The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

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In this literary, suspenseful novel, a young woman is found dead in a small town in the Ozarks, compelling her friend to find out what happened to her. Her search leads her to the story of what happened to her own mother, who disappeared years ago. The characters and descriptions are vivid, and by the end I could picture this fictional community.

“Gripping . . . Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life. . . . Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French.”—Library Journal (starred review)

 “[A] suspenseful novel, with a barn burner of a plot . . . McHugh shows herself to be a compelling writer intimately familiar with rural poverty and small-town weirdness.”—Booklist

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Sweet Girl by Travis Mulhauser

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In this gritty story of survival set in northern Michigan, 16-year-old Percy James shoulders responsibilities beyond her years, quitting school to work at a furniture-making store to support herself and her drug-addicted mother Carletta whose disappearance during a snow-storm leads a concerned Percy to a drug-den where her outrage at the severe neglect of a baby brings her to risk life and limb to bring the child to safety.

Sweetgirl works on so many levels, it’s difficult to know how to classify it… hilarious, heartbreaking and true, a major accomplishment from an author who looks certain to have an impressive career ahead of him.” (NPR)

” A riveting novel… far, far funnier than it has any right to be. If you’re a fan of Charles Portis and Denis Johnson–and if you’re not, then you should be–then this is book is exactly what you’ve been wanting, what you’ve been waiting for.” (Brock Clarke, author of The Happiest People in the World)

“[Sweetgirl is] filled with true wit, cunning, and the unwanted wisdom of a child denied a childhood. This novel comes on like the blizzard at its center, and leaves you dazzled and dazed not only by how much Travis Mulhauser knows, but how deeply he cares.” (Michael Parker, author of All I Have in this World)

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The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphreys

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In this quiet and contemplative book the author explores the topics of imprisonment and freedom while interweaving the story with bird-watching.  Both James Hunter, a young British pilot shot down in Germany during World War II and imprisoned as a POW, and his lonely wife, Rose, find solace during wartime. As the war comes to an end and perhaps the return of happiness, both characters find that they long for the wartime years.  The author’s love of nature in the British landscape is an added bonus. Many of the scenes are set in Ashdown Forest, the enchanted home of Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin.

“Scintillating…What Humphreys does so well, in beautiful, precise prose, is convey the shock of that violence, how it rends the everyday. I am very glad to have spent some of my moments on earth reading The Evening Chorus. I reached the end with a sense of wonder that so much life and pain and beauty could be contained in so few pages.”
—The Boston Globe

“Humphreys (Nocturne, 2013, etc.) offers a heartbreaking yet redemptive story about loss and survival…Humphreys deserves more recognition for the emotional intensity and evocative lyricism of her seemingly straightforward prose and for her ability to quietly squirrel her way into the reader’s heart.”—Kirkus, starred review

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Last Ragged Breath by Julia Keller

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When the marketer for a luxury resort in rural West Virginia is found murdered on the property of an impoverished recluse who had vehemently refused his offers to buy the parcel of land that would halt the multimillion-dollar project, prosecutor Bell Elkins privately probes wounds that run deep in a place of poverty and despair.

“A beautifully crafted mystery in which Keller explores love, hate, and poverty in a place of stunning natural beauty with pockets of overwhelming ugliness. The ending may leave you in tears.” ―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Keller conveys smalltown mind-sets with a folksy style that richly evokes a part of Appalachia still grappling with its past.” ―Publishers Weekly

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Redeployment by Phil Klay

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This collection of short stories gives a visceral explanation of the power of the war experience on a soldier and his/her inner life.  Take a look at the searing effects of the recent wars on our newest combat soldiers.  Winner of the 2014 National Book Award for Fiction.

“A sharp set of stories….Klay’s grasp of bureaucracy and bitter irony here rivals Joseph Heller and George Orwell….A no-nonsense and informed reckoning with combat.” – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“[Klay captures] on an intimate scale the ways in which the war in Iraq evoked a unique array of emotion, predicament and heartbreak. In Klay’s hands, Iraq comes across not merely as a theater of war but as a laboratory of the human condition in extremis. Redeployment is hilarious, biting, whipsawing and sad. It’s the best thing written so far on what the war did to people’s souls.”  – Dexter Filkins, The New York Times Book Review

“Klay grasps both tough-guy characterization and life spent in the field, yet he also mines the struggle of soldiers to be emotionally freed from the images they can’t stop seeing. It’s clear that Klay, himself a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who served in Iraq, has parlayed his insider’s knowledge of soldier-bonding and emotional scarring into a collection that proves a powerful statement on the nature of war, violence, and the nuances of human nature.” – Publisher’s Weekly (starred)

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Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan

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Led by matriarch Kathleen, a charismatic, cruel, and complicated woman now in her 80s, the Kelleher family has spent decades of summers at their Maine summer property. Maine alternates chapters between four women in the Irish Catholic family as they converge at the summer house and confront each other. While the book’s title is Maine, there are also many references to Boston history and locations. Maine is a good book to take on your own summer vacation, with a little more substance than the average beach book.

“I have never stayed at this cottage in Maine, or any cottage in Maine, but no matter: I now feel I know what it’s like being in a family that comes to the same place summer after summer, unpacking their familiar longings, slights, shorthand conversation, and ways of being together. J. Courtney Sullivan’s Maine is evocative, funny, close-quartered, and highly appealing.” —Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling

“Ah, family. Isn’t it satisfying to leave your own briefly behind to drop in on another—and see how thoroughly they bungle it all up? This is the pleasure of Maine, J. Courtney Sullivan’s second novel, which delves into the secrets and simmering emotions of one dysfunctional family over the course of a single summer month. . . . The dialogue sizzles as the tension between the women’s love and anger toward one another tightens. . . . You don’t want the novel to end.” —Lily King, The New York Times Book Review

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Vinegar Girl : The Taming of the Shrew Retold by Anne Tyler

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I loved Anne Tyler’s newest, a lighthearted, super adorable farce full of quirky characters. A friend told me she thought it was the perfect summer read and I agree.

“Resplendent storyteller Tyler (A Spool of Blue Thread, 2015) is perfectly paired with The Taming of the Shrew…Deeply and pleasurably inspired by her source, Tyler is marvelously nimble and effervescent in this charming, hilarious, and wickedly shrewd tale of reversal and revelation.”—Booklist (starred review)

“[A] screwball comedy of manners that actually channels Jane Austen more than Shakespeare. It’s clear that [Tyler] had fun with Vinegar Girl, and readers will too…A fizzy cocktail of a romantic comedy, far more sweet than acidic, about finding a mate who appreciates you for your idiosyncratic, principled self — no taming necessary.”—NPR.org

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Like Family by Paolo Giordano, translated by Anne Milano Appel

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A spare and elegant novel that explores the topics of family and loneliness.  A poignant and melancholy (but not sad) book about Mrs. A, a dynamic nanny and caretaker who is the glue that holds a young family together. A good book to read on a rainy afternoon.

“Combining the edginess of modern life with the touching theme of losing someone who has become just like family, [this book] confirms Giordano as a writer who understands the complexities of human relationships.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

“Beautifully crafted…its themes are universal and it will appeal to anyone who treasures the gifts of others.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“[A] short work of fiction can resonate more deeply than longer volumes. That’s the case with LIKE FAMILY, the elegiac new novella by Paolo Giordano…. This poignant work points out that there is no one way to define a family, and that, in any definition, the primary ingredient is the ability to love.”—BookPage

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In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

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Nora lives a quiet life in London as a writer when she receives an invitation to her old friend Clare’s hen (bachelorette) party. Nora hasn’t seen Clare in ten years, since a traumatic event during high school caused Nora to leave her past behind. The small hen party group assembles at an unusual house made of glass in an English forest, where strange things begin happening. The book is a little bit mystery, a little bit thriller, but mostly a psychological novel about friendship and memory. I listened to the audio book and found the narrator’s performance really enhanced the story. The dark, snowy setting and suspenseful plot will keep you cold this summer.

“WARNING: This book is hot. Do not pick it up late at night or if you are in a dark, dark wood…Ruth Ware has a gift. This British author’s first foray into fiction is a hit…it delivers a punch and keeps you guessing—an ideal August psychodrama that reminds us why mysteries remain such fun—except at night.” –The New York Journal of Books

“Ware slowly unspools the mystery, setting a truly spooky scene … with a constant undercurrent of danger. Read it on a dark and stormy night—with all the lights on.” –Kirkus Reviews

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The Intouchables – dvd

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This is the best movie I have ever seen about two men and rare friendship.  Based on a true story this is a poignant comedy that begins when a wealthy aristocrat who is paralyzed from a para gliding accident hires a chronically unemployed immigrant from Senegal.  Their lives are forever changed.  Put away your aversion to subtitled movies and check this out!  This is a unanimous favorite among the Weston staff.

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