Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

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While there is no shortage of books set during World War II, this story was a worthwhile addition that offered a fresh perspective. It focuses on a young woman working as a teacher in London, a soldier sent abroad, and their circle of friends. The sharp, witty dialogue in particular was one of my favorite parts of the novel.

“An audacious, provocative voice.” – New York Times Book Review

“Cleave kick-starts his stories from the first breath and never takes his feet off the pedals’”- Washington Post

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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

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Trevor Noah is a successful comedian who recently took over as the host of The Daily Show, but you learn none of that reading his book. Instead, this memoir focuses on his life growing up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a black mother and white father, an interracial relationship that was illegal at the time of his birth. Noah writes with humor and honesty about the joys and challenges of his life, and dedicates much of his book to his mother, who is in many ways the real hero of the story.

“A gritty memoir . . . studded with insight and provocative social criticism . . . with flashes of brilliant storytelling and acute observations.”Kirkus Reviews

“[A] substantial collection of staggering personal essays . . . Incisive, funny, and vivid, these true tales are anchored to his portrait of his courageous, rebellious, and religious mother who defied racially restrictive laws to secure an education and a career for herself—and to have a child with a white Swiss/German even though sex between whites and blacks was illegal. . . . [Trevor Noah’s] electrifying memoir sparkles with funny stories . . . and his candid and compassionate essays deepen our perception of the complexities of race, gender, and class.”Booklist (starred review)

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The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

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In mid-1800s Ireland, an English nurse is sent to investigate an Irish family claiming that their daughter has not eaten anything for several months. Consuming only a small amount of water each day, the young girl claims that her religious faith is sustaining her, and the skeptical nurse is forced to confront her own beliefs as she spends more time with the family. While the plot is simple, I was engrossed in the characters and descriptions of Ireland.

“[Donoghue’s] contemporary thriller Room made [her] an international bestseller, but this gripping tale offers a welcome reminder that her historical fiction is equally fine.”―Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Outstanding…. Exploring the nature of faith and trust with heartrending intensity, Donoghue’s superb novel will leave few unaffected.”―Sarah Johnson, Booklist (starred review)

“A fine work, adept and compelling in voice, plot, and moral complexity…. Donoghue deals out the cards with real skill.”―Katherine A. Powers, Boston Globe

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Finding Nouf by Zoe Ferraris

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When sixteen-year-old Nouf goes missing and is found drowned in the desert outside Jeddah, Nayir—a desert guide hired by her prominent family to search for her—feels compelled to find out what really happened.

“Ferraris, who has lived in Saudi Arabia…gives a fascinating glimpse into the workings and assumptions of Saudi society.” –Publishers Weekly

“Ferraris writes with authority on how Saudi insiders and outsiders alike perceive the United States … With equal authority, she stakes her own claim on the world map, opening Saudi Arabia up for mystery fans to reveal the true minds and hearts of its denizens.” – Los Angeles Times

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Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver

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First line:  “‘In the beginning I was so young and such a stranger to myself I hardly existed. I had to go out into the world and see it and hear it and react to it, before I knew at all who I was, what I was, what I wanted to be.’ This is a gem of a book that left me breathless with the simplicity of her choice of words combined with the magnitude of her reflection on nature.  I keep asking myself  “how does Mary Oliver do it?”  Emotionally powerful.

“Uniting essays from Oliver’s previous books and elsewhere, this gem of a collection offers a compelling synthesis of the poet’s thoughts on the natural, spiritual and artistic worlds .  . . With each page, the book gains accumulative power. The various threads intertwine and become taut.”
– The New York Times

“There’s hardly a page in my copy of Upstream that isn’t folded down or underlined and scribbled on, so charged is Oliver’s language…I need a moment away from unceasing word drip of debates about the election, about whether Elena Ferrante has the right to privacy, about whether Bob Dylan writes ‘Literature.’ I need a moment, more than a moment, in the steady and profound company of Mary Oliver and I think you might need one too.”—Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

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Hillbilly Elegy: a Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance

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J.D. Vance grows up very poor in the Ohio rustbelt and after deciding to enlist in the Marine Corps eventually he pursues a law degree at Yale.  It’s a very personal account of the author’s childhood and parts of it felt similar to Jeannette Walls’ “The Glass Castle.” I liked it because while the author conveyed a lot of love and respect for aspects of his culture, he also comments on the contradictions, inconsistencies, and issues.

“[An] understated, engaging debut…An unusually timely and deeply affecting view of a social class whose health and economic problems are making headlines in this election year.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“[Vance’s] description of the culture he grew up in is essential reading for this moment in history.” (David Brooks, New York Times)

“J.D. Vance’s memoir, “Hillbilly Elegy”, offers a starkly honest look at what that shattering of faith feels like for a family who lived through it. You will not read a more important book about America this year.” (The Economist)

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The Murder of Mary Russell: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie R. King

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Weston Library has a new mystery book group and this was the first pick!

“The great marvel of King’s series is that she’s managed to preserve the integrity of Holmes’s character and yet somehow conjure up a woman astute, edgy, and compelling enough to be the partner of his mind as well as his heart.”The Washington Post Book World

“The most sustained feat of imagination in mystery fiction today.”—Lee Child

“Leaping narrative energy has always been a hallmark of this series, and it reaches something of a peak in this latest volume. . . . The lean momentum of the story never falters. . . . It’s a stunning prolonged feat of storytelling, and it succeeds in making The Murder of Mary Russell the best installment so far in an excellent series.”The Christian Science Monitor

“Worried about Mary Russell? Well, you should be. She’s opened her door to the wrong man and deeply troubling secrets are set to tumble out, rewriting her history and putting herself and the people she loves in a dangerous spot. Once again, King spins a tantalizing tale of deception and misdirection for her readers’ delight and scores a direct hit in her latest Russell-Holmes mystery.” — Deborah Walsh for LibraryReads

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The Corfu trilogy by Gerald Durrell

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Three classic tales of childhood on an island paradise – My Family and Other Animals, Birds, Beasts and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods by Gerald Durrell –  inspired the recent PBS Masterpiece series, The Durrells in Corfu.   The youngest of the four children, ten-year-old Gerald, discovered his passion for animals: toads and tortoises, bats and butterflies, scorpions and octopuses. Gerry pursued his obsession on the sun-soaked island of Corfu, befriended local peasants, tolerated visiting dignitaries, and caused hilarity and mayhem in his ever-tolerant family.  Fauna & Family is equally delightful and enchanting.

“A lot of frolic, fun, and charming ribaldry, as well as the warm feeling of having been transported to a lovely spot where worry is unknown and anything is believable.”-The New York Times 

“A delightful book full of simple, well-known things: cicadas in the olive groves, lamp fishing at night, the complexities of fish and animals, but, above all, childhood molded by these things and intimately recalled in middle age.”  –The New York Times Book Review

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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It took the author 20 years to educate herself to write about this topic.  With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game. Much to discuss for book clubs!

“[Picoult] offers a thought-provoking examination of racism in America today, both overt and subtle. Her many readers will find much to discuss in the pages of this topical, moving book.”—Booklist (starred review)

Small Great Things is the most important novel Jodi Picoult has ever written. . . . It will challenge her readers . . . [and] expand our cultural conversation about race and prejudice.”The Washington Post

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A Deadly Affection by Cuyler Overholt

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“Genevieve Summerford is a heroine with brains, compassion, and grit. A psychiatrist during a time women were supposed to be wives and mothers, she not only practices medicine, but also protects secrets, and solves murders. A riveting period puzzler, filled with history, mystery, and romance.” – Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of the Maggie Hope series

“I had to put my life on hold until I’d finished it. What a satisfying finish…and what a smooth, complex, enlightening, riveting journey. A Deadly Affection is masterfully crafted, a delightful combination of suspense and romance. I cannot wait for Overholt’s next novel.” – Historical Novels Review

“This superb debut reflects the author’s impeccable research with its portrait of turn-of-the-century New York City. Discussion questions at the end focusing on women’s rights make this a solid book club choice.
” – Library Journal, Starred Review 

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