Odd Child Out by Gilly MacMillan

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This is a new writer for me.  Best friends Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad have always been inseparable.  But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol’s Feeder Canal, Abdi can’t–or won’t–tell anyone what happened.  Noah is British.  Abdi is a Somali refugee.   And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol, England. The writer keeps the tension at high pitch, a real page turner. Against this background of fear and fury two families fight for their sons and for the truth. The writer’s empathy for her characters is spot-on. (Includes reading discussion questions.)

“Macmillan captivates readers with a story just as addictive as her first… [and] shines when exploring the intricacies of relationships… Fans of Tana French, Ruth Ware, and Gillian Flynn will become completely entrenched in the unfolding details.” (BookPage)

“With lovely prose, depth of character and an intelligent narrative, Macmillan lifts the level of suspense with stiletto-like precision: a tiny graze here, a shallow cut there and, eventually, a thrust into the heart. At once profoundly unsettling and richly rewarding.” (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

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This fantasy story is set in a world where there are four versions of London, each ruled by different leaders with varying amounts of magic. I loved the two protagonists – one a magician, the other a thief – and the novel’s humor and adventure.

A Darker Shade of Magic has all the hallmarks of a classic work of fantasy. Its plot is gripping. Its characters are memorable. Its setting in four parallel, powerful Londons is otherworldly yet believable. Schwab has given us a gem of a tale that is original in its premise and compelling in its execution. This is a book to treasure.” ―Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of The All Souls Trilogy

“Schwab (Vicious) creates an ingenious set of nesting alternate Londons in this imaginative, well-crafted fantasy. Confident prose and marvelous touches-a chameleon coat, a scarlet river of magic, a piratical antiheroine-bring exuberant life to an exhilarating adventure among the worlds.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review

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Emperor’s Club – dvd

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 “Character is destiny,” wrote Heraclitus and Ethan Canin is a master at exploring people who are struggling to understand themselves and the unexpected turns their lives have taken. The Emperor’s Club movie is based Ethan Canin’s short story, The Palace Thief, where a history teacher at an exclusive boarding school reflects on the vicissitudes of a lifetime connection with a student scoundrel.

But there is a feature to this movie which has the viewer question his/her values towards morality and ethics. The major theme appears to be that at some point in our lives we choose our path towards attaining the highest level of morality life allows us. This film also attempts successfully to portray how we measure whether we are or have attained these goals.  One of my favorite movies.

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Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

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Set in Pennsylvania in the 1880’s, Lilli de Jong  is the story of a sincere and innocent young Quaker woman who does everything she can to keep her out-of-wedlock child.   Janet Benton is a first-time author, writes in a style reminiscent of Geraldine Brooks and seamlessly weaves accurate historical details into her powerful and elegant prose.

“Janet Benton’s remarkable novel Lilli de Jong is historical fiction that transcends the genre and recalls a past world so thoroughly that it breathes upon the page. From the first sentence, Lilli’s sensitive, observant, determined voice casts an irresistible spell. Benton combines rich, carefully researched detail with an imaginative boldness that is a joy to behold—though reader, be warned: Lilli’s story may break your heart.”
—Valerie Martin, author of The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

“A heartrending debut . . . Benton’s exacting research fuels Lilli’s passionate, authentic voice that is ‘as strong as a hand on a drum . . . that pounds its urgent messages across a distance’ . . . Lilli’s inspiring power and touching determination are timeless.”
Publishers Weekly

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American Heiress: the Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and trial of Patty Hearst by Jeffrey Toobin

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I knew only the most basic facts about the kidnapping of Patty Hearst before reading this book, which provides many interesting details about the kidnapping as well as the people involved, the political and social climate of the time, and the Hearst family. Several moments in this story reminded me that sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction!

“Terrifically engrossing…Toobin uses his knowledge of the justice system and his examination of the evidence to pierce the veil of spectacle…As for Patty Hearst herself, Toobin treats her as a person, not a tabloid phantasm.—New York Times Book Review

“The abduction and subsequent radicalization of Patricia Hearst is one of the most bizarre but illuminating episodes of that tumultuous era of protest…and in American Heiress Jeffrey Toobin retells the story with a full-blown narrative treatment that may astonish readers too young to remember it themselves…Toobin spins this complex chapter of recent history into an absorbing and intelligent page-turner.”—The Washington Post 

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The Strangler Vine (a Blake and Avery novel) by M.J. Carter

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“From the thrilling prolog to the satisfying conclusion, former journalist and nonfiction author Carter’s first foray into fiction hooks the reader into a ripping adventure ride, full of danger, conspiracy, and trickery. Young William Avery, a soldier in the service of the British East India Company in 1837 India, receives an unexpected assignment. He is to accompany Jeremiah Blake, a secret political agent with an astonishing talent for languages and Sherlock Holmesian disguises, on a mission to find the scandalous British writer Xavier Mountstuart, who is missing. Each twist and turn of the duo’s journey draws them deeper into the mystery of the sinister Thuggee cult and closer to uncovering the shocking truth at the heart of the puzzle of Mountstuart’s disappearance. VERDICT Carter’s clever historical thriller is a winner.–Barbara Clark-Greene (Reviewed November 15, 2014) (Library Journal, vol 139, issue 19, p76)

“Totally engrossing — the sort of story that makes you forget that there are other books stacked next to your bed, waiting to be read.”–Michael Lewis, The New York Times Book Review

“[A] yarn reminiscent of adventures by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”—The New York Post

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A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline

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As she did in her bestseller Orphan Train, Christina Baker Kline interweaves fact and fiction in a powerful novel that brings to life the iconic painting by Andrew Wyeth entitled Christina’s World.   Kline, who is a summer resident of Maine, has done an exceptional job of creating a fictional memoir for both Christina Olson and Andrew Wyeth.

Of possible interest readers – the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland, Maine, will recognize the 100th anniversary of the birth of Andrew Wyeth with a series of exhibitions. The Olson House, the house on the hill in Christina’s World, will also be open to visitors. For information see http://www.farnsworthmuseum.org/current-exhibitions.

“Kline herself is an artist, drawing on the real history of Christina Olson and Andrew Wyeth to conjure up her own haunting portrait…. Kline’s deep research into characters, place, and time period provides the outlines of a compelling story, which she then expertly brings into three dimensions.” (Christian Science Monitor)

“With delicate palette, stark images, subtle tones, nuanced brushstrokes, and consummate craftsmanship, Christina Baker Kline has written this novel the way Andrew Wyeth painted the canvas. It is a masterpiece.” (Historical Novel Society)

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Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

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It was the cover that grabbed me first.  But when I closed the book, I just had to know what really happened to this infamous Georgia Tann, director of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society, South Carolina who made millions (in today’s dollars) kidnapping and selling children with fake papers so that families couldn’t ever find one another.  Was she caught?  Did she go to trial?

“Sure to be one of the most compelling books you pick up this year. . . . Wingate is a master-storyteller, and you’ll find yourself pulled along as she reveals the wake of terror and heartache that is Georgia Tann’s legacy.”Parade

“One of the year’s best books . . . It is impossible not to get swept up in this near-perfect novel.”The Huffington Post

“Lisa Wingate takes an almost unthinkable chapter in our nation’s history and weaves a tale of enduring power.”—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of Circling the Sun

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Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal al-Sharif

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This lady’s courage and incredible story knocked me over.  A memoir by a Saudi Arabian woman who became the unexpected leader of a movement to support women’s rights describes how fundamentalism influenced her radical religious beliefs until her education, a job, and legal contradictions changed her perspectives.

“Future generations will marvel at Manal al-Sharif, whose voice is laden with quiet dignity even at its most urgent. Her gripping account of homegrown courage will speak to the fighter in all of us.” (Deborah Feldman, New York Times bestselling author of Unorthodox)

“An astonishing, humble, truthful book, more illuminating than a hundred newspaper stories on Saudi Arabia. Manal is no Chanel-draped, chauffeur-driven Saudi princess. Her account of why a single working mother’s life compelled her to confront the kingdom’s fiercely patriarchal ways is touching and revealing in equal measure.” (Azadeh Moaveni, author of Lipstick Jihad)

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The Last One by Alexandra Oliva

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A group of contestants are filming a survival reality show when a disease strikes the real world. However, isolated in the wilderness, the contestants have no idea, and believe everything they encounter is part of the TV show. This is a gripping story that is hard to put down.

“The TV show Survivor meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in Oliva’s stellar debut. . . Fueled by brilliantly intimate and insightful writing as well as an endearing and fully realized female lead, this apocalyptic novel draws its power from Zoo’s realizations about society and herself as she struggles to survive long enough to somehow make it back to her home.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Part wilderness-survival thriller and part dystopian pandemic story . . . a gripping portrayal of an ordinary person’s evolving survival instincts as she realizes she can’t trust the reality she sees.”—Booklist

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