most central relationships… This book is about a marriage under stress—though Heiny keeps it bubbly, evoking the smart, stylish wit of Laurie Colwin, Nora Ephron, and Maria Semple… [She] clearly has what it takes to join the elite coterie of witty social satirists who turn out smart, lively charmers.” —Heller McAlpin, NPR

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Murder in the Marais (An Aimée Leduc Investigation) by Cara Black

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This title is the first in a series featuring female sleuth Aimee Leduc. The story is set in 1990’s Paris with flashbacks to the early 1940’s.  The author’s writing style makes for a quick, absorbing read and her inclusion of details about life in France during the German Occupation are revealing. The story hinges on the murder of Lili Stein, the proprietor of a small grocery store in a Jewish neighborhood. When she is discovered strangled in her bedroom, forehead marked by a Swastika, Aimee sets about unraveling long held secrets that lead ultimately to a present day election.\

“Literate prose, intricate plotting, and multifaceted and unusual characters mark this excellent first mystery.” –Library Journal

“The charm of this series comes from the character and a vividly rendered setting. Aimée rides her pink scooter through the streets of Paris, roller skates through the Louvre after closing time, and tears through dark tunnels under the Palais Royal wearing peep-toe shoes or vintage Valentino boots, her eyes ringed with kohl, trying to figure out who is out to get her . . . Zut alors! It’s quite a ride.”
The Boston Globe

“Forever young, forever stylish, forever in love with Paris—forever Aimée.”
New York Times Book Review 

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On Beauty by Zadie Smith

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An English professor moves his family to a Boston suburb to teach at a university, where they are each drawn into relationships, friendships, and conflicts, particularly with another academic family. This book is funny, insightful, and poignant, loosely based on E.M. Forster’s novel Howards End.

“In this sharp, engaging satire, beauty’s only skin-deep, but funny cuts to the bone.” —Kirkus Reviews

“…[A] thoroughly original tale about families and generational change, about race and multiculturalism in millennial America, about love and identity and the ways they are affected by the passage of time. Ms. Smith possesses a captivating authorial voice—at once authoritative and nonchalant, and capacious enough to accommodate high moral seriousness, laid-back humor and virtually everything in between—and in these pages, she uses that voice to enormous effect, giving us that rare thing: a novel that is as affecting as it is entertaining, as provocative as it is humane.” —Michiko KakutaniThe New York Times

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